You'll Be Wrapped Around My Finger
This will probably be the last chapter before my midterms come and go...so feel free to savor.
* * *
Kendra knew why she had been all but seized from her bed in Cleveland, shipped to the airport, and shoved onto Airforce One mere seconds before takeoff. That didn’t make her happy about it. Charles was in town, in said bed, and in a Slayer’s world, only an apocalypse was grounds for removing her from manly arms—and even then only one of biblical proportions.
On the scale of world ending things she and Faith had devised together, which ranged from ‘mildly disquieting’ to ‘oh, FUCK!’, this little ethical debate didn’t even register.
The airman beside her, probably more out of survival instinct than duty, fed her a never-ending stream of coffees and breakfast pastries as she watched the men on the screens bluster. This was fortunate because when the story came out and the picture of the vampire appeared on the screen belonging to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, she felt just human enough to possess a modicum of polite manners.
Air Force One was damn lucky that Faith was several thousand feet below them and still sleeping.
She set her teacup down on its saucer with a shark clink before clearing her throat. “Mister President,” she said loudly in his direction and therefore his lapel mic, laying her fading accent on thick. She wasn’t in view of the camera, but she wanted the military man huffing on the lower right screen to have a damn good idea of just who was speaking. “Mister President, I seem to recall being assured that ze Initiative and all related projects had been shut down, permanently. I understand that your predecessor made zis vow. But unless my English is faulty, and please inform me if I am, I was under ze impression that ze word ‘permanently’ meant zis decommission was not subject to ze whims of transient things like White House administrations.”
She let the silence stretch before continuing. “Keep that in mind, please, while I ask you zis: why ze fuck is evidence of William of Aurelius’s recapture and your government’s continued illegal experimentation staring at me in ze face!”
Faith was apparently with them in spirit, that or Kendra hadn’t been given nearly enough coffee. Raising her teacup to her lips, she decided it was most likely both.
Off screen, presumably from the BPRD office considering the lack of fear or indignation, someone whistled. “Whoever she is, I think I like her.”
The man on screen, a balding fellow looking slightly green at the gills gave a sidelong glance of long suffering that Kendra recognized from her times spent in close proximity to both Faith and a mirror. “May I remind you that you are engaged to Agent Sherman?” the man asked. “And have a family on the way?”
The general clearly had some history with the hidden speaker. “You procreating. Disgusting.”
As though explaining to an idiot, the voice replied. “And that is the exact reason why all my family is currently sitting pretty on foreign soil. Oh, and before you think about touching that medical jet flying over the Atlantic with a shortlisted Nobel prize nominee, I think you should know there’s about twenty foreign satellites and even a few US ones watching it like a hawk.”
Faith would like this man, Kendra decided, though she feared a bit for the world if they were to occupy the same room.
“Perhaps we could return to the subject at hand?” the Secretary of Defense cut it.
Kendra held out her empty cup toward the airman who by now knew the drill. “Yes. I for one am waiting for an answer to my question.”
The general spoke. “Ma’am, whoever you are, I can assure you that Hostile 17 has nothing to do with a project called the Initiative.”
How interesting. He had no idea who she was. She smiled a wide Cheshire grin that, appropriately, the general on the screen couldn’t see. It was certainly setting those around her ill at ease, though.
“Is that so? I have your vow.”
He looked a bit unsettled at the word ‘vow,’ going so far as to mouth it silently, but he composed him self and with a nod, answered, “Yes.”
Kendra removed her laptop from her satchel without a word and started paging through her diary. After Mr. Zubuto’s death, the mess with Dr. Giles after Buffy, and Wesley’s dismissal as Watcher, she taken it upon herself to write the diary of her and Faith’s time as Slayers. A digital version that could be automatically sent to various mystical organizations if she didn’t update for three months and was most likely dead just seemed prudent.
She reached the spring of 2000 and, cranking the small speakers, opened the first audio file that looked relevant: interview_spike_initiative.mp3. Cheers to due diligence in file naming. A Cockney accent filled the cabin.
“Bloody ponces. Called themselves the Initiative. Had all these white cells with demons and creatures. Not even all bad ones, but harmless little buggers like nifflers and kiddies whimpering for Mummy in their home tongues. Army bastards. If they weren’t ignoring me like I was some sodding minion, they were tasering me, throwing me poisoned blood, calling me Hostile 17, and shoving this damned bloody microchip in me poor head that makes my brain feel like it’s dribbling out my ears. Thanks for blood by the way, luv, especially what with the sire-mum taking a bite out of you last time we was in dear old Sunnyhell, and, hey, what’re’yeh recording all this for, anyhow?”
Kendra decided that was as good a place as any to hit pause. The problem with a vampire in a chattering mood was that he didn’t come up for air, ever. “Must I repeat ze question?” she asked.
She expected something pithy from the faceless speaker. Instead, there was something dark, and again she was reminded of Faith. “This guy, 17, he used to talk? That much?”
She paused in remembrance of the running monologues during Spike’s days confined to the bathtub in the apartment she had taken over from Dr. Giles. “Incessantly.”
“You don’t say. You know, I’ve tried to stay calm in all of this, from the zombie fields to the friendly machinegun fire, right through the moment somebody decided to throw that pain chip into kill-by-inches mode and disable the off switch.” As the man at the desk put his head in his hands, a demon stalked into view of the camera. “But now I’m just pissed off.”
Kendra leaned back in her seat, mildly disquieted. Then an inked drawing came screaming out of an old memory, and mentally she pictured the demon with full-length horns and a fiery crown.
Hellboy blinked at the commander in chief. “Mr. President, considering there’s been enough needless violence for one night, I am going to ask you, once, politely, family man to family man, to shut down this and any other organization whose end goal is clearly to capture and torture my babies and transform them into weapons for terror and conquest.”
The President gaped. “Mr… Mr…”
“Hellboy,” he supplied helpfully.
“Mr. Hellboy. You do realize it isn’t that simple. And that your claim about the HST taskforce’s mission is at the least grossly exaggerated and more likely a complete lie. From what I have seen, the taskforce’s work is extremely necessary and for the betterment of society.”
“Oh, I know that it is that simple. And I don’t think you know the people you’re in bed with all that well if you’re willing to go around saying things like that. …You do realize you’ve left me with no choice.”
Hellboy plugged in his cellphone’s headphone earpiece and hit speed dial. It barely took one ring before the other line answered.
“Why, hello Gorgeous…Yep, it’s the big lug himself…Oh, Liz is doing fine…Yes, and the twins…Almost five months along now. Speaking of which, Liz and I were thinking about godparents the other day—we’ll need four, you know—and we were wondering if maybe…Oh no, the honor’s all ours…No, really…Really…Well now, I suppose we would have to ask him first…If you’re sure he’s not busy…Why, of course I’ll wait while you try the other line.”
Hellboy smiled for the camera while Manning searched his desk for antacids. Gotcha.
If Kendra hadn’t been trembling with the effort to stop herself from stealing a parachute, diving out the plane, hightailing to Harvard, and dragging Dawn into a dimension free of hellgods, the Faith-warped part of her would have found this all terribly funny.
The President of the United States looked from the demon in the flatscreen to cell phone in the apologetic aide’s hand and back, and in that space of time seemed shrink by at least a foot. Timidly he picked up the phone.
“Hello Hon,” he said. “Can’t it wa…Oh…Okay, go ahead…An old friend from the Peace Corps, you say…Godfather…Er…I don’t…Well, if it makes you happy…Hon…Honey…Please…I mean…Of course I’ll be happy to…Dinner? But…Oh, all right…Shocked by his appearance…No…I promise…Love you too. Bye.”
A moment later, the demon laughed in his phone. “He’d love to? You’re kiddin’…Dinner? We’d love to! We’ll shift some dates around on our vacation and get right back to you…Love you too, Gorgeous. Bah-bye now...”
The demon closed the phone, inhaled happily and expelled the air in his lungs (if he had lungs) with a theatrical shrug of the shoulders. “Don’t you love it when we can all just…get along? Like. One. Big. Happy. Family. Oh, and good luck explaining over dinner to “Honey” why you’re condoning an organization with an end goal to capture and torture your godbaby.”
He stretched lazily before waving to the man behind the desk. “Bye, Manning. My work here is done. Wrap things up, will ya? I’ve got to go tell Liz and Xander the good news…and grovel. Pregnant fiancés and naiads, sheesh.”
Faith knew something was up when Gunn was sitting on the couch consuming mini-wheats and superhero cartoons. She checked the time on the cable box. 09:26. Fists on hips, she stared at him and exclaimed, “Again?”
Gunn raised the spoon into the air. “She’s on Air Force One for some emergency secret conference.”
The Dark Slayer stopped mentally cataloguing their weapons caches marked ‘in case of apocalypse’ and dropped onto the couch beside him. Blue, gray, and yellow leapt across the screen. Cool, Batman. “Oh,” she said. “Ken-doll is going to rip their heads off, isn’t she?”
Kendra’s squeeze grinned around the spoon. “I know. That’s what makes it almost worth it.”
“And the ensuing angry sex?”
“It had crossed my mind.”
At that comment there was assortments of oohs, ewws, and shhs from the peanut Slayer gallery sprawled on the floor. The shhs were in the majority, being that it was Batman. For reference, when one lived with teenage girl superheroes, Saturday morning cartoons were festooned with more romantic sighs than tween primetime. The holy grail of super-hunks: Batman.
Bruce Wayne was normal guy who kicked Kryptonian butt and kept up with the Amazon Princess. The idea was incredibly attractive to a girl whose other options were to pray for a superman to fall like manna from heaven or to consort with the enemy.
The best part, Faith thought, as she looked over at Gunn, was that such men existed. She turned back to the caped crusader, propped her head on her fist, and bit back a sigh of her own. If only…
It was dry, so dry his skin was itching all over, and nothing was going to make it better. The only thing that was making this bearable in Xander’s opinion was that Hellboy had forgotten to order him to bring along his school work. Oh, and there was TV, too. Cool, Batman.
The part of him that was always screeching that hellgods trumped swamp gods everyday of the week and that there should be endless prostrating and singing of praises was silenced mercilessly. If Hellboy was going to treat him like a little brother, he was going to take position.
And little brothers were supposed to call their big brothers pooh. He took a deep swig of water. It was in the handbook, so the naiad in him could shut up and go back to swooning over Superman.
He blinked at the cartoon, rubbing his eyes and squinting to see when it went all fuzzy. Being that he was a firm batfan in the Batman vs. Superman question of legend, that internal romantic sigh always disturbed him. There was a dichotomy inside him. He was a boy and liked killing zombies. He was simultaneously a naiad and liked to play with flowers. He drained the water bottle and opened another. There was about half a case of empty bottles littered around him and he was just getting thirstier, dammit.
He liked killing undead and flowers. Until he learned how to kill zombies with flowers, he was going to be a bit confused in the head. For example, there were times when he would go to the pool and try to time some laps, only to blink and find himself frolicking. Frolicking: as in la, la, la with the splashing and the giggling.
Naiad nature was like the kryptonite of male ego. Seriously. Physically, you were all shrimpy and zero muscle tone and…pretty. The teensy bit of triton demon in Xander that let him move through water like a torpedo and be sharp of tooth and nail was something he was thankful for every day. These gifts were almost useless in a fight, though, because the naiad’s hardwired response was to look small and helpless and wait for Big Daddy.
Raise your hand if you got the reference. Yes, that pathetic.
This was why, when an angry Liz stormed into the room, blinked at the sight of him, and shoved a cell phone into his hand, the following happened.
Hellboy, on the line, said, “Hey, Xan. Emergency’s over. More of a false alarm, actually. The chopper’s going to take you back to BPRD headquarters. What’d’yeh say to forgetting the homework and having a movie night?”
Xander was seething. Steam rising. There were claws. Yeah, Xan, you know how I pretty much said you were going to be enslaved and put into a world of hurt if you didn’t run away fast? False alarm. I made you leave your water and me, even though it’s killing you, for no fucking reason. I mean, sure your lips are peeling and the respirator is barely even working for you anymore, but I’m sure a few hours sitting next to me will make it all better. So you game?
And goddamn, Xander just smiled. Even as his lower lip spit and a bead of brackish blood ran down his chin, he just cheerily replied, “Okay!”
Hellboy had expected Liz to be miffed but understanding and Xander to be ready to declare a fight to the death when the pair stepped off the helicopter. So it was a bit unexpected when Xander bounded out like a happy healthy puppy, all bright eyes and yaps, while Liz hung back with the Look.
The Look was never directed at anybody. It was instead that meditative, half-mast stare into space that meant she was trying her damnedest to not ignite the atmosphere and was all but failing. Hellboy felt himself freeze. And people thought he was the one in the couple who wore the “I can end the world” pants.
“Whoa, Xan!” he cried when the naiad all but leapt over his head. “What sort of junk food did they give you there? Rocket fuel? Why don’t you work some of that energy off in the pool?” And give him time to work on Liz.
Xander paused and that little indecisive flicker in the eyes was all that showed that things were not at all fine in the naiad’s world. “There’s still a movie night, right, Hellboy?” he asked.
Uh-oh. He looked down at the boy. That word led to things he really didn’t like to think about. “Promise,” he said anyway. The fire appeared, in great quantities, curling tightly around Xander like a cross between a shawl and an octopus.
The naiad smiled. “Okay,” he said simply, and he ran off.
Hellboy turned away, and he spotted Liz glaring right at him. For some reason, he thought he preferred the Look.
“What?” he asked in dread.
Stalking up to him, she hissed, “You know, when I fell in love with you, I knew you were blind and stupid, but don’t you think this is a little much!”
Several hundred feet below, an IV blood bag trickled down a feeding tube into a shriveled, greedy stomach. Blond lashes bloodstained red didn’t flutter but lifted as slow and inexorable as sunrise. Staring at the ceiling of the prison cell cum recovery room, the patient chained to the gurney slowly absorbed the blood and the perfect, dead silence.
It was over.
And yet it hadn't even begun.
***So, to recap, never mess with a demon who has the First Lady on speed dial. Also, Kendra has linked Hellboy to The Apocalypse, Batman is cool, all is not right with Xander, Hellboy is about to get a rude awakening about his hellgod "extras", and 17 has survived to become a prisoner once again.