A LIFE, PART TWO: FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD By Char Chaffin
Category: MSR, Vignette
Spoilers: Vague, Seasons One through Nine Disclaimers: Mine to Clone, only
STORYLINE, THANKS: See Header Notes, Part 0
DEDICATION: Our Miss Crystal is having a birthday today - Happy Birthday, Sweet One!
Summary: Far from the Madding crowd - more than what it seems to be...
"Far From the Madding Crowd"
They've been driving for hours and it's raining again. But this time, the rain doesn't depress him. This time, he's not traveling in it by himself.
Funny how the dreary things in life can seem bright, when the right set of circumstances are involved; the right people.
In the back seat Kevin dozes, occasionally emitting a little snuffle. He's just getting over a cold, and of course they didn't want to travel while he was sick. But there was an urgency, this time - there was a need to leave, quickly. Oh, it was nothing overt. Nothing they read in the news or heard on the radio or the television. They didn't get a letter or an email. It was a feeling, just an awareness. But it was enough.
They terminated the lease on their small house and packed everything up. Since the place they'd called home for almost two years had been mostly furnished, they'd had amazingly little to call their own. Clothes. Some toys and games. Photo albums and some kitchen gear.
Nothing much, yet it was all they had. It was packed carefully and stored in the U-Haul trailer they were renting.
They left on a Monday evening, when the roads were fairly deserted. At first they concentrated on driving out of the city, unsure of exactly where they needed to go. Again, that feeling... that when they were headed in the right direction somehow they'd know. In silence they traveled south, the only surety for them, so far. South seemed like the right thing to do.
She refills his coffee mug often, to help keep him awake. It's probably unnecessary, since he's been wired for over a week. If he tried to sleep right now there isn't a way in hell he could even begin to close his eyes. She's in roughly the same condition.
Against a backdrop of soft music coming from a Bangor station, they let the silence engulf them. It feels fine, not uncomfortable in the least. Her hand rests on his thigh and she sits close to him, her head touching lightly against his shoulder. Every so often she glances behind her to check on Kevin, still curled up on the back seat of the car. Their son clutches his blanket and his ratty old stuffed giraffe. He's had the toy for several years and he refuses to give it up. Even in his sleep he holds it tightly, afraid perhaps that it would gallop off into the rainy night if he let go.
The thought makes her smile, and right then and there she jots a mental note to find him a new giraffe, someday soon.
"What're you smiling at?" The raspy voice makes her start a little, and she turns the smile on her husband, squeezing his leg a bit, surprised he can see her face in the dim interior.
"I was thinking that Kevin needs a new giraffe - if we can find one."
Frank nods as he takes another swig of lukewarm coffee. "We'll find one, somewhere." And she smiles again, for she knows when Frank makes a promise he always follows through.
She'd been in the kitchen, sitting at the counter and paying bills, when he came home from the store and announced, "We need to move, June."
Her head snapped up and she'd stared at him through narrowed, worried eyes, wondering if he'd heard something in town - seen something. She'd murmured to him her wondering and he'd shaken his head. "No, nothing like that. It's just a feeling, but it's strong enough to cause me worry. I think we should go. Within the next few weeks."
June nodded and stood up, walked over to him - wrapped her arms around him - held him close. Her head tucked quite nicely right underneath his chin and her ear pressed over his beating heart; she took comfort as always, from that steady and vital thump. They remained locked in that embrace for long minutes, not speaking, not doing more than just holding. Finally June looked up into his tired face and queried, "Okay. Where?"
Frank had felt such a surge of love and pride when she agreed so readily. No questions asked, just pure trust. So much that it made him ache...
He'd snuggled her closer and dropped a kiss on her silky hair, still a bit startled to find blonde locks underneath his mouth, instead of red. He mumbled a soft, "I don't know, baby. Someplace small, I guess. Off the beaten track. Far from the madding crowd..." He grinned down at her reassuringly.
June managed a small grin herself, and pressed her face into his chest, thinking of some of the places they'd driven through, when they'd first come north almost two years ago. They'd taken a lot of back roads, on purpose; at the time it seemed silly but now she was glad they'd done so - and equally glad they'd made so many stops along the way when they saw a place that struck their fancy. It really didn't matter where, as long as they kept their family together, and safe. She kissed the pulse beating strongly in his neck; held him tightly.
When the time came, and they were driving... their future home would reveal itself to them. She knew it. She was counting on it.
In a locked strongbox buried in the little U-Haul trailer, their new lives are stacked neatly. Birth certificates, school records, medical records... tax paperwork. Everything they needed to start a new life, two years ago when they first began moving around. They'd embraced this new life, along with their new names. It was hard at first - to remember to call her June; to not stare at the changes she'd wrought in herself. First, the blonde hair. She let her curls grow out and she'd awoken on a Saturday as a redhead and gone to bed that night a blonde.
Simple as that.
The other, significant change took months, but was well worth it... she'd gained thirty pounds. It hadn't been easy; never a big eater, she now had to force food down, several meals a day. But the changes in her appearance were dramatic, the added weight shifting the contours of her face, making her look softer and younger. She hadn't wanted to do it, was afraid it would alter his feelings for her.
And it had altered them, quite a bit. Her added curves and body bulk turned him on, immensely. She looked lush, earthy, more beautiful than ever. When he told this to her, she blushed and informed him he was nuts. Of course, then he had to prove it to her... and he kept her up half the night, doing just that. In the morning she donned a turtleneck sweater to hide the marks he'd left on her neck. Throughout the day she'd touch them, and smile to herself... remembering the way he'd convinced her.
They lived far north of Bangor for almost two years. In that time frame he'd gone completely gray. Part of his transformation was natural and the rest came from a bottle. And as June's alterations had nearly disguised her completely, so a head of gray hair had done, for him. Well, that, and the change in his face...
"I can't hit you, Frank! You're nuts!" She'd faced him down, arms crossed in front of her. Kevin, barely three and sitting at the table eating lunch, had watched them curiously.
"You have to. If you don't break it then the surgeon won't be as inclined to change the shape. You know that." He'd been resolute. June shook her head and refused to budge.
"I'm NOT going to hit you. Forget it. If you think you have to change your nose you're going to have to run yourself into a door. Hard. I won't take the responsibility of hurting you, even for the better good, Frank. I can't."
No sooner had she mentioned running into a door, than his eyes had lit up. With a gleeful, "Why didn't I think of that!" - he ran fulltilt at the back door, flinging his arms aside, letting his entire body smack into it. She never had time to stop him - he crashed hard, the impact bouncing him to the floor. She gasped and flew to his side, bending over him. His face was a mess, the nose smashed flat, cheeks already starting to redden with bruises.
He'd knocked himself out, cold. With an exasperated expletive June had called for an ambulance, then tried not to panic all the way to the hospital. Their first opportunity to see if their new identities held...
A week later Frank had a new nose. Combined with his silvery hair the change was complete. And their new identities were a rousing success.
"Where on earth did you come up with that, Frank? I've never heard of it."
He smiled at her over his ham sandwich; they were parked at a pull off near Lewiston and almost finished with a very late dinner. He wiped mustard off his lip and explained, "When we drove up here. I remember a sign for a place called Simmons. We were up in the mountains, that one scenic route, remember?" She nodded, and he smiled again. "Well, for some reason it just came to mind. We'll check the atlas but I've got a feeling it's not on the map - and if I'm right, then maybe we've found our town."
It took them five minutes to clear up their dinner remains, one to find the detail of Vermont in the huge atlas they'd packed and thirty seconds to discover that Simmons could not be found. Another ten seconds to agree on the location of their new home. Ten minutes later they were on the road and June was worrying, "What if we can't find it again? What if we miss it in the dark?"
Frank just batted his eyelashes at her teasingly, knowing she couldn't see him doing it, then turned his attention back to the road. "We'll find it."
It's closer than they think, for just a few hours later, they find the turn-off sign for the Bluff Mountains, and Simmons. Although the Bluffs are fairly well-known, Simmons is not. Simmons is hidden away in the mountains, away from the main highways. At the end of a winding mountain road, it sits nestled within the lower hills of the smaller range of Bluffs. Even in the dark of night they can see what it's like. Small and picturesque. Quaint and quiet.
Frank stops the car just inside of town, pulling into a tiny gas station. It's closed, but then he really doesn't need gas. It's very late and they need to sleep, more than anything. Knowing they may have to sleep in the car doesn't bother them; they've done it before. The important thing right now is that they feel safe. Here in this forgotten place, somehow they are at peace.
June gets out and stands next to the car, stretching her tired muscles. In the back seat Kevin is in the Zone, sleeping hard. She won't awaken him until the very last; until she knows he'll need to relieve himself either in a motel room - if they can find one - or in the woods behind the gas station.
Frank steps around the back of the trailer and checks the hitch; surprisingly the car did quite well pulling the extra load up that killer road. In the darkness that surrounds them a lone security light over the single gas pump affords them enough illumination to register the shadows under each other's eyes and the weariness in the droop of their shoulders. He takes her into his arms and cradles her close, rocks her a little. He could sleep standing up; for all the caffeine he's sucked down and the pure adrenaline coursing through him for the duration of this trip, he could now crash in a heartbeat.
Relief, pure and simple. It's all around them; they can both feel it. The very air seems to breathe tranquillity. It's nice. No, more than nice... it's a blessing.
There's a battered phone booth nearby and Frank sees a dog-eared phone book hanging on the side of the booth. He opens to the Yellow Pages and searches for motels, figuring there cannot possibly be any in this tiny place.
He's wrong... and five minutes later they pull up to the Maple Leaf Motel, which looks deserted but has a glowing 'Vacancy' sign out front. There is a note on the office door.
'After-hours self-registration: Unit three.' June looks up at her husband in confusion.
"Unit Three?" Frank shrugs, walks down the single row of connected cabin-like units, and finds Three. When he tries the door, he finds it unlocked. He shakes his head in amazement.
"Now, that's what I call trust!"
An hour later they have Kevin snuggled in the bed between them, the door safely locked from the inside and the utter silence of the mountain night all around them as they lay in bed and hold hands, talking softly.
The motel room is sparse but clean, with a comfortable bed and fresh linens and towels. No TV. No telephone. Just a bed and a lamp and a bathroom with a rickety shower but plenty of hot water. It's enough for them - it's just fine, for them.
June reaches across her son and kisses his father softly, only mourning for a moment that they cannot make love with a child between them on the bed. But it's all right - they have all the time in the world, to make tender love between them. Starting tomorrow, they have all they will need to settle here, make a life here. Already they feel as if they belong.
In the dark Frank cups his wife's soft breast in his hand and sighs longingly when she likewise cradles him through his boxer shorts. Her warm palm soothes and enflames him at the same time, but he knows he'll sleep better if she keeps her hands on him - he always does. In the middle of their night it's a way of assuring they'll still be in the same bed together come morning. It's not that they are afraid... they are just cautious.
They don't have a lot to say and what they do confide to each other is accomplished in short, whispery sentences. They decide to go hunting for lodging first thing in the morning, hoping their luck will hold and they'll find something fast. They wax optimistic about the way the people living here will accept them. They talk of sofas and sinks, of buying curtains and shelf paper. Mundane and normal. The stuff futures are made of... their future.
As their eyes grow heavy and their hands slip, just a little, clasping together as is their habit... Frank mumbles a raspy, "Nite, Scully... love you baby, so very much..." And her reply is just as soft and just as rough with impending sleep.
"Love you, too, Mulder... nite." They each smile just a tiny bit, loving the deep night when they feel completely safe to call each other by their real names. They fall asleep smiling and when they awaken in the morning they'll begin a new life, here in Simmons, Vermont - high in the Bluff Mountains...
Far from the madding crowd.
"A Life" will continue, in "You're Still You"
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Char Chaffin
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