Author’s note: This might not make sense if you haven’t read Chapter Six from the beginning. Basically, Hellboy is being made to relive certain portions of his past life from the vantage point of the year 2178, one hundred years after the death of Liz.

Of course, the main characters in what is below belong either to Mike Mignola, for the original comic, or Guillermo del Toro, for the film adaptation. ‘Lee’, the former FBI liaison, Walter Carlton, his daughter, Mindy, and the restaurant waitresses are characters original to me. Some are newly developed for this, but others derive from my previous Hellboy fics. Kate Corrigan derives from the original comics, but how I use her is mainly original to me.

Chapter Six: Liz Sherman

Fear of Fire: A Tale of Trust and LovePart Four

Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense
Newark, New Jersey, March 2015

Hellboy couldn’t believe his ears when Tom Manning, current director of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, informed him that he and Liz would be permitted to have a party to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary; a real party in any restaurant they chose, a party where they could invite anyone they wanted—not just their Bureau colleagues.

“And the FBI is going to pay for the whole shebang,” concluded Manning, finding it hard not to laugh at the stunned look on Hellboy’s face.

He suppressed the instinct; as improved as their relationship had become over the last decade, laughing at Hellboy was still not something Manning cared to do.

For once rendered speechless, an excited Hellboy literally turned tail and rushed off to inform Liz of the interesting turn of events.

As Manning watched, he couldn’t help recalling the return flight from Moscow in 2004. In many ways, he had been a very different person on that plane from the one who could see nothing more in Hellboy than an exasperating freak.

For the first time, he had been able to see Hellboy for what he truly was. Not a freak—but a son grieving the death of his father; a lover willing to risk all to save the woman he cherished; a man who, without a second thought for his own safety, had saved Manning’s life—someone who had never treated Hellboy with an ounce of respect.

Manning snapped himself out of this reverie. “Unlike Hellboy, who seems to have nothing better to do than lounge around with his ladylove, I actually have work,” he muttered, as he sat behind his desk.

Yet, it wasn’t the veritable pile of folders covering the surface of his desk that caught Manning’s eye, but a framed Polaroid picture of himself with Liz and Hellboy on the day of their wedding.

He hadn’t been surprised when Hellboy had chosen Abe Sapien to be his best man, or Liz had chosen Kate Corrigan to stand with her; or that long-time friend Walter Carlton and his daughter Mindy had been chosen to cater the reception held in Trevor Broom’s former office. But the fact that Liz had chosen Manning, himself, to give her away; that had surprised him.

Manning knew that Liz would have chosen Trevor Broom to give her away if he had still been alive. He was also aware that Hellboy, in his adoptive father’s regrettable absence, would have preferred a certain retired senator to be chosen for that honor. ‘Lee’, the liaison Manning had replaced in 1984, had almost been as close to Hellboy as Trevor Broom had been.

Unfortunately, Hellboy’s ‘uncle’ had been too unwell to attend the ceremony, having been very elderly by the time of the wedding. Manning, rather than feeling that Liz’s choice of him was as a last option, had been flattered she would even consider him.

He had already ingratiated himself with Hellboy and Liz right after Christmas of 2004, by overhauling, at his own expense, the fire retardant systems in Hellboy’s cement room—so that Hellboy’s favorite pyrokinetic could more easily share it. Consequently, when Liz had mentioned her choice of Manning to give her away, Hellboy had been willing to go along with it.

Reluctantly dragging his thoughts back to his less than interesting present, Manning opened a folder marked ‘URGENT’ and returned to his neglected labors.

Just recently turned forty years old, Elizabeth Sherman was still the same petite size she had been ten years before. She decided to wear to the party the dress that she had worn the day of her wedding. Kate Corrigan, who was further past her sixtieth birthday than she liked to recall, was also able to wear the same dress she had worn that day; chiefly by the means of a very rigorous diet designed to quickly erase some unwanted pounds.

As the two women went to get their hair done for the party, both recalled the day more than ten years before when they had gone shopping together for these dresses. They ended up purchasing their dresses at a wedding clothing warehouse in upstate New York that had very reasonable prices and carried all sizes in stock.

“I know Red truly believes that I should wear nothing but pure white,” Liz groaned, as she looked in the mirror at the dress she was trying on, “but with my complexion I look like a bride of Dracula.” Kate had been hard pressed not to laugh too hard at this accurate statement; with her pale skin and long dark hair, Liz did look more like she was wearing a shroud than a beautiful wedding dress.

Becoming more and more frustrated as the day wore on, Liz eventually tried on a dress in ivory satin and it was obvious that the color enhanced her complexion immensely. Yet, Liz and Hellboy were having an intimate ceremony with only a very small group in attendance. This elegant, floor-length gown was not at all the simple style Liz had been wishing for.

She was more than relieved when Kate managed to discover the perfect dress, hanging out of place in the section of the warehouse that held the bridesmaid’s dresses. Ankle-length, with a scooped neck and three-quarter sleeves, this dress had an ivory-satin under-dress covered by matching ivory lace.

The store attendant, as she marked where the dress needed to be taken in to accommodate Liz’s small frame, marveled at how such an unadorned dress could look so elegant. She then helped her to select the best shoes to go with the dress and a simple matching seed-pearl headpiece.

Then it was Kate’s turn to try to find an appropriate dress. After looking at some of the more traditional bridesmaid’s dresses on the warehouse racks, a beautiful aquamarine gown caught her eye. It was meant for a mother of the bride, but the style suited her and it was also ankle-length.

Kate looked lovely in the dress and it needed no adjustments, but the attendant pointed out that the dress wasn’t exactly typical for a maid of honor. “Certainly, the other women in the wedding party might not care for this more mature style,” she said in conclusion.

“It’s a very small wedding and Kate’s my only attendant,” Liz said with a smile. “Besides, it matches the best man’s eyes,” she added with a little wink at Kate.

Liz was perfectly calm the night before the anniversary party; but Hellboy lay awake, overwhelmed by vivid memories of the day of their wedding. It was the day he had married the most beautiful woman in the world, completely aware of how lovely she looked in the dress he was seeing for the first time; and equally aware that he would gladly marry her even if she was wearing nothing but sackcloth.

There had been a time, some years before Liz first came to the Bureau, when Hellboy was convinced he was in love with long-time friend, Kate Corrigan. But he eventually came to learn something that Kate had always known; he wasn’t truly ‘in love’ with her, no matter how intense their feelings for each other were or how good the sex had been.

Yet, in some ways, Hellboy had never loved Kate Corrigan more than the day he was married to Liz. As he watched Kate stand as Liz’s maid of honor, Kate had never looked more beautiful to him and he was glad that the two women he cared for most in the entire world had become such good friends.

Regardless of these pleasant memories, there was something else niggling at the back of his mind; like a memory hovering just on the edge of recall. He had this weird feeling that something very unpleasant was going to occur at the upcoming party. It was this that was keeping him awake.

He placed the feeling down to nerves; after all, they had never really had a party like this before. Pulling his mind back to memories of the best day of his life, Hellboy rolled over and finally fell asleep.

The Manhattan steakhouse Hellboy had chosen for the anniversary party held a great personal significance for him. In 1978, Trevor Broom had managed to arrange a Halloween costume party for his adopted son in that restaurant. It was the first and, for a very long time, the only party of this nature Hellboy had ever been able to attend.

That particular evening in 1978 ended up being one of the most momentous events of Hellboy’s life; having been both the catalyst for his romantic relationship with Kate Corrigan and the development of his great friendship with Walter Carlton and his daughter, Mindy. After Hellboy and Liz became better acquainted in the late 1990s, he informed her of the extraordinary outcome of that Halloween party; ending up with him saving Kate and Mindy from a giant demonic rat in December of 1978.

In 1979, Walter Carlton invested the money to purchase the steakhouse, making Mindy his partner. Hellboy occasionally ran away from the Bureau for a visit; years later, he also brought Liz with him. After the life-changing events of November of 2004, the FBI started to let Hellboy have more freedom in his personal life. He and Liz began to see more of Walter and Mindy, who tried to fill the gap left in their lives by Trevor Broom’s death. Hellboy and Liz could think of no other restaurant than Walt and Mindy’s where they would want to celebrate such a special anniversary.

Like Liz and Kate, both Hellboy and Abe were dressed in the same custom-made clothing they had worn for the wedding. Hellboy’s tuxedo was dark black. Abe’s was a charcoal gray that not only complimented the fish-man’s blue-green coloring, but also blended well with Kate’s aquamarine gown.

By the time the party had started, Hellboy had completely forgotten his anxiety of the night before. He had never enjoyed himself more; neither at that Halloween party in 1978, nor at his and Liz’s wedding reception exactly ten years before this evening. Even though he had been enjoying a completely legal existence for years, he finally felt he could really relax in public and just be himself.

The dance band the FBI had arranged for the affair was very good. After a few dances with Kate and his other female friends and many dances with Liz, Hellboy was very thirsty.

As he wandered over to the bar to fetch himself a mug of beer and Liz some white wine, Tom Manning came over to him. “Hellboy, I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve brought someone to the party that I think you and Liz should meet. The FBI’s finally appointed a new special operations director who will be taking over my duties on that end and I thought now would be a great time to introduce you.”

Taking a sip of his beer, Hellboy shrugged, “Kinda funny time to be meeting someone new, Manning.”

“Not that new, Red,” said an unexpected, but strangely familiar voice.

Hellboy turned away from a now grinning Manning, to find FBI Agent John Myers standing behind him; grinning even more broadly. Choking in surprise on the beer he had just swallowed, Hellboy set the drinks he had been carrying down on a nearby table and used his left hand to vigorously shake the hand that Myers had extended towards him.

“God, squirt, we haven’t seen you since before Liz and I got married. Just a few letters now and then. All we knew was that after the FBI pulled you off that BPRD assignment in England they had you teaching some ‘special’ courses at Quantico. It’s good to have you back where you belong.”

Hellboy grabbed up the drinks again and led Myers over to meet Liz, who had been standing and talking to Kate Corrigan, Abe Sapien, and a few other friends on the other side of the restaurant. Wondering what all the commotion had been about, Liz had just turned away from the others when she noticed who it was that was accompanying Hellboy and Manning across the room.

Smiling, Liz went to meet them; throwing her arms around Myers, she drew him into a long, tight hug. Ten years earlier, that might have driven Hellboy insanely jealous; but things had changed since then. Hellboy now knew that Liz loved him as much as he loved her. A friendship with John Myers was no longer looked upon as a threat.

“John, it’s been so long; too long,” Liz finally managed to say, “I know the FBI didn’t give you too much of a choice, but I hope we’ll see a lot more of you from now on.”

“Plenty more,” Myers laughed, “but you might get real sick of me real quick. As we are all aware, being Director of Special Operations and the BPRD liaison to the FBI is often a thankless position.”

Hellboy gave Myers’s shoulder a playful punch with his right hand, “Can’t be any worse than the jerk that used to have that job, Scout. Right, Manning?”

Hellboy had turned his head toward the now former liaison. Manning was laughing at the friendly jibe and trying to think of a good counter-insult. Kate and Abe, who were now standing arm-in-arm, grinned at the well-known banter between Hellboy and Manning.

Hours later, Hellboy could only wonder how anything so fun as this party could fall apart so quickly.

Just as Liz was laughing at the exchange between Hellboy and Manning, wondering what Manning’s comeback would be, she caught part of a whispered conversation between two waitresses.

“That guy who just turned up,” one of them was saying, “I heard someone say he once was interested in this Liz Sherman, but she chose that big, red guy instead of him.”

“I don’t get it,” said the other waitress, “both Liz and her friend Kate are really good looking women; either one of them could have any man she wants. Why throw themselves away on these freaks?”

Hellboy had very sharp hearing; even in the midst of laughing at the wisecrack Manning had just directed towards him, he had caught the whispered comments of the waitresses. He swung around just in time to see a sobbing Liz take off into the women’s restroom with Kate following after her.

To say that Hellboy felt mere anger would be an enormous understatement. His tuxedo abruptly felt about two sizes too small as he stormed over to confront one of the waitresses, who was only just then realizing that she and her currently nowhere-to-be-found friend had been overheard.

“You made my Lizzie cry,” Hellboy growled at the waitress, “How could you do that?” He shook off the calming hands of Abe Sapien, Tom Manning, and John Myers. Ominously lashing his tail, he moved even closer to the object of his wrath, tightly clenching and then unclenching his huge right hand.

The now trembling waitress shrank back from Hellboy’s furious onslaught, “Please, I… I didn’t mean… Please, don’t hurt me.” To her amazement, all of the anger abruptly drained out of Hellboy’s face, leaving his expression looking curiously bereft. He moved back a pace, holding up his left hand.

“I don’t hurt people. My father didn’t raise me like that.” He looked around at all of his friends and the restaurant wait staff who were now staring at him and the waitress.

“Air, I need some air; excuse me.” Hellboy turned and hurried out of the rear exit of the restaurant.

More to come …

Note: Liz’s wedding dress is based on my own, which was purchased in a wedding clothing warehouse in Titusville, Pa. I just transplanted the action to New York. I remember trying on white wedding dresses that made me look like death warmed over. I figured that if I looked so much better in ivory, then Liz with her even darker hair and more pale skin tone would look better in ivory as well.

Of course, my mother would have preferred virginal white; but after all, it was my wedding and I just loved the ivory dress that I found and it only cost $95. The photographer assured my mother that an ivory dress would look white in my wedding pictures. I carried a beautiful bouquet of white roses.

Author’s apology: Sorry for the long delay. On top of a major writer’s block (too many ideas battling to get in the story), I had a big choral concert to prepare, and managed to catch a bad cold (of course right before the major concert). Despite my cold, the concert was a big success and I finally figured out what I wanted to do with this update. Sometimes I find that writing some little Hellboy fics helps to snap me out of a writer’s block on this story, hence the other fics posted recently. Thanks to all who have been reviewing and also for your kind patience in waiting for an update.

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