by Gemma Files

Sometimes, Hawley Griffin gets ideas that even he knows he cannot possibly afford to indulge--for sheer practicality's sake, if nothing else. And since practicality is, in truth, the sole consideration he allows to restrain his own behavior, these days...

The Nautilus, sere as Nemo keeps it, is simultaneously--who knows how--a veritable fairy-palace of sensual license. Perhaps it's the motors' ceaseless purr thrumming up through one's feet and higher, this feeling of always floating free over some unseen abyss while your secretest parts are caressed by a devilishly detached yet phantom hand. Or might be it's just the decor: All those fancy marine-patterned accessories, the marble floors and silk-hung, pearl-smooth walls, with cut-throat Kali dancing nude in her kilt of severed human hands above the dining table, right next to the "N"-monogrammed complimentary packages of cigarettes and cigars.

Not to mention figures of Sita and Shiva all pouting and contortive in what often seems like every available corner, their bronze limbs sheened and gleaming like dusky, sweaty flesh.

Anything seems possible, even condoned, in such company, so long as one remains at least partially discreet. For God's (or the gods') sake, don't let your darker fancies run free where the punkah-wallahs can see you, gentlemen--

(and lady)

But then, it's been a fair old while since Griffin's had to worry much about being seen.

Far down now, very far indeed and well beyond the reach of natural light, as he drifts without clear purpose through the silent reaches of the Nautilus's hold: Just as well for him his tapetum went last when the process bleached him transparent from the inside out, leaving him gifted with night-vision to rival any of the angler-fish which currently trawl outside for prey, blazing with cold phosphorescence.

Paranoid and voyeuristic in roughly equal measures, Griffin spends his submerged days-in-nights drifting from room to room in Nemo's floating palace, waiting for exhaustion to take him over. He sleeps where he falls, often as not; beast-man Hyde seems almost presciently aware of his habits in this regard. Or so he's gathered, from a short yet revealing conversation recently overheard.

Quartermain, to Hyde, in the library: "Meeting, Mrs Harker's apartments. Where's Griffin?"

"No idea." Then, not looking up from his open copy of Huysman's La-Bas: "Send someone 'round to poke in all the corners, why don't you--sure to stumble across him that way, eventually."

Heh. So clever, for a subhuman hulk...

(Offputtingly so, really.)

Meanwhile, Griffin feels his current lack of proper female companionship intensely: Yearns to have his pick of the girls at Miss Coote's once more, all mooning over their own adolescent experimentations in "chemistry", ripe for some sort of plucking...oh, he's never been so attractive before or since, not in the Visible world, where any fool on the street could point and gape at his old/young man's white hair, his peeling melanin-poor skin and his watery little garnet eyes.

The minute he disembodied himself, however, Griffin became a mirror for anyone to dream on--a fantastic miasma, able to take on (or mimic, which is much the same thing in terms of effect) whatever attributes his partners' fondest, most secret desires might call for.

And what can I do for YOU, Mrs Mina, Captain? Allan? Henry?


Always burning, always cold. The process has left Griffin with both a constant low-grade fever and an equally constant, itchy craving for the same human contact he once so violently rejected. All these idiotic fantasies of touch and comfort, swarming like flies: The grating urge to sneak a peek under Mrs Harker's scarf, to run his tongue unexpectedly down the cord of Nemo's stiff neck. To hove in close enough to taste Quartermain's sour opium addict's breath. To fold himself 'round Jekyll when least expected, then find himself abruptly enfolded by Hyde.

Ah, yes. But that way lies madness, mayhem, sure and certain self-murder.

Griffin has no doubt he can hold his own with most of his "fellows", from Mrs Harker to Nemo himself: You won't see me coming you know, heh heh, as he once told Quartermain, in the Limehouse devil-doctor's dingy sty. But with Hyde, the best one might possibly do would be run, and hope for obstacles. There's no reasoning with brutes, after all, whether or not the suits adorning their eight-foot ape-frames happen to come from Saville Row; Jekyll's atavist avatar carries the jungle with him like a stench, every movement an implied threat. Red in tooth and claw.

And Hyde can smell him, too. Of that, he's almost sure.

Not to mention how his other half suffers so, by comparison: Jekyll's just dashed boring, for a man bemused enough on the subject of his own sins that he felt he had to subdivide. Skulking around the Nautilus's corridors like Griffin without the fashion-sense, a chalk-and-cheese-complected little stick of a man with barely gumption enough to say "boo", and mean it. He's good fun to poke at, but never for long--the resultant conversations, however cheaply entertaining, are simply never worth the effort.

"Hyde says you dream of other men, Doctor," Griffin murmured to him, just the other day. "Now, tell the truth: Was he being genuine in his revelations, or merely slanderous?"

Weakly: "Leave me alone, Griffin."

"Aren't you already? Or good as, without your...companion."

Drawling words, insult disguised as banter, punctuated with a skimming touch to Jekyll's shoulder with one hand, his thigh with another; some "fellow scientist" the man is, when he can't even stand the barest hint of such--explorations--without flinching! Or flushing, sinking, reeling back like Griffin's got the plague...

He could kill you easily enough, though, a voice remarkably like his own notes, calmly, from the very back of Griffin's mind. He WILL kill you, if you let him--for nothing, or anything. 'Battle not with monsters...'

...unless you look to become a monster yourself: Yes, yes, Friedrich Nietzche's old cant. A warning usually well worth the taking, though one which--in Griffin's case--

--comes rather too late.

Briefly and all unprompted, Griffin finds himself re-considering Campion Bond's entirely risible offer: A pardon, a cure. The one he has little use for--how would they expect to enforce it, either way?--the other, absolutely none. Though Christ knows that wasn't always so...

Back in Iping, before his "death" and during his initial, none-too-halcyon days as King the First of Britain's Invisible Realm, Griffin well remembers how often his temper (never exactly smooth) seemed strained almost to bursting: Yes, I'm transparent and I'm right in front of you; it's unusual, but I don't think it's a crime. Now listen up and do what I want, before I bloody throttle you--

--oh. Well. Never mind.


So desperate to effect his own release, for undisturbed leisure to examine his uncoagulated blood beneath a microscope, for space and food, sleep and test subjects and piss-damnable time enough to figure out for once and for all how--or whether--the process might be reversed. Still playing the maligned innocent even to himself, the aggrieved party hoist on the petard of a thousand idiot yokels. And now, ah, now: How things have changed.

It's just a matter of perspective, really.

Blessedly freed from all extraneous alliegance, Griffin's thoughts flit from topic to topic, glistening, insectile. The drug seems to light up his brain. He knows the truth, and it sings in every part of him: Hot, cold, burning.

Do what you want. Do what you can. Do...whatever...you can get away with. For "do what thou wilt" shall be the whole, the only law--

Oh, and Nemo would frown at that, surely; Mrs Harker would purse her little red lips in disapproval, as though smelling some recalcitrant puppy's mess. Quartermain would color and look away, sharply, no doubt recalling occasional lapses in self-discipline of his own. Jekyll would blanch.

But Hyde, Mr Hyde..."Edward", even...

Hyde might well agree. Might--understand. If not, exactly, sympathize.

And speaking of which:

Those footsteps up ahead, soft yet heavy, with the odd repetitive *scritch* laid in here and there--it's Hyde, out prowling as well, with just as little regard for anyone else's privacy. Barefoot as usual, his claw-nails abrading the sheen of Nemo's polished floors in time to the list of his shambling gait.

Griffin hugs the wall, automatically, planning to nip behind the man-beast's back as he steps inside and be safely away, long before Jekyll's creature-self even knows he's gone. But Hyde just pauses in the doorway, takes a long, speculative sniff and smiles that wide, flat smile of his, like some monstrous hybrid of gorilla and snake.

"Griffin, you lunatic sneak-thief," he says, finally. "Come to tease poor Henry some more?"

Because he's not home, not just at present.


This certainly proves the "Hyde can smell you" hypothesis, if nothing else.

Griffin keeps quiet a moment more, but Hyde isn't moving. Replying at last, voice dry--

"Heh heh: 'Tease'? How so?"

"Oh, the usual: Flaunting your nakedness in that very--transparent--way of yours, always invading his reclusive rest, eavesdropping at every keyhole. Very Biblical, when one thinks about it."

"No Invisibility in the Bible, Hyde; I've checked. And I'll thank you not to talk about me like I'm one of your Froggy whores..."

"Not a Frog, no. But you are a whore. Aren't you?"

"...I beg your pardon?"

Hyde smiles again, narrowing the gesture to a mere twist of those prehensile lips. "You should."

For what, exactly? Griffin thinks. Blurting, at the same time: "I'm, I--I'm not--"

"Misapprehension on my part, I'm sure. Still and all, it's one which could certainly benefit from you occasionally putting some bloody clothes on, every now and then."

And: Hmmm. Um. Uh, that is to say...


Griffin swallows, heart hammering. "Get out of my way, monkey-man."

"Make me." Then, moving to loom over him, blind but potent, not to mention still neatly blocking every accessible part of the doorway: "What're you afraid of, eh? That I'll eat you?"


The beast's reflective eyes are already half-narrowed, however, drooping lids slant with lazy amusement. While the mouth purses "charmingly", promising--albeit with a twist so openly contemptuous, it more-than-slightly undercuts the words' inherent meaning--

"Well...someday, perhaps." A pause. "But not tonight."

And before Griffin has a chance to analyze all the possible permutations of that particular promise, he's already pinned; one frighteningly fast, supposedly aimless grope gets both the Invisible Man's windpipe between Hyde's fingers and a knee right where Griffin can best squirm on it, hanging and kicking against the wall. Choking out, with difficulty:

"Guh, God, God damn you, Hyde--"

"Ah, theology again." Hyde keeps on rummaging between Griffin's thighs with one hand, simultaneously spanning his neck and tracing his lips with the other. "Such an unexpectedly religious turn of mind you seem to have there, for a professional backstabber. Perhaps you'd've been better off dropping science in favor of the clergy."

Griffin spits, saliva abruptly visible as it cools in transit, drawing a kettledrum laugh. So he snaps at Hyde's phallus-sized fingers instead, receiving a cuff in return that makes his non-reflective skull ring: Bad dog! No biscuit for you, just inadvertant frottage and mutual--well, not exactly--

--oh, Lord, no. That, bulging obscenely against Griffin's hip...is definitely mutual.

Rough and gnarled, their nails as hard as horn, foot-wide palms bristling with hair that scratches delicately along the weeping seam of Griffin's unseen nether-parts; Hyde's hands are hot and deft, unspeakably educated in their intent, impossible not to react to. As he seems grotesquely pleased to note.

"Ah, and THERE we go--you stink of frustration, do you know that, slinker? Like you're constantly advertising the fact you'd take whatever's offered, from whomever. You untrustworthy slut."

"If this is about almost--starting--to, eh, cut the guiderope on Nemo's balloon--"

"'I thought you weren't coming back,'" Hyde mimics mercilessly, stroking harder, 'till Griffin fairly feels the eyes bulge from his head.

(Oh, he knew that would come back to haunt him.)

Since desperate thrashing alone doesn't seem to be enough to do the trick on the getting him free front, however--match strength with Hyde? For Christ's own sake, Griffin's the same man who treats most threats as an excuse to get quickly undressed--he switches back, midstream, to his more reliable arsenal: Mockery, tail-pulling, satire.

Whatever it takes to get Hyde distracted, before he has time to stick that cannon in his trousers all the wall THROUGH you and out the other bloody side...

"Sweet of you to take an interest, old man," Griffin begins, with spots starting to form before both pupils, "but in the matter of my--private life--you're hardly the League-member I'd be most likely to turn to."

"Prefer to be Quartermain's bedwarmer, hmmm?"

"Not unless he's shrunken substantially, and taken to wearing a--heh heh--corset." Adding, as the pressure against his throat seems to slacken: "But then, you'd jump to do whatever SHE asked of you, wouldn't you, Edward? S'pose I'd have to affect the morals of some professional virgin and sport a scarf 'round my neck, in order to command the great and terrible Hyde--"

"You won't sully her name, gadfly--"

Griffin ducks under Hyde's arm, dances back. Snarling, as he does:

"Sully it? Really. As though a divorced suffragette sent slumming 'round the world with--five--different men could possibly retain some sort of name worth sullying--"

But this is a mistake, he knows it before the words are even out of his mouth. Because the next step brings Hyde right back in his face, a ham-sized hand on either side of his narrow chest, and squeezing. "Just shut bloody UP about her, you Invisible turd!"

Griffin freezes, trapped once more; his lungs give a horrible heave, like some bird crushed in a cage of ribs, and Hyde's breath is a blast-furnace, a meaty exhalation. He has a split second to think of the wounds he sustained in Iping, of bandaging himself in Kemp's house: It goes visible as it coagulates, d'you see? Dashed nuisance.

How long will it take for the marks of his death to show on Hyde, afterward? Will Nemo just nod, understandingly, and send his swabbies 'round to sponge the overage away?

He'd like to think that someone amongst them might care, if and when he shuffles off thsi mortal coil--though probably not Mrs Harker, whose stringent sympathy stings like bile. Or Quartermain either, considering the way he once called Griffin a "wretched sport of nature"...

Only Henry, perhaps. Poor Henry, poor Jekyll, poor half-man-at-best--

(poor Griffin)

After a moment, though, Hyde's grip relaxes to merely inescapable, and calm--along with the smile--returns.

"There, that's stopped you, hasn't it? Not so clever now." A pause, huffing long and slow through his nostrils. "You and I really will come to a bad end one of these days, Griffin, if you don't start looking sharp."

Griffin coughs, rackingly, pleasantly surprised to find that nothing seems to be broken. The spasm makes Hyde guffaw and clap him on the back, as though they were simply two gentlemen sharing a drink and a joke at the club--an impression rather ruined by the fact that the monster's holding hand has already begun to roam up and down Griffin's bruisy frame once more, as intimately intrusive as ever.

"...point taken," he allows, finally.

"Hah. First intelligent thing you've said all night."

Hyde turns him effortlessly, presses into him from behind, kicking his legs apart--so hot, hard and hairy against Griffin's goosepimpled skin, 'specially with the Nautilus's unnaturally cool, smooth wall coming at him from the other side--and gives Griffin's unprotected nape a gentle semi-bite, a curious sort of mouthing. A long, exploratory lick with that tiger-rough tongue of his, flaying away at least one outer layer of skin.

Griffin makes a little sound at the feel of it, half whimper, half snicker.

And: "Remind you of anything?" Hyde rumbles. "Time served in the House of Genteel Harlotry, impregnating schoolgirls under the pretense of being some visitation from God..."

"How would you--" Griffin tries, and fails, to look around. "You weren't even there, either of you. So I don't quite see what qualifies--"

"--me to judge? Heard about it, old boy; all the juicy details, courtesy of Quartermain. Fifty or so palpitating virgins, caught between their flog-happy instructresses and you; there's a dillemma whose horns could sodomize two choirboys at once."

"Little strumpets rather enjoyed my nightly ministrations, far as I could tell."

"Ah, 'course. Much like you're 'enjoying' this."

Griffin gasps: Much like, yes. Or to put it another way, just exactly the same--

(give or take)

Hyde snuffles along Griffin's shoulder to mouth his jugular with rubbery lips, fangs just denting the skin above the Invisible's hammering pulse. It's a black explosion, blood to the head, an airless cry: A tiny orgasm in itself, the very little death. An execution deferred.

Griffin's shivers have become a juddering palsy in this cruel rehearsal's wake, practically epileptic; he expects to swallow his own tongue any moment now. And the touch of Hyde's elephantine engorgement, working its way between his spread buttocks, certainly doesn't help.

"You, oh--good God, Hyde, hold on! You can't possibly hope to--"

"Can't I? I think you'd be amazed by what I can do, if only I take a mind."

"No, I mean...well, look: The size of you, d'you see? You'd spilt me in bloody half--"

A purr: "Quite."

Hands and wall and that thing knocking at the core of him like a battering-ram. Hyde humps against him as Griffin humps back, fighting for his very life, while the stroking reaches a pitch that leaves friction-burns. Hands and wall and NO AIR and Jesus, is this as helpless and hating and yet horribly alive as the constable must have felt, the moment before Griffin bashed his brain in with that half-brick? It's enough to put a man off murder for life--

(--mmm. Not quite.)

But then it's there, and then it's here, and then it's nothing but bloody over: Griffin arches, spurts with a spray of spunk so hot it feels like a cut artery as Hyde hugs him to him, discharging so copiously himself that it soaks Griffin right up between the shoulderblades. The both of them groaning, glued fast--oh, ehhhh, good Christ and all His angels, ungh, uck. Sticky.

Hyde raises a paw, licks up the evidence and grins his nasty grin, releasing Griffin at last. Ordering, as he does--

"Better go clean up, hadn't you? If you don't want to make a...spectacle of yourself."


Then walks away whistling, a jaunty mountain, leaving Griffin curled on the floor and panting, feeling everything drain--slowly--out of him. Alone in a dark room far, far beneath the sea, with only the glowing fish outside to light his way.

And: This, he finally thinks, when he's capable of forming thoughts again, was, without doubt, the very definition of...impractical. Impractical to consider, impractical to DO. Let alone, in some tiny part of your tiny, jittering, drug-crazed mind, to even vaguely contemplate--


He rolls onto his back, studies the ceiling. Finds himself beginning to hum the very same tune Hyde sauntered off to--something familiar, something childish. Something about gathering nuts in May, or some such. Entirely a bit too pleased with himself, for a person who's just been wanked on by a gorilla in evening-dress.

Ah, well: Obscure obsessions have always been Griffin's downfall, just like every other member of the League--all his fellow freaks, his odd familial unit of spying, inventing, killing circus-turns. Each to his--

--or hers, or his again--


In Griffin's world, after all, the worst fate he can imagine has usually been to be seen, in all your multitudinous lack of glory. To be known for what you are, judged and found wanting. To be...forgiven.

That's certainly one possibility he'll never have to fret over, with Hyde.

Meanwhile, the Nautilus skims on, impeturbably; it was invented to facilitate all such explorations, however unlikely, or ill-advised. Like its Captain, it has seen far stranger things, and worse.

The Gods in the corners grin and pose, meanwhile. And Kali dances on.


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