DISCLAIMER: X-Men and its characters belong to Marvel Comics. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I set up the premise for this AU in this drabble. Though it can be read independently, this fic is set about eight to nine years after that. I've borrowed a few elements from other AUs, but otherwise this a Marvel AU of my own creation.
CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the 'Vampires, Ghosts and Zombies' challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

No Sanctuary: Baku Night
By Galamb_Borong


Illyana pointed to a thin black line on the edge of the horizon.

"Back in the Soviet Century, they worried about that flooding this city. Hard to imagine all this," - Illyana gestured to the vast, dusty plain that lay outside the windows - "under water, isn't it?"

"I don't think I'd want to. Have you been up close to that stuff? Disgusting. Just disgusting."

"I doubt it was like that then."

"A lot of things weren't." Kitty said with a laugh.

"Who told you all this stuff, anyway?"

"Peter..." Illyana's voice trailed off quietly and she turned her eyes away from Kitty's. "He tried to give something of an education. Just stuff people had taught him, you know, before..."

Kitty knew by now that it was best to remain silent at these times.

This was meant to be a holiday, of sorts. As much of a holiday as people like Kitty and Illyana could ever have with the world as it was. Mystique had suggested it, after a particularly disastrous mission. "You're being too hard on yourself;" she'd said to Kitty, "you need to stop putting yourself on the front lines all the time. Take a break. You'll be better for it."

So here they were, in Baku, doing low key surveillance work. Nothing much; just spotting mutants, taking the temperature of anti-mutant sentiment, and keeping a low profile. It was an ugly city, but after ten years mostly on the run, it felt heavenly just to sit in a old cafe like this and drink tea.

A drab as this place was, Kitty found it the most cheerful in the city. There was something about the other places - too brightly lit, garishly colorful, and blaring music of early this century like its tomorrow never came - that jarred with the endless decay of this city. This place was different. The music they played was alien to her, but came from long before the oil wars, the American decades or maybe even the Soviet age, the soft drums and melancholy clarinet filling the air with an oriental shimmer. The people here, too, were different: not the youths desperately trying to live things up as best they could, or the old people reminiscing about better times, but people who kept to themselves and their own business with calm professionalism. Wealthy or poor, you'd never find out these people's secrets if you didn't already know.

It was fairly slow night, all told. Just a few tables were busy; hushed conversations in Russian, Azeri and Iranian filled the room.

"You look tense."

Illyana looked at Kitty in the way she always did when she sensed something wrong.

"It's nothing."

"It's something." Illyana persisted.

"Ever since we started coming here, there's been a veiled woman watching us," - Kitty paused - "but she isn't here tonight."

"Who'd you think she is?"

"At first," Kitty sighed, "I thought it was Mystique testing me. But I contacted Mystique and it isn't her; she sounded worried about it though. And then I began to wonder if-"

"What does she look like, Kitty?" Illyana abruptly interrupted her, a cold tone in her voice already warning Kitty before she consciously felt its implication.

"I haven't seen much, dark skin, African, rather tall."

Illyana stared behind Kitty's shoulder.

"She's two tables behind you and looking our way. What do you want me to do, Kitty?"

"Wait here."

"You don't know who she-"

"I suspect. That's enough;" - Kitty smiled and squeezed Illyana's hand under the table - "and besides, I'm a hell of a lot better at this game than any spy sent to track me."

Kitty stood up and walked towards the table where the woman sat, fixing her eyes on the woman who avoided her glance.

Kitty's words emerged slowly.

"Do we need to be... introduced?"

In a flash, the woman ran past her and out the door, her black robes trailing out behind her.

"Obviously not."

Kitty ran to the door, stealing a passing glance at Illyana. "Alone." she said to her, as she left the cafe behind her and hurried into the quickly fading twilight.

Kitty had been chasing her for over an hour through the crumbling tower blocks and unkempt alleyways that made up this area of Baku. Whoever it was was inhumanly fast, but always made a sudden reappearance whenever Kitty was just about to give up. At first Kitty had thought she was being led somewhere, but the pattern was aimless and criss-crossed the same neighborhoods without discernible intent. It was as though the woman couldn't decide whether to get away, or be caught. But Kitty, being - almost - human, could hardly keep up the pace.

She slumped against a brick wall, gasping in lung-fulls of air as the sweat dripped off her face onto the cement beneath her.

"I should have let Illyana go with me." She thought. "It's not like anything moving on a pair of legs could escape her. If this thing was - is - what I think it is, I don't want to take a chance. Not with Illyana. I'm expendable."

A shadow appeared silhouetted against the far end of the alleyway. The only light was a dim streetlight that illuminated the figure from behind, but there was no mistaking it: it was the woman she'd been following.

Kitty slowed her breathing down to a whisper straightened herself further against the wall, preparing to phase into it at a moment's notice.

The woman's movements were strange and erratic, the head darting from side to side, peering into the blackness that contained only Kitty and the night air. Occasionally she'd be very still, as though listening. Kitty made sure to phase at those times to avoid detection.

Slowly, step by hesitating step, the woman was in front of her.


Kitty's voice echoed into the night.

The veiled woman hesitated before fleeing once more from Kitty.


Desperation entered her voice.

"I don't want to lose you again!"

It had been a stupid thing to say. Unprofessional; unsafe; un- everything Kitty tried to be. But it worked.

The woman stopped in her tracks, half tilting her head as she spoke.

"Just leave, Kitty. You don't want to know me. I wouldn't be good for you."

"How do you know?"

"I don't have to know; I can feel."

"And what do you feel?"

Ororo removed her veil, and turned towards Kitty, a faint, neutral smile crossing her lips.



"Everything. Over tonight, mainly; over this moment, more so."

She paused, letting out a small sigh.

"I can go now, Kitty; I won't trouble you anymore. I made a mistake, but I promise; just say the word, and you'll never see me again.

"I didn't run this marathon just to get you to disappear on me, did I?" Kitty said, walking briskly towards her. "What I want to know is why you're here in the first place."

"I drift."

"Towards me?"

"Away from trouble. But I found you here."

"And proceeded to play stalker."

Pain entered Ororo's features.

"I was only trying to look after-"

"Me? I don't need protecting, Ororo."

"This is a dangerous city."

"And I'm the most dangerous thing in it."

Ororo laughed, the warmth returning to her voice.

"Maybe, maybe..."

She looked up into the sky.

"It's getting cold. I don't want you frozen because of me. I live near here if you..."

Ororo stopped as her eyes met the suspicion in Kitty's eyes.

Everything can change in ten years; Kitty had only to look at herself to realize that. This Ororo was not the same Ororo she was back then. It could be anyone. It might not even be her at all. But under all her training, all the bitterness of loss and experience, she was still Kitty Pryde, and could not be anything but in love the woman before her, no matter who she really was.


Kitty swore internally for letting her cool facade break away, if only for a moment. Too many moments like that might put her in the ground on a typical mission.

She put her hand in Ororo's.

"But if for one moment I think you're not who you say you are, I'll phase you out of existence."

Kitty stared down at the city. In the day, down among the crowds, it was unquestionably hideous. But up here, viewed in sombre moonlight, its aspect was one of strange spectral beauty. The many collapsed towers lit with the dim red of slum-dweller's fires; the pale white lights coming from the quarters of the more well off; and most of all, the abandoned oil derricks by their thousands dotting the bleached dessert. It was a vast board game whose rules and players were long forgotten in the soot and dust.

Kitty turned to look at the light of small lantern playing on the features of Ororo's face.

"I didn't see anyone else on the way up. Are you all alone in this tower?"

"There are a few squatters now and then who try to live in the lower floors, but everyone else is too afraid. It's already leaning at this angle; everyone knows it's only matter of time before these fifty-six stories crumble... but I don't have to worry about that."

"You don't?"

"I'll move on. I don't own anything here, at least nothing I can't find anywhere else."

"What brought you here?"

"It was the nearest safe city to Tehran, where I lived until roughly a year ago. It was a depressing place - I witnessed some of the mutant massacres - but I only left when the bombs went off in the government buildings. Surely you must have heard of those?"

"Yes. Me and Illyana... heard about them."

Kitty certainly had. She even remembered how many seconds she'd put on the timer: twenty-one. It was Illyana's birthday, after all.

"And you? Why are you in Baku?"

"Private business."

Ororo smiled.

"Not exactly a fair trade of information."

"You volunteered."

"Quite true."

Kitty sighed.

"If you must know, we're here on holiday."

"A holiday? Here?"

"It's safe here."


"Places where people know us."

"I see."

"Probably not, but that's all I can say at the moment."

"Well, you ran into one person who knew you."

"That's-" Kitty stopped herself in time. "She's good at this," she thought.

"Look, Ororo, I don't know anything about you anymore. Maybe I didn't even know you then. I'll always owe you for saving me from Weapon X, but you're not the only one I owe allegiance to anymore."

"Have I asked for anything, Kitty?" Ororo gave her a questioning look.

"No, but in my life, there are only two types of people who involve themselves with me: allies and enemies. If you're not one, I have to treat you as the other."

Ororo's eyes met hers with a strange intensity that made Kitty uncomfortable.

"And friends? Where do they come in?"

"I can have no friends who aren't allies, and any ally is a friend in my eyes."

"And what I am I?"

"I don't know. You tell me."

A minute of silence passed between them.

"I'm sure your new friends wouldn't want someone like me around."

"We need everyone and anyone who believes."

"In what?"


"In a race of criminals and slaves? Poor religion."

"And what would you choose instead?"

"I've lost any religion I used to have, Kitty."

"You believed in me."

Kitty said it in almost a whisper.

Ororo reached out and felt the warmth of her cheek.

"I still do. That's why I think you'd be better off forgetting about me."

"Ororo! Don't you... Don't you realize what someone like you could be? I know you. I've seen what you can do. You're one of the most powerful mutants out there. There aren't that many of us, Ororo. Almost as soon as we gain new members, we lose some of the old. You wondered about friends, Ororo? How can you not be friends with someone who might be dead the next second, and who would die for you as much as you would for them? Sometimes I think if we didn't have Mystique-"

A cold look came into Ororo's eyes.

"I see. You want me for the Brotherhood."

A burst of tears ran from Kitty's eyes as she embraced Ororo.

"We need you, Ororo... I need you! I thought you were dead! I've been living with the image of that thing killing you for all these years. It should have been me; if you hadn't tried to..."

Some calm returned to her voice.

"This is how I make things right again, Ororo. For both of us."

Ororo turned her face away.

"Things will never be right for me. You don't know things I've done."

"And you don't know the things I've done. Life isn't easy for mutants. But we have to do these things to survive. That's what drives us: the need to see the next second and live."

Ororo pulled herself away from Kitty and faced the window.

"Kitty. I'm not going to tell you this twice: get away from me. This is what the old Ororo would have told you had she known who she was to be. You don't need me, Kitty. I want you Kitty: in many ways; on many levels, but..."

Kitty watched Ororo struggle over something in her mind.

"You have someone who needs you."

Kitty paused, briefly unsure of Ororo's meaning.

"You mean... Illyana?"

Ororo nodded.

"But she's just a girl! I mean... we're friends. We're close. And yes, we're often intimate; but that's not..."

"It is. It's more than most people get in their entire lives, Kitty. Don't waste it. Don't hurt her for someone who could only hurt you."

Illyana flipped through an old magazine she'd found at a booksellers. "I wonder who these women were?" She thought, flipping through the yellowed glossy pages. The magazine just seemed to assume she'd know. "Are any of these people still alive? Would they even recognize themselves if they are?" She'd never know, but it was fun imagining: that's why she collected early-century relics like this.

A knock came from the hotel room door.

"Come in," Illyana said, casually aiming a gun at the door.

Kitty phased her way in; it was far easier than having a password.

"Sorry for leaving you at the cafe."

"I found my way home."

Kitty sat down on her bed.

"Did you catch her?" Illyana said, returning to her magazine.


"You should have."

"I don't think we'll see her again."

"How do you know?"

"Just a feeling."

"Now if I said something like that, you'd say I was being silly."


"Don't worry; we'll find out soon enough. And next time," - Illyana turned her eyes to Kitty's - "maybe you'll let me tag along?"

The reproach in her voice was quite clear.

For a long while, the only sound in their room was the slow flip of magazine pages and the occasional hissing of the oil lamp.

"I think it's time for us to leave Baku."

Illyana put down her magazine in surprise.

"But Kitty, we've only been here for a month!"

"Yes, I know."

"Mystique said we could take four to six months here if we wanted."

"I guess I'm just used to being busy."

Illyana smiled.

"Did that spy woman scare you?"

"Not in the way you're thinking."

"Don't be scared. You've got me here, right?"

"Yes... but it's not a vacation anymore."

"I suppose not, but," - Illyana reached over and kissed Kitty - "If we're going to start working again, let's start here."

Ororo slowly descended the many crumbling stairs of her tower. It had been luxurious once; a hotel for rich oil businessmen and their entourage. Now, with everything stripped and raided, it was no different than any other tower block; all that set it apart was the strange angle it tilted at.

She was at the third floor, surrounded by pitch darkness that only she could see through. She listened. Faint breathing; someone who'd taken a chance. Taken a chance that the building wouldn't collapse; taken a chance that the rumors about the "ghost" were untrue. Someone who'd gambled and lost, though he'd never wake up in time to know it.

She paused to look at him. Poor; quite young though. Probably a refugee from the west; his pale skin and dirty blond hair weren't typical of the region. "Just desperate to get away from the desert cold." She thought. He'd never feel cold again.

In a split second she had drained him of half his blood.

"At least it's not Kitty."

The End

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