Author's Notes: I have to get this whole post-ep IPS bug out of my system. In the interim, here's a little "Who's Bugging Mary" piece. (There's also a little reference to the former tagline of an NBC show that somehow got thrown in there...) I'd love to hear what you think!

Disclaimer: The characters and situations herein are not mine. This story is meant solely for entertainment purposes. No infringement is intended.


Mary Shannon is a lot of things. Unnecessarily emotional or naive--or any of their synonyms--isn't one of them.

Today is one of the days she wishes she was.

She's never had any illusions that she's gone through life kissing frogs but never expecting to find Prince Charming. She never disappeared into an ether of illusion or escape--delusion, she's always firmly believed--refusing to blindly or patiently wait for the Robin to her Marian. Playing pretend could have been an addictive vice--like drugs or alcohol have been for the other members of her immediate family--but, somehow, she's convinced herself that the effort in keeping two feet firmly on the ground was much less trouble than hoping a valiant white knight was just around the corner.

Now, more than ever, she's convinced that the horseman that draws near is not one who will save her--for there is a part of her that will forever be unsaveable--but is instead one of the bringers of her emotional apocalypse, a destructor of the walls she's spent thirty some-odd years building.

The reverberating clang of the roof door is an unnecessary reminder that ever since she was a little girl, for as long as she's been able to, she's been running. Mostly from things, and at a pace where she refuses to let anyone follow. She's spent a lot of time thinking she doesn't want anyone to follow, but when the hinges to the access point to the roof--and, similarly, to the shaky, foreign battleground known as her heart--remain laughingly silent, it is that and not her perilously tenuous familial situation she's currently in that breaks her.

She wants to fall back on being angry, wants to dramatically shake her fists at the sky and indignantly demand explanation, sheer will refusing to buckle her knees in a time of stressful confusion. It's easier to deal with fury than fright; it's easier to go down swinging than not fight at all.

But now, when she needs to rely on that familiarity more than ever, she finds she simply can't--can't breathe, can't cry, can't curse--can't do much of anything but wonder how she became to be alone on a rooftop, swiftly adept at always running but never chasing; delivering blows but never taking. She continues to shoulder the burden of this mess laughingly called life, not because she feels that it's her martyred duty, but because there is no one to catch it should Atlas need to shrug.

For the first time, she hopelessly and yearningly wishes--turns her face to the sky and seeks out an angel in the clouds, a shooting star or a fairy godmother; someone or something that will rescue her from the trenches of hell she's trapped in and whisk her away to a place where her only obligation is to do as she pleases, without fear of chastising repercussion or shameful reminder. When she realizes such a place doesn't exist--that there is truly no one to rescue her from herself and this uncivil war she's fighting--it is more heartbreakingly destructive than it ever could have been as a little girl. When the dam breaks, she is caught in the undertow, a deluge of regret and confusion threatening to drown her within a matter of seconds.

How she wanted to believe. How she wanted to have faith. And yet, she still stands alone, mind uselessly empty and soul faltering on an uneven battleground.

And then she hears it--a tinny but reassuring noise--as the lock on the door (and the chase) catches and releases. She's not fully aware that it's Marshall who pulls her from the water. She only half-hears what he says, but fully feels the weight of the forgiveness, the liberation of the confession that she may not be Maid Marian, but she need not despair, as she's most certainly not without her Robin. He's come in many a guise; she just hasn't known what to look for.

For as scared as she's been of falling--of failing--it's surprisingly easy and cathartic. More importantly, it's enough to relight the fire beneath her feet, remind her why she's spent almost as much time running to as she has trying to escape. But true to form, she doesn't have any illusions to think that she has all the answers or the words to explain the shades of grey that surround her--hues that Rorschach himself couldn't decipher. She simply does what she's done her entire life: pulls herself together, gets the job done, saves the cheerleader and saves the world, all before dinner and with only minor bloodshed.

It's only after she walks out of the federal building that she realizes how that split second of unfettered fear on the roof may have changed her; the old Maid Marian would have kneed Prince John in the royal jewels, assault on a federal officer charge be damned--and proudly added to her personnel file, truth be told. Instead, she takes from the rich and gives to the poor--which is somehow indescribably blissfully in its irony, for she's admittedly so self-absorbed that the world has started and ended with her longer than she cares to admit--and wishes on O'Connor that which she'd never even hoped for herself: forgiveness of his own making.

FIN