[personal profile] brancher
TITLE: Teshuva pt. 2
FANDOM: Watchmen
PAIRING: Dan/Rorschach/Laurie, heavy on the Rorschach/Laurie
SUMMARY: Part of the Triage series. Teshuva: (hebrew) repentence, commitment to change, confession; a return.

Part 1



She takes him home.

He's silent on the pavements, a ghost skulking behind her; she has to resist the urge to look back, like Orpheus, to see if he's still there. Stays silent as they climb the stairs to her third-floor coldwater flat. But when she bolts the door behind them, flicks on the lights, and starts rummaging in the fridge for leftover tandoori, she hears him hrrm behind her.

"Like your apartment," he says.

Her head whips around. He likes the Shithole?

"Well placed, close to areas of patrol. Good size, not sumptuous but room to train."

"Dan hates it. He was really unhappy when I insisted on getting my own place. We had a huge fight about it, and he still doesn't like me living here."

She sees the flinch at the mention of Dan's name, but he turns away to look over the single room: the murphy bed, the workout equipment, the complete absence of furniture.

"Efficient use of space," he says approvingly.

"Well, I like it," she mutters. She does. It's the first place she's had that's her own.

"Dan worries about me," she goes on. "You know, because I don't have a private identity. Fucking Larry thought crimefighting would help mom's movie career, so everyone knew who she was, and now everyone knows who I am. And then there's the dojo, which is practically advertising where to find me. Dan thinks some pissed-off perp is going to follow me home and try to slit my throat while I sleep."

"You disagree?"

"No one wants to admit they got clobbered by Silk Spectre. Not even to take revenge. They don't take me seriously enough for revenge."

"Are a good fighter."

"Well. I have gotten some fanboy creepers trying to break in. But after I kicked the first few off the fire escape, they stopped coming around."

He doesn't laugh. She pops the tandoori in the manhattanwave, sets it to "nuke." Then she picks up the phone.

A hand closes over her wrist, hard.

"Ow! What the fuck!"

"What are you doing?"

"What do you think I'm doing? I'm calling Dan, you psycho."

"No." His grip tightens and for a second, she's actually afraid. Who knows how unhinged this man is now? What does she really know about him in the first place? Maybe they'd pushed him over the edge. Maybe this was all a ploy to get her alone and ...

"Rorschach," she says, and rests a spike heel on his boot. "Whoever you are. Get your hand off my wrist before I break your metatarsals."

He lets go, but doesn't back away. "I can't," he says. "Can't see him -- Don't know how to -- ehnnk. Not yet."

Laurie gingerly lifts her heel from his boot, holding down the hook of the phone with her finger. "He's been going crazy," she says. "It's been a month. I have to at least tell him you're ok."

He doesn't move away, but he doesn't try to grab her wrist again. She keeps her eyes on him as she dials the number. Dan picks up on the fifth ring.

"Hello?"

"It's me," she says.

"Sorry, I was in the basement," he says.

"Dan -- I found him."

There's a pause. Then, on the other end, a clattering sound, as if he's dropped the phone.

"Dan?"

She hears a scrabble, and then he's back. "Where is he? Is he -- "

"He's here with me. He's ok. But --"

"I'm coming over. Don't let him leave."

"No, Dan --"

But she's talking to a dial tone. "Shit," she says. Her houseguest looks like he's about to bolt, or throw up. Possibly both.

"Ok," she tells him. "It takes him 15 minutes to get over here. You have that long to explain to me what the hell is going on with you. Why me and not him?"

"Told you. Need training," he says. He's agitated, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. "Fighting style is -- was based on use of lethal force. Didn't care if opponent broke under punishment; everything looked like justice through mask of black and white." He takes a deep, harsh breath. "No mask now. Have to relearn everything. I could hurt him. Don't trust him not to let me. Trust you."

"Try again," she says pleasantly. "Something more convincing." She can see his throat move as he swallows. He is trembling.

"Don't know how to be around him," he says. "Laurel. Please."

***

She waits for Dan on the stoop, burning through a cigarette. The smoke warms her throat. October again, and already bitter.

He comes up the block at a run, so familiar, sneakers thudding on the pavement, lean muscles working hard under the parka. Laurie bends down to stub out her smoke. "Ok, whoa," she says, putting her hands on his shoulders as he skids to a halt. "Hey, babe. Um, ok, I can't let you in."

His hair is all messed up, and his color is high. There's steam on his glasses. "What's wrong?" he asks. "Is he -- did something --"

"He's ok," she says. "He's -- well, I think he's a little messed up right now. But he's ok. It's just that --"

"What?" Dan asks, a little wild-eyed. Laurie takes a deep breath.

"I don't think he's angry," she starts, carefully. "I think it's just that he's -- "

But anguish is dawning on Dan's face, his mouth crumpling up like a used take-out tin, the color draining away. Oh, shit.

"Dan, it' s like we skinned him. Like everything that protected him is just gone. You can see it in his eyes, they're so -- And I think he's afraid to see you when he's like that."

"Why? What does he think I -- God, Laurie --"

"Hey. Hey," she says, and then she can't stand it, so she kisses him. He kisses back automatically, and she puts her hands on either side of his face, holding him there.

"I made him promise," she says in his ear.

You stay, she'd said. You stay, and you don't break his heart.

***

"He's gone," she says as she opens the door.

The stranger is sitting on the floor beside the window, eating tandoori out of the carton. She swallows, still feeling Dan's mouth on hers, and walks over, sinks down next to him.

He does not stop her when she takes the carton from him and digs in herself. She's starving. "So," she says between bites. "What do I call you?"

He hesitates.

"... Walter."

***

He watches as she opens the cabinet and pulls down the murphy bed. "Can sleep on the floor," he offers.

She shoots him a look. "Yeah, great idea. In fact, why not the fire escape? In case the floor's not masochistic enough for you." She thumps the mattress meaningly.

He hrrms, but when she comes out of the bathroom in one of Dan's enormous t-shirts, he's tucked in on the far side, facing away from her.

The apartment is cold, like always, and normally she'd kick her feet until the sheets warmed up, but he's there. She lies cold and still for a little while, then thinks fuck it and rolls toward him, nestles her cold feet against his legs.

He doesn't pull away, but she can feel the tension in his body. "Laurel. Don't know what -- If you want --"

"So when I was a kid," she says.

He shuts up.

"My mother started me on karate and gymnastics when I was five. Then Larry split when I was in second grade, and Sally pulled me out of school and I pretty much just trained full time after that. Mixed martial arts, acrobatics, free weights, ballet for posture. Sometimes she made me practice my katas in heels."

Walter makes a small sound of distaste. She feels her mouth twist in what might have been a smile if it was less painful.

"Anyway, this one time, I must have been about 13. I was sparring with Sifu Kim. And there was this moment where I just knew what he was going to do, I saw it, and I just reached right through his defense and I knocked him out cold."

She smiles, and this time it hurts less. "It was the most awesome moment of my life."

"Hrm." he says. "Mother was proud?"

His hair is tickling her face, so she shifts a little. He smells like sweat and soap, not like she remembers. "She was watching. I remember, I turned around to look at her -- I was so excited, you know? This is what she wanted me to do, what she wanted me to be. I thought she'd be so happy. But her face -- she was pale. And -- it was like I'd disgusted her. Like I'd just taken a shit on the rug."

There's a long silence.

"That's when I started to hate it," Laurie says. "That's when I stopped wanting to be a mask."

He stirs against her. "Still feel that way?"

"No."

"Laurel," he says again.

"Go to sleep," she says. Her feet are still nestled behind his knees.


Part 3

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