Pairing: Nite Owl II/Rorschach, Twilight Lady/Nite Owl II
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine and are used for non-profit purposes.
Warnings: Mild sexual references and language.
Summary: Dan confronts Rorschach, but perhaps not for the right reasons.
Acknowledgments: Thank you sandoz_iscariot for your awesome beta-reading.
I also give thanks to lady_wormtongue for her comic page/fanart of a part of this story, here.
Daniel Dreiberg hates this part.
He has Rorschach’s attention. They’re in the Owlship and Rorschach was just about to leave when Dan asked him to wait. From behind his Nite Owl goggles, Dan’s eyes are fixated on the ship’s controls, but he can feel the black-on-white face looking down upon him. Rorschach is standing next to him and Dan knows he has to say something, say line two in the script he’s been writing for weeks, but somehow he’s forgotten his lines.
This is stupid, he thinks. He risks his life on a daily basis. This shouldn’t be what makes him scared. But he was never good with girls when he was young, and now he’s not good with women – or people, he thinks as he looks up at Rorschach. Most of his past relationships were little more than furtive crushes for a few particular cute, witty classmates in high school and college. He’d spend nights in the stands at football games and in coffee shops talking with them, safe in the nest of friendship. Sometimes he would spend the night trying to make a move and curse himself after the girls insisted on going home alone. Most of the time he would instead hope they’d be the ones to say they liked him. A few times, they did.
Rorschach won’t. That’s not the way he operates in his strange mix of aloofness and assumed familiarity. It’s been like that since the beginning, now that Dan thinks of it. They never formally decided to be partners when they stumbled upon each other during a drug bust, but mere weeks after their first meeting Rorschach began showing up places where Dan commonly patrolled, ready to work with him. Dan usually didn’t mind how he acted; Rorschach was a good partner. But it could lead to bizarre moments, like when Dan overheard Rorschach refer to him as his “good friend” in a conversation with Captain Metropolis. They’d only been working together three months at that time, and Rorschach didn’t even know Dan’s name. Dan still doesn’t know his.
He’s learned to accept Rorschach’s inherent contradictions, frustrating as they can be. It still pisses him off how Rorschach can be “good friends” with him and yet read a rag that says Jewish bankers are part of a malevolent cabal controlling the world. Nevertheless, Dan eventually figured out that Rorschach holds costumed adventurers to a different standard. He wonders how different.
Rorschach asks, “Daniel?” and Dan realizes he’s running out of time.
God, what the hell does he think he’s doing, anyway? The man could break his arm off. Does he even want this? An image of him slamming Rorschach to the side wall of the Owlship and tearing off his trenchcoat flashes through his head and Dan quickly disabuses himself of that notion. But … he knows what he feels for Rorschach is different, different in a way that goes beyond Rorschach being a man.
If anybody else had acted the way Rorschach had, ingratiating himself into Dan’s life without asking and yet insisting on their own privacy, Dan wouldn’t have accepted it. At first he even wanted to push Rorschach away. And yet very soon he began to feel a connection with Rorschach. It’s especially strong when they’re in battle. Nite Owl just has to gesture a certain way, or nod, and Rorschach knows exactly what he wants. Nite Owl soon learned to do the same thing. He can read Rorschach’s movements to the point where they move like some destructive ballet. In these moments Rorschach becomes everything a superhero could be, everything Dan hopes he is when he’s Nite Owl, everything he wants.
It’s only been recently that awe took on an edge of physical lust, but as he became sensitive to it he began to see signs in Rorschach that maybe, just maybe, meant he felt the same way.
But damn, this feels so far out of his element. Everything that makes up Rorschach is so far removed from those quiet, safe and ultimately temporary nights with those schoolgirls.
It’s not like what he feels for The Twilight Lady, either. Nite Owl is in … no, not love … Nite Owl is in thrall of her, has been that way ever since he’d first fought with her, when he’d wrestled her down the ground and she just looked at him, her eyes blazing from behind her mask. Her girls were incapacitated. She was pinned. He was stronger than her. But when he looked into her eyes, none of that mattered at all.
She got away that night. She got away every time. And when Dan went to bed those nights, his hand wrapped around his cock, all he could see were those eyes.
They haven’t had sex, although some of the other masks think they have. Hollis even tried to lecture him about it once. Others, like The Comedian, know better and have no qualms about reminding him.
“You look at her like you’d beg for it,” The Comedian said to him once after they’d finished incapacitating a gang shootout. “A man doesn’t look that way at a woman if he’s already fucking her. If you can call him a man.”
“I’d rather not talk about this with you,” Nite Owl snapped. He walked back in the direction of the Owlship.
“Do you know who looks at you that way?” The Comedian called.
Nite Owl’s step hesitated for a bit, and he hoped The Comedian didn’t see.
The laughter at Nite Owl’s back said he did. “I actually think you’d be the type to enjoy it. A kid who based his whole fantasy life around an old man he’d never met? Yeah, don’t delude yourself.”
Nite Owl entered the ship, whispering the “Jerk-off” that he would have rather yelled.
Dan tries to push that conversation out of his mind. He doesn’t want to think about The Comedian now. He’s not going to let that man’s nonsense cause any doubts in him. Even if … No, that’s bullshit. The Comedian was just trying to make a stupid gay joke at his expense. Well, Dan doesn’t care. The Comedian doesn’t know anything about him.
Dan takes a deep breath.
“Rorschach, I … I want to talk about a few things,” he says. And as he looks at Rorschach, at the featureless face he wants to see behind, at the hands that could choke the life out of him, at the body he wants despite how much it goes against his biology, propriety and sanity, already he wants to neutralize what he’s saying, wants to turn his direct accusations into hints, wants to bury anything unpleasant in a joke.
Unfortunately, Dan’s tried all those things already and they didn’t work, were shot down with pointed ignoring or bizarre anti-sex rants that creeped him out and made him want to forget the whole thing.
So, he has to do it this way, but …God damn it. No. No, he can’t. He wants to and the words catch in his chest. He can feel his heart pound, and it frustrates him, because he’s still stunted when it comes to these things. What is he thinking, anyway? What makes him think this will do any good?
“Daniel,” Rorschach says, and Dan wonders if he heard a wheeze beneath the words. “What did you want to say?”
Dan’s stomach feels empty. He pushes his goggles up onto his forehead and pulls off his cowl, not sure if he’s doing it because he wants to look more serious or if he’s just taking his last stall for time.
“I-I’ve noticed some things you do,” Dan says, and each word feels like a small relief, despite how clumsy they are. “And, well, they might not mean anything.”
Dan looks at Rorschach, hoping for the reprieve he knows he won’t get. Rorschach’s arms are crossed, and he just stares back with his shifting mask.
“But, they seem like they do,” Dan continues. “You tend to not want to leave when we part for the night. I’ve felt you go tense if I ever help you up after a battle. And, uh, I’ve seen you watching me. Sometimes when we’re in a fight but other times … well, earlier tonight when I was putting on the last parts of my costume … maybe you know what I mean.”
Rorschach is still staring. Dan notices Rorschach’s right hand is wrapped around his left arm, squeezing it a bit.
“Of course, you can tell me if I’m wrong,” Dan says, and curses himself for backpedaling, especially when some sort of confession feels so close, but the quiet makes him uncomfortable and he can’t help but want to fill the air with something. “But, um, if I’m not wrong, I’d like to know. I …”
Rorschach makes a noise that sounds like a strangled groan or gasp and Dan winces.
“Oh God, look,” Dan outstretches a hand toward Rorschach and tries to ignore the sudden excitement growing in him. Rorschach sounds so upset. “Look, I really don’t mind. In fact, I like you.”
Dan steps closer and he sees a little clearer. Rorschach’s head is turned away from Dan and, oh God, Rorschach is shaking. No, not shaking. He’s trembling. Trembling like a little boy who got caught where he shouldn’t be.
Dan puts his hands on Rorschach’s shoulders, and Rorschach doesn’t push them away. “Rorschach, I …”
He doesn’t know what to say. Part of him feels horrible, feels bad for embarrassing his partner. Part of him feels like a fool, an idiot worrying about how he’d look when this was how Rorschach reacted in the end.
And part of him is thrilled by it.
He was right, a small voice within him says. He was right. Rorschach does want him. This deadly, powerful, unknowable man who would never touch anyone that way – who associates it all with the worst sort of degradation and shame – he wants him. He wants the kid who can’t talk to a girl at a football game. He wants the disappointing son of a Jewish investment banker. He wants the man who squirms under the gaze of a prostitute with delusions of grandeur. He looks at him like …
… like he would beg for it, Dan thinks, the voice of The Comedian loud and clear in his head.
Dan removes his hands and steps back. “No. Wait. I … I’m sorry.”
Rorschach’s head whips back to stare at Dan.
“I shouldn’t have said anything. I know how you really feel about this,” Dan says. “I just don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. So you can forget about this if you want. It doesn’t matter.”
Dan watches the dark blots on the mask shift. Rorschach uncoils his arms in a way that gives Dan the impression he’s stumbling out of a cage, shocked by his new freedom.
“Doesn’t matter?” Rorschach asks, his hands bunching into fists.
Okay, Rorschach is pissed but Dan deserves it, so he continues talking. “Well, we can just continue being partners or whatever. It doesn’t matter to me.”
“Hurm,” Rorschach says. “You said you liked me.”
“I do, but …” Dan wants to add “as a friend,” but if nothing else he at least wants everything to be out in the open after this stupid episode. “But it doesn’t matter.” Dan motions over to the Owlship’s hatch. “We can just go for tonight. If … If what I said bothers you, I …” and God, Dan doesn’t want to, but he says, “I’ll understand if you don’t come back.”
Rorschach doesn’t move. Dan bites his lip and turns away.
A minute later he’s on the floor.
He hits it on his stomach first, the hard metal scraping against his chin. As he cries out in pain Rorschach grasps his right shoulder and throws him on his back, then grabs the fabric of his cape above his shoulders. He lifts Dan up a foot, and then slams Dan’s head against the floor.
Dan’s vision swims in and out of view to the point where the blotches in Rorschach’s mask look gray, and as he focuses they look like so many scatterings of black blood. He’s being held about a foot above the ground, Rorschach crouching over him. Dan thinks of his earlier sick possession fantasy and would laugh at his hubris if this didn’t hurt so much.
Rorschach speaks, every word sounding like he’s spitting it out with pain. “Can’t. Do. That. Do you know what you’ve done? Do you?”
“I … I’m sorry,” Dan says.
“Not good enough,” Rorschach says. “These wants. This sickness. It doesn’t stop, Daniel. I’ve tried. I’ve tried!”
“But I thought you didn’t want it, Daniel,” Rorschach says. “That … that helped. Easier to deny what’s impossible. But now … but now …”
Rorschach lets him go, and Dan groans as his sore head hits the floor. Rorschach moans above him. He straddles Dan from on his knees, his gloved hands pressed against Dan’s chest, his body hunched over in shame.
Dan lifts himself up by his elbows, fighting off the residual dizziness. He takes Rorschach’s hands off his chest. He wants to apologize again, wants to say something reassuring, something that’ll make everything okay, but they have a little while before that can happen.
Instead, Dan brushes off Rorschach’s hat, and then reaches for the mask. Rorschach is still as Dan pulls it up. Dan hesitates when it breaches Rorschach’s nose, then pulls it all off.
Rorschach is ugly, with his fright wig of red hair, ears that stick out and freckles that might have looked cute on a child but are strange on a man of his age. Dan doesn’t care. He wants to see the face of a person as foolish and ridiculous and as ill-equipped to deal with the world as he is, the face of someone who is also human beneath the mask.
Rorschach looks at Dan and bites his lips. Dan runs a finger across them, then leans upward to meet them. And even though Dan knows this is far from over, even though the worst parts of his personality, the worst parts of Rorschach, haunt him as it begins, Daniel Dreiberg loves this part.