A LIFE, PART SEVEN: AIR-MAIL LOVE
By Char Chaffin
Category: MSR, Future AU
Spoilers: Vague, Seasons One through Nine Disclaimers: Clones on Loan
STORYLINE, THANKS: See Header Notes, Part 0
Dedication: For the fabulous Bad, who has a birthday soon... Happiest of days!
Summary: "A life that has flourished, against all odds..."
In the mid-morning gloom of darkening clouds, the tiny post office sits by itself at the end of a cul-de-sac that was at one time a nice little neighborhood. Overtaken by urbanization, some of the houses remain - like the little satellite post office, painted white with blue and red trim; small parking lot on the side, empty of cars, save one.
A blue Ford Escort has pulled up and parked, its lone occupant swinging out of the driver's seat with an uncurling of long, denimclad legs. Wearing an olive-drab fatigue jacket and hiking boots, baseball cap pulled low over his forehead, the man walks into the small post office. Heading toward the back, where the rental boxes line up on three walls, he extracts a key from his pocket and unlocks a medium-sized door at the far end of the back wall.
Inside the box there is a manila envelope with no return address; addressed to 'Box 121'. No name. The man slips the envelope into the pocket of his jacket, carefully locks the box, and exits the little satellite office.
Fifty miles down the road the Ford Escort pulls off into the driveway of an abandoned farm. Cutting the engine, the man reaches behind him on the back seat and picks up a pair of surgical gloves, slipping them on. He pulls the envelope from his pocket and carefully slits the top with his penknife, spreading the contents out on his lap. He sifts through the items and lets the smile break over him; lets the emotion take him over.
A minute later he's on his way again, with a new pre-addressed manila envelope occupying the passenger seat and the empty shell of the old envelope crumpled on the floor of the back seat, ready for the incinerator.
It's the steady drip of melting icicles from the roof of the bay window that snares her attention away from the book she's reading. In the armchair by the window, the light is better and she has always loved reading by natural light. An afghan is wound around her legs, draped over the mound of her lap. At her feet Briggs snores away as usual; when Kevin's at school Briggs becomes her shadow. She doesn't mind.
June is happy to see the dripping icicles and the sun that shines a little higher in the sky each day. Spring is firmly in evidence and with spring there is new growth - new hope. A nasty bout with bronchitis has kept her cloistered inside far more than she'd preferred, this winter... that and Frank's paranoia that she'd slip and fall on the ice. Considering how spotless he and Kevin have kept the front walk, June doubts she'd ever have slipped. Still, her men are taking wonderful care of her and for that sweetness she is more than willing to be pampered.
As she leans her head against the tall wing-back of her armchair and stares out the window, a soft 'click' to the right of her brings her attention around to her grinning husband, leaning in the doorway with a camera in his hands. June sighs and shakes her head, commenting, "There's an incredibly bad Polaroid moment - you've just wasted some film, I'd say."
Frank walks toward her, kneels in front of her chair and smiles into her face, leaning in to kiss her gently. "No way, baby. I never waste film. I only take shots of rare beauty... and when I find some right in front of my eyes, I just snap away." He rests his cheek on her rounded stomach and sighs when her fingers feather through his hair. Her other hand rubs along his neck in a soothing caress. As the spring sun filters in through the filmy curtains of the window, Frank thinks there couldn't be a more perfect moment on a weekday morning, than to press his smile against his yet-to-be-born daughter.
He whispers to her, "Morning, Megan Mine... just wait until your grandma sees the lovely picture I took of you and your mommy."
"I thought you just mailed some out?" June continues to finger his silky hair. Frank turns his face upwards to her, smiles into her eyes.
"Well, yes... I did. But this is the first in a series of what I like to call, 'Portrait of Megan and Mom'. And I suppose Briggs as well; I think I got the plateau of his belly in that shot. I plan on recording each new development, from here on out. Your mother will love it."
June snorts, "Oh yeah. Me, looking more and more like a beached whale as the weeks grind by... lovely."
Frank presses another kiss to her stomach. "Yes, you are. The loveliest beached whale in the world." As June snickers out loud, he adds another kiss, and a passionately-whispered, "You're stunning, Scully. Every time I look at you I'm struck anew, by how beautiful you are. You grow more beautiful every year we're together. Especially now, carrying our Megan." He lifts a hand to her cheek, traces the blush that stains her skin. "You glow, every inch of your soft skin just glows. I used to think the stereotypical 'glowing pregnant woman' was just a cliche, just wishful thinking on the pregnant woman's part. I know differently now."
"Oh, Mulder..." In the tenderness of the moment during their quiet morning, June can call him Mulder. And she holds out her arms for him, letting him lift her to her feet, then gasps a little as Frank swings her into his arms and carries her out of the room and up the stairs. She presses her lips into his neck and inquires, "Where're we going?"
He nuzzles her hair as they move down the hallway. "I'm taking you to bed. It's hours until Kevin is due home and I fed the chickens and walked the horses. It's just the right time of day to take a nap... so that's where we're headed - to take a nap."
He nudges the bedroom door with his hip, carries her inside and lays her on the wedding-ring quilt she made the first year they came to Simmons. Their room is cool and light with sun, but when Frank moves to close the curtains, June stops him with a softly spoken, "To bed, yes. To sleep... no. I've got better things to do in this bed with you, than sleep." She reaches out a hand and catches at his arm, pulls him down to her, signing in satisfaction when his lean body covers hers carefully. His eyes alight, he grins down into her face and in between kisses, demands to know her intentions.
June wastes no time in showing him, exactly what those intentions might be. While the sun streams in their windows and paints their bodies with light, she tugs off his clothes and invites him to mimic her actions. She leans back on her elbows when he slides off her leggings; lifting one foot after the other, watching him remove her wool socks. Lifts her arms obligingly when it's time for her sweater to come off, chuckles a little at the eagerness with which he tackles her bra. She knows he's anxious to see how much her breasts have grown, although she could have told him they would not change in less than twenty-four hours. But she doesn't mind Frank's enthusiasm. She could be married to a man whose opinion of her developing tummy would be less than excited. Such men exist; her best friend in college was married to such a cretin; a man who thought the most unattractive sight in the world was a nude woman six months gone.
She counts her blessings every day, that Frank adores her changing body.
As his muscled legs and torso slip over her, June sighs and relishes the way his body feels against her sensitive skin. There are definite perks to being married to a farmer, she thinks. The hard physical labor necessary to the upkeep of land, gardens and assorted outbuildings has been very conducive to the development of this body of near-perfection that is presently covering hers. Long fingers and callused palms glide over her skin, breaking her out in anticipatory shivers. Lips a bit chapped by frequent exposure to inclement weather nuzzle at her neck, the tender flesh of her breasts and along her fluttering abdomen. Frank trails his mouth over her stomach, smiling against her when his daughter makes her presence known by pushing minuscule feet within her mother's womb.
The moment of lovely communion between father and unborn child spends itself out in the sunny warmth of their bedroom and June is loath to intrude on their bonding. She keeps a gentle hand on Frank's neck as he whispers to Megan; tells her who he is, how much he's looking forward to meeting her, face to face. And her eyes fill with tears when Frank tells her of her big brother and the faithful Briggs, the pretty little nursery with its soft shades of peach and yellow, teddy bears and a stuffed giraffe waiting on the seat of her white wicker rocking chair. All for their Megan...
"Oh, Mulder... you're making me cry." Frank looks up to see the tears in his wife's eyes, as she reacts to a moment of familial caring tossed in with strong passion. He reaches a thumb toward her, wipes off her cheek. His words are softly apologetic as he moves up toward the pillow, and lays his head next to hers.
"Baby, I didn't mean to make you cry. I actually meant to love you, for several hours. I still want to do that. But I had to say hello to Megan, since she was waving at me..."
June cups his face in her hands and kisses him lovingly, swallowing the last of her tears as she gives her lips and tongue free rein over him. She murmurs into his ear, "Three more months, and she'll be in our arms. I still can't believe it. At times, I have to go find a mirror and look into it, assure myself she's really in there. Silly, huh?"
Frank shakes his head. "No. Not silly at all. Never silly, Scully... not you. I find it hard to believe, too. And now," he turns her on her side and wraps her close, insinuates a thigh between her legs and presses ardently into her softness, "Now I think we should let our little girl sleep - while I give her mommy some definite what-for."
A wide grin is his answer, along with a sultry, "Oooh, Frank... I love it when you talk tough..."
In a small and secluded neighborhood in an equally-small suburb outside of Annapolis, Maryland, a motorcycle roars up the street, breaking the otherwise serene balance of melting snow on the road and the chirp of an early spring robin in the maple tree outside a small brick Colonial. It's probably too soon to be riding a cycle since there are still spots of wet slush and ice on the roads, but he has been impatient all winter and so tired of taking buses and trains. His cycle has been calling to him and today's the first time he's taken it for a spin. Maybe he slid a little, and perhaps his nose feels as if it's ready to fall off from frost-bite... but man, he's missed riding. A chapped nose is more than worth it.
He pulls into his small driveway, jumps off the cycle and flips down the kick-stand. He's taking off again so he doesn't bother with the cover. He strides to the front porch, runs up the steps. Opens up the oversized mailbox nailed to the side of his door. Takes out the manila envelope he finds inside and turns it over in his gloved hand, staring at it. Smiling a little - and he reaches into the knapsack he just swung off his back, retrieving a similar manila envelope, preaddressed and pre-stamped.
He places one envelope into the other and seals it well, then hops down the steps and walks to the corner, tossing the envelope into a Postal mailbox resting there. As the lid snaps shut he smiles another small smile and heads on back to his little house, thinking of grabbing a quick cup of hot coffee before he and his cycle slip and slide back on the streets again, headed into the partly-sunny spring afternoon.
"Morning, George." She stands on the porch and greets the elderly postman who should have retired years ago, but whose life has always centered around his job and co-workers. His shoulders are stooped and his gait is hitching and slow, but he gets his route done. It's a route that over the years has grown smaller and narrower, but she suspects it's because his employers like him as well as the folks on his route do, and therefore make it as easy on him as they think his pride will allow. Her smile is wide in her face she waits for him to move slowly up her walk. She would go down to meet him... but as previously mentioned, George has his pride. And she doesn't mind waiting.
"Morning to you, pretty young miss!" His greeting has not changed in over two decades. Even though she has not been a 'young miss' in many years... In George Frazier's eyes she is, and that's just fine with her.
Her smile remains in place as he finally reaches her, and tips his cap. George always tips his cap at the ladies, a courtly habit that's just charming. He returns her smile with a set of blindingly white false teeth; she knows they're his newest thrill. He just got them a few weeks ago and although they look as artificial as can be, George is so enamored of them that nobody who knows him would ever be so mean as to say a word to him.
Reaching into his sack, George pulls out a hunk of mail of varying sizes, and places several pieces into her outstretched palms, one by one. When he hands her a thick manila envelope, her smile is especially bright - and her eyes sparkle. And she feels an urgent need to rip it open right there on the front porch... But she waits until George finishes doling out her mail, answering him with patient friendliness when he inquires about her family and tips his cap one final tip, in farewell. Down the sidewalk he totters, slowly... carefully.
She walks back to her door just as slowly, although she wants to race...
In her foyer, behind her locked door, she rips open the envelope with fingers that shake a bit. No return address - nothing to indicate the identity of the sender... but she knows. Oh, she knows... what she'll find within the triple-sealed pouch. She opens the final envelope, and her eyes soak in the pictures she holds in her hands.
A little boy, sweetly adorable, flushed pink cheeks and slightly grubby hands buried in the shiny coat of a golden retriever. His smile is wide, showcasing two missing teeth; his eyes are bright blue. The dog's tongue lolls out in a matching doggy grin, and the backdrop of a lopsided snowman is perfect. She traces a finger along the child's one-dimensional form, then shuffles to the next one.
A woman, sitting in a white wicker rocker, a lapful of yarn and a crochet needle in the fingers of one hand. Eyes alight with the sheer joy of living, of being happy... long blonde hair falling over her shoulders, thick and wavy. In her other hand she holds a piece of paper; drawn on its surface is an arrow pointing toward the yarn in her lap, and the words, "There be Baby Here!"
A baby. After all this time... another child.
Quickly she flips through the rest of the pictures. A Christmas tree loaded down with cranberry garlands and lights. The boy again, caught sleeping by a fireplace wrapped up in the fur of his dog. A tall, gray-haired man with the most expressive hazel eyes, staring out at her; a tender and loving smile on his face. She turns it over, feels the tears well up at the simple words written there, 'Mom. Miss you.'
Other photos. The woman again, standing at a stove, dressed in flannel, stirring something in a pot. The boy, riding a pony, feeding chickens, riding on a snow plow with the man... all with loving words written on the backs, just for her.
A life. In her hands, a life she has been privy to, all these years - in photographs only. A life that has flourished against all odds, because they were brave enough, wise enough to do what was necessary to keep themselves safe. Keep themselves alive.
Oh, she misses them horribly, each and every day. She goes about her own business, as she has always done. She visits the cemetery every other Sunday, places fresh flowers on the family plot. She keeps up the pretense, though she is sure she fools no one.
But behind her locked doors, within her locked heart... she misses them. She mourns their absence from her world, and as the months and years pass by it only gets harder. Tougher. And now, a new baby...
Maggie Scully smiles through her tears, as she reads the letters, all three of them, each written by a dearly loved one. And she holds the photographs on her lap as she reads, committing their faces to memory, preserving each word as well... because when she finishes the letters and stares at the precious photographs one final time - she will burn them and flush the ashes.
And it will break her heart to do so, as it always does. But it's necessary. Yet her tears will frame a smile - that her darlings are alive. Safe.
"A Life" will continue, in "Spring Clean-up"
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Char Chaffin
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