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They laughed as they danced together, palms together and they stepped from side to side, knowing that people were staring but not caring because they had each other and that was all that mattered. He span her round and laughed joyfully and then gently pulled her back in towards him.
"You are beautiful."
She laughed again and knew her cheeks were going bright red.
And they danced all night, not caring what people thought, not caring what was said, because they were Kurt-and-Marie and no one could touch them.
She pressed her hands to the cold flesh and would not let them take him from her. How could they? They didn't know. Only Kurt had known. Dear, precious Kurt who had turned up last night and told her how he felt and they had… they had agreed that as soon as all this craziness was over, they would leave together for a while and find out exactly what they meant to each other.
And they just thought it was Tora clinging to her dead fiancé's best friend but they couldn't understand because Kurt had helped get rid of the pain but now he was gone she felt all the pain of Logan's death as well as the pain of Kurt's death.
"You can't take him from me! You can't!"
"Let him go. Let him go."
But how could she? How could she let go of the second man she had ever loved?
"We were able to get permission for your sister, stepdaughter and priest to come, but we couldn't bring the others in. Seriously, 'cosmic sister'? Do you want them to think you're crazy?"
"It's true. Jean Grey-Summers in linked to me with an empathic link. I don't know what tonight will do to her."
The guard leant up against the dark wall and looked at her.
"What made you kill him?"
"That guy. John Stringer. Why did you kill him? You're so calm. I find it hard to believe you could kill him."
She laughed bitterly.
"Yes, they never told you in the press coverage about that. Didn't you wonder why I put in a request for my stepdaughter, but not my husband?"
"Stringer killed him. And my children."
"James Charles Logan, aged two and a half, Eva Etana Logan, aged fifteen months and Curtis Steven Logan, also aged fifteen months. All dead. All gone. All murdered by Stringer."
"Why was this never mentioned?"
Dull gold eyes just stared at him.
"You know what I am. You can guess what they were. Why do you think?"
"The courts wouldn't prosecute him and you know it. I'm only here today because of what I am. That's all that's ever mattered to people. What I am. Can you loosen the gloves?"
"No ma'am. Sorry. You could get out knowing your reputation."
She laughed again. Cold, angry and lost.
"I could have got out of this place with my hands and feet chained together when I was four."
"Is your mutation that strong?"
"No. I didn't even know I was a mutant then. I was trained then."
"I was trained as a weapon. As a child, I was just a weapon. I was never anything more. At age seven, I could escape Alcatraz with my feet chained to my hands and a thirty kilogram weight tied to my feet. At age fourteen, I was ordered to kill the man who had murdered my only friend. I was less than an animal."
"Your priest is here."
She stood up, the chains from her wrists to her waist preventing her from standing up straight. The Catholic priest smiled and reached out a hand to her but the guards stood between them.
"Sorry Father, you can't go closer to her. They can go crazy about now."
"Don't worry Father. I am fine."
"Father Wagner, can I ask something of you?"
The image inducer flickered off.
"Keep everyone away tonight."
"Tora, they want to be there for you."
"I'm going to be alone Kurt. Alone but for you and God. Everyone else wants to see me gone. I…I don't want to hurt the others. Keep Jean away. Block the link."
"There are protestors outside."
She laughed again, bitterly.
"Mutant rights activists? We all know they're jokes to the government. I'm not getting a pardon. Not now. I killed a man. I'm being punished."
"Tora, you were mad with grief."
"Try telling that to them."
"Tora, you gave them the stuff they needed to do this!"
She sat down, the chains on her legs clinking.
"Least I could do."
She waved her hands around, the chains clinking slightly as she sat doubled over.
"Remember these? Looks like I'm back in them."
"I surprised everyone by how easily I adapted to walking with my legs chained together. But then this was the usual way for me to walk as a child."
The guard turned.
"You used to be chained?"
The priest shuddered.
"When we found her…She was covered in her own blood. The room was filled with her own body parts that had been torn off. She was so thin one of us could put his hands around her waist. To survive, she'd eaten the only supply of protein around her. As in, the meat on the floor. Her own body."
The guard paled. The woman laughed bitterly.
"Yeah. They didn't want that coming up in the trial. US Government turns child into living weapon. Never going to let that reach the courts. Murdock got a gagging order."
"Are you alright Tora? The others are coming. We can't let you be alone."
"Alone? Kurt, Logan died alone. My children died afraid and alone. Stringer died alone and begging for mercy he wouldn't give three innocent children. I won't be alone tonight. They'll be with me."
"Tora, this is heading you straight to Hell."
Her eyes flashed dangerously.
"Then I'll burn right next to him."
The priest looked up.
"Can I just get closer?"
"Not possible Father."
"She needs help."
"She won't need it for much longer."
"No, this is exactly when she needs it."
She shook her head.
"At least keep Laura away. She barely got away from Stringer. I don't want her to see this. I'm her only family now."
"You feel guilty."
"About leaving her? Yes. About what I did? No. Not one regret."
"Etana never regretted what she'd done. And neither do I. She was right. We are the same. Her and me, two warriors who lose everything, who are tied by one man. Two women who should not die, but do anyway. I am Etana and she is me."
"Two souls dancing together. As one dies, the other is born. I wonder who the new Lonely Warrior is. Laura? That would be about right. Born twenty years before the death of the old. Tied to Logan as we both were. And when she dies, there will be no Lonely Warrior. For the thread is gone. The tie is broken. Logan is dead."
"Tora, are you alright? Are you delirious?"
She laughed, a wild, insane laugh.
"No Kurt. I am finally seeing. I am finally alive. Tonight is the night I die. Tonight I return to Logan."
The guard looked up worriedly.
"Father, what's wrong with her?"
"I don't know. I don't know."
There was a quiet cough then Laura entered, followed by Eloise. Laura was impassive. Eloise had been crying.
"Maman and Papa wanted to come as well."
Tora shook her head.
"They didn't come to their own grandchildren's funeral. I don't want them here."
Laura tried to step forward but the guards stopped her.
"No miss. You can't touch her. We don't know what she could do. Condemned normally act oddly on their last day."
"Why is she wearing those? It's… It's like she's at Weapon X again."
"Tora… Get out. Please…"
"Please… I…I don't want to be alone…"
"You aren't alone Laura. You have the others."
"They're afraid of me."
"They were afraid of me as well."
"Please can I hug her?"
"No miss. Sorry."
"Laura. This is hurting you. Go."
"I won't leave you."
"I don't want either of you here tonight."
Eloise snapped her head up.
"I said, I don't want you here tonight."
"Because it will be…difficult. I'm going to die in a horrible way. The chips in my head will overload, frying the neuron pathways in my brain. I won't even be able to remember how to breathe. It'll be…hard for you."
"Eloise, I want you out. Out of the country, anything. Just get away from here. Stringer's family will go after you."
"Tora. I'm not leaving you."
Gold eyes sparked with a life that had once been there.
"Eloise, Laura can look after herself. You, whilst being a good fighter, wouldn't last five minutes. Take Luke and leave. Get out. Go home. Anything. I don't want you dead."
"Why aren't you telling Laura to leave?"
Gold eyes met the green eyes of her stepdaughter.
"Laura. Understand. I am Etana and Etana was me. Etana is you and you are me."
"I…I don't understand…"
"A thread tied us together. A thread that is severed. You are the last of the three. The last of the Warriors Three. The mortal warriors, the female warriors, the mutant warriors. One at a time, over and over, tied by the Undying One, he who has left us."
"She's insane. You can't execute her if she's insane."
"Miss, they sometimes act insane to get off Death Row."
"Why would I want off Death Row? I'm going to be with Logan again tonight."
A voice ran out.
"All out except the priest."
A flash of pale green light shone around Eloise's head, a delicate cat face curled around hers and the guards froze. Then the two black haired women threw their arms around the chained, seated one and only one of them cried. Eloise pulled back, dry-eyed as Laura sniffled into Tora's shoulder.
"Don't want you to go…"
"Now Logan's gone, you're the only family I have… Don't want to be alone."
"Laura. Be brave. Stand back."
The tone was gentle yet chiding.
"The last of the Lonely Ones. Live Laura. Live because the other two couldn't."
Laura stepped back, then the guards unfroze and hustled her and Eloise out. Neither could quite bear to say that this was goodbye, hurried out of a windowless room, leaving behind a broken woman to die. Kurt turned to her.
"Half an hour left. What do you want me to say?"
"You know what I want Kurt."
And Kurt started the quiet, gentle prayer whispered every journey in the Blackbird on the way to a mission, whispered over dead teammates, whispered when they were afraid. And before long the guards were standing beside her.
She didn't scream, didn't fight. Just smiled slightly and softly. And as the wires were carefully placed in the positions she herself had pointed out as the areas of increased coverage. She closed her eyes and felt the chips burn. And then she couldn't feel anything, couldn't remember how to breath or how to feel pain. And she slipped away silently, feet moving in the part of her not stored in the brain, running faster and faster, seeing Logan standing there ahead, that cocky grin on his face that he always got when he'd made her react.
And everything was perfect.
They moved so fast, both bringing their swords around in perfectly matched arcs, their matched red and white tattoos appearing to glow in the dark. Everybody knew what those two had suffered together. That their mothers, one tied by blood, the other by years of care, considered each other friends and then had both been torn from their child, one by the job she did, the other killed in battle, living only long enough to tell her 'daughter' how much she loved her.
Kurt Darkholme and Tora Bat Etana. Feared, hated, despised. X-Men, ruthless, dangerous, two amazing sword fighters, one favouring rapiers and cutlasses, the other katanas and the curved sickle-swords of her "mother's" people.
They had fought together since she had joined the X-Men and people whispered that they had known each other before that. And then there had been that sudden day when they stepped out of the same room and no one quite knew what to make of it.
But it was now 'just one of those things' like the Earth going around the Sun and the fact it rained and that people hated mutants. Kurt and Tora were together and nothing seemed capable of breaking them apart.
Etana stood quite still as Nathan pointed again at her.
"Keep her away from Hope!"
Etana raised her eyes.
"I did what I had to do."
They were still in shock. No one had ever thought Etana was so… ruthless. There had been the silence after she had stood there, as they found her, standing in the alley with Bastion cut to shreds, having used Hope as bait to draw him in.
"You almost killed her!"
Etana turned to Scott and her eyes burned.
"I would not have let that happen! Tell them Tora! Tell them what would have happened if Kurt and Rogue had taken her!"
Tora raised her head.
"Kurt would be dead. Kurt would be dead and I would be dying because he is my soul."
"We are Makrrrsts. We are bound together by souls. Xix, explain."
And as the Prince of M'Keer did, Etana turned away.
"To be the Shadow was difficult."