Characters: Dan, Rorschach, Adrian in #2.
Date Written: 2010
Summary: 3 Captcha fics, in order: post-Keene Dan, Karnak AU, and some years-down-the-line Z!verse happyfluff.
Rating/Warnings: PG, no warnings! Amazingly. Art after the third fic by the amazing jackiemei.
Prompt: 'cornea 197-8'
It's such a little thing – a petty mugger, a struggling victim, and Dan in his civilian clothes except that a year after Keene, they're really his only clothes, aren't they?
It's easy to forget.
The mugger aims a fist for his ribs, another for his face, and Dan deflects the lower shot with habitual priorities in place – because broken ribs are a lot more risky than a broken nose, and everything else on his face is protected–
His glasses snap, the edge of one lens scraping his eye painfully. It's a shock, on a lower level than thinking: his whole body had expected his goggles to be there, but they've been hung up in the basement for a year. It all snaps into focus then, one hand going to his face against the sudden spark of pain; there is always time and place, and his has passed.
The mugger takes off, wallet in hand, and Dan helps the kid to his feet, even peels a twenty from his own billfold to replace the boy's bus fare home.
At his feet, the twisted remains of his glasses. The kid asks if he'll be okay without them.
Fine, he says; he's done without before, and the throbbing pain has him more worried than the thought of wandering blindly into traffic.
"Just a scratched cornea," his doctor says later that day, shining a light into his dilated eye, the chemical drops still stinging. "It'll heal on its own."
The light flicks off and Dan sits there for a moment, looking but not looking at the fuzzy poster on the wall near him; major bones of the arm and hand, and he can point out all the places he's broken them over the years, pick out the ones he's set himself through the heavy obfuscation of leather sleeve.
He thinks about a body's habits that refuse to die quietly when asked to, and about the light of fear in the mugger's eyes in the single moment he'd held the upper hand today, and about the way he still scans the fire escapes and alley walls for a silhouetted profile in hat and coat, like he's looking for someone to meet under their eaves and within their shadows.
"You'll be seeing clearly again in no time," the doctor says, and Dan imagines the reflection of moonlight on blades and on blood, on his goggles, shining and shining.
Title: PSYCHIC SQUID MIGRAINE what is this i don't even
Prompt: 'mind thwacked'
They both turn instinctively to the wall of clocks, moon-faced and glowing; for a crazy instant Dan actually bothers to wonder why. New York shows a minute to midnight, and it's irrelevant, because the only time that matters is thirty-five minutes passed.
The minute hand slides up to the twelve, and all at once, Rorschach is screaming: a wrenching, unraveling sound that has nothing to do with rage and everything, Dan’s certain as he rushes to catch him before he hits the floor, to do with Adrian.
Adrian who, when Dan glances up from the floor, is looking at them with sincere shock on his face, caught without a witty response to events for the first time since this has begun.
“Remarkable," he finally says. "I hadn't thought of it myself, but it does make some sense.”
The body under his hands is shivering, bones up through leather. He’s in no mood to listen to Adrian prattle. “What the hell’s wrong with him?”
"I already explained this, Dan." His tone is that of a terribly patient kindergarten teacher, and it makes Dan want to hit him. "In the city, the shockwave will have killed everyone. Only those with... 'talent'... will have been affected remotely."
"You never noticed him... I don't know, arriving at a crime scene before the crime occurred, or following odd impulses? Detecting lies, following nonexistent leads that stank of nothing but paranoia, until they happened to pan out?"
Of course he's seen it. Everyone's seen it, because even a broken clock... and Dan sets a hand on the side of the mask, tries to still the shaking, because god, none of that explains why his partner's having a goddamned seizure.
"I'd always put it down to intuition," Adrian continues, and Dan's blocking him out, trying to remember his first aid, other hand hovering uselessly.
"But I suppose... Dan," he interrupts himself. "He'll recover. It's a mental shock, not a physical one."
"I'm not banking his life on that."
"I suppose you have a ready supply of injectable anticonvulsants conveniently on hand, then? No?" He puts one foot out, squares it on Rorschach's shoulder; pushes, rolling him onto his side. "That'll have to do, then. Pull his mask up."
Dan glares, but does it anyway, and already the shaking's starting to subside.
“I had a speech prepared." Adrian looms, speaking more quietly than he has been. "Giving the two of you a choice. I imagined he would refuse to trade silence for his life, and I’d have to eliminate him. With regret, of course. But he’s hardly in a state to refuse or agree now, is he?”
“You need us to cover up what you’ve done,” Dan says, and he can hear the antagonism in his own voice; he’s not sure he’s willing to make the trade either. “Just let you get away with mass murd–”
“How many more will die, if you don’t?”
No answer, and from under his hands, a thin, reedy noise, almost like a sob.
"Even if I promise–"
“Dan,” and Adrian’s crouched down across from him, lowering himself to eye level. “I’m not a monster, no matter what you must think. I won’t punish a man for a choice he’s not capable of making. Take him back to the city, keep him quiet, and we can call our business concluded.”
“How the hell am I supposed to do that?”
“You were never in Antarctica, Dan,” and he sounds a little like a gunbound hostage, trying hard to get Dan to take the hint, to run now and save themselves before this sudden bout of generosity fades with all the faces on his television screens. “There’s nothing for him to expose.”
“He won’t buy that,” and Dan wonders, Are you trying to get him killed?
A long, precarious silence.
“Tell him it was a nightmare,” Adrian says, voice hollow as he stands, nothing but a bare echo of the human empathy he’s claimed. The edge of his cape drifts past Dan’s vision, is sweeping itself aside. “He’ll be having a lot of those.”
Title: As Time Goes By
Prompt: 'grey suffuses'
There are many ways their time together could end.
They worry over the usual things, when they have time to worry at all– violence in all its varied forms, disease, the vicious unpredictability of chance. They worry about the unusual, too, as Daniel starts finding fine grey hairs mixed in with the rest and Rorschach doesn’t, remains stubbornly unchanging. It prompts halted conversations in the dark, fingers drifting through shadow to touch hair, face, throat, soft like reverence: What if I– and you don’t–
There’s so much about mortality they don’t understand, yet.
Neither is slowing down, so they don’t even consider abandoning their city. What they lose over the years in raw strength and reaction time they gain back in experience and precision, and even as Daniel is turning 40, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Still, more grey hairs, more fine lines, What if I get old, and you–
Of course, one of them will go before the other does. That goes without saying, barring some catastrophic accident. But Rorschach starts hating the haunted shine in his eyes with a passion he’s never brought to bear on it before. It is no longer just a badge of how different he is, how other – that stopped mattering years ago – no, now it’s a constant reminder, sliding in and out of the mirror, that he may have uncounted decades to walk the streets alone.
When he was young it was a certainty, a thought he bore gracefully. Now, he does not think he will allow it to happen.
The question comes up all the time now, among scientists and doctors: how long do the infected have to live? Not six months or a year or even two – it’s a grotesque inversion, and across the city, its ghouls don’t seem to want to age. It might be in people’s heads and expectations, or it might be real.
It comes up over and over, but no one has an answer.
“We don’t know,” Daniel says in bed one morning, and it’s come out of nowhere but really it hasn’t. They’re both shining with sweat and breathing hard, a tangle of limbs, and Daniel’s hand is on his face, hot. “No one knows for sure. You might just have better… it doesn’t mean anything.”
Rorschach doesn’t say anything, even when Daniel smoothes his hair back with a broad, damp palm, presses a kiss next to his eye.
“We don’t know.”
It’s the first steaming cup of coffee of the morning, breakfast carts out at seven AM, Daniel’s treat. They’re in their street clothes, and the sun’s just made it far enough over the line of buildings to hit them directly, sharp and toothy from the side.
Daniel looks down at him through the miasma of steam, through a thousand huddled secrets in this space, and now there’s another: he smiles, thumbs over the stiff bristle off hair at Rorschach’s temple, spreading it into the light.
Rorschach asks the question without asking it.
“Yeah,” Daniel says, and the sun’s hitting him too, diffusing through the brown of his hair and catching the off-color striations like quicksilver, making him glow.
Around them, the street’s stumbling to life, its daily resurrection, but Rorschach has never been so content to know he won’t be continually reborn with it. He never thought he could find so much comfort in the knowledge that old age will come for him, that he will become creaky and ancient alongside Daniel; that in time, he will die, too.
Daniel leans in, brushes the spot of grey with his lips – then straightens and orders his own coffee, and the morning goes on.