This is set 100% within the comicsverse. At the very least it will be helpful to have read The Storm, The Fury and An Unmarked Grave.
Never More Than A Dream
Alone in a field of lilies Kate Corrigan swayed, her gaze blurred by tears that refused to fall. Her arm dropped to her side, her cell phone dangling from her fingertips.
The world was in chaos. Countless lives lost and countless deaths impending. England lay in ruins.
Bruno… Bruno had broken it off with her.
Hellboy was dead.
Grief and pain erupted within her as finally the full import of it all descended and the last of her control cracked. She collapsed onto the bench where just moments ago she had sat with Alice – a woman she had never met before, a woman who had told her the absolute unthinkable – the woman who had stood witness to Hellboy's death – and sobbed.
It had been years since she had cried like this. Without restraint or reserve. Though there had been plenty to cry about, she had always held back from surrendering herself fully to the emotion. She feared that if she succumbed to it, it would overwhelm her permanently in its immensity, stand in the way of performing her job effectively – or at all. And she'd promised Hellboy. Promised him she'd take care of everything.
But if she couldn't cry now, at the end of the world and with the best friend she had ever known gone, irretrievably gone, then there would be no good reason to ever cry again.
Around her, the golden lilies continued to flower, blanketing the grounds of the Church in a scented expanse of fragile beauty. Kate gasped and sobbed, gulped in deep breaths and dashed at the veil of tears clouding her eyes so that she could gaze out at the shimmering field that effortlessly bloomed amidst the rubble and ruin.
"Hellboy baptised this land with his blood."
Alice's voice with its Irish lilt drifted into her memory as all around her the lilies glittered and blossomed, a display of transcendent magic that should've left her touched and elated. Instead she recalled that day in Austria, the last time she had seen him:
"Flowers growing out of my blood?"
"You never told me about the flowers."
"I just heard about that one myself."
Without realising it, Kate hugged her arms about herself, her head bowing down, her heart a bruised and swollen knot in her chest. The lilies grew about her feet, the delicate scallops of their petals forming cups that caught her tears. Kate's shoulders shook and she gritted her teeth against the tide of her grief. For a long time she sat in that virgin garden and gave into the pain and sorrow – perhaps not just for all she had lost that day, but for all she had suppressed for the last twelve years.
The last time she had cried like this it had been in Hellboy's arms. Not even Bruno had seen this side to her and now he never would.
Finally, the flow of tears stemmed, sheer exhaustion bringing them to a shuddering halt. Kate sat up, pushing her hair back off her face, wiping at her cheeks, breathing in great shaky breaths as she calmed. The hollow ache of her loss did not abate and she knew the rein on her emotions would buckle again soon enough, but she also knew she would maintain her control once more. There was little other choice, in the wake of all that there was to face. She had to have it together, now more than ever. Hellboy might be gone from this world, but she would keep her promise to him nonetheless.
Kate sat back on the bench and looked about her. The cemetery grounds were deserted, carpeted in soft golden flowers, gleaming against the iron-grey of the stones that clambered in jagged rows towards the dismal sky. It was beautiful, silent and still and suddenly comforting. In that graveyard, far away from where she had called home, her heart broken twice over, she felt as though Hellboy were with her and for a moment her heart was soothed.
How long had it been now? Two years – or three – since she had come home to her apartment in the BPRD compound after a case to find a message from him on her answering machine. She had stood there in the dark, coat still on, keys clasped in one hand, coated in the mud and muck of the mission, listening to the voice she hadn't heard in ten years. That old familiar voice, deeply rumbling, raspy from a lifetime of heavy smoking. It had hit her like a freight train to hear it again and she had slumped against the wall as emotion overwhelmed her.
Hellboy had never been fond of communication technology, far preferring the immediacy of face-to-face conversation and even still he was taciturn. Even when he'd poured his heart out to her it had been brief and to the point. That message was no different as he said in his brusque, straightforward fashion that he wasn't sure if she'd got the letter he'd sent a couple of years earlier, he was sorry not to have contacted her sooner and that he hoped she was well, that Africa had been nice but he hadn't had such a good time since and that he expected to be beyond contact for a while. But she could tell, from so many long years of intimacy, that something terrible weighed heavily upon him and she worried dreadfully about what had befallen him in those intervening years – and what was yet to come.
The machine had gone silent for a long moment, only the faint crackle of static indicating he'd still been on the line, and she'd held her breath and waited.
His last words before ringing off had wrenched her heart:
"God, I miss you, Katie."
His voice had cracked, tinged with a desperation so raw she'd balled up her fists and slid down on her haunches to hear it. She'd never heard him sound quite like that before – so lost. Lost, somewhere out there in the world and she had no idea where she might find him, or even if it were her job to do such a thing.
Kate knew now it had not been. That had fallen to Alice. Immediately upon meeting her, Kate had realised what Hellboy had been to her – and what she had been to him. That they had been lovers had been as clear as the startling anguish in Alice's storm-blue eyes. And Kate was grateful for that – grateful that Hellboy should've found some happiness and some peace. Of anyone she had ever known, Hellboy deserved love – he inspired great love in those around him, loyalty and fierce passion as well, though he himself had never believed a woman could love him enough for it to survive the reality of what he was. She was glad he had finally given it a chance again and been rewarded.
But there was a little regret as well. After all, only hours before they'd been dispatched on the Hunte Castle ruins mission, she'd been in his bed in nothing but panties and groaning into his mouth as his left hand brought her to shuddering orgasm. As she relaxed back against his right arm, languorous in the afterglow of her bliss, she'd smiled adoringly up at him. He'd smiled back with equal affection and played with her hair as her own hands had started to work on him… she loved him, she'd known that. But they'd never talked about what their relationship meant, and had never put it into formal terms. Later, as the mission brief came in and they'd got dressed, she'd mused – not for the first time – that they should finally take it all the way. Not that the act of penetration would somehow grant more validation to their love-making – as that was what it most surely was – but she desired to feel him move inside her, almost too much to bear. It was by her wishes it had not already happened, ostensibly because she was too intimidated. But as time passed she began to awaken to the realisation that was not it at all – that as ridiculously traditional as it seemed, so simple an act stood as a barrier for her between the informality they carefully maintained and wholehearted commitment. If they went there, then it would demand the formal recognition of what they felt – and that scared her most of all. Because she could also see that Hellboy's soul was provoked the more he learned about his origins, burdened by the elusive secrets that hovered just beyond his reach – and that it was making him restless.
She knew he would be leaving soon. She just never guessed how soon.
Many times after they'd said goodbye on the Austrian hills, not even able to kiss lest the Bureau learn of their secret relationship, she wished she had feared less and dared more. Wish she'd known him completely, at least once, and been able to say she'd been his girl.
Now she never would.
She was sorry that Alice had gone. She felt that this woman, who Hellboy had loved, should be invited back to the Bureau and kept safe from the chaos that wracked the world, in testament to his memory. But she also knew that Alice would not have agreed – she had some self-ordained sense of purpose and would not be dissuaded from that path. Kate had no idea where Alice had gone to, how she had so quickly disappeared or how she had come to believe all that she had told Kate, but there had been no mistaking the serene resolve she had about her, despite the vast enormity of her grief.
No matter how brief their encounter, Kate felt a sense of strong kinship to the redhaired woman – who appeared so startlingly young though they were close to the same age. Their love for the same man bound them on some level. As she mused on that tender and abstract connection, she was struck with another realisation and her next duty became apparent to her.
Wiping away fresh tears that had sprung unbidden to her eyes, Kate lifted her phone and dialled the Colorado headquarters. She was patched through the main desk to Intel and when Agent Sheridan answered, Kate cleared her throat and spoke, her voice tremulous and not at all like her own:
"I need you to get me a phone number for a Doctor Anastasia Bransfield. Last I knew she was working for the British Museum in London. I don't care how long it takes, just find me a way of contacting her. Thank you."
Kate disconnected then rose unsteadily to her feet, pocketing her phone in her suit jacket, brushing her hair back with both hands, feeling the swollen flesh beneath her eyes. Above the sky was thunderous and heavy but the graveyard seemed illuminated by the soft glow of the lilies, enveloping her still in the sense that Hellboy watched over her. She would tell Anastasia about Hellboy's death. He had loved her first and she deserved to know.
And then she would go on with her job.
As Kate made her way to the cemetery gates, the lilies rustled about her ankles, seeming to sway gently from her path instead of being trampled underfoot, their petals soft as silk. At the gates she paused and glanced backwards across the golden field, suddenly reluctant to leave, to step out of the bower that surrounded her like an embrace – to lose the sensation that Hellboy was close to her, just on the other side of the veil that separated this world from the next. Crouching, she plunged her hands into surprisingly yielding earth and came up with one perfect flower. Up close she could see how the petals were striated with darker threads of gold that seemed to catch what dim sunlight struggled through the clouds. Kate's heart thudded painfully against her breast bone and she struggled once more against the flood of tears that threatened to spill forth. She kissed the petals tenderly, without a care for how girlish a sentiment it seemed from a fifty-three year old woman, and left, cupping the fragile flower lovingly in her hands.