A LIFE SERIES, Part Five: Small-Town Man

by Char Chaffin

By: Char Chaffin
Category: MSR, Vignette, light angst
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Originals by CC, Clones up for grabs Spoilers: Vague, Season One through Nine

Dedication: Happy Birthday, Dearest Toniann - this one's For you!!

Summary: "Small-town life. Who would have thought he'd ever be this relaxed... this happy?"

"Small-Town Man"

The day is humid and hot. Bees drone nearby a primrose bush; when she shudders and moves away, he smiles and chuckles, a little.

There's a moist haze in the distance, settling over the lake; above the sounds of firecrackers going off and the happy shrieks of children he can hear motorboats revving up. He can hear birds twittering in the trees; can smell the bite of smoky barbeque still hanging heavy in the summer air.

When he looks at her he can see his future, and it looks damn good...

On an old quilt that's seen better days, something she found at the last rummage sale she visited - eating a large slice of watermelon and spitting the seeds up in the air - he watches them fall, hides a grin at her childish yet endearing actions - laughs out loud when their son claps his hands and cheers her on in his little-boy fashion.

Her hair is long and wavy and wild around her face, as the breeze tosses it gently about. Her sundress has a broken strap; she safetypinned it in a hurry because they didn't want to miss the barbequed spareribs. She doesn't care that anyone who wants to look can see the pin - which has the head of a yellow duckie hiding the sharp point. A baby's diaper pin, scratched and worn a little with age - and he thinks it's so very sweet, that she is proud of being a mommy, proud to showcase something that downright normal.

Her eyes shine blue and bright in the summer sun. She doesn't have a lick of makeup on, no mascara, blush or eye pencil. No lipstick. No perfume. She's not thin, but she's not fat. He supposes he could call her well-rounded. She has the body of a mother. Soft in a lot of places, cuddly and perhaps a bit plump for another man's taste, but her beauty staggers him, as always.

He leans back on the edge of the blanket and raises his face to the sun, smiling again when out of the corner of one slitted eye he catches his son doing the same thing; imitating his daddy. A sigh of contentment as he reaches out a hand to scratch at the head of the panting golden retriever snuggled up against his hip -

Small-town life. Who would have thought he'd ever be this relaxed... this happy?

They have lived here for almost a year. Neither of them wanted to move. They did it because once again they needed to lose themselves and the best way to accomplish it was to vanish, so to speak. The place they'd called home since their son's second birthday was too well-known, too well-populated. They had enemies. They will always have enemies... dangers that the average small-town folk cannot begin to fathom. They are not the only ones who had to 'get lost' - others before them did the same thing. Others after them will no doubt follow. And perhaps someday the adversaries in the world won't give a shit, but for now...

He has already begun to think of himself as a small-town man.

His name is Frank. A very plain, average name for a man pushing past middle age who has found a sort of quiet joy in nothing more difficult than planning a vegetable garden and learning how to repair a barn.

Her name is June. Another average yet sweet name, innocuous and somehow small-town, too. She rather resembles a June, he always thinks - summery and softly warm with the fire of a rising sun in her blonde hair. She's so pretty, even if she is a little heavy. He adores her body, he's told her so many times. It makes her blush pink, when he tells her...

His hair is prematurely gray, but that's to be expected, for his mother's hair went silver at a young age. When he looks at himself in a mirror he doesn't see any trace of the brown it used to be. When his hair decided to gray, it sure went that way very quickly... June tells him his hazel eyes look twice as sexy against his tan and his silvery hair. Usually her words make his ears turn red - which makes her giggle.

He loves it when she giggles...

They have a good life, here in this very small place. On a lake in the mountains in a part of Vermont that no one has ever heard of, save a few hardy skiers who invade the surrounding peaks from December to March. The summers are hot and the winters are mean. Their farmhouse needs a lot of work, but then so do his neighbors' places. They have a co-op going, started it last spring... and they help restore each other's homes. It's a lot of fun and it's been a great way to get to know the folks who live here. They've learned how to can meat and vegetables. She has learned how to quilt. Their son has learned how to fish.

He has learned how to live.

Their life together as man and wife started out so rocky. Both of them thinking all they needed was love; he imagines now that perhaps they both listened to one too many Beatles' songs. Certainly love helped to get them going before they married, and love produced their wonderful little boy, Kevin. Sadly, love broke them apart and luckily, love brought them back together. However, love isn't the only ingredient in the stew of their lives - love is perhaps the starch but the meat is their deep commitment, not only to each other but to their child. It's the reason they gave up their careers, buried themselves away in a remote little New England town and only call each other by their real names late at night in their most intimate moments.

He still remembers that wet and awful trek on foot, five years ago when all he wanted to do was get back to his family. He'd never been so cold, so alone and so despairing of ever seeing her and his child again. He walked for miles in the biting spring wind and rain, catching only one ride from a kind young woman who unknowingly saved his life when she lent him enough money for a bus ride to Plattsburgh, New York.

His family waited for him there, well hidden away - and when he reached them he promptly developed pneumonia and was sick for several weeks. But he was safe, and so were they - he would have endured anything to be with them again.

Once he was on his feet and mobile, they moved again - this time to northern Maine. On the trip north they passed through this tiny and sleepy little town and instantly fell in love with it. It took them several years of plotting and planning, but they wanted to move here, free and clear. Free of their past, as much as new identities can produce such a free past - free of major worry, that they would be found.

Some dear friends of theirs helped them with the identities, and performed their tasking very well. No one from their old life will ever find them. This makes June very sad, and she tries not to dwell on the fact of her lost family, for lost they are and lost they will remain. She takes comfort in the knowledge that they have saved their son and kept themselves a family. It's really the most important thing. They need to remain thankful for what they have and for life, itself - and they are. So thankful -

In the dusk of this Fourth of July celebration, after the last spoonful of potato salad is consumed and the final game of horseshoe tossed, they pack up their cooler and grab a few beers; lie back on the quilt and watch the fireworks display over the lake. It's a clear night with many stars and a light breeze wafting in from the water. Somewhere a radio plays a country song; he thinks it may be "Faded Love."

He's had a wonderful day; played four games of horseshoe and only lost one; got the pants beaten off him by Old Man Hopkins at checkers; played catch with Kevin and a few of his little friends; watched June gossip and laugh with some of their neighbors. Their dog, Briggs, plunged into the lake in a mad attempt to chase ducks and came out smelling truly nasty. Three boys from the local Demolay chapter offered to give him a bath, and hauled him off to the nearest hose and bar of soap. Frank made a donation to their chapter as a thank-you gesture and the boys eagerly promised to bathe Briggs any old time.

The sky is lit up with green and blue fizzles and golden sparklets, and as he reclines on his back with his son snuggled into an arm and his wife resting her head on his chest, he thinks about how good life can be when it's done up right. He sifts gentle fingers through her soft blonde hair, and only for a second does he mourn the loss of the glorious red it used to be. If it meant her safety he'd have gladly seen her shave her head bald.

Everything that ever counted in his life can be summed up in this very moment, here on this faded old quilt in the dark summer night with fireflies vying for attention amidst the bursting show in the heavens above their heads. All he cared about in his past life, the truths and lies he tried to unravel and the years-long search for something that would give him answers to a reality he now understands and fears - the losses they have both suffered and the wounds that go deeper than skin and still twinge in him when it's very cold and damp... All of it was reduced to dust the first time he arrived at the door of that tiny little cabin up in the hills past Plattsburgh, and held his gurgling baby boy in his damp arms and kissed his woman senseless, until he started coughing and she stopped crying and ordered him into bed.

He marvels at the changes love and commitment have wrought in his life. He sees many of them in the mirror, of course, the superficial ones - his arms are more muscled and his legs sturdier and stronger. He has a red-neck tan for part of the year, his hair always seems to need cutting and sometimes he forgets to shave. He wears flannel in the winter and white undershirts in the summer - and looks remarkably like about forty of his fellow small-town neighbors. Outwardly he has undergone quite the metamorphosis...

But inside, those changes are more profound and lasting. He has a family and responsibilities and a farm and a dog and some horses, a few ducks on a pond and mice in the feed barn. He has a roof that needs to be patched and lousy TV reception in the family room. But his garden flourishes in the summer and his house is warm in the winter... and his wife loves the skin right off his bones, late at night when they come together under the wedding ring quilt she made for their bed.

Late in the night, when he tangles his fingers in her silky blonde curls and thrusts himself deep, deep into her soft and rounded body. When his mouth takes hers, tongues mating and dancing to their own melody; hands holding on, so tightly. When she winds her arms and legs all around him and bites his ear and immediately soothes it with a healing kiss and a whisper of, "Love you, Mulder... so much..."

When in his strong and shuddering release into her soul he echoes her loving cry with his own hoarse groan of, "Oh, baby... Scully, baby..."

The fireworks fill up the July night and he holds his family close in a small town high in the hidden mountains of Vermont, and he thinks that tomorrow morning they should have maple syrup on their pancakes and apple juice from the batch they canned last fall. He thinks about the little celebration he and June will have in their bedroom, much later tonight after Kevin and Briggs are settled in and asleep, lollygagging all over each other as they do every night.

He thinks about the loving and he anticipates the night without fear and maybe just a tinge of worry, because he wouldn't be the man he is today without those characteristics that helped to form him when he was a young agent in the nation's capital, daring to dream about saving the world. Now he lives to love and protect and nurture and garden and patch roofs and watch fireworks - and life is very, very good.

His name is Frank and hers is June. They have a sweet son named Kevin and a dog named Briggs... and their small town life is exactly what they never thought they would ever want - and everything they'll ever need.

"A Life" will continue, in "Maple Syrup Sunday"

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