Set after Provocation Sea. 4 Ep. 11. Ever wonder what happened on Mary's dinner date with Luke?

Disclaimer: Mary and Marshall belong to David Maples. If they hadn't been misused by others I wouldn't be writing this.

Mary POV

"Mmm, the only ribs I had that were better than these were from St. Louis."

My dinner 'date' though I wouldn't call one dinner with Lucas Provo, JAG lawyer a date. It's more like two colleagues getting something to eat. "Kansas? Really, you'd go that far for ribs."

"I would for those." My mouth is full of succulent meat, barbecue sauce dripping onto the sauerkraut on my plate. I look up to see him watching me. "What, you never seen a pregnant woman eat before?"

He smiles probably trying not to offend me. "You must be making up for the first trimester morning sickness." He has no idea. I'm always up for free food. Tastes better.

"Maybe. If I'm going to be as big as a house, I'm going to enjoy it." If I'm going to spend another months turning calories into a tiny human, I'm going to take my pleasures where I can. "No more talking. I'm eatin' here."

Luke laughs and tucks into his own combo platter.

After a short time I push my chair back with a satisfied sigh, and remove the paper Whole Hog Cafe bib. Despite the bib I examine my clothes for the stray sauce.

"How did you get into this business Lucas?" It's polite to make conversation.

"Just Luke, and I think you pretty much heard my story." He's right. He told me more than he had told Marshall or Stan. Recovering from war is rough.

"Why do you stay? Aren't you stirring up your own demons with every soldier you help?"

"No." He puts his fork down. "It's different when I'm dealing with another soldier. Easier somehow. Why do you stay?"

I sigh. "I could give you the usual patriotic spiel about justice, truth and the American way, but I like solving other people's problems. As you can see, in my own life I just create them." I pat my pregnant tummy. "With others it's like I can see all the pieces and fit them together. It's not a perfect fit, but as long as it holds together for the first year or so, it sort of scabs over and stays."

"But that's not why you became a marshal."

How does he know? "What makes you think that?"

"Initially you probably did it just to show that you could. You weren't always doing what you do now. But now it's your passion, it's who you are." He salutes me with his beer bottle. "Takes one to know one."

God I wish I could have a beer. "So," I shake my head scornfully. "You've spent a total of three hours with me and you think you know me?"

"No, but I can recognize some traits we share." He looks down at the remains of his dinner. I'm wondering if I should order dessert. "Can I ask you a personal question?"

I take a swig of my supersize soda and smirk. What is his deal? "Since I'll never see you again, go ahead."

He's not happy with that response but continues. "How did a determined intelligent woman like you get in this condition?" He points to my ever expanding waistline.

"Good question. We all have moments of utter stupidity and this was mine." I know the how but the real question is why. Having sex with Epps I could blame on the juice fast. Mark and I were only good at one thing, but we were really good at it. Why did we go at it after having dinner with Marshall and Abigail? Why didn't I double the condoms? Did I really want a baby? Why am I giving it up for adoption?

Luke doesn't want the short answer. "I don't buy it. There's something else."

I don't believe what I'm about to say, but . . . . "The shrink says that I needed someone to protect. My family has straightened out their lives. They don't need me. My partner has an "S.O." I make air quotes around the stupid abbreviation for significant other. "All I've got is being a U.S. Marshal."

"Something I bet you had to work damn hard to achieve."

At last a change of topic. This one I can handle. "I did work hard but that's why I like it. I succeeded where most schmucks would fail. Besides," I smirk, "I get to carry a gun." I watch him over the rim of my drink.

"There is that," Luke acknowledges. "You like shooting?"

Now he's talking my language. "Nothing like going to the range to blow off steam."

"Ever kill a man?"

What the hell? That came out of left field. I hesitate before I answer. "Yes."

Luke nods as if I just confirmed something. He gives me an understanding look. "How long did it take before you went back to the range?"

I duck my head and mutter. "Two months."

"Only two? That's pretty good."

His soft tone tells me he takes it lightly. But he's been in battle. He's seen men die and probably killed his share. "It's not funny." I glare at him across the table. He's not smiling.

"It wasn't meant to be. Some guys never pick up a gun again. Some take years. You know in your head what the gun can do, but seeing the result is traumatic."

"Yeah, well, the stupid pig was trying to rape me." Why do I feel the need to justify my actions to this guy? Maybe because he's seen action?

He leans forward concerned, "How did that happen? As you said, you carry a gun."

I shake my head not wanting to talk about it. I haven't even told the shrink, Dr. Finkel, the details. It's in my statement, but I've never 'talked' about it.

"I was kidnapped. They used chloroform." I can't help a tiny smile. "I broke the guy's nose. Unfortunately, he wasn't alone." I'm back in that alley, surprised and overcome. "They didn't even want me. It was a mistake. In a way I'm glad it was me. I've been trained. If they'd taken a civilian, she would have been dead."

Luke reaches across the table and takes my hand. "No amount of training ever prepares you to face that. Why do I think there is more to that story?" He lets go of my hand and leans back. "I knew you were tough, but I had no idea just how tough. Ever think of joining the Marines?"

I blush and give him a small smile. "That's sweet. I think that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me."

"That's because you don't give them a chance. You cut them off at the knees before they can get a kind word in. Not that you'd believe it."

"You got that right." Never bull shit a bull shitter.

"You're a good judge of character. You have to be in your job. If you can tell a guy is sincere, why would you blow him off?"

"Seriously? You really want to know?"

Luke nods. "Yes, I'd really like to know."

"So would I," I sigh. I really would. Every time a decent guy, like Raph, goes for me, I push him away.

"C'mon. Deep down you must have a clue?"

I'm beginning to think I'm having the dissociative state our witness experienced. I feel like I'm getting a bird's eye view of my life. Not looking at Luke, I begin to talk.

"They only think they find me attractive. They don't know me."

"So," he concludes, "there's no guy who knows you, who really gets you."

I laugh to break the tension of this all too personal discussion. "There's a ten year old who had me figured out. Besides him, I guess I'd have to say my partner. It wasn't Marshall's choice. We have to know each other well enough to cover each other blind. 'Room renting' he calls it." Thinking of my partner and his girlfriend, I confess, "I know him. I know what he needs, and it ain't me."

Luke shakes his head. "I disagree. "It's more than being partners. He's very protective of you."

I massage my stomach. "That's just because of my current condition."

"Now that is a lie." Luke wags his finger at me. "He's always looked out for you."

"Of course he does. We're partners." I protest.

"If that's what you want to think, fine." Lucas takes a sip of beer.

Now I'm starting to get pissed, but I'm curious. "So Dr. Provo, what is your diagnosis?"

"I think he's in love with you, and if I was going to stay, I'd have to fight him for you."

He says it flatly as if stating a fact. He's nuts. "How much have you had to drink? He's got a girlfriend, and it's more serious than he admits."

"You can tell?" What? Now he wants proof that I know my partner?

"They're moving in together. I picked the place." I push a bone across my plate. "It's the first one we showed your witness, the 'prairie style.' It's perfect for him. For them," I correct myself.

"See, that right there," he wags his finger at me. "He's moving in with another woman, but you picked where they are going to live."

I've had enough. I push back my chair and begin the laborious process of hoisting myself upright. "It's late. I gotta get going." I am so done. Food was good though.

He looks abashed. "Sorry to keep you out so late Mary. Could I look you up if I'm ever out this way?"

Since the chances of him being in Albuquerque are slim to none, I agree. "Sure, and if I'm still pregnant it means I'm having an elephant."