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Fic: Echo (1/4)

Title: Echo (1/4)
Author: lilac28
Pairing: Rorschach/Nite Owl
Rating: R
Disclaimer: I wish I could write something as amazing as Watchmen. Sadly I did not.
Notes: Slight AU, where everyone thought Crimebusters was a swell idea. Pre-Roche Rorschach so sure he's quiet and grim, but he still has all the buttons on his over-coat.
Summary: Written for a prompt on the kinkmeme that I can't find anymore. Through a bizarre encounter, Nite Owl and Rorschach switch bodies. While struggling to right the situation, Dan learns a few things about his partner.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4



Nite Owl's Journal, October 12th, 1968

Something very strange happened today......




"He's obviously wealthy. Possibly homosexual."

"So what? You know that I built all those gadgets, including the ship we're flying in, with my own money, right? Just because someone has money doesn't mean they don't care about society. And so what if he's homosexual? How can you even tell?"

"Effeminate behavior. Also he wears gold lamé pants."

Dan Dreiberg felt frustration crumble into mild amusement as he discussed Ozymandias' choice of dress with his partner. Although tempting, he didn't ask Rorschach if wearing purple carried the same homosexual connotations as wearing gold. Instead he simply said, "What the hell is lamé?"

"A type of fabric with ribbons of metallic yarns. It's often subject to seam slippage, making it not ideal for frequently used garments. I suspect he's hoping they'll unravel so he can flash his indecency on the unsuspecting male populace."

"He's just being theatrical, Rorschach. You can understand that." That's an awful lot of knowledge about fabric. Dan could feel his stomach performing the heated flip that occurred whenever he accidentally gleaned some personal information about Rorschach. Was he ever a tailor? A dancer? Perhaps he had a little sister? Every scenario seemed equally ridiculous, yet he filed away each little bit of knowledge and conjecture, running them through his mind during early morning ruminations about his partner.

Ruminations that had become far more frequent, far more feverish. It was terrifying to admit to himself an attraction to Rorschach. At first he had brushed it off as loneliness, then as mere convenience. Dan didn't really know anyone who wasn't a mask anymore; he didn't have many friends in what was left of his daytime life. It was only natural that he'd gravitate towards the one person he saw on a regular basis. The one person he could trust, who was endlessly fascinating. Endlessly infuriating as well, but that didn't stop him from pumping his cock on mornings after he woke up from dreaming in black and white.

An infatuation then. Heartbreaking irony, considering that one of the best parts about becoming Nite Owl had been the escape from former helpless emotions. Powerlessness. Impotence. The leftover bad taste of his terribly awkward teenage years. When he was in the costume he was someone important doing something that mattered. A protector of the innocent and a man achieving his full potential. Although lately, with the advent of his inability to stop staring every time Rorschach revealed the smallest piece of skin, he felt like a clumsy teenager all over again.

The nervousness and second-guessing had been almost enough to drive him mad. Just when he thought he might have to start sharing a room with poor Byron Lewis, Dan started noticing things. Little things. Rorschach standing a fraction too close to him at meetings. Meaningless, he just doesn't feel comfortable around the others. Rorschach staying to eat his food after patrols, occasionally offering him a laconic compliment. He's just lonely and can't admit it. Rorschach freezing on the spot and trying not to watch him as he changed out of his costume. It didn't happen like that, you imagined it.

The handshake, however, he did not imagine. It was two weeks ago; the last time he'd seen his partner before now. A nightly handshake had become standard operating procedure between the two of them, only this time Rorschach had folded his small, gloved hand inside Dan's and hadn't let go. In an instant the vast gulf of emotional distance normally between them seemed to collapse, imploding from almost fervent pressure through leather clad fingers.

And then silence. Awkward, mouth-drying silence. Stretching on and on to the point where it was less of a handshake, more of a handhold. It was over when Rorschach bowed his head, stammered something between a grunt and actual language, then turned and walked away.

But he'd stammered. In the few years they'd been working together, Rorschach had never stumbled over his words. That piercing moment could not have been all in his mind.

"...all these clowns and jokers with their drug addictions. That's why you can't let your guard down."

"Uh, yeah, I don't know about that." Then there were the creepy rants about moral degradation, which eventually lead to creepy rants about sex, which made Dan think it was all in his mind. Best to change the topic of discourse before one of them ended up bleeding. "We're almost there. Let's go over the plan again."

"Emergency entrance to Moloch's underground vice den is in the back of the alchemy shop on Barnett Street. He should be in a meeting with no more than five guards. We'll come in through the back and take them down. Follow me, and try not to get separated." Rorschach paused, a hesitation that Dan believed was for dramatic effect. "Let's see how he likes the magic of the American justice system."

"Where did you get this information?" And where were you for two weeks?

"It doesn't matter, source was credible."

Dan knew better than to push. No doubt pain had been involved, and all he wanted to think about now was taking down Moloch and working in that heady tandem of violence with Rorschach. "I still don't understand why you didn't want Ozymandias to come along. We could use the backup on this one."

Rorschach made one of his odd noises of distaste. "Hhn. Too trusting, Daniel."

"Listen man, I just think you can't really judge someone until you've walked in their shoes."

Dan didn’t give him time to respond as he deftly maneuvered to drop off Rorschach, already feeling flutters of pre-bust adrenaline. Moloch was going down tonight. The ridiculous mystic was becoming a dinosaur in the crime world, his act stale after so many years. The future would be more arms race, less parlor tricks. Justice would be served, and the Rorschach-Nite Owl team would be the ones dispensing it. Knights in shining costume, desire at last effective.

Not to mention how impressed Hollis was going to be. The thought thrilled him more than it should have.

Archie was left hovering above the city while Dan glided down with the special attachment to his owl suit. He landed next to his partner, falling in step as though the past few tense weeks never happened.

The magic shop was nearly empty, only a few shocked patrons turned to gape at the men in costume as they strode to the back through tendrils of incense curtains. Rorschach led the way, intent on a singular destination. An unassuming door neatly tucked between rows of dusty books and peacock feathers.

The sales girl blundered after them. "W-What are you doing? You guys can't go in there!"

"Vigilantes, ma'am." The answer was as effective a deterrent as ever.

Countless evenings of practice at the Dreiberg residence had honed Rorschach's door kicking skills to a fine art. The wood splintered under a well-placed heel. They stepped through the ruins and into a maze of corridors. Rorschach whipped his head around, senses on high alert, yet he never slowed. Left, another left, then a right. He moved as though he knew exactly where he was going, like he'd been there before. No doubt the result of countless hours studying the plans he'd received from Moloch's informant.

After a dizzying amount of turns they were in front of another door.

Rorschach nodded a single assent. "Ready?"

Nite Owl assumed a fighting stance. "Ready."

They burst through the door, and were greeted by the sight of Moloch at a polished, old desk surrounded by guards. He didn't even raise an eyebrow at their entrance.

"Ah, Rorschach! Nite Owl! I wasn't expecting you, but your timing is perfect as always. At ease, gentlemen." Moloch gestured to the guards, who had assembled in front of him at the desk. There were only three. This was going to be easier than originally expected.

"Give it up, Moloch. You're under arrest." Dan delivered the words in his best "you're-fucked-now-criminal" voice.

"Oh no, no, my friends. You're the ones who'll be giving up. I have you outnumbered and outsmarted."

"You're coming with us." Rorschach bristled, not known for his patience with criminal babbling. "We know everything; locations of drug deals, newest prostitution ring, the heist you planned at the shipyards. One of your men told me your whole operation. Come quietly," he tilted his head and began cracking his knuckles "or not."

Moloch shrank behind his guards, a smug smile never leaving his face. "My whole operation? Rorschach, I didn't become a serial villain yesterday. Do you seriously think I'd explain all my dealings to one man if there existed the slightest chance of him affecting their outcome? The drug deal locations are false, the prostitution ring just a cover. And as for the shipyard heist, I did it thirty-five minutes ago. It's where I picked up this."

He produced a small crystal from his coat pocket, which bathed the dank underground room in a soft, pulsating light.

And suddenly everything seemed very wrong. A cold shiver passed through Dan, hairs on the back of his neck stood in warning attention. He grabbed Rorschach's wrist. "Wait a second..."

The interplay of light and dark across Moloch's face cast a fearful symmetry, a wolf in magician's clothing. "You know, I was hoping my false information would attract Manhattan but you two will do for a fun trick. I always thought there was something a little off about you both. Big Figure liked to run his mouth about how much you wanted each other's bodies. Let's see if he was right, shall we?"

The room was definitely spinning now. Dan's hold on Rorschach had turned from a cautious warning into a necessary clutching.

"Nite Owl and Rorschach," Moloch boomed with typical costumed villain melodrama. "I think it's time you partners got to know each other a little better. A capite ad calcem...."

Before either hero could respond, the world went black.



The first thing Dan noticed upon awakening was the terrible smell. Garbage and old cologne and....Rorschach?

He bolted upright, disoriented and seized with panic. What happened? Where am I? What the hell is wrong with my eyes?

There were distinct black and white blobs floating in the forefront of his vision. Heart slamming, he glanced around in alarm. He was on the floor in a room washed in soft, muted colors. A stove, chairs, sugar cubes on the table. My kitchen. Something was choking him. He couldn't breathe. Please don't let this be the result of an Ozymandias party gone wrong.

Dan brought his hands to his throat and met with scratchy fabric and the bottom of a mask. He looked down, shocked the find that he was not in his owl suit but a trench coat and pants. Purple pants, if his clouded vision was to be trusted. Rorschach's clothes. When had he and Rorschach switched clothes? How had he gotten back home?

He stood on shaky legs, mind whirling as he tried to reassemble memories with his usual finesse. Moloch? Yes! They had gone to raid Moloch's. The criminal had uttered something in Latin, then smoke, then....he and Rorschach had switched clothes? Had he been hit on the head? Why did everything in his kitchen seem taller?

A fresh wave of panic hit him when all attempted rationalizations coalesced into one seemingly banal thought. Rorschach's clothes wouldn't fit you.

"Rorschach?" Although Dan purposely made the sound, the voice that spoke was not his own. More gravelly, lacking the familiar quality of Dan Dreiberg.

The top cabinet. The top cabinet where he kept the spare sugar seemed so far away. His voice was wrong. Rorschach's clothes wouldn't fit you.

What had Moloch said before he'd passed out? He couldn't remember. Frantic delineations of black and white before his eyes only added to the vertigo. Oh God, what the fuck is happening?

Dan dashed from the room, knocking over a chair in his haste. Swimming through a haze of confusion and terror, he stumbled to his bedroom. The one with a full-length mirror. He had to confirm whether what he was wearing really did belong to his shorter partner.

Time slowed as he reached the mirror, the abnormality of the situation bending both physics and sanity. It can't be. Rorschach's masked visage and noir detective garb stared back at him. Impossible.

He brushed the grimy fedora from his head. The soft thump it made on the floor didn't even register.

He plucked at the purple leather gloves with jittering hands, heart palpitations deafening with each inch of skin that was revealed.

Thump. Too small. Thump. Too bony. Thump. Freckles? Why was he wearing Rorschach's clothes in his house with small freckled hands?

Dan knew the rules of reality had changed in the past decade with the advent of Dr. Manhattan, but this had to be a dream. The alternative made no sense. If these were Rorschach's clothes, could it be fucking possible that these were Rorschach's hands as well? That he somehow inhabited Rorschach's body? That if he took off the stifling mask he'd see Rorschach's real face?

A chill colder than an Antarctic storm gripped him. Take off the mask. See Rorschach's real face.

Dan removed the scarf with the slow, methodical intent of a surgeon. The blots in front of his face were moving faster now.

He began with a tentative pull at the bottom of the mask, hands trembling, breath caught in anticipation. A hard, angular jaw and thin lips. Familiar. He'd seen them before. Rorschach's face.

But that was all he'd ever seen.

Dan had always understood about the mask. The need for it, the power of a persona. He'd never pushed, even when he had revealed his own face to his partner. Never dreamed of breaking that trust by asking for more. Yet now, with the truth mere inches away, he couldn't have resisted if his life depended on it. He wanted to see, needed to see. Any shred of reserve melted in quaking hands.

Up past the nose, and life's cadence slowed down to a dreamy, unreal crawl. Slender fingers stroked the bare cheek, and were soon covered by the beads of sweat slipping down under the mask.

He tensed, still shivering, when he pulled harder and flat brown eyes were exposed. So close.

Finally, with all the charged flourish of an illusionist revealing the great secret, he twisted his wrist just so and gave Rorschach's face a final tug. And there, looking back at him from the mirror was the object of his gentle obsession. The terror of the underworld. Minus the dark hair, facial scars, and intriguingly odd good looks Dan had always imagined.

Rorschach was a homely little redhead with ears that stuck out too far.

Another mask then.

Overwhelmed and in shock, Dan collapsed on his bed laughing. He laughed until his eyes became heavy and he drifted off, already exhausted from inhabiting a body that never slept.

Next Part

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Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
snake_easing
Jun. 24th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
The lamé part is to die for. Ror should know that about the seams, and Dan should be excited by the unwitting discovery.

I suspect he's hoping they'll unravel so he can flash his indecency on the unsuspecting male populace.

Oh, that's such vintage Rorschach! So great.

Then there were the creepy rants about moral degradation, which eventually lead to creepy rants about sex, which made Dan think it was all in his mind.

Nooo, Dan, it means it's not in your mind! Reaction formation and all that. If you lived in the present you'd have figured it out much sooner.

Not to mention how impressed Hollis was going to be. The thought thrilled him more than it should have.

Ha ha! Oh, Dan. Your motivation is so transparent!

And as for the shipyard heist, I did it thirty-five minutes ago.

?! Ozymandias is secretly Moloch! It makes so much sense!

Big Figure liked to run his mouth about how much you wanted each other's bodies.

I like anything that hints at the villains interacting off screen. The heroes aren't the only thing going on.

Something was choking him. He couldn't breathe. Please don't let this be the result of an Ozymandias party gone wrong.

An "Ozymandias party"? Is that code for "orgy"?

Up past the nose, and life's cadence slowed down to a dreamy, unreal crawl.

This scene was really effective, kind of magical-realism. I liked that the mask blobs started going faster.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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