Maximum Byers 5: The Hazards of Being Human
by MiceSubject: Maximum Byers 5: The Hazards of Being Human Date: Saturday, August 03, 2002 6:49 PM This has been a while in coming, as I've been very busy most of the last six months or so. You can catch up on the other stories, if you've not read them, either at Down in the Basement or at my LiveJournal archive, listed below in the notes & disclaimers sections.
It's good to be back in the saddle again ;) mice! Title: MB5: The Hazards of Being Human Author: Mice
Category: LGM, Byers/Jimmy, Byers angst Rating: R for grownup talk
Summary: Every night has a morning after. Byers has to deal with his friends and his own head trips after his reality has changed. This story takes place the morning after MB4: What You Are in the Dark.
Archive: DITB, Lone Slasher, Countermeasures, LGM Fanfic Bunker, Glass Onion, all others ask.
Website (sorta): http://www.livejournal.com/users/mice1900 Disclaimer: If you think they're mine, you're delusional. I recommend a psychiatric exam.
Author's Notes: Bestest Beta by LadyKate, Pyrts, and Sally
LONE GUNMEN HEADQUARTERS
TAKOMA PARK, MARYLAND
When Byers woke, he wondered if the night before had been some overly enthusiastic wet dream, but he was just as naked as he'd remembered. So was Jimmy. A small smile crossed his face for a moment, though he wasn't sure whether he should be happy or mortified, remembering the amount of noise they'd made. It was virtually guaranteed that Frohike and Langly had heard them, and this meant that he'd have to talk with them at some point.
Talking was a thing he'd been trying hard to put off for the past month. He'd wanted to wait until he had his head sorted out before his friends began grilling him, but he suspected this was no longer going to be possible. Langly might not make a big deal of it, even if he was freaked out by it, but Frohike was certain to put on his Papa Bear hat and want to know what was happening and how he was feeling about it. He ran a hand softly over Jimmy's chest, looking at his friend -- his lover? God, that sounded strange -- for a moment before tossing on a clean pair of pajamas and donning his slippers and robe.
He hadn't had a lover in years. Even the idea seemed peculiar to him. He'd spent so long with his companions, celibate and, except for his brief and jealous second encounter with Susanne, not really caring. Sex had seemed irrelevant compared to the larger issues; the conspiracies, publishing the paper, helping Mulder and Scully, the odd incursions by Yves, and the constant dangers they found themselves facing. When he'd felt a need for anything, there was always his hand and, if he was feeling a little adventurous, one of Frohike's massive collection of porn tapes. He felt guilty about what he'd done last night, fearing that it would create an even greater risk for all of them if he and Jimmy were found out. He wondered if he could force himself back into celibacy again, push down the urges that had been awakened and stirred to ferocity after his... interlude last night. The prospect was distinctly unpleasant, but if he had to, he'd try.
Frohike was already in the kitchen when he arrived, coffee brewing, daily stack of papers at the ready. He was wearing the Hugh Hefner robe again. Langly probably wouldn't rise for at least another half hour, and who knew how long Jimmy would sleep. At least he'd only have to deal with one of them for the moment.
Byers sat at the table quietly and picked up a paper at random.
Frohike brought him a cup of coffee, then sat down next to him. "So."
Byers opened the paper.
Frohike fidgeted restlessly.
John tried to read the obituaries, but couldn't focus with the scruffy, diminutive man shifting nervously next to him. He looked up at his unshaven, as yet uncaffeinated friend.
"How are you doing?" Frohike asked.
Byers knew what he was really asking. He also knew that Mel wouldn't rest until he'd said something relevant. He put the paper down. "I'm... fine," he said.
Frohike stared at him, silent.
"You don't believe me?"
"You and Jimmy have been circling each other like scared, hungry wolves for the past month, Byers. It's about freakin' time you did something about it. It was starting to get pretty thick in here."
"Frohike!" John tried to keep his voice down.
Mel sighed. "Look, I know this isn't easy for you, buddy. It's okay. But you might say what's going on once in a while instead of keeping us guessing. If you think what's going on between you two is news to us, you've been living in a cave. The thing is --"
Byers twitched nervously. "What?"
"Hey, you know as far as Jimmy's concerned, he worships the ground you float over. I mean, he's a nice enough kid, but I gotta admit, I thought you had a little more class than... well... that."
"Excuse me?" Byers' eyebrows climbed his face. This wasn't exactly what he'd been expecting. Reproach maybe, anger, or even surprise, but not this.
"We all know he's not the brightest bulb in the box. He's got a good heart, yeah, but... I always thought that if you went for a guy, he'd have brains, like Her. A researcher or something. One of our better looking sources, maybe. At least another hacker." Frohike paused, an odd expression on his face. "But if you go getting any ideas about Kimmy..." He picked up his coffee mug and took a sip, chuckling and shaking his head.
"Frohike, I... How can you say those things? Jimmy's here because he believes in what we're doing. He's here because he wants to help us with the paper. And..." he blinked. "...what do you mean 'if I went for a guy'? I... I..." Byers stammered to a stop, astonished at Frohike's words. Had he been that obvious? He was sure those thoughts had been completely buried his entire life before the incident. John started bouncing one heel nervously on the floor.
"Oh, come on Byers. We all know you're the real reason Jimmy joined us. He's been following you around like some lovesick puppy from day one. The guy's got a serious case of hero worship, and..." Frohike paused and stared at him, setting down his cup. Surprise crossed his face as the light dawned. "You really didn't know, did you?" He shook his head and sighed, face buried in one hand. "Byers, you are one hell of a piece of work, you know that?"
John stared at Frohike, unable to speak for several minutes. Frohike just watched him, sipping his coffee while he waited. Finally, Byers whispered "How did you know? Even I didn't know I felt that way. Not really. I... I pushed it down whenever I had thoughts like that. I didn't want to feel like this. It's... too dangerous. It's too much of a risk. It... it puts all of us in a very..." Byers swallowed, clear blue eyes filled with uncertainty "... vulnerable position."
Byers watched Frohike watch him. Mel rolled his eyes and shook his head. "No, it doesn't. It doesn't substantially change anything, really. We already know that if They wanted to get to us, all They'd have to do is grab any one of us off the street and we'd be screwed. It doesn't matter if you're sleeping with anybody, Byers, as long you're doing it here, with somebody we know. If any of us were sleeping with somebody who wasn't involved with the work, somebody who didn't understand the situation, that would be different. It would put someone outside our... our family in danger. But not this. As far as it being Jimmy, or any guy, they can't blackmail you with something if everybody knows about it. If you don't hide it, they can't use it against you, except in some pretty extreme circumstances. It's not like we have outside jobs to worry about."
Blackmail was only one of John's worries, and he already knew there were people he didn't intend to tell. His father was at the top of that list. Byers opened his mouth to respond, but Frohike held up a hand and continued. "As far as 'knowing,' well, I have eyes. I saw the way you used to look at Langly sometimes, when you thought nobody was watching. I recognized the look on your face."
Byers' mouth opened and closed soundlessly, then he sputtered, "Wh-what look?"
"You know," Frohike answered, "The Look. The one that sets off gaydar four states away. And it's okay, John. I'm sorry it wouldn't work out for you two, him being straighter than your average ruler and all. Much as I think Langly is a pain in the ass, at least he's smart enough that you two could look out for each other if you were together."
John blushed deep red and buried his face in his hands, his elbows on the table. He'd thought of that as one of his deepest, darkest secrets, and here Frohike had known the whole time --read him like a traffic sign. He always thought he'd been much more careful to guard his emotions, much more discreet. It was another shining example of his body betraying him. Maybe Korowski had known.
"Who else knows?" he asked, his shoulders slumping, ashamed.
"I never said anything to anybody. Definitely not to Langly. It wasn't anyone's business but yours." Frohike reached out and rubbed John's shoulder. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's not like I haven't been around the block a few times myself over the years."
Byers looked up, stunned. "You?" At least it explained Frohike's 'no man kisses like that' comment the day they'd met their 'worthy adversary,' Yves.
Mel shrugged. "Eh. I was young. I wasn't into guys that much, never have been, but sometimes... well, sometimes you just need somebody. At least I did. In the jungle in 'Nam... some things are better than being lonely." He took a breath and released a long sigh. "With you, it's more than that. That much is obvious. You need a connection with somebody, even if it's not a connection I understand."
Byers stared at Frohike. "I'm really offended by your remarks about Jimmy." Frohike's attitude was moving beyond irritating into deeply annoying.
Frohike shook his head and gestured with one hand. "The boy's dumb as a stump. He gets us into just as much trouble as he helps us out of. And I don't feel like seeing either of you get hurt over this. You know it's not gonna work. Jimmy's not your security blanket, and you're not a one night stand kinda guy, Byers. Everybody knows that's why you've kept to yourself all these years. You'd rather have nothing at all than take a chance on getting hurt like that. You're hoping for the happily ever after. Do you really think you're gonna get that with Jimmy?" He said the man's name like it tasted funny.
Byers leaned back in his chair with an angry grimace, arms crossed over his chest. He snapped, "I don't know. I don't know anything right now. I hardly even know how I feel, except that what happened mostly felt... right. How can you even suggest that I might be... using Jimmy for a... a 'security blanket'? And you're worried about me? I don't believe you, Frohike! Jimmy may be a little slow, but he has more heart than any of us."
"Maybe." Frohike snorted. "You two are so alike sometimes, it's frightening. You're like... like matter and antimatter -- you shouldn't both be in the same place at once or the universe will explode or something. You're both godawful idealists. You'll do stupid shit because you think it's the right thing to do, and Langly and I have to follow you around and pull your ass out of the fire." Mel's voice got louder as he became more annoyed. "Jimmy would follow you anywhere and do any damned fool thing you told him to, just because it's you, whether it's brilliant or suicidal." He poked a finger at Byers, leaning across the table into his face. "You need somebody with more sense, Byers. Somebody that can talk you out of the truly stupid shit, stop you when you get into the weird zone."
John's anger was slow to provoke, but when it came it was fierce, and he was bordering on rage after Frohike's litany against the man who had showed him such love and acceptance. He glared at Frohike, his voice rising as he spoke. "So it's not enough that I've been alone all these years, been traumatized and assaulted, had my entire life pulled out from under me, been trying to figure out what the hell is going on in my head, but when somebody kind and decent finally takes any interest in me, finally wants to be with me, he's not good enough for me? He's too interested in me? And I'm using him? Good grief, Frohike, don't you think if I'd found somebody before, I would have done something about it?"
Byers was shouting, but he didn't care. "Who the hell do you think you are, my father? No, wait, my father would just try to beat the crap out of me for disappointing him because I..." He lurched to his feet and stormed from the room, leaving Frohike at the table with his mouth hanging open.
Byers burst into his room, slamming the door open, then shut behind him. Jimmy was sitting up in bed, looking like he'd been interrupted when he was getting up.
John pulled underwear and socks from his drawer and a shirt and suit from his closet, tossing them on the bed. The socks smacked Jimmy full in the chest. He was grumbling darkly to himself about what he wanted to do with Frohike.
"John, what happened? Are you okay?"
"I don't want to talk about it," Byers snapped, shedding his robe and pajamas, throwing them randomly as he undressed.
Byers grabbed his briefs and put them on, then pulled his shirt on. "I said, I don't want to talk about it." His voice was cold and cutting.
Jimmy looked up at John, looking like a whipped puppy. Byers paused for a moment as he buttoned his shirt. "It's not you. I just don't want to talk about it right now."
Jimmy sat and stared, his sky blue eyes wide, as Byers finished getting dressed, draped a tie around his neck and dashed out of the bedroom, tying it as he rushed for the door from the living quarters into their alley. John was fuming. Jimmy had never seen him so angry in the entire time he'd known him. Not even when he'd ripped up that check the senator's aides tried to bribe him with.
He heard Langly's voice. "Byers, wait a..."
The outside door slammed behind John. Jimmy got out of bed and put his clothes on, heading for the kitchen. Langly was already there in his white tank top and boxers, shouting at Frohike, when Jimmy came to the table.
"Why the hell did you tell him that?" Langly howled. "You coulda waited a few days before you stuffed your head up your ass, you know!"
"It's too late now," Frohike growled. "And you know I'm right."
Jimmy looked from Langly to Frohike as they noticed him standing by the table. "What happened?" he asked. "Is John mad at me? Did I... "
Frohike looked up at the tall, athletic blonde, his face red.
Langly shook his head. "Nope. This one's all the Wonder Dwarf's doing." He scowled down at the small, round man.
"If Byers had a goddamn clue --"
Langly cut Frohike off. "Oh, don't even try to blame this on Byers, Doohickey. You're the one who needs to buy a clue here. How the hell could you say that to him? He's old enough to make his own decisions, remember? It's not like he's some dumb kid who hasn't discovered his own dick yet."
"You mean like you?" Frohike snapped.
Jimmy held his hands up, confused, and moved between his bickering friends. "What's going on, guys? Why's John so mad?"
Langly glared at Frohike. Frohike looked back, pleading with his eyes.
Langly snorted. "I ain't bailing your ass out here, Mel. You took the stupid pill this morning. You tell Jimmy what you said to John."
Frohike shifted in his seat, nervous. He looked at one of the stacks of papers.
"What did you say to him?" Jimmy asked quietly.
"I told him I was worried about him," Frohike said, "that I didn't want to see him get hurt. Or you."
Langly shook his head and poked Frohike. "Yeah, right. Tell him the rest."
Frohike sat, silent.
Langly looked up at Jimmy. "He told Byers you weren't good enough for him. He said you were too stupid for him. He said Byers was just using you for a security blanket, and that it would never work." The anger in Langly's voice was an arctic permafrost layer. He turned to Frohike again. "Isn't that right, you sorry bastard?"
Jimmy stood staring at Frohike, tears forming in his eyes. He took several deep breaths before he spoke. "Is... is that true? Did you really say that to him? That I'm stupid, that he's using me? That... that things could never work for us?"
Frohike buried his face in one hand and nodded. "Yeah, I did," he said, barely audible. "But let me explain, okay?"
"Explain?" Jimmy's voice was filled with the pain of his betrayal by a man he'd considered not just a friend but a role model. "What's to explain?" He sniffled, and looked at the door. "I need to go find John."
Langly shook his head. "No way. He's gonna need some time to cool off, and it's probably best if I go after him anyway. Besides, I think Frohike owes you a major apology, dude."
Frohike and Langly exchanged a long look. It was Frohike who broke eye contact first, under Langly's furious glare.
He turned to Jimmy. "I'm sorry, Jimmy." Frohike bit his bottom lip. "Let me explain."
Jimmy didn't look up, but Frohike could see his tears falling, leaving damp grey splotches on the stack of papers. The big man's silence was thick with anguish.
"I'm gonna go shower and get dressed, then I'm gonna go talk to Byers." Langly said. "You two deal with this. I'll be back later." He ran a hand over Jimmy's shoulder. "Don't worry, I'll bring him home. We'll figure it all out, dude. Whatever happens, it'll be okay."
REFLECTING POOL ON THE MALL
Langly found Byers exactly where he'd expected to, sitting on that park bench, staring into the reflecting pool. It was the place he'd usually find his friend if Byers was stressing hard and needing some space to think.
"Figured I'd find you here," he said, sitting down next to his buttoned-down partner.
Byers didn't say anything. His hands were folded together, elbows on his knees, and he was leaning forward staring silently into the water.
"Frohike's a jackass."
"I made him apologize to Jimmy."
John looked up at that, but still didn't speak.
Langly sat and stared at him quietly.
"Why are you here?" Byers asked. "I was sure you'd be as freaked out about it as Frohike was."
"'Cuz I'm not a jerk like Frohike." Langly grinned. "Besides, I got no problem with you taking a walk on the wild side."
Byers looked back out on the water. "Apparently that wasn't what Frohike was having trouble with. It was the fact it was Jimmy that got him so upset."
Langly looked out at the water as well. "Yeah. Well, so Gigantor can be an annoyance now and then. That doesn't mean he'd mess you up."
Byers looked back at Langly, and the lanky blonde met his eyes. "He said..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know what he said. 'Security blanket' and 'using him' and all that other crapola."
"But you don't think that way."
Langly shook his head. "Nope."
Byers sighed, remembering all the reasons he'd been attracted to Langly after they'd first met. "I wasn't expecting you to react quite so... calmly."
"Nah. I got enough queer friends that I got over it years ago. It's just people trying to be happy, you know?"
Byers leaned back onto the bench, hands now resting in his lap. "So what do you really think?"
Langly shrugged. "You gotta do what you gotta do, whatever's right for you. Things have been pretty fuckin' weird since you two were in that damned Texas hell hole. I wasn't sure we were gonna see either of you in one piece again. After what happened..." His voice trailed off into uneasy silence.
John shuddered. "It was awful."
Langly just nodded.
"I wish none of it had ever happened."
"Seems like a pretty sane reaction to me," Langly said. "But even though Doohickey's a fuckhead, and I can be pretty bad about it too sometimes, you could still say stuff to us."
"What was I supposed to say?"
A strained frown crossed Byers' face. "Right. I can see it now. 'Well guys, I almost got raped, and oh, by the way, I also happen to like guys...' Yeah, that would really have been helpful." He shuddered and looked away from his friend.
"Well, it's not like one thing caused the other, ya know," Langly said. "We're not that stupid. Okay, so maybe Frohike's that stupid sometimes, but still..."
"This is not a joke, Ringo."
"Sorry, man. It's just been... kind weird, you know?" He reached out to Byers.
John looked at Langly's hand for a minute, then finally took it in his own. He sighed. "I wish I knew what to do," he whispered.
"Seems like you're doing better, you know," Langly said.
Byers shook his head. "It doesn't feel that way."
"I figure last night meant you had to be doing a lot better, actually."
Byers closed his eyes tight and let go of Langly's hand. "I was... well... terrified."
"But you got through it."
Byers looked up at Langly again. "I guess I did."
Langly put a hand on Byers' shoulder. "You'll get there, dude. "
"I hope so."
"C'mon. Let's go home. Frohike owes you an apology too."
"I'm not sure I'm ready for that."
"Then talk to me already. For real. What's really going on in there?"
Byers watched Langly for a few minutes. The blonde waited patiently, a feat Byers had not often seen from his friend. Finally, it appeared that Langly would say nothing until John had offered some comment. The thought of coming clean on the subject brought equal measures of fear and relief. He wasn't sure which would eventually win out.
Byers took a deep breath. "Have you ... have you ever wanted something that terrified you? Something that made you question everything you've ever known about yourself, that you ever assumed about your world? Have you ever wanted something that gave you nightmares and woke you up in a cold sweat afterwards?"
Langly shook his head slowly. "No."
"That's how I've felt most of my life."
"About....?" Langly could guess, but he wanted to hear it from John.
Byers closed his eyes, hoping it would give him enough focus to actually say the words. "About wanting... about being with other men."
"So everything you know is wrong. It's not like it's good or bad. It just is."
"I felt like I was wrong, though. Like there was something wrong with me. It's what I heard from my family, from society, from the church. And when I had those feelings, I did my best to bury them, because it was easier than trying to learn how to cope with them."
Langly touched John's hand. "It's okay to look at me, you know. I ain't gonna bite. I'm your friend, remember?"
Byers looked up again, fear in his eyes. "And would you still be my friend if I told you I'd had feelings like that for you for a long time?"
Langly blinked a couple of times, surprise crossing his face. He swallowed uneasily, but didn't move his hand from where it rested on John's. "Hey, you're the closest thing I got to a brother, Byers, and it's cool, 'cuz you know I'm not like that, and you never, like, tried anything."
Byers sighed and nodded, relieved.
"We're cool," Langly said, relaxing again.
"Thanks," Byers said quietly.
"Like, do you still... I mean, are you..."
John shook his head. "No, I knew a long time ago that it would never happen."
"But I'm curious," Langly said. "I mean, why now, and why Jimmy? After all those years of you being obsessed with Mata Hari..."
John knew this would be hard to answer. He could feel his muscles tense, tightening like springs. There was a ghost of Korowski's presence behind him, and he could almost smell the stale tobacco smoke.
"It wasn't my choice to start thinking about it. It was forced on me when Korowski... when he..." Byers choked and couldn't continue.
Langly looked alarmed. "Hey, hey, take it easy man." He slid closer to Byers and put an arm around his shoulder. "It's all over. You're not there anymore. "
"I keep seeing him in my nightmares, almost every night. It doesn't seem to matter what I do, he's there. Sometimes even when I'm awake, it's like he's right around the corner or over in the next room. Sometimes I feel like he's standing there behind me. I can... I can smell him. I can feel him touch me." Byers shook violently for a moment, then collected himself. "I just... I needed not to be alone. I couldn't sleep alone."
"Hey, whatever makes you feel better, it's okay. I wouldn't have wanted to be in your shoes."
"The nightmares weren't even the worst of it," Byers continued. "It was... it was the fear that I'd brought it on myself, by saying or doing something that brought his attention to me. I thought somehow I must have asked for it. I was... it just..." His rising fear caught him and he held his breath, unable to continue.
Langly tried to call him back. "Hey, you're here, you're safe. Just be in the now. It's not like I'm trying to kick your butt, right?"
Byers gasped for breath when he couldn't hold it any longer. He panted for a few minutes, shaking as Langly sat with an arm around him.
"Where are you, Byers? Talk to me."
Byers nodded. "I know I'm not there. It's... it's okay. It's just hard to think about."
"Sure," Langly said, quiet and subdued.
"The worst thing," Byers whispered, "was when he was there behind me, trying to... he..." He took a deep, sharp breath. "...and I wondered if that wasn't what I'd wanted all along. If it wasn't some kind of cosmic justice for wanting other men. If I was --"
"Shit, no, you moron!" Langly shook him. "You might've been afraid of that, but that's not why shit like that happens!" He turned John's face toward his own. "Look at me, damn it --that's nuts. You didn't deserve that, and you sure as hell didn't want it. That's just homophobic crap and you know it. That's not you!"
Byers just sat, shuddering.
"Damn it -- John!" Langly gave him a brief hug. "You know that's not what it was about, and Frohike sure as hell knows it too, even when he's the world's biggest asshole."
When Byers looked up, he saw Langly's eyes pleading with him.
"You gotta know we all care about you," Langly said.
"I don't know if I can go back."
Langly shook his head. "You gotta. You live there."
"I don't know if I belong there."
"Of course you do. Where the hell else would you go?"
"I don't know."
"That's because there isn't anyplace else. It's home, man. You can't just go wandering off with nowhere to go. That's Mulder's job."
A tiny smile broke through Byers' pain. "You're right about that, at least."
"See? And you haven't even had your caffeine yet. How the hell can you make a big decision like that without coffee and breakfast?"
Byers chuckled. "That's close to heresy."
Langly grinned. "Close? That's right smack in the middle of it. Besides, Jimmy's waiting for you. And if Frohike doesn't apologize to you, you don't wanna miss me kicking his ass around the place."
"C'mon, Langly. Let's go home."
Langly grinned. "I was hopin' you'd say that."
The two stood and started the long walk back to the van.
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