DISCLAIMER: I do not own anything, nor am I writing this for profit. The characters belong to the WB and DC comics. No copyright infringement is intended.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Phryne for all comments, suggestions, corrections, and just plain work that goes into beta reading any story but especially one of mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading. Any comments or criticism can be directed to email@example.com. This story is a continuation of the series What it Means to Be a Hero. If you haven't read the first part, Getting Back on Your Feet, I suggest you do so now (but really, it's up to you).
SERIES: Part two of the 'What it Means to Be a Hero' series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
What it Means to Be a Hero
Part 2: A Different Way of Thinking
Dick turned, putting his back against Gabby's. He could feel the teen shaking, her fear and anxiety conveyed through the minute shivers.
"It's okay, try to relax," he spared a moment to murmur even as he eyed the approaching vampires. "Just pick your shots and be ready to move when I say. We'll get through this, I promise."
Gabby didn't respond, but he felt her trembling ease somewhat. Seconds later, he didn't have time to reassure her anymore, he was too busy trying to dodge the lightning fast strikes one of the vampires was throwing at his head. Distantly he recognized that if even one punch landed, it would all be over. At some point he thought he heard the snap of a bow string, but he couldn't be sure.
He spun and snapped a side-kick into one monster's stomach, sending it crashing into the wall. Without pausing he reached back and grabbed Gabby by the collar.
Half running, half dragging the teen, he raced for the stairs. He had a vague thought of getting outside where they could regroup and give Gabby more room to fire her weapon, but mostly he just wanted to get out of the constraining rooms of the castle. He sent a quick thank you to his mentor for teaching him how to navigate in stressful situations when he turned unerringly for the front door at the bottom of the steps.
He could hear Gabby's harsh breathing as they ran for the exit. Ten steps . . . nine . . . eight . . .
Suddenly, two vampires seemed to materialize out of the shadows on either side of the doorway. They made no move to attack the would-be rescuers, but took up positions guarding the door. It was obvious they had no intention of letting them through.
They were being herded, but to where and for what purpose?
He gently pushed the unresisting Gabby behind him. "I think we'll find another exit."
Backing up, never taking his eyes off the two grinning monsters, he led them into what looked like a sitting room. A large crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. Cobwebs bridged the distance between the small prisms, giving it a ghostly, though strangely beautiful appearance.
The entire setting would have been more appealing, in Dick's opinion, if they hadn't been surrounded on all sides. The spacious room contained three doorways and in each at least one vampire watched them with glittering eyes. As they slowly backed away, Dick's foot caught on a rug that had been shoved up against one of the draped chairs. Taking a quick look, he could see that the rug had been covering a trap door set into the wood floorboards.
Without taking time to re-consider, he grabbed the iron ring attached to the door and lifted, uncovering the first few stairs in the weak illumination. He couldn't see or hear anything down the gaping hole, but he knew without a doubt that this was where the vampires wanted them to go.
He quickly weighed their options. They could stay here and fight. Between Gabby's crossbow and his skills, they might even be able to take out two or three of the vampires before they were overwhelmed and torn to pieces. Or, they could go down the stairs where they might be able to create a bottleneck and pick off the vampires one by one. Of course, there was no telling what was in the cellar - it might be worse than what they were dealing with at the moment, though he couldn't really imagine how.
Faced with certain death on one hand, and only very likely death on the other, Dick made his decision.
"Give me the crossbow, and then head down slowly."
He watched out of the corner of his eye as Gabby turned to look at him in disbelief. "Are you serious? There is no way I'm going down into some creepy basement in a castle filled with vampires!"
"Gabby, you agreed to do what I said. Now I'm telling you to get down there." He tried to soften his voice, though he never took his eyes off the vampires around them. "Please, trust me."
Gabby hesitated, then reluctantly handed him the crossbow. Dick immediately aimed at the nearest vampire and resisted the urge to send a bolt into its heart. He couldn't afford to give them a reason to attack, no matter how much he wanted to.
He could hear Gabby fumbling down the first steps behind him, but the sound quickly stopped. Her voice floated back up to him. "Nightwing, I can't see anything. I think there are torches on the walls, but they're not lit."
Dick sighed. If the teen was going to be coming on missions, they were going to have to get her a utility belt.
Shaking his head, trying to dislodge the strange thought why would Gabby be coming on any more missions? Dick called back to her. "Check in my pouch. Second on the right, there should be a lighter."
Dick felt small hands fumble at his belt, then the sharp snap of the lighter opening and igniting. Seconds later a bright light flared behind him, causing the vampires to shrink back. Not waiting for a better opportunity, he backed up, grabbed the ring and closed the trap door.
Looking at Gabby's pale and frightened face in the flickering torchlight, he tried a reassuring smile. "I think we're safe for a while." When the teen just continued to look at him, he sighed. Turning away from the frankly skeptical look in her eyes, he tried to pierce the darkness below them.
He felt Gabby gently take the crossbow from his hands, and replace it with the torch before she took up a position behind him.
Dick sucked in a breath and started down the stairs.
God, she hated that look.
Barbara was watching her with fear and pity warring in her gaze, like she didn't know whether to run from Helena or wrap her up in her arms and hold on tight.
Helena wanted to tell her to run.
Instead, she looked over at the vampire, her master, waiting for instructions.
Some fundamental part of the brunette raged inside her chest. She had never, ever followed anyone's orders, with the exception of Barbara, and then only when she felt like it. To be reduced to a puppet brought back agonizing memories of Quinn and her hypnosis. Of course, then, Helena hadn't been aware of what she was doing, and she hadn't remembered anything she had done once Barbara had used the de-hypnotizing device. Now, however, she was completely conscious of every action . . . she just couldn't do anything about it.
'Fuck!' Helena tried to wiggle even one finger, but her hand remained still, hanging stiffly at her side.
Her entire body felt rigid and tense like she was standing at attention. She desperately wanted to shift her weight onto one hip and cross her arms in her normal cocky, sexy-as-hell posture, and it was starting to piss her off. She knew the Monk was deliberately forcing her to face Barbara's inspection, but did he have to make her look like Frankenstein's monster.
Well, maybe not Frankenstein's, but she was definitely a monster. Helena Kyle was a vampire, there was no denying it. She could touch the sharp fangs that protruded slightly from her mouth, and just looking at Barbara she could literally feel the blood pumping through the other woman's body and it made her hungry.
It was the same hunger she had woken up to only hours before, right after the Monk had turned her.
Helena slowly swam back into consciousness, resisting with all her might. Somehow she knew that as soon as she opened her eyes, the pain was going to start. A corner of her mind kept telling her that she had been in a car wreck and something about her wrist, insisting she really didn't want to wake up, but Helena had always been stubborn. So it would hurt, that wasn't anything new. She would rather face it with her eyes open.
Feeling her eyelids scrape against her dry eyes as she forced them up, she braced herself for the pain then blinked stupidly when there wasn't a single twinge from her abused body.
Either she was on some serious pain medication, or something strange was going on.
With a kind of detached interest, she realized she was starving. Helena was used to dealing with her urges, however, and she forced it down. She could deal with it once she got the hell out of here.
Looking around, she realized she was in some type of cellar or basement, which kinda ruled out the drugs that nice doctors at hospitals gave out. That only left the "something strange" explanation, and in Helena's experience that was usually not a good thing.
A soft moan from the other corner alerted the brunette to the fact that she wasn't alone. Turning her head quickly, she felt a sting of pain in her neck, but completely forgot about it when her eyes registered Dinah chained to the wall.
"Dinah?" Her voice sounded funny. Scratchy like she hadn't used it in a while, or like she had been screaming for a long period of time. Helena shook off that mental image and slowly got to her knees.
"He . . . Helena?"
Dinah didn't sound so good either. Helena tried to force her body to move faster, but she was having trouble getting everything to function properly. It didn't help that her head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. Her thoughts were fuzzy and unfocused, but eventually she managed to stagger to her feet. Leaning on the wall to keep from falling, she made it to the blonde's side.
"Dinah, you okay?" Helena reached out a shaking hand, intending to check the strength of the cuffs around the girl's wrists, but Dinah shrank away from her with a small cry. "Shh, D. It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you." A muted rage suffused her chest. She didn't know how Dinah had ended up here, but she had obviously been mistreated. Someone was going to pay for that.
She held up her hands and tried to speak soothingly, just like Barbara did when her feral side took over. It seemed to work and after several minutes, Dinah was able to look her in the eye.
"Oh God, Helena. I thought you were dead." Tears steamed down the teen's face, and Helena wanted to wipe them away, but she wasn't sure how Dinah would react. "The things he did to you and I couldn't do anything." The last part of her sentence ended in a choked sob as she started to cry in earnest.
This time Helena didn't hold back, and she wrapped the teen up in her arms as best she could considering the restraints. "It's okay, D. It'll be okay."
Helena wasn't sure what she was saying, only that she needed to say it . . . for both of them. What was Dinah talking about? Her head felt a little clearer, and the last thing she remembered was that asshole from the car wreck reaching through the window. Even in her present situation, the brunette spared a moment to consider Barbara's reaction to the destruction of the Hummer. It wasn't a pleasant thought.
Eventually Dinah's tears stopped and became only the occasional sniffle. When she looked back at Helena, her eyes were still frightened, but they were also determined.
"Are you okay, Hel?"
Helena shrugged, she felt fine. "Yeah, I feel fine. Why?"
That seemed to have been the wrong thing to say, because Dinah was shrinking away from her again. "You . . . don't remember?"
"Well obviously not!" Helena didn't mean to snap, but the Kid was starting to scare her.
The teen's features shifted, and Helena recognized her expression. It was the same look Dinah got whenever she was about to tell the brunette that Barbara wasn't sleeping and spending too many hours on the computer. The look that said there was something she had to tell Helena, but she wasn't looking forward to it.
"Helena, um, when they brought you down here you were pretty messed up," she began.
"Yeah, I was in a car wreck. The Hummer's totaled." Helena didn't know why she was interrupting, but for some reason she really didn't want to hear what Dinah was going to say next.
"Oh right. That would explain it." The Kids hand jerked against the chains, and Helena knew she had tried to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, one of her nervous gestures. "After a while, that guy came down. The one in the robe."
"Okay, right, the Monk came down and, um, grabbed you and started saying he would get his revenge."
"God dammit, Dinah get to the point!"
She didn't want to shout at the Kid, but all the suspense was killing her.
The words came out in a jumbled rush, and it took Helena a moment to figure out what the teen had said. Then he bit you.
Feeling sick to her stomach, she let her hand wander up to her throat were she had felt the pain earlier. She thought she might actually throw up when her fingers encountered the two swollen puncture marks on her neck.
Sinking to the ground, she looked up at Dinah with dazed eyes. "Why don't I remember?"
"I'm not sure." She hesitated. "I think it's probably a good thing. You . . . you acted like it hurt a lot."
Helena swallowed, feeling the ache in her throat once again. Lifting her hand up, she tried to massage away the pain and the knowledge of exactly why it hurt.
Her fingers stilled suddenly when it occurred to her which hand she had been using. Holding her arm in front of her she stared at it in disbelief.
Her wrist was completely healed. There wasn't even a scar to show that it had ever been broken. Quickly Helena felt her head looking for the cut she remembered from the wreck. Her hair was sticky with blood, but there was no wound.
Terrified of what she would find, she lifted her shirt, exposing her ribs. There should have been a scar high on her rib cage from her first night as Huntress, but instead of the ugly mark she was expecting, there was only smooth pale skin.
Turning to look at Dinah, she pleaded with her eyes. "Dinah?"
"I don't know. It happened right after he . . . All your injuries just seemed to heal instantly. It's a good thing too, you weren't looking so hot."
Leave it to the Kid to look on the bright side and also tease Helena in their present situation.
She didn't think she could deal with this. It was too much.
Helena was almost grateful when she heard a door above them open and the sound of footstep coming down the stairs.
"Ah, you're awake." The robed figure stopped at the foot of the stairs and regarded them. "I see you've had a chance for the family reunion. I hope Dinah has been able to fill you in on your condition."
"What have you done to me, you bastard?" Helena tried to lunge at him, but found she couldn't move.
"Now, now, there's no need for that kind of attitude. You wouldn't want to upset your new master."
"What the hell?"
"Stand up." The command seemed to wrap itself around her brain and squeeze. Before she knew what was happening, Helena found herself on her feet, watching the vampire expectantly.
The Monk smiled and somewhere in a part of herself that was still free, Helena shivered.
"Say goodbye to your friend. It's finally night and I have plans to complete."
And to Helena's horror, she turned and followed him obediently up the stairs.
Now looking at Barbara, Helena could feel the vampire preparing to tell her to attack. It would be like the Quinn incident all over again, although this time, Barbara didn't know how to cure her.
Helena wanted to tell the other woman to run, but she didn't have control of her own vocal cords and it wouldn't have done any good anyway. Helena was faster and stronger than she had ever been, and she hadn't been a weakling before.
'God Barbara, don't let me do this.'
Helena prayed with everything she was that somehow, someone would intervene. She couldn't kill the woman she loved. It wasn't fair.
Then Helena was moving across the floor towards the redhead. As she screamed in her head, she watched her hands curl into claws.
Dick's boots hit packed earth instead of the stone step he was expecting. He did his best not to stumble at the abrupt change, the adrenaline from moments before racing through his veins, causing him to overcompensate. Reaching behind him, he gently guided Gabby to his side, almost having to peel the teen away from his back where she was huddled.
"We're at the bottom." Dick's voice was a quiet whisper. He could tell from the echoes that they were in an enclosed space. Years of working in the Batcave gave him the confidence to say that it wasn't very large.
"Yeah, but where are we?"
Dick didn't answer. Instead, he held out the torch and started to move forward cautiously.
They needed to find a way out.
As much as he hated to acknowledge it, they had failed. There was no way for them to rescue Helena and Dinah now. They had gone in thinking they would surprise the vampires, but somehow they had been expected. Their only option now was to escape, regroup, and come back with a better plan; one that wouldn't get them killed in a doomed effort to save their friends.
A rattling off to their right caused him to tense, expecting an attack at any moment. When the noise wasn't repeated, he slowly let out a breath . . . and quickly drew it back in when he heard a soft moan from the same direction.
Gabby hesitated only briefly before following him into the dark. She really was a good kid, Dick allowed.
As they drew closer, the torchlight glinted off of something golden. For one wild moment Dick felt like Howard Carter at the opening of Tutankhamen's tomb. The light illuminated Dinah hanging from chains set into the stone wall. The teen looked battered and dazed, but Dick couldn't find any life-threatening injuries.
Before he could stop her, Gabby had shot around his body and was embracing her friend. Dinah seemed to rouse at the physical touch, and her eyes opened wide.
"Gabby?" The voice was soft and rasping, but filled with joy and relief. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh my God, Dinah, what did they do to you?!" Gabby began yanking ineffectually at the chains on crime fighter's wrists. "How could you do this to me?! One minute we're talking on the phone, and the next I have to listen while you get kidnapped! By vampires!"
Dick decided he should step in before things got out of hand. "Dinah, do you know if there's another way out of here?"
Dinah responded without looking away from Gabby. "I don't know. I woke up chained to the wall, and they used the stairs when they brought Helena down."
Dick's heart-rate sped up. If Helena was here, maybe between the four of them they could fight their way out. As much as he hated to admit it, Helena was actually a competent crime fighter, and she had experience, not to mention her meta-abilities.
Dinah shook her head, wincing at the pull of the chains. "No, that red guy, the Monk, took her away. He said something about it being night and having plans."
Barbara! They had left Barbara alone in the clock tower! With a sick feeling, Dick knew that was where the Monk was headed, but why take Helena? Was he planning on using her as leverage with Barbara? What did he want?
"Um, Dick? There's something you should know." He tried to brace himself. Dinah's tone said it wasn't going to be good news. "Uh, the Monk bit Helena. I think she's a vampire."
For several seconds no one said anything. Then Gabby looked at Dinah, Dinah looked at Dick, and Dick decided he really couldn't deal with this right now.
"Okay, we'll just have to deal with that later. We need to find a way out of here and get back to the tower." Dick took a look at the chains. "Um, Canary, why haven't you TK blasted these yet?" The chains were sturdy, but Dick had seen how devastating the teen's mental powers were firsthand.
Dinah looked vaguely embarrassed. "I tried. As soon as I woke up, the Monk was here and he did something weird with his eyes, kinda like Quinn. He was talking to me, but I don't remember what he said. After he left, I tried, but I can't seem to use my powers."
Things just kept getting worse. He was trying to get the hang of working with a team again, but he hadn't signed on to deal with two defenseless teenagers.
Without a word he fished in his belt and pulled out a set of lock picks and went to work on the shackles. Minutes later, as the last one fell off and Dinah began rubbing her wrists, trying to restore circulation; Dick was ready with a plan.
"Okay, here's what we're going . . ."
The sound of splintering wood filled the basement, followed by heavy footsteps on the stairs.
That was the problem with plans; they never seemed to go according to plan.
Positioning his body in front of the two teens, he prepared to protect them for as long as he was able.
Barbara watched in alarm as Helena approached her. The brunette's hands were curled into claws and her fangs were exposed in a feral snarl. For one second, Barbara wasn't frightened, she was simply horribly, terribly sad. Sad and furious that this . . . monster had turned Helena into the one thing she hated and feared. He had taken away Helena's ability to be human.
Barbara wasn't about to let him get away with it.
As Helena's hands groped for her, the fingernails hard and pointed, Barbara snapped up her batons, striking the brunette in the ribs. Helena stumbled back several steps Barbara had worked hard to increase her upper body strength after the shooting but showed no signs of being injured. She merely turned and came at Barbara again.
The redhead realized she would have to fight dirty if she hoped to escape the encounter. Her neural coupler was in the desk drawer next to the Delphi, but it might as well have been on the moon. By the time she maneuvered the ten feet, Helena would be on her. Besides, there was no guarantee that she could beat the brunette even if she could use her legs. She hadn't been able to last time when Helena had been controlled by Quinn. Only the device she had designed to disrupt Harley's hypnotic suggestion had saved her from slow strangulation.
So, when Helena reached for her a third time, Barbara gritted her teeth and swung hard for the crime fighter's right wrist. The sound of metal hitting flesh and bone was loud in the otherwise quiet tower, and Barbara gasped despite herself.
Seconds later, she gasped again when the same wrist grabbed the front of her shirt and ripped her from her chair, sending her crashing to the floor. Years of training allowed her to keep a grip on her weapons, but the air was forcibly expelled from her lungs as she hit. Fighting for breath, she rolled onto her side and watched as Helena began to stalk towards her, the glowing violet eyes a strange mixture of red and familiar blue.
For the first time, Barbara took a good look at her friend.
Besides the obvious signs of her conversion, such as the fangs, fingernails, and glowing eyes, Helena was obviously different. For one thing, the cast on her arm was gone, and Barbara couldn't see any trace of the horrible injury. Her left pant leg was mangled and covered in blood, but there was no damage to the tan skin through the rips in the leather. Also, the brunette's hair was matted with dried blood, but she wasn't holding her head as if it pained her . . . not that she had shown any awareness of pain earlier.
All this flashed through her mind as, abruptly, Helena was looming over her. The brunette lowered herself, heavily straddling Barbara's unfeeling legs. The redhead tried to raise her batons, whether to strike Helena or simply to keep the brunette from grasping her neck she wasn't sure, but either way she was unsuccessful. Helena took a moment to sweep her arm between their bodies, neatly stripping the weapons from Barbara's hands with her enhanced strength.
As she felt Helena's fingers brush her throat, Barbara had a rather incongruous thought. She was surprised how quiet the entire exchange had been. She was used to hearing banter, expletives, and the occasional growl when Helena fought, even with her, but the brunette had been eerily silent whole time.
In, possibly, her last moments, Barbara realized something needed to be said.
Looking up into the turbulent gaze she finally told the truth, tried to use her gaze to show Helena how much she believed it. "You know who you are, Helena. Right now you're being forced to do something that isn't you, but no matter what, I'll always believe in you. I'll always trust you, Hel."
Then Barbara couldn't speak anymore. Helena's hands were wrapped firmly around her throat, cutting off her air, and everything was starting to go black around the edges. Barbara tried to focus her thoughts on pleasant memories soaring over rooftops as Batgirl, winning gymnastics competitions, quiet moments with her father, evenings spent with Dinah and Dick and memories of Helena. Many, many memories of the brunette who made her question everything she believed, and still somehow gave her all the answers.
And then Barbara could breathe again.
She took in great gulps of air, filling her lungs and leaving her lightheaded. When she was able to regain her senses she realized Helena's weight was no longer pinning her to the floor. Managing to struggle up onto her elbows she met the brunette's eyes.
They weren't the cerulean blue she was used to seeing. They weren't even the violet that had been staring down at her moments before. Instead, they were a bright burning orange. The mix of feral gold and vampire red left Barbara speechless, and she could only stare, transfixed, as Helena stood slowly with her usual feline grace.
Helena looked at her, and for a moment there was something soft and apologetic in her gaze, but it was swiftly consumed by a determined fire. "You're right. This isn't me, but kicking the ass of the people who threaten my family - that's what I'm all about."
The brunette spun on her heel and faced the Monk. Without a word, she launched herself at the shocked vampire.
Block, block, punch . . . duck, kick, block.
Helena neatly avoided a strike that would have caved in her skull by turning, dropping to one knee and lashing out with her own kick to her assailant's groin.
Unfortunately, the Monk had learned his lesson because he quickly stepped back before the hit could land. Helena sprang to her feet and went on the attack again.
Punch, block, punch, block, block.
Helena could feel the force behind each of the blows the vampire threw at her, but she more than matched it. In fact, she had never felt this good . . . physically. Of course, mentally was another matter.
She had just tried to strangle Barbara. Again.
Block, punch, flip . . . avoid the Delphi . . . block, block, punch.
Helena knew she should be feeling tired, but she wasn't. In fact, she felt more energized the longer they fought. She didn't know how long she had been trading blows with the vampire, but she wouldn't have been able to keep up this intensity before she had been bitten.
Kick, spin, block . . . pain!
Helena's head snapped back as one of the Monk's strikes finally connected with her chin sending her staggering back. Where, before, it might have broken her jaw or even snapped her neck, now, she merely shook it off and waded right back into the fight.
Block, punch . . .
"Turning me was a mistake, you know?"
Helena was proud that she had managed to keep her tone conversational. There was a rage and bloodlust simmering just beneath the surface, but she was determined to keep it under control. Barbara needed her, and Helena wouldn't let her down again.
The Monk's eyes glared out at her through the hood, his mouth twisted into a snarl. "Really, I think you'll make a fine addition to my followers." The vampire's speech was ragged, and if he had needed to breathe, Helena guessed he would be out of breath.
"News flash, asshole, this is who I am. There's no way you're ever going to control me. And you're definitely not going to use me to hurt Barbara. That's been tried by worse people than you."
"What you don't seem to realize Huntress," the came out mocking in his terrible voice, "is that you're mine now. I created you to be like me. You're a just another monster. You'd better get used to it."
Somehow during their talk, their blows had speeded up until Helena could barely see the attacks coming.
"I'm really tired of hearing that." She forced a little extra speed into her next kick, managing to connect with the vampire's knee. There was a loud crack, and the Monk collapsed with a muted snarl. "I've been telling myself that for years, but it's not true. And you know what . . ." Here Helena paused looking down at the figure at her feet. "Thanks for helping me figure it out."
Spinning, Helena put all the force she could muster into her next kick, connecting with the side of his head and sending him crashing down to the floor where he bounced once then lay still.
Turning away from the fallen vampire, she immediately looked for Barbara. She had thrown Red out of her chair. How could she have done that? What if she had seriously injured the other woman?
She let out a sigh when she spotted Barbara already back in her wheelchair. She felt shame overwhelm her when she thought of the redhead having to drag herself across the floor while Helena was fighting.
"Barbara, I'm so sor . . ."
"Helena, look out!"
The brunette registered the shock and fear in Barbara's voice at the same time she felt the intense pain in her back. Looking behind her, she was momentarily surprised to see a gigantic black wolf starring at her, saliva dripping from its jaws.
'That's right, the files did say he could transform into a wolf,' Helena thought woozily. She wasn't sure how deep the cuts on her back were, but if the blood beginning to pool at her feet was any indication, she didn't have long to neutralize this new threat.
Helena looked into the glowing yellow eyes of the wolf.
"O-kay, that's different." She carefully lowered herself into a fighting crouch. "I should warn you, I'm really more of a cat person."
The burning gaze focused on her as the powerful animal tensed, ready to spring. As she prepared to meet the rush, Helena was distracted by a random thought. Were her own feral eyes as unnerving as the transformed vampire's?
Then she was simply fighting for her life.
Helena choked and tried to spit fur out of her mouth.
The last thing she remembered, the vampire had leapt at her, and her legs had refused to respond. Helena thought it was probably a combination of fatigue, stress from her own transformation, and blood loss. She figured anyone would have problems fighting off a gigantic wolf with issues like that.
Bringing up her hands, she grabbed desperately for the muzzle, trying to keep the sharp teeth away from her throat. The vampire wasn't just trying to injure her anymore. He had clearly decided she actually wouldn't make a good follower, and was determined to end her life . . . permanently this time.
The daughter of Catwoman could not be killed by an overgrown dog. That was just too ironic or something.
Helena felt the heavy weight settle on her chest. Apparently the Monk had decided to crush her to death.
Twisting and turning, she tried to shove him off. Her legs kicked uselessly against the floor, and her shoulders were pinned beneath the thick forelegs, the large paws framing her head. She felt the pointed teeth move closer to her throat, and forced her arms to respond. She was able to stop the slow approach, but couldn't find the strength to push him away. It seemed like only a matter of time until she couldn't hold on anymore.
She couldn't die like this. She still needed to apologize. She needed to tell Barbara how sorry she was for almost killing her again, and for being such a stubborn ass.
She needed to tell the other woman how much she loved her, not just have the redhead hear it over the coms when Helena didn't even know she was listening.
But it didn't seem like she was going to get the chance. She'd used up her nine lives. For a moment she was overcome with bitter regret for all the wasted time and lost opportunities.
As the sharp canines inched closer to neck and drool trickled onto her chest, she spared a moment to hope Barbara had made it out of the clock tower. If she was safe, then at least Helena had done something right.
Arms shaking, she closed her eyes, hoping it would be quick.
Suddenly a high pitched yelp burst from the vampire's throat and filled the tower, making her ears ring. Just as abruptly, the weight settled even more firmly on her chest. For a split second, Helena was grateful that she no longer had to breathe, since it would be impossible at this point. Gathering her remaining strength, she was just able to roll the dead weight off.
Dead was the operative word she discovered moments later. The Monk was well and truly dead, if the batarang sticking out of his back was any indication.
Suddenly the wound began to smoke and hiss, shooting off sparks. As Helena watched with wide eyes, tendrils of fire shot out from the point of entry and quickly consumed the fur covered body. When it was over, there was nothing but ash, and a brightly gleaming weapon sitting in the heart of the pile which Helena tentatively retrieved.
Holding up the silver batarang, Helena turned to gape at Barbara in disbelief.
"What?" Barbara sat heavily in her chair, her hair disheveled and clothes torn from their fight. "Just because I don't believe in the supernatural doesn't mean I'm not prepared."
Helena didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and in the end, settled for simply remaining on the floor and shaking her head.
It was finally over.
There was nothing they could do.
Dinah knew with a calm certainty that she would die in just a matter of moments. She found that she was strangely calm about the entire idea. Somewhere between watching her mom die in the warehouse explosion and dealing with Quinn's attack, she had accepted the fact that she was probably going to die young . . . and not especially pleasantly.
So now, she was able to watch with a certain amount of detached interest and no surprise as one of the vampires squeezed past Nightwing and came straight for her.
She was however, quite surprised when an arrow seemed to sprout from his chest. The vampire also seemed amazed, right before he dropped to the ground and burned up in a blaze of fire like a Fourth of July sparkler without the pretty lights and much more disgusting.
Dinah looked to her right, noticing for the first time the crossbow Gabby held confidently in her hands.
The other teen glanced at her and offered a crooked smile and a small shrug of her shoulders. "Um . . . I'm totally channeling Buffy."
Dinah continued to stare before she was interrupted by another vampire rushing at her out of the darkness. Even if she didn't have her powers, she had still been trained by three of the best crime fighters that had ever worn a mask, and now she put those skills to good use.
Using the vampire's momentum against him, she side-stepped and helped his face get acquainted with the stone wall behind her. Backing up, she watched as another arrow found its target in the monster's back with the same effect.
Turning to look at Gabby, she offered a small smile of her own. "So does that make me Willow?"
Gabby lined up her shot as Dinah knocked another vampire to the floor with a spinning kick. Aiming carefully, she sent an arrow into his heart, leaving nothing but smoldering embers on the floor.
"Nah, with those moves, I'd definitely have to go with Faith."
Dinah laughed. "I always knew you had a thing for the bad girls."
Gabby winked at her before ducking the clawed hand of a female vampire. "You know it."
Dinah felt a warm glow in the pit of her stomach before she punched the vampire in the face and followed it up with a series of blows that left the monster bleeding and disoriented. Gabby finished her off with a shot, just as if they had practiced this a thousand times.
Some part of Dinah wondered how they could be engaging in vaguely flirtatious banter when they were under attack by vampires in a seriously creepy basement, but somehow it seemed to fit with the rest of her life. As did the fact that seconds later, Dick was backed up with them against the wall, and they were surrounded by snarling monsters.
Dinah took one look at the numbers and realized it was over. The vampires wouldn't come at them one at a time anymore, they were preparing to rush en masse.
She spared a moment to feel guilty for dragging Gabby into this. If not for Dinah, the other girl would be home right now, completely unaware that things like super villains and vampires roamed the streets of New Gotham. However, some part of Dinah was absurdly grateful that Gabby was here with her. It gave her the courage to face the vampires head on, and not curl up on the ground in a fetal position . . . which of course made her feel even guiltier.
"I'm so sorry, Gabby." Dinah kept facing the vampires and didn't look back at her best friend.
A warm hand slipped into her own, squeezing tightly. "Hey, Sweetie, no place else I'd rather be."
Dinah felt tears sting her eyes as she watched Dick put his body in front of them, knowing she was about to watch two of the people she cared about most die. "Now you're just trying to make me feel better."
Feeling a tug on her hand, she looked into sincere hazel eyes. "Yeah, but you're here, so this is where I'm going to be too."
"Gabby . . ." Dinah knew it was now or never. "I know I should have said this sooner, but I . . ."
Suddenly shrieks filled the air as the vampires fell to their knees. As one, their eyes seemed to catch flame and tendrils of fire spread over their skin, blackening and curling the pale flesh. In moments, it was over and they were left alone in the basement with nothing but piles of ash for company.
"What the hell just happened?"
Gabby and Dinah looked at Dick with blank expressions and shrugged their shoulders in unison. They all looked around them in puzzlement before Dick seemed to gather his thoughts.
"Okay, whatever, we're not sticking around to find out. Let's get out of here while we can. We still need to get back to the tower."
Dinah didn't argue, and instead pulled Gabby toward the stairs, never letting go of her hand. In some way she was almost sorry. She had finally been ready to confess her feelings, but she supposed now she would have time to do it right, not just blurt it out when they were about to be ripped to pieces by a group of fanatical vampires. Somehow, that seemed lacking in the whole romance thing.
At the top of the stairs, they quickly shut the trap door and moved past the cloth covered furniture. As they reached the exit, the sound of a gunshot shattered the tomb-like silence.
Facing them in the doorway was the skeletal woman who had captured Dinah in the alley. In her hand, she clutched a large pistol, which she aimed steadily at Dick.
"You, this is all your doing!" Her shriek actually hurt Dinah's ears it was so loud. "The Master is dead because of you! All of his followers, dead! I'm all that's left!"
Dick held up his hands, palms out. "It's all right. We can help you. We can get you someplace safe where no one can hurt you anymore."
The woman seemed to stare through him with unfocused black eyes, the hand holding the gun lowered slightly. Then, without the slightest warning, she fired a shot that missed his head by centimeters. "Stupid boy, do you think I have anything worth going back to. The Master was everything . . . and now he's gone."
Dinah knew this was the truth. When she touched the woman earlier, she had received several visions of her life. Dala was a heroin junky, and she had been living on the streets before the Monk had recruited her.
A single tear slipped over a sunken cheek until it dripped off the woman's chin. "I've got nothing left."
Dinah watched in horror as the gun lifted and aimed at Nightwing's chest. Time seemed to slow as she watched Dala's finger tighten on the trigger. Light flashed off the smooth surface of the gun, and was reflected briefly in the thousands of crystals in the chandelier hanging above them.
Without her conscious control, Dinah's hand shot out, and with a sharp crack, the chain holding the extravagant arrangement snapped, sending it speeding to the floor. Dala was able to scream once before being buried in broken crystal and cobwebs.
Dinah didn't realize her legs had given out until Gabby was holding her shoulders asking if she was alright.
"I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to. She was going to shoot Nightwing," Dinah kept repeating, not even aware she was speaking.
She watched as Dick carefully picked his way to the center of the room. He sifted through the remains, before concentrating on something that Dinah couldn't see. Finally, he came back over and knelt down next to her.
"That was good work, Canary." His blue eyes were warm and kind.
"What?" It was the only thing she was capable of saying.
"You saved my life, and possibly yours and Gabby's as well."
"But . . . I killed her."
Dick shook his head gently. "No, you just clipped her. She probably has a concussion, and maybe a broken arm, but she'll live. Looks like you've got your powers back just in time."
Dinah looked at him in shock, before turning to sit with her back against the wall. Moments later she was joined by her two companions, who seemed to realize they all needed a short break. Eventually, Gabby leaned against her right side, and Dinah took the time to simply breathe.
It was finally over.
Suddenly, Gabby lifted her head off of Dinah's shoulder. "Uh, I hate to mention this, but how are we going to get home? The bike only seats two."
There was nothing but silence.
Then Dinah couldn't help it. After all they had been through, it seemed so silly. She began to laugh. Small giggles at first that built into near hysterical cackles. She was quickly joined by Gabby and then Dick. They all sat on the floor of the vampires' castle and laughed until tears streamed from their eyes.
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