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.
Two days pass very quickly, and the patrols leave them both exhausted – mentally more than physically – and happy to sleep away large portions of the day. It’s not as if Dan has a job to get to, and if Rorschach’s daylight persona has one, he can’t really turn up the way he is now. The sleep is restless and the dreams that inhabit it unpleasant, and so it drags on longer than it has to most days.
There’s a new map pinned up inside of Archie, now – large blue dots drawn on with marker to show the location of every hospital, emergency clinic and walk-in doctor in the city. Smaller red dots showing the site of each attack. The original map had been his idea, to help them transport the injured to the help they need as quickly as possible. Rorschach had started adding the other marks, trying to work something out, and Dan doesn’t see any reason to stop him.
Rorschach, who is still wearing the mask despite it very nearly catching him a shotgun slug in the face that first night. Despite Dan’s every argument. He frowns over his work – tiny tools deep in the casings of his goggles, the kitchen light blaringly bright from above. There is no shame in admitting that he worries. His partner had, at least, conceded that Dan should be the one to approach the victims first, less threatening in his intentionally intimidating armor for the clearly human face set into it.
There’s the squeak of the pantry door swinging open, metal of cans being shuffled against one another. Rorschach settles into the chair across from him, opening the can, not seeming to care what’s in it. Mask goes up above his nose. He’s been eating constantly, and the radio had said to expect that, but Dan can’t help but wonder how he manages to do it when nothing tastes like anything. Except for the sugar, apparently, but he can’t live on a metric ton of sugar per day and nothing else.
Daniel continues working, the silence between them not pointed or significant – just functional, as he’s deep into delicate electronics and the other man is too busy eating to use his mouth for anything else.
The fork hits the bottom of the can a moment later, and the can hits the table. “Something wrong with your goggles?”
Dan nods abstractedly, narrowing his eyes at the miniscule innards. Is that a bent pin on that chip, there? “Night vision’s not working right. Hasn’t been since we started going out again.”
“Explains the flashlight then. I was wondering.”
Dan glances up, something vaguely like guilt shifting over his face. If he hadn’t turned on the flashlight… “Yeah. Stupid, I know. I spent all that time tuning Archie up and didn’t bother to check my own gear. Must have taken a knock the night everything happened.”
There’s a shift in the figure across from him, shirtsleeved forearms coming to rest on the table. Leaning forward slightly. “You were out in that?” The tone is indistinctly puzzled, as if the fact hadn’t even occurred to him up to this point.
“Yeah, of course.” Dan isn’t really paying too much attention to the befuddlement, answering conversationally on autopilot. It is a bent pin. Damn it all. “They were everywhere. Took about an hour to get to where I was, though. I was just lucky, wasn’t too far from the ship.”
There’s another stretch of silence, and Dan’s seriously considering which would be more of a hassle – trying to fix the pin and potentially damage something around it, or pull the chip and go through the rigmarole of soldering a new one on in the cramped little space.
“…It’s good that you weren’t hurt.”
It’s quiet, and grim, and Dan looks up from his contemplations, suddenly a hundred percent in the here and now. There was something bare in those few words that he isn’t used to hearing, and he feels suddenly like he’s just grabbed a doorknob after an hour of shuffling around on dry carpet – something tingling in the tips of his fingers, sending warnings straight to the back of his brain.
The can stares up at him from the table. Plain white beans. Tasteless. He wonders for a moment what other senses have gone by the wayside.
He hears it, in the silence after: -I’m glad you don’t have to live like this.-
And, coward that he can be at times, he blusters it away. “Well, I mean. The armor helped. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t try to get a piece of me. Just glad they hadn’t figured out to go for the face…”
Complete and utter stillness from the man across from him.
“God though, that would’ve been bad – both of us laid up at the same time.” Beat. Blink. “Especially considering how many people aren’t making it.”
Dan turns back to the goggles, poking lightly at the pin with the tip if the miniature screwdriver, but he’s not really thinking about solder and circuits anymore. He hears rather than sees his partner shift back into the seat again, hands coming to rest gripping the edge of the table.
“Hm? Oh, just that a lot of the people turning up at the hospitals aren’t… getting through it. Seems to be kind of hit or miss, they don’t know what determines…” and Dan trails off, suddenly staring at his friend’s back where he’s shoved himself up from the table in a violent motion almost too fast to track.
Fingers curl around the edge of the opposite counter, white on white. “You didn’t tell me.”
“I didn’t want to worry you. And you were already out of the woods, so…”
“Forget about me,” and if it’s possible, his knuckles go even whiter in his grip. “We’ve been taking people to those hospitals every night.”
“Right,” Dan says slowly, setting the screwdriver down. “Because they’ve been in need of medical attention.”
Rorschach is already in motion, headed to the coat rack where the rest of his costume is hanging, twitchy and agitated. “You’re not a doctor, Daniel.”
“I don’t think it takes a doctor to see that these people need-“
“Not what I mean,” and he’s whirlwinded back into the room, belting his coat. Hat in hand, then on head, in one smooth motion. “You’re not a doctor. You couldn’t have provided better care than a hospital.”
It takes a moment for the implication to sink in. Dan sits back in his chair away from the project in front of him, eyes unfocusing into middle distance. “One data point doesn’t make a tr-“
“Unless,” Rorschach interrupts from the doorway to the basement, “The only difference in care was that you actually wanted me to survive.”
A second. A minute?