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FIC: Something From Nothing

Title: Something From Nothing
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: AU Dan, canon Rorschach
Date Written: 2010
Summary: Dan finds some of the most impossible things in his kitchen.
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, language.
Notes:  AU mashup fill, between the void!schach AU and canon. If you haven't read voidschach here and here it likely won't make sense.

*

Dan's awakened in the middle hours of the night – the crazy hours, the bloody full moon hours and it seems like it's always Halloween these days, eternally the witching time – by a clattering sound from down in the... what, the kitchen? He stumbles out of bed and through the door and down the stairs, still unsure of his balance with only one hand to run on the banister.

It's a dangerous way to go about things. There's an intruder in his home and he's bumbling into it without a thought or plan but he's been just this side of irrational for weeks, maybe just a touch too close to self-destructive. And it doesn't help when he peers through the cracked kitchen door to find a frighteningly familiar form rooting through his cupboards, a hat over a mask and trenchcoat, all draped around what he knows is so much terrifying nonexistence. Digging through the cabinets where he keeps his cereal.

That makes no sense. The whole situation makes no sense on so many levels that he can't address any of them, so he just braces the stump of his forearm on the doorframe and does his best to glower. "What are you looking for?" he asks, expecting the usual death's-head grinning 'nothing' in reply.

Instead: "Frosted Flakes. Appear to have run out."

Dan rubs his fingers over his eyes. Dream, has to be a dream. Except it isn't, and he knows that, in the way he can feel the grit of the floor under his bare feet and smell the reek of unwashed leather. "What are you doing here?"

Rorschach looks up, seems taken aback in as much as the mask can show it. Which is, Dan knows, precisely what the being under it wants it to show. There are no accidents here.

"...picked the lock instead of kicking the door in," he offers, faint confusion in the non-voice. As if that makes this all better, as if that explains why he would show himself here. He shifts from one foot to the other, like a real person, as Dan allows his expression to darken. "Thought we were patrolling tonight?"

Dan hits the light switch without warning, flooding the room with all the blinding fury of 100-watt fluorescence. He's been doing some home improvements.

"Patrolling?!" He's maybe being too loud, but he's suddenly furious, and if Rorschach wants to eat him now then the last few beers still in his system say fine, okay. He swings his mutilated arm up into view. "Like this? What do you expect me to do, strap on a goddamned chainsaw and be good to go?"

The cereal box hits the counter, released in what is honestly a pretty good imitation of shock. "Daniel," the creature says, suddenly quiet and careful, crossing the kitchen toward him. "What– how, what happened?"

Good god, that really does sound like concern. It sounds a lot like concern, like he'd always–

"You know perfectly well what happened, what the hell game are you playing? Don't touch me," he practically growls, pulling sharply away when those gloved hands (gloves filled with nothing, ravenous nothing) reach for his arm.

"...don't understand," Rorschach says after a minute, his hands still poised midair, head tilting to try to find an angle of view. His voice sounds distressed. "Were fine last night."

"I haven't seen you in a week." Too short by far, his tone says.

Rorschach stands for a moment, then withdraws, taking a step back. Dan relaxes incrementally. The inkblots cast around the room, linger on the calendar and on the evidence of Dan's attempts at coping, littered around the trashcan and on the counters. "Something's wrong," he says, reaching to pick one of the empty bottles up by the neck. Distressed no longer adequately describes him. "Something's gotten mixed up."

"I don't know," Dan says, and he's proud of the next bit. "Nothing seems wrong to me."

Rorschach shakes his head, visibly agitated and obviously not getting the joke. He looks back at Dan's arm, twitching in place like there's something, some invisible cord yanking him in that direction. He takes a step toward him.

Dan takes a step back. He can do this all night if he has to, but he hesitates on the next advance; there's something unguarded in the way Rorschach's moving. It doesn't fit, and it's disarming.

"Please," he says, and the word sounds foreign in that voice, sounds like he has trouble forcing it out. "Let me see?"

He's doing it on purpose
, Dan thinks, but he still feels a little like a mouse hypnotized by the owl's killing cry as he stands his ground and allows the hands to settle on his forearm, turn it carefully over. They're warm through the leather. Dan wants to scream.

Instead, he takes a shaky breath. "Admiring your handiwork?" he asks, as evenly as he can manage.

Rorschach freezes as the implication makes contact, then jumps back, hands in the air, dropping his arm like a hot stone. He makes a strange, strangled sound, from somewhere low in his chest. It's too much. The reaction is too honest, too human, and Dan feels his connection to reality eroding, allowing him to consider the impossible. It really had sounded like concern, and the thought makes him feel... feel...

Makes him feel, period, clear through the last two weeks' haze.

Rorschach is pacing the kitchen, fishing something from his pocket and unwrapping it with fumbling fingers, and then it really is too much because he reaches to pull the mask up and shove the sugar cube in underneath and the bastard has a face.

Has. A face.

A face.

Dan finds himself laughing, hysterical, high and whistling. He staggers back against the counter, reality deserting him entirely along with balance. He hears another noise, something like alarm, and this time he doesn't fight the arms when they latch onto him, catching him up and lowering him safely to the kitchen floor. The warmth makes sense now, and he's surrounded by it, by every hope he'd ever had about his partner, every wish he's made in the last horrible while.

Let it just be a dream, he'd said, shaking under his covers each night, startling at every shifting shadow. Let me wake up and find out none of it's really happened.

But the stub of his forearm is still cold where it scrapes along the floor, no broad palm to catch him up and hold his weight, nothing but nothing. Hovering nearby, the bottom half of a human face, rough-featured and stubbly and flawed and perfect, its mouth forming a wordless frown of worry. It's so close, and Dan can feel warm breath curling over his cheekbones. In and out.

"You're a real person," he blurts out, the words chopped by the laughter.

The mouth opens, hesitates, closes again. Then Rorschach nods, carefully. He seems unsure how to respond, otherwise.

Dan bites his lip. It's too much to ask, it really is, and he has to be dreaming. "When's your birthday?"

"March 21st," the man (man, not just emptiness shaped like one) curled over him says, and it feels like he doesn't want to give the secret up. He does anyway. "1940."

"What was your father's name?"

"That's–" Personal. More than Dan would ever have asked him, further than he would have pried, even before he knew that there was no father to ask after.

The silence stretches for just a little too long.

"...Charlie," he finally says, and the name's no more substantial than the breath it rides on. "Never knew him though."

"Fuck," Dan says, and ducks his head. "Just. Fuck."

An arm settles around his shoulders, awkwardly. Tightens around him when he doesn't shrug it off or skitter out from under it. "If you're screwing with me, I swear I'll..." The useless threat trails off, breaks about into something that sits between laughter and a child's hiccupped sobbing.

He feels Rorschach's head shake against his shoulder. "Something very wrong here," he repeats.

"Something," Dan says. "Yes. God."

*

"You can't stay, can you?"

Rorschach shifts next to him. He's put the gloves aside, the hat. His coat and jacket are unfastened from when Dan had needed to burrow his hand in and feel the warmth of skin there, skin and muscle and a body that would take a bullet and actually bleed. "No. Have a different... reality, I suppose. To try to get back to."

His arm is cradled carefully in those hands, fleshy normal hands with, of all things, a spatter of freckles over their backs. It's such an idiotic thing to focus on, but it's so human, so ordinary. The fingers probe delicately over the still-healing skin, almost reverent.

All the years he spent, thinking about the day he might finally be able to peel the latex back and find under it someone who he could call a brother, who cared for him, who would choke in fear if he fell in a fight or hold him still against shock in the aftermath. Instead, he'd only found so much of nothing.

Here, for at least a little while...

"There's another... me, there?" he asks, hand pressing his glasses back into his hairline.

Rorschach nods.

"And you, what, break into his house and steal his cereal?"

"...sometimes. When I haven't had anything else for a few days. Don't think he minds."

More of that harsh, dangerous laughter. "I wouldn't. God, if only."

"Can't stay, but..." the rough voice says, and Dan wonders how human vocal chords can even make that sound, that autumn noise of desolation and bitter winds screaming over the void. "Can sit with you here for a while. If you want."

Dan nods, smiling through what wants to be grief.

*

Outside in the street, nothing lingers. It crawls down alleys and through gutters, slipping like oil between the shale sidewalk stones and winds itself up railings. It looks up, at lit windows and dark ones alike.

It had plans tonight, but something has changed. Some madness of mirrors and dreams has wound its way around the house, and emotions more disgustingly positive than they’ve been in weeks are bubbling up through its windows and walls. Relief. Camaraderie. Affection. Half of what it feels is both familiar and unfamiliar at once, not Daniel's but something that vibrates like a half-wave, halfway out of time.

It is not worried. It is curious.

In the end though, it is no fonder of self-examination than any of its brethren, and it slinks away, leaving the full moon to spin its own curses tonight.

*

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
mad_bertha
Apr. 27th, 2010 01:58 am (UTC)
I knew it... this was you! This was such a lovely balance of sad, in terms of void!schach Dan's longing, creepiness and humour. Canon/Fanon Rorschach's ransacking and other habits come off positively endearing and warm when you compare it to the coldness of void!schach. Thanks for this!
etherati
Apr. 27th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you! voidschach Dan is so sad in general. He has been denied the bromance. :(

And yeah, there's nothing like a sucking inhuman void to make a smelly hobo who steals your shit look like a lovable rapscallion in comparison.
roachpatrol
Apr. 27th, 2010 07:49 am (UTC)
Wowwww, this broke my heart. So sad and so sweet and so creepy! It was lovely.
etherati
Apr. 27th, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was an idea I'd been wanting to play with for a while and I'm glad it came out well. :)
steals_thyme
Apr. 28th, 2010 10:06 am (UTC)
Voidschach scares the pants off me; I can only imagine how his Dan feels D:

I love this though, because it's not just fear, it's grief as well, as though he's somehow vaguely aware that it's not how it was supposed to be and he's been denied a true partner..and then canon Ror turns up and confirms it for him. Ouch :(
etherati
Apr. 29th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, yeah, that was mostly what I was aiming for, that ohshit moment of realizing that somewhere, in another world, there is a version of you for whom things have gone like they were supposed to, who has all the things you were meant to have but got cheated out of. :| Like, in this case, a smelly hobo of a partner who steals your shit all the time.

Poor Dan. :(
streetcake
May. 1st, 2010 02:22 am (UTC)
I actually felt just as sorry for Rorschach as for Dan. I mean, Dan can(probably)cope with everything that's going on eventually, but Rorschach's going to go back to his own universe knowing there's a Dan out there being mutilated and driven insane by some freaky version of himself. That's not something you could just forget or brush off real easily :(

And the chainsaw line had me laughing out loud...not because it was funny, but because I was so wound up with tension of how they would react to each other, that that was a veryyy...unusual ice breaker(and mental image).

With the way Dan is, I'm sure he finds it some sort of consolation that there's another version of him who actually has a moderately normal partner. And Rorschach's reactions were great: the way he was confused and timid after Dan was all "wth are you doing here?", and then the freakout over the hand thing, and then the way it seemed to tear him apart at the thought of leaving that Dan alone...aww, this was such a bittersweet story! :'C
etherati
May. 3rd, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's a terrible situation for both of them. I don't know why I'm always drawn to write those kinds of situations. But yeah, with the realization that your world has gone horribly wrong comes the twin realization that elsewhere, some 'you' has had their world go right, that it's not universally an unsalvageable lost cause, and that's double-edged. :|

The chainsaw line was a joke for the voidschach author's benefit, evil dead ref hahaha <3
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )