A Dedicated Life (M/Sk)
by rac <crickard@interpath.com>
PG-13 for adult topics
archive: yes, with all headers intact.
website: http://enook.net/hl/rac/rac.htm
Disclaimer: I don't think CC would want them back after reading this. Oh, so maybe I get to keep them?
Note: Schmoop warning alert! If you're diabetic, have insulin handy. Here's a little something inspired by my day today, young love and wedding vows, altered with a slight twist to fit our guys :-) Thanks to the "R" ladies for being such great fun and inspiration.


A Dedicated Life
By rac / June 1999

The doorbell chimed at 1:38 in the afternoon, while I was arranging cut flowers in the kitchen. They were early.

Impatient. That's a good sign, to my way of thinking. Nerves beforehand are desirable, I've always said. It's only an arrogant idiot, a blind fool or a simple-minded person who takes this plunge and feels no trepidation. After all, it's a heady commitment. It's not a limited partnership contract; no, this is an all-the-way-or-nothing thing. Leastways, it used to be. Nowadays, what with pre-nuptials and the like, I figure it won't be long 'till we've got limited marriage contracts, too. Your standard one year or five year, with renewal options.

Kind of takes the romance and the urgency out of it, I think. Why bother, if you're not going to put your whole self into the equation? I've already made up my mind: if I live long enough to see that kind of contract become legal, I'm not going to perform them. If they want me to marry them, then it's going to have to be the traditional, forever kind.

Some people (the people who really don't know me) will think I've completely lost my mind, I can just hear them now. "You'll perform commitment ceremonies for those people, but you won't marry decent folks?"

Nope. That won't be a marriage-- it'll be a tax shelter. Where's the romance in that?

But ah--if you want romance, I can think of all the desperately in love couples I've seen. Men and women who loved with all their bodies and hearts and minds, and wanted nothing more then the same kind of things everyone else wants--someone to live with, to grow old with, someone to share a home with and who'll be there at the end of the day to share the highs and lows with.

They'd been coming to my door for decades.

I remember back when they did so under the cover of darkness, too afraid to be seen walking into my house together, too afraid that someone would see them and scandal (or worse) would erupt. I couldn't blame them; I was in the thick of some of that unpleasantness at times when it did. But the sister of a 6-term former senator, and a woman who controlled a fairly hefty trust fund left to her by her eccentric and very wealthy maternal aunt, could afford a few scandals in her life. And I could afford to have them hushed. Good God, politicians and other people in the public eye have been having their private lives erased from public record for a long time now, things much more insidious and dastardly than a mere homosexual scandal.

Although, to listen to some of the "good people" of this country, you'd think that homosexuals are up there on the Devil's list far beyond mass murders and rapists and pedophiles.

Then again, no one ever accused the average citizen of this country of being too intelligent for his or her own good.

Ah, well, times are different now. I still can't send in a marriage license for these couples; our good state of Virginia doesn't recognize them. Neither do the other forty-eight of the continental United States. Puritans, good God, we had to be founded by Puritans and Calvinists in this country. Why couldn't we have been founded by convicts like Australia was? Oh, yes, well of course Georgia was founded with convicts, but it almost doesn't count because slavery came and the South was just about ruined by its dependency upon such a barbaric practice.

But as I said, times are different now. Thank God. Not enough, but still...my clients come to my front door now in the middle of a sunny day, walking up the brick walk together, standing unafraid at the door.

And this couple, my, my. Both so tall. Why, I bet they're both six feet tall or more. And handsome--both dressed to the nines in expensive suits and starched white shirts and silk ties, shoes polished to a glossy shine.

It's not a cool spring day; the sun is bearing down today in an early warning of the summer that's just around the corner. My flowers out front on the porch and lining the walkways are drooping just that little bit in the relentless early heat, and so, I see, are my clients. Perspiration dots their upper lips and glazes a mild sheen across the brow of the taller, bald-headed one.

"Come in, come in, gentlemen." I step back while they enter the large entryway. "It's cooler in here with the blinds drawn against the afternoon heat and the fans going. No air conditioning yet, it's still too early and I refuse on principle to turn it on before Memorial Day. Too depressing." I shut the inner door and turned to my afternoon couple.

"I'm Eleanor Rainier. And you must be Walter Skinner." I held my hand out to the taller, older gentleman, the one with the wide shoulders, the serious expression and cautious eyes.

His eyes only flickered for a moment before he took my hand gently and shook it. "Yes, ma'am. Thank you for fitting this into your schedule at such short notice."

I laughed. "Love so rarely fits nice and neatly into our lives in any respect, wouldn't you agree? And you're Fox Mulder. Such an unusual name, it must be a family one."

His thick glossy hair was brushed up and back away from an unusual and attractive face. One stubborn lock had fallen forward and curled charmingly over his hazel eyes, so old and so young all at the same time. "I wouldn't know, Reverend Rainier. My mother has always refused to explain it to me."

"Call me Eleanor, please," I curled my hands around the arms of these two men towering over me. "Come back to my kitchen. I was fixing flowers, and I'll make you some nice cold iced tea. You both look like you're melting in those lovely suits. So formal," I chatted as I pulled them down the hall to the big old-fashioned kitchen. "Most of my couples come dressed so casually these days. Not too many get dressed up anymore for a ceremony that only strangers will see."

They both were a little tense as I took them back to the kitchen, but within a few minutes, I'd pattered on about inconsequential things and the younger one began to laugh and chatter back. When that happened, the older one relaxed a bit, too, a slight smile on his face as he watched his love with warm brown eyes. Ah, over forty years and the sight of true love never ceases to warm me straight through to my heart.

There's nothing more powerful on the face of this earth or off than love. Nothing.

I finished arranging the flowers and picked up the full bowl. "Follow me, gentlemen. I've got something I'd like to show you."

We made our way through the downstairs hall to my office, in what used to be the morning parlor. It was a bright, cheery room, painted and decorated in sunny shades and catching the early morning light when it peeked up and through the trees on the east side of the house. Right away, I saw Fox's eyes be drawn to the southern wall, and he walked over and began examining the photographs.

"Are all these--" he stopped, amazed.

"Yes, these are all my couples. Over forty years' worth. Every last one of them."

Walter joined his partner at the wall. "So many..." he shook his head.

"Yes," I said softly. "And many more not here. Some were too afraid to have a picture of them together, lying around where it could be found."

I saw their eyes meet at that, and knew that these men too walked a delicate path, even in these modern times, because of their profession. Despite J. Edgar, some things just didn't change too easily.

"Am I going to be able to add to my photograph collection today, or do we need to skip over that part of the festivities?"

Fox's eyes stayed on his lovers' for a moment before he answered. "No, no, we don't need to skip that part. I just have one request."

"Anything, Fox, what do you need?"

"Can you send us a couple copies, too?" He grinned at me then, a sheer little-boy, charm-the-pants-off-you grin, and I knew that silent, serious Walter had been a goner from the moment he'd first seen that look.

I laughed, shedding most of my 78 years of age with glee, and shook my head. "Walter, you've got your hands full with this one, don't you?" The rueful expression on Walter's face told me I was painfully accurate. "Ah, how he does take me back...but enough of that." I checked the small necklace-watch hanging on a long gold chain. "It's about time. You boys ready?"

They both cleared their throats self-consciously and nodded. I suppressed a smile. "Leave your glasses, I'll get them later. Follow me."

I lead the boys down the middle hall to the back door, taking them to the back yard through the back verandah. The tall oaks towered over the yard, shielding most every large bit of direct sunlight that would otherwise come down to roast us in our skins today. We crunched over the detritus of nature, acorns and leaves and small branches fallen over the past year and not adequately raked up. I always fussed about it, but Bitty scoffed, saying we had no grass growing under the trees, anyway, so the leaves were better than plain old dirt. Bitty usually won.

"Ellie? That you?"

Speak of the devil. "Yes, Bitty, we're on our way." I saw Walter and Fox exchange a clueless look and I smiled serenely at them as I lead the way down the garden path--oh, not *that* kind of garden path. Obviously these two men had walked *that* garden path numerous times already, and I certainly hope they had found it to be one full of beauty and bliss, as it should be.

My garden path was made of stepping stones, winding in and around ages-old bushes and trees, taking us back to a more secluded portion of my property. One that Bitty and I had turned into a show garden. I loved to perform the ceremonies within its scented and colorful bounds.

We stepped out of a green forest into a rainbow. And, into the presence of about nine other people. Immediately, Walter and Fox tensed.

"Right on time!" A small, white-haired woman with faded blue eyes floated over to us. Despite her age, Bitty still floated. Nowadays, I moved slowly, arthritis in my hips and knees holding me back. But even years ago, I never could get the hang of her walk; I always felt like I had the gait of a soldier in combat boots. Bitty always laughed and said that I walked like I knew exactly where I was going, and nobody better get in my way.

Well, that was true, and it always mollified me. But then again, I was easy when it came to Bitty. She always did hold my heart in her small hands.

I sighed, pulled back to the present. Must be getting old to keep letting my mind wander like that. Time to soothe two concerned men. "Walter, Fox, this is Elizabeth Warden, otherwise known as Bitty. She's always my extra witness, and has been my life partner for forty years."

"It would have been over fifty, but Ellie had a hard time with her family, and was too afraid of what they might try to do to me." Bitty gave me a fond look. "Silly goose."

I could see Bitty work her charm on both Walter and Fox, and in thirty seconds flat, had them both laughing and more at ease.

"..and so we try to have a celebration for each couple who doesn't come with their friends or loved ones. All the couples you see are ones Ellie committed at some time."

I had to snort. "You make it sound like I had them put in the State Hospital, Bitty."

She sent me a haughty look. "You know very well what I mean, missy." Her back to me, she dragged on a helpless Walter and Fox. "Come, come, let me introduce you."

I hung back, standing and watching as Bitty introduced the three other male couples and the one other female couple she'd managed to round up on a two-day short notice. All of them were older, retired and beyond. Well, it was a weekday; all my younger couples were working, I suppose. All busy, busy with life's undertakings. I wondered what Walter and Fox thought of this unasked for little surprise--they could see the picnic table set with food and drinks. I wonder if they were terribly embarrassed, or even annoyed.

I looked closely, and was glad to admit I think it was all right. Walter seemed fascinated by Frank and Herbert, both nearly ninety if they were a day. And still as devoted to one another as the day I first met them. I've often wondered myself if there weren't an invisible umbilical attaching one to the other, since I've never seen them farther apart then ten feet or so. Even I couldn't live that close to another human being without wanting to strangle them, I believe. As much as I love Bitty, we do lead our own lives and have traveled occasionally without each other. But each couple must find their own equilibrium in life, not trying to fit a mold or the expectations of others. We're each of us unique, and precious. I try to remind my clients of that fact.

I sigh, rousing myself. Time to get started. It doesn't take me long to get everyone into position; everyone here but Walter and Fox have done this many times before. They all like to be present when love is celebrated in this way, too...and they know how hard it's going to be in our world for them as a couple. This is their way to help them start out surrounded by love and acceptance and warm support.

I've said the words so many times, I need no prompting. To be honest, I've said them so often, I've been getting creative for decades now, adding bits and pieces here and there, small things from books I've read, or quotes from someone, anything to vary each ceremony, and make it more personal for the people involved.

For some reason, I feel that tradition is what's called for today. Something timeless, but invoking all the pomp and the ceremony of the ages. It's easy to see that Walter would appreciate the traditional; he's solid, and level, and obviously conservative in many ways. But Fox, now...even though he's the rebel of the couple, I sense the boy needs stability in his life. And that's what his Walter brings to him. So we'll celebrate with many of the old, traditional words and vows, right down to the double-ring exchange Walter had previously informed me they wanted.

Walter's voice was deep and steady as he repeated the words I had him say. It was as if he were settling down into a chair custom-made for him, and he was sinking into it with a sigh of pure joy. For all his caution and barriers, when he chose to, the walls came down with a vengeance and his love for his partner was a tangible thing to behold. Not a dry eye was left in those watching.

Or in Fox's eyes, either. Walter's mercurial, sensitive and passionate mate was slightly embarrassed at the water gathering in his eyes as he tried to rub it surreptitiously away, but Walter just smiled and grasped his hands, leaning in to rub at the edges of Fox's eyes with his own blunt thumb. Fox's voice shook slightly as he repeated the vows, and when he slid the ring over Walter's large finger, his hand shook noticeably. High-strung, even at his age. That's alright, Walter seemed like he could handle him. It was a good match.

When the sun had faded down below the treeline, we were all sitting around stuffed, tired and happy. After we'd eaten the pot luck luncheon that Bitty had arranged, she brought out her tape recorder, and we'd all danced to swing, jazz, and soulful blues tunes, old recordings that brought our youth back to us. Walter and Fox had enjoyed every moment of it, I do believe, most especially since I overheard them whispering to each other as they tossed off their inhibitions and got up and danced to the slow heat of a slow vocal number.

They'd watched all us older folks cut a rug, too shy at joining in for the longest time. But when Bitty played Patty Cline's Crazy, I saw Fox give Walter a crooked grin, and he stood up and held out his hand. "I think this is our song, Walter," he said. Walter just sighed, shook his head and stood up.

The rest of us did our best to ignore them, not to make them feel like we were avidly watching them (even though we were). At first they were stiff and self-conscious, but soon in the decidedly and increasingly silly atmosphere, they loosened up. Of course, the good champagne that was flowing helped in that respect, but I'd like to think it was our loving and supportive presence that made the crucial difference.

They were nuzzlers. My, my, they loved to touch. Hands everywhere. The suit coats got discarded, the ties removed, and now-limp white shirts were unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up as they danced between the roses and the azaleas in the southern heat and humidity. They looked for all the world like a snapshot out of time, something that F. Scott might have written about. Timeless, peaceful. In love.

That was when I overheard Walter rumble to Fox as they danced nuzzled together, "I want us to be just like Frank and Herbert when we're that old. I never want to lose this feeling. I never want to lose you."

Fox simply shook his head. Clearly, his mate's sentiment had sent him beyond an intelligent reply.

I thought it was the sweetest, most touching thing I'd seen in quite some time. I went over and hugged Bitty, kissing her gently on her papery smooth cheek. "Thank you for arranging this today, sweetheart. It's been lovely."

She pinked up, pleased with my praise. It tickles me that she still gets so pleased at simple praise, which is of course, why I try to remember to give it to her so often. I waved to Jasper, the keeper of the camera today, and had him take our picture while Bitty was still flushed with pleasure. I wanted to capture that look for posterity.

Walter and Fox took their leave of us almost a bit reluctantly, if I do say so myself. I invited them back anytime, and asked if they would mind being invited to participate in ceremony celebrations for other new couples. I think that rather nonplussed them, but then they smiled at one another, and said they'd enjoy that. Good. I like to have the younger couples included also.

Bitty and I waved them down the driveway, standing with our arms around each other's waists, mainly these days for support instead of anything else. But it was so very nice to know that someone was there to lean upon as we need it. I wish that with all of my being for Walter Skinner and Fox Mulder...may they live long and have happy days, being there for one another to lean upon in their golden years. Such a lovely couple, so in love, so responsible and good looking.

I suddenly felt overwhelmed by my good fortune. I love my work. I love my partner. I've lived a good life.

============================================

May 2, 1999

Walter Skinner
432 Wrights Way
Arlington, VA

Dear Walter and Fox,

Here are the photographs you requested from two weeks ago. I apologize for the delay, but Bitty had a fall and broke her wrist. She looks like something from a science fiction movie, with metal rods sticking out of her arm in a framework apparatus the doctors inserted to help her bone heal properly. Gave me quite a scare. I'm sure that will be the last time she'll try and climb that dammed ladder to clean out the rain gutters. It's a wonder she didn't break her neck.

Time goes by so fast, dear boys. Never forget to love each other, no matter what. In the end, it's the only thing that matters.

All our love,

Eleanor (and Bitty)

===========================================

"What's wrong?" Fox closed the door to the garage, already peeling out of his limp suit coat. Summer had truly arrived early and with a vengeance, bypassing spring in a fit of scorching heat.

Walter stood in the kitchen, reading something, his face rivaling one of the thunderclouds that had passed through with monotonous regularity this past week.

"Eleanor sent us the pictures from the ceremony."

"Yeah? Uh....are they that bad?" Fox ventured.

"What?" Walter finally looked up. "Bad? No, no, not at all. They're very good. Do you know what Bitty was doing a week ago? Climbing a ladder to clean out the rain gutters. At her age!"

"Sounds like the Bitty I met. Is she okay?" Fox filled a glass with ice and water from the front of the refrigerator.

"No, she's not okay, the idiot. Broke her wrist badly enough they inserted pins to immobilize her bones while she heals. Which, at her age, will not be an overnight event."

Fox was torn between enjoying watching Walter fume, outraged that someone he cared for was injured, and being concerned himself for the charming sprite of an old woman. "But other than her wrist, she's okay?"

"I suppose." Walter handed over the envelope to Fox, who immediately began sorting through the many shots Eleanor had sent.

"Hey, I think she copied the whole roll, Walter, yeah, there's 36 prints here." Fox smiled. "God, we looked like loopy, besotted idiots."

That had Walter leaning over Fox's shoulder to eye the picture in question. "We *were* loopy, besotted idiots." He planted a kiss on Fox's cheek, and stood up to pace around the kitchen. "This weekend we're going down to Eleanor and Bitty's house and clean out those damned gutters ourselves."

Fox lowered the pictures and blinked at his mate. "Walter, Eleanor has enough money to buy her own landscaping company. I'm sure she can afford to pay to have them cleaned out."

"That may be, but I bet you she won't do it, and they'll sit there and back up with all these hot weather thunderstorms."

"Ah, ah, ah--you just want to go down and see for yourself they're all right, admit it, my macho Marine." Mulder grinned and swigged his beer.

"Yeah. Yeah, I do. What's wrong with that?"

Mulder smirked at Walter's predictable belligerence, then he frowned. "Hey, what are you doing home so early? You're almost never home before me."

Now Walter looked sheepish. "Missedyou."

"What?"

"I missed you. You've been gone for five days on a case, get back late last night and we hardly had time to say hi this morning. I missed you and thought we could spend a quiet evening in."

A light gleamed on in Mulder's eyes. "A quiet evening in, huh? In...where?"

Walter growled. "Bed, you idiot, of course. And you've got sixty seconds to get upstairs and get undressed and in the shower."

"Oh, kinky, Walter, I love it when you get all kinky on me."

"Fifty seconds and counting down."

"I'm going, I'm going!" Fox complained, but left the kitchen fast enough, taking his beer bottle with him.

Walter heard his muffled footsteps as he ran up the stairs, and smiled as he thought of Fox speeding to shuck his clothes and be ready in the shower for Walter's arrival. Idly, he picked up the stack of pictures scattered all over the kitchen table where Fox had spilled them. This one, he decided, picking out his favorite shot, not from the ceremony itself, but of them when they were dancing afterward. Surrounded by old couples, they stood out by their height and their comparative youth. But in one other respect, they fit right in.

Love. Every person there obviously loved the person they were with, and none more so than Walter and Fox. It was a fitting way to memorialize their commitment ceremony, Walter thought. He'd have it blown up and framed, give it to Fox on his birthday.

Locking up, he took his time following Fox up the carpeted stairs. Maybe Eleanor would have a ceremony coming up soon. It would be nice to dance out under the trees once again.

=the end=

-- --
rac <crickard@interpath.com
Highlander NetCafe @ <http://enook.net/hl/rac/rac.htm>
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