A LIFE, PART THREE: YOU'RE STILL YOU
By: Char Chaffin
Category: MSR, Future AU
Disclaimer: Clones mine, originals not Spoilers: Vague, Seasons One through Nine
STORYLINE, THANKS: See Header Notes, Part 0
DEDICATION: This story is dedicated to Shelba, on her birthday. Happy Birthday, cutie!
Summary: "And in this cruel and lonely world, I found one love..."
"You're Still You"
'Through the darkness I can see your light... And you will always shine and I can feel your heart in mine - Your face I've memorized... I idolize just you...'
She stares at her face in the mirror. She's been doing that a lot, lately. She's not sure why - God knows she's got better things to do. Important things, like visiting a realtor and finding a place to live. Frank shouldn't be saddled with doing it all.
In the small bathroom of their room at the Maple Leaf Motel, June thinks about losing her identity. Why this bothers her now, after months of looking the way she does, living the way she has... she's not sure. She only knows there is a panic, deep down inside of her. Something she hasn't felt before. Her looks have never been a big deal to her; of course she's glad she wasn't born a gnome, or something. She is vain enough to be glad she is pretty; that she has good skin and nice teeth and thick hair. Good bone structure. All of these things she is grateful for.
But as she stares at herself in the mirror... suddenly she sees a stranger. And it's more than the color of her hair and the substance of her body. It goes deeper. Deeper than a new name and a new life, away from all that has been somewhat familiar to them. It slips past the knowledge that she will never see her family again, dances through the daily fear she knows can never truly drop away.
She has lost herself. It has taken some time to sink in, really and fully absorb into her... but it's there and it doesn't seem to want to go away.
Frank calls to her, snapping her out of her intense contemplation of a woman she knows has to be her - and she shakes her head a bit as if to clear it, sighs and turns away from her reflection.
The sun peeks out from fat clouds as they drive through Simmons. They have been in town a little over a week, and already they feel as though they have made a good decision in staying here. Simmons is... comfortable. Warm. Safe. The townsfolk could have shunned them right away, for remote New England towns have historically not been all that kind to strangers. These unknown tourist-types are usually just fine if they are visiting, but let them announce their intent to live there... that's a different story. But Simmons is not like that.
There may be a grand total of perhaps four hundred people in Simmons. Maybe another fifty or so scattered over the outlying ridges of the Bluff Mountains. Dotted with old Colonial homes and clapboard buildings, a small main street and a pretty town square, Simmons boasts very friendly citizens.
The owner of the Maple Leaf Motel, Mrs. Pennington, is also the town's only realtor, with a tiny office downtown. She has refused to let them pay for their room, insisting they stay there for free until she can find them a house. At first Frank protested, figuring she needed the money - unable to imagine either business can be paying her all that well. Mrs. Pennington as firmly refused, actually tearing his check in half and pressing the pieces into his hand, before gracing him with a blinding smile and promising to send over home made sausage-lentil soup for their dinner.
Faced with that sort of relentless kindness, Frank could only give in graciously, determined to pay her back somehow, when she least expects it.
Along Main Street the maple trees are in full autumn mode, glorious umbrellas of deep red. It's mid-September but in the Bluffs, fall is in the air. Frank finds a parking spot in back of Cameron's Dry Goods, and he catches hold of June's hand as they walk the three short blocks to Mrs. Pennington's real estate office. Kevin holds his other hand and skips along beside him, earnestly avoiding all the cracks he can see in the old concrete sidewalk. The childishly superstitious gesture brings a fond curve to June's mouth... a memory of when as a child she used to afford her mother the same courtesy.
She tries not to dwell on the sadness of that memory; of the thought that her mother is lost to her. She never stepped on a crack - but nevertheless she broke her mother. She knows this. And as the thought hits her she resolutely shakes it off. Now isn't the time to think on it. They have too many things to do, today... starting with their entry into the tiny real estate office of their motel hostess.
A little bell over the door announces their arrival, and Mrs. Pennington looks up from her cluttered desk with a smile wreathing her rounded face.
"Well, you made it! So glad you got my message, my dears. Let me just close up shop, and we'll go. Have I got a house for you!" Her grin is infectious, her warmth a brightness all around her, just like so many other citizens of Simmons - and June finds herself smiling all over again. Frank, too.
And it feels good to smile this much - it surely does.
Just north of Simmons' town limits, past Bluff Lake, Emmett Road curves up higher into the mountains. Along that road there are small farms, cottages, more restored Colonial homes - and a house that at first sight seems like a mistake. Sitting back from the road, nestled in a natural curve halfway up the mountain, the house is large and rambling and a definite fixer-upper. The wraparound front porch is sagging and there are a few broken windows. A detached twocar garage has a hole in its roof and across the road the remainder of the forty-three acres of land boasts a small equipment barn and a larger feed barn, all needing a thick coat of paint, plus a chicken coop and a small stable. It's a lot of land and buildings for the money - and even with the obvious restoration concerns Frank can see it's a deal.
It's nothing like they would have imagined themselves living in, but truly - what is there about their present lives that could have been imagined, by either of them? Time changes everything, they both know this. Circumstances dictate they adapt, to any manner of 'strange'... and this house seems a part of the new strange that has become their way of life. And yet... there is something about this place -
A glance at June's face confirms what he's feeling, when he looks at the house - especially after they take a thorough tour. It's safe, here. The garden is a mess and the weeds have taken over every square inch of lawn, front and back - inside the kitchen, linoleum is peeling from the floor in pieces and there are no locks on the doors. But it's safe. Secure. Comforting... and it feels like home. Frank and June smile at each other, then at Mrs. Pennington.
"We'll take it."
'You walk past me - I can feel your pain... Time changes everything - one truth always stays the same... You're still you...'
They've been in the house a month.
It's been a lot of hard work, for all three of them. Kevin has been very eager to help out, his small and sturdy body flitting about, more in the way than not - but neither Frank nor June would dream of telling him so. His excited chatter has made the days go faster, and the first month has flown by.
They found a tiny grove of apple trees on their land, surprisingly still fairly bountiful with fruit that had not dried up or rotted - and under the guidance of Mrs. Pennington, June has learned how to make apple juice and applesauce. It wasn't hard at all, and when she served her first batch of warmed applesauce, spooned over buttermilk pancakes, Frank smacked his lips while he scarfed them down and swore he'd died and gone to heaven. June fought back a lump in her throat, wondering why on earth a compliment about breakfast should make her want to cry...
Hormones, she supposes.
It hasn't snowed yet, luckily - they've managed to get the hole in the garage roof patched and the linoleum in the kitchen replaced. They have cleared weeds and raked an endless supply of bright fall leaves, fortified the huge garden with rich topsoil in preparation for winter's freeze, and 'battened down the hatches' with the help of a few neighbors who live close by. The house will be sparsely furnished during the winter, but that's all right with them. They have warm beds and a radio, a television set that gets awful reception and an old dining room table they found in one of the barns. They bought a sofa and shelf paper. They have new curtains - they have a new stove.
Most of all, they have security - and the comfort of each other at night. They are content, perhaps not as worried as they were before they came to Simmons...
But June still feels unsettled. Not unsafe - but not herself. Unbalanced. And she looks in the mirror, a lot. Searching for something she gave up years ago when she willingly gave up her life, so that she may truly live - looking for that other woman, wondering where she went. Wondering if she wants it back, any of it. Accepting what she gave up but not reconciling, still not that - because what she lost was so much more than a job and material possessions, a way of life - unwilling to dwell on grabbing any of it again, if she could.
Afraid to think of what it would mean to her, if she did.
"June? What's wrong, baby?"
Frank's soft and concerned voice sounds at her ear and June startles a little, hastily wiping at her eyes. He's come upon her suddenly, standing in the downstairs bathroom mid-evening, silent tears rolling down her cheeks. It worries him, seeing her doing this - poised at a mirror, staring into it as if she cannot quite fathom who she is. And he thinks he can understand it, a little; after months of wearing a new face, more or less - he catches himself staring when he passes a mirror, too. It's weird - it takes some getting used to.
Now he curves his arms around her waist and leans his chin on her shoulder, watching her in the glass. Meeting her damp eyes. And she manages a small smile, as she answers him.
"I'm all right, Frank. Just... missing someone."
He squeezes her warmly and presses a gentle kiss to her delicate ear. "Who are you missing, baby?" He asks but he thinks he knows the answer. He thinks he can figure it out.
Her eyes tear up again, as she whispers shakily, "Me. Mulder... I miss me. I seem to be... gone..."
She leans her head back on his shoulder and those tears slip down when her husband shakes his head and kisses her cheek this time, catching the wetness on his lips. "No. You're not gone. You're right here, Scully - in my arms, in my heart. Attached to my soul... I could be a blind man and I'd know you - feel you -" Frank presses her closer, adding, "Nothing you can do to yourself on the outside, can change a single part of what you are, what makes you Scully. That's just an outer layer, re-designed to protect you."
He curls a hand up from her waist, settles it carefully between her breasts, close to her heart. He murmurs, "Here you are. Right in this place. Your heart. It's the same, generous and loving and kind, fiercely loyal and so brave. None of that has changed and it never will."
"But why am I feeling this way, Mulder? I'm happy. I have you and our son, a new life in a safe place..."
His nod against her temple distracts her and she tears up anew when his loving rejoinder ruffles the hair over her cheek. "And you also have a new identity. An unfamiliar home in an unfamiliar place. Doesn't matter how comfy it feels, or how safe the town seems... it's still new. It takes some getting used to, doesn't it?"
She nods again and snuggles closer, resting her head under his chin and sighing when his hand feathers over each breast, tender and sweet. She whispers shakily, "It does, I admit it. But it's not only that. If it were just a place, I could reconcile. A new name, well... piece of cake. But it's more than that," she stares into the mirror, into his eyes, "it's even more than blonde hair and thirty extra pounds. I just don't feel... like me. I don't know what I feel like. I don't know if I'm still myself, and it scares me, when I think about it."
Frank turns her around to face him, leaning down to peer into her face, concerned that she is taking this too seriously, this identity crisis - but knowing that if it's important to her then it's important to him - and he would never belittle her fears. His arms gather her closer; his lips press down onto hers - and as he kisses her he reaffirms to her, against her trembling mouth.
"Baby, don't be scared. Please, don't... I know who you are. I've always known. I knew you when I didn't even know myself. Knowing you helped me to learn more about myself - you taught me how to accept who I am... and for that and so many other reasons, I adore the woman I hold in my arms every night. She's never been anything less than perfect to me -"
She interrupts with a disavowing, "Mulder! I'm so far from perfect -"
And he interrupts back just as firmly, "You're perfect. In every way. Because inside your heart is a warm place just for me... inside your soul is the nourishment I need, to go on living - to be strong, for you and for Kevin." He kisses her again, arms lifting her off her feet, holding her tightly against him as he entreats, "Come with me. Come upstairs with me, baby - I want to show you. Give to you. I want to love you..."
When she nods, the tears slipping down her cheeks again, he kisses them away, one by one - as he carries her up to their room. Kevin is already asleep; the house is warm and quiet. It's still early enough in the night for him to love her, a good long time - and he intends to do just that. He knows the loving will be but a temporary ploy at best, to keep her from thinking too hard about her spiraling concern - that she is losing herself.
Frank knows he can show her - that she may have lost Scully a little, but she has gained life. And even in dark and uncertain times, life is still the most precious thing...
'I look up to everything you are...
In my eyes you do no wrong -
And I believe in you although you never asked me to...'
In the bedroom the curtains are still open, showcasing the darkening sky. It may snow tonight, for the first time. It has been known to snow in October, in the Bluff Mountains. In just a week it will be Halloween - and by the looks of the clouded moon outside their window, there will be a full one on that night. The thought makes June shiver a little, as Frank carries her in and places her gently on the bed. She sinks down into the feather ticking, and rests against the pillows, watching as he strips off his clothes.
She loves seeing his body revealed, bit by bit. She loves to undress him but she also likes to watch him strip. When he's done he'll remove her clothes, slowly and methodically, scattering kisses over her pale skin.
Seconds later, he does just that.
June is overwhelmed by what she sees in his darkened eyes, as he pulls away her clothing. That hazel gaze reveres her, worships her - and she is not worthy of it. She never has been... but Frank has always thought she was. Frank has always thought her perfect.
Tonight, for him... she wants to be perfect. She wants to forget the lost feelings she has during the day, at the oddest times. She wants to know that just this once, she truly is the woman he fell in love with all those years ago. She wants to be Scully. Ignore the blonde locks and the added weight of her body; forget the sadness still buried deep, the worry and residual fears that they live in a false sense of security, in this remote and lovely place. She wants to forget all of that, and just be perfect.
And she is. For Frank - for Mulder... she is never anything less.
The nightlight in one corner of the room casts a flickering glow over the love they make, together in their four-poster bed. The kisses they share pass generously between them, deeper now - wetter and hotter. Lips and tongues slide over heated cheeks, teeth nip gently, then not so carefully - as the passion builds and their breathing accelerates. Their hearts pound against each other - their hands grasp - their limbs tangle together. There are no words. They are not needed, not tonight. Sometimes they cannot say enough to each other, in the height of their frenzy - but tonight the silence is perfect, as she wants it to be. When it's like this words are not necessary. Their minds connect - their hearts blend together. Their souls hold a loving conversation - and their love is made, oh so wondrously.
In the dim room, her body gleams. Frank adores the way she looks, the way she feels. If she only knew, could understand, and accept...
She smells wonderful. She smells like Scully - like the woman she is. She is all he ever wanted and he'd know her in the most inky blackness of night... He'd catch the fragrance of her on the slightest breeze - and he'd know.
His hands curl over generous curves and cups her hips, opening her to his eager need. Her body welcomes him, sheathing him. In her arms he's so much more than he ever dreamed he could achieve; her love completes him, makes him whole and sound and important. Makes him more than Mulder. Makes him hers... and that's better than anything.
Long, deep strokes, touching her core; each thrust a vow between them, that they'll never stop feeling this way, never let anything come between them. They have chosen a safe place to live, but if tomorrow something threatened them, they'd be gone. Nothing - no one - will ever break them apart again. And all they have endured, everything life has flung at them... it has been worth it, for them to be with each other now, connected in this way with nothing as mundane as words needed to speak the adoration of their souls.
Outside their window a few snowflakes fall, a very early heralding of winter. Tomorrow there will be a thick frost on the grass and Frank will scrape the windows of their truck, probably muttering under his breath of his stupidity in forgetting to put it in the barn across the road. Kevin will be gleeful in the extreme, at the idea that snow - and tobogganing - is just a few weeks away. Their heating bill will double and they'll put off until spring the purchase of those chicks they wanted, figuring they'd never stay warm enough in the as-yet unheated chicken coop. Tomorrow will be another busy day...
But tonight it's warm and passionate and tender, in their bed. Tonight they know who they are. Tonight they are a man and woman in such deep and abiding love... it doesn't matter what the past has dealt them. It doesn't make any difference if her hair is a different color or if his profile has been altered. None of that matters.
What matters is what they share - what they truly have between them - what they will fight to keep. And in the end that's a lot.
The silence of their aftermath is broken by a word or three, of love and commitment - the night closes in as they fall asleep holding each other, pressed heart to beating heart. Their son sleeps down the hall from them, cuddling his newest best buddy, a golden retriever puppy, still unnamed - their life is good.
June has been so well and truly loved, tonight - and she understands exactly who she is. She celebrates her identity - and maybe tomorrow there will be doubts again. Maybe tomorrow she'll walk by a mirror and see a stranger...
But tonight she sleeps in the arms of a man whom she knows will never stop reaffirming her, uplifting her - loving her.
Tonight she knows who she is.
'I will remember you and what life put you through... And in this cruel and lonely world, I found one love... You're still you - after all, you're still you...'
The song is "You're Still You", sung by Josh Groban - a young man with the voice of an angel. And he has to be heard, to be believed.
"A Life" will continue in "A Necessary Family"
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Char Chaffin
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