Dr. Corrigan was a careful driver, steering the BPRD van slowly around the backwood curves and hills, but Liz still felt vaguely queasy. Like all BPRD vehicles, new or old, this one smelled like sweat, apprehension and ten different kinds of unholy gunk tracked into the floormats. They'd only been on the road for about an hour, but ten minutes out of town all the roads had started looking the same; narrow and dark, flanked on one side by a steep hill and on the other by a dangerous sloping drop. Massive old trees on either side turned the road into a kind of dark tunnel, roofed in black, dripping branches. The dim afternoon light flickered like a dying lightbulb. Liz sighed.
She twisted around, glancing into the back of the van to see how Hellboy and Myers were holding up. Hellboy looked deep in thought, crouched on the floor, his stone hand braced against the barred back doors. Myers looked more than a little white, strapped into his side-facing seat across from a sloshing, rattling shelf of occult supplies and reference materials. Still, he glanced up and smiled at Liz. "Are we there yet?"
"Yeah, Ma, are we there yet?" HB chimed in.
Liz made a face at the map she was holding. She was pretty sure Dr. Corrigan didn't really need a navigator and had just given her the map to keep her from thinking about how carsick she was. She sighed and folded the map into a messy ball, rustling it at HB. "Here's another fine mess you've gotten us into--!"
Hellboy grinned, but Myers startled her by picking up the cue. Going goggle-eyed, he twiddled his tie at Liz. "Oh-h-h, Stan!"
Liz burst out giggling; even Hellboy barked out a sudden laugh."Hey, whaddaya know! A guy who appreciates the classics."
"I used to watch them with my uncle," Myers said. Liz turned back around, settling into her seat and trying to fold the map back into shape. Hellboy could geek out about Laurel & Hardy movies for hours, and Liz had heard this speech before, more than once. Sounded like he'd found a willing conversational partner in Myers, though. Liz shook her head, smiling as Dr. Corrigan pulled up to a stop sign, idling briefly. She glanced over at Liz, raised her eyebrows in exaggerated disbelief and mouthed 'What?'
Liz just widened her eyes and shook her head, but yeah, truth be told? She was surprised too. HB didn't open up to a lot of people. The fact that he considered Myers a worthy audience for his Laurel & Hardy opinions-- yeah, that was a pretty big deal. Myers had gone out on half a dozen big jobs with HB in the year since Moscow, so maybe HB considered him a pal now? But even so, it was startling that he hadn't jumped down Myers' throat for blithely taking over what had always been Liz and HB's private little joke.
"Almost there," Dr. Corrigan called back, turning off the main road onto a bumpy gravel drive. The trees closed in, thicker and nearer on either side, and Liz started trying to fold her map back up. The gravel got thinner and the mud got thicker as they proceeded. Myers groaned and Hellboy grunted irritably as Dr. Corrigan eased up on the gas for a second, then floored it. The final curve was sharp, and Liz braced herself cautiously on the armrest as Dr. Corrigan maneuvered the van around it.
Silence fell suddenly, like darkness in midwinter, and the back of Liz' neck prickled. The drive sloped down into a grassy clearing, and Dr. Corrigan pulled to a stop, parking about halfway down the drive.
"Well, all ashore that's going ashore," she said, and tossed the keys to Liz so she could open the van doors. Liz was glad she'd worn her second-best boots. Just a few steps around to the back of the van and the mud was already sucking at them, sticking in the treads and chilling her toes as she fumbled with the van keys.
Hellboy hopped out, crouching stiffly with his good hand braced on his knee. He stretched, groaning, and looked around. Myers stretched inside the van, edging carefully towards the short hop to the ground; he put his hand on Hellboy's shoulder casually as he jumped down. Liz didn't look over her shoulder at Dr. Corrigan, but she felt another prickle at the back of her neck. She ignored it, looking around at the property they'd come to inspect.
The photos Dr. Corrigan had faxed back to the BPRD facility in New Jersey had done a pretty good job of setting the scene. What surprised Liz was how small the place felt: just a cleared scoop of land at the edge of a cliff, barely half an acre. Even calling it a clearing was being generous, Liz thought. It had probably been well-kept at one point, but now the grass was high and wild, snarls of blackberry vines and small saplings starting to blur the boundaries of the cleared space.
The van was parked about halfway along the drive, which continued on through the grass, almost reaching the edge of the cliff before turning and looping around the small house on the south side of the clearing. To the north and just ahead of the van was the one large tree on the property, an old black walnut tree, tall and gnarled, its branches heavy, spidering down almost to the ground.
"The church was built there, originally," Dr. Corrigan said, pointing just beyond the tree. "The foundations were stone. They're still there, under all that grass."
"Shoulda brought a mower," Hellboy muttered.
"Or a few goats," Myers said, straight-faced. Hellboy snorted, too tense to laugh now. Liz was feeling the same thing. Sundown wasn't for hours yet-- Myers probably knew what time it would be to the minute-- but the shadows of the trees to their back gave a weird, eerie tone to the light, as if the sun would plunge beneath the horizon at any moment.
Liz walked around to the front of the van, peering towards the far boundary of the property. Over the edge of the cliff, she could see the peaked tops of evergreen trees growing far below. Beyond that, still further down was the broad, murky stretch of the river, gray and darker gray, with some inconstant wind whipping it into occasional white peaks.
"So what's the plan?" Hellboy asked. Liz and Myers drifted closer. They'd gotten the rough idea on the drive over, but Dr. Corrigan hadn't really been able to talk in the van.
She sighed. "It's a hell of a story."
"They always are," HB said.
"I'm just saying," Dr. Corrigan said. "I'm going to need coffee."
Inside, the house was cute, homey, a little old-fashioned. Vaguely untidy, like the family that lived there had just gotten up and left; which, of course, they had. Dr. Corrigan puttered around in the kitchen, getting the coffeemaker started, then came and sat down at the head of dining room table. Hellboy took the other end of the table, and Liz and Myers sat across from each other.
"The church was built in 1910, burned in 1935. By all accounts, just an accident, no weird rumors or local folklore that I could discover," Dr. Corrigan said. She opened a battered file folder, passing some photocopied news clippings to Myers. "Eventually Jim Moulton came back from World War II, bought the land and built the house."
"Why not use the existing foundations?" Myers asked. Dr. Corrigan looked slightly impressed, tipping her coffee mug in his direction.
"No idea. We don't know much about Jim Moulton. He died young in a car crash and passed the house on to his son Mike. Starting with Mike Moulton, every family that's lived in this house has had a daughter go missing." She pulled out three pictures, each an enlarged photocopy of what looked like a high school yearbook picture, and laid them down on the table, one by one. "Emily Moulton, age fifteen, disappeared in September 1976. Jennifer Burkhart, eighteen, disappeared in October 1991. And Lisa Palmer, age fourteen, went missing a week and a half ago. Like I said, I haven't been able to dig up much about the Moultons, but they did file a missing persons report. Nothing ever came of it. The Burkharts didn't file a report; locals say the family told people Jennifer had run off with a boy. They were pretty strict religious types, so people were inclined to believe it. The other interesting thing is that the Moultons and the Burkharts both sold the house and moved out within a year after their daughter went missing."
"You think they knew their daughters weren't really runaways," Myers said grimly.
"Maybe," Dr. Corrigan said, and passed another few papers to Myers; the top sheet had an official-looking form header followed by several pages of neat cursive script. "That's a report from an upstate psychiatric facility. Long story short, after Lisa Palmer disappeared, her mother Sherry started having repeated nightmares, always replaying the night it happened. The dreams turned into waking visions, and they kept getting more and more vivid, harder for her to deal with. She voluntarily committed herself four days ago. In the dreams she sees her daughter sleepwalk out of the house and over to the site of the burned church. A stone stairway opens up. There's lights down there and a city of white marble. She sees pictures on the walls, garlanded with green vines..."
"And she recognizes Jennifer Burkhart," Myers said, reading ahead.
"Yeah. They both went to the local high school," Dr. Corrigan confirmed.
"The stairway closes up and Lisa is gone." Myers frowned. He'd skimmed the report while Dr. Corrigan was talking; now he flipped back to the beginning and started over, reading carefully, line by line.
"One of the doctors treating Sherry Palmer just happens to be a local genealogy buff, vaguely related to the Moultons. She'd actually done some digging into Emily Moulton's case, tried matching her up to unidentified Jane Doe bodies, that kind of thing. But when she heard about Jennifer and Lisa, and realized three girls had disappeared from the same house--"
"What'd she think," Hellboy asked, "serial killer?"
"Yeah, actually. She tried selling the FBI on it. They weren't biting, but I know a guy who knows a guy, and when he pulled up the history of the property and noticed the burned church, he sent it my way."
Hellboy nodded. "Did the burned church have a basement or a vault?"
"Not that I know of." Dr Corrigan passed a few old photos of the church across the table. "It was pretty small."
"All right. So what's the plan?" Hellboy went on, but Myers cut off whatever Dr. Corrigan was going to say in reply.
"Is it safe for Liz to be here?" he asked sharply.
"Me?" Liz blinked.
Dr. Corrigan paused, then answered Hellboy's question. "I want to do as many energy-expelling and dispelling rituals on the ruins as we can get done before dark. Tom Reid's Mirror, a Hexham Guard, maybe Temperance Lloyd's Great Circles, and if we don't stir anything up we'll stay overnight and try again in the morning. Red, I want you to sleep in the ruins."
"Seriously?" Myers protested.
"There's camping equipment in the carport," Dr. Corrigan said. "I checked."
"Good times," HB said. "Why is Liz here?"
"I sort of assumed it was my sparkling personality?" Liz said dryly. Hellboy and Myers both gave her a look-- the same look. Liz huffed a sigh at both of them.
"We're all here for a reason," Dr. Corrigan said. "Let me talk to Liz about why Liz is here. Okay? Okay. Now, how about Tom Reid's Mirror." She pushed her chair back from the table, stood up, and headed for the door.
To start off with, Hellboy and Myers got a couple of machetes from the van and started hacking away at the tall weeds and wet grass choking the foundations of the burned church. The stones themselves seemed to be in pretty good shape for being almost a hundred years old. Liz hopped up on the flat top of one cornerstone and eyed the pattern of stones as it emerged from the weeds. It looked pretty standard to her, no weird occult angles or hidden pentagrams. Dr. Corrigan patted the top of the stone next to her foot and Liz jumped down.
"So, if you want, feel free to tell me to go to hell," Dr. Corrigan said under her breath. "But... just between us girls, are you a virgin, Liz?"
Liz opened her mouth, suddenly choking on four different answers all trying to fight their way out of her mouth at the same time. Turning away, she stuck her thumbs in the belt loops of her jeans, trying to look casual in case Hellboy or Myers looked up. She stared at her boots, letting her hair swing down and hide her face. Oh, hell, she was definitely blushing, and that was probably all the answer Dr. Corrigan needed.
"Yeah," she said, then wondered if she should have quibbled on the exact definition of 'virgin'. Not that it would change the answer, but just so she didn't sound like a complete loser. She sighed. Dr. Corrigan had known her since she was eleven; her lack of experience probably didn't come as any surprise. "Why, you think that has something to do with it?"
Dr. Corrigan shrugged. "It's always possible."
"So I'm bait, basically."
"Do you have a problem with that?" Dr. Corrigan asked. Liz shrugged back, and Dr. Corrigan patted her shoulder comfortingly. "I'll chalk some symbols on your door tonight, just to be safe. Don't leave your room after dark, all right?"
"Can I ask you a question?" Liz said. "People say... there's rumors... they say you and Red are close..."
"We're just good friends, kid," Dr. Corrigan drawled. She grinned at Liz. "Shouldn't you be asking him about his checkered history?"
"He gets shy!" Liz said, a smile creeping onto her face despite her embarrassment. Dr. Corrigan laughed, then nudged Liz with her elbow as Myers came closer, almost into earshot. They retreated back towards the walnut tree, old blackened shells crunching beneath their boots. "And besides, I wouldn't be jealous," Liz muttered. "I know he hasn't lived like a monk the last sixty years; I wouldn't want that to be true. He's been lonely enough."
"Yeah, well. Not a monk, exactly," Dr. Corrigan said. "But I wouldn't believe everything you hear, either... Hey, by the way. You should call me Kate."
By nightfall, the team had accomplished nearly every ritual and blessing on Kate's list. She'd walked backwards around the church nine times, reading from Gowdie's Lost Psalter. Hellboy had taken a set of thirteen small, roughly carved quartz heads and placed them on the standing stones in two rings, each one looking inward at the spot where he'd be sleeping. Myers had chalked arcane blessings in sidereal alphabets around the perimeter of the foundation.
Liz had maybe been the busiest of them all, slogging back and forth through the weeds to fetch everybody's books and supplies from the van, then stow them back in place. Okay, so maybe she felt a little useless... She sighed, sitting down cautiously on the edge of Lisa Palmer's bed. She'd never studied this kind of thing, she'd tried not to learn about it. She'd never wanted people to depend on her. Certainly not the BPRD. Well. Maybe it was time for that to change.
The laces of her boots were wet and the knots were hard to pick loose with cold, stiff fingers. One came loose with a soft zzzzip and Liz straightened up suddenly, looking over her shoulder. There was nothing moving in the room, though. Nothing but her own reflection in the long mirror mounted on the closet wall.
She finished taking off her boots, changed into the sweatpants and oversized BPRD tee she'd brought as pajamas, and went out into the living room. Myers had already unfolded the fold-out couch and tucked himself under the covers; he looked sweet and boyish in a soft gray t-shirt, his hair already ruffled up and sticking everywhere. He blinked up at her in the dim light from the hall.
"Hey," Liz whispered, "trade rooms with me?"
"Um," Myers said, clearly thinking hard, "I like it better out here."
"Come on," Liz insisted. "Kate can chalk the inside of the front door. It'll be fine. I'm not going to climb out the kitchen window in the middle of the night."
Myers sighed. "I'd rather stay here, if that's all right."
"Gee," Liz said, "why don't you just sleep on the floor at the foot of my bed?"
"Kinky," Myers shot back, then went wide-eyed, scrubbing his hand over his face and stammering. "Uh, sorry, I mean-- No, I didn't mean--"
"Wow," Liz said, laughing. "Have you been getting enough sleep lately, Myers? Or have we finally found out how much coffee is too much? Because I kind of like this no-filter version."
"Goodnight, Miss Sherman," Myers mumbled, hiding his face under his extra pillow.
"Wow," Liz said again, and headed back to Lisa's room. The smile on her face lasted until she closed the door.
She woke, heart pounding, halfway to a panic attack. Reaching out blindly, she shaped her hand around the cold metal curve of the portable fire extinguisher she'd placed on Lisa Palmer's nightstand. What had woken her? Someone had shouted. In a dream? Wisps of her dreams still floated in her head, and for a moment Liz confused them with yesterday's memories: the stone steps, the wet grass brushing and tugging at her jeans, the city in the lands below lit by glowing stones. Kate's hoarse voice as she chanted, the beautiful people who lived below, tall and regal, robed and garlanded. Flutes and drums that played themselves... and then the shout. HB's voice. Had that been real?
Liz threw the covers back and stuffed her feet clumsily into her boots, not bothering with the laces. A bright silver bell jangled as she pushed the bedroom door open, making Liz jump. Okay, so Dr. Corrigan-- Kate-- had taken more precautions than just chalk. She heard Myers stir sleepily, then sit up. "Liz?"
"I'm not sleepwalking," she said, then cursed as she banged her shin sharply on the edge of the fold-out couch. "I heard something."
"Hang on-- Liz! Wait," Myers said, scrambling for his own boots, but Liz was already out the door. It was a cloudy night, no stars, no shadows. She'd left Hellboy with a lantern and a goodnight kiss, and she couldn't see the lantern. She stumbled across the drive, fighting her way through the wet grass, trembling and shivering, hauling cold air into her lungs in great gulps. She reached the cleared area around the stone foundation. It was dark, empty. The blue tarp Hellboy had set out to camp on was crumpled up in a corner. There was a strange smell in the air, like honey and spices. Liz climbed over the low stone wall, and stopped.
There was a dark smear of blood on the corner of one squat stone, near where Hellboy had settled in to sleep. Like he'd been knocked over, hit his head. No... Liz felt the panic coming, didn't know whether it would come out as a scream or as fire. She stomped one foot against the mud and grass, trying to ground herself in the moment, like Dr. Levine had taught her. This is my body. I'm here. I'm breathing. I'm cold. But she wasn't cold. Not inside. Liz hissed as the fire rolled over her, curling down her arms like a warm coat. She opened her mouth and breathed it out. The blood was a brighter red, illuminated by fire, and she could see that there was more, puddled on the ground. The splotch on the ground had a smear halfway through it, like a foot or a hand had been dragged through it. The smear of mud and blood stopped, cut off by a straight line: the whole puddle cleanly bisected, like it had continued on, once, through a door (or down a step) that was gone now.
Liz moved slowly, the fire roaring in her ears. No, no. This couldn't be. It wasn't fair. They'd both waited so long-- she'd wasted so much time-- She stood with the smear of Hellboy's blood between her boots, her toes touching the line drawn in the mud, the boundary to wherever they'd taken him. "I want him back!" she shouted, hating her own voice, weak and creaky, stuck somewhere in childhood. The fire leaped and she flinched, curling her hands into fists. "Do you hear me? Give him back!"
Her eyes blurred with tears. A shape loomed out of the night, white as a ghost in the light from the fire-- it was only Myers. Kate was there too, her parka flapping open to reveal blue silk pajamas.
"Go back to the house!" Liz snapped. Kate started backing up. Smart lady. She'd seen it before. What the fire could do.
"Liz!" Myers said. "You can control this. I know you can!"
"Go back to the house!" Liz screamed. Not that the house would save them if she really fucking lost it. She was going to go off, she could feel it. She was going to go off like a bomb, like all those times before--
"You can do this!" Myers shouted, planting his bare feet in the grass, ridiculous and shivering. "I know you can! I'm not going anywhere!"
Liz pressed her eyes closed. No, God no, she didn't want to kill Myers, she didn't want to lose it. I can feel my body. My body is mine. I can feel my heartbeat. My heartbeat is mine. Her heartbeat... That wasn't helping. Liz wrenched her eyes open and stared at her open hands, at the blue fire she held. She could feel the fire leaping inside her with every thrumming thump inside her chest, feel it pushing into every corner of her body, tingling at the very tips of her fingers. Growing, like a living thing. She'd always pushed it away before. She'd never tried to claim it.
She took a breath. "The fire is mine," she said under her breath. "The fire is a part of me, the fire is mine, I can feel the fire--" It roared within her, making her jump, making her heart kick like a drum. But it didn't leap out at Myers, and it wasn't spreading beyond her feet. The flames were shifting-- the flames are mine-- from blue to white. Liz curled her hand into a fist and felt the flame cover her skin like armor.
A calm settled over her; not the uncaring blank of disassociation, but a warmth, a feeling of safety. Of power. Liz' fire was more powerful than any sneaking, hiding, cowardly thing that lived in the mud and stole girls in the middle of the night. She knew what to do. She leaned back on her heels, grounding herself. I am here-- I am safe-- I am powerful. She spoke.
"I want my boyfriend back," she said, standing at the doorway. The fire roared in her voice and for once she liked the way it sounded. "Open this door and let him out. Do you know what I'll do? I'll blast these stones," she said. "I'll turn them to dust." She breathed in and out, feeling the fire breathe with her. It was hungry, it was alive. She'd kept it locked up, and it didn't like that. "Will that close up your way forever?" she shouted. "Will you have to live in the dirt then, with the worms and the moles? Come up here and speak to me!"
Be good, Liz told herself. Be good, fire. If this bastard doesn't answer, you'll get to run free. I swear it.
"I'm fire," she said. "I'm lightning. LISTEN! I can boil this mud, I can fuse it to glass, ten feet deep and more!" She stamped her foot. "You'll be trapped down there like a bug in amber! Unless you come up here and talk!"
Nothing. Only the blood under her feet and Myers' white, worried face at the edge of her vision. His fists were clenched, matching hers, and she could feel his strength backing her up. She exhaled fire, let it burn behind her eyes and glow from every part of her.
"I'll live here in these ruins forever," she said, "I'll eat grass and drink rainwater. For the rest of my life I'll sleep where he slept, and whatever comes out of the ground, I'll turn to ash," she promised. For the third time she commanded it: "Devil, imp, elf, I don't give a damn what you are. Talk to me or burn!" Flames leaped. The night was silent for one long heartbreaking moment.
The door yawned open at her feet. The trilling, tripping music she'd heard in her dream spilled out, dizzying her for a moment. She stared down into cavern. It was like some trick of perspective-- she could see them coming closer, blurred shapes like dust motes floating in the golden light-- and then they were standing in front of her.
The first to come into focus was a startlingly handsome young man, skin the same muddy gray as the river, rippled with white streaks like marble. His ink-black hair was pulled back in a long braid tied with white ribbons, and he wore a long, thin white cloak over a finely tailored suit. Liz immediately felt shabby in her worn BPRD tee, slipping off one shoulder, but she pushed that thought aside, her breath catching in her throat-- Hellboy was there, just beyond the elf, his eyes burning with disbelief and hope. Next to him was a girl Liz vaguely recognized as Lisa Palmer. She wore the flannel nightgown she'd disappeared in, her tousled hair topped with a crown of white flowers, and her eyes were glassy and blank. Hellboy and Lisa were flanked by two other elves, both with mottled gray-white complexions, clad in black cloaks and carrying black spears. Elves, Liz realized, real under-the-hill elves! No one in the BPRD had ever seen real elves. Not seen and lived to tell about it, anyway.
"Choose one," the elf commanded.
Liz braced herself, staring defiantly into his eyes. They were strange: a little too large, a little too far apart, and the same shocking yellow as Hellboy's. "No."
He shrugged. "That's my bargain."
"You heard mine," Liz said. It was strange to be standing so close, having a calm conversation, while the fire whispered and licked at the air between them. The fire is mine. The fire is not my enemy, she told herself, timing the words to her heartbeat. "Give them both back, or you burn."
"My dear," the elf began, and Hellboy jerked into motion suddenly, smashing one of the elf-guards in the face with his stone fist, ducking a spear-strike from the other one and flinging him over his shoulder, back down into the depths of the cavern. The handsome elf spun, angry. "There's no need--!" he began, then saw what Liz had seen-- drawing his hand back to punch the guard, Hellboy had sneakily brushed the crown of white, fluted flowers from Lisa Palmer's head. As it settled softly to the ground at her feet, her calm, emotionless look faded, replaced by confusion and sudden fear. She stared at Liz, hyperventilating a little, and Liz reached out.
"Lisa!" she cried. "Your family misses you! Your mother wants you back!"
"No!" the handsome elf said, but Hellboy gave Lisa a shove, breaking her out of her shocked state. She ran for the stairs, dirty bare feet slapping the stone steps, and burst past Liz into the night, scrambling over the stone wall and stumbling into the dark. Liz braced herself, prepared to physically block the elf, to fucking fry him if he tried to chase after her-- but he only stood still, face and hard and cold as the gray marble it resembled.
"She made her choice; I'm ready to make mine," Liz said, triumphant. She could feel her white rage cooling, the color of the light around her changing. "I want Hellboy," she said, and her fire blazed and snapped, triumphant and gold.
"She was one of us! One of our own," the elf said, cold and sad. He looked old, now, like some ancient carved relic, features worn smooth with uncountable years. Liz kept her eyes on his, watching in her peripheral vision as Hellboy climbed the steps. "Until your witchbreed lover poisoned her mind against us."
"I'll cry another time," Liz promised. She reached out without looking and curled her hand into Hellboy's stone hand, pulling him up and over that last step. Some great weight lifted off her chest. She could breathe again. She felt like she was going to faint. She clung to the fire, letting it hold her up. "Our deal's done. You can go."
The elf nodded and turned away, his shadow falling over the long, worn step. When his shadow moved away, the step was gone, the stairs were gone, the cavern under the earth was gone. The haunting music rang in her ears for one last moment, then faded, and Hellboy had her in his arms, almost startling her with his roughness.
"Liz!" he said desperately, almost dragging her off her feet as he pulled her close, burying his face in her hair. "Jesus, it's you, it's really you," he breathed against her neck. "I knew you'd come for me, I told them--"
"I've told you! Don't! Wander! Off!" Liz said, half-laughing and half-crying, thumping Hellboy's broad back with the heel of her hand.
"I--" Hellboy stopped and straightened up, suddenly, looking her up and down. Still sheathed in golden fire, Liz shrugged as best she could.
"That's a new look for you," Hellboy said cautiously.
"Oh, this old thing. Do you really like it?" she said, only half joking. Hellboy just stared at her, still looking weirdly confused, then peered over her shoulder at Myers, who was crouched down in front of Lisa Palmer, pulling Kate's parka closed around her shoulders. He blinked slowly then glanced over at the van, where Kate was rummaging around in the glove compartment; probably trying to figure out where Liz kept the Xanax. "Red?" Liz said, reaching up to cup his face.
"What..." He turned back to look at Liz. "What day is it? It's the same day? Same night?" he corrected himself.
"Yeah, it's the same night," Liz confirmed. "Why? How long did it feel like?"
"Huh?" Hellboy said, then shook himself like a dog, starting by shaking his head and ending with a few strong lashes of his tail. When he refocused on Liz, he was the same old HB as always, grinning that slow grin that never failed to draw a matching smile. "Always feels like forever when you're not around, angel face." He clicked his tongue at her.
"Oh, Red..." Liz shook her head. She really shouldn't encourage him, but she couldn't stop a few last chuckles from escaping. She was so tired... She leaned into his arms and let the fire go to sleep, easier than it had ever been. It wasn't gone, she realized; it was never gone, it just slept, banked in embers, ready for her when she needed it. It was a weirdly comforting thought, and she let her eyes slip closed. She only vaguely heard Hellboy's muttered "whoops-a-daisy!"as he scooped her up, into his arms. She snuggled closer and went to sleep.