If Ever To Need
The ground tilted precariously beneath his palms. Mud and grime gleamed slick against Jekyll's pale and trembling hands, dirt sinking into the fresh scrapes and underneath his short fingernails. Gravel threatened to overtake him, slowly scraping forward on his hands and knees, both bloody and engrained with rocks and dust. His normally starched-collar shirt hung uselessly around him, wet and torn, it's translucency revealing splotches of dark bruises along his back and white neck. Another painful inch forward and he tensed, his body clenching into itself trying to hold the meager contents of his stomach inside of him. He fought the acid forming in his throat but it was too strong, and he was wracked with dry heaves, clear bile dripping in threads from his lips.
He raised his head feebly, scanning his path with fogged eyes, barely making out the gray of the night mist and the shining black of the ground against the blurred rain. For once, Hyde was silent with the same overwhelming fatigue, or perhaps Jekyll had lost the lucidity to comprehend anything outside go, move, survive.
Jekyll lurched forward again, hand crunching mercilessly on the loose rocks, throwing his balance and sending him crashing down into shards of rock, ripping into the already torn skin of his torso and face. As he pushed up again, for what seemed like the dozenth time, the ground thrust itself out from under his broken palms and he collided once more with the shallow puddles between the dirt and gravel.
He lay there finally, struggling to breathe, his arms and legs protesting with indifference to his demands to move. The rain struck his exposed cheek, dripping auburn hair falling into his eyes, the bare soles of his feet slowly rinsed from blood and muck. Jekyll stared at the horizon from one dilated pupil, a wall of textured black and mute gray, constantly being interrupted by the static of rain. The world shuddered and then began blending as he slowly lost focus, even his eyes betraying him, surrendering to exhaustion. In a final blink, swallowed up by the crippling darkness, Jekyll lost consciousness.
He was falling. There was blinding light, but he was falling. The pain was constant and thick, of course it would stay, stabbing into him everywhere and making it hard to breathe with every sudden lurch and tilt of his decent. This is wrong, he thought as the white glare of his certain fait dimmed, his eyes rolling into his skull as his conscience fled, Hell is supposed to be black.
Sulfur. It was the sulfur that hit him first. Then the familiar smell of antiseptic which persuaded him enough to open his eyes, half-fearing apocalyptic creatures.
There was that white again, though not as bright as he had recalled, blurry through the meager slits his eyelids allowed him to see from. But what caught his attention more was the fact that he was horizontal, comfortably horizontal. And from the feel of soft cotton and thin down, in a bed bunk. A hospital bed bunk.
Jekyll willed his eyes to work, blinking and squinting until the sting had left and he could make out the shadowed, white ceiling familiar to the Nautilus. However, surveying his whereabouts any further was out of the question, having attempted to lift onto his elbows and halted by several fiery stabs to the chest, breathing becoming a thing of great concern.
"Easy, mate, easy," came a familiar voice, gentle fingers pressing lightly on his collar to keep him still, something deliciously cold and wet finding his forehead. Once he could safely breathe again, Jekyll cracked open his eyes once more, peering through lashes at the worried painted face of an invisible thief.
"S-- ," was all he could manage, his throat coated with mucus from inactivity. Skinner watched him anxiously from his spot near the bed, removing the damp cloth from Jekyll's forehead.
"Try not to talk, mate. Ye've' been through a lot."
Jekyll looked up at the ceiling again, eyes traveling over the shelves of small labeled bottles and gauze, the wash bin lined with clean rags, the foot of the bed's metal frame, down the white dips and peaks of his assumed blanketed body, then back at Skinner. The man gave him a worried half-smile and leaned closer.
"D' you, uh, remember wot 'appened?"
A flash of hands and then the terrifying sensation of being hopelessly lost raced through Jekyll's mind. The thoughts halted nearly as soon as they began, though, replaced with an onslaught of dizziness, Jekyll wincing as he fought off nausea. He carefully shook his head in response, feeling his neck pop and strain with the small motion.
"Well, uh, we had jus' finished off the last o' them Spaniards when another lot came crashin' through the walls…an'…" he trailed off, looking unsure at Jekyll. "Y' do remember the mission, right?"
Yes, the mission. Simple enough, locate and fend off the renegade group of pirate merchants controlling the strait that connected the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. The trade route had been swarmed with attack ships, pillaging or sinking any boats that tried to cross through, completely terrorizing and controlling the imports and exports of all lower Europe. The plan had been to find their operation headquarters in Algreciras and destroy it, but they had not been counting on the sheer number of soldiers and advanced weaponry that swarmed them before they had even made it inside. Jekyll nodded and Skinner continued.
"Anyway, we barely finished 'em off before breakin' into the base. Sawyer was bleedin' all over and most o' Nemo's crew was in no bett'a shape, but we'd finally got past so we kept goin'. Thing is, they'd bloody booby-trapped the place, so here we was fightin' two battles. We nearly had 'em when your potion wore off an' Hyde turn'd back inta you." He paused to scrub his white face. Jekyll felt eyes on him, watching. Skinner quickly bowed his head, ghosts of shame and concern etched on his pinched mouth. "You started runnin' back to us for cover but got nabbed by 'em. Nemo saw an' tried to get to ya, but 'e got attacked again an' couldn' grab ya. When it was done he sent all the injured back to the ship an' we split up t' look for ya. You wasn't anywhere in the building so we searched the city." Skinner's eyes traced Jekyll's patched and bruised face, the doctor unaware of the sad gaze avoiding his own. "Some of the crew found ya 'bout two hours later, face down in the street. Mina thought y'ad lost a lot of blood 'cause y'looked so bad off. An' y'were really bad off, mate."
For the first time, Jekyll closed his fists and felt the familiar softness of cotton bandages around each palm. Slowly, he raised one stiff arm and grazed a hand over more covered wounds on his left side.
"Wh…when?" he croaked out. Skinner rose from his chair and disappeared behind Jekyll's line of sight, reemerging with a glass of water.
"Y' were in an' out when they were carryin' you to the infirm'ry, but when they started fixin' you up, ya blacked out and stayed that way." Resuming his spot, he carefully tilted the glass to Jekyll's mouth, the man drinking hungrily despite his torn upper lip. "Y've been 'ere nearly three days."
Jekyll barely caught himself from choking, swallowed quickly and guided the cup away from him.
"Three days?" he repeated, bewildered.
Jekyll eyed the ceiling, trying to concentrate on what led up to this moment. He knew the formula had begun to wear off when Hyde simply threw his victim into the wall instead of ripping them apart. He had felt his mind gaining control and the pain of transformation before he was suddenly on the perimeter of the raging battle. He remembered running, then being yanked back and colliding into the hard metal armor of the opponent. He fought blindly against the man but others soon joined and he was too worn to give any good defense. Meeting the eyes of one of his assailants, cold and angry, he was dragged through a side door, down a narrow hall, and out into the dark street. Then, another door, another hallway and the hands--
His head felt like it was stuffed with cotton as he slowly became aware of the world again.
"Jekyll? Jekyll?!" Fingers were insistently tapping the side of his cheek. He tasted acid as he swallowed and slid his eyes open, greeted by a terrified Skinner for a second time today.
"Ya blacked out for a second there." Jekyll winced and turned his head, feeling the wetness of his pillow against his chin; he grimaced as he anticipated the answer to his next question.
"Y' were just lyin' there an' all of a sudden ya started chokin'. I asked if y'were alright but ya threw up an' passed out." He half-heartedly tried to smile. "Guess I shouldn't 'ave given you anything so soon. Sorry, mate."
Shaking his head, Jekyll gave a small, throaty moan, trying to ease the other man and failing at it miserably. A warm transparent hand met his forehead, carefully placed to avoid a cut near his temple. His eyes flickered towards the arm connected, peering down the leather tunnel of a hollow sleeve.
Skinner dropped his hand onto the mattress and gazed over the bruised and bandaged man, thinking he looked even paler than normal against the slight reddish shadow of a few days stubble.
"I need t'get you a doctor." It was more thinking out loud than an actual statement. Skinner made a move to leave but faltered, giving Jekyll a last worried, almost longing glance before nearly bolting out the door in a rustle of leather.
Jekyll sighed and began tracing bandages once more. He tried to concentrate on locating and assessing each covered wound, but he kept drifting off to what had happened. Every time he tried to remember what went beyond that hallway, his stomach seized up and his head swam and it took very painful and extended breaths to settle both. Finally, he gave up on either exploration and waited for Skinner and the doctor to return.