A/n: So the title and idea for this story came from the song "Postmarked Birmingham" by Blackhawk. It fits the situation pretty well and I've posted some of the lyrics below.
I recognized the writing on the plain white envelope. I wondered where she'd wind up before she called or wrote. The answers in a circle with the word love on a stamp, postmarked Birmingham. …So the day she left she made it two hundred miles south. Did she settle there? Did she mail this note on her way out of town? What chance is there to find her when the only clue I have is postmarked Birmingham.
Marshall only had three things on his agenda for the day: a shower, sleep and a conversation with Mary.
He had showered as soon as he got home to wash off his travels before crawling into bed to literally sleep away the day. It was after six by the time he woke and a quick check of his phone showed no missed calls or messages to suggest that his partner had even received his text.
Ignoring me already Mare? Not gonna work this time. I'm not letting this go. He thought to himself as he got out of bed and headed down the hall to the kitchen to find something to eat while he contemplated his next move. Marshall knew he could only push Mary so far before she recoiled like the wild animal she could be and bit his head off. He had to find a way to be there for her without her catching on to him.
"Easier said than done." He huffed out loud as he put the final slice on the turkey sandwich he had made.
Instead of grabbing the plate though, he glanced at the clock on his stove and then picked up his phone again. He would try one more time to contact her today. They would see each other tomorrow at work but Marshall knew there was no way Mary would talk to him about any of this in that setting. Not with Stan and Eleanor lurking around. She would just brush him off and pretend like it wasn't a big deal that she had broken down in his arms. So he hit the first number on his speed dial and waited for her to answer. She didn't. Marshall wasn't terribly surprised by this and left what he hoped was a casual sounding voicemail.
"Hey Mare, it's me. Just wanted to check in and see how things were going. Call me." He dropped the phone back on the counter and picked up his plate and glass of ice tea he had poured and headed into the living room for dinner in front of the TV.
It was halfway through a special on the Presidents when an incessant pounding started at his front door. Marshall only knew one person with that knock and he jumped up off the couch to answer. Mary stood on his front step looking no better than she had when he had left her two days ago. Her jade green eyes were bloodshot and surrounded by dark circles indicting that she probably hadn't slept since this whole mess started. Blonde locks were tied away from her face in ponytail that was threatening to fall out at the slightest movement. Overall, she looked like hell and Marshall's heart skipped a few beats as he recognized the hint of distress in her eyes.
"I lied to you." Mary declared before he could even finish greeting her. Marshall's brow shot up in surprise.
"What?" He replied, stepping aside slightly to let her in. Mary acknowledged the invitation by storming her way into the house. Marshall shut the door behind her and followed her path into his living room. "Care to explain what the hell you're talking about?" He inquired as he tried to remain calm. There were so many ways this conversation could go and very few of them seemed to have a good outcome. Mary sighed and crossed her arms over her chest in a clearly defensive pose.
"The other day when you asked me if I was in contact with my father, I told you I wasn't…but I am…sort of." She confessed all in one breath and he watched her physically brace herself for his reply. Marshall was stunned. He had suspected from her reaction that she was holding something back from him but to hear her admit that she had flat out lied to him was a bit of a punch in the gut.
"You're in contact with your father?" He repeated slowly as if he didn't believe the words. "How?" He demanded.
"Letters, dating back to my childhood. He's written to me numerous times over the years but I have no way to write back. There's never a return address." Her voice was soft, almost like a child explaining why the lamp was broken. It brought Marshall's anger back down to mere confusion.
"How does he know where to find you?"
"I don't know. I've never been able to figure that part out. But he knows things, like what I've been doing and who I've been around." Mary shrugged. Marshall ran a hand through his hair and collapsed back onto the couch. She remained standing in front of him.
"Have you tried to trace where they came from?"
"I tried to track the postmark a few times but it's a dead end. I have no way to know if he lives there or if he's just passing through." She explained with another shrug.
"So you have tried to look for him. Another lie you told me." Marshall snorted bitterly as his irritation rose again.
He wasn't mad at Mary though. It was her bastard of a father that had his blood boiling. It was bad enough that the man abandoned her and forced her to become an adult at the ripe old age of seven but then he kept her hanging onto the hope that he was out there and that someday it might come for her. "I just can't believe he would want his daughter to suffer the way you're suffering"
Marshall's gut clenched a little at the memory. Oh Mare I'm sorry, I didn't realize he was the one making you suffer. Mary noticed the pained look that had suddenly appeared on her partner's face and her chest tightened a little. She took the few steps across the room and sat down on the coffee table in front of him.
"Look, Marshall, I didn't keep this from you because I wanted to. I did it because I knew the position it would put you in. If you knew I had contact with a wanted fugitive, you would have been obligated to tell the FBI and I didn't want you to have to do that to me." She explained. Marshall stared back at her, hurt still brewing in his baby blue eyes.
"You didn't trust me." He declared.
"You didn't trust me to have your back and protect you like a good partner would." He repeated with an edge to his voice. Mary's eyes went wide at the accusation.
"No! Marshall of course I trust you! But I know your sense of obligation and strict adherence to the rules. If I told you then you'd have to tell the FBI. You'd be bound by your duty as a U.S. Marshal, something I know you take very seriously." She exclaimed.
"The only obligation I have is to you." Marshall growled. Mary sat back slight at the sound of his voice. This was a side of Marshall she almost never saw—the dark, angry, brooding man that scared her slightly. "And if I understand you correctly, these are unsolicited letters from your father and would be of little to no use to the FBI in finding your father. They are your personal property, not their evidence so why would you think I would hand them over to those assholes?"
"How could you think I would do that to you? That I would betray your trust like that?" Marshall jumped to his feet and began to pace as the blood began to pound in his head. Few things bothered him more than someone doubting his loyalties to his partner—especially if she was the one in doubt.
"Marshall, stop. Don't do this, alright?" Mary insisted, getting to her feet as well. "I wasn't trying to hurt you. I was trying to protect you." She sighed. He muttered something under his breath. "What?"
"I said that's my job. I'm the one who's supposed to protect you." He declared.
"Marshall," Mary carefully reached out and placed a hand on his arm to stop his pacing. "I don't need you to protect me. I can take care of myself…most of the time." She added. Marshall shook his head.
"It's my job, remember? One I cannot quit." He reminded, his voice shaking slightly. Mary's mind instantly flashed back to a dirty gas station and a bloody water bottle.
"You're my keeper." She whispered. He nodded.
"It's my job to protect you from the world and the world from you." He repeated with complete sincerity. "It's a job I take very seriously and one I will never quit." Mary just stared at her partner for a long minute as if she was trying to decide something.
"You promise?" She asked, needing that final reassurance.
"I promise." Marshall answered in a tone that left no room for doubt. Mary took a deep breath and looked her partner right in the eyes.
"Then there's something else you need to know….."