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FIC: Newsprint

Title: Newsprint
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: Daniel, Rorschach, a whole bunch of nameless OCs, vaguely implied Dan/Ror but that's really not the point.
Date Written: 2009
Summary: Paranoia, left unchecked, leads to anger leads to hatred leads to violence. Hello there, cozy in your black and white world, this is your reality-o-clock wake-up call.
Rating/Warnings: R. Violence, racism, racial slurs, swearing in general, Dan getting whumped, and an overarching 'this is not a happy fic' warning. There are some procedural echoes of h/c but I would not call it a h/c story. Assumes validity of the 'Ror's Zionist conspiracy theories' fanon.
Notes: Another kinkmeme prompt; I seem to keep gravitating to the ones with no porn and lots of angst, sorry about that. Held back on claiming this one for a long time due to it being a sensitive topic and a pretty incendiary set of circumstances being described, and never in my life have I needed so badly to shout THE OPINIONS OF THE CHARACTERS DO NOT REFLECT THE OPINIONS OF THE AUTHOR oh god. D: But I'm overall happy with it and with its message/intent and it's been gnawing to be posted.



*

There’s swearing, from off to the side; one of the bastards he’d dropped almost before this started is staggering to his feet, clutching his arm to his chest. Dan notices distractedly that it isn’t a compound fracture at least; the part of his brain that isn’t scrambled from the last dozen or so hits wishes, vaguely, that it were.

The strikes stop coming, for a long moment; the three or four that it’d taken to get a grip on him and keep it don’t make any move to relinquish it now, just twist both his arms back further than before. But further doesn’t mean more securely, it’s all leverage, and if his head weren’t swimming so badly he might be able to-

“Jimmy, man, you okay?”

“The fuck’s it look like?” The kid – and he really is a kid, they all are, but there’s so many of them, and people have been known to fall under a tidal wave of rats before, it isn’t unheard of – still hasn’t let go of his arm, and his clamped hand just about covers the goddamned sun wheel on his sleeve. “Kike broke my fuckin’ arm.

There are at least nine of them still standing, maybe ten, depending on how many really are behind him. He’s starting to choke on the blood that’s still running sluggishly over the bottom half of his face and down the back of his throat. He doesn’t think his nose is broken – the kid who first jumped him, got his face very intimate with the soot-and-grime covered brick façade of the alley, wasn’t very strong . Wasn’t as tough as he thought he was. Was the first to go down, and still hasn’t gotten up.

But there are still six in front of him, all of them waiting to take their turns, and he can feel patches all over that are too cold and wet-feeling in the open air. One of his legs isn’t wanting to do its part to hold his weight. And the gang leader is back, looming. Socking him again; in the face, in the gut.

*

He wasn’t feeling well tonight, he’d told his partner. Didn’t want to be a liability. Rorschach had gone out on his own, to patrol for both of them. It’d been close to one in the morning when Dan realized he really needed something to get the cough under control before his lungs ate themselves.

The pharmacy was only two blocks away, but balance and coordination were always the first to go; he knew that. He knew better.

*

“Maybe we oughta break his goddamned arms, then. Break both of ‘em – two for the price of one. Sounds like a hell of a deal to me. What d’you think, hymie?”

Dan doesn’t respond; just coughs, wetly, and pulls against the pressure on his arms, shoes attempting to get some sort of traction on the cracked asphalt. Traction… leverage. (All about leverage.) He knows that for certain, the words lodging and sticking, but he doesn’t quite remember what it means.

And there’s a fist in his hair suddenly, wrenching his head back. “I’m talkin’ to you, asshole. You fuckers think you can just come here and take over? Fuck a nice Catholic girl maybe, spread your filth, contaminate everything, steal all the goddamned money…”

“Bet he’s fuckin’ loaded,” comes a voice somewhere off to the right. “Where’s his wallet?”

Another voice, more distant, but everything’s getting more distant: “Already got it, man. Half a grand just in cash.” A pause, someone rifling through paper and subway tokens. “The fuck’s this?”

(Oh, hell.)

Dan manages to connect the thought, somewhere disconnected. The arms tighten around his, pulling back painfully, but he’s not concerned with it anymore. (Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid...)

“What?”

“Picture, man. Picture of fuckin’ masks. Two of ‘em. The hell’s he doing with…”

“Don’t really give a fuck.” Another fist connects, and it occurs to Dan that it probably isn’t good that he’s starting to not feel the hits. There’s a wash of panic, and he thrashes, but it doesn’t accomplish anything except to put his assailant more on guard, and the next hit lands harder. “See how much I don’t give a fuck? Jesus, just break his damn arms so we can leave him, I’m gettin’ hungry.”

It has to be four people, Dan realizes. The sudden motion is too forceful for it to be two and too symmetric for it to be three. The idea of symmetry is very appealing right now, warm and safe, and he doesn’t know why.

“Pat’s on 32nd?”

It takes a lot of effort to break an arm. It takes a lot of leverage to break two arms at once. They might just have enough, because it hurts and Dan thinks he must be beyond hurting at this point but he still shouts out loud when he feels something start to give-

“Sure man, whatever. Kick those fuckers up, would ya? Lazy shits.”

-and it seems like he’s been shouting for too long, like it’s turned into a scream, but when he bites down against it the sound doesn’t stop. He realizes, then, that he isn’t actually the one making it. Realizes that he isn’t being held in place anymore. Realizes that he isn’t standing anymore, that he’s sprawled out on his side amongst the garbage and clods of dirt and who knows what else. There’s a half-empty Chinese take-out carton in front of his nose that looks like it’s been there for weeks, crawling with mold and maggots, but all he can smell is blood.

The screams don’t die down so much as come to a strangled halt, silence pattering in along the gutters and down the brickwork and leaving only his wet, hoarse breathing in the space between. He has enough presence of mind to hope that it’s just his face, that it’s just blood running down from his sinuses, that they didn’t manage to break anything inside…

A gloved hand touching the side of his face – pulling back as if burned. A voice, quiet and rough, saying his name, parsing it like a question. There’s something broken in it.

Then he’s being lifted to his feet, one arm slung over shoulders too low to really take any of his weight, and it’s a long walk to the end of the alley. They pass a bloodied knife next to one of the downed bodies, but the kid doesn’t look like he’s been stabbed. Dan’s side complains with every step, but he isn’t putting it together right now.

One of the bodies stirs long enough to call something after them, weak and shaky, something about them being the next up against the wall. The small frame propping him up pauses, and for a terrible moment Dan thinks he’s going to be let go, dropped, so that the punk can be reckoned with.

Then they’re moving again, and they’re in the street, and they’re back at Dan’s home, in his room, a rag working to clear the blood from his face, and he has no idea how any of it happens except that there are finally hands on him that aren’t trying to hurt him.

*

Twenty-seven stitches in his side, and Rorschach isn’t completely sure that superficial closure is going to be enough, because the knife wound is deep - but there’s only so much he can do.

(“Picture, man. Picture of fuckin’ masks. Two of ‘em. The hell’s he doing with…”)

Butterfly closures over the cuts on his cheekbone and his forehead and the split across the bridge of his nose, because Rorschach has stitched his own wounds a dozen times but he doesn’t trust himself with Daniel’s face, doesn’t trust himself to not slip and do damage that won’t be fixable.

(“Jesus, just break his damn arms so we can leave him, I’m gettin’ hungry.”)

The rag on Daniel’s nightstand is soaked through in blood and water, and it’s probably going to spoil the finish, but he’s not concerned. He runs bare hands over the other man’s arms, looking for breaks or hairline fractures or weak spots. Checks the joints for swelling, dislocation. Arms, back of his skull, ribs – no breaks he can find. No distension in his stomach, so probably no internal damage.

(“Fuckin’ Jew-lover… next ones against the wall, swear to fuckin’ god…”)


It’s not good, overall, but it’s not anywhere near as bad as it could have been.

*

Hours pass and eventually Daniel is awake and coherent, running shaking fingers over the blackened and bandaged map his face has been turned into. It’ll go down, Rorschach assures him. Fade. Be forgotten.

He wishes it were true, even as he lies.

*

Rorschach slams the window on the way into his apartment, for all that he knows he’ll catch shit from his landlady for waking up everyone in the building at five in the morning. It’s her own fault for operating in a tenement built from tissue paper and toothpicks as far as he’s concerned right now, and the window rattles in the frame, nearly bouncing back out of it.

It’s generalized, targetless rage. He’s not really angry at the window, or at Shairp, or at the corrupt labor practices that keep these buildings rickety and barely livable, money-grubbing job bosses and union contracts and collusion and Jewi-

A strangled growl and the mask comes off, flung onto the floor in a listless motion that plays as disgust aimed outward but feels more like something pointed in. He slumps onto his cot, hands in his hair, scrubbing down over his face with the chewed-off nubs of fingernails; there are stacks of his newspapers on the cot next to him, unapologetically offensive headlines staring up at him. He’s never seen them as offensive before, isn’t sure he does now, but they’re giving him the unpleasant feeling of looking into a mirror, and the last time he did that he just about put his fist through the glass.

They’ve already paid for their crimes. He won’t be surprised if it turns out they didn’t all survive. It doesn’t feel like enough, not by a long shot, but Daniel is at his home, is recovering, will be fine. He’ll check on him again in a few hours, but there’s something hanging between them now, and Daniel doesn’t seem aware of it but it all but chokes Rorschach’s breath clear out of him. He needs to be away from it, for just a little while.

The headline’s something about mass media control, he thinks – the one on top of the stack, anyway. There’s probably a cartoon inside. The New Frontiersman can’t afford to print in color, so all of the cartoons are stark black and white – the photographs and the text, too. He likes it better that way. Greyscale dilutes, and colors are just there to trigger emotional biases, push buttons that have nothing to do with the content. Yellow is a warning. Green is soothing. Blue makes you trust. Red…

It shouldn’t bother him. The two things aren’t connected. It’s not as if he actually thinks it’s Daniel fixing the banks, Daniel fluoridating the water, Daniel trying to engineer some sort of vague world dominance; the closest thing he’d ever found to any sort of socio-economic ladder-climbing instructions in his partner’s house was an old, old pamphlet on how to most effectively get through the college interview process, wedged in between some old textbooks and the binder holding his degree from Harvard, deep in the back of a closet. There is no one kinder, more honorable, more above the petty machinations of the world than Daniel. He knows that: They aren’t connected.

None of it applies. Not to him.

So he isn’t certain just why he’s suddenly grabbing up all of the papers, edges folding and crumpling between his hands, and shoving them down between the cot and the wall with a violence he usually reserves for the streets. Why, when they won’t go down all the way out of sight, he pushes the thin, moth-eaten blanket into a heap against the wall to cover them – and only then, finds himself able to breathe again.

…the shouts from the alley, the numbers he calculated from the shuffling sound of feet and the way these corridors echo, pinpointing locations, and he’d even thought to himself – putting the count at slightly less than a dozen – that he wished Daniel were there…

…and the way he’d been so limp and shattered at the epicenter of so much unearned hostility and Rorschach would have broken it up for anyone, did break it up for anyone, because he hadn’t even recognized the beaten-bloody face until he’d gotten close enough to touch…

…and how much self-control it’d taken to not set his friend down and go beat the living daylights out of the last of the gang members left conscious, how chillingly aware he’d been in that moment of Daniel’s need for him and how futile it would have been but he’d still wanted it, wanted a few more ounces of blood in payment for this atrocity. Wanted to make the man scream...

[“Daniel,” he says, and he isn’t sure if it’s a question or if he just wants it to be.]

...and his hands, wrapped around a sodden rag, going more discolored by the moment. Swearing vengeful oaths in his head and under his breath against the hateful degenerates that had reduced his friend to this - and all the while, fretting over the goddamned fluoride and hoping it wouldn’t get too deep into the cuts, do Daniel much more damage than he’d already taken.

An edge of paper sticks out from behind the blanket, rustling in the apartment’s draft.

Later. He’ll go through them later, tease out all the important information, the leads he needs to follow, the truths most people are too squeamish to dig for. Right now, his hands are shaking and he hasn’t bothered to wash Daniel’s blood off of them, and it’s drying into the creases across his palms and behind his knuckles – and red on bruised and pockmarked beige is so very far from black on white that he almost cannot bear it.

*

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Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
findmyantidrug
Jun. 7th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
Oh god, I read this fic on the kinkmeme and I thought it was gorgeous then, and it's still just as gorgeous rereading! The entire last paragraph is like a punch to the gut. Fantastic.
etherati
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
I imagine he's feeling pretty punched in the gut at that point too. D: Thank you so much! I worry, you know? Posting stuff like this makes me so nervous.
wednesday42
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:09 am (UTC)
(Dunno if I've ever replied to your fic in person before... *waves*)

I'm glad you de-anoned for this one. It's disturbing and Not Pretty in a very good way that more people should try more often. And I very much like it whenever Rorschach is conflicted about something.
etherati
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
*waves!*

Thank you. I worry that people will think I was trying to play it for shocks, because I wasn't - more just trying to be realistic about it. I grew up near NY and these ideas/sentiments were more common than people even realize, which is so sad and disturbing, and watering it down would have felt like an injustice.

But as I said above, I worry probably too much heh.

Edited at 2009-06-07 02:30 am (UTC)
tortoisegirl
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
I like that you put in Dan's thoughts as he was being attacked, still being the logical crimefighter he is even in that situation. And the line about symmetry being comforting? Gold.

And I really like Rorschach's reaction. No big OMG I MUST CHANGE BY WAAAAYS, and maybe not actually consciously connecting himself to the racists thugs, but enough to really rattle him.

I don't think you should be nervous about claiming this (plus, this so stalker-y and you get it all the time but, *cough* I kinda recognized your writing). It's brutal, but their world is brutal, and Ror himself is so brutal in his own way that it has to be something really rough to get to him. I really enjoyed this.
etherati
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
plus, this so stalker-y and you get it all the time but, *cough* I kinda recognized your writing

Especially in the last few days, yes, I am getting this from every angle. D: Which is why I finally decided to just buck up and claim some of these things. I tried at one point to mask my style and the end result was a really sub-par piece of writing and it just isn't worth it.

But yeah, thank you, seriously. Those were all things I was trying really consciously to do (Dan's thought process, Ror's barely-conscious processing of what exactly he's so fucked up over, how bad it had to be to get through to him) and it makes me really happy that those come through as intended heh.

The symmetry line still makes me sad, though. :(
(no subject) - tortoisegirl - Jun. 7th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - etherati - Jun. 7th, 2009 03:36 am (UTC) - Expand
runninglonely
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
Don't feel bad, Etherati. This was a brilliant piece of writing there,
and it's a brilliant piece of writing now.
etherati
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I just worry too much I guess. XD
rougaroux
Jun. 7th, 2009 04:30 am (UTC)
As someone who has felt that and seen that kind of thing happen...this was an amazing piece of writing. It really is. I could go over sentence by sentence and tell you how wonderful it is, but just know that something like this is really appreciated.

Don't ever stop writing.
etherati
Jun. 7th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. I have no intention of stopping any time soon, mostly because of how amazing and accepting, and sincere this fandom is. I'm glad I was able to strike some sort of chord with this.
akemi42
Jun. 7th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC)
Really wonderful. I loved the last line and also this one...

Swearing vengeful oaths in his head and under his breath against the hateful degenerates that had reduced his friend to this - and all the while, fretting over the goddamned fluoride and hoping it wouldn’t get too deep into the cuts, do Daniel much more damage than he’d already taken.
etherati
Jun. 7th, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. Ror is just so confused heh. :\
i_am_your_spy
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
Nice; very nasty and honest and I loved it.
etherati
Jun. 7th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Nasty and honest always makes me nervous because I get the feeling it's not what a lot of people want to read. :\ So I really appreciate it when people do read it and enjoy it.
quietprofanity
Jun. 7th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this. I really admire the imagery and the brutality of it.
etherati
Jun. 7th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you as well. I tried to be as honest as I could with it, which unfortunately makes it not a fun read, but hopefully there's something worthwhile in honest ugliness.
teacrumb
Jun. 8th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
Perfect. ♥
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
Thank you!
midnite_vision
Jun. 8th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
I think I'm going to slowly go through everything you've written for this fandom. I just love your writing. :D As for this one, it's a very interesting concept. I like that you had Rorschach get upset with himself without fully understanding why. He's just all confused, and it probably won't affect how he feels about those touchy subjects.
etherati
Jun. 8th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you - I can't really claim the concept (it was a prompt) but I'm actually really happy with the execution of it in that it could have gone heavy-handed in any of a zillion directions and I THINK I managed to keep Ror's reaction relatively subtle. Because, yeah, he's not quite connecting what he's upset about; he has all of the pieces, but is unable, or unwilling, to put them together and really look at the picture they make.
snake_easing
Jun. 10th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
theyíre giving him the unpleasant feeling of looking into a mirror, and the last time he did that he just about put his fist through the glass.

Oh, Rorscahch! <3

and all the while, fretting over the goddamned fluoride and hoping it wouldnít get too deep into the cuts, do Daniel much more damage than heíd already taken.

<3 <3 <3 Really, he's adorable.
etherati
Jun. 10th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
Adorable and horribly screwed up all at once D:
(no subject) - snake_easing - Jun. 10th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - etherati - Jun. 10th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
biliousneko
Aug. 13th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
I only just now read this one! Ffffff I love the conflicted response Walter has from the whole affair. MUST NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THE GREY AREAS- UNCONNECTED.
etherati
Aug. 13th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
He is such a conflicted, confused little quasi-fascist hobo. :(
anonymousedward
Sep. 23rd, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
Sequel? Please?
I would love a sequel with some hurt/comfort. It doesn't even have to be porn! (But I wouldn't say no to that either...) I'd like to see how Rorschach deals with the cognitive dissonance (ooh, fancy words). Does he go back to how he was? Does he stop reading New Frontiersman? Or is he just a bit quieter when it comes to his conspiracy theories, a little more hesitant to condemn? I must know!
etherati
Mar. 22nd, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Sequel? Please?
I doubt there will ever be one - this was constructed to stand alone and it was scary enough walking the line of realism vs tastelessness the first time, it's not a cliff I'm keen to climb up onto again. But I'm glad you enjoyed it, as much as something like this can be enjoyed.
( 30 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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