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FIC: Shoes at the Door

Title: Shoes at the Door
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: Dan/Z!Rorschach, pre-Lilacs
Date Written: 2010
Summary: Home (n): 1 : one's place of residence, domicile, house. 2 : the social unit formed by a family living together. 3 : a familiar or usual setting, a congenial environment.
Rating/Warnings: PG, introspective fluff.
Notes: Set between 'Superstition' and 'Breeding Lilacs'.

*

It starts in the guest room, and it’s a practical thing: a few large maps tacked to the walls, identical unfolded subway diagrams with the city grid overlaid. Each has a different arrangement of pins stuck scattershot into it – and it occurs to Dan that they’re stretching themselves a little thin, working three cases at once like this, but the city doesn’t deliver these windows of opportunity on their schedule.

“Daniel,” a voice says from the doorway, partly challenging and partly just curious. He hadn’t even heard the door open.

Dan doesn’t bother with looking contrite; just continues peeling the bedding back from the mattress, balling it up in his arms. “Hey. Was going to throw my sheets in the wash, thought I’d grab these too.”

Rorschach doesn’t move from the doorway, but the accusation in his posture softens, loosens up. Shakes out.

“That’s the North Shore case, right?” Dan asks, nodding towards the nearest map, all the pins concentrated along the edges of the Hudson. New gang, operating out of the warehouses there, all petty and small-time encounters so far but it’s best to take these groups out while they’re still finding their feet, while they’re manageable.

A nod, and Rorschach comes over, pale fingers ghosting along the trail of pins, catching on them roughly as if he’s used to tracing flat ink. They skirt close to an area hastily marked out in red, a boundary. “Only a matter of time before they start getting big ideas about the Dark Hands’ old territory.”

“We should make them a priority, then,” Dan says, and it’s incongruous, discussing these things with a load of laundry in his arms, with a crimefighting partner who’s wearing only a loose pair of pajama bottoms, hair still stuck to his face from the shower. But then, time was these maps would have been folded into the pockets of Rorschach’s coat, a portable crime lab to be accessed wherever he was at the time, scribbled over and edited until they were incomprehensible even to him. This is a better system.

“Yes,” Rorschach says, and starts pulling clothes from a pile on the floor, the damp towel over his shoulders dropped carelessly onto the stripped bed. “Have worn out their welcome.”

*

One day, Dan comes in with the shopping, is headed to the kitchen to get the perishables put away quickly – there are a lot of them, and it always takes some special voodoo to get all the meat for the week into the freezer alongside all the rest and he really should just get a chest freezer at some point – when the bookshelf in the living room catches his eye.

Setting the bags on the table and wandering back to the other room, one eye and ear on the kitchen doorway because otherwise Rorschach will descend on the food there like a perpetually starving and particularly silent cat, Dan crouches to eye level with the shelves.

They’re full to bursting where there’d been breathing gaps and wide spaces before, thick spines artfully tipped sideways to keep gravity at bay for the rest of them. Research books and case files and historical volumes he expects, crime and criminals and the justice system, but the occasional piece of fiction is wedged in there too. Milton and Dante, unsurprisingly, but also Melville and London and Carroll, older copies clearly once owned by a child, and an assortment of Holmes titles, mismatched editions and publishers. Thick books of poetry. A tattered old collection of Poe’s short stories, and while he at first can’t reconcile the gothic wet dream modern youth culture has turned the author into with his grounded-in-reality partner, it only takes a little memory tugging to remember that most of Poe’s murderers and criminals got what was coming to them, driven mad by their own guilt, confessions complete and incontrovertible. Justice served. They’re there under his searching fingers, corners folded down carefully, the Telltale Heart, the Black Cat. Masque too, and that makes sense; the rich and privileged getting what they deserve for ignoring the plight of those around them.

There’s a sharper, more recent dog-ear at House of Usher, and it makes Dan think of the sickly-pale and given up on and buried alive, of dead and limbless trees, and he wonders.

*

They’re clipped out of magazines and photocopied out of art books, these haunting photographs of things that are long since dead. Nothing artsy or experimental or idealized, just realistic portraits of life in the city as it was before, neither fixating on the darker elements nor shying away from them. Black and white and gone, and finding their way onto his walls by way of thumbtacks and masking tape, wedged under owl-shaped refrigerator magnets alongside shopping lists and utility bills.

One of the pictures, a turn-of-the-century shot of a group of people being driven off-camera by a flock of pigeons, running scared from the assault, has been taped over February’s owl in his calendar to obvious comic effect – and people say Rorschach doesn’t have a sense of humor. Most of the people who say it only ever see his fists, to be fair, but Dan’s still caught so off guard that he laughs until he can’t see straight, glasses pushed onto his forehead, and after the last few nights it’s so welcome.

A few blocks down from the grocer, there’s an art store that sells generic frames, and he buys a stack the next time he’s out, sets the photographs into them, hangs them properly. Rorschach never mentions it, and the calendar stays exactly as it is.

*

‘Sugar’, says the bottom of the shopping list the next time he looks, as if Dan won’t recognize the difference in handwriting, as if he’d ever forget. Duct tape, cereal, eggs. ‘Justice’, further down, as an afterthought or a joke, or both.

*

He never catches him at it, just stumbles onto these things when he’s alone, these little additions and alterations that mark his as a home shared, not just a residence with a lodger. His first impulse is to think that Rorschach’s wary of being caught, but he knows better; if he thought doing any of it were actually wrong, he wouldn’t do it at all. It’s likely just easier to indulge himself when there’s no one there to witness these momentary weaknesses – running hands over a map of the city, flattening creases and willing its secrets to sink into his flesh, to deliver its epiphanies. Pressing his favorite words onto a shelf alongside the tattered old books of mythology that Dan still reads, as if the two might bolster each other’s simple beauty in the face of an ugly and complicated world. Smoothing the black and white finality of history into the warmth of the present, stark against the clean wooden doors and beige paint, all these scraps and reminders that life existed before they did, will exist after they don’t. That people have found belonging everywhere and anywhere and suffered in all the same places. That the city has always been full of stories with nowhere to settle.

He never catches him, but when Rorschach turns to him one night after an especially grueling patrol, light starting to peek over the horizon and reflect dizzily through the maze of glass-fronted buildings, a thousand suns in miniature, and says “Let’s go home,” well. It’s a slip, or he’s too tired for filters, or after watching the city try to murder itself overnight and with blood drying on his clothes and gloves, maybe anywhere off these streets and out from under the dawn-fading stars would feel like a refuge.

Nite Owl doesn’t even crack a smile – just puts an arm across Rorschach’s shoulders, squeezes. “Yeah. Come on.”

*

Morning light curling through the windows, Dan falls asleep to the sound of too-slow breath and the smell of blood and the feel of an unfamiliar book, spread open and heavy across his chest.

They are home.

*

Comments

( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
jack_infinitude
Jan. 20th, 2010 06:02 am (UTC)
Beautiful. Marvelous. Poetry.

There’s a sharper, more recent dog-ear at House of Usher, and it makes Dan think of the sickly-pale and given up on and buried alive, of dead and limbless trees, and he wonders.

You kill me dead with lines like this. <333

Edited at 2010-01-20 06:03 am (UTC)
etherati
Jan. 20th, 2010 06:22 am (UTC)
Eee, thank you. I'm trying hard to break out of a rut, and I'm glad this one is appealing to folks. I can never tell what's good anymore XD

I cheat though, is the thing; Usher's so full of powerful imagery that all I had to do was lift it and bam, instant evidence of zombie introspection/self-examination. <3
greenjudy
Jan. 20th, 2010 06:05 am (UTC)
This is great. And Rorshach's writers are perfect. For some reason, I knew Poe was going to appear on that list, and I think you got the reasons right. Terrific and understated-I loved it.
etherati
Jan. 20th, 2010 06:18 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you so much - I had no idea you were reading these! I waffled a lot on the books, but I was very happy with Poe's place in it all. :3
findmyantidrug
Jan. 20th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
I love this. There's not even a way to explain how much I love this, just...I really enjoy it when you write about the little things going on in Dan and Rorschach's relationship - nothing monumental, just extra books tucked into a bookshelf and Dan doing the laundry and...ahh. So wonderful.
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:12 am (UTC)
Thank you!

and yesss because there really had to be a point where he realized he wasn't just 'staying with a friend' anymore, that this was his place now, and more than that, an actual home. That's a really important step. :3
tuff_ghost
Jan. 20th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
DAT SHOPPING LIST :D :D
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:13 am (UTC)
ISN'T IT AWESOME I CAME UP WITH IT ALL ON MY OWN.
robinnevermore
Jan. 20th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
"Dan’s still caught so off guard that he laughs until he can’t see straight, glasses pushed onto his forehead, and after the last few nights it’s so welcome."

"‘Sugar’, says the bottom of the shopping list the next time he looks, as if Dan won’t recognize the difference in handwriting, as if he’d ever forget. Duct tape, cereal, eggs. ‘Justice’, further down, as an afterthought or a joke, or both."

Ahh! This was awesome! I was so excited when i got the post and you didn't dissappoint! i love you showing Rorschach's more human side! I loved the "Duct tape, cereal, eggs....Justice." line too. I laughed like crazy. i can see it in my head perfectly. Go you!
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)
Thanks! The shopping list actually grew out of a conversation I had with Tuff, so credit goes there for inspiration. XD Just you know, what a novel thing for Ror, he writes things on this piece of paper and then they appear!

I find that it's much easier to access his human side now that he's not entirely human anymore, and somewhere in there I think, is the point. :)
robinnevermore
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
....Recently i've been pausing in my daily activities to think "Rorschach wouildn't approve." So there i'll be, getting my cute black and red striped socks out of the dryer, and BAM! I think that phrase and i'll burst out laughing and everyone'll look at me, holding a pair of socks and laughing, thinking i'm nuts. It makes me wanna do a doodle of rorschach stamping something something with a stamp that says: Rorschach approved....i also wanna do a version of the joker doing it. :)
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 03:46 am (UTC)
Bahahaha XD
tortoisegirl
Jan. 20th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
I think a lot of the sweetness in this is just that Rorschach has a place he considers home, something he doesn't get in canon. It's great that Dan gets to see Rorschach's weird sense of humor in little ways he might not get if they weren't so physically close. The "justice" thing reminds me of when I used to write "a pony" on my mom's shopping lists. :3
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:16 am (UTC)
Yes, exactly. It's less about the domestic little things he's doing and more about this idea of redefining 'home' and what level of belonging it takes for someone so solitary and private to call a shared space home. And yes, I love playing with his humor; it's so bizarre, and Dan seems like one of the very few who'd actually get it.

Thank you!
hohaiyee
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
I ♥ Rorschach's sense of humour
In rereading the Watchmen, I noted that not only did Walter speak in complete sentences pre-Roche, but he actually minded hygenie. So the crazy darkness that Dan noted that Walter lives in to Laurie, did not come until Roche (though it's been lurking).

So Walter was just plain weird adorable pre-Roche, I mean, back then, Roche's killer actually asked what Rorschach could do to him with no evidence!

...and I think I can see now, Dan being unable to handle the change, the sudden wide gap, Dan couldn't reach out properly then because he was too busy grieving the lost of pre-Roche Walter to deal with the new mess.

...and I think after Dan did get back with Roschach after the jailbreak, Walter was starting to come back into himself, he was more conversational, in Ozy's office. Then it was Walter who was the sanity leash after Dan learnt of Hollis's murder.
etherati
Jun. 27th, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
Re: I ♥ Rorschach's sense of humour
So much here to respond to!

I have theories about his speaking patterns pre-Roche - complete and formal around strangers/people he wanted to impress, more shorthand around Dan, who he was more comfortable with and trusted to understand him without saying every word, a kind of verbal economy where he said as much as was necessary to get his ideas across in a given situation and no more. That said, he think he would have had more to express in the past - more ideas to share, and yes, that's reflected in ozy's office.

And yeah, I think personally that he was already drifting away from people, Dan included, when Roche happened. He was working the case alone which says something, and in zverse at least, they were working separately the night of the outbreak. He was drifting and essentially cruising for a breakdown and if it wasn't Roche it woulda been something else, which is why just fixing roche to fix rorschach never rings true in fic. You have to let it happen, take him to that edge, then rely on having built enough of a support structure for him that he didn't have in canon to reel him back in. Anything shy of that just sets him up for the NEXT kidnap case, the next horror he finds alone in the dark one night.

And then, yes, Dan screaming he's going to kill the guy, Dan who has never killed finally given enough reason to do so? Rorschach's been on that ledge and he's slipped off it and he's been in that freefall for ten years, and I think he really needed for Dan not to slip off it too. What good is an anchor - to humanity, to anything - if they're falling alongside you?
unimagine
Jan. 20th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
*meelllllt*

<3 It's just so sweet to see Ror in a real home. Oh my heart.
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:18 am (UTC)
We know he feels that it's home later on, but I wanted to kind of... explore that moment, that cusp of the transition, because it's so important for someone who, yeh, has probably never had a real home before. <3
lampsh4de
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:32 am (UTC)
God, they're so domestic. ;___; It's beautiful.

Brb, writing "sugar" and "justice" on my shopping list. C:
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:35 am (UTC)
They're not THAT domestic, half the fic was about crimefighting stuffs D:

But I know what you mean heh, and thank you. It's really less about the domesticity on its face(which is usually boring imo) and more about the themes of what is home and how do you find it, etc. :3
lampsh4de
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:42 am (UTC)
Domestic for Rorschach, I mean. :3 Aaah. That's one of my favorite themes ever, btw, the struggle to define "home" and how it just falls together sometimes amidst chaos. :B
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 03:46 am (UTC)
Hell, just having a permanent domicile is domestic for rorschach XD And yeah, definitely one of my favorite themes too, and a running thread through most of the z!verse.
i_am_your_spy
Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
D'awwww. You write so beautifully, you really do. And I love Rorschach's shopping list.
etherati
Jan. 22nd, 2010 04:16 am (UTC)
Rorschach's shopping list was much more epic in the original conversation haha. TRUTH. ACCOUNTABILITY. JUSTICE. I decided to shorten it a bit. XD

And thank you, that means a lot.
daylilymoon
Jan. 25th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
YOU ARE LIKE A MACHINE OF AWESOME LATELY never stop :D

This slow, cautious melding of Rorschach inching into Dan's space and life is so satisfying to read.

I have no idea why, but I just really like that opening detail of the map. And Dan running out of freezer space. And basically everything else that makes it feel like a real universe with real people in it! The things Rorschach likes, they make so much sense. Holmes! Poetry! Poe! Photographs of things long gone.

That people have found belonging everywhere and anywhere and suffered in all the same places.
I like this line so much

JUSTICE ♥
etherati
Jan. 25th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)
JUSTICE CAN BE FOUND IN AISLE 6 NEXT TO THE POPTARTS.

Thanks so much; I was really happy with that line too(that whole sequence actually) and it was fun trying to figure out what he'd like and how to make it feel like part of a bigger world. It's all nested metaphors of home inside each other blah blah pretentious but I like the picture he put in the calender the best XD

How is your cold doing?
daylilymoon
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)
Fff yes the picture! I laughed so hard, then dawww'd at Dan laughing hard too. Rorschach's sense of humor is so awesome when allowed to shine.

How is your cold doing?

Still yucky, it's lasted for a week and I'm so behind on eeeverything whine whine :(
etherati
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:42 am (UTC)
That's terrible, are you sure it's a cold and not PIG FLU?
daylilymoon
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:03 am (UTC)
oh no not bacon fever :c

oink oink oh god there it is

i guess this means i should never go to work or social obligations ever again. to keep from infecting everyone, of course. what a terrible, terrible fate!
etherati
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:18 am (UTC)
OH GOD YOU'RE TURNING INTO A PIG

AS WE SPEAK

all joking aside, if you think it might be take care of yourself, ok? :\ It can turn dangerous pretty quickly.
daylilymoon
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
Aw don't worry, I'm getting better :)

Hey hey is it your birthday?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
etherati
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
YES IT IS

OH GOD I'M THIRTY D:D:D:D:D

But I got some zombieporn in pchat last night from Jackie, so that makes it mostly all better.
elspethdixon
Feb. 6th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
I managed to miss this when you first posted it, and it makes me melt into a little puddle of warm domesticity kink goo (for some reason, I have the hugest domesticity!kink for this pairing, way more than a lot of other, possibly tiny gestures that would be par for the course in other pairings are hugely significant with Dan/Ror, and because domesticity for them involves crime-investigation maps on the wall and washing blood out of the laundry -- and in Z!verse, tons of raw meat in the freezer).

while he at first can’t reconcile the gothic wet dream modern youth culture has turned the author into with his grounded-in-reality partner, it only takes a little memory tugging to remember that most of Poe’s murderers and criminals got what was coming to them, driven mad by their own guilt, confessions complete and incontrovertible. Justice served.

I think this is my favorite part of the whole thing, even more than the adorable "sugar" and "justice" on the shopping list, or the gorgeously atmospheric House of Usher line and Rorschach's black and white photoes of dead things from a "simpler" time. Because Rorschach *would* love Poe, with all it's overwrought prose and decadent/depraved criminals getting what was coming to them.
etherati
Feb. 6th, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
Thanks :3 I usually can't deal with domesticity at all but with these two I can; I think you're right that's it's because there's a constant influence of what they do all night over the rest of their lives, and because it IS such a huge deal, and because one of them's a goddamned zombie, I mean come on, nothing domestic is totally domestic with a zombie in the house, and just the strange way everything plays out between them. It's just.. different.

The overwrought prose! Yes, he would adore that. Probably be reading and be like 'hrm, must remember that phrase for later, when I need to grandiosely condemn the infectious nature of human corruption'. *memorize*
cathedral_junki
Jan. 21st, 2011 06:11 am (UTC)
Every time I read this (and I've read it three times so far) that bit a out justice on the grocery list makes me crack up this is one of my favorite ficletts
etherati
Feb. 27th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
I have to give tuff_ghost credit for that one, haha.
( 36 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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