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FIC: Solidarity

Title: Solidarity
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: Z!Rorschach, Dan, Hollis, OC
Date Written: 2010
Summary: Being different is more bearable when you're not alone in it, or: Rorschach plays child counselor, in his own special way.
Rating/Warnings: PG.
Notes:  Zombie!verse, about a month post-Roche. An extrapolation on this wonderful piece by slipstreamborne .

*

It’s getting on into the heart of autumn when Dan gets a call from Hollis: he needs some help this weekend loading an entire back room’s worth of belongings, the legacy of twenty years of packratting, off into storage. The idea is that the kids he’s looking after – just until the world’s a little saner, Danny, just until there’s someone trustworthy who can take them – should have an actual space to themselves instead of camping in his living room.

“Any extra hands you can bring along would be appreciated, you know,” he says, intent transparent even over the rough connection, and Dan can’t help but grin into the handset at the way Hollis never. Ever. Gives up.

“I’ll see what he can do,” he says, the laughter plain in his tone, and doesn’t think about it again until two days later.

He’s shocked when Rorschach actually agrees.

*

“Good man,” Rorschach’s muttering as they come up around the back way, sticking to the shadows. He’d refused outright to come unmasked, so this has to be done under cover of dusk or risk Nite Owl’s identity. “If he needs help, no reason to refuse him.”

Dan smiles in the dark, because Rorschach's been defending the decision the entire way here, one excuse after another as if he has to offer them, as if it's required. Not possible that he's just being nice; that's absurd.

He knocks lightly on the frame of the side door, eying the flatbed truck sitting just inside the chain link fence. There are already boxes starting to pile up in it, but by the look of the space that needs to be filled, he understands the need for as many hands as possible – and it's so mundane, hardly something that requires their particular skillset, but being in this business, even retired, means that most of your friends are, too. It's hard to know anyone else.

The door opens, they’re welcomed in, and the truckbed starts to fill.

*

When they’re nearly finished, Hollis calls a break; he can handle the rest, he says, and they've got other things to get to tonight. He brews coffee in his kitchen, offers chilled bottles of beer during the wait. Rorschach politely declines both, and Dan is struck again by how oddly respectful his partner’s behavior always turns in front of the older heroes; not formal, but with most of the rough and graceless edges sanded away. It’s always a strange transformation to watch, but it's more pronounced now, restraint coming more effortlessly than it used to.

“You sure you won’t have any coffee?” Hollis asks, pulling two mugs down and pausing with his hand on a third.

It’s a cold night, early October, and Dan had seen the fine shivers starting to run under the layers the last few times he’d passed Rorschach with a load of boxes. He knows how hard that cold is for him to shake, knows how badly he probably does want the hot liquid swirling into mugs on the counter, so when Rorschach just grumbles ‘no thanks’ again and turns away, Dan can only assume that he doesn’t want Hollis to see what's under the edges of his mask.

Dan bites his lip, sighs. Reaches for his own mug, and makes promises in his head to turn up Archie’s thermostat on patrol tonight, to brew extra cocoa, to go digging for heavier blankets when the night’s over.

*

The mugs are rinsed and set aside and they’re about to get going when there’s a soft gasp from across the kitchen. In the doorway, the silhouetted outline of a child.

"Jacky," Hollis says, voice full of that playful warning that Dan remembers from visiting his grandparents' house in New Brunswick; it never had teeth, never came to bear as anything but a gentle admonishment and he was always still allowed desert and one more show on their brand new television before being shuffled off to bed. "It's late, you should be asleep."

"Heard voices," the tiny shadow in the doorframe mumbles. When he steps forward into the light, Dan feels his mouth drop open in surprise – and he'd even been prepared for this, told over the phone the first time he'd managed to get Hollis on the line after the outbreak. It'd been such a relief to hear his voice that the 'complication' explained alongside had barely fazed him, and he knew that this was why Hollis hadn't gotten them off to Child Services, but actually seeing the kid right in front of him–

The boy rubs one hand over sleep-stickied eyes, the same familiar dull fire glinting through under the drooping lids. He's missing two fingers. "Was scared, thought maybe they came ba..." he trails off, tiredness immediately emptying out of his expression as he takes in the company, eyes going wide when they land on Rorschach, still standing antisocially in one corner of the kitchen. "Whoa. Are you really..."

"Jacky here's a bit of a fan," Hollis warns, amusement clear in his voice, leaning back against the cupboard.

A quiet harumph from the corner, dismissive enough that neither of them are expecting Rorschach to actually detach himself from the shadows there, walk over to the boy. Crouch down in front of him, aiming for eye level even if his own eyes are hidden. He nods after a moment. "Yes."

"What are you doing here, is Mr. Mason in trouble?" Jacky asks, then his mouth falls open as another thought occurs. "Am I in trouble? Are they coming back to–"

A sharp shake of his head, exaggerated by the brim of the hat. "No one's in trouble. Here to assist... Mr. Mason. Very important work," he says, and it's the truth, in a way. Then, before the inevitable question: "Very secret."

Jacky nods, with the kind of complete, guileless seriousness that only children ever seem to possess. "Okay," he says, voice barely a whisper, seeming to grasp the implication immediately. "I won't tell anyone you were here."

"Good."

"I have, uhm." He glances back toward the hallway. Lowers his voice, all secrecy. "I have a hat like that. It's in my room though, I didn't bring it," he says, pointing back at his room, and the mangling of his hands is much more obvious in the gesture. Jacky seems to become aware of it too, old enough for self-consciousness and all of its crippling damage to self esteem. Pulls his hands back down, balled into fists that hide the damage.

Rorschach intercepts the motion – wordlessly takes the boy’s hands in his own, turning them over, taking in the barely-healed stubs of knuckles, and Dan has never seen him treat anyone so gently. The moment feels spun from glass.

“Took your fingers,” Rorschach growls with his usual lack of tact, but there’s something in the tone that’s softened, almost sympathetic.

The boy nods, head heavy despite the wide eyes. “The monsters did. That’s why I look like them.” A slight pause, shifting from foot to foot, as if he’s trying to weigh how much is acceptable to say – a hat is one thing but this is something else, and dealing with strangers is always a complicated matter, and when you add both famous and feared to the list... Eyes slide sideways, towards the wall. "I hate it.”

It's quiet, but even from across the room Dan can hear the outsider’s shame and the budding self-loathing, just waiting for the right amount of pressure to bloom. Hollis frowns flatly.

“Hrm,” Rorschach mutters, releasing the hands, reaching up to hook his thumbs under the edge of his mask, lifting it up over his nose with a quick, practiced motion before Dan even realizes what he's intending. “Have something in common.”

Jacky’s eyes widen further, face flooded with something like wonder, everything else displaced in an instant. “Wow, ” he breathes, mouth hanging open. “For real?”

Against the cabinet, Hollis leans in, lowers his voice. “Dan, you didn’t tell me…”

“Wasn’t mine to say,” Dan says, but he’s just watching, watching.

Rorschach settles arms over his knees, tilting his head to one side. Studying. “It is what it is. Not worth the effort to hate it.”

He glances down at his feet, bites his lip. “It's horrible, though. 'cept for Cindy and Jason, all the other kids are scared of me.”

“That is not a bad thing.”

And Dan’s burying his face in his hands behind them, shaking his head in horror and amusement both at once – and he’ll have to tell Hollis later to do his best to undo this damage, but for now the kid’s face is curious and unfolding. “It’s not?”

“No.” Rorschach taps the boy’s knuckles again. “They won’t ever try to hurt you if they’re afraid.”

“What about taking my candy away?”

“Who’s doing that?”

A guilty glance at his socks, and when he responds, it’s a whisper. “…Mr. Mason. He says it's no good for me anymore.”

The mask creases over his nose in an impossible half-smile, and Rorschach reaches to dig through his trenchcoat’s pocket, coming up with a handful of wrapped hard candies he’d swiped from the back of Dan’s cupboard. He presses the stash into tiny hands. “Don’t tell Mr. Mason,” he says, all seriousness, voice as full of warning menace as Dan’s ever heard it.

“But…” The boy’s confused, looking between the three of them. “But he’s looking right at me.”

“No he isn’t,” Rorschach growls, glancing over his shoulder, and all of a sudden Dan and Hollis have found something very engaging to discuss, something that keeps their attention firmly held on each other, not at all noticing the illicit transaction taking place right in front of them.

Eyes widening, Jacky doesn’t have to be told twice. “Thanks,” he mumbles; shoving the candy into his pockets until they bulge like they’re stuffed with pinecones, he turns to bolt back to his new bedroom without a word – just one last smile tossed back before he’s out of sight.

*

"Go on ahead," Dan says when they reach the side door. "I'll catch up."

Outside, dusk has long since given way to more autumn darkness than lamp or flashlight can do away with; things scuttle through it, ratskin and straw, and they're already late for patrol. Rorschach tilts his head, questioning. "East end docks tonight?"

Dan nods. "Yeah. I'll be there."

A curt farewell to Hollis and he's disappearing down into the street, collar turned up against the biting of the wind.

"...you safe?" Hollis asks, eyes following the retreating black-on-black of a silhouette at midnight.

"Are you?"

A hard, knowing laugh. "A child's heart knows no evil, Danny. No matter what's been done to it." He glances sideways, catching Dan's eye with that look, somewhere between cautious optimism and a cynicism that comes of understanding too well how the world really works.

"But vigilantes don't get the same pass," Dan says. It's not exactly a disagreement.

Hollis turns to look at him directly, and Dan gets the unnerving impression he's being evaluated, something of the earliest meetings between them, when he was still young and foolish and idealistic, ready to throw himself away on any cause just enough. It might be valid now, too.

"It's a violent business, is all," Hollis finally says, "And I'm not entirely sure that violence can stand amplifying."

"I don't think it has been." One hand settles on the doorframe; Dan runs his fingers along the wood, thoughtful. He can see where the clawing of human fingernails has left marks around the lock hasp. They could use doorknobs all right, the bastards, but they sure as hell couldn't pick locks. "Honestly? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it was probably the best thing that's ever happened to him."

"That's a hard one to accept."

"Yeah," Dan says, squinting out into the blackness. "For him too, which is why I'd never say so to his face, but something happened that..." He shakes his head, suddenly conscious of the fact that he's already miles past one line or another. He looks up; can feel the sheepishness on his face. "I don't know. I'm just not sure he would have made it through it if we hadn't gone through all this crap first."

A long, comfortable silence – his old mentor's always known when not to ask questions, even when it's obvious he already halfway knows the answers – then Hollis claps Dan on the back, a companionable farewell. "I guess you ought to get going."

Dan nods, eyes drifting to the hallway, to where the children are sleeping. Safe in their beds, like all of them should be, but should doesn't mean much, these days. "... take good care of the kids, Hollis. It's a scary world for them."

Against the far wall, stacks of newspapers, enough to date back to September or further, cascading over each other in fluid piles. Every front page, every headline, peering out through the wiremeshed glass windows of vending boxes and the waving hands of news sellers, and the story had run for days.

Hollis nods, something knowing and tired in it; tired of always knowing. "That it is."

*

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
slipstreamborne
Feb. 8th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
ETH ETH I'm getting ready to run out the door but when I'm back later I'm going to re-read this over and over until I can still my hands enough to leave a proper comment because ETH ETH THIS IS GREAT. :D
etherati
Feb. 8th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
HOORAY

Thank you :3
slipstreamborne
Feb. 9th, 2010 03:33 am (UTC)
SOMEONE IS TAKING YOUR CANDY WHOOOO DAAAARES D8<<< and of course it's Hollis, and of course this means that Rorschach gets to play the time-honored role of the corrupting family friend, the one who really says the right thing even when he's saying exactly the wrong thing (Dan's humor/horror at Rorschach's seeding of his own rather... nontraditional views on the function of fear and social stigma is great).

Other things I loved:
-along with their obvious similarity, Rorschach's and Jacky's shared taste in headgear and formal addressing of Hollis.
-how visceral Jacky's missing fingers felt though you kept to minimal description, saying so much with gesture alone
-"But he's looking right at me." *growls* "NO HE ISN'T." *pointed ignoring* XD
etherati
Feb. 9th, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
Rorschach gets to play the time-honored role of the corrupting family friend,

YES. THIS.

The fingers.. poor bb. :( But yeah, the 'no he isn't' bit was one of the first exchanges I had framed out in my head, it was just too perfect.

I'm so, so glad you like it - being the one who invented the whole scenario - it means a lot from you. <3
hohaiyee
Jun. 25th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
re: Rorschach gets to play the time-honored role of the corrupting family friend
Yes, let's face it, there are black sheeps and that's precisely what's needed.
etherati
Jun. 27th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Rorschach gets to play the time-honored role of the corrupting family friend
Very often it is, yes. In this case, poor kid just needs to know that what happened to him happened to other people too, maybe strong people he respects, maybe people who aren't bothered by it.
marie_phantom
Feb. 8th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)
EEEEEEEEEEEEE! A NEW STORY! Hon, you are the bomb! I mean, this is such good Rorschach counselling, and it is so good to see Rorschach interact with children when they are alive. And he is surprisingly good at it as well. I just love zombie Rorschach, and this is so brilliant! Well done!
etherati
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you! He is surprisingly good at it, though not in any traditional ways.

to see Rorschach interact with children when they are alive.

Yeah. He needed that, more than he'd ever admit.
marie_phantom
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine Rorschach being traditional in anything. He just does things his own way, which usually works.
etherati
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
Except for the whole esplode in snow thing. :(
marie_phantom
Feb. 8th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah. Well Rorschach can't change totally, but I love what you have done with him regardless.
steals_thyme
Feb. 8th, 2010 08:38 pm (UTC)
SO MUCH ZOMBIE LATELY <3 <3

And zombie KIDS and Rorschach and kids and and...dammit, he's such a softie.

Love Hollis suddenly being clued in to the situation, and his concern for Dan. This is just all so touching and lovely (and weird! :D)
etherati
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
I know he's all GRRR RAR with everyone else and then he's sneaking the kid candy and giving him a pep talk ahahaha oh Ror. <3

It IS weird, but it's been gnawing for a long time. And yeah, Hollis's part in it was a lot of fun to write.
elspethdixon
Feb. 8th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
*flails incoherently at the cute* I love Rorschach's awkwardly matter-of-fact interaction with Jacky, not sugar-coating anything, and the threatening candy exchange. And Hollis's mostly unspoken but still very evident reservations about Z!Ror and Daniel's safety. And Hollis, in general ^_^.
etherati
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
'threatening candy exchange', only Rorschach, I swear.

Hollis is, in general, awesome. And he's even a little right to be concerned, given what he's seen and what the kids have told him about what went on with their families. But he does trust Dan to look after himself, in the end, so there's that.

Thanks <3
jack_infinitude
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
*flapflapflapflap* Oh, this was just so great and sweet and it broke my heart. Rorschaaaaaaach. *hugs*
etherati
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
It is so sad in some ways, but he really needed it, and obvs the kid needed a little guidance too (though 'let them fear you' probably isn't the very best advice).

Thanks :)
daylilymoon
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
Yessss Rorschach interacting with a kid. This is exactly how I've always thought he'd act. And oh pulling up the mask b'aaaw ;_;

Man, Hollis though. That is some mighty fine Hollis. Just enough sweet old man, just enough steel.
etherati
Feb. 8th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
He has such a soft spot for kids, even in canon, which is adorable. I mean, it took him weeks to accumulate that candy stash!

And oh man, thank you re: Hollis, I love writing him lately but I can never tell if I'm getting him right or not. He's got that grandfathery thing but also that SRS BSNS streak that have to be balanced, you know?
rhaeii
Feb. 8th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
Awwww!! I loved this! It was just what Rory needed Post-Roche too I think. Also:

“No he isn’t,” Rorschach growls, glancing over his shoulder, and all of a sudden Dan and Hollis have found something very engaging to discuss, something that keeps their attention firmly held on each other, not at all noticing the illicit transaction taking place right in front of them.

I laughed so hard, I could just hear them discussing the amazement of window drapery XD
etherati
Feb. 9th, 2010 06:36 am (UTC)
Yeah, he did need it, definitely.

Window drapery XD NICE WEATHER WE BEEN HAVING, HUH?

Thanks <3
sepulchre_angel
Feb. 9th, 2010 12:38 am (UTC)
HOLLLIISS!!!!! I wondered if you were ever going to do a follow up on the thing with Hollis and the kids. And I'm so glad you did because YAY Rorschach is a total softie when it comes to kids (except lol rorschach, that's bad advice) and the candy stash and Dan and Hollis and... it was really great. XD
etherati
Feb. 9th, 2010 06:01 am (UTC)
YES it is bad advice but hey, he's gotten along okay following it!

Sort of!

XD But yeah, the candy. The candy was one of the images that made me want to finish this up, in the end.
jeanemon
Feb. 9th, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
Oh man, I squealed when I saw this at the top. x3 I loved the story written where Hollis gets the children, and I was hoping you'd write something using that as canon.

I just really, really enjoyed this. I'm a Mason fangirl anyway, and having those kids in here really made my night. Thank you so much! <3
etherati
Feb. 9th, 2010 06:00 am (UTC)
I loooooved that story when Slip posted it; it had to become immediate canon, because Hollis is just such a damn saint.

Thank you!
robinnevermore
Feb. 9th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
OMG! OMG! OMG! YES! So absolutely fucking awesome and adorable and I'm having a friggin' conniption fit over here! THAT WAS SO SO AWESOME! GAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! OH PLEASE PLEASE bring the kids back for later stories! Gah, i can just see Hollis, Dan, Ror, and all the kids (plus Hollis' adorable dog in there somewhere) cuddled up for...idk....CHRISTMAS! FUCK! YES! Gah, those kids will have ror wrapped around their fingers as well, if not better, than Dan does!

Also, i'd kind of like to see some interaction between Ror and Cindy, the little girl...Idk, i just would like to see his attitude change a little towards girls. i think it would mirror his progress with laurie well...Plus it's be adorable. XD I could see cindy crying or something and ror freaking and then laurie come in and fixes the problem and...JUST SO CUTE!

Just an idea you can play with if it catches your fancy.

Okay,....I'm done with the conniption fit. I think you get the points (that i loved this) and i just want to say thanks for writing this awesome series...because that's really what it seems to be. All these are moments of time, plucked from one long, kick ass AU timeline of Dan and Ror's life. They all add up....I <3 you and your work!
etherati
Feb. 9th, 2010 05:59 am (UTC)
I don't think Hollis' dog would be very welcome as far as Ror's concerned haha. But I would like to keep tabs on the Mason Compound as I go forward. XD

And yeah, I definitely see it as a series; it's just written all out of order. :3 And thank you!

mustinvestigate
Mar. 17th, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
D'aw...is Jacky a little sharp-featured dark-haired kid who was really good in Little League before the outbreak? Because my pseudo-crossover senses are tingling :)

And I love how horrific and wonderful Rorschach is with the kid. He has a little zombie fan!
etherati
Mar. 22nd, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
Not that I know of! I just was grabbing for a name and decided to make a meta reference because I couldn't come up with anything.

Yes, Rorschach is both great and terrible with kids, depending on how you look at it and how you want the kid to turn out. XD
hohaiyee
Jun. 26th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
he canz has cheeseburger, and candybar
...and doesn't have to eat his greens no moar

Sounds like the kinda diet I can stay on switch to.
etherati
Jun. 27th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
Re: he canz has cheeseburger, and candybar
Yeah man, no more broccoli. He should be ecstatic. Eh, he'll grow into it.
madwriter223
Nov. 4th, 2015 05:38 pm (UTC)
This is super amazing and adorable. XD
( 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.

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