When Johnny falls, his dagger hits the ground and clatters, skips away from him and out of arm's reach. Shania releases her fusion with Ta Tanka and watches him. Just watches; she is content that he is defeated. Besides, she feels a strange sense of beauty seeing him lie against the wall, too exhausted to stand. It's something about the tears rising in his eyes, the blood trickling from his mouth, the sweat and gore soaking his clothes. His store of Malice is exhausted, leaving behind only his frailty. His humanity.
"Aren't you going to kill me?" he murmurs.
"No," she says. Softly; as though she is afraid to hurt his ears, too. "I don't want to."
His eyes find her face. He laughs, softly, the sound dying in the dim space. "Then what...what was all this for?"
"You know," she tells him, because he must. Why won't he thank her? She kept the promise. "I could see the Malice in you, rising. Consuming you."
He does not breathe his gratitude. Instead he leans his head back and again laughs, louder, his blood thickening the humor. Finally he coughs and drops his head and wipes his mouth with one weary hand. Red still streaks his lips. "Sure you weren't looking in a mirror?"
Her hands find her tomahawks without any guidance, but Shania remains in place. He must think her the monster, she realizes; he never could feel the corruption of Malice. How could he? He is Lady's brother; he was swallowed whole by the red light years ago.
It does not matter. She presses her lips shut and holds the rebuke in, knowing this: it does not matter. He will die soon enough, and then he will truly be free. They will both be free.
Johnny looks at her with narrowed eyes and then, suddenly-her hands seize the tomahawks' handles-he presses his hand against the wall at his back and forces himself up, knees shaking, shirt blossoming with blood. Only halfway to his feet, he staggers and falls back down, clutching his right ankle as his face twists with agony. Shania does not remember when he injured it, but she is glad that at least she need not break him any further.
"Cruel," he murmurs, his lips curling, as twisted as his amusement. She was wrong; even now, with the Malice beaten out of him, he is still not human. Not when he can smile through teeth stained with his own vitality, like a corpse with a rictus grin. "I can't believe..." He coughs. "Crueler than Lady."
Her lips feel bruised from pressing against each other. "Take that back, or I'll..."
The threat is childish of her, really; part of her knows it is pointless to mind a false accusation, especially one made by a boy moments from death.
But the smirk on his face grows. His hands clutch the fabric around his ankle tightly, as though fighting some manic joy. "Or you'll kill me quick? Even Lady had that much kindness."
That small part of her grows still and silent, stamped out by her shoes pounding against the pavement. "If you want death, I'll give you it," she growls, and when she is in front of him she reaches down with one hand and drags him up by his hair. But even as she grasps her tomahawk, prepared to end his life in one last strike, there is a flash of light-a sharp stinging across her thigh-a knife in Johnny's hands. For a fraction of a second, her eyes dart to the blade on the floor, disbelieving. Where did the second knife come from?
He hid it in his shoe, Shania realizes, but this knowledge comes much too late. She stumbles from the cut and he rises-so fast-to deal another one, this time aiming into her gut. He is so feeble that the blow is weak and misguided, shallow, easily handled had she time; but his legs give one last push, felling them both, and when he lands on top of her, his weight drives the blade deep so that not one inch of steel peeks out. She screams when he grasps the knife and wrenches it, twisting as he pulls it loose and lets the blood pulse out.
La Sirene, she thinks, and reaches out for the spirit; but the fighting has exhausted her, too, and no fusion will come. Instead she reaches for the knife and grasps both his hand and the handle, holding them in place. His grip is surprisingly slack.
"Now," he breathes, so softly she must strain her ears to listen even though he is lying on top of her. "Now you can kill me, if you'd like."
"You'll die anyways." She wonders if her death is a foregone conclusion now, too, and finds it does not bother her. The only thing that matters is destroying the Malice. It was for that reason she lured Johnny into the abandoned theater, to the pits where she could attack him as Thunderbird. He was becoming corrupted, so she had to...
...except, now that his weight is pressing down on her, their blood mingling with each other's, she can't remember when she noticed his debasement, or how. Perhaps it is death's approach making her forget, but it doesn't seem right-that was something important-that was the most important thing, and yet, now-
Her eyes widen when the truth hits her and she groans, not from Johnny's weight but from the load of her conscience. "Johnny-Johnny, I, I'm sorry-" and it sounds so ludicrous to her, but what else can she say? She's murdered him, a boy who had never threatened anyone.
His free hand finds her chin, then her lips; he presses two fingers to them, and the tang of copper hushes her. "Had to die sometime," he murmurs. "Hey, at least we didn't...didn't hurt anyone else."
Cold comfort. Maybe it was necessary for Johnny to die, just as it had been necessary for Lady to be killed, but she knows that isn't the reason why she attacked him. "I couldn't look at you," she murmurs. "Not without seeing her."
He does not ask who 'her' is, because when it comes to Shania, there is only one 'her'. "Our faces," he offers as a tidy, neat explanation which does not pin blame on anyone.
Awaker, Shania thinks, but does not say.
"She's not a monster. Never was, just..." Johnny lets the words drift away, lacking the energy to pursue a tired argument. "You'll see. When we meet her."
Idiot, Shania thinks, and this she does say aloud. "Idiot," she repeats, the rebuke strong and loud, but it only hangs in the air, lacking direction. She cannot decide if he is the fool or she; he for being so trusting, and she for never fully deserving that trust.
"You'd have to introduce us," she whispers. "I'd like that."
The last thing she knows, felt more than seen, is Johnny's bloodstained lips curved into a true smile.
Really all thanks go to Tiger once more-this time for reminding me the chapter existed, as I'd completely forgotten actually writing it out. As for why it was never posted, oh...six years ago... it was intended to be the thirteenth chapter, with a twelfth in-between; the twelfth for Shania's third chapter, and the concluding thirteenth Johnny's sole chapter. However, I think it's apparent enough how this could have resulted from FtNW's bad ending, so twelfth and final it will be. (And yeah, this mini-series was always going to end badly, given its focus.) If you actually read this, I'm glad you still enjoy the series.