The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part III -- Frostmelt
by Henry Wyckoff
LaCroix set down the phone, a slow smile creeping up on his face. Kate had called, asking if Axer had stopped by the Raven. There wasn't much he could tell her other than to stop by later. Everything was going exactly as planned -- he just haddn't expect the front door to be kicked in so soon, or get broken into as many pieces as it did. And to think it was a solid German door too -- he must really be mad.
"Lucius!!" yelled Axer in an uncharacteristic rumbling bass voice. "Show yourself!"
"And what, pray tell, brings you here to the Raven?" asked LaCroix in a low whisper, stepping out of the shadows. "Love problems? Or perhaps a lack of it -- selfishness, perhaps!"
When Axer whipped out his glaive-sword, LaCroix was prepared for it. The sword was grabbed from his hand, and a light tap on the shoulder hammered him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him. LaCroix tossed the sword aside.
Axer got back up in a flash, pulling out his spare dirk, but that too was casually slapped aside. LaCroix got a little firmer and put him in a solid wrestling hold -- the Roman soldier hadn't quite left him altogether.
The Roman soldier in him was quite surprised when he got floored by a countermove that had not only slammed his head into the floor, but also broke his neck and tore his left shoulder out of the socket.
LaCroix heard the splintering of wood, then felt his body get shifted. A length of split wood touched the skin over his heart. Axer's eyes were red and narrowed, and his breath came short hisses. The muscles of his arm tensed as he prepared to shove the wood into the heart of a man he once called friend, but enemy even longer before that.
"My, how the world turns..." whispered LaCroix, no fear in his voice.
Kate entered the door at this time, saw what was going on, and blended into the shadows, figuring it was better to observe and listen than to interfere prematurely.
"I've had enough of your games."
"Then why don't you end it?"
"I will!" He tried with all his might to shove the wood into LaCroix' heart, but he could no more do that than shove it into his own heart. With a cry, he flung the stick aside and walked away.
LaCroix stood up as well, snapping his neck back into proper condition and popping his arm back into the socket. Kate's eyes widened, //Axer did that to LaCroix??//
"What's the matter, Axer? Are you losing your edge?"
"What's your game, Lucius?" hissed Axer, spinning around. "We were friends! Why couldn't you leave things alone?"
"Because you were becoming too complacent. I needed you to stop moping around after Coleen left, so I introduced Kate to you. But you have a habit of being obsessive-compulsive, and went to the other extreme, so I shocked you into leaving your retirement."
"You set the WHOLE thing up?!"
"Why, yes. Trust me, you wouldn't have lasted another year if it hadn't been for me. You were looking for a reason to die, and were becoming more dreadful when you defeated everyone you prayed would kill you."
"What do you care?"
"I'm truly hurt you would ask that." His voice had lost its sarcasm, and had become deadly serious. "I care a great deal about you. Who do you think carried your load for the last few months while you went into retirement?"
"I don't know what you mean."
LaCroix sighed, shaking his head. "The Invisible Ones and the Cult of the Odinssons left some trails that had to be followed. Sharpe and Duncan followed the leads in Europe while the FBI agents looked into the mortal leads. You, on the other hand, left the game.
"I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but when you turn a temporary rest into a flight away from your responsibilities, it does become wrong.
"Axer... You're needed, and this was the only way we knew to draw you out."
"You could have asked me, you heartless bastard!!" he yelled from the bottom of his gut.
"And what would you have said?" LaCroix waited.
"I rest my case."
Kate listened throughout this whole exchange, baffled by much of it, but she could see it meant something to Axer -- it tore at him.
"What do you want me to do?" His tone was flat.
"Wait here until tonight. All will be revealed then. If you'll excuse me, I must retire -- even vampires need their rest."
"As if I had a choice." The tone was bitter. Almost sulking.
"What do you mean by that?"
Axer's eyes narrowed. "You really wanted to make sure I'd be in the game... Kate left me."
From the shadows, Kate's eyes widened with shock. //He thought I *left* him?//
"She what?" he didn't seem surprised.
"She left me!" His pain was still on the surface, but it wasn't as destructive as before. "I should have told her in the beginning, but what good would it have done?... They always leave me when they learn the truth..."
In the shadows, Kate closed her eyes tightly.
"If they leave you, then they're not meant for you," LaCroix put a hand on his shoulder. "You know that... Now, I *must* retire. You're free to grab any food or drink that you need."
LaCroix left Axer, sitting alone at a table. He stared at the wall, his eyes numb.
When LaCroix had left, Kate emerged, walking up behind him and resting her hands on his shoulders. "I didn't leave you. I just needed to think."
"Kate?!" Adrenaline flooded his being as he spun around, nearly tripping himself as he got out of his chair.
When she saw the look in his eyes, it nearly burst her heart. "I won't leave you," she whispered as she pulled him in to a tight embrace. "I just needed time to think."
"I'm sorry --" he tried to say, but she stopped him with a finger on his lips.
"No," she whispered in his ear. "I understand."
LaCroix smiled -- now both were in the game. He looked up the stairs, where Powys gave him a thumbs-up gesture.
* * *
Halscombe, a.k.a. Cancerman, sat at his desk overlooking the city. Below were the ants that called themselves humans, scurrying about their business, ignorant of the fact that even the whole mass of humanity was meaningless.
He turned around and looked at the mass of reports delivered to him over the last few months. It was a mess. Axer Carrick had seemed to vanish off the face of the earth after the ... ah... *incident* in his office. It took several thousand dollars to round up all the blackmail photos circulating around the offices and a few well-aimed bullets to get rid of the more obstinate blackmailers. He shuddered at the memory that wouldn't leave -- the scars were still there.
The reports all said the same thing -- he was not to be found anywhere. A few others said that Duncan MacLeod, Richie Ryan, and Richard Sharpe were very high profile, making a lot of trouble in Europe and the States.
Alan Powys had gone rogue, cutting off his ties to Interpol and showing up at almost every disaster on the globe. No attempt to either assassinate him or bribe him had succeeded. He was unkillable and incorruptible.
He stared at the photo of Axer, taken from a great distance. Halscombe had a hell of a future planned for this bastard, that could be certain. He leaned back, with visions of torture racks in his head while Christmas music played from a radio in the office on the other side of the wall.
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