Spoilers: AU for "Countdown: Search for Ray Palmer" / Earth-43, Batman: Red Rain universe
Warnings: child endangerment (damn vampires), roughly canon-level violence (damn vampires), gory imagery (damn vampires)
Word Count: 2406
Summary: Jason finds a much better teacher in the ways of vampire hunting.
Word of the Day: strepitous, adjective: boisterous; noisy
Note: Many thanks to daggerpen for the assistance in making the fight scene readable!
I'm going to start referring to this alternate universe as "Earth-43.H" because I've made a bunch of changes to the history as I see fit. More notes under the cut at the end of the story.
Part Three of the "No Fate" alternate ending. Part one here. Part two here.
It's been a few nights since his latest run-in with Dick Grayson the vampire, and while he still feels a little off-balance when he thinks about it, Jason can force himself to not-think about things that bother him. Especially when there's work to be done. So he tracks down nests of vampires -- paying extra attention to those who dare feed on the homeless and the helpless -- and meets their savagery with his own focused rage, and he definitely does not think about Dick Grayson.
They hiss and snarl, baring ragged fangs that erupt haphazardly out of receding gums. He grins unseen back at them behind his gas mask -- an extra layer of protection, to hide the healing cut along his jaw -- and beckons mockingly with one hand. The six vampires come no closer, stymied by the elaborate crucifix he holds. The crying children that the monsters had collected -- one for each vampire, apparently -- are huddled behind him. So far as Jason can tell, nobody has been bitten yet. The oldest of them, a girl who might be about fifteen, has one hand fisted in his shirt-sleeve, near the shoulder. She tugs on the fabric each time that the children have moved closer to the exit, indicating that he should take a backwards step. Leading the slow retreat is a boy who is about a year younger than her, equipped with a twin of Jason's crucifix.
'Thank God for Uncle Father Matthew,' Jason thinks wryly. And isn't it lucky that history seems to have run parallel enough here that his adoptive mother's brother is still alive and still a priest and still in Gotham? And that apparently Jason Todd of this world showing up at his church is a rare but not rendered-impossible-by-death occurrence. (Jason has no desire to find out what's going on with his counterpart in detail. He'll never admit to himself that he's afraid of finding a vampire version that he will have to put down.) The time is tense and seems to be passing slow, but he know it can't be more than a minute and a half, maybe two, since he forced this standoff by producing the holy symbols.
"Come on!" the boy hisses, and the four littler children rush out the door. The vampires dart forward, and the teenage girl behind him screams, but Jason calmly reaches for a larger ampule of holy water and lobs it hard at the lead vampire's snarling face. The glass shatters and the vampire howls, pulling up short to claw at the bubbling flesh of its face. The other five keep coming, undeterred by their fellow's distress.
Jason spins in place, shaking off the girl's grip and taking firm hold of her arm instead, hustling her out the door. He pushes the crucifix into her hand, and says sharply, "Run!" To all of them, he yells, "End of the alley! Go!"
Then he lashes out with a rear kick that none of the vampires were expecting, knocking one of them back into the two behind it. He grabs a stake for each hand from the weapons belt on his waist as he follows up with a side kick -- it doesn't hit any of them, but it makes it easier to switch the direction of his guard, so he can lash out with both hands at his mobbing opponents. One goes down with a terrible shriek as the oak stake buries deep in its heart, but the other deflects the stake into its shoulder instead, and tries to bite him on the forearm. The reinforced Kevlar of his body armor holds up under the powerful bite strength, but Jason knows he'll have a hell of a bruise there tomorrow. ('Assuming you make it 'til then,' a stupid fatalistic voice whispers in the back of his head). Jason punches Bitey in the face with his now-empty left hand, forcing the creature back a single step.
Melty-Face is there in a moment, throwing Bitey sideways into the wall in its enraged rush to get at Jason. The one-time crimelord can't resist the urge to palm-strike Melty-Face right in the exposed nasal cartilage -- as he expected, the move doesn't take the vampire out like it would with a living opponent, but it knocks the monster back on its ass. Jason barks out a short, involuntary laugh at the shocked look on the vampire's mostly-ruined countenance, then drives a stake through the dumbass vampire coming up on his left side, who must have thought he was actually distracted. That makes it two out, two temporarily down, two still able to attack.
Jason ducks a wild horizontal swipe of the claws from the one vampire that might have been a woman while alive. It's a little hard to tell when they're in full on monster-bat form, but the shreds of what might have been a pink skirt are hanging from this one's waist. As he straightens up, he lobs another ampule of holy water at the biggest one, who he's already thinking of as Lenny. Lenny lifts its arms to shield its face, seeming more distressed than in pain as the flesh bubbles and smokes. Jason grabs two more stakes from his belt and goes on the offensive for real, battering at Pink's upraised arms and twisting to dodge the clumsy return blows in Nightwing's style, stakes standing in for the dulo-dulo length eskrima sticks the vigilante favors.
Pink drives him to the left, away from the exit and too close to where Melty-Face is crouched. The vampire latches onto him and tries to claw through the body armor on his legs. Jason snarls out a curse, because now his mobility is compromised, and tries driving his left elbow down onto the back of Melty-Face's neck to daze the vampire and break its grip. It growls with pain but hangs on grimly. Jason blocks a punch from Pink with his right arm -- even blocking their blows hurts like a bitch, but he grits his teeth and bears it -- and feels himself tilt dangerously.
Bitey, sensing weakness, slams into his back -- and accidently steadies him enough so that Jason can reverse his grip on that right-hand stake and stab it into Pink's heart. He grabs for Bitey's arm wrapped around his chest and purposely tumbles forward, tucking his body into as small a ball as he can manage -- hoping that the move will dislodge both vampires.
Bitey goes flying over his shoulder, right into Lenny as planned, and he feels Melty-Face's already battered visage crunch under one knee as they hit the concrete floor. The damage doesn't particularly stun Melty-Face, but Jason goes backward about a foot when the angry vampire shoves him up and away. Jason just barely keeps his balance as he lands awkwardly on one foot at first, but all those gymnastics have given him the muscle memory to recover, other leg going back for a steadier fighting stance. And of course he can't keep his mouth shut.
"Sorry, baby," Jason mocks, as his opponent gets to its feet, "Face like that, I don't think anybody's gonna ask you to homecoming this year."
"F-f-fuck you!" Melty-Face snarls, glaring with its one remaining eye.
Jason dodges for his right, and Melty-Face follows the move -- only to get knocked forward and flat on its face by Bitey, flung like it weighed nothing at all by an angry Lenny. Lenny bellows like a wounded bull and charges for Jason. Jason aims a silver-plated throwing knife -- pulled from the belt-holster on his right thigh -- at Lenny's thick throat, wincing at the gurgling howl that the vampire voices with difficulty as the blade hits home. The big vampire claws at its own neck in mindless agony, now completely ignoring everyone else. Jason takes the opportunity to kick Bitey off of Melty-Face, and stakes Melty-Face through the back and into the heart. Bitey is too battered and dazed to resist as Jason plants a heavy booted foot on its chest and wrenches out the stake in its shoulder.
"You got a little handsy for a first date, champ," Jason quips, even though he's panting with exertion as he drops to one knee and drives the stake home. Lenny is still making noises behind him, so Jason keeps an eye on the big vampire as he draws his sixth stake lefthanded. It's the last on the belt -- leaving him with three throwing knives and four more ampules of holy water -- and thankfully the last one he'll need.
But then Lenny gives another loud gurgle and goes still -- the bolt of a crossbow protruding from his chest. Jason turns his head to stare at the motionless vampire, and a woman speaks up from the doorway.
"You're the one who's been making extra work for me and my ladies."
Jason pauses just a moment. There's no underlying death-rattle dryness in this voice, so it's not a rival vampire. He tosses the stake to his right hand and pulls his kris from the sheath on his lower back, rising fluidly from his kneeling position into a guard stance.
The woman standing there looks to be about his age, maybe a few years older, though her dark brown eyes seem much older from the world-weary lines that frame them. She is dressed in dark-colored body armor as well -- except her top is quartered by thick white lines that form a cross-shape over her chest. Stakes hang from the belt on her waist, and Jason sees a couple more bolts over her left shoulder, so the quiver must be on her back. Her hair is tightly pulled back from her face, but the loose natural curls have partially escaped the bun atop her head. The red of her lips is a berry shade that's clearly lipstick, making the wry twist of her mouth bright against the medium brown of her skin.
"...I have?" Jason asks.
"You leave the job half done," the woman answers. Her tone gained a mocking edge, "Is a big strong man like you squeamish about cutting off heads?"
Jason laughs out loud. He can't help it.
"Lady, if only you knew..." He shakes his head, and reaches behind himself again to sheath the kris. She tracks the movement with her crossbow, but points it at the ceiling again once he brings his empty hand back into view. "You ran into the kids, right? They okay?"
"My partner is keeping an eye on them and calling our transport for a pickup. They're fine," she assures him. The prompt and detailed answer lets him know she's telling the truth, and Jason relaxes slightly.
"I've been working on wrong information, I guess. Sorry for the trouble."
She levels a confused look at him. "Who the hell taught you to move like that, but not how to permanently kill a vampire?"
"Different teachers," Jason explains, with a grin as he recalls just how many teachers he's had (and had to put down). "For killing vampires, I got an observation-only lesson from a single staking. Guy I was following got eaten within the same night."
"Well, shit, son," the woman drawls, "You need yourself a new teacher."
"Seems I do," Jason replies, playing up his street Gotham accent, "You in th' market f'r a student?"
She arches an eyebrow at him and answers, "Not without knowing his name."
"Jason Todd." He's relieved when she doesn't recognize the name, and grins cheekily as he asks, "So, do I just call ya 'Teach', or...?"
"Ms. Bertinelli will do nicely," she replies, prim and sharp. He likes her even more with this confirmation that she won't be putting up with his bullshit. "But it's Helena Bertinelli since you asked."
"Pleasure to meet you," Jason says, unaware that he has shifted to a more upper-class Gothamite intonation for just that phrase, or how the switch catches Helena's attention. "You got a bigger blade on ya, Ms. Bertinelli? I use mine, we'll be here all night with me sawin' at necks."
Helena snorts at the mental image his words conjure up, and reaches for the sheath hanging in line with her right shoulder blade. Jason's eyes light up once he gets a good look at the kukri-style machete she held out to him (handle first, of course), and she didn't blame him. The seventeen-inch blade, made of matte black carbon steel that nearly matched the black handle, is a pretty impressive sight. And, as she knows from experience, it's damn useful.
"Now that's a knife!"
"Down, boy," Helena laughs. "Get to work; time's a-wasting and Dinah won't wait forever."
"Yes, ma'am!" Jason says as he accepts the kukri -- and didn't he seem oddly pleased to say it? Most male vampire hunters are punch-drunk on machismo whenever she shows up. But for once...
She watches him complete his six vampire kills, a grisly reaper ensuring that these monsters would not rise again. He is efficient -- little wasted motion or effort, and no hesitation. Helena muses to herself, 'So it really hadn't been squeamishness keeping him from doing a thorough job.'
Jason tosses a couple of the heads closer to Helena, forming a pile between them as he works his way through. On the penultimate vampire, he asks, "Do we burn 'em?"
"Ariane likes us to bury them." Helena says. The kukri rises and falls with a distinct chopping sound. She shrugs. "She's the expert, but I think it's mostly sentiment on her part."
Jason snorts, and hacks through the tough muscle of Lenny's neck a second time. On that stroke, the head separates completely from the body. Jason chuckles at some personal joke before asking, "You got a duffel bag on ya?"
"We usually take on one or two vampires each at a time," Helena admits. "So, no."
He thinks for a moment. "There's a gas station a block away. Toss the heads in a metal trash can nearby, soak 'em in the gasoline, and light 'em up." He pauses to hack his way through Bitey's neck. "An' apologize to Ariane later, yeah?"
She chuckles. "Yeah, sure. But I'm telling her it was your idea."
Jason wipes off her blade and presents it back to her handle-first. "Throwin' your new student under the bus already, Ms. Bertinelli?"
Helena takes the blade back and returns it to the sheath. "Only if you really piss me off, Jason," she says with a genuine little smile.
Further Notes: As the description should make clear, I am using Helena Bertinelli from the New 52 as an appearance reference for vampire hunter Helena. It hasn't come up yet, but I've also racebent Dinah Laurel Lance. I did this because I can.