"Hello?" Normally, Abigail wouldn't answer Marshall's phone, but it was late and he was currently indisposed. The voice on the other end sounded both surprised and irritated to hear her voice.
Mary wasted no time on small talk. She was already trying to keep a tight hold on her emotions. Her criminal father was in her house, albeit cuffed, with her daughter, not that she thought James would hurt Nora, but still. After years of imagining this meeting, she was slightly surprised she'd had the courage and gall to do that. Mary needed her partner to keep up her strength, to keep herself moving forward. "Why are you answering Marshall's phone? Where is he, I need to talk to him."
Abigail wasn't Mary's biggest fan, for many reasons, one of which was her need to be the center of Marshall's world. "It's past midnight, Mary. Can't it wait until tomorrow?"
Mary barely held her anger. "No, it can't goddamn wait. Put my partner on the mother humping phone before I…"
Abigail never did hear what Mary's plan was though, because Marshall had exited the bathroom and heard his partner's raised voice. He'd spent more than enough time with her to know that having Abby on the receiving end of her threat wouldn't endear his fiancé to his partner in the least. He interrupted her mid-tirade, "Mare, calm down, I'm here. What's the problem?"
Marshall listened for a moment, Mary had stopped midstride, not something she usually did. Of course, he didn't usually interrupt her either. It usually did both of them more good to let her yell and get it out of her system. For a brief pause, there was nothing, then he heard the exhale. Anyone else would have missed it, but then again, no one knew Mary Shannon like him. There was the slightest hitch, almost like she was holding back sobs. In his mind he could picture her face, eyes closed, teeth clenched, desperately trying to maintain control over her emotions for even just one minute longer. He gripped the phone a little tighter, "Mare?"
Marshall's voice washed over her, bringing a sense of calm and strength that she had often taken for granted before. She could do this. With Marshall by her side, she could do this. "Marshall, I need," she faltered over her words. Facing James Shannon, she needed Marshall's presence beside her more than just about anything. Except the illusion that she was self reliant and strong enough to do anything, the only armor she had against James at the moment. She rephrased and continued, "You need to come over to my place now"
Already reaching for his discarded pants, he sought to ferret out more information. "Is everything alright? You and Nora, you're okay?" His mind immediately jumped to a million painful scenarios- his worst nightmares of Mary bleeding out, dying, and him not being there to save her.
Mary stood with her back straight, her eyes locked on her father, who sat cuffed on her couch, and her body positioned between him and the bassinet where her daughter was lying. Her answer was terse. She didn't need Marshall playing 20 questions, she needed him here. "We're fine. I just really need a hand, please."
It was the please that got him more than anything else. Mary didn't say please. It's not that she was impolite, but it was just one of those things about them. In the same way that they could practically read each others' minds, manners were a frivolity they usually left out of their job. "I'll be there in five. I know you're fine, but if you were looking for an opportunity to say a code word, now would be an opportune time." Marshall held his breath a moment, waiting for her response.
Mary huffed. "If I needed a codeword, I would have used one, numbnuts. Just get over here." She disconnected before he could say anything else.
Marshall stared at the phone for a second. She'd sounded fine, but it had been a long time since Mary had called him after hours. Though she hadn't sounded panicked, she had sounded off. He was startled out of his revelry by Abigail's voice. "You're not really going over there are you? It's the middle of the night."
Marshall raised his eyebrows in confusion. "She's my partner, Abigail. If she needs me, I'm going to go."
Abigail rolled her eyes. "You say that a lot. 'She's my partner. Of course I saved her from sniper fire.' Or 'She's my partner, of course I'm going to rush off in the middle of the night to help her.' Next thing you know it will be, 'she's my partner, of course she's going to be invited to my wedding.'"
Those words stopped Marshall midstride. He turned to face his fiancé. "You're kidding, right? I can't get married without Mary. She's my partner, she's my best friend. She's like my only friend." Marshall thought back to a dingy gas station where both he and his partner admitted just how much they needed each other. "I have brothers, and nieces and nephews, and my parents, I love them, but they're the family I was born into. Mary is the family I chose. She's not going anywhere."
"We're getting married, Marshall. I'm the family you chose, not Mary." Abigail was kneeling in bed now, trying to minimize the distance and look Marshall in the eyes.
Though everything in Marshall told him to abandon this argument and go find out what was wrong with Mary, he knew he couldn't leave it like this. "Abigail, being engaged to you, being married to you, that doesn't mean Mary will become any less a part of my life. She's still my partner. That's not going to change. I'm not just going to leave her."
"You don't think maybe it's time for a change- a new partner? Let's face it, Mary has a daughter now, protecting you isn't the first thing on her mind anymore."
Marshall couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Leave Nora out of this. Mary is my partner. That's not changing anytime soon."
Fired up by both the late hour and Marshall's apparent stubbornness, Abigail barely thought about the next words out of her mouth. "What if I don't like that? What if I want the person watching your back to have their head in the game? What if I want you to get a new partner?"
Marshall shook his head. "You're joking me, right? There's no way you can be serious right now." He couldn't process the words he was hearing. Did Abigail really think he would just get a new partner because she asked?
"Yes, I am serious. As your future wife, I should have some say in the person you spend all your time with. And I'm not so sure I want it to be the woman whose life you chose to save over mine."
"That's not how it works, Abigail. She's been my partner for ten years. She's had my back for ten years. When I was shot, she's not only the one that saved my life, she's also the one who arrested the people responsible. In ten years, I have never once doubted that Mary wanted nothing but what was best for me. She's not just some piece of equipment that I can have reissued." Marshall was having a hard time keeping his calm. Every second he spent arguing with Abigail in a pointless debate was one more away from Mary, whom had needed him enough to call. He could count the number of times she had done that outside of work emergencies on a single hand. And that included the calls he'd received about her kidnapping and her shooting.
"And I'm your fiancé. My opinion should matter here, Marshall. If you being partnered with her bothers me, you should at the very least be willing to consider that. You can't just brush my feelings aside as if they mean nothing." Months of frustration were spewing from her now. Every time Marshall had answered Mary's call in the middle of dinner, every date he'd bailed on because Mary needed him. Abigail wasn't even bothering to discriminate between work and personal anymore. She had felt for a long time that Mary took up way too much of her boyfriend's brain, this midnight call that had Marshall running out the door was the last straw.
Marshall took a deep breath. He didn't want to be fighting with Abigail. He honestly didn't even want to be talking to her now. He wanted to be in his truck half way to his partner's house. He reached out and took hold of both her hands. "Abby, sweetheart, your feelings do matter. And for the rest of my life, I am willing to listen to your opinions on every choice I make from now till the day I die. But this choice, Mary being my partner, that's not one that's up for discussion. As long as she is in the field, I plan to be by her side, and she's the only one I want by mine."
"You're not even going to consider how that makes me feel?" She didn't pull away just yet, but Marshall's insistence was beginning to hurt her.
Confusion colored his tone now, "My partner has stood strong beside me when we're being shot at. She's smart and quick on her feet and one of the most capable law officers I've ever met. She's good at her job, so good, in fact, that I have never had to spend time worrying about whether or not she could handle any situation we encounter. She has never flinched in performing her duty. She's risked her life for our charges and for me. I don't understand why you would want me to be partnered with anyone else."
"Do I need more of a reason? Can't you just see that it upsets me and be willing to change? Compromise is part of marriage, Marshall."
He took a step back, dropping her hands. The anger began to return to his voice. "As loyalty is to partnership. Are you saying one means more than the other?"
Now it was Abigail who had anger in her voice, "Are you saying they don't? Shouldn't your relationship be more important to you than your partnership?"
Marshall stepped back again, "Why does is sound like your giving me an ultimatum, our relationship or my job."
Abigail looked slightly taken aback. "I would never do that. Your family have been Marshals forever, it's in your blood. I would never ask you to turn your back on your calling." She saw Marshall begin to visibly relax. "But Mary doesn't have to be a part of that. No one would fault you for asking for a new partner."
Marshall shook his head. He should have seen this coming. Mary had hinted that Raphael had made the same claim, but he thought Abigail, being an officer, would understand better about partners. "I would fault me. Mary is a part of it, Abigail, she's a part of me. We're a package deal. I won't sacrifice my relationship with her for a future with you, I'm sorry."
Abigail felt the tears well in her eyes, so she lashed out. "She'll never love you, Marshall, you'll always be nothing more than just her partner."
Not missing a beat, Marshall shrugged his shoulders, "Then so be it. But at least she'll never ask the impossible of me." He turned then, leaving his bedroom, hoping that Abigail understood he wouldn't be returning. He could overcome a lot, but he couldn't have a relationship with a woman who couldn't accept his other half.
Mary looked at her cell phone after hanging up, anything to avoid looking at the man in her living room. Marshall would be there soon, Mary just had to hold on a little longer. She took a deep breath. She hadn't been in a room with her father since she was seven. She hadn't lied when she told him she'd been thinking about this moment for years. Now that she was in it though, a large part of her wished she could go back to having no idea where her father was. The sound of her father's voice pulled her back into the present.
"Sweetheart, don't do this. Give me a chance to explain, please."
Mary swallowed back a shudder. She opened her eyes and faced her father. "Here's the thing, Dad, you don't get to tell me what to do, and I don't have to listen to you. You lost the right to be heard when you left thirty years ago." She did her best to keep her voice steady, to keep her father from knowing just how affected she was by his presence.
James stepped forward, hoping to close the distance between himself and his oldest daughter, but Mary stepped back to keep the distance. He hung his head and took a deep breath before looking back at his little girl. "I had to go, Mary, it wasn't safe."
That was the last straw. Mary couldn't keep the anger from her voice this time. "But it was safe to go start a new family. And what exactly were you trying to protect me from? From struggling to raise Brandi on my own? From trying to keep Jinx out of the bottle long enough to move out of another apartment? Save it for the interrogation room, I don't want to hear it." Her raised voice had woken Nora up, and she could hear her daughter crying. She huffed in frustration.
James was quiet for a moment. He hoped Mary would bring his granddaughter out, as he was hoping to get to see her. But Mary just let the baby cry. Finally, he spoke up, "You can go get her, I promise not to move."
"Oh, you promise? Sorry, if I have trouble putting any stock in your promises, but I'm finding it hard to forget the last time you promised not to leave, when I was seven. You remember how that turned out right?" Though every fiber of her being told her to go pick her daughter up, she refused to give James that satisfaction. She did however take two steps toward her bedroom hoping to at least be able to see that her baby was okay.
"Sweetheart, please try to understand, there were circumstances beyond my control. If there had been any way I could have stayed…Don't I at least get the chance to see my granddaughter?" James tried to keep his voice soft, hoping to lull his daughter back to his side.
"Stop, just stop. I'm not seven years old anymore. Your lies mean nothing to me. I know what options you had, Dad, I'm a US marshal. If you had gone into Witness Protection, rather than abandon us, we could have had a life. We would have been protected. You left because you're a coward, don't try to paint yourself any differently. And as for my daughter, no, you don't get to see her." Mary crossed her arms, firmly positioning herself between her father and her daughter.
She was saved from any further conversation by the opening of her door. Marshall had broken a speed limit or two to get to his partner and make up for the time spent arguing with Abigail. After stepping out of his truck, he'd heard the sounds of Norah crying and Mary's raised voice, along with the lower tones of a man. He hadn't been able to make out the words, but it had been enough to have him pulling out his gun and moving quickly toward her front door. He skipped the formality of knocking and used his key. She hadn't used a code word, so she wasn't in danger, so she wouldn't appreciate him knocking down the door.
The sight that greeted him upon stepping into her living room stopped him cold. His partner stood, a human barrier, between her bedroom, where he knew Norah slept, and the man in her living room. Years of training kept Marshall from lowering his gun in confusion. He knew that whatever the problem was had something to do with the strange man cuffed in his partner's living room. He took in her defensive posture, arms crossed, shoulders tense, and the pain in her eyes that he knew only he could detect. Still, he needed more information. "Mare?"
Her partner's voice took a weight off her shoulders. A moment ago, she had been torn between Mary Shannon, abandoned seven year old girl, and Mary Shannon, US Marshal. With Marshall in the room, she knew. She always knew who she was with Marshall, who she was and where she stood. Things were always so much easier to face with Marshall at her side. She knew that without him, she'd never make it through the coming days. "Hey, Marshall, so nice of you to join us." She was pleased to note that her voice no longer trembled. Marshall's presence had set her back on her feet.
Taking his cue from his partner, Marshall shrugged, gun still loosely trained on the stranger standing between him and his partner. "You know me, I'm always up for a party in the wee hours of the morning." He tilted his head toward the other man, "Care to introduce me to your new friend?"
Mary kept her eyes on Marshall, hoping to convey everything she couldn't bring herself to say with a simple look. It wouldn't be possible with anyone else, but she and Marshall had years of experience communicating without words. "Of course," She kept her voice light, Marshall would be able to read between the words anyway. "Marshall Mann, I'd like you to meet James Shannon," the honey left her voice, pain turned it hard, "my father."
Her introduction floored him. If his mind was reeling, and he had absolutely no ties to this man, he couldn't imagine how his partner was still on her feet. There were a million questions he wanted to ask her, but he knew she wouldn't appreciate a single one with her father looking on. Instead, he embraced the years of anger he'd been storing up for this man and turned to face him. "Hello, Mr. Shannon, I'd shake your hand, but yours seem to be a bit tied up at the moment." He cast another glance at his partner, "Us menfolk could use a chance to talk if you wanna check on Nora." He knew she wanted to soothe her daughter, and that she needed a chance to compose herself.
Mary didn't bother responding to Marshall. She turned away, leaving her partner to handle the situation for the moment, and went to calm her daughter. Marshall counted to ten, giving Mary a chance to reach her bedroom and privacy before turning his attention to James Shannon. He looked the man up and down. Marshall had always had trouble seeing the relationship between Mary and Jinx, but it was much more obvious in James. They had the same eyes, though Mary's were darker, and there were definite similarities in their other facial features. But it was more than that, Jinx had always held herself as the wounded party, shoulders slumped and features soft. Mary had never looked that way, not even after Spanky's basement. Mary's shoulders were always squared, her jaw firm, as if she was always expecting a challenge and was preparing to defend herself. She was tough and strong, never letting the world push her around. Marshall saw that same look on James' face. Despite his daughter's icy reception and his cuffed hands, the man was still standing with his shoulders back, his head high.
His gaze currently trained on the doorway through which his daughter had disappeared. He spoke without looking away. "I've been thinking about coming back for years. But there was always something stopping me."
Marshall didn't look away. "Your desire to remain the perfect father in her eyes?"
James turned at the caustic tone in Marshall's voice. "I've no illusions about what kind of father you must see me as. I knew when I walked away that I'd never be able to make Jinx or Brandi understand. A part of me thought Mary might come to, if only because she knew how much she meant to me before."
"Yea, well a childhood of pain and loneliness will do a lot to erase what you thought you knew." Mary wouldn't allow herself to be straight with this man, but this was the one time where Marshall had no trouble speaking the words she wouldn't.
James chose to ignore that statement. "I didn't come back because of you. I knew you were a lawman through and through and I didn't want my daughter to have to choose between lying to you and watching you arrest me. Funny how things work out."
Marshall shook his head. "That just goes to show how little you know about her. I was never the one you had to worry about. It was always going to be her. That's something you didn't count on when you left her, but it's something I should probably thank you for. Your daughter is one of the most honorable, dependable people I've ever met, and she became that way despite you." Marshall took two quick steps forward, closing the space between himself and his partner's father. "A part of me knows I should be grateful to you for making her into the woman she is today, a woman I respect and trust with my life. But that part of me is dwarfed by the anger I feel toward you for putting her through hell. When you walked out, you broke her, and it has taken us a long time to repair the damage that you did." He took one more step forward, dropping his voice so that there was no chance Mary would overhear. "I don't give a rat's ass whose custody you're in or what consequences I have to deal with, if your showing up causes her any more pain, I will personally, and happily, end you. Understood?"
Looking into the eyes of the young man that protected his daughter, James knew he wasn't bluffing. "Mary would never forgive you for that. No matter what she feels about me now, I'm still her father."
A low chuckle escaped Marshall. "I'm her partner, the only person in the world she's been able to trust since you walked out on her thirty years ago, the only person who's ever cared about making sure she's okay. I'm the man on whom she can always rely, you're just the first man to let her down."
It was James' turn to chuckle. "You better watch yourself, marshal, your true colors are shining through." He brought his full attention to the other man for the first time. In all his time watching over Mary, he'd never given any real thought to her partner, other than to notice his strict adherence to the rules. But looking at the young man now, James noticed something that should have been obvious from a million miles away. "If you're not careful the whole world will see that you're in love with my daughter."
Marshall barely reacted to James' observation; he was hardly the first person to notice. It seemed sometimes that everyone he crossed paths with could figure it out, everyone of course, except Mary. "My feelings for Mary are none of your concern. Why don't you focus on all the ways you can attempt to make things up to her? Here's a hint, you can start by dropping the 'great protector' act. You can tell her you left to keep her safe until you're blue in the face, it won't matter. Your leaving had just as much to do with protecting your own ass as it did hers. She'll appreciate your honesty much more than your sugar coated views on why she had to grow up the way she did." Marshall meant everything he said. If James' unexpected arrival hurt Mary anymore than it already had, he had no problem teaching the older man a lesson. But he also knew that this was an opportunity for Mary to resolve some of her issues. The only way that could happen was if James stopped trying to gain her sympathy and started being honest. It was a fine line Marshall would be walking between guiding James and protecting Mary, but he was willing to risk it if it helped his partner in the long run.
Mary stood frozen in the hallway. It hadn't taken much to quiet Nora, simply sticking her head into the bedroom had stopped Nora's crying. She'd then taken a moment to compose herself before moving back down the hall. Upon hearing the lowered voices of her father and her partner, she'd stopped to listen. Marshall's compliments, though touching, were hardly news. She knew he trusted her because she trusted him, that's what made them such a good team. His anger on her behalf was old news too. But hearing her straight-laced, rule-loving partner threaten her father, that threw her for a loop. Of course that shock was quickly replaced when James accused Marshall of being in love with her, even more so because her partner didn't deny it.
For what felt like the hundredth time that evening, Mary took a deep breath. This was just too much to deal with too quickly. Though the idea of Marshall being in love with her caused warmth to bloom in her stomach, she pushed that thought from her head. For starters, he was engaged to Nancy Drew. And even if he wasn't, the felon in her living room needed to be dealt with before any talk of love or relationships could occur.
She pushed any thoughts of Marshall to the back of her mind. She had enough emotional turmoil to deal with at the moment. She waited another moment, and then rounded the corner, re-entering her living room. Marshall and her father stood close together, with no thought of personal space. They'd both been wary of her overhearing, though not wary enough. Marshall took what she knew he wanted to be an unobtrusive step back. She let him think it was.
With Mary's return, Marshall had eyes for only his partner. If it weren't for the fact that James was the only reason he was here, he'd be able to completely forget the man was even present. Marshall let his eyes roam his partner, checking for any of her usual tells of pain, anger, hurt. He wasn't surprised to find them all present. All the merriment that she'd been expressing the last few days, following his stint in drag to protect his witness was gone. Her shoulders were slumped in exhaustion and likely the invisible weight of being responsible for the world, which she always seemed to carry. Her eyes, which he had so recently seen glowing in amusement, now swam with misery and confusion. He'd grown accustomed to seeing her lips raised in a smile, either mocking him or cooing at Nora. Now the frown she wore seemed etched in stone. He added one more tally to the score he had to settle with the other man in the room.
Knowing her dislike of airing personal feelings, Marshall took a few steps forward, keeping himself angled toward James, but moving closer to his partner. Ignoring the knowing gaze he could feel coming from her father, Marshall addressed Mary. "What do you need?" It's not the question he wanted to ask, but with their present company, it was the only one she would answer.
Mary suppressed a smile, maybe there was something to her father's claim that Marshall loved her. She couldn't count the number of times he had asked her that question, prepared to give her anything she asked for. She filed that snippet away to deal with later and focused on the current situation. "I need to get this piece of trash out of my living room." Mary kept her eyes on her partner, not able to bring herself to look at her father, for fear it would break the wall she had currently holding back her emotions.
"Should we call Stan, or the FBI? Or I can take him in?" Someone would have to stay with the baby, and he wasn't sure he was willing to put Mary in a car alone with her father.
Mary closed her eyes in frustration. Could nothing in her life be easy? Her eyes opened again, focusing this time on her father, fresh anger reinforcing her walls. There were a million things she wanted to say, but in the end, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing her sweat. "I never thought I'd take so much pleasure in saying this, but call the FBI. Maybe this will finally help smooth over those rough edges left by the O'Connor incident."
Marshall pulled out his phone, he had a few contacts at the local office on whom he could rely, at the very least, to handle this quickly tonight. Tomorrow, the next day, that was another story, but tonight all he wanted was to get James Shannon out of his daughter's house. Because he knew his partner and he knew that right now she was hanging on by the end of her rope.
Mary listened to her partner's conversation. Though she could only hear the one side, there was very little to it. "O'Halleran? It's Marshall Mann…Yea, I know it's late, but I've got a present for you…Number 68 on the most wanted list…Yea, I'm serious, all you've got to do is come pick him up…The catch? My partner and I aren't going to be able to give our statements till tomorrow, at the earliest…Not tonight…That's it…Thanks man, now I owe you one." Marshall gave the agent Mary's address and disconnected.
With Marshall off the phone, Mary felt as though all the attention on the room was now on her. The pressure, real or in her head, was making her squirm. So she bailed. "If the FBI are going to be trampling through my house again, I'd at least like to have a robe on this time. I'll be back in a minute." It took all her control to walk calmly from the room. She just had to hold herself upright a little while longer. She could fall apart later, when James was safely in FBI custody and Marshall was on his way home to Nancy Drew.
Marshall listened to Mary's retreating footsteps. He then stepped into James' personal space. His words were quick and quiet, meant only for James. "If you're anything like your daughter, then we both know that you could have been out of those handcuffs half an hour ago. But you're not, which means there was a reason you came here tonight. Now, I've read your letters, so I know that you care about her at least a little. And having seen her unfailing loyalty to you, I know that some part of you must have warranted it. So hear me when I say this, if you escape from federal custody, you will lose whatever chance you might have with Mary. I'm not saying you've got a bright future together, playing happy family, but right now, you do have a chance. Tomorrow, the next day, she will cave and listen to what you have to say. But if you leave again tonight, she will not give you the time of day. I can promise you that. So if she means anything to you, if the chance to explain to her means anything to you, you will play this game her way. Because if there's one thing you need to know about your daughter, it's that she makes the rules. It's her world, we just live in it. Understood?"
James was momentarily stunned, both by Marshall's intensity and by his words. But the look in the younger man's eyes told James that he was serious. He nodded, trusting completely that Marshall was right in this instance. "I'm not going anywhere, Inspector. I've been waiting thirty years for a chance to be with my daughter again, I'm not going to blow it."
The words sounded sincere, and James looked the part of the dedicated father, sans handcuffs. But Marshall had spent a decade trying to negotiate the minefield the man's first departure had left in his partner's heart. He wouldn't be trusting the felon's words any sooner than Mary would be. Just to be sure, Marshall uttered one last sentence, "Heaven help you if you do, because there's no place on this earth where you can hide from me." Marshall stepped back. He didn't want to risk Mary seeing him so close. She would forgive him for threatening her father, hell he was sure she expected that, but if she thought for even a minute he was aiding James in his campaign to gain back her affection, she would walk away, from James and from him. She wouldn't understand that it wasn't James he was helping, it was her. Until she'd hashed it out with her father, Mary would never be able to have a lasting relationship.
They stood in silence for a few more moments before Mary reemerged from her bedroom. Marshall's heart broke to see her. She couldn't do anything to protect her heart from breaking, was struggling to hide the pain he knew was clawing at her insides, so she'd done the only thing she could. She put on the armor she wore best. Her comfortable pajamas were gone, traded in and replaced with jeans and a long sleeve tee, the same type of thing he'd seen her wear to work over and over again throughout the years. She'd pulled back her hair as well. She was no longer a woman pulled from bed by a major family crisis; she was now a US marshal, ready to handle whatever situation came her way.
Though she'd never admit it out loud, coming back into the living room, all Mary wanted to do was walk directly into Marshall's arms. It had occurred to her in her bedroom that she had fallen into a hole she'd sworn she would never get into again. When she was little, her father's arms had been protection from everything and balm for anything. His departure had torn that safe haven from her and years of self reliance had built her up, she swore never to lean on anyone again. She hadn't planned to break that promise, but damn Marshall had snuck in under her radar. He hadn't come at her in the normal way, with open intentions and hollow words. Instead, he had sidled up next to her, worming his way under her defenses and into her heart. And it had worked, because she could recall with perfect clarity the times she had sought the comfort of his arms- after her stay in Spanky's basement, during Brandi's brief time in jail, when she'd gone into early labor. He had been the one person she had turned to, had leaned on, had trusted. And tonight, she had called him without a moment's hesitation. Despite a lifetime's worth of proof that she should trust no one, somehow, she had come to trust Marshall. And he had never let her down. Perhaps if she'd let herself think on it before, she might have noticed, but it had been gradual, her dependence on him. But now, looking at him standing in her living room at 1:30 in the morning, she knew that she wouldn't survive without him.
Still, rather than submit to her desire and show weakness in front of the man who'd abandoned her, she stopped several feet from Marshall. She squared her shoulders and kept her eyes from meeting the glance of either man. Her hands trembled with nervous energy, or perhaps it was righteous anger, she wasn't sure. She crossed her arms over her chest to hide the tremor. Grasping for straws, any form of distraction, Mary spoke, "O'Halleran? Do I know him?"
Having been her partner for near a decade, Marshall could see right through her. Still, he saw no reason to out her to James. "He helped us handle the Thompson case." She stared at him blankly. "He also ran point on the Stark hunt, and the Casey disappearance." There were still no signs of recognition from her. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "He's the one that sent us the banana pudding on Christmas."
A light of recognition sparked in her eyes. "I remember the pudding. That was good. But I still can't remember O'Halleran."
"He'll be here soon enough." As if summoned by Marshall's words, headlights splashed the wall, an indication that someone had just turned into Mary's driveway. "Make that now." Marshall went to the door, opening it for the FBI agent before he had a chance to knock. He put his hand out to shake the other law man's hand. "Thanks for coming, Sean, I know it's late. He's right through here."
Marshall moved to the side allowing the other man access to the living room. Though he trusted the other detective, as he moved, he kept himself between Mary and the other man in the room. There was little he could offer her tonight by way of protection, but he was willing to do whatever he could. He gestured toward James, "This man had been on your list since the late 70s."
Sean let out a low whistle. He had a lot of questions, but he'd had a number of dealings with this pair of marshals before. Though it wasn't spoken of out loud, the only thing better known about them then Mary's temper was Marshall's protective streak. He could tell from the way the other man was standing that this case was hitting a little too close to home. He'd play it smart and stay quiet tonight. He could ask Marshall all the questions he wanted later on. "Ok, I'll take it from here. What time should I expect you two in tomorrow?"
Mary stayed quiet, letting Marshall take the lead. It wasn't like her, but at this point, she was afraid that if she opened her mouth, she might start sobbing. Marshall must have sensed this, because he took the lead. "We've got to check in at HQ first, so we probably won't be in until after noon."
O'Halleran looked as though he wanted to argue, but then thought better of it. He reached forward taking the cuffed man by the hands and led him toward the door. "Thanks for the collar, Marshall. Feel free to call anytime you've got a wanted felon already cuffed." He guided James out the door and toward the car.
Marshall followed them to the door, watching as Mary's father was placed in the back of O'Halleran's car. Once the car began moving backward, Marshall shut the front door. He could hear Mary's breathing behind him, slightly louder and faster than normal. Worried for her, he turned to catch a glimpse of her face, hoping to decipher her real state of mind from some clue written in her eyes. She stood where he'd left her, about half a dozen paces from his current location. Her arms were crossed, not in agitation, but in a defensive way. She'd avoided looking at her father almost the whole time Marshall had been there, and even now, she kept her eyes trained on the wall. Marshall stepped toward her, searching for some words of comfort, but drawing a blank.
Her partner's movement brought her gaze to him. She could feel the tears in her eyes and quickly looked up to keep them from falling. She felt like a fraud. For years, she'd put on a brave front, convincing even herself that she could handle everything. But five minutes with her father, and she was ready to weep. Marshall's steps brought him within reach, and for a second, it mattered to her that she remain strong. But once again their eyes met, and she gave in. She gave in to the tears and to the desire to take comfort in her partner's arms.
Marshall wasn't entirely prepared for Mary to step into his embrace, but he didn't hesitate in wrapping his arms around her as she began to sob. "It's alright, Mare, I've got you."