The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part III -- Frostmelt
by Henry Wyckoff

Chapter 16

Kate stormed into the main room, where Mulder was having a cup of coffee and reading a book. His face was set in concentration -- he would occasionally mutter to himself, nod, or shake his head at something.

He noticed her coming, however, and the look on his face changed. "What happened?" he asked.

Kate frowned. It wasn't like she was trying to hide anything. "It's nothing." She grabbed one of the many bottles of blood that the two vampires had packed.

"It's something pretty significant, I'd say. It's Axer, isn't it."

"How would you know?"

"I could claim psychic ability, or powerful deductive abilities."

"But you won't."

He shook his head. "I don't need to. The one thing you don't have is a poker face."

She drained half of the wine-bottle in one swig. "He's impossible!"

His smile was a rare one. "Have I suddenly become marriage counselor?"

She stared daggers at him, "We're not married."

"I take it that's his fault as well."

"Are you daft, boy? A marriage ceremony would kill me! All the crosses, and prayer, and so on -- I'd burn to death before we were half-way through!" Her voice softened, "He did ask to marry me. Did you know that? He sank to his knees, and proposed as well as a knight would... and then he put a silver ring on my finger."

She laughed and cried at the same time, "It took a week for my finger to heal -- he'd heard that vampires couldn't touch silver, but he thought it was superstition. I let him know my answer a full month after that."

"That was 'no'?"

She nodded. "It nearly broke my heart, seeing that broken- heart look in his eyes, but I had to teach him a lesson!"

Mulder laughed so hard that he nearly cried -- he certainly turned blue in the process. Kate couldn't help but laugh too.

* * *

Axer opened up his eyes. He was no longer standing half-naked on the permafrost, but rather was in the middle of a pale-grassed hill that overlooked endless plains. He wore a full tartan with the Carrick colors -- the type of tartan that takes about an hour to put on, and some help as well. The sky was somewhat overcast, giving the land a somewhat drab appearance.

To Axer, this wasn't drab -- it was wonderful. It reminded him of those days so long ago when he roamed what would later become Scotland.

There were no signs of civilization. All that existed here were the hills, waving grasses, the rocks, and the occasional deer that trotted from place to place without any apparent fear of danger.

//I could live here forever...//

"You have returned." The voice was that of an young, and somewhat motherly voice. For a moment, Axer didn't recognize it, until he realized that the language was the very language he grew up with.

It had been many centuries since Axer had spoken the language with anyone. He had even believed that he had forgotten it, but it came back as naturally as breathing. "Is this the Scotland I once knew?"

She laughed. "This was never and will never be Scotland. It is me."

"And you are?..."

She laughed once more. "The centuries have made you more cynical, that's for certain. Don't you remember me?"

He turned around and looked into her face. Long wheat-colored hair, a young face. Sudden recognition dawned. "Scully?! You look like a New Ager! Who did this to you? I'll *KILL* them!"

She smiled, "I'm not Scully. You once knew me by another name."

He scratched his head in thought. "You're not an immortal and you're not a vampire -- yet you talk like you've known me for centuries. I don't know."

Her face saddened. "I was afraid of that. You've become so much a part of the world that you've forgotten your sense of perspective. Once, you were a Druid -- how could you have forgotten your past so much?"

He laughed. "I think you have the right neighborhood, but you're pounding on the wrong door. I was a warrior from the beginning, died on the battlefield, and left the people once I was sacrificed over the fields."

"You've only forgotten those many years in training. You never became a full Druid because you forsook your teachers. You even walked this land, and spoke to me on many occasions, but when you chose to take up the sword, they gave me no choice but to wipe the memories from your brain. However much it saddened me, it was me who made the rules. And what is a rule if it is broken?"

"Rules were made to be broken!" laughed Axer.

She frowned, "You *are* too cynical. What was it? Was it the endless wars? The hardships? The ravages of time?"

"Enough with the melodrama! I get enough of that from LaCroix! Do you want to know why I'm so damned cynical? I don't like *life*! I DON'T WANT TO LIVE! I *NEVER* wanted to live! And guess what -- I'm immortal!"

Axer paced back and forth, unconsciously waving his hands like a Latin American dictator -- but more gracefully. "I can't kill myself because of that DAMNED SELF-PRESERVATIONAL REFLEX! Nobody can kill me, because I'm better than them! Not even Grayson, Darius, or Methos could kill me! I purposely let Grayson live, hoping his petty rage would drive him into killing me in any manner he could think of, but even he couldn't succeed! And the Kurgan -- the guy can't even tie his own shoelaces!"

The nameless woman stopped him. "Is it life you dread so much, or is it death you flee to? Do you think death could be so much better -- as mortal OR immortal?"

* * *

Kate was starting to sip the blood now, and even enjoy it. "It's just that he treats me like a child sometimes!" She snorted, "I guess at his age I might seem like one at times, but he won't give me credit for anything I can do or think."

"What do you mean?"

"It's like he has to have the last word because he's had so much more experience that I do!"

"What drew you towards him in the first place?"

"He was so unusual. All the other men were obsessed with football, trucks, and gun racks. Some of the others were flakes with drug addictions, or trying to be a vampire. Axer was so different -- he was himself, and didn't care what anybody said or thought... and I liked what I saw."

"What did you see?"

"He was a free spirit... He had a good sense of humor, and seemed to know something about everything."

"But that's not too exceptional -- I can name a great many people like that."

She nodded after a moment. "You may be right. It's a lot of little things, I guess. He had a strength about him, an aura that pulled me to him." Her eyes seemed to become less aggravated as she remembered. "I was in the Raven, drinking blood with a few friends, when LaCroix walked over and let us know that there was somebody special here. He left it at that and walked away, so I was the first one over there...

"He wasn't looking too good. He'd sent his daughter away for some reason he wouldn't talk about, and he was crying into a bottle of scotch. I made the mistake of cracking some joke about his girlfriend dumping him, and he nearly took off my head!" She laughed a little. "But he didn't. He calmed down, and I gave up any plans I had of drinking his blood that night."

"So it was something like pity at first sight?"

She rubbed at her eyes with a kerchief, "I didn't think of it that way. I guess I'm still human, and I hated to see him with such grief. I looked into his eyes, and I almost started crying too. I even shared some of his scotch and told him to let it out and tell me what was on his mind."

Mulder's eyebrows lifted a little.

* * *

"I don't KNOW!" yelled Axer to the sky. It echoed faintly.

"Why are you getting angry?"

His eyes were pleading. "Please... No more mysteries! Just tell me who you are."

She smiled a hollow smile. "You know that's against the rules. Tell me about Kate. You haven't shared anyone in your life for centuries, as I recall."

"What is your investment in my personal life?!" he took a step towards her, pulling out his sword. (Now, where did that come from?) "You ask and ask, but I get nothing from you."

"Am I asking bad questions?" her expression had not changed. "What's so bad with asking you about what's really going on in your life?"

"It's bad when I don't want to answer them!"

She placed a hand on his shoulder. He shivered -- the sensation could only be compared to a massage therapist loosening muscles that have been tensed and knotted for so long that they had no memory of ever being loose.

"It's not going well," he said, his sword falling to the ground. "I do everything I can, but I think I'm going to lose Kate. She walked off after I told her everything I could, and when I tried to stop her -- and try to talk some sense into her -- she threw me out of the way and stomped off.

"I walked into the ice storm. It always made me feel better, but this time I found you."

"I hate to tell you, my son, but I can't let you run away any longer. You have to fight a battle very soon, and it won't involve battling the invasion army of a soon-to-be vampire, or killing immortals."

Her look was not unkindly as she said, "What is it about women that frightens you so much? You can charm them in a crowd and save them from death on the field, but you've never opened your heart to them. What frightens you so much about opening your heart to a woman who loves you already?"

He turned away, "My heart is already open! Can't I keep some part of me to myself?"

"Ahh... but what part are you keeping to yourself?"

* * *

Kate was laughing openly now. She'd had no idea how *bizarre* Mulder could be sometimes.

"I think you have a point," he was saying. "But so does he, and he *wanted* to talk things out with you. If the way he talks doesn't go well with you, then let him *know*. He can't read minds anyway -- that's Scully's job."

The joke was lost on Kate, but she followed his advice and left to talk with Axer.

Kate knocked on the door, "Axer?" there was no response. //I don't blame him. I wouldn't talk to me either.// She opened the door and found that he wasn't there. //His things are still here, so he couldn't have left.//

She noticed that there was a slight chill in the room. Then she looked outside. "AXER!" she screamed, ripping the door open and running over to him. He stood as still as a statue, the snow steaming away. The snow and ice had melted around him for about a foot, and his bare feet were starting to sink in the mush.

Kate stood in complete bafflement for a moment, and tried to shake him awake. She screamed in pain, and sank to her knees. Her hand was burned to a crisp where she had touched him, as if she had touched a cross.

* * *

"What is this upcoming battle?" Axer asked this mysterious woman. "Can you at least tell me that much?"

"You mean you don't know? You've been given enough hints!"

His eyes narrowed, and he became uncharacteristically furious, "I've heard that far too many times! Nothing is *EVER* obvious until *AFTER* the fact! NOTHING! I won't take that attitude from anyone, and if I get anything like that from you again, I'll take you're damned head off!"

Axer stormed off, but the woman called after him, "You may not like it, but it's true! You're lazy -- that's the problem!"

Axer turned around, his eyes ablaze. "I warned you!" He charged forward, and found himself plowing the ground with his head. He didn't seem to remember any transition from charging to being prone. He got up again and faced her.

"The truth sure hurts, doesn't it?"

Axer was silent as he tried to kill her again, and failed miserably.

"You can't beat me, you know."

He didn't know how long he tried to fight her -- perhaps hours -- but eventually, his energy ran out. He collapsed on the ground, out of breath.

"You have been at one with the earth for too long. Perhaps it is time to leave the cradle. Welcome to water." She grabbed his head, pulling it up.

The landscape had changed, and he now looked at a pool of water. She shoved his head into the water, and the next thing he knew was a rushing sensation and the need for air--

* * *

Kate's hand hovered above Axer's skin cautiously. Although every nerve in her body screamed in protest, she forced herself to give it one more try. Her hands touched his shoulders, and she shook him very viciously.

Her hands didn't burn this time. His eyes opened, and he began gasping for air. Kate stopped, and looked puzzled because she hadn't been choking him. He sank to his knees, his eyes wide with anger and fright.

Then he noticed her, "Kate?" His voice was shaking and confused.

"Yes, it's me." She was a bit shaken herself. "What are you doing out here?"

"I just needed some fresh air..."

"*AND* fresh snow and ice? You're half-naked! What do you think you were doing?" She forced herself to calm down.

Axer looked down at all the melted snow. "What the hell?..."

"Now that you mention it -- how did you do this?" Kate held up her hands, still charred, but beginning to heal.

He shook his head, "I don't know. Let's get back inside." He began to feel the cold once more.

"Then what are you waiting for?" She nearly dragged him back inside and shoved him in the bed, piling all the blankets on him, and holding him down. "Now, I think you have a few things to explain..."

"What is there to explain?"

"What did you dream about?"

"I don't know -- something with Scully. It was pretty weird -- she turned into a New Ager, but she wouldn't admit it." Again, he said the wrong thing.

Kate's eyes narrowed. "Go on..."

He realized his mistake -- but what the hell, he had nothing to hide. Her forceful pin soon began to relax. It wasn't that much longer until she stopped him from talking >altogether, a wide smile on her lips.

* * * *

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