"And how is she?" John asked.

"Expensive", Manning said with a sigh and a huff, "and even worse for my health then the big red ape. Never thought I'd miss him."

Agent John Myers, freshly returned from Antarctica with barely anything than a budding depression to show for, tried not to panic at the thought of playing babysitter to another (even more) dangerous and troublesome supernatural being. He took a deep breath and remembered Clay's advice from a lifetime ago – don't stare.

And once again, it was hard not to. The new agent (Hellboy's replacement, he thought and for some odd reason felt his stomach full of stones) was a short and stocky girl of about twenty. She sat at a small, ornate table in the library, writing something in a planner with a shiny black fountain pen. She had brown hair pulled back into a sleek ponytail, strong eyebrows, a slightly upturned nose and full lips perfectly painted with a true red lipstick. She wore a conservative-looking black dress (loosely fitting but not sloppy, with three-quarter length sleeves and a high neckline) and a single massive white opal encased in barbaric silverwork on her right index finger. Without looking in his direction, she put her pen away, closed her planner and stood. The dress was quite short actually, but her strong, shapely legs were covered by opaque black tights. At Manning's cough she turned and surveyed John with her green eyes. He held her gaze till his eyes started watering. He wished she would blink already; she was giving him the creeps. After what seemed like hours she diverted her attention to the Director. "I don't need a liaison," she said. Her voice was lower than most women's and slightly raspy. He liked it though – it was firm and grounding, substantial, like truth. Manning looked like he would like to argue and force his decision on her, but she said, with the air of a kindergarten teacher making peace between squabbling toddlers, that she needed a partner.

"Alright, partner it is. John Meyers – Rose Villari, codename Thorne, our resident monster (her nose crinkled in disgust at the adjective), shake hands." Still eyeing Manning like he was covered in dung, she descended from the platform and extended her hand to John, who panicked and wondered if he was supposed to kiss it; his palm was sweaty and sticky in a nanosecond. She squeezed it gently and gestured towards one of the chairs. "Agent Thorne doesn't spend that much time here. But everywhere she goes, you go." She didn't say anything, but it was clear what the Director meant. Being her partner was no different than her persistent nanny.

Manning excused himself and left. John shifted nervously in the silence. "I told him his posture was bad," she said "but now it's even worse. He looks like he has a whole arsenal of cleaning utensils up his ass." That was much better. "I think he likes you even less than Hellboy." "That's to be expected. I am not only a – what's his denomination? - bad bitch, but also a very independent one." She chuckled darkly and resumed her place at the desk, where John noticed an e-book reader and a muted leopard clutch. Nothing that had belonged to professor Broom and the others had been disturbed; Abe's books were still on the page he had left them. The desk and two assorted chairs were a new addition, but blended perfectly. "I've been to Antarctica as well," she said as he took a seat beside her. "Not at the BPRD station, way before that."

John fidgeted with his shirt cuff. Even seated, her back was stiffly upright, and he could swear that underneath the table her legs weren't crossed but pressed together and leaned on one side like first ladies' at formal meetings. He fidgeted some more. The silence didn't seem to bother her; she had gone back to writing.

"I am 65 years old, if you're wondering and scared to ask."

John almost jumped. "I… Well. Ummm…"

"Sentences, John. I may have a wide range of abilities; however mind-reading is not among them."

"I don't mean to be rude, but… what… are you?"

She smiled. "I am what they call a Brave, a being empowered by the many spirits and deities of nature. I will live a very long time, unless I am killed, of course. Those like me reach physical adulthood in a year. We are given another year to learn the basics – reading, writing, calculus, and then the training begins. 49 years – 7 for each of the 7 continents. I spent an extra 14 in deep space."

"Like, aliens and stuff?"


John leaned forward eagerly.

"And how was it?"

"Disconcerting. Sometimes I thought I never left Terra, other times it seemed like a completely different universe." She smiled in reminiscence. "I'm happy I did it though. In the end, it really helped, just like he said. Would you like some coffee?" Taken aback, John snapped to attention. "Yes, I'll be right onto it. What would you like?" "I'll tell you when we get there. I won't miss a chance to show off this beauty", she said, her palm travelling from her breast (bad John) to the hemline of her dress, pulling at the fabric slightly. "I just got it. And you'll have to excuse my vanity. I am a woman after all; comes with the territory." She bent down carefully to wipe a microscopic smudge on her left shoe – expensive-looking black leather platform pumps, and he wondered how much exactly they were paying her. "Shall we? And I must warn you, I don't drive. I also get car sick, so I always take the front seat. I hope you like trains, because we'll be using them a lot. I like small town train stations, I think they're romantic." John mumbled something about a moped. She nodded. Didn't laugh or say anything. Much, much later, after they had averted a good number of Apocalypses, he mustered the courage to ask her about that. She told him that she knew about his parents and that his fear was perfectly normal. That was her staple – understand everybody. She had several degrees (most of them incredibly obscure or useless) and psychology was among them.

They went to a nice café and had coffee and some excellent chocolate cake. Rose liked sweets, and she liked to indulge herself, hence the extra pounds.

Rose's knowledge in the monsters they usually dealt with was nowhere near as extensive as Hellboy's was, so most of his duties revolved around research (inhaling centuries-old dust), but her fighting was much more polished and effective. There seemed to be no limits to her endurance; she could probably run for days or not eat for months or float in space unprotected and count the stars, but she glared at any kind of weights like they'd just insulted her mother. She always had a plan, allies when needed and plenty of magical weapons, though her personal favorite was a heavy spiked mace that seemed to possess a brain as it moved and even fought by itself. Usually, her arrival at the BRPD was signaled by the mace which came flying in her wake and melted into the wall by the main door.

It should be easy to be friends with her, considering she wouldn't hit him and they did almost everything together, and at first they had connected fast, but there was something that made John feel awkward. Maybe it was her faraway expression, maybe her shrink-ish tendencies (would you like to talk about it? No!) or maybe her overall old-world strangeness. She was modest and polite, rarely wore pants and even her swearing was elegant.

Maybe it was the fact that she didn't need anyone.