*Hi Everyone! Did you think I had forgotten about you all? Never! Here we go - the sequel to "It's too late". After that story, as you well know, there were plenty of loose ends to wrap up as well as the fact that all of us (including myself) were left wondering 'What in the HELL is Mary thinking?' So the Mary muse in my head (who is like a bouncing five year old) is itching for her say - and I'm letting her out to play now! This story is going to be from her POV and starts the day she finds out she's pregnant.

*Disclaimer - I still own nothing but the plot line of this story and the characters of Karen, her kids, Elizabeth Mann, and Maggie. IPS isn't mine, obviously!

*This chapter is lovingly dedicated to BuJyo - it's her birthday today! And thanks for all the support in reviews (somehow you always manage to review FIRST most of the time) and the bouncing back in forth of ideas. YOU rock!*

"It is said that the present is pregnant with the future."—Voltaire

"Love is all fun and games until someone loses an eye or gets pregnant." –Jim Cole

There were some women who had motherhood carved in their bones, implanted in their DNA, who handed it down from one generation to another. Jinx was not one of these women and the only thing she had handed down to me was a baby sister. From the time daddy walked out the door when I was barely seven years old, mom's constant companion was a liquor bottle. Every time Brandi cried, she would look at me with bleary, bloodshot eyes and implore me with slurred speech to see what I could do to make her stop. Therefore I instantly became the mother: changing diapers, making bottles, and doing laundry; while Jinx drank until she passed out in a pool of her own saliva.

It was these early pictures of motherhood that soured me on the idea of ever wanting children of my own. Happily ever after didn't exist outside of those fucking fairy tales my daddy used to read to me at bedtime before he kissed me good night. I had begged him to read 'Cinderella' over and over because it was my favorite. He read it the night he left, leaving a shattered glass slipper and an irreparable hole in my heart behind.

I really don't have anything against children – I just have a hard time relating to them. Especially babies; I mean what's the attraction? They spit up, poop, cry, and drool – sounds like fun, right? But adults go absolutely crazy for them, including my partner. He loves his niece and nephews, especially Katie. She has him wrapped around her little finger. And as far as kids go, she isn't too bad. Her mom, Karen, has actually become my friend and that's something I never thought would happen. I don't make friends easily, especially with women. Especially women with children; her kids even call me Aunt Mary! I really do have to admit that they aren't that bad. Raph has seen me interact with them and I think he's getting crazy ideas in his head about us having a family. I'd better sit him down soon and let him know that kids are not on my agenda.

August 7, 2009 9:15am

I stubbed my toe and stumbled on the edge of Marshall's desk as I swung through the locked door of our office, which caused my carefully balanced muffin that I had placed on top of my coffee to wobble precariously.

"Shit!" I swore as I hopped on one foot from the pain and clutched my breakfast to my chest.

"Good morning, sunshine," Eleanor smirked at me from her desk.

I glared at her and hobbled to my desk, glancing at Marshall's empty desk on my way. "Where's my partner? He's always early." Flopping into my chair, I began to peel the wrapper from my muffin.

"Been here and gone. He and Stan went to talk to ICE about two green cards, one of his and one of yours," Eleanor said as she got up and moved towards the copy machine.

I sipped my coffee and racked my brain. As Eleanor dropped a file on my desk, I snapped my fingers. "Maria and Juan!"

"And here we thought you wouldn't remember until after you'd finished your morning coffee," she quipped and her boot heels tapped smartly as she moved away.

I had just popped a piece of muffin in my mouth when my cell rang. As I swallowed, I took a look at the caller ID: Dr. Mills. My eyebrows rose in surprise as I picked up. "This is Mary."

"Hi, Mary, this is Dr. Mills. I have the lab results from your physical this week."

"Did something unusual come up?"

"Well, remember you talked about feeling fatigued, some breast tenderness, and the fact that you missed your last menses?"

I felt a chill come over me and suddenly I wasn't hungry anymore. "Yes, I remember. Is there a problem?"

"No, but I ran an extra blood test and ran the results twice to be sure. Congratulations, Mary, you're pregnant."

I had never been so glad I was sitting down before. As it was, I had a moment where I thought I might slide out of my chair to the floor because I was so shocked. I felt Eleanor's watchful eyes from across the room and tried to keep it together. "You're sure?" I whispered, as I spun in my chair so I was no longer facing Eleanor. I stared out the window, into the New Mexico sky and prayed that I would wake up soon. This had to be a nightmare. Dr. Mills was talking again and I tried to focus on her words.

"I know it's short notice but if you could come in this afternoon at three o'clock for an ultrasound, we could make sure everything looks good and see just how far along you are."

I gulped. This couldn't be happening. I could not be pregnant. Raph and I always practiced safe sex. Even the one time I had slept with Marshall, he had used a condom. Oh God, how far along am I? This baby is Raph's, isn't it? I mean, Marshall and I only had sex once!

"Mary? Are you there?"

I jumped. "I'm sorry, this is a surprise."

"I quite understand. Can you make the appointment this afternoon?"

I turned back to my desk and looked at the calendar. "Yes, the afternoon is clear. I'll be there." As I hung up I wondered how the hell I was going to make the time pass between now and then. And how I was going to avoid Eleanor's burning curiosity?

3:30pm, Dr. Mills office

I stared at the image frozen on the screen in disbelief. The tiny bubble that looked like a peanut could not be a baby – and it definitely could not be inside of me. I shook my head. This wasn't happening. I kept expecting one of two things to happen at any moment. One, my alarm would sound and I'd wake up from this nightmare or two, men with video cameras would pop out and tell me that I was on some new version of Candid Camera.

Dr. Mills slipped back into the room and chuckled at my frozen expression. "Still think it looks like a peanut?"

I nodded dumbly.

"Well, most of my patients tell me that. I think it looks more like a jelly bean, but to each their own. Here's a picture of the ultrasound to take with you. Just to recap, going by your hormone levels, your last period date, and the size of your "peanut", you're about six weeks pregnant."

I took the paper from her hand and tried not to flinch as the words "six weeks" rang in my ears. I had counted the weeks back on the calendar this morning after getting the call from Dr. Mills. My one and only night with Marshall had been six weeks ago. Closing my eyes I willed myself not to be sick right then and there. I twisted my engagement ring around on my finger nervously and Dr. Mills caught the movement.

"How do you think your fiancé will take the news? Will he be as shocked as you were?"

I bit back a nervous giggle. Raph had always wanted children – he couldn't wait to start a family. He would no doubt be thrilled that I already had a bun in the oven. He would not be thrilled when I told him that the baby might not be his.

"Dr. Mills, I have a question."

"Go ahead, Mary. First-time mothers have a lot of questions. What is it – cravings? Morning sickness? Child birth classes?"

Geez, will this woman let me get a word in edgewise? She's going to send me into a panic attack about things I can't think about right now. I'm going to sound like such a slut when I ask this – someone who's ready for the Jerry Springer show. After all, I don't know who my baby's father is! Oh God, I'm having a baby! The room spun and I sat down heavily on the only chair in the room.

"Mary? Are you all right? Just breathe, ok?" Dr. Mills voice came from a distance, but she sounded concerned and kind and I tried to focus on it.

"Sorry about that. I haven't really eaten much today – I've been too tied up in knots and this news has really thrown me," I murmured.

"Mary, you really must take care of yourself. There are going to be days when you don't feel like eating much because of the morning sickness but you must try to eat small bits throughout the day, all right? After all, you're eating for two now."

I placed a trembling hand on my still flat stomach. I remembered going into Brandi's room to answer her cries, looking into her upturned face through the bars of her crib and vowing then and there to always take care of her no matter what. Now I had another little life entrusted to me, one that was growing inside of me and was even more helpless and dependent on me than Brandi had been in the beginning. Don't worry, Peanut. I'm here.

"I will take better care of myself, Dr. Mills. I promise. But I was wondering if you could tell me about how you test for paternity."

Dr. Mills forehead creased in confusion. "But surely your fiancé-"

"I don't know who the baby's father is. So, I'd really like to discuss when and how the procedure to establish paternity is done."

"Ok, Mary, let's go over the options."

4:30pm, The park

I drove straight to the park after my appointment. It had become my thinking spot, even though I had never bothered to discover what the name was – I had been drawn to it for a very simple personal reason. Shortly after moving to Albuquerque, I had received another letter from daddy. It had just shown up in my mailbox, like all the others before, with no return address and no forewarning. I had stuffed it in my purse and gone for a drive. Since I didn't yet know the city that well I got lost and had no idea where I ended up but just as dusk was falling, I found myself driving by a park. I walked to the swings that reminded me so much of the ones that daddy had pushed me on all those years ago in New Jersey. It was there on those swings that I found the courage to pull out the letter and read it.

As I crossed the playground today, it was covered with kids since the summer break was coming to a close in another month. Wanting to be alone with my thoughts, I spied a picnic table several yards away from the chaos and slowly made my way over there. Avoiding the petrified bird droppings, tree sap, and other unidentifiable blotches I managed to find a clean spot to sit on the table top. A slight breeze stirred my hair and I leaned back and closed my eyes.

"Aunt Mary!"

I opened my eyes in time to see twin blurs launch themselves at my legs and I chuckled. So much for solitude, I mused as I looked up and saw Karen coming towards the picnic table. She was lugging a huge picnic basket and had Jamie perched precariously on her hip.

"Kare, let me help you," I said as I jumped to my feet and ran towards her. Her eyes registered relief as she smiled at me. I hesitated slightly before I reached out and took the squirming ten-month-old from her arm. I tickled his tummy lightly and he fell against me with a giggle. My heart warmed and I wondered for a moment if I would have a boy. Looking up, I caught Karen's surprised gaze.


"Nothing, Mary. I just thought you would take the basket. You usually don't interact with my kids at this age," Karen shrugged her shoulders and headed for the table where Katie and Tommy were bouncing impatiently.

I sighed and looked down at Jamie, who had drooled on my shirt. "Hey, slugger. Don't get used to this – you just caught me in a weak moment." I walked back to the table. "So, what's going on here?"

"We're having a picnic, Aunt Mary! Will you stay and eat with us? Mommy always makes lots and lots of food!" Katie looked up at me with her big brown eyes.

"Yeah, Aunt Mary, stay! No one gives underdogs on the swings like you do!' Tommy chimed in.

I smiled and raised my eyebrows at Karen. She was spreading out a blanket under a tree and placing toys on it for Jamie but she turned back to me with a smile. "We'd all like you to stay, Mary. It's been awhile since we've seen you." She turned back to Katie and tugged on her braid. "It's a good thing I asked Uncle Mars to bring more potato salad, huh?"

I nearly dropped Jamie in my surprise. "Marshall is coming?"

"Is that a problem?"

I whirled at the sound of his voice. Damn his ability to sneak up on me! I fought to get my racing heartbeat under control and clutched Jamie tighter to me, as if he was a shield. My eyes swept over his appearance, noting that he'd taken time to go home and change. He didn't look like my partner, US Marshal Marshall Mann. Dressed in cut-off jean shorts and a fitted white tank top that showed off his muscles and his tan, he looked like Uncle Mars. He set a large container of potato salad on the table as Katie flew into his arms. I watched as he scooped her up and she wound her arms his neck. Katie kissed his cheek and Marshall grinned at her. My stomach flip-flopped. Maybe I want a little girl. Maybe I want the baby to be Marshall's. What the HELL am I thinking? I have to get out of here.

Clearing my throat, I walked over to the blanket and set Jamie down; he immediately reached for a toy and pulled it towards him. I sensed Marshall's presence behind me and slowly turned.

"Since when do you spend time with Karen's youngest?" His blue eyes pierced mine questioningly.

I swallowed, searching for an answer that wouldn't reveal my secret. I nearly smiled in relief when my cell rang. "Excuse me, you know I have to get that." I stepped away from him and Karen's family. "Hello?"

"Mary, thank God! It's Sarah Dimson. I'm calling about Johnny." I had to bite my tongue to keep from swearing. This kid was going to end up with a rap sheet soon and expose his family's new identity in the process.

"What now?" I clenched my teeth and noticed Marshall snap to attention out of the corner of my eye.

"They just called from APD – a Detective Dershowitz? He's holding Johnny, something about marijuana! Mary, he's a good boy-"Sarah broke off and started sobbing into the phone.

I bit my tongue harder, tasting blood, as I remembered that there were children present and I really couldn't swear at this moment. "Sarah," I said but the sobs continued. "Sarah! Just try to hold it together. Marshall and I will figure it out." I snapped my phone shut and turned to my partner.

"Don't tell me, your gun is in your other pants, right?" I smirked.

He quirked his eyebrows at me. "Don't tell me, Johnny's in trouble again?"

I grabbed a handful of potato chips and waved at Karen. "Saddle up, Mann."

Behind me, I heard him start making apologies to Karen and the kids. As I walked towards the Probe, my hand drifted down to my stomach. Better get used to this now, Peanut. Mom and Dad are always going to be getting called away in the middle of things to go rescue fucking idiots because it's our jobs. It wasn't until I was peeling out of the parking lot that I realized that I had referred to myself as a mom for the first time.

It wasn't until I saw Marshall climbing out of his truck at the police station, back in his marshal attire, that I realized I had also referred to him as my baby's father.

I leaned against the closed door of the Probe as the air left my lungs and my eyes fell on my engagement ring. Shit, I am so screwed.

*Hm, who wouldn't Marshall to father their child? Reviews, please! We're just getting started!