Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 15

[disclaimers in part 1]

"I believe we see our own Angel, and never anyone else's Angel."

~~Rimbaud -- A Season in Hell~~



Now that Byers has returned home, Sari is staying with me overnight for a few days. I'll be delivering her to the Gunmen's place on my way to work in the mornings. She says that while she likes the guys and enjoys their company, having to spend the night on their red velvet couch is less than appealing. I understand the sentiment entirely. I volunteered to take her in, although her cat is still staying with them, since I'm allergic. "The Cardinal seems to be taking to them rather well, which surprises me," she says. "Usually, it takes him forever to get used to new people, but he's been curling up on John's bed with him a lot, and is starting to let Ringo pet him now and then. He and Frohike seem to be eyeing one another warily as well."

"I think Frohike secretly likes cats, but doesn't want to admit it. And I don't understand why your cat would like Mulder so much," I tell her. "He's hell on his fish. They keep dying and having to be replaced."

Sari chuckles. "Some people's kids," she says.

Mulder and I spent most of the afternoon following up on the Gunmen's discovery of Barry Guertzen's covert link to Libyan arms dealers. Guertzen may be vicious, but he doesn't seem to be stupid. And Sari doesn't seem to be the sort to have married a stupid man. Despite his drinking problems, he seems to have been able to hide his activities very effectively. I think this is going to turn into a spectacular case for us. The man seems to have been knee deep in organizing deals and skimming government money to finance terrorist training camps, and there are hints that he may have also been involved in deals involving the smuggling of stolen nuclear materials from the United States. If this is the case, he'll certainly go down on treason charges, and Mulder and I may end up with commendations on our records as well. A raise wouldn't hurt either, of course. One hell of a good deal all around.

Sari and I have been talking for a couple of hours this evening about this situation and what it means for her, and I'm about to put dinner on the table. It's takeout Chinese, but she told me that it sounded wonderful, so I don't feel guilty about not cooking for us. "I spent a long time today listening to John," she says. "He told me about Susanne Modeski; how the woman has effected all their lives, and what her movements in and out of his life have done to him."

"He talked about that?" I ask, astonished.

"Yes," she nods, and continues, "this woman seems to have utterly destroyed his life. He told me all about her, really. Talked for about three hours and completely wore himself out in the process. Considering the circumstances, I'm not surprised she did what she did. If I were her, I might have done some of the same things. But I guess I don't really understand how someone as basically sensible as John seems to be would hold onto a relationship like that for so many years. She strikes me as being manipulative, and not particularly concerned with the effects of her actions on others, even though John tried to paint her in a far more sympathetic light."

I look at her more closely. She doesn't understand at all what he's done in speaking to her about this. "Sari, do you understand that Byers never talks about Susanne? He rarely even speaks to Frohike about her, and Frohike is the one he's the most open with. Aside from a very brief overview he gave me in Vegas, he's never spoken to me about her, and if he'd talked to Mulder about it beyond what Mulder saw in Baltimore, I'm sure I'd know by now. The guys have been worried for years about how little he says." I shake my head. "Have you said anything to either of them about this?"

"No. John brought her up a couple of times in the past couple days, and when I asked him about her today, it was like flood gates opening. He seemed to feel such intense relief after he'd told me what had happened. It was really hard for him, but he kept talking, and I didn't think it would be good to interrupt him if he needed that much to talk. I guess I figured that he hadn't told everything to his friends, but that they were probably aware of most of it, anyway."

"They are aware of most of the externals, having been there through all of it, but that doesn't mean he talks to them about it.  He's an extremely shy, private person. This is really a significant step for him. I don't mean to offend you, but I never thought he would tell a stranger about Susanne's effect on his life." I scoop out some steamed rice and Kung Pao chicken for myself, and Sari loads up on Orange tofu and the Buddha Feast vegetable mix.

"I don't really understand why he'd want to tell me, either, but he certainly seemed to need it. When we talked Saturday, I know we really enjoyed each other's company, but we talked about completely mundane things. Music, films, books, that kind of thing. I hired him to work for me that evening, and even if I hadn't, I felt like he was someone I'd still like to see sometimes. He's really sweet, and a very interesting guy; a good conversationalist, and maybe even someone who could be a good friend. Some people tell me I'm an easy person to talk to, so maybe that's part of it. But you know, Dana, I think his friends are taking bets on when we're going to tear each other's clothes off, even though we hardly even know each other!
Believe me, there's nothing of the sort going on between us. Their assumptions annoy me more than I can say. I have no idea what kind of woman they think I am, but I don't like the implications very well." She sighs.

I roll my eyes. "They're very juvenile sometimes, Sari. And they've been taking those bets about me and Mulder for at least seven years now. It's a universal guy quality. Even Byers has it, although in him it's not usually quite so noticeable. To soften their comments a little, I'd say that in a way, they're just showing their concern for him. They've been wishing for a long time that he'd let go of Susanne and find someone that would be good for him, instead of wallowing in his obsession with her. While I know it's hideously annoying, if they're trying to set you up with Byers, it actually means they really like you. And anyway, I honestly can't believe that Byers would be interested in anyone that way right now."

"I can understand that, and I'm not in a place where I'm looking for a lover either. I completely resent how these guys seem to be pushing that agenda, and I really wish they'd find some other way to express their undying esteem for me." Sari groans. "Fortunately, John seems to feel the same way I do about the situation. And anyway, Barry is still far too fresh in my mind." She moves her broken arm to emphasize his immediate and ongoing influence on her, wincing as she does so. "Gods only know I never want to make that kind of mistake again. After you've been with a guy whose main interest seems to be beating you to a pulp, you kind of get wary of emotional entanglements. I mean, I have male friends, but I sure don't let any of them get that close. Not only would I have problems with the idea, but every time Barry finds out that I've been anywhere near a man, he goes ballistic on me. It's not worth the hassle, really. I've been giving serious thought to finding a girlfriend as a solution," she says with a snort. "I mean, look what happened to poor John, and all I did was hire him to work on my computer." She pokes sadly at her food with a fork. "I'm so sorry for what happened to him. I almost hate Barry more for what he did to John than for what he's done to me. John is a total innocent in all this. He honestly didn't do anything but try to help me."

"He's that way." I tell her. "I think he always has been. To tell you the truth, of all the guys, I've always liked him best. He's... well, sort of the most normal of them, the sanest one of the bunch. That's not really saying much, of course. They're all paranoid and more than a little strange. Now, I'm not saying I'm not also very fond of Frohike and Langly. I really am. It's just..."

Sari laughs. "Yeah, I think I know what you mean. Ringo's like a cute but annoying younger brother, and Frohike, well, he's sort of like everybody's favorite weird uncle."

I laugh with her. She seems to have their characters nailed.



We got Sari's stuff pretty well put back together, nice and tidy. Not a snap, to be sure, but only took me one tin of those caffeinated Penguin Peppermints (a programmer's best friend, right after coffee) to get through it. We got it done fast, and we did it right. Sounds arrogant, but we always do. Hey, we got a reputation to keep up. The Cardinal is sprawled on top of my monitor like a ginger striped blanket, soaking up the warmth. Cat hair in the works doesn't thrill me, but I reach up and scratch behind his ears anyway. This sends him into total purr mode.

Something's eating at me, though, and I don't think it's the mints, even though they can burn a hole right through the lining of your stomach if you go nuts on 'em. Something about this hack, it's familiar. The signature reminds me of something. All hackers leave signatures, whether they want to or not. Kind of like serial killers in that regard. My brain's pretty fried at the moment, though, and it's just not coming to me. I'm about to go through some old stuff we've tackled, seeing if I can find our Mystery Date, but my e-mail plays 'Fur Elise.' The Deb Song! Let's see what she has to say.

Oh. My. God. I was kinda chilly before, even thinking about getting a sweatshirt, but the only thing I'd do to change clothes right now is to peel 'em off. She wrote back "naked." Oh man. Visions are dancing in my head, and that's not the only place they're hitting right now. Of course Frohike chooses right now to come in and catch me bright red and sweaty. And if you think he's going to overlook that, well, you don't know Frohike very well.

"Must've been a hell of an e-mail." I told you he wouldn't let me off.

"Shut up, Doohickey, I'm just warm."

"Right. It's 64 degrees in here, and you're warm. Sure." The bastard wanders over to my computer, and I try to cover the screen with my body so that he doesn't get to see what my girl wrote for me and *only* for me. "You guys in the process of getting laid on screen?"

"Doohickey, why don't you leave me the fuck alone and get your own girl to have wild fantasies about?" I snap at him. "Seems like those Tapes That Aren't Mulder's aren't doing it for you anymore." I'm expecting him to make some lewd comment, or at least a rude one, but he just sort of gets this weird look on his face, shakes his head, and walks off. Weirdness.

Anyway, I gotta come up with a word for Deb. Like I said, my head's not working real good right now (although other parts seem to be fully operational, thank you very much). Think, think, think -- I feel like Pooh. Pooh with a hard on. My mouth is getting real dry from staring at the screen in front of me. I got no chapstick on me at the moment, so I lick my lips to get them moist again...

Ah. I have my word. "Tongue." Let's see what she does with that!


Skinny brat. He's got a way of aiming for the nuts and hitting them dead on. It's part of his charm, and at the same time, one of the reasons he's so damn infuriating.

Yeah, I know I probably shouldn't tease him about his current squeeze, but I have to admit I enjoy getting a rise out of him. He's so gone for this one it's not even funny. Granted, I imagine he spends a lot of time dwelling on the possible pleasures of the flesh to be enjoyed with this young woman (if she could ever get some time off, which I hope she does, preferably before he drives me insane), but it seems that the relationship has gone beyond mere attraction. The boy forgets that Windows NT is a network system, at least where his hormones are concerned, and I've been able to catch glimpses of his conversations with the girl. Not to mention that he's forgotten to turn the tape off a few times when they've been on the phone together. There's plenty of sexual teasing, absolutely, but there are also serious conversations about health insurance, epidemics, the political climate, corporate greed, and the like.

Lately, though, it's beyond that. They talk of their families, growing up, humiliations in high school, their food preferences,
music, money, fun -- the things that really make them tick. He claims he's going to teach her to ski. Not this year, I hope. I've seen these boys banged up far too much already, and it's only March.

And he talks to her about that horrible night in York. He doesn't mention Susanne by name, but he has mentioned Landau. I think this is helping him get past the whole experience. He's still a pain in the ass, but he's concentrating better, and overall he's much more cheerful than he's been since January. At least when he's not being completely insufferable about being away from her.

Watching Sari with Byers makes me hopeful that he, too, might finally be able to move on. We kid him a lot about her, which we probably shouldn't do right now, but trust me, he'd do the same to us. Still, the friendship is gently but firmly taking hold. He's more comfortable with her than he's been with anyone in all the time I've known him. Last night he actually slept through the entire night. Didn't wake up with a single nightmare. I know they spoke at great length yesterday after we'd banished him to his room, although this time, I decided not to do any unauthorized snooping. I don't know what they talked about, but whatever it was, it gave the boy a solid ten hours of sleep. When he woke up, he was still hurting and not exactly bursting with joy, but he seemed much, much more at ease. I'd checked in on him during the night, and I noticed his breathing was
slow and regular. No feverish sweating, no thrashing about the bed. If she managed to do just that much for him, God love her. And he might not know it yet, but I've seen the way he looks at her. One of these days, it's going to come crashing down on him with all the force that Barry Guertzen did, but with a much more pleasant result.

Langly's right. I should find someone to keep company with. But in the meantime, there's a lovely lady I've been meaning to write a thank you note to. "Langly," I wander over to his computer, "are you in the hospital system?"

"What's it to you?" His tone is defensive. I hold up my arms in a
truce gesture.

"I was just going to say, while you're there, can you grab me the e-mail address for Ms. Mel Scarlett?"

I'm expecting him to start up on me, especially after I went for him earlier, but he just smiles a tiny smile and says, "Sure."

"I just want to write her a thank you note," I say to him, so as to not get him off and running.

"Uh-huh. Whatever." He looks up a few moments later. "Address is on your system, dude." Then he winks at me, a slightly evil little smile turning up the corners of his mouth to about his eyebrows. "Oh, by the way, Deb says she likes irises."


Deb got busy for a while, but I'm about to boot down for the night when I hear the Deb Song start up. Yes!!! I open up and catch the latest. She's written "lick."

AIEEEE!!! That woman's gonna kill me! But what a way to go...

end part 15