[personal profile] brancher
TITLE: Teshuva
FANDOM: Watchmen
PAIRING: Dan/Rorschach/Laurie, heavy on the Rorschach/Laurie
SUMMARY: Oh god you guys, this picks up about a month after Triage Part 3. I have never posted anything in installments before. I reserve the right to go back and change this, but the thing looks like its going to be thousands and thousands of words long, and if I wait til it's all finished you will all have moved on with your lives. So here it is: the stunning FOLLOW UP to the "Triage" saga.

Teshuva: (hebrew) repentence, commitment to change, confession; a return.




There's a man standing in the back of the dojo.

Laurie sees him out of the corner of her eye while she's leading the class through basic strikes and blocks. He's small and wiry, backlit against the neon in the window; she can't see his face.

Oh great, she thinks. Another weirdo.

It's easier when they actually enroll as students; then she simply works their flabby bodies into the ground, and most of them don't come back after that. Worse, much worse, are the ones who show up quietly just to stare at her. Apparently no amount of kevlar can burn that old costume out of people's minds. Fine, she thinks. Stare. See what it gets you.

She claps her hands. "Ok, people," she says loudly. "Everyone's looking good, so I'm going to demonstrate a few advanced techniques. I'll need a volunteer." She's already stalking through the rows of students, heading to the back corner. Give the little freak what he came looking for.

She has her hand out and fingers curled into his shirt before she recognizes him. Raw cheekbones, brown eyes set too close together, thin lips she's slid her tongue between. He meets her gaze. She likes to think she only hesitates a second.

She pulls him by the shirt into the center of the dojo. Dolores and Nadia have seen this routine before, and they're snickering and nudging each other in anticipation. Laurie ignores them. Rorschach's been AWOL for more than a month, no word or trace of him in the streets, and the least she can do is make him sweat a little for abandoning them.

Still, it's hard to make herself let go of him and take a few paces back.

"Everyone, this is my good friend Ro- Roger. Roger, why don't we show them how it's done?"

He stands there looking at her, then cants his head to the side. Those dark eyes are still shadowed under the overhead lights.

"Just come at me," she tells him. She sees him square his narrow shoulders. He comes at her.

Two seconds later he's lying on his back on the mat, Laurie has her tabi boot on his throat and she's not sure how it happened. She was expecting something else, she realizes, some kind of fair fight, but he's just lying there, brown eyes wide, pupils blown under the fluorescents, his face blank and undefended.

It creeps her out.

Jesus, she thinks, what happened to you? And then immediately, the answer: We did.

She helps him up and his hand is dry and warm.

"I have ten more minutes of class," she says. "Wait for me."

He nods, barely a flicker, and she's turning to them, saying "Ok, you see how I used his momentum there?" as he slips over to the corner behind the work-out bags.

She has them free-spar until the end of class; she walks through checking their technique, keeping an eye on him. It scares her how much she wants to go to him. She's not sure if he'd kiss her or punch her in the jaw. She figures she could live with either.

But when the last student leaves, she's not sure what to say. She can't bear to look at him, unmasked and awkward, shifting his weight from one foot to another. Instead she goes over to the mat and starts her warm-down, dropping into a split. Stretch out or you'll cramp up, Sally says in her memory. Besides -- certain feral animals will come to you, she knows, if you just ignore them long enough.

So she keeps her eyes down, letting her ponytail flop forward into her face. Sure enough, a moment later a shadow falls over her leg. She hears the mat creak as he crouches down beside her.

"Hi," she says, without looking up.

"Miss Juspeczyk," he says, and it almost brings tears to her eyes.

"Are you okay?" Her voice comes higher than she'd hoped.


"Not sure yet."

She looks up then, at the fierce, homely face she's only seen once before -- his eyebrows knotted together, his lips parted over crooked teeth. He looks away. She wants to touch his mouth.

"Rorschach, look, I'm sorry for what we did, but --"

"No," he says, bringing his gaze back up to hers. "Don't have to be. Was ... necessary."

She doesn't know what to say to that. She brings her legs together, straight out in front of her, and leans forward to grip her soles. "Here, press on my back."

He hesitates, but she fixes her gaze on her toes and after a few seconds she feels warm calloused hands on her shoulders, pushing her into the stretch.

"Ahh - ah. That's good," she says. "So, when you ... when you left. Where did you go?"

***

He is in Daniel's shirt but is not Daniel; rain on face but is not the rain. Wet pavement, grey sky. In rainlight colors are brighter somehow, searing pinks and yellows and greens running along the street, difficult to look at. Cars hum and slosh through streets ankle-deep in rain and he lets shoes and eyes fill with water. A man leans his head against woman's shoulder. Old woman opens an umbrella, brilliant orange blossoming against brick. Child dancing in the puddles. A fresh burst of rain comes rushing down, and he opens his mouth to it.

***

"Walked for a while. Did not go home. Disoriented. City seemed different. Lost my bearings. Saw ... saw many things."

She waits, but that's as much as he seems willing to say. "For five weeks?"

She hears him shifts uncomfortably. "Hrrm."

"Ok, so what made you come back?" She tucks one leg behind her and he shifts his weight on her back accordingly.

"Need a favor."

"Oh Jesus, Rorschach. You -- whatever you need, it's -- what is it?"

"Need training," he says, and her eyebrows shoot up.

"Let's pretend I'm not saying this, but I don't think there's anything you can learn from me, Rorschach."

She twists around to look at him, but he just gazes at her with that thousand-yard stare.

"Not Rorschach anymore," he says simply.



NEXT: Part 2

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