June 7th, 1968 .
City is quiet. Vietcong's attacks have slowed down. War needs to catch breath, but will come back stronger. The street filth is also slowing down, but know it will never end. Nothing ever ends.
Stopped convenience store robbery tonight. Culprit broke in with gun, took bag of chips and case of Coke. Was disappointed.
Have not seen Nite Owl in four days. Am curious about wellbeing. Perhaps has been neutralized. Will investigate further.
Rorschach almost frowned as he scrawled out that last sentence. His partner was never out of duty this long. The longest period to date had been two days, and Rorschach had been told about that ahead of time ("First ever Superbowl, Rorschach! Chiefs against Packers!"). But this time, he had no word from the Nite Owl.
The vigilante slipped from his patch of shadows against the alley wall, and strode down a side street, towards an old warehouse long since forgotten by its original owners. Two rough-and-tumble looking gentlemen in the mouth of a narrower alley than the one he had emerged from caught a glimpse of his face and vanished, but he didn't pursue. Not tonight.
Inside the warehouse, behind dusty shelves and moldering crates, a rounded steel door was set into the wall Rorschach approached it, and pressed a small, unobtrusive button next to it. The door slid quietly open, powered by electricity leeched from the old city cables that had once sent trains thundering down this short stretch of tunnel. That was many years ago, though. Now, the tunnel only led to a tinkerer's basement, filled with wonderful gadgets a child could spend the whole day examining without losing interest. Rorschach himself had given it a cursory once-over, the first time he was down here, and it was enough for him.
He sidled silently past the owlship, Archie, which sat slumbering in the darkness. Nite Owl's costume was also in place, on the dummy in the small gap sunk into the wall. It made him question his theory that the Nite Owl was killed on the job, but he still wondered if he might have been kidnapped. It had been easy enough for Rorschach to follow him home, one night, so surely another more sinister character could do it.
Like a phantom, Rorschach ascended the stairs. A light was on in Daniel's kitchen, and strange noses were coming from within. Clattering, as if kitchen utensils were being hurled around, and begging.
"Please- no! Come on…" Daniel seemed near tears. Bristling, Rorschach opened the door and emerged into the kitchen.
Daniel had his back to his partner. He seemed to be covered in what looked like mashed potatoes. And in front of him, sitting sullenly in a chair too big for him, was a kid, no more than five years old. He had unruly brown crop of hair, trimmed into a bowl-cut, and stubborn gray eyes. Rorshach paused, closing the door noiselessly behind him. The kid stared at him, suddenly lost for words.
"Haven't been working, Daniel," Rorschach said, turning his back on the undignified mess and helping himself to Dan's sugar tin. "Streets will be worse, soon." Daniel spun around, surprised. He hadn't heard Rorschach enter, and was hoping the boy had finally gotten his message. He hadn't realized that he was gawking at a masked man behind him.
"Damn it, Rorschach-!" He spun around again, and addressed the kid. "Don't tell your mother you heard me say that." He returned his attention to the vigilante in his kitchen momentarily, but then turned back one last time. "And don't tell her about him, either!" He jabbed in Rorschach's direction with a thumb.
"Illegitimate son, Daniel? Expected better from you."
"No! He's my sister's kid. My brother-in-law got into a car accident a few days ago, and she's in the hospital with him. She left Ben with me until she could take him again." Rorschach glanced at him over one shoulder.
"Have corn on your face."
"And potatoes on my shirt. And half a hamburger on my kitchen floor, because somebody doesn't want to drink his milk." He gave a narrow-eyed glare to Ben, who was still stunned by the sight of a real masked avenger. Rorschach turned, and sat down at the table across from the child. Daniel watched, slightly nervous.
"You stink!" The kid wrinkled his nose bad-temperedly, and banged his fists on the table top. He didn't quite dare to throw food at this man. He was much more formidable than Uncle Dan.
"Drink milk. Good for you." Ben stuck out his bottom lip, and crossed his arms.
"No!" Rorschach made an irritated growling noise, and pulled a sugar cube from his pocket. He deftly unwrapped it, showed it to the kid, and dropped it into the milk with a plunk.
"Drink milk." Finally, the kid reached for the glass, and took a swig of the drink. And another. And Daniel only watched on, mouth hanging open. His volatile partner had just succeeded, in less than one minute and ten words, to do what he couldn't in nearly ten minutes under a constant barrage of food.
"Uh, Rorschach… How did you do that?"
The man with the inkblot face rose. "Kid drank milk. Let's go." Daniel actually took a step back, astonished.
"Ror-" Dan struggled for words, until finally he blurted "He's four! I can't just, leave him here!"
"Hurm." Rorschach regarded Daniel for a minute, and then the kid. "Bring-"
"And I will not bring him with us! Jesus Christ!"
"…Hurm." There was an awkward silence, and then a slurping noise as Ben drained the last of his milk.
"More?" The kid asked, holding out his empty glass. Without quite believing what he was seeing, Daniel poured him some more milk, and stared in wonderment at Rorschach as his nephew proceeded to greedily gulp it down.
"Really, though. How did you do that?"
"Kid likes milk. Doesn't like you." Dan's shoulders slumped.
"Ass," he muttered, wondering if he could slug his partner and get away with it. He glanced wearily up at Ben. "Don't tell your mother."
"Doesn't trust you, Daniel," Rorschach clarified after a moment, hand over his masked mouth. "Wants parents."
"Really. How do you know this stuff?" Daniel stared hopefully at him for a moment. No reply. "…Fine. Be like that."
"Hm." Rorschach crossed his arms, and leaned back against the counter, staring at his partner's nephew.
"Well… Uh… I have him for another few days. Feel free to, uh, drop by and-"
"No, Daniel." Rorschach glared at him scathingly. "Your nephew." Dan could have sworn Rorschach rolled his eyes in that moment. "Have work to do." And before Daniel could stop him, he slipped back through the doorway, down the dark stairs to the filthy hell outside.
"Ass… Don't tell your mother."