|Hellboy: As Close As This
Author: princessebee PM
HellboyxKate Corrigan. Follows the progression of their fifteen-year friendship into a tender and affectionate but never quite fully-bloomed romance. Strictly comics-verse. Rated M for a reason so please note the rating!Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Friendship - Hellboy & Kate C. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 14,997 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 4 - Published: 07-09-12 - id: 8301745
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
As with my other Hellboy fics, this one is focused on relationship development rather than a paranormal plot. Kate Corrigan is one of Hellboy's best friends and the dynamic between them is really lovely and has always felt to me as though there was more there than we saw on the page.
Since the Hellboy series is low on sex and romance – but Hellboy himself is so goddamn sexy and loveable – my brain inevitably began pondering those aspects of Hellboy's life and personality which has led me to devise a few fics regarding the women who have been important to him. So though these are predominantly erotic stories, I wouldn't class them as "plot, what plot". I use the sexual elements to explore how relationships and characters devleop, something I find intriguing and interesting and have persued with Hellboy in the interests of rounding out his character and story for my own sake, hoping they will be of interest to other fans as well.
These stories are strictly comic-verse, though some gaps are filled by my own imagination. A general knowledge of the comics canon will be helpful in reading this fic.
Your constructive criticism and reviews are MOST welcome.
When Hellboy said goodbye to Kate in Austria, he would've liked to have kissed her. But not with other agents there. Not with Harding there.
They'd always kept that aspect of their relationship a closely-guarded secret and knowing Kate would have to deal with the consequences of its revelation alone was not something he was going to subject her to.
He saw the same desire in her eyes and was comforted by it.
They'd held hands, her right in his left, for a long, achingly tender moment.
It would have to do. He'd squeezed it once and let go.
Of course, he hadn't looked back as he strode away. Though he knew Kate watched after him. Though he knew her sorrow at watching him go was shared by his sorrow at leaving her. He was lousy at goodbyes. Already he was smarting with the absence of her - of Liz and Abe too - but he knew this was simply something he had to do. It was time for him to go. And he had to go alone.
But rather than dwell on what the alien had revealed to him in the Hunte Castle ruins or what the best way to get to Africa was and which nation he'd start in, Hellboy's thoughts turned instead to Kate and the long years of their friendship in all its trusting, complicated intimacy.
They'd never been a couple. Never even had to discuss it, it was a mutual decision they'd silently agreed upon even before that first kiss, when the attraction between them was a tangible energy that put a strain on their friendship. It was simply better off that way, given the Bureau's individual demands on them, and they both knew it. They were friends first and all else after that. Neither of them wanted it any other way.
His mind played over their farewell as he fumbled in the pockets of his duster for another cigarette, the fresh crisp air of the Austrian mountains not soothing to his pensive mood. His hand on Kate's shoulder as she straightened the lapel of his duster, an affectionate gesture in which he could feel her desire to embrace him.
"You know, it's not like I'm just gonna - "
Kate knew how hard it was for him to talk about emotional subjects. She always made it easy for him – easier than he probably deserved – by letting him know she understood what he wanted to say.
When he'd met Professor Kate Corrigan in nineteen eighty-four, the B.P.R.D. was consulting her on a case involving selkie women turning the tables on human men around the Faroe Islands. Hellboy wasn't assigned to that case but Abe was and when he'd dropped into the fish man's apartment to say howdy after returning from business in Germany, Kate had been there. Enthusiastically pouring over a pile of mouldy old books and reciting, in chronological order, all the selkie myths and folk tales she could remember. Which, as Abe confided to him in an undertone a few moments later, was a lot.
"Hellboy!" she'd exclaimed when he rapped on the door frame. "At last we meet!"
Kate had been consulting to the Bureau for almost a year, but their paths had simply never crossed. So far as he knew, she had only recently been granted access to the premises, previously hosting at her office or simply communicating through fax and telephone. Her assessments and summaries had often accompanied his case files but beyond the fact she was an associate professor at New York University, he knew nothing more about her.
Kate was only twenty-six then. Younger even than Anastasia. Hellboy, meanwhile, was anticipating his fortieth birthday just two months away. He examined her as she stood up from Abe's desk and crossed the room to greet him. Short and cute, with straw-blonde hair in a low-maintenance bob. Over the years to come, she would change her hairstyle now and then but it was always kept short. It suited her – both her playful stylishness and her no-nonsence practicality. She had full lips and blue eyes that gleamed with intelligence and sensitivity.
"Professor Corrigan, I take it," Hellboy had replaced his cigar between his teeth, freeing his left hand to take the one Kate extended to him. He wondered if Kate was left-handed or was simply making a concession for him. Either way, he appreciated it. Greetings could be an awkward activity – if people offered their hands at all, he generally faltered at taking them with his monstrous right.
Kate had shaken his hand firmly and with genuine warmth, smiling up at him.
"Oh, call me Kate, please. Leave titles to the classroom and the conference circuit. So how did it go with the dwarf ghosts?"
Hellboy plucked the cigar from his mouth and turned his head to exhale, away from her.
"They just wanted their gold back. They'd hidden it at the bottom of a lake six hundred years ago before they bit the big one in some bust up with a bunch of trolls. A lake that mysteriousy disappeared a few months ago. And that lake was a wood spirit who'd transformed herself into a fixed body of water to take a nap for a few centuries. Recently woke up and decided to get on with things. So once I found her, it was all wrapped up pretty quick. The dwarves got their gold back, the spirit got rid of the belly ache she couldn't figure out and the local village stopped being haunted. Everyone goes home happy. So. Everything just like your notes figured. Nice work."
Kate beamed up at him, her round cheeks dimpling. "You too, by the sounds of things. We'd make a good team."
Hellboy cocked his head and smirked at her. "Sure. With your brains and my muscle we'd make one complete agent."
"Speak for yourself. I was regional featherweight champion in nineteen seventy eight and seventy nine. Where's your PhD, huh?"
Hellboy stared at her a moment, one brow cocked. She chuckled and placed a gentle hand on his arm.
"I'm kidding, Hellboy."
He liked her immediately. Anyone who was ready to bust his chops so quick had to be okay.
She'd phoned a week later and left a message for him but Hellboy was off almost immediately on another job involving a bunyip terrorising a remote settlement in Australia and when he got back he'd forgotten all about it until he found the memo scrunched in with a bunch of dirty jocks he was gathering up to wash.
"Hey," her voice had been warm and pleased down the line. "I think it's a two-day rule not a two-month rule when returning a lady's call."
"Sorry," he replied, grinning a little. "Business."
"I figured. Hey, I've got a bit of a proposition for you. Got some time to talk?"
That was how the interviews started. Hellboy had been reluctant at first, but she'd brought him around. Not so much because she convinced him being the subject of a book was a good idea, but because her obvious integrity put him at ease. Despite her formidable intellect and education, she was unpretentious and relaxed and very warm, her enthusiasm unbridled and her nature compassionate and genuine. Against Hellboy's gruff and reticent manner she was bright and forthcoming. And though Hellboy had become even crabbier since the break-up with Anastasia, he responded strongly to her liveliness, appreciating the streak of sardony that ran through her observations and deeply liking her kindness.
Hellboy had met her in her office at New York University, enduring the stares as he strode through the campus with his customary stoicness. She wasn't there when he arrived but came dashing around the corner moments later, bearing styrofoam cups of fresh hot coffee for them from a cafe, which he appreciated.
The interviews took place more as long, informal conversations Kate recorded, occasionally persuing a particular topic with further enquiries but generally happy to let their rambling unfold as it would after starting things off with a directed question. The first one went for hours – much longer than Hellboy had expected, the time passing quicker than he realised. Kate was good company. She asked him out to dinner afterwards by way of saying thank you and he'd agreed. Neither of them had any ulterior motive.
But Hellboy couldn't help but notice that people stared at them. The same way they had stared at he and Stasia. It both discomfitted him and pissed him right off. Not to mention stirred up painful memories of the not-so-distant past he was trying to forget. Kate seemed oblivious however, chatting happily away over her burger and fries about the latest book she was working on, a comprehensive history of unicorn folklore. Hellboy liked hearing her talk. He liked hanging out with Kate. He didn't like people staring. Even less he liked what they were probably assuming. The next time they did an interview, he suggested they get takeout.
Given their respective work schedules and the scope of the material Kate wanted to cover, they were obliged to carry the interviews out over the next few years, their meetings taking place at irregular intervals. They quickly fell into a routine – they would meet midmorning on a Friday and talk into the early evening, stopping briefly for lunch. As night fell, they'd grab dinner somewhere – eating out when Hellboy was in the mood to tolerate rudely inquiring looks – or taking something back to Kate's apartment. They always drank plenty, blowing off steam associated with their respective work and it would be after midnight that Hellboy would stagger back to the Bureau.
Very quickly they'd become friends – not just friendly, but real friends. Like, Abe-and-Liz-level friends. Hellboy found it good to get away from the Bureau to socialise and liked having the company of a woman again on a regular basis. Not that Liz didn't count – but their relationship was different. He didn't regard Kate like a sister which meant the scope of their conversations was greater. Though he knew Liz was a fully grown young woman now, he still saw the traumatised little girl she'd been, which made him hold back at times.
Not that he had ever been the most loquacious or forthcoming of people – but though Kate was very different to Stasia, her integrity and sincerity, intelligence and warmth reminded him of her and that opened him up. Hellboy and Anastasia had broken up in nineteen eighty-one and in nineteen eighty-five he was still missing her, the sting of her loss a pain that he seemed only to get used to rather than could ever truly heal from. Though he regarded Kate only as a friend, the feminine element she brought to his life was a welcome one.
"The Bureau is still so male-dominated," Kate said to him once after she'd dropped in on a consultation, as they departed together after agreeing to catch up over a drink.
"No kidding," Hellboy replied.
"I don't know how Liz stands it. Seems every corner I turn I hear some snide remark behind me."
That gave Hellboy pause as they stepped into the elevator that would take them up to ground level. "Really?"
Kate shrugged, looking a little uncomfortable. "It's the military element. They like to keep it a boy's club. Women are just for recreation. So they like to remind us when we're not welcome." Her tone was dry and light but Hellboy was angered.
"You want me to speak to someone?" Or pound someone, his mind silently added but Kate brushed it off
"It's okay. It's a battle in academia too. Seriously, sometimes it feels like asking a two year old to share their toys."
They'd stepped out of the elevator and walked through the foyer, Hellboy nodding to one or two agents who passed by, heading towards the car park where Kate's car was parked.
"I can do something about it," he'd said grimly and Kate grinned at him as she unlocked her car. He knew it was macho bullshit but he felt like he'd failed Kate on some level by not having even been aware of what she went up against.
"What, go around personally knocking the blocks off every sexist, misogynistic chauvinist in an institutional position? That might be satisfying in the short term but long term it seems a little unproductive."
Hellboy shrugged as he eased himself into the passenger seat, the car rocking beneath his weight. "I just don't want them treating you like that." He set his jaw and glowered but she surprised him by leaning over to place a quick kiss on his cheek.
"My hero," she teased him sardonically and he snorted and pushed the Tom Waits cassette into the tape deck as she started the car.
But the feeling of that kiss lingered on his cheek for hours.
That night they'd gone back to Kate's apartment to continue drinking and talking in private, where they wouldn't be continuously interrupted by increasingly drunk revellers emboldened by their intoxication to speak to Hellboy.
"Hey, you're Hellboy!" was the most commonly-heard utterance and after the twentieth-odd time some jerk-off with over-jelled hair and a pastel suit informed him of this fact, Hellboy was about ready to start chucking barstools. Kate smiled sympathetically at him, then grasped him by the hand and they left, pushing through the throngs of cocaine-addled young people to the street beyond.
"Jesus, what the hell were we thinking going to that kinda place?" he growled as Kate stepped into the street to hail a cab and get them away from the trendy modern club. "Let's just stick to good old-fashioned bars from now on. They're more my style anyway."
Kate laughed and squeezed his arm. "Sorry, that's my bad. You know I don't have that much of a social life. I heard a couple of students mention it as a good place. I should've realised that definition is subjective."
"No big deal," he said gruffly, a little tempered by the revelations Kate was making that night.
Back at her apartment, he made a couple of his own.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but I've always been sorta glad the Bureau didn't have a lot of women around."
She turned to face him on the couch, drawing one leg up. "Really?" she asked curiously. "Why?"
He drained the wine glass Kate had just handed him in one big gulp, wishing she'd let him smoke inside her place. "'S no fun. Being reminded all the time of what you can't have."
He regretted the words as soon as he spoke them. They were way too intimate, revealed too much of his personal struggles. Kate was silent for just a beat too long, then tried to lighten the mood:
"So what am I? Chopped liver?"
He knew she was joking but felt like a heel anyway "Aw, Katie, you know I don't mean it that way. It's great to have another woman in my life. I mean – Christ, I'm bad at this aren't I?"
Kate smiled wryly over her wine glass at him. "You definitely need more practice."
Hellboy lifted his glass back to his mouth, then realised it was empty. "You're one of the five people in the whole damn world I'm closest to," he said, wishing he were drunker that he really was and hoping Kate thought that he was. He paused for a moment, then continued with a quirk on his mouth. "Three of you are women."
Kate chuckled, bringing her other leg up on the couch, knees lifted in front of her, resting her cheek on them. "Me, Liz, and - "
Maybe she stopped as she realised who the last would be. Or maybe she hadn't thought about what it would mean to say that name outloud until the moment came.
There was another long silence between them, a Roberta Flack record playing softly in the background of Kate's book-lined living room. Hellboy started to speak, paused, then continued.
"Yannow, three years doing these interviews now and you've never once asked me about Anastasia."
He hadn't said her name outloud in a long time. It hurt.
But he didn't let it show.
Next to him, Kate sighed and shrugged, pushing her bangs back over her ears.
"It seemed too personal," she explained simply. "I didn't want to violate your privacy. Some memories are meant to be kept sacred."
Hellboy's heart was touched by her consideration and he was reminded again of just how exceptional this woman was.
"If you'd asked me," he said, finally looking at her. "I would've told you."
She tilted her head to the side and smiled at him, that soft little smile she had for when all business was done and she was just Katie, the skin of her professionalism shed. He grinned and added dryly:
"Off the record, of course."
Kate's smile grew into a smirk. "Of course."
But he could see that she appreciated what he was trying to say, in his own bumbling way – that as a friend, he trusted her.
Kate reached out between their bodies and slipped her hand into his left one, holding it tight. Hellboy looked away from her again but with a little smile on his lips, holding her hand back, stroking the back of it with his thumb. He missed physical contact. Badly. Being the tough guy he was, he'd never admit it. Ever. But having someone to touch and to hold and to touch him back had been wonderful. Going without it was rough. He and Liz were pretty touchy. They hugged often and squeezed hands occasionally and she often liked to lean against him or rest her head on his lap during long trips or movie nights. But again, it was different with Liz.
Now, with Kate's hand in his, he was forcefully reminded just how alone he really was. Her hand felt good. Small and soft and warm and affectionate.
"There's only about five people in the world I'm really close to, as well," she told him. "And you're one of them."
He glanced at her wryly. "Glad we're even."
Then held her hand tighter.
No one was prepared for just how quickly Hellboy grew up.
Puberty hit him hard and dramatically. He had no idea what was going on except his body was going through some painfully rapid changes, his moods were out of control and all of a sudden all women everywhere looked good. Really, really good.
The soldiers assigned to act as backup to the Bureau's field agents – who were not generally of athletic dispositions – had always been good to Hellboy, adopting him as a sort of mascot – sneaking him into movies, gifting him with comic books, showing him how to make paper boats and planes, teaching him funny rhymes and jokes and even playing games with him during downtime. But as they became increasingly aware that Hellboy was no longer a cute kid – but a being who was rapidly coming into sexual maturity – many of them were weirded out and backed off. Dealing with the odd reality of what he was was a whole lot easier was he was little and rascally. As he rapidly shot up – five feet, then six before any of them had time to get used to it – as his musculature bulged and his face squared out and his horns lengthened and facial hair sprouted – he became harder to accept. Suddenly he was more like themselves – a young man with awakening sexual interests – and yet completely other to them as well. It didn't help that his short-temper was ignited by the flood of hormones, that it became quickly apparent he was stronger than ten men, that he was no longer playful and mischievous, but serious, taciturn and gruff.
He and the Professor had frequent explosive arguments, the bellow of Hellboy's raised voice heard throughout the compound. The Professor dealt as adeptly as he could with his adopted son's rapid maturation, but the uniqueness of the situation required more than a few rules to be rewritten. Tension between the two ran high and Hellboy was frequently seen storming from the Professor's offices with a scowl, seeming gangly despite his bulk, not yet accustomed to his own size.
It was when he came across Hellboy weight-lifting a car in order to blow off steam, that First Sergeant George Whitman decided it was time to have a little talk with Hellboy.
The Sergeant had been present when Hellboy had been born into the world and on instinct had taken a liking to the demon child, sensing in him the same quality Bruttenholm had. When Bruttenholm and Hellboy had departed the Mexico base for the new B.P.R.D. headquarters in New York, Whitman had requested a transfer, wanting to watch the child grow. And whilst Whitman had developed respect for Bruttenholm's intelligence, empathy and general competency, he also considered the reserved and work-obsessed bachelor to lack the requisite knowledge of the world necessary to raising Hellboy properly.
Whitman had sat the sweating and grumpy young demon down in the Bureau grounds where they wouldn't be disturbed and offered him a cigar. The GIs in Mexico had taught Hellboy to smoke at the age of two and it had quickly become a habit first concealed from the Professor, then flaunted as he rebelled against his father's rule. Hellboy had accepted it with a grunt of thanks and for a few moments the two had simply smoked and stared out across the yards.
At length, the Sergeant had inhaled, sighed and asked. "Son, what has the Professor told you about the birds and the bees?"
Hellboy had glanced at the Sergeant, a look of sulky confusion on his face. "I don't get your meaning, sir."
Whitman was still surprised by how deep and husky Hellboy's voice had so quickly become. At six feet tall, Hellboy stood eye-to-eye with the Sergeant, and it seemed like he wasn't finished growing yet. At almost three hundred pounds, he outweighed the sergeant by over fifty.
Whitman took another draw on his cigar. "Has the Professor told you about the facts of life?" evidently deciding directness was the way to go.
Hellboy had shifted uncomfortably. "He's given me that talk, yes sir."
Even given his pubescent moodiness, Hellboy knew his manners thanks to the Professor's rigorous grooming.
"Now, I'm not trying to disparage your father or his good intentions, but knowing the Professor as I do, something tells me he may have left a few things out. Tell me what he told you, son."
Hellboy had been greatly ill-at-ease, the embarrassing nature of the conversation coupled with his own reservedness making the situation difficult for him. He hesitated a long time and the Sergeant settled back, relaxed and unflappable.
"Come on now, son. I went through the same thing once. So did the Professor. Ain't nothing to be ashamed about."
Hellboy shifted again and brooded. "It's different for you," he said darkly.
"Now how's that?" of course it was obvious – he was human in a human world – but he was trying to get the boy to speak.
Hellboy had drawn back deeply on his cigar, frowning out to the distance. "You got – options. I don't."
"Is that what the Professor said?"
Hellboy had nodded once, curtly.
"And how did that make you feel?"
Hellboy had grimaced, scuffed the gravel with a hoof. "How'd you think it made me feel?"
"Now mind your manners, son, I'm on your side here."
"Sorry sir," Hellboy's gruff voice was genuinely abashed and that evidence of his innate goodness prompted Whitman to smile kindly at the over-sized boy.
"That's all right, Hellboy. Fact is, you're a young man now and soon enough you'll be an adult. It's natural for you to want to stand alone and be your own authority. Part of growing up. Like everything else you're going through. Hell, when it was my time wasn't nobody could tell me what was what, least of all my father. But I sure was grateful he was around to talk to, though it made me blush hard as going into town on a Sunday in that goddamn sailor suit my Aunt Gladys made for me."
Hellboy had chuckled softly at that, the Sergeant's frankness somewhat relaxing him, then hesitated, rolling the cigar between the forefinger and thumb of his left hand.
"Pop ain't real keen on talking about this sorta stuff. Not that he wouldn't," he'd rushed to defend his father. "But, you know..." Between Bruttenholm's prudishness and Hellboy's embarrassment, they were basically at a stalemate.
"Well, I'm here to talk, if you'd like that, son. And to be blunt, though the Professor has many skills, I dare say I've got a little more practical experience in this area than he has. And I ain't squeamish, either."
It hadn't happened straight away, but after another cigar and a few gulps from Whitman's personal flask of whiskey, Hellboy gradually felt comfortable enough to disclose some of his anxieties to the Sergeant, though he kept as much concealed. Bruttenholm's version of the birds and bees talk involved sending Hellboy to the resident medic, Doctor Joseph Bernstein, who gave him a thoroughly clinical and impersonal lecture about puberty, sex and the differences between men and women. He then sent him back to the Professor whose only contribution was to tell Hellboy that he personally recommended a life of celibacy and that Hellboy should resign himself to accepting that the differences between he and human women were such that his life would likely be a solitary one. In an acerbic and emphatic tone of voice he expressed his disapproval for the pornographic material that the GIs passed amongst each other as well as their habit for going to Burlesque clubs in New York City during their leave and communicated he would be gravely disappointed in Hellboy should he ever accompany them. He overcame his distaste for the subject sufficiently to explain there were ladies who could be paid to entertain men in intimate fashion but that, as with the pornography and burlesque clubs, such activity was immensely disrespectful to women, exploitating and degrading them. He also reminded Hellboy of how much he had hated the tests and studies he'd been subjected to in the Bureau labs before the Professor had intervened, before drawing a comparison. Finally he'd confided his opinion that women could be manipulative and heartless, obliged by their lesser status in society to devise complicated survival techniques in seduction and deceitfulness.
Hellboy summed this up for Whitman in his typical brusque, unfettered style and when he was done, Whitman had sighed deeply and shaken his head.
"Now why the hell didn't the Professor just come to me to begin with?" he mused to no one in particular.
He'd then set about the task of setting Hellboy straight.
Whilst Professor Bruttenholm was respectful and considerate towards women, he was a lifelong bachelor who preferred his work to feminine company and so therefore did not understand them. Sergeant Whitman, on the other hand, loved women as well as respected them, and had not been born with the silver spoon in his mouth that Bruttenholm had, meaning he'd seen life from a perspective the Professor – even given his compassion and insight – had not.
He'd explained that the issue of prostitution was more complicated, most women in the profession coming from poor or unfortunate backgrounds with little education or in other circumstances that obliged them to trade on their charms and in such a way could make a decent living for themselves. He emphasised the importance of treating all women with consideration as he should extend to anyone. That whilst the Professor may be content with a life of celibacy, it was normal and healthy for men, particularly young ones, to have desires and there was no shame in fulfilling them either, with willing partners. Heedless of Hellboy's bashfulness and without obliging him to speak, Whitman had said that sex could be equally pleasurable for men and women both and that women were capable of great love and sincerity and passion. And that he frankly though the Professor was old-fashioned and a little out-of-touch, if well-meaning.
Hellboy had hunched over, arms folded across his knees, tail flickering back and forth, listening in silence to the Sergeant, embarrassed by the conversation but grateful as well. Whitman had taken the final draw of his cigar and stubbed the butt out on the chair before delivering his final message.
"Now I can't say as it's true that no woman would ever have you, son, and frankly I hope that it isn't. So should you ever come to be in a situation that we fellas call getting lucky, well the most important thing to remember is this: You just be damn sure she's sure. Some men can be unscrupulous like and take advantage of a lady who may have had one too many or who's too bashful to put him off. So you mind she's sure." Then the Sergeant leaned over to Hellboy and pointed a stern finger at him to punctuate his words. "And if she says no, then you stop. No ifs or buts. You stop and you back off. Can ruin a lady's whole life otherwise. That's no way for a decent man to behave."
Hellboy realised the dynamics of his relationship with Kate had changed when he started calling her 'Katie'. And she did not stop him.
No one called her Katie. She was, quite decidedly, Kate. Whether in a professional context or not. But somehow it felt wrong to him.
Not that he was even aware of that until he started calling her Katie.
Katie seemed more like the woman he knew, that he trusted so deeply and regarded so highly. The warm, sensitive, loyal and brave woman who brightened his day anytime she appeared in it, with whom he had an affectionate, playful camaraderie. They were so different, in their temperaments, their interests and their approaches to life, but somehow they only seemed to complement each other, like two sides of the same coin – one complete agent, as Hellboy had ribbed that first day they met.
Hellboy hadn't even realised the concession Kate was allowing him until Waller had casually asked: "How's it hanging, Katie?" when she'd dropped by with some notes on the Loch Ness Monster and she'd gazed at him steadily and said politely but firmly:
"Fine, thanks. And my name is Kate, Agent Waller."
"Katie, Katie, Katie," Hellboy had teased her later and she'd laughed and smacked him lightly on the arm.
"Hey, you're baring your soul to me on tape, remember. Tell anyone and face the consequences!"
After that night when they'd held hands side by side, drinking away Kate's wine collection, something else seemed to change. The hugs they greeted and farewelled each other with grew longer, more lingering. Inevitably, when sitting together on her couch at the end of the night, their fingers would entwine and they would hold hands in comfortable solidarity. Sometimes they watched a movie together and it seemed only natural then that Kate would snuggle up against him and his arm would wrap around her shoulders, holding her close. There seemed nothing nefarious or ulterior in it, nothing mistaken or misunderstood. They were close friends and found the other's company a comfort.
More and more often, Hellboy found himself spending the night after their days together, at first refusing to take Kate's bed though she insisted he would be cramped on the couch wheras she would be fine. Eventually, though, he ceded and they swapped places which ultimately led to them sharing the bed because he never was quite at ease with Kate on the couch. Again, there didn't seem to be anything dangerous or fraught about it. They trusted each other implicitly. It was practical. That way, they'd both be comfortable.
He supposed, in hindsight, they were carefully and slowly eroding the boundaries of friendship so the risk they were taking was unnoticeable to them and therefore could be easily denied.
There was no way he could deny to himself, even when he was sure his feelings for Kate were only of deep friendship, that he loved their gentle, restrained gestures of affection. Enjoyed holding her body against his and inhaling the scent of her hair, loved the slightness of her beneath the arm he cradled her in. Liked waking up in her bed to the scent of coffee and Kate humming as she bustled about in the other rooms, incapable of sleeping in even with a hangover. But that seemed reasonable: his life was so obliged to be solitary that it had to be natural he would appreciate a deeper level of intimacy with another person. That it might specifically have to do with Kate was not something he allowed himself to ponder.
They turned another corner the night Hellboy asked her why she didn't have any photos of her family around.
Kate had gone suddenly quiet, seeming to shrink into herself. Hellboy was immediately remorseful and inwardly cursing himself. He'd never seen her so abruptly serious before and certainly never had she deflated like that. Given that she'd never so much as even mentioned her family, he had to be a king pin dumbass not to have realised there must be some sort of unpleasant history there.
"Jeeze, I'm sorry, Katie," he rumbled, sweeping a hand back over his skull. She sure as hell had never become so reserved around him and he hated himself for compromising her trust.
But Kate shook her head quickly. "No, it's okay. Of course it is, it's you. It's just – not something I've thought about in a while."
"Sorry to stir it up. Let's talk about something else."
Kate hesitated, her bright eyes lowering. "No, no," she said, her voice unusually quiet and soft. "I think I'd like to tell you."
He was immensely touched by her confidence and turned himself towards her on the couch. She sat at the other end with her feet up, turned inwards, a large glass of Shiraz cupped in her hands. She took a sip, her gaze fluttering towards a corner of the room, considering what she was going to say.
"I never knew my father. He left before I was born. Mother raised me alone. I don't know if my father leaving made her the way she was or if she was always like that. Anyway, we never got along - " Kate paused, her eyes lowered, a wry smile tugging at one corner of her lips. " - to put it mildly."
She had the lights dimmed in her living room, the bookshelves that surrounded them gleaming dully with dark volumes that Hellboy knew Kate had read cover to cover, every single one. He knew that one shelf, the one nearest her work desk below the only window in the room, was crammed with the fairy tale books from her childhood – volumes by Andrew Lang and Ruth Manning-Sanders, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. The stories that had first provoked her love of all things mythological. Kate's eyes swept around the room, running over the books that were so much a part of her life.
"She hated how 'bookish' I was. Always used to say I'd never meet a man with my nose stuck in a book. That's what I was supposed to do with my life, of course – meet a nice successful man, marry him, have his kids, live in the suburbs – preferably just a few blocks from her. I don't know why she was so stuck on that fantasy. We were never close. Maybe she thought I could redeem myself to her that way." Kate stopped and sighed, masking the bitterness in her voice with a roll of her eyes.
"What were you supposed to redeem yourself for?" Hellboy asked her gently, though his anger at her absent mother was steadily simmering inside him. Kate shrugged.
"I don't even know. Maybe she blamed me for my father leaving. Maybe it was something else. I just know that nothing I ever did was right. Nothing was ever good enough. Somehow I always screwed up. And when I screwed up bad enough – well – she - " Kate paused again and Hellboy could see how her throat constricted and her eyes brightened in the dim light. Kate sniffed once and shook her short hair back, blinking the tears away. " - she would punish me." She took a gulp of her wine, her eyes fixed on the room, not looking at Hellboy who gazed at her steadily, gently. After a moment she continued.
"For the longest time I wanted to make things up between us. Wanted her to be proud of me, accept me. Even given all the the awful things she did. I guess I gave up eventually. We haven't spoken in a while."
Kate shot him a look made painfully vulnerable by the tears she was all too clearly suppressing. "I haven't really told anyone about this before."
Hellboy's anger had given way to tender concern and though there were any number of things he could've said, there was only thing that felt absolutely right.
"Then come here."
Kate didn't hesitate, just slid across the couch to his side and straight into his arms. He held her close against him and let her cry against his chest. She didn't sob or bawl or choke, just rested her cheek on the place where his heart beat below and let the tears roll down her cheeks, occasionally sniffling a little, her arms wrapped around his back. Hellboy embraced her with his great right hand and stroked her hair with his left and stayed silent until Kate sighed and sat up, wiping her eyes.
"Thanks," she said a little unsteadily.
He pushed her hair back over her ear and smiled gently at her. "Any time."
"More wine, I think," as Kate retrieved the bottle from the floor and refilled their glasses, he scratched his neck awkwardly and cleared his throat before speaking.
"Ah, you know, I've read a few of your books."
Kate glanced at him with tear-reddened eyes widened in surprise, a smirk on her mouth. "You? Read?"
Hellboy near shucked, shrugged his shoulders. "Well. Abe told me they were worth a look. That European witchcraft series is off to a good start."
Kate was laughing and he loved the sound even as he tapped a hoof in embarrassment. "I can't believe you of all people made time to read my heavily-footnoted, obscurely-referenced, niche-focused endeavours of vocational self-indulgence. How many times did you fall asleep?"
"Hey, don't be so hard on me – or yourself. They kept a lot of long plane rides from getting too tedious. I think I even learned a thing or two."
"Oh yeah? Like what?" Kate was on her knees on the cushions beside him, one arm propped along the back of the couch, her face resting on her hand, her smile cheeky and pleased.
"Uhhh," Hellboy rapped the fingers of his right hand on his knee. "Something about a pail of water and catching the moon."
"Tricking Scandinavian crones into thinking you've caught the moon."
"Yeah, right, that. I'm sure that'll come in handy sometime. Anyway. They're good. You've done a lot to be proud of, Katie."
Hellboy took a sip of his wine, staring ahead as though he was saying nothing of consequence. Beside him Kate's smile was near splitting her face, her eyes full of affection. He looked at her and shrugged again.
"Thank you," she said, her voice laced with gratitude, understanding fully what he intended.
The next day when he said goodbye, they'd embraced tightly and she'd given him a kiss, their lips lingering just a moment longer than was merely friendly. And though that tender little kiss left him lightheaded and buzzing the rest of the day, still he believed neither of them wanted anything more.
Of course, Hellboy had been burned hard by his breakup with Anastasia. His subconscious conviction had been that he would not get involved with anyone again. Not that he really believed he'd get that sort of opportunity more than once in his life, but nonetheless his heart built up those walls as a precaution. He saw no way that any relationship could be different. It didn't have anything to do with them, but with everyone else. If the reality of what he was would impact negatively on a woman's life – as it had started to on Stasia's – then any romance would end in the same way. And he couldn't put his heart through that again. The loss of Anastasia had devastated him for months, easing only to a manageable ache as he grew accustomed to it. He knew he would miss her always and though he was not particularly given to looking back and wishing he could've changed things or done them different – he would always regret losing her too.
To go through that more than once seemed nothing short of masochism. And he really wasn't that way inclined.
So naturally he was happy to convince himself that whatever was happening between he and Kate was just the typical chemistry of very close friends. Again, with hindsight, he could see how slowly and carefully they pushed further and further against the line of friendship, easing it back.
"I had the biggest crush on Sean Connery," Kate told him one night as they talked about growing up and the movies they had loved. "James Bond, of course – man of action, just like you. In my fantasies he was intrigued by my reserve, threw over all those glamourous women to take me with him on his missions, providing invaluable research and all that nonsense. He found my intellectualism a turn-on."
"It is a turn-on," Hellboy replied without thinking, then felt his cheeks go hot. Luckily, Kate only laughed.
"What about you?" she nudged him. "Who was your perfect woman?"
Hellboy grimaced, shook his head. He never talked about this sort of stuff.
"Come on," she smacked him lightly on the shoulder "I just told you my embarrassing secret. Spill!"
"Ah!" Hellboy threw a hand up in exasperation, smoothed it back over his skull and tightened the knot of hair at the base of his neck, his tail smacking against the couch leg. "I sorta had a thing for Marilyn Monroe."
"How did I see that coming?"
"Hey, she was something else."
"She was before my time, really. But nineteen forty-four - you would've been primed for her charms."
Hellboy snorted, glanced away. "She was big. And really hit the big time just when I was ready to start noticing women." He found the conversation awkward, but with Kate not so much as he expected he would with others. It was nineteen-ninety and they had been friends for almost six years. Close friends. Confide-everything-in-each-other friends. Friends who inevitably slept in the same bed when they had face time-friends. He knew that Kate snored and she knew that he did too. And drooled. And who knows what else. Admitting he found Marilyn Monroe attractive didn't seem like such a big deal, considering all that.
Kate smirked and jabbed a finger in his bicep. "Did you have that issue of Playboy?
And Hellboy suddenly smirked too, unable to resist saying as he raised a glass of whiskey to his lips: "Still got it."
Kate laughed, but not in a mocking way – though he knew that she wouldn't. She laughed because she liked him being honest with her about things he would usually sooner die than talk about.
"That's gotta be worth a fortune," she said.
"Probably," he agreed. "But I think I'll hang onto it."
"Fond memories together?" she teased, but that reached his limit for disclosure and he groaned and shook his head, grinning but bashful, rolling his eyes to the ceiling.
"I don't kiss and tell."
Kate's face was suddenly composed, the smile vanishing from her lips as she set her glass down on the floorboards beside the couch.
"I'll hold you to that," she said seriously, and then she was kissing him.
For a moment Hellboy wasn't sure what to do. As physically affectionate as he and Kate had been getting, as deeply fond of her as he was, he still hadn't expected anything of this nature to happen. It was true that more and more often any silences between them seemed unbearably tense, fraught with unnameable energy, prompting them to hastily fill them with any sort of chatter that sprang to mind. It was true also that he missed Kate more and more the longer the time between their catch-ups grew – even though those had been increasing in occurrence. And it was true that he seemed to notice more and more how attractive she was, her curvy figure and round face with its dimples, her short blonde hair and bright, kind eyes. But somehow he'd managed not to really think about what any of that might mean. Now she had one hand cupping the back of his head, her other on his shoulder, kneeling on the couch beside him with her soft, sweet lips kissing his and he had no idea what to do.
It was only for a moment though. The press of her mouth against his awakened what he realised he had been denying and then his arms were slipping about her waist as he kissed her back. He tugged her onto his lap, where she agreeably shifted and they lost themselves to the embrace, the silent tension between them reconciling as they finally acknowledged what they had been wanting so long.
Despite what Bruttenholm had said, Hellboy did avail himself of girlie magazines. He was too self-conscious to procur them for himself – imagining any proprietor would be appalled to know the fantastical and demonic Hellboy had an eye for human women – but a few of the soldiers at the Bureau were sympathetic and would discreetly pass on the magazines and pamphlets as they did the rounds, never making a big deal out of it, just slipping them into the pages of a newspaper or stack of comics, for which he was grateful. The Professor's frequent trips away on business afforded him more opportunity to hang out with the off-duty GIs, when they were uncensored and letting off steam and though he never participated in the racier conversations, he would often listen in, otherwise occupied in a game of poker. He never was fully at ease with 'guy talk' and the explicit nature of it, feeling such matters were too personal, but for a time he had the natural curiosity any guy growing up would have. And then he needed time in the company of other men and he sure wasn't going to impose limits on their need to vent frustrations so after a while he just blocked those conversations out.
His conservative sensibilities extended to the erotic material he preferred, naked or half-naked women, fresh-faced girls-next-door, in coy and suggestive positions rather than scenes of graphic liasons such as could be found in more underground publications. Playboy was sufficient for his tastes and though he loved Betty Paige as much as any guy at the time, he didn't really like the weirder stuff she was in.
Regardless of what Bruttenholm said, Hellboy would never have gone to a Burlesque club for the same reason he would never walk into a newsagents and get a copy of Playboy. Still, the guys on base would inevitably source show reels of the big stars and screen them every now and then. He liked the strip shows and he loved naked girls but he didn't really like the atmosphere of sitting in a big group of catcalling men while he looked at naked girls. It felt creepy and disrespectful. A sort of gang mentality erupted that made him uncomfortable so soon enough he wasn't participating in that, either.
And after a few years he stopped looking at the magazines anyway. After a while the titillation they provided was outweighed by the loneliness they emphasised. That night in nineteen sixty-three gave him a moment of hope, but that quickly faded and he resigned himself to a solitary life that was only underscored by racy photographs of smiling girls.
So whilst it was true Hellboy had a copy of Playboy issue number one with Marilyn Monroe as the first centrefold – as well as a stack of other early editions that were probably worth a pretty penny – somewhere in his messy apartment, he hadn't looked at any of them in close to thirty years.
Somehow, by an unspoken mutual agreement, Kate and he never went beyond kissing and a little fondling. Hellboy didn't mind. Not that he wouldn't have loved to make love to her, not that he didn't let his mind wander down that path those nights he had trouble falling asleep. But the affection and love they shared was more important to him. Having someone just to be close to was rare enough for him that it was sufficient all on its own. He was happy to let Kate lead the way and enjoy himself on the journey.
That changed after Griart.
Hellboy had been hassling Kate to do field-work for six years by then. He thought her knowledge was too good to squander behind a desk and felt that Kate would make a pretty damn good agent, despite her own reservations as to her aptitude for the physical rigours the job sometimes demanded. Her empathy and compassion combined with her practicality and capacity to be a hard-ass when necessary were good qualities for the work. Plus he knew she'd be thrilled to actually see the stuff she had made her life's work and the thought of her excitement and enthusiasm pleased him. Besides, he wanted her around more.
"Some stuff you just can't learn from books, Katie," he'd say, cigar between his teeth, tugging a lock of her hair playfully. "You can read all you want about how the sight of a unicorn makes you weep, but that means squat when you're actually face to face with one and those happy tears are running down your cheeks."
Finally she'd agreed – he was sure it was the unicorn story – and accompanied him for that ugly business with the wolves of Saint August, mere weeks after the death of Professor Bruttenholm, when Hellboy was throwing himself into any work he could find to distract his heart from dwelling on the loss.
It was a dangerous job for a new agent but Kate was willing and Hellboy was sure he could protect her from whatever monster they happened to be up against.
And he could.
Still, the investigation had been a dramatic and deadly serious one. Kate had seen her first ghost – of a trapped and sorrowful little girl – fallen an alarming ten feet into a pitch-black hole, and come face to face with a monstrous, blood-thirsty and throughly deranged werewolf. A couple of times she'd come close to breaking down but with him there to calm her and remind her he could keep her safe, she prevailed.
But afterwards, she was jittery with adrenalin, slightly hysterical in her enthusiastic reflections on all they had seen and full of admiration for him after witnessing the no-holds-barred brawl he'd had with the werewolf, ultimately ending up the victor. He was worried she may have broken something in her fall, but she was too amped up to notice and that worried him more. He sat her down in the Church yard and gave her a nip of scotch and some water then pushed a power bar into her hand while she rattled on in an excited frenzy about the paper she was going to write about the case and how she couldn't wait to cross-reference Grenier's evolution against other documented accounts. Then she stopped all at once and drew in a deep breath, her arms crossed over herself, shivering. Hellboy knew she'd pull through all right but still thought she could use a break. Considering that the loss of his father was still so raw, he could use a break. Taking care of Kate would keep him occupied enough for the pain to not resonate too badly, and taking care of Kate sounded like a nice idea anyway. He suggested they take a couple of days off and go to Paris and she agreed cheerily that was a fantastic idea before bursting into shocked tears.
The Bureau had given them the all-clear and she'd slept with her head resting against his arm on the plane, the shock wearing off leaving her simply exhausted.
He'd splurged by taking them to L'Hotel, figuring Kate really needed a place she could truly unwind and knowing the boutique hotel with its history would appeal to her. Kate let him take care of things, quietly reflective on the weirdness and wildness that had occurred, seeming to pay little attention to everything else until he went to book himself an adjoining room. She'd put a cold hand on his as he moved to hand over his credit card and stated firmly the one room would be fine. He was a little surprised, but acquiesed. As he remembered with Anastasia, Parisians seemed unphased by his presence striding heavily through the beautiful hotel, his tail lashing behind him, and they were blasé to Kate at his side as he escorted her upstairs, holding her close against him with an arm around her shoulders.
Hellboy unlocked the door of their room and held it open for her to enter before following. It was stunning, the old-fashioned furnishings in warm jewel-tones, the windows large, framing magnificent vistas of the city. The king-sized bed was set against a wall of flocked red-and-gold wallpaper and was made up with crisp, white linen. They both noticed it at the same time.
"One bed," Hellboy said, gazing at it.
"One bed," Kate agreed from a few feet away. He turned his head to her and in the next instant they were together, kissing hard and passionately, his arms wrapped around her and lifting her up to him while she wrapped her legs around his waist.
In moments he had her under him on the bed, his hands cradling her head as they kissed in long, intense gasps. She embraced him tightly and opened her mouth to his with small groans of pleasure. He was hard and fully erect in seconds, the press of her body against his the best balm for his aching muscles. As they kissed he felt Kate smile against his mouth and smiled back, loving her deeply.
They broke the kiss and she grabbed hold of the lapels of his duster and grinned coyly at him.
"You're very good at what you do, you know," she told him, a giggle in her voice.
He regarded her lovingly, one corner of his mouth quirking. "I practice in the mirror."
Kate laughed outloud and smacked his shoulder. "I was talking about fighting the werewolf."
Of course he'd known what she meant, but he liked having his fun as well. "Yeah, like I said, I practice in the mirror."
Kate laughed again, her shoulders shaking, gazing at him with loving eyes. "I knew you were great but it was still something else to see."
He snorted and shrugged a shoulder. "It's what I do." It was true that for him it was just the every day, how he earned his crust. But he was still pleased Kate was impressed. With someone who had sixteen books under her belt and a doctorate to boot at the age of thirty-six, it was nice to know he brought something to the table.
Sitting up, he shrugged his duster off and tossed it to a corner of the room where it landed with a heavy rustle, followed moments later by his belt. Kate sat up between his legs and peeled off her bomber jacket, throwing it towards the same corner. She smiled up at him, seeming happier than she had for months and he cupped the side of her face in his hand, stroking her cheek with his thumb while she pressed her head against his palm.
His hands moved to the waist of her cable-knit turtleneck and she raised her arms above her head as he pulled it off, her tee-shirt underneath riding up a little to give him a tantalising glimpse of her soft belly. Hellboy's heart beat harder, his breath coming heavy, the tip of his tail flicking excitedly. He hadn't realised how badly he'd wanted to see Kate naked until that moment. Now, her arms and neck and that strip of midriff were impossibly provocative, making his blood pound.
Perhaps seeing the desire burn in his eyes, Kate pushed him back with a hand on his chest, laughing.
"Help me with my shoes first, buster."
Hellboy lifted one of her legs up with a grin. "You've been reading too many fairy stories, princess." He eased one of her sneakers off, rubbing the sole of her foot caringly.
"What, you don't want to make my wish come true?"
Hellboy chuckled, kissed her other foot as he peeled off her socks.
"Careful what you wish for."
The exchange was corny as hell but no less fun for that. Kate lay back and lifted her hips from the mattress as he tugged her jeans down, his breath catching as her soft thighs were bared. The jeans joined the growing pile of their clothing in the corner and he anticipated the moment that his shorts would join them, giving relief to his erection. Kate lay on the bed, looking up at him with a little smile on her soft lips, clad only in plain white cotton panties with her Bureau tee-shirt riding up. The last rays of the sun filtered in through the translucent white drapes, turning Kate's fair skin to gold, putting a fire in her blonde hair. She was a wonderfully erotic sight and he remembered to thank his lucky stars.
Again Kate held her arms up as he tugged her tee-shirt off, then pressed a kiss against his rough cheek when he leaned forward to unfasten her bra. Hellboy liked undressing her, liked how the usually assertive and self-sufficient Kate both allowed and obliged him to care for her in that way. She worked herself too damn hard, her thoughts too occupied with others, never taking enough time for herself. He cupped her breasts in his hands – or rather in his left and three fingers of his massive right; they were large and soft, the weight of them tantalising. Kate exhaled a note of pleasure and then reached up to kiss him, her large brown nipples puckering as they pressed against his chest. He slid his arms around her back and pulled her up to straddle his lap, leaving her panties on, liking the way they looked across her wide hips.
Hellboy's eye had a wide range for women. He was attracted to a variety of ages and backgrounds, shapes and sizes, seeing beauty and sensuality in many forms. The only consistent qualities seemed to be femininity and strength – and often redhair, though not always by any means. Kate's figure was fuller than Anastasia's, who spent so much time outdoors working in the earth, but he had no desire to name a preference. They were both sexy as hell and he was grateful either of them had looked his way.
Kate ground her groin against him as they kissed, reminding him he still had his shorts on. The feeling of the materials obstructing their most intimate flesh connecting was frustrating and, in that, intensely sexy. He thrust his hips up between her thighs, making her gasp at the sensation of his hardness straining to reach her. Kate cupped his face in her hands and kissed him harder before she pulled away, rising up, her knees on his thighs, so her breasts were level with his mouth. He didn't need a second invitation. Hellboy caught one nipple up between his lips, teasing it first with his tongue and then his teeth while Kate groaned and her fingers dug into his hair. He moved to the other and then back as she rocked her hips, her bottom cupped in his hands. The tips of his fingers strayed between her thighs as she grinded, the delicious outline of her sex prompting him to groan involuntarily as he laved her breasts. The thick stone fingers of Hellboy's right hand hooked over the waistband of her panties and in the next instance they were gone, torn from her hips as easily as paper.
Kate gasped and for a moment he was concerned he had been too rough, but she held his head against her and thrust herself against his searching hand. He was euphoric to find her wonderfully wet, slick with her desire.
"Damn, you're amazing, Katie," he breathed against her breasts, his fingers exploring her gently, loving the feel of her silken wet flesh. She cooed and lowered herself back down to kiss his mouth, her hands running tenderly down his neck and over his shoulders.
"I love you too," she whispered playfully against his lips.
He tipped Kate down onto her back and she went easily, laughing. He sat up to admire her, loving the generous fullness of her hips and breasts. Somehow, it was so easy with Kate. He was inexperienced enough that he had expected to feel bashful and awkward. But it was quite the opposite. He supposed the comfort and intimacy of their ten year long friendship bolstered him, gave him confidence. Their knowledge of each other was already so profound that they could only be secure together in this way.
Hellboy cupped her face in his left hand again, stroking his thumb across her mouth, she kissing it as he did. His hand ran down her neck and over her breasts, fingertips swirling in teasing patterns and she shut her eyes and sighed happily and he thought again how much she gave to others and how little she reserved for herself. His eyes trailed over her voluptuous body, the beauty of it making the pulse of his blood echo in his loins. The hair that covered her groin was dark blonde and plentiful, an inviting veil to what she kept beneath. Hellboy's hand traced lower, detouring around her groin to her thighs, slipping down to the sensitive inner flesh of them. He eased her legs apart and caught the quick inhalation of her breath, a note of anticipation and the corner of his mouth tugged in a smile.
He bent over and placed a hot kiss on her belly, as much to tease himself as her. He missed the taste of women. Missed the intimacy and trust. Easing himself off the bed he knelt on the floor, his hooves and knees sinking into the soft pile carpeting, then grabbed Kate by the hips and tugged her gently to him, lowering his face to the center of her.
Kate was especially sensitive it seemed, and rocked her hips back and forth constantly in response to his attention, gasping and sighing, her toes curling on his shoulders. He loved her responsiveness, the sweet taste of her and the thrill of bringing her bliss. He cupped her bottom in his right hand and sucked gently on her clit as the fingers of his left teased her entrance, skills he had learnt through Anastasia's careful guidance. She climaxed in an explosive burst of urgent grinding, moaning quietly and sweet, the contracting pulse of her sex the mark of his success.
She left her legs dangling over his shoulders as he kissed a tender trail up her stomach before rising up on his arms to look at her. Kate's head was tipped back, her eyes still shut, a soft smile on her lips. Her cheeks were hotly flushed and he gazed at her affectionately as he memorised how she looked in that moment, wanting it always to recall.
Kate's eyes fluttered open and she turned her head towards him, her smile widening. She reached an arm out for him and he went down to her, their lips meeting in a tender kiss as her hand cupped the back of his head.
"You're amazing, Red," she breathed into him, her eyes impossibly bright. "You really are something else."
Hellboy snorted and kissed her quiet, but inwardly he swelled with pleasure.
Kate pushed at his shoulders, urging him back. He went agreeably, guessing what was coming. Sure enough, as Kate sat up and tucked her legs under her, her hands sought out the fastenings of his shorts and his cock pulsed, already anticipating how wonderful the hot sheath of her would feel enveloping him tightly.
She tipped her head back and smiled at him as the teeth of the zip parted. The bulge of his erection impeded her as she tugged his shorts down and he took over, pushing the garment off his hips and letting it drop.
Kate inhaled deeply as the rest of him was revealed to her keen eyes. Hellboy did not spend a lot of time naked around other people and had always found it awkward each time he found himself in that situation. Even with Kate it was no exception, especially considering how profoundly visible his arousal was.
Kate bit her lip and stared at his organ, eyes wide and he grew nervous.
"Oh my God, Red," she said simply and there was a touch of incredulity in her face and he grimaced, awkwardly scratching his neck. Kate exhaled in a whoosh and raised her eyes to his face. "Really something else," she repeated and he relaxed a little as a touch of her cheeky smile returned.
"Hmm," he rumbled, throwing one hand up, not inclined to dwell on the subject and instead kneeling back on the bed to draw Kate close to him again.
As they kissed she wrapped a hand around him and began to tug. Hellboy held her tighter, his kisses growing more passionate as his pleasure mounted in response to her touch. Kate flicked her tongue against his lip then opened her mouth to take his, moaning as he tipped her back in his arms. He slipped his left hand around to her front and cupped one breast, squeezing it gently, then lowered her back down to the mattress, his right arm supporting her effortlessly.
Their breathing was growing more ragged, more earnest, as she spread her legs and he settled himself between them, his tail flicking urgently. Hellboy's hardness was throbbing with need and anticipation as it sensed the approach of bliss and he broke their kiss to push up onto his hands, their respective heights too at odds to allow him to both kiss her and enter her.
As the head of him pushed gently against her wetness, Kate's back arched and she gasped and he groaned, desperate with desire. The final tease before they were finally joined and he rocked his hips to draw it out longer, loving the lick of pleasure that foreshadowed ultimate ecstasy.
Kate bit her lip, looking beautiful and strangely vulnerable shadowed beneath his body. It was so different to see her in that way – Kate may have been small but she was tough and fierce and no matter how much of a book worm she was, she moved like lightning, with purpose and conviction. Beneath him now she was tenderly unguarded, her hands smoothing up over the contours of his biceps, her breasts soft and her lips swollen and inviting.
Hellboy exhaled slow and prepared to ease himself into her. Kate's hands suddenly squeezed his arms and she made a small noise, her eyes round and anxious on his.
"I - I haven't had much of a sex life lately," she said quickly, and seemed embarrassed. He shrugged, wanting to put her at ease.
"I don't have any kind of sex life," he replied wryly and she laughed a little but didn't seem soothed. He grew concerned.
"Are you okay?" he queried her, shifting a hand to stroke her cheek. She bit her lip again and nodded, but her brow furrowed a little, her eyes clouding.
"It's different for my body," she explained quietly and he understood.
"You want to slow down?" he asked her.
"Um," Kate seemed unsure and his concern grew. He eased himself next to her on the bed so she would not feel intimidated and put his right arm around her, stroking her stomach softly with the fingers of his other.
"Don't sweat it," he said gently. "You tell me what you want." Hellboy pressed a warm kiss to her forehead and she made a soft note of content, pressing up against his lips. He kissed her eyelids next and waited.
After a moment, Kate took his left hand and guided it between her thighs. They kissed as he worked her gently, the hot sheath of her relaxing around his fingers, his thumb rubbing her clit. Kate threw her arms around his neck and thrust her hips in response, groaning in pleasure against his mouth, her body feeling receptive and eager.
The passion between them crescendoed once more as he rolled back on top of her and Kate gripped his arms and thrust towards him, her head tipping back.
"God, I love your body," she sighed, squeezing his biceps then running her hands up over his massive shoulders and back. Quietly he was flattered but covered it as he always did.
"Glad we're still even then."
And she smiled as she remembered what he did.
"You do?" she asked him, a little shyly, running a hand up his thick neck to his cheek, stroking his sideburn.
He was a little surprised then remembered her at Griart, right before she fell through the stone floor, ribbing him about whether he was making a crack about her weight. They were always ribbing each other, he hadn't thought much of it. But with him like this, she seemed vulnerable in ways he had never seen before. He took her face in his hands and gazed steadily into her eyes.
"You're perfect," he told her sincerely and she smiled and he saw that she believed him and was bolstered by it.
Hellboy moved to enter Kate, a thrill of excitement coursing through him as he anticipated that moment of absolute union. Kate gasped and gripped his shoulders, and his organ nudged at her entrance, feeling it stretch as he started to push inside her.
"Wait, stop," Kate said suddenly, a note of panic in her voice.
He did immediately, sitting right back on his haunches, his tail flickering with anxiety as he looked down at her. "Did I hurt you?" he queried breathlessly. It was his worst fear in such circumstances. If he'd hurt Kate, his Katie, he could never forgive himself.
Kate was panting a little, seeming distressed, but she reached out and patted his knee. "No, no," she assured him, her voice wavering. "I just - " she pressed her eyes shut and her other hand flew up to her face, fingertips pressing her temples. "I just can't."
Hellboy was hit with a flood of emotions, complicated and powerful. Hurt at the rejection, concern that he really had hurt her somehow, guilt for both feelings. But mostly he was just worried about her.
Kate sat up, before him still so frail and vulnerable in her beautiful nudity, her soft blonde hair falling over her eyes as she continued to press at her temple with one hand. He wanted to comfort her but was afraid touching her would make her uncomfortable.
"You want a drink, Katie?" he asked her instead. "Is there anything I can get you?"
Kate shook her head no and lifted her face to look up at him, forcing a little smile. His heart near broke to see her expression, vivid in its conflict and distress, its silent plea for understanding.
"I'm sorry," she said softly and started to cry.
Perhaps, right then, Hellboy would've preferred to get dressed and leave – deal with his hurt and disappointment alone in a bar with a bottle of whiskey. But not if Katie was crying. Instead he put his arms around her, pulling her close against him and she went willingly, wrapping an arm around his waist and sobbing into his chest. The softness of her nakedness, the fragility of her in his arms, brought a lump to his throat. He shifted from his haunches to his rear, his tail curling around his side and his hooves whispering against the sheets, so that she could sit on his lap.
"There's nothing to be sorry for," he rumbled quietly, stroking her hair back over her ear, holding her face against him.
"I want to, Hellboy," she explained, hiccouphing. "I do, but I can't."
"I understand," he whispered, kissing the top of her head. It was true. Somehow, he did. Hellboy knew that Kate cared for him too much for her decision to be because of what he was, or because she didn't desire him. He was hurt, he couldn't deny it, disappointed too, but he would be okay. He wanted Kate to be okay.
Kate inhaled deeply and pressed her lips against his chest, the feeling of the kiss sweet. Getting hold of herself, she sat back in his arms, her lovely eyes red and wet, her smile rueful, reaching up to stroke his face tenderly.
"You really are something else, you know," she said, her voice suffused with feeling. Hellboy shrugged again, trying to seem unphased by it all.
"Speak for yourself, kid. Let's raid the minibar."
"Don't," she said when he went to retrieve his shorts and though he hesitated, he obliged. She remained naked as well, and they got beneath the covers together and listened to a jazz station while they made their way through the miniature liquors and bottles of wine. Hellboy kept his arm around her shoulders and she rested her head on his chest and their naked bodies pressed together was greatly soothing. They talked about Griart and Hellboy told her anecdotes about the friend who had died there, Father Kelly. She urged him to talk to her about Bruttenholm and how he was coping with the pain and he unburdened himself in his typically brief, taciturn way and felt better for it, especially when she comforted him in the simple, direct way that was so unique to her. For a while they kissed, slow and tenderly and then Katie drifted to sleep, still in his arms, and he stroked her hair and watched a movie with the volume down low until he fell asleep too.
At some point in the night, he awoke to darkness and the feeling of pleasure in his loins. Kate had her head between his legs, sucking him to bliss. Between the lingering fog of sleep and the waves of pleasure that rolled through him, he was disoriented and grabbed for her hand. She squeezed his when he found it and increased the pressure on his organ. Caught unguarded, his climax ascended before he realised and the next thing he knew he was exploding with ecstasy, bright flashes of light behind his eyelids.
"Katie," he groaned as his pleasure ebbed, leaving him blissed out and limp.
Kate slid back up the bed beside him and, still half-asleep, he hugged her to him, the press of her breasts delicious in the dark.
"You didn't have to," he murmured into her hair and she tilted her face up to kiss him lingeringly.
"I wanted to," she replied.
He spooned her as they settled back into rest, his right arm cradling her body, his mighty right hand carefully covering her stomach and hips, her bottom soft against his groin. He nuzzled her hair and she brought his left hand up to her face and kissed his fingertips and they were both soon asleep, the absently content twitching of his tail against the mattress easing to a halt.
Hellboy woke first in the morning, momentarily bewildered, then remembering all in a rush. He shifted so that Kate would not be bothered by his morning erection and lifted his head to look at her.
Her eyelashes flickered, signalling that she was dreaming, and he hoped they were pleasant ones. Her lips were slack and she still loosely held his left hand in hers. In sleep she seemed innocent and untroubled. The intimacy of waking up next to his Katie like this stirred his heart, set it pounding intensely and he found himself wondering if he could ever come to feel about her as he had about Anastasia.
He decided that he could.
So Hellboy carefully extricated himself from their embrace, easing Kate back onto the pillows, and stole from the bed to have a scalding shower, trying not to remember the taste and scent and feel of her, naked and entwined with him. He leaned his head against the tiled walls, rubbed the stubs of his horns against them, and deeply exhaled, getting control of the ache in his chest before he switched the water off and got out.
By then Kate was up – and dressed.
Before they left the room, she stopped him with a gentle hand on his wrist, standing in front of him with her bright blue eyes gazing up into his yellow ones, her expression one of deepest affection and yearning.
"Hellboy," she began softly. "I don't want this to change anything."
His mouth quirked in a little smile and he knew there was a touch of sorrow in it. He lifted his hand to smooth back her hair, stroke her cheek.
"It won't," he said simply and she raised her own hand to grab his, pressing her cheek against his palm.
"Anything," she emphasised and he nodded.
"It won't," he repeated and bent down to kiss her gently.
And it didn't. How could it? They cared too much for each other to allow that to happen, their friendship too strong and vital a presence in their lives.
For a while the physical side of their relationship ceased, though they remained each other's closest confidants, still seeking out the comforting ritual of nights off drinking and talking together. Though Hellboy was still as attracted to her, he was content to let Kate lead things in that regard and he sensed she needed some distance. He had once put a halt on things too for a while, in nineteen ninety-one after he'd seen Anatasia again in Tibet. When they'd come so very close to resuming their relationship. He'd been caught up in memories of the past for a couple of months, wondering if he should've gone ahead and followed her again, and didn't want to bring those feelings into the lovely thing he and Kate had. He'd seen how hurt Kate had been when he told her upon his return to the Bureau about what had transpired, though she never said as much. She was just understanding and respectful and gave him the space he needed, like the one-in-a-million woman that she was. So he strove to do so in kind, whilst gently letting her know to the best of his blunt ability that he was always there for her, as much as he had been before, first and foremost as her friend.
Then finally, after a particularly hard and traumatic case when he was confiding in her his fears about his origins, she'd drawn him into her arms and they resumed the sweet and comforting habit of kissing and cuddling. Whilst, for Hellboy, there was always a bittersweet edge to it ever afterwards, he wouldn't have changed it for the world.
Now he was walking away from Kate, striding across the countryside of Austria, the smoke of his cigarette catching on the fresh air, his tail lashing and the grass trampling beneath his hooves, walking away from her and all their history together for who knew how long...
Abruptly he stopped and looked back. Already he was a couple of miles away from where she had stood and he held a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun, searching for her.
But she no longer stood at the peak of that hill. The rotors on the Bureau choppers had begun to whir, beating the air around them, and he knew she was on one of them, ready to fly back to the States, their paths now absolutely diverged.
Hellboy's heart ached dully in his chest and he drew in a deep lungful of smoke, recalling the look in Kate's eyes as she'd said: "Good for you." Gentle understanding but a strong note of pain as well. No questions or objections. She always had encouraged him to seek out the answers he wanted. Her lovely face regarding him with such affection. How long before he saw that face again?
Damn it all, he should've just kissed her.
The chopper lifted into the air and he watched its ascent for a moment before turning again and resuming his stride.
He'd never said that he loved her. But she had to have known.
"You take care of yourself too, Katie," he muttered to himself. And rubbed the sting from his eyes.
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