Stress Balls

By Bitha Blu

A/N: This is set within the episode 'A Fine Meth'.

It had been a hard day for everyone and it was looking like it wasn't going to get much easier. It couldn't get any worse though and it was that thought that kept him going. Mary had been found and the people responsible for her being kidnapped were either in jail or in the morgue. Although those two facts were enough reason to celebrate, the FBI's Special Agent O'Conner and that rat bastard Spanky were causing even more problems.

Stan McQueen sat in front of a table full of files, photos and paperwork, staring at the piles as though he was trying to find a needle in a haystack. In this instance, the needle was the key to getting Mary off the hook and the haystack was the pile of shit that her sister had gotten her into. Finding a way to clear Mary was even more important now because Spanky had indicated that he was more than willing to drag Mary's name through Brandi's crap.

Shifting in the uncomfortable chair Stan sighed. He and Marshall had just tried to find out the truth and they had ended up putting Mary in danger of loosing everything. That piece of shit dirtbag had smiled- actually smiled- when he threatened to suggest that Mary had been helping Brandi with the drug deal and it had taken every ounce of his willpower not to beat Spanky's face in just to wipe away that smile.

It had been a very good thing that he had gotten his temper under control when he did. Stan had barely stopped seeing red before he had noticed that Marshall was having a bit more trouble. Marshall's eyes had been filled with such a cold rage that it had shocked Stan. The past day had been hell for them both but Stan had never seen Marshall so filled with hate and loathing. So when Marshall had stood up quickly and dropped his hand to his gun, the quick reflexes that had allowed him to duck under the shovel in that god-awful basement had come to the rescue again. But instead of saving Stan's head this time, his reflexes had saved Marshall from murder charges.

Pulling Marshall from the interview room had been a challenge. Mary's ordeal had been a breaking point for Marshall and it seemed that his only outlet involved his sidearm. Stan could relate but there was no way he was losing either one of his team. No matter how hard Marshall struggled, he couldn't overcome Stan's bulldog-like tenacity. By the time the two marshals were in the hallway, the cold rage had been replaced a look of pure frustration. Stan understood completely and though he couldn't let Marshall do what he really wanted to do, there was one thing that he could suggest.

"Go to the range Marshall. I know you need to shoot something but I can't let you use a live person as your target- no matter how much I agree with you. But Mary wouldn't want you in jail. She's going to need you to be her support because we both know you're the only one that can handle her. So just go hit up the range, blow off some steam and then come back to the office so we can find something to help Mary."

That had been forty-five minutes ago and Stan was expecting Marshall to walk through the door any minute now. Hopefully the younger marshal would be a little calmer and a little more focused and then they would sort through all the paperwork to find a way to keep their Mary safe from the FBI.

'Damn I give good advice,' Stan thought to himself smugly. Not only had he prevented bloodshed, found a way to defuse Marshall's temper and assured him that there were safer- more legal- ways to help his partner but he had done it in five sentences. It was no wonder he was the boss. Before his self-congratulations got too far, a phone rang and a spike of fear shot through Stan. Grabbing the phone, the only thought in Stan's head was wondering what the hell else had gone wrong.

"Stan McQueen"

"Hey Stan- it's Bobby D. We've had a bit of situation down here." Bobby's voice was mellow but Stan couldn't help notice a certain tenseness from the detective. Before Stan could ask what was up, Bobby continued, " It's Marshall. He… I don't know what the hell set him off but he just scared the fuck out of our M.E."

Stan's forehead hit the table with considerable force repeatedly. After a moment, Stan stopped banging his head and simply held his head in his free hand. Sighing deeply, he put the phone back to his ear and asked, "What did he do, Bobby, and how can I fix it?"

There was an abrupt laugh from the other end of the line before Bobby continued speaking, "I was coming back from making sure the bodies had arrived when I saw him heading to the morgue. He didn't look right Stan. I said his name and I swear he didn't even notice me so I swung around and followed him. Marshall just strode into the morgue. Peter, the M.E., had just gotten the guy that…" There was a brief pause as though the detective was trying to figure out what to say, "Pete had just gotten the guy that Mary shot onto a slab when Marshall stormed in. He just identified himself as 'a marshal' and told Pete to go away. Now Pete's a fairly calm guy but he doesn't like being bossed around in his own morgue so he started getting his hackles up."

By this time, Stan's forehead was back on the table and he was trying to suppress a groan. His well intentioned advice had evidently fallen on deaf ears and Stan was wishing that he himself were deaf so he wouldn't have to listen to the rest of what Bobby had to say. But he had to hear it so he would know how to fix whatever Marshall had done no matter how much he wanted to just hang up the phone and go home to bed. Closing his eyes, Stan mutter a quick prayer of "Please god let me be able to clean this up" and focused on what Bobby was saying.

"So, long story short, Marshall pushed Pete out of his way and emptied his clip into the guy Mary shot." Bobby paused so Stan had a moment to process what he had said before adding, "Don't worry about it though. It took some explaining but Pete and my guys who showed up when they heard the shots understand why Marshall did what he did. They won't say anything and there won't be an inquiry. Nobody is going to say a damn thing. Hell, most of 'em looked like they wanted to put a round or two the body themselves."

"Jesus Bobby, how the hell are we going to hide this from the mortician? You know that ass wipe probably has some poor schmuck out there that wants to give him a good funeral despite what he did. Your M.E. might be good but there's no way we can explain away that many shots when Mary put him down with six."

There was a short, bitter laugh. "Don't worry Stan. Even as wacked out as he was, Marshall had the sense to cluster his shots fairly close. And no mortician is going to have a reason to see the holes unless he's some kind of perv."

"What the hell do you mean?"

"I mean, as long as Pete puts some clean shorts on the guy, the mortician isn't going to see anything. Stan… that's why I called. I'm willing to forget all about this but you need to get Marshall under control. He shot the guy's balls off and I'm worried he's not going to stop with the already dead. You have to keep him away from Spanky and it'd probably be best if you didn't leave him alone with the moron FBI fucker that let the press know that Mary's a marshal."

A wave of relief rolled over Stan. Marshall's good relations with the local police had finally paid off and Stan didn't even care about how much they owed Bobby for this. There was nothing he wouldn't do for his two favorite marshals and he was grateful that Bobby was willing to keep a lid on Marshall's outburst.

"I'll keep a leash on him Bobby," Stan assured the detective, "I don't know how to thank you for this. I know we can't always help you out as much as we'd like to but if you need anything- and I mean anything- we'll do whatever we can. And I don't think Marshall will be a problem again but I'll keep an eye on him just in case."

"It's no problem Stan. Just do me a favor and don't let Mary know. She'd probably follow Marshall's lead and I think Pete would have a problem if both your guys started shooting up corpses on his watch."

"I won't say anything to anybody Bobby. And thanks again."

Hanging up the phone, Stan chuckled for what felt like the first time in forever. Marshall could have gotten himself hung out to dry if Bobby and his guys hadn't been willing to bend the rules and adopt a sort of amnesia. And Stan had to admit, even though he hadn't meant for the incident to happen, he was sure that Marshall would be feeling a lot better when he got back.

A few minutes later, Marshall strolled into the office with a renewed vigor and dove into the piles of paper work. Stan took in his calm demeanor and promptly decided to never mention Bobby's phone call. He'd keep an eye on Marshall, sure, but as long as he kept Marshall focused on helping Mary, Stan was sure he'd be fine.

It was hours later when the proverbial needle was found in the hellish paperwork haystack. Stan didn't even realize what he held in his hands- mostly because he didn't understand what the words on the piece of paper said. Luckily, Stan had the best dictionary in the world nearby. As soon as Marshall got back from getting a cup of tea Stan had a question for him. It probably wasn't anything important but Stan was sick of not understanding what the paper in his hand meant.

"Have you ever heard of hemolytic anemia?"