etherati (etherati) wrote,

FIC: Round the Prickly Pear

Title: Round the Prickly Pear
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: Rorschach, Dan, misc others.
Date Written: 2009
Summary: ... at 5 o'clock in the morning.
Rating/Warnings: PG or so, which is INSANE given the source material.
Notes: This is my attempt at the ten songs, ten fics meme, with a few adaptations. To clarify, the idea is: iTunes on shuffle, and only work on a given ficlet until the song you're writing it to is over, then move on. So, these are time-crunched, unrevised, a little rough around the edges. Note 1: Most of these ended up being about Dan or Rorschach or their friendship, because I am fixated. Note 2: I cheated in one small way - after I'd written all of these I reordered them into something resembling chronological order. OCD SORRY. And I also cheated on the very last song in a way I'll explain in its notes. Note 3: Primarily movie-verse for some specific reasons. I LOVE YOU, GN. BUT YOU ARE NOT WHAT I NEED RIGHT NOW.
Spoilers: The story?

1. No Rain - Blind Melon


There's a boy somewhere, being groomed to be a banker, a respectable member of society, but all he can do is dream of adventure and excitement and the limitless, unconstrained sky.

There is a girl being trained to follow in her mother's footsteps, to be lived through and to be an instrument of immortality. She always nods, eyes down, when asked if it's what she wants.

There's a boy, rage and guilt and fear all mixed up with fire, and all he wants is a normal life, somehow, with normal parents, not a whore and a ghost - without bullies and adults who don't understand, never understand.

There's a boy hunched over a sheet of watch parts while all the children who could be his friends play outside, and he sets his mouth and works, his future as stratified as the design in front of him.

They all wish, as children do, to not be so different, to not be so strange. There are other wishes: Freedom. Choice. Stability. A vision of the future that is something other than what is already known. As adults they will shed the desire for sameness - difference is what allows them to be better, to do what they are called on to do - but the other wishes will remain, and will be pined for, and will never be attained, just so much childhood baggage spilled into the snow.


2. White-Out - Charlie Mars


He stands in front of the mirror, the first revision of his costume a bit awkward in places but still an accomplishment, still something to be proud of. Easy to look at and see nothing but the surface, to not bother thinking about what's underneath. It reminds him of the city, in a way, and he scowls.

God, his city... born and raised here, sure, greatest city on earth. Biggest cesspool, too. One thing can be a lot of things, and which pops to mind first usually depends on whether he's picked up the newspaper yet that day.

What does it say, he wonders; what does it say, when your home, a place you love enough at least to want to fix it, make it better... makes you do this? Makes you hide yourself away in a cabinet, become something else, because the you that's really you - the bit inside that hurts and bleeds as well as anyone else - can't stand going out into its daylight anymore? What does it say when you can't go out as yourself because your self is huddled in a corner, horrified and angry and cursing, all fury and trembling disbelief and fever-chills?

Nite Owl thinks about it, and thinks, and thinks. And wanders out into the night.


3. Sunday Morning Yellow Sky - October Project
Note: Brilliant song for Rorschach. Give it a listen. Sometimes, iTunes is generous to me.


The city is a blanket and a nightmare, a salve and a handful of stinging nettles. It frees him from the human race, from its weaknesses and vices and half-remembered ghosts seeping out from the brickwork, frees him to be something more. Forces him to be something less. It's a little double-edged.

Somewhere in an alley, someone cries. Someone bleeds. Someone dies. It's hard to tell who is who by the end, silence rushing in to fill the vacuum. Down, down down...

(Would the fall never come to an end...)

The city frees him from himself, from the cage of mortality his everyday life has become, with its filth and its sadness and its reckless, dangerous hope. For a moment he dances with the concrete and steel and blood, with the stone angels and the stained and cracked pavement, and he loves it and he hates it and it loves and hates him back, and when the sky starts to break up and yellow, Rorschach goes back into the cage and lets the city sing him to sleep with its millions of discordant and dying voices - a lullaby of promises that come another sundown, the hunting will still be good.


4. Heal it Up - Concrete Blonde


Maybe there is something careless in all of this - in wallowing in the violence of the street, fanning flames that feel far too familiar, playing with the very social element that has driven most of them to the questionable and variable madness of dressing up and taking up where the police have had to leave off. Walking too close to one edge or another.

Maybe some of them are more self-destructive than others, and maybe they shouldn't have been dancing along that edge for so long, and maybe Dan feels all of his years and all of Hollis's years and then some when he sees his partner go down under a mob of knife- and bludgeon-wielding drug runners, a crowd Dan knows Rorschach can't handle alone, that even Rorschach should have known he couldn't handle alone.

Maybe he's angry or terrified or something in-between as he drags his partner's broken body back to the Owlship, breath rattling ominously behind him, head lolled and blood seeping through the mask in more than one place- in desperate need of attention he isn't sure he can provide. Maybe he is all of these things, but maybe that's not all he is.

He's tired. He feels old. And he isn't sure who's really the self-destructive one, anymore.


5. Exit - U2
Note: Yeah, sometimes iTunes is VERY generous. o.o This seems really long but that's only because it's disjointed and spread out, and disjointed stream of consciousness is fast to write. I never believed that the Walter->Rorschach transition was as neat and tidy and instantaneous as he claimed it to have been.


it's late at night and it's


and it's

late, too late this time, and the stench of the place hangs, just


and there are bodies to either side of him, carcasses, not fit to be run through a meat-grinder, and he reaches down and


he runs his hand over the dog's fissured head as if it were alive and the wind is picking up and he doesn't know how long he'll be waiting and

why is he petting a dead dog and

what will it feel like, later, to put his arm behind the cleaver again and add a third dog to the pile and

what will daniel think and

why was he too


and why does the starlight play over the blood shining there, crusting on his gloves and riding halfway up the blade still

still holding the blade and

his hands are shaking and

there's a photograph in his mind and

he was too late but

it won't matter for



and his hands are shaking and he thought he'd be using them to lead a child out of hell tonight and instead he's bringing hell down all around and

that's the way it has to be and


sinking and



sinking but

as long as the blood is still shining

it will be

all right.


6. Disarm - The Smashing Pumpkins
Note: Usually a song that I reserve for my other favorite psychotic redheaded stepchild, but it came up, and no cheating on that, so.


There was a long silence afterwards, the words seeming to have fallen into a crevasse spreading across the kitchen table between them, all rumbling and the sliding crunch of shifting stone and the lonely, desolate patter of pebbles skittering to the bottom.

"C'mon, Rorschach, you'd think you were never a kid."

It'd been innocent enough, but Rorschach had been acting strangely lately and Daniel no longer knew what was safe territory. This wasn't. The impassible crevasse was suddenly gone, and he was being lifted out of his seat by the lapels of his suit jacket, nose-to-nose with something he was suddenly afraid to continue calling 'friend'. There was a sharpness of metal against his face.

A long silence and a longer silence, and then words, grated out roughly from underneath the halfway drawn-up mask, simplicity belied by the obvious baggage beneath them: "Childhood. Overrated."

And he's gone and the knife clatters to the tabletop, and it's only a butterknife, and Dan rubs his hand over his cheek and finds no broken skin. He still feels like he's been cut, deeper than he's been by any criminal's switchblade or shiv - seen something visceral and terrifying that no quantity of spilled blood could compare to.


7. City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie

It's been a few months since Keene passed; Dan is standing by the subway station, and he is thinking. Dangerous, a voice says from somewhere inside, and it doesn't sound like his, and he smiles.

Subways, sure. Commuter trains over the water to and from the Jersey side. But it's just not the same anymore, and he fingers the subway token. There was another train ride, ages ago, when he was young - he went with his family, all across the country, watching the landscape go by outside. It'd been fascinating, all texture and blurs of color and little details that rose up out of the noise floor. The people that ran the train, the feel of motion-without-motion for days on end. The peeling paint and the worn carpet in the cars, passed over by more feet than he could ever have counted. Warm. Human.

Now, it's all fast trains that disgorge office workers and transients, back and forth, back and forth, not the elegant rolling nomads that wandered the country for its own sake. America's good at a lot of things, he thinks, and one of them is pushing aside and retiring the beautiful things and the human things when it's no longer convenient to keep them around. Everything gets obsoleted eventually, all of its dreams and dreamers and native sons and daughters.

The smile is gone with the memory. The subway token clatters to the ground. He'll be walking today.


8. How to Save a Life - The Fray
Note: EMO ALERT D: D: D:


He was too dismissive, and he knows it. As soon as he'd made sure that the tremendous seeping bloodstain on Rorschach’s coat was not in fact his own blood - that he wasn't quietly bleeding out, under all those layers of symbolic armor - more pressing and immediate concerns had taken back his attention. His friend's strange behavior – the clipped quality of his voice, his sudden inability to manage complete sentences, the odd way his shoulders twitched when Dan asked him what had happened – was all written off as the aftermath of a pretty horrific night. Moved on from.

It's only now, standing in the Antarctic snow, holding his breath against the last second that he would do anything to hold back for just a little longer, that he realizes he could have prevented this. That far back- he could have taken the time, made the effort, short-circuited the downward spiral that would land his friend in front of him, tangled helplessly in his twisting and folding mind, his ideals, his inability to compromise even when the sacrifice is nothing but in vain. Averted this scene: the great terror of the underworld weeping in the snow, pleading for oblivion. It’s a chasm that is traced back to a fissure that is traced back to a single crack, and the crack has many names. Indifference. Inaction. Selfishness.

He could have prevented this.


9. Saturn Return – R.E.M.


It's a sleepless night when they return to what's left of New York, staying on the fringes where there is still electricity, food, people who don't want to knife you out of desperation or madness. Dan rolls out of his bed and onto the streets at something close to three AM, thinking he'll find some answers in the darkness, something to stop his mind and memories from eating themselves. All he finds are late night food stores, gas stations, nonsense like that. And stars – more stars than he's ever seen, without the city-glow.

He thinks it's a distraction as picks a store at random and wanders aisles, but he sees things he shouldn't - a mother backhanding a disobedient son in aisle three, a tabloid going on about Veidt's latest endeavors in the newsstand. A black and white cat outside the broad window, rubbing its back on the glass.

He's standing in line to buy a bag of chips and a cup of weak, watered coffee, and all he can think about is the man who should be spending three AM crouched on a rooftop somewhere, observing the night for weaknesses, gone and there and gone again- fading into the mythology of the victimized and weak, a shade against the streetlights and stars. But the rooftops are empty, the abused child in aisle three is bawling, the coffee sours in his mouth, and by the time he steps outside, chip bag split open to be offered to the stray, it's wandered off, gone.


10. Fire and Rain - James Taylor
Note: Sentimental song, not a lot I could do to change that. Also, my one cheating-song: Far too short a song, so I let it play through twice.


It's a month after they got back, and Laurie is holding him as he breaks apart again. Each time, it is harder than the last. She's desperate to find any comfort she can offer and she finally pulls out something she's been holding back on for a while now, hoping she wouldn't have to do it; but he's getting worse, not better. So: she looks past him and lies. Jon wasn't a killer by nature. It had to look the way it did, to fool Adrian. But they don't really know, do they? He could be anywhere, anywhen. Missing, but out there, somewhere. Maybe?

It's a hard sell, the red-and-white memories burning too fresh in his mind; it says something for how badly he wants to believe it that it seems to help at the moment, to calm the breakdown. But it is the wrong thing to say.

Because Dan checks every morning now, to see if he's missing any sugar. He checks every night for a broken lock. Every day for forty years, he finds nothing, and the gradual chipping away of hope is far worse than lack of it would have been. Years pass and Archie falls to pieces on the basement floor and Laurie goes on before him and that thread of hope grows dimmer and dimmer all the while. Then, suddenly it seems, he is an old old man, alone, dying in his bed -

(we never die in bed)

- days or hours left. It feels like he's had his eyes closed for a while when a voice cuts through the haze, rough and hoarse and familiar.


Eyes open on a face that shouldn't exist, just as he remembers it from blurry pictures on the television and his last real glimpse in the snow. Hallucination? Real? There's no way to tell and, he can sense, not enough time left for explanation.

Eyes like steel-blue rain regard him hollowly from under the fringe of red, then uncharacteristically soften. One hand settles awkwardly on his shoulder, and it feels real enough, stilted and uncertain but trying. An audible grunt, then with typical eloquence: "...doesn't hurt."

And no, it really doesn't.


Tags: fic, gen, watchmen
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