by Gemma Files

Hawley Griffin is a chemist. Mina Harker is a chemist. Henry Jekyll is a chemist. Edward Hyde does not think of himself as a chemist, for all that he can speak the lingo fluently enough, if asked--though the very idea of making such a request never seems to enter the minds of his fellow colleagues, one way or another.

"What a pity you can't let Jekyll out for a moment, every now and then," Griffin murmurs, by Hyde's elbow. "Just for a friendly chat, you know, and a bit of well-bred scientific expertise..."

"Why assume I know nothing of Henry's pursuits? We share a brain, after all; the total equipage gets bigger, not smaller, if you hadn't noticed."

"You'll forgive me for thinking your own areas of focus might lie--heh, heh--elsewhere."

"Will I? It's easy enough to say such things, 'sight unseen'."

Another giggle, slightly higher-pitched--Griffin's voice is dimmer now, indicating he's moved to a spot he thinks is out of Hyde's reach. "Yes, very."

Adding, after a pause: "Rather the point of the whole exercise, really."


Spindly Griffin, with his dancer's gait and his offhand killer's deftness, his long and temptingly crackable limbs all aglow in the blaze of Hyde's heat-vision: Bastard might as well leave sparks behind whenever he prowls up and down the Nautillus's library floor this way, poncing heel-and-toe like Grimm's Wicked Queen in her red-hot iron shoes. Pausing to balance here and there, testing his muscles like springs...a study in poses, self-consciously unselfconscious. Almost like he hopes someone might--somehow--be watching.

He can't know Hyde's secret, however; his mind's quick enough, like his knife, but it simply doesn't work that way. And Hyde certainly won't tell 'till it becomes...necessary. An inevitability, really, given Griffin's personality and proclivities--the man's barely controllable now, with the full weight of her Majesty's government huffing down his almost always-naked back. Hyde senses it's only sheer physical cowardice which keeps him where he is, at least until he can figure a way to disappear still further without endangering his own precious skin.

And: "Griffin," Hyde calls, inquiringly, watching the Invisible Man's back. "Are you still here?"

(Seeing Griffin pause, seeing him smile his cruel little smile to himself: Small, sharp teeth like a ferret's, Hyde imagines, though he can't distinguish in such fine detail from this distance. Seeing him consider whether or not to answer, stepping closer all the while--closer, closer, closer. Just a little closer, said the spider to the fly...)

Watching Griffin. Watching Griffin watch the rest of them, fingers twitching as though taking phantom notes, with all the constant, gelid fixity of a predator condemned to spy on his prey even through the filter of his own transparent eyelids. It's an amusement Hyde's come to depend on, more and more--the wonderfully soothing daily spectacle of a self-enchanted man-ghost measuring out his hangman's rope, one scant inch at a time. A pas-des-deux truly worth a thousand daguerrotypes.

At Hyde's ear, now, breath just puffing the lobe: "Might be a good idea to make dear 'Henry' tinker with the serum a trifle, though, mightn't it? Try and iron out a few of those little--inefficiencies."

"Oh, can't say that the mixture needs much work, all told; I'm capable of changing back, after all."

"Don't much, though, not anymore. Do you."

...frankly, no.

The which fact hints, funnily enough, at the real reason Hyde is willing to suffer Griffin's disrespect--that he likes to talk to him, no matter how Griffin goes out of his way to infuriate him. Or, rather, because of it.

Rage produces enzymes, catalytic in nature, which complete the serum's formula. To summon Hyde, all one must do is enrage Jekyll beyond the boundaries of his vaunted self-control and out into that dim, red region where the monkey-mind lurks--easier than it seems, in perfect point of fact. Though it's not as though Hyde is ever truly absent, even pared of the vital rage that pumps his flesh that extra, ogrish matter of degrees past the feeble parameters of Henry's skinny frame...

But it's only a matter of time before the berserker tide ebbs low enough, inevitably, to allow the human stopgap to resurface. And much as Hyde has never pretended he has any great love for Jekyll, his sanctuary/prison, he has equally little wish to hover behind those weak, blinking eyes, or eavesdrop on the "good" doctor's tremulous attempts at conversation: Ridiculous Henry, forever meditating on sins he'd never have the stomach to consider, let alone commit!

So Hyde fights to stay angry, to stay annoyed, knowing it's the best--the only--way he can count on staying himself. And since Griffin, hands down, remains the single most annoying bastard Hyde's ever met...

Hyde's no alienist, but he suspects Griffin truly belongs to some brave new phylum all his own: A splendid, dreadful hunger permeates his every move, impatient and inattentive, goading him on to ever-escalating feats of self-indulgence. Masquerading as an erotic phantom in some girls' school dormitory or beating a bobby to death just so he can steal his uniform--deliberately worn without bandages, of course, in order to shock as many passersby as possible--are only two barest crag-tips of that moral iceberg which surely lurks beneath his snide, teasing manner.

A study in evolution, spiritual decay caught mid-progress; perhaps Hyde's been too rash on the subject of letting Jekyll crawl back to consciousness, after all. Considering just how much Hawley and Henry might profit, potentially, from the comparing of notes.

Griffin, skulking around on bare and stealthy feet--always nude, often aroused. Hyde suspects Mrs Harker can sense how often he touches himself, almost absently, whenever she speaks; he knows it in the same unspoken way he knows that she's far too self-possessed, too innately practical, to ever think of putting herself in Hyde's huge hands--and applauds that in her, much as it sometimes riles the unplumbed depths of his already-base(r) nature. Having already been swept away by one monster...and a foreign one, at that...she probably has little wish to repeat the experience, even with a true blue British abomination. Patriotism only takes one so far, don'tcha know.

Griffin might play, though, if Hyde ever somehow convinced him he had the upper hand. He's just that perverse.

Don't be fooled by the slope of the skull, gadfly. I'll crush you yet, one bone at a time, and make you like it.

On the other side of the library, Griffin lights a cigarette with a single, compact flick of the match: Deft arsonist's hands, their long-nailed fingers scalpel-swift. Hyde admires the Invisible Man's delicate bronchial tree as it blooms, outlined in smoke, flowers briefly, then withers away once more, leaving only a dissipating plume hanging in the air above.

Hyde clears his throat, a low rumble. Then ventures, lazily:

"Must have been hard, eh? Training yourself to of science, and all that."

"Do I strike you as a humanitarian, Hyde?"

"No more than I myself. But perhaps it came more naturally than not: The simple legacy of experience, survivor's tactics. A pretty albino, a boys' boarding-school..."

"I'll thank you not to speculate on my experiences, ape-man."

"Mrs Harker would sympathize, surely."

Griffin snorts. "I think not."

"Oh, you're in no mood to swap confidences; I understand completely. But we'll have to bridge that unfortunate lack of trust sometime in our acquaintanceship, won't we, old chap? For the sake of the team."

Griffin makes a dry little snarling noise, and stalks off--Hyde can feel the breath of his passage, smell the laboratory tang of his sweat. And he's careful not to look, so long as Griffin's still facing his way.

So insufferably pleased with the mess he's made of himself: It's what little they share, each in their own very particular way--all chemists, all accidents, unnatural products of their own insatiable lust for discovery. All of them experiments gone terribly awry, fecund with unforseen consequences.

The door slams, announcing Griffin's huffy departure for all to hear. Too bad he doesn't know--can't know--that Hyde can still see him lounging beside it, a quiet sentinel, clear as the monstrous nose on his own monstrous face. Waiting for an opportunity to create yet more chaos.

And: One day, Mr Hyde thinks, he really will have to pull Griffin to him by the throat and trace that heat-blurry oval at his leisure, learning all its lines by heart. Before he rearranges them, finally, to his own personal satisfaction.

Campion Bond's fatuous claims to the contrary aside, the League surely exists as much to provide freaks like Hyde and Griffin (and Quartermain, Nemo, Mrs Harker herself) with a place to congregate, congenial company, a "home" away from home. Some sense of familiarity, even in this unfamiliar--yet brave--new world.

But what does familiarity breed, again?

Mr Hyde returns to his newspaper, chuckling slightly. The Nautilus speeds on, silent, through uncharted waters.


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