Date Written: 2009
Summary: Ficlets. #1 is an actual Captcha fic; the remaining three are fics written to prompts provided by my flist(and there will be more of these) that, since the post they're in was locked, I'm going to put here.
Rating/Warnings: PG. All pretty light and okay. Implied one-sided slash in #1, Tailor!Zombie!Schach in #2, creepy stalker!Ror in #4.
#1 - Prompt: 'orbit I'm'
He spends his nights circling, working his way closer, sidling sideways between constellations of violence and justice and the brutal efficiency of fists and feet in the dark. The hunter. The judge. The enforcer – spangled across the nighttime landscape of his closed eyes in stars that could just be bursts of pressure in the capillaries but somehow feel more real than that. Like he could reach out and-
He watches the way the criminals fan out around his partner, all of their focus inward, the implacable force of the persona draped in all the blood and nightmares drawing them in like captured Kuiper Belt objects. Then he stops watching, because he has his own vicious little satellites, their teeth shining in diffracted light as they pull lips back to snarl. They aim to break atmosphere, to land with a shattering blow that could have rattled the primitive world’s bones out of its bodies – to leave craters, and all Dan can think, as he deflects the blows and keeps one eye on Rorschach as he batters away the killers caught in his own gravity well, is (I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t.)
He wouldn’t. He only wants to-
But the broken and unconscious bodies form a ring around Rorschach’s feet, a protective band of debris in a stable high orbit that says ‘stay away – this is what happens to marauding comets and asteroids and yes, even smiling yellow moons, amnesiac and careful and threading loving smokelike hands through the grass, when they try to fall to ground.’
There’s a grunt from under the mask, and bloodied gloves retreat into pockets, the crumbling dust of a devastation too old and horrible to bear scattering against his coat and to the ground. He steps out of the ring, past Dan
(but not too close, never too close, can’t take the chance of accidentally pulling you in – the moon circling the dead star, orbits interleaving and elliptical and strange but never meeting, oh god, never colliding. because he would survive but you would be obliterated, gone like you never were, crushed into nothing by the force of something too powerful for science or life or the human mind to contain-)
and out to the street. He’s strangely backlit, and is that real starlight, or the streetlamps – or is it something inside Dan himself, casting a forgiving glow over familiar lines and angles, a topography of jagged-edged brilliance that his eyes can trace even in the dark?
The night spins out around them, a widening spiral of black unwinding between the stars.
#2 - Prompt: "Maybe the continuing adventures of Nite Dove? Or anything about Dan's silly alt. costumes, I don't think I've seen a fic about his green, aquatic one. (Maybe with a dose of Rorschach snark?)"
(AN: technically the 'Nite Dove' gag is part of the zombie!au, so here is some zombie!tailor!schach, which is a combination I approve of.)
"Will need a darker version for night patrol," Rorschach manages to mumble out around a jagged, disorganized mouthful of pins.
Dan feels idiotic - really, really stupid, standing on one of Archie's landing blocks while his partner hovers, moving around him, poking and prodding, picking at seams. Pinning in loose flaps of fabric, the silvery glint of them flashing in the overhead lights, and sniping at him to stand still when he flinches.
It's not hot down here in the basement, and he can't help feel exposed and underdressed, but the heat wave outside hasn't broken and an idle joke has become a serious proposition. The armor is just not well-adapted to the weather. "Seems kind of overkill to have two different versions-"
Rorschach looks up at him, and his eyes are covered but Dan's learned to read that look straight through the blots. His mouth quirks slightly around the pins, and he turns to look significantly at the rack of auxiliary costumes visible inside Archie's hatch, green and orange vinyl bright in the fluorescent lighting.
"Well, uh. I like to be prepared?"
"Prepared for the next great flood of New York City," Rorschach mutters, shifting the pins all to one side of his mouth, "But not prepared for summer." A pause, as he tugs at a loose seam; sets to work tacking it in, with the same sort of curved needle that they use to close wounds. "Happens every year. Not a surprise."
Dan just laughs, a self-deprecating sound that acknowledges the shortsightedness without really admitting it.
The fabric bunched at his waist is as white as the hands working it, slow and patient and precise, and it lays against the buttery beige of the tacked-on cape like something pure and untarnished. 'Barn owl', he thinks to himself, silent wings slicing white and deadly through his mind, stooping on its prey like a shadow's evil twin, stark against the black.
Barn owl, not dove. Because that would just be silly.
#3 - Prompt: "Dan giving Rorschach the grapple gun. The first time Rorschach felt comfortable enough with Dan to call him Daniel instead of Nite Owl."
Rorschach's standing in the entrance of the tunnel, and he's glancing at his watch impatiently, and he's not moving - so he isn't telegraphing the deep pain in his knee and hip, down his entire left side, an aching map of carelessness. He knows that Nite Owl will see it as soon as he takes a step, and he still remembers watching his fingers slip away from the railing of the top-floor fire escape, detached, as if they were someone else's; the look on Nite Owl's face under the goggles as he peeled away out of sight, and he'd gotten lucky - very, very lucky.
"Come here," Nite Owl says, tone casual, pretending not to be watching out of the corner of his eye as Rorschach tries to cover the limp. He is hunched over a workbench; in full uniform but for the cowl pushed back to rest between his shoulders, the goggles around his neck.
Rorschach really, really wishes he would not go so casually unmasked. He tries to let his eyes slip off of the planes of Nite Owl's cheekbones, to soft-focus his perception of the features in front of him, in case he's ever to be questioned and tortured for the other's identity. He doesn't want to know that face. Liability. The name too, but that is already soft-edged in his mind, in the way it rides on his tongue but never quite slips free. There's nothing he can do to further dilute it.
The leather gauntlets are working over a device - a gun, it looks like, but with a triad of hooked spikes clamped backwards around the barrel. Grappling gun. Interesting. Would have been useful last-
There's no more detail work to be done; Nite Owl's just cleaning it, taking the rough spots of grease and clumped iron filings and machine oil onto his gloves as if they were no more than rags. "Here," he says, turning in the chair and holding it out by the barrel, grip first.
Rorschach cocks his head to one side, curious. Nite Owl has never asked his opinion on his gadgetry before, but he takes the gun in one hand, hefts it experimentally. "Well balanced," he offers, running the other gloved hand over the switches and dials; the CO2 canister is cold to the touch, even through the leather. "Good engineering and machinework."
Nite Owl just grins, and no, he really does not want to know that smile so well, to have it burned into memory like a brand.
He stands for a moment, the device in hand, an awkward silence falling around them - before he moves to hand it back, unsure of what other opinions he can offer until he sees Nite Owl use it tonight, sees how it actually performs.
Nite Owl shakes his head, refusing to take it, arms folded over his chest. "No, no," he says, and he's still smiling. "That's yours."
Nite Owl built this, rigged it up for use, and put it into his hand. His hand. It's...
No. It's not a gift. That would be ludricrous. "How much?" he asks, fingering the stainless steel spikes driven back from the snubbed nose of the thing.
Now Nite Owl does look confused, eyebrows furrowing. Perhaps he hasn't decided on a fair exchange yet? Then why hand it over now? He just stares at Rorschach for a long moment, as if trying to work out a complicated puzzle.
"Tell you what," he finally says, reaching back to pull his cowl up into place. "Next time you would otherwise fall off a building and die, use that instead. And we'll call it even."
The goggles swallow his eyes, and the face disappears into the uniform, but the more of himself is hidden, the more Nite Owl's name is trying to change into something else, something treasonous and deadly - and the mask has never hidden that smile, has it?
"...thank you, Daniel."
#4 - Prompt: "Rorschach giving Dan an entirely inappropriate birthday present (bizarre, lame, creepily thoughtful). 'Not a birthday present. Didn't even know it was your birthday. Look up your file? Of course I didn't.'"
It has a bow on top.
There are a lot of ideas Dan's had to reorganize in his head in order to accommodate the shifting enigma of a man standing in front of him; a lot of stereotypes shifted and old reactions shelved and concepts of social interaction taken on a sharp, sharp left turn, cut to ribbons and stapled back together into roughly the shape of a pineapple.
He's not prepared for a bow.
It's old, and matted, and a horrible shade of mustard yellow, and it smells like dirt - not like uncleanliness, but like soil, like earth, and oh god he must have stolen it from a cemetery-
Under the bow is a wrapping layer of butcher's paper, meticulously folded and woven into place, precise and perfect. Underneath the paper, a paperback book - used, the spine creased and the pages yellowed.
It's a Christie novel. It's the only one missing from his collection, the only hole he's never been able to fill. At first, all he can do is smile, wide and warm and a little awkward-
That collection is in his bedroom. On the shelves on the near wall, impossible to even see without walking in, turning around, roving eyes or a light, careful fingertip down the row of spines.
It's exactly the one he's missing. It could not possibly have been a lucky guess.
The bow still smells like gravedirt.
"Th- uh. Thank you," he says, forcing the smile to stay in place. "How did you know, uh. That it was my birthday?"
Rorschach shrugs, shoulders rolling loosely in the coat. "Not a birthday gift." A pause, and Dan's sure that he's smiling under the mask. "How would I know when your birthday is?"
How would he know-
(How would he know your birthday?)
The bow smells like gravedirt but the book smells like well-worn and well-loved literature, ink and paper and glue and sweat from long summers spent clutching it in the weary shadows of oak trees, anything to provide an escape, to distract from the unbearable heat.
It's a hot night, and Dan thinks he still has a few bottles of Coke in the fridge. He nods towards the kitchen, invitation open, and the smile is no longer strained.