Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 14

[disclaimers in part 1]

"I would like my wealth spattered with blood all over."

~~Rimbaud -- A Season in Hell~~



We brought John back this morning, much to everyone's relief. He's lying on that red velvet monstrosity of theirs at the moment. He's been upset about his doctor's advice, though, and I can't say as I really blame him. Apparently his headache problems are likely to last for at least a week and a half, or maybe two, and his blurry vision is going to continue even longer before his sight stabilizes again. He didn't react too badly to the news that he'd be unable to drive for at least six weeks, and was dealing more or less well with the idea of no watching movies or tv for close to two weeks, but when he was informed that it would be at least that long before he could use a computer monitor -- and at that, only with enlarged fonts -- and, worst of all, he would be unable to read books at all for most of a month, he launched into a litany of the most amazing R-rated
invective I've ever heard. Indeed, despite the fact that he's still exhausted and in miserable shape, he moaned about it all the way home.

We've been here for close to two hours, and he's been complaining, albeit quietly, almost the entire time. Ringo suggested books on tape, but all of us know that there isn't much but popular fiction available in that format. Frohike suggested large print books, but most of those are fit only for the Reader's Digest crowd. I empathize with him completely. Life without books isn't life at all. I should know, having had my skull fractured a few years back; I was deprived of books for nearly six months, and it's the reason I wear glasses now. In fact, there had been some question as to whether or not I would ever recover my vision at all. To be honest, if I were John, I'd probably be protesting the doctor's orders even more vehemently.

In between his rants about how he can't live without being able to read and his moments of silence when he's too tired to talk, he's also done his share of complaining about not being able to work on either my project, or on the work his friends are doing following Mulder and Scully's evidence of Barry's involvement with money scams and racketeering. I was shocked to learn about this new development, but at this point, I wouldn't put anything past the man. It seems there was a great deal I never knew about my former husband. At the same time, I find it strangely comforting. It seems that John and his friends aren't going to have to manufacture federal charges against him. This makes me feel much better for their sake, as well as mine. And I'm not sure, but I believe that since their friends are FBI agents, their current activities might just be protected as part of a
governmental investigation, so they aren't exactly engaged in illegal activities. Not at the moment, anyway.

I'll admit that this hacking they do makes me somewhat uneasy, but from what I've gathered through their conversations, and the more serious materials in their newsletter and on their website, they are actually working hard to expose a number of seriously dangerous government threats to public health, personal privacy, human rights, and public safety. They swear that this stuff about aliens, clones, and shapeshifters that they print is real, but I'm really having a hard time swallowing the whole thing. They say that Mulder and Dana could confirm their allegations, but I haven't had a chance to talk to the agents beyond seeing them for a few minutes this morning at the medical center when we went to pick up John. Ringo says that the two of them actually specialize in the paranormal, and are in fact their own FBI division -- the X files. While I believe that there is
life out there among the stars, I just can't accept that aliens are landing in rural villages mutilating cows, or conspiring with the government to create clones that bleed toxic green blood. John's quite firm in his insistence that this is real, and very dangerous. He says he doesn't buy some of the stranger stuff that Ringo and Frohike believe -- which sets the other two into a loud and exasperatingly comic squabble about mandroids, teletubbies, and the mind-altering properties of lime Jello. I do my best to suppress my laughter as they wave their arms at each other and shout about documentation, but snickers keep squeezing their way out from behind my hand, like errant weasels. John seems so sensible otherwise, that I find it hard to see him believing in this whole alien conspiracy thing.

I'm sitting on the couch with John, working one-handed on my laptop, which we picked up when we went by my apartment this morning to feed the anoles. Ringo's assessment of my place was "whoa, cool stuff," and about ten minutes of fascinated staring at the Shiva Shakti statue in my living room. I think he was trying to see if the Shiva actually had a penis. He was able to rescue almost all of my paper, and between John's research documents and the salvaged bits of my own research files from my hard drive, I've been able to reconstruct my white paper and am near to finishing it. Frohike says he'll type for me this afternoon, to help me finish faster. The poetry isn't so urgent, and will easily wait another week or two before anyone needs to do actual salvage on it. Ringo and Frohike have finally calmed down to an occasional snipe, and are hard at work at their online investigation into Barry at the moment. John is getting restless again, watching them.

"I should be helping with this," he says, for about the two hundredth time in the last hour.

"Shut up, Byers," Ringo and Frohike chorus in response. I can tell they're intensely relieved to have him home again, but he's beginning to get on their nerves. I can understand that. He's on the verge of getting on mine, too. He knows he can't see well enough to do anything, and that even if he were to try, he'd end up with severe eyestrain and a far more intense headache than he already has. In fact, he could probably do a considerable amount of damage to himself.

I do have to admit that watching the three of them together is actually quite amusing. There's a considerable comedy act in the banter between them. They finish each other's sentences, interrupt one another with stingingly sarcastic commentary, and impugn one another's honor and personal proclivities with practiced ease. John seems to be enjoying himself, even in the midst of his pain, frustration, and exhaustion. But when he insists that he's going to get up and help, Frohike, the den mother of the trio, puts his foot down hard.

"Bzzzzt! Sorry Byers, you've just earned yourself a one way ticket to your room. I can't work with all your whining."


Ringo's right there with him, closing in on the couch. "Sorry Narcboy, but like, you're not getting any rest out here. Neither are we. Time for you to dance with the sandman."


The two reach down and put their arms around him to help him to his feet. John objects, but really isn't in any shape to resist. But the shuffle off to Buffalo ends when Ringo and Frohike both yelp in pain.

"What happened?" I ask, worried.

"Damn, I keep forgetting about my ribs," Ringo says. I guess that this is some more of the damage he sustained when he was nearly killed a couple of months ago. Frohike just rubs his shoulder and mutters something under his breath about old age and treachery not being all they're cracked up to be.

"Here, guys. Let me help him. You two take care of your owies and get back to work." They look at me and mutter in agreement, moving away from John. He looks a little more comfortable with this arrangement. "C'mon you, let's go."

"Okay," he says, resigned to his fate. I slide my left arm around him, his arm over my shoulder, and John and I move slowly back to his bedroom.

When we're about halfway down the hall, I hear Ringo's muffled voice. "How long before you think those two are doin' the horizontal bop?"

Frohike chuckles. "I dunno. Not until they can do it without damaging each other, I hope."

John blushes and shakes his head sadly, but I don't say anything until I help him get settled in bed and we deal with the complicated, messy and uncomfortable process of medicating and re-bandaging his eye. I'm annoyed by their cavalier attitude. "What the hell is it with them?" I ask him. "We just met Saturday, and your buddies are trying to stuff us in bed together. Where the hell do those two bargain basement yentas get off?"

"I'm really sorry, Sari. I get this kind of crap from them all the time. Ever since Susanne, they have a tendency to overreact every time I'm within ten feet of anyone with XX chromosomes."

"Yeah, well if I hear it again, I'm going to rip both of them new assholes for the vernal equinox."

He gives me a wickedly evil grin. "I'd pay to see that."

"You started telling me about Susanne yesterday." I settle down in a chair next to him. He had sounded like it was important to him to explain his situation to me. "Would you... would you be willing to talk about this some more? You don't have to if you don't want to, of course. I know from what you've already said that this is a very hard thing for you, but sometimes talking does help." I really don't want to cause him distress, but every time I turn around in this place, somebody's making an allusion to her, or to the effect she's had on their lives. And most of it seems to have been awful, despite the fact that John is obviously still in love with the woman.

He sighs, and the look of tiredness and pain on his face intensifies. I wonder if this was a good idea. "Susanne." He looks off at the wall for a few minutes. I just wait, letting him decide when or if he's going to say anything. Eventually he looks back at me. "She's the reason that the three of us met," he says, "and the reason we do what we do." I settle back and get as comfortable as I can. I suspect this will be a long story.

John speaks slowly and quietly. I don't say anything except to make 'I'm listening' noises, because I don't feel like it's my place to interrupt. I get the feeling that not many people know this story, and that perhaps he's the only one who knows all of it. I don't want to distract him from it. He talks for close to three hours, speaking of his fears, his recurring dream of impossible love and devastating loss, and his constant nightmares, stopping occasionally to ask for pain medication, to rest, or to gather himself together again. Eventually, I move to sit next to him on the bed, and put an arm around him to help him stay grounded in the here and now. The telling is hard for him, and at a few points, he's very close to tears. I can tell there are moments when he's starting to relive some of the incidents, and do my best to bring him back without derailing him from this story he has obviously needed for a long time to tell. The tale itself is horrifying and bizarre, in places almost unbelievable. Susanne Modeski was not working willingly for her employers, and on several occasions, all four of them came close to losing their lives. Even his friends in the FBI were seriously threatened at a couple of points.

His sudden, obsessive attraction to her seems to be the focus for Ringo and Frohike's sexual teasing. He puts up with it, but I can tell that it hurts him sometimes. His intense loneliness comes through powerfully, although he doesn't admit to it as he speaks of his past. By the end of John's tale, the story of their second near-fatal encounter with Timothy Landau and its aftermath, he's in tears, shaking. I wrap him in both arms and mumble soothing words to him. I know how hard it can be to speak of these things, and how much that kind of violence and emotional damage can devastate a life. But speaking his truth seems to be having a cathartic effect on him as well, which was in part what I was hoping for in asking him to talk. When he finally calms to the point where he can speak again without falling apart, he's completely drained and exhausted, but a little
more stable. He seems more at ease than he has been since I met him. I suspect he's more comfortable inside himself than he has been in many years. I'm about to get up when Ringo opens the door. He doesn't say anything for a moment, seeing us sitting on John's bed, holding each other, but one eyebrow climbs skyward.

"You guys won't believe what we just found," he says when he recovers his composure, and there's intense excitement in his voice. The impression I get is one of glee.

"What did you find?" I ask.

"You need to see this for yourself," he says. He's almost bouncing.

"What?" John asks.

"C'mon out," Ringo says, "you'll love this!"

John focuses for a moment, then sighs. "I really can't," he says, discouraged. He looks more than half asleep. Considering how much effort he's put into talking in the last three hours, this doesn't surprise me. I really should have just let him rest. "I'm too wiped out to move. Besides," he says, with a slightly bitter tinge to his voice, "I couldn't see it if I did get up."

Ringo's face falls for a moment. "Oh, right. Sorry dude, I forgot."

"So?" I prod. Obviously, John wants to hear about this as much as Ringo wants to tell it. So do I. I help John settle back into a comfortable position on his pillow and seat myself back on my chair.

"Fro!" Ringo shouts out the door.

"What?" Frohike's voice is slightly annoyed. "Why aren't you guys out here yet?"

"Johnny can't read right now, remember?"

"Damn, that's right." I hear some fumbling about, then Frohike's footsteps in the hallway. He appears carrying a few sheets of paper, which he waves at me, and his face is lit up. "I can't believe the luck!" he gushes happily.

"Would one of you guys spill it already?" John snaps in a tone that says 'get it over with and let me sleep.'

Ringo giggles, and Frohike says, "It seems that Barry's money laundering activities are linked with a foreign business that's been a cover for Libyan arms dealers for close to ten years."

"What? You're kidding!" John sounds delighted, despite his condition. "That's amazing."

Frohike hands me the papers, but without context, they don't mean much to me. "Would you guys tell me in slightly less obscure terms what this means to our situation?" I ask. Arms dealing sounds seriously nasty, and certainly federal, but I'm not sure where this comes from. I hand the pages back to him.

"Sari, babe, it's looking like your ex might have been dabbling in treason," Ringo bubbles. "He's gonna spend the rest of his natural life makin' big rocks into little ones at Leavenworth by the time we're done with him!"

"Man," Frohike says, "I gotta call the fibbies and tell 'em we struck gold!" He dances his way out of the room, waving the printout sheets like a pompom.

I look at John, then at Ringo, and I smile.

end part 14