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FIC: Vigil (5/12)

Title: Vigil
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters: Dan, Rorschach, Hollis cameo, misc bad guys.
Date written: 2010-2014 hahaha wow I SUCK
Summary: The most important skill a masked vigilante can cultivate is how to fall and come right back up. When Nite Owl and Rorschach run into a trigger-happy gang, Nite Owl finds he's able to push that skill to the extreme--even if he has no idea how or why. AKA, the one where Dan just won't stay dead and Rorschach is Freaking Out.
Notes: Originally for a KM prompt asking for 'Highlander-style immortality', though I didn't actually make it a crossover. No swords and shit here, just a very confused owl.
Ratings/Warnings: PG-13 I think. A lot of blood and injuries and deaaaattthhhhhh. Some of it's temporary, some of it's not. Language, some offensive dialogue.

Chapter 5: Incantatum


In the end, they wind up around the table again, running through a pot of coffee as the last unraveling rays of sunset spend themselves against the skyline. They're both in costume, mostly; a fresh backup for Dan, the same old blood-stiff coat as always for Rorschach. It doesn't even look like he's washed it.

They're very carefully Not Talking About it as Dan shifts his glasses, thumbs through his packet of photocopies. Not talking about the content of his research or the fresh starchedness of his costume or the pained relief he'd heard surface in Rorschach's breathing when he'd met him on the basement steps. Not talking about why Rorschach is here so early to begin with or why Nite Owl was already suited up and ready for him.

Then the sky is darker and the kitchen is abandoned to the receding daylight, and they are gone.


What they do—diving into the worst of the city fists-first, waltzing into the most dangerous conflicts with nothing more than a vague assurance of righteousness to back them up—strikes Dan now as absurdly dangerous, suicidality of the highest order. The very first fight they get into, it nearly paralyzes him, and there are moments he will always carry in his memory: Rorschach barreled to the ground where stomping, crushing feet wait for him, body skidding through gravel, himself too far away to help and the clarity of his partner's imminent demise shocking in the second and a half before Rorschach has righted himself and it is just a normal brawl again.

He closes his eyes, opens them, and goes on fighting.

It all blurs together for a while, adrenaline's gift to its most reckless abusers—then the last of the men lolls his head around in a boneless arc, spits on Dan's gauntlets where they're wrapped into his shirtfront. "Found a... replacement already, huh?"

Dan says nothing, but he can feel the corner of his mouth lift in a snarl.

"S'all you are, man. Fuckin' replacement, cause the fag over there can't go out without a big strong man at his side. Didn't expect him to find no one so fast though," and with that the man breaks off into hysterical laughter, and it's very likely that he's concussed or he wouldn't be saying these things within earshot of—

A shadow falls across them both, looming, and the laughter trails off.

"No need," Rorschach growls, and then the man definitely is concussed, thunk of fist on skull echoing, body slumping to the ground.


They take a long, meandering path from there, and it's almost like Rorschach is leading them around the worst areas instead of through them. It strikes Dan all at once that he might still be shaken, too, whether he'd ever admit it or not. Maybe they should have taken a night off, but the idea of these rumors festering had made them both feel ill, had demanded addressing.

"Would you have?" Dan asks, in one of those odd moments only the night offers up, splintered off and quiet and outside of time. The flicker of a failing neon sign catches the outlines of their bodies, makes them feel transient, fading. "Found another partner, I mean."

A long, slow shudder runs through his friend's body, visible even from the corner of Dan's eye.

"No. Never."


"You should," Dan says a few fights and a few silent hours later, without context or explanation, but Rorschach's always been good at picking up dead threads of conversation.

"It's dangerous out here alone," he says, one hand on his goggles, and it's all he can do to keep his voice from shaking.


"Oh, God," the leader of the gang they interrupt mid-cocaine-deal sputters when Nite Owl's silhouette throws itself over him, horned and huge in the streetlight. The man crosses himself, what sounds like Latin tumbling from his mouth in a warbling cadence, laced with pure animal terror.

And he's taken care of easily enough, something that sounds like yes, give up, don't kill me sprinkled into an otherwise incomprehensible litany, wrists offered up to their cuffs like a supplication. They leave him, still talking nonsense, made fast to a light pole near the rest of his gang.

"The hell was all of that?" Dan asks, picking up the handset of the first payphone they come across, and the question doesn't expect an answer. He starts dialing, phone wedged between cheek and shoulder, fishing for change in his belt pouch.

Rorschach shifts from one foot to the other, uncharacteristically silent as Dan makes the call, gives the location and details, offers the usual pleasantries to the dispatcher. They always call him 'dear' and 'honey', the women at least, and it's a sore point with Rorschach how much he indulges them, dopey smile audible in his voice.

But this time: nothing. No rant, no sniping, just an uncomfortable quiet as they start to walk back to the patrol route, footfalls drumbeat-loud against it.

"Prayer to Saint Michael," Rorschach finally mumbles, as the first light of dawn makes itself known in the glittering maze of windows. "Asking for protection against devils and unnatural, wicked spirits, prowling the night." He pauses, then makes a low sound, almost like a laugh. "In the original Latin. Impressive."


"Some powerful ideas following you now, Daniel." Rorschach cants his head to one side, curiosity in the gesture. "Plan you use them to your advantage?"

"Hell," Dan says, and he's too tired to laugh but there's something buoyant there, rising. "If it makes them give themselves up that easily, why not?"


"Unnatural, though..."

Rorschach rolls his shoulders, brings his collar up around his neck without touching it. "Might be right about that. But. Doesn't matter."

"As long as I don't sprout tentacles or start speaking in dead tongues, right?"

"Nite Owl," Rorschach says, and there's a sharpness to it. "Wrong mythology."

Dan laughs, feels a little dizzy and suddenly, roaringly hungry. Whatever changes it's been through, his body still knows the schedule, and the way some things haven't changed is reassuring.

"Sorry," he says, "I just... this is still so freakish, you know? I keep wondering if maybe I'm the one dreaming."

Silence; just the quiet pad of footsteps.

"Like, they say sometimes that you can dream a lifetime in the second before you die," he says, and he's still smiling, brain and body not yet caught up with the weight of his words. "I guess if that's true, then there's no loss in dying young, but..."

Rorschach grunts, posture and body language indecipherable. "Loss to those around you."

"Well, yeah, of course." Over the skyline, the dark shape of an advertising balloon, the first twisted columns of steaming-off frost. "And I'm not dismissing that, I just mean, you don't lose the rest of your life, if you think you've lived it... hey," he says, interrupting himself, because even through the mask, Rorschach doesn't look well. "I'm sorry, I've just been kind of morbid today."

A rough nod, hat brim riding low between them. "Understandable."

Dan jerks his head in the direction of the tunnel entrance, and he knows that whenever Rorschach so much as spends ten minutes in his kitchen he never comes close to the brownstone the next night, but something still tells him to try. "Come back with me?" he asks, voice a little fragile. "For coffee, I mean. Always more where it came from?"

The city keeps brightening by the second, and as it does, they look more and more ridiculous, less invincible, just people. Dan counts to twenty-seven in his head, slow and even.

"Yes," Rorschach finally says, and like all spirits in the night, they disappear with the dawn.


Rorschach watches him every night from the corner of his eye, hidden always behind the mask's gaze. He goes back to the Owl's Nest for coffee and (he can begrudgingly admit) companionship, but he never speaks of the night's dangers just passed—only of how satisfying it is to have the city's blood on their knuckles, and what they will do to put more of it there tomorrow.

He doesn't think he could stomach Daniel knowing how precious he is, man or mythology or both; that the light of fear in their enemies' eyes is beautiful but so is the silhouette of a sleeping body in the three AM darkness, breathing, in and out.


It happens again far sooner than either of them are expecting.


--->Chapter 6



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Reginald Jeeves
Apr. 25th, 2014 12:57 pm (UTC)
New post! Love this story and the cliff hanger is a killer, keep it up!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )