Author’s notes: This follows right after Part Sixteen and is taking place the evening of Halloween 1994. I must apologize for the delay in submitting this. I've been in a terrible writer's block on this chapter. The first part of this chapter was written a long time ago and just sat unfinished. Then some new fan fiction writing friends started challenging each other to just sit down and write for an hour. I joined in and even though I'm still not the fastest writer in the world I managed to get this update finished. Many thanks to those who are still following this story.

A reminder about Chapter Six—The time periods covered in this are not necessarily linear. In Part One and Part Two it was established that these narratives are Hellboy remembering how he first met and fell in love with Liz from the vantage point of a century after her death. These memories are more ordered in terms of emotional content, not chronology; with the easier memories being recalled earlier than the more problematic ones. Dealing with any revelations from "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army", this story was established long before that film was even a twinkle in Guillermo del Toro's eye. Nothing that I've already written in Hellboy's Family is that far off from the new film, but I'm not going out of my way to change things in this story to fit the new movie.

Chapter Six: Liz Sherman

Fear of Fire: A Tale of Trust and LovePart Seventeen

Hellboy sat in a chair in one of the private rooms in the Bureau’s Medical Wing. This chair was a bit too small for his size; but the discomfort of this was his least concern. All of his attention was focused on the young woman lying unconscious on the bed in the room.

He shifted his bulk in the uncomfortable chair and pondered the information that Trevor Broom had just given him. Liz, under Doctor Charles Heyling’s care at the Bellamie Hospital, had improved considerably in her control of her powers. She and a few other women from the hospital had been granted the privilege of attending the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village.

Hellboy again shifted in the chair, not wanting to think any further on what had brought Liz so unexpectedly back to the Bureau. Against his will, his eyes drifted closed. Exhaustion was finally catching up with him. Dealing with the emotions of investigating the death of Ed Kelly in the Balkans, having once again to say farewell to Kate Corrigan, and now this new crisis with Liz, had definitely made it difficult to get any sleep.

He had no idea how long he had been asleep when he felt a hand squeeze his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Trevor Broom standing next to him, appearing almost as tired as he felt himself.

“Son, you have barely slept and have eaten nothing in more than twenty-four hours. It doesn’t appear that Liz will be waking anytime soon. There is no reason…”

As somber as his thoughts had been before he fell asleep, Hellboy found it hard not to smile.

“Kinda the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it, Pop? You don’t look that fresh yourself.”

Trevor Broom smiled back and squeezed Hellboy’s shoulder again, “Maybe not, Son; but I’m not as young as I once was. If I hadn’t had a little sleep and food recently, I would probably keel over. Frankly, you look as exhausted as I’ve ever seen you looking. Get something to eat and go to bed.”

Hellboy recognized the tone in Trevor Broom’s voice; he wasn’t merely being addressed as his ‘son’, but as one of his most important operatives. Being as well rested as possible was certainly a prerequisite for the work he did for the Bureau.

Nodding, Hellboy stood up. “Did they ever catch the guys that, you know…” he trailed off, still unable to wrap his mind around the idea of men trying to force themselves onto unwilling young women.

The slight smile Trevor Broom had on his face faded, making him look even more tired than before.

“That was the news that interrupted my sleep. Three drunken men turned up in the Beth Israel Hospital emergency room with their hands covered by third-degree burns. The attending physician’s suspicions were aroused that none of these men had a coherent account of the causes of the burns. To make a long story short, all three men are now in custody. The women from Bellamie Hospital that Liz had protected from their unwelcome advances made a positive identification of them.”

Hellboy clenched his huge stone fist, a look of anger replacing his earlier worry. “It’s a good thing I wasn’t around when those guys tried that, Pop. They’d have a lot more than singed fingers.”

Shaking his head, Trevor Broom once again relaxed into an affectionate grin. “I can just imagine what would have happened if you were there, Son. I must say that I am impressed with the amount of control Charles Heyling has been able to teach Liz. She emitted no further fire than was needed to force those men away. I am more concerned with what happened after.”

He moved closer to Liz’s bed and checked the monitors. “Once Liz realized that her friends were safe, she went completely catatonic and no one has been able to wake her. As far as Charles or I can tell, there’s no physical reason for her to be unconscious. Charles believes that she still blames herself for any manifestation of her powers, regardless of necessity. He felt that it was best she return here, where we have better fireproofed facilities, until we can fully ascertain what her reaction to this episode will be. We are concerned that self blame could undermine what work he has done with her.”

Trevor Broom gently pushed back some hair from Liz’s forehead. She was now wearing it cut into a short bob rather than the longer style she had when she first arrived to the Bureau two years before. He looked up at Hellboy again, “Son, I’m afraid that Liz will never truly gain the control she wishes to have until she embraces and works with her talent rather than trying to completely suppress it.”

Grasping a tighter hold of his cane, he turned away from Liz and limped toward the door.

“Come, Son, we both should try to get some more rest. Make sure you eat something.”

Looking back longingly at the unconscious figure in the bed, Hellboy heaved a sigh and then obediently followed his adoptive father out of the room.

Hellboy woke in the early afternoon of November 1st from what seemed a dreamless slumber. It had been a long time since he had any nightmares related to this date. He was never completely clear what these nightmares pertained to, but had been glad when they stopped toward the end of 1978. Still, something about this date bothered him and, once he awoke, there was no getting back to sleep.

The calendar date, combined with his anxiety over Liz, made him more restless than usual and he decided to go foraging to the main Bureau kitchen for lunch rather than having it sent to his room. Once he arrived to the kitchen, though, his appetite again dwindled to nothing. The only reason why he had even forced himself to eat a little for breakfast was on Trevor Broom’s insistence that he eat.

Wandering back to the Medical Wing, almost on an automatic pilot, Hellboy once again found himself in Liz’s room where she still lay unconscious. Trevor Broom was there, speaking with Dr. Frank Cobb, now the chief surgeon of the facility. They both looked up as Hellboy walked in.

“I wondered how long it would be before you turned up again, Son,” Broom said with a little smile, “Frank believes that indications show that Liz should be coming out of this some time soon.”

Hellboy nodded. “Is it okay if I sit here again?”

Trevor Broom looked over to Dr. Cobb, who nodded and said, “Red, as long as I’m in charge around here you’re always welcome. Just don’t bother the nurses too much and stop raiding the Medical Wing staff kitchen,” he added as he went past Hellboy into the corridor, “my people have been complaining that their lunches are going missing.”

Hellboy laughed, and then turned toward Trevor Broom, who was still in the room. “Not that I’ve had too much appetite recently, anyway. Well, Pop, at least you look better rested.”

“As do you, Son,” Broom said with a smile. “Just don’t stay too long. I suspect that you haven’t eaten lunch and would rather you not skip supper as well.”

After his father left, Hellboy sat down on the same too-small chair he had been sitting on before and watched Liz sleep. He tried to remind himself that Dr. Cobb had said that she once again was sleeping naturally instead of being in a coma, but that just made him more restless.

The chair that had been merely uncomfortable before seemed torturous now. He finally got up, moved closer to Liz’s bed, and sat on the floor right next to it; just as he had done when he was fourteen years old and thought Trevor Broom was going to die from cancer.

Yet, what he was going through now was nothing like the agony he had felt then. Liz wasn’t dying. That wasn’t what the problem was. He was falling in love with her.

“No,” he muttered to himself as he gently took hold of a too cold hand with his normal-sized left hand, “I’m already in love with her.” Martha Wilson had known it. Kate had known it. That was one of several reasons why Kate had taken that job in Pittsburgh.

What he was unsure about was what Liz felt and he was uncomfortable with broaching the topic. Sixteen years before, when he thought he was falling in love with his long-time friend Kate Corrigan, the whole thing had seemed so different. Kate had been an adult, sexually active woman. They just seemed to slide into a new stage in their relationship.

What he felt for Liz just wasn’t the same as he had felt for Kate. He now understood that Kate was right when she told him that he had never truly been in love with her. There was something more in what he felt for Liz; but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He just knew that he was in love.

Part of him still couldn’t help feeling like he was robbing the cradle. Liz wasn’t yet nineteen years old. The other part of him knew that he was falling head over heels for a young woman who, when he first met her when she had been eleven years old, had seemed almost like a little sister. If he looked at it that way, what he felt for Liz wasn’t really all that different from what he had felt for Kate.

Yet, as he gently raised the still cold hand to his lips, he knew that, unlike Kate, there would never be another who would take Liz’s place. She was his soul mate in a way that no one else would ever be.

As he lowered her hand again, he felt it move in his and his heart almost stopped beating.

Her eyes opened. As she came to realize where she was and who was holding her hand, she pulled it away and turned her back on him, facing the wall.

“Lizzie,” he whispered, rising up on his knees and leaning forward, “C’mon, kid, look at me.”

She shrugged and turned back. “So, how many did I kill this time, huh?”

“No one, kiddo. They just got burnt fingers. You did good. Pop thinks so. Dr. Heyling thinks so. Your friends certainly think so.”

Liz weakly tried to sit up. Hellboy nervously fiddled with some controls to raise the head of her bed, but when he tried to help her sit up, Liz pushed him away.

“I still lost control, H.B. What good is all of my supposed training here and the hospitalizations in that stupid Bellamie hospital, if the first time I get to go out, I hurt people again.”

Hellboy stood up from the floor and paced around the small room, lashing his tail in his agitation. “Those guys weren’t people, Liz. Those bastards tried to rape you and your friends.” He moved back toward her bed. “You scared those guys off. It was the right thing to do and you didn’t go too far. What more do you want? You have the right to defend yourself.”

Liz, already appearing stronger, sat up further. “Stop it, H.B. I don’t want to defend myself, at least not that way. I want to be a girl who uses what other girls use to keep the creeps off her. Being able to set them on fire with what your father insists on calling my ‘talent’ isn’t it.”

She turned away with a sob, drawing the sheets closer. “It’s not a ‘talent’. It’s what killed my parents and thirty-something other people eight years ago. I just want it to go away.”

Hellboy drew the chair closer and sat down with a sigh. “It won’t go away, Liz. You’ll just have to learn to live with it.”

She angrily turned in the bed to face him again, “I don’t want to learn to live with it, H.B.”

She then collapsed back onto her pillows with a sigh. “I know you’re right, though. It won’t go away. But that doesn’t mean I have to use it. I went to Dr. Heyling to learn to control this ‘talent’ of mine. I’ll just have to go back and work harder.”

Shaking his head, Hellboy managed to keep from saying anything further; knowing that it would take a lot more than mere words to help Liz. “Well, I guess I’d better go tell Pop you’re awake again.”

“I don’t want to see him,” Liz shouted as he started into the corridor. “I just want to get out of here.”

Hellboy moved back toward the bed. “You’re gonna hafta to see him, Lizzie. Better now than later.”

Liz looked up as the seven-foot, scarlet-skinned giant came and stood next to her bed. He could see in her face that she was just starting to understand something.

“They’re not letting me go back to the hospital, are they? They’re going to make me stay here.”

He shrugged. “You’ll have to talk with Pop, Liz.”

She sat up further in the bed, her hands clenched in the thin sheet covering her. “He can’t hold me here against my will.”

“Liz, you know he’d never do that. He’ll just want to talk to you, see if he can help.”

Liz collapsed back on to her pillow. “No one can help me. Why can’t he see that?”

Hellboy sat back down on the floor next to her bed and took her hand again. “You don’t stay long enough to let him help, Lizzie. You can’t keep running away, you know.”

She closed her eyes in defeat. “Yeah, I know. That’s why I finally checked into that hospital. I really thought it was working until those guys turned up last night.”

Hellboy squeezed her hand. “Liz, it won’t work until you accept that you will always be unique.”

She yanked her hand away abruptly. “I don’t want to be unique.”

Hellboy couldn’t help smiling. “You know, I said that same thing when I was five years old. There are times you have to let go of what you want, especially if you can’t change what you are.”

Sitting up in the bed again, Liz stared at Hellboy for a long moment. In a way, it was like she was seeing him for the first time. “It’s different with me,” she finally said, “You can’t hide what you are, but I can. Once I get this thing under control no one will ever know that I’m not just like them.”

Hellboy blinked at this, hurt that rather than trying to understand him, Liz latched on to the fact that she was human and he wasn’t. Clearing his throat, he started to say something; then looking away, he stayed silent.

The silence seemed to stretch into an eternity before he felt a small hand touch his cheek.

“I’m sorry, H.B.,” he heard Liz say as he continued to look at the floor, “That didn’t come out right.”

“That’s okay, kid. I know you’re right,” he sighed, taking her hand again, but not quite looking at her. “I can’t hide what I am. But you can’t either and you’re gonna find that out the hard way.”

After sitting on the floor and holding her hand for another moment of silence, Hellboy looked up into Liz’s now tear-filled dark eyes. “You know that my father won’t make you stay, but I wish you would. I worry like hell when I don’t know where you are or how you’re doing, Lizzie.”

“All I want is a normal life, Hellboy,” Liz said, using the name that she usually avoided speaking, “Normal isn’t something I’m going to get around here.”

“How normal was it in that mental hospital, Liz?” A smoldering anger began to well up as he recalled how Trevor Broom was almost killed while Hellboy ran around trying to find Liz. “I’ll tell you what, kiddo, normal ain’t something you’re gonna get out there. This is the only place you’ll ever really fit in and you’d better learn to live with it.”

Standing up from the floor, Hellboy stalked out without a second glance at the troubled young woman.

More to come...

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