Title: Unguarded
Disclaimer: I don't own a thing...if I am sued all you will get out of me is some horses, dogs, ducks, and a few demonic little furballs.
Note: I don't know if Stan is married or not, but he is in here. I pictured the scene of Marshall waking up and the rest of this exploded from there. This is what happens when you watch episodes on long train rides!


"You should go home and get some sleep," Stan once again tried to coax his exhausted marshal.

Mary shook her head. "Not 'til he wakes up," She said stubbornly.

Stan sighed, knowing it was a lost cause. He would have liked to stay and wait as well, but he knew his wife would have his hide if he didn't come home.

"Go home Stan. Judy's waiting, I'll be fine," Mary told him, as if reading his mind.

"Call me when you hear anything. And I better not see you in the office for at least two days," He instructed.

"Sure," Marry muttered, not having the energy to argue. She had convinced her mother and Brandi to go home about an hour earlier. She was beyond wanting comfort; she just wanted to be alone.

Stan, shocked at the lack of argument, quietly left the waiting room, leaving Mary to her own personal demons.

She stared at the clock on the wall, the hours seeming to drag by. Every time a surgeon walked into the waiting room, she felt her hopes begin to rise, only to quickly fall when they turned out to be there about another patient. Seemingly an eternity later a surgeon headed in her direction.

"Are you here for Marshall Mann?"

Mary quickly got to her feet, "Yes, how is he? Is he okay?"

"I'm Doctor Stevens, his surgeon. The surgery was long but successful. There was a bit more damage than we originally anticipated. Whoever inserted that chest tube probably saved his life."

While Mary listened to the doctor finish describing his surgery and what was done, she found herself longing for Marshall to be at her side to interpret doctor speak for her. She felt like she needed subtitles, but chose not to ask any questions. All she needed to hear was that Marshall was okay, now she just needed to see him.

"Can I see him?" She cut off the doctor.

He paused, surprised at her abruptness, "Of course. They are moving him to a room now. I will send a nurse down for you when he is all set."

Mary nodded.

"Feel free to help yourself to some coffee from the café," The doctor offered.

"I don't need coffee! I need to see my partner!" She snapped.

"Right, it shouldn't be too much longer now."

Mary fought the urge to make a face at the doctor as he left. Collapsing back into the hard plastic chair, she once again began to replay the day's events in her mind. She took full blame for what happened to Marshall. If she hadn't been so peeved at him, she would have played closer attention to what was happening. If she had just warned him a second earlier, none of it would have happened. If she weren't the way she was, Marshall wouldn't have gone looking for another job. Her mental berating took her attention away from the time so when a nurse approached her, with one quick glance at the clock, Mary was on her feet and in the nurse's face.

"What the hell took so damn long?" She was already frustrated, and her state of exhaustion as well as her elevated stress level did not help her normally short temper.

"Ma'am?" The nurse questioned, shrinking away from Mary.

"I was told that a nurse would be down shortly to bring me to see my partner. That was almost a damn hour ago! If you are that incapable of doing your job…" Mary trailed off, frustration leaving her speechless.

"So-sorry," The nurse began a stuttered apology. "We were—"

"I don't care," Mary cut her off. "Where is my partner?"

"Right this way," The nurse led her towards the elevator.

Mary counted the seconds that it took for them to arrive on the fifth floor to take her attention away from the nurses nervous fidgeting. When the elevator arrived, she followed the nurse down the hall, coming to a halt outside of a closed door.

"Normally visiting hours are—"

A sharp look from Mary sent the nurse scurrying to the nurse's station without another word.

Mary took in a deep breath of air as she put her hand on the door handle; trying to prepare herself for what she might see once she entered the room. With a steady count to five, she swung the door open.

Marshall looked paler than normal against the bright white sheets and under the harsh florescent lighting. Mary brushed her hand against the wall, her fingers finding the light switch, she flicked them off, cloaking the room in near darkness, the only light source coming from the various beeping machines that were attached to her partner.

"God Marshall, you look like crap," She murmured as she collapsed into a chair near his bed, using her toes to drag herself closer to the bed. Kicking off her heels, she dragged her eyes over his prone form, her eyes not missing anything. His chest was heavily bandaged, an IV line coming out of his right arm. A pulse-oximeter was clamped to his left pointer finger, beeping reassuringly. She observed the readings on the machines, not having a clue what any of it meant, and then felt hot tears burn her eyes when she softly admitted, "You would know exactly what all of this was for and what it all meant."

Mary gently pushed her fingers through Marshall's damp hair. His forehead was warm, but one of the machines showed his temperature to be a steady 98.6 degrees so instead of panicking, she peeled the blanket away from his body, leaving just the light sheet covering him. She couldn't help the brief smile when the thought occurred to her that Marshall would probably love his hospital jammies.

"Don't die on me now Doofus," She gently kidded as she laid her head down on Marshall's bed. She fought her drowsy eyes, finally giving up the fight, allowing them to slip shut. She told herself that she would just rest for a minute. Her exhausted body had other plans however, and the rhythmic beeping of the pulse-ox quickly lulled her into a deep sleep.


"Did you tell that cops partner about visiting?" Betty, a senior nurse walked over to Rose, the young nurse who showed Mary to Marshall's room.

"I tried," Rose shrugged.


"And, she isn't very nice."

Betty sighed, "Well you need to tell her that she can come back in the morning."

"Rose?" Betty asked Rose when she didn't respond.


"Did you hear me?"

"Sure did."

"And you are still here because?"

"If I go in there and try to kick her out, she will dropkick me into next week."

Betty rolled her eyes at the younger nurses dramatic flair.

"Betty, Rose, how are our patients doing?" Doctor Stevens.

"Room 507 has a slight fever and is achy again. I re-started her on 75 milligrams of Oseltamivir about an hour ago. 519 is being her usual pain in the ass self, and Rose here was just about to go and kick a visitor out."

"Not the cops partner?"

"Yes, why?"

Doctor Stevens paused, "She's a bit, uh abrasive. I would just let her stay as long as she isn't in the way."

Betty looked at the surgeon in shock. In all her years working as his nurse, she had always known him to be a stickler for the rules, so for him to be bending them for this woman, well she must have been a formidable opponent. "Fine," She huffed, "I'll just do a quick round on him then."

She grabbed his chart and walked to his room, fully intent on not taking any crap from his partner. She was surprised when she entered the darkened room, and saw the woman curled up, half slumped over the bed. She couldn't believe that this was the woman that both her co-workers seemed so reluctant to upset. She quickly went about her business, checking on her patient's temperature and vital stats. She quietly unscrewed the nearly empty IV bag from his catheter and hung a fresh bag. After setting the drip level, she injected his pain medication into the IV line. A quick mental check to be sure that everything was as it should be and she turned to head out of the room. On her way out, she nearly tripped over the woman's heels so she picked them up and deposited them in the closet along with her partner's personal effects. She closed the door quietly behind her, a broad smile on her face, fully intent on giving both her co-workers hell for deferring to the patients partner.


He awoke to the strange sensation of heat surrounding him and for the briefest moment when he opened his eyes, he was convinced that he was dead. Until he saw her. Her chair was pulled up close to his bed, her fingers clinging onto his forearm. Her head was resting against his abdomen, blonde hair spread out angelically over the light sheet covering him. Marshall took the rare opportunity to observe his partner unguarded. She fell asleep out of pure exhaustion, he theorized. Tear tracks were evident on her face. Mary wasn't a makeup kind of woman so it wasn't running mascara that gave it away. It was the clean streaks that stood out starkly against her otherwise dirt-smudged face. He was unsure of how long he watched her, feeling like he had to somehow memorize her every feature, when he noticed her begin to wake up. Her grip tightened on his forearm, as if she let go of him, she would loose him, and she shifted lightly against him.

"Mar?" He called softly, gently brushing her hair back off her face, trying to keep his finger clamp from tangling in her silky locks.

A soft groan was his only response.

"Mar, wake up."

"Mmmm…" She blinked sleepily.

"Hi," He grinned at her.

"Hey yourself," She grinned back, slowly lifting her head, but not removing her hands from his arm. "You didn't die."

"I told you I would try not to."

"Doofus," Mary rolled her eyes.

"You wound me," Marshall kidded.

Mary's expression immediately darkened as her gaze fell to his bandaged shoulder.

"Mar? Mary?" Marshall called, trying to get her attention. "Hey, where did you go?" He asked when her gaze refocused upon him.

"It's my fault," She avoided his eyes.

"What are you talking about?"

"This," She motioned to his shoulder and the machines surrounding him.

"It's not—"

"Yes it is!" Mary cut him off. "If I wasn't being such a self-absorbed bitch I would have noticed them sooner, I would have warned you sooner, you wouldn't be here right now."

"You don't know that."


"No, I am not letting you play this game. So what if we weren't arguing, what if you had warned me sooner, or you noticed them sooner. What about if you got shot, and you were laying here instead of me? What then?"

"Then I would have gotten shot, I would have been pissed but—"

"You would have been a little more than pissed."

"Yeah, maybe," She admitted.

"What's done is done. Can't be changed. Think of it as a growing experience."

Mary eyed him.

"What?" Marshall shrugged one shoulder.

"You deserve better."

"Better hospital food? Sure."

"A better partner smart ass."

"I like my current one just fine, thanks."

"Your current one nearly got you killed."

"Name an exotic animal keeper that hasn't been mauled, nearly or otherwise in their career."

"What is it with you and this exotic animal stuff?"

"Nothing," Marshall avoided her eyes.

"Marshall," She warned.

"What?" Marshall feigned innocence, but he knew his partner, once she had her mind on something, she was like a pitbull with a bone.

"You don't let me play games, what makes you think I will let you play games?"

She had a valid point, Marshall mused to himself. Out loud he said, "It's complicated."

"Well uncomplicated it," Came his partners response.

"Not that easy."

Mary sighed, "What is it that you feel like you cant tell me? Aren't best friends supposed to be able to tell each other everything?"

"You tell me everything?"

"Well, maybe not everything," Mary admitted with a shrug.

"Unless you are mad at me, than you let me know exactly everything that is on your mind."

Mary's mind once again flashed back to their many arguments that morning and guilt washed over her. "I'll work on that," She conceded.

"Right," Marshall raised his eyebrows.

"Come on, just because you are in a hospital bed doesn't mean I wont kick your ass when you are better," Mary threatened. "Tell me."

"Fine. Don't say I didn't warn you," Marshall muttered.


"When I told you that you were my best friend, my only friend?"


"Well, it's more than that. I didn't want to tell you because I don't want to lose you."

"You wont," Mary tried to reassure him.

Marshall felt his stomach churning with anxiety and he was beginning to feel lightheaded, but he was unsure if that was a side effect from his medication or his nerves. He knew he had to tell her now, or he never would.

"The reason that I went on that interview was because of you."


Marshall quickly cut her off, "But not in the way you think, and not in the way I told you before. Yes, I do feel like I spend my time either protecting you from the world, or the world from you, and it is a lot of responsibility, but that's not what prompted the interview."

"Well what then?" Mary questioned impatiently.

"It's because of all the time that I spend with you—"

"Jesus Marshall, you take a vacation day or two, you don't get a new job."

"It's because of the time that I spend with you," Marshall began again, raising his voice slightly. "I spend almost every minute of everyday being with you," he paused, searching for the right words. "But not being able to be with you the way I would like to be with you."

"The way you want to be?" Mary hesitantly asked, a warm feeling spreading over her.

"Seeing you with other guys kills me because I know that you can do so much better, you deserve someone better."

Mary bit her lip, "Someone like you?"

Marshall shrugged with downcast eyes.

"How long," She paused, clearing her throat, "have you felt this way?"

Marshall shrugged again; wishing the knot of anxiety that settled heavily in his stomach would dissipate.

"I uh, I should go," Mary hastily got to her feet, looking around for her shoes.

"Yeah," Marshall murmured, looking up as Betty entered the room to check on him.

"Where the hell are my mother humping shoes?" Mary snapped at her.

Betty eyed her silently before turning to the closet and picking the shoes up. Without a word Mary snatched them and made a hasty exit.

"Your welcome," Betty called to her retreating form. Turning to her patient she said, "She's a real charmer isn't she?"

"You have no idea," Marshall shook his head as Betty helped him to a slightly reclined position in the bed.

"How are we feeling this afternoon?"

"Tired. My shoulder hurts a bit."

Betty nodded as she reached for a syringe. "I am going to put some morphine into your IV bag, it should kick in in about twenty minutes or so," She informed him, depressing the plunger on the syringe once it was inserted into the bag.

"Thanks." Marshall said gratefully.

"Try to get some rest," Betty instructed as she scribbled some notes in his chart on her way out.

"Yes ma'am." Marshall tried to humor her, but he doubted he would get any rest with all the thoughts that were currently racing around his mind.


'Damn it Marshall. Why did you have to go and say that?' Mary mused angrily to herself as she stabbed at the elevator call button. She stared impatiently at the little numbers lighting up, as it got closer to the fifth floor. When the car arrived, she entered and angrily punched the button for the ground level. On the ride down she began to pace the small area, thoughts racing in her head.

'He was such a doofus. Why couldn't he just keep his big mouth shut and leave everything the way it was. Why did he have to go and change everything? She hated change. He knew she hated change.' She ranted mentally as she stalked over to her car.

She stabbed her key into the ignition and paused, her inner voice mocking her, 'Who are you really mad at? He knows you. That's the problem.' Mary debated in her head.

"What the hell are you doing?" She questioned herself, banging her head against the steering wheel. This was Marshall. Her best, no, her only friend. She had just got through telling him that he deserved better, and that she shouldn't be a self-absorbed bitch and what had she done? She ran out on him when he was at his most vulnerable. Marshall wasn't a big talker about emotions. He'd rather explore the scientific reasons why certain emotions were triggered at certain times, so Mary knew what he had told her wasn't something he took lightly.

"Damn it," She cursed as she exited her car, slamming the door loudly. She looked up at the large structure of the hospital, and with a breath of resignation, headed back in. If she were to be completely honest with herself she knew how Marshall felt about her long before today. She knew what he was really trying to say in that godforsaken diner, but she stubbornly refused to acknowledge it, even though deep down her heart was screaming at her, at him, wishing he would have just said what he wanted too. She told herself all the reasons why her and Marshall couldn't be. He was too smart, too kind, she would hurt him, she would ruin their partnership, and their friendship. She wasn't the warm and fuzzy type, but if you twisted her arm, she would admit that she too had more than platonic feelings for her partner. 'Who are you kidding? You wouldn't have to twist it that hard.'

Soon she found herself back on the elevator, pacing once again, trying to think of what she would say to him when she got back to his room. The car arrived on his floor sooner than Mary would have liked, so she slowly headed down the hall, pausing a few doors down, still having no idea what to do.

'Can't stand out here forever, idiot.'

Mary focused her eyes on Marshall's closed doors, "Now or never."

She quickly stomped past the nurse's station.

"Ma'am? He is resting. You will have to wait," Betty called to her as she breezed by.

Mary paid her no attention, throwing the door to Marshall's room open, letting it slam loudly behind her.

Marshall looked up surprised at her sudden entrance. "Ma—"

"Shut up!" Mary cut him off, stalking over to his bedside with a glint in her eye.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't—"

"I said, shut up," Mary looked down at him.

Any response died upon Marshall's lips. Mary was standing over him, dangerously close. Her tongue darted out to lick her lower lip, and Marshall could sense her conflicting emotions. Quickly, before she could lose her nerve, Mary leaned over, gently slanting her lips over his. The kiss was uncertain, hesitant, neither one of them really expecting it. Marshall pulled back slightly, leaning into his pillow so he could look into Mary's eyes. When he didn't see the fear or regret that he imagined might be there, he reached his IV-free hand up to push her hair behind her left ear. His hand settled at the base of her neck, gently pulling her towards him once again. This kiss was anything but uncertain. Mary gently nibbled on Marshall's lower lip, her tongue seeking entrance to his mouth. He obliged with a slight moan.

When they breathlessly parted, Mary found herself half sitting on the bed, leaning over her partner. She smiled hesitantly at him.

"Can I talk now?"

"Of course not Doofus," She teased before turning serious. "Can we talk later? I think I am all talked out for now."

"Sure," Marshall agreed, although his tone was hesitant.

Mary reached down for the hand that wasn't encumbered by the IV line and quickly entwined their fingers. "I do want to talk," She reassured, "It's just…"

"A lot to digest," Marshall finished for her.

"Yeah," She offered him a smile.

"I'm going to hold you to that," Marshall threatened through a yawn.

"Uh huh, what, are you planning on beating it out of me if I decide not to?" Mary asked, concern tingeing her voice as Marshall stifled another yawn. "You should try to get some sleep. You still look like death warmed over," She threaded her fingers lightly through his hair.

"And you look like America's Next Top Model," Marshall shot back, fighting a yawn.

"Whatever," She rolled her eyes, leaning down to capture his lower lip between her own almost without thinking. Regretfully, she pulled away, "I'll be back later on."

"Stay?" Marshall asked, fighting the drowsy effect of his medication.

"Okay," She replied without hesitation.

Marshall used their still clasped hands to tug her closer to him. Realizing he wanted her to lay down with him she hesitated. "I don't want to hurt you," She whispered.

"I'm on a constant drip of morphine. You can hit me with a baseball bat and I wouldn't feel it."

'That's a comforting thought,' Mary thought. To her partner she said, "Don't tempt me," as she rolled her eyes and allowed herself to be tugged down to his uninjured side. She kicked her shoes off to the side of the bed, a feeling in the back of her mind that their location, as well as her own location, was sure to piss off Marshall's nurse. Stretching out beside him she gently laid her head on his shoulder.

"This is nice," Marshall murmured, kissing her temple.

"I thought you were going to sleep?" Mary pretended to be annoyed.

"Yeah," Marshall sighed. "Good night Mar."

"Good night Doofus," Mary mumbled as she too drifted off to sleep.

Betty silently observed the intimate moment from the cracked doorway. She quickly ran her eyes over her patient and his partner, reassuring herself that no IV lines were being tangled, and backed out of the room, quietly closing the door behind her. She had a feeling that her patient was getting the best medicine known to man. Love.


September 8, 2008