Title: Things Undone 5: Snipe Hunt (21/24)

Authors: Erynn and Sally

Archive: Ephemeral, Gossamer, LGM, FLO, all others ask first. 

Rated: R for grownup stuff

Spoilers: We assume you've seen the series. There are some slight spoilers
for the LGM Pilot. This little Gunmenverse takes off from the main line of
the X Files canon universe after 3oaK but before FPS (which happens in this
timeline in early May).

Disclaimers: You know who really owns these guys and the other XF
characters. It ain't us, much as we'd like to. Some characters are blatantly
based on our friends. They made us. (BTW, you guys, you can put down the
red-hot pokers now) Others, we just made up for our amusement. Chapter
opening quotes used without permission. Remember, love not money is the
motivator here -- like anybody would ever pay us for this stuff.

Category: Gunmen action/adventure, humor, angst, a little Langly romance,
and a budding friendship.

Keywords: Lone Gunmen

Summary: It's hacker season. Do you know where your computer is?

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; a vignette wherein the Gunmen begin to deal 
with the repercussions of their adventure. 
TU 4: Alchemy of the Word, by Erynn and Sally; a 17 chapter novella wherein 
words are more important than they seem, and Byers starts to get a life. 
If you haven't read them, you may be confused here. 

Author notes: 
Sally say: Special thanks to pigs in slop. We only want you to be happy. 
Erynn say: I never thought Things Undone would turn into its own little 
universe, but it's been a hell of a lot of fun writing with Sally. Thanks to 
all of you folks who have been enjoying the story and encouraging us to 
write more. You're the greatest. 
______ 

"Tell the truth: a hard lot. 
And no shirking this fate; 
no sleep, no respite, 
no hope for a long time." 

~~Seamus Heaney -- Sweeney Astray~~ 
______ 

TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2000 
SKINNER'S BEACH HOUSE,MARYLAND COAST 
1:53 AM 

FROHIKE: 

We finally got Byers into bed about midnight, but it was a fight. Sari and I 
argued with him for ten minutes, and she finally prevailed with "I take it 
you actually want to end up wearing glasses and having blinding headaches 
for the rest of your life, like me?" He flinched, and I don't think she 
liked having to hit him with it either. According to his original recovery 
prognosis, he should have been released for large print two weeks ago, and 
apparently it's his reluctance to get enough rest that's holding him back. 
She's concerned about his health, and so am I. He's always been one to push 
himself too hard, and now it's taking its toll. 

The cottage has a fireplace, and I lit a fire a while ago. Sari and I are 
sitting in comfortable chairs, soaking up the warmth and sharing a bottle of 
merlot from an Oregon vineyard that Sari assured me was quite good. After 
having sampled its vintage, I have to agree. She only poured herself half a 
glass, but she's not much of a drinker, and it doesn't surprise me. The 
Cardinal's curled up on my lap, asleep, and Sari is playing with one of her 
anoles, Porthos, apparently. It skitters around on her hand, playing between 
her fingers, crawling up her wrist and into her sleeve, and into the folds 
of the large t-shirt she's chosen as sleepwear. Her legs are clad in paisley 
tights, and she has thick socks on her feet. "That's a very interesting 
bracelet," I say to her, trying to get a better look. She's wearing it over 
her cast; silver and broad, it has Sanskrit letters welded onto it. 

"Oh, I've had this for a long time. It was a gift from my guru before I left 
the ashram to return to Oregon." 

"Is that, like, some kind of religious thing then?" I'll admit I don't know 
much about Hinduism. 

"Yes, it is. It has Kali-Ma and Durga mantras on it. They're goddesses that 
give strength and fierce protection to their devotees. My guru blessed it 
before he gave it to me; said I'd be needing those things as my life 
progressed, that I had a hard path to walk. Seems he was right." She runs 
her fingers over the raised lettering, muttering the mantras. "I felt like I 
need it this week." I can't blame her. I wish I believed in something enough 
to think it might protect me. She offers her hand, moving Porthos out of the 
way, and I get a better look at it. "It's made of the seven sacred metals 
for balanced energies and healing," she says, "the red stones are carnelian, 
the blue are turquoise. When a guru or an avatar has blessed one, they're 
very sacred." The string of sandalwood beads she has around her other wrist 
is no mystery to me, though. I've seen her use it. She says they're prayer 
beads, called a mala, for keeping track of mantras. There's a faint trace of 
sandalwood scent to them, as there always seems to be to her. 

"It's quite lovely," I tell her, petting my kitty-boo's ears. I've been 
wanting to talk to her today, but life has intervened. Things are finally 
calm enough for me to do that and not be interrupted by some emergency. 
"Sari, I'd... I'd really like to apologize to you for what Langly and I did 
the other day..." She nods, waits for me to continue. "I guess I knew that 
nothing's really going on between you and John, but... well... we've been 
worried about him for a long time. Pretty much since we met him. He met 
Susanne the same day he met us, and his life has never been the same." I 
pause, trying to think how I can explain it to her without stepping on 
Byers' privacy. 

"He's told me a lot about her," she answers, "what his life was like before 
he met you... before he met her. He's still in love with her, you know." I'm 
not sure what to make of that. I was fairly sure, but I also know he's 
letting go as best he can. I just nod. "I think he's starting to realize 
that if he wants to be with someone, have a family, all the things he dreams 
of, it can't be with her." 

"He told you that?" I ask, astonished. He's talked to me and Langly about it 
a little, on bad nights when the memories steal his dreams, turn into 
terrors, and wake him, screaming, but he's never breathed a whisper to 
anyone else. Mulder doesn't know, nor Scully. And there's a lot he keeps to 
himself, as well, things he won't even tell us. It seems he trusts Sari far 
more than I suspected. 

Sari nods. "Despite the all hassle you guys give him, he really loves you 
two. He says that you're the reason he's managed to hold on. He has a lot of 
respect for you, Mel, but right now, he's hurting over how you and Ringo 
have been acting about us. I know it's just a guy thing, but you've got to 
lay off him. He's still confused about how he feels. When we're alone, we 
talk a lot. Though he hasn't said it in so many words, I get the feeling he 
expects me to run when things get bad, like Susanne did. He's afraid that if 
we get too close, I'll be kidnapped or killed, or used to get to him, and 
the two of you. I know it's a possibility, Mel, I'm not dismissing it. At 
the moment, that would be difficult, even fatal. It scares me, you know." 
She sighs and takes a sip from her glass, absently running a finger along 
Porthos' tail. The lizard looks up at her and she puts him back in his box. 
"The truth is, at this point, it's just as likely that someone could use the 
three of you to get to me. " 

The thought seems strange, but at the same time makes sense. It would work 
both ways, wouldn't it? "I didn't know he talked to you about that," I 
respond, "but he may be more worried about you staying and getting hurt than 
bolting on us. Byers, he's always been very private, afraid to get close to 
anyone. Not that me and Langly are much better about it, but I think our 
life has always been hardest for him. Of all of us, he's the one whose life 
changed the most, who... well, I guess who lost the most. His dad won't even 
talk to him anymore. He hates me and Langly, thinks we ruined his son's 
life. Maybe he's right, but staying with us was Johnny's choice." 

"I know. I wish that they could work things out, but they're both angry with 
each other. John just wants to be accepted for what he is, wants to be 
respected, and his dad won't give him that. John doesn't know how to talk to 
him now, or what to say. He wants to respect his dad, but he says that by 
staying with the government, he's sold out. He's tried everything he can 
think of, but his dad says he's a failure, that he's lost his mind. I think 
being cut off from his father might really be the worst of it for him." He 
really has been spilling his guts to her. Some of this is new to me. "You 
guys, and John especially, have been good friends, even when you've been 
assholes," she says with a smile. "I think you're aware that I care about 
him a great deal. We've become close friends, and... I'm not entirely sure 
why. He says he doesn't make friends easily. But sometimes he seems to be 
very at easy telling me these things." 

"That's true, he doesn't usually get too close to people." He hangs out with 
the people we know, our sources, friends and fellow hackers, but for all 
that he thinks of them as friends, and would go the distance for them if 
they needed it, he doesn't talk to them, at least not about himself. I know 
Susanne never knew as much about him in all the years he was pining away for 
her as Sari does after a month of being around us. Some of it was lack of 
opportunity, sure, but a lot of it is Sari's personality. "You've been 
really good for him, Sari, and I think he knows it. It's never been easy for 
him. Langly and I, well, we were always on the shady side. Doing what we do 
wasn't that much of a step for us, more like just opening our eyes to 
extreme possibilities, but Byers, he was just like his dad, a total company 
man. He was in the FCC, wanted to stay there for the rest of his life, get a 
pension, settle down. He trusted the government, people, institutions, but 
it all got ripped out from under him. His idealism and trust aren't dead, 
but they've been buried deep over the years. Of the three of us, I always 
figured he was the one who had the best shot at getting out of this, finding 
something like a normal life. He could walk away from it and almost blend 
in, but he knows too much, sees too much. It wouldn't matter what he did, 
he'd always carry that with him, and I think it would eventually just drive 
him back into the dark." 

"Yeah, I think that's likely. But I know he also wants to be able to walk in 
the light once in a while, too. He talks about wanting to have friends, 
people around him who care about him; not that you guys don't, but he needs 
other people too. He says most of the guys you hang out with would leave all 
three of you out to dry if they thought things were getting too hot. I 
understand what he means. If... when we get through this, I'm going to do 
what I can to help him. I have a lot of friends, men and women -- caring, 
interesting, intelligent, talented people, like John. Maybe he'll even meet 
someone he can love someday. I hope it happens for him. He needs that, just 
not right now." 

"Sari, I'm not hinting or trying to push anything at you, but I think you're 
selling yourself short if you don't think he might consider you that way 
someday." She sighs and stares into the fire. 

"I don't know, Mel. We've become very close, but I don't know if I ever want 
to be involved with anyone again, not after Barry. I feel I can't trust my 
own judgment. I mean, he didn't just fool me, he fooled Devi, and she's got 
a hot radar for the bad ones. John has gotten closer to me than anyone has 
in a long time, and sometimes it... I mean... he's the kind of man I think I 
could be with, but it'll be a long time before I'm ready for anything like 
that. But I don't think he'd want me anyway. I could never give him a 
family... all the damage Barry did... anyway, I think any discussion about 
that between me and John would be a bit premature, don't you?" 

"I understand. I'm just saying that if something ever does happen between 
you, I'll be very happy for both of you." I take her hand and give it a 
gentle squeeze. She smiles gently at me and shakes her head. 

"We'll deal with that if it ever becomes an issue, okay?" 

I smile back at her. I'm glad she didn't take it as interference. The longer 
I know her, the better they seem together. She's certainly got a temper, and 
apparently a righteous sense of revenge, especially if she had anything to 
do with bringing Scully down on my ass, but so does Byers, and she's seen a 
bit of his. A noise distracts us, and we look for its source. After a 
moment, I recognize it as Byers starting to freak. It's not serious yet, but 
it'll get there fast. "Come with me." We enter the room, and she reaches 
down to touch Byers' restless form. "Don't do that," I caution her, 
"sometimes when it's bad, he wakes up swinging." 

"John?" she says gently. 

His discomfort is increasing. "...Susanne..." he mumbles, "no...Timmy... 
don' shoot..." 

I jostle the bed. "Byers, wake up." I know it usually takes more than that, 
but I don't want to start with overkill. It only makes him startle worse 
when he does wake. 

Sari sits down on the bed next to him and runs a soothing hand down his 
back. "John, it's Sari, please, wake up." He stirs, but doesn't wake. He 
doesn't thrash either, so I think he recognizes her voice. "It's all right, 
John, you're having a nightmare. Come back, you're okay." 

Byers rolls over onto his side, facing her, twitching and moving restlessly, 
his breathing panic-rapid, but he still doesn't wake. "Sari..." he whimpers, 
"don' go... it's... no, don' hurt her..." He reaches out with one hand and 
yelps, "Barry, no!" She moves closer and takes his outstretched hand. She 
shouldn't, but his shaky breathing starts to level out as she does. Maybe 
he'll come out of it easier this time. 

"Wake up, John. You're all right, there's nothing here to hurt you. I'm 
fine, I'm fine..." she keeps speaking quietly, stroking his back, and when 
he does startle awake, it's with a gasp instead of a shout. "It's all right 
John, you're safe, you're okay." 

Byers looks up at her, still groggy and panting, then wraps his arms around 
her, trembling, his face buried against her stomach. I sit with both of them 
and run my hand through his sweat damp hair and down over his shoulders. 
"You gonna be okay, buddy?" I ask him softly. He nods and whispers something 
I can't hear. Sari's never been around when he's been like this, but seems 
to handle it okay. His nightmares have eased up more than I ever thought 
possible in the time he's known her, and while he still has them, their 
force has been less intense and terrifying. At least now I have some idea 
why. He's told her things that he's never told me, and I think that release 
has been something he's needed for a very long time. The dreams and 
flashbacks will always be with him; I'm still having them about 'Nam after 
all these years, but I think he'll cope with them better the longer she's 
with him. "I'll let you talk to him for a while," I say to Sari, "he'll 
probably want some mint tea." Byers nods again, and makes a half conscious 
'mm-hmm' sound. 

"Would you pour one for me as well?" Sari asks. 

"Of course, my dear." After I make the tea, I think I'll get some sleep. It 
looks like things are under control. 

10:17 AM 

LANGLY: 

Frohike's still crashed on the couch, snoring like a sawmill. Me and Deb, we 
didn't get much sleep last night, and it wasn't because we were havin' any 
hot and heavy action either. I was way too nervous to relax. I heard a 
little bit of noise, and I'm guessing it was Byers having one of his 
nightmares again, but it never got too loud. I'm glad they're not as bad for 
him anymore. Me, I have 'em too, but talking to Deb has helped, especially 
with the ones about Timmy. I don't know if anything will ever help with the 
ones from Vegas, where I got zapped by Landau and was gonna kill Susanne, or 
from Baltimore, when we all first learned about this stuff, and that black 
guy in the trench coat had the three of us all kneeling on the floor, like 
he was gonna execute us. 'No bags,' God that still shakes me. Man, I know 
Byers has the worst of that one, but I still hear that sound too. Me and Deb 
are taking a shower when I hear Frohike get up. "Don't use all the hot 
water!" he yells, just like always. 

"Hey, we're conserving water by showering together," I yell back. I was 
kinda tweaked to see that Skinner keeps bubble bath here. Maybe he's got a 
lady we don't know about. Deb giggles and soaps me up in places that would 
usually make me moan and want to press her up against the wall and have my 
way with her. Right now, though, it's kinda hard to concentrate. "Deb, hon, 
like I'm not really in the mood right now." Man, I never thought I'd say 
that. She looks kinda confused and disappointed. 

"Hey, I don't know about you, but this is supposed to be my vacation. I 
intend to get my share of relaxation while I'm with you." 

"It's not you babe, honest. I'm just... well, I'm pretty nervous." 

"Well, at least let me wash your hair," she says. Now that I can live with, 
and it really does feel good. I think it makes her feel a little better too. 
When we're finally out, dry and dressed, Frohike is standing in the kitchen, 
staring at the nearly empty fridge. We didn't bring much in the way of food 
when we bailed. "What's for breakfast?" Deb asks him. 

"I don't know. Not much to work with," he says. 

"Hey, me and Deb can make a trip into town and get stuff." 

He gives me his 'what planet are you from' look. "Sorry, Hairboy, but I'm 
not living the next couple of days on Twinkies." 

"Like, what's wrong with Twinkies?" I cross my arms and glower at him. It's 
not working. 

"I tend to prefer food that has organic origins." Byers and Sari are padding 
into the kitchen. She looks okay, but he looks wiped out still. She's being 
a little snippy with him. 

"You should stay in bed, John. You know you need to get more rest. You're 
not going to get well if you keep pushing yourself like this." He's not 
looking too happy, but we all know she's right. 

"I may not be your doctor," Deb says, "but I am a doctor, and Sari's right. 
You should get your ass back in bed." He looks up at her and just shakes his 
head. 

"There's too much to do," he insists. He always does. Not like things ever 
change. He could be, like, six weeks dead and nobody'd notice, 'cause he'd 
be running around going 'just let me finish this...' Frohike takes him by 
the arm and leads him back to the room he's sharing with Sari. 

"No excuses, Byers. We're not going to let you keep this up." Narcboy just 
gives this sigh, like he's so put upon, and lets Fro lead him back to bed. 
When Mel comes back he says, "Sari, why don't you get dressed. You and I can 
go and do some grocery shopping. At least I know I can trust you to make 
intelligent decisions." Deb sticks her tongue out at him behind his back. 

"Okay," Sari says. "Let's do something when I get back, Deborah." Deb's 
like, cool, so Sari takes a quick shower, surveys the supplies, and she and 
Mel are off to forage. 

After breakfast, me and the troll get busy with some more hacking stuff. 
We've got a lot to do if we're going to be safe getting online again. Have 
to build a new server, make new ID's for the net, do our best to erase 
traces of our old ID's, that kind of thing. And we've gotta see what's 
happening with Black Widow and his crew of buzz-cut NSA goons. When we come 
up for air, we don't see Deb or Sari around anywhere. "Deb?" I'm looking 
around the place. It's not that big. Nobody in the bathroom. She's not in 
Byers' room, and I can't imagine why she'd want to be. Not in the wine 
cellar either. They're not out near the van, and I don't see 'em on the back 
porch. "Fro, man, they're gone. They're not here. What the hell coulda 
happened to 'em?" 

He looks up, kinda freaked. "It hasn't been that long. If somebody grabbed 
them, we should have heard something." He runs out to the back porch. "Hey, 
Langly, look -- tracks." He points out toward where the grassy yard ends and 
the sand begins. Two sets of footprints. By now, Byers is up too, wrapping 
his robe around him. 

"What's going on?" 

"Sari and Deb have disappeared," I tell him, then I show him the tracks. 

"Maybe they went down to the beach?" he suggests. 

"Well, that was damn stupid of them." Frohike's pissed. 

"True, but we know Deborah doesn't really understand what's happening, and 
I'm not sure Sari is quite as cautious as she should be either," Byers says. 
I run down towards the beach, looking for them, and Frohike follows me. 
Byers runs to get some clothes on, in case something's happened and we have 
to haul out of here fast. After a couple minutes, we see them by the water. 

"Hey!" I shout down at them. They look up and wave. I don't wanna use their 
names out here, especially not shouting down the beach. There aren't a lot 
of neighbors, and it's in the off season during the week, but we need to 
attract as little attention as possible. Frohike waves them to come back. 
Man, he's pissed. So am I, and I bet Byers will be too. "Hurry up," I yell. 
Me and Fro, we're scoping out the area, looking for anyone who might see or 
hear us. Thank God, I don't see anybody. 

"Looks clear so far," Frohike says, and then the girls come up. 

"What's up?" Deb asks. Me and Frohike just grab them and we start jogging up 
the beach back to the cottage. "Hey, take it easy, we just went for a walk!" 

"You don't get it, do you?" I snap at her. 

"Get what?" she says. 

"We're here to hide, babe, not hang out on the beach. It's dangerous out 
here. Somebody could see you." By the time we make it back inside, we're out 
of breath, and Deb's angry. Sari only looks mildly annoyed. 

"Sari, what the hell were you doing? I thought you understood why we're 
here." Byers is way pissed. 

"We're here to avoid getting ourselves killed before Nicole and I have to do 
our press conference Thursday," she answers, all calm. 

"So why were you two out cavorting on the beach like you're on vacation?" 
Frohike growls. 

"I don't see why this is such a problem," Sari says. "If they know where we 
are, hiding inside isn't going to do any good. They could shoot us through 
the windows from out in the bushes, or kick the door in and kill us while we 
sleep. Being out on the beach isn't going to matter." I mean, it sounds 
reasonable on the surface, but she hasn't quite got the depths of it. Deb is 
listening and she's like freaking about Sari talking about people shooting 
us through the windows and stuff. Byers shakes his head, looking grim. 

"If they did know where we are, we'd probably be dead by now," he says. Sari 
looks like that hadn't occurred to her. "And since it seems they don't, we 
want to keep it that way. We need to stay inside as much as possible, or 
only out on the porch. We have to keep supply trips to a bare minimum." He's 
like real angry with her, and she can tell. She's backing up a little, and 
he doesn't seem to notice that he's making her nervous. "The more you go 
outside, the more likely it is that someone will see us here, and that's the 
last thing we want." Sari's getting a little pale now, and she nods. I think 
she has the picture, and she's pretty upset. 

"I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking it all the way through. I just... I just 
wanted to go and have some time to talk to Deborah. There's not a lot of 
private space in here. I'm..." 

Byers interrupts her. "Sari, you need to pay more attention. I don't want 
you to get hurt. I don't want any of us to get hurt. You have to stay 
inside." Man, he's all bitchy before his first caffeine of the day. We're 
all pissed at both of them, but he's just real prickly right now. I bet he's 
still pissed we all made him go back to bed. "You two were risking 
everyone's lives out there. We all have to cooperate right now so that we 
can make it through this. It isn't like hiding from Barry, Sari. It won't 
take these guys months to find us. If they get wind of us, wherever we go, 
they'll be on us fast, and we may not have time to get out." Now Deb's all 
up against me, holding me and trying to keep her cool while Byers rants. 
It's all true, and she needs to hear it, but he's laying on the guilt trip 
pretty deep here. 

I'm like hearing something outside. "Oh shit." I grab Frohike and we look 
out the front window. The sound is louder. It's a vehicle of some sort. 
"Somebody's coming up the road. We're screwed." Everybody looks about ready 
to panic. Me, I'm already there. 

End part 21

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