A LIFE, PART FOUR: NECESSARY FAMILY
By Char Chaffin
Category: MSR, future AU
Spoilers: Vague, Seasons One through Nine
STORYLINE, THANKS: See Header Notes, Part 0
Summary: 'Most of all... there's happiness...'
"What is it, Kevin?"
Frank drops the bucket of chicken feed, not even seeing the wildly clucking hens as they dive-bomb around his feet, greedy for the overload of feed. He stares down at his son, standing there in the watery early-spring sun with his little hat pulled down over his ears to protect them from the still-wintry nip in the air. As the chickens gulp feed like there's no tomorrow, Frank struggles to make his mind function.
He wonders how on earth Kevin heard that name, for he and June are always very careful never to say it around him. Now more than ever, it's vital to keep mention of that name silent and secret. They are not completely safe in Simmons, and that's a fact they must live with each and every day. Though it's been a quiet and uneventful winter, Frank refuses to take any chances -
Not where his precious family is concerned.
He clears his throat a little and bends to pick up the spilled feed, smiling his thanks when Kevin squats down and helps him scoop it into the old tin bucket. "Where did you hear that... word... Kevin?" Maybe if he treats it like a word and not a name...
No such luck. "The other night. I was walkin' to the bathroom, an' I heard Mommy say it. In your room."
Shit. Frank sighs, and rubs one feed-dusty hand over his face, leaving a smudge behind. They'd been careful, he thought - careful to never use their real names unless it was very late at night. But, the other evening the TV had been on the fritz and they were all tired, so they'd gone to bed extra early - and he'd been having a serious talk with June. When he and June talked seriously, nine times out of ten their real names would pop out - and suddenly he remembered the conversation, word for word, although he'd done his level best to put it out of his mind...
"I can't believe you want to do this, Mulder. It's far too dangerous. I love you for thinking of it but please, just forget it." Her blue eyes had been pleading with him, and when he took her hand it was ice-cold.
Frank had tried to reassure her. "It could work, baby - don't just discount it! Don't you think I can't tell how much you miss them? I miss them, too. And Kevin... he should know who his relatives are. He should know his grandma, and his uncles." His face was open and earnest as he tried to convince her. "Maybe just an extended visit, if nothing else. If your brothers don't want to come, then maybe your mom. I could go and get her..."
His voice faded off at the shake of her head, her expression resolute and determined. "No. You know it's not safe. It hasn't even been nine months yet since we've been here. I don't think it's safe for them to travel and I know it's not safe for either of us to leave Simmons."
June had risen from the bed and moved to where he stood in the bathroom doorway; she curled herself into his arms and kissed the side of his neck, murmuring, "I DO love them, Mulder - but I love you and Will, just as much. You're my primary family. It's all about leaving home; it's even in the Bible... 'A man shall leave his Mother and A woman leave her Home.' I willingly left home, knowing I may never see them again. When Will and I went into hiding I had a long talk with Mom and she understood - and in turn she explained things to the guys. You were on the road, fighting to get back to us - and I knew as soon as we made the decision to resume our life together that my family would be off-limits. I knew the potential loss. We cannot jeopardize our son's safety or ours, especially when we don't know for certain who's still on our trail."
Frank had held her close, feeling the slight tremble of her body and knowing just what it cost her to disavow the need for her family. He pressed his lips into her soft hair and had demurred, "Scully, you need them -"
The negative shake of her head once again stopped him from saying more. "I have what I need, Mulder. I know you think I've lost a great deal, but look what I have gained. Besides," she stared up into his eyes, her blue gaze steady and honest, "You've lost far more, if you want to compare notes. And even though I haven't been with my mother, or brothers in all this time, still I take comfort in the fact of their living existence. I may need and ache to see them from time to time but more than the wanting of their physical presence I find myself content knowing they're out in the world and safe." She pressed a hand to his cheek in a tender caress. "Someday... maybe. When and if we know the danger for us is past. Maybe then."
Frank parted his lips to protest one final time; June moved her hand from his cheek to his mouth and cautioned, "No more, okay? No more talk about it. Let it go. They're my family and I know best how I may be missing them. Right now, I can handle it, even though at times I may wax melancholy. Frank... please let it go."
For her, he'd let it go.
"What else did you hear that night, Kevin?" Frank is almost afraid to know. Kevin is a smart little boy - sometimes too smart. They've never had an opportunity to test his IQ, but Frank knows it would probably be off the charts for a child barely ready to start school. Already Kevin speaks like a child years older, already he can read on a level beyond the average kindergartner.
Kevin scrapes up another handful of feed and holds it out for his favorite hen. Pinney is fat and lays more eggs than any of her feathered nest-buddies, and is really the only hen patient enough to let a small boy take her eggs without pecking his little fingers.
Kevin concentrates on feeding Pinney, as he answers, "Well... I heard Mommy say 'Grandma'. I guess I thought I didn't have one, 'cause I've never seen her." Kevin raises curious eyes to his father. "Do I have a Grandma? What's she like? I don't 'member her."
Frank sighs and tugs gently at his son, bringing him to his feet and into his arms. Relishing the feel of those small but strong limbs curling around him, Frank kneels on the cold ground and hugs Kevin, forgetting for the moment that the hens really need to go back in their heated coop and there are inside chores that require his attention. He holds Kevin close and tries to explain things that he himself has never been overly sure of understanding.
"You were very young, Son - the last time you saw your Grandma. Only a baby, not even walking yet. We had to move away and Grandma couldn't go with us. But she loves you, very much." He dreads the thread of Kevin's thoughts, for this is a smart little boy. His cognizant reasoning is already formidable for one so young...
"But if Grandma hasn't seen me since I was a baby, she really don't know me, right? So how can she love me if she don't know me?"
Frank absently corrects, "'Doesn't', Kevin. The proper word is 'doesn't'. And she loves you because she learned to love you from the very beginning when you were first born. Just because you haven't been around her in years, doesn't mean she loves you any less. She may not know who you are right now - but she loves you. She always will."
"Can I see her? Does she live in Vermont? Does she live in Simmons? Can we go to her house? Can I bring Briggs and Pinney to see her?" The questions shoot out of his little boy like bullets, each one stinging Frank because of course the answer to all of them is a resounding and depressing, 'No'. And he hates that each question has to be answered negatively. He hates that he has to disappoint his child. He hates that he cannot find a way to bring June her beloved family. Most of all, he hates that.
With one hand Frank indicates the need to gather up the hens and get them settled into the coop. As Kevin obligingly begins shooing the squawking cluckers into their nests, Frank gives the most honest answer he can, under the circumstances.
"I don't know, Son. When I do know, you'll be the first one I tell."
Although the days have been getting longer, this far north it's still dark fairly early. Spending a great deal of time outside has wiped Kevin out and he falls asleep in front of the fireplace, pajamaclad body curled around Briggs, the golden retriever they adopted, just a month after moving into the farmhouse. The family room is toasty warm and Frank is feeling a bit sleepy himself, but manages to pry his eyes open long enough to pick Kevin off Briggs and carry him to bed, the devoted pup following close behind.
Once Kevin and Briggs are settled in and snoring into each other's faces, Frank heads back downstairs and settles himself next to June, who has been sitting quietly, staring into the flames. He slips an arm around her and draws her close, smiles when she cuddles against him and rests a warm palm high on his leg. Frank's soft musing is a breath against her hair.
"Kevin asked me today who 'Mulder' is."
June pulls her head away from its nest on his shoulder, and stares at him worriedly. "He actually said your name? God... he must have heard us talking one night. We'll have to redouble our efforts to not use those names."
Frank shakes his head. "I don't think that's the answer, baby. Kevin is such a smart little boy. And as he gets older he's just going to get smarter. We're going to have to face it - sooner or later we'll have to explain things to him. Make him understand it's not for anyone to know except us."
"I'm not... comfortable with that, Frank. It's a huge responsibility for such a young boy. Even if we waited a few more years he'd still be so young. There has to be a better way -"
Frank interrupts her without apology. "What better way, June? Kevin has already heard the name, had already expressed curiosity. Not only that - but he asked about his Grandma."
June's gasp is loud in the quiet room. "He said... oh, God. Mulder... what did you tell him?"
Frank is reassuring. "I told him that yes, he had a Grandma that loved him very much, and someday he might see her again. But because we moved so far away it would be hard to see her. I think he accepted it just fine. Trouble is, we live in a place where families don't move away. Our neighbors have parents and sisters, brothers... cousins, still here in Simmons. It's the nature of a small town." He rubs a hand over her shoulder soothingly, adding, "Maybe someday, as you said... someday we'll all be together. But until then, if our son asks we have to be as honest with him as we can and trust he can handle it. He's so special, Scully - I think it'll be all right."
She nods against his neck, "Yes. He's special. And I know I have to trust, as well - that it'll be all right." June settles more fully into her husband's arms, and an easy silence falls between them, accentuated by the occasional pop of embers in the fireplace. When she yawns, Frank echoes it, nestling his head on her soft hair.
It's been another long day for both of them. The ground is still too cold for planting even though the days have been warming up. Next week one of their neighbors, Mel Henson, is coming over to help Frank begin the task of tilling their garden; he and June will get a crash course in fertilizing and seeding as well as crop planning.
None of their neighbors have quizzed them about their relative ignorance of country life. For that, Frank has been grateful. They have been completely accepted here in Simmons and the warm feeling this gives their hearts affords them the luxury of awakening every day with positive thoughts and much hope.
Truly, they can't ask for more than that. And they don't.
As the fire dies down and June dozes in the curve of his arm, Frank thinks about the family they left behind and the sacrifice that June made that dark day she decided to toss in her lot with him and face whatever future they managed to eke out. How hard it must have been to have that talk with her mother, and how in turn her mother would have been faced with the difficulty of explaining it to brothers who had always been overprotective and suspicious of him. He never knew the specifics of her flight with their child, because it had been a done deal by the time she contacted him, and told him to come home.
How brave she'd been... and how he'd adored that burst of courage. Still does... for her continued bravery shines every single day of their lives, here in Simmons. June is never afraid to try new things; has in fact leapt into it with both feet. And he knows they've had little choice, but still... it means everything to him - that she is his partner in every sense of the word. His helpmeet. His wife.
Frank leans over her warm body and snaps off the lamp, shushing her gently when she stirs and mumbles, "Locks, Mulder..." Standing up, he lifts her from the overstuffed sofa cushions and settles her in his arms. Leaving one light on downstairs, Frank carries her to bed, whispering to her that yes, he locked the doors. It's safe. They're safe...
The hallway light casts into the bedroom, enough to show him the way to their bed. He lays June down and undresses her, then strips off his own clothes and maneuvers both of them under the covers. For Kevin's safety, Frank always leaves the hall light on, neither of them minding the way it shines into their room. And the glow from outside the door illuminates the unfinished quilt on its rack in the corner - another show of bravery on June's part. Tackling the intricacies of sewing... something as foreign to her as gardening was, to him. The quilt will be quite lovely when it's finished and it'll grace their bed for years to come. Frank is so proud of her...
"I'm naked. Where's my nightgown?"
"Under your pillow, where it's going to stay for approximately an hour."
"An hour, huh? Are you saying you're a 'Sixty-Minute Man'?"
"I'm YOUR man, Scully... and don't you forget it."
"Well then... make me remember, 'Baby'..."
"Oooh, Scully... I love it when you call me 'Baby'... love it even more when you issue orders."
"In that case... I want your mouth, right here. And your left hand... just so... and the fingers of your right hand - well, I could demonstrate just where you need to place them... are you getting all of this, Mulder?"
In the dim light of the hallway, deep in the night when they're not afraid to mention names... Frank sets about the following of his wife's orders. A mouth on the swell of one rounded breast, his left hand curling around the fullness of the other... right-hand fingers slipping down her silky skin and finding soft inner flesh with unerring accuracy. A press here, a tickle there... a moan, and a sigh. The sounds of loving, coming from the bedroom of a farmhouse deep in the upper foothills of the Bluff Mountains, on a nippy midMarch night. Kisses wet with the taste of each other, tongues in harmony with the movements their bodies make, against each other.
It's nobody's birthday, not a holiday in sight and yet they celebrate. But for them, every day they get through is a cause for celebration. Every night they come together in their big old bed is a joyous occasion. And they don't question for how much longer their luck may hold out. They don't dwell on what they don't have, who they might miss. They don't ask why; they're merely thankful for whom, and where... it's enough, for now.
Spring has arrived in their mountains, with summer close on its heels. Life is rejuvenating itself all around them and they're warm and as safe as possible - and they're happy. Most of all, there's happiness.
"A Life" will continue, in "Small-Town Man"
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Char Chaffin
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