Mary and Marshall continued to walk behind Doug and the Boise marshals as the three headed towards the back entrance. As they passed through the doorway, Marshall noticed the positions of the SUVs, no longer parked end to end in front of the doors. Their vehicle, parked far to the right of the door, left the team completely exposed as they emerged from the building. From the corner of his eye, Marshall saw movement on the far side of the lot. Jameson and Simmons ducked to the left towards their SUV, pulling Doug along and giving Marshall clear vision of the firearm and the shooter. The gun did not follow Doug as Marshall expected, but stayed trained on him and Mary.
Before hearing the first shot, Marshall wrapped his arm around Mary's shoulders. He fell backwards against the door, both tumbling onto the granite-tiled floor as the door gave way. He pushed Mary off his body and rolled on top of her. Mary placed her hands on the floor and pushed herself up as Marshall shifted his arm to encircle her waist. She let him pull her to her feet and lead her as she kept her head down; bullets piercing the air around them. Marshall pulled Mary to the side, finding protection in a small janitor's closet. He drew his firearm as he pushed her into the corner, shielding her with his body. Mary tried to push Marshall away, needing room to draw her weapon, but a firm arm and a strict expression shot over his shoulder kept her in place. The gunfire continued for a brief moment, halted by the chaotic combination of squealing tires and shrieking sirens. Several courthouse officers and several men in suits ran passed the closet, weapons drawn. One suited man stopped in the doorway, firearm trained on the pair. Marshall broke Mary's detainment to quickly retrieve his badge and hold it in the air.
"I'm U.S. Marshal-"
"Stand down, Marshal Mann." Marshall frowned but did as instructed. "I'm Agent Tyler, DOJ."
"There are two marshals and a civilian out back. I don't know if they made cover," Marshall stated. Agent Tyler shook his head, holstering his firearm.
"They're not marshals. At least, they're not anymore," he shrugged. The cell phone on Tyler's hip buzzed. "Excuse me." He stepped into the hallway as he answered the call. Marshall slipped his firearm into the holster and clipped his badge on the waist of his pants as he turned to Mary.
"Are you all right?" he asked, brushing a wisp of hair from her face.
Marshall ducked, but it was too late. The jagged shards of glass flew at him, slicing the skin along his hairline. The burn released a strong shot of adrenaline that aided his instinctually driven movements. He turned towards Mary as she turned away from him, settling one hand on her hip, one on her back. He dropped to his knees as he followed her to the floor, the hand on her hip helping her to avoid landing on her stomach. As she rolled slightly to one side, she lifted her arm to protect her head. Marshall crawled through the glass fragments that continued to rain around them and over the ones that littered the ground and laid his body on top of Mary. He positioned himself over her, careful not to put any pressure on her unborn baby. He folded his arm around Mary's and laid his head on hers, offering additional protection to her face.
"Yeah," she whispered, her breathing beginning to soften. "Are you?"
"What the hell was that?" she asked. Marshall shook his head. "He's talking about us," Mary said, indicating Agent Tyler with a quick lift of her chin. They moved a couple of steps away from the corner and listened to the agent in the hallway. "Witness from Boise?" Mary mumbled. She touched Marshall's arm, gaining his attention. "Maxwell Duncan. He was coming to us from Boise," she said. Agent Tyler turned towards them, phone still to his ear, and motioned them to follow him.
"Do you think this is related?" Marshall asked quietly as they were lead through the hallway.
"Maybe," Mary shrugged. "Duncan was supposed to testify in a cross-country drug trafficking case. He was pretty low on the totem pole, but he knew a lot of names." Marshall narrowed his eyes as he mulled over her words.
"Doug's case was drug related, too."
"What are the chances Doug was working with Duncan? I mean two witnesses, one coming from the Boise office, the other going to the Boise office. And, coincidentally, both witnesses...assigned to us. What the hell makes us so damned special?" Mary shrugged again and they followed Agent Tyler through the door to the back lot.
"You think someone has hooks in Boise?" Marshall whispered.
"Marshal Mann? Marshal Shannon?" A tall, dark haired man stepped forward from a group of officers, extending his hand. "I'm Agent Williams. I'm the head of this…" He looked around. "This." Five police cars and three unmarked Sedans cluttered the lot. Marshall watched as two officers packed Doug into the back seat of one of the squad cars.
"What, exactly, is 'this'?" Mary asked.
"A long story," he answered.
"We have time," Marshall said. Williams sighed.
"Four months ago, Maxwell Duncan was set to testify in a very high-profile drug trafficking case. Before the trial began, his security was compromised and he was to be transferred into your care, temporarily."
"Yeah and, he was offed before he made it to us," Mary said crassly.
"Yes. After a run that killed three innocent teenagers, Duncan turned himself in and entered Witness Protection in exchange for names. He gave many. Those, and very few, that were not found dead were taken in. Duncan also gave Randall Christopher, the second in command. But, he didn't know the man at the top. You do. You know him as Douglas Fray."
"Douggie," Mary hissed. Williams raised an eyebrow and nodded slowly.
"Wait a minute," Marshall said, holding up a hand. "According to Duncan's file, a man by the name of Ryan Dahl was the head honcho."
"Yeah, well," Agent Williams rubbed his forehead. "We changed the name before the file made it to your office. We couldn't risk connections being made and tipping off our rogue marshals. Before the feds could get a hand on Randall, Doug purposely got himself arrested. He planted evidence pointing to Randall as the head of the game. He handed over the false information and entered the program, placed in Albuquerque. With a little help from us, Jameson and Simmons got custody of Duncan and transference to you."
"Why us?" Marshall asked.
"We were trying to involve as few people as possible. Since you already had Doug…" Williams shrugged.
"And Jameson and Simmons?" Marshall continued.
"Doug has been lining their pockets for years in exchange for protecting the runners. Making speeding tickets, parking tickets disappear, curbing the attention of local law enforcement agencies. Voiding any trail left by the runners. When Duncan, the only one who could identify Randall, was murdered, the information he gave was thrown out of court."
"But, they still had Doug's…information," Mary said.
"And, with Doug's testimony, Randall is left to take the fall," Marshall added.
"Why didn't Randall turn on Doug?" Mary asked.
"He tried. Randall knew Doug by one name: 'Boss'. And, up until Doug's appearance in court today, the two have never met face to face," Williams answered. "He had nothing to show otherwise."
"So, with the help of two dirty marshals, Doug takes out his entire crew, makes Randall the fall guy and rides off into the sunset under a different alias, free to keep his drug trafficking intact," she said.
"Yes," Williams confirmed. "Jameson and Simmons alongside as personal protection."
"I have…a question," she started.
"Oh, no," Marshall mumbled.
"So, you knew what Doug had planned." Williams nodded. "And you knew Maxwell Duncan was going to be taken out of the picture…permanently." Williams nodded again. "And, what about the three marshals that died protecting Duncan?"
"Marshal Shannon, you know how this job works. We had no way of knowing exactly what was going to happen. They were, unfortunately, collateral damage." Mary nodded.
"This whole little thing," she said, finger pointing to the police vehicles.
"We needed Jameson and Simmons to make the move. We had to catch them protecting Doug. From the wrong side of the fence, that is. They are very smart and catching them in the act has not been easy. There was such an intricate network; information changed so many hands between Doug and these two," he said, motioning to the squad cars that housed Jameson and Simmons. "This is the first time we've witnessed in-person interaction. Lots of cash, airline tickets, fake IDs and passports in the SUV…it's what we needed." Mary looked at Marshall.
"Do you think he knew about the shooter?" she asked.
"I do think that," Marshall answered.
"So do I. Do you think he knew that we'd be shot at?"
"I think that, as well."
"Hmm." Mary turned to Williams. "Do you think he could have given us a heads up?"
"You are reading my mind, Partner." Marshall knew what was coming, and, he made no effort to stop it. Mary took two steps towards Williams, the man stumbling backwards as her fist made contact with his face. Marshall watched proudly as Williams struggled to contain the blood flowing from his nose.
"Sorry," Mary smiled sweetly. "Collateral damage."
"Better now?" Marshall asked her with a smile.
"I feel like a brand new woman," she said, wiggling the sting out of her fingers. Marshall shook his head and lead Mary back into the building.
"Come on. We need to call Stan and let him know that this situation was mashed."
"Seriously? With the potato puns?" Mary asked, eyes narrowed. Marshall smiled sheepishly.
"I couldn't let that one go."
Mary stood, arms crossed in front of her chest, staring across both beds at Marshall. He laid his spaceship pajama pants on the bed, meticulously folding them into a neat square of fabric and placing them into this duffle bag. Mary looked down at her own bag and the small pile of clothes that sat beside it. She rifled through the pile. She was not going to sit in uncomfortable court clothes during the four-and-a-half-hour drive home. She pulled out a worn pair of blue jeans, shoving the rest of the clothing into her bag. Her eyes returned to Marshall. He'd also opted for more relaxed clothing: blue jeans and a faded grey button-down shirt.
Mary's attention drifted back to Marshall's hands. He had moved on to his personal effects, tightening the cap on the toothpaste tube, placing the little protective box over the bristled end of his toothbrush. He dug in the small, front pocket of the duffle bag and retrieved a plastic baggie, slipping the dental items inside. She had no desire to tease him over this particular obsessive-compulsive trait, as she'd done on numerous occasions in the past. For the first time, Marshall's exhaustive packing routine did not bother Mary. Every minute he took to fill his duffle bag, was another minute she could put off the talk he wanted to have. She knew it was necessary, and a long time in coming, but she had no desire to open wounds that were not anywhere near healed. She pushed all thoughts of the conversation from her mind as she moved to the dresser to pick up her hoodie. As she crossed the room, she absently rubbed her elbow, occupying her mind with thoughts of a coveted, long nap in the passenger seat of their SUV.
"Shit." Marshall looked up from his hunched position over the bed, eyebrows raised at Mary's curse. With her right arm extended in front of her body, the fingers of her left hand twisted the fabric of her sleeve around her arm.
"What?" he asked, straightening his back.
"Bullet burn," she answered. Marshall frowned in confusion and watched as her fingers continued to play across the sleeve; her index finger slipping curiously into a hole in the fabric. He closed the space between them and firmly took her wrists. "Hey!" she shouted, trying to pull free.
"Shut up." Marshall placed her hands at her sides and lifted his to her collar.
"Marshall," Mary started, trying to shrug off his hands, Marshall batting away her defenses.
"Let me see your arm." His fingers ran over her collarbone as he slipped his hands under the blazer, careful not to catch the straps of her tank top as he pushed the outer garment over stubborn shoulders.
"My arm is fine," she stated. Despite her verbal and physical protests, Marshall successfully removed the blazer, letting it fall past her hands and to the floor. He held her wrist, unsure of how to position her arm for his viewing.
"Turn around," he ordered, though his hands, on her hips, were already maneuvering her body.
"Watch it. I don't need to be manhandled by you for a second time today." Marshall looked into the mirror above the dresser, meeting Mary's eyes in its reflection. The concerned look on his face softened; Mary thanking him, in her own way, for protecting her at the courthouse. His fingers, wrapped around her arm, gently rubbed the skin above the rope-burn-like abrasion in acknowledgement of her gratitude.
"Why didn't you tell me you were hurt?" he asked quietly.
"It's nothing, Marshall. I didn't even know it was there until thirty seconds ago." Mary looked over her shoulder. "How bad is it?"
"Not bad bad," he answered, studying the red mark above her elbow. "But it's not pretty. I'm going to grab the first aid kit in the SUV."
"Marshall." Mary watched as he left the room and then turned her back to the mirror. She, again, looked over her shoulder, catching site of the mark.
Mary dropped to her hands and knees, avoiding landing on her pregnant stomach. She shifted slightly to one hip and tucked into as much of a fetal position as her swollen abdomen would allow. As Mary brought her arm up to protect her head from the hail of glass shards, she felt a heaviness settle over her body, knowing immediately that the weight belonged to Marshall. He positioned himself over her, careful not to put any pressure on her unborn baby. Marshall's arm folded around Mary's, offering additional protection to her face. She felt his breath on her ear as he rested his temple on her head.
"I've got you," he whispered as he tightened his hold on her.
The bullets continued to fly over them in a moment brief yet unbearably long. When it finally ended, Marshall's hand slid from the top of Mary's head to her back and she lifted her head when she felt the warmth of his body leave her side. She turned to him, eyes widening as she saw the blood dripping down his face. Instinctively, Mary reached for Marshall, about to voice her concern when he gently pushed her hand away; his eyes making known that his sole focus was her safety.
Marshall returned with the white plastic box and took a seat on the end of the bed, expectant eyes meeting Mary's. "I'm sorry, what?" she asked, shaking away the recollection.
"Sit," he instructed, pointing at the mattress.
"Marshall, I don't need-"
"Sit," he repeated, raising an eyebrow.
Marshall leaned against the driver's door of the SUV, hands stuffed in his pockets as he regarded the grey clouds overhead. An hour and a half had passed since he and Mary left Amarillo, during which time the clouds steadily darkened. A soft breeze floated over the sand-ridden parking lot, offering puffs of warm air scented with the promise of rain. Marshall drew a deep breath, letting the freshness of the air calm him. He and Mary shared only a handful of necessary words since leaving the hotel, Mary wary of the conversation on the horizon, Marshall unsure of how to start it.
"Un-fucking-believable." Marshall dropped his gaze from the sky to his partner. Mary vigorously shook her hands as she approached. "Is there some rule forbidding gas station bathrooms to have paper towels?" Marshall tilted his head to the side as she stopped in front of him.
"There were paper towels in the men's room. You should have gone in there." Mary stepped forward, Marshall to the side. "Hey!" he yelled as she wiped her wet hands on the back of his grey shirt. "Ugh, come on!" Marshall scowled, but she knew it was all for show.
"Like you didn't know that was coming." Mary wiped the rest of the moisture on the front of her jeans. "Come on, let's go before it rains. If you get wet, I won't have anything dry to wipe my hands on at the next rest stop." Mary walked around the front of the SUV to the passenger side, yanking on the handle only to find the door locked. "Marshall! Open the door." He walked leisurely to Mary's side.
"You know, Stan said we don't have to go back to the office tonight."
"Yeah, you told me that already."
"So," he started slowly. "What's the hurry?"
"No, no, Marshall," Mary whined. "Not here."
"Mary." His voice was soft but serious as he stepped closer to her. "You know as well as I do that when we're back in Albuquerque there's no chance of us talking."
"Kind of what I was counting on, Marshall," she mumbled. "I'm not ready for this."
"Are you ever going to be?" he asked knowingly. She shook her head as she released the handle and leaned her back on the SUV.
"I don't know what you want me to say," she said softly, every thought slowly, uncontrollably bubbling to the service.
"I don't want you to say anything. Say what you want to say." Mary stayed quiet, staring at her shoe as she dug her toe into the sandy ground. "Mary, I need to know…what…why…" Marshall sighed in frustration and copied her position against the SUV.
"What why what?" she asked. Mary pushed off the vehicle and wandered a few steps. Marshall watched as she ran a hand through her hair then quickly turned back to him. "I pushed you away, Marshall. All right? I'll admit that. You know how well I deal with change and there was some need for semblance of sanity on my part. And, despite of what you may think, my actions were for you. I was out of your way, leaving you alone so you could be happy." She stepped closer. "But, you…You pushed out of spite."
"What? I did no such thing!"
"Yeah, Marshall, you did. You were angry with me for backing off. What you said at the hospital that night…the night Abigail was shot…I didn't know what the hell to think."
"I lost my wife, Mary," Marshall said tightly, taking one of few last steps that remained between them. "I'm sorry that I-"
"Sorry? You're sorry? Why? Sorry that you told me to fuck off? Sorry that I dropped everything to be with you and you threw me to the side? Literally, Marshall!" She stepped closer. "I didn't want to over step the lines we'd drawn, but I couldn't let you go through that alone. You're still my best friend. And, you made it perfectly fucking clear that you didn't want me around. You wouldn't return my calls or-"
"I know it's hard to lose a loved one and-"
"Don't pretend to understand, Mary. You have never had to watch someone you love die like that."
"Oh, my God," Mary whispered, breathing shallow as her eyes took in her father's condition. As he lay in her lap, her hands covered his chest, trying in desperation to slow the flow of blood. His hands, still cuffed, shook as he tried to touch her hand. Movement to Mary's right caught her attention; O'Conner was approaching, weapon drawn. "Get an ambulance," she said weakly.
"What the hell are you doing here, Shannon?" he asked, almost scolding, as he holstered his firearm.
"Get a goddamned ambulance!" she yelled. O'Conner pulled his cell phone from his pocket, his suspicious eyes cautiously watching Mary as he walked away.
"When I left…" James started, his words as labored as his breathing. "You had a…suitcase…with…flowers."
"It's okay," Mary soothed. "It's okay."
"We never did…g-get…to t-t-take that trip." A comfortable emptiness exploded in her chest, finally freeing the six-year-old haunted by the broken promise of her father's last words.
"It's okay. It's okay, Daddy," she said by way of forgiveness as she started to cry. "I'm here with you now, okay? It's okay."
"We never…" James' voice peacefully faded.
"I'm not going anywhere. It's okay," she said, now more for her sake than her father's. "I'm not going anywhere," she whispered. "I'm not going anywhere."
"I'm sorry," Marshall sighed, immediately realizing what he said. Mary took a deep breath, unable to let his comment pass.
"No," she said with a slow shake of her head. "My story in no way compares to what you're going through. When my father died, all I lost was an impossible dream. I didn't lose anyone who loved me in return. And, I'm not pretending to understand, Marshall. But, I'm smart enough to know that losing a loved one hurts," she bit. "My life has not been ideal. It's been so fucked up. I used to believe that made me incapable of loving someone. I mean, an alcoholic mother, a drugged up sister…a father who only existed in memories that, by the way, I'm still not sure are even real. Who the hell could learn to love in that kind of mess, right? For a long time, I didn't think…" Mary bit her bottom lip. "And, then, I met you and…and I understood, for the first time I understood what love was, what it meant. What it felt like. I saw it without strings attached. Christ, Marshall, when you were shot, I…" Her shoulders slumped and she released a quiet sigh as she turned away from him.
Mary's arms were shaking, muscles stressed from the tight grip she had on the steering wheel. The ambulance flanked by two squad cars came into view. Her breath hitched in her throat, the last ten seconds of her drive seemed excessively long. Carefully, she slowed the SUV, slamming the vehicle into park before jumping out of the driver's door.
"Over here, guys!" she yelled, slamming the door. "Over here! He's in the back!" Mary slowly opened the back door, worried by Marshall's coughing. "Marshall, we made it." Gently, she slipped her hands under his head, supporting his neck and shoulders. Her eyes found the water bottle, the red liquid inside uncomfortably thick. "Just hang in there, Buddy. Okay? Hang in there." She moved into the door as the EMTs joined her side.
"We've got him," the woman assured Mary. She nodded.
"You're good, Marshall. We made it." Mary backed away, turning as she heard Stan call her name. They jogged across the pavement, meeting by the ambulance.
"I'm fine," she sighed. "Stan, it's Marshall." Mary glanced towards the SUV with watery eyes. "It's bad. It's really bad." Stan put a supporting hand on Mary's arm.
"Okay. Well, you got him here alive and they can do amazing things," he comforted. "Okay?"
"Yeah." Mary ran a hand over her head, releasing a breath of helplessness and fear as she watched the EMTs roll the gurney, Marshall secured to its top, to the ambulance.
"Mary?" he prodded, bothered by her sudden silence.
"I didn't think I was going to get help in time," she said quietly. "I thought you were going to die in that hell-hole of a shack." Mary started to cry as she turned her back to him. "Even after you were in the operating room…I-I was scared that you weren't going to come back to me. I've never felt so terrified."
"Mare," Marshall whispered, stepping forward to offer his comfort.
"No." Mary held up a halting hand. "I know that you were asking for a little space. I know that. I was the one that screwed that up. Okay? I didn't mean to push you away."
"Mary, you were protecting yourself," Marshall nodded. "I get it." Mary ignored his comment and continued.
"But, this," she said, reaching for him. She pulled his shirt from the waist of his pants, maneuvering it so he could see the wet marks made by her hands. "I can't do this. I can't be 'Mary and Marshall'. It's changed somehow and I don't know how to get back there."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that I don't know what to do!" Mary released his shirt and backed away. "Should we even try? Does it-does it seem right that we go back to how we were after everything that has happened?"
"Mary," he scolded. "How many times have we fought before? We always make it out of that."
"I'm not talking about the fighting, Marshall. I'm talking about Abigail," she said quietly. "It just feels wrong. Doesn't it feel wrong?"
"No," he said slowly. "Mary, I never wanted to let you go. Abigail didn't want that, either."
"I know that."
"If-if she would have asked me to do so…I would have left her." Mary met Marshall's eyes, silence filling the air around them.
"I've never said it," Mary started. "And, I know I should have. So many times. I can never make up for that," she conceded. "But…I love you, Marshall Mann. You are my best friend, you're…you're…"
"This," he started, waving his hands between them, "what we have, it's undefinable, and up until now nothing's ever come along to jeopardize that."
"Marshall, you're my best friend. You're my only friend. I mean, forget friend, you're-" Mary shrugged. "You know."
"'You know'," he finished for her.
"You know," Mary nodded. "You are the only one I trust, the only one whose opinion of me matters to me, the only one I don't ever want to disappoint. I know you will catch me if I fall. Hell, when I fall. Marshall, you and Norah are the only people I have loved without condition. I would give up everything, sacrifice everything so the two of you could be safe and healthy and-and happy."
"So, Mary made the ultimate sacrifice for you," Seth nodded his understanding. "How did it become so…" he shrugged, unable to find the right word.
"I don't know." Marshall shook his head. "No, that's a lie. I do know." He stayed silent, staring again at the floor.
"What happened?" Seth prodded.
"I think Mary and I so harshly reached an impasse..." Marshall quieted. "It doesn't matter," he dismissed.
"Son, everything matters."
"Damn it, Marshall! I just wanted to help. I wanted to protect you…from the world." Mary chocked over the last words and turned away. Marshall released a breath he didn't realize he was holding. He stepped over to Mary, walking around her as he laid a hand on her hip. The fingers of his other hand gently brushed her cheek before skating over the top of her ear and winding in her hair. Marshall tightened his hold, pulling Mary close to his body.
"Mary," he whispered sadly, gently resting his chin on her head. "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, Marshall." Mary sobbed, muffled against his shirt and wrapped her arms around her partner's waist, vowing never again to let him go.