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09 December 2009 @ 03:40 am
(fic) darkness, you are gentler  
Darkness, You Are Gentler | [info]radishface
Watchmen → Zombie!AU → Dan/Rorschach
Rorschach travels from New York to California. 1270 words.
A/N, Follow up to Eventually, as Before. Playing in etherati's amazing Z!verse. <3




The water laps over him, colder than he could ever be. Rorschach closes his eyes.


*



After Daniel passed away,

Laurie at the funeral, fat tears rolling down her wrinkled face, Jon to her right and Rorschach to her left, though in this cloudy weather they're all lit blue by Jon's glow, all immortal

he didn't go out onto the streets for months. Sometimes he would turn the heater up, up, and up, and it was weak but he'd do it and shuffle back to bed with the blankets wrapped around him in a cocoon. The cotton was no substitute but sometimes in a half-sleep his mind would let him imagine things where the daylight wouldn't.

Years passed. Laurie brought him food sometimes, but never stayed long. They'd been able to sit with each other for more than hours at a time before, in comfortable (yes, Rorschach could admit that to himself now) and uncomfortable silence, but that was when there was still an intermediary between them. Alone, they were adrift.

Other times, he fed himself, if only so he wouldn't succumb. For one week, life was canned peaches and cereal, his stomach twisting so badly and his blood boiling at the suggestion of heated embraces of teeth and throats, as he looked out the window and saw people walking to and fro. Only when his hunger was overcome by his own self-disgust would he eat again.

*



When he can't stand it anymore, he stuffs a knapsack full of cash and meat and sugar and starts walking.

Westward he goes, if only because he doesn't know how long it will take.



*



His feet start bleeding in Iowa.


*



He's reached Nebraska when he hits a prairie, a field of cows under a black sky, long grasses tickling his feet through the holes in his shoes. The smell of hay and dung rings strong in his nose, dense and sweet-salt. He can see the even blacker silhouettes of teenagers climbing over the fence yonder, booze in paper bags crinkling and their hands stretched out to meet the cows, laughter hushed.

"Hank," one girl titters, when her hand is caught back. "Stop it. I told you not to, in front of the--"

"Cows? Very indecent." Rorschach's grip tightens around her wrist, and her paper-bagged bottle falls to the ground with a muffled thump. Everybody else has turned to look at them now, this pale stranger on the prairie, hair and eyes like rust and smelling of it too, stronger even as the clouds parted to paint him in the startling silver of the moon.

"Unless you all have a hankering for punishment," Rorschach releases the grip on the girl, "suggest you leave bovine animals in peace."

One ratty-haired teenager's mouth stops gaping long enough to form words. "W-- what the hell?"

Rorschach stares wider and furrows his brows, knowing the gold is glinting in them.

"Shit. Shit."

"A goddamn zombie, fuck."

Gasps and the sudden flight of feet. Exit players, cue engines. The wheels of some distant truck squeal off into the night, and then it's just crickets and the warm sounds of bovine breathing.

The cow nearest Rorschach flips her tail and sighs appreciatively through her nostrils, a wet, and steamy noise. Her eyes are glossy and limpid with something like gratitude as they stare at him.

Rorschach reaches out to stroke her hide, combing his fingers through the roughness. His gaze follows the heavy weight of her spots; she's warm and heavy under his touch.

He lingers there for a moment more, remembering things.



*




A few toes come loose in Wyoming. Rorschach throws them in a dumpster and puts his shoe back on. It's going to be a little harder to walk, but it'll be all right.

*



In Utah, from behind the print of a wrinkled newspaper two days old, he watches children scattered through the park. They are taunting and teasing and doing all the things children do.

A little boy is crying, his toy truck stolen by the bigger boys who are laughing at him from the jungle gym. Their legs are wrapped around metal beams and they are hanging by their knees as they tease him with their upside-down alien faces and protruding tongues.

Rorschach feels his limbs shaking with the desire to stand up, to intervene, to stop this, but another little boy marches right past the crying one to hold out his hand in front of the jungle gym tribesmen, commanding. The crowd convenes in upon him, wampum-dancing and leering but the second little boy keeps his ground. His lip quivers because he is afraid and he may be stiff with fear but at least he is not moving, his hand still held out, and he is not running away.

The bigger boys pull his hair, push him down. Rorschach's knees ache as he tried to stand but something keeps him. Daniel's hand on his arm, gripping gently but firmly, saying let's see.

Give them a chance, buddy.


The other boys leave the scene, bored. The second boy is curled over his knees, back hunched and hand scrubbing at his face, no tears here, no tears. The first boy, tentatively at first, then running, picking up his truck from where it was turned over in the sand, then turning back to look at the second boy.

He extends a hand, impossibly small. The other boy takes it, and is pulled up.

Moments pass and then they are laughing together. The truck is now an airplane, the jungle gym a city of empty, in-between spaces and all of the places they can go. They could have been brothers, but they didn't need to be for the blood to run strong between them.

Rorschach can see that now.



*



He can't feel anything in his left foot anymore. Looking at it, he observes that it is a dark shade of burgundy-black with a sheen like marble. Feels like it too, except for where the skin has sloughed off around the creases, the ankles. It will come off soon, like the others. The darkness is deepening up his calves and he can feel empty spaces expanding in his joints, in his knees and elbows, making him into a rambling patchwork of skin and bones.



*



His steps totter unsteadily on the boardwalk; the shoes are too big for him.

They all take him for another drunkard and let him be. Nearby, a group of friends make merry by a bonfire, grey plumes rising furiously upwards into the rainbow-haze of the dusk. Somebody is singing to the stringing of a guitar and all around it smells of barbecued meat and ketchup. People walk by him, holding hands.

Rorschach feels the hunger deep within, a salacious memory of skin and flesh. But it's faint, very faint.

He hobbles until the noise is well behind him. The sand seems to harden as he sits, one solid mass instead of an undulating one he's been walking on. He bends down to examine his shoes. The skin is already tearing at his ankle where the opening of the shoe is, where the leather chafes. With a yank, he pulls his shoe free and a slough of skin rips all the way up to his knee.

It's hard to walk into the water on what's left of his feet. Perhaps they'd find him, if they ever found him, a trail of leftover, scattered fingers and toes and violet-brown footprints spotting the country, leading into the ocean. But that's not the last thing he thinks of.

They say you can hear anything in a conch shell, the roar of the ocean. Perhaps that's why he's here.

The water churns around him, insistent. He is loose-limbed. When the tide comes, Rorschach is already head-deep.



*


My hands are spread forth, I pass them in all directions,
I would sound up the shadowy shore to which you are journeying.
I descend my western course, my sinews are flaccid,
Perfume and youth course through me and I am their wake.
It is I too, the sleepless widow looking out on the winter midnight,
I see the sparkles of starshine on the icy and pallid earth.
It is dark here under ground, it is not evil or pain here, it is
blank here, for reasons.


walt whitman

 
 
 
daylilymoondaylilymoon on December 13th, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
Always, always a treat. Your writing is always so emotionally powerful and blows me clean away every single time. Just the thought of Ror doing this, walking across the country as he falls apart--I can't picture him doing anything else. His grief is so quiet and understated but God, it's poignant.

Just beautiful stuff, as always ♥
radishfaceradishface on December 13th, 2009 08:58 am (UTC)
Thank you <3 <3 After finishing the last one I just felt like something wasn't quite right, that Ror wouldn't move on in the way that 'normal' people do, no matter how much being with Daniel/being a zombie normalized him, in that sense. :( For Z!Ror, the idea of living forever, alone... it's so sad. :( Walking and walking and having lots of time to think but also just being on the move would help him to understand, in a way, why people move on. And at the end he was there, he got it-- there will be other good people, other heroes, and the world will go on.
madberthamad_bertha on December 13th, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm so glad I checked my flist today, or I would have missed this second part.

This ending does feel right. His body falling apart that way, and ceasing to look after his needs. The jungle gym scene: the dichotomy between Daniel and himself closing, a process starting from way back and finding its final resolution here.

And the walking, and the thinking... breaking my heart (in a good way).

All of it was deeply moving, but the last couple of lines in the cow scene touched me:

Rorschach reaches out to stroke her hide, combing his fingers through the roughness. His gaze follows the heavy weight of her spots; she's warm and heavy under his touch.

He lingers there for a moment more, remembering things.



radishfaceradishface on December 13th, 2009 08:48 pm (UTC)
Squee! wow what a comment, thank you so much :D

Yeah, it kind of sucks that all of daniel's money management was in vain, but rorschach couldn't be one to care, even after all that time.

Like I mentioned to daylily, the jungle gym scene isn't just about Dan and Ror and being a condensed version of their journey, but also just seeing that goodness can come out of regular people, that even children can defend themselves in times of need. Dan and Ror were never able to have kids themselves and go through that sort of cycle that parents go through, so this was a mini-parenting pastiche for him; that sort of, "my babies will be okay, I can stop worrying" moment.

The cow scene :D I felt a little bad at first for drawing the parallels between Dan and the cow, but. It was too easy.

Thank you again! <3
jackiemei: gay and snugglyjackiemei on December 13th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
:sniffle: both parts of this were lovely. I agree with Daylily, this was a wonderful interpretation of how Rorschach would morn the loss of Daniel in the Z!verse. Beautiful. I love your fanfiction. Its incredibly smart.
radishfaceradishface on December 13th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC)
what a compliment!! <3 thank you so much :D
We are a brutal kind!: god is americanfindmyantidrug on December 13th, 2009 11:23 pm (UTC)
So...the first part of this made me so, so incredibly sad when I first read it on the kinkmeme, but it's this part that made me have to go away from the computer a few minutes and cry. I don't...know why, especially because of how sweet much of this is - the bit with the boys and the cow; and I laughed at the teenagers/Rorschach intimidating them, but...it's just...really wonderful.
radishfaceradishface on December 13th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
This made me feel really strange when I finished writing it for a number of reasons-- frankly, I was sort of surprised that this ended up a lot less dark than I thought it would be. idk. But I am glad that it ended up reading as it did, and that you liked it (though I feel really bad for making so many people sad/cry with these). Thank you. <3
unimagineunimagine on December 16th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
late comment arghal;dfj;aslf

Hurts so good. ;_; I can really see this happening, and it's such a beautiful and poignant way for Rorschach to make his peace with the world and to leave it. The scene with the teenagers (and even then, Ror still has his infamously horrible puns...which makes me laugh and sob at the same time) and the cow and the kids. And I'm not sure why, but the imagery of him leaving bits and pieces of himself all across the country really stands out...

Gonna go cry some more in my corner now.

Secret Typo Police has come to nitpick: rips a slough of skin rips all the way up to his knee
radishfaceradishface on December 16th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
There is NO SUCH THING as a late comment askfl'a;sdhf

Thank you! It's a bit of an extreme take on the situation, but this is one way I could see the Z!verse ending. I have a thing for grand, romantic gestures, and this struck me as (Z!)Ror's version of a grand romantic gesture.

I is sowwy to make you cry u_u

darn it darn it darn ittttt okay fixed

what would I do without you, seriously