?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

FIC: Wires

Title: Wires
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: Daniel, Rorschach, peripheral others. Dan/Ror if you squint.
Date Written: 2009
Summary: Is it worse to die alone, or to die with blood on your hands?
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, some language.
Notes: Book!verse. Set in 1974 or so. I think this could actually fit in before the Zombie!verse, but then, just about anything pre-1975 could, so, whatever. Also: I know nothing about bombs, sorry. I’ve seen enough movies that I can hopefully fudge it. Additionally, this has been editted slightly since its original posting, just a few things tweaked and fixed to flow better.


*

There are too many wires.

There are too many wires, all snaking their way under casings and into power supplies and into the blocks of explosive, twisting in on themselves, and it's nothing like the simple slapped-together devices he'd run across nine years ago in their very first ill-fated attempt at the Big Figure. He'd only just woken up that time, on the bleeding edge of a concussion, his partner slumped against his back where they'd been tied, and even so he'd managed to nudge the box over with the toe of his boot and get the right wire disconnected. Somehow. It might have been luck, or the simplicity of the design. Or it might have been the extra pressure of both their lives – not just his – hanging in the balance that forced him to narrow his focus and dismiss failure as an extant option.

The pressure isn't helping this time, Rorschach prowling like a half-remembered instinct of wilderness all along the edges of his vision, and there are too many goddamned wires – and he didn't wake up this morning with the thought that he'd really like to disarm a bomb, for fun or kicks, before the day was out. This isn't how he’d planned to spend his night.

*

They hadn't even gotten to the first order of business – just as well, too, because these meetings had been feeling like corporate buzzword circle-jerks lately, and that was no way to handle crime fighting. Maybe Rorschach had been right all those years ago, about it being a publicity stunt. Ever since Nelson had died...

There was a sudden rush of motion. Ozymandias, urgent and costume only halfway arranged and flustered – actually flustered, that was a first - crossed the room in three distance-eating steps and slapped a piece of paper onto the table in front of them. Time. Place. How long until it went off. A threat, vague and amorphous, that if a single uniform were to be seen – police, disposal, SWAT, anything – the remote detonator would be used. This one was for them. See how willing they really were to protect and serve, and the words carried an undercurrent of the growing unrest frissoning through the city, the schism forming between two fraternities that really ought to have been on the same side.

And, just like that, none of the other bullshit mattered anymore.

*

"You shouldn't be here," Dan mutters, unwilling to raise his voice any higher lest the pressure of the sound wave cause the device in front of him to do anything... unpredictable. It's bolted into the concrete, and he has the passing, useless thought that whoever did this must have spent months installing it. People walk by here every day. How is it that no one ever notices these things going on right in front of their eyes? "Distracting me."

At those words, Rorschach pulls to a dead halt, going utterly still in place. He's about ten feet away and across from where Dan's hunched over the bomb, closed snips running shakily over the wires. Tracing them, trying to make sense of the design. There isn't a whole lot of time left. And there's no verbal response; just a sudden and complete lack of motion and the silence left over when already-quiet footfalls stop.

Dan breathes out, frustrated and terrified and feeling like he's had about sixteen cups of coffee mainlined straight into his arm. Incapable of that stillness. Irritated by it. "Just because you stop moving doesn't make you any less distracting." Red, red, black, green, green, green, green with white stripes? What the hell is that supposed to be? Black, white, white, red...

There's a shuffling sound of leather against fabric, loud in the enclosed and deserted space. Rorschach settles his hands in his pockets. "Not sure what the problem is, then."

White, green, blue... "What the prob- Rorschach." Dan rubs the back of his neck with the hand holding the wire snips; glances at the timer. Twenty minutes left or thereabout. He doesn't want to let it get down to seconds – sophisticated as this thing may be, he's never trusted the absolute accuracy of these timers – but pretty soon, he's not going to have much choice but to start guessing. "This would be a lot easier if I knew that everyone that I-" A pause, catching himself. "...if I knew that everyone else was safe."

If Rorschach notices the almost-slip, he doesn't let on; just stands there, ten feet away, damnably casual.

Ten feet isn't nearly enough. Ten feet is as good as standing right on top of it.

"Would that allow you to know which wires to cut?" he asks, and it's not a question, because everything in the tone says that he already knows the answer.

*

There was a very real possibility that it was a trap – that the remote detonator would be used anyway, as soon as they stepped foot in the building. It was also a non-issue as far as Dan was concerned. They had two options: do as the threat directed, and run whatever risks might come, or do nothing – out of fear – and watch the aftermath on the evening news the next day. Not really a choice at all.

Then, the realization sunk in by careful and slippery degrees. He was the only one here who'd ever – ever – defused a bomb. Ozymandias knew the theory but not the practice. Jupiter knew even less. Manhattan – the obvious choice, really – was simply not present, and no one knew precisely why. Off on some mission elsewhere in the world. He was not generous with his secrets.

"Hell," the Comedian laughed around his cigar, and he shouldn't have been laughing, not at this. "Only bomb disposal I ever did was chuckin' 'em into the ocean. Makes a real pretty explosion, I gotta say."

"Yes, well," and it was a tight and controlled response. Ozymandias was not amused. "As this one is apparently installed in place, I somehow doubt that will be a useful technique." The gaze shifted, something hopeful flickering behind it. "Nite Owl?"

He'd felt more than seen Rorschach stiffen beside him, a barely-perceptible shift in posture that was as close to visible alarm as the man ever showed. He ignored it, nodding lightly – and for a strange moment, wasn't sure who he was trying to convince. "I... have actually, yeah. It was a while ago, but..."

"It was luck," Rorschach growled from next to him.

And Dan was momentarily taken aback by the apparent insult until he caught the posture, the way gloved fingertips were pressing into the tabletop with just slightly too much pressure. Hit upon an understanding of what was behind it. Careful and deliberate and even: "You wouldn't know. You were out cold at the time."

And he looked away before Rorschach had a chance to respond, nodding to Ozymandias again, every effort put in to make it more solid and more sure. "I can do it."

There was no audible response, but it was as if the entire room had let out a held breath, and then they were in motion – evacuation and transport and organization and where's the best place to house everyone? Isn't there a convention center near...?

Dan didn't need to see under the mask to know he was being glowered at, openly and unapologetically.

*

The snips are open, bladed edges resting around a white wire leading to the power supply. He thinks this is where he should start. He isn't sure, and his hand is shaking, and damn it but Rorschach is still standing just inside his field of vision, stubbornly waiting for the answer to his non-question. Dan hesitates, then, simply: "No." He's pressing the blades closed a fraction of a millimeter, testing. They embed into the plastic lining the wire, but don't break through. Not yet. "I don't honestly have any idea what I'm doing. But someone has to try."

There's a rough sound that's either no emotion at all or something unbearably complex, and Rorschach comes forward, taking obvious care to quiet his steps.

(Wrong direction,) Dan’s mind is screaming. (Need you to go the other way.)

"This was a bad idea, then."

It occurs to Dan, irrationally given the situation, that a lesser man would be saying 'I told you so.'

Rorschach just stands, hands in pockets, something like worry clouding up the shifting blots, clotting them around the eyes like old, old blood.

The timer is still counting down.

Dan takes in a breath – holds it – whispers something that could be a broken piece of prayer but could just as easily be a condemnation of the man standing in front of him, and closes the snips.

*

"The civilians are clear," came the voice over the handheld radio, and Ozymandias ducked to give the news to Dan, quietly, obviously not wanting to be a distraction. Dan had managed to get the casing off, with some effort – had located and laid bare the timing mechanism. The note's estimate of two hours had been surprisingly accurate, unless this was a dummy clock, laid in to trick them.

Dan nodded, distractedly, fingers running over the thick bundle of wires all tied neatly together. The ties were the first thing to go, falling away easily, loosing the wires to be traced back to their sources. There were a lot of them. It hit Dan all at once then – hard enough to knock the breath from him – that he was in way over his head.

He glanced up, at Ozymandias and Spectre standing nearby, both having finished their segment of the evacuation already. At Rorschach, to all appearances unperturbed and unruffled now for all that he hadn't taken his masked eyes off of Dan once since the screwdriver had come out. They were trusting him...

There was a school on this block. A hospital on the other side. They didn't have any idea how powerful the bomb was – how much it would take out if it went. This building was clear, but that didn't mean there wouldn't be casualties.

"Out," he said shortly, turning back to the wires, fingers reaching in between to separate them into manageable groups. "All of you."

*

Dan registers, as he lets the breath out, that he isn’t dead. The snips are shaking violently in his hands, and the white wire is in two pieces, and the timer, of course, is still counting down. (So much for getting lucky on the first try.)

Then he glances up, and Rorschach is staring steadily back, and he realizes just how lucky he really was.

The tip of the snips goes back into the mess of wires, trying to get a clear idea of where to go next. "Maybe it was. You know what's a worse idea, though?" Dan's voice is higher-pitched than usual, underlined sharp and bright with fear. Edging on panicked. "You still being here. God, Rorschach – I was stupid, bit off more than I could handle. Do we both need to die for it?"

*

They'd nodded, and Jupiter had bit her lip nervously, and Ozymandias had wished him good luck and actually meant it, and he'd heard two sets of footsteps tracking out of the room. It'd taken him a few seconds to realize that the math was wrong, that there'd been three people in the room and not two.

Rorschach had been hovering, in the same spot, completely still – as if by not moving, he could escape notice indefinitely.

"Damn it," Dan growled, pinching the bridge of his nose and turning to look sharply up at his partner, expression exasperated and demanding.

Rorschach just nodded his head toward the device, indicating that he should get to work. Time was running out, after all.

*

There's something in the wiring of this that's starting to make a vague kind of sense. It's not an 'ah ha' – nothing that concrete – but he at least won't have to guess blindly, if it comes down to guessing, and that's a tiny bit of comfort.

Rorschach hasn't answered his question.

"Well?" Dan prompts, making a decision- getting a green wire between the snips, and nodding down towards it. "If this is the wrong wire... if my stupid incompetence is going to kill me, is there any sense at all in you going down too?"

The standing figure drops then, into a crouch, balancing on the balls of his feet. Down to Dan's eye level, though there aren't any eyes to look at. There's a silence, but it's a churning sort of silence – there's something gathering in the gap between them. Rorschach twists one gloved hand in the other, a gesture so like nervous wringing that Dan can't immediately reconcile it with the man in front of him; he hears the sound of a false start, bitten back.

Dan just looks straight into where his partner's face should be, fingers frozen around the wire cutters.

"Daniel..." And his head angles to one side, towards the floor. His voice sounds different when it returns, somehow reserved, quiet. Self-preserving in the face of too much revealed. "I know 'alone'. Know what alone is. You don't..."

"What?"

Rorschach's head comes back up, and for just a second, Dan thinks he sees a real face there – then it’s gone, and only the black and white remain. Gritted out roughly: "You don't deserve to die that way."

A stretch of time passes, indeterminately long, and Dan can't bring himself to look at the timer, coldly ticking off what could be the last few minutes of his life. Of both their lives.

Uncompromising: "I don't deserve to die knowing that I'm killing you along with me."

A nod, Rorschach's motions stiff and jerky. "Probably also true. Can't have it both ways, though." He reaches up, straightens his hat absently. Rests both arms across his knees, and otherwise doesn't move. "Cut the wire, Daniel."

*

So Dan cuts the wire, in a moment of breath-holding unreality – and another after that, and another. And all the while, his partner is across from him, crouched on the tile, watching in silence and maybe, somewhere under the surface, is as terrified as Dan is each time the faint snip of the shears echoes in the space between them, expecting the instant-white-hot flash and the pain and then the empty black nothingness.

The timer reads a minute and fourteen seconds when it finally grinds to a halt – no movie-grade close shave, but that's just goddamned fine by him – and Dan drops his head to the device, listening for any signs that it's still active, that maybe he’s only succeeded in cutting power to the timer’s display, that he’s fallen into a carefully designed feint. There's nothing.

(Oh god… it’s stopped. It’s over.)

(It’s…)


He rolls back then, off of his knees- overshoots, and winds up sprawling onto his side on the floor. His strings have been cut along with that last wire, and he's boneless suddenly- and all he can do is laugh and laugh and try not to sob. It's a hiccoughing sound that borders on tears, the helpless hysteria of reaching up and feeling the scratch where the bullet grazed and realizing there but for the grace of...

Rorschach stays crouched where he is for a long moment, inkblots shifting unreadably – then fluidly gets back to his feet, reaches down to haul Dan off of the floor and, one arm under him for support he obviously needs, walks them both, all shakes and jackhammer-heartbeats and unspeakable tiredness, out of the building and into the open air beyond.

*


Tags:

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
bionic
May. 2nd, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)
That was wonderful! Talk about tension. And that's what I call true freaking partners.
etherati
May. 2nd, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
There's partners, and then there's 'you're the only friend I've ever had in my life'. Ror takes that shit seriously. XD Thank you, I'm glad the tension came across well.
iztactli
May. 2nd, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
Awesome! like, WOW, Daniel doesn't know how lucky he is by having Rorschach by his side, that's real partnership.

Rorschach just really cares for him <3 lovely xD

Pretty well writen!
etherati
May. 2nd, 2009 02:06 am (UTC)
I figure what with Dan being the only person he's ever really cared about at all, he would be pretty hardcore about doing right by him. Of course, all Dan sees is that Ror's stubbornness is going to get him killed, and he doesn't want to be part of that. :(
brianel
May. 2nd, 2009 04:53 am (UTC)
It's clear how awesome this is that I was on the edge of my seat, knowing that of course there won't be an explosion but maybe there will be and no, there was not. But you wrote the tension excellently. The dialogue was spot-on and amazing, and I love the quiet, tense battling of 'go away Rorschach' 'no way i'm leaving you' that was throughout the whole fic, even with the flashbacks of Daniel deciding to do this.

My favorite spot was definitely "I know 'alone'. Know what alone is. You don't..."

"What?"

Rorschach's head comes back up, and for just a second, Dan thinks he sees a real face there – then it’s gone, and only the black and white remain. Gritted out roughly: "You don't deserve to die that way."


Gorgeous! Um. Yeah. Great job.
etherati
May. 2nd, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
Thank you! I always worry that dialogue like that will turn out to be awkward or be awkwardly framed; I'm glad to hear that you liked it. :D

Awww how could I possibly kersplode my favorite boys? D:
elspethdixon
May. 2nd, 2009 08:39 am (UTC)
This was wonderful -- the sense of suspense was perfect, with the cuts back and forth and Dan snipping the wires one by one, and Rorschach Not Leaving (and yet obviously just as nervous as Dan in his own way).


You know what's a worse idea, though?" Dan's voice is higher-pitched than usual, underlined sharp and bright with fear. Edging on panicked. "You still being here. God, Rorschach – I was stupid, bit off more than I could handle. Do we both need to die for it?"

I love this bit -- with Daniel snapping at Rorschach to get out and Rorschach telling him that he doesn't deserve to die alone.

I also love the fact that the two of them being knocked out and tied to a bomb is just a random bit of backstory, like something that happens all the time (which for superheroes, it does).
etherati
May. 2nd, 2009 09:06 am (UTC)
I almost think Ror might've been more nervous than Dan - because he knew from the beginning that Dan had no idea what he was doing, whereas Dan had some residual confidence to cling to - but most of it was worry for Dan more than for himself. And likewise, Dan was more worried for him. LESSON: DON'T VOLUNTEER TO DISARM BOMBS, GUYS.

What I love about that line you quoted, personally, is Dan mixing up his figures of speech at the end, which people under stress are wont to do. XD But yeah. I think that Ror takes this whole thing with Dan pretty seriously - he's the only friend he's ever had, and if all he can do if be there with him when it goes, then he's going to do that.

And yes. OH REMEMBER THAT TIME WE ALMOST GOT BLOWN UP? THOSE WERE GREAT TIMES, WEREN'T THEY.

Thanks so much for commenting. Every comment makes me dance around all giddy and happy and whee. No one ever believes me when I say that.
muse_of_graphia
May. 2nd, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
Wow.

Rorschach knows his own strengths and weaknesses, and his selflessness never ceases to amaze me. I love that you don't have him trying to help (in the process getting in the way). I love his absolute certainty that his presence will make Dan feel better, despite Dan's protest, despite how quickly a bomb is likely to kill.

And I love how you have written what they do rather than what they feel. Except now I'm going to be preoccupied the rest of the day with trying to decide if Rorschach wanted Dan not to die alone or if he wanted not to risk being alone again, himself. And with whether or not Rorschach even knows.

Only thing I'm wondering about is Ozymandias, whether leaving Dan alone is IC. Which I guess depends on whether he believes Dan can actually defuse the thing, because while his own knowledge may only be theoretical, I have trouble imagining him not at least offering help.

But given the story was meant to focus on Dan and Rorschach anyway, that's minor.

Well done.
etherati
May. 2nd, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
"Except now I'm going to be preoccupied the rest of the day with trying to decide if Rorschach wanted Dan not to die alone or if he wanted not to risk being alone again, himself. And with whether or not Rorschach even knows."

THANK YOU for picking up on that. That was really subtle and I was wondering if maybe I made it too subtle. If I had to guess, I'd say he doesn't know, and that it's probably a little of both. But yeah, I'm big into the idea of 'show, don't tell', when I can pull it off. Which isn't always.

And yeah, I dono. I wanted Dan and Ror to be there by themselves at the end- I figure Ozy trusted Dan when Dan said he knew what he was doing, and didn't want to get in the way. You're right that it isn't quite perfect, but I have to occasionally nudge things to get all the pieces where I want them heh.
muse_of_graphia
May. 2nd, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Thank YOU for having the courage to let that be subtle. We readers can be trusted, sometimes, but I do know how hard it is to do that.
etherati
May. 2nd, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
I just got this thing in my head as I was writing it, like - even if Ror agreed with him, the thought of going out there and *waiting* for twenty minutes and then having to watch the place blow up, knowing what it means, unable to do anything but stand there and watch it... that scenario would have been so impossible for him to deal with that he'd end up doing anything to avoid it, even if the only alternative is getting blown up too. But as this was all subconscious for the most part - and the thing was written from Dan's POV and I can't stand 3rd-person omniscient as a narrative style - it got to stay buried, for clever people like you to pick up on. XD
akisawana
May. 3rd, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)
Perfect.
etherati
May. 4th, 2009 12:31 am (UTC)
Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
etherati
May. 5th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you! That's quite a compliment. :D I tried really hard to keep it 'in the moment' - I'm so glad to hear that it worked heh. And also that the character reactions rang true for you. Thanks again!
(Deleted comment)
etherati
May. 5th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
Read! Comment! Why would I mind? XD I love it when someone enjoys something I've done and takes the time to say so - makes it all feel worthwhile. And the master post is there for a reason haha.

Yesss I know absolutely nothing about explosives, that was totally just me gluing together crap I've seen in movies and so on. The point was more about the interaction and not so much the realism of the device, though if someone comes in with suggestions for making it read more realistically, all the better. :)

settiai
May. 13th, 2009 05:03 am (UTC)
Oh, wow. This was absolutely wonderful. You've captured their voices almost perfectly.
etherati
May. 13th, 2009 05:08 am (UTC)
Haha thanks :D Especially on the voices; that's always the hardest part, especially with Ror pre-Roche, since we had all of two voice bubbles from him in GN to extrapolate from.
danceswithelvis
Jun. 5th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
This is a drive by commenting as I just followed a link to here...

Wow...just, wow. This was fantastic. It showed a wonderful dynamic between Dan and Rorschach; and how each felt about the other through it. Wonderful job.
etherati
Jun. 5th, 2009 09:02 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. That dynamic is the centerpiece of so much of my stuff for this fandom, and it's so gratifying to hear that I'm doing it justice.

Also, hey, curiosity's got me - what link? :D
danceswithelvis
Jun. 8th, 2009 05:15 am (UTC)
I think it was off of liodan's master art post. I've been trying to think which link I followed since I got this message today.

I was also curious if I might friend you? I'm really loving your fanfiction. It's quite literally beautiful.
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 05:22 am (UTC)
No no, I don't mind at ALL. I should actually just put that in my profile. People ask me stuff like that about friending and also 'do you mind if I draw a picture from your story' and so on and its like GOD NO PLEASE DO I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER FFFFF.

And so on.

Liodain is massive win, yes? XD
danceswithelvis
Jun. 8th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
Liodain is just fantastic. I'm jealous of her talent to tell the truth. I've been tempted to do a couple of sketches based off your fics, but I'm apprehensive about doing it. Mainly because I've never drawn Dan.

And thank you! Some people get kinda weirded out on the whole friending issue.
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC)
Dan's face gives me consumption on a regular basis, seriously. He shouldn't be so much harder to draw. ESPECIALLY WHEN LIODAIN MAKES IT LOOK SO EASY. *coughs* THAT SAID, if you did I would be so omg thrilled that you would never hear the end of it. I wasn't actually trying to dig for art - was just drawing comparison between the two questions - but eeeeeeeee. Seriously. Nothing AT ALL to be apprehensive about. At least not from this quarter.
teacrumb
Jun. 8th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)
Wooo suspense! O__O Fantastic. Adding to memories. :D
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC)
Thank you! So glad to hear the suspense came across well :D
midnite_vision
Jun. 13th, 2009 05:31 am (UTC)
Aww, Rorschach's such a good friend (sometimes, anyway). Geez, I don't think you could ever write these two out of character.
etherati
Jun. 13th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
Sure I could! DON'T TEMPT ME.

He is (mostly) when it counts. He steals Dan's shit and breaks his locks and is generally disagreeable and blunt but he's the type that when it really, really counts, he'll be there.

Thank you for another lovely comment. :)
midnite_vision
Jun. 13th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
Very true. At least he doesn't do all that stuff to be malicious.

You're welcome. :)
etherati
Jun. 13th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
I think he just honestly doesn't get it. Like - why should it matter if he steals Dan's food when he'd happily take a bullet for him? It's that 'I'd run into a burning building for you' aspect of friendship, and he probably figures that's the only part that matters; the rest is just a frivolous nod to politeness and keeping up appearances.
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

what this is.


This is a fic journal for the most part, with some art on the side and a sprinkling of personal posts here and there. I don't write as much as I used to, but I try.

Latest Month

July 2015
S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by yoksel