*** On the road again and neither is really excited to be going. Spoilers for season 1 and 2 interspersed. This seems to occur outside of the TV show. After season one and the season 2 we saw would be in a parallel universe ***

Mary peeled her eyes open as the insistent ringing of her phone penetrated her dreams and awareness slowly dawned. It was the only thing dawning, though, because it was still dark outside. She slapped her hand over to the nightstand and felt around until she grabbed the offending instrument and pulled her face out of the pillow to answer sharply, "You better be dying, numbnuts, or I'm going to kill you myself." She knew it was Marshall because no one else would dare call her at this time of night…or morning.

"Pack your bags, cowgirl, adventure awaits us in Kansas." Her partner's voice was inappropriately perky for the hour.

"Can't it await until daytime?" she mumbled as she flopped over onto her back and tried to focus on the clock…4:10am… "Are you kidding??" she thought in amazement.

"Just pee and put on a bra. I'll be there in twenty and you can sleep in the truck." He hung up and she swore at the phone.

Mary drug herself out of bed and not only managed to follow Marshall's suggestion, but added to her already packed travel bags, put on some clothes and brushed her hair and teeth. Leaving quickly and efficiently was rote by now in this job. She grabbed her two Glocks and extra clips, badge and keys and met him as he came up the walk to take her bag.

Marshall had to chuckle at her as she stumbled to the truck. Mary did not wake up easily or well when she wasn't on watch, and it took her three tries to successfully operate the handle on the door and pile herself into the passenger seat. "What…you aren't driving?" He teased as he threw her bag in the back, "I was going to get a few more hours of shut eye."

She flipped him off, leaned the seat back and turned on her side to get comfortable.

"Seat belt" he reminded as he settled into the driver's side, watched her fumble to pull the belt down and sighed. Reaching over, he buckled her in as he mumbled, "Truly pathetic, Shannon."

"Don't talk to me until it's time for breakfast, Marshall." she grunted, then added for good measure, "I hate Kansas, by the way, so I'm doubly pissed."

He glanced sideways at her, reflexively admiring the curve of her hip and butt since she was turned away from him, then offering, "I'll buy you pancakes. You'll get over it."

"Possibly…now stop talking."

"Your wish is my command."

"Still talking"

"Yes ma'am"

"Marshaaaallll…" came her exasperated warning hiss. He smiled to himself and decided to leave her alone. It was a long, two day drive and he wanted to arrive in one, non emasculated piece. Marshall was comfortable amusing himself with his own thoughts and drove until the morning was fully established in complete contentment.

Three and half hours and two cups of coffee later, Mary felt human enough to wonder why they were going to Kansas. As the pancakes arrived and Marshall put down the newspaper, she asked him what the plan was.

He looked up and grinned, "Oh…I can talk now?" She rolled her eyes and he chuckled while answering, "Manny Sterling."

Mary's brow furrowed as she remembered Marshall's witness. Manny Sterling was a low level mule snagged during a bust in Oklahoma. He rolled pretty easily and was going to give the DEA the goods on a key player in the drug world of America's Heartland. His info had been good so far, and the feds planned to put him on the stand within the next few months. Marshall had inherited him from Portland WITSEC after Manny had unwittingly revealed his location to a former girlfriend and now the man was locked down tight under her partner's keen eye.

"Don't tell me he was trying to get another date and now we have to cover his shit?" Mary had no tolerance for witnesses who were dumb enough to not understand that "don't tell anyone" still applied when you were naked.

Marshall's attention was drawn to an article in the paper and he was slow to respond, "Nah…one of his former runners and family was offed execution style at their ranch outside of Quinter. They suspect the cartel, and with the trial only months away and Manny's previous breach, want us to do an on site threat assessment and brain wipe." The latter term was launched into use after the Men in Black movie and referred to the procedure of cleaning up the local reports to keep any witness info away from prying eyes.

She stopped chewing to narrow her eyes at him, "And you needed me on this little joy ride because…." It wasn't necessary for him to bring her along and she suspected there was an ulterior motive involved.

"What…I get lonely." He tossed out and then asked, "Did you know that in Honduras, the Lluvia de Peces (Rain of Fishes) is a unique phenomenon that has been occurring for more than a century on a yearly basis? Witnesses say a dark cloud covers the area, there's thunder and lighting and then rain for hours. Once the rain has stopped, hundreds of living fish are found on the ground. They think it's a meteorological phenomena in which mini vortices draw up water from local ponds and then the fish get caught in the updrafts, transported miles away within the storm and are dropped with the rain. I hear that happens here during tornado season sometimes…even frogs and small rodents occasionally rain down."

"Gives new meaning to the phrase, 'flying rat's ass' now, doesn't it?" She was trying really hard to tune him out as she suspected he was trying to distract her and focused back on his intent for dragging her along on this trip to the nation's Hell Hole. "So why'd you bring me? You don't get lonely. All you need is a book and a picture of Penelope Cruz and you're set for a week." she cocked her head as she sipped her coffee and stared at him.

Marshall knew she'd just keep asking until he told her and sighed, "Stan made me take you." He could've gone on this trip all by himself and had a few days of R&R, but his boss made it very clear that his partner was to join him. "And it's Salma Hayak, not Penelope Cruz…just for the record."

Mary curled her lip, "Whatever…skinny with fake boobs…they're all the same. What I want to know is why Stan made you take me. What's his problem?" She was trying to figure out why she was being banished from the office and drawing a blank. Though it was true she had no outstanding work right now, Stan didn't usually force them on each other…they did that to themselves.

"The problem, Mare, is that you've been particularly testy the last couple of weeks and your little blow up with Eleanor four days ago still has her plotting your demise in very creative ways. You needed to get away and she needed you to go." He waited for her to protest in her typical indignant manner and glanced down at the paper again for an adequate distraction to her sputtering.

"What? What are you talking about? I thought she was just going into menopause or something." Mary looked completely confused and Marshall looked at her closely.

"You don't remember that little grudge match that ended with your especially obscene suggestion?" Even he had been taken aback by Mary's vehemence at the time.

She pursed her lips and gazed upwards, deep in thought and he worried a bit now. "Mary, don't you remember? It was Tuesday morning." He saw realization dawn and ratcheted his concern down a notch.

"Oh. I really said that, huh? God, no wonder she's been giving me the cold shoulder." Mary looked at Marshall to explain, "I've had an ear infection for the last week and a half with the usual fun side effects of migraines and vertigo. I barely slept the night before that and I was in a lot of pain that morning. The whole day is a blur. Maybe I should call her?"

"No, definitely not. She'll be fine and you can explain when we get back. Why didn't you tell me you were sick?" It bothered him that she had been in pain and hadn't told him.

"Why…you have a cure for ear infections? You would've just hounded me to go to the doctor and you know I wasn't going to give in until I was falling down in the shower. I got some antibiotics later that day and it's much better now. Just a little stuffy still." She rubbed her left ear with her finger as she remembered she forgot the little bottle of meds at home. "Jesus…I'm an idiot." she chastised herself.

Her partner rolled his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose while sighing. "You see how you are?"

"What?" she gave him her trademark challenge.

He grabbed the bill and went to pay at the register while she grabbed the paper to read later in the truck. Kansas was still a long way off.


"She's not, you know." Marshall piped up drowsily from the passenger seat. They had switched drivers after breakfast since he had been awake since three a.m. and Mary had been driving for about two hours now.

"Who's not what?" Mary shot him a look. She thought he had fallen asleep and his comment startled her.

"Salma Hayak. She's not skinny, and I'm pretty sure her boobs are real." Marshall had his eyes closed as he talked.

"Oh come on…they're all swizzle sticks with heads and you could use their boobs for flotation devices in an emergency." Mary rolled her eyes.

Marshall shook his head slowly, "Nope, she's curvy in all the right spots. Great breasts too. Built a lot like you, but she's shorter." Marshall was dozing slightly as he talked, which is why the words actually got through the filter.

Mary glanced over at him, surprised, and saw he had his eyes closed. "Are you asleep, moron? Because I think you just complimented my breasts." She actually felt a little pleased. When you're a woman in a man's job, the men around you tend to forget your gender and you wonder if they even know you're a girl after a while.

Marshall was awake now, but afraid to open his eyes. If she thought he was fully aware he'd be riding on the outside of the truck for the rest of the trip. He decided to milk this for a little while to get a rise out of her and sleepily said, "You do have nice breasts." He tensed for an expected blow.

If Marshall knew how flustered he had just made his partner he would do a little victory dance. Mary had had many men compliment her body…especially her breasts, but they never made her blush like Marshall's comment just did. "What the hell?" she thought, confused. "Why does that make me want to giggle like a school girl?" Immediately on the defensive when on unstable emotional footing, she snapped, "You've never seen my girls, nitwit."

"Have too."

"What!?" she almost veered out of her lane as she whipped her head around to look at his deceptively relaxed form. "When? Where?"

He opened one eye to peer at her, "Can I refuse to answer that on the grounds it may cripple me?"

"Oh, I'd answer if I were you. Otherwise you'll be getting your own damn hotel room because I'll think you're sneaking peeks while I'm in the shower."

"When we crawled out of that burning crack house in Phoenix two years ago."

She flashed back to that disaster of an operation and remembered coming to on the ground outside with a makeshift bandage wrapped around her ribcage and loosely wearing Marshall's shirt."Oh yeah…wait a minute, you looked? We were mostly dead and almost torched and you looked at my boobs?" She glanced at him incredulously.

He looked slightly abashed and shrugged, "I'm a guy. We look." He had given up the pretense of sleeping and levered himself up in the seat to stretch. "They were right there…hard to miss. It's not I like I studied them…just noticed." He looked over at her and laughed. "You're blushing!"

"I am not! The air conditioning in here sucks." She was completely unsettled by the fact that Marshall had seen her breasts and she could not figure out why. "Read the paper or something, Pervis." She scowled at the windshield and gripped the steering wheel with both hands in aggravation.

"Pedal off the metal, Speedy Gonzales," warned her partner as he saw her speed hit 80mph, "Stan will have our heads if we get a ticket…or you abuse a state trooper again." She grudgingly slowed to 70. Marshall was still reeling from the fact that Mary Shannon could blush and added the marvelous thought that he was the one who made her do it. He was strangely pleased for the next two hundred miles.

*** And they're off! They will definitely get on each other's nerves for this trip, so be prepared. Let me know if you like it so far!! PLEASE...pretty PLEASE :) ***