Sooo... 14 chapters and no one told me my scene breaks were broken. I'm going to try to fix it but, if I don't, you can read the whole thing on my Live Journal, under the name im_writing.

Hey! A new IPS story! You should be forewarned that it's a work in progress and it's going to be long. I have about 60 pages written and I'm not finished yet. The first 25 or so have gone to my beta (and returned to me) but she gets about ten pages at a time. That should give you some sort of reference for how long this will take in terms of updating. I hope that you enjoy the story and, of course, reviews are always welcome.


"What's her name?"

Marshall ignored his partner. She had been trying to pull the same information from him all week. Surprisingly, he had managed to keep it a secret. Usually when Mary wanted to know something, she found out; there was little that Mary Shannon didn't find out.

"Just the first letter."

"I'm not telling you." It was about the third time in the past hour he had said those words or some variation thereof. Mary persisted, determined to pull it out of him.

"Marshall, you can't have a girlfriend and not even tell me what her name is."

Marshall put down his pen and looked at his partner. Mary wasn't exactly the person that he wanted knowing the name of his girlfriend. In fact, he had kept her existence from Mary for over six months, but she had called while he was in the office the other day. It wouldn't have been a big deal, but Mary had picked up his phone.

"Will you at least tell me what she looks like?" Mary asked. She picked up her paper clips and began chucking them at Marshall. "Just tell me!"

"I am not giving you the name of my girlfriend. I'm not telling you what she looks like and I'm certainly not going to tell you where she lives." If Marshall even told Mary her first name, Mary would find her and harass her. If he could manage it, the two would never meet.

There was also the part that he knew it frustrated Mary. He kind of liked watching her squirm.

Mary was frustrated. Usually she could discover anything that she wanted when it came to Marshall and, more often than not, she just had to annoy it out of him. The fact that he seemed determined to keep information from her was rare.

"It's not like I'm going to do anything," she promised. Marshall saw through the lie. "Since when did you become so tight lipped about things?"

"I'm just not the kind of person to kiss and tell."

"So you have kissed her then."

Marshall rubbed his eyes with his hand; the conversation was so frustrating. After a week of the same argument, he was having a tough time not giving in just to make her shut up. He had forgotten how persistent Mary was when she didn't get her way. He usually gave in before this and he wasn't sure he'd have the energy to do it much longer. But if he told Mary, then she'd be sure to hunt down his significant other.

Marshall actually liked this girl. He wanted things to work out and he was fairly certain that if the girl met Mary, that wasn't going to happen. So Marshall kept his mouth shut.

Mary got creative: she rigged his computer. Every time he would attempt to look up his witnesses, the browser popped up to a random porn sight. Marshall had to call IT to get it to stop. They even refused to fix it for awhile, being in cahoots with her, but Stan stepped in and they reversed whatever Mary had asked them to do.

When that didn't work, she tried tapping his phone. After last week, however, Marshall seemed to take all his calls from the mysterious girlfriend on his cell, something much harder to tap.

Mary was going to have to get creative. She thought about hacking into Marshall's computer, after all there had to be something useful on there. Marshall was good with passwords, though. He was a lot more creative than her own "doofus." She had cracked it once and had never been able to since. He had made sure to lock it ever since his new beau had called.

"Blond or brunette?" she asked him. She rested her elbow on her desk and leaned her head into her hand. Marshall stopped his typing to glare at her.

"If I give you a brief, vague, physical description, will you please stop harassing me so I can get some work done?"

"For a little while, at least."

Marshall figured it was the best he was going to get. Besides, of all the things he could tell Mary about his new girl, her physical description was going to be the least informative.

"She a brunette with green eyes. She's about your height, slim and Italian."

Mary turned towards her computer, evil look in her eye. Marshall sighed but at least she had shut up for awhile. She would try hard as she could to find the girl and then, when she had exhausted all of her resources, would be back to harassing him for more information. Until then, he would have to work fast to try and get something done before she regained interest in his love interest.


Marshall hadn't come in yet, leaving Mary uncharacteristically alone. She figured he was stuck in traffic or something of that nature. He didn't have the same finesse that she did when driving. Of course, she knew Marshall would never refer to it as that but at the end of the day, she always got places faster and didn't hit anything.

She was contemplating whether she could snoop through his desk before he got in when something even better walked through the door.

Mary could see a girl with dark hair and green eyes, trying to get in the door. She looked about Mary's height and had dark olive skin. She kept trying to figure out how to open the door, not realizing you needed a key to get into this office. Mary smiled, knowing exactly who this girl had to be. She walked over to the door, glad that Marshall had been late.

"Can I help you?" Mary asked her.

"I'm looking for Marshal Mann," she said. She adjusted the designer purse that hung from her shoulder. Mary already didn't like her.

"He's not here. Got stuck in traffic, I think. Who are you?"

"I'm Sarah."

Mary just stared at her blankly, making it obvious that the name meant nothing to her. The woman sighed. "Sarah Malacarne. I'm Marshall's girlfriend."

Mary smiled, happy that she had been right and now had a first and last name of this mysterious girl that Marshall had refused to tell her about. "Come on in," Mary said, opening the door for her. "Marshall sits there. You can wait for him."

"Thank you." She sat down on the edge of the chair, sitting up straight and crossing her legs. She was so proper that Mary almost couldn't stand it. She wondered where Marshall had picked her up and when he intended to dump her. Mary sat on the edge of her desk, facing Sarah. She figured she had about ten minutes to interrogate the woman and find out everything she could about Sarah and Marshall's relationship.

"So you're dating Marshall?"

"Yes, he hasn't mentioned it?" Sarah said it like a question but Mary got the feeling she knew that Marshall didn't talk about her much.

"He mentioned in passing a few weeks ago that he was seeing someone." There was an awkward silence between the two before Mary started in again. "How long have you two been dating?"

"About six months," Sarah answered with a wave of her hand like it was nothing. Mary was stunned to realize that they had been together so long. The woman didn't seem like someone Marshall would be interested in, let alone date for so long. She could see Marshall sleeping with her, were he prone to one night stands, but not actually dating someone like Sarah. There had to be more to her if Marshall had put up with her this long.

"So, what do you do?"

"I run a day care," Sarah said. She looked desperate to get away from Mary and all her incessant questions. But Mary, being Mary, didn't stop. She figured she only had about five more minutes with this girl and didn't have nearly enough information.

"With little kids?"

Sarah raised an eyebrow, looking at Mary like she was an idiot. "Yes, with children."

Mary couldn't see it, personally. The woman seemed too put together to deal with kids. "You just don't seem like the child caring type," Mary told her.

"Oh, I don't interact with the children. I run the business end of it all. My partner deals with the children. I only occasionally deal with parents," she practically spit the word out, "when there are financial difficulties." It was obvious that parents were Sarah's least favorite part of her job, but a necessary evil if money was going to be schmoozed out of them. Mary didn't want to know how much Sarah charged per kid but if her designer shoes, dress, and bag were any indication, Mary could guess it was a fairly large number.

"How did you and Marshall meet?"

Sarah sighed, tapping her fingers on her bag in impatience. "If Marshall hasn't told you, I'm not sure he wanted you to know."

"There's a lot Marshall doesn't want me to know. At the end of the day, it's just better for everyone if I'm told instead of having to find it out myself."

"We met at a bar. We started talking and at the end of the night I handed him my number, he called, and we started dating." Her eyes flitted to the door again, hoping for respite from the crazy blond sitting in front of her.

"Marshall doesn't go to bars."

"He went to this bar."

"You sure it was a bar that you met Marshall?"

"I think I'd remember where I met the guy I'm seeing."

"Sarah, what are you doing here?" The two women looked to see Marshall standing in the doorway. Relief spread over Sarah's face and annoyance spread over Mary's. She still had a lot she wanted to ask, but she knew Marshall was going to whisk Sarah away as soon as possible. Sarah stood, hugging Marshall and kissing him briefly.

"I came to surprise you! It turns out I had the day off and wanted to see if you'd be able to escape for a few hours."

Mary looked at Marshall and the look on his face was begging her to be nice. He knew that she was about to burst out laughing at the public display of affection. He had never wanted Sarah to meet Mary, let alone have a conversation with her without him there to mediate.

"I might be able to swing the afternoon," he said cautiously. Mary just raised an eyebrow and again his eyes begged her not to say anything. They both knew that Marshall had weeks and weeks of vacation built up. Being a Marshal didn't exactly lend itself to time off. Mary simply shrugged at him, pushed away from the edge of her desk and sat down in her seat. If Marshall wanted to avoid Sarah, Mary certainly wasn't going to hinder him.

"I have a lot of work to get done this morning, but stop by around one," Marshall told her. "We'll start our weekend early."

"Great!" She leaned down and kissed him, longer than Mary thought was strictly necessary.

When she left, Marshall just sighed and turned towards his partner. "Go ahead, I know I can't avoid it now," he said when Sarah had left.

"Are you kidding me? Did you actually meet her in a bar?"

"I do go out, Mary, despite what you think."

"She runs a day care," Mary pointed out.

"I like kids."

"But she doesn't deal with kids. She deals with the parents which, I'm pretty sure you don't like. And she dresses like a… a…"

"Girl?" Marshall supplied.

"Yeah."

"Most women take pride in their appearance. Not all of them dress like they're ready for a bar fight at a moment's notice."

"Hey, it was a good thing that I do! Otherwise you would have been flying solo in the one we got into. You're good, Marshall, but even I don't think you could have taken on five guys."

Marshall couldn't help but smile at the reference. Mary had been her usual socially compliant self and had insulted some guy. Unfortunately the guy had four friends and had decided that they weren't going to move on. The fact that Mary and Marshall were US Marshals didn't seem to faze him. Maybe they had thought that Mary couldn't fight and was a dainty girl. All the men had dropped that notion the second that she had flipped the heaviest of them over the bar.

"Yeah, if you had actually pretended to be a woman, then we wouldn't have gotten into the fight in the first place."

"You liked it," she told him. "I keep your life exciting."

"That's one word for it."

Mary leaned back in her seat, turned toward Marshall. Her face had lost its humor and Marshall saw it take on a serious demeanor. "How come you kept Sarah a secret for so long?"

She looked almost hurt but Marshall pushed the thought aside. Mary didn't get hurt, not like that anyways, not usually. She certainly wasn't going to get upset by something like Marshall dating someone and not telling her.

"We started dating just after you and Raph, well, you know."

She did know and tried really hard not to think about it. Raph and she had ended it just over six months ago. It had been rough, worse than Mary had expected. When Raph finally moved out the last of his things, Mary had gone over to Marshall's. She didn't even say anything to him when she came over; Marshall didn't ask any questions. He simply let her in the door and they sat on his couch watching TV. She had finally fallen asleep and they went to work the next day like it was any other day. Mary had never talked about her experience and Marshall had never pushed her to talk about it. There were some things that you could coax Mary into telling you. Then there were some things that if she wanted to tell you, you would only find out by her saying something to you.

"Just because my relationship ended didn't mean that you had to hide yours from me."

"I know, I just thought it would be better for you if you didn't have to hear about it."

It wasn't that she cared that Marshall was seeing someone. It bothered her that Marshall had kept it from her. He was supposed to be her best friend and he couldn't even tell her when he was in a relationship. Of course, she didn't have the best track record when it came to Marshall's girlfriends. Usually, she would find some way to embarrass him. Or her. Or both, if it was a good day. Most of the girls he had picked out for himself weren't good enough for him anyway. She wondered why he bothered with all of these women. The least he could have done was pick someone a little more intelligent out.

"I don't like her," Mary finally said.

"Of course you don't." He paused, looking at her with curiosity. "Why not?"

"She's an idiot."

Marshall rolled his eyes at her. "You think everyone is an idiot."

"That's because they usually are."

"Where are Stan and Eleanor?"

"Eleanor called in sick and Stan is dealing with the Feds. Said he'd be back around eleven."

Marshall glanced up at the clock, seeing the hands pointing at the ten and the seven.

"What caused you to actually call her back?"

Marshall refrained from banging his head against the desk. Only twenty more minutes until Stan was back and maybe Marshall could escape from the onslaught of questions.