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Maximum Byers 6: What You Are in the Light

by Mice

     Subject: [glass_onion] New: (LGM) MB6: What You Are in the Light - slash
     Date: Monday, September 30, 2002 5:22 PM
     
     Title: Maximum Byers 6: What You Are in the Light
     Author: Mice
     E-mail: justusmice@yahoo.com
     Category: LGM, Byers/Jimmy, angst
     Rating: R for grownup talk
     Summary: Is Jimmy the right guy for John? Not according to
     Frohike. What happened while Langly went looking for Byers?
     Archive: DITB, Lone Slasher, Countermeasures, LGM Fanfic Bunker,
     Glass Onion, all others ask.
     Website: http://www.squidge.org/~surrealarts/mice.html
     Disclaimer: If you think they're mine, you're delusional. I
     recommend a psychiatric exam.
     Author's notes: Amazing Beta by Sal, Amazon X, and 1,000,009.

LONE GUNMEN HEADQUARTERS
TAKOMA PARK, MARYLAND
LATE MORNING

Langly went off to shower and the two of them stared at each other for a few moments: hurt, hesitant, wary. Byers' angry departure and Langly's shouting had left both of them reluctant to speak. Jimmy's slow tears were still slipping down his face, making tiny tapping sounds when they hit the stack of newspapers he stood over.

Frohike looked up at Jimmy and sighed. "Would you sit down already," he grumbled.

Jimmy pulled a chair out and sat, silent. He refused to look at Frohike.

Langly returned from his shower to find them still sitting: Frohike staring at Jimmy, Jimmy staring at the floor. He shook his damp hair and crossed his arms, then snorted. "Should I bet on who cracks first?"

His two companions looked at him, then each other. They both started in at once.

"Frohike, I --"

"Damn it, Jimmy --"

They stumbled to a confused stop and stared at each other again.

"Okay," Jimmy said. "You go first." He looked up at Langly, eyes red and damp. "Please, Langly, bring John home. He really needs to be here. I'm real worried about him." Jimmy wrapped his arms around himself, concerned about what John might do if he were angry and upset enough. He wished John hadn't run out so fast, and that he'd been able to talk to the man before he'd left, so mad he could barely contain himself.

Langly nodded. "I thought you two were gonna take all goddamn day. I'm outta here." He slipped out the door quickly.

Frohike sighed. "Look, kid, I care about Byers, okay, but I've always been honest with him. I wasn't trying to get anybody all bent out of shape. "

Jimmy looked at Frohike for a moment, thinking about it. Finally, he took a deep breath. "Okay," he said quietly. "Talk. I'll listen. But then it's my turn, and you have to listen too."

Frohike nodded. "Fair enough."

Frohike and Jimmy looked at each other. They stared, silent, as the clock ticked and Frohike's coffee cooled.

"So start," Jimmy said. "Why did you say those things to John?"

Frohike picked up his coffee and sipped, then gave his mug a sour look. "I think I need some hot coffee first."

Jimmy picked up Frohike's cup, went into the kitchen and poured a new cup for Frohike, then one for himself. He returned to the table, slapping Frohike's mug down in front of him in annoyance at the stall, then sipped from his own. "Now talk."

Frohike used the sleeve of his robe to dab at the coffee that had slopped from his cup. "Do you know how hard it is to get coffee stains out of velvet?" he snapped as Jimmy sat.

"Why did you say those things to John?" Jimmy repeated.

"Because they were true," Frohike said.

Jimmy's face fell. "Why? Do you think I would hurt him?" There was pain in his voice.

Frohike thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Not deliberately, no."

"But you think I'd do it by accident because I'm too stupid to be with him," Jimmy said with a growl.

Frohike snorted. "It's not like you two are in the best position to be making any long term commitments here."

"You think he'll leave me when he feels better, don't you?" Jimmy asked. He was quiet, and the hurt in his voice returned.

Frohike sat silent, staring at Jimmy for a long time. Finally, hesitantly, he said, "Probably."

Jimmy looked away. "Maybe he will. I don't know. Maybe he won't. You don't know, either, unless you've got a Magic 8 Ball hidden somewhere you didn't tell me about."

"You two need to get your shit together. He needs to get his head on straight again, and you need to quit worshipping him like he's some kind of demigod. Byers is just a guy, damn it." Frohike sighed, frustrated.

Jimmy looked back at Frohike, his eyes damp again. There was a certain wistfulness in his voice. "John's not like everybody else."

"You're right. He's not. He's better than most. But he's damn sure not perfect, and --"

Jimmy cut him off. "Yeah, I know he's got problems. I know he's hurt and mad and scared. I think maybe I even know more about his problems than you right now." He paused for breath, eyes closed, trying to steady himself. "But he's a good person. He always tries to do the right thing, no matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts him. Even if he's not a famous hero, like... like Superman or Captain America, he's still way better than most people. Of course he's not perfect, but to me, he's a hero. He always will be."

Jimmy looked down into his mug. "And so are you and Langly. Even when you say stuff that hurts."

Frohike stared at Jimmy for several long minutes. He took a couple of big gulps of his now lukewarm coffee. "Don't you start fitting us for spandex tights and capes, kid. We do what we have to, and if things get too dangerous, we run like hell for cover. That's all we do. We're just doing our jobs. You need to get over your delusion."

"I'm not denuded, Frohike." Jimmy shook his head and looked back up into Frohike's face. "You guys just can't see yourselves the way I see you. And you can't see John the way I see him."

Frohike frowned. "I've known him a hell of a lot longer than you have. I think I know a little something about him. And right now, he could be using you and not even realize it."

Jimmy's lower lip trembled for a moment. The hurt in his eyes deepened, and Frohike could see him struggling for control. "So what if he is? Did you ever think that maybe I don't mind? That I'd do anything to help him and keep him safe?" Jimmy sniffled and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "I didn't ask him to be with me, Frohike, even though I always wanted that. He asked me. From the time all this started, it was his idea. He asked me to sleep with him so he wouldn't be alone at night. I just told him I'd be here for him and do anything for him that he wanted. That's all." The big blond was nearly in tears again. "I would never have even touched him if he didn't want me to. If it turns out that he's only with me because he needs somebody until he feels better, then at least he's with someone who loves him." Jimmy choked for a minute, took a breath, and continued, anger tingeing his voice. "It's better than him going off with some stranger who just wants to fuck him and doesn't care about what happened to him. At least he can trust me, even if you don't."

Frohike blushed, angry, but sat in silence, biting his tongue.

"Did he ever tell you what happened in there?" Jimmy asked, his eyes now hard and angry.

"Not in any detail, no." Frohike looked at one of the stacks of papers, avoiding Jimmy's accusing eyes.

"Korowski paid two guys to hold John down," Jimmy said quietly, not looking at Frohike. "I got separated from him. I wasn't paying enough attention. And these two guys grabbed him. By the time I knew what was happening, I thought I was too late. Those two big guys were holding him down and Korowski was on top of him, and I thought he was already..." Jimmy's voice broke, but he took a breath and continued, "...raping John. I dragged Korowski off him. Then the other guys backed off. They saw how mad I was. They knew I'd hurt them."

Jimmy caught his breath again, fists clenched, looking over at Frohike. Frohike looked up at him, and saw the icy rage in Jimmy's face as he spoke. The big man's voice was barely audible, but flat, and dangerous as a cobra. "I would have killed Korowski with my bare hands, Frohike. I swear. I've never felt that way about anyone before, but I would have snapped that bastard in half if he'd actually... if he'd really raped him." Jimmy shuddered but his eyes fixed unflinching on Frohike's face. "I would have killed all three of them. I would have been glad to do it."

Frohike couldn't help but shiver, an icicle descending his spine at seeing the generally good natured young man so cold and angry. He knew it had to have been awful, but he'd been able to avoid the sense of its reality before Jimmy told him the details. Byers was an uptight guy, very private and reserved. He was too gentle for his own good. Under everything, he knew Byers was a sensitive, shy man, too easily shamed, and that if things had gone any further, if Jimmy hadn't been there to stop the assault, they might have lost John entirely.

He had some idea of how much it might take to get Jimmy to actually do another person serious bodily harm. The idea of Jimmy wanting to kill people scared the crap out of Frohike. A hard chill settled into his marrow. He took another sip of his coffee, wishing it would warm him.

Sorrowful now, Jimmy continued, growing more upset and agitated with each passing word. "Anything I can do for him, Frohike, anything at all, I'll do it. I don't care if I end up getting hurt or anything. I don't care if I end up dead, as long as it helps him. He should never have been in that mess in the first place. He wouldn't have been, if I'd been doing my job." Jimmy hid his face in one hand, now weeping openly. "It was all my fault -- and I love him. God, I love him. How could I let that happen to him?"

Frohike reached out and put his hand over Jimmy's on the table. In his concern for Byers, he hadn't considered how badly Jimmy was hurt by their time inside, but it was becoming more obvious by the minute. "You stopped Korowski. You kept Byers from being hurt a hell of a lot worse than he was."

"Did you know that John's been looking in closets and behind doors and stuff, looking for him, ever since we got home? Did you know he has nightmares every night where people turn into Korowski and try to rape him? Did you know he's maybe getting an hour of solid sleep a night when I'm with him, and less than that when I'm not? Did you know he's been freaking out when he thinks he's alone?"

Frohike shook his head. "I knew he was in bad shape."

"I know you guys care about him, I know you do, but asking me how he's doing every once in a while, then getting all spaced out when I try to tell you, or acting like stupid Jimmy Bond couldn't know what's really going on -- it totally hurts, and it doesn't do John any good either. About the only useful thing you guys have done since we got home is stay out of the way when I'm trying to keep John together. But he... he needs you guys! I need you guys! I can't do this all alone, I..."

Jimmy couldn't maintain his equilibrium any longer, and broke down sobbing, burying his face in his arms on the table. Frohike sat for a moment, nervous and uneasy, then stood and walked around to Jimmy's side. Hesitantly, he laid a hand on the big man's shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Jimmy. I had no idea it was that bad." This wasn't a side of Jimmy he'd been expecting to see. The familiar, obsessive puppy-dog admiration was gone. There was little sign of Jimmy's too-frequent goofiness. What Frohike saw was determination, deep guilt and shame, fear, and a frightening amount of genuinely selfless love for Byers, though he feared it might turn to martyrdom if anything happened to John in the next few months. Bond was no longer quite the stupidly optimistic young man who'd joined them the previous year.

Frohike felt a sudden twinge of jealousy. He had no designs on Byers. He'd never been interested in John as a lover; the moody, bearded man just wasn't his type, and he really did strongly prefer women. That wasn't the source of his jealousy. He loved his shy, quiet friend, but not the way Jimmy did. If anything, he'd often felt more like Byers' surrogate father than anything else.

No, what he was jealous of was Jimmy's closeness to the man he'd come to care so much for over the years. He was used to Byers confiding in him, coming to him with his secrets and his fears, and now, Jimmy seemed to have replaced him as the trusted one, the one Byers could share his most difficult secrets with. He was jealous of Jimmy's emotional intimacy with Byers.

It annoyed and irritated him deeply. He knew in his head that it was irrational, but in his heart, he felt usurped, felt that his secure position in their odd family circle had been somehow undermined. He'd always been there to help when Byers or Langly were on edge or hurt or afraid. The startling revelation of how much Byers had been confiding in Jimmy, or perhaps how much Jimmy had been observing that he had failed to, made Frohike feel old and useless. He was angry at Jimmy for taking his place. He was angry with himself for failing his friend. He was angry that no one had bothered to point it out to him -- though he knew it was unlikely he'd have listened -- but most of all, he was angry that he'd been standing by doing nothing when he'd been so needed.

He also knew that, no matter how great the temptation, he couldn't take that anger out on Jimmy. The poor kid had been doing his best under some really awful circumstances. Jimmy was right. He and Langly had been avoiding their responsibilities, hoping that Byers would get through it on his own, and that they wouldn't have to deal with the genuine depth of his pain. He was having his nose rubbed in how well that wasn't working. The realization that Jimmy was walking wounded as well didn't help matters any. In truth, it just pissed him off more.

He hated what had happened. He hated Korowski. He hated himself for his blindness, and for thinking himself so enlightened when he had seen only the surface of what was happening between Byers and Jimmy. He hated Byers and Jimmy for getting themselves into the prison in the first place, and himself for not objecting more strongly and trying to formulate another plan. It was a hell of a lot of hate for something that couldn't be changed or undone. He'd just have to figure out how to fix it now, preferably without losing face in the process.

He found himself bristling, even as he tried to stay calm.

"Dammit," he muttered to Jimmy, "would you stop leaking like that? It's distracting. Guys aren't supposed to cry."

Jimmy looked up, face wet, eyes a bright, swollen red. He sniffed and choked back tears long enough to say, "Yeah, and you told me guys don't hug, either, but you're wrong." The anger in the youngest Gunman's voice sent a shiver through Frohike. "You think you know everything, Frohike, but you don't. Right now, you don't know anything about me and John. You just think you do."

Frohike sighed. He could feel a headache starting at the base of his skull. Stress, he figured. This was certainly generating enough of it. "You need to calm down. I know you don't want to be doing this when Langly and Byers get back."

Jimmy shook his head, but didn't seem able to pull himself out of his tears.

Frohike went and grabbed a box of tissue, then handed it to Jimmy. "At least don't drool snot all over the table, okay?'

Jimmy took the tissues, wiping his face and blowing his nose loudly. The action seemed to calm him somewhat, and within a few minutes he had settled enough that his breathing was wet and heavy, but he was no longer sobbing. Frohike went back to the kitchen to get hot coffee for both of them.

Setting Jimmy's mug before him, he sat again. "Okay, so nobody's been doing a spectacular job here lately. As much as it seems like Byers has been doing better, the two of you are both still a mess."

Jimmy nodded, blowing his nose again before sipping at the fresh coffee.

They heard the door locks rattling open, and the beeps of the security system being disarmed. Both of them looked toward the door.

"--and if he's still in a shitty mood, I really don't want to deal with him," Byers said, resigned.

"If he's still in a shitty mood," Langly replied, "I'll kick his ass from here to Omaha." He closed the door behind them both and looked up. "Oh. Hi guys."

Byers and Langly took in the scene. Jimmy looked upset but not on the verge of a breakdown, and Frohike appeared far calmer than either of them expected.

"You couldn't kick my ass from here to the door, Langly," Frohike growled.

"Guys, please," Jimmy said, tired and drained from crying. He stood and hurried to John's side, sliding his arms around Byers' waist.

Byers shrank back, embarrassed. "Jimmy, it's not --"

Langly snorted. "Get over it, dude. After what we heard last night it's not like it's a big deal if he gives you a hug."

Byers looked at all three of them, blushing fiercely, then forced himself to relax slightly and let Jimmy hug him. He'd told himself the night before that he wouldn't let anyone take what he'd felt away from him, but it was hard to act on it in the light of day. He put his own arms around Jimmy and rested against him with a sigh, his forehead on the tall man's shoulder. It would take time to get used to, but it felt good, despite his unease and the fact that he thought it was an inappropriate emotional display in front of others.

He wanted to just close his eyes and let Jimmy hold him tight and shelter him, let him soothe away the fear he felt, let the man's arms, the closeness of his body, and the sound of his breathing comfort him and make him feel safe. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't bring himself to do it in front of the others. The shy reserve of a lifetime was too deeply ingrained.

"Are you okay?" Jimmy asked softly, his cheek resting against John's ear.

Byers' reply was quiet. "Better. You?"

"Better, now you're home." Jimmy slid a gentle hand up John's back and ran it through his dark, chestnut hair as Langly and Frohike waited, silent. The two stood in each other's arms for a moment, then Byers stepped away and looked over at Frohike. Jimmy and Langly looked at him as well, and all three waited expectantly.

"What're you staring at?" Frohike asked, his voice gruff. His face was softer than his words. He waved the three to the table and sighed. "Sit down, all of you."

As they took seats, Frohike got coffee for Byers and Langly, then sat down with them. He looked at each of them slowly, Byers last. He sighed again, then looked John in the eyes.

"Sorry, buddy," he said quietly.

Byers nodded, knowing it was the only apology he was likely to get. "Thanks."

"We need to talk," Frohike continued.

"I don't suppose there's any way to avoid it," Byers said. The others all looked at him, and he sighed and braced for 'conversation.'

"Things have been..." Frohike swallowed and took a deep breath, "... they've been a lot different around here since we got back."

They all nodded silently. It was a massive understatement. The last several issues had been late and very thin, much of their old comfort with each other had fallen away, and none of them were sure how to get it back. Frohike and Langly's traditional prodding and sniping at each other had become sharper and less affectionate. Byers had been angry, frightened, and withdrawn, and as Jimmy was focused on John and trying to help him, he'd had less energy to concentrate on his work around the office. All of them had been making more errors, tempers were shorter, and it had been harder to get past the annoyances and ruffled feathers. Though nothing had been said about it until that moment, all of them had been scared by the changes.

Frohike looked down at the table. "Langly and I haven't done our job, John. We both screwed up."

Langly looked as if he was going to object, but Frohike glared at him, and he closed his mouth without speaking, knowing Mel was right. Byers simply sat and listened, his face solemn, etched with pain. Jimmy took John's hand under the table, their fingers twining together, and squeezed gently. Byers didn't respond, but didn't let go either.

"That's gonna change," Frohike said. "I don't know how yet, but it will."

Byers nodded. He was unconvinced, but even saying this was a huge concession from the gruff older man. His father had never conceded even this much.

"I still don't think this is very smart --" Frohike said.

Byers' eyes narrowed. He snapped, "If you're --"

Frohike held up a hand. "I'm not done yet. Just wait." Byers swallowed his anger and sat quietly, glaring at Frohike. "I don't think it's smart, but it does look like Jimmy picked up when we dropped the ball here."

Most of the anger left Byers' face and he leaned back into his chair with a sigh. He squeezed Jimmy's hand, and Jimmy looked over at him, offering a small, comforting smile. "It's gonna be okay," Jimmy whispered.

"We don't know what you guys need if you won't tell us," Frohike continued.

"Yeah," Langly agreed, quiet. He looked at Byers. "I mean, like, I'll do whatever I can dude, okay?"

Some of the creases of anxiety in John's face eased. He squeezed Jimmy's hand again and looked at him. "Maybe you're right," he said. "Maybe it can be okay." He looked over at Langly, then to Frohike. "I guess... I guess I've just been too lost in my own head to ask, or even to know what I've needed, beyond..." his voice quieted, "well, beyond Jimmy's company."

He took a long, slow breath. "I thought that if you knew what was happening, you'd throw me out. I thought you'd think... maybe you'd think I deserved what happened--"

Frohike and Langly both started up.

"Byers!"

"Hey!"

Byers stopped them with a sharp look. "You wanted me to talk; I'm talking. Let me finish before I get so freaked out that I can't."

John's friends settled down again, silent and attentive. Jimmy's hand tightened around his own. He squeezed back and looked into Jimmy's eyes for reassurance.

"It's okay, John. Go ahead."

"I'm not saying it makes any sense, but it's what's been happening. What I need is for you guys to look at me when you talk to me. You stopped doing that when we got home. You treat me like I'm radioactive. What was I supposed to think? I mean, yeah, you're there when I wake up screaming in the middle of the night, but when I can't focus during the day, when I start to lose track of reality, when I'm getting paranoid and shaky and scared, you don't even notice. I felt like Jimmy was the only one who even cared. I know you do, guys, but acting like everything's fine isn't helping."

He looked back at Jimmy. "Jimmy kept telling me that you were worried about me, that you wanted to help. He would say that you didn't want me to see how worried and afraid you were." He closed his eyes for a moment, bowing his head, then looked up again. "I thought if I tried to say anything, you'd shut me out, or be revolted. I couldn't handle it. I've been trying so hard just to cope with the inside of my own head that the thought of facing you both was too much."

He sighed and looked at Frohike. "And then this morning, the first thing I get is you telling me how I've made the wrong decisions, how I'm... I'm using Jimmy and abusing his trust, how he's..." Byers hung his head. "It was the last thing I needed."

Frohike sighed. He reached out and took Byers' other hand. "Byers, you know we'd never really go after you, except at poker. And I've never exactly been Mr. Tact."

"I know," Byers said. "Let's just let it go and try to start over, okay?"

Frohike let go of his hand, nodding. "Yeah. I think we can do that, buddy."

Byers nodded and looked over at Langly. "Langly, thanks for coming after me. I needed that, more than you know. "

"Anytime, dude. I know I'm lousy at saying it, but I really do give a shit."

"I know," Byers whispered. He turned to Jimmy. "Do you want to say anything?"

Jimmy looked into John's eyes and squeezed his hand again. "I don't care what anybody thinks. I love you and I'm gonna be here for you, no matter what."

Byers blushed and looked away, but squeezed Jimmy's hand in return. He blinked hard, trying to keep tears from his eyes.

"I'll do anything I can to help you," Jimmy said vehemently.

"But what do you need, Jimmy?" Byers asked, looking back at him timidly. "You were in there too. I know it was hard on both of us. I'm not the only one who came out of it badly shaken."

Jimmy ran the backs of his fingers softly along Byers' face, and John closed his eyes and sighed at the touch. "I need to know you're gonna be okay." He looked up at the others. "And I need to know you guys are gonna be here for both of us, no matter what you think of me and John being together. That's not for you to say, you know? Love is way stronger than you think," he said, looking pointedly at Frohike. "I need you guys to listen when you ask how me or John are doing, not get all nervous. I need you to give me more time when I can't consecrate on stuff because I'm thinking about what to do to help John. And I need you guys to try to be nicer to each other, because when you two are upset, it gets me upset, and I know it gets John upset."

Byers nodded. He and Jimmy were silent for a while.

"Is there anything else you guys want to say right now?" Frohike asked.

Jimmy and Byers looked at each other, then back at Frohike and silently shook their heads no.

"Langly?" Frohike said.

"Nah, not right now. Later probably."

Frohike nodded. "What you said, Byers, I'll do what I can. And what you asked for, too, Jimmy. It all takes time, but I'll work on it."

"Me too," Langly added.

"Thanks, guys," Byers said. "I haven't had a shower yet, and I really need one." He stood.

Jimmy didn't let go of his hand. "Come back to your room for a little while first, please? I just want to spend some time with you."

Frohike and Langly stood and headed for the office to start the day.

Byers looked at Jimmy. He thought for a moment. "I guess I could."

Jimmy nodded and led Byers back to John's room. He closed the door behind them then sat on the bed. Looking up to John, he opened his arms. "Come sit with me, please?"

Byers hesitated, though not for long. He sat with Jimmy and the two wrapped their arms around each other.

"I'm sorry I ran out of here like that," he said. "I should have at least tried to explain what happened before I left."

"It's okay. You're back now. Things are gonna be okay. We're gonna be okay. Frohike can believe what he wants, but it doesn't mean he's right."

John sighed. "He always has. Maybe he'll change his mind, given time."

"He has before. How many times has he wanted to fire me?"

John smiled gently and chuckled, quiet. "I lost count a while back."

Jimmy loosened his arms around John and slid back on the bed until his back was leaning on the headboard. "Come here?"

Byers slid over and joined him, leaning his back into Bond's muscular chest and letting Jimmy settle his arms around him. Byers leaned his head on the blond's broad shoulder and closed his eyes. The shower could wait for a little while. He needed this more. Jimmy held him close, the warmth of his body reassuring. They sat, silent, breathing together.

"Thank you," John whispered.

Jimmy's cheek slid against Byers' hair, his lips caressing John's temple. "For what?" he asked.

"For being here. For caring."

Jimmy's arms tightened around him. "You deserve so much more than that."

Byers turned his face to Jimmy, tilting it upward. Jimmy bent his neck down slightly to meet him, and they kissed; a soft, comfortable meeting of lips.

They had a long way ahead of them, John knew. It wouldn't be easy, but he could feel the prison walls in his mind begin to crack. For now, it was enough.

~end~


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