Author’s note: If you haven’t read Part Ten please do so before reading this, as this follows directly after. Reminder: This is taking place on the Thursday before Easter in 1994.

Chapter Six: Liz Sherman

Fear of Fire: A Tale of Trust and LovePart Eleven

“The Professor isn’t a young man … massive heart attack … coma … he isn’t expected to survive…”

Hellboy found it impossible to completely absorb the words Abe Sapien had just spoken; his lungs seemed unable to take in any air whatsoever. Through an increasing buzzing in his ears, he could barely make out Abe’s voice speaking to him again.

“Red, you’re hyperventilating. Drop your head between your knees and take slow, deep breaths.”

Opening eyes he never remembered closing, Hellboy found that he, indeed, had his head between his knees and the huge breakfast Walter Carlton had fed him earlier that morning was threatening to end up all over the carpet. Allowing his eyes to drift closed again, Hellboy felt a cool webbed hand rub the back of his neck and he managed both to catch his breath and to control the churning of his stomach.

Abruptly surging up from the chair he had been sitting in, his tail lashing back and forth like a flag in a hurricane wind, Hellboy grabbed one of Abe’s arms with his left hand; his huge stone hand curled up into a tense fist. “My father… I… Oh, God, Blue, they have to let me see him. If they won’t, I’ll…”

“You’ll what?” Abe interjected, “Go there on your own? Get Walt to take you? Look, Red, do me a big favor and calm down instead of ripping my arm off. Things are being taken care of.”

“Things?” Hellboy asked as he collapsed back into the chair. “What things?”

Drawing another, smaller leather chair near to Hellboy’s chair, Abe sat down. “It seems that the Professor has had several advance directives drawn up enumerating his wishes should he become incapacitated in some way. One such document deals with just such a hospitalization and stipulates that you must be permitted, within reason, to visit with him if you so wish. As soon as everything is arranged you will be taken to see him.”

“Tom Manning is actually willing to go along with that?” Hellboy was doubtful of this, considering his decade-long adversarial relationship with the man who had replaced ‘Lee’ as FBI liaison.

Abe nodded. “I get the impression that Doctor Manning is hesitant to contravene the Professor’s express wishes; at least not as long as the Professor is still alive. Though I am certain the FBI is going over the arrangements for getting you to Beth Israel Hospital with a fine-tooth comb. The fact that you took off on your own the other night isn’t helping.”

“No,” Hellboy said in a low voice, “The fact that I took off on my own the other night didn’t help at all. If my father dies, it’ll be my own goddamn fault. I should’ve been there when that second demon turned up. Then this wouldn’t have happened.”

Abe leaned forward and touched Hellboy’s shoulder. “This wasn’t the type of entity that fists and mere bullets, even your specially designed ones, could have completely dealt with. The Professor is generally more adept than you at dealing with the kinds of entities that need to be subdued and banished through incantations. I doubt your being there would have made that much of a difference. The Professor would probably still have ended up banishing that entity; with much the same result.”

Pulling away from Abe, Hellboy got up from his chair. Wandering over to the round fireplace in the center of the office, he threw a log onto the waning fire. He just stood there in silence, watching the fire begin to consume the new log. After a long while, he spoke again. “It doesn’t matter if it would’ve made a difference or not, Blue, I should’ve been there Tuesday night when that second demon turned up; standing right by my father’s side.”

Hellboy turned away from the fire, back toward Abe, “Instead of that, I’m off running after a girl who doesn’t want to be found; and then, while my father’s lying in a coma, I’m enjoying myself watching a stupid movie and eating popcorn.”

“Red, I’m sure the Professor …” Abe started to say; but Hellboy cut him off.

“I’m gonna go and sit in the chapel for a while. Get me when they’re ready to take me to see him.” Without another word, Hellboy turned and walked out.

The usually bustling corridors seemed oddly deserted, but Hellboy was too wrapped up in almost overwhelming emotions to notice much. Making his way into the Bureau Medical Wing, he pulled open the door to the small chapel and entered. That was when the true enormity of what had happened to Trevor Broom hit him like a ton of bricks.

Almost on a kind of autopilot, he worked his way up to the front of the chapel and collapsed to his knees in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary. He found himself too painfully reminded of when he had been fourteen years old. Trevor Broom, then located in the Bureau Medical Facility in Boston for cancer treatment, had suffered an almost fatal heart attack from a reaction to an arthritis drug.

Closing his eyes, he tried to pray; but there was only one set of words that kept repeating in his head. ‘I swore that I would forever be there to protect him; some promise that turned out to be.’

Hellboy had no idea how long he had been kneeling there, when a hand gently touched his shoulder. Thinking that he was finally being summoned to visit his father in the hospital, Hellboy eagerly heaved himself up from the floor; almost knocking over a priest in the process.

Father Orrin Jerrold had occasionally worked with Father Ed Kelly in the Bureau facilities in Boston. O.J., as Hellboy liked to call him, had come to Newark to conduct the Holy Week services that would usually be handled by the older priest. Father Ed, still recuperating from very serious injuries that occurred the last time he had worked with Hellboy, had gone on a trip to the Balkans earlier that year.

Orrin hadn’t really known Hellboy for very long, but had seen enough to know that his affection for his adoptive father, if usually unexpressed, ran very deep. He had understood, as soon as he had heard of Trevor Broom’s grave physical state, that Hellboy would be devastated when he heard the news.

“No, I’m sorry, H.B.; there’s no word about your father yet. Not as far as I’ve heard,” Orrin found himself replying to a breathless, practically inarticulate, query from a distraught seven-foot-tall demon with a tail and a huge stone hand that seemed to have lives of their own. “I’m afraid that I will have to interrupt your solitude here. I need to get ready for Mass.”

“Mass? You usually don’t have Mass in the middle of the day, O.J.” Hellboy struggled to pull himself together as he realized that a group of Bureau personnel were entering the chapel to assist Orrin.

“Remember, today’s Holy Thursday and I’ve got three different services at 12:00, 3:00, and 6:00. You’re welcome to stay for the Noon Mass, of course. I know your father would be pleased if you did.”

Hellboy nodded. “You know, Pop’s been wanting me to go to Mass with him recently and I told him I wasn’t interested in church anymore. I want so bad to be able to take that back, but it’s too late.”

“Remember, H.B., in the eyes of the Lord it’s never too late. Go ahead and stay.” Orrin spoke as he arranged some beautiful flowers near the altar. For him, Holy Thursday and its celebration of the institution of the Eucharist was always a bright spot in the penitential season of Lent—a calm hiatus before the grim darkness of Good Friday.

Hellboy shook his head. “I can’t stay for Mass, O.J.,” he sighed, “I feel so … so …” He couldn’t go on.

“Sinful? Unworthy? Welcome to the club, H.B. That’s why we’re all here.” Wrapping an arm around Hellboy’s shoulders, Orrin escorted him to the back row of the chapel; where in the middle of that row was a larger seat designed just for Hellboy.

“Mass will begin in about twenty minutes, H.B.,” said Orrin, giving Hellboy’s shoulder a squeeze as he encouraged him to sit in his seat, “I just need to go and get into my vestments. I’ll be back soon.”

Orrin exited, turning the chapel lights on brighter as he left; the other people who had been with him soon followed after, leaving Hellboy sitting alone in a now brightly lit chapel. Closing his eyes against these lights, Hellboy felt the first tear that he had shed since Abe’s ‘bad news’ track down his cheek.

After what seemed like a long time, but was probably no more than several minutes, Hellboy heard people begin to enter in order to attend the Mass. Just before the service was to begin, when the chapel was filled with the hushed prayer of the other congregants, Hellboy sensed rather than heard that someone had sat down in the seat to his left that was usually occupied by Trevor Broom.

An odd hope stirred in his heart, even though he knew it to be impossible; he would open his eyes and find his father there—just as he always was when they attended Mass together. Eyes still closed, Hellboy turned toward the occupant of his father’s usual seat; arms came around him and pulled him into a tight embrace. A slight scent of what still smelled like peaches to him almost broke his heart.

“The Bureau and the FBI sent me telegrams,” Kate whispered just as the Mass was beginning.

She didn’t need to say anything further; Hellboy understood that for as long as he and Trevor Broom needed her, Kate would delay her move to Pittsburgh. Regardless of what shifts were occurring in his relationship with her, Hellboy was beginning to understand that their long-time friendship was as strong as it had ever been; maybe even stronger. He knew that Kate would eventually complete her move to Pittsburgh, but would always return to be right there by his side if he needed her.

As comforting as this thought was, it just made Hellboy feel even guiltier for his abandonment of a man who had always been there for him. He tried to empty his mind and attempt to pay attention to the music, readings, and sermon of one of the most solemn of the Catholic holidays.

But his mind and heart kept coming back to one idea; he had abandoned his father for a girl he wasn’t sure understood how much she meant to him, or even cared that he cared.

And the worst part was that he wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t do it again.

More to come…

Author’s afterword: I’ve got a big weekend ahead of me. A conference for professional Tarot Card readers and, on the same weekend, a big concert to perform. So I’ve posted this much of what I’ve written and, hopefully, will be able to get back on track after this weekend is over.

I love Tarot and performing music as much as I love Hellboy and writing my fics. I just wish I had more free time to indulge all of my passions, but life just doesn’t work that way.

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