Author's note: I don't think I've ever written anything about Hellboy's birthday in December of 2006. In my mainly movieverse stories based on Guillermo del Toro's 2004 film and its aftermath, Hellboy's birthday falls on the comicverse date of December 23rd, and I have Hellboy and Liz getting married on March 19, 2005. This story also connects to my fic "Hellboy's Family." In the beginning of Part 14 of the still ongoing "Liz Sherman" chapter, Hellboy has an interpolated dream late in 2005 about his dead father that featured toasted cheese sandwiches and good fatherly advice. That idea lead to this current story about Hellboy's love for Liz and his nostalgia for his father's toasted cheese sandwiches. P.S. "Hellboy's Family" and its other connected fics are based solely on my ideas from the 2004 movie and do not follow events from the 2008 film "The Golden Army."

Disclaimer: Wish the characters of Hellboy, Liz, and Trevor Broom were really mine. They belong to Mike Mignola for the comics, and Guillermo del Toro and Sony/Revolution Studios for the 2004 film. Pete Travers, the old bartender, was created by me for this story.

Hellboy: The Comfort of Cheese and Love

London, England

Saturday, December 23, 2006

After the events in Moscow in 2004 and Hellboy's subsequent marriage to Liz Sherman in March of 2005, their relationship to FBI liaison Tom Manning had improved significantly – even to the point that Liz had chosen him to "give her away" during the wedding ceremony. After a lot of hemming and hawing about the FBI's strictures on the control of public exposures of Hellboy, Manning had relaxed enough to allow Hellboy to bring Liz on a "Honeymoon" trip to England in December of 2006 that would end with Hellboy and Liz celebrating his birthday on December 23rd in London.

Hellboy had always wanted to bring Liz to the U.K. on a personal trip rather than another BPRD operation full of monsters and mayhem. After all, the British Isles, as Trevor Broom always called it, were the land of his 1916 birth in England and Hellboy's 1944 arrival in an abandoned church on an island off the coast of Scotland. Hellboy had always loved the times that he had the opportunity to wander the land of his "birth," often alone; but also many times, in his youth, with his adoptive father.

Nothing was more magical and nostalgic to Hellboy than the streets of London in late December around the time of his birthday and on Christmas Eve. Hellboy recalled that his father had always mentioned a traditional London pub where he used to hang out with his university friends from Oxford in the years before the discovery of Hellboy.

The evening of December 23 in the year 2006 found Hellboy and Liz hand-in-hand walking along the Victoria Embankment near Villiers Street, just south-east of Trafalgar Square and The Strand.

"These lights and the Christmas trees along The Embankment are just beautiful, H.B.," Liz said as she stopped to examine a particularly beautiful tree. "No wonder you love it here."

"Yeah, and it's been a long time since I've seen this; way too long. C'mon Liz there's something on Villiers Street that I want to look for. I don't think it's too far from Charing Cross Station."

Hellboy led Liz along the Watergate Walk in The Embankment until it issued into Villiers Street and, crossing Villiers Street, turned right. Walking along Villiers, he stopped in front of an establishment called The Griffin Tavern, just short of John Adams Street, which ran parallel to The Strand.

Hellboy and Liz looked at the brightly lit pub that was decorated both inside and out for Christmas.

"My father used to come here in the late 30's and early 40's with his buddies from Oxford. He said that they had the best toasted cheese sandwiches in all of what he always called the British Isles."

He opened the door to the pub and lead Liz into a relatively small establishment of dark paneled wood, small wooden tables, and a roaring fireplace on one end. It appeared that none of the customers were at all startled to see a human woman hand-in-hand with a close to 7-foot tall individual with completely red skin, tail, shaved-off horns, and that huge stone-like right hand.

Hellboy stopped and perused a menu posted on the wall. No toasted cheese sandwiches were mentioned there. He and Liz were also well past the time that the pub ceased serving for dinner, even if it usually was open until 12:00am on Saturdays.

Hellboy lead Liz up to the bar that was on a wall opposite to the fireplace.

The elderly man who often tended the bar after the end of dinner looked at the couple for a brief second before saying, "You must be Hellboy. Trevor had mentioned you the last time he was here in early December of '45, but I think you were a whole lot smaller then."

Hellboy smiled at this mention of his adoptive father, who had traveled to Britain from "the States" somewhat frequently in Hellboy's youngest years – leaving him behind in the care of the personnel on a secret military base in a desert area of New Mexico.

"Yeah, I would've been pretty small back then, but I grew up real quick. This here's my wife, Liz."

The bartender and Hellboy shook hands, "My name's Peter Travers. You can just call me "Old Pete" like everyone else around here. When I met Trevor back in '45, I was just a young table waiter."

Pete then leaned over the bar and gave Liz a peck on the cheek. "Nice to meet you, Ma'am. I'm glad that the big guy's found someone to be with him so he wouldn't be too alone after what happened."

"You mean that you know what happened to the Professor in November 2004?" Liz asked.

"Yeah, we all do here. Trevor's always kept sporadically in touch with me, even if we never met again. The group he used to come with back then were mostly interested in the same weird stuff that he was. The older wait staff used to tell me some really strange stories about Trevor and his friends. In January of 1949, Trevor even sent us a picture of him with a young Hellboy. We couldn't exactly display it publicly with our other pictures of famous patrons, but we did keep it."

Pete reached under the bar and pulled out a framed picture of a four-year-old Hellboy in the arms of a young Professor Broom.

Hellboy blinked back a few tears. "Jeez, Pop told me loads about this place and it's best-ever toasted cheese sandwiches, but I had no idea that he kept in such close touch with you. How did you find out about him getting killed?"

Pete shrugged, "The only thing that I can think of was that Trevor must have set something up to let me know if anything ever happened to him. An Agent John Myers dropped in toward the beginning of January 2005 with the news of his murder, but asked me not to contact anyone at the Bureau or to let on that I knew anything about Trevor's death except to the people here who knew about him and you."

Hellboy picked up the old picture and showed it to Liz. "This is pretty much the same picture as the framed one we have on the wall back in our room in Newark, but our picture's larger than this one."

He handed the picture back to Pete who returned it to the shelf under the bar.

"You know, Pete, my Pop always used to tell me that I should stop in here for a plate full of your toasted cheese sandwiches when I was in London. I was thinking that Liz and I could get some of these sandwiches and a couple of beers tonight, but I notice that you've stopped serving food for the evening, and that menu over there doesn't even mention toasted cheese."

"Hey, don't worry about that, Hellboy," Pete smiled, "We serve what we call "pub food" and other snacks from the bar until closing time. Just small dishes and sandwiches that can be made in the oven or served cold from the bar. We don't necessarily list all of our older, traditional dishes on the menu, but I know exactly how to make these toasted cheese sandwiches. In fact, I served your father and his friend, Harry, their plates of toasted cheese sandwiches that last time he was here back in '45, even if I wasn't the one who made them back then."

"Harry," grinned Hellboy, "That must have been his friend Harry Middleton that he went to school with back in the day. I've met Harry a few times in my teens when my father and I used to travel around England with him when Pop had time for a vacation. I'm sorry that Liz never got to meet Harry, but he died of old age several years before Pop was killed."

Hellboy looked around the pub. "Where can we sit down to eat? These bar stools don't look strong enough to hold my weight, and I don't want to have to eat standing up."

Pete came from behind the bar, and took Hellboy and Liz over to a table near the fireplace on the other side of the pub. "This table was the one that your father ate that last meal here with Harry. The chairs at the table should be strong enough to support your weight. I'll be back in a few with your toasted cheese sandwiches and some beer, unless you want some other drinks than beer."

"No," said Hellboy, "the beer's just fine. Do you still serve that local brew called Griffin Beer?"

"Sure do," said Pete, "Give me about fifteen minutes and I'll be back with your food."

Hellboy and Liz were soon stuffed full of the best cheddar filled toasted cheese sandwiches that he had ever eaten other than the ones that his father used to make for special occasions and for quiet talks when Hellboy was strongly in need of a bit of paternal advice – advice that used to go down a lot better with a huge plate of his father's toasted cheese sandwiches.

Pete had thrown in four of the miniature pork pies that the pub served later in the evening. He had heated the pork pies in the oven while the cheddar cheese sandwiches were toasting in the broiler.

As much as Hellboy had been enjoying the beer, pork pies, and wonderful toasted cheese sandwiches, he started to find it harder and harder to swallow the food past a growing lump in his throat.

He eventually tossed his last partially eaten sandwich onto the plate in front of him and buried his face in his huge right hand. Liz knew exactly what was troubling him. She coaxed him to lift his head again. "You know the Professor would have much rather you enjoyed your "Honeymoon" birthday with me, H.B., than continuing to grieve for him."

Hellboy didn't respond to Liz. He just gathered her up into his chair to sit on his lap; holding her close and burying his face in her long, dark hair. He didn't weep, as he didn't want to break down in public, but Liz could hear that his breathing was getting slightly ragged with the tears that he wouldn't shed.

After a long while of sitting with Liz like this, Hellboy drew in a deep breath and raised his head again. Liz moved back into her chair, and Pete who had been standing off not wanting to intrude into their private moment came back to the table. He was holding something in his left hand behind his back.

"I hope you and Liz enjoyed your toasted cheese sandwiches, Hellboy."

"Almost as good as Pop used to make," Hellboy said with a smile, "Not quite, but almost. Those little pork pies were amazing and that Griffin Beer was exactly like Pop described it."

Pete brought out what he was hiding behind his back – a case of twelve American made Baby Ruth candy bars exported for distribution in England. He handed them to Hellboy.

"Just a little something sweet for your birthday. Years ago your father asked me to always have these on hand just in case you ever turned up here on your birthday. I buy them every December and every year we eat them in your honor on Christmas Eve, the day after your birthday. I guess we'll have to eat something else tomorrow in your honor. Maybe pancakes with ice cream and fudge sauce."

Pete went back to the bar and returned with a small chocolate cake, three plates, and three bowls of vanilla ice cream. He had stuck birthday candles into the cake. He also brought a pot of American coffee and three coffee mugs.

"I hope you don't mind if I join you. I've always hoped against hope that you would someday turn up on your birthday; and I'm so pleased that you managed to do it before I had to retire. I'm also so very pleased to meet the Missus. I wish my wife could've met you guys, but she passed on last year."

"Sure, Pete, feel free to join us," Hellboy responded, "You really made my birthday more special than I ever imagined it would be; even with the fact that it was part of my Honeymoon trip with Liz."

Pete reached out and touched Hellboy's shoulder. "We would love if you could join us tomorrow for Christmas Eve. It would be a great privilege to have you and Liz with us when we have a toast in your and Trevor's honor as we do every year."

Hellboy just nodded, finding it difficult, as usual, to know exactly what to say. He reached down for the last half-eaten toasted cheese sandwich. The taste of the still slightly warm sandwich seem filled with the warmth of his memories of the love and caring he always received from the man who raised him.

Later that evening, stuffed full of cake, ice cream, coffee, and Baby Ruth bars, Hellboy and Liz returned to the Bureau-run flat where they were staying in London. They were looking forward to meeting Pete and the other wait staff tomorrow for their Christmas Eve celebration in honor of Hellboy and his adoptive father. Hellboy wondered why his father had kept his long-time acquaintance with Pete undisclosed to Hellboy during his lifetime; but, then again, there were many parts of this father's past in England which were not well known to him beyond his friendship with Harry Middleton.

Hellboy and Liz were sorry to hear that "Old Pete" Travers became very ill the following April and passed away after an intense, if brief fight against cancer. He was so attached to The Griffin Tavern that he had never technically retired – continuing to work the bar in the evening until he was too sick to continue coming in. They were so very happy that Hellboy had managed to be there with Pete even just that one time to celebrate his birthday with a man who had known his father in his younger years.

Author's afterward:

The Griffin Tavern was once a real pub on Villiers Street in London, originating in the 17th century in that same location. My husband and I had Griffin Beer and miniature pork pies there on our first trip to London in 1985. By 2008, it was called the Bell and Compass before changing to a chain cafe and then more recently to a Five Guys burger joint. I only have the vaguest memories of what the inside of the pub looked like when we were there, but it was obviously an old traditional pub rather than a location for young people or tourists.