Previously posted on the Mary_Marshall LiveJournal community. To all those who were following it there: I'm sorry for not completing the story on LJ. My account started being kooky and now I can't even log on. So, I'm finishing on ! Enjoy, and please tell me what you think!

Four times Mary woke up…

1.

"Don't jostle her," said the doctor sternly. Marshall held his hands up in a placating gesture. Even with zero hours of sleep, he still knew his manners.

"No jostling here. I'm just going to talk to her. Okay, doc?"

The doctor sighed and said, "Fine." The nurse beside him fiddled with Mary's IV line. Marshall could feel the circulation in his fingers dwindle and knew if he looked down he would see his knuckles white around the bed rails.

His breath came out as a great whoosh as he saw Mary's eyelids move. He put his hand on her arm. "Mar? It's Marshall. Can you wake up?" He kept his voice gentle.

Mary's breath jerked and her hand rose, groping blindly.

"Mary. It's Marshall."

"Marshall?" Mary's voice was soft, almost too low to be heard.

"Mary!" He didn't realize he was grinning until his lips hurt. "Mar, wake up."

"Marshall!" Mary's voice was louder. Her head turned toward him, but her eyes were still closed. "Marshall. Marshall! He shot me!"

Marshall leaned closer. Comforting could come later; now he needed to see justice done. "Who shot you, Mar? Did you see who it was?"

"Asshole," Mary hissed. "Had a...gun."

Marshall kept his voice even and calm. "Who had a gun, Mary?"

"Dick across the street," Mary groaned. Her eyes scrunched tight together and she thrust her jaw into the air as the pain in her stomach pronounced itself. "Head...honcho." Suddenly she gasped. "Marshall!"

"What?" Marshall rocketed forward out of his seat, framing his partner's face with his hands. "Mar, what is it?"

"Marshall, he shot me," Mary whimpered. No -- murmured. Mary never whimpered. "He shot me. God, stay with me, Marshall. I'm sorry about telling Raph. Please, don't leave me. You're my only friend."

Marshall smoothed down Mary's hair with trembling hands. "It's okay. I'm not leaving you. Don't worry." He paused, then kissed Mary's forehead.

Marshall didn't know how long he stayed there -- crouched over Mary, holding her face as she gasped in pain. Finally someone entered the room. A doctor.

"I'm sorry, Marshal," the doctor said, "but you have to go now. Miss Shannon needs her medicine."

Marshall reluctantly stood up. "I'll be back, Mar," he told her, grabbing her hand and squeezing it. He nodded to the doctor and left in search of Stan.

He found Stan not twenty seconds later getting a cup of mud the hospital called coffee. Stan took one look at Marshall's face and put the cup down. "She's okay?"

"She knows who shot her, Stan," said Marshall gleefully. "Said it was the 'head honcho'."

"Okay," Stan said, pulling out his cell phone. "I'll ask Dershowitz and alert the ABDPQ."

But shouting down the hallway diverted Marshall's attention. "Are those…?" he began. But he knew the answer to his own question. Yes, those were Mary's doctors. And yes, they were entering her hospital room.

Marshall began running toward the room. Mary. If something had happened to her…

When he got to the door he stopped short as he got a glimpse of the chaos inside the room.

"...In the bloodstream!" a doctor was shouting. "Goddammit, get that cart over here!" A nurse was calling out vital stats. Other blue-scrubbed figures ran back and forth, trying to repair damage.

Marshall felt a cold chill creep over his body and scanned each and every person for the face he knew he would not find. When he was done he knew he had stopped breathing.

The doctor who had ushered Marshall out of the room was not there.

He should have been. The doctor should have been paged to Mary's side. He should be helping her survive.

But Marshall knew, with every fiber of his being, that the doctor had not helped Mary survive. He had helped her die. An undercover gang member come to finish the job, eliminate witnesses. After all, who looks beyond the scrubs? A Hispanic doctor in New Mexico was no strange sight. Marshall had walked by him without a thought. And Mary had begged him to stay.

Stay with me, Marshall. Please, don't leave me.

Marshall's brain processed all this in half a second. This left him six and a half more seconds until Mary's heart monitor flatlined.

Please, don't leave me.

2.

It was Jinx's turn to sit with Mary, on the fourth day after surgery, when Mary woke. Jinx had been flipping through last year's October Vogue for the third time when she heard Mary moan.

Jinx gasped and stood so quickly her knees cracked. "Mary?" she said loudly. Mary winced and groaned again. Jinx ran to the door and called down the hall. "Doctor! My daughter is waking up! Doctor!"

The irritable-looking doctor strode into Mary's room. "She's awake?" he asked -- rather rudely, Jinx thought.

"Yes," she sniffed. "She's had an ordeal, so please be careful with her." The doctor seemed to ignore her. Goodness knows he'd been doing enough of that, the last few days. How could Jinx have known he was married if he didn't wear his ring at work?

Once he was gone -- without even a word! -- Jinx hurried back to Mary's side. "Mary?" she asked cautiously.

Mary's head turned minutely toward her and Mary peered at Jinx blearily. "Mom?"

Jinx swelled up with pride. It had been so long since Mary had called her anything but 'Jinx.' She summoned all her maternal instincts and patted Mary's hand. "Yes, darling, I'm here."

"Mom?"

"Yes, dear?" Jinx imagined herself as Florence Nightingale. She would be eternally comforting and selfless, and --

Jinx was jerked from her thoughts when she heard the note of panic in her daughter's voice. "Mom?!"

"What is it, sweetie?" Jinx asked, pushing Mary's hair back from her forehead.

"I can't feel my right leg." Mary's breaths were fast and sharp, and for the first time Jinx actually looked at Mary's eyes. They were wide and panicked. "I can't move my hand. Mom -- I can't move my hand."

Jinx's hand froze on Mary's forehead. "What?" she said. This couldn't be happening. Not to Mary. Not to her daughter, who gave so much and cared so much and never deserved this.

"I. Can't. Feel my hand."

"But you can't be -- crippled!" Jinx blurted out. She leapt back from her daughter and began pacing. "This can't happen now, not after Raphael proposed to you -- "

"Mom," Mary said from between clenched teeth, "do you think Raph would really care if I were -- " She choked and couldn't go on.

"Of course not, honey!" Jinx hurried to Mary's side. "Of course not. He'll love you no matter what. It's just so sad. I told you your job is too dangerous."

"We're not getting into this now," Mary said.

"But darling," Jinx began.

Couldn't Mary see what this did to her? This eternal worrying that had begun when Mary's father left and some part of Mary broke until Jinx could no longer recognize her own daughter? And then Mary became a marshal and never talked to her mother until spoken to first, to the point that Jinx had to move in to Mary's house to know herself that Mary was alive and hadn't been killed on the job. And somehow Mary had inherited Jinx's penchant for closing off those closest to her.

Jinx couldn't say this. How could she let someone into her heart, her soul, like that? She'd done it once and look where it had gotten her -- a single mother with, dare she say it, a drinking problem. Instead she settled for saying weakly, "But who will provide for us?"

"Jinx," Mary said sharply, "could you not think of yourself for one minute? Just one minute. That's all I ask of you."

Jinx was silent.

She heard Mary's boss come in. "Mary!" he said in surprise. "You're awake!" Jinx watched as he moved to hug her daughter and wondered at this strange shift in ties.

She heard Mary sniffle, then sob, and Jinx wrung her hands once before standing up to leave. She passed Mary's partner on the way out. He hardly even spared a glance for her; he was focused on the crying figure in the hospital bed.

Jinx walked out of the hospital and left Mary to her self-made family.

3.

Raphael raced around the corners of the hospital hallways, a cup of coffee clutched in his hand. He pulled up when he saw Mary's attending physician.

"Please," he said breathlessly, "Mary -- the nurse said she is awake -- "

The doctor took Raphael's disheveled appearance and stuttering accent in stride. "Who is this patient?" He reached for a stack of charts.

"Mary Shannon. My fiancée." Raph moved to run his fingers through his hair before noticing he held a cup of coffee.

"Ms. Shannon? Ah, yes. Brain injury. But -- " Raph registered the note of surprise in the doctor's voice. "It's true that she is awake, but I believe her fiancé is already with her."

Raphael's head snapped up in shock. "What?" he choked. "But, I don't think you understand. I am her -- "

The doctor waved off Raph's confusion. "I'm sorry, sir, but Ms. Shannon's fiancé is already visiting her. Perhaps you meant a different patient…?"

Raph took no more notice of him. The coffee was dropped to the floor and Raph was racing around corners again, finally reaching Mary's door. He had memorized the room number, had memorized the figure lying in the white bed. But now there was a difference to the scene.

Mary was awake, talking -- laughing. Her hand was wrapped intimately around another's. Raph could see her engagement ring glinting in the sharp white light.

And Mary's partner, Marshall, sat on the edge of Mary's bed.

Raph watched, first with incredulity and then with a searing-hot flash of jealousy, as Mary wrapped her hands around Marshall's; as she reached up to cup his cheek and trace his jawline.

Raph flattened both fists against his thighs as he stood in the doorway, trying to curb his impulse to storm into the room and tear Marshall apart. This had to be that man's fault -- Mary would never cheat on Raphael. No; this had to be a, a hallucination. Amnesia. Temporary insanity. Mary was weak and vulnerable and her partner was taking advantage of it, of her, and there was no reason Raphael shouldn't go in there and rip him apart, break his bones and punch him stupid --

And then Marshal raised his head and looked directly at Raph. Raph froze and his fists loosened because the look on Marshall's face was not one of triumph, but instead spoke of agonizing torture.

Raphael remembered the doctor's words. Brain injury. Something like a cold wind seemed to blow through him.

Mary was still looking at Marshall. Raphael didn't even seem to register in her world. He could hear her next words clearly, even through the glass.

"Where's your ring, doofus? You lose it somewhere?"

Marshall's eyes closed and his mouth tightened. It was a long time before he spoke -- but by that time, Raphael was gone.

4.

Marshall's world consisted solely of the dark space cupped in his palms. He could feel the pads of his fingertips pressing into his eye sockets, the ridge of his palms digging into his cheekbones.

The inside of his eyelids was black except for when his traitorous mind tried to replay those scant seconds with Mary, trying to show him the red hole in her stomach and the blood on her unmoving chest. At those times Marshall would dig his fingertips into his eyes, making lights explode and spin until all was black again.

No longer was Marshall dressed in the grimy suit from the day before, the day of the shooting. Stan had forced him -- physically pushed him into his car and followed him home -- to change and rest for at least a few hours. Despite the change of clothes, Marshall still felt dirty.

"Raphael?" a voice said. "Is there a Raphael here?"

Marshall's head shot up so hard his neck cracked. An orderly was standing in the doorway.

Mary's fiancé stood up from where he sat, across from Marshall. "Yes?" he asked in a wavering voice.

"Miss Shannon is asking for you," said the orderly. Raph swallowed and nodded and Marshall dropped his head back into his hands.

'Don't be an idiot, Marshall,' he told himself. 'Of course she would ask for him first. He's her fiancé, remember? She tells him everything.' He remembered his conversation in the restaurant with Mary bitterly. Marshall would say he was tired of being Mary's whipping boy if it were true. He knew, without a doubt, that he would do anything to stay next to Mary, on the edge of this dangerous storm.

Marshall didn't know how long he waited for Raphael to return. Seconds stretched like days as he dug his fingers into his eyes.

"Marshall Mann?"

Marshall removed his face from his hands and looked up. The same orderly from before was standing in front of him. "Yes?" His voice cracked on the word.

"Miss Shannon is asking for you," the orderly said.

Marshall stared at the man stupidly. "Me?" Wasn't Raphael in there with her? He would have looked at a clock to see how long Raphael had been with Mary, but time was meaningless to him now.

"Yes," said the orderly gently. "Room 205."

Somehow Marshall found himself in front of Mary's room. He stared at the numbers painted onto the white wood of the door for a full minute before reaching out to grasp the cool metal knob.

Mary was watching the door, and Marshall couldn't stop the emotion that filled his chest when she smiled upon seeing him. He noticed, with a marshal's sense of area, that the room was empty of any other visitors.

"How are you doing?" he asked as he settled into the chair beside her bed. His eyes were glued to her face and he couldn't look away for the life of him.

"Like a bullet splintered my spleen," she said impatiently. "How are you doing, Marshall? You look terrible."

"Thanks," he said drily. "I've only been up for thirty-seven hours."

Mary's expression turned serious. "I know, Marshall. Raph told me."

Marshall's eyes flickered away at the mention of Mary's fiancé. "He was worried too," he put in half-heartedly. Why did that bastard interfere with everything between Mary and Marshall?

Mary reached out, with some effort, and grasped Marshall's hand. He started.

"Mar, you shouldn't be -- "

"Shut it, doofus," she said. "Look, it wasn't only Raph who did the talking. I said some things too."

Marshall regarded her warily. Whenever Mary wasn't direct, it was because she had something to hide. "What kind of things?"

Marshall could tell Mary was forcing herself to meet his eyes. "Like how I don't think I can waste my life with someone who isn't right for me."

Only Mary's hand on his kept Marshall from falling to the floor in shock. He stared at her a long moment before saying, "So you...broke up with Raphael?"

Mary's voice didn't waver. "Yes."

Marshall blinked. "Because you had a midlife crisis? Mar, you have to be sure you're doing this for the right reasons -- "

"Because I got shot, idiot," Mary snapped, "and because you were right. I can't marry someone because I feel guilty. I can't marry someone who doesn't know that I don't like rings in cupcakes, or that I can't talk about my work -- " She squeezed his hand tighter as he began to pull back. "No, Marshall, you were right. He should have been able to trust me, trust the fact that I have secrets I couldn't tell him."

Marshall's thoughts were whirling through his head, as brilliant and vivid as the starbursts he'd induced out in the waiting room. He wanted to press his fingertips to his eyes and stop the dizzying but Mary's hand held his fast.

"So why now?" he finally asked. "Because you got shot?"

Mary simply looked at him with a look he couldn't, didn't want to, decipher. "Because I realized that if I got shot again, there's only one person I'd want waiting for me to wake up."

Marshall's throat was dry. "Who is that?" he whispered.

"Doofus," Mary said seriously, "I just woke up from surgery and we have a shooter to track down." Her hand was warm on his. "If I told this person now, he'd go crazy and start spouting off stupid, random facts and he'd probably cry a little, because he's a big wuss, and then he'd have to tell my boss and make us celebrate with pie." She gave him a sly look. "So now isn't the best time for the big reveal. For now, it's a secret. Trust me on this one."

And he did.

And one time she didn't wake.

Sophia Clemens shifted nervously at the looks she was receiving from the women huddled in the corner. They were whispering and darting glances at her. She cleared her throat meaningfully.

"Can I help you?" she asked, even though she was the stranger here.

One of the women stepped forward. "You must be the new marshal." Her gaze was sharp and shrewd.

Sophia nodded. "Yes. I just transferred in from the Phoenix department."

Another one of the women sidled up. "Ooh, you're partnered with Marshal Mann." She stuck out her hand and smiled. "I'm Cherie Baker, sweetheart. We're in bookkeeping. Any time you have trouble with that crotchety stick in the mud, you just come down to us."

"Cher," the first woman with the sharp eyes scolded. "That's not fair. You know about his old partner a few years back." She turned her gaze toward Sophia once again. "If you last any longer than the other six, you'll be welcome here any time you like."

"Still," Cherie protested. "He goes through partners like toilet paper." Her eyes raked up and down Sophia's form. "Especially the female ones."

After this uncertain welcome, Sophia felt a sense of anticipation growing in her stomach as she rode the elevator to the fourth floor. What was this marshal like? Would he look down on her as a woman, or ignore her? And what was the story about his old partner? The ladies in bookkeeping hadn't specified what had happened. Sophia wrapped her fingers around each other nervously.

Sophia entered the main area to find it deserted but for a single man at his desk. She glanced at the desktop but could find no name plaque.

"Excuse me," she began tentatively.

The man's head snapped up. "You the new recruit?" he said hoarsely. His voice sounded rough, as if he didn't speak often. His face was set in long, grim lines of sadness.

"Y-yes," Sophia stammered. "And you…?"

The man rose but did not extend a hand. "Marshal Mann," he said in a dull monotone. "Now that you're here we can start transferring witnesses. I trust you know the procedures for visiting and transferring…"

Sophia felt indignation begin to smother the nerves. "Of course," she began stiffly. "I have been working with the Phoenix department for a few years, so..."

Marshal Mann -- how insolent, to introduce himself by his title instead of his first name! -- continued as is she hadn't spoken.

"...When we visit families, remember to keep your gun out of sight and with the safety on at all times…"

Sophia's patience snapped as surely as a bridge before a typhoon.

"Look, buster, I don't know what you heard about me, but I'm not going to stand here and take this shit from you! I'm one of the best damn marshals on the Phoenix team -- was, until that asshole Jeremy thought he could feel me up and I shot his ear off." Damn it, she was getting sidetracked. "The point is, don't think you can boss me around just because I'm new around here. Got it, Mister Mann?"

By this time her finger was poking into his chest and she was nearly on top of the desk. Shit. There went inter-office relations. There went her new job, for that matter. Mann still hadn't moved.

Then he reached up and gently removed her finger from his chest. "Perfectly, Marshal Clemens." He paused. "Shall we start again?" He held out his right hand. "Let me introduce myself. My name is Marshal Marshall Mann."

Sophia looked up into Mann's face. The tense lines of his faces were still set in sorrow, but there was something like a spark in his eyes -- the first sign of life Sophia had seen from him yet.

She clasped his hand firmly in hers. "Sophia Clemens. Pleasure to meet you, Marshall." Maybe, if Sophia wasn't wrong, this could be the start of something good.

(end)