"I dislike that Hyde fellow immensely," said Utterson. Jekyll froze halfway through uncorking the wine.
"Well," he said, picking his composure up off the floor and dusting it off, "he is a bit rough around the edges, hah hah. One gets used to him after a while."
"I've spoken with Lanyon about him," Utterson said. "He doesn't like him, either."
What a shock, Jekyll thought, although the words had a distinctly Hyde-ish cast to them. He shook himself, pouring out two glasses of wine. If he filled his a little fuller than he ought to have, it was only because it had been a stressful few days.
"Robert dislikes anyone and everyone who didn't go to school with him," Jekyll said, ferrying a glass of wine to Utterson and settling into the armchair next to his. He had a sip of his wine, hoping to encourage Utterson to do the same. The lawyer became significantly more pliant after a couple of glasses.
"Neither one of us can work out what you see in the man," Utterson went on, dogged. "Lanyon seems particularly disturbed by it. He worries at it constantly. He's of the opinion that the man has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and certainly none that you would find endearing."
"Ah, jealousy, that green-eyed monster," Jekyll remarked, smiling to himself.
Oy, Hyde muttered, scowling. Jekyll sipped his wine again.
"Is it warranted?" Utterson asked bluntly. Jekyll flushed from his chest to his hairline.
"Absolutely not," he snapped. "My association with Mr. Hyde is—is purely, purely professional."
Well done, Hyde said dryly. Very convincing.
Utterson raised his eyebrows and shook his head.
"I just hope you know what you're doing," he said. He finally took a sip of his wine. He closed his eyes and sighed all the tension out of his shoulders.
"I do," said Jekyll. "And of course, I appreciate your concern. Yours and Lanyon's, both. I understand that Mr. Hyde is . . . unusual company. I hope you can understand that he is useful despite that."
How kind of you, said Hyde. All this flattery's going to go to my head.
"And yet," said Utterson, "you seem unwilling to use him."
"As a scapegoat, yes, I'm rather reluctant," Jekyll said, his tongue going sharp. He took a gulp of wine to soften it. "A person might almost get the idea that you and Lanyon are simply trying to get rid of the man and have seized upon this as a prime opportunity."
"I'm trying to help you, Henry," Utterson said gently.
Jekyll let out a slow breath, rubbing his face.
"I know," he said, the exhaustion catching up with him. "I know, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to drag you into this mess, it's only—"
"You needed a lawyer," said Utterson. "Desperately, by my estimates."
"Rather," Jekyll admitted.
A lull came over them. Utterson swirled his wine and had another sip.
"Would you like to know how I can tell?" he said.
"Regale me," said Jekyll, gesturing expansively.
"It's because you've broken out the Claret," he said, a very faint smile on his very serious face. "And a fine vintage, as well."
Jekyll sighed, regarding Utterson fondly.
"You've caught me out," he said. "I admit I thought myself particularly clever for that one."
"Well, you've succeeded in putting me in a better mood," said Utterson. "I would, of course, have helped you anyway, but I would have been annoyed about it."
"Of course," said Jekyll. "I know it's asking terribly much of you, especially since I won't be able to pay right away, considering the Society's—"
Utterson waved him off, having another sip of wine.
"Pro bono, Henry," he said.
"Gabriel," Jekyll said, struck. "You—you can't. It'll put you out of house and home. You must at least let me pay you back once things have settled, I insist."
"Well," said Utterson, and there was that minute twinkle in his eye that told Jekyll he'd just walked right into a trap. "There is something you could do for me, if you insist that anything must be done."
"What is it?" said Jekyll. He did not say, Anything. He had put his foot in that one just a few too many times.
"You could stop seeing Mr. Hyde," said Utterson. "Fire him, ban him from the Society, cut off your association with the man."
"I've already told you, I'm not throwing him to the wolves," Jekyll said, bristling.
Don't let dear little Jasper hear you say that one, Hyde remarked. Jekyll would have kicked him if he could.
"That's not what I said," said Utterson, with infinite patience. "I asked that you stop associating with him. Just let him go his own way. The man's been nothing but trouble since he arrived. I do dislike him immensely, Henry."
"He is an important part of this organization," Jekyll said tightly, his hand clenched on his wine glass, "and I see no reason why he should be let go."
"I see no reason why he should be kept on," said Utterson. "If you could explain it to me, I'd be most appreciative. I do still intend to represent you and the Society, if that affects your answering at all. I'm asking this as a favor. I'm asking it as a friend."
Jekyll took his time answering. He drank some of his wine. He forced himself to relax his hand before he shattered the glass.
"Mr. Hyde has access to people and places that I do not," he said eventually. "People and places that I can't access, if I'm to maintain any sort of respectability."
"First of all, I imagine there's hundreds of people like that," said Utterson. "And second of all, from what I've seen, the only danger to your respectability is Hyde."
"What is it about him that impressed you so unfavorably?" Jekyll demanded. "When I spoke with him about you, he told me it was a pleasant and uneventful meeting."
Utterson cocked one dark eyebrow.
"Did he," he said. "That wasn't my experience."
"I know he can be a bit . . . sharp, yes, but—"
"It wasn't his sharpness that concerned me," said Utterson, cutting him off. "Nor his abrasiveness, nor his impropriety. No, Mr. Hyde struck me as a singularly irresponsible and disreputable man, intensely selfish, with as much regard for you and the Society as most men have for a slug."
Hah! He's not wrong, said Hyde.
"That is why I feel it's best for you to let him go," Utterson concluded. "That is why I dislike him. That is why I am so puzzled as to the nature of your relationship with the man."
"I appreciate your concern, my dear friend," Jekyll said wearily. "And I promise you that the instant Mr. Hyde makes himself more trouble than he is worth, I shall be rid of him forever."
The hell you will, said Hyde, suddenly much less jovial.
"I'm having difficulty understanding how that instant hasn't already come and gone," said Utterson.
"Yes, I suppose you would," said Jekyll, his politic wearing thin. "You've never had the time nor patience for anyone even an inch below your station, not to mention your complete lack of any imagination whatsoever."
"But I do imagine things, and the things that I imagine might be driving this very peculiar partnership upset me," said Utterson. "I'm worried about you, Henry. I'm worried you've gotten in over your head. I wish you would talk to me. I wish you would take pity on my imagination and explain."
"My business with Mr. Hyde is my own," Jekyll said.
That'll definitely convince him it's a ~professional~ relationship, said Hyde.
"Yes, but Henry—"
"Gabriel, how long have we been friends?" Jekyll interrupted. "You know I'm not the sort to get myself into trouble I can't get back out of. Trust me. I'll know when I'm in over my head."
You're in so far over your head you can't even see the surface, Hyde said, derisive. But at least you know it!
Utterson sighed, shaking his head. "I can't say I understand," he said, "but I'll trust you to know yourself and your own business best."
"Thank you," Jekyll said warmly. "Shall I top off your glass for you, and we'll discuss what's to be done about the current, ah, immolated state of the Society?"
"Yes," said Utterson, "I think that sounds appropriate."
It took approximately four years for Jekyll to rid himself of Utterson. Eventually he had to resort to getting him too drunk for polite company, at which point Utterson did the decent thing and excused himself, albeit somewhat unsteadily.
When he had gone, Jekyll drew the curtains and sank back into his armchair, his face in his hands. He couldn't recall the last time he'd slept properly. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept at all. He'd somehow managed to talk Utterson around to pinning the explosion on the theater company next door, instead of on Hyde—now that the talking was over, he couldn't remember how he'd done it.
The taste of silver was bitter on his tongue. He wondered idly if it was poisoning him. It certainly wasn't pleasant.
He heaved himself up and opened another bottle of wine, this one of a much less fine vintage. He no longer had anyone to impress. Perhaps if he went through enough of them, he could sleep, or at least pass out.
It's hilarious to watch you sticking up for me, Hyde said. You should do it more often.
"Go away," Jekyll sighed.
So do you think they figure I'm blackmailing you? he asked anyway. Ooh, or maybe they think we're ~romantically involved~! Imagine the look on proper Dr. Lanyon's face while he pictures you in bed with—
"Gutter trash?" Jekyll supplied.
What?! Hyde cried. How dare you! I am a diamond in the rough, I am a night-spirit, I am—
"Gutter trash," Jekyll said happily.
I'm you, Hyde snarled. Gutter trash, yourself, or you would be, without that shiny ~reputation~ you love so much. It's a shell. It's a sham. Deep inside, you're everything I am. Not so shiny once you take the polish off, are you, dear doctor?
Jekyll's jaw clenched. He turned his back and poured himself a glass of wine. He slugged half of it down in one gulp.
Oh, hit a nerve, did I? Hyde said.
Jekyll drank the rest of his wine.
I'll take that as a yes, he said smugly.
"Haven't you caused enough trouble for one day?" Jekyll asked.
No such thing, said Hyde. And I didn't cause anything. Moreau did, and I killed him. Don't know if you noticed that. They should be giving me a medal, instead of persecuting me.
"You blew up the building!"
Moreau's flamethrower blew up the building, said Hyde, pouting.
"Because you dropped a caber on it! I told you not to do it, and you didn't listen, and now the whole Society's a burnt-out shell!"
So much the better. It was due for a good cleaning-out.
"I should have let you burn," Jekyll said nastily. "I should throw you under the wheels like Robert and Gabriel advised."
Go ahead, Hyde said, his lip curling. Enjoy ruining your precious reputation. You wouldn't last a week without me. I'll enjoy watching you drag your own name through the mud.
"Is that a challenge?" Jekyll asked.
It is now, said Hyde. One week. Let's see how well you hold up. It's a shame you couldn't have waited a bit. Now you won't get to go to the Blackfog Bazaar at all.
"That was already off the table," said Jekyll, although a pang shot through his chest. "There's too much else to be done. Sleeping, for once, for example."
Sleep when you're dead, said Hyde, shrugging. You're so boring.
"And you are exhausting," said Jekyll. He leaned his back against the cabinet and shut his eyes. He let out a slow breath through his mouth. A pair of phantom arms looped around his shoulders. The mane of blond hair leaned against his head, no weightier than a dandelion.
Just don't tell Lanyon I've been keeping you up all night, Hyde said. He'll have an aneurism. Not that that wouldn't be hilarious. Actually, now that I've thought of it, do tell him that. I want to see him pop.
"You have an uncanny knack for phrasing things in absolutely the most revolting way possible," said Jekyll. He considered another glass of wine, but that would have meant moving, and he was much too tired to move. He could stand to let Hyde lounge on him for a while, if it meant he could snatch a few moments of stillness.
Someone's got to tarnish that silver tongue of yours, said Hyde. Although I suppose that for the next week, you'll have to do it yourself, won't you. If you can stomach it.
"I managed three decades without you," said Jekyll. "I can manage seven days."
Can you? he inquired, amused. This is one genie that won't go back in the bottle, dear doctor. You snapped your soul in half, and there's no glue in the world that can stick it back together.
"I broke it," said Jekyll, "I can fix it whenever I want."
Hah! Such confidence. Such unswerving hubris! Do you even listen to yourself when you talk? Now that you've had a taste of what life is like with the shackles off, you'll never be able to resign yourself back to them.
"I can, and I will," said Jekyll. "You're nothing more than a—a fling, a temporary—"
Hyde burst out laughing, tightening his arms around Jekyll's shoulders.
It's no wonder everyone thinks we're screwing, he said. With you talking about me like that~
There was a knock at the door. Hyde evanesced, like fog upon a windowpane. Jekyll struggled to collect himself, to swallow down the rage heating the backs of his teeth.
"Yes, come in," he said. With some effort, he creaked to his chair and lowered himself into it. Eyes down, he poured out some more wine.
The door eked open, and Jasper poked his head in.
"Um," he said. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"No, not at all," said Jekyll, beckoning. "Come in, come in. I promise I won't bite."
Unless he wants you to, Hyde sniggered. Jekyll sipped his wine and imagined it pouring down onto the bastard's puffy blond head.
"All right," said Jasper. He slipped inside and shut the door behind him, nearly pressing his back to it. "It's only, I thought I heard talking."
Jekyll's joints locked up. For a moment he couldn't breathe.
"Ah," he said. "Well. I do sometimes wind up talking to myself, hah hah. One of those scientific habits one sometimes forgets to put down."
"R-right," said Jasper. "Yeah, happens all the time."
Now he thinks you're crayyyzeeee~ Hyde sang. And he's right.
Jekyll flashed a tight smile at the boy and drank a bit more wine. His hands were shaking.
"So," he said. "I assume there was a reason you came to see me? Don't tell me something else has gone wrong. Please, hah hah, don't tell me that."
"Oh, no, Dr. Jekyll, nothing's gone wrong," said Jasper. "I just wanted to say, um. How sorry I am. About what happened at the Society. It seems like I've just been dragging trouble with me wherever I go—"
"Jasper, Jasper," said Jekyll, cutting him off. "What happened at the Society was not even remotely your fault. I know that sometimes it can feel that one brings trouble wherever one goes, but—well, the world is chaotic, and bad luck always does seem to come in waves. I'm just glad no one was seriously hurt. The building is replaceable. You aren't."
Jasper rubbed his arm, blushing.
"Oh," he said. "Gosh. Um. Right. I—I just felt like I could have done more. To stop Moreau. M-maybe if somebody else had got to him first, Mr. Hyde wouldn't've had to get involved, and . . . things might've gone differently. Or if—if we hadn't all stood about talking about Dr. Frankenstein, maybe we could've been more ready, and the Society wouldn't've got blown up."
"Again," said Jekyll, gently, "not your fault. From what I've heard, there was a great deal of standing about jabbering from all parties involved, especially Mr. Hyde."
"Right," said Jasper. He looked exceedingly uncomfortable. "Um, Dr. Jekyll—"
"It's Henry, Jasper," said Jekyll. "Please, call me Henry."
Oh my God, you two-faced snake, Hyde said, delighted. Stealing poor Rachel's wolflet. She'll be heartbroken, you greedy bastard.
"Oh, yeah," said Jasper, a shy smile tugging at his mouth. "Sorry. Um. Henry. I know this is sort of personal, and I've really got no right to ask, but—where were you last night?"
"Where any sane man would be at that hour," said Jekyll. "In bed. I got here as soon as I could, once I heard what was happening, but—not soon enough, unfortunately."
"Right, yeah, of course," said Jasper, and chuckled nervously. "I dunno why, I just thought—well, I just thought you stayed at the Society with all the lodgers. Silly, now that I think about it, hah."
"It's not at all silly," said Jekyll. "I've been known to spend the night there, and I certainly do keep a room for myself."
My, what big eyes he has~, Hyde cooed. Jekyll resisted the temptation to grind his teeth.
"Sure," said Jasper. "Makes loads of sense."
"Was that all?" Jekyll asked. "I don't mean to hurry you out, but things have gotten rather busy, and—"
"No no, of course, sorry, I really didn't mean to bother you," Jasper said, falling all over himself. "If there's anything I can do to help, just let me know, anything at all. After everything you've done for me, honestly, I'd be happy to."
Ooh, listen to that, said Hyde. Think that silver tongue of yours could talk him into bed? You could do with a little unwinding. If he's anything like the last werewolf, I bet his eyes aren't the biggest thing he's got~
"Thank you, Jasper, but there's nothing for now," Jekyll said. Jasper winced at the annoyance in his voice, and Jekyll sighed, rubbing his head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to speak so harshly. It's been a rough day."
"It's fine," said Jasper, mousily. "I'll leave you alone, I'm sure you're horrifically busy."
At the insistence of his conscience, Jekyll got up and crossed to Jasper, laid an avuncular hand on his arm.
"I am never too busy for you, Jasper," he said. "And I promise you, things aren't usually this . . . exciting, here. Once all this business is taken care of, we'll get you properly settled in."
Jasper, slouching and awkward, looked up at Jekyll and smiled. The sincerity of it warmed him.
Kiss him, Hyde whispered. Go on, come on, put that silver tongue to better use.
"Thanks, Dr—Henry," said Jasper, dropping his gaze and turning his face away. "Gosh, I just feel awful about all of this. Especially with the exposition coming up so soon."
Jekyll hooked a finger under his chin and gently lifted it for him.
"Chin up, dear boy," he said. "It's only a minor setback."
Do it do it do it do it do it, Hyde chanted, like a locomotive. Come on, he's right there, the door's closed, no one will ever know!
Jasper laughed nervously, extracting himself from Jekyll's hands. Jekyll couldn't deny that the rebuff stung, but he swallowed it before it could get onto his face. There was more than enough wine left to salve that particular wound. He folded his arms behind his back, cradling his elbows in his palms.
"Right," said Jasper. "Science . . . marches on!"
"Science marches on," Jekyll agreed. He opened the door for Jasper and stood aside. "Do take care, Jasper."
"I will," he said. "You too . . . Henry."
And with that he scurried out, still slouching abominably but with a notable spring in his step. Jekyll shut the door again.
My God, you've got it bad, Hyde said. He was lounging in the cabinet glass, chin propped on his laced fingers, kicking his feet like a schoolgirl. Is it because he's naïve enough to take advantage of, or because he's desperate enough that he's easy to manipulate?
"Mr. Kaylock is a promising young scientist and my interest in him is purely professional," Jekyll said, keeping his voice down. He went back to his desk and sat. The temptation to lay his head down and sleep was almost overwhelming.
Oh? said Hyde, eyes twinkling. Just like your interest in ~me?~
"The vast majority of my current interest in you is working out whether or not you can be drowned," Jekyll growled.
A breath of green smoke swirled lazily out of the open mouth of the wine bottle.
You can always try, Hyde invited.
Jekyll did not dignify this with a response. With rust in all his joints, he set about taking care of the least formidable stack of paperwork he could find.
You know what I've noticed about wee little Jasper? Hyde asked, unprompted.
"I am working," said Jekyll.
I've noticed that wee little Jasper bears a ~striking~ resemblance to one spirit of London at night, Hyde oozed.
"He is nothing like you," Jekyll snapped, before he could stop himself. It wouldn't have mattered much—Hyde would have heard him think it anyway—but at least he could have maintained a better semblance of composure.
My dear doctor, he is everything like me, said Hyde, grinning. And what a foul Narcissus that paints you to be. Revolting.
"Go away," Jekyll said, his voice trembling with the tension it took to restrain his fury.
Why don't you make me? I was under the impression you could ~be rid of me~ any time you wanted. Or was that just another lie on the mound that hides your real face from your so-called friends?
"Is that a challenge?" Jekyll said darkly.
Hah! As if you could ever get rid of me, even if you wanted to.
Jekyll turned his chair around to face Hyde where he lurked in the cabinet. His hand strayed to the top drawer, the locked drawer. His fingertips brushed the handle. Hyde flowed down like a river in flood and gripped his wrist with more strength than any phantom ought to have.
You wouldn't dare, he snarled.
Jekyll met his eyes—his own eyes, reflected in the glass of the cabinet.
"Wouldn't I?" he said softly.
All your work would be lost. All your pain, all your desperate scrabbling at the walls would be for nothing —
"Science marches on," Jekyll said. "I don't have to be the one to carry it."
I'll burn your notes, Hyde threatened.
"Good," said Jekyll.
For a breathless moment, neither of them moved.
Hyde let go. Jekyll removed his hand from the locked drawer.
"Now if you don't mind," Jekyll said, turning back to his desk, "I've got to continue cleaning up your mess."
You won't last two days, Hyde hissed, and vanished.
Jekyll sat for a moment, basking in the silence. It was a small victory, but he'd take what he could get.
With slightly steadier hands, he poured himself a glass of wine and bent to the paperwork.