Title: Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 5
Authors: Erynn & Sally
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
"Love is to be reinvented, that is clear... I see women, with signs of happiness, whom I could have made close comrades, devoured first by brutes as sensitive as a log of wood..."
~~Rimbaud -- "A Season in Hell"~~
SARI THOMAS' RESIDENCE
She's there just as I hit the floor, and she kneels beside me and looks me in the eyes, apparently doing a damage assessment. Sari puts a hand on my forehead. I think she's checking for fever. I suppose that makes sense. "John, are you hypoglycemic or diabetic?" She helps me get up and over a few steps to the couch, where she settles me in and instructs me to put my head between my knees. I do, and then try to answer her.
"No," but all I can manage is a whisper.
"Any history of low blood pressure, blackouts or neurological problems?" She's checking my pulse.
I shake my head no, trying to control the way my brain is spinning.
"You know, you look like you've been recovering from the flu or something. You look a lot more pale than I would guess is your normal color. Are you sick?"
"No... just... not been feeling well lately."
"When was the last time you ate?"
I try to remember, and find that I can't. My mind's too foggy. "Not sure..." I mumble. She's rubbing my shoulders and back with sure, strong hands, and it's helping a little.
"Well, that would certainly explain things. You wait here and don't move. I'll be right back."
I'm not in any shape to move, even if I wanted to, so I stay where I am, letting the fuzzy greyness fade a little with my head still between my knees. I hear noise in the kitchen. She comes back a moment later, helps me to sit back against the couch, and helps me hold a large mug of something. I look at it. It's white. I sniff, and there's a slight scent of cardamon and rose. "What's this?"
"Sweet lassi. It's a yogurt thing. It'll give you a fast shot of protein and some honey to help stabilize your blood sugar until I can get some real food in you. Sip it slowly, but you have to drink all of it."
My hands are shaking hard, and it's a good thing she's got hold of it too, otherwise it would be all over me and the couch by now. But the first sip is cool and tastes good. I take another, then a few more. God, I hadn't realized how hungry I've been. I manage to finish it with her help, and she waits until my hands stop shaking before she speaks again. "Well, it looks like you're getting a little color back. Are you still dizzy?" Her voice is kind and concerned.
"A little, but it's getting better."
"You say you haven't been feeling well. I don't mean to pry, but... what's wrong? I mean, I really don't think you should be working yet if you're passing out on me here." It doesn't sound angry, or like a warning. Instead, it sounds like she really cares about what's happening. I don't know why. It's not like we know each other.
"I... I lost someone recently..." I have no idea why I said that. It just came out.
"I'm sorry, John. That can be so hard." She takes my hand and gives it a squeeze. "Do you want to talk about it?"
I've barely been able to talk to Mel and Ringo about it. Why do I feel like talking to her would feel good? I should say something, at least. "Someone was... someone was trying to kill me and my friends, and a woman I thought for a long time that I loved. After the danger was over, she left me. I haven't... I'm just not coping with it very well." I look up at her. She looks shocked, but regains her composure quickly.
"Would it be all right if I gave you a hug? You look like you really need one right now."
I nod, numb. She's right. I do need one. I have since Susanne left, and there's been no one I could turn to. Mel's tried to take care of me, but he was badly injured, and Langly's been in such terrible shape that my own problems were insignificant by comparison. We've tried to do what we could for each other, but it's been hard for all of us. Sari sits a little closer and puts her arms around me. It takes a few moments, but I do begin to relax, and eventually I rest my head on her shoulder with my arms around her waist. She's completely accepting, and I feel no threat from her; no ulterior motives or intent, just the offer of some much needed human comfort. I get the feeling she'd do this for anyone who needed it. I want to tell her more, to spill all of it, to let go of what's been tormenting me all this time, but she doesn't know what we do, and I'd have to explain everything if I said more. The guys wouldn't like that much. A few minutes later, she moves, and I sink back into the couch.
"Thank you." I can't think of anything else to say, and I'm not sure she'd want me to anyway.
"It's okay," she says. "I hope it helped a little."
I nod again. "Yes, very much." More than she would understand, and more than I realized.
"You stay there for a minute. I'll get some food on the table and we'll have lunch. You should feel better once you get something decent into your stomach." It isn't until she says this that I realize there's a wonderful scent coming from the kitchen. It's warm and savory, but I can't quite identify it. A few minutes later she returns and says "Can you stand up by yourself?"
My head is feeling considerably better, and while I'm a little light headed still, I'm not longer dizzy. "I think so." She's close to my elbow just in case, and I stand carefully. "Yeah, I think I'm all right now."
She smiles. "Okay. Come on into the dining room and have a seat."
I follow her into the next room, and she offers me a seat at a small dining table. Two places are set on opposite sides of the table with large bowls of a creamy white soup, chunks of hot rosemary bread, and cups of tea. Between them is a plate with a wedge of ripe brie, crackers, fresh slices of apple and pear, and a few small bunches of red seedless grapes. It looks better than anything I've seen in weeks. My stomach is rumbling.
"It's just leftovers from last night, but potato leek soup does tend to taste better the next day," she says apologetically.
"I don't mind. You don't have to feed me lunch," I tell her.
She snorts. "Yeah, you just about pass out on me because you haven't eaten, and I don't have to feed you lunch. Right. Sorry John, it doesn't work that way in my house." She waves her spoon at my bowl. "Now mangia, boy, mangia. No eat, no work."
I sip a spoonful of soup. It's hot and savory and delicious, and I feel like Goldilocks with the perfect bowl of porridge. I manage to eat quite a bit more of what's in front of me than I thought I'd be able to, and even the tea has a full, round flavor to it. "What kind of tea is this?" I've never tasted anything quite like it before.
"It's a Cameronian Highland tea from the Himalayas. Great stuff," she replies. As she reaches out for another slice of pear, her loose silk sleeve slides back to her elbow, and I see something that makes my blood cold. There's a livid bruise on her arm, shaped like fingers. It looks very recent.
"Sari... what happened to you?" I can't imagine why anyone would want to hurt this kind and delicate woman. She looks like she would snap in half if someone hit her.
She looks up at me, blushing, then rivets her eyes into her soup bowl. "It's my ex," she says quietly. "We got divorced a couple of years ago, and I have a restraining order out on him, but he keeps coming back for me anyway. I call the cops, and he gets picked up, and when he gets out again, he keeps finding me. I've moved three times in the past two years because of him." She sounds frustrated, frightened, and angry.
"Did he find you here?"
She shakes her head. "No, he was waiting for me down the block from the Bean after the reading yesterday." She takes a deep. shaky breath and says "I don't think he knows where I live yet, but right now I'm afraid to go out. I don't want to move again. I like this place. It's a decent neighborhood."
That would explain the extra locks on her door, and the wary way she greeted me when she opened it. I find myself very angry about the assault on her. Her door mat suddenly takes on a chilling sense of gallows humor. I can do something about this, and I will. "What's your ex's name?"
"His name? Barry Guertzen. Why?"
"I think my friends and I can keep him away from you."
"But... I don't understand. How could anyone help me with this? The police don't keep him long enough to do any good, and I can't afford a bodyguard."
"You don't need to." The guys and I can find this asshole and make sure he's put away for a very long time. And right now, that would make me feel very, very good.
"How can you do something the cops can't?" She looks confused.
"I'm not sure I can really explain. Just let me assure you that within a few days, you won't need to worry about him bothering you again."
She gives me a very strange look. "Hey, you're not going to do anything to hurt him, are you?"
At first I don't quite understand why she'd care, but then I think about Timothy Landau, and things become a little more clear. "No. Nothing like that, I assure you. But my roommates and I have some... useful talents, and I'm sure we can convince the authorities that he's been up to some federal felonies that will put him away for the rest of his life. He won't be able to bother you again."
She has a very peculiar look on her face. "I... but... why? Why would you do something like that for me? It sounds kind of... questionable. You don't even know me."
"I know you enough to know that I don't want to see anyone hurt you."
"No buts. Please, just let me take care of this. You won't have to move again, I promise. I can get my friends over here within the hour, and we can get some decent security into this place for you so that you don't need to
worry while we're taking care of your ex."
"John, I can't afford anything like that. Security systems are so expensive."
I look into her grey eyes, and they're filling with tears. "Who said anything about money? I'll be getting enough from this job the Sierra Club is paying for to cover any expenses. I don't want anything from you."
She breaks down in tears, burying her face in her arms on the table. It's my turn to offer her some comfort. I get up and walk around the table, then kneel down next to her and hold her while she cries. "Everything will be all right, Sari. We'll take care of you. This guy won't ever get a chance to touch you again."
"But... why?" Her voice shakes, and she sniffles. I hand her the napkin from next to her bowl, and she blows her nose and wipes her eyes.
"Because you've been kind to me in a way that no one else ever has."
She looks at me. "But, John... I would do that for anyone."
"I know," I reply quietly, "that's what makes it all the more rare and special. No one in my life has ever treated me that way before."
"No one?" she whispers.
I shake my head. I live in a world where there is no kindness for strangers, and very little for friends, but only suspicion and hidden games of power and manipulation. The guys, Mulder, and Scully are the only exceptions I know, and even they generally reserve their kindness for our small group alone. Susanne was steeped in that cold and dangerous world long before I entered it, and she never showed any signs of the kind of compassion that Sari takes for granted as due to anyone simply by virtue of existing. This tiny handful of nervous, paranoid people are all I have left in the world.
"You must have a lot of sorrow and loneliness in your life, John" she says.
I can't look at her. "Yes," I tell her, my own voice barely a whisper. It's the only truth I have.
end part 5