[personal profile] brancher
TITLE: Teshuva pt. 6
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
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5



There's no night class on Thursdays, so Laurie walks home early, the winter sun slinking low behind her. She stops in the lobby to check her mail, then climbs the three flights to her floor. She can hear the building's familiar afternoon sounds seeping through the thin walls as she passes: the unseen baby crying again in 308, Korean soaps blaring from 317, faint music drifting from somewhere.

It's only when she's almost at her own door that she realizes the music is coming from inside the apartment. It's something scratchy and old-fashioned, with a horn section and women's voices crooning in tight harmony. There's something else she can hear over it, something like a length of rusty chain being dragged through a cat.

he's in the army now, playing reveille

Her key turns in the lock.

he's the boogie woogie bugle boy of company b

The music is coming from her own hi-fi, and Walter's sitting on the floor in front of it, making that horrible sound. She thinks he might be having some kind of fit.

"Walter? What are you doing?" She dumps her bag at the door and approaches with caution. He looks up at her, eyes wide and glittering with unshed tears. There's an expression on his face that she doesn't recognize, but she can tell it's a tight fit.

Ok, she thinks, time to remember everything you never knew about psychological first aid.

She hunkers down in front of him, trying to speak slowly and clearly in case he's had some kind of brain trauma: "ARE YOU HAVING A BREAKDOWN. DO I NEED TO CALL DAN."

She's not sure what she's expecting, glassy catatonia or feral rage, but instead he says calmly, "Laurel, listen to lyrics. Very, very funny song." And starts making the noise again.

That noise.

The weird little creep is giggling.

Laurie sits back on her heels, considering the implications of having witnessed this atrocity. She thinks she should perhaps be struck blind. Or deaf -- that would be more appropriate.

"You're insane," she says, picking up the record sleeve and turning it over. "What is this crap? This is terrible, Walter. This sounds like a pack of clowns in song form."

He ignores her, but at least the giggling stops. "Very funny song. Very amusing."

"It's horrible. Christ, I think this is my mother's," she says. "Must have gotten mixed in when she put my stuff in storage." She tosses the sleeve back to him. "I cannot believe you and my mom like the same music. On the other hand, I guess it figures that your tastes would run to the Truman era."

"Subsequent decades have brought little improvement."

"Come on. The Beatles? The Rolling Stones?"

"Foreign."

She groans and lets herself flop onto the floor beside him. The music scratches to a close, and Walter leans over to carefully move the needle back to the beginning of the song. Presently he makes a subdued snort.

"Ok, that's it," Laurie says, sitting up and starting to root through her crates of records. "You need an education."

Half an hour later he's grimaced at the Ramones, muttered darkly about the Clash and scowled at the Velvet Underground. She's about to play him some Pale Horse when the phone rings.

It's Dan.

"Hey," he says. He sounds agitated. "Listen, are you -- Hey, is that your stereo?"

"Yeah, Ro-- uhm, Walter and I are exploring New Wave," she says, and he lets his breath out in a rush.

"So he's there. Ok. Ok, good. Is he ... all right?"

She looks over at Walter, glaring at the hi-fi. "I don't know about 'all right,' but he seems pretty Walter to me. Why? Did you --"

"Yeah, I got some information. But let's talk about that later."

"Something bad?" Of course something bad; Walter didn't get like this by himself.

"I'm just glad he's there with you. Um. Has he -- has he said anything about me?"

"Uhh, we haven't really talked about -- "

"--That's ok. Never mind. You guys, um, take care, all right? I'll talk to you soon."

"Dan --"

"Love you," he says quickly and hangs up.

She puts the phone back in the cradle. Across the room, Walter tilts his head, frowning fiercely as Nico sings I'll be your mirror.

Laurie just watches him for a second: this weird, ugly, secretive man who was there all along under Rorschach's mask. Who apparently has a thing for the Andrews Sisters.

She grabs one of the mats and rolls it out on the floor, then plants her feet on it, cracking her neck from side to side.

"Ok," she says. "Let's see what we have to work with here, shall we?"

***

Dan keeps looking at the postcard.

He looks at it while he heats up a can of soup. When he sits down to eat, he places it in the middle of the table, propped up against the owl-shaped salt-and-pepper-shakers.

When he goes upstairs he puts it on the table next to his bed.

He's worked with Rorschach a long time, and he's gotten used to interpreting the man's various cryptic signs. Rorschachology, he called it once, explaining to Laurie how he knew that a mug left out on the counter meant that Rorschach had broken a case, or that a handful of orange seeds on his desk meant to go ahead without him. Dan is still baffled more than half the time, but he knew what this one means.

He's not sure he could put it into words, but right now it seems like more absolution than he deserves.

***

He might not be Rorschach, Laurie thinks, but he sure fights like him.

He moves just like she remembers: fast, intent, betraying no emotion and pulling no punches. He has her on the defensive right away, and she gives up trying to evaluate his form and concentrates on blocking what she can't dodge, making sure his blows fall on meat and not bone. He's barefoot, and she's in her scuffed old sparring heels, which means she has about six inches on him. It's not doing her much good -- he keeps getting under her guard, and her reach isn't useful if she's too slow to catch him. He's connecting more than she is, and each blow seems to have more force behind it.

Shit, she thinks, this is gonna ache tomorrow and then she can't think because he's picked up the hammer on the window ledge where she keeps it to prop the window open, and he's twisting it in the air.

She remembers Dan saying there's nothing more dangerous than Rorschach with something in his hands...

She looks at his face; his eyes are as flat as if they were painted on.

Laurie watches, feints, and when it comes in again she grabs the left wrist and pulls, digging her thumbnail into the pressure point there. His fingers open and the hammer falls, and then he's coming at her with his bare hands. He's up close, right in her space, his face taut and frightening, and she thinks like something feral, like fighting a dog, an animal -- he gets one hand fisted in her hair and --

And then he -- stops.

She's not expecting it, the sudden disappearance of opposing force, and staggers forward into him. He's limp, his head down, and they lean against each other, gasping, before she pulls away.

Stillness. The sound of them both breathing.

"Ok, what happened?" Laurie says. "What just happened? What the hell was that?"

"That was when I would have shattered your jaw," he says.

She steps back. "What?"

He lets his hands fall.

"Shattered your jaw. Same to orbital bone on backhand. Heel of hand into nose, drive cartilage up into brain, dead before you hit the ground. Three blows."

She stares at him.

"That seems like a little bit of overkill, doesn't it?" she says finally.

He doesn't answer. He's shaking, just slightly.

"Walter --" she says.

"Wanted to," he says. "My hands. My legs. All they know how to do."

Laurie thinks she might be shaking a little too. "Oh please, that's an exaggeration," she snaps, to cover it up.

He makes that sound again, like something being pulled inside out, but this time she can't call it laughter. It could break her heart, she thinks, or it could just be really annoying. Laurie decides to go with annoying.

"Come on, seriously," she says. She steps closer, reaches out, taps his shoulder -- not quite a push, but close. "Quit selling yourself this stupid bullshit, Walter."

"Think I'm stupid?"

Another push. "I know you're not. That's why I don't get this -- this line of crap you keep spewing. You're not out of control; you didn't kill me. You stopped."

He grits his teeth and makes a noise in his throat, like a growl. "Only other choice."

"Oh, all or nothing, hunh? God, why is everything so black and white with y-- Oh. Oh, ha, I get it. Black and white, right?"

His head comes up. He looks faintly shocked.

"Black and white. Oh, my god, you poor dumb bastard. That's like a bad joke." He growls again, but she can feel it in her chest now, because she's stepped closer still, close enough that they're touching. Hunh, with the heels that kind of puts his face in her chest. Convenient, she thinks, looking down at him.

She rests her hands lightly on his, ok, kind of magnificent shoulders. He really does have nice arms, and so she runs her fingers down them, all the way to his small tight fists. She pries them open and puts his hands on her waist.

"It's not all or nothing, Walter," she says.

He twitches, nostrils flaring. "Can't," he says.

Then he lets go, and steps back.

He looks so miserable. "Tried to kill you with a hammer," he says.

"Walter," Laurie says, and sighs. "It's ok. Really, it's ok. We'll try again."

***


art by etherati


part 7

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