Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 10

[disclaimers in part 1]

"Weakness or strength: you are there, it is strength."

~~Rimbaud -- A Season in Hell~~

1:52 AM


Got Sari and Kitty packed off to bed. I could stand some sleep, but I know if I turn in, no chance of crashing, not tonight. Well, why should I; Deb's still up and wor... Deb. Oh man. I managed to get one word typed before this whole fiasco started up. Then I accidentally hit the send button. The only word I got typed was 'I.' It's one thing to use it in a sentence, but doing that, it makes me look way too much like the selfish bastard I really am. Not the sort of impression you wanna make on a girl you're still trying to wow.

Well, maybe I ought to go over and try writing what I was really gonna say in the first place. We do get to talk in email and on the phone, but I always feel so cut off from her at work, so that's why I hacked into Penn State Med Center's computer, see if maybe we can at least sort of keep in touch while she's on the job. I dunno. After that last missive, she's probably gonna think I'm a crackhead or something.

I'm real surprised when I boot up and open my mailbox and there's a response from her. Probably telling me to go to hell. Couldn't blame her really. So I'm pretty shocked and I don't know what to make of it when I get a reply and all it says is, 'it's'. That was the whole thing. Maybe she got hauled away soon as she started. Or not. Maybe she thinks it's a game. Well, two can play at that. I just type the first thing that hits my head. I type 'bubble.' Don't ask me why, I haven't got a clue. I type it in, and hit the send button. Hmm, wonder what she'll think of that. I hope she gets the joke.

"You find anything, Langly?" Mulder's hammering away at Byers' terminal. I'd almost forgotten he was here. I consider that a
positive thing.

"Me? Huh? Uh... no, not yet." No need to tell him I'm just fucking around in email with my girl. Wish I was just fucking with my girl, truth be told. We haven't talked about it, but boy, have I thought about it. Haven't actually thought about much else, to be honest. "You?"

"Well, our boy Barry's got a rap sheet about as long as Skinner's arm, for starters. That should make this a whole lot easier, at least in terms of his credibility. There's a long list of domestic violence charges, parole and restraining order violations, some drunk and disorderly, even a couple of DUI's."

"Why am I not surprised?" What an asshole. "You said you saw him? Why didn't you just waste him?"

Mulder groans his woe-is-me sigh. He's got that one down. "Langly, do you have any idea how much paperwork you have to do when you shoot someone? It's my theory that  it's the main reason most people in law enforcement never draw their guns in their entire careers."

"What're you bitching about? Scully does all the paperwork anyway." Hey, she says it and he never denies it. Lazy bastard.

"Scully -- oh shit. I gotta call Scully. She's gonna be really pissed if I don't tell her about Byers."

"You know where the phone is, dude." And he can even put the voice scrambler on, although that's about as much as we ever let him get involved with, technologically. You know that the dude can't even program his VCR? Pathetic. While he's dialing her, I decide I'm gonna have a discreet little listen-in.

"Hey, Scully, it's me."

Scully sounds zonked. "Mulder, what time is it?"

"2:34 a.m." He's like, doesn't everyone wake their partners up at 2:34 a.m.? She just groans like, what did I ever do to deserve this? Hey, Scully, we all feel that way. "Scully, I just wanted to let you know, Byers got knocked around pretty hard tonight."

"Byers is hurt?" Now she's kind of more awake. "How badly? How did it happen?"

"He's in GWU Med Center, torn retina, mild concussion, looks like he wrestled the pavement and lost. He's had surgery, they seem to think he'll recover just fine."

"How did it happen?"

"He had a run in with a small mountain. Saint Helens with a bad temper. Ex-husband of a lady he's doing some work for."

"Is this a Bureau matter?"

"No, local law enforcement." But I can tell he's crossing his fingers. That wasn't what he told DCPD. He's on it, and I bet you bucks she knows it.

"Where did you say he was again?" Scully asks him.

"GWU Med Center, West Pavilion. He was pretty out of it when I saw him. Maybe you can catch him early tomorrow before you head in to work."

"It's already tomorrow, Mulder." She hangs up. He just shakes his head like he doesn't get it. Well, he doesn't, but that's another story for another time. Mulder suddenly realizes that it's possible I heard the whole conversation, which, of course, I did.

"Were you snooping?" he demands.

"Who, me?" I feign innocence.

He shakes his head again. "Get some sleep, Langly. You're gonna need it."

"What about you?"

"I'm going to take a look at some of those Videos That Aren't Mine."

I'm not gonna sleep. I decide I'll join him. I nuke some Orville's Artery-Clogging Special Popcorn. Might keep my mind off other things right now. So I throw the bowl down in front of us. Unlike Sari, Mulder doesn't ask if it's been washed recently; he doesn't worry about stuff like that since he's a guy and he lives alone. He pops in a tape. I'd tell you what it was about, but somehow, I manage to crash before we get past the trailers...

3:17 AM


Byers is having a restless night, which is normal right after surgery, but he desperately needs rest. He'll doze off for about 20
minutes at a stretch, then wake up as though he's just had a nightmare, which he probably has. I don't think having to go through a surgery that required him to stay awake was a good experience for him. "Sari..." he mumbles. He's done this a lot. He's also asked for Susanne, and fought off Landau a couple of times. It's gotta be a mess inside his head right now.

I get up, grab a damp facecloth, and dab gently at his neck and face. The coolness seems to soothe him a bit. "She's fine, Byers. Langly took her back to our place, Mulder's getting her things, and between the two of you, I'd say you were the one that took most of the hit for the team." He sighs and leans back into the pillows. "Need some more pain meds, buddy?"

He nods. "Mmhmm... hurts." They've got him on Demerol, fastened to a PCA pump, but one of my primary jobs here is to remind him to press the button. He seems to forget that.

I sit with him and pat his arm gently, steadying him. "Try to get some sleep, buddy. Best thing for you right now." He really does need it. Unfortunately, it's not coming easily or providing him with any comfort. He mumbles something incoherent, like he has most of the other times he's been semi-conscious. Finally, I get him to close his eye that isn't bandaged and he rolls gingerly to his side, trying to get comfortable and to avoid hurting his eye any more than it already is. I return to my miserable excuse for a chair and try to relax. It's hard when you know that within the next half hour, you're going to be up again.

I think I'm dreaming when I hear a soft voice in the darkness. "Frohike?" The voice is female, gentle, and low in pitch. I recognize that voice.

"Agent Scully?" I say gently, quickly pulling myself to my feet. "I'm sorry, I must have dozed off."

"I'm sorry to wake you, but Mulder just called and told me about Byers." She walks quietly over to the bed. The soft backlight gives her enough light to give him a cursory once over. "What's he on?"

"Demerol, PCA pump. But he never remembers that all he has to do is press the button. I think that's my primary purpose here, reminding him to flick the switch. I'm surprised, since he was awake for the surgery."

"Awake but not as aware as he thinks he was," Scully explains softly. "He was given Versed beforehand? Normally that's the case."

"He was."

"He'll remember bits and pieces of it, but I wouldn't be concerned about him being unduly traumatized by the procedure. I know some of the physicians here on staff. I'm sure they tried very hard to make him comfortable."

"He got mangled pretty badly, as you can see."

She nods. "You realize he's going to be on complete bed rest for at least two weeks, don't you?"

Well, no, I didn't -- we haven't had a chance to discuss home care and prognosis with the surgeon in any detail. I shake my head. "He's in the middle of a job, too. Looks like Langly and I are going to have to step in to finish it for him."

"Which is why you need some sleep, Frohike."

"I'm not leaving the boy."

"At least try to rest. I'll stay."

"You don't mind?"

"After all you guys have done for me, you think I mind?" She looks at me with a wry smile as if to say, are you insane or what?

Well, I am. But God bless her. I actually manage to fall asleep.


I'm curious about how all this happened. Byers tries to stay away from trouble, but it just keeps finding him. He can be a very timid man, and I've seen him spook like a rabbit before. Mulder's call has me wondering about what's really happening here. He may say it's a local law enforcement issue, but I could hear that tone in his voice that said 'I'm taking care of this.' It didn't surprise me, being that Byers is the one who's hurt. It could have been any of them, and he'd do the same. But I'm not going to get any answers until I get Mulder and the Stooges all together in one place. I'm going to want to talk to this woman whose ex assaulted Byers, too. I suspect that there's more going on here than just some domestic violence case. Wherever the Gunmen are, there's always some kind of weird conspiracy hiding nearby.

Byers looks bad, but from what little I know of the circumstances, I'm suspecting it could have been much worse. I wonder how the woman is? Mulder didn't say if she was here somewhere as well, and I'm not going to wake poor Frohike right now to ask him. He looks like he's been through a meat grinder too, exhausted and in pain. That chair can't be good for his back and shoulder. The injury he sustained six weeks ago will probably continue to give him a moderate amount of trouble for a long time to come.

After I've been here about half an hour, Byers stirs, muttering something I can't quite make out. I think it's a name, but I'm not
sure. He's moving restlessly, and I reach out and take his hand. "Byers, can you hear me?"

He moans and turns his face slightly in my direction. "Scully?" he whispers. His good eye is open a tiny slit,  a line of pupil and iris barely visible through his lashes.

"Yeah, it's me. Are you in pain? Do you need another dose of Demerol?" I pick up the damp cloth that Frohike was using to cool him down earlier, and gently dab his face and neck, brushing sweat-damp hair from his face. He nods and gives a barely audible murmur, but I don't think he's really aware. I give the button on the PCA pump a gentle squeeze for him.

"Sari..." he mumbles. I doubt he's talking about silk, so maybe that's the woman. "...where... she..."

No one has mentioned her to me, and I'm sure that Frohike would have said something if she were seriously injured, so I'm going to take a wild leap here. "She's fine, Byers. She's safe." This seems to comfort him, and he slips back into a drugged sleep. Susanne left him so recently, and hurt him so badly in the process, that I can't imagine he's actually seeing anyone. Mulder said he was working for the woman whose ex had injured him, though. I'm guessing they were both assaulted, he tried to defend her, and hasn't seen her since the ambulance brought them here. Somewhere in the haze, he's still worrying about her, maybe reliving the assault. Maybe reliving the incidents with Landau as well.

For all his paranoia and timidity, Byers has always been a gentleman. I can't help but try to imagine the scene that must have gone down. Mulder described the assailant as 'a small mountain.' Byers is neither overly tall nor particularly bulky, and the image of him trying to hold his own against someone that much larger than he is worries me. He's surprisingly courageous at the oddest moments, and sometimes I really worry that it will get him killed someday. Fortunately, this time he'll recover. I hope it's soon, for everyone's sake. The boys have seen enough pain and trouble in the past couple of months for any dozen people. Things need to get better for them.

And I need to help make sure they do.

end part 10