[personal profile] brancher
Title: The Weird Turn Pro
Pairing: Dan/Rorschach friendship, ensemble
Summary: Newspaper au originally posted to kinkmeme, arising from the realization that I've known plenty of reporters at least as crazy as the characters in Watchmen. Note: just about all the dialogue in here is something that I have personally heard coming out of a journalist's mouth. 



Walter is working over a lede. Dan can tell, because of the rhythmic thunk coming from the storeroom; when Walter is stuck on a lede, he goes back there and throws a tennis ball against the wall. Thunk. Thunk.

It's annoying, but you learn to live with it. It's less annoying than Laurie reading her copy over to herself under her breath; less annoying than Hollis and Eddie's eternal war over the thermostat. People who wind up in newsrooms are never entirely sane, in Dan's experience; they're misfits, borderline personalities more comfortable interacting with the world from behind a reporter's notebook. Dan knows he's no exception. 

He stares at what he has on the screen, wondering if it's any good. He wants it to be good. He can feel Jon looking at him from across the room, his face expressionless and glowing green under the anachronistic visor he always wears. Dan asked him about it once, and he'd said, "It's a symbol I can respect." Dan had known better than to try to make sense of that. He thinks he might put it in his novel, though. It's a great character detail. 

Jon is suddenly standing behind him. Dan jumps.

"Dan," Jon intones, "Thirty minutes from now, I'm reading your story. I'm finding typos throughout."  This is how he talks. If reporters tend to be a little weird, copy editors are infinitely weirder.

"I'll run spellcheck," Dan says. 

"Yes, you will," Jon says cryptically.  

Dan sighs. 

Jon moves on to Eddie, at the next desk, who has his feet up and is playing solitaire. 

"Eddie, about your lede today," Jon tells him. 

"Oh yeah?" 

"I find it inappropriate."

"What's inappropiate about it?"

"This is a story about the legislature banning cigarettes in the state penitentiary."

"Yeah?"

Jon unfolds the paper, reads aloud: "Today the legislature moved to ban that traditional comfort of prison life: the butt."

Dan squeezes his eyes shut. There's a general groan. 

"I don't see what's inappropriate about that," Eddie smirks. "They say it takes a dirty mind to edit a clean newspaper and all, but I really think you're reading too much into it."

"Eddie --"

"Besides," Eddie says, turning to face him. "You could have stopped me. You could have changed the wording to something else. Could have taken out the whole graf. But you didn't." 

The newsroom is quiet. Jon says nothing.

"Well, too late to change it now, it's already run," Eddie says, and turns back to his solitaire game. Jon stands there a moment longer, then moves on. It's true, it's too late, but they all know it wasn't Jon's fault. Eddie won a Pulitzer long ago as a young reporter, and ever since his copy has been untouchable on orders from the Fourth Floor. Some say the word came down from Veidt himself

Dan stares at the screen a little longer, but it still looks wrong. He needs help. He hits the print button and goes over the to the printer, by the Arts/Features department. 

There are three jobs in the queue ahead of him, so he has to wait. This means he's within striking distance for Byron, the arts editor.

"Liked your centerpiece on Sunday," Byron says. 

"Oh, hey," Dan says, blossoming. Praise is rare in the newsroom. 

"Yes, it was very nicely done," By continues. "Although I think if you're going to write about young people and drugs, you should mention that most of those drugs were designed by the CIA."

"Um," Dan says.

"It's an angle no one's working."

"Thanks, By."

"Free of charge." 

Dan wonders if he's started drinking already. 

Mercifully his printout comes spitting out of the machine, the paper warm in his hands. He takes it and crosses the newsroom, past where Laurie is arguing passionately with Nelson -- "It deserves another twenty inches, Nelly!" while he thunders back, "Juspeczyk, this is a newspaper, not a term paper" --- past Ursula swearing on the phone -- "Fuck me? No, fuck you" -- past Bill checking his stocks and Hollis checking out cars, to the door of the stockroom.

He almost gets beaned when he opens the door, and has to duck the tennis ball as it whistles past his ear.

"Hey, cease fire!"

"Oh," Walter says. "It's you."

No one understands why they hang around together. Walter has been at the paper only about five years longer than Dan, but he's one of those guys who looks like he was born a 62-year-old newsman. He's taciturn to a fault and affects a world-weary callousness, but his stories are full of the kind of writerly detail Dan knows a real cynic would miss: the chipped nail polish on a rape victim's fingers, the small charred shoe on the side of the road after a car crash. 

"You stuck on the lede?"

"Hrm." Walter looks away, throws the ball and catches it when it bounces back off the wall. "Child killing. Six-year-old girl, neighbor in custody." 

"Oh, man."

Thunk. "Had to go out to interview the parents. Always difficult. Mother wouldn't see me, too upset. Father spoke to me for an hour, rambling. Showed him credentials, but still not sure he knew who I was."

Dan lets out a deep sigh. They all pretend not to care, they crack awful jokes about this sort of thing, but it's because if they don't they'd all go crazy. Crazier. Only Walter never jokes.

"You did good, man," Dan says. "You'll write about her and people will read it. People will remember her."

"Maybe." Thunk. "Hope so." Thunk. "Nothing else we can do."

"Yeah." Dan catches the ball on the rebound, and they stand there for a moment in silence. Then Dan says, "Look, you want to take a break? Can you look at my story for a minute?"

"Self-serving," Walter grumbles, but squares his shoulders and takes the sheet of paper from him. He reads it quickly, then grunts. "Hurm. Story doesn't need narrative lede, strong enough on its own. Cut it out, go straight to nut graf. Much better."

Dan blinks, looks at his own copy again. "Thanks, man."

"Too in love with narrative technique, Daniel. Reporting is strong, go with that."

"Right," Dan says. "'Grab 'em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.'"

Walter makes a sound that could possibly be an expression of humor. "Something like that."

Back at his desk, Dan starts cutting. Walter is right, it works much better without the lede he just spent an hour and a half crafting. He's almost done when he notices that the thunk from the backroom has been replaced by another sound: the clatter of keys. 

Dan turns, peers around his computer monitor. Walter is sitting in at the desk facing his, expressionless, writing like his life depends on it.

Dan smiles, and turns back to his own story. His finger hovers over the SEND button.

"Spellcheck," Jon says, from across the room. 

"Right," Dan says.

-30-
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