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Bloodletting

Upon arriving back on the Nautilus, things were basically a blur. Some of the League had been running on pure adrenaline against Dracula, and were running low. The only thing they managed to do was unload Dracula's ashes into one of Nemo's underwater coffins and fire it off into the deep, where no blood could ever bring them back to life. They had then collapsed on their beds in an exhausted state, with promises from Mina to reveal the full details of where she had gone on Christmas, at the latest.

*****

The next morning, things were fairly quite in the Nautilus. Nemo had decided that, given their rather tiring time last night, the League would spend the day either relaxing on the observation deck or wrapping presents, the Nautilus having been hidden away in a small cove near to Burgas.

Later on in the day, Mina and Hyde headed out to the nearby forests to find a decent Christmas tree. Having found it, Hyde pulled it up, Mina trimmed the roots, and they carried it into the Nautilus's main meeting room, with the central table moved aside. They left it there, knowing Nemo's crew would decorate; they were having their Christmas party before the League had theirs.

The only person to see the tree before the party was Skinner, who sneaked into the room hoping to catch someone wrapping presents unawares. However, he found all the presents under the tree already. The tree itself was a very impressive specimen, reaching all the way up to the top of the room and covered with baubles and tinsel, along with a few smaller decorations. He even noticed a small crucifix, and wished he'd seen it earlier; it would have been welcome in the fight with Dracula.

He was tempted to peek at the presents, but that was something he'd never done at home, and saw no reason to start now. He simply checked to make sure all the League's presents were in the centre of the bunch of presents around the tree, and then headed back to his room. They were all due a good lie-in.

*****

The next morning, Sawyer was the last one at the League's Christmas party. Having arrived just outside, he opened the door and met, on the other side, a coat and a pair of trousers that were waving a glass of Scotch in the air, while warbling through 'God Save the Queen'. Evidently Skinner had been at the alcohol already.

He noted, with some relief, that none of the others were in Skinner's condition. Unlike him, they'd also gone to some effort for the party.

Jekyll had put on a dark blue suit with a similarly coloured waistcoat that resembled Dorian's chosen attire, but the shirt had no ruffles on it. Sawyer had on a similar outfit, but it was a dark shade of red, almost reaching brown.

Nemo was in what seemed to be his usual outfit, but it had a great deal of gold trim on it around the sleeves and chest, and also on the turban.

Mina was wearing a far more catching outfit than normal; she was wearing a long gown with fetchingly puffed sleeves in a brilliant red. Her hair was down and lacked its usual curls, and she was wearing a silver necklace that just managed to cover Dracula's old bites on her neck.

"Ah, Tom me old mate! How are you, man?" Skinner smiled, tipping his glass at Sawyer so much that it nearly spilled some Scotch onto the floor.

Sawyer smiled. "Well, Skinner. Thanks for asking." He glanced over at the others. "Has he been like this for long?"

"Not too long," Nemo assured him. "We've been waiting for you for only about half an hour, but Skinner started drinking some slightly strong Scotch and took too much of it too fast."

"Ah," Sawyer smiled, as he joined his friends at the table. He glanced over the dishes waiting for them on the table; an appetizing-looking Christmas cake, various assorted cold and hot meats, heated vegetables (Including carrots, parsnips and broccoli), fresh- caught salmon, and some tomato soup.

Sawyer glanced over at Mina after noting the last. "That is just tomato, right?"

"Of course," Mina replied, smiling slightly at him. "What, did you think I'd get back at you all for suspecting me by giving you blood soup?"

"I-in our defence, we didn't all think it was you; S-Sawyer didn't, for example," Jekyll pointed out, nervously fiddling with his pocket watch. At the same time, Skinner switched from singing 'God Save the Queen' to singing what appeared to be Beethoven's Third, but with no talent and often making mistakes.

"Yes, and the rest of us did not think it was definitely you, just that it might be," Nemo put in.

"Really?" Mina said, looking over at Sawyer with a slight smile on her face. Sawyer turned away before she could see him blushing, and compensated by getting up, walking over to Skinner, and taking his glass out of his hand.

"Hey!" Skinner yelled, scrabbling over for the drink (Which Sawyer had held high above his head) and falling over. "Whassat for?"

"I think you've had more than enough, Skinner," Sawyer said, grabbing his friend by the back of the coat. The coat twisted slightly, and Sawyer got the impression Skinner was looking at him now.

"I can never have too much Scotch, Tommy boy!" Skinner yelled, as he staggered to his feet. "I've always had it before I heard of some of my greatest heists! It's my lucky drink! I had some-"

"On the day you heard of Hawley Griffin?" Mina asked politely.

Skinner groaned a little. "Got me there, luv. I suppose it isn't all that lucky."

Mina glared at him. "Don't call me 'luv', Skinner."

Skinner swallowed and shut up.

"Well, now that we have that business over with, shall we eat?" Nemo asked, indicating the food."

"Agreed!" Sawyer smiled, as he and Skinner joined the table. He noted, with some puzzlement, that the League had given him the position at the top of the table. However, he decided to just treat it as a simple mistake and they got on with eating.

Things generally went well at the meal; the League didn't exactly take it too well when they realised that they could actually see Skinner chewing (Enough to disturb anybody!), but all he needed to do was put his cream on and the problem was gone.

After they were finished, the League turned over to the matter of Christmas presents. Nemo had been given a recently- published book regarding marine life by Sawyer (He knew Nemo would find nothing new, but thought he would enjoy seeing what people above thought of them), a new batch of tools by Jekyll, a new sword by Skinner, and a book on martial arts by Mina, in case he felt like going over the basics of some old moves.

Skinner had been given a new coat by Sawyer, a new set of lock-picks from Jekyll and Nemo, and Mina had given him a pair of gloves. Jekyll had acquired a new set of chemicals from Mina, a new watch from Nemo, a new coat from Skinner (Which included a note requesting he didn't wear it on missions) and a new set of glass bottles for the serum from Sawyer.

Mina found herself receiving a new set of chemicals from Jekyll, a sword from Nemo, a necklace from Skinner (Nobody asked where he got it from, they had a feeling they didn't want to know), and an elegant gown from Sawyer. She smiled at him as she slipped it away, and he just mumbled briefly to only wear on party occasions like today.

Then it was Sawyer's turn. His gifts included a new gun from Nemo, a coat from Skinner, and a group photograph of the League from Jekyll. As Sawyer unwrapped it, he smiled briefly at the memory of when that picture had been taken; there'd been a bit of debate as to whether or not it should be Jekyll or Hyde in the picture, and then they needed to decide on if Skinner should wear his paint or not. Eventually they'd decided on a paintless, but clothed, Skinner and Jekyll.

Then he came to Mina's present. He opened it up- and stared at the contents. They were five books, all of them looking in such good condition that he could have sworn they'd never even been in shops. He picked one of them up at random and looked at the title.

"The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells?" he read, before looking up at Skinner. "Is this about you, or is it Griffin?"

"Griffin," Skinner smiled. "I never really did anything to merit a book when I was by myself."

"So...wait a minute..." Sawyer said, as he began to check over the other four books. Dracula, by Bram Stoker... King Solomon's Mines, by H. Rider Haggard... Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson... Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne...

He looked up at Mina. "These are all about you guys, aren't they?" he asked.

"And Mr Quartermain," Mina replied, smiling at him again. "After you expressed an interest in our lives before we joined the League, I thought you'd like these. I had to pull a few strings with the writers, to say nothing of finding out something from this lot," she jerked her head at the other three at that, "and then spent ages picking them up, but I've had worse times."

"That where you were all those days, Miss Harker?" Skinner asked, looking over from where he was still picking at his cake.

"Exactly," Mina replied.

"Well...thanks!" Sawyer smiled, as he picked the books up and put them with his other presents.

"You're welcome," Mina smiled, as Sawyer joined the table again.

*****

The party went uneventfully after that. Skinner had so much more to drink that he attempted to grope Mina again and was narrowly stopped by Jekyll, before then going on to attempt to wear all the League's new clothes at once. It got him a few laughs, but they all agreed that they would never again have him wander around in anything of Mina's; an invisible man was bad enough, they didn't need him doing a drag act as well.

Eventually, the League all made their excuses and left the room, heading for their rooms. Sawyer was the last to leave, and, as he walked away, he picked King Solomon's Mines out of his collection of presents and stared at it.

Wish you could be here today, Allan, he thought, sighing sadly. Still, he thought, looking around the room, I may wish you hadn't died, but I wouldn't trade my time in the League for anything.

"Penny for your thoughts?" someone said behind him. Glancing back, Sawyer saw it was Mina.

"Oh, nothing much," he said, putting his presents down on the table. "Just thinking that... Allan would have liked this, wouldn't he?"

Mina placed a hand on his shoulder. "It wasn't your fault, Tom. If he'd died and you weren't there, Moriarty would have gotten away and the world would be in danger."

"But Moriarty only got the blow in because of me..." Sawyer replied, staring out a porthole.

Mina cocked one eyebrow at him. "Why?"

"I was being held hostage by Sanderson Reed- the Fantom's invisible man," Sawyer said, still looking out the porthole. He hadn't told the League this before, but he just had to get it off his chest. "Skinner and I had managed to dump some dust on him, but Skinner was badly burned and Reed had a knife to my throat. Quartermain saw our reflection in a mirror, and managed to shoot him down, but while he was distracted, the Fantom... stabbed him in the back..." He stopped looking at the porthole and just slumped down into a nearby chair, his head in his hands.

Mina sat down beside him and, taking his face in her left hand, turned him round to face her. "No," she said simply. "Get this into you, Tom; Allan's death was not your fault. It wouldn't have made a difference if it had been you or me or Skinner or Nemo there; he would have done it for anybody. Reed would probably have tried to capture one of us for use as a hostage, you just happened to be the wrong place at the wrong time. You. Are. Not. To. Blame. Clear?"

Sawyer smiled at her as she took her hand away. "Thanks," he said, grinning his typical boyish grin.

"Anytime," Mina smiled at him. "After all, isn't that what friends are for?"

"Friends...or more?" Sawyer asked cocking one eyebrow.

Mina didn't bother answering that question with a spoken reply. Instead, she leaned in closer to Sawyer, and kissed him.

For a moment Sawyer was surprised but then he got back on track, and began to return the kiss. As it heated up, the two of them clutched each other, pressing themselves ever closer, savouring the feel of each other's lips.

Mina was enraptured. Dorian and her other lovers had all made her feel good, she had always thought, but Sawyer... the simple taste of him made her feel things she hadn't felt since the loss of Jonathan.

Sawyer couldn't believe it. Part of him was thinking that this was all some dream, maybe caused by something he'd drunk at the party. Another part thought that maybe Mina was the drunk one. Then there was a third part that told him to just savor the sweet taste of her, the scent, the feel... she may have been a vampire, but she felt like an angel.

Eventually, despite his best efforts, Sawyer was forced to part from Mina; she may have been able to last some time without any air, but he was less capable. Still, they didn't pull their heads too far apart; their foreheads were pressed close together, and their eyes were locked.

"Wow..." Sawyer said, looking back at Mina.

"'Wow' is indeed the word...Tom," Mina grinned back at him. "Everything you expected?"

"And more," Sawyer grinned, as the two of them kissed again. He'd never expected this to ever happen, and now that it had, he was loving it.

Just then, a thought occurred to him, and he pulled away from her.

"Tom?" Mina asked, concerned. Was it her? Had she done something wrong?

"It's not you... well, nothing you did," Sawyer assured her. "It's just, well... your vampire blood. Won't it take over at your height and make you... y'know... drink me?"

Mina smiled in relief. "No worries, Tom. That was another thing I did while I was away; I checked up on vampire culture with a local expert. He told me that, so long as I never drink the blood of the innocent, Dracula's blood can only be unleashed when I wish it."

Tom grinned at her happily, before kissing her again. He knew that the news was one of the best things for Mina, and he wanted to help her celebrate the only way he could.

By loving her.

*****

Outside the room, although neither of them knew it, someone was watching them; Skinner, who'd just dropped in to see if anyone was still there and had arrived just as they started kissing. He had briefly contemplated interrupting and congratulating them both, but decided against it.

Besides, they'll probably reveal it to us all publicly anyway, he thought, as he turned away from the door and walked off down the corridor, back towards his room. Only thing I can do is wish them all the best.