Hello all, and welcome to a new story. Once again, I am trying something new and different! This is my first In Plain Sight fanfic, so I hope you all love. I've had a lot of fun writing it, and my wonderful sibling beta has had a lovely time beta-ing.

*IMPORTANT* This story jumps back and forth from the past, directly after Mary and Marshall meet, to the time in Trojan Horst. So some of the story will be that episode, written out, some will gaps of the episode filled in, and a lot of it will be the events of the past. Just to let y'all know, there will some skipping about. It shouldn't be too disjointed though.

While watching Trojan Horst (being one of the best episodes EVER) we came to the line where Mary tells Marshall that maybe he would get respect if he did anything to earn it and my brother-in-law declared that there was a story there. Now this is unusual, cause he doesn't normally descend to my sibling beta and I's level of obsessive madness, but we were so glad he did. Plot bunnies immediately began copulating, and before long we were hammering out a fic. :) Let me know what you think! I adore reviews!

There were days when it was a wonderful, meaningful thing to be a U.S. Marshal.

Then there were days like today. Days when he would gladly pull his hair out in great big chunks, because, once again, he had somehow managed to royally piss his partner off. Marshall Mann sighed in frustration as he approached the bench where Mary was sitting. He had no idea how he had managed to upset her. This morning she had seemed fine. Better than fine. She had purchased coffee for everyone in a rare moment of generosity. Granted, the moment he had questioned said generosity she had reverted to her un-treating ways. Still, she had been smiling, her mood had been good.

By the time she had reached the conference room, her entire demeanor had shifted from friendly, to porcupine-like prickly hostility.

There was at most, thirty feet between his desk and that room. She had crossed it in less than ten seconds. Was this some new phase? Some kind of ultra Mary Shannon Mood model? The voice of a used car salesman blared in his head. I tell you friend, nothing beats the M. Shannon. From zero to bitch in under twenty seconds! How's that for a sweet deal?

He gave his head a rueful shake. He knew that such thoughts were not helpful. They would not contribute to an amiable partnership as he and Mary transported their high risk witness. Still, the stony silence in the car, coupled with the ear buds and the obvious ignoring of every attempt at communication...

He was irked. Annoyed, actually. Mary was ticked, and she was acting like a child, and he was sick of it.

"Ok," he said tersely as he sat down next to her. "Obviously you want me to go on a fishing expedition to figure out what the hell's bothering you, but I'm not gonna play that." without even looking at him, she turned her body away, eyes glued to her phone. Marshal resisted the urge to grind his teeth together and continued. "So when you decide to tell me what's wrong, you just tell me. Fair enough?" No reply. Surprise, surprise. He leaned forward to look into her face. "Fair enough?"

Mary's eyes never left the device in her hands. "Don't worry about it." Her words said don't worry, but her tone was too offhand. "Couple months, we won't even be working together." A bite came into the cadence of her voice.

What on earth...? Marshall stared at her for a second, eyebrows drawing together. What was she talking about? Yes, he was considering leaving, had even had another job offer, but he hadn't told her about it at all, so the only way she could know was...if...she...had...

Son of a...

"You read my letter." It wasn't a question. And it was all he could do to keep his tone level. A wave of frustration began to build.

Mary turned to look at him for the first time since they had left Albuquerque. Her pretty face had a smile on it, but it was the kind of smile worn by treacherous imps luring people off safe paths to drown in bogs. Sarcastic, mean, biting.

He hated that smile. Without warning, the wave broke and crashed through his brain.

The prison door buzzed, and he looked up to see one of the prison guards pushing out their witness. Maybe it was just the frame of mind he was in, but Marshall took one look at the doughy, colorless little man and disliked him instantly. Everything about him spelled obnoxious, from his graying goatee, to the short sleeve button shirt...

"Easy there meat and potatoes!" he sniped at the guard as he shuffled his way forward.

To the snide, nasal, whining voice. This witness transport was going to suck.

Marshall stood and took hold of Horst's shirt collar as the man proudly declared, "I am a valuable federal resource."

The lanky lawman pushed him against the wire cage wall just a little bit harder than necessary and began patting him down.

"Horst Vanderhoff for transport." the prison guard handed Vanderhoff's file over to Mary along with a small black satchel.

Her eyes were already searching over the pages as she mumbled a 'thanks'. He might be seriously upset with her, but he knew that his partner did her job to the best of her ability.

"Oh great," Horst moped. That man's voice was really going to grate on Marshall. "Two more minimum wage geniuses. Are the feds trying to get me killed? Do you people have any idea who Lola is?" Faster he got this over with, the faster he could get Horst to shut up. "Hey," Horst glanced backwards over his shoulder as Marshall dug into his pockets. "Watch it there, pervoid I don't swing that way."

Marshall ignored him. He had heard worse from multiple felons over his years in the Marshal service. Besides which, he had something else on his mind. "I can't believe you read my mail." He shot a glare at his partner, unconsciously tightening his grip on Horst's shirt collar. Marshall's words came out clipped, terse. Angry.

Mary snorted. " I can't believe you don't know I always read your mail." She turned her head back towards the prison guard. "He's diabetic?"

Only Mary would see precedent as being a compelling case for violating someone's privacy. And not just any someone. Him. His privacy.

"Type one," the guard nodded towards the pages she had in her hands. "Last page of the medical."

The lanky lawman pulled Horst away from the wire wall by his collar and turned him to face Mary. "Yeah," the little man reached out manacled hands toward the small black bag in Mary's hands. His weasel face creased into a smirking smile. "That's my personal stuff."

Marshall shoved him down onto the bench where he and Mary had been sitting moments before.

"Get a number," Mary ordered, pushing the satchel into Horst's hands.

"I did," Horst said in a superior manner. "Twenty minutes ago."

"Test again," the blond marshal's voice left no room for disagreement. " I need to know you're fit to travel."

"She needs to know everything about everybody," Marshall snapped. His face was looking at their witness, but his words were directed at her.

"I can tell," Vanderhoff's eyes traveled towards Mary and gave her a quick up and down look. A lascivious light glinted in his colorless face for a moment. "She's been undressing me with her eyes ever since I walked out here."

God help him, today might be the day he actually killed a witness.

"Yeah, cause pasty accountant types really get me crazy," Mary sniped mercilessly, green eyes rolling, lips smiling.

He hated that smile.

"Aw, now that's just unkind," Horst sounded genuinely disappointed, and it was all Marshall could do not to join his partner in an eye roll.

Mary turned her gaze back to her partner's lean form where it leaned against the wire wall. "So were you ever going to tell me?" her eyes were snapping with fire. "Or was the plan just let me figure it out when you stopped showing up for work?"

He wasn't in the mood to placate her for once. Straightening up, he reached out for the file in her hands. He wanted to read it for himself. "Actually, I was going to write a letter," Marshall had to jerk the file to pull it from her fingers. What was she, five? "and then mail it to myself, that way I'd be sure you got the news."

Mary looked up at him and smiled. What was it about her smiles? Most people, they smiled and those who saw it felt better. When Mary smiled like that, she was trying to make everyone around her feel worse. And it usually worked.

"Staying live, at one oh five." Horst interrupted.

"You know," Mary snagged the blood tester back from Horst and checked it herself before turning angry green eyes back to her partner. "Please don't act like you're the injured party here, ok? At least show me that much respect."

The gall of her was truly amazing.

"Respect?" Marshall nearly snorted on the word, but it wasn't really funny. Normally irony appealed to him, but he was too angry to find the humor in his particular situation. "When have you ever shown me respect? Or anyone else for that matter?" The tall inspector glared at the pages of the medical file in his hands, trying to assimilate their meaning through the red haze that was obscuring his vision.

Horst glanced up at the bickering pair, his eyebrows crawling up his forehead as he shook his inhaler. "This is fun..."

Mary shrugged carelessly, but her words remained biting and focused. "Maybe you'd get respect if you ever actually did something to earn it."

That brought his head back up with a snap. Marshall's jaw hung open for a second, anger and hurt warring for supremacy. Anger was winning. Big time. "And you wonder why I didn't share my future plans with you," he said, half amazed, half incensed at the venom she was spewing. Was that what she really thought of him?

Without skipping a beat, Mary was snapping back. Her words were sharp and hard, like broken glass. "No," she spat, "what I wonder is why I put up with your insipid running commentary for the past three years!" Before he could respond she was reaching down and grabbing hold of Horst's arms, pulling him upright. "Come on, let's go. Up." The blonde marshal began hustling their witness away, without waiting for her partner.

Marshall followed swiftly, seething as he glared at the back of her head. He knew, in the back of his thoughts, that her words stemmed from hurt. She was hurt that he hadn't told her. Mary didn't deal with hurt well. Or change. Or any emotion other than perpetual, acerbic, misery.

It didn't help that he knew. He hated having his privacy invaded. After working with Mary for several years he was used to her prying into most aspects of his life, but this was something he had wanted to decide for himself for once!

"Three to one I'm dead before we get to the car," Horst's nasal voice predicted as he shuffled his way down the hall, chains clinking. "Have my brains blown out all over the parking lot, and then the two most annoying people on the planet bickering over my lifeless corpse."

Almost like poetry, Marshall thought darkly.

"Relax, Horst," Mary responded, her voice gentling ever so slightly. "No one knows who you are, where you are, or where you're going." Her hand suddenly came off Horst's arm and jabbed backward, palm flat up as the snap came back into her tone full force. "Gimme the keys. I'm driving."

Several phrases floated through Marshall's mind, all of which would have gotten him slapped by his mother if she knew her son was thinking of telling his female partner where exactly she could put those keys...

Digging into his pocket, he yanked the car keys out and slapped them into her outstretched palm with a bit more force than was his habit. "Try not to drive like you stole it," he snapped, seizing Horst's arm and pushing past her. Marshall was fuming. His partner was one of the most difficult people in the world to get along with. He prided himself on being able not only to deal with her biting sarcasm, but maintaining a fairly stable friendship with the hell child. Now, however, she had crossed a line. She had not only invaded his privacy, but then had the balls to be ticked off at him.

Jerking the back door of his SUV open, the lanky inspector gave Horst a push. "Get in," he said shortly.

Horst raised his eyebrows. "The back seat? I don't think so. I get car sick..."

"There's a bucket." Marshall emphasized his words with a not-so-gentle hand. Ignoring the snide mutterings that followed, he waited until Horst was inside and slammed the door shut. Mary was already climbing into the driver's seat on the other side of the car, her movements jerky with barely constrained anger.

Marshall swiftly got into the passenger seat, avoiding looking at his partner. He could see her glaring at him out of the corner of his eye, but kept his gaze fixed firmly out the window. With a soft growl, Mary started the SUV and gunned the engine. Despite his caveat, the car pealed out of the prison parking lot so quickly he was slightly surprised that they were not immediately followed and pulled over for fear that they were inmates absconding with a vehicle.

Icy silence descended. Both partners sat in unbending rigidity, glaring through the windshield at the road unwinding before them.

Maybe you'd get respect if you ever actually did something to earn it. Mary's mocking words banged around inside his head, bruising him. She knew just what to say to draw the most blood. It was her special gift. On some level, he knew that she didn't actually mean it. She was lashing out because she was angry.

It reminded him of when they first started working together.

The iron-laden hills rolled by the windows, but Marshall ceased to really see them as his mind wandered...




Marshall looked up, his gaze coming to rest on his new partner. She was humming softly to herself as she banged her desk drawers open and shut, familiarizing herself with her new workplace. It had only been a month since they had traversed the states with Claudia and Henry. Mary had returned back East briefly to pack up her belongings, then reappeared.

Judging by how well they had gotten along so far, Marshall was absolutely certain their partnership would stand as an example to all law enforcement agencies for the rest of time.

The example of what not to do if you wished to avoid dismembering your partner and hiding their remains in (as Mary described it) the 'desert hellbox of Albuquerque.'

He was already deciding which of his kitchen knives at home would be best suited for the task.

Sighing, the lanky inspector pinched the bridge of his nose in an effort to remove the tension that was gathering there. This was his own fault, he had to remind himself. He'd brought this on himself. True, he had been very impressed with Mary. She did her job with a degree of excellence that he would like to see copied everywhere. When he told Stan to snap her up, he had been serious. And it wasn't like she didn't have her moments of humanity. His mind flashed to the dark interior of the car...Henry and Claudia sleeping in the back seat as the hum of the road filled the silence. She had revealed a small piece of herself; a clue that there was something to her besides bitter, stinging, sarcasm. That was part of why Marshall had encouraged Stan to take her.

After their hours long desk rearranging debacle, he realized that there were going to be personality issues. The largest of which being that Mary did not respect him enough to reveal any more of her personality than the very sharpest of its' edges.

And he wasn't quite sure how to overcome that. Marshall stretched his legs out under his desk and leaned back against his chair, slouching with easy grace.

An alert chimed softly on his computer, pulling his attention away from his new partner. Blue eyes scanned the message quickly, his face becoming more and more grim. His jaw tightened.

The wife of one of his witnesses had been admitted to the hospital with a broken arm. Pushing back his chair, Marshall rose to his feet.

"Going somewhere?" Green eyes fastened on him with a look akin to a hawk sighting a mouse.

"My witness' spouse was just hospitalized," he said shortly, pulling on his jacket. "I need to check it out."

"Do you follow them around and wipe their noses when they have colds too?" Mary also rose to her feet, grabbing her leather coat. "I mean, I knew that wimpsec was soft on the whole hand holding deal, but if you expect me to run after them with a box of tissues, I think my time might be better served back East."

"No one said you had to come," he snapped. No one could get under his skin faster than this woman. No one.

"Like I have anything else to do." Mary pushed the elevator button and smiled up at him. "No, until I get some basket cases of my own, I'm going to have to make do following you around and making sure you don't screw up too badly."

The elevator doors slid open and both inspectors stepped in.

"So what's the deal on your sick little witness?"

"It's not the witness," Marshall corrected her. "It's his wife. And she's not sick. She checked in with a broken arm."

The green eyes looked up at him incredulously. "Seems pretty straightforward...why are we checking on this again? I mean, unless you think one of the people from their past life broke her arm to stop him from testifying."

"I am perfectly certain that this has absolutely nothing to do with the people from their previous life," Marshall said firmly.

He ignored the copious rolling of her eyes. Obviously, she assumed that he was 'babying' his witnesses, and he wasn't inclined to set her straight.

He didn't have to justify himself to her.


"U.S. Marshal, Marshall Mann. I need to see Marie Andrews." Marshall flashed his badge to the nurse at the station, ignoring Mary's sniggering at his name.

"This way, please." The nurse quickly rose to her feet, beckoning to him. Marshall followed after her, aware that Mary was on his heels.

The nurse pushed aside a curtain that enclosed one of the beds in the ER, revealing the woman seated there. She looked up quickly, eyes large and frightened. She was small and frail looking at the best of times, Marshall knew. Now, however, she looked like the survivor of a war camp. Blue and black smudges showed up clearly against the background of her naturally pale skin. With her good hand she held an ice pack to her right eye, which was rapidly swelling shut. Long, chestnut hair straggled in long strands down her neck, escaping from her braid. Her left arm was encased in plaster from the elbow to the wrist and resting in a sling. Her whole posture was hunched, as though by squeezing herself into a smaller ball she could escape notice. Marshall heard Mary swear in surprise behind him, but he was unfortunately not shocked to see Marie in this condition.

Marie had flinched as the curtain had been pulled back, but her body relaxed slightly when she saw who was on the other side. "Marshall," she whispered. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I got the alert that one of my witnesses was in the hospital," he replied calmly, even as his blood boiled. "What happened?"

Her eyes immediately slid away from his face and fastened to a point roughly even with his adam's apple. "I fell," she mumbled. "Down the stairs."

"Seriously?" Mary stepped forward, eyes flashing. "Those stairs must pack a hell of a punch, huh?"

Marie's eyes darted to Mary in fear, then away again. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Then I will shear all attempts at subtlety from any further communication with you," Mary snapped.

"Good lord, you were being subtle before?" Marshall couldn't help the stab. As much as he agreed with the sentiment of what Mary was saying, this was his witness...

Mary shot him a glare before turning her attention back to Marie. "Who...hit...you?" the blond marshal enunciated her words clearly and carefully.

"No one hit me," Marie insisted quietly. "I fell. Down the stairs."

"Do you really expect me to believe..."

Marshall placed a hand on Mary's shoulder and pulled her back, cutting her off. "Marie," he said softly. "I know that you want to protect Dominic, but this has to stop."

"Nothing has to stop, because nothing is happening." Marie's words were mumbled into her lap. "I fell down the stairs. I got bruised up and broke my arm. Dominic hasn't even been home all morning. He's been out playing golf."

"Marie," Marshall struggled to keep his tone even. It was hard, especially with his partner staring at him in disbelief at his apparent stupidity. "Have you ever heard of a spiral break?"

"Yes," Marie answered, obviously nonplussed by the sudden conversation switch.

He smiled tightly. "I thought you might."

"Why the hell does it matter?" Mary interjected. "It's obvious what's happened here..."

"I ask," Marshall continued, raising his voice to be heard and ignoring Mary. "because it is the type of break that you have sustained in your...fall." The lanky inspector tried to catch Marie's eye, but she was very determined to avoid looking directly at him. "Caused by the twisting of the bone until it breaks, it is most common in child abuse cases." More silence. "And did you know it is almost impossible to sustain in a fall down a flight of stairs? Especially for an adult."

Mary looked vaguely impressed, and Marie still would not look at him.

Marshall crossed his arms over his chest, trying to keep a tight rein on his temper. This wasn't the first time he had come to the hospital for Marie. "Marie, I'm going to have to call my boss. This is obviously a violation of the WitSec regulations."

Marie's head jerked up, eyes wide and frightened. "No! You can't! If he gets kicked out of witness protection he'll be killed!"

"And if he stays in you will be!" Mary's eyes were round with disbelief as she stared at the broken woman on the bed in front of her. "I can't believe this! You're actually defending you abusive crap bag of a husband when he's done this to you?"

Marie was staring at him, pleading. "Marshall, please!"

"Get some rest," Marshall said firmly, stepping back and pulling the curtain closed once more. Taking a few steps down the hall, he pulled his cell phone out and dialed Stan's number.


Mary watched her gangly partner step down the hall and pull out his phone. Good. At least he had some balls. Enough to go ahead and report the jackass responsible for that woman's injuries. He had filled her in on the witness on their way to the hospital. Dominic Andrews, formerly known as Dominic Andrelli, was in the position of having info that would bring several crime circles to their knees. His testimony was still pending, so Marshall was in the unenviable position of keeping the creep on the up and up and in WitSec. Apparently, the lawman had reached his limit.

And about time! Geez, what did it take for people to grow a pair around here? The stupidity of the woman resting behind the curtain galled her. What was it with women like that? Placing yourself in the position to be abused over and over again...lying about how she received her injuries to insure that her asshole husband would remain free to bludgeon her another day. Mary shook her head in amazement. Unbelievable. If some guy ever tried to hit her she would rat on him so fast...well, no. Now that she thought on it, she probably wouldn't tell anyone either.

But only because she wanted to avoid being a suspect when his dismembered limbs started showing up in various parts of the desert.

Flicking her ponytail over her shoulder, Mary crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. Her green eyes wandered down the hall, coming to rest on her new partner. Gradually, it dawned on her that something was going wrong. Marshall's back was turned to her, so she couldn't see his features, but his posture was rigid. His voice had dropped from the tones of normal conversation to a low, intense volume.

This couldn't be good.


"...so obvious it's not even funny. It's time to kick this asshole to the curb, Stan."

The ominous silence that greeted his words filled Marshall with apprehension.

"She won't admit he did it?" Stan's voice was hesitant, and Marshall groaned inwardly. He had played this song and dance before.

"No." The syllable was replete with frustration. "She insists that she fell down the stairs." Marshall rubbed a hand across his face. He knew where this was heading, and he didn't like it.

"Any other witnesses?" His boss' voice was not hopeful.

"No, but…"

"Marshall, you know what we're dealing with. Dominic is key in the case against the Andrelli family. He stands to bring down a major organization."


"And unless you have solid evidence..."


"...there's nothing I can do!" Marshall could hear the aggravation in Stan's voice over the line. He knew the chief inspector despised Dominic almost as much as himself, but he was right. Dominic's testimony was too important to lose without hard evidence.

With a grimace of disgust, the lawman closed his cell and pushed it back into his jacket pocket.


Mary's sharp voice turned him to face her. She was standing with her hands on her hips, observing him through narrowed eyes. "What's going on? What's the problem?"

Sarcastic and scathing she might be, but unobservant she was not. "Unless Marie admits that Dominic was the one who injured her, or someone else witnesses the abuse, there's nothing we can do."

Fascinating. He could almost see her blood pressure rise with her eyebrows.



Every so often, Mary found herself in the position of having so many curses, sarcastic jibes and scathing diatribes fighting to be heard at once that she actually lapsed into a period of silence as they sorted themselves out. This was one of those times. The word 'what' managed to escape the verbal mosh pit in her brain, but before anything else could make it from synapses to tongue, they were interrupted by the arrival of a man who could only be Dominic.

A number of things tipped Mary off to his identity. First there was the way her partner's eyes narrowed and jaw tightened. Mostly, it was the incredibly strong aura he cast. The unmistakable aura of dumbass. Mary's aura reader was finely tuned; she had never mistaken a dumbass reading.

Dominic was big. Almost as tall as Marshall and significantly broader. Dark hair looked like it was trying to twist itself into tight curls, but he had cut it too short. Muscles bulged against the tight sleeves of the polo shirt he wore. He had big, meaty, ham-sized hands. All the better for hitting tiny women with. Mary could actually feel bile rising in the back of her throat as she looked at him.

"Marshall." Dominic swaggered forward, shoving ham hands into his jeans pockets. "Thought I'd see you here."

"I am alerted if anything happens to either of you," Marshall said blandly, though Mary was fairly certain he was grinding his teeth. "You know that."

"Yeah, I do." The arrogant overtones of his voice made Mary want to slap him. "So did Marie tell you what happened?"

"Yeah," Mary said with a laugh. "Yeah, she did. Funny story too. Apparently, a flight of stairs jumped her in an alley, twisted her arm till it broke and proceeded to beat the crap out of her while her husband was playing golf. Did I forget anything, marshal Marshall?"

"Only the part where he's my witness," Marshall said shortly. "If you'll excuse me..."

To Mary's surprise, her partner caught hold of Dominic's arm and pulled him away down the hall. He stopped far enough away to give the appearance of a private conversation, but not far enough away for Mary to strain her ears eavesdropping.

"It was made clear to you what was expected when you came into the witness protection program," Marshall was speaking in a low, quick voice, his syllables suddenly very pronounced. Obviously, the tall man was holding his temper on a short leash. "What you are doing is a breach of every protocol we have, and if I can get your wife to admit that you are what you are, I promise you that I will cheerfully kiss your testimony goodbye as I lock you in handcuffs and hand you over to the Albuquerque PD. I will sing. I will sing happy, upbeat, song and dance numbers from musicals because I will be beyond thrilled that your worthless carcass is in jail, where I am firmly convinced it belongs. Do we have an understanding?"

Mary eyed the two men contemplatively. Rather than looking remotely abashed, Dominic's face creased into a knowing smirk. "Look, Marshall," a New York accent dripped from his words. "We both know that with the goods I got, nobody is doing nothing to me. Not you, not your pretty little partner with the bad attitude, and not the police. Marie fell down some stairs. She's clumsy that way." A flat, menacing look entered Dominic's dark eyes as he stepped forward into Marshall's personal space. "She better watch her step, right? I wouldn't want her to ...fall...again."

Mary leaned against the wall, taking a deep breath. In another instant she was going to deck the jerk, protocol be damned.

"Oh, but just remember this," Dominic wagged one finger in a patronizing manner. "if my wife does fall down those stairs again...you're not gonna do a thing to me. Now get out of my way. I want to visit the Mrs."

Marshall stepped directly into his path. "I believe I need to make a few more things clear to you."

Mary saw Dominic's eyebrows draw together sharply. This was a man that did not take to being crossed well. Probably the reason his wife was lying on an ER bed with a broken arm. She saw him bring his hands up to shove Marshall out of the way and immediately straightened from her semi-slouched position. She swore under her breath even as she took a step forward, fairly certain she was about to watch her new partner get his skinny ass kicked.

Marshall moved so quickly that she didn't quite understand what had happened for a moment. One instant, Dominic was reaching out with those violent, beefy hands to forcibly remove the lanky lawman from his path. The next, Marshall had seized his wrist expertly and folded the man's arm back on itself, twisting the wrist at an angle it was never meant to turn.

It was so smooth, Mary never saw it coming. She stopped in her tracks, gaping at the sight of Marshall calmly holding Dominic in place with a minimum amount of effort as the former mob member whimpered in pain.

"As I was saying," Marshall's voice was bland, even as his eyes burned. "There are a few more things that we need to discuss. I wish to impress upon you the severity of your actions." With every accented word, Marshall bent the wrist just a little more.

Mary found herself to be enjoying the little whimpering sounds that were coming from the muscle bound moron.

"You, and Marie are my witnesses," Marshall said icily. "It is my job to keep both of you safe. What is happening right now is not safe for her, obviously, but it is also not safe for you. You are drawing too much attention to yourself, and that will get you killed." Another twist, provoking a small howl. Blue eyes narrowed coldly. "I promise."

Dominic's knees were giving out, and Marshall bent at the waist, keeping pressure on the captured wrist as the muscle man sank to the floor. His diction was sharp and frigid as he leaned forward into Dominic's face. "And I also promise you that I won't stand by and watch you get away with this." Marshall's gaze flickered to the curtain shrouded bed, then back to the man at his feet. "She had better not end up in here again. If she does, it will go very, very badly for you. Do you understand?"

"I get it! I get it! Leggo, man!"

Mary stared as Marshall released his hold, allowing Dominic to regain his feet and slink towards his wife's bedside. She thought about tripping him as he went past her, but decided that he had already been humiliated enough. The blond marshal cocked her head to one side, observing her partner carefully as he turned to face her.

A confused expression crossed his face. "What? Why are you staring?"

Mary could feel a smile curling the corners of her lips. "Let's just say that is the first time I've ever heard a grown man threaten a felon with musical theater while wearing cowboy boots and still pull off being a badass."

One of his eyebrows raised skeptically. "Thank...you?" His blue eyes darted down to his footwear in bewilderment. "And what is wrong with cowboy boots?"

"Typically they are worn by three groups of people. Cowboys, little boys, and men who actually are still little boys pretending to be adults."

"I'm not even going to ask which category I fall into."

"I think I'm going to have to come up with a new one. Especially since you reacted to the boot smack and not the one concerning the song and dance routines. Are you sure you're not gay?"

"Are you sure you're not a soulless banshee bent on sucking the life from those who surround you?"

Mary's eyebrows rose in appreciation. "That would be good, but I notice that you avoided answering the question." Before he could reply, she jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the couple least likely to be nominated for marriage of the year. "So what are we going to do about that creep?"

"There's nothing we can do," Marshall said tiredly, looping his thumbs through his belt loops as his eyes followed Dominic's every move. "Not officially."

"Officially? That's the lamest cop out I think I've ever heard! Who cares about 'official'? That festering pile of waste is going to end up killing her!" Mary glared over her shoulder for a second, just in time to catch Dominic's eye. Despite his embarrassing incident being held at the mercy of a 6'2, 90 lb, song and dance, wish he were a cowboy man, the former mob member seemed to be regaining his attitude with alarming speed. Her green eyes narrowed.

With a final smirk in her direction, Dominic helped his wife to her feet and led her towards the exit that would not take him past Marshall.

But her partner wasn't having that. With a few long strides he was in front of them.

Dominic scowled angrily. (Though Mary noticed he kept both hands out of Marshall's reach) "What do you want? You said your piece!"

Ignoring him, Marshall focused on the frail woman by his side. "Marie," he said quietly, gently. Her face came up, but even from where Mary was standing it was obvious that Marie was avoiding his eyes.

Mary could see the frustration written out on her partner's face. He so obviously wanted to help her, but she wasn't going to let him.

"I just wanted to remind you that you have my phone number," Marshall sighed. "If you ever need help, if you're ever frightened about anything, if Dominic ever hits you again..."

"Hey!" Dominic tried to interject, but Marshall overrode him easily.

"...Then please, please call me. I will come, and I will help you."

Marie finally looked into his face, and a weak smile touched her lips. "You're a good guy, Marshall." she said softly. Dominic snorted in disgust and turned away.

"I'm gonna go get the car, babe. I'll meet you at the door in five. Don't be late." As he sauntered away, Marshall glared at his back. Mary was mildly surprised to see that Dominic didn't ignite with the force of the lawman's ire. She was also impressed that her new partner had a look like that. Marshall Mann was turning into an interesting puzzle. He could hold a muscular man at bay with one hand, yet knew show tunes. Comforting distraught people came as easily to him as breathing, but he possessed a glare that looked like it should cause spontaneous combustion for those unlucky enough to be caught by it.

And there were the cowboy boots.

Mary shook her head in some wonder. For once, this was a puzzle that it didn't look like she would hate.

The blond marshal snorted in disgust at her own musings. Giving herself a mental slap, she sauntered towards Marshall and Marie. What was she thinking? In a few months, they would almost undoubtedly not be working together anymore. The longest anyone had ever put up with her as a partner was three.

No sense putting the mental energy into a puzzle she wouldn't need to solve.

Marshall turned back to Marie, glare disappearing. He looked tired, if anything. The small woman glanced towards the doors her husband had just gone through and bit her lip. Her mouth moved, but Mary couldn't hear what she was saying. Marshall apparently had the same problem. He bent towards her, inclining one ear. "I'm sorry?"

Another glance towards the door.

Mary drew close enough to hear just as Marie's words spilled from swollen lips.

"Would you really come and help?"

Marshall smiled. "I promise."

I promise. One of her favorite phrases, right up there with 'I'm sorry', and 'happily ever after.' Even as Marie scampered for the door, where her abusive husband was no doubt waiting, Mary couldn't help rolling her eyes.


Marshall turned just in time to catch the expression on his partner's face. "What?"

The green eyes actually looked on him in surprise. "I didn't say anything!"

"No," Marshall's tone was biting. "You were just examining the ceiling. Exactly what would you like me to do, hmmm?" His hands were resting on his hips, eyebrows drawn together, voice terse. He was being semi-unreasonable, getting so upset over a simple eye-roll, but his patience had been stretched way past the breaking point.

Not being the type of person to back down from an altercation, Mary faced him, lowering her metaphorical horns.

Marshal suddenly expected to see a red cape flutter and hear someone yell the word 'ole!'

At this point, he wasn't sure which one of them was the bull and which one was the matador.

"Since you ask...get her to turn on her crapbag of a husband! Geez! How hard can it be?"

"She won't say anything against him," Marshall snapped back with complete conviction. "She never has, and she never will. I know my witness."

Something registered in his partner's face. "Wait...never has?" Her eyes narrowed. "How many times have you come to the hospital for her?" A righteous rage was simmering, he could tell. "More importantly, how many times have we looked the other way while that...asshole has pummeled his wife?"

Oh how it hurt him to acknowledge the truth. He glared at her for a moment. She was so willing to pass judgment on anyone other than herself. "Three," he gritted through clenched teeth. "Three times. Which is why I know that she will never admit that he is hitting her. She won't do anything that could hurt him."

"So get her to leave! We could move her..."

"I suggested that to her the first time this happened," Marshall interrupted. "And every time since, with no better results. She knows that she could leave. She would be safe, he would stay in WitSec, and he would never be able to find her again." Thumb and forefinger came up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "She won't go." The hand moved to grip the back of his neck in hopeless frustration. "And he won't stop hurting her. He's fully aware of how important his testimony is, and he is going to take advantage of the situation. No matter what happens, until his testimony is given, we are to keep him in WitSec almost at the cost of everything else. He knows that Marie will never say anything against him." He could see her readying a reply, which would no doubt be harsh, witty, forthright, and absolutely true. She had a knack for saying things with absolute clarity in a way that about as soothing as pouring a mixture of salted lemon juice over wounds received from a flogging. Whoever said 'the truth hurts' must have had a premonition involving this blond, venom-tongued woman. Before she could utter a word, he bulldozed ahead. "Do you think that I enjoy this situation? My hands are tied. I like my job and I am officially forbidden to do anything that will interfere with Dominic presenting his testimony. The instant I have anything that I can use against him and get him kicked out of WitSec, I will do it will a smile on my face and to hell with the case." He took a deep breath and let it out. "In the meantime, all I can do is promise her help if she asks. But she has to ask, and she won't. I know my witness."

Was that a softening he saw in her hard, green eyes?

She sighed, looking past him towards the door where Marie had exited moments before. "You know he's probably going to end up killing her, right?"

Marshall closed his eyes. "I know." And he was afraid that it would be his fault.

Okee dokee, that's it for now. Next chapter should be up shortly, within the next couple days I should think. :) Reviews are an excellent way to let me know how you think I'm doing! And I love them...crave them...neeeeeeeeeeeeed them...:)