The man was dead.
This was a fitting place of rest for him- a dank, dark subway station, as low-class and grimy as could be. His last words had been nothing but a frightened sobbing, his hands clutching at the make-shift noose his attacker had tightened round his neck. Tighter and tighter it had gone, until it could go on no longer. Justice had once more been served.
Dark shapes shifted on the face of the man's executioner, though they were mostly obscured by his fedora. Strange as it was to some, these blots were his true face, not a mask; that lay underneath. And he, finished with his work, satisfied the man was truly gone from this world, turned to walk away. Rorschach's work was never done- the city was drowning in its own filth, and he had to make sure the heads were held down, suffocating completely.
A half-strangled cry shot through the air.
It wouldn't have been a good strategic move to completely ignore it, no matter how much the vigilante was convinced it would be meaningless.
There was the victim, cowering near the tracks, shivering with both fear and cold. The darkness had hidden her from sight, but now she had moved forwards. A prostitute, most likely. Her clothes were tight, and there was little of them. Underneath the latex, Rorschach's nose wrinkled in disgust, the blots moving almost simultaneously. Disgusting. Why could she not get on with her work and leave him in peace.
With something between a snort and a growl, he went to leave again.
'You saved me,' she said, wary, scared, and addressing him beyond all doubt.
'Job done,' came the strange, rasping monotone voice of Rorschach. 'Going now.' His back had arched slightly, a defensive motion, almost like a frightened cat. A shiver of unease ran through him. He didn't like this. Prostitute. Not right…. Shouldn't help…
She was barely a foot away from him. Too close. He stepped backwards. Women had tried to thank him before, much more in the earlier days, when he had only been pretending to be Rorschach, but it still sometimes happened. It was almost painful. Unbearable.
Neither of them said a word, the two of them sizing each other up. Her eyes were soft, tentative, a contrast to her greasy, matted hair, which was almost as rough as the bruises which covered the left side of her body. Long and blonde, it uncomfortably brought Rorschach into thinking about one of his mother's old friends. One of the whores she had laughed and drank with, leaving him alone, leaving Walter Kovacs in the darkness.
'Thank you.' He almost hissed at her words, afraid at what they might bring. But she still continued. 'Thank you,' she repeated. 'Now it can be my own choice.'
She smiled then; a small, sad, tug of her lips. It was the first and last moment that Rorschach ever thought of any woman being beautiful. They both held each other's gaze for a few wonderfully silent moments, before she stepped out onto the train tracks.
There was no time for him to react.
The screaming metal monster sped past: it broke the tranquillity almost as soon as it had begun. Something hot and wet splattered upwards, bleeding through the vigilante's mask, touching the skin like a scorching wound. He almost staggered back from the force of it; fiery and passionate- more intimate than anything he had ever known. It was too much, this happening so similar to a buried memory.
A pair of German shepherds. A spurt of blood instead of these sprinkled droplets.
And then, like it had been those years ago, a single word escaped his lips, like a sweet nothing whispered to a lover. But not 'Mother'; this time he implored someone completely different.
A symmetry of opposites.
The trench coat-clad man, caught between Rorschach and Walter Kovacs, skulked away as the subway train in the distance finally screeched to a halt, the driver almost gagging at the woman's crumpled body. She had found a way to leave this insane world, full of the conspiring and filth of humanity. Society's perversions could hurt her no more.
No one was free from it, not even the one man who had to save it.
Beneath that inkblot mask, beneath the moral absolutes of 'right' and 'wrong', and 'good and 'evil', lay a small red-headed boy, full of conflicting hatred and love for his mother and himself, and containing half-formed desires- lusty and repulsive- that haunted him every single night, as his true face was put to rest.
And deep within an unimportant house, not too far away from that New York subway station, a man named Daniel Dreiberg woke up, getting the strange notion that something wasn't quite right with the world.
He forgot the feeling by morning.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string l wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
- Robert Browning
A/N This is my second Watchmen fanfiction. I still feel very guilty, and I'm not sure if this one really works… Any constructive criticism would be nice, even if it's "never touch Watchmen with a barge pole you desecrator!". I wrote the ending first, but I'm not sure if the beginning goes… I was really bowed by the praise for my first ficlet (I'm still not convinced that all of my reviewers weren't on some sort of illegal substance, but hey ho), but the most I hope is that people like this one, despite the fact it covers nothing new. Everyone loves Rorschach after all. But not Nite Owl…
Also, I'm sorry if the quote at the end sounds pretentious, but I love the way- in the graphic novel- every chapter ends with a quote, and also it explains the title. (It comes from a lovely poem called Porphyria's Lover) This isn't a story about a skin disease after all. As well as this, apologies to anyone who doesn't see Kovacs as gay- I understand many fans are rather vocal about the issue. In actual fact, I don't see him as gay either, just clinging on to the first person who shows him friendship and feelings developing from there, but that's a story for another time.
Lastly- Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore: Please don't kill me!
(Edit: Thanks to those who pointed out my error on the poet's front. I swear I had Tennyson on the brain, who is also a good poet, but didn't pen the verse above.)