Boys' Night In
"Byers. Byers. Byers!"
John Byers lifted his chin from his hand and his mind from his daydreams. He looked around at his reality, so different from the vision in his mind's eye.
Bits and pieces of electronic equipment littered most of the surfaces in their living space, interspersed with dirty glasses and dishes. At a nearby table, Langly sat hunched in front of one of the functioning monitors. His fingers paused and clicked, paused and clicked, hovering over the keyboard. Occasionally he muttered threats at the screen.
Frohike stood at Byers' elbow, waiting for him to come out of his trance. Byers had been scanning one of his newsgroups when he'd seen the name Suzanne, and that's all it took to send him off.
He turned to answer Frohike who stood with hands fisted at his waist. His stance mimicked a common Mulder attitude, though without Mulder's panache. It was funny, Byers mused, how the three of them all seemed to personify some aspect of their friend and ally. Frohike shared Mulder's biting wit. Langly had his innate and endearing geekiness, though Byers would never say that to either of them.
And what of Byers himself? Maybe he shared Mulder's desire to know, and his deeper, more hidden desire: to live a life where there was no such thing as conspiracy or government cover ups.
To be able to openly express love, and to live without the fear that it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye. Byers suspected Mulder was a closet romantic. He couldn't do what he did without an innate hopefulness. And that hopefulness presupposed a yearning for the things he'd been denied. Just as he, Byers, had been denied them.
"Man, you gotta get over her," Frohike shook his head. "How long has it been since you've seen her?"
"Ten years, two months, seventeen days," Langly chimed in. "But who's counting?"
Frohike and Byers ignored Langly. Frohike continued, "I know you set her up as some sort of ideal of womanhood, but she's a crutch, man. You need to move on."
"What about you two?" Byers asked. "I don't see you out there, either."
"Byers, you know my heart belongs to Scully," Frohike placed his right hand over his heart and raised his eyes heavenward.
"Talk about a crutch," Langly muttered. "When are *you* gonna wake up and smell the coffee? Scully's never gonna have eyes for anyone but Mulder."
"I can dream, can't I?" Frohike said. "And if he doesn't wake up and smell the coffee himself soon, I may just have to step in."
Langly just rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like "delusional troll."
Frohike went on the offense. "What about you, Langly? When's the last time you had a date? Have you *ever* had a date?"
Without even looking up from the monitor, Langly said, "It's a choice. I choose not to buy into the whole military-industrial-entertainment romance myth."
Frohike rolled his eyes at Langly and looked at Byers. Byers shrugged. This was a familiar argument and it had no end.
Langly yawned hugely, showing his back fillings. "What time's it? I'm hungry."
"Now there's a surprise," said Frohike. He squinted at his watch. "Three a.m."
"Damn, I wish there was a twenty-four hour pizza delivery place."
"Maybe you should look into it," said Frohike. "Could be a real money-maker."
"Yeah, then I can get rich and ditch you guys for good," Langly replied.
"Promises, promises," said Frohike, and shuffled off to look in the refrigerator. They usually took turns shopping and cooking, but they'd been busy the past couple of days and the fridge was almost empty. Frohike opened the freezer and tiptoed up to look inside.
"Frohike?" Langly called. "Anything there?"
"Couple of Tombstones in the freezer."
"Are they at least pepperoni?"
"All veggie," Frohike said, pulling a pizza box out and brushing off the permafrost. "Which explains why they haven't been eaten already."
"Jeez," said Langly. "Whose turn was it to go shopping, anyway?"
"I believe it was yours," Byers said.
"Do I have to do everything around here? I've been a little busy with your project, Byers. Def Con `99. How original."
"I don't pick the names," Byers said.
"Duh, Byers," said Langly. "But why do I have to do all the dirty work? Hacking into this crap is boring as hell, and it still takes forever to do it."
Byers said simply, "Because your kung fu is the best."
That not only shut Langly up, but made him smile. Well, it was more like a smirk, but Byers could tell he was pleased.
All Langly said in reply was, "If we get better rooms than the last time, I guess it'll be worth it."
Frohike said, "C'mon, Byers, let's make a food run and leave Langly to it."
Langly called after them, "Don't forget the pork rinds this time!"
On the way home from the all-night market, Frohike took a little detour. Byers suspected the destination, but didn't ask where or why.
The street was quiet as the old VW van chugged slowly along. There was no place to park. They crawled slowly along and came to a standstill opposite a familiar building. Frohike shut off the engine.
They sat in silence. Byers watched Frohike watch the dark windows. He still said nothing.
Finally Byers spoke. "This is where you've been going late at night."
Frohike shrugged. "Every now and then. I just like to know she's okay."
"Have you been doing it all along?"
"I started after she was, um, brought back. Just once in a while. Maybe a little more lately. Especially since Mulder ... when he isn't ... isn't around."
"Does Mulder know?"
"It's none of his business," Frohike said. "I'm not doing it for him. In fact, when he wanted cameras put in her place, I wouldn't do it."
"When did he ask you to do that?"
"After that guy impersonated him. He wanted only one. He thought putting it in the fireplace and aiming it at the couch would be a good idea."
"But you refused?"
"No, he changed his mind," Frohike said. "He was just upset. I would have refused anyway. I do have limits, after all. And I have a lot of respect for Agent Scully."
"I thought Mulder did, too."
Frohike sighed. "I've always thought so. I don't know where his head is at these days. He's not acting like himself."
"That, as Langly would say, is a fucking understatement," Byers said.
They'd all been witness to Mulder's rudeness to Scully not long ago. They were used to it for themselves, but had never seen it directed toward Dana Scully.
"Do you think he really cares for her?" Byers asked.
"Who?" Frohike asked. "Diana Fowley or Scully?"
Byers just looked at him.
"Of course he does. I've never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at Scully. You remember what he was like when she was missing, and when she was sick."
"He seems to have forgotten about all that," Byers said.
"Well, I'll make sure he doesn't forget. I'll kick his ass," Frohike growled. "Don't think I wouldn't, friend or no. No one hurts Dana Scully."
"Even though bringing Mulder to his senses lessens your chances with Scully?"
"Yeah, it makes as much sense as you pining for Suzanne Modesky all these years, doesn't it?" Frohike shook his head in mock disapproval.
Byers looked at his friend's profile in the street lights. "We're a pair, aren't we? Maybe Langly is right. Maybe it's better not to buy into the whole myth of happily ever after."
"You don't believe that and you know it," said Frohike. "And neither does Langly. He just doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve like we do. I happen to know he was really broken up when Pamela Anderson married Tommy Lee."
"Well, I guess he has at least as much chance at success as we do," Byers sighed.
"We'd better head back. Langly will be wondering where his pork rinds are." Frohike started the engine and they chugged down the street. At a stoplight, he said casually, "Don't tell Langly about this, okay? He has a big mouth, sometimes."
"Your secret's safe with me," Byers said. He tried to smile, though his heart was heavy.
Frohike patted his friend on the arm. "Don't give up, Byers. If we never find Suzanne, no doubt there will be another damsel in distress. Bound to be, in our line of work."
"Sure, Frohike. Just like there's another Dana Scully out there, waiting for you."
Frohike gaped at Byers' uncharacteristic bitterness. "Point taken, my friend. We'll go to Las Vegas, we'll look for Suzanne, and maybe pick up a little info as a bonus. You never know."
"You never know," Byers said, closing his eyes and imagining the possibilities.
Author's notes: This is an answer to Philiater's Halloween challenge. The elements are: crutches, a tombstone, and a fireplace. As you can see, it's not a Halloween story. Though mention of Diana Fowley might make it too scary for some!
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