*** The muse has been satisfied and this will be the final chapter. It ended the way I wanted and I'm glad! No spoilers and there's zesty parts so be aware! ***

The universe relented and Mary's life slowly righted itself event by event. Within a week of wrapping up Martin's case she felt nearly healed and her bruises were gone. Marshall was still very careful of her pelvis despite her protests to the contrary and promised her pleasures to come. Brandi and Peter had returned from their trip and Brandi announced she was moving into her boyfriend's house. Mary gleefully helped her pack and within two days had converted her little sister's room back into a guest room. Little did anyone know that her only guest never used it.

Jinx called from New York four days after Brandi left and had amazingly gotten a speaking role in an off Broadway play which ran for six months. She was staying there and asked Mary to ship some of her belongings to her. Mary made Marshall help her pack almost all of her mother's things and sent them out to NYC by the next evening. The following day she played hooky and called Marshall at work during lunchtime.

She asked him what he was doing and he drawled, "Your work, apparently. So…are you coming in today?"

"Guess what I'm wearing." she teased him and he tried not to rise to the bait.

"A wrinkled t-shirt and some of my pajama pants?" he dryly replied and noted Eleanor tilt her head as she heard his answer. He turned so she couldn't see him and remembered to keep his voice down.

Mary's voice dropped half an octave and she chuckled, "Much better…I only seem to be wearing a drop of tequila that's slowly rolling down between my breasts and is now resting on my stomach. Mmmmm…want to come lick it off?"

Marshall's mouth went completely dry and he had no idea how he would be able to escape the office without embarrassing himself at that moment. "Where are you?" he growled.

"Lying outside under the gazebo by the pool." she purred.

"Naked??" he asked, unbelieving and also louder that intended. Eleanor smirked as she tried to listen to his side of the conversation.

"Completely," she said then gasped, "oops, spilled a little more and, ooooo, it stings a little bit if I spill it there. You could lick that off too…I always like it when you put your tongue there."

Marshall was speechless as visions of Mary, nakedness and tequila swirled through his mind in a lust filled haze. He swallowed a few times and tried not to drop the phone. Finally regaining his voice as Mary began to make some distinctively R rated sounds on the other end he ground out, "Ten minutes." He stood up and grabbed his jacket to deliberately hold in front of him and said to Eleanor in as calm a voice as possible, "I've got to check on a situation that just came up. I don't know how long it'll take, so just let Stan know…I'll be back." and bolted out the door.

"Sure, Inspector…don't rush." Eleanor responded with a smile. "My, oh my," she thought, amused, "I do believe that boy just went on a booty call. Good girl!" she gave mental praise to Mary to make Marshall bolt out that door so quickly and awkwardly.

Marshall never did make it back to work and not a drop of tequila went to waste.


Two weeks later Mary had to physically drag him off of the boyfriend of one of his witnesses when he found out the dirtbag had hit the witness' six year old daughter hard enough to leave a bruise.

Luckily, the little girl was at school when the ugly scene occurred. The witness had called Marshall, who responded immediately and Mary was already with him. He nearly pulled the screen door off the hinges as he stormed inside when the sounds of a shouting match could be heard in the house. He never stopped to ask a question and plowed right into the man, shoving him up against a wall. Mary moved the witness safely out of the way and yelled at Marshall to stop before any punches were thrown. The stupid boyfriend decided to land a fist on the side of Marshall's head and all hell broke loose.

Marshall Mann had a particular hatred for those who abused small children.

Marshall was fast and vicious and Mary grabbed him from behind in a head lock in order to haul him off the pathetic scum now on the ground before he inflicted permanent damage. It scared her because not only was there a good chance she would get hurt, she didn't like to see her partner out of control. He wore his demeanor like he wore his badge, proudly and very well maintained. She had to stop him before he did something that he would feel ashamed about and most likely demand punitive action from Stan.

He fought her for a few minutes and she barely was able to hang on and suffered a few bruises of her own before he regained control of his senses and she let him go. The silence in the room was broken by their heavy breathing and the cursing of the man on the floor. "Get out. Never come back, because if I see you again I'll just wait 'til there's no one to save you." Marshall snarled at the man who wisely bolted out the door and took off at a run.

His witness was crying and Mary soothed her and distracted her from the event by helping her prepare lunch for her daughter who would be home from school soon. She kept one eye on her partner and watched him slowly pull the pieces together and reassemble the dignified and calm man he needed to be. He gently reminded his witness to let him screen the men she chose to date before allowing them in her house and around her daughter. The woman was grateful and hugged Marshall and thanked him profusely as they left.

They sat in the truck and he rested his forehead on his hands on the steering wheel. She sat quietly in the passenger seat and waited. He would talk when he was ready and she knew not to pry.

"I'm sorry," he began in a tired voice, "that was inexcusable and I'm sorry you got dragged into it."

She matched his somber tone as she reassured him, "It was understandable. I know why you did it, but I was worried it would come back to haunt you if I'd let you continue."

He was silent again for a few minutes before he began to speak, "My Grandfather use to beat us regularly when we visited and my parents were gone." his quiet offering of secrets stilled her and she just stared as he continued with his head still on his hands. "My little brother and I. We were young, just six and eight, and sometimes there was no rhyme or reason for it. Just a bitter, mean old man who took his anger out on us. I remember thanking God for killing him when he died of a heart attack the year I turned ten. I was sure I'd go to Hell for that, but it was probably better than his house. Grant and I never told a soul…ever."

Mary felt tears on her face and she whispered, "It should never be like that. I'm sorry, Marshall." She realized she was the first person he had ever shared this with and she was honored and humbled.

He turned his head to look at her and marveled at this wonderful woman who would cry for the little boy he had been. "You needed to know and I wanted to tell you." His eyes were seeking reassurance and acceptance. Not knowing if this would drive her away. She slid over and ran her hand through his hair and kissed his forehead, resting her head on the edge of the steering wheel inches away from his and meeting his gaze. "It made you the man you are today…and I treasure that man." she stated simply and saw the tension leave his eyes and he was Marshall again.

Later that evening, he whined teasingly and complained that she had been too rough with him during the fight. She pounced and threatened to show him what rough really was and they tumbled into bed laughing and wrestling.


She let him keep some pajamas in her pajama drawer and he bought her a pair of Godzilla slippers to keep his Scooby Doo slippers company at his house.

Neither knew the other had secret conversations with Eleanor regarding their relationship. Eleanor kept the strictest confidence and delighted in the game. Stan remained voluntarily clueless.

Mary discovered that Marshall had a mouth on him and would swear like a drunken biker when aroused. It thrilled her. Marshall found that she was fiendishly ticklish in a certain spot and would giggle like a maniacal ten year old when he nibbled on it. It made him melt.

Eight weeks had flown by in a flurry of work and mutual discovery. They were both excited when Stan told them they had been assigned to assist with a large operation involving the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force in New Orleans the next week.

"Well," she said to him after Stan briefed them, "we have been taking care of squirrely witnesses, guess it's time to go shoot some random people." She was referring to the plan Marshall had suggested right before meeting Fawler at Martin's house.

"Did you know," drawled Marshall, and Mary was already rolling her eyes with those three words, "the chance of being hit by a random bullet increases 400 fold on New Years Eve? The ATF tracked the number of unintentional bullet wounds across the country on New Years Eve were surprised by….." his words faded to music as she put her headphones on and glared him back to his own desk. Marshall was undeterred and just shifted the focus of his conversation to Eleanor who was happy to have an in depth discussion of the terminal velocity of stray bullet shot straight into the air.

New Orleans – nine weeks after Martin's death

Marshall's eyes took in the activity in the command center and he was pleased to see a number of Marshals and DEA agents he had worked with before over the years. There were plenty of new faces, some of them so new he wondered if he should start carding people. "God, when did I get old?" he chuckled to himself as he strode over to the breakfast cart hoping there was something edible left in the picked over baskets. He didn't usually eat much before an operation, but the heavy rain was delaying the start time as the airport had cancelled flights and the supplier's plane was currently stuck in Miami. When they received word from the FAA that the plane left Miami the clock on this end would start ticking. Meanwhile, he decided to eat something rather than take the chance of being distractingly hungry later.

He was filling a plate with fruit and muffins, automatically adding a donut or two for Mary, when a younger DEA agent joined him at the cart and introduced himself.

"Todd LaBlaine," he said, shaking Marshall's hand, "wanted to meet one of you Marshal types to see who I'm running with today." The agent began to fill his own plate with donuts, bacon and biscuits with gravy. Marshall hoped he wasn't standing next to the guy later when he puked.

"Marshall Mann from the Albuquerque office." offered the tall man. "You haven't participated in a multidisciplinary task force before?"

"Nothing on this scale…with this many agencies." Todd looked at Marshall and grinned, "Really…Marshal Marshall?" He saw the older man's eyes narrow and prudently dropped the subject. Just then, Marshall saw the young man's eyes focus on something across the room as his eyebrows shot up. "And, oh boy, am I now glad I came. That there's a prime piece of real estate and I'm wondering how I'm gonna get me some land."

Marshall followed LaBlaine's gaze and immediately saw the prize. Mary. She was standing toward the middle of the auditorium getting her transmitter wired and flirting with the young tech as she helped him run the wire through her belt. She hadn't put on her outer gear yet and was gloriously lovely in her black cammo pants and white tank top. Her hair was still loose and the heat and high humidity of the gulf coast had caused the ends to curl slightly near her chin. Marshall could just look at her all day and smiled as his eyes followed the toned muscles of her shoulders and arms, the curve of her breasts and hips...he shook himself mentally and chastised his wandering mind. "Not right now…later." he told himself with anticipation. He wickedly played into the DEA agent's game, "I don't know, Todd, that looks like a luxury penthouse and you seem like more of a condo guy."

Todd couldn't take his eyes off her and responded, "Well, I've been around the block a few times and have a few tricks. I'm thinking I could talk her down in price a bit. Maybe just convince her to give me a taste?"

Marshall rolled his eyes at the foolish man next to him and nudged him, "Well…look at that. Here she comes. Must've felt you ogling her all the way over here. Ready to do some negotiating?" Todd actually looked excited and Marshall almost felt sorry for him.

Mary strode directly for them in her usual, purposeful way and Todd was transfixed. As she reached them, he opened his mouth to speak but Mary was faster.

"Jesus, Marshall, when did they lower the age limit for law enforcement? I don't think half these idiots are of drinking age." She turned her gaze on the DEA agent and smiled alarmingly, "Hell, you're probably still a virgin!" She patted Todd's cheek and he turned bright red. Marshall snorted in amusement.

To his credit, Agent LaBlaine was able to hold out his hand and barely stutter as he introduced himself to this blonde goddess. She replied, "Marshal Mary Shannon…and I see you've already met my grinning moron of a partner." Marshall wiggled his eyebrows at Todd and grinned harder. The younger man knew when he was beaten, smiled wryly and took his leave.

Mary helped herself to Marshall's yet untouched plate as she said, "Well, you two were talkative. What did he want?"

"You." Marshall smiled at her and snagged his muffin before it disappeared too.

She choked a bit on her donut and looked at him incredulously, "Seriously?" He nodded and she looked over at the DEA agent now talking to his cohorts. She pretended to look him up and down appraisingly and said slowly, "Hmmm… well, he may have some potential…"

Marshall barked a laugh and smacked her on the arm saying, "Cut it out…you'd maim the poor guy! And anyway, once you've had the Mann between your thighs you know you can't settle for anything less. You'd be back begging for it." he laid it on thick.

Her eyes widened in shock and then she laughed out loud at the complete absurdity of that statement coming out of his mouth. He was rarely outright crude and she was completely caught off guard. "Oh my god, I can't believe you said that out loud!" She was casting her eyes about hoping no one was within hearing distance, "You're insane, you know that?"

He was laughing too, but his eyes became serious as he looked at her and replied, "I must be…I'm hopelessly in love with you."

Mary tilted her head and returned his gaze, "Damn straight." she agreed.

The rain let up a half hour later and the airport informed them that the supplier's plane was off the ground and headed their way. The joking turned more pointed and the conversations stiffer as everyone turned their thoughts to tactical plans and survival. They were acting on information from a long term informant and the bust was dangerous but worth it. Three higher up cartel players would be the prize today along with their supplies of drugs and arms coming in from Miami.

Marshall and Mary checked and double checked each other's gear with their usual efficiency. The teams gathered around their leaders to review the game plan one last time and then they were loading the vans to take them to the drop off site just outside the perimeter of a small craft airport. Marshall counted alligators and Mary threatened to feed him to them if he didn't shut up. Their team unloaded and they began the slow creep towards the hanger that was designated for the drop. The team leader had just confirmed the latest information from the inside man and the operation was a go. Marshall looked at her and said, "Promise to stay safe." She squeezed his hand and replied, "If you promise to come home." Satisfied, they turned their full attention to the task at hand.

It went sideways before the teams were even in place. Three buildings outside the perimeter of the hanger exploded as a helicopter came barreling in from just over the treeline and fired antitank missiles. The task force personnel were forced to split up and take cover while defending the poor positions they held. Mary and Marshall lost sight of each other in the first ten minutes. Because of the transmitters everyone wore, chatter was plentiful and the partners could hear the other's voice intermittently as orders were given and received.

Mary, a DEA agent and two other Marshals were cut off from the main group and fled to the back entrance of the hanger. They came under heavy fire from the control tower and were forced to kick an entryway into a storage area attached to the main building. While squeezing through the small and sharp opening to safety, Mary's transmitter was severed and she lost her feed. Their small group also lost a Marshal outside the shed as he was picked off by the shooters in the control tower. She could only follow the lead of the other two people with her and had no idea where Marshall was or if he was alive. She forced herself to focus on her own survival.

Marshall's group had consisted of six men until a gunner in the helicopter took one down. The remaining five dove for shelter amongst the aircraft and vehicles on the tarmac adjacent to the hanger and waited to get a clear shot of the man in the bird. Marshall hadn't heard Mary's voice for a few minutes and called on her to check in. Nothing. He tried again a few minutes later with the same result. The chaos on the line was expected, but she had never not answered him before. As the task force's own SAMs finally removed the air threat, he grimly focused on finishing the operation and did not think about the scenarios that would lead to her radio silence.

Thirty five minutes of guerilla warfare passed with the ultimate victory going to the task force. They lost four men and one of the cartel members that had hoped to capture. Mary's small team was key to the success of the operation as they were able to sneak into the hanger and remove some key small arms threats before they were used against the rest of the team. She was trying to finish securing the weapons on the last prisoner inside so she could go track down Marshall. She was nearly frantic with worry at this point. Suddenly, she was grabbed from behind in a rough but loose chokehold and almost threw her opponent before she recognized the body against her as her partner's. Relief flooded through her and she closed her eyes and relaxed into him. He had been madly searching for her and hadn't even checked in his assault rifle before hunting her down and still held it in his other hand. He was shaking and pressed his head against hers while growling in her ear, "I couldn't hear you!"

She held his arm around her neck with her hands and replied, "I know. My transmitter was scraped off when we crawled into the shed."

He held her for a few moments more, squeezed tightly then let her go. "I'm going to go check the weapon in and I'll see you in the van." he told her as he walked away. He was trying to regroup and needed to distance himself from her for a time once he had found her alive. She understood.

They rode back comfortably, but quietly. Everyone's emotions were raw and there was a pall of sadness over the deaths of four colleagues. All knew it could easily have been them. The partners debriefed back at the command center, showered and climbed into their truck to drive back to their hotel. Chit chat was minimal and the tension was palpable. As they shut the door behind them, Marshall pulled her into his arms and backed her into the wall roughly. His mouth was on hers, his hands gripped her hair and he kissed with passion and need. Mary was surprised, but her desire flared quickly and hotly to meet his and she tucked her hands into his back pockets and pulled his hips into hers. She felt his need and he ground his hips firmly against hers for the first time and she gasped. There was something raw and powerful about the force and the intensity of their kiss increased.

Marshall reached down to grab the hem of her t-shirt and pulled it over her head quickly then just as swiftly relieved her of her bra. He regripped her hair with one hand while the other caressed and rubbed and gently pinched her breasts and nipples. He was savoring her neck and jawline with kisses and his tongue swirled and suckled at her lips and ears. She was moaning and working the fastening of his belt and jeans to try to get to more of him. He whispered roughly into her ear as he had earlier, "I couldn't hear you." She understood and whispered back, "Then feel me."

They were all frenetic energy and lust as they devoured each other and shed clothing articles like shells until they were both naked and sweating. Mary pushed Marshall down onto the bed and licked a slow trail from his knee up to his groin. He groaned and thrust as she used her lips and tongue to explore him and watched him writhe beneath her. Suddenly he tangled both hands in her hair and gripped her head firmly so he could pull her up his body. She protested slightly, but he covered her mouth with his and used his tongue to silence her and drive her mad once more. She began to settle onto him but he shifted his hips to thwart her and broke the kiss.

"No." he said roughly. He saw the confusion in her eyes and smiled slowly as he ground out, "Tonight I drive…and we're going to go fast." Her eyes widened slightly and he used his hips and momentum to flip her under him, spread her thighs with his knees and in one move entered her deeply and swiftly. She cried out his name with utter delight at the sensation and wrapped her legs around his hips as she bucked to meet him. His thrusts filled her completely and he had a way of tilting his hips that caused electrical currents of pleasure to course through her limbs. She was gasping and begging and planted one foot wide on the bed as the other leg climbed higher on his body to wrap around his ribs, her nails digging slightly into his buttocks as she pulled him deeper into her. The ball of flame in her belly had grown to a raging inferno and she was burning alive. With a last, sobbing plea, her world exploded in a wave of rapture and she rode it into oblivion.

Marshall had heard her cry out his name and saw her writhing beneath him as he entered her and as his hips tilted to settle him into her more fully the air around him seemed to shimmer and his vision blurred. She dug her nails into him and met him thrust for thrust and the last shred of his control vanished as his world became a white noise. Her pleas and moans drove him to move faster and harder and as her leg wrapped around his back it caused her hips to twist and he pushed into her fully. She came apart shuddering and sobbing and he leaned back, grabbed her hips with his hands and pulled her roughly into him as he thrust three more times and shattered. He collapsed upon her and faded into darkness as he whispered, "I can hear you."

She slowly came to awareness as he lay spent on her chest. The weight of him satisfying and pleasurable. She had never been taken by a man like that before and it had been glorious. Every molecule of her body was floating in its own languid pool of deliciousness. The intensity and ferocity of the act was primal and she felt…claimed in some way. "I belong to Marshall" she played with the thought in her mind and found she liked it. Not that she'd ever tell him that. Smiling, she allowed herself to drift back into semi-consciousness for a while. She shifted her hips slightly a short time later as his weight started to become uncomfortable and he slid off to one side with a sigh.

He woke as she shifted him off of her and reveled in the pure limpness of his limbs and sated weight of his body. He had never taken a woman like that before. Because of his size and strength, he had always been careful to maintain control and paced himself. Not with this woman. She had driven him over the brink as she matched him in strength and tempo and it had been divine. He slowly crawled his fingers up her side and rested his hand on her belly. "Are you all right?" he whispered into her neck, "I was rough."

Her hand covered his and she purred, "Mmmm, baby…Mario Andretti needs to take the car around the track more often." He smiled in pleasure. "You liked that, eh?" he offered. She chuckled softly and murmured, "Zoom, zoom."

They fell asleep for a while, then woke each other later for a slow, scenic drive where they explored peaks and valleys filled with sighs and promises and filled their senses with tastes and textures that coaxed moans and whispers. They delighted in each other.

He lay on his back in the dark room, Mary's head resting on his chest and her finger idly tracing tiny circles in his chest hair. He listened to her breathing and allowed himself to feel the sensation of her breath on his skin, the silkiness of her hair across his shoulder and the weight of her leg resting on his thigh. This woman undid him…tore down every defense he ever had and he would give her any part of him that she asked for. He could hide nothing of himself from her, nor would he want to, and she had wrapped herself around his very core and become a part of him. He would fight beside her…fight for her…die for her.

"You know what I think?" he murmured as he gently wound a strand of her hair round and round his finger. His other hand joined hers on his chest and he laced their fingers together.

"Mmmm?" she replied in a purr, tracing his thumb with her own.

"That I will love you forever." he softly declared. Her thumb stilled and he felt her breath catch. He waited, continuing to gently play with her hair.

Marshall's words caressed her and for the first time in her life, Mary felt…whole. The wound in her soul that ached with the ever present yearning to belong to someone, that compelled the haunted search for some elusive salve of comfort, was closed. This man had repaired her faith and her trust and kissed the scars of broken hopes and dreams until they were but memories. He was a part of her now and she couldn't remember knowing what it was like to be without him. She would give him anything as he was her everything.

Mary shifted her head so it was resting on his shoulder and placed a gentle kiss on his neck. She whispered into his ear, "And I will let you."

Her breath tickled his ear and he smiled and sighed in contentment.

--el fin--

*** Thank you all for taking the journey with me! Please let me know what you think with my favorite treat...REVIEWS! I have another story written and will post soon ***