The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part IV -- Reading the Endtrails
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995

Chapter 18

Duncan screamed in ecstasy. He had never felt such pleasures in such intensity before. It was like every nerve in his body were alive and telling him all at once how much of a great time they were having. His heart beat so strongly he could feel it shake his whole body. Then it stopped, and he screamed again.

"Noooo!!!" he cried. "DON'T STOP -- PLEASE!!!"

Tasha's face was only a half-inch from his. "Just answer my question." Her sweating, naked body rubbed against his own. All she had to do was touch him here, and rub him there...

"Oh GOD! Please!"

She pulled away, and Duncan sobbed in frustration once more. Just then the door burst open, and Richie and Methos barged through with their swords out. The two immortals were covered with blood, as were their swords.

"You're here too soon!" yelled Tasha, snapping at them like they were movie extras who were following the wrong script.

Methos, unlike Richie, had a pragmatic view about life, death, and killing. He thrust the sword through her heart, ignoring her surprised expression as he asked, "Was it as good for you as it was for me?"

She fell to her knees, the pain overwhelming her so much that she couldn't even move her mouth -- it was wide open, and for some reason, Methos couldn't resist shoving the sword down her mouth. "Swallow this!"

Richie viewed all this with shock and horror -- not only from the fact that he'd killed the woman, but the *way* Methos had killed her. When he saw Duncan, his expression was only one
of shock, and his earlier reaction was forgotten.

Duncan was bloody, beaten, and panting like he'd been running a mile. Exercising every muscle of decency in his body, he kept his eyes above the waist. "God -- Mac! What did they do to you?"

Duncan, rather than saying, "Thanks" -- or even grunting in acknowledgment, screamed in a voice of infinite loss, "You *killed* her!" Now, he really began to sob uncontrollably, moreso than when he had lost Tessa or killed Brian Cullen.

Richie looked at Methos, who nodded. "Torture by pleasure - - the Romans mastered it, and every inquisitor ever since knows how to use it. I think Duncan's been on a rough ride."

Duncan was straining in his chains, trying to reach something -- only God knew what -- and sobbing as if someone even closer than Tessa had died.

Richie and Methos had a hard time dragging him away. He flailed around and fought them, trying to run back to Tasha's dead body.

"Methos," grunted Richie, "promise me that this is one little story that stays between the two of us."

* * *

Mulder stared up at an impossibility. It was Cancerman all right, but it was a different Cancerman with something more -- something different. It was an aura around him, a power that he hadn't detected before.

The fingers threatened to bore into his brain. Though the pressure wasn't even great enough to punch through paper, Mulder was screaming in pain and fear.

Something snapped, and Mulder's reflexes kicked in -- even though his conscious mind was still paralyzed by fear. His foot shot out and slammed Cancerman in the groin. The hands on his forehead loosened, and Mulder snatched them away, throwing Cancerman into the couch. It wouldn't hurt, but it might slow him down.

"Scully!" yelled Mulder, running over to where his gun was. "Scully, wake up!" He was always neat and orderly to the point where folks could have fun making up derogatory words about his orderliness, and so he would certainly have known where his gun was -- only it wasn't there. "Shit!"

Cancerman was up by now, and was just within touching- distance. Mulder picked up a chair and -- but Cancerman's foot was on it before he could do anything with it. Mulder let go of that and grabbed for a lamp, but Cancerman had already grabbed it and thrown it to the floor.

"Freeze!" yelled Scully. She was clad only in her sleeping clothes, pointing her private home firearm -- a 19th Century type rifle that shot lead balls -- in Cancerman's direction. Maybe it was her frequent association to Mulder, vampires, and immortals that allowed it -- but she looked at Cancerman and only sighed deeply in sadness. "Don't you *ever* die?"

Cancerman had frozen, and when he recognized Scully, he became afraid. Without a word, he dashed for the wall, but Scully shot a lead-ball through his left thigh, blasting a hole through much of the muscle. He collapsed on the floor -- physically affected yet apparently ignoring the wound -- trying to frantically crawl to the door, but Mulder stomped on his hand.

Cancerman raised his face, howling in pain. Mulder twisted his heel, cracking bones and joints.

"...Hey! There's a fight in there! Someone call the police!..." There was a lot of yelling and panic outside the door. Mulder opened up the door, showing his badge to the folks next door, "FBI Agents! Everything is under control!"

"Good God!" yelled another, "Harold! Call for help, quick! It's the FBI!"

"You have no authority over here!" yelled another. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Go home!" folks started yelling from all up and down the hall. "Go harass some of your politicians for a change!"

"GO HOME!" more people yelled.

Mulder's head started to spin -- they were right: it was like a German police officer flashing his badge to citizens of Mexico during a highly questionable situation. He closed the door gently, as if that would help defuse the situation. "Scully? I think I made a big mistake -- we have to get out of here, fast, and we'll have to take Cancerman."

"Where do we go?"

"The Raven. Where else?" Mulder leaned against the wall, holding his head, "Damn, I've got a headache! Do you think that coffee might have been spiked?"

Scully blinked, "You know, I've been feeling pretty awful too, but it's a good thing: if I hadn't have woken up to vomit, I wouldn't have known Cancerman was here."

Mulder now clutched at his stomach, sinking to his knees, "I'd like to *kill* Coleen about now!" he snarled in a near-whisper.

Scully stepped into the light and looked like she was in bad shape too. Dark circles hung under her eyes. "You watch him while I get ready."

Mulder was a bad sight, holding the rifle in Cancerman's face while he looked like he honestly wanted to point it at his own head. His breathing came in laborious gasps, and his squinting eyelids threatened to mash his own eyeballs into mush.

Cancerman was limp now, looking at him with a look of almost animal-like surrender. That's why Mulder was so unprepared when Cancerman -- as fast as the flick of a light switch -- moved out of the line of fire in a fluid motion and grabbed the rifle out of Mulder's hands, slamming him in the cheek with the butt.

Mulder was thrown back to the floor, the room spinning, as Cancerman ran out the front door. For the next minute, Mulder could hear screams coming from up and down the hall, and it made him redouble his efforts to get up.

When he did get up -- he wanted desperately to crash back onto the floor and stay there -- the screams had faded, and when he managed to stumble out the door, everyone in the hallway had forgotten about his 'transgression' and were pointing in the direction that Cancerman went. They didn't need to, because he left a thick trail of blood.

"Mulder!" he could hear Scully yell in the distance, but he ignored her.

His breath coming in labored gasps, his eyes aching with even the slightest movement, and his face feeling like it was about to explode, Mulder at first trotted in a zombie- like fashion, then gradually sped up to a run as he leaped down the stairs several steps at a time.

With every step he took, he could feel the bones of his face throb in perfect rhythm with each breath he took, each heartbeat, and each time his feet hit the floor or pushed him forward. It was agony, the pressure threatening to make his very face explode.

After about five minutes, he even managed to catch up with Cancerman, who had slowed down -- the fact that he could make it this far with a blasted leg said something about his determination. Cancerman flipped the rifle in his direction, and fired. Mulder, totally exhausted, tripped on his own feet and missed the fatal projectile by mere inches. The whizzing he heard in his ear was deafening, and smoke filled the space between them.

"What's going on?" demanded a security guard, sticking his head through the stairwell door.

Cancerman fired a round at the security guard, who suddenly found himself with a head and body, minus a neck. The man's head, on hitting the floor, wiggled as the mouth opened and shut a few times. When Cancerman aimed the rifle at Mulder once more and pulled the trigger, it went [click!] [click!]. Mulder had managed to get up by now, and he tried to tackle Cancerman, who twirled out of the way, grabbing Mulder as he flew by and adding some momentum to his flight into the wall. One loud thump, and Mulder was motionless.

"Stop!" screamed Scully from the stairs, aiming a handgun at Cancerman, who looked at her with an aloof expression as he raised the rifle at her. Scully smiled, "I counted three." She fired a round into his other leg.

Screaming, Cancerman fell to his knees, but he hadn't given up yet. He held the rifle like a sledge hammer, waiting for her to make a move. His face was bone-white now from the bleeding.

With this short pause, Scully had a chance to come to her senses, and so made the next action in a very deliberate manner: she shot Cancerman's hands, one by one. He screamed and howled, but he dropped the rifle, as his hands were now ground meat with bones and spraying blood that squirted in time with his heartbeat -- but he was still alive.

Whoever thought that Scully was soft and gentle hadn't seen her backed into a corner -- real or figurative.

* * *

Axer was staring down into Coleen's eyes, his voice tight with an honest anger, "Can you explain this?"

"Explain what?"

"It's obvious you don't have much experience drinking -- do you realize how much Benedictine you gave them? If you want an *interesting* experience, you put *one shot* in a *large* cup of coffee! You spiked enough in there to get *me* drunk! Do you realize Bill isn't just puking his guts out, but he's got alcohol poisoning?! You gave him a *pint*!!!" His voice was powerful enough to make a drill sergeant back off with uncertainty. Coleen was white- skinned with fright.

Axer continued, "And what the hell were you trying to do, eh? I *also* noticed that you used my aqua vitae... ARE YOU AN IDIOT?? I DON'T ASSOCIATE WITH IDIOTS! I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!"

"Ease up on her, Axer," whispered LaCroix behind him, laying a rather... *firm* grip on his shoulder. "She did it for a good reason -- you've missed out on a great deal the last few hours, so you might as well listen to what she has to say." He looked at Coleen, not quite as unobservant of her nudity, "You *do* have something to say, don't you?"

Coleen started stammering, "Mulder and Scully came in with two Watchers. I didn't trust them, so I offered them regular coffee, but I didn't tell them it was spiked with Benedictine. I thought if I got them drunk enough, they might be easier to control if they tried anything."

Axer's eyes narrowed, "OK. You're clever, I'll grant you that, but where does aqua vitae fit into it?"

"Bill was a pervert..." she explained about that episode in D.C. "I just wanted to get back at him."

"Coleen!" sighed Axer, shaking his head. "You don't get even at someone by killing them with alcohol! I'm going to keep him from dying, but he's going to be hurting for a few days at least -- and you're going to be helping him recover the *whole* time. You hear me? Now I want you to get dressed and get back here in TWO MINUTES! GO!!"

Coleen bolted off, and anyone with a good batch of hormones would have a good case of glued-eyes. Nat's eyes sure were glued, but nobody noticed that detail.

Axer started to rummage through the food cabinets. "Where the hell do you keep the baking soda?!"

"Over there," said LaCroix in a soft tone. He grabbed it, and talked while Axer stirred a few liberal tablespoons of the stuff in a glass of water. There was so much it would never dissolve completely. "What are you doing?"

"Simple chemistry. The alcohol has done its work, so now I have to combat the effects until his body can heal. The baking soda will fix his pH, the buttered crackers that I'm going to feed him -- and you'd better have them -- will soak up some of the remaining alcohol out of his blood stream. When he stops puking, I'll make him eat as many greasy sausages and eggs as I can grab."

Axer then stopped as if he'd been struck. "Carafate!"

"Excuse me?" LaCroix shook his head in confusion.

"Look --" he grabbed LaCroix by a lapel, shoving some money into the vampire's hand, "here's fifty dollars! Can you make a run to the pharmacy and get some Carafate?"

That struck LaCroix as being utterly absurd and unexpected. He shook his head in confusion.

"Come on! What are you waiting for? You can get there faster than any of us, and you can 'persuade' the pharmacist into saying 'to hell with the prescription'. Go on!"

Baffled, LaCroix took the money and left.

By now, Coleen had returned, hurriedly-dressed and still pale-faced. "OK, Coleen," snarled Axer, "time to gain a practical education in first aid. Grab a bucket -- there'll be no rags or mops for you. Not even a toothbrush!"

"What --" Coleen tried to ask.

"You're going to find *every* spot of vomit and clean it up! Go on! What are you waiting for?" When she paused, he yelled, "You have it easy -- you could be *licking* it up!"

Coleen bolted, looking for a bucket. "Where the hell's a bucket around here?!"

"You'd better find out!" Axer's voice floated down the hall. Bill vomited bile again, and Coleen cursed.

Axer walked up to Bill with the soda water, and forced him to drink every drop. Bill vomited it all up a few moments later, looking even worse.

"That was uncalled for," said Kate, moving up next to Axer, "telling Coleen that!"

"Can you take a look at Bill and repeat that?" he asked softly, pointing at Bill. "He's a mortal, and she almost killed him because she thought he was a pervert. I can agree with her views -- on this subject -- but I can't agree with the results of her prank."

Kate frowned, "I get your point, but..." she couldn't finish the sentence.

The front door opened loudly, and three people came in: Nick, Tracy, and ...

"Adams?" demanded Axer, "What the hell are you doing here?" He stared at Heimdall -- whom he knew only as a laid off craftsman named Doug Adams. Heimdall shrugged helplessly. Axer then noticed the sword hanging from Heimdall's belt, and made a connection, "Wait a minute -- I can't sense you, but if you're carrying a *sword* --"

"That's Heimdall, you idiot!" said someone right next to Axer.

"Who said that?" he demanded, looking around furiously, only to find that nobody had spoken -- and nobody was anywhere near the source of the voice.

"Who said what?" asked Nick.

"Said that Adams is Heimdall, and that I was an idiot for not knowing that!"

Heimdall snickered. Nick and Tracy looked at one another, and Tracy said, "You just said that yourself."

"No I didn't!"

"Yes you did!" everyone said at once, except for Bill, who vomited some more, the sounds of his dry heaves enough to make most shudder in concern. However, nobody was paying any attention to it. That sent Bill into even more heart- wrenching dry heaves that everyone ignored.

Axer's head sank into his hands, "Why does this have to happen to me?..."

Kate put a hand on his forehead, "You aren't running a fever... Maybe you ought to sit down -- without a beer."

While Axer and Kate sat down, Nick looked around and saw that Nat was here. He moved up to her, "What happened to you? What are you doing here?" He was about to give her a hello kiss when she backed up.

"Nick," she said hesitantly, "I think we need to talk somewhere else."

Nick and Nat walked over to the bar, where she said, "I don't think we can be friends -- like this -- anymore. I just can't handle it."

"Nat?" That utterly shocked Nick. "What do you mean?"

"Nick? I don't know how to tell you this, so I'll go ahead and say it: I'm in love with Coleen, and I don't love you. I can't love you when you treat me like a psychiatrist -- and an unpaid one at that."

Just then, as Nick's face went through some contortions, Janette walked into the front door, looking around, "The place looks different, somehow -- I hate it. Is this LaCroix' doing?"

Nick looked towards the in shock. "Janette?!"

Nat slapped Nick on the face, "I knew it! I hope you're happy!"

Nat walked off while Nick looked at her with total confusion, holding his hand to the cheek that had Nat slapped. It hurt as much as a faint touch -- it was the emotion that he reacted to.

Janette, of course, noticed this little exchange and looked at Nick with questioning eyes.

Nick groaned, letting his face fall into his hands.

* * * *

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