WHAT IS REAL
Summary– This is Part Two of a Hellboy/BatB crossover, SND rated PG. It begins four months after Part One and is set in the interim between the two HB movies. (No copyright infringement intended) The Poem, ‘To the Evening Star’ by William Blake.
‘Thou fair-hair’d angel of the evening
Now, when the sun rests on the mountains,
Light thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile on our evening bed"
Catherine and Vincent sat close together on a padded bench in one corner of the specially outfitted garbage truck Hellboy had sent for them. At a glance, it seemed to be more of a mobile laboratory, filled with special equipment, computer screens and other strange apparatus. Transparent shelves against the walls were filled with what appeared to be vials of liquid of all colors, and some ancient looking figurines and devices. Neither Catherine nor Vincent could guess what they might be used for. Vincent cradled Catherine against him protectively. His right arm was around her shoulders. He looked down at his new wife and murmured into her hair. "You could have gone to this event in a much more comfortable fashion Catherine."
Catherine looked up at him as she rested comfortably against his side. "I go where you go, husband. ‘Never to be parted’ that was my contribution to our wedding vows remember?" She lifted up slightly to place her lips on his in a gentle kiss. They had been married now for three months two weeks and five days and they were blissfully happy.
"But are you comfortable, Catherine? You have not been well and our growing child tires you quickly. This bench must be very uncomfortable for you." As he spoke his breath lifted the light wisps of hair around her face. The remainder for tonight had been arranged by Mary and was swept up in very soft curls.
Catherine had dressed formally for this special occasion, ‘the celebration’ that their new friends, Hellboy and Liz had been planning for months now. It was to celebrate their realization that they were meant to be together – a cause for a celebration all on it own, since it had taken so many years and of course the small matter of having saved the world. Catherine had wanted to make a good impression on the other members of Hellboy’s unusual family. The dark blue velvet gown she wore had been the one she was wearing when Vincent became ill. She loved it so much and had bought it with Vincent in mind. But that night in the Music Chamber, Vincent had been so disoriented and preoccupied that he hadn’t noticed it. So she had put it away that night, when she had hurriedly taken time to change. She had kept it to wear for a happier occasion. It was also loose and gathered from the bodice and flowed gently over her now, well-rounded abdomen. Vincent’s reaction when she had emerged from the newly-carved antechamber this evening had erased every sad memory from that time. This new chamber would soon be the baby’s room. It was connected to Vincent’s chamber – their chamber – by a roughly hewn doorway at the moment, but like so many things in their new life together, it would soon be made right.
"I’m fine, Vincent, and I am quite comfortable." She wriggled a little closer to him taking his left hand and placing it on her stomach, and murmured. "Feel. He’s excited to be meeting new people too."
"You are quite sure it’s a boy, aren’t you?" Vincent murmured, placing a kiss upon her hair.
"Yes," she said with a dreamy smile.
Vincent gazed down at her lovingly, taking in her smile and splaying his hand possessively over her stomach. He suddenly gasped in surprise and wonder. "Catherine, I felt him move!" It was the first time this had happened. Although Catherine had tried to give Vincent an idea of what she felt, often putting his hand on her stomach as she felt the baby move. But their son had not cooperated before now.
Catherine giggled. "See, I told you it’s a boy. I’m so glad you felt him, finally." And she turned and gave her husband another light kiss on the lips.
"And I can feel him as well Catherine." Vincent murmured amazed. "I have been sensing something these past few weeks, but I wasn’t sure what it was until now. It was so sporadic and vague. But now…"
"I told you your gift would return in another form."
Their lives had been one new experience after another since meeting Hellboy and his friends. It all seemed to coincide with Catherine finding out she was pregnant and, as is often the case, the dark time they had lived through together had preceded a time of wonder.
It wasn’t long afterward that the truck came to a stop, to the sound of hissing brakes. Vincent helped Catherine to her feet. A few moments later, the door opened and they saw a pair of iron gates closing automatically behind the truck. In front of them, standing at the bottom of the ramp were Hellboy and Liz, their arms around each other. Both seemed to prefer to wear black, causing Catherine to feel a little overdressed. Hellboy was wearing his perennial leather pants and boots and a black sweater and Liz was no longer shrouded in loose heavy clothing, she now wore tight pants and top also in black which showed off her figure.
With a lit cigar at the corner of his mouth, Hellboy declared. "Welcome to Demon Central. Now you know how to travel in style." And laughing at his own joke, Hellboy put out his large stone hand to grasp Vincent’s as he and Catherine stepped off the ramp. They shook hands as Liz hugged Catherine and then cooed over Catherine’s obvious condition, placing a hand on her stomach. "Oh my God, look at you?"
With a tolerant smile Catherine replied "Yes, the doctor says it’ll be in about two months."
"Wow, so soon?"
"Apparently it’s an unusually short pregnancy." Catherine replied her eyes going to Vincent.
Liz turned in Vincent’s direction and her expression was one of understanding. There was suddenly a look of uncertainty on her face as her gaze turned to Hellboy. But it lasted only a moment before she turned back to Catherine with excitement, smiling and asking. "Is it kicking yet? Can I feel? What do you think it is…?" Before she could answer, Liz drew Catherine away from the two men and they started walking toward a large building, talking excitedly about babies.
Vincent and Hellboy were left to watch them go. Hellboy took the cigar out of his mouth, holding it between thumb and forefinger, his attention on the two young women. "Chicks and babies." Then he shook his head in confusion and turned to Vincent and added. "Sorry we couldn’t make it to the wedding but you know how it is. There’s always a monster to kill. It also made us put off our little celebration." Then as they turned to follow Liz and Catherine, Hellboy said. "Ya know maybe you can help us, we’ve been lookin’ for this place called the ‘Troll Market’. Ever heard of it? They say it’s somewhere in the city, under one o’ the bridges, but we just can’t seem to find it. We’ve been getting weird reports of some strange stuff goin’ on …" Vincent shook his head as they followed the two women, his cloak flowing smoothly as he walked, his hood still concealing his face from the guards on patrol. Hellboy commenced to describe a world that Vincent had never thought existed. A world of strange and mythological creatures of which Hellboy himself was undeniable proof.
Once in the interior of the large ‘Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense’ building in Newark, New Jersey, the four companions chatted comfortably as they walked through several check points. Finally Hellboy and Liz stopped in the middle of a large bare room, and stood on a strange symbol marked on the floor.
"Ya better stand close. It could get a bit bumpy," Hellboy said as Liz slipped into his arms. So Catherine did the same, putting her arms around Vincent’s waist beneath the cloak. Hellboy waved to a uniformed guard standing behind a desk who seemed totally unfazed by Vincent. "Hey, Frank, these are the friends I told ya about. They’re okay." The man, a sour-faced older man, peered over his narrow spectacles unimpressed. "Ok, Frank," Hellboy said lifting his huge thumb in a signal. He looked back at Vincent and Catherine. "You guys are gonna love this." And suddenly the floor began to move. Catherine clutched at Vincent reflexively, as the large section of the floor they were standing on began to descend.
A short time later, the unusual elevator came to a stop in a huge cavern with a large number 51 on the wall. Hellboy and Liz stepped off easily with an air of familiarity with the process that declared they had done this so many times it was second nature. With only a short moment to gain their equilibrium, Vincent and Catherine did the same.
Hellboy strode into a long corridor pushing doors open as he came to them, and he was talking excitedly about Occult Wars and Hitler and mystical weapons most of which Vincent and Catherine could hardly keep up with. He spoke with such animation and in the manner of a little boy showing off his collection of toys. Vincent smiled at the thought of how child-like his new friend was. Liz had mentioned however that he had been born, or brought here as a baby, in 1944. Which made him much older than Vincent but he seemed more like a teenager. It was an endearing quality that offset his gruff almost care-free attitude.
There were men in black suits going about tasks in glass-enclosed rooms, who took no notice of them. It was then that Vincent felt comfortable enough to lower his hood.
They were led into a comfortable room at the end of this hall with two large doors, not unlike Father’s study with bookshelves against three walls and even a winding staircase, and again Vincent was reminded of how similar his and Hellboy’s lives were.
"Good evening, Vincent, good evening, Catherine, welcome to the Freaks Playhouse," a strangely amplified voice echoed from a speaker attached to one wall.
"Hey Abe," Hellboy said offhandedly, as he threw himself into an old well-worn leather chair that creaked under his weight. It was then that Vincent and Catherine realized that one wall of the room was a glass tank. And behind that glass, floating in the blue light was the other member of this unusual trio, Abraham Sapien.
Vincent walked over to the glass and put his hand upon it. Abraham swam closer and did the same. Vincent felt a strange duality within his mind and knew that again this amphibious creature was seeing into his very thoughts. Vincent didn’t feel this was an intrusion, since he was also given access to Abraham’s thoughts.
The thin blue lips smiled and Abraham said. "You have untapped depths to your mind, that you have never even explored my friend. Only someone with a latent psychic talent can use the link both ways."
Finally something within Vincent relaxed and a gusty sigh escaped his lips. Having lived all his life with people who didn’t understand his prophetic and psychic abilities had been very difficult. So to finally have them validated was unlike anything he had ever known and it comforted him greatly. In a strange way it gave him a feeling of normality for the first time in his life.
Vincent noticed then that these two men referred to themselves as ‘Freaks’ with pride and in such an offhand and light-hearted manner that clearly proclaimed they embraced their differences. He had always shunned his differences, and in recent years had even hated them. He placed his hand back on the glass and let Abraham ‘see’ this observation.
After a moment Abe smiled, his black eyes blinking once, as he thought a reply, knowing that Vincent wanted to keep his observations to himself. "Face it my friend you’re a Freak, just like the rest of us. The sooner you admit it to yourself the happier you’ll be because us Freaks need to stick together. You’ve been denying a vital part of yourself for too long embrace your ‘differences’ my friend. Trying to be something you’re not will only cause you pain."
Abraham’s words touched Vincent deeply. To finally come to terms with his lot and accept himself was not an easy thing to do. These two men were akin to him in ways he had only ever dreamed of. He smiled broadly in return. For the first time in his life, he was unafraid of showing all his teeth. Abe nodded and the moment was broken by Hellboy who called, "Hey, Abe! Get out here and meet our new friends like a civilized Freak!"
"See." Abe thought, and Vincent nodded.
When Vincent turned from Abe’s tank, Liz was now seated on Hellboy’s lap and Catherine was sitting comfortably in another chair at a large table. "Myers’ll be here soon with the party favors." Hellboy announced happily. "Hmm, munchies." he declared excitedly.
"And Manning will want to meet Vincent too, remember?" Liz added as her fingers stroked Hellboy’s thick black topknot affectionately.
Hellboy scowled "Oh yeah, Manning."
Vincent stood next to Catherine’s chair and she took his hand as he asked "Manning?"
Hellboy swiped the air with a dismissive gesture of his large stone hand "Oh, he’s nobody."
Liz pushed his shoulder. "Red…Manning is kind of our boss …"
"He’s not my boss!" Hellboy declared, getting up out of the chair, carrying Liz with him, and, with no apparent effort, placed her gently back in it "I need a beer." he grunted as he walked over to a cupboard and pulling the door open roughly, he said. "You want one V?"
Vincent tilted his head to the side, at this form of address. The casual manner of these people was at once strange and yet comforting. The informality of the nickname was more acceptable, coming from Hellboy, than someone without their differences in common. He shook his head with a smile. "No, thank you."
At that moment the doors to the room opened and a young man wheeled in a trolley laden with food. Red turned to him and demanded, "Where you been Myers? It’s about time." Hellboy turned to Vincent and Catherine and continued, "This is Myers. He’s my keeper." He said this with a very satisfied grin as though being Red’s keeper was a very important position.
Myers, a young dark-haired man with a quiet disposition, simply nodded to Hellboy’s guests as unaffected by their presence as the other black-suited men in the rest of the complex had been. He began to place all sorts of different foods on the large wooden table. There was a huge amount of it, but Vincent realized there must be a reason. The most obvious was that with Hellboy’s larger size and different metabolism, he ate more than most people.
Myers began pushing the trolley out of the room as he said in a soft voice, "There’s more food coming. It’ll be here soon."
Before Myers could say anything more, a bald man stormed in. "What’s this I hear about you bringing strangers – not cleared by me – into this Top Security Facility?" the man demanded as he walked past Vincent and Catherine, not even noticing them, his attention firmly on his nemesis.
Hellboy was just popping a can of beer as he turned and the man’s face and expensive suit was sprayed with foam. "Gee, sorry." Hellboy said without any real remorse. Then he walked past the sputtering man, and thrusting the ever present, lit cigar into his mouth, he murmured to Vincent and Catherine. "That’s Manning."
Manning turned to face the room, wiping at the beer stains down his jacket front. "Do you know how much this suit cost? I’m gonna take the cost of dry cleaning this suit – if it can be saved – out of your pay, young man!"
Hellboy stopped in the middle of the room and turned to face Manning. Lifting both hands, spilling half the beer onto the carpet, and clenching the cigar in his teeth he declared. "Pay, what pay? All I get here is room and board, for what? Saving your ass a dozen times, and I have to go out in a Garbage Truck or escape if I want some fun. …" The two men faced each other about three feet apart, ready for battle. Liz got out of the chair and rolled her eyes. Vincent realized then that this was an ongoing argument. Liz put herself in front of Hellboy and faced Manning. "This is no time for this old argument. We have guests." And she gestured toward Vincent and Catherine, then turned a stern look behind her to Hellboy.
With feigned nonchalance, Hellboy turned his back on Manning and said. "Oh yeah I forgot Manning meet Vincent and Catherine. Vincent and Catherine, this is Manning." The last was spoken with unconcealed contempt.
Manning’s manner suddenly changed, as he noticed the strangers for the first time. Wiping his face, and then stuffing the now stained handkerchief into his top pocket, he thrust out a hand at the same time, before he looked at Vincent’s face. "How do you do I’m…" And when their eyes met Manning began to sputter again. "How …who …I …I …"
Vincent didn’t move, still very aware of his effect on strangers– even in this unusual company, didn’t take his hand, but nodded politely saying. "I’m pleased to meet you Mr. Manning. I’m sorry if we startled you. This is my wife, Catherine." And Vincent looked lovingly down to Catherine who returned his gaze with a radiant smile.
"Wife," was all Manning could manage
Hellboy declared with heavy sarcasm "Yeah Manning, ‘Wife’ and that there bump is their future son or daughter, so get over it. Leave us to have our own version of Halloween, since I missed the last one because of monsters in the museum." then turning his back on Manning and taking a swig of the beer, Hellboy said to his guests. "Its okay ‘V’ he ain’t afraid o’ you. He’s just pissed that he didn’t get an invite and that he didn’t find you first." He grinned back at Vincent, ignoring Manning.
Manning came angrily around to face Hellboy. "How long have you known about him?"
Taking a long draw on his cigar, Hellboy blew the smoke into Manning’s face. He thought about it for a moment and then said." Oh about four months. Right V?"
"Yes," Vincent said softly not at all happy to be the subject of this argument.
"It was just before old Raspy got his desserts." Red declared turning back to Vincent for an affirmation.
Vincent said nothing. He knew that this argument had been going on for so long now, that these two had come to know no other way to talk to each other.
Shaking a finger at Hellboy, Manning ordered "Well you should have cleared him with me before bringing him here. And I should have known every detail about your involvement with him and any secrets you let slip…"
Hellboy had had enough. He began to walk toward Manning who tried to stand his ground but stepped back at the last moment. As Hellboy’s voice began getting louder, the closer he got, until he was nose to nose with the other man. "You are not my father!" Hellboy bellowed loudly and then continued in a slightly softer tone. "And I am not your pet, Manning. Neither is Abe and I won’t let you tie Vincent up in this circus. He’s got it nice and simple with his wife and family so you just LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Hellboy roared, and it was loud enough to rival Vincent’s own.
In the stunned silence that followed, a calming hand touched Hellboy’s large red stone one and another came to Manning’s shoulder.
"Please," Vincent said softly, the gentle timber of his voice carrying peace, and his touch warmth and love.
Both men turned to him and then back to each other. As Vincent broke contact, the two parted without another word, Hellboy went for another beer and Manning left the room muttering to himself as he made his way down the corridor that led out of Professor Broom’s library.
From behind Catherine, Abe’s voice seemed to come out of nowhere. But obviously while everyone’s attention was on the two combatants, he had emerged from his tank and had seen the whole thing as he said softly. "Good, he’s learning."
Catherine looked up into the strange black eyes, confused. "Learning, who is learning?"
"Your husband, dear lady, he is learning what his gifts can do. Haven’t you noticed how he brings peace into a difficult situation?" Abe said as both he and Catherine watched Vincent go and talk softly to Red.
Soon afterward, Hellboy lost his solemn attitude, slapped Vincent on the shoulder and with a grin, declared. "Okay, you’re here, the food’s here. Grab yourself a drink, and let’s party!"
In the garbage truck on the way home Catherine said. "You know, all in all it was a very special evening."
Vincent, again cradling Catherine protectively against him chuckled softly, "Yes, very special and somewhat bizarre."
Catherine joined him in a soft giggle. "I know what you mean. They are truly a very unusual group, but meeting them has been a pleasure nonetheless, and now you have two families."
"Hmm, but like all families, they have their problems."
"And like Abe said, you will always be there to bring them peace." And Catherine laid her head back on Vincent’s shoulder and closed her eyes. It had also been a tiring evening for her, and her sides ached from laughing so much. With Red, nothing ever stayed serious for long. He could always see the funny side of a situation. The highlight of the evening had been his stories about some of their many missions and his somewhat warped way of looking at them.
"Abraham said that?" Vincent asked as he truly felt at peace with himself.
"Mm hmm." Catherine murmured almost asleep.
Vincent put his lips to the top of her golden head and whispered. "Rest now, we’ll be home soon."
Catherine made herself more comfortable. "Mmm." Vincent heard her murmur, Knowing as he did at night in their bed, as they spoke of the days events, she was no longer thinking. She was now ‘ in that wonderful place where everything shimmers and floats’
As the heavy truck pulled into Central Park, Vincent thought of Abraham’s words. They had given him more hope and he was truly looking forward to the future for the first time in his life. He had a beautiful wife a precious child on the way and he had discovered that he was not entirely alone. He hoped that with Abraham’s help he might also be able to understand his unusual gifts, and make the best use of them. He could ask for nothing more and he was content.
"Smile on our loves; and, while thou drawest
The blue curtain of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes in timely sleep"