And it was with these thoughts in mind that I sauntered into the dining room that morning for breakfast, face unpainted, wearing only my coat. I didn't care to look around and see who was already there, I just knew I wasn't alone.
"Skinner? I'm shocked," Mina's voice reached my ears as I sat down in my usual seat. "I don't think I've ever seen you up this early." I sighed, shaking my head. I tried to shrug her off, but the angry retort in my head was just biting to escape. Ah, I'd never been able to control my tongue. I raised my head to look at her, wondering if my glare would be a piercing one, had I still had my eyes.
"And I don't think you've ever even seen me," I spat out. Jekyll, also known as that trembling, sickly looking fool sitting to Mina's right, looked quite taken aback by my humorless riposte and it gave me a cruel sense of satisfaction. Mina, on the other hand, looked concerned. Damn her and her "nurturing instincts."
"Skinner, are you all right?" she asked softly while still maintaining that hard tone she always used when speaking to me. It made me feel like a disobedient child that had just fallen ill. It was the voice my mother used when I broke my arm. All three times I broke my arm.
Just fine," I growled, sounding rather pathetic in my mind, "except for the fact that I just realized I've forgotten what color my eyes are," I continued under my breath. Christ, I was sounding a touch whiny now wasn't I? Jekyll let his mouth fall open as if he were going to reply, but a pitiable moan from the doorway cut him off.
Who the hell could that be? I wondered bitterly.
"Oh Tom, what's the matter?" Mina cried, turning her attention to the young American obviously now standing in the doorway behind me. Within seconds both Jekyll and Mina were at poor Sawyer's side, completely forgetting I had ever entered.
Of course, just ignore the invisible man sitting right here and rush to Sawyer, I longed to bark at the two. God knows he doesn't get enough attention already.
Ah, so my tongue only worked when I didn't want to say something bitter and resentful. Got it.
"I think it was something I ate," Sawyer groaned pitifully. That man made my brain ache.
"Then why the hell did you bother even getting up!" I grumbled quite unexpectedly, startling even myself. My jaw tightened as I shoved my chair back and spun around. If they could see my eyes, Sawyer would know I was glaring daggers directly at him. I hoped he could tell anyways. "If you're really sick, you should be in bed you sodding moron! In case you haven't noticed, your presence, or lack thereof, is generally noticed, and if you sleep in long enough someone will come check on you! But instead of doing the sensible thing, you decided to chance the fact that someone would be down here in the dining room, preferably a good looking vampire woman, and stumbled on down, groaning all the way!" I stopped, my chest heaving as I advanced on Sawyer. He looked shocked, as well as a bit green. "Bloody Americans," I mumbled when I got up right close to his ear, and stocked off to my cabin. My appetite was effectively lost.
My cabin was the standard size, I'm guessing, but it always felt a bit cramped. I never really cared much for cleanliness and, though Nemo's men cleaned it every weekend whether I wanted it clean or not, it was almost always cluttered. I never unpacked my things, as that meant permanence, and permanence was a curse word in my world, so my various cases stood stacked in the corner. The things that did find their way out, however, never found their way back, and they were everywhere. Assorted books and items of clothing were scattered across the floor and the table, and my signature pince-nez glasses, hat and coat lay on my dresser along with my greasepaint. I sometimes wondered if I ever wanted to become visible again. How else was I going to get away with running around starkers all the time?
Nonetheless, there was one thing I purposefully unpacked, and that was my picture. For some reason, even after it betrayed me and forced me to join up with the League, I still felt an attachment to it. It was me. The real me. The visible me. Shoving it back into storage would be like destroying every chance I'll ever have of becoming that boy again. Could I really give up that easily?
A knock on my door startled me out of my reverie. I didn't want to know who it was. I didn't want to talk, I didn't want to eat, I didn't want to help save the bloody world. Didn't they read the sign?
"Skinner? Skinner! Open up, it's Mina."
No, I thought it was the other woman on this ship. Even while drowning in self-pity I couldn't help thinking feebly sarcastic comments.
"Yeah? And why should I open my door?" I mumbled, though I wasn't sure if she heard me.
"Skinner, just open the door. I'm not going to mock you if that's what you're afraid of."
Oh yes, I have nightmares that the evil vampire lady is mocking me.
"Can't you read the sign?" I sighed as I opened the door in spite of myself.
"Yes, 'Don't want to talk, Don't want to eat, Don't want to help save the bloody world.' It's poetry Skinner," she yawned.
"Well I hope it's not too symbolic for you to understand." Mina glared at me.
"Just let me in."
"Hold on, hold on for a second there. What's the magic word?" More glaring. "All right, you can come in, but I don't understand why you're so insistent on talking to me," I grumbled as I pulled the door back to let her in.
"Because for the first time in the short while I've known you, you showed you were actually human and I was curious as to why the sudden change."
"Surprise, surprise, Rodney's a real boy!" I murmured sardonically as I pulled on my coat and swiftly applied my face paint like I had done hundreds of times before. I slipped on my sunglasses as well, knowing full well how much my face looked like a disturbing mask without them. Mina followed me to my dresser and began looking around.
"Who are these people?" she asked almost accusingly. I turned to see where she was looking. Damn. She'd spotted my picture.
And yet another surprise, the real boy has a real family!
"That's me and my family," I replied, a bit offended that she seemed to be thinking anything bad.
"Which one are you?"
Well let's just keep prying into my past, why don't we? Let's see if there are any traumatizing events in my childhood I blocked out!
"I'm the one in the middle, the one sitting down," I assented with a deep sigh. "Those are my parents behind me, of course."
"And the others?"
"My brother and sisters. That's my sis— " I started to point out one of my sisters as I spoke, but stopped when I realized she couldn't see my finger. I snatched my gloves from the dresser and pulled them on impatiently. "That's my sister, Eliza, she's four years younger than me," I continued, an incredibly fake calm tone in my voice as I pointed to my youngest sister. "And that's Sarah right there, she's only a year younger than me, my brother Nicholas is on my other side, he's three years older than me, and then there's Caroline, right there with the smug little smile, she's the eldest, five years older than yours truly."
Mina let out an unexpected sigh. She looked to be having a very heated internal debate and it showed in her eyes. She sighed again.
"Are you hinting at something dearest Mina or do you just have too much air in your lungs?" Mina spun around on her heel and looked me right in the eyes. Well, actually, right in the glasses, but she was as close to my eyes as anyone could get.
"Skinner, if I said I knew of a formula that would reverse your invisibility would you be willing to work hard to get to it?" I froze. It couldn't be, it had to be a lie, a joke. Sawyer must have put her up to it. He was mad at me for yelling at him so he told Mina to come get my hopes up only to dash them down again and crush them with her black boot heels. But…was Mina that talented of an actress? She wasn't Dorian for God's sake.
"Skinner?" she repeated as if she wasn't sure I had even heard her.
"Are you lying to me?" I finally breathed out in a barely audible voice.
"What? Lying, why would I be lying?" I turned around, hoping my body language and the serious lines pulling my face taut showed how truly serious I was for once.
"If you're lying Mina…" I trailed off.
"The French government recently acquired it. Tom learned of it through his connections in the Service. They're not willing to release any information about it yet, but I'm sure if you were able to steal the formula to become invisible, the antidote should be a snap." I felt a smile relax my features and I turned to my mirror. The picture was still on the dresser. That hideous mask I called my face still stared back at me from the mirror. I touched my face tentatively. To see that face again would be bliss. To see my pale, almost pigmentless skin again, instead of this paint that made it seem as if I truly were albino, would truly be heaven on earth.
I turned back around to look at Mina, my relaxed smile quickly turning into a frighteningly toothless grin.
"Well then, let's get to it. How's my face supposed to devastate the ladies like this?"