UGH! The most annoying thing just happened! I just formatted this entire thing and wrote both author's notes when my internet went nuts and it was all lost and I have to do it again! Yuck!
Welcome, dear reader, to the second chapter of this fic! Thank you for being patient with me since this took a butt load of time to get out! Life is hectic and will continue to be so but I will try my absolute best to get the next chapter out within a reasonable amount of time! BTW! Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a great Holiday season! I did. Very busy though.
Please enjoy the following chapter! It has more of Ivy and HB and good stuff! It also has a familiar name that didn't show up in the last one and a garbage truck! Oh my!
Lastly, thank you so so so so much too Rinhebi-chan, Flint and Feathers, YoYouAWizardHarry, PureAngelEyes, TMNTxMadness, The-Manga-Goddess, BornToBeAWitch, and camierose for taking the time out to leave me a review! This chapter is for all of you guys for being so wonderful!
Onto the show!
Brick and Ivy
"True Friends like ivy and the wall, both stand together, and together fall."
Chapter 2: 1991 A Question and A Song
Hedera And the Cold Side
Ivy, plural ivies (Hedera) is a genus of 12–15 species of evergreen climbing or ground-creeping woody plants in the family Araliaceae, native to western, central and southern Europe, Macaronesia, northwestern Africa and across central-southern Asia east to Japan and Taiwan.
Strange, it is, that weak ivy can protect strong mortar from the harsh battering of the rain and wind.
A warmth radiating from contentment and bliss. Half asleep, she reached for that warmth. Arms unfurling from her side and creeping across the bed, she searched for it. Expectantly, her hand closed around the air and her eyes flew open.
Ivy was alone in her room and for a moment wondered why in the world she had felt like someone should have been there. Why… a certain someone should have been there. She hadn't seen him in months. She sat up and pushed her hair away from her face before smacking herself lightly on the cheeks a few times.
Had it been a dream then? Had she dreamt he had come? Oh, but even then, was her subconscious fool enough to dream him to sleep with her? She couldn't remember any dream nor the shadow of one. She groaned into her hands and kicked at the covers at her feet.
Getting up, she stood before the window that looked out onto the tall hedges that surrounded her garden. The sunlight played amongst the blooming flowers and a gentle breeze rustled the grass and leaves. Unlocking the latch at the bottom she swung open the glass and took a deep breath of fresh air punctuated by the light and crisp aroma of early spring.
Maybe, it had just been a want. A craving. Like that desperate jonsing for a good piece of chocolate or a stack of warm, sweet pancakes that you find yourself accosted with randomly. A craving. Ivy smiled. It almost fit. But… It was much too hollow for what ever this was. It was a good start but too basic. A need, then? No, she could live without… She shook her head and shut the window and marched toward her bathroom.
Catching sight of herself in the mirror of her dresser she paused. Staring at her reflection she saw that feeling, what ever it was, radiating from the depths of her eyes.
Maybe, it was a need.
Spring Meetings – 1991
Since that hot summer day when a fire-red urban legend appeared before Ivy, Autumn had breezed through and Winter, with its snow and bitter winds, had come and gone, melting into the sweet caress of Spring's embrace. It seemed everywhere Ivy looked life was bursting forth from the grey leftovers of the cold.
The changes in the outside world made the time since then seem so much longer than it actually was. During winter she had wondered, was it possible that it had been so warm and sunny? Was it possible that amongst all that warmth and sunshine Hellboy had taken shelter beneath Cherie's overhang? At the time, cold biting her nose and freezing her fingers, it seemed like a fantasy—improbable, impossible, but beautiful (if not strange) to think of.
Starring out the front window as she swept, taking in all the wonders of spring she sighed. Even with the return of warmth, it still seemed like a dream.
"Excuse me?" a voice asked.
Looking up, Ivy smiled at the well-dressed young man before her. He came in at least twice a week, always carrying the same brown, soft leather bag. His arrival usually signaled the end of those coming in for lunch.
"Good afternoon," she said, putting the broom aside and pulling up behind the register. "What would you like today?"
His eyes wondered over the deserts in the display case and she could see him toss around a few choices in his head. So far, he had tried everything and, if she was right, today would be his day to repeat something. His eyes traveled over the deserts over and over again as Ivy grew more and more impatient. How long did it take to decide on what desert to have when you had already tried everything?
"Two black and whites with a black coffee and a passion ice tea," he finally answered, looking back at her.
She nodded and packed up the cookies, handing it to him before fetching his drinks. Thanking her, he paid and left with a huge smile plastered across his face.
"I bet he has a girl," Cherie cooed, swooping out of the back of the shop and placing her claw like hands on the counter top. "Not a date… But! She agreed to go to lunch with him."
Chewing over the old woman's explanation for his strange behavior, Ivy returned to her sweeping. It made sense. He had taken forever to decide and he only ever ordered one cookie or slice of cake before. The two drinks almost guaranteed two people. Thinking over previous sales, she smiled wryly when she remembered that most, if not all, passion ice tea sales had been made to women.
"Elfing!" cried Cherie, "Are you even paying attention!"
Called out of her thoughts she looked at the woman.
"You've swept the same spot nine times!"
Somewhat sheepishly, she blew past Cherie and into the back, making her way towards the pantry where the cleaning supplies were held. Swinging it open, she put away the broom. The air in the kitchen was filled with the delicious aroma of the lemon thumbprint cookies baking in the oven. Noticing that no timer had been set for them, Ivy hesitantly opened the oven and smiled in relief. They were perfectly baked but any longer would have burnt them. Taking out the trays and laying them out on the counter, she sighed. Afternoons really were dull and there was not a single note of music playing in the shop. Looking back at the older woman's thin and bug like frame, Ivy shook her head. No music had captured her yet today.
Turning off the oven, she washed her hands at the large sink, enjoying the lovely lemon scented hand soap Cherie bought. For one reason or another, the smell brought a sense of nostalgia that she could never quite place. Reaching for a hand towel, she glanced out the window and nearly choked.
"Cherie!" she squeaked.
"Yes, my elf!" the woman sang in reply.
"I'm taking the garbage out," Ivy called, quickly drying her hands without taking her gaze from the window. Pulling off her apron in one motion, she opened the garbage can and, even though it was practically empty, yanked out the bag and ran out the door.
Closing it carefully behind her, Ivy sank back against it and let her arms go limp. Crouching beneath the over hang of their lot was a figure she thought she'd never see again.
"I'm gonna start thinking all you do is take out garbage and take cookies out the oven," said Hellboy around his cigar. "How much they pay you for your troubles?"
She stood frozen for a minute, observing him. Still as red as ever. Almost brighter in the light of Spring compared to the harsh light of Summer. Still huge. His shoes had to be the size of her head.
"I work counter," she said finally, pulling her gaze away from the massive boots.
"Do you now?" he drawled.
"I said that last time."
A guttural sound of acknowledgment rumbled from the back of his throat as he stared at her.
Fidgeting in place, she gripped the plastic of the garbage bag tighter in her hand before marching towards the dumpster and throwing the empty thing away. Closer now, she saw that he, unlike their first meeting, was also fidgeting slightly. Mostly with the pocket of his trench coat and the cigar in his mouth but it made him seem a bit more… (was it rude to think?!) human. Now, she just wondered what it was that was making him fidget. She didn't have long to wait before he spoke again.
"So, kid…how old are you?"
She looked up at his face and found that he wasn't looking at her but was chomping at the butt of his cigar in an almost comically anxious way.
"Seventeen this past January," she answered, clasping her hands behind her back and shifting her weight from foot to foot.
She nodded, trying to figure out why in the world, he'd been interested in that information.
"You remember being twelve?" he asked suddenly.
Almost falling over, she choked out a yes as he continued to look away from her.
"What kind of stuff did you like… Ya know, when you were twelve," he asked, taking the cigar away from his mouth and exhaling.
Ivy could feel the huge, exaggerated question marks jumping around in her brain as she stared, almost blankly, at the obviously uncomfortable man. What did she say?! Why did he want to know?! Was this a test? A way to figure out if she was really evil—Ivy mentally slapped herself.
"Why do you ask?"
Being direct was sometimes a good thing and she was almost proud of herself for screwing up the courage to ask him until he turned to her, eyes wide.
"I mean—Yes! I do remember, I was just wondering why you'd need to know," she spewed out in a hurry, "Cause then I might be able to answer your question better!"
Almost instantly, he looked away and grumbled under his breath while he toyed with the cigar.
"The thing is…" he started, "We've got a new freak joining the circus."
The words rolled over Ivy and she tried to digest them and make sense of them. The BPRD could be the circus. The freaks? Hellboy, for one, obviously. Obviously there were others… other agents?
She nodded, giving off the air of complete understanding.
"And it's a kid… I mean… a younger kid. She's twelve."
Ah, so that explains part of it! she thought before her jaw dropping.
"A twelve year old is joining the BP—" She threw her hands over her mouth, cringing at how loud her voice had been. Moving her hands away slowly, she continued in a much more hushed tone, "A twelve year old is joining the BPRD?
Placing the cigar back in his mouth, he smirked at Ivy. "Its about how much of a freak you are, not your age."
Would it be rude to ask what made a twelve-year-old girl a freak? Yes, she decided, it would be.
Silence settled over them and as it nestled in the shadows cast by the afternoon sun, she realized he was still waiting for an answer.
"I liked books," she started before a sudden realization hit her, "Wait…" she trailed off openly staring at him. "Is that why you're here?"
She saw his shoulders jump almost as if her words had hit a nerve as he inhaled sharply on the thick cigar smoke. He coughed at the unexpected invasion of his lungs. The hacking deteriorated into an awkward silence as she tried to hide the amused bewilderment on her face.
He didn't reply and instead fidgeted with the cigar. There was a sense of amazement rolling off Ivy as she processed the fact that this behemoth of a man-thing came to her for advice on what to get a twelve-year-old girl. Which immediately made her think—
"You don't have anyone you can ask?" she said, holding in a laugh as he turned to her, a frown on his face.
"Those bunch of stiff necked suits?" he asked, throwing the cigar to the ground and stomping it out with one swift move of his massive boot. He shoved his hands into his coat pockets. "They ain't useful for much more than working a padlock," he grumbled.
Not for the first time, Ivy nodded as if she understood what he meant. "I liked books," she started again, "and movies. But not everyone did at that age." She scratched her head. "I was a bit of a nerd. Not good at sports or anything like that so I read a lot."
He didn't say anything and Ivy sighed.
"Everyone is different, I guess. She might love books or hate them. Why don't you just get to know her first?"
"Yeah, because everybody wants to be best pals with Big Red." he drawled, pulling another cigar from his pocket and casting Ivy a doubtful smirk.
He vacillated from extreme confidence to a quiet awkwardness, she noted. "Well… You said she is a freak too, right?"
He inhaled deeply and nodded.
"So… maybe she'd want friends who are like her."
"Got no idea what she's like," he said, gruffly. "They won't tell us anything."
"Which goes back to my previous point: Get to know her… then try doing something nice for her," Ivy finished, wiping her hands on her apron and bopping up and down on her feet.
"Yeah, well," was all he said as he exhaled.
The smoke was thick and heady and a strong gust of wind blew it into Ivy's face and suddenly it was in her mouth and she was choking on it. Doubling over, she gripped her throat as the smoke burned her insides.
"God! Its like toxic gas!" she cried, hacking into the air.
Hellboy looked at her and chuckled deeply, knocking off some ash from the butt of his cigar onto the brick wall.
"You're funny kid," he said, smiling and amused.
"I try," she said, trying to expel the last of the smoke from her body as her eyes began to water.
"Thanks for the help," he said, placing the cigar between his teeth and hoisting himself over the wall.
Through her watery gaze, she saw the blurry figure of Hellboy disappear and attempted a half hearted wave. There and then gone. It was insane and very amusing to Ivy. She was either mentally unstable or had somehow managed to leave enough of an impression on the big guy to make him come bac—
"Hey," a voice said from the other side of the wall before she saw a gigantic red hand appear over the brick as Hellboy leapt over the wall to once more stand before her. "I meant to ask, got any more of those chocolate chip cookies?"
Ivy laughed, a hoarse and croaking thing, as she nodded. He grinned and she shook her head as she marched back into the coffee house. Sitting on the counter was the fresh batch of lemon thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam in the center that she had just taken out. She walked past them to grab some of the chocolate chip oatmeal that were in the display cabinet (all the while dodging the watchful eyes of Cherie) and packed them up into a baggie. Walking back out into the kitchen, she eyed the lemon thumbprint cookies again. She smiled as an idea struck her. She grabbed a small takeaway box and lined it with a pretty silver tissue paper and packed in a few of the fresh cookies carefully before closing the lid and tying the box with some of the string they used for wrapping.
Opening the back door, Hellboy stood right were she had left him, leaning against the brick wall as red as he was and he seemed pleased to see her… or at least the cookies in her hand.
Handing him the baggie she said, "These are for you," before handing him the box carefully, "and this is for the new freak in the circus. Everyone likes cookies, right?"
His lip twitched with amusement and something that resembled a boyish happiness but he ended up shooting her a half grin.
"You're welcome," she said as she watched him hop back over the wall and disappear out of sight.
Autumn's Song - 1991
Cool air caressed the sides of Ivy's face as she walked down the street. The sidewalk was cracked beneath her and littered with weeds struggling to live. Around her, people rushed by with all the business that came with a new morning. She fiddled with the thin scarf around her neck and hummed softly. That song was stuck in her head again. It played inside her and thumped around in her chest. The leaves, golden and crimson with Autumn's kisses, rustled in unison with the tempo. It was all very beautiful. The sky was a brilliant, clear blue dusted with wispy, white clouds and the street was lined with trees making her feel far away from the bustling city. Even the cool, crisp air gave the day a pleasant feel.
She sighed contently, swinging her arms. Autumn was her favorite time of the year. Not hot but not cold. The world itself was like a painter's canvas; changing colors and form day to day.
"Tale as old as time," she sang softly, before dissolving into more humming. It was a great song. An amazing song! Ivy smiled. She had heard it in a movie that came out a few days ago. It was a new Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. She'd been waiting for it to come out into theaters for weeks. Sure, she felt a little silly being seventeen and obsessed with a Disney movie but it had been wonderful. An imposing castle, beautiful ballroom, a misunderstood but beautiful heroine, a beast, and a terribly sweet love story. Closing her eyes, she could just picture the beautiful ceiling of the ballroom as the title song was being sung by a little teapot. She loved it so much she had gone to see it again the night before.
Her mother had taken her the first time as a treat. The music had captivated her from the first moment and the darker themes of the movie made it more adult. Sure, she had issues with people falling in love after barely a week with each other but there were time constraints and little children to keep entertained so she didn't begrudge Disney of the decision.
Ivy hummed louder as her thoughts turned to the movie. There was something about it, beyond its story and the beautiful animation and music that captivated her. Seeing her reflection in the glass of a storefront, she scowled. Sometimes, especially when she was younger, she felt like a "beast" or something as equally repulsive. She'd been bullied a lot when she was young for being overweight. It turned her into a bookworm (so in that respect she related to Belle) to escape everything. And it had scarred her. With time, she had grown taller and slimmed out somewhat. Not enough to escape "Chubby" but enough to feel decent about herself.
Most of the time.
Sometimes, she still felt like a fat, scared, ugly little girl. But friends helped. Especially Sara. When Ivy had met her in seventh grade, it was like a revelation. Suddenly, she had a best friend. Somehow, they had managed to stay that way. Ivy smiled. Sara had gone with her to see the movie the second time. She had loved it almost as much as Ivy. She suppressed a small chuckle, thinking back to Sara's comment:
"The Beast was hotter as a beast!" she had said after the movie.
Ivy didn't know if she agreed or not. The Beast had his own charm but the Prince was also pretty charming (No pun intended). Besides… The idea of the Beast and Belle in love and sexually active was a bit much for the American audience. A bit much for Ivy, even. Not for Sara though. It was perfectly acceptable.
Before her, the trees faded behind little shops and apartments that now lined the road. Pizza places with a tenant living above the restaurant sat next to flower shops with fresh blooms exploding in a mass of colors before glass doors. It was quaint and beautiful. Nestled between a dress shop and a small shoe boutique was La Forre. Wooden tables were scattered about the front of the store with customers chatting and drinking their morning coffee.
Walking through the front door, she waved to Cecil as the girl finished at the cash register. The café was busy and the smell of freshly brewed coffee was thick and warm in the air. Moving past the line in front of the register, Ivy made her way to the back and smiled as she saw Cherie, covered in flour, walking out the kitchen.
"Elfling!" she cried, wiping her hands on the white apron she was wearing.
"Morning, Cherie," Ivy said as she inspected the state of the kitchen. It was surprisingly clean despite the mess that was Cherie. Somehow, Ivy noted, she had even managed to get flour all over the braided bun at the top of her head.
"My sweet! How are you this morning?" she trilled as she swept Ivy into a hug.
"Good," she said, as she pulled away and started brushing the flour off her clothing. Walking away she called over her shoulder, "I'm going to go change. I'll be out in a minute."
"There is a batch of dark chocolate cherry cookies in the oven," Cherie started, "Do be a dear and take them out for me when you are done."
Ivy could smell the rich aroma of the dark chocolate mingling with the sweet dried cherries and smiled. It was a cookie her mother had been making for years that she introduced to Cherie the week before. So far, they were selling beautifully.
She changed quickly in the employee bathroom before setting to work on the small mess Cherie had left in her wake. Wiping up the flour and sugar that had spilt on the countertops, she hummed under her breath. She wondered how long it would take for the soundtrack to be released for the movie. Perhaps she could persuade her mother to give it to her as an early Christmas present.
Almost as if reading her mind, "I'll be Home for Christmas" began to play through the coffee shop. Ivy felt her jaw drop before she started giggling. It was very Cherie. Thanksgiving was the coming Thursday and yet there was Christmas music playing!
Finishing up, she hummed along with the song before the oven timer binged and she pulled the cookies out. The smell was almost intoxicating fresh out the oven and she could hear murmurs in the front of the store in response.
"Elfling!" Cherie called, "We have an order for four of those delicious bundles of chocolate that you are hoarding!"
Ivy shook her head. Hoarding? No, she was letting them cool. Then she'd place them on the wire wracks to cool even more. Then anyone and their uncle could have some. Until then, well, they'd have to wait.
"Hey, Ives," said a soft, pleasant voice. Ivy looked up from scrubbing the cookie sheets and smiled at Cecil. She was the other part timer that was willing to work Sundays. She was a sweet girl with short blonde hair and a propensity to paint her finger nails very bright shades of green.
"Hey Ce," she said, flicking a bit of water at the girl, who ducked and laughed.
"Did you go see the movie again?" she asked, after a moment.
"Yes! And it was just as good the second time!" Ivy pretended to swoon into the sink.
"Fool," Cecil teased, as she fetched napkins from the supply pantry.
"Hey! That's not nice," Ivy cried.
Cecil ignored her, rolling her eyes before standing and hovering over the cooling cookies.
"Every time I smell freshly baked cookies, I think about my grandmother," she said thoughtfully. She had just lost her grandmother three months ago, Ivy remembered. "What about you?"
"Hm?" Ivy said as she rinsed the mixing bowl.
"What do freshly baked cookies remind you of?"
"Well," Ivy started, "I think of—"
"Lambchop!" cut in Cherie's voice, "Where ever are the napkins?!"
Cecil rolled her eyes at Ivy and smiled as she walked back out to the front of the store. Drying the mixing bowl, she couldn't help chuckle at Cherie's nickname for Cecil. What a weird lady.
What did fresh cookies make her think of though? She pondered the thought as she turned to the cookies and started moving them to the racks. Her mother, for one. Being small, definitely. She used to eat all the cookies she could get her hands on when she was young before she realized there was consequences in eating the delightful treats. And… Lately, every time the oven timer dinged and she had to pull a batch out the oven she thought of her two meetings with Hellboy. She tried not to think of them often. It wasn't hard, for the most part. It had been awhile since spring when she last saw him and if she focused on what was going on in her life at the moment, she could pretty much keep it out of her mind.
But cookies made her think of him. Made her think of the Encounters, as she liked to refer to them in her mind.
Shaking her head, she once again marveled at the strangeness of the Encounters. Done with the cookies for the moment, she made her way to the sink and washed her hands. What were the odds that he would hide out under that particular overhang? Thinking back to their first Encounter, she realized how much chance came into play. He could have hid on any of the other backlots of the stores near them. But in the end he had chosen La Forre's garbage area.
Pushing her bangs out of her eyes (had they gotten that long already?) she looked out the window above the sink, half expecting, and sighed. The garbage area was clear of any giant red men with long dusters. Just like it had been for weeks. She supposed two Encounters were more than any girl could possibly ask for (and she really was, truly, grateful. Really.) but a third would have been nice. Three was a good, round number. Besides, didn't they say things came in threes?
Not this though. Who ever said that obviously was not referring to Hellboy. She looked back down at the sink and continued washing.
She'd thought about telling Sara about it but… she barely believed it never mind trying to get someone, even Sara, to believe it. So, that wasn't going to happen. It was fine though. It was a wonderful secret to keep and just hers. How many people could say they had met Hellboy? Not counting the crazy homeless people who cropped up in tabloid magazines. It couldn't be a lot.
Ivy felt the heat from the hot water coming out the tap on her cheeks. Her mother had taught her to always use as hot of water as she could stand when cleaning dishes but it always made her hot. The steam from the water rose up into the air and stuck to her skin, flushing her neck. Turning off the tap for a moment, she dried her hands and opened the small window above the sink. Instantly, cool air breezed in and soothed her. She breathed it in and smiled, feeling better. Turning the tap back on, she began humming again under her breath.
Damn the song was catchy.
Placing the dishwasher safe bowls and utensils in the industrial dishwasher, she checked on the trays of cookies and deemed them cool. Gathering two trays, she headed to the display and was met with pleased looks from the customers. Setting them out, she took up the second register to help Cecil deal with the flood of new orders.
After the initial morning rush, the day slowed down. Sunday's weren't their busiest days so Cherie closed La Forre at one o clock. They managed to still attract a decent amount of regulars throughout the day. Ms. Mavisham, a skinny, old bird of woman who, despite her quite apparent wealth, still loved their coffee the best. She came in every day, without fail at 12:30 and ordered a small cup of black coffee and two cookies. Her favorite were the mocha-chocolate chip shortbread.
The day dragged on and cookies were made then sold. Coffee was brewed. Trays cleaned. Floors swept. Counters cleaned. The trash was taken out—a lot. Repeat.
At 12:10, just a mere twenty minutes before Ms. Mavisham's arrival, the garbage was once again full, she was told by Cherie's squawking from the kitchen.
She looked at Cecil. Cecil looked back.
"Its your turn," the girl said. "I took it out after the oatmeal cookies."
Ivy saw the truth in this statement, despite not wanting to do it.
"You might a well check the trash in the front. It hasn't gone out in awhile," Cecil said, placing some new bills in the register.
"Oh, alright!" Ivy groaned, turning and stalking out from behind the counter. Both garbage cans (the one in and outside) the store were full.
Ivy dragged the outdoor garbage bag around the side of the building, cursing her luck. She would get the turn where every single trashcan in the store was full. She hoisted the bag up onto her shoulder before throwing it down before the dumpster. Marching into the kitchen she blew passed Cherie and began dragging the indoor store bag out its green trashcan. As she tied the top of the bag she let her mind wander. Again the movie flashed through her mind and she smiled. Would seeing it three times be too much?
Shaking the thought away, she once again threw the bag over her shoulder and made her way to the back. Christmas music continued to play around her but she hummed the opening tune of the song as she opened the kitchen door. Letting it slam behind her, she let herself sing, softly, at first, as she made her way to the dumpster. The words, half remember and often repeated, spilled forth from her but she remembered the melody exactly. Her footsteps fell in step with the song, moving her at a slow waltz towards the dumpster. Despite herself, she felt her voice lift into the air, louder and louder. She let the bag fall from her shoulder and closed her eyes, savoring the words and the music and the way it made her feel. The way it filled every part of her with giddy bubbles and the joy of a little girl. Her lips curled into a smile around the full sound and her shoulders rose as she reached the one part she knew by heart.
"Tale as old as time
Tune as old as song
Bittersweet and strange
Finding you can change
Learning you were wrong."
Bittersweet. Bittersweet and strange. What a beautiful lyric to roll off the tongue. She wondered, for a moment, what it meant. A bittersweet feeling. She imagined learning you love someone and how that could be bittersweet. She didn't know anything about love. Not beyond what she felt for her mother and the small fluttering of the heart she had experienced so far in her life. The silly, laughter filled crushes were never bittersweet. If anything, they were closer to cotton candy sweet. Sweet but unsubstantial with no body or undercurrent of flavor—like bittersweet chocolate. Like the chocolate in the dark chocolate cherry cookies on display.
"Certain as the sun
Rising in the east
Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast"
The last word left her mouth and with it went every ounce of stress she had built up during the day. Her muscles relaxed and suddenly, being asked to take out tons of garbage didn't seem that bad. Her eyes snapped open. Garbage! Ivy was supposed to be throwing it away! Not singing! She felt color flush her cheeks, hoping no one had heard her.
She turned on her heel to grab the last bag from the kitchen before halting mid-step. Ivy closed her eyes again and turned, slowly, back around to face the dumpster. It had to be her imagination. She was sure. No way—No way in hell did she open her eyes from singing her head off to catch a glimpse of Hellboy leaning against the brick wall to the side of the dumpster. That just wasn't a possibility. It better well not be a possibility—
She opened her eyes and felt the heat on her cheeks spread down her neck.
"Didn't know you could sing, kid," smirked Hellboy around a fat, smoking cigar.
This is getting ridiculous, Ivy thought.
"Not my kind of music but," he drawled, "your voice ain't that bad."
Amidst her embarrassment was the urge to laugh at the picture of Hellboy watching (and enjoying!) the movie Beauty and the Beast. What over powered that though, was the compliment.
"Not that bad?" she said, placing her hands on her hips, pretending to be insulted to cover up the fact that she had just been caught singing loudly and dramatically in front of a dumpster. "I'll have you know… People think I have a great voice."
Hellboy quirked an eyebrow at her before taking the cigar out of his mouth and gesturing around the dumpster.
"What people?" he said as an amused smile pulled his lips.
Ivy threw her hands over her face and groaned into her hands. "This is so embarrassing!"
Laughter exploded from the tall, red man as Ivy's cheeks came closer and closer to matching his color.
"I cannot believe this just happened," she moaned as she dropped her hands and avoiding looking at him. "I refuse to believe this just happened."
Hellboy knocked some ash off the butt of his cigar before placing it back in his mouth as his chuckling subsided.
"It could have been worse, kid," he said as he chomped down on his cigar.
Ivy stared up at the red man. "How could it be worse?" she glared.
"I coulda been in the area and heard a cat dying, jumped a few walls and then found you tryin to sing by yourself with trash bags in front of a dumpster."
Her expression went blank as the hypothetical explanation rolled over her. Jumped a few walls? A dying cat? Okay, maybe it hadn't been that bad (really though? Jumping a few walls? Obviously no big deal if your Hellboy but… Really?). His face was smoothed into a look of mild amusement but his eyes were bright as if enjoying every moment of her pain.
She burst out laughing, doubled over from the force of it. It was all absurd. Him. This situation. The wall jumping. Catching her singing. All of it. The whole thing. And then it hit her.
Her laughter stopped abruptly and she looked up at him again, this time, her cheeks just pink from the cold. He came back! The left side of her mouth lifted in a bemused lopsided grin. Third times the charm!
"You came back," she nearly said but the similarity between it and the movie she had just seen the night before (despite the VERY different situation) was a bit weird. Instead, she opted for.
"So… What are you doing here?"
The awkward, slightly sheepish Hellboy from the last Encounter was nowhere to be found as he inhaled on his cigar before answering with a cloud of toxic smoke.
"I was in the area."
Had he been anybody else (not red or huge or an urban legend) this would have sufficed as an answer. She nodded as if it made sense.
"Doing what?" she asked after a moment of silence.
"Enjoying the fresh air," he said before once again clouding it up with smoke.
She nodded again and let herself take a good look at him now that she was no longer preoccupied with her embarrassment. Her eyes went wide. The bottom of his duster was black and ashy, burns and slashes going up the sides. His black shirt also had a hole on the left side. The autumn sun soaked into his red skin and made it almost glow like embers but he had a long scratch going down his one arm, that looked like it had been bleeding very recently.
"You look like Hell!" she gasped, fighting the maternal instinct in her to rush forward and check out that cut.
He smirked at her before saying around his cigar, "Don't I always?"
He was called Hellboy.
"Okay, not great word choice but seriously, what happened to you?!" she said, feeling herself go red again.
Hellboy had a shiteating grin, she decided. A particularly good one that was beaming off his face as a gust of cool autumn wind stole away his smoke.
She folded her arms over her chest. "Fine. Don't tell me."
"Don't worry, kid," he exhaled, "You'll hear about it."
Ivy wondered for a moment what that could possibly mean but, like with everything else, pushed it aside. The point was Hellboy (slightly bedraggled) had come back. Which was pretty awesome.
"So… Why'd you stop by?" she asked before abruptly adding, "What if someone else was taking the trash out?! What if someone else had seen you?"
"Worked out pretty well with you, kid." He paused as if that was all he had to say before scratching his chest and saying, "Got any cookies? I'm starvin'."
Ah, yes. The cookies.
"Do you want a sandwich or something? We have some left over from the lunch crowd… They're a bit more substantial then cookies," she asked, once more wondering what put Hellboy in this state.
"Nah. Cookies are fine. Tonight's lasagna and tacos. Don't want to spoil it."
"Don't they have cookies where you stay… at the BPRD?"
He inhaled on his cigar (which was one fourth its original size) before throwing it to the ground and crushing it.
He cocked his head to the side as a hum rumbled deep in his chest. "We did. Few years back we had this Italian woman who used to work for the SISMI get hired in the kitchens. She made good ones. Her biscotti were like rockhard slivers of gold."
"What happened to her?" She put her hands in her pockets and rocked back on her heels as he pulled a new cigar from his pocket and played with it between his fingers.
"Few years back, at the old headquarters, one of these rock monsters we'd captured from Tibet got loose and destroyed half the place."
"Did she die?!" Ivy interrupted, snapping her head to look at him.
"Nah. She quit. Transferred to the CIA…" He paused, and a wistful expression appeared on his face. "She made the best bolognaise. Bastard CIA guys. They always get the best chefs."
Ivy laughed softly and noticed the garbage still on the ground before the dumpster.
"So? No cookies after that?" she asked as she bent down to hoist the bag into it.
"There's cookies. Or things they like to pass as cookies. Cardboard," he said as he grabbed both bags from her and threw them into the garbage receptacle. "He makes a great gumbo but his cookies are shit."
"Aaaaah." She dusted off her hands and stood back up.
"So, you got any?" He asked reminding her of how they got on the topic.
"Oh, yeah. Tons actually. Aah…" she trailed off, "do you want anything in particular?"
He looked down at her, smiling, as he put the cigar back inside the inner breast pocket of his duster.
Ivy quirked an eyebrow at him. How do you surprise the world's biggest surprise (well… if the rock monster comment was to be taken seriously… maybe not the biggest surprise)? She set her jaw and squared her shoulders. She could do this. She was good with cookies. And, (a small smile tugged at her lips) he obviously liked her cookies.
Marching back into the kitchen, she vaguely remembered there was still one more garbage bag that needed to be taken out but now was not the moment for that. Grabbing a rather large gift box, she surveyed the ovens to see if anything was ready to come out relatively soon. None of the batches currently baking had less than fifteen minutes left though so she'd have to raid the storefront.
This would require stealth and poise to pull off without being suspicious. She'd need to be cool and relaxed and invent a very convincing lie about why she was filling an entire box with cookies when no customer had actually ordered a to go box.
Making her way to the counter, she smiled at Cecil.
"God, I'd thought you'd never finish with that garbage. You were out there forever," the girl said under her breath as Ivy slid the glass of the case open.
"I started to get a headache so I took it easy," she said as she grabbed four of the dark chocolate cherry. There were only six left so she grabbed another two before turning her attention to the coconut cashew cookies Cecil had made earlier.
"You should have told me," the girl said. "I would have done it for you if you weren't feeling well."
"Its okay. I'm feeling better."
Oh! The cranberry orange short bread cookies could be surprising, right? Maybe a few espresso chocolate as well.
She hummed reassuringly as she continued piling cookie after cookie into the box. A customer came and soon Cecil's attention was diverted and all seemed to be going well. Suddenly, talons gripped Ivy's shoulders and she jumped, jostling her box of treats.
"Elfling…" Cherie crooned behind her, "What in the world are you doing with so many cookies?"
There was always one random variable, Ivy supposed before turning to the woman and smiling brightly.
"My mother told me this morning we are having a ton of guests over and she doesn't feel up to baking for them so she asked if I'd take a few from work."
Yes, that was it. Play on the sick mother card. No one could deny a sick mother. Ivy quickly sent good vibes out to her mom (perfectly not ill and at work) just incase the universe decided to take Ivy up on her statement.
"Oh, dear!" Cherie cried, letting Ivy go and clasping her hands together. "What a deep, deep shame!"
But then the woman's eyes fell onto the half filled box Ivy was throwing together.
"Just how many guests is your mother having over?"
"Twenty," she spat out grasping the first number that seemed large enough to explain her box.
"Twenty? And she isn't feeling well?" Cherie quirked an eyebrow and Ivy felt her alibi fly out the window. This was it. The cracks were forming and any minute Cherie would call her ou—
"Oh the sweet, sweet cherub! What a steadfast little solider is she!" cried the woman before pulling a bright pink and heavily laced handkerchief from her bosom and blotting invisible tears away. "Take as many as you want my dear elf."
Ivy sighed internally and turned back to the case grabbing a few almond crisps.
"But remember to pay for them," came Cherie's voice from behind her. "One or two isn't a big deal but," her voice got slightly harder, "if you have to empty my display case… Well."
She flounced off into the kitchen and left Ivy with a slightly crushed almond crisp in her hand. She stared down at the mountain of cookies and felt her wallet cry. He best damn well be surprised!
Deciding the cookies she had already was more than enough she closed up the box, and swept past Cecil.
"I feel my headache coming back—," she started.
"So would I," Cecil said, rolling her eyes after the girl.
"So I'm going to take a breath outside."
"What?!" Cecil cried, turning to watch Ivy disappear into the kitchen, "You just got back!"
Cherie was in the pantry, making noises and singing a terrible version of Silent Night as Ivy snuck past and made her way outside.
Pushing the door open, she hurried through before slamming it shut with her foot.
Hellboy had lit another cigar and smoke bellowed around it as he took in the huge box in Ivy's arms.
He looked so relaxed and she felt so flustered and annoyed with the current loss of money to her wallet that she narrowed her eyes at him. His eyes widened slightly at the glare and she said.
"You best be surprised."
She walked over and gave him the box. "There goes my Christmas present for myself."
"Aw kid. For me? You shouldn't have," he said, opening the box and dismissing her glare with a flick of his cigar.
He grabbed a piece of short bread (looked like the cranberry orange) and bit into it. His eyes widened as he looked at the half bitten cookie. He crunched and swallowed and popped the rest into his mouth.
"Not even sure what that was, kid, but it was pretty good," he smiled.
She smiled back, suddenly not feeling so jipped as he popped a chocolate mud cookie in his mouth and chewed it like it was edible gold.
"Surprised?" she asked.
He took out a raspberry citrus sandwich cookie and eyed it, not sure what it was before inhaling it in one bite.
"Hn," he said, picking around the box and grabbing a few more cookies.
She watched him, pleased with herself for getting so many (despite her wallet) and pleased that he seems to be enjoying them. Suddenly, he paused, a lemon thumbprint held in his hand. He stared at it for a moment before Ivy recognized it.
"How'd she like the cookies?" she asked as he said:
"What kind of jam is this?"
They looked at each other and Ivy smiled.
"That's what she said it was," he placed the box up on the wall behind him andput his cigar back in his mouth and inhaled deeply.
"So she liked them?
"Yeah. Had to wait a few days for the stiffs to let me get close enough to give them to her. Said they were good. Chocolate chip are her favorite though," he said, inhaling. "She likes chocolate."
"Most girls do," Ivy nodded in girlwise-knowledge. "At least the cookies were fresh when I gave them to you." Stale cookies were terrible. "There are a few chocolate chip in there. You could save some for her."
Hellboy looked down at her, an eyebrow quirked as if her suggestion was amusing.
"After all the trouble you went to get them for me?" he smirked, removing the cigar from his mouth and exhaling. "That would be rude."
SHIT EATING GRIN ALERT.
Ivy ignored the loud internal alarm that went off in response to his smug grin and nodded her head.
"You could always," she paused, "Oh, I don't know… Pay me back."
This took him off guard. She smiled. It was amazing how oddly comfortable she felt (at 10 feet away) talking to him. Bantering back and forth. It was strange and weird and incredibly refreshing.
"Got no money, Kid," he shrugged, putting the cigar back in his mouth, "Unless your interested in a Six Coin Remedy."
"A Six Coin Remedy?" Ivy crossed her arms over her chest. "What is that?"
Leaving the cigar in his mouth, he rummaged around through his duster, pulling out a whole weird assortment of items. Bits of bark. Dried herbs in glass bottles. A small cross.
He mumbled under his breath as he searched and she could pick out words like "Oak" and "Silver" and "dried palm" amongst other strange utterances.
Grinning, he pulled out a knotted rope of red string, on which were entwined six circular, gold coins with holes in the middle through which the string weaved.
"Chinese charm to ward off evil," he said, dangling it in front of Ivy. "Interested?"
She had seen them before, in Chinatown and Sara had one dangling from her mother's rear view window.
"I'm almost positive I have one of those in a drawer somewhere…" she said, reaching out and running her fingers through the tassel of red strings.
"Mmm, from when I was younger," she said, taking her hand away and rubbing her hand on her pants.
"These coins are 500 years old," he said, shaking it, making the coins clink together.
Ivy stared at him warily. She knew nothing about coins to tell by looking at them how old they were and frankly, she had never cared to. But, she held out her hand and he dropped the charm into it.
"Don't you need it?" she asked.
"Nah, I have three. It's the youngest."
Nodding her head, she rubbed her fingers down the coins then looked back up at him.
"How does it work?" she asked.
"For you?" He paused. "Just hang it somewhere and hope for good luck. Or put it somewhere you feel bad vibes."
"How does it work for you?" she asked, an eyebrow raised.
"Can't be telling you all my secrets, kid. That's worth another box of cookies."
"Thaaats not going to happen," she said waving him off while she put the charm in her pocket. "What do I get if the coins aren't 500 years old?"
He reached up and grabbed a cookie from the box on the wall and ate it as he thought. He opened his mouth to say something as a loud noise was heard in front of the store. Ivy ran and peered around the building and saw a huge garbage truck stopping at intervals down the street. Walking back to the hiding Hellboy, she shook her head.
"That's weird. Pickup isn't until tomorrow."
"Pick up for what," he asked, the box once again in his arms and a cookie being chewed.
"The garbage," she said thinking. "Besides… that truck didn't look like our normal one…"
As she spoke, Hellboy slammed the lid of the box closed, tucked it under his left arm and threw his cigar on the ground to crush it out beneath his foot.
"Time to go," he groaned as he threw his massive right hand over the wall and used it to vault himself over.
"Uh!" Ivy said, racing to the wall and jumping up in an attempt to see over it. "Bye?"
There was silence from the other side of the wall and she turned to leave, slightly disappointed at the end of this Third Encounter. And then:
She turned back around and stared at the wall, a smile tugging at her lips.
"That song you were singing earlier… What was it called?"
Closing her eyes, she thought for a moment.
"I don't know. It was from a movie. Beauty and the Beast."
There was silence from the other side of the wall and she continued, "It's the new Disney movie. It came out a few days ago."
She heard a definite 'tsk' from the other side of the wall before he said, "Disney." The word sat in the air like a bad smell. "The old shorts were decent but the new shit is just…"
He trailed off but after a moment she could swear she heard him mutter "Musicals" under his breath.
"It was…" he started again, "It sounded good. You have a great voice, kid."
"Thanks!" she said, clasping her hands together in front of her and not hiding the grin that stretched across her face. "I've been singing for…" she trailed off.
She was not sure why, but she knew, suddenly, that he was gone. Maybe it was the sudden disappearance of the scent of cigar smoke in the air. Or maybe the sudden silence from the other side of the wall.
Sighing, she touched her pocket and felt the ridges of the coin charm and smiled.
The door to the store slammed open and she heard Cecil.
"Ives! What the heck are you doing?! You have to see—Hey! Did you even take the garbage in the kitchen out?"
Turning back to the girl she smiled in what she hoped was an apologetic plea for forgiveness. The girl shook her head and continued.
"Never mind! You have to come see this! The mall six blocks down the road was closed this morning and half the building's gone! They said it was a gas leak!"
Ivy stepped away from the wall and its red, red bricks and stepped back into La Forree and, for the most part, the real world. Her mind was racing and she felt her limbs buzz with a weird sort of excitement.
"Don't worry, kid," he had said. "You'll hear about it."
Closing Author's Note
So! What did you think, dear reader? Enjoying it? Enjoying Ivy? Is HB in character? That really is the hardest part about writing this. I constantly worry about keeping him in character and making it realistic. So, did I get it write? If I didn't, please, please let me know! It is super important that I get feedback on things that need to be improved! I want to make this story as good as it can be!
Also, I would like to know whether, as my readers, you would prefer updates that cover a year or updates that cover one meeting. The former would result in longer chapters but longer time between updates. The second would result in shorter chapters but less time between updates. Please leave your preference in a review or pm me!
Thanks for stopping by!