Hellboy glowered at the door that Liz had just stalked through and then slammed behind her. The pregnancy hadn’t done any wonders for her temper, that was for damned sure. And even with Abe around as a calming influence, they still wound up fighting half the time.
Which can’t be good for the babies, he thought, sighing.
Looking over at Abe, Hellboy made a face and asked hopefully, “You think it’s hormones?”
Abe hesitated, never a good sign, and then replied, “I think you’re both very strong willed people, Red. I also think one of you needs to learn how to compromise if this is going to work.”
Hellboy knew that was about as likely as Manning suddenly growing a thick head of hair; possible, but really improbable. “I don’t know, Blue, I just don’t see that happening.”
“Then your children are going to have a very troubled childhood,” Abe said sadly. “Parents who fight all the time rarely show the love they feel. You do still love her, right?”
Hellboy glared at him. “Of course I do!”
Hands going up in a surrender position, Abe pointed out, “It’s not unheard of to fall out of love, HB. And you and Liz have taken a lot of breaks along the way.”
Fortunately, the phone rang just then so he didn’t have to come up with a response. Having a phone was still a pretty novel experience for Hellboy; he was more used to communicators and radios. Since they weren’t working for the BPRD anymore, though, it was just regular phones now. He answered with forced cheer, “Y’ello!”
Manning’s staticky voice came back, “Hellboy? Is that you?”
Even the forced cheer fled at the man’s voice and he growled, “What, already? It’s only been a couple of months!”
“I thought you should know that Myers…”
A burst of static cut off the end of the statement, but Hellboy stiffened in apprehension as he demanded, “What was that? What about Myers?”
“He disappeared,” Manning repeated. “Three days ago. Went out on a mission and didn’t come back.”
first instinct was to demand transportation to
Manning repeated, “He disappeared,” slowly, as though Hellboy were stupid.
Gritting his teeth, Hellboy clarified in a growl, “What mission? Where did it happen? Details, Manning.”
“There was a strange reading to the Northern Lights he wanted to check out,” Manning supplied. “Myers said he would be back in two hours and he never made it back to the base.”
blinked in guilty surprise. “Wait, he was still in
“Not that it’s any of your business, but he requested it. Said he liked it there after all,” Manning replied, snippy. “I got the feeling he just didn’t want to be anywhere you might show up.”
Grimacing, Hellboy ignored the insult and asked, “So what’re you callin’ me for? Get the sled dogs or whatever and find him.”
A static-filled sigh echoed over the line before Manning retorted, “You think I’d call you if it was that simple? Looks like we’ve got serious demonic activity up there. The rescue animals won’t leave the base and the agents take their cues from the animals.”
Hellboy growled again and spat, “Cowards.”
“Practical,” Manning countered sharply. “They aren’t equipped like we are. It’s an outpost. Listen. Either you’re in or you’re out. Which is it?”
He looked over at Abe, who studiously didn’t meet his gaze, which was absolutely no help at all.
“Red? Who is it?” Liz called from the other room.
Hellboy glanced at the door, where Liz stepped through a second later, and told her, “It’s Manning. He says Myers went missing a few nights ago and there’s demonic activity up there.”
“‘Up there?’” she echoed
incredulously. “He’s still in
Defensive, he exclaimed, “Myers asked for it! Said he liked it there!”
Her ‘yeah, right’ expression contradicted that, but she only said, “When’s the plane get here?”
Well, that answers that, Hellboy thought. He said into the phone, “Send a plane and our equipment. And Manning, this doesn’t mean we’re coming back to work for you. This is a favor for…a friend.”
“Gee, thanks for the gracious help,” Manning said sarcastically. “Transport plane will be there in three hours.”
Which meant that he’d been expecting them to say yes. Hanging up as he gave the other two a patently bright and false smile, Hellboy said, “Roadtrip! Pack the sweaters.”
* * * *
did his best not to notice that Liz wouldn’t look at him for most of the flight
The ghost had insisted on joining them for the trip even though he had never met Myers, saying, “He is important, that much I know.”
They exited the cargo plane onto a tiny little strip at the outpost, though there was nothing on any maps about it. The bitter cold reached even through to Hellboy and he wasn’t surprised to find Abe and Liz shivering through their thick coats. Bags in hands, they walked over to the main structure, just a big, metal, airport warehouse kind of thing that reflected the scant sunlight. Hellboy held open the door for Liz, who ignored him as she walked by.
Sighing to himself, he followed the others inside and found a surprisingly warm, open lobby area. A tiny young woman sat at the desk facing the door, dressed in a very thick sweater. She jumped to her feet at their arrival and rushed over, thrusting a hand out to each of them. “I’m Agent Tina Leigh and I’ll be your liaison while you’re here. It’s such an honor to meet you! Agent Myers has spoken so highly of all of you.”
“All of us?” Abe inquired innocently.
Hellboy glared at him.
Her bright blue gaze regarded him curiously before she replied, “That’s right, Sir. Now, if you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your quarters and…”
Hellboy interrupted, “I think we should just go check out where Myers disappeared. Not waste time on any of this.”
Agent Leigh didn’t look the least bit surprised by his gruffness as she agreed, “Of course, Sir. I’ll bring you back to the Snowcow, as we call it.”
They walked down a crazy-long hallway, passing more agents than Hellboy thought would be at such a remote outpost. The hall led to a garage that wasn’t nearly as warm as the rest of the building, his breath instantly forming clouds in front of his face. The Snowcow turned out to be an all-terrain vehicle something like a tank only with a domed, clear covering and painted white with darker, oblong shapes showing through. Like a cow’s spots. Hellboy shook his head.
Leigh climbed in the driver’s seat and Hellboy was forced to sit in the backseat with Abe.
The trip took a good half-hour and it was dark by the time the Snowcow came to a stop, thanks to the very short daylight hours. Gliding colors shimmered across the dark sky, giving off their own light. As soon as Hellboy stepped out of the Snowcow he felt like someone had poured scum water over him and grimaced. Looking at Abe showed a similarly distasteful expression on the other’s face.
“There is evil here,” Abe announced unnecessarily. “Old and…seeping through another dimension?”
“Another dimension? Oh, come on!” Hellboy groused.
Liz sniped, “I thought you wanted to travel,” before walking closer to the lights.
Gritting his teeth, Hellboy managed not to say anything that would keep him in the doghouse he seemed to be stuck in. The closer he got to the lights, the worse he felt. A quick look at Abe showed the same kind of reaction, though Liz and Leigh didn’t seem to feel or sense anything. Krauss, of course, was impossible to read. He wondered what Myers might have felt and then pushed the thought away to ask roughly, “Run it down, Leigh. The day Myers disappeared.”
She clapped her hands together, gloves muffling the sound, and answered, “He had a doctor’s appointment that day and seemed upset with the result.”
“Doctor’s appointment?” Hellboy demanded. “For what? Was he sick?”
Leigh looked mildly embarrassed as she admitted, “He’d gained weight. We all figured it was a thyroid thing since he barely ate. You know how he is.”
Hellboy did, remembering several times of shoving food at Myers when the agent had been on ‘babysitting’ duty.
“Anyhow, whatever the doc told him upset him a lot and when the animals went crazy that day, he said that he would go check it out because he needed to clear his head,” she continued. “He went out around eleven, radioed back around twelve that he’d found something, and that was it. No further communication.”
Liz asked, “Did he say what he’d found?”
Shaking her head, Leigh explained, “We think the transmission cut out on him, but we’re not sure. He could have just stopped talking.”
“And you didn’t want to come see what happened to him,” Hellboy growled.
Leigh sighed. “I wanted to, and so did a couple other agents Myers got close to, but we weren’t allowed.”
Hellboy ignored that to go back to the Snowcow and pull out a couple of special goggles that would allow them to see other spectrums of light. If this was a gateway to another dimension, maybe they could figure out which one by the light that escaped it. He tossed one to Abe and asked Krauss, “What do you sense?”
Krauss’ helmet shifted his way as the spirit replied, “A divergence of energies the like of which I’ve never before felt.”
“That’s helpful,” Hellboy muttered.
Pulling on the goggles, he looked at the borealis and found a dominance of purple and violet shades. He grimaced and asked Abe, “Hey Blue, does that mean what I think it means?”
Abe looked at him and replied, “If you think it means that we have a gateway to a Hell dimension, then yes.”
Hellboy sighed. “Peachy.”
Krauss countered, “We can’t be sure of that until we run some tests. I suggest…”
Ignoring him, Hellboy walked over to Liz and said softly, “You can’t come with us this time.”
“He’s my friend too,” she argued, quiet but fierce.
Hellboy put a hand on her belly, nicely rounded but not too big, and countered, “It could affect the babies.”
Going tight-lipped, Liz finally said, “Fine. I’ll stay here and monitor from the Snowcow.”
He breathed a silent sigh of relief. “Thanks, Liz.”
She glared at him and told him, “We’re going to have a long discussion when this is over, Red.”
Man, I just can’t win, he thought. Out loud, he just said, “Sure thing, babe. I mean…”
“Oh stuff it,” she cut in. “Just go get John and bring him home.”
Temporarily off the hook, though he still didn’t get why she hated being called anything but her name, Hellboy turned to the others and said, “Suit up. We’re going in.”
“I really must protest,” Krauss spoke up as they gathered equipment and weapons from the Snowcow. “We do not know what could await us on the other side.”
Quirking a grin at the ghost, Hellboy assured, “Don’t worry so much, Tinman. I’ve been to the other side and back already. We’ll be fine.”
* * * *
At first, John had refused to eat anything. Remembering all the legends and fairy tales about being trapped forever in the underworld for eating anything of its dimension, he hadn’t wanted to risk it. But even if he’d been able to starve himself, it was a different story altogether when it came to the new life inside him. He’d lasted only a full day without eating, about ready to pass out from hunger thanks to how much energy his body used to sustain the unnatural pregnancy.
Looking down at his massive stomach, John smiled fondly as he rubbed it and said, “You definitely take after your Dad on that score.”
He watched, still fascinated even months later as a tiny fist that pushed against his skin from the inside. The day he’d gotten the test results back from an equally shocked doctor, John had known exactly what had happened. His one night with Hellboy had resulted in something only women generally had to worry about: pregnancy. His thoughts had been turbulent at the time; if he’d been thinking rationally, John would never have gone out in his new condition, especially to check out a potentially dangerous situation.
After so long, John didn’t even hope for rescue. He knew, too, that as soon as he gave birth, Rasputin would kill him. If there’d been a way for the sorcerer to prematurely deliver the baby and have it survive, it probably would have already happened. He might survive a few months to feed the baby, assuring its survival, but nothing beyond that. Rubbing his stomach, he whispered, “Hellboy will find you, I promise. He won’t let Rasputin keep you and he’ll love you as much as I do, no matter what.”
Because Hellboy loved kids, all kids, but especially his own.
If only I could figure out a way to tell him about all of this, he thought for the thousandth time, somewhat despairing.
It had been about six months since the day Rasputin had taken him through the borealis. Six long, long months where he stayed in a single room, however luxurious it was, and did nothing but grow the child within. The walls were rough-hewn rock, the floor only just smooth enough that he didn’t cut his bare feet on them, but the furnishings were rich. The large bed held only silk and the softest cotton. Fine Persian rugs adorned the floor, soft and beautiful in their patterns.
He kept time by writing in a journal every day, something he’d demanded from Rasputin when he’d realized that Hellboy wouldn’t be coming for him. Not just to pass the time, but to leave something for their child to know him by; assuming Rasputin didn't destroy it out of hand. John tried to pretend to himself that the baby would one day be able to read the journal and know he or she had been loved from day one, even if they grew up in Hell.
Not that John blamed the demon one bit for the lack of rescue. Busy with Liz and her coming twins, something he’d had to find out about through the grapevine, Hellboy probably hadn’t even been told of his disappearance. When all was said and done, John knew that he was a very small cog in a giant machine. With his uncle’s death, there was no one around to care about his loss or raise a fuss. Manning had likely been informed of the disappearance, search parties mounted, and then he’d have been presumed dead, lost in the bitter cold of the Antarctic wilderness.
“Good afternoon, John.”
Twitching the blanket over his naked body, John glared at the thing masquerading as a man. Still bald, still imposingly tall and dressed in majestic robes, Rasputin hovered, suffocating, for hours at a time. He monitored the pregnancy closely, touching John’s stomach without consent, freezing John in place with his powers to run his hands over the taut skin and whispering to it.
Something that Rasputin did then and there, murmuring something that gently but inexorably flattened John to the massive bed. The first time it had happened, John had fought himself into exhaustion. Now, he didn’t bother. There wasn’t anything he could do to stop it and the baby needed all his strength.
It was a good hour later that Rasputin withdrew his long, skeletal hands from John’s belly and stood from the bed. Leaning over him, Rasputin said, “You will be happy to know that I’ve decided not to kill you. Not right away, at least.”
John continued to glare at him, not giving him the satisfaction of a response.
“I’ve decided to see about…acquiring some seed from other demons and seeing if you breed true across the board, or if there is something special to Hellboy that allowed this miracle,” Rasputin continued, the faintest of smirks hovering.
Horror rose so strong in John at the announcement that darkness swirled around him, taking his senses for a timeless period. When the world returned, Rasputin was gone and he could move again. John pushed slowly upright, cradling his unborn child protectively, as if he had any way to follow through on that instinct.
Eyes closing, he prayed as hard as he could, begging whatever nameless Deity might exist for Hellboy to find them before Rasputin's plans could happen.
* * * *
Hellboy staggered physically as a wave of terror, longing, desperation, and love washed over him. The ground they walked on wasn’t the easiest terrain, partially covered in goo of some kind, and he almost slid off his feet altogether, so wrapped up in the emotions swamping him.
Abe caught hold of him, grunting under his weight, and exclaimed, “Myers!”
Pulling free from Abe, Hellboy growled in pure fury. Myers. A terrified Myers. A desperate and terrified Myers meant someone needed to hurt. A lot. His stone fist clenched, grinding together with a satisfying noise that made Abe wince and put a fearful expression on Leigh’s face for the first time. He strode down the cavernous tunnel they’d entered once going through the borealis, not waiting for the others to catch up.
He needed to find Myers and he needed to do it asap. Long legs ate up the distance and his concession to his shorter companions was not to run. Not to mention, they didn’t know where they were going or what they might find along the way. Demons or monsters, Hellboy didn’t really care; he’d pound them all into paste to get to wherever Myers was being held.
Krauss had the most difficult time keeping up, metal suit clanking along making plenty of noise as he half-jogged to keep pace with them. Hellboy wasn’t worried about the ghost attracting attention, though. He figured that whatever was holding Myers would know they’d come through the borealis and be prepared to face them by the time they made it to wherever the agent was being held. The fact that they were probably outnumbered and outgunned was something that didn’t bother him either; Abe would make Leigh got out if things went bad and Krauss was already dead.
The rock corridor ended at a massive cavern, which held a lake of fire. Hellboy snorted and looked at Abe as he quipped, “Think I’ll go take a dip.”
Abe sighed and shook his head. “Your humor astounds me sometimes, Red. And I don’t mean that in a good way.”
Hellboy looked around, but only saw stone. There were no monsters or demons or anything lying in wait for them. Of course, there was no Myers, either, so that wouldn’t work. He was just about to ask Abe to do a telepathic thing to look for the missing agent when something shimmered into existence several feet in front of them, near the shore of the lake of fire. Shock ran through Hellboy as Rasputin took form, complete with stupid robes and sunglasses.
“Dear God!” Abe gasped. “But, you destroyed him!”
Lifting a long finger into the air, Rasputin countered, “He did not. He banished me.”
All Hellboy could hear was Myers in his head…“You have a choice!” The words that had saved him, had saved them all. Myers’ quick thinking had cut through the rage and futility consuming him at the time, breaking Rasputin’s hold. Shaking off the memory, he demanded, “Where’s Myers?”
“Safe and healthy for now,” Rasputin replied, “but most definitely out of your reach.”
“Not for long,” Hellboy snarled.
Stalking forward only caused him to walk into an invisible wall.
Rasputin smirked as he stated, “That’s as far as you go, my child. This is not a battle you can win, so I suggest you leave while I’m in a forgiving mood.”
Hellboy growled, “Not without Myers!” and started pounding on the invisible wall with all his strength. He heard Abe saying something beside him in another language, but didn’t recognize whether it was a spell or ritual. The dual assault seemed to be working, given the sweat that formed on Rasputin’s forehead to trickle down his face. The sorcerer raised his hand and a flash of light sparked from it, hitting first the wall and then Hellboy, sending him flying through the air to hit a wall.
Groaning as he forced himself upright, his entire body aching from the impact, Hellboy stood and staggered back towards Abe. The amphibian stood in the same place, still talking, a golden glow surrounding him, building in intensity. Whatever he was doing, he had Rasputin’s full attention. Hellboy resumed the physical assault on the barrier and actually managed to step forward a few inches as it slowly gave way.
The golden shield around Abe swirled into a mini-tornado and then punched through the invisible wall to surround Rasputin. Shouting curses at them, the sorcerer struggled in his new prison while Abe maintained his spell, looking strained around the edges. Hellboy could see that they didn’t have a lot of time and turned to Krauss and Leigh only to find them gone.
Then he spotted a smaller corridor off to the side and ran for it, figuring they’d gone looking for Myers while he and Abe had kept Rasputin busy. Sure enough, they were on their way back, Myers wrapped in a thick blanket between them. There was something strange about the way he hurried beside them in an awkward gait, nowhere near as athletic as he usually was. Leigh seemed a little green around the gills, but held an arm around Myers’ waist to help him.
Myers stopped short on seeing him, getting even paler, though that didn’t seem possible.
Not wanting to waste time, Hellboy closed the distance between them and simply scooped the smaller man into his arms. The additional weight surprised him, but there was no time to make a joke about Hell agreeing with Myers. Besides, it probably had more to do with what Leigh had said about a doctor’s visit.
Running back, Krauss and Leigh right behind them, Hellboy shouted, “Let’s move, Blue! We’ve got him!”
Abe joined them in running and Hellboy heard him chanting between gasps for air. It figured he would pick something that required so much work. Couldn’t do anything the easy way. It seemed to take forever to reach the borealis and Abe lost control of whatever he’d been doing right before they got there. Something shook the ground beneath them and rocks fell from the ceiling, but Hellboy didn’t stop. He dodged the dropping stone and raced even faster for the shimmering lights and the outside world.
“Liz! Liz, get the Portentis Major ready!” Abe shouted as they got close.
Hellboy jumped through the lights and landed hard in the snow, falling onto the ground in a misstep.
Myers unexpectedly shoved at him in a frantic gesture, exclaiming, “Get off! Get off me!”
Reacting to the panic in the smaller man’s voice, Hellboy rolled off, which took part of the blanket with him. He caught a glimpse of a huge, pregnant looking belly before Myers yanked the blanket back around himself. Shock rendered him more frozen than the land around them, instinctively knowing that he’d really seen what he’d thought he’d seen. Then that same strong instinct made him scoop Myers back into his arms and carry him to the Snowcow while Liz, Abe, and Krauss did whatever the hell they were going to do with that spell.
Putting Myers in the back seat, Hellboy growled, “Don’t move, Boyscout.”
Myers seemed to sink into the blanket, eyes wide as he agreed, “I’m not going anywhere.”
Satisfied, Hellboy shut the door and rejoined the others. Not that he could do much with the spell they were weaving together, but he could be backup if it failed. He saw Rasputin on the other side of the colorful screen that separated the worlds, but all the sorcerer could do was howl in frustrated rage as the borealis shrank and then disappeared. It wasn’t until it had vanished entirely, signaling the end of the crack in reality, that Hellboy relaxed.
And then he remembered that Myers was pregnant. With his kid. Looking over at Liz, who even then rushed towards the Snowcow calling Myers’ name, Hellboy groaned, “Ah crap.”
* * * *
John lingered under the hot spray of the shower, relishing the stinging water in a way he hadn’t for months. While he’d never gotten dirty, probably through some spell, it wasn’t nearly the same as being clean.
The ride back to the base had proved to be extremely uncomfortable with Hellboy stating he would walk back, since there wasn’t room anymore with John there. Krauss, the strange creature in the metal suit, had stayed with Hellboy. Leigh had sat in the back with him while Abe had driven with a shocked and silent Liz had sat beside him. She’d known just from one look at him that he was pregnant. The identity of the father hadn’t been questioned by anyone, something that John wasn’t sure annoyed or relieved him.
Finally leaving the shower, he dried off slowly and found a new sweatsuit waiting on his bed; bigger ones that would fit, since he own clothing no longer would. He blessed Abe’s silent compassion in not making him face the world pregnant in a bathrobe and pulled on the outfit. A tentative knock at the door made him smile, sure that Abe was on the other side. “Come on in, Abe.”
The door opened on the blue man who offered a smile of greeting and then asked, “How are you feeling?”
John sat on the bed, hand on his stomach, and answered, “Good, thanks. Relieved, that’s for sure. I didn’t think anyone would find us.”
“It’s only been a few days,” Abe protested gently. “Surely that wasn’t enough time to lose hope.”
A little stunned at the time distortion, John told him, “It was more than six months for me.”
Abe blinked at him a few times. “Oh. I see. Well, in that case, it’s certainly understandable you would feel that way. I’m just glad we found you.”
“So am I,” John agreed fervently. “I don’t even want to think about what Rasputin would have done once the baby was born. I’m even a little afraid…”
“Yes?” Abe prompted.
Heaving a sigh, John admitted, “Rasputin might have…he would…come into my room and whisper to the baby every day. What if…what if that did something to the baby? Something bad.”
Abe looked concerned as he petted John’s thigh and said, “We’ll just keep a close eye on you both for a while. Plus we’re going to do extensive testing to make sure the pair of you are in perfect health. Actually, that’s one of the reasons that I’m here. The base doctor would like to examine you to see just how far along you are. Is that okay? I’m sure it can wait until tomorrow, if you’d rather.”
Shaking his head, John replied, “I’d rather know as soon as I can that everything’s okay. Will you stick around?”
“Of course!” Abe agreed, smiling. “I’d be honored.”
John stood as he asked, “Is Hellboy back yet?”
“Not that I know of.”
“And, how’s Liz?”
Abe’s lips pursed. “Best avoided for now, I think.”
Nodding morosely, John headed for the door, Abe right behind him.
It was a full hour later that the last vial of blood was labeled and sent off for testing. John felt like a pincushion, they’d taken so much, but more so, he felt like a freak. Everyone knew Hellboy was the father and the looks he got from everyone he came into contact with ranged from disgusted to horrified.
“Well John, if you were a woman, I would say you were in perfect health for a mother nearly full term,” Dr. Schiff announced cheerfully. The black man was annoyingly cheerful no matter the situation, John had found over the months of his new station. “Being that you’re a man, I’m going to suggest we monitor you closely so that when labor starts, we can zip you into surgery and perform a c-section. How does that sound?”
John nodded. “Thanks, Dr. Schiff. Do you know how long that might be?”
“Anywhere from a week to a month, I’m honestly not sure. If you like, we can just schedule it for next week and avoid the uncertainty. The baby is fully formed and would have no problem come out prematurely.”
“Can I think about it?”
“Of course. Now. Would you like to know the sex?”
John hesitated, not sure if he did want to know.
“Yeah, we do.”
Jumping a bit at Hellboy’s response, John looked over to find the big demon standing in the doorway. He looked far more unsure of his welcome than his words made out, hunched down a little and his tail wrapped around his leg. John smiled at the sight, sure that if Hellboy had had a hat, it would be twisted in his hands.
The smile seemed to reassure Hellboy somewhat and the demon walked over to the exam bed on which John sat. Shifting from foot to foot, Hellboy asked, “You okay there, Squirt?”
Relieved that things between them seemed okay, John nodded and said, “Dr. Schiff gave us a clean bill of health.”
“We’re going to run tests on his blood to check for a variety of things, but everything’s fine so far as I can tell,” Dr. Schiff confirmed at Hellboy’s look. “We did an ultrasound, did some measuring, and went through the usual physical tests. Both John and your daughter are fine.”
John looked down at his stomach and rubbed it through the cotton sweatshirt. Stunned, he said, “And I thought for sure you were a boy. What’s with all the kicking?”
Hesitant, Hellboy asked, “Is she…human?”
Knowing what kind of childhood HB had gone through, John instinctively reached out for one of the big red hands. Putting it on his stomach, he said firmly, “It doesn’t matter if she’s human or half and half, or full demon. She’s ours.”
Hellboy looked entranced as he crouched down so his face was at stomach level. He cradled the rounded belly between his hands and said, “That’s right, doll, you’re ours. We love you no matter what, you got that?”
John rested his hand on the softness of Hellboy’s hair, loose for a change, smiling down when Hellboy looked up at him. The feel of those big, strong hands on his stomach was reassuring right down to John’s marrow. He’d spent the last eight months aching to feel just that, though only the last six or so for this reason.
Dr. Schiff cleared his throat and said, “To answer your question, she does appear to be fully human; ten fingers, ten toes, two arms, two legs, two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Oh, and no horns. Of course, ultrasounds don’t come in color, so she may come out a different hue than expected.”
“Doesn’t matter,” John replied simply.
Standing, Hellboy lifted John off the exam bed and said, “C’mon, Boyscout. You need to get your rest. X-nay on the c-section next week, doc. We’ll be waiting until she decides to make an appearance on her own.”
Amused at the way Hellboy had taken charge, John just gave Dr. Schiff a grin and a wave, allowing the demon to usher him out of the infirmary. It wasn’t that far to his quarters, the good thing about working and living on such a small base. He was tired, though he didn’t want to admit it. Hellboy made his small quarters seem even smaller just by being in them, but John gestured at the guest chair and offered, “Make yourself comfortable,” before sitting on the bed.
Looking distinctly uncomfortable, Hellboy remained standing as he said, “Look, Myers, I’m
sorry about…you know…all this.
John had had a long time to think about
this conversation, even though he’d never actually expected to live to have it.
“Hellboy, it’s okay. I know, I know that you’re in
love with Liz, and now there’re the twins to think about, too. I don’t expect
anything from you except what you can spare. It’s not like we had any idea that
this could happen. It’s no one’s fault. And as for
Hellboy shook his head and asked, “Aren’t you even the littlest bit pissed?”
John snorted. “Trust me. After the last six months, I’m just too glad to be back in this dimension to be pissed. If you want, give me a few months of feedings and then we can probably talk about pissed.”
“Six months?” Hellboy repeated, frowning.
Right. He doesn’t know, John thought, mentally slapping himself. He explained, “Time passed much faster there. It’s been over six months for me.”
Hellboy gaped at him a few seconds before asking, “You were with Rasputin for six months?”
John nodded, looking down at his stomach and leaning down to hug it as he answered softly, “I didn’t think you were coming. Didn’t even think you knew I was gone.”
Hellboy walked over to the bed and knelt right in front of him, stating fiercely, “I will always come for you, Myers. Bank on it.”
John cupped his face, the beard tickling his palm. It was almost physically painful to be so close and not able to hold onto the demon. He managed a smile, though, and said, “Thank you. Can I ask a favor of you?”
Drawing in a breath, he asked, “If, if the c-section goes bad and I don’t make it, will you take the baby?”
John’s eyes met his and Hellboy answered, “I will. Nothing’s gonna happen to you, though. You’re going to live a long, long time, Boyscout. I’ll kick your ass back from the other side, if I have to. I’ve done it before, you know.”
Pained, John looked away as he murmured, “I know. For Liz.”
Big hands cupped his face and Hellboy told him, “For you, too.”
It seemed astonishingly right to lean forward and press his lips to the demon’s mouth, so close to his. Hellboy responded hungrily, rising up and then gently pressing him back, onto the bed. John didn’t know what they were doing, but he didn’t want it to stop, kissing back frantically, hands gripping the broad shoulders.
And then, strangely, Hellboy slowed the pace until he stopped altogether. They were facing one another on the bed and he said, “We got time, Myers. We got all the time in the world.”
Biting his lip, John was going to protest, but Hellboy put a finger over his lips. He finally sighed and nodded to tell the other he wouldn’t speak and ruin the moment.
Flashing him a grin, Hellboy said, “Turn around.”
John grinned back and asked, “Isn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place?”
“Just do it,” Hellboy ordered, rolling his eyes.
John rolled onto his other side and Hellboy spooned up behind him, one arm going around his waist while the other slid under John’s head to support it. Sighing deeply, John relaxed into the embrace and let himself drift towards a peaceful sleep. He was buoyed there by a soothing, purring sound he’d heard only once before, after their only time together, and the gentle massage of a big hand over his stomach.
* * * *
Being with Myers was just as easy as he remembered. There were no angry words, no accusations, no looks sent his way that said he better keep his mouth shut. From the first welcoming smile in the infirmary to holding the smaller man while he slept, Hellboy felt the difference all the way through. Liz would probably have clawed him to get away after being imprisoned by a murderous sorcerer, where Myers seemed to want him closer. Liz would’ve taken his head off for ‘being highhanded’ when he’d ushered Myers from the infirmary, but Myers himself had just given him an amused look and let him lead.
Hellboy thought about why he’d gotten rid of Myers in the first place. It wasn’t because they’d spent the night together. It was that he’d finally had a real shot with Liz and didn’t want Myers screwing it up for him. Whether by wanting Hellboy or wanting Liz, he didn’t know, not even now, months later.
That worked out real well, didn’t it? a mocking voice inside questioned. Liz might be the ultimate woman, but you’re not really the man she wants, are you? If you were, things wouldn’t be so bad between you.
Scowling at the blank metal wall of the mess hall, Hellboy heard a crunching noise and looked down to find his stone hand had crushed the table.
“You keep ruining the furniture and they’ll never invite us back.”
Hellboy looked over at a wan Liz, who smiled uncertainly at him from a few feet away.
“Can I join you?”
Wary, he nodded and she sat across from him. The mess was empty aside from them, and the big room echoed with the silence for a few long seconds.
Liz finally began, “I’ve been unfair to you, Red, and I’m sorry.”
He couldn’t have been more surprised than if she’d marched around the base naked.
A rueful grin surfaced on her face and she continued, “I always said I was going to give us a fair shake, but I didn’t, did I? Myers was always there, even when he wasn’t.”
Hellboy protested, “That’s not true, Liz! I love you!”
Holding up a hand, she assured him, “I know you do. It was all on my side, Red, and I took out my fear and insecurity on you, especially when I got pregnant. I’m sorry about that, I really am. The thing is…we can’t go on like this. It’s not good for any of us. And now there’s John and his baby to think about, too.”
“It’s a girl,” Hellboy told her, unable not to.
Liz grinned at that and said, seeming sincere, “Congratulations, HB, I mean it. It’ll be good for the boys to have a sister.”
His smile faded and he asked, “So, what now?”
“I think I need to be on my own for a while,” she answered slowly. “I never have been, not when I had control, I mean. And the babies aren’t due for about another five months, so there’s plenty of time. I think I’ll stay with my aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks and then find a place to live in the city.”
“Yeah. So I’ll be close if you want to visit.”
Hellboy covered her hand with his and squeezed it gently. “We’re breakin’ up, huh?”
She gave him a sad smile. “Yeah, Red. We’re breakin’ up.”
* * * *
Wanting to get the confrontation over with as soon as possible, John found Liz two days after his return to the base. With a snowstorm raging outside, the group wasn’t leaving until it blew out. She was only four doors down the hall from him and he knocked with a pounding heart, unsure of what might happen, but determined to face her.
The door opened and she looked at him in surprise. “John. Hi. Um, everything okay?”
“I don’t know Liz,” he replied honestly, careful not to seem aggressive. “I thought I would ask you that question.”
Her lips twisted, but she motioned him inside with, “Not a conversation I want to have in the hall.”
Nodding, he entered her quarters and found it looked just like his. He sat in the guest chair, needing to get off his feet or his back would quite possibly dislocate. She took the bed, sitting on the edge of it. Before he could lose his nerve, John told her, “It’s not an excuse, but we were very drunk when it happened.”
She snorted and told him, “So were we. Maybe alcohol facilitates the fertilization or something.”
“I was, um, talking more about the reason we, well, had sex in the first place, not the pregnancy,” John replied.
Holding up a hand, Liz said, “I don’t want to hear details.”
“Look, John, Red and I aren’t together any more.”
Astonished and dismayed, John exclaimed, “Don’t break up because of me! Liz, he loves you! Give him another chance.”
She smiled at him and said, “It’s not because of you, John. We just…we don’t fit like we thought we would.”
“No, it’s done,” Liz broke in, holding up a hand. She stood and walked over to him, crouching in front of the chair and putting her hands on his knees. “John, he loves me, I know, but I don’t love him. Not the way I should. He’ll always be…special…but I need…I don’t know what I need, honestly. I just know he’s not it. I also know that I don’t want to stand in your way. You loved him enough to let him go and that should’ve told me something in the first place.”
He couldn’t deny that, didn’t want to really. “Are you really sure that you’re okay with it?”
Quirking a smile at him, Liz stood and kissed his forehead. “Yes. Take care of the big lug for me, okay?”
Bone-deep relief swept over him and he agreed, “Always.”
* * * *
John didn’t want to give birth in
Liz and Krauss left when the storm ended three days after it had started. Abe stayed at the base, for which John was grateful. The amphibian agent was soothing and calm, keeping Hellboy from fraying too badly around the edges at being stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Hellboy hovered endlessly, waiting on John hand and foot. John was big enough, and uncomfortable enough, not to find it a nuisance. Plus there were times he really enjoyed it, like when the demon curled up behind him on the bed purring softly to them, or when he rubbed John’s back just right.
And then, about a week after the rescue, sharp pains in his stomach woke John from a restless sleep. He groaned, clutching his middle, curling around it.
“Myers? What’s wrong?” Hellboy instantly asked.
Gritting his teeth, John said, “It’s time.”
John kicked backwards. Hard.
“Ow! Oh! Ah, crap! Hang on, let’s get you to the infirmary!” Hellboy exclaimed. “Don’t try and have the kid now, Myers, hold on, okay?”
Hellboy picked him up, cradling John to his chest as he rushed to the door, kicking it open. John started laughing and then couldn’t stop, gasping and snorting against the demon’s throat as he was carted through the base to the infirmary. It might have been mild hysteria, but by the time they reached the medical center of the base, it had faded and so didn’t matter.
The nurse on duty took one look at them and reached for the phone as Hellboy carefully set John on a bed. He paced next to the bed until the doctor arrived and then hovered as Dr. Schiff examined John.
“Okay, John, let’s get you ready for surgery,” Dr. Schiff announced at last, smiling cheerfully so that John wanted to punch him. “Everything looks ready to go.”
Another pain, a contraction apparently, robbed him of the breath to answer or strike the doctor, which was just as well. By the time he was done panting through it, the nurses had efficiently transferred him to the gurney. He grabbed Hellboy’s stone hand and exclaimed, “Don’t forget your promise, Red!”
Worry darkened the other’s face and Hellboy told him, “You’re going to be fine, Boyscout! You better be, got it?”
The gurney moved and the last John saw of Hellboy, the demon was standing at the doors to the small operating room, staring in. And then the anesthesia hit, so he didn’t even see that.
* * * *
It seemed to take way too long. Hellboy paced outside the operating room, unable to see what was going on once a nurse had pulled shades down. Abe showed up about ten minutes after Myers went into surgery, but knew enough to stay out of his way. The nurses kept giving him wary looks, but they also stayed out of his way.
And then he heard it. A thin, warbling cry from inside the operating room. His daughter. Hellboy rushed for the door, but Abe was somehow faster, jumping in front of him to exclaim, “You can’t go in there, Red! You aren’t sterile and John’s in a dangerous spot right now! Stay out here!”
Frustrated, Hellboy growled angrily but stepped away from the door.
Only a couple of minutes later, one of the nurses came out of the operating room holding a pink swaddled bundle, a broad smile on her face as she said, “Here you are, Dad.”
Hellboy froze in place so that Abe had to jab him with an elbow. Moving over to her, he peered down at the tiny pale face, scrunched up with a demanding expression. A dark patch of hair adorned her head, but her eyes were closed so he couldn’t see what color they were. A second later, the baby let out a loud cry.
“Take her, Red, she wants you to hold her,” Abe ordered softly. “She knows you’re there.”
Terrified that he might crush her, Hellboy carefully took the baby girl from the nurse and cradled her in his flesh hand, against his chest. She made some noises and then yawned, falling asleep in the span of seconds.
Abe breathed, “Oh Hellboy. She’s beautiful.”
“Do you have a name?” the nurse asked.
He and Myers had been arguing about it for the last week, but in a playful kind of way. Hellboy had always come up with the most outrageous names just to make the man grin and shoot down his suggestions. Shaking his head, Hellboy answered, “No. We were still thinking about it.”
“There’s time yet,” she replied, smiling.
Looking down at his daughter, Hellboy wondered at the miracle that had given him three children, even though two were yet unborn. He very, very carefully kissed her forehead and then asked the nurse, “How’s Myers?”
She lost her smile before telling him, “Dr. Schiff is very capable and doing the best he can under unusual circumstances. I’m sure Agent Myers will be fine.”
“Will be?” Hellboy repeated, fear gutting him. “What’s wrong?”
“There were…filaments…of some biogenetic material in the womb,” the woman explained. “They had attached through the uterine wall to Agent Myers’ organs. Dr. Schiff had to cut them to get the baby out. He’s repairing the damage right now.”
“Easy, Red. I’m sure John’s going to be fine,” Abe said hastily, guiding him to a chair and pushing him lightly into it. “There’s no panic or strong emotions coming from the other room, so everything seems to be okay.”
The next half-hour of being in the dark was enough to drive Hellboy crazy, except for the tiny, trusting life in his arms. Every time he started to get squirrelly, he looked down and took in the peaceful, sleeping baby girl and calmed down. Finally, Schiff himself exited the operating room, his smock covered in blood, the sight of which caused Hellboy to jump to his feet and demand, “How is he?”
“He’ll be fine,” Schiff assured him. “He’s sleeping off the anesthetic now, but you can go see him in recovery, if you want. He should stay off his feet the next several days, but I don’t see any reason there won’t be a full recovery.”
Hellboy let out a long, slow sigh of relief, then grinned down at his daughter. “You hear that? He’s gonna be fine. Let’s go say hi.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Red,” Abe said, smiling. “Congratulations.”
Recovery turned out to be back in the main part of the infirmary and Myers looked way too small and vulnerable in the hospital bed. Sitting in the special chair beside the bed, one that Manning had shipped out for this occasion, Hellboy watched the steady rise and fall of the other man’s chest and felt a kind of peace descend on him that he never had before.
Undoing the blanket around their daughter, he belatedly checked over her little fingers and toes and then re-bundled her. He looked over at Myers and said, “Wake up, Squirt. Someone wants to meetcha. And we need a name for her, we never decided.”
It was another hour before Myers actually did wake up and by then, Hellboy was nodding off from the early morning hour.
Clearing his throat, Myers greeted softly, “Hey.”
Hellboy blinked fully awake at that and replied, “Hey, babe. It’s about time you woke up. Look who’s here.”
He leaned over and transferred their sleeping daughter to John’s arms, watching as the other man stared at her in a stunned silence.
“She’s perfect, ain’t she?” Hellboy prompted.
John gave him a radiant smile. “She is. What should we name her?”
Hellboy teased, “How about Mathilda?”
Rolling his eyes, John admonished, “Be serious.”
“Okay, serious,” Hellboy
began and then hesitated. He finally suggested, “What about
“After her aunt,” Myers nodded, smiling. “That works for me. I hope Liz doesn’t mind.”
Gently resting his hand on Myers’ now-flat stomach, he said, “She’ll love it.”
Myers yawned. “I think I’m going under again. Take her for me?”
The brilliant smile Myers gave him sent a flutter through Hellboy’s chest and he wondered how he’d gotten so damn lucky.
“Love you too, Red, but I really need to sleep,” Myers replied, yawning again.
Sitting back down, Hellboy told him, “Sleep, Myers. I’m not going anywhere.”
As he held