by C.M. DecarninPart 5 (Work in Progress)
MacLeod slowly, carefully, lowered his sword.
He had poised a full twenty seconds staring at the man who stood spread-legged, both hands holding an automatic aimed at him with deadly seriousness. Knowing he could take the astonished one-armed torturer's head before the bullet could stop him. That Methos could take out the mortal, undoubtedly.
He hadn't seen any badge, but that suit really said it all.
He realized the man was yelling "Drop your weapon!" for perhaps the fifth time.
Slowly he separated his hands, lowering the katana out to the side, lowering himself to place it carefully on the ground. Be damned if he was going to ding it on this concrete floor.
The torturer in the black leather jacket scrambled away toward the F.B.I. man, panting audibly.
"Down on the ground! Down on the ground! Both of you!"
Methos must be out of sight. He heard the torturer cry, "There are two of them!" and just then Methos fired, from somewhere in hiding. The agent whirled to return fire, then scrambled for cover, as did the torturer. MacLeod ran.
He found Methos, who had fired a couple more rounds to keep the others from moving. The Ancient turned and fled. MacLeod caught up. "We can't just leave him!" he whispered.
"We have no choice, my love. The cavalry has arrived."
"He'll come after you again."
"I don't think so. I think he was about ready to admit I was a dead-end."
"What was it he wanted?"
"Can we discuss this sometime when we're not being chased as murder suspects, MacLeod?"
"Murder? I didn't touch him!"
"Someone's going to have to explain all that blood back there. I'd rather it wasn't us."
They skittered through the skimpy cover until they found the back exit, and ran from the building.
Duncan insisted on circling back. After some
time they watched the F.B.I. agent leave the building, herding the handcuffed
torturer into his car. As he was put into it he took a sweeping look
around, clearly feeling them still there. The agent, too, had his
gun drawn and kept looking all directions as he hurried to get away.
MacLeod noted the plate number. They ran for MacLeod's rental Caddy,
but by the time they drove back, the Fed's car was gone. They didn't
stick around for the arrival of the full-scale investigation.
They left Karidenna with Joe, making excuses to his nursery school and at his speech therapist's. Methos had reunited with him tenderly, kneeling and holding him in his arms for almost ten minutes, murmurring with him in Tamachek. Then he drank glass after glass of water while Joe and Duncan discussed the steps to be taken to trace the unknown Immortal. Joe was grimly pleased to find the F.B.I. would be doing a lot of the groundwork for them. Methos had almost convinced MacLeod the unknown would not return for him. But neither Immortal felt safe enough to take Karidenna back to their home.
And the Watchers wanted to find the dark Immortal.
If only the Fed had arrived there fifteen minutes later. And what was he doing there at all? The Psycho, as Methos called him, had tortured others, but possibly not in the United States, and it was unlikely any Immortal had reported the outrage to the authorities. The odd thing, when you thought of it, was that the torturer was still alive at all, since he didn't seem to know that he could finish off his victims. It meant he must be a hard man to track down.
But other Immortals didn't have the Watcher network on the job.
MacLeod and Methos exhaustedly went home. Reverb bounded down to the door meowing to be held, and Duncan carried him up the stairs and fed him in the kitchen to try and distract him. Methos was tight with reaction and MacLeod alert as a wild animal for the first hint of Immortal or human incursion. Joe had put three Watchers on the house, special ops people with a rather unique definition of "non-interference", in constant touch with their headquarters; they would not be taken by surprise. The Immortals had set the alarm system. They stood looking at their bed.
"I can't sleep," Methos admitted.
MacLeod stroked the back of his head. "You must be exhausted."
"He killed me a lot."
At his admission, Duncan turned his head to study Methos's face. He had dark circles under his eyes; he saw the upper lip twitch slightly with the tension that showed in all the small facial muscles.
Uncertainty assailed him, but Methos needed him. He pulled Methos into his arms.
The answering embrace showed only gratitude. MacLeod murmurred, "Tell me."
"I wanted you." Naked.
"Tell me what happened."
"He must have shot me. Then he stabbed me through the heart to keep me from coming back. Did I ever tell you my theory about the legend of vampires and the wooden stake through the heart?"
"Yes," said Duncan.
"He interrogated me. Trying to find out how
'we made him'. He stabbed me in the gut or wherever would hurt a
lot and finally I'd die. I tried reason and lying but it wasn't what
he wanted to hear. My first take on him was that he was a complete
psychopath, but I wonder. He had a lot of control, something under..."
He shuddered against Duncan's arms, and pulled free.
Methos avoided Duncan's eyes. On some level he knew, he knew why, he didn't want to know and he did not want MacLeod to see. Death was such a bitch. No matter how you looked at it it sucked, no sense looking too hard...
He didn't want Duncan panicking. "I'm okay."
"The hell you are."
"I don't want to hear it. That patience-tried-Ancient line hasn't fooled me for fifteen years."
"I'm not going anywhere," he tried mildly. It was what he wanted Duncan to know. "Not running."
"Good." Answering softness and gentleness in a bit of a Highland accent. Methos felt that betrayal of Duncan's emotion touch his heart. But he still could not look at him. "Then why do you not come into my arms?"
Why did you run before? not spoken. Methos breathed through his mouth, eyes closed. So they'd had this unsaid -- unsettled -- this whole time. When all else fails try honesty. MacLeod had taught him that.
"I don't... I don't want to think about that. Right now."
A silence. Then, as gentle, "Okay." And a moment later, softly still, "But soon."
But when he thought of Duncan's arms he felt the sea, in him, around him, taking him, turning him cold and dead, pushing him in its huge current and vast rhythm, in darkness, all eternal pain. It was what death was, sharp blades, rape, and blackness; ice-water in his throat and lungs, steel ripping his flesh. If the Psycho had taken Duncan, or Karidenna... He could have done nothing. What would it have done to Karidenna? To see his father die... The madman might have killed a child, certainly would have threatened to. Duncan was right. But Karidenna needed him... He felt himself trapped in that sweetest, deadliest of traps. But he had lived so long; he knew there were ways out of every trap but one. It just took time.
He watched Duncan bend down to pick up the yowling Reverb, his hands so big and competent the gangling kitten immediately settled in one, against his chest, and started purring frantically.
MacLeod was good at that.
Methos watched, allowing himself a little bleakness.
There were things he had never made explicit to
his lover, but he didn't have to. MacLeod must know. It was,
after all, so bloody obvious.
Within ten hours, Dawson had a lead.
"The plate was a local Bureau car," he reported to them, "checked out to a D.C. mega-agent named Fox Mulder. I just emailed you the file on him, but the main thing is, he made no arrest and no report on that warehouse site last night."
"Is he alive?" MacLeod asked the speaker phone, with a stab of guilt. Under his hand, on the desk, Reverb turned and stroked himself along Duncan's palm. The kitten missed Karidenna vocally.
"He turned in the car, and flew back to Washington this morning. We have him reporting in for work as usual there."
Duncan and Methos stared at each other.
"I want everything you can get on him," MacLeod said finally. "Especially cases he's working currently and any known contacts with Immortals in the past."
"You're going to love this," Joe said ruefully. "Guess what his specialty is?"
"The name rings a bell..."
"Remember, oh, ten, fifteen years ago now it must be, that big U.F.O. flap out in D.C.? Where they claimed a U.F.O. crashed complete with little green men, and later they claimed it was an experimental craft full of crash dummies someone thought it would be funny to shape like aliens?"
"Sure." The dust from the sensational coverage was still flying, in popular tv and movies, and renewed vigor of moribund Roswell theories. He could still feel the icy chill the idea of real interstellar visitors had given him back then.
"Mulder was in the thick of it. He'd already been investigating paranormal and alien reports for years. After it all died down they promoted him, to head a new division called Differential Investigation which is supposed to be all about statistical analysis. But under a layer of statisticians is Mulder and a team of ghost-busters and alien-hunters."
Methos's eyes met Duncan's again. "They ever find any of us?" Methos asked.
"Couple of close calls. Nothing that really got them on our trail."
Duncan said, "So -- you're saying the U.F.O. was real?"
Methos made a scoffing sound and stared at MacLeod.
"Supposedly Mulder got promoted for debunking it. There's a layer of stories and counter-stories and counter-counter-stories six feet deep. More than enough to tell you something huge went on and is still going, but never what, exactly. Not for certain."
MacLeod asked, "Did Mulder take a prisoner back with him on the plane?"
"I thought of that. His Bureau credit card only paid for one ticket. Nothing else in his name."
"Was there any contact between the kidnapper and Eric Draven?"
"Nothing we know of. Before or since."
"Get me Mulder's home address and everything you can on his home security setup."
There was a silence on the speaker-phone. Then Joe said slowly, "It's already in the email file."
It was MacLeod's turn for a moment of silence.
"Thanks, Joe," he said at last.
They booked flights, but before they left, MacLeod had time for one errand he didn't want to put off. Joe gave him the address.
It was a huge Victorian, the top floor corridor dusty and abandoned-looking. He stood in front of the apartment door and felt no Presence. It was a very eerie feeling, not knowing if an Immortal was behind that door or not. But he did what he would do anyway. He knocked politely.
A voice called, "Come in."
He turned the knob and pushed the door open, warily. At first he saw no one. It was an odd-shaped room, like a bouquet of alcoves, one with a big, round, segmented window that drew his eye to the light. The glass in it had been broken -- long ago, if the water-stained wood of the platform beneath it was any guide. Leaning metal buttresses formed a sort of teepee supporting the ceiling. He suppressed a start. Draven was upside-down in mid-air, hanging by his hands from a crossbar, but with his toes pointed straight up, like a gymnast. His black t-shirt was tucked into black jeans, and he hadn't bothered to take off his black motorcycle boots. His black hair was tied back. MacLeod returned his curious stare, disconcerted.
"You always leave your door unlocked?"
Draven's feet angled backwards. With excruciating slowness his body, still straight as an arrow, tilted back, and back, and back, till it was ninety degrees from his arms, and just as slowly on down to the floor, without ever bending at the hips. Jesus, MacLeod thought. Finally he hung straight down, and dropped the final inch or two to the floor.
He turned around quietly to face MacLeod. "How's your friend?" he asked. Duncan remembered the voice, soft and disarming.
He knew he was staring; but it wasn't every day something new and unknown crossed his path. There wasn't the slightest sensation of a buzz from him. His dark eyes were serious, but not unfriendly. And yet --
"How did you know where he was?" he countered.
The boy looked at him steadily. "You saw how."
MacLeod's lips closed. "I saw you ride right to the place."
Draven turned away. "The crow shows me where things are happening." He gestured toward an armchair and sat down himself on the steps of the platform under the window. "I know what you're thinking but --" He shrugged with his fingers spread wide. "-- I've got no way to prove I had nothing to do with it."
"But you know what happened?" MacLeod didn't sit down.
"Something bad." A bleakness of familiarity, shadowed by a look in the dark Asian eyes. "Bad in a way you wouldn't think was possible."
Duncan did not believe in the supernatural, with the one glaring exception of his own existence. But he could see the boy did. He couldn't help remembering what Joe had said when he called for the address: "I'm telling you, Mac, the kid believes he's psychic, or his pet crow is. And that's the damnedest thing too. This crow is wild. It doesn't live with him, it just shows up. And it's been seen around when Draven's getting himself in the most trouble. You tell me." Draven looked up at him then with almost a whimsical expression.
"You going to tell me what you guys are?"
Duncan paced a few steps to his right, his eyes still on Draven. Finally he said, "Maybe we're something you wouldn't think was possible."
The boy breathed out a slight laugh. "Now that, I doubt. I'm pretty broad-minded." He added, "I hung around that night. Just in case. Saw you come out. Saw somebody get arrested." He waited. "I saw Adam Pierson."
MacLeod paced slowly back the other way. His lion-like attention didn't seem to be bothering this -- child -- at all. He could understand Methos's alarm when confronted with him, as well as his final assessment that he was "not hunting". The kid had no nervous mannerisms. His hands were quiet and his dark gaze unwavering. It was a stillness of deadly promise, a certainty like nothing MacLeod had seen before in his long life, a knowledge that despite Duncan's aggressive mien and physical power the Immortal could not harm him, that nothing could. Yet he exuded no threat, no challenge. MacLeod, like many Immortals, understood the language of the body, of combat readiness, but he had never read before what this youthful body was saying to him.
Draven spoke gravely, "My friend Sarah was pretty upset when Adam Pierson died. She said he was important. Important to the fate of the world, was how she put it."
"You recognized him."
Draven smiled a little. "He's not a person I'd forget."
"Did you tell your friend?"
Draven went silent. Finally he said, "Not yet."
If Draven registered that as a threat, he gave no sign. "He's not coming back."
"Who was the man who was arrested?" Duncan asked.
"Sorry. Never seen him before. But I might be able to find out. The Chief of Police is a friend of mine."
"He's disappeared. The man who arrested him was FBI." Duncan paused. "I don't think involving SFPD would be a good idea."
Draven nodded again, accepting. MacLeod realized for the dozenth time that he was straining to sense Draven's Presence, and made himself stop.
He couldn't afford to make a mistake here. He felt himself again starting to believe in the peaceful, unaggressive impression the boy made on him. But it wasn't his own life alone that depended on his being right, nor Methos's. If the world learned Adam Pierson was alive... ecology movements everywhere would be discredited, to some extent, and the existence of Immortals might be revealed -- two global disasters MacLeod would court by letting this boy live...
Depression swept him as he knew the decision was already made. Preemptive murder wasn't in him. Until this day he would have said that was a good thing.
He glared at Draven.
He turned and stalked to the door.
He looked back, bleakly.
"If it helps, I've kept bigger secrets."
Duncan stood measuring him. Finally he said, "Thank you for helping me find my friend."
The faint smile came back to Draven's mouth, irony in his eyes acknowledging MacLeod's unspoken threat. "No problem."
And as MacLeod went out the door, he felt his innate
faith in human goodness taking the strange boy's part, against all the
knowledge of depravity and evil his eight lifetimes had accrued.
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod knows how to illegally pick security locks?"
"And you thought you knew everything about me."
The house was a half-mile from its nearest neighbor, and screened by trees. Even so they were entering the back door. Joe had slipped them the technology to bring down the alarm system; they'd waited an hour to see if police showed up when it shut down, then made their move.
"I didn't see this bodyguard he supposedly travels with," Methos commented.
"He didn't have one in San Francisco," MacLeod observed distractedly. "Maybe it's just a myth. I can't see a field agent dragging a bodyguard along on his cases, can you?"
"How come he's still a field agent, anyway, at his age? He's supposed to be heading this whole weirdo department," Methos muttered.
"They say he had a talent for strange cases. Maybe they still need him."
The lock capitulated, and Duncan let them in, easing the door silently until they could be certain no one unexpected had remained inside. Glided to all the empty rooms.
"I thought he lived alone," Methos remarked, looking from one painfully tidy room, its bed made, to one rumpled, layered, mounded, cathedraled with stalagmites of paper and books, laundry clean and dirty, and a bed rendered cozy and nestlike, as if something had flown out far and wide to ferry back the ideal twig, the necessary puff of down, to build and line a complicated home. You could still see the shapes of occupation in the covers' curves.
"Split personality?" Duncan prowled from the gleaming kitchen and casual dining room into a cornucopic den, bounteous debris fractally organized around the computer/tv/DVD player at its heart. The living room, again, was comfortable but rubbishless.
"Girlfriend," Methos diagnosed. "The kind who used to limit you to smoking your cheroots in the billiards room."
"With separate bedrooms?"
"Maybe one of them snores. Her bed doesn't look very slept-in anyway."
"Well, we won't find anything in her territory." MacLeod led the way back into the den. Starting at the intense heart of things near the tv, Methos poked the ejected but not removed disc back into the player, located the remote, and clicked the screen on.
Mulder was there. In close-up, then zooming out, the picture steady, not hand-held, Mulder self-conscious, glancing from something else out of frame to the camera, looking away and back again, with the painful smile of everyone who believed the lens could somehow see more revealingly than ordinary eyes. But his voice was kind and tolerant as he commented, "I don't know why you're always taping this stuff."
"Because you're always at work."
Methos froze, and Duncan stepped near.
"I want to be able to look at you when you're not here," the voice went on, soft-edged, throaty, unmistakable.
The lens pulled back further, stopped, and into the shot stepped the torturer.
Methos's guts retracted.
Duncan's arm brushed against his, and stayed.
The man, handsome, young, and deadly, looking even darker next to Mulder's graying hair, handed Mulder a gift-wrapped box. "Happy anniversary," he said softly. He watched as Mulder pulled off the ribbon and tore the paper, opened the lid of a hinged box, and looked inside. Mulder gasped.
"Alex! Where did you find this?"
"You like it?"
"It's incredible! I've never even seen one before!"
Alex -- Methos and MacLeod had both fastened on the name -- gazed at Mulder's pleasure, soft-eyed. He said, "I wanted to get you something even better, but it didn't work out." His face showed longing, ineffable pain, until Mulder looked up, and Alex smiled. "Maybe next year."
(Methos recoiled fractionally.)
"Nothing could be better than this," Mulder laughed. "You give the best presents in the world."
He set the box down and craning to see what was in it they almost missed when Mulder stepped into Alex's embrace.
The dark man kissed his mouth, tender and thorough. His arm shifted and he held to the FBI agent, face buried in his shoulder, and Mulder stroked his hair. "Fifteen years and you've never forgotten our anniversary."
"I'll never forget anything about you," the dark man husked desperately, and began kissing him again and again, all over his face, a hunger that could not be appeased even by Mulder's suddenly rough responses.
Methos pointed the remote and clicked off the picture.
They both stood there, neither seeing the blank screen.
After a long time Duncan asked quietly, "Do you still remember your first?"
Methos's eyes were closed. He sighed and opened them. "Yes."
"I've never really lost one to just... age."
"Dying of old age is recent. Fever, childbirth, starvation, war... those were the popular deaths when I was a young sprout of an Immortal. None of this trendy cancer and strokes and infarctions you see nowadays."
Duncan glanced at him. "Fifteen years."
Methos turned away and tossed the remote back on the couch.
"How long do you think he's been Immortal?"
Methos glanced at the screen. "Fifteen years ago Mulder was thirty-eight. Torquemada-Boy doesn't strike me as the type who likes to be turned over Daddy's knee. He looks in his late twenties now; that's about as much of an age gap as I'd expect him to go for. First death before they met? Or shortly after?"
"Wouldn't Mulder have noticed him not aging?" Duncan asked doubtfully.
"It's funny... people don't. Not the ones closest to you. Like you don't notice how they do age." MacLeod smiled a little, thinking of Tessa, her unchanging beauty to his eyes. "Until one day someone takes you for mother and son."
"You really think he could have been Immortal that long and not have a clue?"
"The Rules aren't exactly posted along the Information Superhighway like Burma-Shave signs. Maybe he never let anyone get close enough to explain. Or maybe nobody tried. He seems to live pretty much off the grid."
Methos had been wandering around the room as he spoke. Duncan kept quiet. Prowling, Methos stopped at a CD player, and flipped it on. A drumbeat commandeered the room and a voice syncopated a call of "Going to the store for hotdogs and wine!"
Duncan flinched and Methos flipped it off again, laughing for some reason he didn't explain.
Duncan ventured to speak.
"Someone should tell him."
Methos faced him, eyes ancient and narrow.
"I hope you don't mean me."
"I was thinking me."
"He didn't believe me when I tried."
"He thought you were resisting torture."
"As if." Methos chewed at his lower lip. "Bloody ironic," he noted bitterly. Finally he warned, "The guy is certifiable, MacLeod. He lives with another nutjob of a Fed who thinks he's being visited by aliens on alternate Tuesdays. What line of reasoning to you plan to use to convince him?"
"I'll just tell him the truth."
Methos held back the full strength of his Albert Fucking Schweitzer stare, letting Duncan just see its scorn hovering around his eyelids. But he knew MacLeod was nowhere near as guileless as he sometimes appeared, and he also knew, with grievance, the sheer force of moral character the man could bring to bear.
"And Plan B?"
Duncan didn't answer, and Methos met his eyes for a long moment. "Bullshit," he finally growled. Duncan still said nothing. "MacLeod, you could no more take that infant's head than you could fly."
"He hurt you. I would have killed him that night, if Mulder hadn't showed up."
"Do we wait here then?"
"He'll sense us."
MacLeod looked at the tv. "He'll come in, if he gets here alone," he said quietly.
Methos too glanced at the screen. "Want to watch the rest of it?"
"Pervert," Duncan said affectionately.
"We might learn something."
"Yeah, which one's on top."
"Mulder," averred Methos.
"Now what makes you say that?" MacLeod's sinking tone was almost a purr, as Methos moved near to him.
"Long years of experience." He moved in at Duncan's side, and ran the tips of his fingers back along Duncan's tied-back hair. "I know the type."
"Oh you do."
"Mmhm." The edge of Methos's thumb rested against MacLeod's cheek. "He'll have a gun."
"You distract him, I'll disarm him."
They waited patiently, helping themselves to lunch out of Mulder's refrigerator and sifting his files. They found a lot that was puzzling and eye-opening, but nothing that gave them much background on Alex Krycek, just his name on innocuous papers like the pink slip for his car, his obviously never used health care policy from work; no bank statements, no birth certificate, no education records or resume, though there was a naturalization document. The home videos and photos they found were almost all of Mulder. The basement had a small tv room that would have been cool on hot summer days, the laundry, furnace, and hot water heater, and the usual clutter of fifteen years of storing things you might need someday. The attic didn't even have flooring.
There were no swords, and nowhere to practice with one.
It was starting to get dark when Mulder turned into the long driveway. They watched from deep in the shadows of the unlit living room till they were sure he was alone, then they jumped him when he came in through the kitchen porch.
He fought hard. Methos sported a swollen eye and a crippled shin for a few moments as they finally got him dragged to the living room and tied to an upright chair. Mac was breathing a little heavily.
"Who are you?" Mulder shouted, enraged. Then he recognized MacLeod. He paled. He almost whispered, "What do you want?"
Grimly, MacLeod answered, "We just want to have a little talk with your friend Alex. If he listens to reason, we'll be on our way, and you two can live happily ever after."
Mulder's face fell into a look of almost hopelessness. As if his experience of Alex listening to reason was not encouraging. "Who are you?"
"Let's save it for when he gets here so we don't have to repeat ourselves."
Methos was studying Mulder silently, from across the room, draped elegantly in and upon a comfy armchair. "Who did Alex tell you we were?" he asked, deceptively casual.
Mulder didn't look fooled. "He wouldn't tell me. Are you with the Consortium?"
Methos smiled lazily. "That depends on your definition of 'with'."
Mulder stared concentratedly at him. "Are you with the Rebels?" There was a note of hope in his voice, but also overtones of fear.
"When does Alex get home?"
Mulder went still paler. "Tell me what you want. We can work something out." He was starting to sound desperate.
Duncan intervened. "Agent Mulder, how well do you know him?"
The question seemed to take Mulder aback. "What... what do you mean?"
"I mean, are you sure you know who he is?"
A lot of expressions fleeted through the dark hazel eyes, none finding their way into words. Clearly, more directions than one presented themselves to the lover of Methos's torturer.
But they got nothing out of him. Finally they gagged him.
Krycek drove in after dark.
The car stopped, and then nothing.
He had sensed them. They waited to see what he would do. If he was cool enough to fall back and call the cops on them, they'd have to retreat. But he might not know that. They positioned themselves.
His Presence didn't fade. MacLeod pictured him envisioning what the Immortals might be doing to Mulder, or might have already done.
They didn't hear a footfall, and then he was in the living-room doorway, firing at Methos. An instant later Duncan felled him with a bullet through the heart, and Mulder screamed into his gag. Krycek's body hit the floor with a heavy thud. MacLeod flipped the light-switch on, took Krycek's gun, made sure he was dead, and turned to Methos.
His lover was hit squarely, right through the torso, and blood stained his long grey-green sweatshirt as he writhed and made grimaces of pain. Two inches higher or an inch more to the left and it would have been a mortal wound; easier to deal with, in many ways, certainly less painful. Mulder was still crying out into his gag, struggling to lean toward Krycek's crumpled body. Duncan deduced that he wouldn't listen to any comfort. Well it would be over soon, for both sufferers. He realized his nails were biting into his palms, and unclenched his fists. He laid his hand along Methos's shoulder.
"Search him," Methos groaned querulously.
And he was right, of course. The body gave up another gun in an ankle holster, a switchblade from up the sleeve, a cell phone, and a little case of tiny syringes and ampoules MacLeod handled very gingerly.
Methos got to his feet and tottered over. MacLeod watched him staring down at the dead, handsome face. "Should I tie him up?" Duncan asked.
Methos's chill translated to almost a purr as he continued to stare down at the torturer. "I don't think that will be necessary." He hauled out the long, ancient blade that was his talisman and shrugged out of his coat. MacLeod glanced over at the sobbing Mulder, who looked half-insane with grief and bewilderment. They should take the gag off or he might choke to death. What they would do with him if Krycek couldn't be convinced was a question, but Methos thought the torturer nearly believed, at least, that they knew nothing more than what Methos had tried to tell him in the warehouse. When it came right down to it, they only had to convince Krycek they were better left alone, whatever he might think they knew. For this, the ever practical Methos was pretty sure they had the key.
Duncan went over to Mulder and lifted his chin with one hand. "He's not dead," he said loudly. He saw it penetrate, though without acceptance. He reached around and untied the gag and pulled it out of Mulder's mouth.
His face was so anguished Duncan felt an impulse to stroke it comfortingly, but dismissed it. The touch of the murderer could little assuage this grief. Then he heard a gasping groan behind him and knew better comfort was at hand. He stepped out of Mulder's line of sight.
The look on the FBI agent's face wasn't unalloyed joy. Mortal confusion, dread, horror even.
"Alex?" Mulder gasped.
Krycek was sitting up, a hand on his chest. Dazedly, he looked over at Mulder, then tensed convulsively at the sight of his bonds. MacLeod held up a gun, pointed it at Mulder, and shook his head. Krycek sat stock still. MacLeod could see wolflike awareness narrow the green eyes that turned to him. Then Methos cleared his throat. Krycek looked up, and his teeth showed in a silent snarl as he instantly grasped the entirety of the turnabout trapping him. He met Methos's pitiless look and his whole body hunched down, like an insect perceiving the shadow of its death above it.
"What do you want?" Mulder cried desperately, trying to drag their attention from his lover.
Methos ignored him. "Hello, Alex," he murmured. Krycek watched his every move. Methos's tawny eyes caressed him. "Your friend here wants to know who we are. Do you want to tell him?" Methos tipped the blade of his sword upward and looked up at it. Krycek said nothing, and Methos tsked his tongue, once. "Lovers should never have secrets, Alex." His eyes lowered to sweep over his crouching victim.
"Don't hurt him," Krycek blurted. He glanced like a hunted creature between Mulder and MacLeod and back to Methos. "He's innocent. He doesn't know anything."
"Apparently not." Methos gazed at Mulder sardonically. "Unlike you."
The FBI agent looked like he was in shock, and just said again, "Alex?" The torturer looked up at him with eyes of complete desperation, but said nothing.
"Allow me to enlighten him," and Methos thrust the sword through Krycek's gut on the last words, tight with effort.
Mulder screamed over Krycek's death-scream and silence. "No! No!" Mulder shouted in a voice tearing with grief and horror. MacLeod lowered the gun and stood patiently. This was bad, but he had not even an inclination to dispute Methos's right -- even if the Old One decided to take Krycek's head. The torturer sprawled where he had fallen, blank green eyes open and dead. "Baby!" Mulder sobbed incoherently. If they killed Krycek they'd have to execute Mulder and torch the house; Duncan trusted Methos wouldn't want to go that far. However it ended, though, this pale lavender livingroom carpet was definitely a goner.
He looked around the room, the biggest in the house. Even now, at night, it looked light and open -- white and lavender, the floor-length drapes they had pulled closed yellow, with other strong touches of yellow and orange-red. A planned room, but colors no decorator would ever have chosen. Mulder? He remembered the den and thought not. Krycek. It spoke of a high intelligence and unusual depth of taste, as well as a desire he could sense, to make Fox Mulder happy and to lighten his life. In the same mind, that black and bloody nightmare he had carved in Methos. Duncan studied the moaning, emotionally brutalized agent. The key. Everything in the torturer's heart and soul was centered in this man. Much as his own life held the Oldest at its heart.
Mulder's sobs stopped. Krycek had gasped and jerked to life, finally. "Alex?" Mulder's voice sounded raw and bleeding, scraped down to a creaking whisper, but it caught the torturer's attention. When he saw the state Mulder was in, Krycek looked as if he were about to spring up furiously, then took in Duncan with the gun once again aimed at his helpless lover, and snarled, equally helpless.
"What have you done to him?"
Methos's eyebrows rose. "Us? We haven't laid a hand on him. He's just having a hard time wrapping his mind around seeing you die. Twice."
Krycek's gaze fell to the floor. He looked too shamed to face Mulder.
"What do you want?" he muttered.
Methos was wiping the blood off his blade. "Truth," he said thoughtfully. "Justice. The American Way." MacLeod thought the pair were probably a decade too young to get the reference, and was grateful for small favors.
"Justice?" Krycek's voice was low and gritty. "He's the best man I ever met. And he's going to rot in the ground. And a fucked-up sociopath like me is going to live forever? What's just in that?"
Methos watched his sword as he twirled it. "The good die young?"
Krycek gave him a deadly look.
The sword slid into its sheath. "Let me put it this way. If you come after me or mine again, I'm going to show you what the words "fucked-up sociopath" really mean. I have a lot of friends, Alex. They may not be able to kill you, but they know where to find your lover if I can't. Oh now, don't look at me like you're making promises to your diary. You started this. We've just come to try and talk some sense into you."
MacLeod holstered his gun and stepped forward. Methos made a courteous "be my guest" gesture and ambled back toward Mulder. Head still down, Krycek followed him with narrowed eyes. Duncan drew his katana without consciously realizing it, until he heard Mulder's anguished gasp. But they had had no serious capitulation from the torturer, and in the same room with him, someone should be armed. Krycek couldn't use a sword, but every line of his body had warned MacLeod he was a killer. As were they all.
Duncan said seriously, "You should tell him what you are."
Krycek's head snapped up and he met MacLeod's eyes. His mouth angrily set. Green eyes in their setting of thick black lashes glowing with frustration, anguish, a lifetime of mystery and unanswered questions. He bit out contemptuously, "What am I?"
Out of the corner of his eye MacLeod saw Methos turn, arms spreading, and settle into his armchair. Risking a flicked glance, he caught the all too familiar amused mouth and the start of an "entertain me" sprawl. It was his fate to love the single most irritating Immortal on earth, and he had long since accepted that, but there were times...
Alex Krycek was a dangerous man, no one should know that more up close and personal than Methos.
MacLeod locked again on the green eyes, his sword turning slightly in his hands as he unconsciously followed every shift and thought of his opponent.
"How did they do this to me?" Krycek demanded in a low voice.
Methos crossed his legs at the ankles.
In his prison of ropes, Mulder leaned forward, hanging, tortured, on every tone and movement; covered in dried sweat and tears, he was still in an agony of fear for his lover.
"You are an Immortal," MacLeod said steadily. "You were born, not made."
Krycek swung his false left arm up from the elbow in a European gesture. "Crap. I didn't always heal from every wound."
"Only since your First Death," MacLeod said.
A slow wake of silence spread behind his voice. Krycek's eyes went to Mulder. "What do you know about that?" Krycek managed to husk out.
"Only that it happens to all of us. We die... but we don't. We awaken as Immortals, who do not age and who..." He hesitated fractionally. "Cannot be killed. It has been this way for thousands of years."
"You won't tell me how it's done, at least tell me one thing. Why do you all carry swords? Swords?"
Methos got a particularly Methosian expression of haughty world-weariness, and refused to look at Duncan. When neither of them answered, Krycek became infinitesimally more watchful, and licked his lower lip. He looked, Duncan thought, mortally dangerous.
"You still haven't told him."
Krycek stared at Mulder, anguish in his eyes.
Mulder's lips formed the word "Alex", silently.
Krycek faced MacLeod, trapped there by his fear for his lover, though clearly all he wanted to do was run, from them and from their truths.
The desperation of the question touched chords deep in MacLeod. The fine sheen of sweat on Krycek's face, the reek of blood off him, the catch in his rough-soft voice and the look of a trapped animal -- all resonated with a hundred moments of MacLeod's past, as if someone had brushed by a huge harp in his soul. Shaking him inside and out.
He looked to Methos.
>From his negligent position in the armchair, his lover looked steadily back at him.
MacLeod said, "No one knows where we come from."
Krycek burst out before he could continue, "I know the people who made me, I know what they're capable of! Do you seriously believe this is natural?" His voice cracked on the disbelief but he plunged on. "We are experiments created by the government with extraterrestrial DNA."
Methos spoke lazily. "And which government would that be? Chaldean? Babylonian? Mayan? The Shun Dynasty? The tribal counsels of the dolmen builders?"
Krycek turned to him with hot, ugly hostility. MacLeod intervened. "Immortals have existed for thousands of years," he said firmly. "Before governments knew what the wheel was, let alone DNA."
Krycek brushed it aside contemptuously. "How could you know that?"
Short, harsh, throwing back the contempt multiplied a hundred times.
Krycek started for him, coming up off the floor like a panther out of high grass.
Krycek wheeled to Mulder's side instantly, and stood trembling, his thigh touching Mulder's bound arm. He still looked out at them both venomously, red painting his cheeks, but was immovably leashed to Mulder's will.
Score one for Methos's intuition.
MacLeod still didn't take his sword-eye off him. He had checked the deathstroke his reflexes had volunteered at Krycek's attack, knowing Krycek unarmed and Methos far from helpless. Now Methos merely interlaced his fingers across his belly, continuing to look quite highly entertained.
It was enough to goad MacLeod into going straight for what he wanted. "Tell us about your first death," he commanded.
Krycek looked as if he were getting a slice of revenge. He said, "An alien artifact blew up in my hand. My partially cremated body was picked up by a U.F.O. I woke up with healing burns, and was transferred to a prison camp for alien-human hybrids. I broke out after a couple of weeks and came home. Luckily they hadn't implanted a tracking device in me, for some reason."
There was a lengthened silence, during which Methos and MacLeod sneaked looks at each other, and then finally at Mulder, who searchingly stared up at Krycek. Their gazes penetrated to Mulder's awareness after a moment. He looked from one to the other.
"It's true," he exclaimed forcefully. He seemed to have regained a lot of heat, seeing Alex on his feet and obedient to him. "I was there. I saw him... die. I saw them take him away." He looked back to Krycek with eyes of love and pain. "Nothing could have brought him back, except... them. Their technology."
"He doesn't need technology," Duncan contradicted firmly. "He is what he is."
Krycek had turned to look down at Mulder passionately. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"You thought I didn't notice? That you still look twenty-nine years old?"
They gazed at each other. Krycek's voice was velvet streaked with silken pain. "I was afraid you wouldn't want me. If you knew what they'd done." He looked pleadingly into Mulder's eyes. "I didn't know it myself for a long time. Then these crazies started coming around. Wanting me to fight them with a sword." He looked frustrated, and cast another hostile look at the Highlander and his katana. "Like them. I can feel them. I know when they're around. And they're like me, all of them. They can't die."
"How did you handle them?" MacLeod asked, pretty well knowing.
"I shot them and got away before they revived." Krycek turned to Methos. "This one is the oldest," he told Mulder grimly. "He may go back as far as the very beginning. To the 1940s."
A sputtering erupted from Methos's lips, and he couldn't hold it in, he began laughing and giggling uncontrollably, and even MacLeod had to smile at the sound, and at the awe a paltry seventy years of Immortality seemed to inspire. That the FBI agent showed not a moment's hesitation in accepting Krycek's wild claims reminded Duncan who they were dealing with. They could control him, he reminded himself. If they didn't tell him Krycek could die, he might not feel the risk to his lover from others of their kind was substantial; but he worked for the government; he knew what awaited anyone shown to possess Alex's capabilities, that he might languish in a government lab for the rest of a very, very long life. They had decided, after seeing the video disc, it was a risk they could take.
Methos had a hand over his eyes, and was sighing out the last of his laughing fit. Duncan spoke up. "You'll have to excuse my friend. He's older than I am, and I was born in 1592. We're not a part of your Consortium, and to us it seems a bit... ephemeral."
"Though intriguing," Methos put in. "Don't forget the intriguing part." Duncan glanced at him. Clearly he was not completely over his outburst of merriment. His drape over the armchair was as languid as ever, but emerald and citrine sparkled in his eyes.
MacLeod looked back at Mulder. "Have you ever actually seen a... being from outer space?" he asked.
It was the other pair's turn to look as if they were dealing with extreme naivete. Finally Mulder answered, "What I've seen or not seen is classified information." Duncan felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Such an answer could only be an affirmative. The four stared at one another.
"You expect me to believe getting picked up by a UFO and coming back to life was just coincidence?" Krycek, it was clear, was not a big believer in synchronicity.
Slowly, Duncan said, "Maybe not."
And they all fell silent, Krycek and then Mulder stiffening with the implication.
"Maybe they have some interest in Immortals." He saw the two slowly turn their heads and stare at one another. From their expressions it was clear some very illuminating connections were being made in their minds.
"No!" With an involuntary exclamation Krycek whirled away and strode, panic-stricken, back and forth across the room, as if looking for an exit that wasn't there.
"Alex," Mulder said soothingly, but Krycek didn't appear to hear him. His hands raised as if he would batter against something. Instead he came back to Mulder, and knelt down beside him, an anguished expression on his face. He put his arms around Mulder's bound body, and buried his head in the agent's flank.
He seemed to have forgotten, for a moment, the immediate danger, in the crumbling of his hopes to save his lover from a much more certain death. "No!" MacLeod heard him cry in anguish against Mulder's body. The sound pierced his heart. It was hard, harder than he ever let anyone see, for MacLeod to accept the death of mortals. That he went on and they did not went against all his deepest protective instincts. He sometimes thought that if he won the Prize, and if it involved some actual supernatural power to get whatever he wanted... it would be hard to resist his yearning to interfere with nature and grant eternal life to all who wanted it, despite the remnants of his God-fearing upbringing and conscience deeper still that told him this would not be such a good idea, without first understanding far more than he did now of what existence was all about. And then he would return to plain reality: Never would there be a Prize, or if there were, it would not go to him, as he would expend his last breath and final drop of blood ensuring that his lover was spared. And then he'd wonder what Methos would do with the Prize, and have to smile, knowing the universe would surely be in for some spectacular surprise.
If Krycek knew even such a faint possibility as the Prize existed... His blood chilled picturing him hunting.
As things were, Krycek couldn't permanently protect himself from hunters, but he couldn't do any harm either. He would put two and two together, someone would explain it, someday... But for now, at least, he was out of the Game and they would keep it that way.
And that made two from whom he had withheld Immortal knowledge, in as many days.
Duncan looked over at Methos, who was looking right back at him of course. Knowing how every nuance affected him.
"You don't have to worry. He won't come after you again." Mulder looked down at his lover. "Tell them, Alex."
Krycek's eyes were stubbornly fixed somewhere just under Mulder's armpit, and he said nothing, recalcitrant.
Interesting. His word, then, meant something. At least, his word to Mulder. With Mulder out of the picture this one might go off like a berserker, but apparently the agent had some real control.
"Alex, they don't know anything. You can see that."
Krycek blinked fast.
The torturer slowly looked at MacLeod, a deadly blackness in his eyes. "I won't come after you," he said.
"Or any other Immortal, for this kind of information. No one has it," Duncan said evenly.
Krycek turned mutely to Mulder, but Mulder said, "You know it's true, Alex."
"I won't come after any of them." His voice was dead and heavy.
The aliens must have shown some unusual interest in Krycek. So where were they now? How was Krycek able to live openly with Mulder, who was, for an FBI agent, pretty high-profile? Could there really be aliens? MacLeod kept coming back to the thought with a chill, a staggering adjustment to all of his reality. The idea seemed preposterous and frightening by turns.
He should get Methos out of here.
It came crystalline and stark.
If there were aliens...
If they did want Immortals...
But Krycek knew Methos was the Oldest.
If Krycek were picked up...
Krycek met his eyes.
Clearly he knew exactly what MacLeod was thinking.
And somehow he saw, in the Highlander's eyes, the possibility of his death. A look, Mac had no doubt, that he had seen in eyes before.
Alex's eyes moved slowly down to the katana.
Then he raised his gaze back up to MacLeod, and the expression on his face was the strangest look of hope Duncan had ever seen.
Krycek might not hunt, but the next Immortal rash enough to challenge him might find himself being interrogated about this thing with swords. And then when Mulder finally died... Krycek would go hunting one last time.
But long years should pass till then. A lot could change...
"Where are the aliens now? If they want you, why don't they just take you?"
Mulder's voice had a defensive, raucous edge, as if he had told his story many times, to the faces of unbelief. "There are factions. The alien faction in control in this area now is the Rebels. They're trying to stop the invasion of Earth, for reasons we don't understand; but the other aliens are still here, in hiding, in several forms, working to continue the colonization plan. If they regain the advantage, humans will be bred into hybrids and used as reproductive husks, workers, soldiers, carriers of a substance called Purity that spreads the alien consciousness from world to world. We managed to convince the Rebels Alex is on their side." He looked from MacLeod to Methos. "I'm telling you the truth."
"What's being done?" MacLeod said bluntly.
"We study their technology, from pieces fallen into our hands. The Rebels don't communicate. I don't think they feel we have a thing to offer. I think they see us almost as animals. To be destroyed if we become infected, but other than that, irrelevant." His gaze stopped on Methos. "Excuse me, don't I know you from somewhere?"
Mulder had, the Watcher dossier said, a photographic memory.
"No," said Methos comfortably, ensconced behind his beard of camouflage.
"He's Adam Pierson," Krycek contradicted maliciously. "The eco-nut."
Mulder's eyes widened. He stared transfixed. "Yes! Two dozen people saw you die. It looked so real!"
"Oh it was real." Krycek's teeth were showing. He was relishing his piece of getting-even. "But just not permanent."
Mulder's eyes stayed wide and fascinated. "Have you died before?"
Methos didn't even twitch, but neither did he answer. His eyes were opaque as he gazed at Krycek, who went paler and tightened his arms around Mulder's body. Mulder glanced down at him, and took on a protective aura even though he was the one bound and immobilized.
"Please," he said. "Whatever he did, he was only trying to help me. It won't happen again and -- and the more we understand about his -- condition --" He licked his lips. "Please. Talk to us. How many of you are there?"
"Nobody knows," Duncan supplied. It was only the truth. Not even the Watchers had known about Krycek. There could be dozens, hundreds like him, and those who hadn't died their First Death yet...
"If you can't die, and you've been around so long, why haven't you replaced -- mortals? Evolutionarily... "
"Immortals can't reproduce. We're sterile."
"He's lying," Krycek said swiftly. "The old one has a son."
"Adopted," MacLeod said quietly.
"That's not what it says on his immigration papers."
Duncan smiled, feeling feral. "That's not what it said on yours, either." Krycek's teeth showed and his eyes narrowed.
"So it's a recessive trait," Mulder said, oblivious to the dangerous mood. "You're born to mortal parents."
"No one knows who our parents are. All Immortals are foundlings."
Mulder and Krycek both went silent, and he could tell he has lost some level of belief with them.
"I'm not," Krycek said finally. "I was born in a U.S. hospital. I know who my mother was and -- and we're pretty sure about the father. The hospital record's baby footprints match me."
Even Methos seemed not to want to say it, so Duncan did. "Look... whatever records say..." He paused. "It isn't possible, in our experience. Records can be altered."
It seemed to depress them both. They didn't look at each other, but rather than scoff they both seemed to have only too ready an acceptance of the idea that records could not be trusted. "Spender," Krycek said dully. Mulder looked as if he longed to put his arms around him. But then he suddenly looked up.
"The Project!" he exclaimed. "If they were looking for Immortals... or were they only looking for the one Immortal --" He didn't notice how MacLeod and Methos stiffened. "-- the one they bred themselves? The one who got away?" He was speaking to Krycek but had the other two Immortals' sharp attention. "Why want Immortals but to breed for them? Why come to Earth at all? What's special about this place?" He stopped. "Maybe that's how they got the Supersoldiers. Hybridized Immortal DNA."
MacLeod didn't speak, hoping not to remind the agent he was spouting what was doubtless classified. But Methos coldly interrupted.
"What are Supersoldiers?" And after a second's silence, he drew his sword, and laid it on his lap.
"They regenerate. Think Terminator 2," said Mulder.
Good God, thought Duncan. He'd watched the thing when Methos rented it, years ago.
"How many of them are there?" Methos pursued expressionlessly.
"We don't know. The Rebels may have killed them somehow. If not, there are probably at least three or four out there. There could be more. A lot more."
"How do you identify one?"
"Their vertebrae stick out a little bit. Up near the neck. Their spines are partly metal."
"They don't go down when you shoot them," Krycek finished flatly.
They had come here, Duncan thought, to reveal their wonders unto mortal ignorance. But it was his mind that was reeling, and he had a feeling there was more. Much more. Mulder had a whole department on this stuff. Had had for fifteen years.
Immortals were such loners, he thought fleetingly. If one or several disappeared, who'd even know? He pictured cages.
"We want to help," he stated with resolve.
"Whoa," Methos exclaimed, then added, "Kemo Sabe." You didn't often see that startled look in those green-gold and timeless eyes. The panic, yes; but the surprise, not much.
"What's the use of saving the world," Duncan said to him reasonably, "just to hand it over to some alien despots?"
Krycek laughed shortly. "You don't know the half of it. They spent decades pushing the ecological slide and blocking regulation. They want the world a little hotter and a lot wetter when they take over."
Methos slowly sat up straight, eyes widening into a look Duncan knew too well. "What?"
"That's right," Krycek sneered. "You never even knew what you were really up against."
Methos had uncoiled to his feet, pure rage in every line.
MacLeod intervened. "All the more reason to stop them. But if they're after Immortals, this fight is ours anyway."
All the years Methos had fought, the death he had met -- MacLeod could see all of it struggling in his lover's body, to find a balance with this infuriating new view. The effort he must have wasted, defeating the wrong enemies...
"You, the whole ecology movement, were definitely a thorn in their side," Mulder put in, to counteract Krycek's provocation. "Not that it could have stopped colonization, but it set back some of their other schedules just a little, absorbed some of their energy."
Methos put his sword away with extreme care. He was so angry his hands were vibrating. It would behoove Alex Krycek to keep his mouth shut right now.
Krycek seemed to have divined this. He said nothing else and kept his eyes on the Oldest from Mulder's sheltering side.
"What can we do about them?" Methos asked tightly.
Mulder glanced from him to MacLeod. "Contact us if you hear anything. I can promise to keep you anonymous."
"Why would we hear anything? We can check around for disappeared Immortals, but... we want to do something more." MacLeod was sure he had Methos's full backing this time.
"As civilians, you can't officially participate," Mulder said carefully. "And it's dangerous to approach them without training. Their blood emits a poisonous gas, just for starters." He caught the corner of his lower lip in his teeth and cogitated a moment, before his hazel eyes lifted up to MacLeod again. "The last thing you should do is deliberately come in contact with them, draw their attention."
"If they're hunting us, we have a right to know about them."
"Untie me and we'll talk," Mulder said firmly.
MacLeod glanced at Methos. The Oldest bent a withering look on Krycek, and finally shrugged one shoulder.
"Keep your partner off us," MacLeod warned.
"We need you too," Mulder said, as much to remind Krycek, MacLeod could see, as to assure their visitors.
MacLeod nodded. "Let him loose," he told Krycek.
End of "The Deep", Part Five