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FIC: Now, As Before - [5/12]

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 9.

*

Daniel is hunched over the controls, navigating them low and tight through the city, spotlights peering down empty alleys and into all the pockets of shadow and filth, emptying them of their secrets. They can't rely on such clear and visible signs of trouble anymore.

Wait.

By the wall...

A deep sound settles in the back of Rorschach's throat, and he's got one hand on the back of Daniel's chair, leaning low over him to get a better view out the window. And Daniel probably thinks that he does a good job hiding his momentary flinch, reaching forward to tweak a knob uselessly. Pressure stabilizer. Disconnected for years. Distraction tactic.

"What is it?" he asks, and it's deliberately light and even-keel, artificially so, and he hasn't turned his head. Waiting for a response, hoping for one, letting the seconds drag, but he still won't just turn his head and look. Unwilling to give in to the momentary lapse of trust, the kneejerk reaction of a brain and body wired together to be ready for a fight.

If it occurred to Rorschach, he wouldn't blame him; he practically growled in Daniel's ear, and the night has been rough so far, more full of nightmare fuel than most people encountered in their lives. It doesn't occur to him, though. He's too focused on what he's seen in the street. He points with one gloved hand, directly across Daniel's field of vision. "There. By the mouth of that alley."

A sigh – relief or disbelief or something else entirely – and Daniel angles the ship's spotlights to the indicated spot. Nothing. Just rotten brickwork and greasy garbage and unidentifiable puddle of muck, brown and black and red in the li-

Red.

Daniel narrows his eyes, focusing in the spot beams for more accuracy. "You sure? I'm not seeing any movement down there."

A frustrated breath, sharp through the mask; force of habit if not necessity. No time for this. Rorschach crosses to the hatch door. "We can argue later if you want. Get us down there. Now."

Daniel doesn't argue now and probably won't later; just drops Archie into a tight descent, as close to the alleyway as he dares. Rorschach's out the hatch before he's even killed the engines.

*

When Dan finally drops from the ship, he finds himself in the same eerie, swirling sort of silence that's been dogging their steps all night. The city has never been this dead, shouldn't be this dead. Still. Quiet...

Quiet except for a deep and violent sound that echoes back and forth against the brickwork funnel of the alley, and the immediate staccato of boots against the pavement as his partner hares off into the darkness without a moment's hesitation. He starts to swear, starts to think (he's going to get himself killed), thinks better of it and just follows as quickly as he can-

-and god, it's so dark, just black within black and why aren’t his goggles responding –

-and there's a scream, hoarse, like it'd only just managed to tear itself free after trying and trying and trying –

-and there's the heavy thud and crunch of something made of bone and muscle hitting a brick wall, once, twice-

-and that's a lot of restraint really, only twice, and…

(it's too dark, what the hell is going on, can't see, the sound is all wrong, echoing far and close and strange...)

...a boneless slumping noise, something hitting the ground that isn't going to get up again. Daniel counts out three seconds, hears nothing further, then fumbles in his pouches for a flashlight. The beam falls first on the corpse against the wall – already white, too white, dead before it died – then on Rorschach, crouching down over a middle-aged man lying prone amongst the garbage, clutching at a bloodied shoulder. They're closer than Dan had expected, only a few feet away, and the thought of what he'd almost stumbled blindly into the crossfire of is enough to send a shake through him.

The flashlight falls over Rorschach's mask from the side, all white and hollow black shadows. It looks a lot like the thing lying beaten but not bloody against the nearby wall, twisted and strange.

There's a shotgun next to the injured man, obviously dropped during the attack.

Dan suddenly wishes he was better at putting two and two together.

"Holy fuck," the man shouts, guttural and violent, scrabbling for the gun. Rorschach had been reaching for the injured shoulder, most likely to ascertain the damage, and normally he’d just disarm the man but his angle and position are all wrong and he knows that without having to think about it, rolling back onto his feet in an instant, a quick step backwards...

...the shotgun starts coming up, the man's unsteady hands shaking around the barrel, clawing for the trigger...

...another step backwards but it isn't going to be enough, quarters are too close, and Dan's got the right angle and is doing just the opposite of what he wants to be doing over the protests of every rational cell in his brain, two distance-eating steps forward and his hands are going down for the barrel of the gun...

...and Rorschach takes another step back and drops down in a duck and

it's all happening at once and

the muzzle flashes and

there's a tremendous noise and

Dan's hands are sure and certain around the barrel, gloves dulling the shockwave through his arms as the slug – god, it was loaded with slugs, not even stupid buckshot or something – thuds into something else in the alley, at a higher angle than was intended. High enough?

He's shaking so hard he can barely breathe, barely speak. He doesn't bother to wrench the gun out of the dazed man's grip, not yet, just holds it in place, only trusting his control so far. His voice wavers and he must sound weak and afraid but he doesn't care. "Rorschach?"

A half-second of agonizing silence, then a response, stilted and brief: "Fine. Glancing shot. No serious damage."

No serious damage.

"The hell did you think you were doing!" Dan finally explodes, tearing the shotgun from uncoordinated hands. The man stares up at him, eyes wide with terror. "He just saved your life, you jackass."

An indistinct muttering. Shock is clearly setting in. Dan can't find it in himself to care. "Say that again?"

"One of them."

Silence. The shotgun is heavy in Dan's inverted grip. Further down the alley, he hears a rustle of fabric; trench coat being put back into order, collar flipped up. Footsteps start to echo, retreating. They're out of range before Dan sighs heavily, twisting the weapon in his grip to lie back against his shoulder. "God, that's..."

The man shivers below him, hand clamped back onto his shoulder. There's a lot of blood. Dan understands Rorschach's urgency now, of getting to the scene of this particular crime as quickly as possible. They'd still been too late. The self-righteous speech dies on Dan's tongue; the idiot will understand soon enough as it is. He's not sure if that makes him feel better or not.

He turns to the side, the cape of his costume twisting around him like a shadow in the poor light of one tiny flashlight. "It was a mask," he says, eyes fixed on the injured man's through his goggles. "Get yourself to a hospital."

"You're... you're not going to help me?"

The shadow falters, but keeps walking.

*

Dan climbs up into Archie, pulling the hatch shut behind him. His partner is sitting in the copilot's seat, arms across his knees, staring straight ahead at absolutely nothing. It's a very familiar pose, Dan realizes. It's one he's caught himself in more than usual lately. The fedora is on the dash, and the mask is torn on one side, a neat slug-burn splitting the fabric. It's oozing white down the side of his face.

There's a lot Dan could say. Something about how ungrateful people can be jumps to mind. Something about just deserves. Something about understanding what he'd been trying to prevent, and why.

Something about the feel of the muzzle firing from inside his gloved hands, and how the sound of the report would follow him for days, and how much restraint it'd taken to not turn the shotgun back on its wielder in the half-second it'd taken Rorschach to respond to him.

Instead, he just pushes his cowl back from his head, settles into the chair next to his friend, pulls Archie back up into the sky. Somewhere safe.

"That's going to keep happening," Rorschach mutters, voice dark with some unidentifiable emotion.

"Probably. It was the mask that set him off."

"Real face isn't much better right now," the smaller man counters, reaching to peel the mask back, settle it in front of himself on the dash – start rooting through a miscellaneous supply kit for something that'll allow him to repair the tear in it, re-fuse the latex. The casualness of the action startles Dan – the mask never comes off voluntarily, not around him, not around anyone.

Blue eyes faintly ringed in something like red and something like gold glance up at him from a hollow and bruised face, all pale and pale and pale and incongruous ginger, and it's the first time Dan's seen it since Rorschach came around from the fever. He stares for just a second, mouth hanging slightly open- then turns to the controls, all business, taking them home.

*

---->Chapter 6.

*

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
akemi42
Aug. 4th, 2009 06:16 am (UTC)
This chapter was beautifully written. Damn that guy though...it is really hard to repair latex! ;)
etherati
Aug. 4th, 2009 06:22 am (UTC)
Thank you! I really enjoyed this chapter when I was writing it. And uh. damn that guy for a lot of reasons, some of which only I know, but which will eventually be revealed in a different story. Damn him a whole lot. He is not a good person. D:
ladydarthorn
Sep. 10th, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC)
Blue eyes faintly ringed in something like red and something like gold glance up at him from a hollow and bruised face, all pale and pale and pale and incongruous ginger, and it's the first time Dan's seen it since Rorschach came around from the fever.
I love this particular little segment, the description, despite being short is really vivid. It really makes me want to draw Zombie!Ror xD
etherati
Sep. 10th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC)
It really makes me want to draw Zombie!Ror xD

I WOULD NOT PROTEST THIS PROPOSITION.

Seriously though, thank you. Description is something I try to so hard to get right, so it's great to hear that it's worked for you. :3
ladydarthorn
Sep. 11th, 2009 11:36 am (UTC)
xD I'm not as awesome as some of the other artists you've had draw for this fic, but I wont let that stop me 83 (if I could just get my computer to work. The one I use doesnt even have a scanner XP)
When I was still writing I often found that describing was particularly tricky - maybe its just cause I was never very good with words (which is why I'm an artist and not a writer xD) but it always makes me happy when I find well written description x3
etherati
Sep. 11th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
NO DON'T LET IT STOP YOU even though I'm sure you're FINE. :P

I just love when a description kind of clicks into place and I feel this wave of yes, yes, that is exactly what I am trying to get across. It's too rare. :)
hekateras
Jul. 25th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)

...another step backwards but it isn't going to be enough, quarters are too close, and Dan's got the right angle and is doing just the opposite of what he wants to be doing over the protests of every rational cell in his brain, two distance-eating steps forward and his hands are going down for the barrel of the gun...

...and Rorschach takes another step back and drops down in a duck and

it's all happening at once and

the muzzle flashes and

there's a tremendous noise and

Dan's hands are sure and certain around the barrel, gloves dulling the shockwave through his arms as the slug – god, it was loaded with slugs, not even stupid buckshot or something – thuds into something else in the alley, at a higher angle than was intended. High enough?


Your writing style is great in general - not many writers can actually use the medium to their advantage this well. But this piece was particularly well done. You manipulate the pacing by splitting the bits of action between lines so that it drags out, in a good, slow-motion-esque way. Describing the events one heartbeat at a time, and it really drags the reader into the story, recreates the action in their own mind. (Part of why it jumped out at me is because I use this trick myself on occasion.) I think it's a very effective way to create tension and a more cinematic experience.

Your writing style is generally very evocative while being neat and concise. You use clean, effective prose to convey what is happening without weighing the narration down with unnecessary clutter. For example, simply writing "High enough?", which fits wonderfully into the stream-of-consciousness-type narrative at that point, whereas a less skilled writer might have written something like "He wondered if it was high enough", which conveys the same idea but isn't as good for the mood or the pacing. It's really subtleties like this that distinguish a good writer. :)

Otherwise, great characterisation so far, the dialogue is spot-on, etc. I look forward to reading more. :)
etherati
Jul. 28th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you so much - I have a tendency to think my writing was a lot more unpolished when I wrote that story, but I think as time goes on and the more polish I try to add, the more just overwritten things become. It may be better to try to get back to this style, I'm thinking. :D

And I'm glad you're enjoying it! No version of Rorschach has brought be as much joy as zombie Rorschach hahaha.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )