Title: Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 7
Authors: Erynn & Sally
Email: inisglas@seanet.com, sallyh@flashcom.net
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.


"Often at night, drunk, he lay in wait in the streets or in houses, to
frighten me to death."

~~Rimbaud -- A Season in Hell~~



While Byers is in working on the computer that his current damsel in
distress has hired him to fix, I'm in the hallway outside said damsel's
door, working on installing a covert surveillance camera. Ms. Thomas is
helping me, holding things and handing them up the ladder to me as I ask for
them. We've been talking for a while, and I'm beginning to see what Byers
probably likes about her, beyond the fact that she's tasty, and a skilled
chef. This woman has a brain, too, and she's not afraid to use it. I've
always thought that smart was sexy, and she's definitely smart. So far,
we've discussed cooking, Sanskrit etymology, anarchist political theory, and
genetically engineered crops. She definitely has her ear to the ground,
because she doesn't miss a trick in any of those fields, and she's way ahead
of me in linguistics theory. And she gave me the recipe for her potato leek
soup, which I'm going to use later this week. Apparently Byers ate most of a
bowl of the stuff, along with bread, cheese and fruit. That's better than
I've gotten from him in nearly two months.

"May I ask you something?" she asks me, slightly hesitant.

"You can always ask," I tell her. "I may not answer."

"Fair enough, I suppose. It's about your friend John." I guess I should have
expected that. Maybe she has it for him, too. "He nearly passed out on me
before I fed him lunch today. He was in a very bad way for a while. When I
asked him if he'd been ill recently, he said that he'd lost someone close to
him, and that someone had tried to kill him. He didn't say much, and I guess
I'm trying to sort all of that out in my head. I don't mean to pry, but John
seems like such a nice person, I can't imagine how something like that could
have happened to him. Perhaps you could help me understand?"

Her words worry me, particularly the part about Byers nearly passing out. I
ask for a screwdriver and she hands me up one. She would ask the tough
questions. I ponder for a few minutes before I answer, and she waits
patiently for me to speak. I'm not sure how much I should say. For Byers to
even admit that anything had happened was nothing short of miraculous, much
less giving her those details. "What he said was true. It's all pretty
complicated, and I'd rather not go into detail about most of it. What
exactly did he tell you?"

"Something about being threatened, and a woman that he'd been in love with
for a very long time leaving him once the danger was over. He told me that
he didn't think he'd ever really loved her, but I saw the look on his face,
and I'm not buying it. I think he's trying to rationalize it away so that
her loss doesn't feel quite so painful, so that maybe he doesn't feel like
he's wasted all that time loving her only to have her leave." She looks up
at me, and I hand her the screwdriver back.

"That's all for this part of the installation," I say, climbing down the
ladder. "Now we need to put scramblers on your phones." She nods, and I
continue quietly. "You're right about him trying to rationalize the whole
thing. But it's more complicated than that, really." She collects the ladder
while I pick up the toolbox, and we go inside and close the door. "You see,
Byers only saw this woman three times in all those years. Pretty pitiful,
really. She was working on covert projects most of that time, and was kept
in very secure locations. We couldn't find her after she disappeared the
first time. When we saw her again, she had to change her identity to stay
safe. She asked Byers to go with her then, but he felt she would be safer if
she went alone. Then came the threats, and he went to get her to make sure
she was safe. He even asked her to marry him after it was over, but in the
end, she decided that her safety was more important to her than his, or than
whatever she might have felt for him." No names, dates, or locations. It
should be safe enough to tell her that much.

"That's all very mysterious. Sounds quite cloak and dagger, really. But I
think I see why he would say what he did, under those circumstances. It must
have been very hard on him. It sounds like it was very hard on this woman he
loves, too." I just nod. I'm not going off on a rant about Mata Hari right
now, much as I might want to. Ms. Thomas's responses have been fairly
analytical, and I'm wondering if maybe I was reading a little more into her
interest in Byers than I should have. I mean, she seems genuinely concerned,
but what she's said doesn't sound like she actually has the hots for him.
She leans the ladder against her couch and points to the phone in her living
room. "I guess we can start with this one. I think it will be a little
crowded with three people in my office, so I imagine you'll want to wait on
that one until John takes a break. There's also a phone in my bedroom."

I nod again, and pick up her phone. But we'll have to toss Byers out of the
office before I can get in there and work. There's really only enough room
for two in there. And Byers, like Langly and I, tends to get caught up in
the work and forgets to take breaks. "Yeah, it was hard on him. It was hard
on everyone. Our partner almost got killed over it. And I'm not sure his
chickadee really deserved his loyalty."

She watches me as I work "I'm sorry. I hope he's all right now. But I
wouldn't condemn her for trying to save her own life. It' s not like that
isn't a concern of my own at the moment."

"Yeah, he's doing better. But you're not running and hiding, and you're not
deserting anybody to do it."

"I had to leave Barry. And I might remind you that I did move three times
before I decided I wasn't going to live like that anymore. John doesn't
strike me as the sort who gives his loyalty or his love to anyone very
easily. After our conversation yesterday, I would say that he's very shy and
reserved by nature. People like that often have a hard time reaching out to
others and risking their feelings."

"Yeah, for the most part. In your case, you were leaving the person who was
hurting you. It's not the same with her. Byers never did anything but try to
help her, even when it seemed insane to do so. And he's not quite as
reserved as you'd think when it comes to pretty ladies. He doesn't keep his
head very well when his hormones kick in on him."

She laughs. "Like anyone does? I'd love to meet this hypothetical hormonal
logician of yours, even just to stare at him. There would have to be a
government study of the anomaly, of course. And I'd suspect genetic
engineering, myself." The thought makes me chuckle, even though I've seen
too much to discount what she's tossing off as a humorous pseudo-theory.
Langly's certainly in a hormonal haze of his own right now. Hope Byers
survives this one.

The rest of the afternoon passes fairly quietly. I finish the security
installations and show Ms. Thomas how to work everything. True to form, I
had to toss Byers out of the office in order to get in and work on the
phone. He's still got a ton of stuff to do here, but I'm done with my part
of the deal until Byers gets home when he's done here today. After that,
it's time for the three of us to put our heads together and come up with a
frame for Barry Guertzen. I think fraud on a federal level would do the
trick. He was an accountant, and it's not unreasonable to think that he was
involved in some skimming and cooking the books at one point or another as
he got deeper into his head trips. Ms. Thomas said that he was pickling
himself pretty regularly too, so that probably had some effect on both his
actions and his troubles with the law and his employers. I think the boys
and I can put together a very convincing package, with a minimum of funky
poaching. After the foundry, I'm still willing to give that particular
recreational activity a rest for a while.

"I'll probably be in late," Byers says as I'm getting ready to leave.

"If that happens, be sure you at least try and get some dinner before you
get back," I insist.

"Nobody escapes from my place without being fed at the appropriate hours,"
Ms. Thomas says firmly. "Thank you very much for all your help, Mr. Frohike.
I feel a little more secure here already." She shakes my hand, and I raise
it to my lips and kiss the back of it briefly. I've come to the conclusion
that she definitely deserves the treatment due a lady. I was right, Byers
could have done much worse than to fall for this one.

8:20 PM


I've got a good deal of work done when Sari comes in and informs me that
it's time for dinner. "I'm not really very..." She gives me a disapproving

"Oh, hey, none of that crap! You're eating something, because I won't have
you passing out on me again, and I promised your friend I'd get you to eat.
Besides, there's a nice little Ethiopian place just down the street about
eight blocks. I could use a walk, and I'm having a killer craving for

I don't want to disappoint her. "I'll bring along my laptop. We can take the
time while we're at dinner to scan your floppies for the virus the hacker
hit you with. It's been pretty complicated, and I'm not entirely sure it was
all from one source." I hand her the stack of discs from her desk.

She looks mildly distressed at the idea of working over her meal, but it's
just a matter of sticking in a disc, hitting a couple of keys, and letting
the virus scanner do the work. "Ok," she says, "I suppose I can tolerate
that much while I'm trying to enjoy my evening." She gives me a little
half-smile, picks up her backpack and deposits the discs, and we depart.

Being early March and long after dark, it's cold and crisp outside. Our
breath forms clouds as we move along the sidewalk. We're not far from the
restaurant when Sari freezes and grabs my arm, looking down the street. "Oh

"What's wrong?"

"It's Barry," she whispers, her voice tight and tense. She points him out
without drawing attention to the fact that she's doing so. I can see why
she's scared of this guy. Hell, I'm scared of him. He's huge. I'm guessing
that he's got a good six inches on me, and at least 60 pounds. He looks like
a steroidally enhanced nightmare version of some middle-aged Hitler Youth;
blonde, buff, and Aryan. It's like he's Schwartzenegger's evil twin. Sari
starts to drag me off the street into a doorway, but it's obvious that he's
seen her, and he's closing in on us fast. In a few seconds, he's right on
top of us, and even bigger than I thought. He's shouting obscenities and
reaching for her.

"You goddamn slut! You can't even keep your whoring in private anymore! Who
the hell is the scrawny geek? You're my bitch, Sari, and I'm gonna kill
you." He stinks of alcohol, and his shouting is starting to attract
attention on the street. People are giving us a wide berth; some are
hurrying away, and others are starting to stare.

"Barry, it's not like that! He's fixing my computer. I got hacked the other
day." Sari is backing away, and I put myself between them.

He's getting angrier, and tries to reach past me to grab her. "I bet he's
fixing more than your motherboard, cunt." I'm trying to block his arm, but
I'm not having much success. He advances a few steps and suddenly Sari's
back is against the wall and I'm nose to collarbone with the incredible

"I'm doing nothing of the sort, and you can't treat her like this," I
insist, trying to push him away from her with both hands on his chest. He
looks down at me. I think I've made a tactical error here. He grabs me by
one shoulder and pulls me out toward the middle of the sidewalk, away from
Sari. I try to get in a sucker punch before he hits me, but he's got those
abs of steel that I keep seeing infomercials for, and doesn't even flinch.

"You're pathetic, little man," he growls at me. The next thing I know,
there's a ham sized hand around my throat and he slams me into the brick
wall of the building that Sari's been backed up against. It knocks the wind
out of me, and when he lets me go, I can't help but slide to the ground.
Suddenly, I know how Frohike feels.

I'm struggling to my feet when she moves. There's something in her hand, and
when it hits him, I smell ozone and hear a sharp crack. Must be a shock
stick of some sort. Smart. It doesn't stop him, though. He grabs her arm,
twisting it to force her to the ground. She yelps in pain and I'm on my feet
again. I can't let this happen to her. I told her we'd keep her safe. This
is not what I had in mind. He sees me get up, and with a jerk and a twist,
he tosses Sari into the wall. I hear a sickening snapping sound, and she

I don't have any weapons as Barry turns to take me on again. I swing my
laptop case, the only thing I have, taking him hard on the side of the head.
I cringe as I do it, but laptops can be replaced. People can't. It stuns
him, but only for a second, and he's on me before I can swing the laptop
again. This time he hits me hard. I manage to duck the blow enough that he
doesn't break my nose, but my whole head feels like it just exploded. I'm
dizzy and seeing flashes of light, but at least I don't black out or hit the
ground. I wobble a little and go at him again with the laptop. I feel it
connect, and he curses. He must have actually felt that one. I guess I hit
him somewhere other than his head. I'm not about to let up if I have any
choice in the matter. If it were just me, I'd run, but I can't leave Sari
here to face this guy by herself. He's threatened to kill her. So I hit him
again, and out of the corner of my eye I see Sari move.

She strikes out with the shock stick in her left hand this time, and I think
she's turned up the gain, because this time Barry is the one who screams. He
lashes out with his arms as he spasms, and I get knocked to the sidewalk
beside Sari. She hits him again and by this time, I hear sirens in the
distance. So does he, apparently, and he starts to run. He shouts back at
me, "I'll remember you, nerdboy, and next time I see you, you are dead meat!
Nobody touches my woman but me! You're dead, pal." No one stops him, of

There's a young African woman kneeling on the sidewalk beside Sari now,
though. "I've called the police and an ambulance," she says. "Let me take a
look at you." At a guess, I'd say she's a med student.

I try to sit up and look at Sari myself, but the pain and dizziness from
that punch he landed keeps me flat on the sidewalk. The flashing lights in
my eyes haven't stopped. I can see she has tears running down her face
though, and her teeth are clenched against the pain. "Sari, how bad are you
hurt?" I ask. I reach out and take her hand. She's panting hard, shaking
violently, and she grips my hand tightly.

"No injera... tonight..." she says sadly.

"Looks like a nasty broken right arm," the young woman says after a short
examination. "The bone didn't break the skin though. That's lucky, at
least." She helps Sari sit upright against the wall and adjust her arm to a
slightly more manageable position, then turns her attention to me. "Can you
follow my finger?" She's moving it slowly in front of my face, and though
it's blurry, I track it with my eyes. "That's good, now let's get a look at
your pupil response." She pulls a penlight out of her purse and shines it in
my eyes a moment. "Looks like you may have a concussion." The sirens come
screaming up, and then there are red and blue lights everywhere. Sari gives
my hand a squeeze. God, my head hurts.

Frohike's going to kill me. He'll probably be waiting for me at the hospital
to do it, too.

end part 7