[personal profile] brancher
TITLE: Teshuva pt. 3
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
Part 2


The other side of the bed is empty when she wakes up, shivering. Walter is sitting on the floor, eating cereal with milk, and looking at her.

"Oh god," she says. "Quit staring. It's ass-ugly in the morning."

He makes a sound that might even be a snort. "Out of cereal, Laurel. Milk too."

"Uhhhhhhnnnnnn," she moans, and hauls out of bed, pulling the t-shirt off over her head on her way to the bathroom. She hears him make an altogether different sound behind her -- something like a man choking on Frosted Flakes. She can't bring herself to care; it's not like he hasn't seen it before.

In the tiny bathroom she sits down on the toilet and allows herself a few seconds to feel overwhelmed: Rorschach is a ugly little redhead named Walter who is clearly disturbed and eating the last of her groceries and she's somehow agreed to train him all on her own despite the fact that all she wants to do is either jump him or punch him in the face or maybe, maybe, rock him in her arms like a baby. She sighs. Ok, moment over. Cheer up, Laurel Jane. It might even be early enough that there's still hot water.

It isn't.

She comes out of the bathroom shivering and toweling her hair dry. He looks away from her until she's shimmied into her clothes -- black leggings, jade-green tunic, black patent-leather belt -- but then he watches closely as she makes up her face, arranges her hair, and stows the bed away in its wall cabinet.

"So, I've got the afternoon classes from 2 until 6, and then the women's class meets at 8," she says as she picks up her pocketbook and jacket. "Uh ... I don't know what you're going to do today, but I'll be back by 10 and we can start your training then."

He nods. "Will find a way to occupy the time, Laurel."

"Ok," she says, looking him over. He's in undershirt and trousers, stocking feet planted on the carpet, and she feels the weird urge to peck him on the cheek. Bye, honey, I'm off to work. God, what is that, something left over from the Shexnayder Era? Or just too many hours watching Ozzie and Harriet as a kid?

"Don't go anywhere," she says finally, and shuts the door after her.

***

There's a payphone down the street from the dojo. She pops in a few quarters and dials the number.

"His name is Walter Kovacs," she tells Dan when he picks up.

"He told you that?"

"Well, I asked what I should call him. He's not answering to 'Rorschach' these days. Listen, can you do a little digging? I want to know who I'm really dealing with, here."

"Yeah," he says. "Yeah, I can do that."

***

Walter Kovacs.

Dan says it out loud, in the stillness of the basement. It sounds like the kind of name a deli butcher might have, a cab driver, a serial killer. Blunt and unmusical and ordinary.

He sighs and picks up the phone.

Nite Owl has contacts in the city records department, the clerk of court's office and the Nova Gazette morgue. They tell him that Walter Kovacs has never owned property; never owed a fine; has neither sued nor been sued in civil court. He has never applied for a dog license or a hunting license. He has never been married or divorced, has fathered no children, has never opened a business. Dan warms up the computer and dials into the NYPD database. A few queries later he has learned that Walter Kovacs has been convicted of no felonies or misdemeanors in the tri-state area. Has never been in jail. Has never so much as been issued a parking ticket.

He has left, as far as Nite Owl's contacts can tell him, no trace on the world.

It takes up the better part of the afternoon to discover this much, and while it's frustrating, Dan is grateful for the distraction. It's hard not to think about Rorschach, or Walter, alive and real this very minute in Laurie's crappy apartment. All the answers to his questions are there with him, and Dan can't ask him, can't even talk to him. It makes the skin of his face feel hot and tight.

He finds himself staring at the picture of Leslie he keeps on his desk for luck. She had been his first, after a series of false starts and disastrous misfires in high school and college, and he had felt changed by her, transformed. He remembers the first time, staggering shakily home at dawn, rope marks on his wrist and lipstick traces around his dick, seeing the last stars going pale over the rooftops and the streetlights blinking out. Feeling as if he'd been shown a piece of himself too raw and strange for him to have seen on his own, something impossible to put into words. He'd stayed in bed all the next day, drinking water and shivering as if he were sick.

He'd been shaken and grateful and eager to return to her. It had made a rift between him and his partner, of course; once, he'd tried to explain to Rorschach something Leslie had said about the dignity of sex work, and Rorschach had spat back something so vile Dan could never recall his exact words, and they hadn't seen each other again for weeks.

Now Dan looks at her picture in the frame -- one night bird to another -- and wonders how he could have thought it would be a good idea to touch Rorschach like that, to impose on that fierce solitude. It was Laurie's idea, and yet she wasn't the one Rorschach had shut out. Was he afraid of Dan? Did he feel betrayed? Disgusted? Or did he simply prefer Laurie (and who, Dan asks himself, could blame him?)

The basement phone rings, making him jump. He picks up the receiver, half-hoping there will be a familiar rasp on the other end.

But it's Barbara, the Nova Gazette archivist. "I always say, if you live in the city long enough you end up in the Gazette," she says. "But this isn't much. The dates are right for it to be your guy, but I don't know how much it will help you."

She reads it to him: it's just a photo with a caption, dated December 15, 1951, something about children from a boy's home being invited to the mayor's house at Christmas. Left to right, Jimmy Dougal, aged 9, Louis Washington, aged 13, and Walter J. Kovacs, aged 11.

He thanks her and asks her to leave a copy in his regular drop box, aka Mordechai's Deli on 33rd. An hour later he's holding it in his hands, a microfilm printout in black and white.

It's high-contrast and blurry, and he has only seen Rorschach's face once, as a scarred and weathered adult. But Dan looks at the unsmiling mouth, the jug ears, the too-close eyes, and he knows.

He reads the caption again, more carefully, and underlines the words Lillian Charlton Home.

***

Laurie's afternoon classes go about as well as they can go, considering.

Even after a jumbo coffee and a cigarette or five, she feels twitchy and irritable, off-balance. She mostly keeps her temper through the beginners class, but she ends up barking at the intermediates, and they don't even really deserve it. By the time the night session starts she's restless, pacing back and forth through the rows of women. Whenever she stops moving she can feel him again, vivid sense-memory of heat and weight.

He stayed next to her all night, hip to her hip and shoulder to her shoulder, and she woke at dawn and lay awake for an hour and did not reach for him. It has been a long time since she had a man in her bed. In the last wretched five weeks, she and Dan have fucked only once -- part in anger and part in helpless, shared sorrow -- and so it was hard not to think about how easy it would be to just roll over and straddle him. But she didn't.

"Casey, lower your stance," she says. "Elbow back. Back. Good."

By the time class is over and she's cleaned and locked the dojo, it's raining -- a cold, thin drizzle. Laurie puts her head down and turns up her collar. She's a little nervous as she gets closer to home, her stomach jittery the way it gets sometimes before a major mission, but she concentrates on the lesson plan. She'll work him on the heavy bag, first, to see what kind of power and control he has, and then she wants to teach him a few Tai Chi forms, as hard as that is to picture. Maybe some breathing exercises. She smirks a little, climbing the stairs, picturing poor Sifu Kim trying to teach Rorschach to control his chi. She digs out her keys. Ok. Definitely starting with breath techniques..

But it's a very small apartment, and so it's clear as soon as she opens the door that Walter is gone.


Part 4

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