Author's Note: Well, here it is, folks! C'est fini! It's only been, like THREE YEARS… But a lot can happen in three years. A lot HAS happened in three years. Thanks much to ~SadAndFallenAngel over on dA, she's the reason I finished this, really. She's been a helluva support despite her own difficulties. My brain being what it is, I'm sure there will be sequel action to this sooner or later. It's just SO. MUCH. FUN. to write. Srsly.
All disclaimers in earlier chapters... It's been three years, I haven't been sued yet. I'm gonna let it ride.
Tell me what you think, folks. I love to hear it.
The next morning, the house was again buzzing and on her way out the door, Jacqueline insisted that Mark take the wolf with him to Florida. Mark looked vaguely surprised by that. "I'll be fine, Jackie." He murmured as they were mid embrace. "You don't need to worry."
"Please, Mark... to ease my worry." She said. Mark nodded yes and kissed her softly, and when they parted he whistled for the wolf, which came trotting in through a door to the back porch.
She stayed at Mark's feet for the flight, while Mark was constantly scanning the pilot's mind for perceived threat. Most of his enemies had lost interest with Paul dead of course, but he wasn't going to let a lack of care on his part be the reason he died in a stupid, preventable manner. It was morally questionable of course, but being honest would be so much more complicated. He passed his lack of attention to Hellboy and Kate's conversation as air sickness, and let Hellboy rag on him for it. It was easier.
They were only walking into the Magic Kingdom after close when Hellboy felt compelled to ask about Glen. He kept it simple. "You heard from him?"
"I get matchbooks." Mark replied, looking at his stylized and sterilized surroundings very carefully as they walked up Main Street USA, with all the stores quiet and dark. Hellboy realized Mark was having the same reality issues he'd had upon first arrival.
"Matchbooks?" Hellboy asked in order to keep the conversation going, and to keep Mark from becoming completely weirded out.
"In the mail. Sometimes up to twenty in a padded envelope. From bars and hotels, gas stations, and where ever. If the matchbook is plain, there will be a drawing on the inside flap, of trees or birds, rivers, buildings. One was a portrait of an incredibly good looking stripper's ass. The detail on the g-string was amazing." Mark said.
"Nothing else?" Hellboy asked.
"Well, there is the monthly bill." Mark said, ignoring the guy in the suit much the same way Hellboy had. He'd started to give them a dirty look as soon as Mark had said stripper.
"He's been using a credit card that Paul had for the 'business'. He had it stashed somewhere, a safety deposit box, maybe... Anyways, that bill goes to Bradshaw, who at my request pays it out of my share of the earnings... Which I'll admit is larger than everyone else's share. It's all very pirate ship like, appropriately enough." Mark explained.
"And you just pay up for him?"
"It means I sort of know where he is at least, Red... And it keeps him in matchbooks." Mark said, as if embarrassed to be so sentimental. Hellboy changed the subject somewhat for Mark's sake.
"And he can really draw?"
"I want him to draw up a tattoo for me should he ever come back. Something I can always have ya know?" Mark said.
"Yeah, I think I get that." Hellboy replied. "Though the fact that you have any skin left to put it on is remarkable... And will it be of the stripper's ass?" Mark chuckled at that.
"Now gentlemen, I hope that there won't be any major disturbance to the nightly routine here." The suit said.
"You mean other than the poltergeist that's wreaking havoc?" Mark asked. As with Kate before, Hellboy exchanged the 'get a load of this guy' look.
"The park runs on a very tight schedule, sirs. We need the area back to normal for business tomorrow. The flood from your last visit was a very difficult clean up."
"Wanna hear God laugh? Tell 'im your plans." Mark muttered as he squinted into the distance at a plant off to their right. The suit eyed him as Mark went over, took a cutting from the plant and placed it in a courier bag he had slung over his shoulder. He took no measure to explain his actions. Though Hellboy wrote it off as Mark just being an observant sorcerer who gathered materials where and when he could.
"Does that mean you think there will be more downtime?" He asked.
"Don't know. I just know that these things tend to get messy. It's screwing with a lot of karma." Mark said. The wolf looked up at him.
"If you're such a believer in karma, then what the hell did I do to deserve my situation?" She asked. The man in the suit paled.
"You live in a climate controlled home with all the steak you can eat and all the small mammals on the grounds you can chase. You assured me that you were happy the other day. What's making your life so miserable at the moment?" Mark asked. The wolf rolled her eyes and 'grinned' as much as her face would allow.
"Eh, my limbs aren't in the proper configuration for sneaking a ride on Space Mountain." She said. The man in the suit fainted dead away, and Kate had to keep him from hitting the ground hard. Hellboy guffawed.
"Of course the one who wants to go on it would be the one who can't. Just my luck." Hellboy said. Mark was more concerned with Perdita's mental state.
"You go for months and years at a time without a single recognizable human sound, and now you start cracking wise?" Mark asked.
"Well, all of the other animals around here talk. I'd fell out of place if I didn't conform to local custom." She said. Hellboy broke out into a fresh chuckle. These two were welcome on field work anytime from now on.
Kate, in the meantime, had called for help for delicate Corporate Guy and waved them on to the entrance of Pirates of the Caribbean. Hero trotted ahead and sniffed around at the entrance. "Smells... smells like loathing and exhaustion. Somebody who wants to be set free." She said and sat on her haunches.
"So this thing might no be as strong as it seems. This could be a last ditch effort on its part." Hellboy reasoned. Mark and Hellboy caught up to Perdita, and Mark mildly touched the wall of the entrance.
"Hello, George." He said softly.
"His name really is George?" Hellboy asked.
"Sort of. It's more of an agreed upon title. There's something here all right, but I'm getting the sense that it's a lot older than Walt's frozen corpse. An elemental of some kind, as opposed to a poltergeist, maybe?" Mark offered.
"The frozen thing is an urban legend actually." Kate said as she caught up to them. "He was cremated."
"You read too much." Hellboy teased gently.
"Good thing you like your girls with brains." Kate retorted.
"Being a good shot helps too." Hellboy said.
The lights were still flickering in the loading area, but Hellboy wasn't willing to play the boat game again. Instead he headed for the staff access to the interior of the ride. The wolf trotted ahead of him, taking point like she'd done it a million times before. Perhaps she had. Hellboy had to wonder what kind of training Paul would have put her through.
The very walls seemed to groan as they headed down the corridor and their only source of illumination was flash lights. Hellboy wished for Liz and the light she could create. The wolf trotted ahead in ankle deep water, gazing into the darkness and seeing what they could not. She nosed open another staff access door and peered around the doorjamb.
"This is gonna be weird." She announced and then entered the area of the ride itself. Hellboy took a moment to be thankful that the horrible chant hadn't started back up again and followed. Perdita for her part, went on bravely without any hesitation. It was little wonder Mark let her live the easy life. She'd probably earned it.
"Smells like rotting leaves and mud... a swamp. But not the Kermit the Frog kind." She said after testing the air.
"Probably more of the Man-Thing type." Hellboy said. "If it were tangible, I mean."
"I like 'em intangible. Makes me feel less guilty that I'm about to turf whatever it is." Mark said. The entire building shuddered and the floor rumbled beneath their feet. Progress towards the battle scene halted as everyone concentrated on remaining upright. Only Mark wasn't phased by this. "Hey! Did I say I didn't believe in you? No? Then stop having a damn hissy fit. Your scare tactics won't work on us." He barked. The floor stopped moving. "So George has got an ego." Mark muttered.
They entered the area of the battle scene, the figures were still and lifeless, except for the Captain of the Wicked Wench. He stared down defiantly, his eyes were far from lifeless. "Hi." Mark said, as if he were greeting a friend. "So I assume you know whey we're here. But what I'd like to know is why you're here."
"This is my land." The Captain's voice was cold and rusty.
"Ah, land claims dispute. I get that." Mark said. "Any chance I could help you move somewhere you'd be happier... and less likely to cause harm to people?"
"Fuck. You." The Captain said.
"Always the first words they learn." Mark said mildly to himself. He looked back up at the Captain. "I'm warning you. I'd rather help you first and foremost. But if that's not an option, I will remove you." George leered down at them from his position on the faux ship's deck.
"I was here first. You should be the ones removed." He said. This time, Hellboy judiciously kept his mouth shut.
"That's life on Earth, George. You have to change or you die." Mark said with a shrug. The water between them and the ship started to move. Mark had a candle out of his pocket and lit in an instant with a smooth trick of a Zippo lighter. The waves were just building to whitecap status when Mark finished murmuring over the candle. In its low light, the same process he'd used in England happened. This time though, the spirit in question was much less defined than Bertie Wooster. It wasn't even Man-Thing to Hellboy... More old school Clayface if he was going to keep up with the comic book comparisons. The elemental spirit reached toward their group and roared.
"How dare you!" It shouted.
"I said I was going to remove you." Mark told it in a matter of fact way.
"No! NO! This is my home!" It cried. Its shape, formed by the candle smoke billowed and tumbled over itself like clouds. The forecast was becoming progressively more stormy.
"I'm sorry." Said Mark. "But not only did you lose a war, you failed to show up until long after the battle was over... Your kind doesn't change well. Not that that would matter at all to you." The spirit reached for the water, which had gone calm again. George's ability to manifest had apparently vanished after Mark had him captive. Mark had started chanting quietly again, a small piece of obsidian balanced on the pages of his small spell book. Hellboy could see that Mark's intention was to bind George to the stone.
Then George started pulling away from Mark and the candle he held. His ghostly form tumbled over itself, straining to get away. Perhaps it was Mark's inexperience with the language he'd learned from Paul that caused him to hesitate for just a moment in the crucial part where he would have been transferred from the candle in the stone. But that was enough for George. He made a break for it, and the mist tumbled down into the water. The candle went out. "Shit." Said Mark. Hellboy stepped in with his own lighter and relit it. He then let his left hand come to rest on the Samaritan.
Mark took a breath and started all over again. This time though, George was going to put up a fight. The water started moving to white caps, but Hellboy really started to worry when it appeared it was starting to boil. "Better make it fast, Mark, or we're gonna be soup." Hellboy said.
Hellboy, Kate, and the wolf all took different vantage points to protect Mark while he went back to work restarting the spell.
"We had better find some shelter, Red." Kate said.
"Mark, can you do this from somewhere else?" Hellboy asked. Mark shook his head while he continued to recite.
"From what I've seen, he has to be where the spirit manifests itself." The wolf said. She was still staring out into the darkness that surrounded them.
"So how do we stay unboiled?" Kate asked.
"I suggest shooting as many rounds as you can into the approaching reinforcements." The wolf said. Her ears were locked on the areas of the building where the boats would progress to. It took Hellboy and Kate a few more moments to hear what the wolf already could. It was the dull clanking of metal and the clumsy footsteps of barely bipedal creatures.
The wolf's hackles raised and Hellboy and Kate drew their firearms and held them steady. Hellboy would admit to going a bit cockeyed when their attackers shambled in like a crowd of zombies. They were slow and clumsy, but their inability to feel pain would give them an advantage over those made of flesh and blood. They found themselves looking into the dead, glassy eyes of every animatronic with legs contained within the ride.
"Go for limbs." Hellboy advised. "Get them immobile ASAP."
"On it." Kate said, and they opened fire. The wolf hung back, close to Mark as final wall of defense for him. He was slowly managing to recollect the enraged elemental, but she could plainly see that he was exerting a lot of effort to do so.
Kate was a fair shot, and the caliber of Hellboy's weapon made up for any lack of marksmanship he might have. But there were still a lot of animatronic pirates to blow the legs off of. Two got past them, but Hellboy was reassured when the wolf leaped at one, then the other in turns, and taking off body parts with a bite and violent shake of her head.
Mark's spell continued uninterrupted. The barest outline of George was visible now. He continued on at a steady pace, making sure not to dick around or try to negotiate with the thing.
Hellboy almost felt bad when a red-headed animatronic wench leveled a blunderbuss at him, but he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger. He managed to separate her lower half from her upper half. Her soulless eyes and smile glared up at him while he quickly reloaded.
Kate finished the red head off with a shot to each shoulder joint, and then took a piece out of a not nearly so attractive wench for good measure. A quick glance to his side showed Hellboy that the wolf was holding her own against animatronic pigs and the dog with the keys. All her missing at least one metal and foam rubber limb.
"Man, I better get a free pass for this." Hellboy said.
"Yeah, but it'll probably only be for the Country Bear's Jamboree." Perdita quipped after tossing a pig's head into the boiling water, which was starting to encroach on the dry floor. Hellboy was just coming up with a soup joke when Mark made a breakthrough.
The spirit was dragged into his spell and all the remaining animatronics, whole and dismembered fell still. Mark's voice was now at that deep, frightening cadence that Hellboy had first heard in Manhattan. With no hesitation this time, Mark made the motion and pulled George towards the stone he had balanced on his spell book. Their last glimpses of the elemental were of an open mouth, gaping in silent agony. Mark had worked it so it couldn't speak, for worry of being distracted again.
And then there was silence. The water became glassy and calm, save for the steam rising from it, and nothing and no-one moved for a few moments. The ambient temperature of the vast room was bordering on too warm even for Hellboy.
Then the wolf yawned and stretched, and the rest of them breathed a sigh of relief. Hellboy looked up to the deck of the Wicked Wench, and the figure of its captain hung limp as forgotten puppet, his jaw slack. "You sure you got it?" Hellboy asked Mark.
"I'm a pro, Red." Mark replied steadily.
"Good, then let's get outta here. This place is still fucking creepy." Hellboy said, looking around at all the fake body parts around him.
Kate tried to take possession of the stone for research purposes once they were outside, but Mark refused, assuring her that he would dispose of it. "I'm not trying to offend you or step on toes, Miss Corrigan, but this thing is fucking dangerous in the wrong, and by wrong I mean inexperienced hands. It almost got away from me once, I won't let that happen again."
"Then what do you propose to do with it, Mark?" She asked sternly. It was the greater safety of the world that made her so, and Mark understood that.
"I'll bring it home, and disperse the energy of the elemental gradually and in pieces. It's the best fate I can give it." Mark replied honestly. Kate sighed and agreed with this, and let the issue drop.
Disney as a corporate machine was glad to be free to make use of the space again, but was also saddened by the loss of so many characters who were expensive to replace. Later on, word from the grunts who actually worked in and around the attraction was that it was a lot more peaceful now, but still held many of it's more hair-raising qualities. Mark brushed it off saying that reputation counted for a lot in a place, and that's what held people in awe. If the place continued to be infused with bad karma, then there was nothing to really stop another elemental from manifesting. But that they could deal with it if the situation arose.
Hellboy also managed to get his go around on Space Mountain though, dragging Kate and Mark along with him. The wolf just nodded Mark on when he looked down at her with caring eyes. "Go on. I'll guard the stone until you get back." She said. "Jackie will be pleased you managed to get in a bit of fun."
"That she will. You gonna make a habit of being chatty now?" He asked, placing his bag at her feet.
"Dunno, Taker. I don't know." She said. "Now go, before they change their minds and run us out of here with a pitchfork and torch bearing mob."
"Mark! Move your ginger ass!" Hellboy yelled, looking as excited as his weathered features would allow from the entrance.
"You fight monsters for a living, and you're still excited about a thrill ride?" Mark asked, following his friend and only pretending to be reluctant about it.
"All work and no play." Hellboy said, and took Kate's hand in his and pulled her along with them. "Liz and Abe are gonna be so sorry they missed this."
Liz sat in a coffee shop in Manhattan, flipping through a magazine and sipping at the largest sized coffee they offered. Mark had asked her to meet him here on the phone a few days ago, and to keep quiet about it. She'd taken the proper precautions, she wore a wire, had a communication device set directly to the Bureau, and her had her gun concealed under her jacket. But other than that, she'd respected Mark's wishes.
When Mark breezed through the door alone, Liz glanced up but then pretended not to have noticed him and continued on with her magazine. Mark went to the counter, made a quiet, un-New York like order with the girl behind the counter and then looked around. He caught sight of Liz, collected his coffee, and then made his way over to her seat by a corner window.
Mark was hoping the coffee would wake him up a bit. He knew he seemed entirely blissed out right now, but that seemed to be the nature of the type of power he was working with. He approached Liz's table and said, "Miss Sherman" in a way that belied his gruff appearance. He was in old blue jeans, an older t-shirt, and every inch the biker he sometimes was. What he sounded like was a genuine Southern Gentleman.
"Hello, Mark." Liz said as she closed the magazine and looked up. Mark gave her an easy smile and sat down across from her. It didn't take long for Liz to notice his dilated pupils and continuing grin. "Are... Are you stoned?" She asked.
"Sort of." Mark said. He was still grinning, to the point of chuckling. "But that's why I called you."
"You lost your Zippo for the next joint you plan on rolling?" Liz joked. Mark did chuckle this time.
"Nope, this is way cooler than rockin' the ganja... Wait, do I smell? I don't think I smell." Mark said and took a few exaggerated sniffs.
"No, you don't smell like weed." Liz interrupted in the interest of getting to the point.
"And the reason why you took the trip up the Eastern Seaboard to meet me for coffee?" Liz asked.
"Right, yes. You'll like this. I'm very proud." Mark said, going for the pocket of his jeans. He pitched himself against the wall behind him to do so. The sudden movement of the table and the shifting of Mark's bulk, reminded Liz briefly just how big he was and how violent he could get. She remained on her guard.
"This is great, Liz. I made one for Glen, not that he really needs it, but he helped me a lot in the experimentation phase... And I can make them easily if the Bureau ever comes across any more pyrokinetics... Babbling... I'm actually babbling. Bradshaw was right about me when I'm like this, damn him." Mark said, his voice still sounded happily distracted, and he was still smiling. He set himself back down on the chair and presented Liz with a small object. "It was Farooq's idea to make it into a key chain for the convenience of the user." Mark explained, and set a small black stone with a hole drilled through it and a key ring attached on the table. Liz raised her eyebrows subtly.
"Okay, it's for pyrokinetics and it's made to look like a key chain. What is it?" Liz asked.
"A touchstone.. A stop gap. If you ever need to just quit, you can use this as an emergency out and it'll consume all the energy of your fire. It'll melt in the process, and it leaves an impossible stain on the floor, but it works. Essentially, Liz, it's complete control of your power. I've tried it with Glen and it's consumed entire infernos." Mark said.
"Wait, Glen's back with you?"
"On a limited basis. He's living in Florida and comes to visit about once a month. It's been... well, weird, but good, ya know?" He said. Liz was forgetting her initial concern. She was quite taken with his charm at the moment. His expression was playful and he was smiling at her right up to his eyes, and Liz found herself smiling back despite herself.
"Why Florida?" Liz asked.
"Oldest reason there is... He met a girly." Mark said the last sentence in a sing-song manner.
"A girly?" Liz prodded in hopes of more information. Blissed out, chatty Mark did not disappoint.
"Yup, goes by the name Meredith, and has a quirky power too. She has an alarmingly good control of water, like some cosmic polar opposite to Glen and yourself. She's been fostering Glen's more artistic abilities." Mark said.
"The Bureau should check her out." Liz said.
"She's not harmless, but she's not sadistic either, Liz. I've checked her out." Mark tapped his temple with his index finger. "She's horrifyingly normal. She grew up in a family where these things were accepting and dealt with like puberty...I know," He said, reading her expression of disbelief. "I had a hard time believing it too at first. It's kind of irritating that someone could pass for normal while the rest of us skulk about on the fringes of society... But while powerful, this family's magic and power is ultimately benevolent. They've even taught me a thing or two... I'm babbling again, aren't I?" Mark asked.
"Maybe a bit. But I did ask." Liz said, and looked down at the stone. "Is thing going to turn me into a stoned hippy?" She asked, and finally laid her finger on the stone. To her surprise, she found it was black volcanic glass.
"On a regular basis? No. I literally just made it in the hotel room. It helps when they're made and delivered to the user immediately it seems. And so far in testing, we haven't found a shelf life yet." Mark explained.
"You've made lots of these?" Liz asked.
"I made a bunch for Glen when we started. Some before he arrived, and some after. The ones I made after work the best. We've been testing them on a month by month basis, hence the visits."
"How stoned were you after that?"
"Only slightly more so than I am now." Mark said. "There's the same amount of serenity and bliss in each one, but it only passes through me, leaving only so much behind. I'll be fine after some Twinkies and a nap."
"I have to tell HB about your junk food craving." Liz said and sipped her coffee. She then picked up the piece of volcanic glass and took her keys out of her pocket and attached it to them. "Thank you, Mark." She said softly.
"Thank you, Liz. You laid all the ground work for me to get Glen back into my life. I owe you this and more." He said.
"No you don't." Liz said firmly. "Friends don't keep tabs." They shared a wide smile.