Title: Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 3
Authors: Erynn & Sally
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Archive: Ephemeral, Gossamer, LGM, FLO, all others ask first so we know where we're being kept.
Rated: R for grownup stuff
Spoilers: We assume you've seen the series
Category: Gunmen -- angst, humor, a little romance
Summary: Sometimes words are more important in our lives than we think.
Stories in the Things Undone series:
Things Undone, by Erynn; a 5-part story wherein the Gunmen deal with some unfinished business.
TU 2: Mending the Tears, by Sally; a 6-part story wherein Fro and Langly go to the ER.
TU 3: To Carry On, by Erynn; wherein the Gunmen begin to deal with the repercussions of their adventure.
Disclaimers: We don't own the boys, but we sure wish we did. They and the other characters from the series are owned instead by The Powers That Be at Fox and 1013, the boys were created by Morgan & Wong, and they're all controlled by the folks at The X Files and The Lone Gunmen series. Other characters are ours, some of whom are blatantly based on people we know, frequently at their request. Don't blame us, we're being coerced. Quotes from Rimbaud are used without permission. Deepest thanks to Mel, our Tech Consultant Queen and resident cartoonist.
"I have been patient so long
That I have no memory left.
And an unhealthy thirst
Darkens my veins."
~~Rimbaud --"A Season in Hell"~~
SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000
Oh God. My head. I've been accused of not being able to fit it through a door, but this time, I think it actually has expanded to those dimensions. Ben Franklin once said that beer was God's way of showing that he loves us and wants us to be happy. He didn't say anything about what happens when you lose track after your eighth longneck. I need some Tylenol. About a bottle of them. We have them -- we have to. Byers buys 'em in tubs of 500 at Costco. He wouldn't let us run out. Way he's been lately though, we could all starve and drown in our own filth and he wouldn't even notice. I'll kill him if there's no Tylenol. God, only 500 miles or so to the kitchen. I notice when I stand up that my sweats are on inside out. Funny, I didn't notice that last night. It's a long, slow, painful trek. I don't smell coffee. I kept praying Frohike got up first and made some, but it doesn't appear to have happened. Old bastard was doing J&B all night. Probably even drunker than I was, if that's possible.
The place is quiet. The throbbing in my temples appreciates this. I think I'm still hallucinating when I see Byers at the kitchen table, dressed and sipping tea, reading the paper. I mean, before York, he used to be like this all the time, but the last month and a half, you don't see him before noon usually, and he looks like shit. Even as bleary-eyed as I am, I can tell he shaved. "Good morning," he says.
"How can you be so fucking cheerful at this hour?" I snarl at him.
He looks at me for a minute. "I'm not sure cheerful is the word I'd choose, but I do have a job."
"That's nice." I don't feel like hearing about it. I don't feel like hearing anything, for that matter. Just give me my fucking pain killers and let me die, thank you.
"For money," he adds.
"Money's nice." Unfortunately, I wasn't drunk enough to forget that I'd lost 200 bucks last night. Money is a real nice concept, especially when you don't have any. Where the fuck are the goddamn Tylenols?
"Oh man, I dreamed I died and went to hell." Frohike comes up behind me, smelling like a dead, alcoholic cat. "No, wait -- I'm there. You two are still here."
"Fuck you, Doohickey."
"Shut up, punkass." Frohike turns to Byers. "So? What'd you do yesterday?"
"I had a very enjoyable day, thank you. And I got a job."
"Are their checks good?" Frohike grumbles. He's pointing out that some people who've hired us have had the nerve to write us bogus checks. They never do it a second time. We exact righteous revenge.
"I believe so. I seem to remember the Sierra Club being well-funded." He smiles that almost-smile of his. I hate him. How can he be happy at this hour? Easy. His brain's not soaked in hops and ethanol.
"Sierra Club? Stylin'. You did have a good day, buddy." Frohike shakes his head. "Glad to see you got out. Otherwise, Mulder and Langly and I were going to forcibly toss you into the van tonight, tie you down, and drag you off to the Candy Apple." You can see Byers shudder. Candy Apple's where we go to see the strip shows. It's every cliche you've ever heard about strip bars, only worse. Byers hates the place. Okay, it's pretty damn cheesy, but like Frohike says, there are no ugly women after 2 a.m. Hey, it's cheap entertainment. Like we got money after last night or something. Stupid me bets on UVA because it's my fucking alma mater. Well, that and their sterling record so far this season. Upset game like nobody could've anticipated.
Frohike and me try sifting through the cupboards. Bupkes. Byers gives us a smirk. "Tylenols are in the office, guys." I could kill him.
It actually does my heart good to see the guys in such miserable shape, especially after they've threatened me with the Candy Apple. They dragged me in there once, under protest I might add, and it was a terrible mistake. I had to toss the suit I was wearing that night, because the odor of stale smoke wouldn't come out, no matter what I or my dry cleaner did. I find the whole concept of strip clubs degrading, and the fact that the suit had cost me more than $300 didn't make it any easier to swallow. I've sworn never to set foot in the place again, and they know it.
But Margaret Atwood's talk last night was excellent, and the showing of the restored 'Joan of Arc' was spectacular, as was Einhorn's unearthly sound track. The medieval chant and instrumentation, along with the more modern classical work, was the perfect accompaniment for the luminous cinematography. The film itself, long thought destroyed by fire, miraculously turned up in a broom closet at an insane asylum in Oslo, of all places. I'm continually amazed at how lost classics keep turning up in the strangest places. I start to wonder if that's a conspiracy too, but stop myself before I get too far into my paranoia. Mel would probably want me to do a front page feature on it.
Ms. Thomas called last night and said that Phoebe at FPS, apparently an old friend of hers, had said that Aegis was timely and reliable, with highly skilled personnel. I was pleased but not surprised. She also told me that she'd gotten an okay for partial funding for my work, considering that a great deal of what she'd lost was in fact work-related, and she was on a tight deadline for it. She gave me directions to her place, and told me to be there "around elevenish," but I like to get in a few minutes early. It's not an issue for me, and usually impresses the clients.
I chuckle a little at the continuing, albeit pained and sotto voce, squabble between my co-conspirators as they struggle over the Tylenol. Yesterday, I don't think I would even have noticed. I'm still a mess, and I have no appetite to speak of, but Frohike was right. Getting out of the office actually did do me some good. It didn't help with the nightmares though. Nor did a few of Ms. Thomas' poems. While much of her work was captivating,
restful, and even beautiful, with a touch of both the lyric and the Surrealist in it, some of her imagery was in itself very nightmarish and disturbing; deeply effective and all too real. It was not the sort of thing I should have been reading before bed. I find myself idly wondering if those poems are reflective of her own dream life, or if they're simply the product of a superlative imagination. For her sake, I hope it's the latter. No one should be burdened with such dreams.
I remember last night's dreams, and I shudder. As one of her poems pointed out forcefully, nightmares are also part of the nature of dreams. And I can't shut them out. I see them even when I'm awake, and am powerless against them. They are terrifying and vivid and leave me with a hollow ache in my chest. I remember the first time I made love with Susanne, and the last. Three nights. Three nights out of eleven years. Frohike was right about that too, as he has been so often; it is killing me. Eleven years of hope and longing and desperate desire, then three nights with the woman who was at the root of them. And now, almost two months after she turned her back on me, walked away in the middle of the night without even saying goodbye, I'm still caught in this web of mangled emotions.
Margaret Atwood spoke a great truth when she read from 'The Handmaid's Tale' last night. "Nobody dies from lack of sex. It's lack of love we die from." I should know. I'm not sure the genuine article has ever touched my life. The more I look at it, the more I realize that Susanne and I may have said and even believed we loved each other, but all we ever really had, in the end, was a mutual experience of fear and desire; eleven years of longing for something that didn't, couldn't exist. Eleven year of loneliness and empty words. I'm starting to realize that there isn't a Susanne-shaped hole in my life, but just a deep, dark pit without any shape to it at all. I've got no idea what belongs there anymore. I've been dreaming about the desert again; myself, alone, in the vast dry waste of what should have been my life.
I take another sip of my tea and try to focus on an article about the Balkans, but it's not helping. It's probably time for me to get going anyway. Wouldn't want to be late to work.
Frohike stops me in the hallway. "Where're you going?"
"I'm taking a shower!" Jesus, give me a hard time for everything.
"Hey, age before ugly," he chides me.
"Well, in that case, you're two for two!" The volume of my own voice hurts.
"Listen, asshole, I'd have no problem if you'd leave me some hot water once in a while!"
"Well like I'm sorry, I gotta wash my hair. Something you wouldn't know anything about." I'm about to wrestle him for my rightful place in the shower when I hear one of the computers. It's playing 'Fur Elise.' Oh man, it's her, it's her! I set the email to play that when she wrote me! Oh yeah!
Ah, peace, quiet and hot water. And Deborah e-mailed Langly. It doesn't get better than this. In all this commotion, one thing I haven't done, and have been meaning to do, is to thank Mel Scarlett somehow for all she did for us during our stay at the Penn State Med Center. But what? Lose one aggravation, get another.
Oh God, yes, it's from her! I open it up, post haste.
"Ringo -- sorry to be so long to answer. Really insane here. Do you have chat?" Oh man, do I have chat! Anyway you want it, baby. Preferably face to face and body to body, but I'll settle for the electronic boards right now. She's on AOHell, so she's got AIM already installed. I message her telling her I'm ready. Oh God, am I ready.
"Ringo, I miss you."
My knees are weak. I don't think it's the hangover. "Miss you too."
"What're you up to, boy?"
"Not much, same old, same old. You?"
"Same old same old. Drunks, gunshot wounds, stabbings, just a normal day at the office."
"Sounds like fun."
"Oh yeah. Real fun. And I've been working some extra shifts."
"Well, what I'm trying to do is work it out so that I can get four or five days off in a row. So I'm trading with people in order to pick up some time."
"So when's the last time you slept?"
"Two days ago, LOL!"
"I'm not sleeping real good myself."
"Oh... you know. Stuff." Maybe I ought to tell her about the nightmares and stuff, but I don't wanna bum her out. Besides, it's getting better. I think. Even Frohike and Byers, they don't really know. If I can't sleep, I just get up and play Demon Space Drifter or something equally brainless.
"It'll get better."
"Yeah." I'm so eloquent, aren't I?
"Ringo, I have to ask you something, and I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but how did you ever get my AOL email address?"
Uh... uh... "You gave it to me?"
"No, I never had a chance. I could understand if you got my work email -- that's on the Penn directory -- but how could you get my private one?"
"Wasn't hard. You did say something about Thespis being your addy."
"Oh. It just sort of... I just wonder how much my privacy is being invaded. Makes me a little paranoid."
Oops. "No matter how paranoid you are, you aren't paranoid enough." To use a cliche.
"So how did you get it?"
Truth or dare here? Time for a little artful dodging. "You know, if you're real worried and all, I can set you up on a secure server, private and all, you'd never have to worry about anyone hacking your account."
"That'd be great. But how?"
"I could do it from here, right now, if you'd like."
"No problem. Don't go away, just give me five minutes."
She's now on a secure server. Ours. I have a direct connect to her. "Wow, that's amazing," she types back. "Are you sure you're a journalist?"
"Well, yeah, I am."
"I don't think that's all you are, boy."
"Really like it if you could come down here." Let's face it, what we do, it's hard to explain in a screen chat.
"I'd like that too :)"
"So when you think you'll get enough time off?"
"Well, if I keep this up, I think maybe next month. I hear DC's beautiful in April."
April? Oh man, that's half a friggin eternity away! You mean I'm gonna have to live on words till then? God, I miss her so much. "Sure you can't do it sooner?"
"I want to. But I have quarterly exams in two weeks, and I need to trade some more favors." Damn. "I might be kind of quiet during exams. It's intense," she continues.
My guts are sinking. "You know, I can make it so you can access me from any computer on this server," I tell her. I mean, I can make it so any of the computers in her hospital, she can log in secure. That way, even if she can only type hi, at least it's a word. A word from her.
"Oh, can you? I'd like that."
"That'll take me a little more time." Sorry, a whole system's not a five-minute fix.
"How long? I go back on shift at seven tonight."
"I could do it by then."
"You're sure you're just a journalist, Ringo?"
"Hey, words are my stock in trade." And right now, it's all we got. Might as well get as many of them as I can from her.
I really need to thank Mel Scarlett and crew. It's needling at me. My mother always made me write thank-you notes for everything. It's stuck with me. When I don't do it, I feel weird. She used to tell me, it's not what you say that counts, just that you say it. I'm afraid in this case it's not so simple, though. I've thought about sending her flowers, but not to include a card would just be wrong. And I have no idea what to put on the card. Words, words, words. Such power in something so ephemeral. Including the power to make us crazy. Which, I think, is what's happening with Hairboy right now. Move over and make room, Langly.
end chapter 3