Author’s notes: This follows after Part Fifteen. Won’t make sense without the previous parts. I’m planning this more as a series of scenes showing the developing relationship between Hellboy, Abe and Broom, rather than necessarily a continuous narrative. Kate Corrigan is planning on reappearing at some later point, as are some of my original characters.

All of the rest of this 1978 section will be taking place in and around Newark and New York City between the beginning of December and New Year’s Day of 1979.

Chapter Five: Abe Sapien: Sibling Rivalry: Part Sixteen

The physical ramifications of Hellboy’s possession by the demon had been dire; he had almost died several times during his stay in the Medical Facility in Boston. But once his body decided to heal it was almost like nothing had ever happened. He always recuperated very quickly from all of his injuries and rare instances of illness.

Abe, on the other hand, even if never so close to death as Hellboy, took much longer to heal. In November he had to go through some reconstructive surgery on his shoulder joint and surgery to re-set a broken collarbone. After that came weeks of physical therapy to regain the use of, and to further strengthen, his injured shoulder.

Yet, no matter how physically slight Abe appeared, the fish-man proved to be remarkably resilient, both physically and emotionally. He determined to make good use of the extra time on his hands. He pursued various extra exercises to even further increase his physical strength in preparation for again going out into the field with Hellboy. He also expanded his mind by studying all sorts of texts on various subjects of interest.

One field of expertise that Abe decided to delve into was medicine. He read up as many texts as he could get his hands on dealing both with human medicine and veterinary science. He then studied all of the unique documents about himself and Hellboy. It was his intention to turn himself into the Bureau medic.

Abe hoped this would be of use for future Bureau missions that turned sour and agents were injured. It would save Trevor Broom the trouble of calling in EMTs and then having to go to the further trouble of debriefing them as to the nature of his operation. The calling in of outside help could then be reserved for only the direst emergencies.

With Trevor Broom’s assistance Abe also began to teach himself all the major European languages. It amused Abe to notice that many of the textbooks he was using must have at one time belonged to Hellboy. He recognized the rather blocky handwriting that appeared in some of these textbooks as belonging to his ‘older brother’. Abe pointed this out to Broom, wondering when this least studious of demons had ever used these books.

Broom smiled, “Yes, I am afraid my son does not appear as a paragon of studiousness, but he is actually very intelligent and one of his strongest fields of knowledge is foreign languages. Many of the European languages he knows well were taught to him in his teen years by the tutors I had hired for his education. Hellboy has an almost photographic memory; once he bothers to learn something he almost never forgets it.”

Broom pointed out the copy Abe was holding of Beaumarchais’s Le Mariage de Figaro. “Hellboy read this to me when I was in the early part of my hospitalization in 1959, translating on the spot from French into English.”

Broom smiled at the old memory of pouring through the text together with Hellboy while confined to his hospital bed and waiting for news of his diagnosis. He recalled how pleased Hellboy had been with demonstrating what he had learned, how amused he had been with the antics of Beaumarchais’s characters, and how grateful he was with any help that Broom could give him with words he was having difficulty with.

Broom still wondered at times what direction Hellboy would have gone in if his temperament had been more like his own; if most of Hellboy’s strongest role models, outside of Broom himself, had not been the less-educated, if brave and loyal, military agents he had served with fighting against the Nazis in Argentina in the 1950s.

He began to wonder if Abe’s influence on Hellboy might not be a good one. Maybe it might not be too late for his son to learn to love studying more.

By this time it was around the second week of December and Abe was still working his way through the major works of French literature. He had recently been spending a lot more time in Hellboy’s company, especially hanging out in Hellboy’s large room playing cards, watching television and movies, and learning to eat Chinese food with chopsticks.

There were still frictions between them, but ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ had started to think of each other as ‘brothers’— as ‘family’. This made it easier to ignore these frictions and to grant forgiveness for, mainly unintentional, slights and insults. It also became much easier to recognize the difference between friendly teasing and bantering and true resentments.

Abe, being more even-tempered than the much more explosive Hellboy, found this all just a little easier. Abe had also come to realize that buried down underneath the big guy’s often abrasive manner and sometimes-petty resentments was a true caring for him. Once Abe came to understand this, he found it much easier to ignore or defuse potentially irritating encounters.

Hellboy, once he had come to the understanding that Abe actually did think well of him, found it easier to see that what often seemed a supercilious affectation could just be discounted as Abe’s usual manner of expression. Hellboy’s anger at Abe seldom lasted very long and he tried not to let little annoyances build up into full-blown resentments.

One afternoon, several days after the conversation on languages with Broom, Abe was sitting at the large round metal table in Hellboy’s room playing poker with him, which was always an interesting experience. Hellboy was not really a very good player and at one point angrily tossed all of his cards at Abe.

“Damn it, Blue, I quit. You’re cheating. You’ve been reading my mind again. That’s the only way that I can think of for you winning hand after hand.” Hellboy got up from the table, relit the cigar in his mouth, and flopped himself down on the edge of his bed.

Abe picked up all of the cards that had fallen to the floor. “Look, Red, I promised you that I would never again read your thoughts without permission and I have stopped doing so. There’s nothing psychic about it; all I need is my two eyes. When you have a bad hand you chew your cigar to bits and lash your tail back and forth; when you have a good hand you smoke your cigar really fast and curl your tail up tight. I can even tell when you’re going to attempt to cheat: you squint and curl your tail up into a corkscrew.”

Hellboy started to snicker, “Am I really that bad, Blue?”

“Yes, Red, you really are that bad,” Abe said as he returned all of the cards to the cardboard box that they had come out of.

Hellboy fell back on the bed and roared with laughter, almost dropping his lit cigar onto the pile of blankets on the seldom-made bed. He sat back up and dropped the cigar to the cement floor of the room and stamped it out. “Can I help it if I wasn’t born with your fish-face? You should play poker for a living. You could make a ton of money with a poker face like that.”

He then got up to help Abe clean up the table. He tossed away remnants of food and drinks and swept the buttons they had been using for ‘poker chips’ back into the old wooden hinged-lid cigar box they had come out of.

He didn’t even need to count up the buttons before returning them to the cigar box; it was obvious who had won more of these. This box had once belonged to Broom’s grandfather, who enjoyed the occasional cigar and glass of brandy. It was he who had started to use the old box to collect up buttons and studs that had fallen from his shirts. Broom had kept the box of buttons for sentimental reasons after his grandfather had passed on and added his own buttons to the collection.

All of these saved buttons had certainly come in handy in the year after Hellboy’s fifth birthday. Broom had resigned his position with the BPRD in order to keep sole custody of Hellboy and stop further drastic testing on him. By that time Hellboy was outgrowing his clothes on a daily basis and Broom used many of these buttons in sewing or altering his clothes in a desperate attempt to save money.

Hellboy himself had a sentimental attachment to this box. When he had been very small he used to play around with the box pretending that it was a pirate’s treasure chest full of jewels and gold doubloons. After Broom had regained his position as director of the BPRD upon its relocation to Boston, he had let Hellboy take this box with him on field operations into Argentina in the mid-fifties.

Hellboy was close to his full height before he was quite twelve years old and was already noted for his absolute formidability in the field by the older agents who supervised him. But that did not keep him from being dreadfully homesick when separated from Broom for months on end. The cigar box, buttons and all, went with him on every trip into Argentina until the final defeat of the Nazis in 1958. And it was there that he had learned, or at least attempted to learn, how to play poker.

On his final return from Argentina, Hellboy had returned the now scratched and dented cigar box to Broom. However, he never went out on a field operation after that without carrying several buttons for good luck secreted somewhere in the pouches of his utility belt along with his enormous gun, various talismans, and other weapons.

In recent years he had often brought out the box of buttons for friendly games of poker with the BPRD agents who served as his liaisons. After this absolute rout by Abe, he was beginning to wonder how many of these agents, fearing his temper, had let him win a few times just to keep him happy.

Hellboy laughed again as he tossed the last of the buttons into the old wooden box. He then dug into a pile of magazines on the floor next to an old couch, eventually retrieving the current issue of TV Guide. He tossed the magazine to Abe; “It’s your turn to pick something for us to watch. Just no more educational crap, huh, Blue?”

“No more PBS Nova, Red? How about these re-runs of Columbo? Looks interesting.”

Hellboy shrugged, “It’s not a bad show. Pop always liked it and I used to watch it with him. The guy in it’s kind of funny, but you know he’s supposed to be based on that detective from Crime and Punishment.”

“Really? You mean Dostoevsky?” Abe looked up from his perusal of the magazine, “How do you know that?”

“It’s something I read in TV Guide back when the show was first on; I could see what they meant too.”

Abe dropped the magazine in surprise. “You’ve read Crime and Punishment?

Hellboy grinned so broadly that Abe began to suspect he was teasing him. “Sure, I read it when I was in Argentina—in Russian too.”

“I know that the Professor told me that you were good with languages—but Russian? You’re kidding me, right?”

“Learned it from a guy we all called Dmitri. Never did find out what his real name was. If there was one thing he hated it was Nazis. He continued working with Pop even after the end of the war when the Soviets weren’t supposed to be our friends anymore. I got trapped with him in a cave on one trip; we both saved each other’s lives. He taught me to speak Russian while we were waiting to get dug out and then taught me to read and write it later on that same trip.”

Hellboy turned from Abe and went to one of the far corners of his room where he had a pile of old comic books and a stack of videotapes of his favorite movies. He dug through this down to an old cardboard box and dragged it out. Abe moved closer as Hellboy opened it and pulled out a few items carefully wrapped in cloth. He unwrapped one of these and it was a beautiful leather-bound edition, in Cyrillic, of this book. He opened it to an early page at random and read aloud to Abe, translating into English as he read.

He was so badly dressed that even a man accustomed to shabbiness would have been ashamed to be seen in the street in such rags. In that quarter of the town, however, scarcely any shortcoming in dress would have created surprise.”

Hellboy smiled up at Abe who stared at his ‘brother’ in amazement.

“Red, can you teach me to do that?”

Hellboy handed him the beautiful book, “Sure, Brother Blue, why not?”

More to come…

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