The night fell quietly on New York. The people retreated to their homes as the light was leeched from the sky, giving leave to a scant few to wander about the gloomy alleys and lean in dark doorways. A woman screamed somewhere, her voice echoing down the abandoned streets unheard. Nobody patrolled there, that night. The usual watchman had more pressing issues to deal with.
August 14th, 1971.
Have watched television for the first time in months. It is like the real world- during the day, clean and respectable, but at night, all that plays are dirty films and footage from Ireland. It's as if the New York filth has poured into their streets, forcing their people out into American harbors. Watched them pile off a ship yesterday. Dirty and thin, but smiling.
Rorschach paused in his writings, repositioning the stubby pencil in his left hand. He glanced up momentarily at the closed door at the end of the darkened hallway, and continued.
Nite Owl has been missing in action since the 7th. Have asked around, but nobody has seen him. Am concerned.
Again he stopped, eraser hovering over the last word. After a silent debate with himself, he left it as was.
Silk Spectre was last to see him. Says he 'bumped into her' while she was doing rounds. Says he seemed anxious. Believe somebody may have been following him. Have investigated house. Nothing is out of place.
He hastily tucked the journal away at the sound of a key scrabbling in the deadbolt. With one gloved hand, he turned out the only light he had on, vanishing into the shadows. There was a moment of silence, and then the door creaked open. A silhouette blocked the door, and then a second appeared, smaller than the first. Both were carrying suitcases. Rorschach recognized the larger as Daniel, but the smaller… He didn't know. And he didn't like not knowing.
Daniel flicked the light switch by the door to turn the hall lights on. They didn't respond. And how could they? Rorschach had removed the bulbs earlier that week, so he could observe anybody who entered without being seen himself.
"Bulb must be dead," Daniel muttered. "Doesn't matter. Just be careful you don't hit anything on your way in."
"'Kay…" It was a boy's voice. He seemed preoccupied. Rorschach didn't move from where he sat, choosing instead to watch things play out before emerging. They passed his chair in the dark, without realizing he was even there, and entered the guest room. Rorschach hadn't touched the lights in that room, and they worked just fine. The yellow glow shone out through the open door, vaguely illuminating Rorschach's still outline.
"Just make yourself at home," he heard Daniel say. "With any luck, you'll be back home with your par- with your mother soon… How about we have some hot chocolate before going to bed? What do you say?" There was a mumbled response, and the kid stepped out of the room, about to cross the hall into the kitchen. He froze though, catching sight of Rorschach staring at him.
"Uncle Daaan," he wailed, eyes becoming improbably huge. Daniel rushed to the doorway, worried.
"What? What's wrong?" The kid pointed, mouth slack at the masked vigilante sitting in his uncle's armchair. He had his arms crossed and hat pulled low, and was al but oozing contempt. Daniel saw what the kid was pointing at, sighed, turned away, and then turned back again, squeezing the bridge of his nose.
"Seven days, Daniel," Rorschach growled in his cold monotone. Daniel pushed the kid across the hall into the kitchen, flicking on the lights.
"Help yourself to anything in the fridge, Ben," he muttered, and to Rorschach: "My sister got into a huge fight with her husband, and she's a complete mess. He left, and she asked me-"
"Seven days." There was a cold, unpleasant silence. It was clear Rorschach was less than happy with Daniel's actions, regardless of the cause.
Benjamin poked his head around the corner, sneaking peeks at the man with the inkblot mask. He saw his picture in the newspapers and the TV all the time, but what was he doing talking to Uncle Dan? The memory of three years prior, when he had been staying with Uncle Daniel for the first time, hid on the edge of his thought, never drawing to the surface. The whole thing felt like déjà vu to the eight year old.
"Would it help if I said I'm sorry?" Daniel was asking, making desperate gestures with his hands. His seemed frustrated.
"Could have said something."
"It was very sudden! I barely had time to pack up my things before I left!"
"Could have left a note."
"It slipped my mind!"
"Slipped your mind." Rorschach spat it back at him with disgust. "What you do every night slipped your mind." He rose from his seat, and growled in Daniel's face. "You forgot you had a partner."
"Sorry! It's- She's my sister! Family comes first, man!" The smaller man was quiet for a moment, covering his already-covered mouth with one hand.
"Not always," he finally responded, without any of the hostility he showed before.
"Yes, always! Always!" Rorschach recoiled slightly, not expecting such an outburst from his usually placid partner. "Jesus, Rorschach, what kind of childhood did you have, where you think family is unimportant?!"
"…Thought you were Jewish."
"Damn it, quit-"
"Was concerned, Daniel," Rorschach muttered, and brushed past his partner, sidling towards the front door. "See now you're okay. Take care of your family," he added impassively as he let himself out. "Can handle the streets alone." The door had barely snicked shut before Daniel was flinging it open again.
"Rorschach- I'm sorry. Really. I should have left a note or something, you're right." Rorschach, now just a shadow on the sidewalk paused. "I guess it just kind of gets to me, how you babysit me when I don't show up. Even though I know it's because you're worried."
There was a tug at Daniel's sleeve. Benjamin was standing there.
"You know Raw-shark?" he whispered, awed. Daniel hushed him, and looked up again at Rorschach, who was still standing with his back to the door.
"Still friends?" he asked. Rorschach turned slightly, as if surprised anybody would call him a friend. Daniel suffered a huge wave of pity for the man, which he carefully hid. Rorschach didn't want pity, never had.
"…Are we?" Rorschach asked, as if seriously taken off guard by the question and unsure what to say.
"I think so," his partner replied thoughtfully "How about you come in. The only way to keep Ben quiet to his mom about this now is to tell him everything"
"Hm. Everything? Even Twilight Lady?" Was that a smirk in Rorschach's voice?!
"Maybe not Twilight Lady," replied Daniel, mortified, and he stepped away from the door to let his friend in.