Title: Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 9
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.
"Back there, are they not good souls who wish me well?"
~~Rimbaud -- A Season in Hell~~
MONDAY, MARCH 6, 2000
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER
We're finally called up to Byers' room, and the poor boy looks like hell.
This is what I get when I tell the guy to get out of the house for a while.
The doc said he'd be fine and that we could probably take him home tomorrow
night or Tuesday morning, as long as there are no complications. "Kept me...
awake... surgery," he says, all quiet. I guess they only keep you under long
enough to get the surgery started. I shudder. I think everyone in the room
does. That's gotta be a really disturbing thing, to have them cutting up
your eye and be aware that they're doing it.
Sari's sitting in a chair next to him, holding his hand, and he seems really
relieved to see her upright and conscious. "Sari... all right?" he asks her
softly. He's so exhausted and drugged up he can barely talk right now. She's
on the verge of tears, but hanging on like a champ.
"I'm fine, John. I'm so sorry this happened. I was so worried about you. You
should never have tried to stop Barry. You must have known he could hurt
you. Why did you do that?"
Langly laughs. "He thinks he's Galahad."
"Didn't... want him... hurt you." He takes a shaky breath and says,
"He'll... kill you if he... you're not... going back to your place..." He
slowly brings her hand up to his cheek and holds it there for a minute
before his grip loosens. She runs her thumb slowly along his cheekbone. It's
pretty obvious that the post-surgery Demerol is starting to kick his ass.
"Nope," Langly says. "We're taking her back to the office tonight. She'll be
fine. No way we're gonna make her go back to her place right now."
"Yeah," Mulder says. "Your idiot buddies are making me go over there to feed
the cat and the lizards. I'll have you know, I could have been at the Candy
Apple right now."
Byers manages a weak smile. "Glad I... could help," he says to Mulder.
"Might... make up for... suit..." He's fading real fast.
"I'm staying here with you tonight," Sari says to him. She looks like she's
about to pass out too.
"Sorry dear," I tell her, "but you're going with Langly tonight. You need to
rest, not spend the night in a miserable hospital chair hovering over Byers.
That's my job." She starts to protest, but everyone, including Byers,
insists that she go and get some rest. I toss the miscreants out, and settle
down for a long, painful night.
"She... be... all right?" Byers asks. He's struggling to stay with me.
"Sari's one tough little chickadee, buddy. She'll be fine. It's you we're
all worried about right now. Just rest, okay? You really need it." I brush
the hair back from his forehead, and he sighs. He relaxes a little and it
isn't long before he's asleep.
LONE GUNMEN HQ
I'm so worried about John. His friends are very insistent that this isn't my
fault, but I can't help feeling guilty over it. I know what to expect from
Barry, how violent he can be, but poor John had no idea what would happen
when he stepped between us. I wanted to stop him, but it all happened too
fast. I know that my bastard ex is serious about killing John if he sees him
again. At least for the moment though, John is safe, and I'm content with
what little peace that gives me. I have no idea how I can repay him for what
he's tried to do, and how he's suffering for it. I'm not sure it's even
John Byers seems to have very close, very loyal friends in these three men.
I'm not surprised. He's a very kind and caring man himself, and it seems
natural to me that he would attract people like that. I'll admit that Ringo
and Frohike seem a little odd, but it's obvious they love him very much, and
they're determined to take care of him. Even his friend Mulder, the FBI
agent, was serious and anxious underneath all the jokes. I've seen men who
were good friends to each other now and then, but after so long with Barry,
I'd forgotten how gentle and concerned they can be when they aren't playing
testosterone games. Remembering this, and seeing them being that way toward
John, comforts me as well.
My life is surrounded by testosterone games. I'm immersed in it every day at
work, and I have to play too, if I want to be good at my job. It isn't my
preferred mode of operation, but that's why I write poetry. It's an escape
for me, a world where I can create, where I can be powerful and in control
of my life. There, I can show parts of myself that I wouldn't dare expose to
the light of day elsewhere. John, I will admit, appeals very much to the
poet in me. When Ringo said that John thinks he's Galahad, it rang true. Not
necessarily that John believes that, but just that there's something about
him that would be welcome at the Round Table. Galahad was supposed to be
pure of heart and have the strength of ten. While that's not true in terms
of physical strength, I do believe John has enough heart for ten.
The neighborhood we're in, in Southeast DC, is scruffy at best. Ringo parks
the van near a ramshackle looking loft building, and leads me up a dark
alley. After a good bit of wrangling with security encoding, I'm led into
what must be the biggest electronics mess I've ever seen in my life. What on
earth have I gotten myself into now? There are things humming everywhere --
monitors, computers, video equipment, spectroscopes, and a thousand other
things I'm not sure I recognize. The room smells just a little like gym
socks, but I suppose one should expect that in a place where three bachelor
programmers live. They actually live here?
"Like, can I get you some coffee or something?" Ringo offers. I could really
use some, actually, but I have to admit that I'm afraid of what might be
living in their kitchen.
"Um... sure, but only if you make sure the stuff you're making it in, and
the cup you're giving me have been washed sometime in the last, oh, five
minutes." I don't want to be rude, but only the demon gods and hungry ghosts
are likely to know what's in this place.
"Sure," he says, and heads for the kitchen. "Make yourself at home." Right.
The place is a little cooler than I like, but then, it's full of equipment
that needs cool air to function. I sit myself down gingerly on a red velvet
couch that looks like it was probably salvaged from one of the local
whorehouses. I could understand this from looking at Ringo and Frohike, but
I just can't imagine John living like this. He seems too... civilized. But
then, from the sounds of it, he's been living with these two for years now,
and none of them have probably had much feminine influence during that time.
I get up again and start picking up empty cans and bottles, just out of
"Hey, what are you doin'?" Ringo asks me, as he returns to the room.
I look at the jumble of empties I've accumulated in a plastic grocery bag.
"I... sorry, I couldn't help but try to help make things a little...
neater." That was totally inadequate, but I guess it will do.
"Yeah, Byers usually does that stuff, but like, he hasn't been feeling real
well for a while." He looks sad, and I realize that he must be the one who
was nearly killed in the incident that John and Frohike mentioned to me.
"Lemme take that, ok?"
I hand him the bag of empties. "Do you guys really live here?" I ask
"Yeah, we do. Don't worry, Byers' room is a lot neater than this." He leads
me out of the office and down a hallway, then opens a door. As he said, this
room appears to be quite neat and clean compared to the rest of the place.
It doesn't smell like gym socks, or dirty clothes, or anything else that
might be hazardous to my health. That's an immense relief. So this is where
John lives. No wonder he looked so pleased when he came to my place this
morning. I put down my backpack and coat on a chair, and Ringo puts John's
laptop on the desk. Then we go back into the office area, where the smell of
coffee is starting to overcome the eau de gym sock, and I start to feel a
little more at ease. "Mulder should be here pretty soon with your clothes
and your computer and stuff," Ringo says. He and Frohike are going to finish
the work John started today. They're being incredibly kind to me.
"I hope he doesn't terrify the Cardinal." Richelieu may be a big Manx kitty,
but he's a scaredy snipped boy cat, and he really doesn't care much for
strangers. We talk a little about not much, both trying to distract
ourselves from wondering about how John is doing, and I look around the
place. There are a lot of tabloids lying around titled 'The Lone Gunman,'
with some very strange headlines. Some of them look like they could be
straight out of Shea and Wilson's 'Illuminatus!' trilogy, or some of the
weirder paranoid conspiracy web pages, but one strikes my eye.
'PINCK CONDUCTS COVERT GENETIC EXPERIMENTS. EVIDENCE LINKS TO BIRTH
DEFECTS.' This is odd. I read the article, and it's got information in it
that looks suspiciously like the information I have in a couple of the files
that I'd acquired for the white paper I'm working on. It's precise and well
written, with a minimum of speculation. Not quite what I'd expected from a
publication whose other issues featured headlines about things like Monica
Lewinski Mandroids, or alien cloning experiments. I need to know where they
found these things.
"Ringo, where do you guys get this tabloid?"
"Oh, we publish it. We're journalists," he says, looking quite proud of
himself. "That's the February issue." Journalists. Uh huh. And computer
software and security consultants. Who have access to highly classified
"Could you tell me where you found the information for this article, then?"
I show him the Pinck Pharmaceuticals headline.
"Oh, that's one of Byers' articles," he replies, looking a little nervous.
"We found that stuff online."
I look at him carefully. I can add. "You guys are really hackers, aren't
you?" It would certainly explain John's hesitation when I asked him about
what kind of work he did on Saturday.
He hems and haws, trying to avoid answering, but finally says "um... well...
yeah. We are." He looks a little embarrassed, as if he's about five and he's
been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
I smile. "It's always good to have unidentified sources available." He grins
a happy, lopsided grin. I think I've been accepted. Actually, Ringo reminds
me a little of my kid brother Kris. I want to know more, but since this
article was John's work, I'll need to wait until I can talk to him to find
out if he knows anything I don't about this project. Right now, I'm
exhausted, and I took the other half of the Vicodin with my coffee a little
while ago, so I'm about to pass out. "I really need to get some rest, Ringo.
Wake me if you hear anything, please?"
"No problem," he says. "You want me to wake you when Mulder gets here?"
"No, just go ahead and put my things in John's room so I can find them when
I wake up." We get up and he walks me back to the room. He gives me a little
"You get some rest, babe. You're safe here with us. I promise. Ain't nothing
getting through our security system. We rule." I squeeze him back with my
good arm. It really does feel safe here, despite the oddness of the
surroundings. He leaves me to my own devices and shuts the door behind him
as he leaves.
I light a tiny sandalwood incense stick that will only burn for about ten
minutes, and make a couple of calls from John's phone. They're local, so I'm
sure no one will mind. I leave a message on my boss's voice mail, saying
that I won't be in tomorrow or Tuesday because of my ex, but I'll make the
Senate subcommittee meeting on Thursday, and also ask for someone who can
take dictation for me while my arm is mending. The second call is to my
sister's answering machine, to tell her what happened, assure her I'm
somewhere safe, and warn her to watch out for Barry. He's made threats
against Devi and some of my friends before, and I want her to know he's out
again. Then I get undressed and crawl into John's bed. I set my bent and
taped up glasses on his bedside table and turn off the light. This all just
feels really weird. I find myself wishing I were at my own place, with the
Cardinal on my feet and the scent of all my plants around me. But his bed is
comfortable and warms up quickly. John's pillow smells like he did when I
hugged him earlier today -- a lifetime ago -- clean and male, comforting. I
thought I would be nervous here, in a strange place, with men I barely know
around me, but instead I feel protected and cared for. I snuggle up with the
pillow and let the tears come quietly, reciting a Hanuman mantra for healing
until I drift into sleep.
It sure didn't take Sari long to figure out what we're about. I never even
said a word. She's pretty sharp, I'll give her that. And she's cool about
it, too, which is extra points as far as I'm concerned. Mulder shows up
about twenty minutes after Sari goes off to bed. He's got her stuff and her
computer, and he's got a cat carrier. I wonder why he brought the cat? Then
again, it might just make her feel better to have her furry bud with her.
He's a big ginger Manx, real handsome cat. I bet it will make her feel
better. Mulder puts her computer down on one of our work benches, and I take
her stuff and her cat in to her. She's out cold, all curled up around Byers'
pillow, but I'm not surprised. She was barely hanging on by the time I got
her here. Just before I close the bedroom door, I open the door of the cat
carrier. Maybe he'll come out and sleep with her tonight.
"Hey, Mulder, how did you get the cat in the box?" She said the cat didn't
like strangers much, and I can't really see Mulder being much of a cat
"It wasn't any trouble," he says. "He came out when I got there, wanting to
be fed, and so I put the food and some cat litter in there, and in he went.
I got all the stuff on her list. The cat's not the only thing that came out
when I got there, though."
"Yeah, I saw her ex. He was hanging out down the block, like she suspected.
I pursued him, but he was too far away for me to catch. I called the local
PD and told them I'd seen him. They're looking for him. I told them he was
wanted for questioning in a federal case in addition to the assaults, and
his parole and restraining order violations, and to hold him and contact me
immediately if they found him. Huge fucking bastard. I'm not surprised Byers
looks like hamburger. Guy looks like it would take a LAW rocket to knock him
Man, Byers is either the stupidest guy on the face of the planet or the
bravest. But, like, I'm not sure if there's a difference. God, I hope he'll
end part 9