The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part VI -- Cats Eyes
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995

Chapter 2

Nick woke up with the sun, having slept fitfully for only a few hours. Rather than being full of exhaustion, as he usually was when waking up with the sun, he felt full of life and energy, as if he'd slept for a whole week.

To say he woke up with the sun didn't mean that the sun was actually shining in his room -- he was enough of a pragmatist to keep the shades closed, but now was time for a test.

//It's not a dream,// he told himself as he saw the vial he had drained. //It really happened.//

Nick felt fear as he walked ever-so-slowly towards the shades.

//Please, let it be true.//

He opened the shades and watched the sun rays cutting through the air, hitting the floor. Cautiously, he extended his hand, slower... slower... And it touched the light, and it didn't burn. It only felt slightly warm.

Nick let loose with a powerful cry of victory and joy. "It's *OVER*!" He screamed to the air. "The curse is lifted!"

He would have hugged Janette then, and he almost did reflexively, but she wasn't there. He remembered then the moment when she'd turned her back on him, and he felt the pain again. It was so strong that it spoiled his joy. His heart felt as if someone were crushing it, and all the nerves in his chest were being finely shredded, one by one.

"Why would you give me the cure and walk away?" he asked aloud. There was no answer.

His face bitter, he paced back and forth a few times. After all these years, he had achieved what he had desperately sought, but without Janette -- and with the way she'd left him -- it felt like a hollow victory.

* * *

Axer and Nat walked along the street. Even though Axer looked clean-cut and young, there was an aura about him that showed age, which was why they didn't look like a married couple, but rather like father and daughter.

He had an arm draped over her shoulder -- more in a friendly fashion than an intimate one -- and a dreamy smile on his face as he chuckled softly. "I'm so glad you don't hold grudges," he was saying, referring to the time when they'd first met in the morgue. He had sprung back to life when she was about to examine his liver, and he'd broken her wrist. "I was afraid you were waiting to get even with me."

She smiled as well, some of the more recent exhaustion gone from her face, "It *was* perfectly understandable. I always wondered what it would be like to wake up from death on the coroner's table, with a scalpel just about ready to cut me open..."

Axer shuddered, "Don't remind me!"

Nat looked sharply at him, seeing the look of horror on his face. //You mean it *did* happen to you??// But she didn't ask the question, knowing the answer already. "I won't."

She stopped suddenly, and Axer noticed the look on her face -- the look of one who just remembered something, and wishes desperately that she didn't remember it in the first place.

"What's wrong?" he asked, concern evident on his face.

"Nick doesn't live too far away. I think I should check on him. It's been a long while..."

Axer nodded, "It's only fair, since we stopped by my place to check on Kate. I'm worried about him too."

The streets passed them by, and the minutes passed, and they talked about everything except the current events: the virtue of falafel to the latest music that was out.

Eventually, they reached Nick's place; Nat stopped short. Axer didn't ask any questions, figuring what must be going through her mind. On her own, her face set, she walked forward again, walking in without knocking.

They found a sun-lit room, and an unburnt Nick sitting on a sofa. Nat jolted into motionlessness, her hand covering her mouth as she gasped, unable to say anything.

Nick noticed their presence, but didn't say anything. His face was bitter and saddened, as if he were holding back the tide.

Axer shook his head. //If I don't know that look, I don't know anything.// Aloud, he said, "Good morning, Nick. I take it you've turned a new leaf."

That seemed to startle Nick. "Leave me alone!"

Nat looked at Axer uncertainly, as if she didn't quite know what to think, or how to make sense of everything she was seeing. But she put on her best face almost instantly, walking forward to Nick, "Is it true?"

Wordlessly, Nick put his hand back in the direct sunlight. "Yes."

"Then what's wrong? I thought that this was what you always wanted!"

When he looked at her directly, she felt a twinge of fear. It wasn't the fear one normally associates with violent vampires -- it was the fear that one associates with hurt and violent mortals. His eyes had a twinge of mania to them.

"Nat?" asked Axer softly. "I think I should talk with Nick alone. Would you excuse us for a few moments?"

Nick looked at Axer this time, and it was his turn to blanch. There was something different about him this time, something that he couldn't put his finger on, but something he could definitely sense.

"Sure," he muttered. "Whatever." His motions jerky with his tension and anger, he got up and walked outside with Axer while Nat leaned against the kitchen counter.

It was then that Nat noticed an empty vial, and she began to have her suspicions... //Who could have supplied it to him?//

Outside, Axer and Nick walked slowly across the asphalt. The suddenly-overcast sky seemed to reflect both of their moods, even if their own moods weren't the same. Axer's head was held high in an expressionless manner while Nick's was looking downward in sullenness.

"So," Axer said at last. "Who was she? Was it Janette? It couldn't have been Nat -- I didn't see the right cues from her."

He looked at Axer sharply, "What makes you ask that?"

Axer laughed cynically, "Boy, you're forgetting that I'm old enough to make LaCroix the age of a child! I've been everywhere, done everything, and seen a hell of a lot more -- and if I don't see broken-hearted bitterness, I don't know a damn thing. Some woman's taken your heart and smashed it under her heel. The question is, was it fated, or something done on your part?"

Nick didn't answer, so Axer continued, "Then there's the fact that you're walking out in the daylight. I'd think that after searching for a 'cure' for so long, you'd be jubilant. Perhaps you were... Perhaps you were until you realized that the one person you'd hoped to share it with had dumped you. Why? Perhaps it couldn't have been Nick the Mortal that she loved. Perhaps it could have been Nick the Vampire? And with your crossing back, you killed the one she loved? Am I right?"

Nick was wordless with rage as he faced Axer. "Just leave me alone!" Perhaps there were a great many things that he wanted to say, but he just didn't have the words for them, or else his voice was impaired with rage. His body tensed, as if he wanted to kill something.

Axer took a step back, putting his hands on his hips, and puffing out his chest subtly. "Go on, if it'll make you feel better. *Try* to punch me to a bloody pulp. Get it out of your system."

Nick stopped himself, as if he had woken up from something. His expression was replaced with uncertainty. "I *want* to be happy. This is something that I've tried to reach for centuries, but now..."

Axer put a hand on his shoulder in a fatherly gesture, "What you're feeling is a *human* emotion. I've long since had a theory that all your melodrama was due to a vampire chemistry, and now that you're human again, your moods are changing. Come on back inside, and let's all have a drink. Nat too."

Axer hadn't taken off the small side-pack that he habitually carried, and from out of it pulled out a bottle of scotch. "Nothing like Scottish whiskey to make you feel better."

Nick's eyes widened, "Has anyone ever mentioned that you drink too much?"

Axer slapped him on the back, laughing, "Yes, and I tell myself that every day, and go for another round!"

"Have you ever heard of Twelve Step?"

"Have you ever heard of self-control and moderation?"

Nick looked at him oddly, "I rest my case."

The two came back inside, and found Nat standing out the windows, deep in thought. But she turned towards them when she heard their footsteps. The expression in her face lifted when she saw that Nick's mood had lifted somewhat.

"Nick... There's something I have to tell you."

Axer suddenly got an odd look in his face. //Better let things take their course.// "I've got to leave," he nodded his head to both. "I've suddenly remembered something." Slipping the bottle of scotch into Nick's hands, he left, shutting the door after him.

And so they were both staring at each other, not knowing what to say. Nick broke the silence, "So what do you have to tell me?"

She breathed out heavily, hesitant, "I just needed to come clean with you. It's hard to say it, but I haven't been myself these last few days, and there's a good reason for it."

Nick's expression became confused, "I don't know what you mean."

"Coleen drugged me. She had her own personal reasons, but the one who hired her had her own personal reasons as well." She looked away. "Coleen admitted that she wanted me, but said that she was also paid rather well by someone who wanted me out of the way. Janette paid her to keep me away from you."

"What?!" demanded Nick, anger and sadness both evident in his face. "What are you saying?!"

"I'm saying that Janette's playing a game with all of us. I don't know what it is, but I think she's up to no good. She gave you this 'cure', didn't she?"

His brow furrowed, his face looking downwards as he admitted, "Yes."

"And then she left you, didn't she?"

He nodded.

"Why would she do this, even forgetting that she tried to get to me? Why would she give you the cure, and then leave you?"

"I don't know," he admitted. He was uncertain, but the anger was flooding out of his face as he began to actually observe all the facts in front of him. All that was left was confusion and sadness.

* * *

Axer smiled, leaning against the front door. //I have a feeling that they're going to turn out all right.//

He left them to sort out their own problems, and walked his own merry way, aimlessly through the streets.

When someone began to walk alongside him, he didn't change his pace, or even look to the side. "Pretty day, isn't it? Nice and overcast... A pleasant 15 degrees... A soft breeze..."

Heimdall chuckled. "You're bright and cheerful today!"

Axer's face looked upward as if with piety, "If I don't convince myself that overcast days are protection from a merciless sun, I'd go crazy."

Heimdall nodded. "Interesting how the doctor is the only one who refuses to take his own medicine... You help Nick out, and your own life is a mess. If Kate hadn't met you, I'd be truly afraid for you. I was for a long time. Iceland *really* scared me, and don't take that as an overstatement."

Axer stopped, his eyes narrowed to slits, "How did you know about that?"

Heimdall smiled, "The guardian of Bifrost has to observe all, doesn't he? Besides, it's not like it was hidden knowledge -- most didn't recognize what they saw; that's the only difference between my knowledge and theirs."

They started walking again. "So, what are you really? You just don't seem like a god to me. You're too human!"

"Most gods were human. Go to any civilization, and the gods represent human needs, human fears, or human hopes. They're men and women who happen to be something beyond human in power -- a man who can sense everything, a man who knows everything there is to know, a woman who makes the life on earth flourish... Men and women with human emotions, strengths, and weaknesses... So, my question to you is: what is a god, and what is it a god is supposed to do?"

Axer thought for a long time, "I don't know what a god is supposed to do. For the longest time, I prayed to the Great Mother, and believed that she made my life bearable... brought forth life... took back life... And I was shocked to learn that she was my mother, and the first immortal that I ever killed..."

His look was distant, "For all these centuries, I was accessing my own Quickening like a disk drive, and I didn't know it. I was pulling out the memories and personalities of those I had killed, and believed it was divinity."

Heimdall chuckled, "So then you need a god because you want the world to be a secure place. You need order and structure, but not as much as you did in the old days, eh?"

Axer looked back at him, "No. Now that you mention it, I have a reasonable explanation for the questions I had for so long. I know why the sun rises and sets, why the wind blows, and why the earth shakes. ...But so many things still confuse me."

"You're growing up. Could it be that your needs for gods have changed as well? Could it be that you no longer need a Father or Mother divinity, but rather a Friend? I was known as the Friend of Man. I could be so again."

Axer's own mood brightened considerably, and he patted Heimdall's shoulder. "You're a funny man."

* * * *