Just the Same

Nite Owl/Rorschach. PG. ~550 words.
The city’s reduced to gritty neon swimming in puddles of murk and Rorschach is an event waiting to happen.

The city’s reduced to gritty neon swimming in puddles of murk and Rorschach is an event waiting to happen. Dan looks again from the empty sodden streets to the fitful liquid black of Rorschach’s mask. He imagines a mouth set in a thin, disgusted line, brows drawn taut to match. The tension in Rorschach buzzes like a downed wire, too close for comfort.

“Not done yet,” Rorschach says, his voice a rockslide blocking the way back.

“All right.” Dan always has been smart about picking his battles. “I like easy nights.”

The electric crackle around Rorschach turns to the whine of a transformer about to blow, too high pitched to hear, resonating in Daniel’s bones. Not everybody likes it easy.

Daniel doesn’t know what Rorschach likes. He doesn’t even know who Rorschach is. He’s not sure he wants to, but he keeps giving pieces of himself away waiting for the one that Rorschach decides to give back.

This partnership isn’t going to last much longer.

“No,” Rorschach says, falling behind. “North.”

Daniel turns to the alleys. They’re as empty as the streets. “Why north?”

The inkblot is furious.

“I’m just asking.”

“All the same,” comes that gravel tumble, pushing Dan into the rat’s warren.

Rorschach’s scuffed shoes clack loudly on the broken asphalt, a beacon for trouble. Dan hopes trouble’s listening. Whatever’s charging Rorschach tonight is spilling over into him, twisting through his veins, cramping his muscles. He wants a fight now as badly as Rorschach does.

Rain-spattered minutes tick by. Rorschach leads them to a dead end and Dan follows as he vaults upward, swinging from dumpster to window ledge to flaking fire escape. On the roof, Dan brushes rust from his gloves and squints through billows of steam.

“Here,” Rorschach says, lit from beneath by gaudy red.

The moment Dan crouches beside him, hand braced on the crumbling brick to sweep the alley below, he snaps. The ledge gives way, smooth lunge turned to awkward lurch, and Dan watches, stupefied, as Rorschach’s hat tumbles away into the dark.

Which means he isn’t watching Rorschach’s hands when they curl up under the edges of his cowl, fisted tightly with all of Rorschach’s weight behind them. He goes to one knee, shocked to see Rorschach’s legs spread wide around it, thin pinstripe stretched taut, dark and clinging to thick muscle.

Shocked again when the heat of Rorschach’s mouth is on his, the mask slick between them, the slide of Rorschach’s tongue over his lip as liquid smooth as the shifting ink stain, and maybe it isn’t Rorschach he’s feeling at all; maybe it’s just the mask.

It ends as suddenly as it began and he’s left kneeling in filth with a hand tangled in the lapel of Rorschach’s dripping coat. He licks water from his lips and imagines it tastes like Rorschach’s fickle face.

“Why did you do that?” Dan asks, grip slipping as Rorschach rocks back on his heels, steps up onto the ledge.

Rorschach stares into the grimy garish light as if his answer lies there. His hands fist at his sides, begin to shake. His breaths are loud and hollow-sounding though the driving rain, and his voice, when it finally comes, is a wrenching grate of noise. “Not all the same.”

He’s still on the edge when Dan goes down to retrieve his hat.


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