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[personal profile] calleigh_j
Title: Any Other Way
Author: [ profile] calleigh_j
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Pairing: gen, Marshall POV
Summary: a missing witness has Marshall reflecting on Mary and his relationship with her
Notes: written for [ profile] inell for the [ profile] help_haiti auction - hope you enjoy it!!; thousands of thanks to [ profile] racethewind10 for a quick and brilliant beta job

"I swear to God," Mary was mumbling under her breath as Marshall came into the office, coffees balanced precariously in a cardboard tray.

He put the tray down on the edge of his desk and tried not to laugh as Mary rifled frantically through a stack of papers on her own desk, occasionally muttering something he thought it was probably better he couldn't hear. Her jacket had been carelessly thrown over the back of her chair and her bag sat unopened on the floor beside the chair. The computer wasn't turned on, so he didn't think she could have been there very long. But from the mess of papers, Monday was clearly not off to a good start.

"What's wrong?" he asked, keeping a tight rein on his amusement.

She was still mumbling, still pissed off, and whatever she said was completely incomprehensible to him.

"Sorry?" he asked.

"She lost a witness," Eleanor announced cheerfully, strolling out of Stan's office and taking the coffee Marshall proferred in her direction.

"You lost a witness?" Marshall echoed in astonishment as he turned back to Mary and her frantic search.

"I didn't lose a witness," she protested with irritation clear in her voice, finally looking up from her desk, "I just...misplaced him."

Keeping the relatively safe distance between himself and Mary - Marshall knew better than to get in her way when she was in a mood like this - Marshall handed over her coffee.

"Who is it?" Marshall asked. He pushed back his own chair and sat down, turning his computer on and pulling a sheaf of papers from his in tray.

"David Fairstein," Mary snarled, glaring at the phone on Eleanor's desk when it started to ring.

This time, Marshall couldn't hold back a smile. David Fairstein had been in the programme for almost a month and had been a thorn in Mary's side since the day he arrived. A small-time Mob informant, he'd been granted protection in return for testimony at a trial which would be held the following month. He was continually unhappy with something and every morning for the past week, there'd been some message for Mary, left with Eleanor because Mary had stopped answering Fairstein's calls, with some obscure complaint or request. They all had difficult witnesses from time to time and almost everyone who entered the programme had problems of their own and times when they just couldn't make the necessary adjustments. Fairstein was one of the worst though.

"How did you lose him?" Marshall asked, trying to keep his voice as neutral as possible so as not incur the wrath of Mary.

"He called at four this morning," Mary said, turning her full attention to Marshall, "Said he had a problem and he needed to meet me. I went to his home, where he'd said he was, and he wasn't there. I've checked all the places he usually visits, his office, called his colleagues, the super at his apartment block, everyone, and no-one knows where he went."

"And you have no idea why he needed to set up a meeting with you?" Marshall queried.

"None," Mary snapped in response, "because the moron went and disappeared, didn't he?"

Taking his own coffee from the cardboard carrier, Marshall focussed on the papers he'd taken from his in tray while Mary went back to muttering angrily to herself, all her attention now on the file in front of her, which Marshall presumed to be Fairstein's. Sometimes trying to help Mary was like talking to a brick wall - pointless and frustrating - but that was Mary's way. When she was focussed on something, there was nothing else that could hold her attention. And no matter how irritating or obnoxious the witness, Mary would stop at nothing to make sure they were safe. Dedicated was an understatement when used to describe Mary Shannon, and if it sometimes made her a little fractious, it was usually with good reason. As Mary's partner, Marshall often found himself on the receiving end of her short temper but it never bothered him that much. As far as he was concerned, brilliant people deserved a little leeway.

"I hear you lost a witness," Stan said, coming out of his office and grabbing the last cup of coffee from the tray on Marshall's desk.

"I didn't lose him," Mary growled, "He lost himself and that'll be the least of his worries when I get a hold of him."

"I've checked police reports and called around to all the hospitals, clinics, and morgues in the city," Eleanor announced from behind her desk, "No-one matching Fairstein's description has been involved in any crime. admitted to any hospital, or ended up in a morgue within the past ten hours."

"Do you have any idea where he might be?" Stan asked. Mary repeated what she'd already told Marshall about checking all the places Fairstein visited regularly.

"And I've been calling his home phone and cellphone every fifteen minutes with no reply," she added, "I've checked with the State Department and the FBI: no-one involved in Fairstein's case has recently been released or recently relocated. I've gone through his phone and e-mail records and there's nothing to show that he might have been in touch with anyone from his previous life."

"Give him a couple of hours," Stan suggested, "It doesn't appear that he's been hurt or gotten in trouble with someone from outside the programme. If he turns up, then that's fine. If he's still missing by lunchtime, we'll send in the big guns."

Mary started to protest, but Stan cut her off, saying, "Mary, you can't be responsible for every single thing your witnesses do. You've done everything you can do for now: give it a little time and see what happens."

Stan retreated back to his office - a sensible move, in Marshall's eyes - and Mary was left fuming at her desk. For a little over half an hour, Marshall concentrated on his own work and his own witnesses, before being interrupted by the ringing of the phone on Mary's desk. He looked up in time to see her fairly lunge for it and snatch it from its cradle.

"Mary Shannon," she said breathlessly into the receiver, "You're where?...And I'm supposed to come and bail you out?...oh for God's sake, I'll be there as soon as I can."

She slammed the phone down with such force Marshall wouldn't have been surprised if there was a crack somewhere in the plastic.

"He's in jail," she announced, "in Santa Fe. Apparently he was drunk of his ass when he called me and after he hung up, he promptly decided he was hungry and wanted a burger. His drunk brain decided he needed to go all the way to Santa Fe to get one - he got two-thirds of the way there and got picked up by State Police, who took him up to Santa Fe and put him in a cell to dry out. And now it's my job to go and pick him up."

She was already picking up her keys and pulling on her jacket.

"Want some company?" he asked. There was nothing he had to do that couldn't wait a few hours except for making a few calls, and they could be made from the road.

"Sure," Mary replied with a forced nonchalance that was entirely at odds with her obvious anger at her witness.

Marshall grabbed his own coat and followed her out of the door. There was very little that could have ever persuaded Marshall to swap places with David Fairstein, who would surely be in for a decidedly unpleasant journey back to Albuquerque with Mary. Still, it was always amusing to watch difficult witnesses realise how very seriously Mary took her job, and how angry it made her when people took their WitSec placements for granted. It usually only took one encounter an irate Mary to persuade a witness that cooperating and doing as they were told was probably the safest option. And that was why she was good at her job. No matter what a witness did, what they said, how obnoxiously they behaved, Mary would keep them safe. The same went for the few people in her life she really cared about. And Marshall saw his job, the extra, unspoken part of his job, as keeping her safe. And though he would never tell her, never admit it under any kind of torture, he saw it as the most important part of his job, and he wouldn't have had it any other way.
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