This has been a long time percolating, but the brew is finally ready! Hope you enjoy. Many thanks to Bujyo for editing and encouragement.
You're the one that I long to kiss,
baby, you're the that I really miss
You're the one that I'm dreaming of,
baby, you're the one that I love
Newark, New Jersey
U.S. Marshals Service
Fugitive Task Force
U.S. Marshal Mary Shannon stared at her computer screen, but didn't take in the information displayed. The low pitched hum of conversations, the whine of printers, the swish of co-workers' hurried movements swirled around her. She paid no attention. A mug of cooling coffee held forgotten in her hand, her mind wondered back once again to the dream she had experienced the previous night. She could not seem to shake it. Dreams were a rarity for her to remember, but this one had been so vivid, so real.
Mary Shannon's life consisted of work, keeping her mother out of the drunk tank, work, bailing her baby sister out of trouble, work, the occasional cowboy to relieve stress and work. There was no time or inclination to develop real relationships at home or within her job at the Fugitive Task Force, no time to create a real home for herself, certainly no time for dreams. Definitely no time for dreams that followed her into her waking hours. No time to interpret them, no time to ponder them, no time to allow them to push her off her game.
Mary tapped absently with her pen on the edge of the desk. She had actually awoken from the dream last night, feeling vaguely unsettled. Her breath had hitched sharply in her chest and she had flopped back on her pillow, eyes tracing the outline of the familiar objects in her room, given contrast in the dark by the softly filtered light of the street lamp outside her window. The vibrant scenario had replayed through her head over and over. The colors, the sounds, the smells, the emotions. They were all so real.
There was a young boy, a distraught family, a court hearing. A hateful judge who was going to tear the boy away from his family. And a man, a tall slender man sitting on a bed, legs stretched out in front of him, peering at his watch. A man who had looked at her with pure affection.
"Do you have any idea what time it is young lady?" The deep rumble of his voice was familiar, comforting.
"I might have a problem." She gazed at him from the open doorway. This was someone she trusted completely.
"You think this is new information?" The undercurrent of amusement was clear, but a hint of concern was there also. Blue eyes were intent in their focus on her.
"I don't think I can turn him over." She felt a hint of fear, not for herself but for the boy.
"Okay, but you're going to have to feed him and take him for walks." She allowed herself an internal smirk at his joke. What he was really saying was 'I support your decision.'
"I'm serious. They'll kill him." A cold finger of fear looped into her stomach, making her regret the burritos from supper.
"I know. Just tell me what you need." A familiar phrase. A whisper of something tender underneath the words, sending a small tendril of warmth through her belly.
"Okay. Thanks." A small smile of gratitude.
He heaved a long-suffering sigh. "Uh-huh."
Mary couldn't put her finger on just what kept bringing her thoughts back to that dream, to the man. A man who asked her 'tell me what you need.' A man who wanted to hear the answer. He was tall, lanky. The sharp planes of his face and the clear blue of his eyes softened, with what - affection? tenderness? - when he looked at her. He was totally not her type. She liked muscular eye candy. So why did her thoughts keep returning to him? She shook her head to clear it, blonde hair flying. In irritation, she grabbed the band from her wrist and quickly pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail.
Refocusing on her computer screen, she swore softly, coffee cup sloshing brown liquid over the edge as she dropped it carelessly onto her desk. James Willington. Bastard was no longer in New Jersey where he was reported to be last week, but had been seen in Pennsylvania. She slammed her hand on her desk. She knew they shouldn't have waited so long.
"Damn it!" Marshal Bruce Pelman, Mary's current temporary partner looked up warily at her outburst. He had just reached the three month mark of their partnership and had already decided he would need to talk to their boss about a transfer. He'd been warned about her. He'd laughed it off, certain he could handle one brash blonde. Looking for bragging rights to lord over the others who had tried, and failed, to partner her. Mary went through partners like most people went through toilet paper.
"James freakin' Willington is no longer in Jersey. He must have gotten wind of our op somehow." She stood up and viciously pushed her chair back. Goddammit, we've been planning this for weeks, only two days from pulling the trigger. The rolling chair went flying across the room, crashing into the wall with a satisfying thud. "I've been after that a-hole for six months. How is it he keeps eluding us?"
Mary stormed into Marshal Evan Nickel's office, Bruce trailing reluctantly behind her. Evan looked up from his paperwork and compressed his lips. Leaning back in his chair, he removed his glasses, and inspected the agitated woman in front of him. Mary Shannon was belligerent, aggressive, brash, single-minded. Some would say unfeeling, self-centered, a loner. Not really a team player. She didn't play well with others, she drove partners away with alarming regularity, she pissed off almost everyone she came into contact with. And she was also the single most effective member of his FTF team; delivering more fugitives than any other marshal. She cared. She cared deeply about getting these scumbags off the street, putting them away where they couldn't damage anyone else. She was so damaged herself, though, she kept everyone at arm's length. God help the man who ever broke through her wall of defenses.
"I want to go to Pennsylvania," she said gruffly after updating him on her fugitive's status, a pleading note underneath the sharp words. "Please, Evan, I've been after this guy for six months. Don't just hand the case over to Philly."
Evan templed his fingers in front of his face and watched the contortions on Bruce's face behind Mary. He nodded. "Mary goes, Bruce stays. You can team up with a marshal out of the Philly office. I want this guy, Mary. Bring him down." He watched in mingled satisfaction and apprehension as Mary turned on her heel and left his office without a word, Bruce slinking out behind her.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
U.S. Marshals Service
Inspector Marshall Mann watched his young witness with amusement. The dark haired girl oozed enthusiasm about every aspect of her life. She was currently telling Marshall about her dance classes at college. It was infectious really, her joy, her can do attitude. He thoroughly enjoyed his visits with her. He turned an impersonal eye on her dorm room, making a quick inspection for signs of anything amiss. Julie was one of his easy witnesses. Never had a day's trouble with her. His visits were purely routine. His eye fell on a poster of a piece of early American folk art. A flash of his dream from the previous night intruded on his thoughts.
It was odd, that dream. It had a realistic edge to it he had never experienced before. Smells, colors, sounds, emotions. They were all sharp and realistic. Humpf. The blonde woman in his dream was a polar opposite to his bubbly witness. But she had a directness that Marshall found appealing. This woman laid it on the line. Didn't worry about what anyone else thought.
"What, exactly, is your beef with humanity?" Marshall had put the question to her. Her head tilted up to answer him.
"I have no beef with humanity. It's people I can't stand." He was standing next to the blonde woman at an art gallery. She was spectacular in a simple black dress, her hair pulled back somewhat severely. Marshall wished she had let it fall loose. He had his arm in a sling. Wonder what's up with that? A tendril of warmth had shot through him at her greeting.
"Look at you all upright and not dead.'" Presumably a reference to his injury. Sincerity underneath the sarcasm, and something else too. A touch of concern, or guilt maybe?
Marshall frowned as he reviewed the dream again. The crash of the gallery opening by the mistress of the blonde woman's witness. The cat fight. The utter disdain with which the blonde woman addressed the male witness.
Marshall liked to interpret his dreams, look for clues about his life, his subconscious worries. This one had him stumped, though. It seemed to be related to work. There was a witness involved and the blonde woman seemed to be another marshal. Work was going well, though. No problems with any of his witnesses.
He was working without a partner at the moment, but Stan had promised he would be assigned someone soon. Marshall liked working with a regular partner. Besides the obvious safety issues, he liked having someone to interact with, to bounce ideas off. Marshall was a social creature, who lived a somewhat solitary life. He liked the simple act of having actual contact with another person. Part of the reason he chose WitSec as a career path was that contact with the witnesses. His last partner had retired and Stan, for reasons that remained murky to Marshall, was dragging his feet on assigning a new one.
He sighed. Maybe the dream wasn't about work but about the woman. A commentary on his social life. He dated, even had a girl who could loosely qualify as a girlfriend at the moment, but he was still looking for 'the one'. Time was passing and Marshall desperately wanted to find that person with whom he could spend his life, with whom he could share his hopes and dreams, with whom he could start a family.
He considered the woman in his dream again. He had never been particularly attracted to blondes before, but she was very attractive. Hell, she was smoking. And way out of his league. She wasn't likely to find his cerebral approach to life appealing. Or his string bean figure. He attracted his share of female attention, but not from women that looked like his dream girl. Oh god, now I'm thinking of her as a real person.
Marshall reluctantly drug his fevered thoughts back to his witness and tried to concentrate on her chatter, finally making his escape with an excuse about having another witness to visit. He strolled through the campus towards the parking lot, trying to shake the tenacious aftermath of his dream, subconsciously rubbing at his right clavicle.