Disclaimer: Damn. Okay. Illyana, Kitty, Kitty's mother, Margali, Kurt, Belasco and Amanda don't belong to me. Neither does the Soul Sword. No money is being made from this, and if you consider a sore back and neck from typing relentlessly a plus, then you're twisted.

Thanks to Timey, Acey, Foe and Lynx, in no particular order. Hey, Lynx, remember this?

Rating: R. Big R. Lots of graphic violence, blood, guts, brains... You get the idea.

Dedication: To Luba. Not *quite* what you wanted for Christmas, but at least I finally got *something* done.


I Fall Into The Lake
by Ana Lyssie Cotton

She swung the sword again, feeling her shoulders tighten from the strain of repeating the movement over and over. Frantic adrenaline continued splashing through her blood, sweat slid down her back. It soaked through the shirt she wore, darkening the purple and red blood that speckled it already. Her arms and jeans were splotchy with the stuff.

A spray had turned her blonde hair to red, bits of purple clinging here and there. Her face was one solid mask of purple goo save where she'd wiped a hand across her eyes.

There was no time here. Just the swinging of a sword, the crowding of the enemy and the aching of muscles used and abused beyond bearing. Pain from dozens of scratches and three cracked ribs shivered along her nerves.

A razor-sharp talon slid past her defenses and ripped open her right wrist to the bone.

She cried out in shock and pain, the sound echoing around them all. With a physical wrench she dropped the sword pommel into her left hand and continued slashing. Her wrist she cradled to her chest.

Chitters came from the spiders and with one movement, the wave pressed ever closer.

More and more wounds destroyed her fair skin as time had no meaning. A wrist snapped from the strain. Two ribs more than cracked. Another broke, one end sliding wetly into a lung.

The inexhorable onslaught overwhelmed her eventually, and she collapsed, deaf, dumb and blind to nothing but hariy legs wrapping around her. Pincers digging into her flesh and feasting on blood and muscle.

Something changed, then. Some slight alteration and she dimly felt the world slipping past her, wind ripping away the spiders. And then she hit, water swallowing her. Tumbling over and over, the last of the creatures pulled away.

The pain and disorientation finally dragged her down into darkness, still clutching a glittering sword.

--

A hospital. Chicago Regional. They see a lot of people, there. The ER is one of the best.

They're about to get something that will require more than their best.

"What've you got?"

"Jane Doe--apparently drowned, multiple lacerations to her entire body, fractured right wrist, broken left third rib, punctured lung, several cracks and sprains and God only knows what else."

"Right. On my count, one, two, three."

They fought, then. Stabilised her, lost her, brought her back. She never regained consciousness, never even cried as they poked and prodded and dragged her back from death.

It was later that they began wondering, began asking questions...

"Who is she?"

"No one knows. She just washed up on the shore of Lake Michigan."

"God, she's so..."

"Yes."

"Looks like someone threw her into a boxing ring."

--

Illyana Rasputin. That's the name on the tiny gravestone. I stand here and look at it and wonder if she was ever happy.

Was I ever happy? Were ANY of us happy? I know there were times when we seemed to be. Times when we laughed and joked and played...

But now I wonder, was Yana ever happy?

I was always so sure it could end in a flash. It did, at times. The X-Men dead in Dallas. Rachel dragged away in the Timestream.

With Pete, I was so desperate. I wanted to hang onto it all.

I know a part of me rebelled. I didn't deserve him.

I don't think I could handle the fact that Pete and I were so alike. I was his humanity, he was my normality. Both clinging to things we weren't. Both clinging to lies.

Desperate to never admit the truth, I ran away from him. I cheapened us. And he knew.

He loved me and I can't ever love. Not ever. Because it could all end so fast.

Forever. He once said he wanted us to stay forever.

Forever is scary. Forever means stability and maturity and reliability. And never having excitement and danger.

I wonder it that's why Yana gave in to the Darkchild. Because she craved it, craved being whole and dangerous and exciting.

Because I think I craved the Soul Sword, once.

She passed it to me, and I knew. And I held on to it. I wonder what would have happened if Amanda hadn't been there. If she hadn't given it to Margali.

Pete found that darkness invigorating. He found the innocent surface human. And I am neither.

Sometimes, I scare myself.

--

It lay in the bay, and glittered to itself. It would never rust, never tarnish. The gems and inlay on the hilt would never become encrusted with barnacles. IT would wait, holding itself in readiness.

For its time would come. One day, She would be back. And they would rule Hell together.

--

She awoke all at once, muscles tightening and straining against non-existant bonds as she sat up, mind reeling from a thousand different memories of pain. Real pain shattered her, sending her back to the mattress, back arching as she screamed silently.

Darkness claimed her as drugs chased her away from the light.

It was a darkness filled with half-understood nightmares and people who worried that she'd slip into a coma. It deepened past night into the utter blackness of outer space. Stark cold rippled through her for a time, and she let it until something, some spark of anger, of hope, blazed across the darkness like a comet, and she thrashed at it, tore it, ripping it to shreds as she had countless demons and aliens before.

And it dissolved allowing her to sleep. She sank into it comfortably, warm and snug, protected like a child in its mother's womb.

The nightmares couldn't follow her here. Wouldn't chase her into the dark. She was safe. She had won.

Finally.

--

Jumbled bodies covered the floor below the cage. Bones jutted out at odd angles, bits of gristle and fat hanging from might once have been human rib cages. Locks of hair dotted shattered bits of blood and bone that might once have been skulls. Blonde, brown, a dull red, it was all the same, matted with sludge and blood, all streaky with green and orange moulds.

The stench of blood and bile, old death and new pain, filled the room, sending her already ruined eyes to weeping again as she swung in her cage. She didn't know how long she'd been there, only that it had been through her own folly. But there was no escape, even if she'd been whole and free.

Whole. She'd never been whole. Never. Not even when her children had still loved her. The tears streaming down her cheeks changed flavour, becomming bitter and full of old sadness.

The salty liquid stung her skin in many places, slipping into tiny cuts and slicking down the stains of old bruises and new whip marks. The pain barely registered, buried among far greater hurts. The last session had cracked three ribs and sent bone shards from her pelvis into her abdomen. Neither hand was whole, the fingers cruelly twisted and misshapen from repeated rebreakings.

She'd been dumped to the floor, too. And mould had stuck to her skin like glue, the smell reeking through the halls they'd dragged her through. "A little bit of home for you, Margali."

"Not home. Never home."

"Awww." Belasco sighed as he stroked a talon down her cheek, a line of blood following the sharpened nail, "And I thought you wanted to rule this dimension. Wouldn't it have been home, then?"

"Fuck you."

"My dear, such language. Tsk, tsk." He casually slid a talon into her shoulder, watching the play of muscles in her arm as he wiggled it, causing them to expand and contract spasmodically. "You humans, such wonderful nerve impulses."

She was crying in pain, trying not to scream, not wanting him to know how much he was hurting her. But as always, she failed, a moan of pain escaping her lips.

He laughed, delighted, "You break faster and faster, Margali. My dear, I do enjoy our little chats so."

"Why don't you just kill me?" She rasped out. A question she never should ask, but it hurt so much. And the flies and the stench, and... another day another minute would send her insane. Or had it already? She'd lost so much track over the last years.

Days. Only days--or months.

A laugh echoed in the chamber, empty of anything human, save a broken woman in a cage.

--

Insanity. I don't think it runs in my family, but why else would mom and dad give me over to perfect strangers? Oh, yeah. They were mentally manipulated. Close to insanity, then.

And I'm not even going to think about the divorce.

Talked to mom on the phone yesterday. She sounded surprised to hear my voice. I guess the way things are with the assassination and all, she thought I'd be in hiding with the rest of the damn muties.

Yeah.

In hiding, with Rahne and her 'mother'; with everyone watching me, waiting for me to cry and loose it over Pete. He left. That doesn't mean I'm nothing. Idiots.

Not even Kurt understands. Amanda might, but she's busy avoiding all of us.

I think it's the part where she killed her mother. Kurt's adopted mother, of course.

Life's a bitch.

Jubilee was saying that to me a while back. Right after tellin' me Wolvie was hers.

Logan. Hers. Riiight. Silly cow.

They're both somewhere, hiding. Like I should be.

But I can't. Because today... Today is... That day.

What was it Rahne told me?

"Aye couldna do nothin'!"

You loved her, yet you couldn't save her. Stupid bitch. Stupid me.

Graves are for the living. The dead have gone.

Illyana would have understood, though.

She always did.

--

The pain was less, this time. She could feel other things now, dimly. Discomfort from a full bladder, hunger from an empty stomach. And there was a gnawing feeling, on the edge of her perception. It craved, something.

Carefully, she opened an eyelid, fighting against the light and keeping it open, blinking to regain sight. A ceiling slowly darkened into view. White ceiling tiles, some slightly stained from age. Crisscrosses of metal, slightly brighter than the other. Plastic-coated, most likely, the shine never wearing as the foam panels did.

A sound made her turn her head, and she blinked at the array of machines next to her bed. Wires and tubes led from them to her. She breathed in a startled breath. One tube was fixed down her nose. Another in her wrist. Still other sensors and wires hooked her to the machines.

The breath machine made a noise again, and she fought its control, desperate to breathe on her own, to feel the air pumping in and out of her own will. Her arm hurt as she moved it, bringing it up to fumble at the tape, pulling against skin, ignoring the seared flesh.

The tube pulled out, leaving her gasping for a moment, before she took a huge lungful of air. It was clean and smelled of hospitals. Cleaning fluid and death. But it was better than staleness and lifelessness. Better than blood and guts.

"Miss?" A woman stepped into her vision, concern on her face. "Are you all right?"

"I..." She rasped, shocked to find she could speak. At least mumble, her vocal chords abraided by screams over time. "Water."

"Here. They said you could have ice chips if you woke." The woman pushed blonde hair off her face, "Do you knokw where you are?"

At a guess? "Hospital."

"Yes." A gentle hand smoothed her hair back from her face, and she closed her eyes, savouring the caress.

Jagged memory slashed across the darkness behind her eyes, and she whimpered, fighting them back. They were there, on the edge, waiting. She jerked her eyes open and stared at the nurse. "Talk."

She blinked, "I have other patients, I can't stay long."

"Please." Pleading in her eyes, pain in her soul.

"All right. Um. I'm Andrea. I'm not certain who you are. You may not know yourself." The nurse slid another ice sliver past her lips. "You came in here in fairly bad shape. They've patched you up good. I'm glad you don't want to be on the respirator, it'll help you recover faster--being strong and all."

A pale grey slid over her eyes, and she drifted off to sleep again, the nurses words following her, and bringing a shield against the darkness and pain. A haven from memory.

--

I went today.

Chicago. Love this city, always have.

Saw mother. I don't know how I feel about it, not even sure I care.

But she wasn't happy to see me. I could tell by the way she looked at me as she opened the door.

"Katherine! Why are you here?"

As if I had seen her yesterday. Even today. And just gone out for a walk.

"I was in the neighborhood. Thought I'd come by and say hi."

"Oh." She tried to smile then, even hugged me. But her heart wasn't in it.

"Something wrong?"

"I worry, you know. About you." She shivered then, as if she could see inside of me at the quiet places. "There was another report today of another mutant being murdered."

"Just for being different. It's always the way, mother." I smiled sadly. "It won't ever stop. Not unless... Well, words for another time. How are you?"

"Worried." She turned away from me, drew me inside the house that had once been my home.

"Oh?"

"Yes. Here." She shoved a paper at me, I didn't even see the date. "I keep thinking... this could be you."

I stared at the picture, horror filling me. It was in black and white, but I knew the eyes would have been blue. The hair, blonde. "Me? It isn't. It never will be."

"I know, Kitty, but... She's so young."

"Younger than you think." I tried to speak further, but my throat had closed.

Why here? Why now? It couldn't be her, there was no way it could be her. She was dead. Twice over. And I had mourned her both times, lost her more in my dreams. I couldn't save her. None of us could, in the end.

"Who is she?"

"The article says she's a Jane Doe."

"Where?"

"Some hospital down in the city. Katherine? Katherine, where are you going?"

Later. I'd see her later. For now.... I had to think.

--

Margali raised her head. Something was down in the room below. Something that hadn't been there before. It moved slowly, the stride deliberate as it placed each foot so as to avoid crunching bones or slippery gristle. A cloak draped it, shadowy dark and concealing anything that would have indicated a form. She stared at it, wondering.

It stopped as it reached the chain winch that rolled her cage up on down. A darkly furred hand slid out, the fingers touching the apparatus before moving quickly and efficiently to start it descending.

A loud creak echoed through the chamber as the chain lowered its burden.

No guards came rushing in to see what the fuss was about. Either they were dead, or uncaring. Margali was assuming the latter, since Belasco only wanted her alive. Not undamaged.

The cage tilted as it settled in among the bodies of once happy people. The cloaked figure moved to the door and made short work of the lock, swinging open the door and holding it.

She stared up at him. "Who are you?"

For a moment, the figure hesitated, then the hood moved slightly, and she caught a glimpse of white teeth and fangs, gleaming as a soft smile caressed them. "Hello, Mama."

"Kurt..." She felt like crying, screams echoing through her soul that promised joy and laughter. And none of it could be hers. "My child, you must kill me."

"I--I don't understand."

"He has... hooks in me, claws. I can even now feel what he has done twisting me up inside. And worse. The sword, child, the sword calls for me. I have craved it for so long..." She whimpered. "It must never touch my hands again, or he will win."

"Mama..." He leaned towards her, gently running a finger along her cheek. Even his velvet fur abraided the cuts there, and she flinched away from him. "I..."

"You must, Kurt. You must." She shivered, colder than she'd ever been. "He keeps me alive for his pleasure. He will never let me die."

"I cannot."

"Then we are doomed." She bowed her head, desperate. "Kurt, the things I've done over the years. So many things--your friend. The demon under London. Don't they deserve death?"

"No." He replied simply. "You are my mother--in every way that counts, Mama. Mystique has perpetuated far worse atrocities against me and mine. And she yet lives. Why shouldn't you?"

"Do you know," A voice asked lazily from behind her. "In German, the same woman for mother is used to label crazy people? Rather fitting, don't you think, my dear?"

"Belasco." Kurt hissed, grabbing Margali's arm, making her whimper. "I'm taking my mother with me."

"Yes, I rather thought you might."

"No, Kurt, you mustn't!"

"Goodbye."

A whiff of brimstone sprang up as Kurt teleported them away, leaving behind the stench of the charnal house.

--

It had been a few days since her second awakening. They'd moved her from the intensive care unit and into another room. This one also had white ceiling tiles, though they were newer than the previous ones had been. Andrea had not been moved with her, instead she had a young man, who seemed to think he was God's Gift to Women. At least, he tried charming the socks off of every female in his vicinity. She was surprised to find that it had included her.

They were calling her Jane, now. She knew it was wrong, but couldn't tell them who she was. She couldn't remember, the name she had been was lost in the darkness with the memories of pain.

She still needed to be talked to sleep, or would wake from horrible nightmares screaming and thrashing. She'd pulled the IV line out so many times it was almost a running joke among the interns as to who would get to put it back in the next time.

Let them have their fun. She wasn't long for this place. Not now she was awake and eating again. They'd tried that first day to feed her nothing but soup. She'd rebelled, threatening to climb from her 'deathbed' and stalk down to the cafeteria herself.

After that, they'd always brought her proper meals. The food wasn't quite up to her standards, but it would do until she could get back to... wherever.

She didn't have a roommate, though they had mentioned they might give her one if the hospital continued filling as it was.

A roommate... She'd had one, once. A wistful smile crossed her lips as she remembered dirty socks and crumpled term papers littering the floor. Laughter and soda and popcorn late at night.... And pain.

She winced away from the memory, glancing around the room in an attempt to distract herself.

There was a knock from her door. She blinked. The hospital staff didn't knock. "Come in?"

A woman stood there, her hair dark brown and wind-blown. She stared at Jane, her eyes wide and dark. "I didn't believe it... couldn't..." She stepped into the room, closing the door. "I... Do you know who you are?"

She sighed, "Everyone's always asking me that. I wish I did, so I could tell them. They call me Jane, you know. And it's wrong. So wrong."

"Do you--do you recognise me?"

"Um..." A momentary flash of memory clawed at her and she flinched. "Maybe."

"Good enough." The woman carefully perched on the edge of her bed. "I'm Kitty."

"Nice to meet you. As I said, they call me Jane."

"Illyana."

"What?" Her brow furrowed. That name sounded familiar.

"Your name." Kitty stood, moving closer, "You are Illyana Rasputin." She gave a half-laugh. "I didn't believe it. You should be dead..."

"That's... um..." she began to shiver, the name echoing through her mind, touching darkness, pulling inky fingers with it across her inner sight. "...please. Stop."

"What's happened to you?" Kitty whispered, her eyes darkening as she carefully touched Jane's cheek.

"I..."

"Excuse me." It was Bonnie, the hall nurse. She smiled calmly at Kitty's startled look. "I'm afraid you can't stay longer. Our patient tires easily, so we limit visits."

"Has she had other visitors?"

"No, but she would if we knew who she belonged to." Bonnie patted Jane's arm gently. "You curl up, child. I'll send Fritz down in a moment." She turned to Kitty and took her arm, "Come along, dear. I'll give you a cup of coffee, and you can tell me what you know."

"I--"

"Goodbye, Kitty," Jane called softly.

"'Bye... Yana."

--

I just couldn't resist trying--even having seen the darkness that tried to claim her before, I couldn't.

She froze as she stared at me, and the darkness flowed around her, like a blanket. It suffocated her, pulling her into it as her eyes screamed.

The nurse holding me couldn't see what was happening--or maybe she didn't want to. I pulled against her, desperate to get back to Illyana, wishing I could undo that last word. Inside my head I could hear her, screaming.

And then it was over, and the peaceful, slightly perplexed, blonde girl stared back at me, giggling slightly. "I'm Jane, dear."

"No--"

"Come along, Jane needs her rest."

"But--"

"Young lady, I don't want to have to hurt you."

I left.

Everything in me strained against it, and I left. Evil echoed in that room, swallowing me whole, yet I left.

I will never forgive myself.

--

She flicked her tongue out, catching a stray droplet of blood. It rolled around her mouth, enticing, and she sighed as she gazed down at the wasted buckets that littered the floor. "Fritz, Fritz, so disappointing." She pouted as she trailed a finger in the glop that had once been an eyeball. "And no campfire for roasting marshmallows."

No sound echoed in the room as she carefully stood, not slipping in the puddles of sticky sweetness that swirled around her bare feet. "Oh, there once was a lady from Buckingham Palace..." She whispered as she twirled around the floor, trailing bloody footprints.

She stopped when she reached the mirror next to the tiny bathroom. A lovely young woman gazed from within, blood splattering her cheeks. She wet a finger and began removing the stickiness, pausing occasionally to suck her finger dry before returning it to its gruesome task.

"I look sad." She touched the mirror and sighed. "Poor me. Poor Illyana. No one ever wanted me--not until I was innocent again." A giggle escaped her. "No more. No more Lightchild. Forever Darkchild."

Life was easy, riding above the pain. The darkness consumed her, drowning her in its depths, bringing her past the pain into something else. Something that resembled sanity. She giggled again and danced away from the mirror, pausing to inspect her handiwork.

He had been cute, once. A sort of boyish charm felt in easygoing smiles and laughter. Pale green eyes had once stared sweetly from his face. Now the sockets lay empty, they contents strewn down his cheeks and on her little bedside table. His hair lay oddly against his crushes skull, chips of bone protruding, accompanied by pulpy grey matter. She reached out an experimental finger and rolled the substance between finger and thumb.

She'd gone for his heart, though. Always get to the heart of the matter, Belasco used to tell her. Rip it out straight throught the rib cage, feel it pulse in your hand.

The feeling had been like nothing she'd felt before. She wondered if it was close to the ecstacy orgasm caused, and decided it must be.

It had seemed so simple, grab him by the throat, then slide your talons under his rib cage, feeling upwards for the beating heart as he tries to scream in pain.

The power in that hold had sent her staggering back, and he'd broken free, nearly wrenching her arm from his body as he fell, agony sending him falling into unconsciousness. She fell with him, her knees hitting cold floor as her floundering hand wrapped around a lung, then found his heart.

"I've got you now," She whispered again, giggling at the silliness of it all.

She'd plopped one eyeball as she sat there, the heart beating in her hand. Then she'd stood, letting the body fall to the floor completely.

The other had been after she'd slammed his head against the end table, then propped him up, amused that he looked like he was resting.

"Naughty Fritz. What will they say about you now?"

Illyana sighed as the lifeless corpse remained silent. "Well, if that's the way you feel about it..."

She stepped towards the door, then paused, inspecting the hospital gown she was wearing. It was coated in blood.

"Oh, this won't do at all." She began pulling open the drawers, searching for something suitable to wear.

--

She screamed as they fell, knowing it was Belasco's might that had pulled them away from where Kurt's destination had been. Water caught them a second later, closing over her head, choking her with its cold. She fought for the surface, nearly passing out from the pain in her body as it worked for the first time in months.

Or was it years?

A hand caught her arm, dragging, wrenching upwards. She broke the surface a moment later, coughing as air filled her water-logged throat.

"Mama!"

"I'm fine, Kurt." She replied wearily, beginning to tread water in the gentle swells that rolled around them. "Just so very tired."

"I'm sorry, Mama. I don't understand what has happened." He looked at the water. "This is NOT Xavier's Mansion."

"Belasco." She said quietly, something stirring on the edge of her senses. "A spell of his no doubt. I told you he would use me for his own means."

"What can he hope to find in a lake?"

"I don't know." The tingle deepened, and she stared around herself, noticing the bright sunlight for the first time. The clouds overhead were fluffy white in the deep blueness of the sky. It was something she hadn't seen in a very long time. "Oh, Kurt..."

"You're welcome." He gave a lopsided grin and gestured towards the shore, which suddenly appeared closer than it had been. "Shall we?"

"You're going to have to tow me in, I think." She shivered, the water pulling at her limbs and disorienting her. "There's something here. I know this... I..."

Something slid around her ankle.

"Kurt. Teleport us to shore. Now."

He grasped her arm, and they popped out of existance.

--

"Look, you have to let me go back in there." I had been trying to convince the nurse for the last ten minutes that I had to see "Jane" again. She wasn't buying any excuse. The young intern had gone in minutes ago, and something in my gut had twisted in fear.

"I'm afraid I can't, miss. Now, will you please go take a seat?"

I didn't have a chance to answer, because a door opened behind me, and I knew it was her. I turned, dreading what I would see. "Illyana."

She stood there, calm and cool, her hair damp from a shower, her eyes dark as midnight. Her feet had changed, forming into cloven hooves she'd only sported as the Darkchild. "Kitty." She giggled. "It's so good to see you." She tilted her head to the side and frowned, "You're not looking well, dear."

I flinched, "'Yana. Why aren't you napping?"

"Jane, dear, you shouldn't be leaving your room yet." I stepped in Bonnie's path, knowing to let her near Illyana would be her death sentence. "Now, miss--"

I whirled. "Stay away from her. Just--don't go near her. She's dangerous, she--"

"Kitty, such words for an old friend." Her breath was on my neck, hot and cool at the same time. She sounded amused. "They could injure you so."

I shoved an elbow back into her ribs, forcing her to back away, then turned and glared. "Get off me."

She pouted, "But you smell so... human, Kitty. It's intoxicating." She threw her hands up and gave a little twirl. "Now, I must go. Because it calls me, and I must answer."

"What calls--Yana!" She was gone--a puff of brimstone colouring the air where she'd stood. I looked over my shoulder at Bonnie, a wild surmise catching me. "Where'd you pull her from."

"Um... They said, the lake. Somewhere near the docks."

"Is there anyone who would know the precise location?" She blinked at me, still stunned by Yana's disappearing act. I grabbed her by the shoulders, "Think!"

"Greg. He's on the dispatch radio downstairs. I could call him."

"Do it." I shoved her towards her desk. "Now."

"All right, all right. But what about Fritz?"

I looked at the door to Yana's room with dread, "I'll check on him."

"You do that."

The door had only opened partially when I saw him. What was left of him, anyway. She'd done a fine job on him, unfortunately. I gagged, and fought it down. I couldn't stop to be sick. There wasn't time.

"Miss?"

I let the door close, "Yes?"

"He says they found her washed up by pylon 16."

"Thanks." I pointed at the door to Yana's room. "Call the police."

"Why?"

"Because, there's a dead body in there." I turned to leave and nearly ran Bonnie down. "Sorry, I've gotta--"

"Kitty." Hands gripped my shoulders, and I opened my eyes and blinked.

"Amanda. What are you--the Sword."

"I can feel it calling me. It calls all of us, in its own way."

"Yes." I hissed, "Illyana. We have to find her. Now. Stop her."

"I know. Hold your breath."

--

He was waiting for them as they popped back into existance. "Margali, my dear. What a pleasant surprise. And you've brought a gift."

She swayed, her legs bucking under the sudden onslaught of gravity. "I knew. You bastard."

"You knew. Sweet." He bent over her, a talon touching her cheek. "You're so sweet, Margali." he glanced at Kurt, now being held between two demons. "She's a wonderful woman, your mother. Don't think you appreciate that enough, lad."

"Belasco..."

He looked at her again, "Yes?"

"I hope you rot."

"Thank you, that makes me feel warm all over."

"Because," she continued, ignoring his flippancy, "You're dead."

"Awww. I wanted to surprise him." Illyana hopped out from behind her net of invisibility. "Of course, watching his face as I rip out his heart should be somewhat more entertaining as he'll know who it is."

"You!"

"Me. Thought I was dead, did you?" She giggled, "The Darkchild doesn't die easily, Belasco, O Boring One. You do, though."

"He used me..." Margali stared at Illyana. "And you. Kill him."

"In good time, mother. First, I want to know how he got here."

"Through me." She loooked down at her ankle, wondering if she could do it. "A spell, I think, to pull him into our world as my son pulled me from his."

"A nice spell. It worked well." Illyana giggled, "I rhymed."

"So you did, m'dear." Margali's hand closed on the hilt that had caught on a strand of vine, which in turn had caught her ankle. "But I think that's the end of this little charade."

Illyana turned back to get the hilt in her face. She stumbled back, cursing. "You--that is MINE!"

"Mine now." Margali stood, strength coursing through her. "Mine to do with as I please, mine to--"

Belasco laughed, "So sure of yourself, madame sorceress. And so very wrong."

Margali screamed, light enveloping her body, holding it fast. Belasco reached out and plucked the Soul Sword from her hand, then waved a negligent talon. The sorceress dissolved into a puddle of ash and soot, her screams forever gone.

Kurt cried out in shock, "MOTHER!"

"Oh." Belasco looked at the blue-furred mutant. "Eh. Kill him. He's of no value to me."

"Hey, Belasco."

The demon had barely turned before a magickal bolt staggered him. His two helpers screamed in pain as something phased their hearts from their bodies. Kurt stared at Kitty as she dropped the lifeless hunks of flesh to the ground.

Amanda fired another levin-bolt at Belasco, then dove behind the nearest patch of cover as Kitty and Kurt bamfed out of Belasco's sight.

--

I knew he had questions, but there was no time. Amanda was fighting a losing battle, unless the Soul Sword could be removed from Belasco's hand.

Kurt leaned against the tree next to me, and panted.

"We have to do something."

"I would like to, but what?"

"The sword." I said. I pointed back towards the lakeside. "Teleport us. Take Belasco's head, if you can. Amanda will not be able to defeat him unless we help."

He looked at me, then nodded, anger and rage covering the sadness I could sense. "Come."

Disorientation, then a levin-bolt was shattering near me. I jerked back from it, then phased and shoved a hand into Bleasco's side. Pain hit me, shattering me, I reeled, falling and unphasing.

The ground felt good, but I couldn't stay there, even if I had to. Belasco laughed above me. He had a shield against my phasing. It had to be why I'd been hurt. I looked at him, suddenly noticing the Sword in his hand.

It winked at me.

"No..." I whispered, lurching onto my knees. "I know what you've done to others. I will not..."

Belasco back-handed me and I went flying through the air. I hit, the pain overwhelming everything. As darkness claimed me, I thought I heard a giggle.

--

Kitty's distraction gave Kurt a moment to take advantage of Belasco's sudden inattention. He leapt onto the demon's head and teleported away with it.

There was a moment of pain as he entered the darkness. Then he was tumbling out, the demon's head in his grasp as he fell back into the lake.

Amanda took advantage of Belasco's sudden headlessness, and slammed home the killing bolt. The body crumpled, letting the Sword drop from its grasp. She ran from her cover and grasped it, wincing as the darkness attempted to pull her into itself.

Dozens of cuts along her body oozed open, and she closed them with magic, letting it start to Heal her body. And a spell. A very specific spell began weaving itself in her mind.

Sound from behind her made her turn. Illyana stood there, Kitty's lifeless body held suspended by the throat.

"Kitty... Oh, gods."

"She tried to stop me." Illyana looked petulant. "And she wanted what was mine. Now you have it." She sniffed. "Give it back."

"I cannot."

"It is mine!" Illyana stamped a hoof petulantly.

"It is not. It was Kitty's." Amanda glanced sorrowfully at the sightless brown eyes that gazed from the face of her friend. "I'm sorry."

"Mine, mine, and I shall have it." The Darkchild tossed the body of what had once been her friend to the ground.

"You can't." Amanda raised the Soul Sword, feeling the darkness quivering down its edge towards her. "It doesn't belong to you."

Yana screamed in anger and charged, talons flashing as she pounced Amanda.

A sigh escaped the Darkchild, and she staggered back, clutching at her chest and stomach. "Mine..." She whispered as her knees buckled, her life's blood sliding ever faster into the ground below her. "...forever..."

"Not forever," Amanda whispered, feeling the pain begin anew as the magic around her began to dissolve, ravelling into new form. "It is none of ours, Illyana." She staggered and turned the sword around, the blade poised above her own sternum. "It can't be."

The blade slid into her like a lover, slick as silk and taking more than it should. The pain was incredible and she sank to her knees, letting it wash over her. There was blood on the ground. It stuck to her fingers as she bent forward, sliding the sword through her chest that last few inches.

A sound nearby almost distracted her, but she didn't let it, knowing this had to be the end of it. "Never. I destroy you with my death. I unmake you with this last act of life. It is over."

Death took her, stealing the last breath from her lips. Her heart beat once more, lacerated and filled with air. Then it stopped, and she knew no more.

--

Kurt stared in shock, water dripping from him and squelching the ground as he walked. They were dead. The three of them curled on top of each other like kittens. He carefully turned Amanda over, frightened at what he might see.

But she looked peaceful, her eyes closed, her mouth smiling an enigmatic smile.

The Soul Sword was gone, the wreckage it had caused giving the lie to the sight of its non-being.

He glanced at Illyana's face. She wore the same peaceful expression Amanda did. Kitty did not. Maybe her manner of death had been more violent, less forgiving. He shivered at the pained sightlessness in Kitty's face.

A bird chirping nearby caused him to remember that there was life out there. Things would have to be done.

There were people to tell, funerals to arrange. He closed his eyes, feeling the tears begin to start.

And friends to mourn.

-finis-