Skinner sighed, and watched as the sun set behind the horizon. The salty breeze was a gentle finger on his bare skin, and he absently told himself, for the twentieth time, that watching the sunset from the conning tower of the Nautilus was a wonderful sight. Ever since he'd been able to walk around, after recovering from the terrible burns that he'd gotten thanks to that tankman in Mongolia, he had come here every evening. He'd given up waking up in the morning, mainly because too many times he had awoken with terrible hangovers, once which almost resulted in his falling over the side of the submersible.

Usually he had company on the deck; Tom Sawyer loved to practice his shots. Today, though, Tom was somewhere else, probably trying to woo a certain chemist. Skinner would be off doing that, too, if he hadn't been caught rummaging through her underwear drawer last week. Mina looked ready to rip his throat out, and Skinner was now avoiding her whenever possible.

Alone, he had time to think.

So far, he'd gone over his thoughts on the mission, and was satisfied that they'd done it well, despite the sheer number of things blowing up and the death of Allan Quatermain.

Now, as he leaned against the rail of the conning tower, he had time to think about each member of this...this menagerie. Interesting bunch of folks, he thought, We're practically a walking freak-show.

Then again, who was he to criticize? He was invisible, after all; the second invisible man the world had seen, if one would excuse the pun. Also, he was a rogue, and unashamed of it — or so he gave the impression.

The League members thought he'd been born on the street, in any number of dire circumstances that had forced him into crime. He let that assumption remain, although he never spoke of his past. It was too painful for him, not to mention he valued his privacy.

I wonder what Father would say, Skinner mused, He always said I'd mix around with the wrong kind of company.

The thief reached into coat pocket, and fished about in it. Finally, he pulled out a pocket-watch, much like the one Jekyll had with him. No one knew of the watch, since they thought Skinner couldn't read the time in the first place. Hardly, he thought, making a noise, Then again, they don't know I used to read Shakespeare and Victor Hugo.

Skinner ran his thumb over the closed surface of the watch. It was a fine specimen, gold in color, not too heavy. The chain was in good shape, and it was clean — Skinner made sure it was well-polished. He was like that for some time, examining the surface of the watch. Finally, he flipped open the cover.

He ignored the watch face itself, knowing what time it was already. Instead, on the inside of the cover, there was an engraving. It was basically a merry Christmas greeting from his twin sister, given to him about a decade ago.

Skinner let himself another sigh, closing the watch as he did so. That watch was the only thing he'd saved from his past, and he still wondered why he kept it. At the same time, he didn't want to get rid of it, although it would fetch a good price.

The League didn't know that Skinner hadn't grown up on the streets, or that he had had gotten a good education. He hoped it would stay that way, because he knew Father would be implicated in a scandal if it leaked onto the streets. Actually, he didn't give a damn about Father, but more of his sister and mother. He loved his Mam and Mary-Jane with all his heart, and he didn't want to hurt them.

The truth, and the only truth, was that Rodney Skinner had been born to a wealthy noble family, his father a Lord, his parents at the pinnacle of society. The clothes Anna Skinner wore were always the talk of the town, and mothers and daughters alike would rush to have similar dresses made. The investments his father made would be quickly mirrored by others of the same social status. Mary-Jane was much admired, because she had been born into such a family.

He had once also been part of this grandness, the elder son of the family and heir to the Lordship. But Rodney Skinner had always been different in some way or another, and that was, perhaps, the reason he had turned out like this.

Hey, dad, look at me
Think back and talk to me
Did I grow up according to plan?
And do you think I'm wasting my time
Doing things I wanna do?
But it hurts when you disapprove all along

Skinner, unconsciously, gripped the watch a little harder. He remember the last words his father had said to him, more than a decade ago. The younger Skinner had just announced his plans to join a performing troupe. His skill on the violin had caught the manager's attention, and the 18-year-old had a bright future in front of him.

"You are no son of mine if you walk out that door!" Skinner senior had said. His mother and sister had watched the two men of the family have it out, and Rodney had walked out the door with only the clothes on his back and his violin case.

And now I try hard to make it
I just want to make you proud
I'm never gonna be good enough for you
Can't pretend that I'm all right
And you can't change me

He'd traveled with the troupe for a while, gaining fame as the wonderful violin player. There had been a night, when they were in Paris, about thirteen years ago. He had seen his family in the audience. Mother and Mary-Jane had sought him out after the performance, and Father had followed behind the ecstatic pair. Skinner had been delighted to see his mother and sister, but the look on his father's face still haunted him, at times.

And now I try hard to make it
I just want to make you proud
I'm never gonna be good enough for you
Can't pretend that I'm all right
And you can't change me

Skinner found it very ironic, really. As a boy he had sought his father's approval in everything. In every subject he'd been tutored in, in every thing he did. On the verge of manhood he'd chosen to take a different path, defying everything he had been taught. He shunned society, preferring to spend his days with his friends and his violin.

Eventually he had realized that he liked the life of a gypsy. The drink had suited him just fine, as had the people and the sense of fellowship. He'd spend several years with his new family, traveling the world and performing. After a stage accident — and resultant death of one of their brood — in the Paris Opera House under mysterious circumstances, the band of performers were disbanded.

Skinner had found his way back to London, and to what he knew. His father had long ago disowned him, but Rodney could defend himself.

'Cause we lost it all
Nothing last forever
I'm sorry I can't be perfect
Now it's just too late and we can't go back
I'm sorry I can't be perfect

He knew a few poor performers, and they had helped him secure a apartment. His savings were enough for a while, but then he ran out of money. No matter how hard he tried, Skinner couldn't find a job, despite his education. So he turned to crime.

At first it was just picking pockets of the men. His upbringing had stopped him from preying on the women. And then, over time, when his conscience started to ease up, he progressed to cutting reticule strings. At night, he would play his violin on the corner, earning a few shillings. It supplemented the earnings from his "day job". But these coins he got from the violin playing, he used to buy treats for the streets kids. He had made friends with some, and it hurt his heart to see them starving. It was unfair, really; he'd had such a luxurious childhood, while these children were fighting tooth and nail to survive. His father would not have approved — but his father hadn't seen the world the same way his son had.

His sister had chanced upon him in the street, and with the blessings of her mother he had been invited to her wedding. She was going to get married to a son of a naval admiral or something along those lines.

Of course, he'd been at his beloved sister's wedding. He had been forced to sit next to his father during the church service, and again at the dinner. They hadn't exchanged a word, although Rodney had so longed to talk to his dad again.

I try not to think
About the pain I feel inside
Did you know you used to be my hero?
All the days you spent with me
Now seem so far away
And it feels like you don't care anymore

And then he'd gotten wind of the invisibility serum.

Skinner had been about twenty-five then, and the thought of being invisible was thrilling. He was still estranged from his father, and now his brother-in-law. Mary-Jane had been barred from visiting him in his humble little flat in Whitechapel.

It was all good that way, perhaps. He'd hatched a plan, to go solo and take this invisibility formula, so fabled amongst the thieves. Skinner's plan had been to take it, and then break into his old house and show his father what his son had become — Skinner wanted Father to be proud.

And now I try hard to make it
I just want to make you proud
I'm never gonna be good enough for you
I can't stand another fight
And nothing's alright

But something had gone wrong. Right after taking the formula in the lab, the original scientist — Griffin, albeit a deranged one — had returned. A fight had broken out, resulting in the house catching fire and Griffin's death. Skinner had managed to escape the fire, but it was only then that he realized the drawbacks of his newfound-power.

It would take him something along the order of half a year to get used to his invisibility. Day-to-day tasks like shaving and eating took him longest, mainly because he couldn't see his hands.

When Mary-Jane had given birth to a baby boy, he'd come to visit — in secret, of course. His nephew had seemed bewildered by the lack of a body, but the child had grabbed his finger and refused to let go. It took some wrestling and more than one promise to the child before James let go.
It had been night then, and Skinner was very careful to go in quietly. Mary-Jane slept soundly, while her husband was away. Still, his father had heard, from down the hall.

Skinner senior had come to the door, to check what all the noise was about — how he could have heard, Rodney had no idea — and Skinner's heart had literally stopped beating for that moment when the door opened.

But he'd passed undetected, and watched in silence as his father comforted the baby. Skinner had felt a pang of jealously then; the little boy was being shown the love that Skinner hadn't really felt in his years. Why?

'Cause we lost it all
Nothing last forever
I'm sorry I can't be perfect
Now it's just too late and we can't go back
I'm sorry I can't be perfect

The answer had come to him just after he'd left the house. James was perfect, that was why; James could grow up to be the man that Lord Skinner had wanted his son to be.

That was eight years ago — Skinner had never visited after that incident.

And now he was in this menagerie of freaks, not that he minded.

The League was headed back to London, to meet one Mycroft Holmes, part of the Special Branch. He was to tell them what would become of their little group. They were a mere hour away from the East London docks.

An hour later, as the ramps were lowered and the Nautilus's engines powered down, Skinner descended the ramp with his friends. He tried to mask the surprised expression on his face when he saw Mycroft Holmes, and his father standing next to him.

Nothing's gonna change the things that you said
Nothing's gonna make this right again
Please don't turn your back
I can't believe it's hard just to talk to you
But you don't understand

As Mina and Tom (the League's unofficial new leaders) greeted Holmes with all the formalities and niceties, the Skinners were involved in a staring match. They didn't exchange a word, no; but the Skinner in the League could see that his father was surprised to see him there.

'Cause we lost it all
Nothing lasts forever
I'm sorry I can't be perfect
Now it's just too late and we can't go back
I'm sorry I can't be perfect

The invisible man would have loved to say something, but he was smart enough not to go there. He had forgiven his father already, but he wasn't sure if his father still regarded Rodney as his son.

The League and Holmes began to move off. Skinner regarded his father.

Lord Edward Holmes merely turned on his heel and walked off, heading to the front of the group.

That night, Skinner sat alone in his room. His father hadn't forgiven him, even after so many years.

Skinner sighed again, and stood up. Going over to his bag, he pulled out his violin and let the long, mournful notes fill the cabin.

'Cause we lost it all
Nothing lasts forever
I'm sorry I can't be perfect
Now it's just too late and we can't go back
I'm sorry I can't be perfect


A/N: I wrote this for Father's Day, although it comes a little late.... The song is "Perfect", by Simple Plan.