Date Written: 2009
Summary: Many creatures chase warmth; not many have it brought to them. Z!Rorschach, basking in the sun.
Rating/Warnings: PG. Slash.
Notes: Zombie!verse, post-Lilacs. Fluff. Seriously, complete and utter fluff.
ART NOTE: Art here by liodain (obviously! :D :D) NOT ME.
Dried leaves are starting to collect in his gutters and droop over window frames, and the sunlight glaring in through his southern windows, all blown-out highlights and glinting knife-slivers where it catches on the frame’s latch or the side of a metal picture frame or the edge of his glasses, gives the deceptive impression of warmth and of the summer they’re rapidly putting behind them. It’s just getting to that time where Dan wishes every afternoon that he’d remembered to wear socks to bed; wishes even more sharply that Rorschach had, freezing limbs seeking contact unconsciously, startling him from the depths.
It may in fact be time to start working on kicking the furnace back to life.
And today's as good a day as any; they’re out of commission for now, a rare day off from reconnaissance. There’s a slight but non-zero chance that Rorschach’s identity had been compromised last night on patrol, one thug’s meaty and bloodied hand getting a grip on him for long enough to twist the mask half up, further than it usually goes in public. The light had been poor and the man had been dropped into unconsciousness almost before his eyes would have been able to focus – Dan had made sure of that – but Rorschach is refusing to take any chances, not willing to leave the brownstone in his street face until a few nights’ patrols can determine the extent of the damage.
So it is that when Dan returns from an early-morning grocery run, brown paper bag crinkling noisily in his grip as he works the lock and shuts the door behind him, he does not find Rorschach at the kitchen table, surrounded by and poring over every printed word on every page of every newspaper that Dan’s subscribed to, red pen flashing. The papers aren’t even disturbed, still rolled in their rubber bands, stacked neatly on the counter. Nor does he find him ransacking the pantry, and one ear to the wall tells him the water pipes aren’t running. Dan sets the bag on the counter and starts wandering, curiosity piqued.
He finally ends up in the living room, and in a broad patch of that dishonestly brilliant sunlight where it spills haphazardly over the uneven topography of the floor, Rorschach is curled on his side into a loose and boneless ball. He’s dressed in the darkest shirt and slacks he owns and when Dan touches one shoulder lightly, the fabric is warm to his skin.
Rorschach doesn’t stir. Might be awake or asleep or somewhere in between and just faking the difference, but regardless, he’s blissfully relaxed – every muscle lax, every inch of exposed skin blown even whiter by the harsh light but just about glowing with the warmth it’s soaking up. His mouth hangs just slightly open, and Dan is not prepared to think about the practical implications of the undead drooling on his carpet.
Covering his mouth with one hand to stifle the inevitable laughter, Dan heads back to the kitchen to put his groceries away.
[There’s the feeling of fingers on his skin, burning through the insubstantial layer of dark cotton, there and gone and normally it’d be enough to pull him straight to his feet, fists up and on guard before his eyes are fully open, but something in the touch says safe, safe and it’s so warm where he is and-]
It occurs to Dan, cracking eggs into a wide skillet: southern exposure or not, that lopsided rhombus of sunlight is going to move as the morning goes on into afternoon, and Rorschach will wake up cold again, eventually. He reminds himself to go fuss with the furnace before then, get some heat flowing through the old building, sinking into the brick and stone, an insulating cocoon against the approaching season.
And socks. He really needs to start enforcing socks.
Halfway through the first batch of eggs, he hears a shuffling of movement from the living room; assumes Rorschach is awake again, drawn by the smell of food. But no figure appears to linger expectantly against the kitchen doorframe, sniffing the air like a hound on bloodscent, and when he carries the plate into the living room he understands. There’d been no stirring to wakefulness, not really – Rorschach had just pulled together enough coarse motor control to slink a foot towards the coffee table, tracking the sun with a dogged determination.
“Do you want some breakfast?”
A dismissive sound in reply, and Dan has his answer: mostly asleep, with a dash of ‘aware enough to grunt yes or no to simple questions’. And Rorschach almost never turns down food, but he seems unwilling for the moment to move any muscle aside from those needed to wring that most basic note from his vocal cords; to duck his chin in against his chest; to shift one hand aimlessly over the rough, warm carpet.
Dan sits on the couch, eats quietly. He's smiling, and he's not sure why.
[Food smells, rich in protein, wafting in from far away and then, suddenly, much closer. And he’s hungry, he is, but he knows if he moves he’ll be cold again and he’d rather be hungry than cold, now that he finally remembers what it is to be really, truly warm, all the way through, and he understands, he understands.]
Dan spends a while just watching in amused silence as Rorschach stretches and slinks across the floor, unconsciously following the patch of warmth as the treasonous spin of the earth keeps slipping it just out of his reach. It reminds him of a cat he had growing up, moving without seeming to ever move, black fur radiating stored heat off like a solar battery.
Then it’s time to attend to the furnace, and he gathers up his plate and leaves Rorschach to it, a lifeless jumbled heap of limbs and skin and carpet tangled in a contentment so rare he doesn’t dare disturb it.
[Sound of footsteps retreating, and the room suddenly seems colder, but the sun still beats on him unrelentingly, tracing over his face and hands and feet and heating the cloth around him like a second skin that actually works like it’s supposed to, and it’s okay.]
It’s late afternoon before Dan finally gives up. It never fails, really; no matter how much money he throws at this system, it always ends up requiring professional maintenance when cold weather starts creeping back in. He can build a ship that flies without wings, a gas-powered grappling gun small enough to fit inside the profile of a coat, an array of countless other devices ranging from simple to mind-bendingly complex, but he can’t. Fix. A furnace.
The wrench hits the floor in frustration, fingers rolling into his temples.
He’ll call tomorrow. Early tomorrow, so they’ll have to time to get out by afternoon, do same-day service. It’s not yet cold enough for this to be classed as an emergency, but it’s going to get uncomfortable really fast.
Wool socks. Not cotton.
Sighing in defeat, he swings the front panel closed and climbs the stairs.
[Ear to the floor, he can hear things. Has no idea how long he’s been here in this numbing, paralyzing warmth, but he can hear things: a voice, words unintelligible but rising and falling in the cadence of anger and frustration; the clank of something heavy and metal hitting concrete. He lets his head loll back and around, trying to collect sunlight on his face, his neck, but it feels different now. Less penetrating, less satisfying. Shallower. Somewhere in the haze, he finds the fine muscle control necessary to frown.]
When Dan gets back to the living room, Rorschach has shifted all the way to the far side, nearly against the wall. The light is oblique now, falling on him glancingly, and the ball he’s wound into is tighter, less relaxed. Tense, all the wiry compactness of his form visible through the clothes, bunched muscle and the arc of his neck and the jutting angle of bone at his hip and –
Dan glances at his watch, and yeah – about an hour until sundown, and even if it weren’t, the patch Rorschach’s been chasing all day is about to hit the wall, start sliding up it, moving in a way that can’t be followed. Dan clambers down to the floor, grinning lightly to himself as he knee-walks over to where Rorschach is curled, drops down alongside him. Winds one arm around to his back, fingers splaying over the warmth still lingering in the shirtcloth, and pulls him in, chest to chest.
Rorschach growls, lowly. It isn’t quite a warning.
“What?” Dan asks, a breathless kind of laughter in his tone, one leg hooking over Rorschach’s to pull him closer. He meets a surprising amount of resistance for how limply Rorschach had been splayed earlier, looking for all the world like a lizard baking on a rock.
Eyes don’t open, but Rorschach is clearly awake now, or mostly there. “Can’t move like this, Daniel,” he murmurs, and he manages to inject annoyance into his tone even half-unconscious. “Sun keeps moving. You’re keeping me. Still.”
“Mm.” Even with the light fading like this, Dan can’t help but admit it’s nice; the warmth falling on his face is pleasant in that sleepy, gentle way that cocoa and down blankets and the first curling tendrils of dawn can be, and the body next to him is not chilled through like it usually is, and it’s a completely natural thing for Dan to squirm and rearrange until he has as much of it gathered into his arms as he can get. “Aren’t I warmer than the sun anyway?”
“Questionable,” Rorschach says, still drowsy, but his hands are already slipping up underneath Dan’s shirt, mindlessly seeking that bottled-up heat, that furnace that never breaks down or needs repair, that forms the backdrop of most of his dreamless nights.
Dan feels something in his chest stretch and tighten and snap under the touch.
[He’s being kissed, lightly and undemandingly but the contact burns even through an entire day’s warmth and he is drawn to it, drawn in under the heat of large, heavy hands on his face, on his throat, over his ribs and his spine and lower. And if it doesn’t get all the way down into his bones, doesn’t cook him through with that same diffuse, humming glow, it is at least enough to keep the memory of cold away for a little longer.]
Afternoon crosses the invisible line into evening, the square of sunlight crawling up the wall behind them and dissipating away into nothing, unnoticed and unmourned in its passing.