etherati: (WM - D - broken)
[personal profile] etherati
Title: Vigil
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters: Dan, Rorschach, Hollis cameo, misc bad guys.
Date written: 2010-2014 hahaha wow I SUCK
Summary: The most important skill a masked vigilante can cultivate is how to fall and come right back up. When Nite Owl and Rorschach run into a trigger-happy gang, Nite Owl finds he's able to push that skill to the extreme--even if he has no idea how or why. AKA, the one where Dan just won't stay dead and Rorschach is Freaking Out.
Notes: Originally for a KM prompt asking for 'Highlander-style immortality', though I didn't actually make it a crossover. No swords and shit here, just a very confused owl.
Ratings/Warnings: PG-13 I think. A lot of blood and injuries and deaaaattthhhhhh. Some of it's temporary, some of it's not. Language, some offensive dialogue.

Chapter 3: Forensics



*

The first time he wakes, it's in the soft-edged greyness of pre-dawn, shapes around him dark and hazy and drifting in and out of cohesion as his eyes try to sort out what is noise and what is signal. He feels a bit like a sleepwalker, sitting up on the couch easy and slow, one hand coming to rest on the furniture's arm.

He listens to the house.

Quiet. There is nothing of the sound of footfalls or the dulled clatter of someone moving around on the upper floors. No distant electrical hum of a light switch thrown and connected. Rorschach could be deaf except that he can hear his own breath, and it takes a moment for him to remember why he is here, without his mask, sleeping in this tomb-silent house.

Daniel.

He will not remember later exactly what he is thinking as he ghosts through the house on quiet sockfeet. He allows his mind to move over the two coffee mugs on the kitchen table (he took his with him into the living room but here it is) as he passes them, to sort the knowledge and accept it. In the otherwise empty basement, it gathers up the dark stains on concrete like the corners of a blanket, tucking them over one another against the cold (aloneness, taste of adrenaline in the back of throat, smell of fear). His clothes are stiff with dried blood and it flakes off as he moves, leaving a trail like breadcrumbs.

Upstairs, the door to Daniel's bedroom is cracked open, though it is dark beyond. Rorschach pushes it open just enough to catch the outline of a figure in the bed, limned in the same grey not-light. Lingers just long enough to watch one rise and fall of breath, then allows himself to recede, to fade back into the hallway's darkness and disappear down the stairs.

He lights another candle in the kitchen, his purpose clearer now, and sets it to burn in one of the mugs where it won't tip and catch.

The sofa welcomes his body back as if he'd never left it.

*

Later, much later, he's woken again by a hand on his shoulder. Daniel's crouching next to the couch, rousing him carefully, like he expects a punch in the mouth for his efforts, and really if it were any other day, but.

But it isn't.

He pushes himself up onto his elbows and then his hands, reaches to smooth the coat where it's bunched around him. Daniel offers his mask to him, picked up from where he'd left it on the coffee table.

When he reaches to take it, his hands are bare, and it's entirely possible for him to gather his wits enough to receive his property back without brushing his knuckles against the heel of Daniel's hand. Vital really, absolutely necessary. But he doesn't, and Daniel's hand turns against his, lengthening the contact.

Eyes regard him, speculative, from under the fringe of wet hair.

The moment can't last.

Rorschach pulls the mask back, folds it, presses it into his pocket. Stands on legs shaky from too much weight borne and still not enough sleep, and allows Daniel to herd him into the kitchen.

There's already a pot of coffee on, and Daniel's been to the basement this morning too; the handful of discarded bullets are reflecting dully in the table's surface, and one of the yellow legal pads he keeps stacks of down there is in front of a chair.

Daniel scoops up the two mugs, moves to put them in the sink—then tilts one into the light.

"Rorschach?" he asks, inspecting the melted mess. "Why did you..."

"Still died," Rorschach says, settling into his chair with none of the weight of his words. "Even if you did come back."

It's a truth they'd both skirted around last night, one that's spent all night crystallizing into a shape that can't be disputed, here in the late morning light. There's no room in their lives for comfortable lies.

Daniel hangs his mouth open soundlessly for a moment, then turns to set the mug in the windowsill instead of the sink. Above it, a delicate stained-glass bauble hangs from the curtain rod—an owl, of course, what else would it be—and its eyes seem alive, follow no matter which way it spins. An illusion.

"Well," Daniel says finally, fetching two clean mugs. He looks a lot better now than he did, color back where it belongs and the exhaustion-bruising around his eyes faded. "We don't know for sure if that's what happened, but I'm ready to try to deal with this now, if you are."

He fills the mugs, and stops on his way back to the table to extract a steak knife from one of the drawers.

Rorschach freezes in place, a seated statue. His voice is flat: "What is that for."

"Not sure yet," Daniel says, and it sounds infuriatingly like truth. He sets it down with everything else, then the mugs, and narrows his eyes at the table. "Just trying to kind of... get my thoughts in order, you know?"

Rorschach doesn't know. He's not made a habit of resurrecting himself from the dead, and is completely unfamiliar with the mental gymnastics it likely requires. That doesn't mean he's going to sit here and let Daniel do something stupid. "Put it away," he says, brooking no argument.

"Relax." Daniel sits down; the chairs are still positioned safely across from each other, but he scoots it around the table until they're nearly elbow-to-elbow. Rorschach hunches in on himself as Daniel jots yesterday's date on the top of the page. "Analysis before action, okay?"

Action. Rorschach sits stiffly, hands around his coffee, wishing he'd put the mask back on because he can feel his expression giving itself away.

Daniel is busy writing on the paper, the few things they know for sure. When he glances up, it's with a look of genuine engagement that quickly fades into confusion. "What are you— oh. Oh." He puts the pen down. "No, look, I'm not going to— what, you think I'm going to stab myself or something, here?"

A shift against the chair, hands rising up the sides of the mug. His face feels hot; must be the steam. "Seemed a logical course of experimentation."

"No." Daniel barks a laugh, and it's the most normal reaction to any of this that he's had. "After just barely— no, it really isn't. You know where I keep the band-aids, right?"

Rorschach nods. They're in the cabinet over the refrigerator.

"Then we'll be okay. Look," he says, and Rorschach breathes out harshly, and Daniel kindly ignores it, nudging one of the bullets with the end of his pen. "How much do you know about ballistics?"

"...knowledge is passable."

"Do you think these came from the gun you saw?"

Rorschach reaches out, picks one up. It's still crusted in blood, but even through the distortion of firing, he can tell it's a nine millimeter. "Could have. It's a very common round."

More scratching on the pad, and then Daniel pokes through them again, separating each one cleanly from the others. Some are cleaner, and Rorschach realizes with a sickening lurch of his stomach that they'd been the ones to go in after there'd been no more heartbeat to bloody them.

Then Daniel teases one particular round out, and goes stock still. The color drains out of his face in an instant.

"What?" Rorschach is finding he acutely dislikes not knowing what's going on. It hasn't happened often enough until now to pin down. "Daniel."

When he picks the bullet up, it's with shaking fingers. He holds it up for Rorschach to see, and it's flatter than the others by far, more fragmented and smashed. "Compressed."

"Because it hit something hard," Daniel says, rolling it in the light. "Like bone."

Muzzleflash bright in the dark alley, and the way Nite Owl had jerked before he'd fallen, legs giving out under him—

And Daniel's paler now than he was then. "Not many dense enough bones in the upper body," he says, clinical, detached, and Rorschach already knows all of this. "Shoulderblade maybe. A thick part of the vertebra is more likely. Rorschach. Even if I could have survived this..."

"Would have been paralyzed."

A swallow past obvious dry throat. "Yeah."

Silence for a few seconds, and then the bullet hits the tabletop; Rorschach can see the change in him the second it happens, like something hot boiling up and over.

Daniel reaches for the knife.

*
 
--->Chapter 4

*
 

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etherati: B&W Dan and Ror in front of Owlship, from GN (Default)
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