a/n: This chapter was hard to write. It was difficult to put some of these 'abnormal' emotions into words that could be 'Mary and Marshall' words. I hope I did it justice. I kind of like the physical, badass in-your-face Marshall, so he's going to stick around a while. 'Spaceman Spiff' belongs to Bill Watterson, creator of the most awesome 'Calvin and Hobbes'. Thank you for the hits and reviews! Please enjoy.

Chapter Four

"Where's Peter? Did you call Peter?" Brandi stared at the ceiling as she breathed slowly through another painful contraction.

"He left the office," Mary nodded. "Who the hell voluntarily goes to work on a Saturday anyway?" Brandi squeezed Mary's fingers and mustered a quick laugh. "He's on his way, Squish. So is Mom." Mary held her sister's hand, rubbing soft circles across the backs of her fingers.

"Brandi, we need to get you changed and ready for the delivery, and get the IV started for the pain meds." Mary looked at the nurse then back to Brandi.

"Squish, I'm going to go to the lobby and see if Peter's here yet." Brandi nodded, resuming the rhythmic breathing as another contraction started. "Is this going to happen, you know, soon soon?" Mary asked the nurse. "I don't want her to be alone." The nurse smiled softly.

"She's at three centimeters so she has a ways to go yet. But, as far as how soon 'soon' is…" She shrugged. "I can't answer that one."

"Okay." Mary leaned down to Brandi's ear. "I'll be right back." Mary left the room, taking a deep breath and blowing it out in a slow puff through her lips. Upon reaching the reception desk, she heard a familiar, yet nervous, voice call her name.

"Mary? How is she? Where is she?" Mary set her hands on Peter's arms, trying to calm the father-to-be.

"She's all right, Peter." Mary turned him and guided him down the hallway. "She's at three centimeters. And the nurse is giving her some pain medication so she's going to be a lot more comfortable than she was when we came in," Mary smiled. Peter nodded but Mary was certain he was not listening. "Here's her room. Jinx and I will be in the waiting room down the hall." Peter turned, facing Mary. "I'll watch for your parents."

"Mary…I cannot thank you enough for this. Without you, I wouldn't be here to witness my baby…my baby…" He smiled. "My baby being born."

"Yeah, yeah," she laughed. "Congratulations Peter." He offered one last smile before entering Brandi's room. Mary leaned against the wall opposite the doorway and waited patiently for Jinx to step out. She thought about Norah's delivery, thought about how much it really meant to have Mark present for their daughter's birth. She thought about how much more it would mean to Brandi to have Peter, the man she was meant to be with, by her side. Burying the empty feeling washing over her, she shook off the thought.

"Oh, I am so excited!" Jinx sang, springing from the delivery room, hands clasped over her heart. "Two grandbabies!" Jinx wound her arm in Mary's and together they headed towards the waiting room.


Marshall opened the door and scanned the empty waiting room. He found the object of his search sleeping on the scantly padded, metal-framed couch at the far side of the room. He shook his head, amazed that his partner could sleep so soundly on something so uncomfortable. Marshall made his way through the room and knelt in front of the couch. He noted the crease in her brow and the shallowness of her breathing, realizing just how restless she really was. Gently brushing away the spray of hair that covered the side of Mary's face, Marshall watched her sleep, as he had the night before in the motel room.

Marshall lay comfortably on his back, fingers laced, hands resting across his chest. The room was cool and the red, flowered comforter offered the ideal amount of warmth, perfect conditions to elicit a good night's sleep. But Marshall's eyes would not close. He continued to stare at the ceiling, wondering why Mary reacted so negatively to his request that she be part of his wedding. She meant so much to him and he did not want to go through such an important milestone in his life without his best friend by his side. Marshall had been on the receiving end of Mary's fury many times, sometimes because he was a convenient target, sometimes because he deserved it. In either case, he always knew why Mary was angry. This time, he was having trouble figuring out what put him in the doghouse. In her most irate moment, she never pushed him away as she was currently doing.

Shifting to lay on his side, Marshall studied the woman sleeping to his left. Mary was on her side, facing him, and in the light from the bright display of the alarm clock, he could clearly see the features of her face. Her arm, bare from her shoulder to her wrist, rested on top of the comforter draped over her body. Her hand lay on the bed, clutching the edge of the comforter. Marshall bent his arm, propping his head on his palm. He reached for Mary, softly running the tip of his index finger over the back of her hand. She responded by tightening her grip on the comforter and drawing her arm closer to her body. Marshall smiled softly and reached for her again, this time his feathered touch grazing her cheek. He watched the wrinkle that briefly formed above her nose. Marshall took a deep breath, his smile fading as he felt a couple of tears slip from his eyes.

"Whatever I did," he whispered, "I'm sorry, Mare." Marshall carefully laid his hand over hers, fingers gently encircling her fist as he reinforced his hold. He lowered his head onto the pillow and closed his eyes, his slumber coming distressful.

"Mary," he said quietly, gently shaking her shoulder. "Mary, time to get up." She stirred under his touch, slowly taking a deep breath.

"Marshall?" she called softly. Then her eyes open. "Marshall!" Mary quickly sat up.

"Hey, hey. It's all right." Still kneeling on the floor, he softly rubbed her arms just above the elbow as she rebooted her conscious mind.

"How-how…Why are you here?"

"Stan sent me a text, said Brandi had the baby. I came to see how Auntie Mary was doing." Marshall smiled, but Mary ignored his goading remark.

"No, no. Marshall, you can't be here. Abigail is going to be—"

"Abigail is going to be fine, Mary," he said firmly as he rose to sit next to her. He rested his arm around her shoulders and took her hand. "How is your sister?"

"She's…she's good; resting now." Mary stared at the floor, then, slowly shaking her head, she scrunched her eyes.

"And the baby?" Marshall prodded. Mary turned to him.

"The baby's fine. He's fine." Marshall smiled.

"A boy, huh?" Mary allowed herself a quick, small smile then glanced at the clock on the wall.

"It's twelve-thirty in the morning, Marshall," she said as she ran a hand through her hair. "You should go home to Abigail." Mary deliberately shrugged off his arms and stood. Marshall followed, aggravated again by Mary's pushing.

"Mary, I—"

"Marshall! What a pleasant surprise!" The partners turned towards Jinx as she entered the room. "Have you seen the little one yet, Marshall?" she asked excitedly as she joined the two.

"Uh, no, I haven't," he answered. "I just got here." Though not looking directly at Mary, he did not miss the roll of her eyes. "Congratulations on another grandbaby," he said pleasantly.

"Oh, Mary, why don't you take Marshall to the nursery to see little Breindel."

"Yeah, Mary." Marshall turned to the aggravated blonde woman, his smile wide on his face. "Let's go to the nursery and see Breindel."

"Fine." Mary grabbed his elbow and forcefully led him from the waiting room. "Then you are going home," she said as they rounded the corner into the next hallway. Marshall looked around. Satisfied that they were alone in the corridor, he quickly freed his arm from Mary's grasp. He took both of her wrists, pushed her against the wall and pinned her hands to either side of her head. "Marshall! What the hell!"

"What's your problem?" he asked quietly, his face impassive.

"I don't have a problem," she bit back, trying to free her hands.

"Don't fight me," Marshall said, tightening his hold on her wrists. "I'm not letting go." He stepped into her. "I want you to listen, and carefully. I don't know what's been going on with you lately, but I've about had enough." Mary opened her mouth but Marshall stopped her words. "I said listen," he instructed, raising his eyebrows. "Tell me what I did to piss you off." She stared at him, jaw clenched.

"You didn't piss me off, Marshall." Mary struggled again against Marshall's restraint, stopping only when she saw a flicker of anger flash across his eyes.

"Something's wrong here, Mare," he said tightly. "And I want it fixed."

"Fixed? You want it fixed?" Mary scoffed shaking her head. "If you had any fricken idea of what needed—"

"Marshall, Mary. Hi." Neither turned as Peter walked towards them. Marshall tilted his head slightly to the side; his fingers tightened just a touch around Mary's skin. It was an indication that he was not concerned with being discovered detaining her against the wall. Holding Mary's eyes, he slowly released her hands and backed away from the wall.

"Peter, congratulations," Marshall said, reaching to shake the new father's hand. Mary looked at Peter. If he had any question about what he witnessed, he wasn't letting on. "We were just on our way to see Breindel." Marshall's eyes flicked to Mary, silently telling her that he was not finished with the conversation. Peter smiled and passed, motioning for them to follow. Taking one more corner, the three stopped in front of the large nursery window.

"There he is," Peter said proudly, lightly tapping the glass. "Breindel Hallan Alpert. Third basket from the left."

"He's beautiful," Marshall said. "Breindel. That's Hebrew, isn't it?"

"Yes. Brandi picked it out. It means 'blessings'." Peter touched the glass softly. "Which he certainly is. And 'Hallan' is my father's name." Mary waited an impatient moment as the two spoke, before reaching for Marshall's arm.

"Time to say 'good-bye', Marshall." She turned to Peter. "Marshall's kind of on call since I have the day off," she explained with a stiff smile. After the men said their good-byes, Mary placed her hand on Marshall's back and shoved him towards the corner. "There," she said when they were again in the empty hallway. "You got to see the baby. Now go home."

"No," Marshall said firmly. "You and I are going to take a ride." As he reached for Mary's arm, she hopped back a couple steps out of his reach.

"I don't fucking think so," she said with an angry glare. She jogged a few feet ahead of Marshall.

"I do." He caught up and pulled her to his side, hiding his grip on her arm between their bodies. "Try not to make a scene," he said as they approached the waiting room. "Tell your mother we're leaving." Mary shot Marshall a sharp look.

"I should tell her you're kidnapping me."

"Go ahead. See what happens," Marshall threatened. Mary sighed as they entered the waiting room. Marshall kept Mary close as she collected her coat from the back of a chair. Jinx noticed Mary and Marshall's presence and excused herself from the conversation she was sharing with Peter's parents. She was concerned with the anxious look on her daughter's face.


"Uh, Marshall and I are going to leave for a little bit," Mary started.

"Is something wrong?" Jinx asked.

"No, Mom. Just some work stuff Marshall needs to tell me," she assured her mother.

"I won't keep her long," Marshall promised, leaving Jinx no opportunity to argue as he pushed Mary through the door into the hallway and towards the hospital's entrance. Once beyond the doors and into the cold night air, Mary ripped her arm from Marshall's grasp.

"Anything you need to say, you can say right here, Marshall," she said, pulling her coat around her shoulders.

"Yeah, I talk until you decide you don't want to listen." He gestured towards the hospital. "And here sits a big fucking building for you to hide in. No." Marshall shook his head. "We're going someplace where there's nowhere for you to run."


The tension between Mary and Marshall escalated during the silent twenty minute drive from the hospital to an abandoned bar just outside of town. Marshall pulled the SUV into the parking lot, releasing his white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel and roughly shifting the gears into park. Mary threw open the passenger door and exited the vehicle, unable to contain her anger any longer.

"What the hell is so damned important that you couldn't tell me at the hospital? Huh?" she bit as Marshall slammed the driver's door. "Why did we have to come out to…to…" Mary looked around, gesturing with raised hands. "Where the hell are we?"

"That doesn't matter," Marshall said as he met Mary in front of the car. "Talk to me, Mare."

"I have nothing to say to you, Marshall."

"I'm through fighting with you, Mary. We need to get past this." Marshall stood in front of her, as close as he could be without touching her. "I can't do this without you."

"Do what?"

"Life, Mare. I can't…I don't want to do this without you."

"Oh, we are so not having this fucking conversation right now." Mary shook her head and brushed past her partner. Marshall's arm snapped from his side, securing itself around her waist. He pulled her back to him, placing her between his body and the vehicle's hood.

"We are absolutely having this fucking conversation right now." Marshall searched her eyes. He knew better than to classify what he saw in those green orbs as 'fear', but he could not think of another word. "Mare, tell me. What's going on in here?" He raised his hand, fingers grazing her temple.

"Don't, Marshall." Mary pushed, forcing him a step backwards. He quickly regained his footing and pushed back. "Marshall, please," she whispered as he leaned his hands on the hood. Tears started to form in her eyes as she looked everywhere but at him.

"Don't what, Mary? Why are you so scared?" He hooked a finger under her chin and forced her gaze upwards. Mary froze as she met Marshall's eyes. She tried to hold back the tears, but she could no longer control it.

"I'm not scared." The firmness she intended to convey abandoned her words and she stood before Marshall, 'I'm fucking terrified' written across her face. "Marshall, you can't do this." Mary regained a bit of composure and unloaded. "It's not fair. You can't ask me to be okay enough to leave you alone and let you have your pretty little life with Abigail, and then turn around and demand to know how I am!"

"Mary, that's-"

"And-and then you ask me to be in your wedding and…what the hell does Abigail think about that? I can't come to you for-for anything but you can come to me and-and-"

"Mary, come on."

"—yet you just keep pulling me into your life-"

"Mary!" He grabbed her arms in a failed effort to gain her attention and stop her yelling.

"Don't!" she screamed, pulling her arms from his hands. "I can't do it! All right? I can't!" Mary dropped her eyes to Marshall's shirt, unwilling to witness his reaction to her words. "I can't let what we are, what we were be ruined…I need a line, Marshall. One neither one of us can cross." Mary swallowed hard. "I never needed to depend on anyone. I did just fine without my mother or-or my father. Without my sister. I made it on my own. I did that." Marshall watched his defeated partner as she slumped against the SUV. "And I'll continue to make it on my own. I have to do this without you, Marshall." Mary took a deep breath and dropped her eyes to the dry dirt beneath her feet. "I don't need you anymore. You're free, just like you wanted to be."

"Mary." Marshall's expression saddened. He understood what was happening; she knew she was pushing him away. It was deliberate. He mentally kicked himself for not seeing it before this point. "I get it," he whispered. Marshall, again, lifted her chin, searching her eyes, praying he was wrong. "Please, Mary," he whispered. "Please don't do this."

"Marshall, let go," she whispered. Reluctantly doing as asked, he watched Mary quickly make her way to the other side of the SUV and climb into the back seat.


Peter waved his good-bye and watched as his parents' vehicle left the parking lot. He walked back into the hospital, heading towards the waiting room. Jinx sat quietly, smiling at the baby pictures she'd taken with her cell phone. He walked towards her, looking around for, but not finding, Mary's coat.

"Hey," he said as he sat next to Jinx.

"Oh, Peter." Jinx reached out and took his hand. "I am so happy for you and Brandi. You have a beautiful baby boy." Jinx held her phone so Peter could see the picture on the screen. "Bald, but beautiful." Peter smiled.

"Well, let's hope he gets his hair line from your side of the family." He ran a hand over his head. "The men in my family don't keep theirs for long." He stood and offered a hand to Jinx. "Come on, I'll walk you to your car." Jinx stood and Peter held up her coat. "Have you seen Mary?" he asked as she slipped her arms into the sleeves.

"Oh, she left with Marshall almost an hour ago. There was some work thing he needed to tell her." Jinx hung the strap from her purse over her shoulder. "She should be back soon."

"Okay, okay. Thanks."

"Peter," Jinx's voice took on a firm, motherly tone as she turned to face him. "Is there something happening that I should know about?"

"No. Brandi wanted to talk to her before Mary went home." She eyed Peter, half-heartedly accepting his answer.

"All right." Jinx hooked her arm in Peter's and he led her from the hospital through the darkened parking lot. When they reached her car, Jinx turned and gave him a hug. "You may not be my son-in-law at the moment." She held up her hands. "And I'm not pushing one way or another. Whatever you and Brandi decide will be the right decision," she smiled. "But, I want you to know that I love you. And I have never seen my daughter as happy as she's been since she met you. You are family now, Peter Alpert." Peter smiled and Jinx hugged him once more before entering her car and driving away.

As Peter turned back to the building, his thoughts wondered to Mary. The situation that occurred between Mary and Marshall in the hallway had disturbed him. Peter always admired the bond the two shared. He had close friends, but no one as close to him as the marshals were to each other. At first, he thought he was witnessing an intimate moment between Mary and Marshall. He was initially embarrassed for interrupting, and then again, for thinking such thing when he knew Marshall was engaged to Abigail. As Peter neared the duo, he saw the panicked look on Mary's face and the indignant look on Marshall's. He chose to keep quiet, recognizing that his inquiring would only fan the embers so close to combusting.

"Hey, where did everyone go?" Peter stopped in front of Brandi's room as Mary moved through the hallway, pointing towards the waiting room behind her.

"They headed home. It is almost two in the morning."


"Brandi is settled in, out for the count now. You should go home, crash for a while."

"Yeah, okay. Um, I have a few things I need to do in the morning, but I'll stop by around noon." Peter nodded. "Good night, Peter," Mary said as she walked away. "Or morning, or whatever the hell it is."

"Did he hurt you?" he asked softly. Mary stopped and turned back to Peter.

"What?" she asked, trying to sound ignorant to his question.

"Did he hurt you?" he repeated just as gently. Mary looked away and shook her head.


"The two of you seemed to be in a very…heated conversation." Mary nodded and met Peter's eyes as he moved closer to her.

"Marshall didn't hurt me," she assured. Peter nodded, taking her word for face value.

"Okay. But, just for the record, if he ever does…" He stuffed his hands into his pants pockets and shrugged.

"Really?" Mary laughed. "'Cause, no offense, Peter, Marshall does carry a gun."

"I know," he smiled.

"Thanks, Peter."


Marshall closed the front door and secured the lock before moving farther into the house. As he neared the end of the hallway, he could see the soft glow of the lamp from the living room covering the walls and the floor. Marshall tossed his keys onto the kitchen counter and turned towards the couch, catching sight of Abigail. She was huddled in the corner of the couch, wrapped in her pink bathrobe, reading a book from Marshall's collection.

"Hey," Abigail smiled. "Boy or girl?" she asked excitedly as she closed the book.

"Boy," Marshall answered. He removed his black trench coat and carelessly draped it over a kitchen chair. "Breindel Hallan."

"That's such a cute name. Oh! Now that I know the baby is a boy, I can go shopping!" Abigail clapped her hands as Marshall took a seat next to her on the couch. "I forgot to ask you before you left to see the baby…" Abigail set the book on the coffee table and drew her legs under her body. "Have you talked to Mary about the wedding yet?"

"What?" Mary asked.

"We want you to be in our wedding." Marshall held up a hand and shook his head. "I promise I won't make you wear a dress or do any of those girly things you loath." Mary stared at him. She shook her head slowly, feeling the anger she desperately fought bubble to the surface.

"Are you fucking serious?" Mary pushed herself off the bed.

"Uh, yes," Marshall answered with slow confusion.

"How can you ask…?" Mary rounded the foot of the bed, Marshall standing as she approached.

"Mary?" She ran a hand through her hair.

"No, no, no, Marshall." Mary pointed a finger at him. "No, you can't…you do not get to ask that!" She stalked towards the bathroom.

"So that's a 'no'?" Marshall asked, enraged by Mary's attitude. Mary grabbed the bathroom door in one hand, the frame in the other. She leaned through the doorway just enough to see Marshall.

"Um, yeah, Dumbass," she snapped. "That's definitely a fucking 'no'." Marshall jumped as Mary slammed the door. He closed his eyes, willing his calm to come quickly. He turned towards the motel room's door when he heard a soft knock.

"Charlie's Pizza," the muffled voice announced. Marshall sighed and opened the door.

Abigail watched her fiancé as he leaned forward. He rested his elbows on his knees, crossed his fingers and set his chin on his thumbs. "Marshall? Earth to Spaceman Spiff," she played, softly touching his arm.

"Sorry, Abigail." He turned towards her and offered a hollow smile. "What did you ask?"

"Have you talked to Mary about being in the wedding?"

"Yeah." He dropped his hands, letting them hang loosely in the air between his knees and looked away.

"Great!" Abigail smiled. "So what is she going to do?"

"She's not going to do anything, Abs." Abigail frowned.

"But I thought you wanted Mary to be a part of—"

"I do," Marshall bit. "But that's not how it's going to happen, all right? Mary doesn't want it that way." He stood, waving a dismissive hand, and headed towards the bedroom. "She has the invite. If she wants to come she will, if not…" Marshall crossed the room and entered the bathroom, roughly closed the door. Abigail stood in the middle of the living room, stunned by Marshall's reaction. She sighed when she heard the shower start, knowing she would get nothing more from Marshall. Abigail turned off the living room lamp and entered the bedroom. She pulled the covers towards the middle of the bed and slipped into their warmth.


After a few hours of sleep and a quick breakfast, it had not taken long for Mary to assemble the crib and place it near the foot of Brandi's bed. Despite Brandi's very forward hints that the furniture needed to be baby-ready by the time her little one was born, Mary continued to put off helping her sister with the task. When Peter had arrived at the Shannon house, Mary warned him that lifting a finger to put the baby's bed together would result in serious bodily harm. The older sister wanted nothing more than to surprise Brandi.

Mary dropped the empty plastic packaging on the floor, landing it just outside of the garbage bag. She unfolded the soft, light-green material, locating the elastic-sewn corners. She gave the sheet a good shake, releasing the rest of the creases. Mary smiled gently as she laid the sheet over the small bed, tucking the elastic in its rightful place under the mattress corners. She grabbed another bag, pulling out a green- and white-checkered bumper pad. She tied it securely to the crib's spindles and then reached back into the bag for the miniature comforter. Mary held up the tiny blanket, smiling at the golden bear face that stared back at her.

"Oh, don't cry, Squish." Mary pushed herself off the floor and ran to the toy basket on the other side of the living room. She searched through the beaten up toys for the doll she knew her sister liked the most. "Here he is." Mary returned to her sister's side, sitting on the tattered green blanket spread out along the floor. "Hold on tight," she said to the fifteen-month-old. Brandi reached for the worn bear, holding it tightly to her chest. Mary laid her head on the pillow, patting the area next to her. "Lie down, Squish." Brandi cuddled up to her sister.

"Nee, nee," Brandi said. "Pa."

"That's right. Winnie the Pooh." Mary slipped her arm around her sister and started to sing their favorite song, settling both of them into a soft slumber.

"Oh, Mary." Jinx stood behind her daughter, resting her hands on Mary's shoulders as she took in the sight of the dark-stained crib. "Brandi is going to love this. It's perfect." Mary smiled. "Do you remember that bear that she used to carry around?" she asked, pointing to the blanket.

"I do," Mary nodded.

"Ugh, it was so worn and filthy. But she loved it."

"Check this out." Mary folded the comforter over the crib's railing and reached around the side of the crib for the diaper bag. "Look inside," she said, handing the bag to her mother. Jinx opened the bag, tears immediately filling her eyes as she saw the object inside. She pulled out a fuzzy, golden bear, identical to the one from Brandi's childhood. "How's that for awesome big sister?" Mary smiled proudly.


"Morning, Abs." Marshall leaned over Abigail's shoulder and softly kissed her cheek. "I'm sorry for getting snippy with you last night," he said as he wound his arms around her waist. She leaned her head back, resting it on his chest just below his shoulder.

"It was a long night, Marshall. A long couple of days. It's all right." Abigail turned in his arms and looked sadly into his eyes. "I've been thinking about what you said last night. What did you mean by 'if she wants to come, she will'? Is Mary really not going to be there?"

"Abs," Marshall said, closing his eyes against the pain of his conversation with Mary.

"Marshall, I didn't mean that you had to drop all contact with Mary. I understand how important she is to you and I do not want to come between the two of you. But-but that's exactly what seems to be happening."

"I know, Abs, I know. Come here." Marshall led Abigail to the couch, taking her hands as they sat. "Abigail…Mary is my best-" Abigail rolled her eyes.

"I know all of this, Marshall."

"Let me finish. She's my best friend. She knows more about me than anyone."

"Including me," she added defensively.

"Including you," he admitted. "But, Abigail, you and I, we're…we're getting married. We have a life time of, of learning and discovery ahead of us." Abigail nodded.

"You're right. I'm sorry."

"I'm the only one who has ever really taken the time to get to know Mary. Her walls...they are built…so high. It takes times for her to trust someone. I am the one person she trusts irrevocably, the one person where the trust came so easily for her. I have been a constant in her life. If she calls and, for whatever reason, I can't leave to help her…she loses that stability." Abigail nodded her understanding.

"So Mary is just walking away from you; letting go completely."

"She has to, Abigail. It's how she protects herself." Marshall sighed in frustration, not sure how to explain himself. "Mary and I…our relationship is complicated, complex and…and…I don't know what else. She doesn't compromise. We don't do 'meet in the middle'." Marshall ran his thumb over the back of Abigail's hand; head down as he continued. "Mary's life is like-like a staring contest. She's spirited and tough and she likes to challenge, to make others blink and back down." Marshall looked into Abigail's eyes. "Mary blinked, Abs, willingly. If she's the one who backs down, ends the relationship, then she can't say that she was abandoned. What we meant to each other stays safe and I don't become just another person who has failed her." Marshall took a deep breath. "She blinked for me…for us. She blinked so we could be happy." Abigail knew Mary Shannon to be a strong woman, but she was beginning to think she had utterly underestimated the U.S. marshal.