Frohike wheeled the gurney carrying Langly's unconscious form across the gravelly ground, rushing toward the rented late 70s Chevy van and hoping that no emergency vehicles arrived before their frightened and disorderly group could make its getaway. Explaining Landau and their badly injured friend to the authorities would only engender questions that he, Byers and Susanne would not want to answer. It could put their lives at further risk. And it would expose Susanne's survival to the shadowy men behind the ever present government conspiracies they tried so hard to expose. Her exposure could not happen. They would all certainly be killed.
He could hear Byers and Susanne running behind him, gaining ground. They caught up with him as they arrived at the unfamiliar vehicle. "Come on," he said to Byers, "you've got to help me move him into the back seat."
Byers looked at his unconscious friend. "Is he alright? God, did you two get hurt when the crane fell?" With deep concern engraved on his face, he held Frohike tightly for a moment, receiving a reassuring thump on the back in return, then touched Langly's pale, bloodied arm.
"The thing landed way too damn close, and something hit me in the back as I was leaning over Langly, but we can deal with that later. Right now, we have to get out of here. Help me."
Byers leaned over and looked at Frohike's back. "Mel, you're bleeding."
"I don't have time for that right now. Langly's our first concern. Move it."
Susanne climbed into the van, followed by Byers, holding Langly's upper body in his arms, while Frohike held him around the knees, gently lifting him over the floor of the van. John could feel Langly's labored breathing, and heard a faint whisper of a moan. His stomach lurched and knotted. He kept moving.
Susanne helped John settle Langly on the bench seat in the back, his head and shoulders cradled on Byers' lap.
Frohike slammed the door behind them and rushed to the driver's seat. With a few well-placed curses at the reluctant starter, the van finally gasped its way to life and they sped out of the vicinity as quickly as they could. I'll never rent from those cheap bastards again, he thought. Frohike tried to remember to 'drive casual.' As they turned down a side alley toward the next road over, they could hear sirens in the distance, growing closer.
"Blankets?" Susanne asked.
Byers looked up from his examination of Langly and pointed over his shoulder. "I put them in the cabinet under the drawer with the binoculars and night vision goggles. Second one on the left." He was not pleased by the cuts and bruises on Langly's visible flesh. He was even more concerned about what he could not yet see. He raised Langly's torn and bloody t-shirt gently to examine his torso. More slashes and bruising, some of it extremely severe and swollen. There were a few places that looked like there might be broken bones beneath the surface, which might explain the difficulty Langly was having with his breathing. He touched the worst spots cautiously, and Langly twitched and moaned. "Oh, great," he muttered to himself.
Susanne brought two blankets up to Byers. "Here, John. Let's get these wrapped around him."
"He doesn't look good," Byers said, taking one of the blankets and sliding it very carefully under Langly. "I think he's got several broken ribs, and I think he's probably lost some blood from these cuts all over him, too. I don't know how he made it this long." God, this is all my fault, he told himself.
"Let me take a look," Susanne replied. She finished wrapping her blanket around Langly's long, gangly legs. She suspected they were damaged as well, but could not take the time to remove his jeans and find out. Gently, she shifted the blanket Byers had wrapped around the blonde man. Seeing the wounds and the bruising, she grimaced.
"It does look bad, doesn't it?" she asked quietly. Byers just nodded. Susanne continued her examination, touching the bruises and injuries softly, hearing Langly's pained responses. "I think this arm is broken," she said, "and it appears there's some damage to his shoulder as well. Bruising around the wrists, and I'd guess it was caused by riot cuffs put on too tightly."
"How is he?" Frohike shouted back to them, over the noise of the van's ancient engine and rattling body.
"Not good," Byers shouted back. "Do you know where the nearest hospital is?"
"I looked it up while you two were packing for this. Got it right here." He waved a slip of paper over his shoulder at them.
"How long will it take us to get there?"
"Not too long, but I have to drop you two off at a motel first so you can check us in for the night."
"What?" Byers bellowed. "That's ridiculous! It's a waste of time, and you know I have to be there for him, just like you."
"Sorry buddy, but this isn't about you. It's about your little chickadee there. We can't risk Susanne being seen in public. It could get back to the people who wanted her dead in the first place."
"But what about Landau? He knew she's alive. What if he told someone?"
"From what Langly told me before he passed out, Timmy was so far gone into his psychosis that I don't think he's talked about it to anyone in the Company, or anyone else at all, for that matter. Apparently, he wasn't in their good graces, and thought that finishing a mission only he knew was incomplete would land him back in the catbird seat." He didn't mention Langly's confused explanation of Landau's fixation on his revenge against Byers.
"It doesn't matter," Susanne said. "We have to get him to the emergency room as soon as possible. I suspect that Ringo's bleeding internally, but I can't tell here. We can't waste time over concerns about my exposure."
"I have to be there!" Byers insisted.
"Yes it does, and no you don't!" Frohike shouted back. "I'm not about to make this any worse than it already is. And I'm driving." He glared out the windshield, ignoring the protests of his two conscious passengers. "Just try to get him warm while you're with him."
Byers knew that at this point, there was nothing he could do to change Frohike's mind. The tone in the older man's voice had warned John that he was not joking, and not open to further discussion. He turned his attention back to their seriously injured partner. Tenderly, he brushed Langly's hair from his face and looked at the cuts and swollen, discolored bruises on those familiar, sharp features. "Come on, Ringo. Stay with us. We're going to get you to a doctor soon. Just stay with us."
Susanne knelt, cramped on the floor between the two front seats and the bench seat that held John and his friend. She took one of Byers' hands, and wrapped her other arm carefully around Langly's waist. Looking up into her lover's face, she saw the pain and fear etched there. It stopped her breath and tore at her heart. She squeezed John's hand gently. "Everything will be alright," she said, not knowing whether or not to believe her own words. "He'll be alright." She leaned close to Langly's head, and whispered in his ear. "Please, Ringo. Be alright. You have to be alright."
Langly's silence and the sound of his pained breathing were her only answer.
MOTEL SIX, ROOM 214, YORK, PA
Byers and Susanne lay together in the bed, limbs entwined, each lost in their own thoughts.
Frohike had taken Langly to a local emergency room, and they had been left with the task of getting two rooms for the night. They had received a call not more than five minutes ago, assuring them that Langly was being cared for and would recover, and that Frohike was also being examined and treated for a rather nasty gash in his back.
Both John and Susanne had needed the reassurance of flesh against flesh, wasting no time after checking in before they showered the rank smell of fear from each other and made love. There had been a feeling of uncertainty about it, both of them intensely shaken by the experience they'd just had, but in the end, they had found some measure of comfort together. The lovers had been very gentle with one another, careful of their mutual frailties, losing themselves for at least a little while in the focused peace of erotic sensation and shared desire.
He looked over at her head on his shoulder and caressed her honey blonde hair. She looked up at him, their eyes locking.
"We need to talk, you know," she said to him quietly.
He nodded. There were things he needed to say as well, things he finally felt brave enough to express to her. "I love you, Susanne."
He kissed her lips softly, and she returned his gentleness. She sighed and held him tight. "I love you too, John." She hesitated, and Byers began to speak.
"I know what I have to do now," he said. "We can't keep living like this."
"No, we can't," she agreed.
He rolled over onto his side, bringing them face to face. He ran his fingers over her cheek, across her lips and down her chin, trailing them down her neck to the hollow of her throat. "I can't live without you anymore, Susanne. I need you near me, to know that you're safe, to know where you are. I need you in my arms at night." His throat caught his words and Susanne started to speak, but he put his fingers over her lips and continued, closing his eyes against the intensity of his feelings. "Oh, God, I love you. Please Susanne, marry me." She held her breath, silent.
Hesitantly, he looked at her, his need and desire written in his face. Susanne felt her heart crack, like melting ice, and tears came to her eyes.
"John, I love you more than I have ever loved anyone else. Please believe me. But..." She took a deep breath and steeled herself for what she had to say next. John looked terrified. "I can't marry you John. God, I want to, but I can't."
"But why?" John leaned into her, wrapping both arms around her body, his tears flowing freely. "Why not? After all these years, why can't we be together?" He forced himself not to cry out.
"While we're together, we will always be a danger to each other, John."
"But if we're together, the guys and I can protect you," he whispered to her, pleading. "No matter what happens, I'd always protect you."
"You can't, John. No one can. If I leave, and no one knows where I am, then at least you and Mel and Ringo will be safe from the dangers my presence would inevitably bring. After what happened here, with Ringo being so badly hurt, I can't bear to cause any of you any further harm. If you died...." she choked back a sob, "If you died, I could never forgive myself. And I can't live with the knowledge that you are in danger every moment of your life because of what you've done for me. I can't stay with you, wondering every day if you'll come home to me again, or if I'll have to identify your body if something goes wrong."
John listened to her reasons, dying more inside with every word she said. "I don't care what danger I'm in. If we're together, we can make our way through it. The guys and I have had arrangements for 'retirement' for years now, in case our work became too dangerous to continue. We can quit this if you want, if you'll feel safer that way. I'll do anything you want if you'll stay with me. Anything. Just say the word." His voice was tight, pleading.
"No, John. Your work is too much a part of you now. I doubt that you or the guys could turn your backs on your dedication, on the people you help, or on your friends Mulder and Scully for very long. You would find out that someone needs you, and you'd be back at it again in weeks. It's part of what I love about you. I can't live like that, and I can't make you live without your work. I can't make you sacrifice something that's such a deep part of your soul. Not for me, not for anything."
She held him as he wrapped himself around her, now openly weeping. His pain shattered her, but she knew that eventually he would come to understand her reasons. It was impossible for them to be together without destroying him one way or another. Without her, he would at least have a chance to carry on, to move forward with a life that had been on hold for years now because of her.
She kissed him through his tears, and her own. "I will always love you, John," she whispered in his ear, "please believe me. But we both know that being together can't work." She kissed him again, deeper and more passionately.
"I... we..." He choked back the sob that was trying to enter his mouth. For a few moments, he held his breath, trying to regain control of himself. It was harder than that moment he'd charged Landau in Vegas, knowing he was likely to die trying to stop the armed man.
Byers drew a deep, shaky breath. "You're right, Susanne," he finally admitted. "I can't even pretend to understand why you want to do this, but you're right. I can't keep you here against your will."
He sniffed back more tears. "Are...are you leaving tonight?" he asked, clinging to her.
"No. Not tonight. We still have this moment." She kissed him again, and ran her hands along his body, memorizing the feel of him, the scent of his skin, knowing this would be the last time they would ever have together. "Please John, make love to me again. I want to feel you that close again before I go."
He looked into her eyes, and whispered "anything." With his arms still tightly around her, he rolled onto his back, moving her on top of him. He felt the heat of her thighs embracing his hips, the weight of her body pressed against him. John kissed her, their tongues brushing gently together. He felt the warm dampness of her tears falling on his face, mingling with his own.
"Anything," he whispered again.
JANUARY 12, 2000
MOTEL SIX, ROOM 214, YORK, PA
Byers woke, conscious only of an unnatural silence surrounding him.
Susanne was gone.