Title: Things Undone 3: To Carry On
Author: Erynn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Category: Gunmen Angst
Summary: The Gunmen deal with the aftermath of the events in Things Undone.
PREVIOUS STORIES IN THIS SERIES: Things Undone (a 5 part story), Things Undone 2: Mending the Tears, by Sally H, Gunmen Soccer Mom & Getaway Driver, where we observe Frohike and Langly's adventures in a Pennsylvania emergency room. This story takes place a week or so after they get home.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never were, never will be. They belong to the Evil Corporate Minions of Fox, to Chris the Surfer God, 1013, and the Ancient Immortals, Morgan and Wong. They just like to come to my brain and hang out. Oh Great Carter, hear my prayer. Bring us the LGM series, and may it last many a fine season. Surf On Forever, OM OM OM.
Archive: LGM list, FLO list, Gossamer, Ephemeral, Spooky. Others, please just let me know if you're archiving it so I know where my children have gone.
Author's Comments: This piece was written thanks to Kate and the Clones, who wanted to know what happened next.
LONE GUNMEN HQ
somewhere near DC
Langly was still in bed. His bones ached, and he was still having some pain with his breathing, but things were getting better. He hoped he would be up and walking around a bit more normally in the next few days. The broken arm was beginning to annoy him, itching under the cast. He was taking less pain medication now, and his mind was clearing from the fog it had been in for most of the previous week. Blood and Landau's blurry face still haunted his nights, but Byers and Frohike were always nearby, with a comforting word or a careful touch to bring him back from the dark. One or the other would sit with him and keep him company, sometimes almost until dawn when he was under the influence of the nightmare-inducing pain medications. He had always valued their company after Baltimore, when the world had changed. Now he appreciated them even more. They had come for him when he'd been near dying, held prisoner in an abandoned foundry in York, Pennsylvania. He hadn't been sure then that they would make it before Timothy Landau, the deranged ex-CIA operative, killed him, but his friends had ultimately come through. It felt good to have such friends, men he could honestly trust with his life in a time and place where nothing else was trustworthy. In truth, they were all the family any of them had these days -- each other, and Mulder and Scully. He didn't think either of his companions had left the office since they'd returned, except for a couple of brief ventures out to keep the place stocked with enough food to keep them together. Timmy's death had so far not been a release for them, but had served as something of a temporary impetus for an increase in their paranoia. And Byers had been in much worse shape than usual since that night. Frohike had told him about Susanne's departure, and Byers' role in Landau's demise. His memories of that night were rather fuzzy. While John did his best to help take care of Langly, he had retreated into himself, barely speaking unless it was necessary. Langly wished he had the energy to do something for his friend, but it seemed that for the moment, Frohike was going to have to cope with two barely-functional comrades, despite the injuries he'd also sustained during their rescue. The ER doctors had insisted that the older man wear a sling to keep him from pulling the stitches in his back for at least the next two weeks. More if the pain continued.
In the office, Byers lay on the red couch, curled up and trying to read the print out of a file he'd found earlier that day, showing good evidence for a coverup of information regarding links between Pinck Pharmaceutical's genetic experiments on plants and a serious rise in human and animal birth defects in the midwest near their test fields. It would make a good basis for a strong article in the next issue, largely composed of stories about the dangers genetically engineered foods. He could usually count on such reading to interest, or at least anger him, but he had been unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time recently. With a restless sigh, he tossed the papers on the floor and got to his feet, ignoring the pages as they splayed in an unkempt scattering around him.
"Any progress there?" Frohike asked.
Byers shook his head. "I can't focus. All it's doing is making me frustrated. I keep reading the same sentence over and over because I forget what it said."
"Been there," Frohike said. "It sucks."
"Yeah." Byers pointed toward the kitchen. "Want some coffee or something? I was just going in to start some tea water."
"Sounds good. Should probably bring some to Langly too. I heard him moving around a minute ago. He's probably awake again."
Byers nodded and retreated to the kitchen in silence. Frohike followed him. "You've got to let go of her, you know."
Byers sighed, filling his tea kettle with water and setting up the coffee machine. After a moment, he looked around at Frohike. "I'm trying, Mel, but it's hard," he said quietly. "I don't know how, really. I just feel... I don't know. But that's not the thing that's bothering me most right now anyway."
"Because he wanted to kill you? He wanted all of us, you know."
Byers shivered but shook his head. "No, not that. Well, not exactly that... ok, yes that, but I knew he wanted me dead going into it. What bothers me more is that I.. I killed him." He closed his eyes, hardly whispering those final words. He'd never killed anything in his life. Except mosquitoes, of course, but that hardly seemed to count. Even as a child, he hadn't been particularly inclined to such casual boyhood cruelties as pulling the wings off flies or kicking cats.
Frohike gave him the hairy eyeball. "Come on, buddy. That was an accident. And what the hell were we
supposed to do, anyway? It wasn't like we could just grab Ringo, tell Timmy 'sorry, gotta go,' and leave him to
follow us out and keep trying to kill us."
"Accident or not, justified or not, he's dead because of something I did."
"Yeah, and he was shooting at you and Susanne at the time, as you may recall. He tortured Langly. He had every intent to kill you and the rest of us. It's not like this wasn't a legitimate case of self-defense."
"That doesn't matter." The heating tea water began to make its distinct pre-boil sounds as the coffee maker dripped away. Byers concentrated his vision on the dripping brown liquid. "All that matters is that I killed him."
"You saved everyone else's lives, John. If you hadn't accidentally triggered the crane's release, we'd all be dead now." Frohike reached out and put a hand on Byers' arm. "You have to accept that there was a good side to this. It's not like you're a murderer. You didn't shoot him in cold blood. You didn't walk up behind him and stab him with a knife."
"No, I just dropped a crane on him. I'm sure that's a much more pleasant way to die. And I almost killed both of you in the process." Byers ran a finger carefully down Frohike's back, where the shrapnel had struck him.
"This happened because of me. Every time I see you, I remember that."
"Well, every time you look at Langly, remember that he's alive because of you. That's a direct result of the same act."
Byers silently considered the statement for a while. "That's true," he finally admitted. "We did save him. But that doesn't really make it any better."
The whistle of the tea kettle began to sound, and Byers poured water into his tea mug. It was a plain, conservative blue. Frohike poured two cups of coffee and they walked through the office and down the hall into Langly's room.
"Maybe now it doesn't, " Frohike offered, "but I think in the long run it will make a big difference to you."
Langly looked up as they entered. He smiled at the sight of his coffee mug. "Damn, Doohickey, you're reading my mind." Frohike scowled and then chuckled, handing the mug to his blonde companion. The two sat, Frohike on the only chair in the room, and Byers on the edge of Langly's bed facing them both.
"I'm having a hard time thinking about tomorrow, much less some potential distant future when I might feel better about this," Byers continued. He looked over at Langly, who smiled over his mug. Actually, seeing him there, damaged but still with them, did make a difference.
"You ok, John?" Langly asked.
"Not really. But there's nothing I can do about any of it. I can't bring Susanne back. I can't change what happened at the foundry."
Langly sipped his coffee. "I know , man. I'm sorry. Believe me, if I'd had any options, I wouldn't have been there in the first place."
"It's not your fault, Ringo. It's nobody's fault but mine."
Frohike and Langly looked at each other. "Bullshit," they chorused.
"There's no fault here," Langly continued. "Our only fault was not finding something better to do with Timmy than chill his ass in prison when we nailed him in Vegas the first time. And honest, that was a killer idea at the time. Nobody had any idea how long that AH crap would last. For all Mata Hari could tell us, it could have been permanent. Peace out, man."
"Don't go there," Byers warned, closing himself off from them again, staring off at a corner of the floor, barely visible under Langly's dirty laundry. The pain of Susanne's abandoning him was all too fresh in his mind.
"You guys never liked her anyway."
"We never trusted her," Langly said. "There's a difference."
Frohike nodded. "Sure, she was hot, but we were always afraid that if she turned up again, you'd get hurt. Neither of us wanted to see that happen."
"And we did what we could after that you know," Langly offered. "We helped you set her up in that safe house, got people to rig the place for total surveillance, kept an eye on her. Don't think it didn't matter to us."
"Don't think you don't matter to us," Frohike added.
"Yeah, like, you saved my life man." Langly reached out and wrapped his hand around Byers' wrist, forcing the bearded man to look at him. "There's no way I can repay you for that."
Byers cautiously looked into Langly's eyes, seeing deep sincerity there. He twisted his wrist slightly, taking Langly's hand. "I would do it again," he conceded, "all of it, as long as you would be all right."
Langly smiled his trademark crooked smile.
Byers continued looking into his friend's sharply angled face, breathing just a little easier at the expression there. Yes, he thought, he would do it again. All of it. He'd let the crane fall; he'd even let Susanne leave, as long as Mel and Ringo were here with him, safe and alive.