It was no wonder that the two of them went into the same line of work, everything considered. Eight year old Walter, living in the children's home, had awoken in the middle of the night, fist crammed in his mouth to block the burning scream. When he'd lifted his arm to the moonlight, the words 'Bearing unspoken obligation' on his his forearm.

It took time with a dictionary, and some discreet inquiry for the phrase to yield it's meaning the next morning, but in the dim barracks immediately after he'd Etched, horror rolled through him. He couldn't have THAT kind of tie to someone. Someone who could hurt him so deeply. He couldn't...feel that way about someone else. It was disgusting.

He would ignore it, he decided. If he ever met the girl who could hurt him, he'd run the other way, that was all there was to it.

The curious portion of his mind was stronger than the determined part, though. He poked at the tunnel in his mind that had opened to his soulmate. It would be better to know something about her, so he could keep away from her, wouldn't it? His query was answered by a wave of frustration directed at someone at the other end of the tunnel. He withdrew, determined to ignore it starting from now.

When the other made cautious forays into the tunnel, he paid attention, but didn't respond. When strong emotions and life events filtered over, he deduced bits and pieces about her, always filing them away in his memory as offense being the best defense. He grew up reading those words across his skin. Torn between revulsion and fascination.

Once he'd understood the definitions of the words, he tried to make his understanding fit the context and bits of information he extracted. He was embarrassed that his 'perfect match' would tolerate bearing an unspoken obligation. Even though he was careful never to show anyone his soulmark, he knew that it represented someone with a fundamental weakness of character, shameful.

The years went by and it grew worse. She was filled with terrible need, always wanting, always hungering for something. Days came when the feelings of indulgence flowed into his mind with such overwhelming palpability that it made him sick. Then came the nights when the nature of the need changed, and he was confronted with cloying lust, which had him burying his face in the pillow to keep from screaming in horrified rage, flushed and reddened with shame.

At sixteen, he'd moved out of the home, started working and been left alone to care for himself. When the mask called him and he first began working the street, his...other had been the one horrified for once. His anger and zeal had made its way through their bond and her query had come back. The "why?" expressed only in bewilderment and no words. For the first time in years, he felt compelled to respond to her. "Justice" he sent, and it was as much an unspoken feeling that echoed between them.

He met and started working with Nite Owl, respecting and beginning to trust someone for the first time in years. Nite Owl was good hearted, honest and brave. He was a hero for the ages. Their work would send ripples through the underworld.

He didn't spend as much time thinking about his soulmate, now. It was 1975 and the job was good, his partnership with Daniel more true than anything the shameful mark on his arm could ever offer. He was in a good mood, had even permitted a laugh at one of Daniel's ridiculous duck jokes. Until they were back at the Nest, and Daniel removed his gauntlets, A necessary procedure for making coffee.

He didn't have a sleeve on underneath, tonight. Rorschach couldn't imagine why, but he didn't have a sleeve on and in the same way he noted and calculated other information, Rorschach glanced at the words scrawled across Daniel's forearm.

He'd come to terms with the fact that Daniel had a soulmark the first time Daniel had removed his gauntlet and the sleeve had become visible. It was uncomfortable for Rorschach to think that somewhere in the world was a woman Daniel was meant to fall in love with, who would be his perfect counterpart. That Daniel would have this weakness was uncomfortable, but tolerable. Everyone had a soulmark and there was nothing to be done about it. Seeing it was different.

Rorschach's blood ran cold. He physically recoiled from the words printed on Daniel's perfect flesh. He knew his own handwriting, but the words Desperate Adherence To Justice, made his skin crawl. It couldn't be real. Daniel couldn't be chained him. Nite Owl was too good, too pure, to... The world started swimming, and a quiet, believing voice in the back of his mind said he should tell him, bare his own arm and show him. It spoke with a surety of confidence that everything would be alright.

This time his determination overcame his curiosity, his sense of wonder. The next thing he knew, he was back on the street, rushing from the Nest, trying to fill his mind with details of the case, and to burn out the devastating longing he felt for Daniel's closeness.

There was a fire, that night, and by the next evening, it was almost impossible for Rorschach to face Nite Owl. The awkwardness on Rorschach's part just increased everytime they saw each other. Nite Owl tried to be kind, solicitous, and get to the root of the problem. With every generous gesture and friendly reminder of what they'd shared, Rorschach was more torn, more confused, and more likely to withdraw.

His curiosity and hope that they might be able to carry on working together lured him back to Nite Owl's side on rare occasions, but the closeness was too much and he felt the shame more deeply each time he indulged. When the Keene Act passed, Daniel's betrayal of himself and his former partner by his choice to hang up the Nite Owl mask, cut too deeply, it was easy, then, in a relative sense of easy, for Rorschach to disappear into the night and not return.

The pain of the betrayal, or more accurately, the loss, sharpened Rorschach's spiral downward. By 1985, he was hanging on by force of will alone.

In a dark apartment, on a dark night, a hero was betrayed, and a once heroic man, fell.

It took Rorschach only seconds to make the connection between the Comedian's death and the rest of the Crimebusters. Through the carefully built up barrier in his heart rose a stab of fear. Daniel was in danger, and his distant surveillance showed he was no longer in any condition to deal with this sort of threat. He was halfway to the brownstone before he had any time to think about his decision to warn Daniel.

He was, logically, not the one in the greatest danger. Veidt was most vulnerable. He should warn him, first.

But Veidt had security, Daniel had nothing but bad locks and a feeble cover identity to protect him. Rorschach didn't let himself consider that if something happened to Daniel, he, himself would find it more difficult to function. He didn't consider that by protecting Daniel, he was protecting himself. There was no time to think, only time to act. It took no consideration at all for Rorschach to move to protect the one thing he loved.

Really, it wasn't surprising that their encounter was so cold. Rorschach had spent years resenting Daniel for formless things he felt weren't right between them, and Daniel's confusion and hurt over being forcibly pushed away over and over had left him unwilling to invest further emotional energy in what Rorschach felt was real and important.

Daniel had been three when he'd Etched. He was a bright articulate boy, but his experience with his soulmate always left him without words. He was uncomfortable with the amount of disapproval he felt through their bond. This other person didn't seem to like him much. They didn't communicate, beyond the stronger emotions that filtered through, until Daniel had become a teenager, and he felt pain and rage on the other side of the bond. Even this was overcome with such a sense of Conviction, he couldn't imagine what was happening on the other side. When he sent askance, all he received in return was a feeling of balance, rightness, justice. He hadn't considered that the words on his arm might be so literal. Some people's soulmarks were enigmatic, some names or numbers their soulmate would recognize or match themselves to. He always thought that "Desperate Adherence To Justice" was something that would have significance to his soulmate when she saw it, he didn't know it was who his soulmate was. The essence of that person. It made him wonder what was written on her arm, what the essence of his soul was.

It made him think more about law and right and fairness than his class mates, who were mostly concerned with how the world should be more fair to them, by which they meant kinder. He studied and learned that fairness and justice were more about the greater good than oneself.

He began pouring more time into learning about Masks, than about the study of business and finance, he had a passion for aeronautics, birds and mechanical things, but he had the drive for being a hero. When he contacted Hollis Mason, the path toward becoming a Mask was almost complete.

He worked hard at it, but over the years, disillusionment crept in, it seemed like they were fighting an uphill battle, wading through more bodies every day. When it was over, and the Keene Act had passed, and the last shouts of his last confrontation with Rorschach died away, he was glad for the break. The return to normal life.

He thought, sometimes about his soulmate, about making an effort to find her. But she was still on her quest for justice that, now, he knew was unattainable. She was probably a police officer, or a lawyer, or maybe even a bounty hunter. It amused him to think she had some shade of vigilante about her, some shadow of what he'd been. Their lives would be so different now, she, ever protective of the weak and helpless, he, growing ever more in that direction. Towards weakness, towards helplessness.

The bright spot in his life was Laurie, her intelligence, wit and beauty kept him afloat, kept him from going back. Until the night they actually moved beyond friends, into the territory of lovers. Until the night he watched his truest friend unmasked in front of the whole world and felt a pang of agony for all that meant to the man for whom he couldn't even classify his feelings. To whom he owed his life.

He didn't consider how Laurie would feel about his suggestion to stage a prison break. He didn't consider how easily he could be tied to Nite Owl's identity, just as the detective had said. He didn't consider how this would end his life as Daniel Dreiburg. It took no consideration at all for Daniel to move to protect the one thing he loved.

On the flight to Antarctica, Rorschach several times seemed to be verging on some confession. His hand was on his left forearm more than once. Daniel suspected it was some sort of comment about his soulmate. How he wanted Daniel to know something about whoever she was, maybe to ask him to look out for her if anything happened. Just because he didn't want to be with her, you couldn't just not care about your soulmate. But Daniel couldn't handle it, couldn't handle knowing that particular piece of Rorschach's soul, not right now. Besides, they couldn't afford to lose, and they couldn't afford to think they would lose.

But they did lose. They parted for the last time in the face of Veidt's rationale. Everything had gotten so far out of hand. The destruction of New York. Doctor Manhatten's capitulation. Two men witnessing the reforging of the world.

After it was over, Daniel was grateful just to lose himself in Laurie's arms. He felt, once, a terrible surge of grief, and sobbed as she held him, overwhelmed with the horror of the day.

It wasn't until he was unlocking the Owlship that it occurred to him to wonder where Rorschach had gone.

"I'm sure Jon sent him back to New York. He wouldn't have just let him wander out here alone."

It wasn't until later, when they'd been safely established in their new identities and he had time to shower without a knife and with his sleeve off that he noticed the change on his arm.

Desperate Adherence To Justice was pale, lined in barely visible white scars, instead of the sharp, black script it had once been. He thought he should have felt more upset about finding out she was gone. The last two days had been such a tumult of grief, though, that he couldn't pinpoint at what time she'd disappeared from his life. The chances were high that she'd been one of the casualties of Adrian's glorious disaster. One of New York's finest, lost in the line of duty.

He spared a moment of regret that they'd never recognized each other. She'd made him what he was. She'd given him his life. If it hadn't been for her, he'd have never met Rorschach.

He comforted himself with the knowledge that at least one of his justice loving partners was still out there, patrolling the New York streets. Making life better.