Pairings: Rorschach/female!Nite Owl II, Twilight Lady/female!Nite Owl II (future part), Silk Spectre II/female!Nite Owl II (future part), Rorschach/female!Nite Owl II/Silk Spectre II (future part)
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine and are used for non-profit purposes.
Warnings: Representations of misogyny and homophobia. Will eventually be porn of the m/f, f/f and m/f/f variety. Some concepts in later chapters may be triggering.
Summary: The story of Danielle Dreiberg, and how others saw her.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to sandoz_iscariot for helping me title this.
Hear me, and save (for power is all thy own)
A soul desirous to be thine alone.
-- Proclus’ Hymn to Athena
It’s 1964 and Walter Kovacs is looking around the corner of a brick building, pretending to be Rorschach.
The building is the home of a member of Big Figure’s gang, and Kovacs is waiting to see if any of them are around. When nobody comes out, he edges toward the front door, already pulling the crooked metal stick from the pocket of his trenchcoat. He fails the first time, wishes he practiced more with the collection of locks he’s amassed in his apartment, and when it works the second time he wonders if it would have been easier to just break the door down.
It doesn’t matter now. Kovacs ascends the stairs – the last member of Big Figure’s gang told him his point man lived on the top floor – testing them beforehand to make sure they don’t creak. It’s always best to maintain an element of surprise. So when Kovacs gets to the top, he’s ready to spring toward the correct door.
It opens first. Kovacs registers the man’s face in a second: the hard lines of his cheek bones, the scruffy beard, the dark eyebrows turned up in an expression of horror. He’s just as Johnny Verne described.
“Two of --?”
Kovacs’ hand is around the man’s throat before the man can finish the sentence. He punches once, twice. The man kicks him in the stomach, loosens Kovacs’ grip enough so that he can squirm away. Kovacs looks up, his hands clutched about his middle, seeing nothing but hearing the footfalls echo off the walls as the man runs to the roof.
Kovacs follows, slamming the door of the roof open when he reaches the top. Yet when he looks around, no one is there. He only takes a few steps outside before he feels movement behind him. Something hard cracks against the back of his head.
Brass knuckles, Kovacs realizes. His head is spinning as he’s picked up by the waist, carried and tossed off the edge of the roof.
The sensation of falling wakes Kovacs up enough so that he reaches out, grips the edge of the roof with a straining hand. The man glares down at him, raises his foot to stomp on the fingers.
He’s gone in a swoop of brown.
Kovacs can’t see what’s happening but he can hear the sound of struggle, of two bodies fighting in close contact. He tries to reach up with his other hand, struggles to keep himself steady. It slips, and he nearly falls completely. He tries again.
Another hand catches his.
The grip is firm, encased in a leather gauntlet. Kovacs’ legs try to get purchase on the bricks, but there’s no need. He’s up soon, looking at the body, the face of his rescuer.
He does see the body first, something which gives him shame later that night, when he’s had time to think about what has happened, and at the end of later nights, when he begins to call his rescuer “his partner.” She’s tall – taller than him – and muscular. Her limbs are thick in a way that some would consider mannish if not for the curves of the body, the prominent chest. It bothers him a bit, even though she’s fully covered. No bit of skin shows other than that of her face, which is obscured beneath her goggles, her heavy cowl.
Her lips have no makeup, and Kovacs sees them drop open slightly as she looks at him with the familiar surprise people get when they first see his mask. “Oh,” she whispers. “Interesting.”
Kovacs tries to speak, tries to thank her and hurry off on his way, when she extends a hand to him again.
“I don’t think I’ve heard of you,” she says. “I’m the new Nite Owl.”
He pauses before he grasps the hand back. “Rorschach,” he says, hoping he’s hiding his discomfort. “I’ve heard of you.”
The lips smile.
Later, when he follows her to her ship, he wonders why he didn’t leave right then, wonders why he doesn’t leave now. And even though he feels a sharp relief when he’s out of her presence, he wonders when he’ll see her again.
Stella Dreiberg doesn’t understand her daughter.
She hates to admit that to herself. Not because the thought itself embarrasses her – her relationship with her own mother, now of blessed memory, was far from perfect – but because it reminds her of other, worse thoughts about her only child.
Danielle isn’t pretty. She was a chubby infant, and as she grew into a toddler Stella realized Danielle didn’t have the type of fat that would melt away with age. Stella was able to combat her daughter’s growing frame with swimming lessons and, when Danielle got older and said she no longer wanted to play girls’ basketball, long hikes along the New Jersey state nature trails. Yet even now, at twelve years old, there’s too much of her father in her: the long nose, the slightly protruding chin, the pale eyes buried beneath the thick glasses. Even her hair, which is a beautiful shade of chestnut brown, resists attempts at taming. To Stella, Danielle looks like a homely mess, and her daughter knows it and resents her.
It bothers Stella that she hurts Danielle. Every interaction between them in these chaotic days of her daughter’s puberty ends with screaming and hours of silence. Stella wishes Danielle could understand that when Stella buys her adorable, expensive dresses or brings Danielle to lunch with Stella’s friends she’s only trying to help. Instead, Danielle leaves the clothes hanging in her closet until the tags turn yellow, lies stomach-down on the floor of her room in her father’s old casual clothes, taking apart the toaster or electric mixer and putting it back together again. Danielle tells Stella’s friends about these endeavors in detail, and Stella feels embarrassed for Danielle when she sees her friends’ strained-but-polite nods. It’s even worse when Danielle starts repeating stories from those thick, impenetrable books on Arthurian legend or the minutiae of costumed heroes.
“Your daughter’s interests are very ... unique,” Ruth Steinman says to Stella after a visit one day.
‘Unique,’ Stella thinks bitterly. As if it were a good thing for a young woman to aspire to be a greasy mechanic.
Then again, sometimes her friends compliment Stella, tell her that Danielle is brilliant. She is. Stella knows that without being blinded by a mother’s love, with the same cold-eyed objectivity that sees her daughter’s homeliness. Danielle is a perfect student. She creates strange contraptions for fun and her babbling about the intricacies of engines or flight or potential space travel goes completely over Stella’s head. Yet Stella constantly wonders if that will be enough.
It’s 1957 and Stella is getting old now. Her light brown tresses need to be dyed constantly to keep out the gray, and the soft, Aryan features that once entrapped a thirty-five-year-old, successful investment banker named Joshua Dreiberg into the arms of her twenty-two-year-old self are becoming marred by wrinkles. Stella isn’t always happy. Yet whenever she listens to her friends complain about the husbands they hate, the exclusive clubs that won’t let them in, she nearly loses all her patience. She remembers her own childhood in the Lower East Side of New York, her parents’ tales of running from pogroms in Romania. They are rich and live in America, where so many others like them have perished in the camps in Europe or live in chaotic conditions in Israel. It was her good looks, her charm, that got her here, and Stella wants Danielle to be safe.
But it seems hopeless, and as Danielle resists her efforts harder, buries herself deeper into machines and fairy tales where her friends’ daughters find comfort in makeup and boys, darker worries come to Stella’s mind. She won’t let herself say the word, not even when she finds a dirty comic of the Silk Spectre among Danielle’s superhero memorabilia. She eagerly takes Danielle at face value when her daughter cries and stutters as she explains the discovery, then rips the comic apart and promises she’ll never buy anything like that again. Yet the worry is always there, even if Stella won’t say it.
There’s one thing that makes her feel at ease. One day in the summer, Danielle comes into the living room, her thick body covered in an oversized white men’s shirt and brown pants that need to be kept up with suspenders, strands of hair wriggled loose from her tight ponytail. She looks like she wants something. Stella is already wary. Danielle’s last request – small paper tubes – ended with Danielle shooting off homemade bottle rockets in the backyard.
“Mom?” Danielle asks.
“You can’t take apart the Cadillac’s engine, Danielle,” Stella says.
“No, no, I know,” she says, although disappointment still lingers in her voice, “but do you know how to sew?”
Stella is shocked. “No, I … My mother always did that.”
Stella puts her book aside, gives Danielle her full attention. “Would you like to learn, though? I could get you a tutor.”
Danielle smiles. “I’d really like that.”
The first thing Danielle makes is a pair of pants, the second a Halloween costume of Hooded Justice that Stella won’t let her wear, but it’s a step in the right direction.
“Excuse me,” says Warren Dyer, “but I don’t think you’re in the right place.”
The girl – the only one in the class – looks up from her books, her brows knitted beneath her glasses. She’s kind of ugly, Warren thinks. She’s wearing her long hair in a bun, a frilled blouse and a long, flowing skirt that goes past her knees, but even still, the hard features of her face make her look a bit like a man.
“This is Intro to Engineering, isn’t it?” the girl asks, the slightest bit of fight in her voice. It takes Warren aback, and when he doesn’t answer she says, “I thought so. Then I’m in the right place.”
Warren bristles as she pointedly looks away from him. Bitch, he thinks as he walks back to his seat. He knew Harvard allowed students from the all-female Radcliffe College to take certain classes for years, and just offered joint diplomas this year. Still, he hadn’t thought any of them would take engineering. It was an easy mistake. She shouldn’t have snapped at him like that.
It was a bad first impression, one that lingers throughout not only that class, but other, later classes where Danielle – that was her name – appears. To his frustration and resentment, the others in his circle of friends – particularly Paul, who was asked to pair up with her in an early assignment and later introduced her to the rest of their friends – do not share his opinion. After their late classes, Paul always makes a point of inviting her out to the dining hall or one of the local bars.
Warren doesn’t understand it. There’s nothing particularly interesting about Danielle. She barely says anything unless they begin talking about their classes, and whenever Paul or Luke – a skinny, effeminate nerd who often spouts women’s lib platitudes in a transparent and sad attempt to get laid – asks her about Radcliffe College, she never has anything interesting to say.
“I like her. She’s cute,” Paul explains as they’re hanging out in Paul’s room one day. “And I miss having girls around me, like in high school, especially after prep.”
“I like girls, too,” Warren says. “I just don’t know why you feel the need to go after the ugly bitches. You already have a girlfriend, anyway.”
Paul rolls his eyes, “Okay. One, she already explained to you why she was pissed off. So let it go and stop calling her a bitch.”
“Just because it happened twice before that day doesn’t mean she had to snap at me. I wasn’t either of those guys …”
“Warren, she’s been nice to you ever since. Knock it off.”
Warren seethes and sits down hard on Paul’s absent roommate’s bed. Paul can be such an asshole, sometimes.
“And, two, just because I have Susie doesn’t mean I can’t talk to any other girls ever. This may come as a shock, but I actually talk to girls I don’t sleep with.”
“I can’t see why.”
Paul smirks, “And how many girls have you fucked? If any?” When Warren’s answer catches on the tip of his tongue in a rage, he sees a glint in Paul’s gray eyes. “Six. Out of about maybe thirty girls I knew in high school. You’ve got to cast a wide net.”
Warren is shocked. It has a certain logic, although it seems like way too much effort for such a small return. “So you’re not setting up Danielle to date Luke, then?”
Paul shrugs. “If he can do it, good for him. If not, I’m sure Danielle knows other girls. It’s like forming connections.”
Yet despite Paul’s hopes, Danielle never brings any girls along with her, nor brings him or any of the other guys back to Radcliffe to meet her real friends. Still, Warren eventually tires of his own frustration with her, and by the time the semester ends and everyone comes back from winter break, he’s accepted Danielle as a fact of his college life.
The winter formal changes that. Warren doesn’t want to go. This semester and last have been utter failures for finding girls, and Warren figures he has three more years of undergrad to go to these things, anyway. Nevertheless, when he accompanies Paul to the tuxedo rental shop, Paul sadistically tells Warren to take Danielle.
“Are you shitting me?” Warren asks, squirming on the uncomfortable stool in the corner. “Why isn’t Luke taking her?”
“Some going-away party for his sister is the next day,” Paul says as he pulls a jacket over his shoulders. “She lives in Pittsburgh and she’s moving to Europe, so he’s got to be there for that.”
“What about Chris?”
“Roomie has a girlfriend. Susie’s coming up, too.” Paul throws the jacket to Warren. “I don’t think I like that one. See if it fits you.”
Warren stretches his arms out as he looks over the jacket, holding it like it’s a baby that’s just spit up. “I don’t want to go, man.”
“Bullshit, Warren. You’ve been chasing every piece of pussy that passes you by when we go out. Just take Danielle. It’s not like you have to sleep with her.”
The jacket fits Warren perfectly, even if he can’t believe the price he pays for it.
Paul and Susie accompany Warren when he goes to pick up Danielle. He’s starting to hate Paul, with his crooner good looks and dark hair, with his blonde and thin girlfriend who looks like a fashion magazine model in her blue dress and long, white gloves. He suspects he’s on this date because Paul thinks he’ll never get anybody else, ever. When Warren thinks of himself: dark red hair, freckles, thick glasses, he wonders if maybe Paul’s right.
Then again, when Danielle emerges from the college and meets them outside, Warren wonders if he’s quite bad enough to deserve this. She looks like some sort of bloated parody of Susie. The style of their dress is the same: tight on the bodice, flaring out slightly along the hips to create the image of a bell. Danielle’s dress is white, with brown oblong spots running in lines down the skirt. She compliments the outfit with the same sort of long, white arm-gloves Susie has, as well as a shawl that’s decorated with feathers.
“You look gorgeous!” Susie exclaims when she sees her. As if she actually knows Danielle, actually thinks the cow is beautiful. Girls are such liars.
The dance is a torture chamber. Danielle tries to make small talk, but none of it is interesting. He’s heard her boring stories about her life as a rich Jewish girl in Tom’s River who loved to watch birds and make bottle rockets. She’s heard his stories about living in upperstate New York and going to prep school. They dance occasionally to relieve the boredom, but after he steps on her feet one (or maybe three) too many times, Danielle loses it.
“You know,” she says. “Could you just walk me home? I can tell that’s what you really want to do, anyway.”
Warren agrees. It’s with some relief, although he also resents how she’s got to be such a bitch about it.
The walk back along Brattle Street to Radcliffe College is long, cold and silent. The wind is harsh against his ears, and when he looks over at Danielle she’s shivering against her shawl.
“Do you want my jacket?” he asks.
She shakes her head. Fine, he thinks, be stubborn.
They’re almost at the college when they hear the scream. It’s high-pitched, a woman’s yell, and the both of them stop when they hear it.
Warren asks, “Where do you think it came from?” Danielle doesn’t answer. She’s already running in the direction of the scream, her shawl abandoned on the ground behind her.
It takes Warren a few moments before he follows. When he catches up with her he can’t believe the scene. Danielle is crouched over a guy much larger than her, grabbing him by the shirt in one hand and punching his face with the other. There’s another girl on the grass, sitting up and looking at them with her hand over her cheek, stunned.
The guy – white, brown hair, looks like a creep – cries out in protest.
“What are you doing?” Warren asks.
“I know this guy. He hit my roommate once already,” Danielle says. She pulls the guy closer to her and screams, “Did you think you could get away with what you did?” Warren watches the girl on the grass – ostensibly Danielle’s roommate – stand up. “You do this to her, or anyone else, you answer to me!”
“Danielle! Stop it!” yells the girl.
Danielle’s face twists into an expression of shock and hurt, but she drops the guy. She backs away, and the girl, to Warren’s horror and anger, runs to the guy’s side.
“Cindy, you shouldn’t –”
“It’s all right,” Cindy says as she helps the man to his feet, a bizarre sight given how much thinner and paler she is than her meathead boyfriend. “We were just making up, okay?”
“But I heard you scream.”
Cindy looks like she’s about to cry, gives Danielle a look of desperation, something that Warren can tell means ‘don’t make this worse.’
The guy wipes the blood from his mouth, his nose. He casts an ugly, vicious look at Danielle, then turns it onto Warren.
“Keep your dyke on a leash, you faggot.”
Warren feels a cold rage in his stomach as the guy walks away. Always those guys who get the girls, he thinks. Fucking hell.
After they’re gone, Danielle says she wants to go the rest of the way home by herself. Warren nods, says he’ll see her around. Danielle doesn’t answer – the cold determination in her eyes says she’s miles away.
Ever since he went public, Hollis Mason has received a lot of fanmail. Most of it is from women, and most of it is highly inappropriate. While he gets the occasional letter from a mother asking for some memento on behalf of her adoring son (he usually sends these women an autograph), most of it comes from ladies with more prurient interests, and some can get quite explicit.
Sally Jupiter tells him he should take these letters as compliments, but the idea of somebody’s aunt or daughter writing such things to a total stranger makes him uncomfortable. He’s always found the orgiastic admiration for pop stars like Elvis or The Beatles shocking, and can’t bring himself to appreciate having it directed toward him. Besides, he’s been considering marriage lately but whenever he does go on a genuine date, the lady is usually more interested in Nite Owl than Hollis Mason. The letters only serve to remind him of how in the eyes of those women he’ll never be as attractive as his alter ego.
So when he gets a letter in 1962 from a young lady named Danielle Dreiberg, who opens her letter saying how much she admired him, how she once had his picture on her wall, he tosses it into the trash. Then he sees the envelope also contains a picture.
“Doesn’t anyone have any shame anymore?” he thunders as he takes the picture out, preparing to rip it up – not because of his disdain for it but because he wants the women to have a privacy they never gave themselves. He then sees what the picture shows and stops.
It’s a ship – a ship like a pulp novel come to life in his hands: two glassy, domed windows which look like eyes, the protruding piece at the front like a nose or a beak, the egg-shaped exterior, painted brown and black so it resembles an …
Hollis digs through the trash, an excitement building in him that he hasn’t felt since the Minutemen were formed. What does it look like inside? How does it fly? Why did she make this?
He visits her address the next day – it turns out she only lives a ten-minute walk away from him, but she isn’t there. He tries again the day after. This time she opens the door. She’s dressed in jeans, an oversized white shirt and thick glasses. When she sees him her face flushes red, her mouth turns in a smile, and he’s amazed to see someone more excited than him.
“I’m so sorry I’m not better dressed,” she says as she invites him inside.
“Well, I’m here to see your gear, not your clothes,” he said. “Although if you have a costume …”
“Almost!” she says. “I can show you that too, if you like.”
“I’d love it.”
Danielle leads him through the house, down a staircase that leads to a basement that’s already full with weapons and contraptions and half-finished projects. She explains them to him one by one: the two-way radio, the grappling gun, the projectiles, the small bombs, the handcuffs. The ship is even more impressive: air and underwater capacity, fire and rocket launchers, radiation shields, smoke screens and the unusual shape of the ship that makes it hard to pick up on radar.
“Well, aren’t you a regular Mrs. Doc Savage?” he teases.
Danielle laughs. “Well, that would have been my name if you had said ‘no.’”
She’s funny, Hollis thinks. He looks around the room, his hands on his hips. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined creating anything like this. “How’d you learn to do this? When I was young I never dreamed that anyone, especially a woman, could create a ship like this.”
“Oh, there have been lots of women engineers,” Danielle says. “Ada Lovelace, Edith Clarke, even Hedy Lamarr, you know, the actress, helped make this communication system that sort of hopped frequencies …”
Hollis laughs. This is very much over his head. “Well, you obviously know more than I do about this. It’s just great. I … Wow, I can’t wait to see what you do in the field.”
This time Danielle’s smile is so wide Hollis can see her teeth.
“What’s your costume going to look like?” he asks.
“Oh!” Danielle practically leaps up the steps to a large locker. Hollis follows her as she opens it, removes the suit.
He looks over the costume: the gray and brown bodysuit, the weird swath of brown fabric that wraps around it. “I have to admit, I can’t picture this.”
“Want me to show you?”
There’s a moment where Hollis wonders if this means Danielle will undress in front of him – a moment he realizes was really silly, as if she built a working ship and countless equipment just to get him into bed – but she goes upstairs. When she comes down again, he mostly likes what he sees. It’s a simple design – totally different than his – but it covers her entire body and the cowl framing her face in a way that makes her resemble an owl.
“I’ll put goggles over them that’ll help hide my identity. I’m still working out the tech on that. I want it to be able to put some night vision functions in it.”
Night vision functions? He remembers the frustrating nights where he’d lose a criminal in the shadows. This young lady hasn’t even gone out on patrol and she’s already thinking ahead.
“I love it,” Hollis says. “Although, I have to tell you, I really advise against the cape.”
Danielle holds up the ends of the cape, spreading it out like a bird stretching its wingspan. “Really?” she asks with disappointment.
“Well, it’s just that Dollar Bill got his cape stuck in a –”
“Oh! Of course. Jeez, I wasn’t thinking about … well, the thing is the outfit just looks kind of bland without it. It’s like a big swath of gray.”
“How about this?” Hollis reaches his arms around Danielle, pulls the cape tight about her shoulders, bunching it up against the top of her chest. “If you latch it about here, it could keep close to your body. Of course, you’d need something along your shoulders so you can move more freely. And your cape should be short, so it won’t get caught on anything.”
Danielle looks down at the cape, pulls the ends of it this way and that, as if imagining where it’ll fall. “Huh, I’ve never seen anything like that before. I guess I could find some way to sort of curve it inward. Maybe I could make it look like a sitting owl. You ever see those depictions of Athena with the owl on the shoulder? I’ve loved those ever since I was a kid.”
Hollis shrugs, not knowing how to respond to that. Danielle’s eyes widen.
“Oh! I’m sorry. My mother used to say I talk too much, and I’m just so excited. I haven’t been able to get any professional engineering work – not that I need it but I just like to work, you know? And this is something I’ve always wanted to do. It really is.”
“I’m really glad to hear that. And I don’t mind hearing you talk. Actually,” Hollis lays a hand on Danielle’s shoulder, “let’s make a deal. You can keep being Nite Owl so long as you visit me every week and give me an update on how you’re doing. Sound fair?”
They shake hands. As Danielle leads Hollis back upstairs, Hollis says, “Why don’t you come by after you’ve finished that costume? You’re not a teetotaler, right? Got a favorite drink?”
“Just regular beer,” Danielle says.
Hollis grins. “We’ll get along just fine.”
They’re getting along just fine.
It’s 1965. Kovacs has known the second Nite Owl for a year, got to know her better after sporadically running into her on patrol, but it’s only now that they’ve decided to team up, to work together on breaking the Big Figure’s crime ring.
He wanted to avoid entering into a partnership, entering into anything so ripe for vulnerability. The mask is a protection and friendships are an opening for betrayal. Nite Owl doesn’t realize this. Inviting him into her ship so early on was foolhardy. He could have tried to destroy it, or, worse, tried to hurt her.
Sometimes Kovacs feels very protective of Nite Owl.
Now that they work more closely, now that their interactions are more than just an assist and a temporary alliance during otherwise desperate battles, he has the opportunity to observe her more closely. It comforts him. It helps him remember that she’s first and foremost a mask, that the fast, powerful movements of her body in a fight are evidence of her commitment to justice, not to be corrupted by thoughts of how tightly her suit clings, how the guise of a bird of prey can’t always hide the woman beneath.
Protective. He feels protective. Others do not have his self-control.
Nite Owl is not much like a woman, anyway. If the curves of her body ever remind him of his mother he can take comfort in knowing Nite Owl is fully unlike her in every way. Nite Owl makes weapons that cut through windows and blind criminals before they can react. Nite Owl knows how to secretly dig up information from the police and other sources, help him – them – discover the connections they may not have found on their own. Nite Owl’s strength is real, not the exploitation of the weakness of children, of men.
And if she ever makes him feel weak, she doesn’t mean to do it. She is good.
Imperfect, but good. Occasionally feminine weakness blinds her. Women they rescue together gravitate toward her, look her in the eye and occasionally hug her when they give their thanks. (Sometimes when she returns the favor, runs her hands with tentative embarrassment across their backs, Kovacs feels something like recognition. But it must be nothing. She has appropriated so much that is unfeminine so perhaps it’s just temporary confusion.) Nite Owl defends most women as victims, won’t acknowledge their own failings and bad choices. Sometimes she’ll even say that about men, excuses their crimes with leftist excuses about poverty and “racism.” As if he has not known hunger. As if he is supposed to turn a blind eye to crimes of the blacks and the immigrants turning the city into a cesspit of terror and danger. It’s in one of these conversations that she reveals she’s Jewish, that her mother was one of those immigrants.
It’s more evidence of how sloppy she is, revealing information like that. And yet also more evidence of how exceptional she is, despite her vociferous and sometimes angry insistence otherwise. Their fights can be unpleasant. It sometimes bothers him even though he will not concede ground.
Today, though, those thoughts are far away. They’ve got the Big Figure cornered. He sends his men after them, tries to run away, but Nite Owl’s red light has blinded them enough that the two of them can defeat the men easily. Kovacs gets the lead on the chase, but it’s her who throws the bolas that wrap the Big Figure’s legs together, trips him up so Kovacs can subdue him.
They escort the Big Figure to the police in the Owlship, and he lets out a stream of profanity and empty threats as they dangle him out of the Owlship by a rope, lower him to the ground and into the custody of the confused police officers looking up at them. Kovacs – who for the first time really, truly feels like Rorschach – looks over at Nite Owl. She’s smiling.
As they fly away, her smile turns into bursts of giddy, stifled laughter. When they’re out over the Hudson River she temporarily lets go of the steering column, pumps her fists in the air and yells.
“We did it! Rorschach, we did it!”
Kovacs stands behind her chair, smiles beneath his mask.
“I’m just so excited,” she gushes. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I feel …”
Nite Owl stops speaking, looks back behind her and into Kovacs’ eyes.
“Hey … can you hold onto me for a second?”
Kovacs can’t believe the question, feels his mouth go dry. Nite Owl reaches behind her to grab one of his wrists, pull it around her body so he’s grasping onto her with one hand. After she’s pinned it there she steps on the ship’s gas pedal, pulls the ship’s steering column back so it soars almost straight up into the sky.
“Hurg!” He grabs onto her chair with his other hand. It’s hard to keep his grip as they hurtle upwards into the inky sky, the wind around the ship howling and shaking the craft. “Nite Owl!” he chokes, but she just laughs, increases the speed of the ship.
Crazy, he thinks as his heart pounds. Women are crazy.
She brings down the ship with the same abrupt motion that she brought it up, and they go so fast he’s afraid he’ll lose his grip and be thrust toward the back of the ship, thinks they’re going to crash into the river water, but she takes it up at the last minute, leaves the ship level and floating just a few feet above the water. When the spinning in his head, the churning in his stomach, dies down, he lets go. He steps back from the chair, tries to keep himself steady.
“Please don’t do that again, Nite Owl.”
Kovacs looks up. What did she say?
Nite Owl gets up from the chair, stands in front of him. She pushes the cowl back on her head, revealing brown waves of hair. Then the goggles come off.
“Danielle,” she says. “My name is Danielle Dreiberg.”
He feels dizzy again.
End Part One.