Title: More Things In Heaven and On Earth
Word Count: 2140
Summary: An unusual Christmas aboard the Nautilus.
Disclaimer/ Author's Notes: I'm functioning on the assumption that, like Quatermain, Nemo has had at least one book of his adventures published in the LXG-verse (because a world without 20,000 Leagues is a world which is not as awesome). As always, I am a textual poacher who owns nothing.
It was nearly impossible to forget Christmastide in London; the great city hummed with activity and signs of the season for quite some time before the day itself, such that only a blind and especially callous man could have ignored them.
In the tropical jungles of South America, however, Christmastide is far less marked, especially if one is quite preoccupied by fighting an army of giant ants; and eight hundred feet beneath the waves, cutting a path back towards England in the world's most unique vessel, there is likewise very little to distinguish the approach of any holiday – even Christmas.
So it was not, perhaps, entirely shocking that the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen very nearly forgot the day entirely. Most of them were more conscious of the approaching anniversary of their first outing as a League (and Alan Quatermain's death) than of the approaching day of Christmas; and indeed, it was not until only a day or two before the holiday itself that any of them even made mention of it.
Skinner was the one who did so, throwing off the mention of the coming day with a careless shrug as the League took the air on deck during one of the Nautilus' trips to the surface for air.
But for that, the day might have passed completely unmarked; but as it happened, the League gathered for breakfast that Christmas morning (as they did on most mornings, an easy habit that would have seemed quite alien not even a year previous) to find that instead of the usual ocean-provided fare, Nemo had had the cook prepare all the dishes of a traditional English holiday breakfast. The enigmatic captain stood at his customary place at the head of the table, hiding a pleased smile behind his dark, flowing beard as the rest of the League exclaimed over the feast.
The holiday air persisted throughout the meal, and the conversation stayed settled on light matters (a welcome change after the ordeal that their South American mission had been, and the many breakfasts spent debating their next move to get through that ordeal). Gradually – perhaps influenced by the memory of the monstrous insects they'd only recently finished battling – the talk turned to other strange creatures of nature; rare birds Jekyll had seen in the Paris Zoo, the enormous wolves of Transylvania that Mina had been unfortunate enough to observe at close quarters, and so on.
Amid the lighthearted discussion, Skinner raised his teacup slightly and gestured to Nemo. "Well, if Mister Verne's t'be believed," He said, "I think the captain's got you all outmatched. Squid the size a' the Nautilus, an' all."
Nemo smiled slightly. "The creature was no more than half the size of the Nautilus." He replied.
"Half the size of the Nautilus is still ruddy enormous." Skinner pointed out.
"It is." Nemo said. "And the creature was a formidable enough foe at that size. But, like many writers, I suppose Mister Verne had some predisposition to exaggeration for the sake of spectacle."
Sawyer chuckled. "I already figured that. I mean," He grinned crookedly and shook his head. "Most a' that book was kinda hard to swallow, even for me."
One of Nemo's eyebrows quirked very slightly upwards. "Indeed?" He murmured. "So you doubt that the deep holds such wonders, Agent Sawyer?"
"I'm just sayin'," Sawyer replied good-naturedly, "Some things are just too much to be true until you see 'em for yourself."
"The same could be said for most anyone at this table." Mina pointed out with a small smile.
"Or for the table. Eight hundred feet down, remember." Skinner said.
"It does seem rather an odd objection." Jekyll agreed.
Nemo examined Sawyer gravely over the rim of his teacup. "And will you take no-one at his word on the matter?"
Sawyer squirmed slightly under the captain's keen gaze. "Well . . ."
"I understand." Nemo set his empty cup aside and stood abruptly. "And now, if you will excuse me – I must be about my duties. A good holiday to you all."
With that, he strode out of the room, and the rest of the League exchanged awkward glances. Though Nemo still remained the most mercurial and solitary of them, even his temperament seemed to have mostly adjusted to the life of the League. They had all fallen into a comfortable familiarity over the previous year . . . except for those increasingly rare but still unbearably awkward moments when something happened to disrupt that familiarity.
"I didn't mean to offend him." Sawyer said awkwardly.
"Nemo is still prone to his own moods." Jekyll pointed out.
"And you did make it seem rather as if you doubted his word." Mina added.
"That wasn't what I meant!" Sawyer protested. He fumbled for a better explanation for a moment, then threw up his hands in frustration and stood, sighing. "If you'll excuse me, I think I better leave before I say anythin' else that'd be taken the wrong way."
The American left the room, leaving an even more awkward silence behind him; and after a moment Mina pushed back from the table. "Well. Excuse me, gentlemen, but I have experiments to tend to. Good morning."
Jekyll and Skinner both stood as Mina rose and swept out of the dining room; the two exchanged a bemused glance.
"Er . . . right, then." Skinner cleared his throat awkwardly. "Guess I'll be off as well." The invisible man nodded in Jekyll's direction and made for the door.
Jekyll sighed and drained his teacup, surveying the remains of breakfast. "Merry Christmas." He murmured to the empty table.
After that rather abrupt ending to their Christmas meal, the League dispersed to their individual rooms – with the exception of Henry Jekyll, who (though he returned to his quarters just as the rest of the League did) had not had a truly individual room for quite some time.
His control over Hyde had grown over the past year, such that the effort to contain him no longer felt like a monumental one; but that didn't stop Jekyll from hearing the other's voice in his head. Nor did it stop Hyde from using that fact to irritate Jekyll when the mood struck him – uneasy truce or no, Hyde was still Hyde.
On Christmases of years past Hyde had been free to perpetrate horrors that still gave Jekyll nightmares, taking a special delight in corrupting the holiday with his own perverse wickedness. This year he was cross at not having that customary opportunity, and he compensated for that by spending the better part of the midmorning tormenting Jekyll with a litany of chillingly creative sins he would commit if allowed.
If only we were in London. I shouldn't try it aboard the Nautilus. He remarked at the end of his ghastly recitation. Nemo'd sink the bloody thing if I tried, and near-drowning once is quite enough for me.
"Your sense of self-preservation remains intact as always." Jekyll muttered impatiently, turning the pages of the book with which he had fruitlessly been trying to drown out Hyde's needling.
Hyde snorted, but whatever retort he had broke off abruptly, and Jekyll was conscious of a certain vague puzzlement, as if Hyde were cocking his head.
He lowered his book slightly. "Edward?"
We are sinking. Not fast . . . but Nemo's taking us deep. Deeper than usual.
"Perhaps he's learned to read your mind as well." Jekyll remarked dryly, setting the book aside – Edward Hyde had the curiosity of an especially monstrous child, and he was clearly interested in what Nemo was up to; indulging him that much might be enough to buy Jekyll at least a little mental peace.
He had only just pulled on his coat when a polite tapping came at the door, and he opened it to find a crewman standing there. The man touched the brim of his cap diffidently. "Excuse the interruption, Doctor, but the Captain'd like to see you in the drawing room."
"Thank you." Jekyll nodded in acknowledgement and watched the crewman disappear down the corridor – back to his post or off on another errand – before shutting the door behind him and making his way to the drawing room.
He arrived in the drawing room to find the rest of the League – except for Nemo – already there, and he raised an eyebrow at them as he stepped into the room. "Any clue what this is about?"
Skinner shrugged without turning from his idle examination of the keyboard of Nemo's organ. "Haven't the foggiest. You?"
Jekyll shook his head. "Only that Edward says we've dived much deeper than usual."
"Indeed we have, Doctor." Nemo agreed from the doorway. He stepped into the room and shut the door behind him, then turned to regard the rest of the League.
Mina frowned. "For what reason – is there something the matter?"
"No, nothing is wrong. I have something to show you." Nemo nodded slightly to Sawyer. "This morning at breakfast, Sawyer, you expressed some doubt regarding the things of the deep."
Sawyer shuffled his feet slightly. "Well, I didn't mean . . ."
Nemo held up one hand and cut him off. "Words are of little meaning." He said, touching one of the controls on the wall near the door. The lights in the room grew dim.
"Ah, Nemo . . ." Skinner began.
"A moment, Mister Skinner." The captain replied. "Humor me but a moment, and observe."
With that, Nemo strode across the room and drew back the curtains that covered the two large, circular windows that took up most of the outside wall of the salon. Unexpectedly bright light shone through them, creating a brief illusion of sunlight outside – but then the moment passed, and the light could be recognized as that of the floodlights that dotted the hull of the Nautilus.
Nemo motioned the rest of the League closer to the windows, gesturing at the view as they drew near.
The water outside was teeming with life – small shoals of nervously-darting fish like silver needles; larger and obviously predatory fish, drab and yet menacing; translucent jellyfish moving in fits and starts through the water.
"We are far deeper than our normal traveling depth." Nemo said. "So deep that the sunlight never reaches. It is this I wished to show you."
Mina gazed out the window, transfixed by the undulating form of an eel. "Then these are creatures of the dark." She said.
One corner of Nemo's mustache quirked upward slightly. "Of the dark . . . both yes and no."
He touched another control, and the floodlights outside cut off – plunging the drawing room into near-darkness. Sawyer made a startled noise, and Nemo chuckled quietly. "Observe, my friends."
For a moment, the League merely stood silently in the darkness, waiting for their eyes to adjust. Mina's night-hunter eyes were the first to do so, and she gasped softly – catching Jekyll's hand unconsciously in her own cold one. "Look."
Jekyll closed his eyes for a moment, hoping to hasten the process of adjustment; then he opened them again, and caught his breath. Hyde's quiet, biting commentary fell abruptly silent.
The creatures outside the window were glowing, tinged in patterns of eerie phosphorescence that had been drowned out by the white glare of the floodlights. The eel was now an undulating ribbon of pale green fire, the silver needle-fish glowing blue-white; the jellyfish shimmered in shades of pink, and even the drab predatory fish could be picked out by the slashes of bright blue along their spines. The League stood gazing in wonder, taking in the spectacle of color and movement against the inky black background of the water.
After a long moment, Sawyer broke the silence. "It . . . reminds me of somethin'." He said in a hushed tone. "I read it a long time ago, at school. More things on earth, and . . . somethin'."
"Shakespeare." Skinner interjected quietly, never taking his eyes from the scene beyond the window. "S'from Hamlet. 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy'."
Sawyer nodded. "Yeah."
"It's beautiful." Mina murmured, her grip on Jekyll's fingers tightening slightly.
Sawyer glanced sideways at Nemo. "I think I owe you an apology." He paused for a second, and added, "Thank you."
Nemo inclined his head solemnly, smiling his peculiar, secretive half-smile. "Call it a gesture, Agent Sawyer. Of, as your saying goes, 'goodwill to men'."
"And peace to mankind on earth." Jekyll added.
Nemo ran one hand over his dark beard, gazing out into the silent, eerie beauty beyond the glass. "Yes." He murmured gravely. "If we are fortunate."
And if not yet on earth, Jekyll thought, feeling Mina's hand resting chilly and smooth in his own, Then at least here.
At least for now.
And for the moment, that was enough.