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A Face in the Crowd
Two or three days later, Skinner stood on the conning tower of the Nautilus, looking out ahead of him as the sun began to set.
Having recovered, the League members who'd still felt in good condition (Jekyll and Hartdegen had felt too out of it to continue) had followed the bloodstains from Griffin's injury to try and find him, but they'd only managed to follow him as far as the side of the Thames before the drips had vanished. It looked as though Griffin had dived into the river to escape the League, but where he'd gone from there was anyone's guess.
They'd search for a while, but, when nothing had turned up, they'd decided to give up on the search for the moment. However, they'd decided to stay in London for a few more days, after sending a message to Mycroft to explain the situation and asking him to let them know if something came up that sounded like it could be Griffin's handiwork. The last few days had been relatively quiet so far, and the League were already thinking of moving on, but Skinner wanted to stay another day to make sure.
He just couldn't shake the feeling that he was to blame for Griffin even being here in the first place…
"Penny for your thoughts?" Sawyer asked, looking at his friend as he stared out at the Thames, illuminated in orange by the setting sun. The invisible thief had kept himself to himself ever since they'd returned to the Nautilus, leaving the League with little to no chance to talk to him about the recent events.
In particular, Sawyer had wanted to ask him why he'd come back to them. After all, Skinner had always made no bones of the fact that he wanted to be visible again, and yet, when he couldn't have had much more than an idea that the League were in trouble, he'd become invisible again just to help them…
"Keep the change," Skinner muttered, looking back at the spy before he turned back to stare at the sun.
Sighing, Sawyer walked over to stand beside his friend, leaning against the railing of the conning tower as he looked over at Skinner.
"Look, if you're down about Griffin, nobody blames you for him," he said, deciding he might as well take a chance and go for the most likely option.
"What?" Skinner asked, looking at the spy in confusion. "Why would I be blaming myself for Griffin?"
"Because he only came after us because you were a member of the League," Sawyer said, looking at his friend as he spoke. "If I were you, I'd be feeling a bit guilty."
Skinner sighed as he stared out at the river before him.
"Yeah, a bit, I guess…" he said, as he looked back at Sawyer. "I mean, I know it's not like I did it deliberately or anything, it's just… well…"
He groaned again. "I dunno; I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore…"
Sawyer swallowed slightly; if he didn't do this now, he'd never get it said…
"Uh… if you don't mind me asking… why'd you do it?" he asked.
Skinner looked over at his unofficial leader in confusion.
"Do what?" he asked, puzzled.
"Become invisible again," Sawyer said, looking at Skinner inquiringly as he spoke. "I mean, you've wanted that ever since you got into the League, and then you just… gave it up? When you weren't even sure that you'd get there in time to make a difference no matter what you did? Why?"
Skinner smiled slightly at the question.
"Well, Tommy ol' boy," he said, grinning as he turned to clap his hand on the young American's shoulder, "I realised something in my time away; once you're visible, it's bloody hard to qualify as extraordinary, and I couldn't be bothered to put in all the effort that I'd need to find something new that I'd be incredibly good at."
Sawyer blinked at Skinner in surprise.
"Are you saying… you missed being a member of the League?" he asked, slightly incredulously. "You always made it clear that you hated the missions, especially those where you had a chance of getting shot… Why'd you come back to that?"
Skinner shrugged. "The work may be lousy, but it's more than made up for by the company, if you ask me," he said, reaching over and clasping Sawyer's shoulder in an affectionate gesture.
"Besides," he added, looking at the spy with a wide grin on his face, "you know how they say you never appreciate what you've got until you've lost it? That's kind of what happened to me while I was away."
Sawyer nodded in understand at that comment. He didn't want to specify exactly what he thought Skinner meant, in case it war wrong, but he had a pretty good idea what the thief meant.
Skinner meant that, like they had become for Sawyer and Mina, the other League members had become his family.
They were hardly a normal one, and they weren't exactly a perfect one either, but, in every way that mattered, the League were a family. They were always there for each other, they were always prepared to risk their lives for each other, and they would do whatever it took to ensure that the rest of their family were safe.
Looking over at Skinner, Sawyer smiled slightly at the thought. The League all came from different backgrounds, had different powers, different hobbies, different religions, and even different tastes in food…
But, when you got down to it, they were all united in their uniqueness from the world at large.
As far as bonds went, that one was pretty strong.
"C'mon," Sawyer said, as he indicated the door and slung a companionable arm over Skinner's shoulders. "Let's go; dinner's up soon."