Author’s note: This follows after Part Seventeen and is taking place in the wee hours of 12/18/1994.
Chapter Six: Liz Sherman
Fear of Fire: A Tale of Trust and Love—Part Eighteen
Often, when Hellboy wasn’t being grounded or wishing just to be left alone, the large metal door to his room stood slightly ajar. Anyone, including Trevor Broom at times, who felt the need for an evening break with a good movie, could stop by. There was one light rap at the door that, when it came, would always send Hellboy’s heart into his throat. This evening it came just after midnight.
“Hi, H.B.” That’s what Liz always said when she turned up. Even he could hear that she didn’t sound quite right this time. Her short, dark hair was mussed and she was clad in the sleeveless black tee shirt and dark shorts she usually slept in. The lateness of the hour, coupled with the quaver in her voice and state of dress, told him that she had been wakened by a nightmare; the kind that was always filled with wells of fire and screaming people.
“Hiya, Lizzie. Channel Nine just started broadcasting Casablanca. Great movie. Why don’t you stay and watch it with me?”
As he slid over on the old leather car seat he used as a couch, Liz nodded, shrugged, and sat down next to him. Tucking her bare feet up underneath her, she tightly clasped her hands in her lap, almost as if praying. Hellboy knew this was not a good sign that she had any peaceful sleep earlier.
Still, Liz didn’t say anything of what was bothering her; just pretended to concentrate on the screen in front of them. Hellboy’s many other televisions were still flickering in the darkness of the rest of that cavernous cement-floored room; but he had lowered all sound except the one he was watching.
“So, kid, have you ever seen this flick? They don’t make ‘em like this any more, you know.”
Liz cleared her throat, and then spoke almost with a sigh. “No, when I was hanging out on the streets of Portland, the Laurelhurst’s cheap screen was on a silent movie kick. That’s why I know so many Charlie Chaplin films.”
“Did you …” Whatever else Hellboy was going to ask was cut off.
“Let’s keep watching, H.B. If it’s as good as you say it is, why should you keep me from seeing it?”
Leaning back, he suppressed any further desire for conversation. He always thought it was funny that he usually cared less about carrying on mindless chatter with most people; but he would do almost anything to keep Liz talking when she was around. He just wanted to hear her voice.
As they continued watching, Hellboy would occasionally glance over at Liz. She was being very careful not to sit too close to him; always a sign that something was really bothering her. Yet, little by little, he noticed that she became ever more engrossed in that classic tale of the struggle between true love and duty. It was one of his favorite things in the world when he could introduce Liz to something she really enjoyed. She had missed out on so much in her short, but chaotic life.
During each commercial break in the film, he noted that Liz slid over closer to him; so that by the time it was reaching the final scenes, she was practically leaning into his left side. He lightly brought his left arm and normal-sized hand around her shoulders and pulled her closer.
Hellboy felt Liz’s head relax onto his chest, just as the film was winding down to those timeless lines, ‘Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’
She was silent for so long that, at first, he thought she had fallen asleep.
Closing his eyes, Hellboy let himself drift without falling completely asleep. He knew that he had to be alert to any potential pyrokinetic manifestations. Anything from small blazes to huge conflagrations could result from Liz’s nightmares when she lost control.
Even if he himself was invulnerable, he had no wish for all of his belongs to go up in a puff of smoke. He also had his pet cats to think of as well. Most of these were curled up on the mattress in the back of his pickup truck or lying on top of warm television sets and other comfortable surfaces.
He was startled out of his reverie by the sound of Liz’s voice.
“I can still hear them screaming, all those people I killed.” She buried her face closer into his chest. “The more I try to block them out, the louder they scream.”
Hellboy gently stroked her hair. “That screaming you hear? It’s not real. Remember that.”
“What do you mean, it’s not real,” Liz snapped, raising her head to look him in the eye, “I’ve killed a lot of people because of who I am, what happens when I lose it. Just because I don’t actually remember except in my dreams, doesn’t make it unreal, H.B.”
Hellboy couldn’t help thinking of the one man he could turn to for advice in the few times he had anxieties he was reluctant to share with Trevor Broom. A twinge of grief came as he recalled counsel that had once been given to him by the priest whose picture was still in the breast pocket of the shirt he had on. Hellboy felt his jaw clench. Too bad Father Ed had been massacred in the Balkans.
Forcing himself to relax, he spoke similar words to Liz as Father Ed had once offered him.
“Sure those deaths were real, Lizzie. But those screams you hear, even if they’re the ghost of what once was or a premonition of doom to come, they’re still just a product of your subconscious.”
If the moment hadn’t been so serious, Hellboy could have laughed at the look on Liz’s face.
“Big words coming from you, H.B. When did you get so wise?”
Hellboy drew away and took Liz’s chin in his hand to make her look him in the face.
“Its borrowed wisdom, kiddo. I’ve had my share of nightmares. Used to worry about the stuff that was in them. Worried even more about the ones I couldn’t remember. For some reason, I couldn’t talk to Pop about them. I finally went to this priest who was a friend of mine. What I just said to you was pretty much what he said to me.”
Pulling away from his hand, Liz turned away and crossed her arms over her chest.
“I still killed all those people,” she muttered. Tears started to fall for the first time since she arrived.
“It’s going to be my birthday tomorrow, H.B.,” she sobbed, “I hate my birthday. My whole life was ruined because of what I did on the day after my birthday. But I deserve to have my life ruined. Because of me people are dead, my parents are dead.”
Hellboy moved closer on the couch, so that Liz had to hear what he said, even if she pretended she was no longer listening.
“Yes, Liz, you did kill them. All those people are dead because of you.” His bluntly stated concurrence with what he knew her guilt was constantly telling her served its purpose. Liz looked up at him again.
“It still wasn’t your fault. You had no control over it. Now, you’re doing the only thing you can do to make up for what happened. You’re learning to control it so it won’t happen again.”
As he watched her brush tears away with both hands, she gave him a little smile. “Your father and Doctor Heyling say the same thing.”
“Of course, they do,” Hellboy chuckled, “Where do you think I got it from.”
Liz took a deep breath to rein in her still turbulent emotions. “They talk to you about me?”
“Father does sometimes,” Hellboy said as he got up to fetch Liz a clean handkerchief from a drawer in the bureau near his wash facilities.
“It’s not much that I don’t know already,” he went on, as he brought her the handkerchief. “You can be sure Father and Doctor Heyling aren’t saying things you don’t want people to hear.”
As Hellboy again sat on his couch and handed Liz the handkerchief, he could see that Liz was more relaxed than she had been.
“The Professor wants to have a little birthday party for me tomorrow,” Liz said after she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. “I think that’s nice after all the trouble I’ve caused. I want to try to enjoy it, but it’s hard to keep the dreams away.”
“Don’t try,” Hellboy said with a wry grin, “It doesn’t work that good, as I’ve found out.”
Liz shoved the now damp handkerchief into a pocket of her shorts and laid her head on his left shoulder again. “But I want the dreams to stop.”
“They will,” Hellboy said as he softly used one of the huge stone fingers of his right hand to wipe away another tear that tracked down her cheek. “Most of mine did after a while.”
Liz shrugged and murmured sleepily, “That still sounds like a long time.”
As he started to say something further, he noticed that she had fallen asleep.
He had two options, to take her out to her own fireproofed quarters or to take her, if he thought her control might be shaken by these nightmares, to the recently-installed containment facility in the restricted section of the Medical Wing. He hated that place, so metallic and barren looking, but he had to admit that it was the only completely fireproof area in the entire Bureau Newark headquarters.
Hellboy looked down at Liz as she slept on his shoulder. She looked so at peace right where she was, that he hated to disturb her. He eased her head from his shoulder to a more comfortable position pillowed on his tee shirt clad chest and settled into keeping watch while she slept.
More to come…
Author’s afterward: I know that movieverse Liz was born in 1975 (as opposed to 1963 for the character in the original comics). I have no idea which day or month in 1975 and have decided on 12/19/1975.
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