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FIC: Between the Brushstrokes - [5/?]

Title: Between the Brushstrokes
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: Daniel, Rorschach, Adrian, Manhattan in pt 1, Dan/Ror (gee you think?) later on
Date Written: 2009
Summary: A lot happens in the in-between spaces; in the tiny intervals of time in which no one watching, we are free. Dan and Rorschach face the future more head-on than they expected; Adrian learns about regret and what happens when you're wrong.
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, some language. Philosophy, violence, twilight zone bullshit, time travel, pretentious metaphors, and Waffle House.
Notes: Yet ANOTHER kinkmeme prompt. Post-GN fixit. In progress.
Extra Note: The illustration here is once again NOT MINE. Gift from anonymous, who is EVEN MORE awesome.


*

It's 11:31 AM, and they're catching a cab to Veidt's New York headquarters. The address is different than what either of them remembers, but his old office had been perilously close to his monster's ground zero, had likely been uninhabitable for far too long following the attack.

They've decided it would be a prudent idea to show up early.

*

It's 11:47 AM and Daniel is paying the taxi driver, who thanks him benevolently and excessively, as if simply paying the fare were in and of itself an act of kindness. The building has many stairs – an excessive nod to aesthetic, with the side effect of intimidating those entering with the sheer scale of the building, shoehorned into a corner seemingly too small to contain it. Neither of them intimidates easily. They climb.

*

11:51 AM, 11:52 AM, they are waiting outside the door to Veidt's personal office on the top floor, and the security guard sent to escort them up is actually watching them, actually observing – listlessly, but his eyes focus for a few seconds at a time, and that's an impressive trick in this brave new world. Rorschach files it away.

*

It's 11:54 AM when they look at each other, and Daniel takes a deeper breath than he really needs, and they walk through the open door. Veidt's waiting inside, standing up from his desk smoothly, groomed and coifed and perfect. His eyes are as hollow as any they've seen in the city.

*

"Dan," he says genially, no effort wasted on formality, or on masking the dull, robotic menace secreted under the smile. "It's been a long-"

Rorschach follows Daniel into the room, pulls the door shut behind him, barrel sliding home with a quiet click.

A vaguely curious lift of eyebrows. "...Rorschach. I'll be honest, I didn't expect you to come."

Rorschach only grunts in response, pacing past Veidt's desk and on to the windows beyond, practiced hands sweeping down curtain runners, trailing long and jagged paths through the dust collected on the sills. Haven't been opened in ages; it is March, but it seems like more than one season's worth of dust. The glass is starting to go blue-green with age around the edges. The drapes conceal no obvious weapons or traps.

"Letter asked for both of us," he finally replies, stepping out in a wide arc that puts him and Daniel directly opposite each other, geostationary around the man who would be center of the world. Force him to choose who to watch. Doesn't matter who he chooses if it puts him off guard.

But it doesn't seem to. Veidt smiles, and condescension drips from his tone. "But Rorschach – you were never one to follow instructions."

The clock on his desk shows 11:55.

Daniel is shifting, hands looking for something solid to put themselves around – obviously sensing how close this is, already, to slipping out of control. He clears his throat pointedly.

Rorschach doesn't move; just stares back at Veidt with a sharpness the other man has never seen without the dilution of black and white and latex.

A nod, and there is comprehension on Veidt's face, dulled around the edges like brushed metal but there. "Only when it suits your purposes, of course." He gestures towards the chairs in front of the desk, seats himself in his own, ignoring the tension as if it's suddenly beneath him - or simply forgetting it was ever there. "You'll have to forgive me, it's been quite a while longer for me than it has been for you. I've lost track of some of your eccentricities."

Daniel winces, probably expecting an escalation in response; when it doesn't come, he glances back at Rorschach questioningly. Takes one of the offered seats.

Rorschach doesn't, bristling visibly, pacing behind the chairs in a slow and measured way that, for all of his age and weariness, is an echo of some young and violent creature of the wilds, circling for first blood.

"We have a good deal to speak about," Veidt offers, tracking Rorschach with his roving gaze, fingers steepled on the blotter in front of him.

11:56, and Veidt glances down at the watch on his left wrist. He never used to wear one, before.

"You want our silence," Daniel says, blunt and undiplomatic and Rorschach huffs behind him, something that sounds like approval.

Veidt looks at his watch again; picks up a pen. Left hand, not right. Starts writing – no, not writing, drawing, on a scrap of paper. Tiny clock faces, and the page is already halfway full of them. "A silence which, as you recall, Dan – you already promised to me. Ten years ago or two days ago, but one would assume it would stand regardless. I'm not worried about your sense of discretion."

But he is worried about someone's. It hangs in the air, as always: Rorschach is the problem, is the threat, is the great dangling loose end. A decade gone and the record hasn't been changed, and it's almost heartening, because if Veidt thinks they're actually a threat-

Hrm.

Rorschach circles closer, within sight of the sheet. All the clocks point to midnight. That, he understands, and his fists clench involuntarily. "Fail to see how it matters," he spits, halting his pacing long enough to look Veidt in the eye, daring the obvious lie. "Citizens of your utopia. Blind and aimless. Wouldn't know the truth if it fell from the sky."

From the sky. Monsters and lies and mind-poison, drifting on the currents, and those windows are broad and high and they’re not open now but they could be, in an instant. Below, crowds are milling, aimless and unaware.

Veidt smiles, and it's empty and chilling. "The level of tranquility you refer to is not absolute; approximately half a percentage point of the population worldwide are... regressive. Still as people always have been. Petty, angry, looking for an excuse to be moved to violence. I can't let you give them that excuse."

His eyes barely move, but he's just checked his watch again. It's 11:58.

"What happens at noon?" Daniel asks; it seems like a non-sequitur, but he hasn't missed it either.

A look of nearly genuine confusion. "I don't know what you mean."

Rorschach takes a step toward the desk, glowering; another habit that doesn't work as well without his face, but he's had no time to learn new tricks. "Keep checking your watch. Expecting something."

"I've been doing no such thing, and for the sake of us reaching an amenable agreement that involves you both walking away with your lives, I'd ask you to keep your... bizarre paranoia in check."

Another glance down, almost before the words are out. The second hand shudders along.

"My god," Daniel says, something strange and understanding blooming across his face. He reaches into his pocket, digging around. "You don't even realize you're doing it, do you?"

"Dan, honestly, I expect this sort of behavior from Ro-"

The note is unfolded, flattened out, pushed across the desk; behind him, Rorschach stiffens. They'd agreed not to play this card too soon, and it still feels unbearably early as Dan looks up to meet Veidt's gaze, one finger anchoring the paper to the desk. "Adrian. Why did you write this?"

Seconds tick away; below, a light changes, and pedestrians cross with the signal. Taxis and delivery vans wait patiently, vibrating and humming behind the white line, and there are none of the usual near-misses. Clockwork.

Veidt shakes his head and again, the confusion is almost convincing. "I... don't know what to say. It does look like my handwriting, but I'm afraid I'm not in the habit of drawing up correspondence by hand. Unprofessional."

"It was in with your letter."

The sheet of clockfaces on the desk seem important somehow. Some missing piece of-

"I didn't write-"

11:59, and the watch on Veidt's wrist is shrieking.

Veidt is out of his chair, leaned across the desk, has Daniel lifted from his own seat by his shirt, hands fisted into the fabric – more quickly than should be possible, too quickly for Rorschach to move to intercept. His eyes are sharp and clear and filled with panic. He's no longer smiling.



All of which is irrelevant, because he's broken their fragile, unspoken cease-fire, has taken physical action against them, is threatening Daniel. Rorschach's crossed the space and his hands are up and they're about to land, dislocate the shoulder or snap the collarbone or just stun him into letting go when Daniel puts his own hand up, palm out, frantically halting him.

Veidt is mumbling into the resultant silence, quietly, over and over again, eyes wide and full of animal terror: "Help me. Please."

Rorschach shakes in place, fury rattling its way out through clenched teeth and clenched fists, but Daniel is blocking him, warning him off, and he has to have a reason and he's talking to Veidt, so calmly and carefully as if he were a child: "How can we help you? What should we do?"

One hand uncurls from his shirt, is fumbling through a desk drawer. Rorschach stiffens, expecting a hidden weapon. Something tiny and glinting metallic in the overhead lights is palmed into Daniel's hand instead. "Take everything," Veidt insists, and if he has none of his old composure, he's at least regained the fire. "Don't look at the light. Whatever you do, don't look at the light."

Daniel nods, fist tightening around whatever it is he's been handed. "What light?" He gets no response; panic is starting to glaze into catatonia. "Adrian. What light?"

The watch starts emitting a low sequence of beeps, increasing in speed and pitch, like the rising and urgent scream of an air raid siren.

In the scuffle, the sheet of clockfaces has been brushed to the floor. Driven by impulse he doesn't fully understand, Rorschach crouches to pick it up, eyes not leaving Veidt and Daniel until he's standing again and risks a look at the page.

All the hands point to twelve. Midnight.

(Or noon.)

And as the clock on Veidt's desk gives a mechanical twitch, hands sliding fluidly together, and a gold-white glow starts to swell through the windows – he realizes his mistake.

("Don't look at the light.")

It's pure instinct that screws Rorschach's eyes shut – makes him release the sheet and lunge for Daniel, knocking him from Veidt's grip and dropping them both to the carpet.

And even as he's forced to bring his full weight to bear to try to keep his partner still because he's thrashing and bucking, hands clenched into hard fists – even as he gropes blindly for Daniel's face, palms pressing over his eyes when he finds them – he knows it's too late, because Daniel is screaming and screaming and the sound is dragging something sharp and horrible down along the inside of his ribcage, scraping him raw and bleeding, and everything that's left in there is all wrapped up in the man writhing under his hands and Daniel's eyes are covered now but he won't stop screaming and-

Someone, somewhere, flips a switch, because now it's quiet and still and his vision is black behind his eyelids again, not the red of light tunneling through skin and blood. He cracks his eyes open, cautiously. Finds conditions nominal.

When he lifts his hands away, Daniel's face is pale, fine muscle tremors rippling across his features, eyes unfocused and empty and roving.

"My goodness, I had no idea." Veidt's standing behind his desk still, an amused smirk dancing on his otherwise blank face. His eyebrows lift suggestively; his tone is all condescension and bemusement again, that strange, raw vulnerability evaporated. A minute to midnight, a minute to noon; it all makes a sick sort of sense. "Though I must insist that this is hardly the appropriate time or place."

Rorschach looks up and then down again; realizes that he's straddled across Daniel's midsection, hands still pressed to the sides of his face, and Daniel is obviously not well, is shaking and lost, had moments ago been thrashing and screaming in agony and he knows that only Veidt would make a filthy joke out of-

He also knows when he's being baited, cheaply and casually. Chooses not to take the hook, this time. More important matters: Daniel, information, and possibly manslaughter. He shifts back onto his feet, still crouched low, and hisses: "What did you do to him?"

(If you've hurt her-)

The words are different, the anger the same, but it's a functional, practical question, not loaded down with the childish implication of threats, and it earns him as honest an answer as he can expect from this smiling, bland puppet of a man

(You already got an answer from the frightened creature inside:

"Don't look at the light.")

when he narrows his eyes, leans over the desk to really look, and says, "I haven't done anything." There's something there like a mockery of concern, and he steps around the other side. "He really doesn't look well, though." A significant pause. "You should look after him."

Rorschach looks up, locks eyes with the man looming over them; business suit, shining cufflinks, not a hair out of place. A watch, now silent. At this range he can see the fine lines that the last decade has layered into Veidt's face, around the eyes and mouth; footprints of stress and worry, not of excessive laughter or smiling as Daniel has often insisted. A perfect caricature.

Rorschach knows how ugly he is. Knows Veidt has never seen him in person without his face until today. Had been expecting a taunt or a jibe; didn't care, but expected, given the man's superficiality and propensity for shallow insults.

He understands, right then, what's been so unsettling about the entire exchange. Veidt's been reading from a script, acting out a scene that's been on pause for a decade, with no sense of investment or the usual deep cunning. No expectation that it would go wrong, that it would not play out as it was supposed to.

He has no information to give, because he's telling the truth – he hasn't done anything. He isn't in control here.

"Will keep quiet for now," Rorschach lies, more easily than he ever has, because he knows that this gutted, pre-programmed ghost of what had once been the smartest man in the world will believe him.

Veidt nods in acceptance and steps behind his desk, busies himself with paperwork. The curtain's dropped. All that's left is for the actors to get off of the stage.

Rorschach hefts Daniel upright, limp and clearly delirious but his feet somehow remembering through the daze how to stand, step, walk - all of his weight on Rorschach's shoulders. Get them out, get them safe, figure out how to fix this. Because it is fixable; it has to be.

And because he is and always will be the programmed creature he is, Rorschach stops at the door, turns back to the room.

"Isn't over, Veidt."

A shuffling of papers. The clock reads 12:02. "Nothing ever is."

*

----->Chapter 6

*

Tags:

Comments

( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
des_pudels_kern
Jun. 8th, 2009 09:12 am (UTC)
0_o

*wibble* Omigod.

*refresh refresh*
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
OH NOEZ DAN.

Haha well there should be more later tonight, if all goes well. :D
bane_6
Jun. 8th, 2009 11:21 am (UTC)
Yeek! And the only way I can stand it is to assume that it wouldn't happen every day (if it does) if it didn't wear off. Awesome, as always!
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
Well, they were wandering around all day yesterday and it didn't happen, and brainwashed!Adrian did specifically ask them to be there at noon.

BUT! Obviously Adrian got some sort of relapse/wearing-off effect for that last minute before it happened, so there's SOMETHING going on...

Heh I get way too much sadistic glee out of this. I think I have a problem.
bane_6
Jun. 8th, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
A good storyteller is supposed to have a certain level of sadism.
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
It's mixed sadism and masochism, in that I write what I like to read, and I like to read things that make me actually lose track of the fact that I'm 95% certain to get a happy(ish) ending. I want to really be WITH someone, mentally, when they're freaking out because someone is hurt/might die/etc, and then with them again when the relief hits because they didn't. It's some kind of crazy psychological narcotic for me. Which is why I don't enjoy actual character death at all, regardless of the angst it brings, because it feels like a rush that falls flat halfway through.

Sorry, end ramble heh.
danceswithelvis
Jun. 8th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
Wow, very intense and mysterious. I like it a lot. Wonderful characterizations, as always!
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! The prompt asked for it to be twilight-zone-ish so that's the general 'offness' vibe I've been going for.
danceswithelvis
Jun. 8th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
I think you've got the prompt nailed.
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
Awesome heh thanks :D
midnite_vision
Jun. 8th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
Damn... This wasn't what I expected at all when I started reading this fic. It's so unique, and I just love it. I've been waiting for a chaptered story to follow in this fandom, and it couldn't be any better than this. I envy your imagination and writing skills. They make me want to push myself harder as a writer, so I thank you for that. I can't wait for the next chapter. :D
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
make me want to push myself harder as a writer

No greater compliment, sir or madam. Seriously. That makes me feel all squishy and wonderful inside.

Thank you, really. Unique is a wonderful thing and it's usually what I aim for so eeeee fantastic :)
midnite_vision
Jun. 8th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. :) I immediately went to work on one of my stories to try to make it better. I felt inspired. (Oh, and I'm a girl. lol)
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
Inspiration FTW. <3
gothamafterdark
Jun. 8th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
Well, hello my new favorite story, how are you today?

I’m pretty speechless, my goodness, your work never fails to impress me! This is such a fresh take on the fix-it AUs I’ve read and I’m smitten! And eager for more and I so want to write good reviews for you, but they always come out as gibberish! Just know that I’ve looking for a nice long story involving these two again and it seemed like a dry spell was going on and then you posted THIS.

And it’s all just plain good.

MOAR. And soon, please!
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
I've labeled it as a fixit because it is by default, BUT the main reason I wanted to write it was for all the twilight zone creepy bullshit that they have to deal with. XD And of course the character moments and the plot and message etc etc but I don't think I'm capable of writing a straight-up fixit without creepy blonde village-of-the-damned shit and mysterious lights, or ZOMBIES, or whatever.

Pointless ramble is pointless. Thank you so much for reading/commenting/enjoying and there should be more posted soon. :)
i_am_your_spy
Jun. 8th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
This is terribly exciting. I can't wait to read the rest.
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
So glad to hear, thank you so much!

I'm trying to do a chapter per day, but it varies if they fight me too hard heh. This one fought me for three days, it was horrible. D:
nabaroo
Jun. 8th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
OHMIGODOHMIGODOHMIGOD. *wiggle*
Dan! what did you do, Adrain, you bastard?!
>: <
Rorschach, save Dan! And Dan, ensue an awkward scene that leads to kinky sex!
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
BELIEVE IT OR NOT Adrian didn't actually do anything. Voluntarily. Or something. The question becomes: Which is really Adrian, the one inside or the one outside? D:

More importantly:
*cracks whip* You heard 'em boys, get on it!
nabaroo
Jun. 9th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
Well, one part of half-Adrian did something that might have lead to indirectly hurting Dan. Or something. x]

That's right, lmao! Crack that whip. This story is awesome.
etherati
Jun. 9th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
Haha thank you. :)

And I'm not gonna give anything else away on the half-Adrian 'did or didn't do' 'directly or indirectly' front :P gotta have some secrets.
jack_infinitude
Jun. 9th, 2009 04:22 am (UTC)
All I can coherently say is that this is beautifully intricate and detailed and ten times better than what I would have come up with. Also, that Rors and Dan are completely, utterly, absolutely besotted with each other.
etherati
Jun. 9th, 2009 04:35 am (UTC)
Thank you! These on-the-fly monster epics always scare the crap out of me, so it's wonderful to hear that people are enjoying them. :D

Oh and, yeah, of course they are. Whether they ever admit it or not, who knows. I started the zombie epic with the intention of getting to actual slash by the end but nooooooo they had to be difficult and ornery about it. D: Which I mean, all that means is that a sequel is required. But the point is, YES, YES THEY ARE.
anactoria
Jun. 10th, 2009 12:03 am (UTC)
Wow, this is fascinating and awesome. I'm friending you to keep up with it -- hope that's okay. :)
etherati
Jun. 10th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
Not at all! And thank you so much - just posted a new chapter now, hope to have a new one up every other day or so.

Do you mind if I friend you back, btw? You have a lot of great writing there yourself. :D
anactoria
Jun. 10th, 2009 07:58 am (UTC)
I certainly don't mind -- and thanks! :)
(Deleted comment)
etherati
Jun. 10th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
He's had to fight hard just to get that one minute of control out of every cycle; expect it continue to come into play heh. :D

And thank you!
aceles
Jul. 13th, 2009 02:08 am (UTC)
HI THERE.

I just finished recording 1-5 as the first piece of the podfic is this, to be edited later, and I suddenly remembered something relevant to our discussion about Adrian's psychosis.

Related to DID, I read a book about a woman with DID once, an autobiography/biography she wrote with her therapist. And one advantage to the disorder was that, in class, she could take notes with both hands--one personality using one, one using the other, and would have to kind of hide this from her fellow students even though it helped since she could take down twice as much information.

Just thought that might interest you.
etherati
Jul. 13th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)
Wow, that's kind of unusual, I've never heard of DID manifesting that way! I think I may have to end up doing some *actual research* here to figure out what's actually up with Adrian, but that's a really useful bit of info.

ETA: BWEEEEE MORE PODFIC YAY. Sorry I completely missed responding I am on my second glass of wine and am just spacey enough to miss whole chunks of responses.

Edited at 2009-07-13 02:13 am (UTC)
aceles
Jul. 13th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
I thought of it really suddenly and was like SOMETHING ACTUALLY RELEVANT THAT IS NOT ME RAMBLING ABOUT COMPARTMENTALIZATION.

:DDDDD No worries! Enjoy your wine, woman. I'll edit it sometime this week, hopefully sooner rather than later.
etherati
Jul. 13th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
Gnnnn it's just a neprica, I guess the toscana was alllll gooooone. Which makes me sad.

I guess what I'm really looking for is some diagnosis whereby if they manage to break the control over him in the same way they did over Ror, the personality 'inside' - the one that's trying to help them - will come to the fore and take over, because that's the 'real' personality.
aceles
Jul. 13th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
I know nothing about wine, but I am sorry you could not find the kind you like. *pats*

Right. Well, it's possible that with urging and the right combination of stimuli, it could be done. I don't know precisely what happened with Ror, but I can guess? If it had something to do with the sort of fight or flight response, or simply a familiar situation, then any number of stimuli could be used.
etherati
Jul. 13th, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)
Going to take this to PM, since this is getting into spoilery things for people who are only up to this chapter in reading. One sec!
lampsh4de
Nov. 9th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
Ohmigod, you are fantastic.

I'm not articulate enough to write you the review you deserve... so I'll just make little fangirl noises and gnaw on my laptop.

I'm so picky about fanfictions... If the concept sucks, or if the writing is poor I can sometimes force myself to read through them, but if the characterization is shitty I just can't. You've got everything spot-on here, and I look forward to stalking you until this is done. C:
etherati
Nov. 10th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
It will be a loooong stalk haha. But thank you, I really appreciate that, specifically in the area of characterization; it's the most important thing to me, too.
lampsh4de
Nov. 12th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
Yay! Too much slash is about the buttsecks, not about the characters.

:D Here's to a long stalk. At least you have plenty of other uh-mazing fics for me to read in the meantime.
etherati
Nov. 12th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
Hahah well I've clearly marked my gratuitous porn as such but even those I do try to keep grounded in the characters.

And thanks!
archelongirl
Jul. 11th, 2011 05:36 am (UTC)
I have absolutely no idea what's going on, but I know it's amazing. <3
gefellhixuj
Feb. 16th, 2012 06:50 pm (UTC)
Благодарю за статью
Да если копнуть в инете подобного добра навалом!
( 40 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.

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