He couldn't get her out of his mind.
Of all the possibilities he had imagined, this had not been one of them.
Her eyes, so beautifully expressive and hauntingly familiar as they looked at him with an ever-changing kaleidoscope of emotions. His pride as she'd refused to give in, standing up to him despite his knowing full well she hadn't stood a chance. Standing up to him even when it had to be clear to her she hadn't stood a chance. And, despite age and relative lack of experience and training, she was good. Very good. And that made him proud too.
Because despite his rage, despite the driving need to survive and to hate and to destroy which was all he could remember having known for nearly as long as he could remember, he'd still had enough sense to recognize the truth. In the instant they'd met, when he'd looked into her eyes and seen his own rage and hunger and hatred reflected back in her, he'd understood her completely and had loved her without hesitation simply because she existed. And because she was his.
His daughter. Ashley.
Despite her denial of his very existence, her mother hadn't been able to prevent that connection. Just as she hadn't been able to prevent his survival. Just as she hadn't been able to prevent his using Ashley to try to get what it was he'd truly been after.
Because he'd gone through with his plan, of course. He'd had no choice. Love had never stopped him before and it hadn't been about to stop him then. The rage had burned like a living fire within him, needing expression and outlet, consuming him as it drove all other concerns from his mind. Even love. And as he had known her mother would do anything to protect her daughter from harm, the actual risk had surely been relatively small.
Only, now everything had changed. Thanks to Tesla's attempts to turn him into a mindless vampiric drone, the rage was gone. It had dissipated in an instant; his hatred and driving need to survive disappearing with it. And he had known who he was and what he had become. And he'd only thought he'd felt hatred and loathing before.
If he could have killed himself at that moment, he would have, gladly and without hesitation, sending the monster within himself safely back to the hell in which it belonged. Yet that he could not do for, with the return of reason had come other things, and he had remembered what it really meant to love.
And he had learned, too, of other things. He knew that Tesla was going to kill Helen. His former friend might not even have realized it himself, but John still understood Helen better than the other man ever had and John knew it with absolute certainty. She would never go along with Tesla's insane plan; she would fight him to her last breath, and that's exactly what John was sure it would come to.
Only, Helen could not die. It was unacceptable, and must not happen, and he had to prevent it. There was only one person who could help him to do so.
Which meant he would have to face her again. Only this time it would not be to manipulate her into assisting with his plan or to manipulate others through her. He knew who she was now, and what she was. And only she had the information and the ability to help him save Helen.
But her help would not come easily, or cheaply. She had seen only the monster and knew nothing of the man within. Yet to show her that man, for her to understand that man, she had to first face that other monster. The one he had seen as he'd looked into eyes so surprisingly like his own. The one she kept as deeply buried as he had once kept his own. Only then could he hope for her to understand enough to trust him and to help him save Helen.
But in moments of complete honesty, which he tried to keep to a minimum, he had to admit to a deeper motive in seeking Ashley. He had to see her, to speak to her, to compel her to see the monster not simply to save Helen, but to save Ashley herself. Because he understood her like no one else could. And he understood that she needed him. Not simply to help save her mother - though she did need that - but to help her save herself. The monster would not sleep forever, and she would need his help if she were to have any chance at controlling it. Helen should have known that.
John did, though. And so he would do whatever was necessary to save both mother and child. Even remain alive.
Because he had finally remembered what love was.