Characters/Pairings: Rorschach, Dan
Date Written: 2012
Summary: Rorschach and Nite Owl and Molotov cocktails. Or: In Which Eth Completely Blows Off the Reality of Burn Injuries For the Sake of Fluffy H/C. Sorry, guys.
Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for injuries? Idk idk.
Notes: Nothing new here, just an old unclaimed KM fic.
Rorschach is on fire.
It’d started out as an ordinary enough night—too ordinary, too easy, and they’d both been feeling the tension of things about to go wrong for hours.
Up one alley, down another, and then: the quiet-noisy chatter of a gang out looking for trouble, buzzed on excitement and anticipation and amphetamines. Cookie-cutter, simple. Nite Owl distracted, walking straight toward them, hands up and appealing, hey there, think you could move along, all these nice people are trying to sleep. Rorschach went around, a greasy smear against the streetlight, sliding down the far wall to close the noose behind them.
Nite Owl saw his shadow move, cracking its neck and taking one step forward.
He remembered the intelligence they’d been idly picking through for weeks, about the Knot-Top’s shake-out, the splinter gang, the kid they’d tossed out for being too fucked up even for them. Liked setting things on fire, where ‘things’ often equalled ‘people’. It hadn’t seemed that important, at the time.
It had very abruptly become important.
The bottle came up into the light for just a second, just long enough for him to think glass, liquid, rag or paper, it’s on fire oh christ—
Then it was spinning, spinning, shattering on impact, and the stupid gang and its stupid stolen drugs didn’t matter anymore because Rorschach was on fucking fire.
The reality of that thought still isn’t making it through. Maybe it’s because it’s all happened so quickly, or maybe it’s because they are both running, hard and fast, survival such an immediate concern that it leaves room for little else.
Your partner is on fire, he tries again, his heart thumping hard in the back of his throat, climbing further with each knee-shattering jolt of asphalt on boot rubber. If you don’t stop running and help, he is going to burn up.
There will be nothing left.
It’s that thought, reaching past his rabbiting panic at the same time that the smell of burning fabric finally hits him in the throat like a spike, that pulls him up short—pulls him up and swings him around, barrelling into his partner and rolling them both to the ground in a tangle of limbs and fireproof cape and momentum. It’s not a real plan; it’s just instinct, drilled into him by endless emergency first aid lessons and fire safety training in school, and he doesn’t know if it’s going to work or if it’s been too long, god, how long had he been running along beside Nite Owl on fire and only fanning it hotter the faster he ran? What if he’d been burned badly enough to... or what if he’d breathed it in, and...
Dan comes back to himself kneeling over the slight form, beating and beating at it with his hands, mindlessly seeking hot patches to batter the flames out of. His motions are restricted by the tangle between them, but he keeps at it—the fabric under his gloves a ruined mess, charred and brittle, thin ribbons of smoke still rising from it everywhere he touches.
It’s out, he’s out, a helpful voice in the back of his head whispers. He stops, hands freezing in midair.
The night is, suddenly, very still.
“Rorschach?” Dan asks, “You okay?” and the question seems incredibly inane; of course he's not okay. The real question is whether he's Owl’s Nest not-okay or hospital not-okay. Dan thinks maybe he just wants a response, any response.
“If I say yes,” a croaky voice rises up from the pile of char and heat under his hands, “Will you stop hitting me?”
“Yeah.” Dan exhales, fragile. “Yeah, I will.”
“Then I'm fine.” The pile shifts; Dan draws back on his heels, working in vain at untangling himself from the cloth. Finally just tears it off at the back, where it’s designed to give should it ever get caught, and wraps it over Rorschach’s shoulders as he struggles to sit up. “Never...hrn. never better?”
“You don't sound sure.” Dan wants to run his hands over the steaming patches of coat and jacket and trousers, peel them away and see what state the skin under them is in, but...
He bites his lip.
“I am,” Rorschach mutters, but he's still obviously blasted out of his mind on adrenaline and terror because his head lolls brokenly on his neck, baring his throat to the streetlight. His mask is burst on one side, blistered ear exposed, and he smells like more than just burned fabric. “Sure.”
Dan reaches out, hesitates. Touches the side of Rorschach’s head, where the mask is bleeding; Rorschach hisses in obvious pain, flinches away.
“No,” Dan says, “you're not.”
They take the walk back to the nest carefully and slowly, avoiding any possible confrontations by avoiding the shadowy hidden places where they’re most likely to happen. Dan's not ruling out a hospital yet, but he stands a better chance of getting through the charred layers and seeing how bad it really is if he can get Rorschach off the street, away from prying eyes and the encroaching shadow of his own shame. They failed pretty spectacularly tonight, and he's feeling it acutely himself; he can't even imagine what it must feel like to be the one forced to run away howling and flailing.
And it’s so damn long a walk—Dan considers a cab briefly, considers a bus, as one trundles by on the way to the intersection ahead, but in the end decides against exposing Rorschach to that kind of scrutiny—but eventually they're back, and Rorschach is sitting, seasick-unsteady and weaving on the workbench, as Dan strips the carbonized remains of his uniform from his body.
It would be more awkward if Dan wasn’t so damn worried, but right now he can’t even think about any of that—about how they’ve known each other just long enough for this to be weird, but not long enough for it to have become a normal part of their partnership. Dan needed a few stitches a month ago that Rorschach helped with, and he’s lent Rorschach use of his cot to recuperate from this or that on occasion, but nothing like this. Nothing this life-or-death.
The once-white dress shirt peels back, and Rorschach hisses again, and Dan thinks stupid, stupid, don’t pull, you’ll take his damn skin off, but when he looks it isn’t like that at all, nothing coming off with the shirt. Just a little red, not even blistered.
“That’s just the cool air, I think,” he says, because even if it isn’t true, a distracting conversation might help. “It’s always cooler underground, ah, you know, because—”
“Nite Owl.” Rorschach shifts under his hands, tries to straighten up as best as he can. “How bad is it?”
...yeah, so much for distractions. Dan works the remnants of the shirt down and off; overheated but otherwise mostly intact skin jumps violently under his hands. He narrows his eyes, tilts Rorschach’s head to one side. “It’s not... huh. It’s not actually that terrible. Some bad burns but they’re pretty isolated.”
“Yeah, I’m sure it feels like hell.” There’s some blistering on his shoulders and arms, where the heat bit through and had its way, and Dan turns Rorschach’s forearm over in his hands, gloved now in latex instead of leather. He meets no resistance; has learned enough of his mysterious partner in the six months they’ve worked together to know how remarkable that is. “Doesn’t even have to blister to set everything screaming. I’ll dress these, but let me get you some painkillers first, okay?”
“Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.”
Rorschach snorts, lets it pass.
At the medicine cabinet, Dan takes a second to brace his arms on either bare metal edge, drop his forehead to rest on the inside shelf. Shudders out a long breath, naked.
He glances back; across the room, Rorschach folds over himself on the bench, fingering the raised edge of the burns on his arm. Dan thinks about the way his mask is too loose around his face,they way the overcirculated air of the basement would be cold on his ear and jawline and neck. His fedora’s gone.
“If I ever bitch about you wearing seventeen goddamned layers again,” Dan says, dropping two Vicodin into Rorschach’s shaking palm, “You have my permission to hit me.”
“Hard as I want?” Almost a chuckle then, transmuted into a choking gag as he forces the pills down dry.
Dan just laughs and runs one hand down Rorschach’s back over and over again, mindless.
Everything else is rote. They dress the burns that he has, mostly on his arms and the sides of his head, antibacterial gel an oily mess on both of them. They’re probably honest-to-god first degree burns but nothing’s even edging on second and considering that Rorschach had been engulfed in flames that’s kind of fucking amazing.
“You’re coming upstairs,” Dan says, when they’ve bandaged him to the point of a horror movie spectacle. “I want to be able to keep an eye on you. If you inhaled any of that...”
He expects a fight; the partnership isn’t yet to this point, not really. They aren’t there yet. But, once again, Rorschach just takes a deep breath—it hitches somewhere in there, makes him cough it back out in a pathetic little huff—and nods, shouldering the borrowed bathrobe higher up around his neck.
“Not as hard as you want,” Dan says later, sitting on the edge of the coffee table, arms slung across his knees. He says it to the darkness; Rorschach is here, but the darkness is definitely more present. Paying more attention, anyway. He can feel it all around him, engulfing. “I kind of like being able to breathe through my nose, you know?”
An incoherent mumble from the terrycloth-and-bandage-swathed form on the sofa.
“Just hard enough to remind me,” he says, and even hanging in empty air, all his hands feel is heat.