*** I started writing this story about two weeks after the finale. The song by Snow Patrol haunted me, and I just kept writing as I thought about what Marshall (and eventually Mary) would be going through and how it would affect their outlooks on life. You don't go through something like this without changing a little bit. ***

*** I don't know if you all will enjoy it...there's a lot of detail, but when you're in this type of environment and the days are spent waiting, you notice a lot of little details. Please let me know if you'd like me to continue to post it! ***

*** I don't own the characters, but I make them do what they do ;) ***

What if this storm ends?
And I don't see you
As you are now
Ever again

--- The Lightning Strike, Snow Patrol

HR: 110 ABP: 92/46 MAP: 61 CVP: 11 SPO2: 99 RR: 16 Temp: 37.5

Fentanyl drip: 5ml/hr. Propofol drip: 15ml/hr. Antibiotics, another unit of blood and fluids infusing.

Two IV lines in her right arm, one in her left arm and one with three ports in her neck. Tubing for another line with a bag of saline attached snaked under her gown. The wires for the heart monitor had been threaded through the pocket on the front of her gown to maintain decency and the pulse oximeter was attached to her index finger on her left arm. A catheter bag hung on the side of the bed and tubing from some sock-like devices protruded from the end of the bed to hook to a machine that forced air into them rhythmically. Finally, the blue and white ventilator tubes meandered over to rest slightly on her chest and mated with the ET tube in her mouth. A tiny tube with a tiny balloon on the end hung off of that too.

Marshall's visual assessment of the objects and data in the room was swift and he immediately had questions for the next nurse who came in. His hands were shaking as he stood by the glass doors granting him access to his partner for the first time, and he had to focus on all the inanimate objects first in order to anchor his mind so he'd be able to actually look at the living woman in the bed. So many devices and medicines to keep her alive right now, the soft beeps and whirs combined with the serial hisses of the ventilator the audible reminders of all the usually silent processes of life.

He slowly walked towards the end of the bed and his eyes focused on her feet. One of them was uncovered, and he didn't want her to be cold so he tucked the blanket over her bare toes as he continued to the chair the nurse had placed next to her side. Marshall saw her fingers next and his brow furrowed with concern as they were swollen and so very still. Mary was never still. Always a part of her in motion…a tapping foot, finger rubbing a hem or tie, rocking slightly as she stood. He made her sit completely still for ten minutes once to win a bet and he thought she was going to jump out of her skin trying to resist movement. But not now. Those fingers didn't twitch or fidget and he was afraid their stillness would creep slowly into her heart.

Her nurse, Kelly, said he could touch her and talk to her quietly, and that it would be good for her, so Marshall gently took her cool fingers in his as he sat down. He ever so slowly allowed his eyes to travel up to her face and flinched, all his resolve to remain stoic crumbled as the tears slowly rolled down his cheeks with the sight of her.

She was pale and the skin around her eyes was puffy and bruised. He couldn't see much of her mouth as the ET tube holder surrounded it, but the dressing over the central line on her neck extended slightly over her jaw and pulled the skin a little crookedly on that side. It bothered him, but he didn't know if he could fix it so left it alone for now. He knew she had been bathed earlier, but there were still some very small spots and stains of betadine and blood near the neckline of her gown. Her hair had been tamed a bit and lay fanned across the pillow. She barely looked like herself and he morbidly wondered if he'd ever again see her as she was or if the last image he would retain was of this fragile woman lying in this bed.

A small moan escaped as he brushed some stray locks of hair off her neck and forehead, and he gathered himself enough to speak to her.

"You look like shit, Mare. I'm probably the only one who will tell you that. And you're wearing pajamas with little polka dots on them, which is just wrong."

No snarky comeback or disdaining sneer, and Marshall felt a little lost without them. He realized he had learned to gauge his conversations with her based on her responses, and wasn't sure what direction to go in without the feedback.

"I'm going to stay with you during the night, Mare. I just couldn't let you lay here all alone for so long. I'd rather be here than anywhere…except maybe plugging the guy who did this."

He studied the colorful array of fluids slowly entering her body as his emotions cracked and stuttered. White, red, clear and yellow…a veritable rainbow of sustenance and comfort. Some of the bags were hanging on standby, but most slowly emptied through the pumps that tracked dosage, volume and rate. He wondered, briefly, how the nurses knew everything that was going on in this room down to the sounds of the different machines, interpreting what they meant in an instant and responding accordingly. It was not his world, he was overwhelmed, and startled when the ventilator let out an odd honk and the tubing vibrated slightly as Mary's chest rose unevenly. It honked again and then the monitor over her head began to chime softly as a yellow light blinked, highlighting her heart rate. It had jumped to 125 and Marshall stood, alarmed and looking for the nurse.

Kelly appeared at the doors immediately and walked into the room with a reassuring smile.

"It's okay, Mr. Mann, she's just waking up a little bit. She must know you're here. You're the first visitor she's responded to." The nurse watched Mary and the monitor for a few minutes as she stood by the bedside and talked to Marshall.

"The ventilator is just telling us Mary is taking a few breaths on her own over the rate we set for her. That's a good thing, but we don't really want her to wake up just yet. It's so soon after the surgery and resuscitation, and her body still just needs to rest for a day or two. "

"Should I go?" Marshall didn't want to leave, but he didn't want to endanger Mary either.

"No, you're all right. Just talk softly and try to not to stimulate her…like rubbing her hand or leg. Just a quiet, reassuring presence will be fine." The ventilator honked again and Mary's heart rate continued to hover around 126, and Kelly continued, "I'm going to up her sedation just a smidge to calm her back down as long as her blood pressure will tolerate it."

The nurse changed a setting on the pump with the white fluid, and within minutes Mary's pulse was 110 and the ventilator hissed rhythmically again. Marshall quietly asked about all the numbers on the monitor and the medications and Kelly made sure he understood all her answers before asking him if he needed anything. She left him with a piece of advice as she observed him study the monitor.

"Mr. Mann, Mary needs you to focus on her. Don't watch the monitor or the pumps, that's my job. You just watch her and she'll let you know what she needs."

Marshall did just that and wholly focused on his critically ill partner. He quietly told her about the events of the shooting as they knew them, knowing she'd want to know, and then updated her on what all her other witnesses were up to. He had laid his hand atop hers, but let it just rest there and Mary tolerated that just fine. He cried for a while as he apologized for not being there and asked her to forgive him. Marshall knew she wouldn't allow him to accept any responsibility for her circumstances once she was awake, so figured he'd get his say in now.

"I'm drowning in the 'what ifs', Mare. What if I had stayed? What if I had put my foot down about that move? What if you had called me instead of Bobby?" He pinched the bridge of his nose and breathed deeply, "All I managed to do was tell you to shut up…I didn't mean it."

Kelly came back in to reduce the rate of the sedative as Mary remained calm, and she brought him a box of Kleenex and a pitcher of water. He wondered how she knew he needed those things.

The nurses kicked him out every two hours to turn Mary, and every time he returned she was covered and obviously cared for. He slowly became comfortable with the sights and sounds of her ICU room and found himself dozing with his head resting on the siderail around five in the morning.

"Marshall….Marshall!" an insistent voice reached through his sleepy state and he lifted his head with a groan. Rubbing his eyes, he saw that Mary remained the same and he looked across the bed to see Eleanor standing there.

"I'm your morning relief, Inspector. It's six o'clock and the boss wants you to go home and get at least four hours of sleep before coming into the office. It's not negotiable." She was using her official tone of voice and Marshall grinned.

"You know, she'd think you were here to do her in." Marshall joked quietly.

Eleanor chuckled, "It would give me no satisfaction to complete that task if she couldn't put up a fight. I have to nurse her back to health first, then strike."

"It's likely that she can hear you." Marshall raised his eyebrows teasingly.

"Yes, probably, but that white medicine will keep her from remembering anything." Eleanor said wryly, "They don't call it 'Milk of Amnesia' for nothing."

Marshall gathered his few things and kissed Mary on the forehead, telling her he'd be back later. He passed Eleanor and asked, "Do you need to know anything about all the stuff in here?"

She looked at him steadily, "No. John was in the ICU for ten days before he died. I'm familiar with all the contraptions."

Marshall blanched slightly and Eleanor realized her comment was internalized with the conclusion that Mary could still die. She laid her hand on the Marshal's arm and reassured him.

"She's going to be okay, Marshall. It's nothing like John's injuries."

Marshall took a deep breath and nodded, not trusting his voice. He squeezed Eleanor's hand and exited the room to journey home.

The next two nights were nearly identical to the first. Marshall would arrive around eleven and take up a presence beside Mary. Her vital signs remained stable and the ventilator occasionally hiccupped and honked, but mainly breathed for her steadily. Her medication and sedation regimen continued the same and the nurses adjusted them slightly for Mary's comfort. The goal was rest and they assured she got it.

Kelly was there the third night and had stolen a lounge chair from the waiting room to place beside Mary's bed for Marshall. She knew he was going to sleep in there and said there was no need for him to be uncomfortable.

"If you're relaxed," Kelly explained with a grin, "Mary's relaxed. If Mary's relaxed, then my job is easier. So really, it's all about me."

Marshall liked her and knew Mary would too.

By the fourth night, the nurse had encouraging news. They had taken out her arterial line that had monitored her blood pressure continuously as she was proclaimed hemodynamically stable. They could now monitor her blood pressure with a cuff every half hour instead. Also, they had inserted a small, yellow tube into her nose and down to her stomach to start giving her some food slowly. Marshall was assured that these were all good signs of recovery and he felt a slight weight lifted from his shoulders.

Mary's face was still puffy and pale, but her fingers were not as swollen and Kelly had fixed the dressing on her central line so it didn't pull at her cheek anymore. It was very interesting to watch the nurses work and Marshall's brain was titillated by all the new information he was learning. They didn't mind him asking questions and even encouraged him to write things down so he could look them up later. Kelly was his favorite, probably because she was a bit sassy and sarcastic…reminded him of his partner in a way. She would always talk to Mary while attending to her, and when Marshall arrived one night, he could hear Kelly telling Mary some pretty ribald jokes and laughing. It brought a smile to his face that the nurse had concluded Mary would enjoy that. The nurses' aides had washed and combed Mary's hair and fixed it into two braids to keep it neat and unmatted while she lay in the bed. Marshall had laughed at her softly and teased her about the new look, knowing she'd hate it but glad she was being taken care of so conscientiously.

He had begun to read to her during those long, dark hours. It was soothing for him, and the soft drone of his voice did not seem to disturb her in any way. He wanted to pick a book he thought she would like and settled on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain. Marshall thought Mary would appreciate the story and the action…it was also one of his favorites and he had read it so many times he could almost recite it by heart. He added his own supplemental descriptions of pageantry and wizardry to spice up some of the parts and made sure he portrayed all the women in the story as having some spunk. Mary disliked wimpy women.

Eleanor was there every morning at six to send him home, whether he wanted to leave or not. Marshall would go home to shower and eat and napped for about two or three hours before heading into work. He was tired, but not exhausted, and nothing would keep him from spending the nights with Mary.

*** Thoughts, concerns, comments??? There's much, much more if you want it!! ...ball, ball Bunny... (if you get that reference let me know!!) ***