THE FLIGHT HOME

Author’s note: It’s that time of year again. Halloween decorations go up, chocolate goes on sale, and my mind drifts to the events of the movie Hellboy; especially the death of Trevor Broom. This is somewhat a sequel to a story I posted two years ago, Flight to Moscow. This is also connected to the currently on-going ‘Liz Sherman’ chapter in Hellboy’s Family; but I’ve decided to post this as a separate narrative. If you have been following Hellboy’s Family, I’ve just posted another update to that one.

At this point, I would like to recommend that you read Gule Disgohnihi, a new story recently posted to the ‘Hellboy’ section by Zaedah. This amazing story also takes up the theme of the emotional aftermath of the death of the Professor and the subsequent events in Moscow. If anything that I write below seems similar to what is contained in that story, it is completely unintentional. This story is one that I’ve been contemplating for a long time, but I found Zaedah’s story so moving that it’s hard not be influenced by it.

Disclaimer: None of the characters below belong to me and I promise they will be returned in good shape when I’ve had my way with them. No profit is being made by this—too bad, I could use the money.

The Flight Home

Somewhere in Moscow
November, 2004

For the first time in all of his years with the BPRD, Tom Manning felt regret in insisting that Hellboy get into the wooden crate in the back of the truck. Not that Manning had much of a choice, really; orders had to be followed and his own superiors in the FBI would have his hide if he allowed Hellboy free reign outside of the confines of Bureau-controlled facilities or missions.

With little more than a shrug, Hellboy began to comply; all of his cocky aggressiveness seemed to have been drained from him by the events of the past few hours. Liz Sherman, currently dressed in one of her spare uniforms instead of the priestess robes forced on her by the now dead Rasputin, started to climb into the crate along with Hellboy.

In spite of the irregularity of this, Tom Manning was, at that point, more than half inclined to let Liz ride with Hellboy. Much of what had happened in those horrifying chambers and tunnels under Rasputin’s mausoleum had given him food for thought; and he was already beginning to re-estimate his stance toward the being he had always considered as nothing but a freak.

To everyone’s surprise, it was Hellboy himself who stopped Liz from joining him. Gently drawing her into his embrace, left arm holding her close, he first pressed his lips to hers and then to her forehead. Abruptly pushing her away again, he shook his head. “You’d be better off up front with Myers.”

Reaching up, Liz touched a gloved hand to a scarlet-red cheek. “I want to be with you, not Myers.”

A smile passed over Hellboy’s usually grim features; but he quickly squelched it. “No, Liz, you’d be better off with Myers.”

Without another word, Hellboy climbed into the crate. John Myers and some of the other agents moved to seal the rear wooden panel, the label ‘Live Cargo’ prominently displayed.

The complete silence in which this was done, showed Manning that he wasn’t the only person present who picked up that Hellboy was suggesting more than the mere difference between the comforts of the heated front seat as opposed to a cold, hard wooden crate. The look on Liz’s face, as she climbed into the passenger seat in the front of the truck and slammed the door closed behind her, showed that she also had picked up on the double meaning behind Hellboy’s last comment.

Tom Manning and the other agents moved to the two four-wheel drive vehicles that they had arrived to the cemetery in, attempting to ignore the fact that two of their own were missing; lying dead somewhere in the bowels of those chambers hidden below snow-covered tombs and monuments.

After climbing into the front passenger seat of one of those vehicles, Manning pulled out a notebook. He jotted a notation; reminding himself that a team of Bureau personnel needed to return to Rasputin’s mausoleum, to check out the extent of these underground chambers, and to make sure that nothing remained behind that could be considered a continuing threat.

Manning, himself, had not been present during that final confrontation between Hellboy and Rasputin. He was certain that what little information he had managed to gather from a then strangely dressed Liz and a battered and bruised Myers came nowhere close to what had truly happened.

Hellboy, who usually loved nothing better than to brag how he and he alone had once again saved the world from imminent disaster, was strangely silent about Rasputin’s fate. The odd state of his horns, as if they had grown out again and then been roughly broken off, spoke volumes about the intensity of his confrontation with the man who had masterminded the murder of his adoptive father and then dared to kidnap the woman he loved. Manning was certain, that beyond the bare details demanded by an official report, much of what had occurred during that struggle would never be revealed.

To his mind, that made it even more imperative that the place where this confrontation had occurred needed to be thoroughly examined, if only to make completely sure that Karl Kroenen, the Nazi zombie who had stabbed Trevor Broom, had been truly and surely destroyed by Hellboy.

Manning had been present during Hellboy’s monumental struggle with Kroenen. He couldn’t help comparing the intense satisfaction that filled Hellboy after he finally obliterated the monster that had murdered his father with his current pensive mood and almost brush-off of Liz.

Upon their arrival back to the airfield, the truck and the two other smaller vehicles were stowed in the large hold at the rear of the old converted military cargo plane that now belonged to the BPRD.

It was night again. Paying little attention to the loading of the aircraft, Hellboy had moved away across the mostly abandoned airfield to stand alone; watching the almost full moon peeking though a wrack of quickly moving clouds. He supposed that most of the people with him were happy they would get back to Newark in time for Thanksgiving; but what kind of Thanksgiving would he have?

In the past, regardless of the state of their relationship, Hellboy and Trevor Broom always ate Thanksgiving dinner together. The previous year, events almost prevented that; but somehow they had managed, almost at the last minute, to eat together Thanksgiving evening. Did either of them suspect that it would be their last Thanksgiving dinner? Hellboy certainly did not; but what his father suspected was another story.

Hellboy had only just recently found out that Trevor Broom had been terminally ill and had hidden that fact from him. He now understood that even if his father had not been stabbed, he would have still had very little time left to live; would probably not have made it to this Thanksgiving, even without the terrible events that had recently transpired.

As he was standing and thinking of these things, he felt, rather than saw, that someone had moved to stand next to him; and knew that this someone was Liz. Still looking up at the moon, he spoke so low that she had to strain to hear him. “I almost told him that I loved him last Thanksgiving, you know; almost, but not quite.”

That particular Thanksgiving had been during the time when Liz had once again removed herself from the Bureau; this time voluntarily entering a mental hospital in a desperate attempt to bring some control into her life and her pyrokinetic abilities. It had not been a good time for either of them.

She moved closer to Hellboy and leaned her head on his right shoulder; his enormous right hand came up and ever so gently wrapped itself around her waist. “I know all about what happened last Thanksgiving, H.B.; why you ran away to Boston and how he found you there. To hear him speak of what happened after that dinner… Well, let’s just say that no father ever felt more loved than he did.”

Hellboy pulled away in surprise. “Really?”

Liz smiled. “Yes, really, H.B.”

She reached up and once again laid a gloved hand on his cheek. “Now, what about us, Red?”

Just as before, he pulled away from her. “There isn’t going to be any ‘us’, Liz.”

This time Liz moved after him. “Are you trying to tell me, after all we’ve just been through, that you don’t love me any more, H.B.?”

Hellboy opened his mouth and then closed it again. “I can’t,” he finally ground out.

Liz snorted. “You can’t? What’s that supposed to mean, Red? That you can’t love me? Or you can’t tell me that you don’t?”

“Both,” he almost whispered.

Before Liz could make any reply to this, Hellboy returned to the waiting plane and climbed in.

Stomping his way back to the very rear of the passenger part of the plane, he flopped down in the last seat to the right of the aisle and made it very clear that no one was welcome to sit near him.

Looking first at Liz hovering uncertainly in the middle of the plane and then at Hellboy pretending that he didn’t notice her, Manning understood that it was going to be a very long flight back.

Three hours later, Liz, determined to act as if Hellboy’s rejection did not hurt, had finally fallen asleep; while Hellboy, sleep still far from him, fidgeted with the Indian-head Zippo lighter that he had once given Trevor Broom as a gift. The lighter suddenly slipped from his grasp and wedged itself in a corner of the rear of the plane where even his normal-sized left hand couldn’t reach.

John Myers, himself still awake, had long been watching both Liz and Hellboy. He saw what had happened to the antique lighter. Moving toward the rear of the craft, he knelt down and pushed his smaller hand into the space between the floor and the wall separating the cabin from the cargo hold. Groping around until his fingers felt the metal of the lighter, he drew it out and handed it to Hellboy.

“Thanks, Squirt.” Hellboy shoved the lighter into a pocket of his leather coat; obviously, he was not planning on saying anything further to the agent he once looked upon as a rival for Liz’s affections.

Refusing to take the hint, Myers dropped into the seat closest to Hellboy. “What you’re doing to Liz; it’s not right and it’s not fair.”

Reaching into his pocket and fidgeting with the lighter again, Hellboy avoided looking at him.

“What’s it to you,” he said after a moment of silence. “After all, I’m leaving the field open for you.”

John Myers, rubbing his head in exasperation, winced as he encountered the place where Rasputin’s Nazi lover, Ilsa, had whacked him with her hammer. “Look, Red, I’ll admit that I was interested in Liz when I first met her; but it’s obvious that she loves you, not me. I think I’ll stick with the advice Uncle Thad gave me when I was a teen and avoid hoeing another guy’s field.”

Hellboy looked at Myers and then looked away again. “She’d be better off with you.”

Myers got up from his seat and looked down at Hellboy, who was now closely studying the toes of his muddy work boots. “It’s not me that she wants, Red; think about what you’re doing to her.”

Getting no further answer from Hellboy, Myers moved back to his seat toward the front of the cabin.

Tom Manning had awakened from a light doze, just in time to catch Myers’s last words; a sound that he could only barely make out over the drone of the engines.

Standing up to stretch his long limbs, Manning pulled off his flat-brimmed cap to scratch the large bald spot at the top of his head. Replacing the cap, he then moved to the rear seat Myers had just left.

Hellboy grunted as Manning sat down, turning to look out a window into the blackness beyond.

Nervously clearing his throat several times, Manning then launched into what he wanted to say; deciding to ignore Hellboy’s pretense of inattention.

“I know that I’m not exactly your favorite person; and I can’t say that I blame you. Trevor used to always say that my main problem with you was that I could never see beyond what you looked like; and I wish that he were around right now so that I could tell him he was right.”

At this, Hellboy turned toward Manning, stared at him for a few seconds, and then turned back toward the window again. Understanding that Hellboy was listening to him, Manning went on.

“There were times when Trevor showed that he was worried about your feelings for Liz; but it had everything to do with his concerns over your readiness to handle a relationship with her and nothing to do with the fact that she’s human and you’re not.”

Hellboy’s head snapped around again and Manning saw something beginning to smolder in the depths of those yellow-colored eyes. “And you’re saying you feel different?” As Hellboy spoke to Manning for the first time, there was a wealth of pain rather than anger in his voice.

Manning shook his head. “I’m afraid Trevor and I battled that one out when I first found out about you and Dr. Corrigan.” Pulling off his cap, he passed one hand over the top of his head. “I miss him, you know. It always amazed me how forceful Trevor could become where you were concerned.”

The fire abruptly drained from Hellboy’s eyes. “I miss him, too,” he mumbled, his hand almost unconsciously groping for an inner pocket of his leather coat where the remnants of Trevor Broom’s rosary now resided. He pulled back his hand, almost as if burned; recent events were still too searing, too painful to be contemplated.

Drawing in his breath sharply, Hellboy forced back tears. “Jeez, Manning, is there some point that you’re trying to make here? Or are you just trying to make me feel worse than I already do?”

Manning snorted, almost a laugh. “I’m here to give some advice; that is, if you’re willing to listen to a jerk like me.” Placing his cap back on his head, Manning took a deep breath and then blurted out, “Don’t make the same mistake I did, Hellboy. I was in love once; and she was just as much in love with me as I was with her. My family and the society I was raised in was a traditional one; and she was the wrong race, the wrong class. I couldn’t take the pressure and broke off the engagement; convincing myself that I was doing it to protect her.”

Hellboy broke in before Manning could say anything further. “It’s not the same between me and Liz.”

“Then what is it between you and Liz?” Manning snapped, “Even I can tell that it’s like you two were made for each other.”

Hellboy shifted irritably in an airplane seat that was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. “So, I can make out with her without being turned into a cinder,” he grunted, “Is that what ‘made for each other’ is supposed to mean?”

“You tell me, Hellboy,” Manning came back at him, “Is that the only thing between you?”

Hellboy subsided back into his seat. “No,” he said in a much quieter voice; the drone of the engines almost drowning out his reply. He turned toward the window again. “I just don’t think being with me would be good for her, that’s all.”

Manning exhaled sharply. “You’re a fool, Hellboy; exactly the same kind of fool I was. Listen to me, you’ve got to let Liz make that choice for herself.”

Hellboy glanced sideways at Manning. “And if she gets hurt?”

Manning stood up from his seat. “She’s already hurting, Hellboy. You need to think about that.”

Liz awoke from a deep sleep. At first disoriented, she found that she was in a seat on the plane near one of the wings, the wooden worktable that was installed in the middle of the plane just to her left.

The faint buzz of voices came to her ears; but she couldn’t make out what was being said over the noise of the engines. From the rise and fall of these voices, it sounded as if Manning and Hellboy were engaging in another of their celebrated disagreements. The voices broke off and Liz watched as Manning walked past her to the small water closet located at the front of the plane. As he went past, she closed her eyes; pretending to still be asleep.

As soon as Manning had disappeared into the facilities, Liz got up from her seat. Walking past a now dead-to-the-world John Myers and a group of slumbering agents, she came to the rear of the plane.

“Is this seat reserved, Sir; or may I be so bold as to join you?” Hellboy couldn’t help the grin that passed over his face as he looked up at her approach.

“Go ahead,” he shrugged, “It seems that almost everyone else has staked a claim to it.”

Sitting down, Liz slid over to lean into Hellboy; gratified as she felt his left arm snake around her waist and draw her even closer.

“What were you and Manning arguing about?” Liz ventured, after a short moment of silence.

“You heard?” Hellboy’s heart skipped a beat as he looked more closely into Liz’s dark eyes.

“Not much, H.B.,” Liz replied, laying her head on his chest and noting the quickening of his heartbeat, “I just heard the tone of your voices.”

Bending his head down, Hellboy kissed the top of her head. “For once we weren’t exactly arguing, Liz. Manning said some things that were hard to listen to; but maybe they needed to be said.”

“About us?” she ventured with some trepidation.

“About a lot of things.” Hellboy brought his right hand over and, with just one of those stone fingers, gently stroked her cheek. “Lizzie, are you sure, really sure, this is what you want?”

Liz laughed, “You are the only person I ever tolerate calling me ‘Lizzie’, you know.” She raised her head again and turned to look into the face that at one time had frightened her; but slowly, over the ensuing years, had become the face of her guardian angel. “Of course, I’m sure, H.B. Maybe I took a little too long to come to this point; but I’m definitely sure.”

She reached up and drew his head down into a kiss; one that they both made sure to break off before incinerating the plane that was now flying over the Atlantic Ocean.

“It won’t be easy, you know,” Hellboy said as they ended that kiss.

Liz laid her head on his chest again. “Nothing truly good is ever easy, H.B.”

“You could get hurt,” she barely made out that reply as it rumbled through the chest her head was on.

“I’ll take my chances,” she mumbled sleepily.

It was just about dawn as they landed at the FBI-controlled private hangar at the Newark airport.

Hellboy helped Liz down out of the plane and looked around at the sun just beginning to spread it rays over the airfield. ‘The sun of a new day,’ he thought, ‘Maybe even a new life.’

He wrapped his left arm around Liz’s thin shoulders. “C’mon, Lizzie; let’s go home.”

Author’s afterword: If you want to find out what exactly happened between Hellboy and Trevor Broom in Thanksgiving of 2003, read my story Flowers for Mother: A Hellboy Tale of Thanksgiving. This same Thanksgiving dinner, as well as Thanksgiving of 2004, is addressed in Hellboy’s Family in Part Six of the ‘Liz Sherman’ chapter (also designated on as Chapter 45 of Hellboy’s Family).

Thanks for reading, all feedback welcome.

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