Hellboy was not having a good day. It happened.
First, there was Manning, getting all up in everyone's face about what a coup he'd scored by convincing 'the powers that be' in Washington to let him recruit His Royal Assness to the BPRD.
Next, to add insult to injury, he'd informed everyone Myers would be coming back from Antarctica.
Good news, Hellboy'd figured, until Manning'd gone on to share with the group exactly what (or rather: who) Myers would be coming back for.
"But," Abe said, when Hellboy had left the meeting in search of a sympathetic ear, "didn't you tell everyone that you didn't want him?"
"I guess." Hellboy's memories of his exact words were a bit fuzzy. "So what? Father gave him to me."
Abe did some fishy things. "Red. He is not your personal property. He's a human being."
"Exactly my point," Hellboy said, triumphant. "What, you think he wants to be White Face's personal handler? You've met him, right? Cold bastard. I'm telling you, Abe - this thing stinks."
"Speaking of which," Abe said. "If you would be so kind."
Hellboy sighed and selected the smallest rotten egg he could find. "Thanks for nothing. Hope you choke on it."
"Unlikely," Abe said, wanting to get in the last word, as usual.
Hellboy opted to be the bigger man and walked away with dignity.
While Abe hadn't been able to fully grasp the situation, Hellboy was willing to acknowledge he'd offered a few good ideas. One, at least.
It was possible that, at some point in time and in the heat of the moment, certain words had been spoken that Myers had taken the wrong way. Humans were funny like that. They couldn't just let bygones be bygones, oh no - they had to remember every damn thing.
Hellboy'd think that if your lifespan could be measured in decennia, you'd be a bit more focused on the present. Still, forewarned was forearmed, and all that.
So he talked to some of the guys, all discreet-like, found out when Myers'd be getting back and made a few arrangements. Nothing too big, just some small affair by way of getting his message across.
Manning ruined it, of course.
"Take that banner down this instance."
Some days, there was just no talking to the guy.
"And what are those, balloons?" Manning looked around, wild-eyed. "Did somebody put balloons up there?"
Jones or Smith or whoever volunteered that yes, someone had. Good man. Hellboy'd have to remember him.
"They're blocking the security cameras," Manning said. He sounded close to outright hysteria. "I want them gone now. This very instance."
Time to step in, Hellboy judged. "Sheesh, Manning. Next you're going to say we can't have the cake, either. Or the band." Granted, it wasn't much of a band, but some of the guys played an instrument for a hobby, and Hellboy figured, well, in for a penny, in for a pound.
"You!" Manning frowned. "Cake?"
"Or death?" Hellboy tried. He'd read that some situations could be defused by the use of humor.
"Looks like some party," Myers said. He'd arrived just in time to catch the cleaning crews mopping up the last of the confetti, while Hellboy'd been taking care of the cake. Of course he had.
"Uh." Hellboy tried to think of something clever and funny to say. "Hey, Myers."
"Hey." Myers smiled a bit. Myers had a pretty cute smile. A bit goodie-goodie, but a nice kid, really. Fairy Prince didn't deserve him. "Miss me?"
Hellboy scoffed. "Miss you? More like I didn't even notice you were gone." Not quite the right tone to be striking here, he realized, but sheesh. Needy, much? "So uh, anyway. Welcome back, I guess."
"Thanks." Myers's expression suggested there was more stuff he wanted to say.
Hellboy decided that enough was enough. " 'scuse me, I gotta take care of this cake."
"Oh," Myers said. He seemed a little disappointed, and then all of a sudden, he looked relieved. Humans were so weird. "Right. Uh, see you around, I guess."
"Not if I see you first." Hellboy added a friendly grin, by way of signalling that he was kidding.
He turned around before he could see Myers's response.
Better to give the guy some space, Hellboy judged. Homecomings were always so emotional.
And then it was two damn weeks before he saw Myers again. A lesser man might have sulked or lost his temper on the regular, but Hellboy was smarter than that. Patience and cunning, that was the ticket.
Not that you'd be able to tell it, the way Manning kept going on and on about a minor bit of property damage. Not Hellboy's fault nobody knew how to put up a proper wall around here.
Manning'd also sent out a memo, informing everyone that their latest recruit was to be addressed as 'Prince Nuada', 'Your Royal Highness' or 'Sir', if he'd indicated that he considered you a close friend.
Hellboy imagined Myers, calling Nuada 'sir'. Not the end of the world, really.
Myers was the polite type, after all. There were probably lots and lots of people he called 'sir'. Heck, he'd probably call Hellboy 'sir', if the two of them hadn't moved beyond that level of formality already a long time ago, thanks to their instant emotional connection. Or something.
Anyway, there was no sulking or temper-losing going on. Some waiting, sure.
It all paid off when he caught Myers coming back carrying two huge paper bags full of - well, some people'd probably call it food. Not Hellboy, but other people might.
"That's a lot of vegetables." Hellboy liked his vegetables in moderation. It helped when they'd been nice and chopped so that you couldn't see what they'd looked like originally anymore.
Myers smiled. "Farmer's market," he said.
A bit cryptic, but Hellboy could read between the lines. "Farmer's market, huh? So what's cooking at Casa Myers this evening? You making something special?"
"Prince Nuada prefers food that's naturally grown," Myers said. Really ruining the moment they'd been having, Hellboy felt.
"You his personal shopper now?" Hellboy'd been considering offering a hand. Good thing he hadn't.
Myers shrugged. "Whatever he needs."
That probably didn't mean what it sounded like it meant. That probably just meant Myers told Nuada off a lot, for wanting things he couldn't have. There certainly hadn't been any of this 'whatever you need' nonsense going on when Myers'd been Hellboy's handler.
Myers came close to dropping one of the bags. Not a good sign. Hellboy pretended he didn't see, let Myers have his pride. "He's not so bad, really."
Given who was talking, Hellboy decided this was the equivalent of a cry for help. A loud one. Like a normal person breaking down weeping and falling down on his knees to beg Hellboy to please, please save him from this terrible, horrible monster who was making him do all sorts of terrible, horrible things.
There might be a veiled promise of future favors owed tossed in somewhere.
"Not so bad, huh?" There was that pesky soulbond thing Nuada had going on, of course. Really cramped Hellboy's style.
Still, where there was a will, there was a way to kick someone's ass.
"Pretty nice, actually. Polite, too," Myers added, in a futile attempt to cover up the truth.
Poor guy. Hellboy watched him go, slumped under the weight of his trouble and decided that Something Must be Done.
He'd get on it right after dinner. Wouldn't want to let his nachos get cold, after all.
Nuada answered his own door. That was a bit unexpected, although Hellboy could think of at least a dozen reasons why Myers might not be in any position to do so and none of them improved his mood.
"Demon," Nuada said, "you are not welcome here."
By way of saying 'howdy', it left something to be desired. (Also: polite? His big red ass.)
"Ask me if I care," Hellboy said. "Move, Pointy Ears."
Nuada glowered. "I am not a Klingon."
"Vulcan," Myers's voice said, right when Hellboy'd been about to demonstrate how very not impressed he was. "Spock is a Vulcan. Well, half-Vulcan. Hey, Red. Trouble?"
You had to admire the guy's courage, Hellboy thought. "Naw. No trouble at all," he said, pushing the door open and inviting himself inside.
Myers seemed okay. No chains lying around or anything. No signs that he hadn't had all his clothes on mere moments ago.
"Looking for something?" Nuada asked. Moving closer to Myers - staking out his territory. Jerk.
Hellboy made a show of studying - huh. Some really cute wallpaper over here. Nice furniture, too. Looked expensive. The royal treatment, clearly. No expense spared.
"Just thought I'd drop in for a friendly visit," he said. "Mind if I smoke?"
"We were in the middle of having dinner." Nuada's tone suggested that what he really wanted to say was some variation on the 'begone, foul demon' theme. Putting on an act for Myers, clearly.
"Yeah? Well, why don't you grab me a plate, too, huh? I could eat."
"Actually," Myers said, "I was about to get dessert."
Replace 'get' by 'be', and you had a fair assessment of the situation. Hellboy grabbed himself a fancy chair. It promptly broke, proving that 'expensive' didn't always equal 'well-made and worth the money'.
"Is it ice cream? Ice cream's my favorite."
Myers's composure got to cracking a bit as the evening progressed. Hellboy, in a flash of genius, if he did say so himself, suggested that he looked tired, enabling Myers to leave without losing face.
Nuada's scowl got a bit scowlier once Myers was gone. Showing his true colors, Hellboy figured.
"Used to be mine, you know," he said. He wondered what they'd told Nuada about Myers. Maybe Nuada'd just given them a list of demands and someone (probably Manning) had gone 'hey, we've got the perfect guy for this'. Damn Manning.
"I beg your pardon?"
This fake politeness thing was really something. "Not yet, you aren't," Hellboy said.
Nuada narrowed his eyes at him. (Ooh, scary.) "You come into my home, you eat my food and you insinuate that it is I who has given you offense?"
"Get a load of that, eh?" Hellboy said. "But yeah, got it in one. See, around here, we don't like it when people take something that isn't theirs. Ringing any bells yet?"
"These rooms?" Nuada shrugged. "Have them, with my blessing. I seek no strife with you."
"And that's where you're wrong, Princess Pretty Hair." Hellboy considered. "Well, okay, maybe not wrong, but you don't know as much as you think you know."
"Speak plainly, so that I may know for what insult I will wash these floors with your blood," Nuada said, and that was a nice one, really it was. Had to gives him some kudos for that.
"His name's John Myers, and he's mine," Hellboy said. "Exclusively. Mine. That plain enough?"
"The human," Nuada said, as if he wasn't living in a building full of them. "I have touched his thoughts, his heart. There is a strange purity to him. It might almost be considered ... attractive. Seductive."
Well, that was a bit of a leap. "You have, huh? Well, how about from now on, you stick to 'look, don't touch'? Leave the touching to people who are allowed to, huh?"
"Like you?" Nuada sneered. "A demon, putting his hands on such a being? You would ruin it beyond repair. It is not for you."
"He," Hellboy said. "And where I put my hands isn't any of your business. Only one person who can tell me off and guess what, pal? It ain't you."
"Is that what it will take?" Nuada asked. "For me to instruct him to close his ears to your false entreaties, to no longer heed your poisoned words? Consider it done."
"Now wait just one damn second," Hellboy said. Not where he'd been going with this.
Nuada rose and inclined his head, all prince-like. "I thank you for bringing this matter to my attention."
"Oh dear," Abe said, and wasn't that the understatement of the century?
"Bastard laughed at me. Right behind my back!" Hellboy wanted to punch something. Abe's tank wasn't the right thing, though. It was very expensive, and the water'd ruin all of the books.
"You ... heard him do this?"
"Abe. Focus." Myers was a good soldier. You gave him an order, he'd obey. You told him to take a hike to Antarctica, all he'd do was say 'sir, yes, sir, and I'm sure that I'll love the climate over there'.
"Perhaps you have been coming at this from the wrong angle," Abe said.
Hellboy groaned. "You figure?"
"Perhaps if you addressed the object of your affection directly - from the heart, so to speak ... " Abe's voice trailed off, uncertain.
He should be. "You think that'll work?"
"It's worth a try, is it not?"
Hellboy considered. "You sure I can't just save his life or something? That always seems to get the trick done in the movies."
"Red." Abe sounded sympathetic. "You already have saved his life. And, if I may, he has saved yours at least once. It might be time to accept that in the real world, things are not as they are in the movies."
"I really hate growing up."
"Before you go, would you turn the page for me?"
When Hellboy got back to his quarters, Nuada was waiting for him.
The cats were all over the guy, which didn't help. Hellboy hadn't expected them to be smart or anything, but he'd expected them to be loyal. To somehow magically sense it when he was mad at someone and to treat that person accordingly.
Abe was right. Life was full of disappointments.
"I come to propose a fair contest," Nuada said. "To settle our differences as befit two people in whom flows the blood of royalty."
"Not interested," Hellboy said. Speak from the heart, Abe'd said. Easy for him to say.
"How quickly you abandon your goals in the face of adversity." Nuada dislodged one of the cats. Two others took its place. Hellboy hoped they got their claws out.
"What can I say, you got me." Hellboy shrugged. "Abandoning my goals in the face of adver-whatsisname, that's me."
"I suppose it is as well. What small pleasure he would find in your embrace would pale next to the glory he would find in mine," Nuada said.
Hellboy tried to keep his temper. So what if they were down to dick-measuring. Where had maturity ever gotten anyone anyway? "Oh, you did not just go there."
"I can offer him ecstasy no human has ever tasted. What can you offer?"
"Can we go back to arguing about whose is bigger? Because I'm pretty sure I'd win that one."
"Then accept my challenge," Nuada said.
"Pretty sure I've got measuring tape here somewhere," Hellboy said. "How about it, huh?"
Nuada glared. It still didn't hurt, let alone come close to killing him. Nice to know that he wasn't alone in having to deal with life's little disappointments.
Even nicer to have Myers walk in, clearly not about to obey any orders about hanging out with him no more. "Um, hey guys. Am I interrupting something?"
"Your presence could never be less than an enhancement to any meeting," Nuada said.
Sucking up big time, clearly. "I think I agree, but I'm not sure. I mean, maybe if he'd said it in English."
The cats, at least, abandoned Nuada in favor of this new arrival. Could be they just remembered that he'd brought them food, once upon a time, but Hellboy preferred to think there was more to it than that.
"Manning's called a general meeting in fifteen minutes," Myers said. "Um. I didn't know you guys were friends."
"We're not." Hellboy wondered what Manning wanted. Probably something stupid.
"Think of us allies, united to a single purpose," Nuada said, sidling closer to Myers. Wasn't hard, now that the cats weren't holding him down anymore. (Damn. Hellboy's fault for misjudging them.)
Myers smiled. "That's good. All for one and one for all, huh?"
"Right. All of us freaks sticking together." Myers wasn't a freak, of course. Never fitted in quite right.
"We were discussing whose touch might bring you greater pleasure," Nuada said and okay, sure, speaking from the heart and all that jazz. Still, there was such a thing as being too direct. "Might we trouble you to venture an opinion on the subject?"
Myers tried to take a step back. One of the cats got in the way. "Uh."
"Perhaps a demonstration might serve to clear your mind."
On the one hand, props to Nuada for putting the subject out there, so to speak. So maybe he wasn't as sensitive about it as Hellboy might've been but hey, you couldn't argue with results.
On the other hand: "Yo, Myers. How about we blow off that meeting and go for a cup of coffee somewhere? My treat."
"You never have any money," Myers said. "And you're grounded."
"All right, then how about we take off all our clothes and have sex or something? It'll be good for you."
Nuada frowned. "Am I included in this proposal?"
Gotcha! Hellboy thought, but then Myers said, "Look, I really think we should all go to that meeting."
"All right, then after the meeting," Hellboy proposed. He could wait for a bit. He'd had lots of practice. Better yet, he had a tail. A nice, flexible tail. A man could do things with a tail like that, even in the middle of a stuffy, boring meeting. "Be a sport, Myers. Live a little."
"I'll think about it," Myers said, which wasn't exactly the enthusiastic agreement Hellboy'd been hoping for. Of course, he also hadn't been expecting that he'd need to share - for a little bit, at least, until he'd convinced Myers to drop Mr High and Mighty and Does Not Speak English like a hot potato.
Myers being the polite type, it might take him a few weeks to get around to that.
Oh well. Hellboy'd met people he liked less.