*** This fic was inspired by a number of things. Events in the show, events in RL and a commentfic-alooza on LJ. I've taken the commentfic I posted, massaged it a bit and turned it into a story. Mary's been on the fence about her father for a while. What happens when the truth is in living color and she decides to make a choice? Oh, yes, it's angsty. What else would you expect from me? ***

*** I do not own these characters...'nuff said ***

*** Special thanks to roar526 for her never ending support, encouragement and ability to read even the crappiest of crap I send her and say it might work! :) (and for the title). More thanks to rj_lupins_kat for potentially life changing advice and reminding me how good Marshall would look in nothing but jeans! ***


Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels

The dizzy dancing way you feel

As every fairy tale comes real

I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show

You leave 'em laughing when you go

And if you care don't let them know

Don't give yourself away

- Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell


Marshall watched Mary still as she picked up the photo Brandi must've left on the counter. Something about her expression made him take a step towards the kitchen as Peter and Brandi continued to chat about gambling addictions and rehab.

"Mary?" he asked softly.

She moved around the counter as she stared at the photograph, seemingly not hearing him. "Squish, where did you get this?"

A laughing man held a small girl aloft as she tried to ring a brass bell on a merry-go-round. The little blonde girl was about three years old, full of smiles as her father lifted her. Daddy. Her eyes were drawn to the little girl's t-shirt. Pink. "Daddy's Princess" stenciled on the front in glittery, white letters. Mary flipped the picture over to see the date penciled on the back. 1982.

Brandi looked over and smiled brightly. "Oh! Scott gave that to me. It's Daddy with Lauren. Isn't she adorable?"

Marshall grimaced as he saw Mary's posture change. Peter, attuned to the sudden change in the air, watched Marshall for his cue. Something wasn't right.

"Well, nice to know he didn't have to wait very long to replace us," Mary said with a snarl. "She must've been born only about a year after he left." She remembered 1982. So this was what he was doing the year we barely survived.

Brandi sighed, stood and took a few steps towards her sister. "Mary, it was a long time ago and I don't want to have an argument about Daddy. I'm just trying to fill in the gaps and the pictures help."

Mary laughed bitterly, "Fill in the gaps? You want to fill in the gaps? I can tell you all about 1982."

Marshall could see her hands shaking slightly as she held the picture. Her face was pinched. He hadn't seen her this upset in a long time. He looked over to lock eyes with Peter. Just stay still, he mentally telegraphed to the other man.

"I can fill your head with all sorts of stories about the adventures of Mary and Brandi after their Daddy abandoned them," she sneered, sarcasm dripping from every word. "How they skipped and twirled through life without a father to protect them. Singing and laughing as they rang little brass bells."

"Don't do this, please! I'm sorry I said anything," Brandi begged. She glanced self consciously at Peter. She now knew it was a mistake to leave the picture where Mary would find it. It was hard for her to remember the bad times, but for Mary they were very, very real.

"Doesn't it bother you, Squish?" Mary asked, ignoring her sister's plea; anger and confusion mixed on her face. "Doesn't it bother you that he was living a life of happiness while we fought for everything? Why did they get him? Why were they better?" Her voice rose with each question, emotions battling to the surface as she ranted.

"I didn't know it was going to piss you off this much," Brandi muttered. She reached for the picture. "Just give me the picture and I'll put it away."

Mary snatched it back and stared at it again while Brandi chewed on her lip and looked at Marshall pleadingly.

"Didn't you ever wonder where he was? What he was doing all that time?" Mary's expression grew darker as she traced the outline of the little girl. Daddy's Princess.

"Wonder where he was when we were digging for scraps of leftover bread in the dumpster because Jinx had disappeared for four days?" Mary growled, advancing on her sister as Brandi stepped back. "Maybe he was buying his precious new family cotton candy."

Brandi stopped retreating to fight back. "You don't know why he left, Mary! Maybe he had to go."

"Where was he when we nearly froze to death in that tent in the middle of January? A week of not knowing if we'd even wake up in the morning, Brandi. Huddled there like Little Match Girls without matches." Mary was nearly yelling and Brandi was crying. Marshall and Peter watched with grim faces. "Was he riding on the teacups with Lauren in Disneyworld? Basking under the palm trees?"

"He probably thought we were fine, Mary," Brandi yelled back. "Maybe he had to leave to keep us safe. Maybe if he stayed he wouldn't be able to protect us from something." Brandi was grasping at straws. Anything to soothe the pain on her sister's face.

"Protect us from something? Something worse than starvation? Worse than living in buildings where the rats would bite in the middle of the night? Worse than dragging our mother into the house and cleaning up her vomit?" She watched her sister cry harder and get ready to voice yet another objection. Fighting tears of her own, Mary tossed out the last volley.

"Something worse than Jinx bringing Robert home?" she snapped. Her voice broke.

Brandi paled, looked down at the floor and brought her hand to her mouth. Shuddered. "Stop!" she whispered through her fingers. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Mary stared at the picture again as her own tears fell into the silence. Marshall stepped towards her and she suddenly realized she and Brandi weren't alone. Anger quickly flared to cover humiliation, and Mary crumpled the picture and threw it in the fireplace as she stormed to her room. The door slammed and Marshall flinched.


***This is likely not going to a good place. What do we do when the truth stares us in the face? Let me know if you'd like to read more...REVIEW! ***