Geometry: Chapter 16, Never, My Lord!
by Diefs Girl
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, I just play with 'em and hand 'em back, none the worse for wear.
Author's Notes: Yeeks, it's been a whole month since I posted another chapter from Geometry! Taking a short poll as a result; if you are still reading this ridiculously lengthy tome please sing out, a simple 'Yo!' in the comment field is more than sufficient, and thank you kindly in advance.
P.S. Yes, I know this is set in '97 and The Matrix didn't come out until '99. In our household, we call this 'plot convenience playhouse'!
Story Notes: Highlander/due South crossover, with a cameo here and there from Hellboy, Airwolf, and a few other cameos the sharp-eyed might spot.
SequelTo: Geometry: Chapter 15, Immortals Everywhere
The buzz of an Immortal close by got stronger as Marina and Diefenbaker worked their way along the back of the warehouse, hunting for a way in. Whoever was inside had to have felt her by now, Mina's sensing range was long but she was well within the range of any Immortal at this point.
When they found a loading dock along the back, two big rusty rolling doors chained shut with a suspiciously new and shiny padlock, Mina flicked a glance up and down the alley, checking for anyone watching behind the old oil drums, reeking overflowing dumpsters and half-rotted wooden shipping pallets piled haphazardly against the filthy cinderblock walls. Nothing.
Marina unholstered her Sig; pulled a silencer from an inside pocket, screwed it onto the barrel and two quick shots blew the lock off. The thunk the lock made as it hit the concrete of the loading dock was louder than the two silenced shots were- damn, she loved Archangel's gear, it didn't come any better! She kicked the broken lock off the edge of the dock and it dropped out of sight in a clump of weeds and trash.
Shoving the left hand door open just enough to let Dief slip through, she squeezed in after him and left it ajar in case they needed to beat a hasty retreat. The rusty old door made no noise as it slid open, which sent a prickling awareness of suspicion along her already heightened nerves. A building this old and neglected shouldn't have freshly-greased rolling hinges on its back door.
Mina reached down and tangled her fingers in Diefenbaker's ruff, and the wolf looked up at her.
"Stay out of sight, lovemate," she murmured. "As long as it's a fair fight, don't show yourself, but if it's a trap, I may need your help."
Diefenbaker growled his understanding and gripped her wrist in his jaws. He would be close if she needed him. Always.
His answer made Mina smile fondly and brush her fingertips over his lower jaw. "Now that I've found you, I'll always need you, my darling," she whispered.
Dief huffed a satisfied ruff and let go, slipping behind a pile of crates and out of sight.
Marina took a deep, steadying breath, holstered her Sig and slid her katana from its sheath, leaned her head sharply left, then right, cracking her neck twice and feeling the tension leave her spine as it realigned. Holding the sword deliberately out of line for an attack, she turned in the direction the pull of the other Immortal was strongest, and moved forward.
The warehouse was conspicuously silent as Mina picked her way down the center aisle of the main loading floor, careful not to make a sound. Wide plank floors were dusty with a thick mostly undisturbed layer of city grit and grime and the air smelled stale, tinged with the faint stink of rat urine and old lubricating oil. What dim light filtered through the filthy windows high above left any corner or alcove shrouded in shadow, and the empty shipping crates rusting in rows on the main floor provided endless opportunities for an ambush.
Marina followed the strange Immortal's hum all the way to the front of the warehouse. Unlike the rest of the warehouse, the street-side loading bay was bare of crates and long chains hung down from winches on the ceiling, casting dim stripes of shadow on the dusty concrete floor. The front left corner of the main floor was enclosed into an office space, about twenty feet by thirty, and had a iron staircase running up the side to an observation deck above the office. Probably the warehouse manager's office, Mina thought, he could supervise the loading and unloading of cargo on the whole main floor from that observation deck. The windows into the office were less filthy than the ones outside, and when Mina caught movement from inside she stepped out into the empty space, still holding her sword out of line for an attack, and waited. She didn't have to wait long, the office door opened and a man stepped out.
Rather short and slight, his build was wiry rather than bulky, and his features were finely drawn under the swarthy skin with the exception of a hawk's beak of a nose dominating his face. His hair was thick and bushy, black and shining as a raven's wing but sheared very short and close to his skull, and a meticulously trimmed goatee framed narrow lips drawn into a thin line. His clothing was on a par with most Immortals, plain and slightly archaic in style but custom-tailored of rich fabrics in subdued colors. The light black cashmere sweater he wore set off his gray twill trousers, but Marina fancied he was as overly warm in the wilting summer heat as she was. Gripped firmly in his right hand was an early 17th century rapier, with the elaborate looping metal guard over the hilt. He studied Mina fearlessly, noting the position of her katana with a faint puzzled air.
"I am Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub," he said calmly, and waited.
"I am Marina MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," she replied, just as calm. Like all MacLeods, when Marina spoke her clan name and lineage, her highland accent reasserted itself with a vengeance, the pure brogue of the Scots lilting her speech like music.
The dark slashes of his eyebrows lifted in surprise. "So the rumors are true," Saladin observed. "There is a new Highlander." He saluted her with his rapier. "Your clan just keeps getting prettier with each new generation."
A soft half-laugh escaped Mina. "Thank you kindly, my lord," she said, inclining her head in acknowledgement of the compliment.
Saladin lifted his rapier and swept a double loop with the tip, settling into a guard position. "Shall we dance, my lady?"
* * *
Keeping the GTO a safe distance behind the rented silver Lumina, Ray was frowning as it headed further into the projects.
"What the hell's Pierson doing down here?" Ray muttered, baffled. "This is Rollin' 22 turf, cruising here lookin' like he does is askin' to get killed."
Fraser was frowning at a parked red Honda Civic they were passing, just as concerned as the silver Lumina slowed down.
"I don't know, Ray, but that was Lotus' car we just passed."
Ray flicked a glance in the rearview mirror. "Lotus? What the hell would she be doin' down here? Duck down, Fraser!"
Fraser dropped flat as the GTO passed the silver Lumina. Pierson had parked in front of a rundown old warehouse and was getting out, raking the building with an assessing stare.
"You stand out like a flare in that uniform, buddy," Ray muttered, hating the thought of parking his beloved GTO in such a shit neighborhood, especially since they didn't have Dief to guard the car.
Fraser sat up and watched Pierson rummage through the Lumina's backseat, jerk on a long coat, and hide something long and shining under it as he headed around the warehouse.
"Trouble, Ray!" Fraser barked; shoved open the passenger door and jumped.
Ray spat out a shockingly obscene oath Fraser would have scolded him for, swung the GTO over and parked illegally, leaving the red cop light flashing on the dashboard. He leaped out, pulled his Glock and pelted down the street after Fraser, who had rolled to his feet and was already rounding the corner of the warehouse after Pierson.
Looking down from a dirty third-floor apartment window, several Rollin' 22 gang members exchanged speculative glances as they watched Ray and Fraser running up the empty street.
* * *
Inside the warehouse, Marina deliberately didn't lift her katana in response to Saladin's challenge. "Would you mind if we talked a bit first? We can try and kill each other later, if you want."
Saladin didn't drop out of guard position but Mina could tell she had startled him.
"Why would I wish to do that, my lady?"
She took a deep breath to steady her voice -talking about Darius still tore her to pieces inside- and said gently, "It's about Darius."
Saladin jerked as if she shocked him with a cattle prod and his rapier lifted higher, pointed straight at her throat. "What do you know about Darius, Highlander?"
Marina bit her lip and pain leaked out of her voice as hard as she tried to keep it steady. "Darius is dead. Murdered on holy ground. And not by one of us."
Mina saw the truth of her words hit Saladin a heavy blow, and emotions flashed over his face one after another. Shock, disbelief, grief, rage and bone-deep sorrow rippled over those swarthy features.
"Darius? Dead? Who killed him?" Saladin grated out.
She held up her hand in a halting gesture. "Tell me something first, it may relate directly to Darius' murder. How did you lose your saber?"
She'd really blindsided Saladin this time, his rapier dropped out of guard position and he simply gaped at her. "What do you know about that?" he gasped, and then his rapier snapped up into attack position as he lunged at her in a rage.
"Did you kill Mitch?" Saladin bellowed in a fury, murderous anger flaming in his black eyes. "I'll take your head for that, Highlander!"
Marina brought up her katana fast and blocked the wild swing, immediately realizing she was at a severe disadvantage as she slapped the rapier's blade away and gave ground. Saladin was in a killing fury and she did not want to hurt him, which left her in the position of fighting a purely defensive battle.
"No, I didn't kill Mitchell Dalton!" she yelled, parrying another whip-like slash at her midsection. "I'm investigating his murder, because I think he was killed by the same group that murdered Darius!"
Saladin hissed and lanced for her head, following the thrust up with a strike off the back swing she barely dodged. "What do you care about Darius?"
For the first time a trickle of anger laced Marina's reply. "He was my teacher too, damn you," she spat. "Duncan and I found his headless corpse lying in his own church! Do you think I don't want revenge for that as much as you do? He was the best of us!" She parried a thrust, gambled at the break in Saladin's concentration and kicked out hard at his knee, managing to connect at the price of a long cut across her thigh.
Saladin went down on one knee and Marina danced back out of his range, favoring her bleeding leg.
"Get a hold of yourself!" she spat, thoroughly annoyed at this point. "Darius would be ashamed of you for acting like this! And how the hell do you know Mitchell Dalton anyway?"
Saladin raised his head and his expression was so agonized, so distraught and wracked with grief Marina's brows drew together.
"What the hell?" she whispered, and the misery in his face resounded so strongly with the bone-deep sadness in her own heart a huge portion of the answer crystallized instantly in her mind. "Oh, Gods," she breathed. "You loved him! You were in love with your Watcher!" The knowledge simply staggered Marina and she backed a few more steps away and sat down hard on the metal steps leading up to the observation deck above the office. "Well, shit," Mina said, sideswiped by this realization herself. "How the fuck did that happen?"
Saladin stared at her, some of his blind rage draining away. "You know about the Watchers?"
"Well, duh," Marina said crossly. "Have you got ahold of yourself yet?"
Saladin stared at her, confused and still angry, but finally nodded. "All right, we'll talk, MacLeod," he growled. "But if I don't like the answers I'll take your head anyhow."
"You can try, jerk face," Mina snapped back. "As pissed off as you are I'll probably win just because you're in such a snit."
Saladin barked a laugh. "You are one of Darius' pupils."
"Better one than you, from the sound of it. Now tell me how you lost your saber..." Her voice softened with sympathy. "And how the hell you fell in love with your Watcher."
Saladin stared at her, surprised by the kindness in the last part of her response; then rose to his feet and limped over to a crate, settling on it with a tired sigh. "I've known about the Watchers for millennia. I was the one who first told Darius about them."
Marina leaned back against the steps, startled. Now that was new information.
"As much as the Watchers kept their eyes on our kind, Darius and I and a few others -Ramirez was one, before the Kurgan took his head- have monitored what they knew about us as well." Saladin was observing Marina closely, trying to tell how much of this was new to her. "A group of mortals who knew about our kind, about the Gathering, such knowledge was a dangerous weapon."
Marina nodded. "Connor's told me about Ramirez. Go on."
Saladin flexed his knee gingerly- the fledgling had a wicked kick on her. "I've always kept tabs on my Watchers, even if they didn't know it. But Mitch..." Saladin's shoulders slumped. "Mitch was different," he sighed, setting the tip of his rapier into the protruding edge of the wooden crate and leaning on the hilt. "From the minute he was assigned to me, I just... I couldn't take my eyes off him. I loved him from the first time I saw him."
"And he loved you?" Mina prodded gently.
Saladin nodded, raising surprised eyes to meet her sympathetic ones. "Yes," he acknowledged reluctantly. "We knew it was forbidden for a Watcher to have any contact with his Immortal, we knew it was dangerous, but..."
"But you were in love," she finished sadly, more pieces of the puzzle fitting together as Saladin talked. "Gods, no wonder they killed Mitch. A Watcher who fell in love with his Immortal... it would be positively blasphemous." Marina frowned, abruptly puzzled. "Wait a minute, you're a Muslim. Isn't falling in love with another man some kind of cardinal sin for you? A muttawa or whatever?"
Saladin shot her a sour look. "Oh, please. I was already three hundred years old when Mohammed walked out of the desert half-mad from the sun. If I had any clue what kind of trouble that idiot would cause, I'd have killed him myself. The only reason I lead the war against the Crusaders because I didn't feel like watching a bunch of Christian assholes drunk on blood rape and pillage their way to Jerusalem. Religion was just a handy way to unite the tribes behind me, and I've been ashamed of it ever since."
"Well, sor-ry," Mina grumbled. "Excuse me for reading history." Her forehead wrinkled thoughtfully. "You took your life in your hands leading that army... the Christians beheaded their enemies back then. You really could have died."
Saladin laughed -the sound tinged with bitterness- and regarded her with a gaze that held the sad wisdom of centuries. "How Darius must have loved you, Highlander. Such a sharp tongue with such a quick, clever mind behind it."
Marina flinched and glanced away. "I like to think he loved me," she whispered. "Go on."
Saladin stared at her curiously from under those black brows but continued. "Mitch was being recalled by the Watcher council to be replaced. He was going to request to remain my Watcher for another decade but..." Saladin stopped and sucked in a ragged breath before continuing, but pain leaked out of his voice. "I didn't want to let him go alone, but Mitch insisted it was safer. He'd only been in Chicago a few days when he suddenly didn't answer his cell phone, and the hotel staff said he didn't pick up his messages and they hadn't seen him. I... I had to find out what happened. When I got to Chicago someone used Mitch's cell phone to contact me and set up a meet. They threatened to..."
"They threatened to kill Mitch unless you agreed to meet them," Marina said, overwhelmed with pity as she leaned against the iron railing on the stairs. She knew what had happened next. "What happened when you got to the parking garage?"
Saladin's jaw went rigid and his fist clenched around the hilt of his rapier.
"Take it slow," she said softly. "I've seen... his body. What they did to him was... hideous."
Saladin swallowed harshly. "You know who did this, Highlander?"
"I have a pretty good idea," Mina confirmed reluctantly, hating to hurt him further when Saladin was so tormented already. "But please, go on. What you know may be the final pieces to put the puzzle together."
"When I got to the garage there was a black van parked in the lowest level. Three mercs and a man I'd never seen before."
Marina's eyes narrowed and her mouth pulled into a thin line. "Did he tell you his name?"
"Not exactly, but one of the mercs called him Horton," Saladin told her, acid hate edging the words.
"Oh, Jesus," Mina muttered, burying her head in her hands. "How many times do we have to kill that sonofabitch? I swear this time I'm taking the bastard's head personally."
Saladin's head snapped up, some of the despair in his gaze replaced by anger and the spark of a formidable intellect beginning to work through the grief. "The line starts behind me," he snarled, and the savagery in the words sent another surge of pity through Marina.
"I know you don't have any reason to believe me," she offered awkwardly, "but I'm so sorry for what's happened. Your friend didn't deserve this. You don't deserve this."
Even Old Ones had limits, and a ragged, half-suppressed sob tore at Saladin savagely. Damn all MacLeods, Saladin thought bitterly. Their notoriously soft hearts were legendary among the Immortal community, and apparently the legend was well earned. Anger, scorn, those he could have met with equal strength and vigor. The fledgling's heartfelt sympathy was so hard to take; it unraveled all the shields around his own agony.
Marina bit her lip hard; her own battered, broken heart aching with shared pain at what Saladin was feeling. At least she knew Duncan and Methos were alive. As young an Immortal as she was- Marina never felt the pain of losing a mortal lover. What it must feel like to know there was no hope, no way to be reunited, ever, with the one you loved? It was enough to make her resolve never to love a mortal, but that was foolish. Love was love, it happened when and where it would. There was no controlling it, no caging it. Only denying it, and that was blasphemy.
"Please, I know it's hard, but I need to know the rest." Gods, it felt like kicking someone when they were down to have to yank this out of Saladin now, when his grief was so new, so sharp and painful.
"Horton said he would release Mitch if I surrendered to them. I demanded to see Mitch first. He... he kicked Mitch's body out of the van. There was a black hood over his face..."
"Mitch was already dead." Mina's voice was filled with horror and her teeth sank into her lower lip, turning it white. "Tortured to death."
A strangled, inarticulate groan tore out of Saladin. "I fought in the Crusades, child. I know a corpse when I see one. I was... mad with rage, with... grief. I drew my saber and went for Horton's head. The mercenaries... tried to gun me down. They shot me but... I got away. Dropped my saber when I escaped. Made it to the street and into my rental car. The van followed me, and I was dying, I could feel it, so I ditched the car in Lake Michigan so they couldn't follow me. Washed up on the shore a few miles away the next morning, and when I got back to my motel the news about Mitch's body being found was all over the TV."
Saladin's despair was so black and agonized Marina desperately wanted to go over and let him cry in her arms, but didn't dare.
"I... I hoped I was wrong about Mitch, hoped that somehow he might still be alive, but Horton..." Saladin's head swung back and forth like he could shake the pain out by force.
"I've seen the autopsy report," Mina said softly, knowing she could ease that, at least. "Mitch was dead long before his body was..." She faltered. "There was nothing you could have done, Saladin. I'm so sorry, but don't blame yourself. Horton killed Mitch before you ever got to that garage. His corpse was nothing but bait to lure you there so that bastard Horton could kill you."
To Marina's surprise her words actually seemed to ease some of the raging anger and wire-tight tension wound up inside him.
"Thank you for that, Highlander," Saladin managed to grate out past teeth clenched so tight his lips were white. "Thank you for that kindness. You are worthy of the name MacLeod."
"Horton must have taken your saber and used it to... dismember the body," Mina said hesitantly, deciding to spare Saladin having to say any more. Oh yes, she knew what happened from this point on, and it was just plain sick.
Saladin nodded. "Probably just to make trouble for me," he said tiredly. "And to throw suspicion off himself, not that anyone save a Watcher could have known the connection between Mitch and myself." He cocked his head and studied Marina in confusion. "You seem to know a great deal about what's going on. How did you get mixed up in all this?"
"Because I'm in love with a wolf," Marina admitted. "It's a really long story... but I'm in love with an Arctic wolf. And a Chicago cop, and a Canadian Mountie."
Saladin's surprised, if bitter, laugh echoed in the empty air, bouncing off the ceiling high above. "You are a MacLeod. That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard."
A tired, wry answering laugh bubbled out of Mina. "That's saying something." She cocked her head at him. "So we gonna try and kill each other now?"
Saladin shrugged noncommittally, drawing an aimless pattern on the dusty crate beside him. "Are you going to tell me where I can find Horton, so I can avenge my lover's murder?"
Marina shrugged. "I don't know where he is," she said honestly. "But I'm getting closer every minute. And if you want to join my hunt, you're more than welcome."
Saladin stood up, flexing his knee. It hurt, but he could fight on it. "No Highlander has ever been anything but an honorable warrior. I'll join your hunt, Marina MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, on the condition mine be the hand that takes Horton's head."
Mina stood, favoring the slash on her own leg, and walked toward him. "I can't guarantee that, no one can, but you have my word as a MacLeod I'll try."
"Done," Saladin said, reaching out, but before they could shake hands, the hum of another Immortal shocked through Marina and she went rigid. "What is it?" Saladin snapped out, reading her sudden wariness.
"One of us. Close by," Mina said and hauled her sword up and backed away from Saladin.
"I don't feel anything." Suspicion laced through Saladin's tone and he backed away too, eyeing Marina with waning trust.
"My range is unusually long," she whispered. "Wait for it."
A minute later Saladin stiffened and nodded, the weird buzz zinging along his nerves. "I feel it too. My apologies, Highlander."
"Skip it," she murmured, glancing around for a place to hide. "Horton had another Immortal working with him for a while, Xavier St. Cloud. Duncan took the bastard's head, but that doesn't mean Horton hasn't found another evil Immortal to help him. Get out of sight. Quick."
"How is this Horton tracking our kind like this?" Saladin asked, moving to the side so he could get a clear view of the side aisles leading back into the warehouse.
"Don't you know?" Mina whispered, backing out of sight behind a crate. "Horton's a Watcher, only he's gone mad, gone rogue. He wants nothing less than the genocide of our entire race before the Gathering can come to pass. So there is no One."
"What?" Saladin gasped, his sword falling out of position as he gaped at Marina, truly horrified. "He's mad!"
"Did I not just say that?" she snapped. "Now be quiet!"
* * *
Methos felt the buzz of another Immortal nearby as he loped down the alley, sword clamped firmly in his hand.
"I must be getting old," Methos muttered, scanning the back alley before slipping through the open door into the warehouse. "Damn it, this is Duncan's routine, not mine. I can hear the idiot laughing now."
Methos leaned back against the wall for a moment to collect his thoughts and knocked his head against the filthy cinderblock. What was he doing? Five thousand years hadn't taught him the fallacy of trying to be a hero? And yet... this was Marina. Mina, Duncan's beautiful fledgling who wandered into Methos' heart armed with total acceptance and unconditional love and a slightly baffled expression; like she had no idea what an incredible rarity a totally unbigoted heart was. In five thousand years Methos had never seen anything like it, in his happier, more optimistic moments thought it might be the evolution of the human race that caused such a wondrous thing to be born in a human heart.
Love without conditions; that was what Marina offered, and she gave it away as freely as if it had no value, as if her love was worthless. And saddest of all, in his heart of hearts Methos knew that was what Marina thought. No wonder he loved Marina like he never loved another being in the entire world, in all the centuries he'd been alive. She was what he had always wanted to be, and knew he never could; and for that, for her, he would do anything. Even die. It was insane, but that's what love was.
"I love you, Marina MacLeod," Methos murmured, driven to say it aloud just once more, it make it real just in case he didn't get the chance to say it ever again.
"Hold on, my beloved fledgling," Methos whispered, pushed off the wall and abruptly wished for woad to paint his face, because he was going into battle like he hadn't done for two thousand years and more. "I'm coming."
* * *
Fraser froze in his tracks when the thudding footsteps in front of him came to a halt, and cupped a hand over his ear to catch whatever Pierson was muttering to himself. The first words were indistinguishable, but Fraser held his breath to quiet the sound of his own breathing harsh in his ears and listened.
Hearing I love you, Marina MacLeod, was not what Fraser expected. It shocked him silly. To hear her name and a pledge of love spoken in a hoarse, desperate lover's whisper turned his world topsy-turvy; and to hear it followed by Hold on, my beloved fledgling, I'm coming, froze his heart solid. Dear Lord, Marina was in there. What in God's name was going on? Marina...
Fraser surged forward at a dead run, what was going on here didn't matter in the slightest because life stripped everything from him too many times already; it would not take Mina, and it could not have Ray or Dief. Nothing would take his pack, not now, not when he'd finally found love.
* * *
Ray was rounded the corner of the warehouse just in time to see Fraser blanch dead white and tear up the loading dock and into the warehouse the way he ran into burning buildings when there were children inside to save. Ray cursed and followed, holding his Glock out of line with the safety off and really, really fucking glad he was wearing his glasses, because his hunches were screaming danger, danger, danger louder every second.
As he glanced up and down the alley before going in, Ray caught sight of a reflection in one of the dirty apartment windows across the street. A black van was parked on the other side of the street and half a dozen men were piling out, guys in suspiciously black military gear carrying what looked an awful lot like automatic weapons as far as he could distinguish in a reflection on wavy old six-pane glass encrusted with decades of Chicago filth.
Ray swore under his breath and took a minute to call for backup before following Fraser into the building. He was barely past the door when Fraser grabbed him and clamped a hand over his mouth, yanking Ray back into the shadows behind a metal shipping crate that was taller than he was. To Ray's surprise Diefenbaker was right beside Fraser -his ears flat back and worried, his tail stretched out stiffly- which Ray knew meant the wolf was tense and agitated.
"Quiet." Fraser muttered right into Ray's ear before easing his hand off his partner's mouth. Even so Ray could barely distinguish the words because Fraser's body was singing with suppressed tension and the screaming sense of danger in his head was practically deafening Ray.
"Van full of guys w' assault guns pullin' up outside," Ray whispered. "At least six, maybe more."
Fraser's eyes widened but he nodded and jerked his head at the front of the warehouse. "Mina's here."
As Ray nodded -he figured that, with Dief here- and Fraser let him go, the wolf melted soundlessly around the other side of the shipping crate and he and Fraser followed, moving together, as always.
* * *
Methos advanced down the aisle cautiously, but when he reached the end of the aisle and saw Saladin waiting, rapier in hand; he took a deep breath and slipped into a persona he hadn't worn for a millennia or more.
"Hello, Salah," Methos said smoothly, walking out into the open with his sword held loosely, but neither Marina or Saladin made the mistake of thinking he couldn't strike with deadly intent from that posture.
Saladin's eyes widened and his rapier wavered, shock radiating off him. "My Lord Methos?" Whatever he'd been expecting this obviously wasn't it.
"Methos?" Marina gasped, stepping out into sight, and if Saladin was shocked, Mina was floored. Then disparate facts snapped together in her mind and she couldn't smother a wry snort. "'I'll send someone you can trust'," she quoted, remembering her last conversation with Joe Dawson. "He sure did."
Methos' eyes narrowed angrily as he took in the slash on Marina's thigh, the blood trickling down her pant leg.
Saladin shot her a confused glance but when Methos began circling around to get between him and Marina, Saladin's attention yanked back.
"Speaking of trust," Methos commented, his tone deceptively light, "of all the people I thought would betray me, I never expected it to be you. You disappoint me, Salah." By now Methos was standing between Mina and Saladin and Mina was staring at them both, her face purposefully neutral as she watched.
Incredible shock reverberated through Saladin, shattering his composure into a thousand pieces. "Betray you? Never, my Lord!" he gasped, his swarthy skin blanching white in horror. "I would die first!"
Anger leached into Methos' smooth voice. "You lifted your sword to my beloved, Salah. Your blade marked my chosen, spilled her blood." His next words were a furious roar as his sword snapped up and pointed straight at Saladin's throat, his knuckles white on the hilt. "How is this not a betrayal?"
Saladin's horrified gaze snapped to Marina. "She is yours, my Lord?" he choked out, his fingers clenching convulsively on his own rapier.
Baffled but still wary, Marina jerked her chin in a single nod, never taking her eyes from Methos and Saladin. A small tight smile crossed Methos' face at her unquestioning agreement, and he held out his hand. Marina took two steps forward and placed her hand in his, and Methos lifted it to his lips and kissed it, a flash of love softening his fury for just an instant.
Saladin's eyes closed, stricken to the heart by this silent affirmation. "I would never betray thee, my Lord. Never," he murmured, despair laced through his words. "I did not know." His rapier dropped, the tip scraping dully on the oil stained concrete. "But that is no excuse."
Saladin lifted his head, and calm, fixed resignation set his features like stone. He paced forward until he was standing in front of Methos and Mina and in a sudden, startling move, dropped to his knees, bent his head forward and exposed his neck. Balancing his rapier on his palms, he offered it up to Marina.
"I owe thee an apology too great for words, my Lady," Saladin whispered dully. "I have betrayed my sovereign Lord. I offer you my life, instead, for the wrong I have done thee. All I am is yours, Lady. Take my head, it is thine by right for my crime."
* * *
Watching from only a dozen yards away, Ray and Fraser exchanged shocked, utterly baffled glances. What the hell was going on here? They didn't get a chance to find out, Fraser caught the soft rapid footfalls of several men right behind them and the metallic clicks of automatic weapons chambering rounds into firing position.
Fraser grabbed Ray and threw them both sideways out of the line of fire, yelling, "Mina, get down!"
Marina didn't hesitate- she tightened her grip on Methos' hand and backpedaled in a flash behind the staircase beside the office, shoving him down behind her. Crouched behind the steel steps gunfire exploded all around them, bullets peppering the concrete and ricocheting off the steel shipping crates, sending rust sparking off in sprays of sharp-edged flakes.
"Salah, take cover," Marina screamed, shoved her katana into Methos' hand and yanked out her Sigs, snapping off several rounds in the direction of the gunfire, giving Ray, Fraser and Saladin enough time to scramble for better cover. Methos cursed and hunched down behind her as Saladin bolted back into the shelter of the office. They got lucky when two of the black-clad gunmen tried to break out into the open, she popped one in the leg high in the thigh, sending him tumbling; and Ray dropped the other with a shot through the shoulder that sent his weapon clattering to the metal floor as he fell to his knees, clutching the wound and cursing as blood spurted out around his fingers.
Diefenbaker's hunting howl resounded through the building and a choked-off scream said the wolf had gotten one already. Ray and Fraser split up and Ray broke left as Fraser broke right around the nearest shipping crate, moving to get around and behind the shooters. Marina kept up a steady covering fire trying to at least keep them pinned down, but a positive hail of answering fire from several directions made her curse and yank back.
"Your boyfriends are the stalking type?" Methos muttered; crouched so close behind her his body heat was making her sweat even worse under the black leather.
"Considering we'd be perforated if they weren't, try and cut them some slack, humn?" But Marina ducked behind the stairs and pressed a fast, hard kiss against Methos' lips. "Missed you," she whispered, brushing her fingertips over his cheek, the heat from the metal barrel of the Sig cradled in her palm radiating against his skin. "I'm so glad to see you, Methos!"
Methos pressed his forehead against hers, the sharp smell of cordite stinging their nostrils. "Likewise."
* * *
Behind the shipping crate closest to the office, Fraser watched Methos and Marina exchange a fast kiss and deliberately forced his emotions aside. He knew Mina longed for her lost family, missed them with a pain that tore her apart inside. She had never said anything different, she had never directly lied to him or Ray, not once; and he could hardly blame her for being happy to see someone she loved so dearly. In addition, there was no question there was a great deal more going on here than he or Ray had any idea, all of it deadly dangerous. Witness the gunfight they were currently embroiled in.
But in spite of everything, it cut like a knife to see Marina kiss Pierson... or Methos, or whatever his name was. It hurt like a betrayal. But he would hear her out first, Fraser resolved. He would make Ray do the same; they would not judge her without knowing the truth. That would be wrong... he just desperately hoped she had a damn good explanation for all this, for all their sakes. Swallowing hard, Fraser grabbed the top edge of the shipping crate and hauled himself up. Time to strike from above, for some strange reason bad guys never seemed to look up. Victims of two-dimensional thinking...
On the opposite side of the warehouse, Ray grinned in triumph as he and Diefenbaker managed to sidle around behind another one of the gunmen, pinning Mina and Pierson down. He was braced on one knee behind a jog in the warehouse wall and snapping off a steady stream of fire at Marina, Pierson and their suspect, Yusef Ayubin.
Unlike Fraser, Ray was pissed. Not because of Pierson, the second he'd seen him and Mina together the image of the snapshot Marina kept on her bedside table sprang into his mind. That was where he'd seen the guy before; he was the mysterious Methos she talked about, when Mina could manage to fight past the crippling pain to talk about her missing family at all. The reason he couldn't remember it clearly was because he'd been half-drunk, damn it, doubly intoxicated from the whiskey and the mind-blowing pleasure of Ben and Mina's kisses that first night they'd slept tangled together in her huge bed.
But how had Marina tracked Ayubin here? And why the fuck had she and Dief done it alone? That he was right ticked off about, he and the wolf were damn well going to have words when this was over.
Ray looked down at Dief, pressed against his leg, and jerked his head at the guy in front of them. Dief rumbled his understanding and crouched low, slunk towards the merc until he was only a few feet away, then sprang forward in a single lunge and leap. The guy hit the floor with a whoof as over a hundred pounds of angry wolf slammed into his back, and the crack his face made as it impacted the concrete made Ray flinch. He ran forward, flipped the guy over and checked him out, but the jerk's eyes were rolled up in his head and he was out cold. Ray cuffed him hastily to an I-beam, kicked his machine gun under a nearby crate, and kept right on moving.
Above the fight, Fraser managed to get behind one of the last three gunmen by jumping from crate to crate. When Marina and Ray caught the other two in a crossfire Fraser dropped right down on the remaining one from the top of the crate, sending him sprawling and his gun skittering off across the concrete.
But the black-clad merc rolled to his feet, grinning viciously as he yanked a combat knife from a boot sheath and lunged for Fraser. The Mountie grabbed the wrist with the knife and twisted it away ruthlessly, snapping out a single hard punch that connected solidly with the merc's jaw. The fellow was tough- despite the power behind the blow he shook it off and drove a punch like a hammer right into Fraser's gut. Fraser gave ground with a heavy exhalation but let fly with a haymaker that slammed the merc right back into crate behind him. The merc's head connected with the rusty steel surface with a sickening thud and the knife clattered to the floor as the merc slumped down.
Fraser trussed him up quickly with his lanyard -it was a poor substitute for handcuffs but he had nothing else- and kept going. Two lines of fire pinning Marina, Methos and Saladin down meant two gunmen left. Fraser heard Dief's angry howl from the other side of the warehouse and bolted for the sound, his boots pounding on the concrete.
Ray stuck his head around the corner of another one of those damn huge metal shipping crates -this fucking place was a maze- and spotted another jerk in black carrying a goddamn Uzi, for Christ's sake. He was tucked into a niche where two crates were jammed in cross-cornered, and only popping out to take shots at Mina, trapped behind that steel staircase with nowhere to go.
Ray practically ground his teeth in frustration. Shitfuck, he wondered, plastering his back up against the metal side, who were these guys? Well trained, well armed, and out for blood. Theirs. It was a flippin' miracle their pack was doing as well against them as they were. Diefenbaker was gone again, which sucked, but if he could distract the jerk up ahead out into the clear so Ray could get a decent shot...
Lady Luck tossed an ace their way. One of the richochets from the hail of bullets these guys were throwing around clipped a rusty chain above the asshole Ray was trying to get a bead on. The rusty string of metal creaked and the heavy pulley on the end dropped a couple inches as the chain swung.
Ray grinned fiercely and concentrated as he fired his next shot... and the bullet severed the half-broken link in the chain, sending the pulley crashing down onto the concrete floor. Only the merc's quick reflexes saved him from getting beaned, but when he lunged out of the corner Ray's next two shots caught him low in the side and high in the leg. He choked out a gasp and tumbled to the ground, lying on his side swearing and grabbing for both wounds at once.
Ray ran forward and kicked his gun out of reach before he could grab for it again, but the last gunman jumped out from the aisle where he'd been hiding and drew a bead right on Ray.
"No!" Mina screamed, and lunged out from behind the stairs... and time slowed down for Ray, for Fraser.
Ray turned in mid-stride and found he was staring down the barrel of a machine gun. It was the size of the fucking Lincoln Tunnel. Already moving the wrong direction to get clear, his boots unable to get traction on the smooth concrete floor to move out of the way, he had a perfect view as Mina leaped into the line of fire. For Ray, her body hung suspended in the air for an eternity as the gunman's finger closed on the trigger. Muzzle flashes flared like low speed special effects from The Matrix and Ray almost fancied he could see the path the bullets took as they lanced toward Mina's body. Ray's anguished horrified scream took forever to leave his throat, scraped it raw on the way out.
Running up behind the last gunman, Fraser caught him draw a bead on his exposed partner. He watched Ray turn and saw the look of pissed-off anger on Ray's face as he realized he was in the line of fire. He saw Marina leap, from behind the stairs she was several meters closer to the gunman than he or Ray was. Still running full-out, Fraser saw Ray's expression change as his partner howled in rage and fear as one, two, three bullets pierced Marina's body, the blood spray hanging in the air for endless moments.
Hardly aware of what he was doing, Fraser reached down and grabbed his knife from his boot in mid-stride, fixed his attention on the gunman's arm... and threw. Silver metal spun and flashed, each turn of the blade slow as glaciers moving... and the knife sank hilt-deep into the shooter's arm.
Time snapped back into proper flow as Marina's body hit the floor; and Methos and Ray both ran for her as she rolled to a stop on the concrete, her blond ponytail lying like a streak of white paint across the dirty gray floor. Saladin threw open the door to the office and came charging out, baffled shock mutating anger to confusion. His rapier was clenched in his hand and the part of Ray's brain that was still functioning on detective level -the part that never stopped functioning on detective level, even as his heart was tearing itself apart- pinned down the fact that a lot of people involved in this case, Mina included, were really good with swords, and what the fuck was up with that, that was a clue, a big one, and how the hell had he missed it all this time?
A few yards behind, Fraser hit the gunman with a full-body tackle, his weight crushing the man into the floor as he grabbed the knife hilt embedded in the man's bicep and twisted it brutally. Fraser's brain was howling bastard, bastard, hurt their Mina, his Mina, hurt him back, make him pay! The merc screamed at the top of his lungs, a bellow of raw unadulterated agony, and fainted from the overwhelming wave of pain as the knife blade twisted deeper into his arm, grinding into the bone.
"Mina!" Ray howled, his face transfigured by rage and fear and loss as he threw himself across the floor to land on his knees at Marina's side, reaching out with trembling hands and gathering up her body off that damnably hard floor to cradle her against his chest.
Dief's anguished howl jerked Ray away from fumbling out his cell phone open one-handed, dispatch was the first setting on Ray's speed-dial and he was already mechanically reciting the particulars to the operator on duty as Marina's blood spilled out, ran over his arms and chest and stained his shirt and the concrete. So much blood. It was everywhere.
The rough grit on the floor dug harder into his knees as Methos dropped down beside him. "She'll be all right," Methos said, grabbing Ray by the shoulders and forcing the detective to look at him. "She'll be all right!"
If his arms hadn't been full of Mina Ray would have swung on him. He'd seen enough shooting victims to know Marina was hit bad, really bad, and the blood pumping out of the bullet hole near her heart was the bright red of arterial blood. More blood bubbled from her mouth as she tried to reach for Ray, trying to smile as the light in her blue eyes, those blue eyes Ray loved, faded faster every second. It hit Ray with terrifying power he had never told Marina he loved her, never, not once, and what kind of a coward was he for not saying that? Now, when it was seconds away from too late, he thought of this? How hard did he suck, dammit?
"Ray!" Fraser yelled, pain mixed with a kind of fury Ray never heard in his partner's voice ever before. "Dief says four more shooters coming from the back, get her out of here!"
Ray leaned down and kissed Mina, hard. Her blood was coppery and warm and filled his mouth.
"Take her," he gasped, and his heart tore in half as Methos took Mina's body from his grasp and lurched to his feet, holding her tight against his shoulder. Not even thinking, Ray pointed his gun and shot out the lock on the front loading dock door, emptying the rest of his clip, and he only stopped firing when the hammer clicked for the first time on an empty chamber.
"Go," Ray yelled, and after a hasty glance up and down the street, Methos and Ayubin-Saladin-who-the-fuck-ever both bolted out the swinging door. Ray's hands moved, quick and smooth, even as his brain raged and wept. Eject the spent clip, snap in the fresh one -he always carried spare clips these days, he'd been Fraser's partner too long- pull the slide, and run for Frase's side. He couldn't just leave Fraser, he couldn't, and somewhere in his half-crazed mind Ray knew if there was anyone in the world he could trust with their beloved Mina it was Methos, or Duncan, or Connor. Those three names that were graven on Marina's heart, Mina's heart that had bubbled blood all over him.
When Ray dropped down beside his partner, reloaded and ready, it was a godawful jolt to see fear in Fraser's eyes. He'd never seen fear like that on Fraser before. It was heartrending.
"How is she?" Fraser said hoarsely, wrapping his fingers around Ray's empty hand, his gaze fixed on the red stains of Mina's blood all around Ray's mouth.
"Bad," Ray choked out, fighting to stay calm. Fraser's hand clutched in his backed off some of the wildness, the Mountie's forced calm infecting him. Fraser leaned forward and kissed him, hard and urgent and filled with roiling emotion, and they waited together, Dief crouched by their side.
* * *
But they all got a surprise when gunfire suddenly exploded all around them; from the back of the warehouse, from the street in front, more hammering down through shattered windows high up on the sides of the warehouse; a clattering hail of firepower that had to come from at least two dozen weapons. Ray and Fraser scrooged down behind their crate and exchanged utterly baffled glances. Had their backup arrived already? It sounded like the riot squad, for Christ's sake.
What's going on? Ray thought at his partner, his forehead wrinkling in confusion.
I have no idea, Fraser thought back. He jerked his head at the warehouse wall and keeping his back pressed up against the crate, started working his way toward the nearest source of gunfire.
Guttural yells mixed with angry curses and obscene street trash-talk punctuated the deafening roar of gunfire for another minute when all sound abruptly ceased. When Ray and Fraser rounded the corner cautiously and stared down the main aisle of the warehouse floor there were four black-clad bodies lying in a pile, so riddled with bullets Ray was reminded of a John Wu flick. Blood was leaking from dozens of bullet holes in the bodies, puddling and pooling fast all around them.
Ray and Fraser gaped, stunned. What the hell had happened here?
"Now we even, Mountie-man," a new voice said calmly, and to their shock, Duval Edwards, the unquestioned leader of the Rollin' 22's, stepped through the rear loading dock door into the warehouse. Duval was conspicuously unarmed, his hands spread wide at his sides, his clothing crisp and fresh despite the wilting inner-city heat. "We don't owe you, an' you don't owe us," Duval informed them.
Ray stared at Duval, his eyes narrowing, but unlike Fraser, he knew Chicago's street code and knew this was payback for nailing the real killer of Jamal Martin last year and preventing an all-out gang war in the process. Ray nodded slowly.
"If that's the way you want it, Duval."
Duval spread his hands wider and shrugged, smiling mirthlessly. "That's the way it's gotta be, blue boy." He started to step back outside the warehouse but stopped when Fraser suddenly spoke up.
"Thank you kindly, Duval," Fraser said, his voice strangely flat as he skimmed a finger over his eyebrow.
Duval grinned for real this time. "You're welcome, Mountie-man," he said, and nodded an ironic farewell as he disappeared out the back door.
Fraser jerked and started to follow him but Ray grabbed his arm.
"Mina," Ray said urgently. Fraser paled and spun on his heel, and they bolted for the front of the warehouse together.
* * *
But when Ray, Fraser and Dief ran out into the street Pierson's rented silver Lumina was still parked in front of the warehouse, and it was empty. Black and whites were screaming up from both ends of the street, sirens and lights going, with two ambulances right behind. Parked across the street from the Lumina, the black van was listing to one side on two shot-out tires, and another black-clad body was slumped over the steering wheel. The van was riddled with dozens of bullet holes; smoke still trailed from them and the stink of spilled oil and gasoline mixed with the heavy thick stench of cordite and gunpowder.
All the Rollin' 22's were gone, long gone, but Ray could have given a fuck about that, let 'em run, they'd been there for the important stuff. What was important now was there was no sign of Methos, no sign of Ayubin, and most important of all, no sign of Marina... none. Gone, all three. Ray wanted to scream.
But Dief had his nose to the ground and was casting back and forth, and Ray and Fraser swapped glances as Dief came to a halt, sniffing at a steaming wet stain on the hot, filthy pavement.
Ray and Fraser followed the wolf immediately, Ray waving the arriving uniforms into the warehouse with a yelled warning about perps that might have regained consciousness or still be armed. The lead cop yelled a confirmation back and led the way inside, gun out and moving fast but cautious, his backup fanning out behind him.
Fraser leaned down and rubbed his fingers over the wet stain on the pavement. One of Dief's paw prints had trodden through one side of the trail of splatters and Fraser delicately dipped his fingertips into one of the untouched wet drops. It smeared red on his fingertips when Frase rubbed them together, and the Mountie blanched white as he tasted the red fluid. His hand clenched into a fist around that red smear.
"It's her blood, Ray," Fraser said hoarsely.
It sickened Ray that Fraser knew the taste of Marina's blood from his mouth, but there was no time for that now, not when Dief's hunting howl was ringing out triumphantly as he caught the trail. Ray ran to get the Goat as Fraser followed the white wolf loping over the pavement.
* * *
End Geometry: Chapter 16, Never, My Lord! by Diefs Girl
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