Date Written: 2010
Summary: A bank robbery interrupted leaves Nite Owl and Rorschach trapped in a bank vault until morning, and with the possibility of concussion looming, Nite Owl must be kept awake.
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, silliness, snark, fluff.
Notes: Zombie!verse, late summer of 1976. For KM, but not all that sexy. The flood of porn has come to an end, all ye rejoice.
There are a lot of circumstances under which Dan wouldn’t mind being shut up with Rorschach in a dark, soundproofed room, with guaranteed privacy and little to occupy their time.
The majority of those scenarios don’t involve the heavy, immovable door of a bank vault or the inevitability of having to explain, once the police arrive and spring them, how they managed to screw this one up so badly, or the possibility of concussion.
Rorschach’s been prowling the perimeter for the last thirty minutes, faint luminescence of the alarm lights enough for him to see by, bare fingers skirting along seams and under panels and edges of metal trim. He’s looking for some kind of emergency release, that’s all Dan’s been able to get from him. All he can see of Rorschach is the occasional glint of opalescent red light caught in his eyes.
“Would a flashlight help?” he asks, feeling a little claustrophobic in the pressure of deep-ocean darkness.
“No,” and Rorschach’s speaking at full volume, which is the only way Dan realizes he’d been whispering. It makes his head pound even harder. “Visual input would be a distraction. Something like this is easier found by touch.”
“Darkness bothering you?”
“No, not really, I just…” Dan shrugs against the vault door. “It’s a lot darker for me than it is for you, you know?”
A wordless grunt of disapproval. “Shouldn’t have let them take your goggles.”
“Yeah, no shit. Or hit me upside the head with… what the hell was that, a nailgun?”
“Looked like a specialized safe-breaking tool of some sort.”
He reaches up to rub the back of his head through the cowl, winces. “Thanks for that invaluable information. My life is now complete.”
A grumbled non-response, then near-silence for a few minutes. They stretch until they feel like hours, like days, and they’re probably going to be stuck here until morning.
Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, Dan thinks inanely.
“Nite Owl,” Rorschach says, suddenly much closer, breath curling over Dan’s cheekbone. He sounds almost amused. There’s a nudge at his hip, where the belt pouches hang. “Was joking about the flashlight. Would appreciate you handing me one.”
With a sigh of relief, running deep enough that Dan’s not willing to examine it, he fishes out the slim metal tube and hands it in Rorschach’s direction, aiming wrong twice before it connects. Then a blade of light cuts through the darkness, illuminating the metal floor and walls and the internal drawers and doors and the pale, stitch-riddled hands, caught in the corona’s backwash. The light-starved cones in his eyes snap to life, and for an instant everything is bathed in a rush of disjointed color and haloed in brilliance, before it all fades down to normality.
“Better?” Rorschach asks, tone still too close to mocking.
“Shut up,” Dan says, rubbing the corners of his eyes, willing away the sparks. “Asshole.”
“Spent many years following after you in the dark.” The flashlight sweeps the far wall, tracing along the strange architecture of the vault’s interior, every inch of it designed to defeat infiltration. No getting in, or out. “Having to trust your nightvision for both of us. Unnerving. Uncomfortable.”
Quiet for a moment, as the light settles on a bank of switches near the alarm panel; then the light switches off and Dan can hear Rorschach cross the floor, start to feel for his target again.
“…consider this turnabout,” he mumbles, and in the dark, Dan smiles and shakes his head and keeps his ear to the door, listening for rescue.
After another half hour, Rorschach’s thrown in the towel. He’s silent on it – no frustrated declaration of how useless it is or how he’s giving up – Dan just feels the dense chill of his partner’s body settle to the floor next to him, a shuffling of gloves being pulled back on.
“How are you doing?” the gruff and disembodied voice asks him, and he can feel the light touch of a hand on the back of his head.
Dan’s pretty sure he feels terrible, the pounding in his skull now escalated to a white-hot drum solo, accompanied by the always-pleasant bout of nausea. He’s also been listing to one side, apparently, because the hand moves down to grip him by the shoulder, lean him back upright. The world somersaults, slow and sickening.
“Fine,” he says, and he can hear himself laughing and something about this seems ironic, but everything’s disconnected in the dark.
The flashlight clicks on again, and the hand’s on his chin now, turning his face to the side. Blazing light in his eyes, makes him flinch, pull away.
“Doubt that.” One finger lifts an eyelid, forces him to accept the light. His vision feels strange, too bright, and there’s a murky tension rolling off Rorschach now. “Eyes look wrong. You might have a concussion.”
“I got hit with a goddamned safe drill, jesus,” and it’s probably inadvisable to lean into the hand where it’s splayed open along his cheekbone, but he does anyway, and it doesn’t pull away. “I’d be surprised if I didn’t.”
An annoyed grunt, with an underlying note of guilt. The situation’s just become more complicated. “Have to keep you awake, then,” Rorschach says, and he settles the lit flashlight onto the floor between them, illuminating the far wall. “Keep you occupied.”
“What were you planning, shadow puppets?”
“Hehn. Not a bad place to start.”
He's joking, of course, and instead makes Daniel recite off the dates of their biggest busts, the locations, 'notable characteristics'. The last is the only part that's interesting, and when they hit on the preliminary work against Big Figure the conversation veers sharply to one side, because good god Rorschach had been in rare form that night.
"I swear," Dan says, laughter bubbling up. "I thought you were really going to drop him into that vat of snakes."
Rorschach shifts along side him. "Would have served him right, trafficking in illegal exotic animals."
"'Don't look down,' you kept telling him, god."
"Anticipation can be more disabling than fear." There's something suddenly touching Dan's far shoulder, crawling like some terrifyingly large spider, and the spike of childhood fear never quite banished slices straight through all the injury-related wooziness. "Let the imagination take over, it'll come up with worse than reality can offer."
"Uhm," he says. "Rorschach, is that you?"
"No," Rorschach replies, almost too quickly, but when Dan bites his lip against the panic and reaches to sweep away whatever horrifying life form has made its home in a lightless metal vault, his hand only connects with cool glove leather, quickly retreating.
A pointed silence.
"Yes?" Rorschach amends, and the smirk is gone before Dan can train the flashlight on it.
"Of course, I mean, he kind of got you back later."
He can hear Rorschach shuffle his trench collar higher.
"With the uh, with the rope. I've never seen anyone tied up that... thoroughly, I guess. You looked like a cooked turkey."
"Wasn't funny, Daniel."
"And the rabbits! I can't believe you're afraid of–"
"Daniel," Rorschach interrupts, all false mildness. "Wouldn't have ended up in that position if you hadn't spent twenty minutes in the restroom, playing with your poorly designed costume."
Silence, and Dan feels his mouth open and shut a few times, uselessly. The humiliation of that night, of blowing the bust because of his own stupid design and all the stupid coffee he'd drunk on Archie, and...
"Yeah, okay," he finally says, rubbing at his temples. "Let's not talk about this anymore."
“I spyyy…” Dan slurs out, flashlight gesturing vaguely in front of himself. “Something, uh–”
“Inside of vault, Daniel.”
“Shit.” Dan sighs, head thudding against the door. “You know, this is a terrible place to play this.”
“Terrible game. Not sure why you suggested it.”
“Because you’re really awful at shadow puppets. ‘Justice’, what the hell, man.”
“Ehn,” Rorschach says, and the shrug is magnified in the reflected light, made grand. “Meant to be abstract. Roof Screech-Owl also largely unidentifiable."
"Rufescent," Dan corrects.
"Even more ridiculous. Must be a way to pass time that isn't a children's game."
"Wellll," Dan says, leaning hard against Rorschach's shoulder. "I know some games that aren't for children."
Rorschach growls, low and warning.
One gauntleted hand settles vaguely in the vicinity of Rorschach's groin. "And they'd keep my mouth occupied, so you wouldn't have to listen to me–"
"Daniel," the growl transmutes into a hiss, and a firm hand settles on his, stops its wandering. "Police could arrive at any moment."
"Yeah, because," and Dan's talking into his shoulder now, breathing the strange scent of him through all the layers. "They've been so good at that 'arriving any moment' thing all night."
"Soundproofed room. First we'd know of them being here would be them opening the door. Want to throw away entire reputation?"
Dan sighs, long-suffering. It echoes weirdly in the metal room, or maybe that's just in his head. "...I guess not."
He can tell by the reflection of his eyes when Rorschach tilts his head to one side; bastard's probably finding this funny. "Good to see you're capable of restraint even when mentally compromised," Rorschach says after a minute.
"Yeah, well," Dan says, still mumbling into Rorschach's coat. "Iron self-discipline. Or. Something."
"Hehn," and it sounds like a laugh, stopped in the dark and stabbed a few times before being allowed to pass. "Hand is still..."
"Oh," Dan says, shifting it away. "Right. Sorry."
Eventually Dan produces a creased deck of cards from one of his pouches, and after Rorschach rejects Poker, Blackjack, Gin Rummy, Hearts, Crazy Eights, and Old-fucking-Maid, they settle on a rousing game of Go Fish. The thieves left one of the cash drawers open and they are surrounded by thick stacks of hundred-dollar bills, cast by the stark glow of the flashlight into so much Monopoly money.
“Ante up,” Dan says, and he can tell Rorschach’s right on the verge of calling him on the bullshit house rules he’s invoked, but something wicked dances across the pale glow of his face and the money hits the floor, hard.
Ten minutes later, he's staring by flashlight at the fan of twos in his still-large hand while Rorschach raises one eyebrow questioningly under the stretched ridge of his mask. Rorschach only has one card left in his hand, and it's a two, and dammit they don't even get to keep the money, but...
"Sorry," he lies, "Go fish."
He's not sure how many hours have passed when he finds himself sagging harder against Rorschach's side. The flashlight died a while ago but his vision is sharp with things that don't make sense, shapes and static that shift and spin from one form to another, dizzyingly bright for all that he knows there's no light here to see by.
A questioning noise from his side, sounding like it's been breathed right into him, against his throat and into his blood.
"Feel sick," Dan says. "Scared," he says, and he knows that isn't right, that it's too strong a reaction but the emotion's there, brazen and demanding.
"Only because you're hurt," Rorschach says, but even so he sets one hand against the side of Dan's head, draws him to lie down, rest his head on Rorschach's thigh. "Makes everything seem worse."
"Yeah." Dan tries to settle, closes his eyes when fingers come to rest on his cheekbone. "I've had this a few times, it's always..."
It's comfortable, here, or as comfortable as it can ever be, stretched flat on a cold metal floor. He still has to try to stay awake, but before the inanity of tell me a story even crosses Dan's mind, Rorschach's started talking.
"Used to suffer from head injury regularly, in school."
"Bullies?" Dan slurs, drawing on his own experience.
"No. Boxing. Only engaged in sanctioned violence, for many years." There's a smile in his voice, grim as always, but there. "Remember being hit very hard once, or rather, remember being told about it afterwards. Lost about twelve hours."
"Always felt like the world was ending, like everything I valued was crumbling from under me. Obviously the injury; had nothing in particular I valued. But the... the fear, always felt real."
The words feel stuck, so Dan just nods against Rorschach's leg.
"Nothing to be afraid of, here," Rorschach continues, and if the touch on Dan's face isn't exactly tender, it's grounding.
When the door finally swings open, they actually do get a warning – the lights flicker on, blinding them both – but not much of one, and they're both too busy shielding their eyes to make much sense of the development.
Then the room is full, police, bank workers, and it strikes Dan that lying on the floor like a drunk in the middle of a pile of strewn money and playing cards in the vault of a bank that'd been robbed the night before – maybe not a great idea?
His head hurts again, a fresh insult to the back of his skull where the metal floor collided with it, Rorschach up and out from under him faster than the vault lock could turn. He's talking to the police now, mask pulled back down, and weren't they both blinking blearily into the light a moment before, weren't there more people here, or less?
Ambushed, he hears, drifting out of the fog. Can describe robbers.
A question. Got bored, with a huff of annoyance, and Dan can still smell the crisp newness of the stacks of money near his nose.
The voices pause, for longer than it feels like they should. Concussion, with more urgency. Hospital down the street, in another voice, then a growl: Can't compromise identity.
–robably arrange something, comes the unfamiliar voice, and then there are hands on him, one cold pair and three warm, and someone tells him it's okay, he can sleep now, Nite Owl, it's fine.
He wakes up later in an undisclosed outpatient ward, changed into civilian clothes and with Rorschach next to him, pale and weary under the blazing white lights. Doctors come and go, test his responsiveness, feel around the back of his skull, send him away with instructions to drink fluids and get some rest – yes, of course he can sleep, that’s just an old wives’ tale, and Rorschach doesn’t say anything but his frown gets flatter – and to return if any of the symptoms worsen.
It’s morning by now, the late summer sun starting to burn off the early mist, and Dan wants to ask where their costumes are, hell, where they are, because he doesn’t recognize the neighborhood. Instead, he just lets Rorschach grab his arm and loop it over his own shoulders, takes the support offered.
“Next time you want to spend the night in a dark room, Daniel,” Rorschach mumbles, and he’s quenching to lean against with the day already heating up. “Just say so. Bank vault is… unideal.”
“Head injury was also inconvenient. Suggest you refrain from the tactic in future.”
“Okay, buddy,” Dan says, closing his eyes against the light and exhaustion, letting Rorschach guide him through unfamiliar streets. “I’ll keep that in mind."