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FIC: Now, As Before - [3/12]

Title: Now, As Before
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: Dan/Rorschach, lightly
Date Written: 2009
Summary: "After changes upon changes we are more or less the same."
Rating/Warnings: R. Language. Violence. ZOMBIES. Cracky premise, non-cracky treatment.
Notes: This is completely a guilty indulgence – I love reading zombie AU fics, don’t usually write stuff like this. So! This was a zombiefic challenge from elsewhere(the kinkmeme *coughs*). AU. Pre-Roche, so expect reasonably complete sentences from our favorite psychotic redhead. Warnings include: 'zombies created by SCIENCE' cliché, bad science on top of it, mild gore, MotherHen!Dan, non-explicit slashiness(Dan/Ror). Also: OMGWTF*LONG*.This sucker is sitting at about 50 pages in Word right now. End notes are at the end.
Spoilers: Some Roche stuff eventually. Not much else.


*

Day 6.

*

"Here to provide information to our loyal and understandably terrified listeners is the lead scientist behind the experiment that - quite accidentally - created the veritable plague currently sweeping our streets. He has agreed to speak to practical concerns provided we preserve his anonymity - so before the switchboard lights up, no, we won't be giving out his name or home address or his dog's telephone number, no matter how nicely you ask. Doctor Smith? Oh, that's a pseudonym by the way. Please don't go digging through your white pages under 'Smith'. Doctor?"

In the other room, Rorschach tosses restlessly. The fever broke two days ago, and Dan had been ecstatic at first - until the thermometer dropped past normal body temperature and kept right on going down. He leans across the kitchen table and turns up the dial on the radio. It's late - past midnight - and the pistol in the waistband of his slacks is uncomfortable but he's kept it on hand, as promised, since the first night. Its necessity is starting to look plausible, and he's trying not to think about that too much.

"Thank you, I just want to say, thank you for this venue, I want to get as much information out to the people as I can..."

Dan frowns. Voice-changer of some kind.

"... the most important thing that we've determined, that people need to know, concerns the virus's communicability..."

*

It's dark when Rorschach comes around again. Not completely black - streetlights glow in through the half-shaded window - but clearly night, clearly late.

It's the first time in six days anything has been clear at all.

He runs his hands up over his face, and freezes.

(Mask...)

"Here," comes a quiet, strangely blank voice from somewhere above and to the side; Rorschach focuses in on it and if there's anything unusual about the slump in Daniel's silhouette against the window, sitting still on the edge of the bed, he doesn't have nearly enough context to figure out the cause. He props himself up on one elbow, reaches for the offered mask. Pulls it down to the bridge of his nose, but there's no urgency in the motion – the damage is already done.

Damage, damage – his leg is sore, but not as sore as it should be, really, when he tenses up in preparation to launch into why he has to leave, why he shouldn't be here, why he doesn't need taking care of. Kneejerk. But he's cold.

Very, very cold.

The diatribe never materializes. He just stays where he is, propped up on his elbows, watching Daniel stare at nothing. Eyes narrow and refocus lower, somewhere around the other man's waistband. "Daniel," he starts, and his voice is rough over whatever cotton-based life form has crawled down his throat and died, but there's a glint of steel in it. "Where's the gun?"

"You know, it's amazing." And it's not really a reply, exploding from the shadow-Daniel as if it'd been battering against closed lips for hours, waiting for an opportunity to get out. "We've worked together for ten years and it takes you getting bitten by a goddamned zombie before I get to see your face."

There: he's done it. He's said the word.

"Daniel-"

The taller man looks away from the fascinating nothingness finally, eying Rorschach sideways, cutting him off. "I put it away. Not gonna need it after all." He shifts, letting his arms fall heavily across his knees. "Found out how this thing works."

(No, no no no...)

Outwardly, Rorschach displays nothing, getting his hands under himself and hitching up into a more upright seated position against the headboard. Regards Daniel steadily for a moment through the sluggishly shifting inkblots, the bottom half of his face luminously pale in the half light coming in the window. And it isn't a question, not really: "I have it."

A nod, all that’s needed.

"Should have the pistol, then." A beat of silence, then he fists his hands in the blanket, growling out through his teeth, "Should be using it."

"Has it occurred to you," and Daniel's tone is infuriating, slow and metered out as if he were speaking to a dense child, "that if you're capable of sitting there telling me you need to be shot in the head, that you might not need to be shot in the head?"

Nothing at first, then an uninterpretable noise. Daniel turns his head to look him square in the face, now. "The test subjects that escaped had been altered, Rorschach. On a genetic level. To produce some sort of ... transport... something, that would let the virus cross the blood-brain barrier. Something like that. I'm getting the terminology wrong." He fiddles with the seam on his pants leg, glances down at the floor. He's being clinical. Distant. The other shoe is waiting to drop.

Rorschach waits, quiet and still. He's never felt so capable of stillness.

"If you don't have the alteration, it... can't get into your brain. Apparently there's been..." A sharp huff of breath, "...a lot of people infected. The stuff we were checking for... temperature, heart rate, everything slows down but... none of them have gone crazy or tried to eat anyone."

"Hrn." Flat tone. "Good to know." Except it isn't good, not really. Yes, it's good that his mind is still his own, that he isn't going to turn into an it or try to murder his only friend or be unable to continue bringing justice to the evil swarming the streets outside the window for want of being any different from it. But the overall situation is anything but good.

If Daniel catches on to any of this, he doesn't let on. "Yeah. They're calling it a 'metabolic disorder' at this point. You don't wanna know what people were calling it a few days ago."

An uncomfortable silence, a second or two too long. "Permanent?"

The answer comes too fast, too rehearsed. "No one knows. Too early."

An even longer silence. Rorschach reaches up to tug his mask the rest of the way down over his face, then pushes the blankets aside. When he speaks again, the effects of six days spent in a fever-haze are all but banished. The question would be almost-funny but for the dead seriousness of his tone: "Where are my pants?"

Daniel blinks, then pushes to his feet, heads for a chair across the room where some folded clothing is stacked. "I had to cut them off the night you showed up. Found a few things that'll probably fit you. Might need to roll them u-" An awkward pause, Daniel squirming slightly under the masked glare. "-er, I mean, they should work for now."

The stack is dropped lightly onto the foot of the bed, and Rorschach grabs a pair indiscriminately, slides to the edge of the mattress, starts pulling them on over dressings that had stopped going bloody two days ago. It isn't healing properly, he can feel the edges pull and shift, but it's by and large numb at this point. Reaches for the shirt and suitcoat that are both hanging near the bed. "Should start patrolling again. Must be a lot of people who need help right now."

...and there are layers, there...

"Sure," Daniel replies, one hand on the doorknob, glancing back as Rorschach shrugs on the jacket. He's quiet, and so careful. "As soon as you're solid enough on that leg to not get us both killed."

...and layers over the layers. Something runs in the space between the words, a sickening mixture of hope and futility and normalcy and the sense that nothing will ever be normal again; Rorschach almost says what he's thinking, that he can't really get himself killed when it's already happened, but then he feels a sluggish beat tug through his chest and concedes the point in silence.

Daniel shuts the door quietly behind himself, giving his friend privacy to dress and gather up what's left of himself.

*

---->Chapter 4.

*
 

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
akemi42
Aug. 4th, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
Hehe the first thing Rorschach asks about after getting up is his pants. Gotta love him...
etherati
Aug. 4th, 2009 06:04 am (UTC)
I originally had planned to have him react much more strongly to what's happened to him, but I realized that no, he'd probably be mostly concerned with getting back out on patrol and with the fact that Dan has APPARENTLY TAKEN HIS PANTS. <3 Emo tropes, I subvert thee.
ladydarthorn
Sep. 5th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
Daniel blinks, then pushes to his feet, heads for a chair across the room where some folded clothing is stacked. "I had to cut them off the night you showed up. Found a few things that'll probably fit you. Might need to roll them u-" An awkward pause, Daniel squirming slightly under the masked glare. "-er, I mean, they should work for now."
ffhahaha <3 despite everything else going on in the chapter, this still manages to make me grin like an idiot.

Also it's interesting how, even if they come pretty damn close to it, the zombies arent completely dead - and how the part of the virus that makes you go crazy and eat people doesn't even trigger because of the alteration thats needed, so even if you ARE bitten your still more or less yourself. It's an interesting spin on the whole zombie thing :)
etherati
Sep. 5th, 2009 01:18 am (UTC)
As long as you get the benign strain, yeah, and unless you get too hungry. D: Then all bets are off.

But yeah, working with science!zombies instead of risen!corpse!zombies gives you a lot more room to play around with what exactly being infected means.

Poor ror, bad enough he's a zombie now, but he still has to put up with commentary on his height.
robinnevermore
Nov. 30th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC)
"The question would be almost-funny but for the dead seriousness of his tone: "Where are my pants?""

It dosen't matter how serious he's suppose to sound, everytime i read it I giggle. And this is, like, my third time reading this fic. :3 Gotta love it.

"Daniel blinks, then pushes to his feet, heads for a chair across the room where some folded clothing is stacked. "I had to cut them off the night you showed up. Found a few things that'll probably fit you. Might need to roll them u-" An awkward pause, Daniel squirming slightly under the masked glare. "-er, I mean, they should work for now.""

LOL! Love it.
etherati
Nov. 30th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
I am a firm believer in the idea of lightening dire moments with bad jokes and/or awkwardness. :3

Thanks!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )