*** A little one stop shopping for a piece of Mary's past. I remember seeing the lewd vagrancy charge on Mary's rap sheet that O'Connell had and wondered about it. This is my interpretation of the development of Mary's rap sheet ;) ***

They walked up to the front porch of Mary's house deep in conversation and Marshall noticed the FedEx package resting against the bottom of the porch wall. Picking it up, he handed it to her after she had pushed into the house and he had looked at the return address.

"Who do you know from Minneapolis?" he asked, trying to mentally flip through her many stories and their many witnesses.

Mary had yelled, "Brandi! Are you home?" as she took the package from Marshall and was contemplating murdering her sister yet again as there were lunch plates on the coffee table and the morning paper was still strewn about the floor in the living room. She heard his question and looked at the package with her brow furrowed and tilted her head as she answered, "I really can't think of anyone. Maybe I ordered something?" She shrugged as she tossed the mail onto the counter and headed to the kitchen to grab her and Marshall a beer.

Brandi's door opened and Mary's sister wandered out looking like she had just woken up. "Geez, Mary…yell loud enough to wake the dead?" She rubbed her face, noticed Marshall and gave a quick wave.

"You're going to be dead, Squish, if this house isn't cleaned up in the next ten minutes. Some people have jobs, you know, and we don't like to come home to this." She gestured at the mess in the living room. "Jesus, what did you do all day…eat and sleep. I'm sure you're exhausted." Mary could drip sarcasm like no one else.

Marshall was torn. The beer was cold in his hand and he really wanted to drink it, but the impending argument between Mary and her sister was a great motivator for him to vanish quickly. He eyed his partner to gauge her level of irritation and realized she was only hovering around defcon 3 and didn't really have her heart set on ramping up. He leaned back against the kitchen counter and allowed the cool beverage to slide down his throat. Safe for now.

Brandi had picked up the plates and food wrappers and deposited the items in the kitchen sink and garbage can, stopping at the fridge to get herself a beer. As she headed back into the living room, she spotted the FedEx package on the counter and picked it up curiously. "Hey, a package! What'd you get, Sis? That new lingerie you ordered?" she was baiting her sister and was watching Marshall out of the corner of her eye to see his reaction. His eyes snapped over to the package, realized Brandi was watching him, and quickly resumed his previously casual pose. Brandi smiled.

"Cut it out, Brandi." Mary chastised her sister. "You know very well I don't wear that stuff. I don't usually leave it on long enough for anyone to study it."

With his mind suddenly full of visions of Mary in lingerie, Marshall's brain was lacking enough oxygen that his mouth opened and the words came out before he could stop them, "I don't know, Mare, there's something to be said for a woman in satin and lace." He tipped his beer at her in a toast.

She looked at him with her trademark questioning sneer and huffed, "Seriously, numbnuts, don't tell me you're the type of guy who buys his girlfriends little heart studded bra and panty sets for Valentine's Day? That is such crap."

"Nah," he began with a wicked gleam in his eye, just in the right mood to tweak her, "I tend to lean more toward the leather, straps and handcuffs…I like to play bad cop."

Both women just stared at him in complete silence and he winked at them as he tipped back more beer.

Mary's brain had just stripped its own transmission. Drive…her mild mannered, slightly nerdy partner. Reverse…handcuffs and Marshall strip searching her. Drive…Marshall standing in her kitchen drinking beer. Reverse…Marshall in her bed tasting her. As her thoughts fell into a jumbled heap, she finally noticed the twinkle in his eye and barely hidden grin and realized she had taken the bait.

"God…you are such an asshole!" she laughed as she tried to smack him and he deftly eluded her. "I think I was just seriously traumatized by the images in my brain."

Brandi was laughing too, and Mary then noticed what else she was doing, "Hey! What the hell are you doing? That's my mail!" Mary snatched the package that Brandi had opened from her sister and an old, hand woven, cloth wrist band fell out. She stared at it, slowly placed the large envelope on the counter and gingerly picked up the newfound item as if it would strike her at any moment. "Oh my God…what the fuck…?" Her sentence trailed off as she again picked up the package and looked inside. She dropped the wristband and pulled an envelope with her name on it from the package's interior.

Marshall, of course, noticed the complete change in his partner's demeanor and posture and knew the objects in that package were significant. Moving slightly closer to her, he watched her expressions as she gazed at the band and envelope. "What is it Mare?" She didn't answer him and opened the envelope to pull out a letter that she unfolded and read silently. Her face showed surprise, anger and confusion as she finished reading and lowered the letter to the counter.

Brandi had quietly observed her sister and reached over to touch her arm, asking, "Who's it from, Mary? What's wrong?"

Mary shook her head slightly as to clear it and looked at Brandi with a quizzical gaze as she replied, "It's from Mark."

"What? As in Mark…your ex?" Brandi looked doubtful and picked up the cloth band to turn it over and look at it.

"Yeah. Wow. Not what I ever expected." Mary's words were soft and she looked at the letter again.

Marshall finally spoke as he was completely ignored, "Hello? Would either of you like to include me in this discussion? Who's Mark? An ex boyfriend? And should I be worried about anything?" He was waving at Mary's face to catch her attention because she was completely lost in thought as she stared off into space.

Brandi answered part of Marshall's question, "Not her ex boyfriend, her ex husband."

Marshall's train of thought derailed and he had to wait for the sparks to stop flying before he remembered she had once told him about a brief, ill advised marriage when she was seventeen. "What's he want? Is it trouble?" He was now concerned for his partner as the usual reason for an ex husband to recontact a woman was to harass her. She didn't seem worried, though, just lost in thought and he waited.

Mary finally seemed to recognize his presence and she handed him the letter to read. "He's atoning, apparently, and I'm on the list. I figured he was either in jail or dead by now as he was seriously fucked up back then and wasn't on a road to redemption anytime soon." She finished her beer and grabbed another from the fridge. It was now definitely a six pack evening.

The letter was short and the writing to the point:

Dear Mary, I am working through the steps of the program and of course, you are on my mind. I figured you'd most likely shoot me if I showed up in person, so I sent this instead (it still counts). I am sorry for past sins and transgressions, as unforgiveable as they were. Please accept my honest apologies and I wish you a happy and fulfilled life. Humbly, Mark

"…as unforgiveable as they were…" were the words that reverberated in Marshall's head. Mary had told him the marriage was a stupid, juvenile mistake and over before it barely began. He now wondered what really had happened and he carefully asked, "You said it was a non event. Why does he feel the need to apologize and atone?"

Brandi snorted and blurted out before Mary could speak, "Because he was a nasty fuckwit and tried to kill her once and then pimped her out!"

"What?!" choked out Marshall as his beer went down very wrong with Brandi's statement. He would be furious that any seventeen year old girl would be put in that position, but that it was Mary made it especially disturbing. "Why didn't I know about this?" he directed to Mary angrily.

She was looking at Brandi in disgust as tried to dismiss her partner's ire, "Because Brandi makes it sound a lot worse than it was. Jesus, Squish, he didn't try very hard and if you remember the story, the guy he sold me to ended up with his balls tied around his ears."

Brandi chuckled slightly and said, "I remember trying to get mom sobered up enough so she could drive to the police station and bail you out. You were pissed, sis!" Mary actually chuckled too and added, "Damn straight…I didn't have any fucking clothes!" They both began to giggle now.

Marshall was looking at the two women in disbelief. Other than the fact that a ten year old and a seventeen year old should never have to deal with situations like that, he couldn't believe the two sisters were now laughing about it as if it was some comical episode. He crossed his arms, glared at Mary and said in a voice used for poorly behaving witnesses, "Spill it."

She sighed and rolled her eyes, "Fine…for Chrissake, Marshall, it's ancient history. Mark was in a band when I met him. I was just seventeen and going into the summer between junior and senior year. He was twenty one and dangerous…the whole James Dean, bad boy thing. I was so sick of spending all my time and money taking care of my drunk mother that I saw him as a chance to get out of that house for good. We hooked up and within a couple of weeks I ran away with him when his band went to Vegas to play at some skanky, third rate casino on the bad side of town. Well, my fake IDs were really good and we were mostly drunk most of the time, so we decided I would be his old lady and went to the chapel to tie the knot. Three weeks later we were back in Jersey and the honeymoon was over, so to speak. He royally fucked up twice in one week and that was that. I had an annulment one month after I dumped his ass." Mary raised her glass of beer to Brandi and they toasted with a "good riddance" shared between them.

Marshall was not satisfied, knowing she had glossed over much and prodded, "And the attempted murder?"

She shrugged one shoulder and elaborated, "We got into a screaming match in his car, I slapped him and got out to walk home and he tried to run me down. Too drunk to drive straight, so all he managed to do was piss me off more and skin my knees." She looked at the empty beer in surprise, tossed it in the garbage and grabbed three more. One for each of them.

"So you still went home with him after that?" her partner scoffed, his brow furrowed as she told the story.

"I was young and stupid, you idiot. Where else was I going to go?" she handed him his beer and looked at him like he didn't have two brain cells to rub together. "When you're a teenager and drunk 24/7 you don't exactly make good judgment calls."

"Tell him about the party, then." Brandi encouraged Mary and then looked at Marshall, "Mary has always been a bad ass…even before she used her powers for good." she laughed at her own joke as her sister glanced daggers at her.

Mary saw Marshall stare at her and raise his eyebrows expectantly and knew there was no way he would leave this alone until she told the whole story. Part of her was royally irritated, but another part wanted him to know. That part that knew he'd take this piece of her and wrap it up just as carefully and kindly as all the other pieces he kept.

"We went to this party across the river at a "friend's" house. Big place with a lot of people. There was a lot of booze and drugs and I was drunk quickly and stayed that way. Mark and I slipped away to a bedroom for a while and I passed out after. He went back to the party and apparently was offered a sizable sum for my services. Of course he took it, then took all my clothes and left me there. I woke up as a naked stranger crawled into the bed, freaked out on his ass and left him nursing a scrotum the size of a basketball. He definitely got a bang for his buck!" Brandi laughed out loud, and Mary chuckled along with her.

Marshall was appalled and took a large drink of his beverage before he could trust himself to say anything. Mary told the story with casual aplomb, but there was a slight tightness around her eyes that he recognized. She was disturbed and trying to cover and he knew now wasn't the time to call her on it. Instead, he urged her to move on, "So I imagine you got arrested for assault?" He was trying to remember if he'd seen that charge on her rap sheet.

She snorted, "No. I got arrested for lewd vagrancy. I had no clothes, so I decided to walk home wrapped in a towel. Frowned upon in that neighborhood apparently." This cracked Brandi up and she leaned onto the counter, put her head on her arms and laughed hard enough to have tears in her eyes. Mary smiled tightly and tousled Brandi's hair in a rare display of affection. "Squish answered the call I made home, wrote everything down and managed to put mom together enough to come and get me a few hours later. I didn't hear the end of it for months."

She met her partner's eyes and saw exactly what she expected…acceptance and concern. Raising her bottle, she clinked hers to his and toasted, "It is true that love is blind…but marriage is definitely an eye opener." They drank.

A while later Mary sat on the back steps with a glass of whiskey since the beer was long gone but her thirst was not. She wished Mark well despite his actions so long ago, but dredging up old memories was harder than she had expected. Turning the cloth wrist band over in her hands, she remembered weaving it together at a party the first week she had met Mark. He must've kept it all these years but she couldn't figure out why and she knew she'd throw it away once she went inside. She knew too many people who used their pasts as crutches, just finding excuse after excuse to continue to fail and hide. The past defines us, makes us who we are, but Mary used hers as boulders and built the hill that she stood atop every day. Each rock a piece of foundation and she was king of that hill. Sometimes they'd shift and she tumble, but never did she fail to claw her way back to the top. It was one of the reasons she rarely talked about her past. Those boulders were used and buried and excavating them just destabilized her footing.

Marshall had come out and sat down next to her in the night. She leaned against him and he looked at her in surprise. She didn't usually initiate contact except the kind that hurt. Taking a guess at the thoughts in her head, he put his arm around her and snugged her up against him so her head rested on his shoulder. "That was tougher than you made it out to be, wasn't it?" he asked, referring to the story told that evening.

"Mmmhmm," she muttered, "not really something I relish reliving. A sordid piece of Mary Shannon."

"No…not a sordid piece of Mary Shannon." he returned, "there are no sullied pieces of you. Only sordid events that affected you. Your pieces are all untainted and just as they should be." He wondered at how this girl managed to scratch and fight her way through childhood one step ahead of disaster and still turn out to the glorious woman she was today. Quirks, faults and personality issues aside, she was kind, strong and strangely unbeaten.

Mary looked up at him and shook her head gently. "You're the only one who could say that and actually make me believe it, Marshall. Because you really think it's true." He smiled down at her and for a moment she thought he was going to kiss her and she held her breath, thinking that she might like that. Then he took a breath and simply raised his glass to her before taking a drink, the connection reluctantly broken. She relaxed into him and they sat that way in silence for quite a while, not quite realizing they were two pieces that fit together perfectly.

---el fin---

*** I love that Brandi thinks the story is hilarious :) Thank you for reading and you know I'll love you like an $8 whore for a REVIEW! ***