Chapter 20: Young Wolves
The portal crackled and gave a wobble that matched the building, encouraging them to tense up and get ready to leap through. They were almost ready; Wally and Artemis looked ready to jump through, and M'gann knew she and Conner could close the distance in a leap. She just had to wait for him to get his breath back. As for Kaldur-
There was a harsh, choking sound that sunk into her ears. On top of that, M'gann felt a sudden shortness of breath cut into her head. It didn't belong to her, but the sensation still snapped around her throat, as vivid as if she was the one choking.
M'gann twisted around to see that Savage had struggled back upright, ignoring how most of his body and pelt had been torn to tatters. There was plenty of strength left in his arms and claws hands, gripping at Kaldur's throat. His teeth showed, red from where one of them had been broken, and his jaw yawned open large enough to fit around Kaldur's skull and crush it like an egg. He snapped them shut with a snarl-
Or tried to. The incisors cut into Kaldur's palm as their leader jammed his hands between the jaws and tried to keep them from closing around him, all while fighting for breath.
Behind the two, half of the room gave a shudder, shifting between planes and locations. Savage stood dangerously close to the edge, either not noticing the border or not caring.
He also didn't notice when she broke away from Conner, and threw herself at him. She didn't come close to him in size, even as a beast; but she had momentum and surprise as she caught him shoulder to shoulder. He wavered, put his injured foot back, and collapsed as too much weight went onto it.
The choking sensation in her head cut out, as Kaldur thrashed and managed to get a clear breath. He snapped free from those jaws as well, before they could try biting again. M'gann felt a flash of relief, right before a different feeling jammed into her head. Something pierced through her fur and skin, leaving a warm splash of blood soaking over her neck. Pain blazed up her neck as she twisted to around to look at the source. Thick, sinewy fingers and the claws anchored to them were buried in her. Savage gave a wrench with his arm, and started to pull her forward.
He didn't get far with the motion. Not before something small and dark blurred by. It crashed into Savage's face, feet first with a shout. M'gann thought she could make out a lithe form, and a familiar mop of black hair for a second-
"How can that work? He has to be miles back down on the ground."
She didn't get time to figure out an answer for that. Whoever or whatever it was, it bounced back off and forced Savage back. He swung his head back up and snapped at empty air, struggling to regain his balance.
But it was too little, too late as his legs gave out a second time. Savage fell backwards as the spell field washed over him. Kaldur thrashed, mirroring her motions. But the claws stayed snapped around his throat, and stuck in her muscles.
Combined with Savage's weight, they getting pulled through the fissure. The tugging was constant and insistent, the same way a tide pulled someone out to sea. M'gann dug her feet into the floor, but couldn't find traction with her claws. They scraped uselessly, scratching an inch of claw marks into the tile, then another-
She had time for one wordless yelp, before plunging through.
They fell through the spell field with Savage, and her breath froze up. A cold lance of ice slid into M'gann's blood, and the world slowed down around her, like she was looking at everything from underwater. She had one claw hold left on the tile, tethering her to the other side... but that was all. As she watched, the city lights cut out completely, replaced by a barren and silver landscape.
Staring at it, a now familiar hum wormed its way into her heart. To make up for the sudden chill, it pounded in her ribcage and sent a hot, angry jolt tearing up through her spine and gnawing at the back of her head.
Savage's mouth parted open, his breath coming out in a harsh, panting laugh. It taunted her to step through the rest of the way. Become enveloped by the moon's pull and tear into him. Give up and let the beast take over. His claws twitched in her flesh, as his eyes gave a mad glimmer and tried to pull M'gann and Kaldur all the way into his territory.
She and Kaldur stood there, one foot through and the other edging up against the threshold. They were slipping away from Earth inch by inch as Savage pulled at them with weight and will. She was starting to wonder why they were fighting against it.
"Need to get back to-" Kaldur's voice struggled to remind her. Something important was at their backs. But with the hum in her ears it was so hard to remember what exactly.
"We've got you." That was the only warning she had, before a black furred arm shot through the field and grasped at her. She started to wince and show her teeth... but it didn't claw at her. Instead it held her steady, while the voice in her head dulled out the hum and kept her from stepping all the way through.
"LET THEM GO!" The cry shrieked through the link, combining with a snarl and snap of teeth. For a second she was sure she saw a blonde, wolf-like head snap at Savage. Artemis' thoughts shuddered with anger, as her form rippled. One second M'gann thought she saw a canine, the next her friend. The rapid fire changes did nothing to dull the ferocity of her strikes. Fingers or claws, she gouged at points along Savage's wrist and paws. Her attack forced Savage to let go of Kaldur's neck, to swipe at her and ward her off.
A snarl cut the air, right as a blur of teeth closed around Savage's hand. Wally yanked his head up, tearing the claws completely away from Kaldur's neck. Conner kept a grip on M'gann, and she could hear how hard his breath came as he strained and tried to pull her free.
A movement in the corner of her eye showed that Kaldur was getting tugged back, as Wally closed human hands around him. Artemis' form wavered, tugging between a lupine appearance before she snapped herself upright with a sharp cry and put her arms around Wally to help him take Kaldur the last inches out of the field. They vanished with a ripple, becoming smoky forms on the other side of the rift.
Leaving her and Conner, still halfway between locations. With one target gone, Savage tightened his grip on her. Savage couldn't stand, though. His leg was ripped to ribbons, and with the fresh blows from the others it couldn't heal fast enough. All he could do was grimly cling on and yank at her again, trying to drag her down with him.
"Not letting go." Conner muttered, stubborn. It didn't matter to him that they both had too much weight to shift the balance; he kept his paws dug in as he tried to pull her free.
"You guys had better get out of this in one piece! We didn't come to rescue Kaldur just to lose you!" Her head snapped up at Robin's voice, somehow making it through the link.
There was a hand resting on Conner's shoulder, almost lost in the mane of black. She could just barely pick out Kaldur's fingers, as he found his balance and reached back through to pull at them. She could pick out two more reaching through; Wally, Artemis... and then a third from Robin.
"Get it together and come back!" He yelled through the link.
She forced her eyes shut, closing out the pull of the moon, and feeling her heart finally start to slow down. She didn't need to fight right now, she told herself, and felt Conner pick up on that thought as well. His form suddenly felt lighter against her, and her own body didn't feel like it was getting weighed down by muscle and fur. Not with the thoughts of her friends also humming through the link, and drowning out the pull from the moon.
"Go back." She whispered, and felt her body listen at last. It shed the extra mass, and she felt it evaporate like steam off her. Savage's claws lost the extra muscle, and scrabbled uselessly at thin air. She fastened human fingers around Conner, and pushed off against the floor with her feet.
Conner leaned back as well, and they both fell through. She landed on Conner's chest, and felt human skin slip back in place. Her eyes blinked open, and she found herself staring up at a ceiling that didn't have a glint from the moonlight on it.
Along with Robin staring down at her.
"I thought you were with Zatanna-?" Her voice was rough, but it felt good to have words on her tongue instead of snarls.
"Jumped in when you guys weren't coming out; now come on! Zee's on her last legs with keeping the gate open!" The portal gave a wobble, to drive the point home.
It spurred Conner into standing up with a rush of air expelled from his chest. With another grunt he had M'gann half on her feet too. He pulled her arm up and over his shoulder. The steps Conner took wobbled, but he stayed on his feet.
M'gann screamed at her own feet to help carry her through, as Artemis came up to her side. She could make out Wally next to Kaldur as they linked arms and yanked the whole group with the last few steps.
She and Conner fell, more than walked through the portal. She lost track of everyone as a sudden wash of cold snapped over her, hard enough to make her gasp. She floated for a moment, right before plummeting through the gateway and onto the other side.
M'gann never thought she'd be grateful to feel pavement bite into her elbow. Nearby Conner gave a groan from his spot on the ground, and she could see him giving his legs a small kick, and his arms a twitch to make sure they were still working.
"Esolc!" Zatanna's voice was ragged sounding, but still had enough command left in it to make a spell.
She stared up as the portal slammed shut on them. Right as it flickered out, the Lex Corp skyscraper lost the battle against the spells running through it. A bolt of violet energy lanced from the sky, and M'gann was convinced that if she looked up just enough, she'd see it pointing from the moon. The purple light hardened, solidified until it formed a solid dome stretched around the building and tethered in place by the column of light.
With a whoosh of displaced air, the magic field collapsed on itself. The tower couldn't stand up against that, the building folding in on itself... right before the bubble encasing it shrank down to a pin point, and vanished with a thunderous slam and flash of light.
When it cleared, there wasn't a trace of the tower left. Just a perfectly round crater, like someone had gone in with an ice cream scoop and taken out the entire building and pavement-
...But had somehow left behind a single red speck, at the very bottom. Kaldur climbed back up from where he'd been knocked down by the blast. He edged close to the rim of the crater, and shook his head as he looked down.
"I have to wonder if that truck is still capable of starting." Was what Kaldur chose to break the silence with.
"Sorry, but I'm not taking any bets against it; that thing's tougher than it looks." Wally answered as he pulled himself up, with a little help from Artemis. "But I guess that's a team trait."
The squad car lights painted the road blue and red. When the police first showed up and saw a barely conscious Luthor on the ground, Conner was sure they were all going to end up in handcuffs. But that was before Bruce got in the first word, accusing Luthor of kidnapping.
It came in handy to have four more voices in agreement. Including Clark's own. Apparently having a wealthy, mildly eccentric but charitable socialite against a businessman had the police favor skew towards Wayne. It at least kept them all out of a police car.
Or maybe it was just that the local force was too floored by the sudden crater and explosion combo. Maybe they were mostly going through the motions as best as they could. But they left Conner and the others alone, and no one paid close enough attention to see their wounds slowly healing up.
Nearby, Kaldur was trying to coax the truck back to life, with Artemis giving a hand. From what he could hear, the hardest part was actually finding the keys. Those had managed to fling themselves free of the car during the free fall it took.
A few minutes later, during the testimonies, down in the middle of the crater an engine sputtered to life. Robin simply held a hand out, and a grumbling Roy put five dollars into it as Robin smirked... and only wilted a little when Bruce gave him a sharp look.
The smoldering, purple tinged crater in the ground was already grabbing plenty of attention. The police lights shining off it just contributed to how other worldly it all looked, like a little bit of the moon's surface had been left behind in exchange for the Lex Corp tower.
Looking up, Conner wondered if he could see some small, black speck newly placed on the moon's surface. In the corner of his eye, he could see Luthor giving the moon a frustrated look, like it had turned into a personal offense.
"You've managed to be extremely vexing... which I suppose is an accomplishment. It wouldn't surprise me to know there's been a cell with a wonderful sky view arranged for me, so I can continue to look at the moon." Luthor rolled his shoulders, as though that would make the handcuffs on his wrists disappear.
'Different from looking down at everything, isn't it? Now you have to look UP, and get a reminder over how you don't control everything.' Conner thought, but didn't voice it aloud. Ahead he could see M'gann giving him a small, almost triumphant smile as she overheard his thoughts.
"...It happens, when you pick fights with us." Conner simply replied.
"I'll grant, you did win this round. But what do you intend to do, now that you've gained the initiative? Are you going to continue trying to hide all of this?"
"...No." Kaldur stepped in, flexing his fingers as his palm mended from the bite. "That would mean going back; that's one of the few things we, you, and the League agree on. But we are not going to lord over humanity, as you seemed to plan. They will learn that we exist... and that while some of us can be monsters, the same can be said for much of humanity. We can also be heroes."
"...I'll watch with interest, then." Luthor raised an eyebrow at that, but didn't follow it up with a sneer. "It's certain to be more interesting than having to look at the moon, every evening. It's an easier failure to stomach."
He let the police lead him away, into the back of one of the trucks. A separate car held his body guard, who had yet to transform. Conner watched as the vehicles drove away, wondering if a prison cell would hold either of them for long.
"If he is smart, he will likely serve his time." Kaldur must have read the thought on Conner's face. "It may not be for long, but it is at least a reprieve."
"Good," Conner murmured as he felt for M'gann's hand and clasped at it. His wolf had gone quiet, finally spending all its rage and wild energy. Even so, M'gann's touch was a comfort; especially since he didn't have to worry about claws any longer. "Never thought I'd run out of energy... but I'm ready to take a break. At least until the next full moon."
On the TV screen, a brown haired girl with a short bobbed cut looked into the eyes of a troubled young man. M'gann watched it all with a grin on her face. While she didn't repeat the lines at full volume this time, she still whispered them.
"You're quoting again, aren't you?" Conner murmured in her ear, from his spot on the couch. (Which also doubled as a pillow for her to rest on.) He must have felt the heat rising in her cheeks, since he added "Improved hearing; I'm still getting used to it, but it comes in handy sometimes."
The episode of Wendy The Werewolf Stalker continued on the new, larger screen; a chamber and room down, the older TV was also hooked up, with an old game system ready to be played as well. The cave didn't look so cavern like any longer; not with the League helping to really build it into a home.
Which was good, M'gann decided, since they were spending more and more time around it. It also meant a few new things, like a functioning kitchen, framing the den room where the whole group was currently resting across two giant sofas.
Kaldur must have been keeping an ear open for conversation, from the way his lips quirked up. "If reciting is how one recovers from a winter like this, I have no complaints. It takes time to heal up from a battle like that... as it is, I count us all fortunate for making it out alive."
"And... relatively in one piece." Wally piped up from where he was slumped in the cushions. "Think we deserve a few nights of rest after going toe to toe with ancient supreme-overlord-complex werewolves."
"So... what about Savage?" At Robin's question, they all turned to look at Zatanna, perched at the end and shaking her head.
"He's still out there; I did some research on it. If the spell is still feeding off of Klarion, the insides of the Lex Corp Tower should be capable of sustaining life."
"So he's stuck inside a life support tower?" Raquel ventured from her spot next to Zatanna.
"Probably with Klarion. It's going to take him some time to figure out how to get back... and if he wants to get back, he'll have to think like a man, instead of snapping out lat things like a wolf. That's the only way he'll be able to keep his ticket back alive, and figure out how to open up a new spell."
"He can take his time." Wally responded, trying to stretch his arms out and wincing. "Ow- silver still stings. But I'm not in any hurry to see him again. We've got plenty to do in the meantime."
"Yeah; got a few changes to get used to in this pack." Robin glanced over at Artemis as he spoke. She simply gave a nod, before adding,
"And there's going to be no shortage of crime. Those Shadow wolves that Ra's guy has are still at large. And if we're going to be proving that lycanthropes like... like us," she glanced down at her hands, before continuing as M'gann laid a hand on her shoulder, and Wally brushed against the other. "Taking them on and showing we're here to help seems like a good way to start."
M'gann found herself speaking, while on the TV the huntress and boy ran through a moonlight filled forest and the episode credits flashed by on screen.
"Yeah... and I want to see Marie- My mother again. And my little brother. Let them know what's happened. And," M'gann shifted her hand off Artemis and touched Conner's wrist. "That I'll be okay. That we'll all be okay."
As the episode ended, Kaldur reached for the remote and switched the VCR off. In its place, the TV focused on a new scene; a collection of familiar faces were assembled in an austere looking room. The most noticeable holes in the League lodge had been mended, making the location look good enough on television. The League themselves weren't looking too worse for wear, either.
Roy was there as well, looking a touch disheveled but still standing up straight with Oliver.
"The world is stranger than some might guess," Clark began speaking on the screen, launching into his speech. In a few short minutes, the existence of wolves would stop being a secret.
M'gann didn't find herself too scared at that idea.
"Stranger... but still good." She whispered, and smiled at the thought of a new year with her new pack.