Beginnings Are For Morning
The morning air was not refreshing, or cool, or brisk. It was hard, and cold against his face, whipping it occasionally with a back-handed slap of sharp, frosty air. Still, he stood on the deck, hands tucked shallow in his pockets despite the growing numbness that bribed him to bury his fingers deep in for warmth. His combed auburn hair and neatly folded collar now fell ruffled and rumpled in the heavy gusts that penetrated the dawn. He shivered involuntarily, then sighed. There was no real purpose for him to be up here at such an unpleasant time; still the change of view from the long sweeping halls and pristine everything of the Nautilus was a strong enough incentive to face the bitter, unyielding atmosphere outside.
He leaned forward placing his hands on the frozen railing, the etched lines in his face appearing clearer at the discomfort of tender flesh against the harsh metal. He listened to the scraping of waves against the Nautilus, the grating sound doing nothing for his mood. Stepping back, he bent forward until his forehead was suspended inches from the railing, loose strands of dark hair encompassing his vision. He stared at the rail slicked with ice, seeing nothing, and feeling only the all enclosing coldness that numbed his body into uncomfortable stiffness.
He let out another long sigh, puffs of warm breath flowing from his mouth, hovering slightly, then lazily dispersing with the wind.
"If only I could be that free." he thought, the sound of his voice not reaching his own ears.
"Now wot good would ya be as nothin', doc." Jekyll started at the familiar thick-accented, playful voice coming somewhere from his right. He jerked up and whirled around, but was more surprised to not see the invisible man in his usual garb than he was to realize his unnoticed presence.
"Sorry 'bout that doc, just didn't wanna disturbe ya." Jekyll sighed frustrate.
"How long have you been here?"
"Jus' since ya started fantasizing 'bout disappearing."
" I didn't hear you open the door." Jekyll replied evenly, a hint of accusation in his voice. Skinner chuckled good humouredly.
"Don't expect ya would, concentrat'n hard enough not feel this wretched cold."
It was then Jekyll realized not only was the invisible man barefoot on the frozen deck, he was completely naked and exposed to the unforgiving frozen wind. Jekyll narrowed his eyes in what he hoped to be a dangerous manner.
"The only reason you would choose not to wear clothes out here, is because you wished to spy on me."
"Or maybe I find the breeze refreshing." he offered, laughter heard in his tone. The disembodied voice was now closer to Jekyll's side, that lighthearted smile even brighter in his speech.
Jekyll sighed again deeply, abandoning his exaggerated malice for the somber ache that seemed ever present lately. He turned once more to the ocean, trusting himself to look foolish trying to locate the face of his uninvited companion. 'Still though,' he thought to himself, 'it is less dismal with someone else here, invisible thief or not.'
"So, uh…" Skinner tried, reproachfully, " you know why I be up 'ere so early," Jekyll scowled at his side, " wot exactly you be doing up 'ere, lookin' out like you want'n to be jumpin' overboard, for?" Jekyll grimaced.
" Please, I have a more than enough lethal ingredients in my quarters than to have to come up here…" he muttered under his breath without thought. As his words registered, he winced in realization of what he had implied. The invisible man was silent, which unnerved him even further.
"What I meant was-"
"'S okay, doc, I know how frustratin' it can be." Skinner cut him off, the playfulness disappeared completely. "Some days, ya just think givin' up is better for everyone." The bitterness in his voice rivaled that in the frigid air. Jekyll was startled by the sudden shift from the persona of Skinner he knew, to these utterly… familiar thoughts coming from someone outside of his own mind.
Silence hung in the air, not all together uncomfortable. The soft plumes of Skinner's breath beside him eased a tension in Jekyll he hadn't realized was there until the knots and strain of his shoulders slacked and gave way. The wave's sloshing had died down, now only emitting a smooth brushing against the hull, and the wind had begun to quiet. When Skinner next spoke, he seemed to reflect the calming of the dawn.
"We be lot alike, you 'nd me, doc." Henry could feel Skinner's eyes on him and turned on his elbows to face the low voice, expecting more. But seconds passed and nothing came from the thief, though Jekyll could still feel him, see the slightly wet spots on the railing where his hands had melted the frost.
Before he understood, before he could move away, Skinner's long arms had wrapped him in a protective embrace, the soft heat of his body feeling impossibly good, the nakedness of his flesh, unashamed. Jekyll opened his mouth but no words came. 'How long has it been since someone's touched me like this?' Jekyll felt Skinner's breathing near his ear, his chest pressing into the buttons of his coat. 'Far too long.' His eyes slid shut and Henry let out a grateful sigh, resting his forehead on the cool, bare shoulder, his arms hanging limply by his side.
" 'S okay," Skinner's hands stroked his back in long, languid sweeps. Henry felt the rumble of the man's soft chuckle vibrate deep inside himself. " I know 'ow sick ya can feel sometimes, 'n feel like there's not a soul t' list'n." Henry's chest contracted painfully, and he had to fight the knot in his throat from rising up into an embarrassing sob. 'Where did the slick thief go, who is this friend who says what I can not?' He swallowed the surfacing emotions, burring them for a different time.
Just as the moment had come, it passed when Skinner released Jekyll, the loss of warmth and touch like a small pulse of disappointment through his heart.
"'Spose we get inside, doc? 'M freez'n me bits off out 'ere." Skinner said accompanied by the sounds of rubbing his hands together exaggeratedly. Jekyll's lips quirked up into a small smile. 'There's Skinner.' The door of the hull swung open spontaneously, warm air drifting out to greet Henry.
He peered into the light ship, again feeling Skinner's gentle presence in front of him. Henry turned his head, facing the rising sun lacing bright ribbons within the sea line, creating a content glow that tingled through his body as well. As he stepped through the door, Henry grinned despite himself. 'Well. Today holds promise,' he thought, closing the hull door behind them.