The wedding was perfect. The weather had graced them with a light spring day; not too hot, nor too cool. Michael was wonderfully handsome in his suit, and she had sewn a special ivory gown for the occasion, with lace and golden embroidery on the bosom. It was on the steps of City Hall, with their close friends and family around. His family anyway, those who could afford the trip out to New York from Minnesota. The rest of them would be waiting in the reception hall. His parents had disapproved of the civil service, but Alana had been adamant. It had been the only fight they had as she refused to step foot in a church. Luthern (like he was) or Catholic or kike for that matter. She had too much respect for God to defile a place of His worship.

Walter hadn't been there, but that was alright. Alana hadn't really expected him, though she had been compelled to invite him. Over the years, the distance between the two had waxed and waned, and it was waning again. She was busy with Michael; he with his own activities, whatever they were. It was enough to know he thought she should be happy.

The reception was a bit overwhelming, but with Michael at her side, Alana could stomach it. He had so many relatives to meet, and it seemed all of them had come. He claimed it was only about half. He wanted a big family. So did she. Marriage, then a baby...she conveniently forgot about the step inbetween. They danced, and then she danced with his father, and two brothers, and then the uncles... and cousins... he had enough family for the both of them, and then some. Janice was there with the boy she was seeing at the time, and Maria and Ricky (engaged now as well), and a few of the women from the shop... and that was all from her side. It seemed pitifully small by comparison, but it wasn't like it was a competition.

Finally, the evening dimmed down, and the newlyweds adjourned to his apartment. As he carried her over the threshold, he promised to get her a proper house someday, as soon as he could get a loan. He kissed her, softly, and she smiled. Such a nice dream.

Small cracks started to appear in the porcelain vision as the time loomed closer and closer. He would be claiming his marital rights tonight. All the while they were dating, it had been a relatively chaste relationship. The most they had done had been some very light petting, and even that left her with an uncomfortably familiar sensation, even though Michael's hands were never rough. As the time came closer and closer-he showering before bed, and she changing into her nightgown-Alana began to tremble. Was it going to be as bad as Patrick? No, Michael would never hurt her. He promised. Then again, Patrick was supposed to protect her too...

The shower stopped, and Alana turned off the lights and hopped under the covers. She pulled them up around her and lay on her side, back to the bathroom door. When he opened the door, she heard him mutter something, and he left the bathroom light on. No darkness to conceal this. She would have preferred not to have seen anything though.

A hand on her back, "Hey, sweetheart, are you alright?"

She turned slightly to look at him. His good, honest face was completely open, and filled with worry. "I'm fine," she lied, smiling to prove it. "Just a little tired... it was a busy day."

He leaned down to kiss her, murmuring his agreement, "And the best part yet to come."

Outwardly, she was neutral. Inwardly, her stomach did lazy flip-flops. Michael continued to kiss her, soft romantic pecks, lingering lazy caresses, and her body responded, but her mind seemed to be on the ceiling looking down. She wasn't really doing anything... she just had to keep up appearances... she didn't want to get him angry.

Evidently, whatever she had been doing was enough to inflame him. His caresses and kisses grew more impassioned, moving along her jaw and neck, as his hand undid the buttons to her gown and slipped inside to cup her breast. This wasn't happening to her. It couldn't be the same thing all over again. Her fingers stayed in place where they were on his shoulders and back, not moving, though tensing the more he did, gripping him. She wanted to tell him to stop, don't, please don't hurt her. She wanted him to protect her, like he promised to do, protect and cherish. People didn't do this to the ones they cherished! Yet... how did you ask protection from the person who was doing the harm to you?

He moved on top, the light from the bathroom illuminating half of his face, leaving the rest wreathed in shadow. Night and day. Black and white. He smiled at her, and she smiled woodenly back. Somewhere in the petting, he had lost the top of his pajamas, and hers were open, so it was flesh pressed against flesh. The heat made her nauseous, but then he was busy again, finishing disrobing and lowering her panties. Whenever he asked a question, she nodded, quick and rabbitlike, not hearing his words.

He spread her legs, moving between them. After some adjustment, he entered her slowly, and she about vomited, her nails digging into his skin. Again and again, the pace picked up until she was grunting with him as he thrust, a low guttural sound ripped unwanted from her throat. It didn't take long for him to come to his climax, and when he did, he cried out her name and nestled his face in the crook of her neck. After a few moments panting and trying to catch his breath, he raised up on his arms, and smiled down at his new wife. "I love you."

Alana burst into tears.

Michael got off of her in a hurry as she covered her face with her hands, weeping. He grasped her arm, rubbing it briskly, "Alana? Alana? What's wrong? Are you alright?" Alarm was thick in his voice. He went to gather her in his arms, and she pushed away from him. He leaned back on the bed, staring helplessly at her. His mouth worked for a moment as he began to ask again what was wrong, but stopped as she wept harder. Instead, he watched anxiously, awkwardly patting and rubbing her on her side as she curled up.

It took several long tear-filled minutes before she was able to even lower her hands, and another few until she could turn to look at him. She couldn't bear to look at him, and have him see her shame, but she had to. He was her husband now, for better or for worse. To her surprise, he wasn't angry. Tense, yes, and frustrated without a doubt, but not angry. "Are you alright?" he asked in a low voice, laden with concern.

She began to nod, then stopped herself and shook her head. Alana opened her mouth, the words threatening to come out, and found herself tearing up again. This time, when he went to take her in his arms, she let him, drawing comfort from the connection, feeling the warmth and solidness of him. Not a shadow. Something real. And he loved her.

Michael stroke her hair gently, not pressing her to talk. She could have fallen in love with him all over again for that. When she felt steadier, she peeled back to look at him, sitting up more comfortably in bed as she did so. She looked at her hands for a long time, glancing at his eyes from time to time to gauge the emotional weather. He, thankfully, seemed used to some of this behavior, and while looking anxious, he waited. "I..." she started, knowing he was expecting an explanation. "I... can't talk about it." How could she?

"Did someone hurt you?" He paused, the next question fraught with layers of anxiety, "Did I hurt you?"

She shook her head, moving it back and forth slowly. Drawing her feet up, she locked her arms around her legs, her chin propped up on her knees. "No...I just... I don't know if I can do... that."

"Have sex, you mean?" Now there were strains of anger in his voice. She shrank in on herself a bit, chin sliding down so that her lips rested on her knees, pressed against them tightly. "Why didn't you bring this up before? I just thought..." A loud snort and a rustle as he got up. "I thought you were saving yourself for marriage... I thought you wanted a family?" Anger and pleading mixed in his voice, giving it a harsh, plaintive quality.

"I do," she said, chancing a look at him. "But..."

"But what?" he asked, trying to control himself. She could hear that, see it, and thanked him for it silently. "To have kids, we have to have sex. Honey," he restarted, sitting down again and putting a gentle hand on the side of her legs. "It's normal for it to hurt at first, for girls, I mean, for virgins. I'm so sorry that I hurt you, but it'll get better." A pause, "You'll even start to enjoy it... I probably moved too fast, it's my fault."

"No," Alana replied, lifting her head up. "No, it's not your fault. I'm, ah..." She rocked back and forth a little. What could she say? "I'm just frigid." The half-truth burned her tongue, but the rest refused to come out.

"We can go to a doctor about that, ok, sweetheart?" The pleading in his voice was unmistakeable, the please left unsaid. When she nodded hesitantly, he gathered her in his arms again. "It's ok, Alana. We'll get this worked out... just... if there's a next time, and I'm hurting you, tell me, ok? I didn't know."

She nodded again as they lay down together. She felt violated, yet safe in his arms. It was a bizarre combination, each one heightening the sense of the other. Yet she was safe. She knew that. He wouldn't hurt her. He loved her. Maybe a doctor would help.


Nite Owl otherwise occupied for the night (he didn't nearly have the stamina Walter did when it came to crimefighting), Rorschach did his regular 'rounds'. He had a few areas of Brooklyn and Queens he patrolled on a regular basis, though he ventured in the other burroughs as well. If people saw his face, they sometimes stared, sometimes ran, and sometimes waved. It made him feel like he was making a difference...that the evildoers who ran knew who he was. He sometimes chased them, but oftentimes didn't bother. The minions ran; it was the head of the snake which mattered.

This night, he was in luck. A warm glow close by and shouts of panic alerted him to what was probably a fire. He ran, and was not disappointed in his surmise. An apartment building, ten stories tall, was indeed on fire. The blaze wasn't an inferno quite yet, but it looked to be spreading fast. Quite a few people were standing outside, gathered around. Some were weeping, and one woman was screaming, looking around, panic in her eyes brighter than the flames. "Seeeeaaaan! Sean! Where are you?"

It was her whom Rorschach approached. "What floor?" he demanded, turning her to face him.

"Your face...!" she exclaimed, startled.

He shook her arm, "What floor? Quick!"

"F-fifth floor... third one on the left," she responded, understanding he was going to try and save Sean. "He's a boy, about five, find him, please!"

Without wasting a second, he approached the building, going around the side to where the fire escape was. He leaped up to grab it and pull down the ladder. Climbing quickly, he searched for a window not filled with fire, taking a calm assessment of how long he might have before the building was completely consumed. It might have started on the ground floor, or the basement, but it was climbing fast. The fifth floor was filled with smoke, but not much fire. He broke the window with his elbow, and stepped quickly aside in case of any backdraft, then entered.

It was easy enough to find the apartment. Walter kicked down the door. The floor was unstable here, so he prodded with his foot, trying to find steady footing. Edging around the hot spot in the floor, he glanced around, taking in his surroundings in a blink. A child would hide, either under the bed, or in the closet. Down the short hallway he went, looking for the parent's room first. Under their bed is where he found the child. He had no time to try and get this kid to trust him, and so he grabbed the child's arm with a quick motion, and words of encouragement, "I'm here to save you." Without waiting, however, he hauled the kid out unceremoniously from under the bed, and cradled him. The kid screamed, terrified, and Walter winced. He'd have to work on that, but another time, as the seconds were ticking by.

"It's ok, you're going to be fine," he said, moving down the hall and into the main room. "Just hold on tight to me." The kid, Sean, wasn't stupid at least, and strong for a child. The arms locked around Walter's throat, holding on for dear life.

Walter edged around the weak point in the floor again, and out into the apartment building's hallway. The fire had claimed more ground, blocking his way to the fire escape. Without wasting a bit of time, he strode to the other side of the hallway, the smoke making him cough behind his mask now. Glancing out, he gauged the distance of the building next to the one he was in. It was pretty close-it'd be difficult to get a good shot at the roof, and he'd have only one shot. The kid was crying and coughing as Walter pulled out his grappling hook gun. He broke the window, letting the shards of glass fall around his hand as he aimed the gun.

After that, it was easy.

The flames were rising higher and higher, and the fire trucks finally on their way. When Walter walked around the corner, holding the child, the crowd cheered at him. Cheered. The mother rushed forward and grabbed Sean from him. Rorschach rocked back on his heels, unconsciously leaning away from the woman as she cried in the crook of her child's neck. When she looked up, her eyes shone. "Thank you," she said, heart in her voice. "Thank you so much, Rorschach. Oh, god, bless you."

Walter sauntered away from that encounter feeling pleased with himself. He went back on patrol, but the good feeling didn't leave. Deciding to capture the moment, he went to his favorite rooftop near Nite Owl's lair, and pulled out his notes. His journal was important; it was what he would leave behind when he was finally gone, so that people could know what he did for them, could know his thoughts and words as well as his deeds. Hence, he composed it very carefully, writing down notes on scratch pieces of paper making sure they were perfect before committing them to his journal once and for all. He wrote the notes in a cypher, that cypher increasing in complexity as time went by. It wouldn't do for any of his secrets to get out if he should get captured.

As he chose each word carefully, a familiar thrum caused him to look up. Daniel was leaving for the day, to go on patrol. He'd missed him returning from his date. He knew what direction Daniel was heading though; he could meet up with his partner and see what was going on. Maybe they'd be able to help someone else.

Cheered by the thought, Walter followed the Owlship, as best he could. He knew Daniel would either keep to the skies or land on a rooftop, so he didn't bother climbing down again, but rather found a path from rooftop to rooftop, using his grappling hook when necessary. About twenty blocks later, he spied the Owlship on top of a roof, but Daniel wasn't alone.

Instead of heading right for him, Rorschach chose the building behind. It was close, and he was able to make the leap across easily enough, shoes scuffling the gravel on top. He approached slowly, from behind, using the shadows to keep him stealthy. Daniel and his companion didn't notice, absorbed in each other as they were. They were embracing, kissing, and Walter couldn't believe it.

When they parted, he could see it was the Twilight Lady, the underground's vice queen. They kissed again, and the motions she made...

Walter slammed his fist against the brick, and turned on his heel to leave. That wasn't right. You didn't mix with the enemy! How could Daniel sully himself with... well, with a whore? The Queen of Whores? Disgusted, he dropped out of sight, and didn't approach Daniel for weeks.

He never mentioned what he saw.


"I'm going to ask you to leave the room now, sir, as I need to ask your wife some feminine questions," the doctor said, giving Michael a bland-everything-is-of-course-alright smile. Michael glanced to Alana and nodded. He gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze before exiting. When the two were alone, the doctor turned to face her. "No doubt these would be a bit uncomfortable with your husband around, and they might be a little invasive, but I need you to answer honestly, ok?" His tone was polite, but firm.

Alana nodded, clutching her purse as a shield. She'd already been through the indignity of the physical examination, and she had a good guess of what the doctor was going to ask. How he knew what happened to her she had no idea. She regretted not bringing the knife-she never carried it when she was out with Michael, trusting him to keep her safe-but now she longed for the illusion of safety it provided.

"Have you been with child before?"

Alana blinked, and was surprised into a nod. That was not what she had expected.

The doctor wrote something down on his clipboard, his voice clinical, "I thought so. There was some scarring that indicated either a miscarriage or an abortion." He looked at her, and her eyes slid away, unable to meet his gaze. Without asking, he scribbled something else down, then set both clipboard and pen aside. "Do you enjoy your husband touching you?"

Her cheeks flamed, but he was a doctor, so it was all proper, wasn't it? She shrugged. When he just sat there waiting, Alana cleared her throat and answered hesitantly, "I... like it when he kisses me, but..."

"You don't like anything else?" the doctor probed, as gently as he could manage. It still sounded sterile, unemotional. She shook her head quickly no. "Were you ever touched inappropriately?"

"It wasn't my fault," she burst out, jerking her head up to look at him. "It wasn't! I couldn't fight him off, and-" She bit her lip, swallowing her words. There were still some things she couldn't say, doctor or no.

He shook his head slightly. It is my fault, she thought to herself. Oh, God, what did I do? Can't I have children now? I really am going to Hell. She slipped back into stealing glances, not able to meet his eye. "I hate it when I see this sort of thing," he said, a bit of revulsion seeping into his voice. She winced. "God damned bastards." He cleared his throat, and resumed his professional voice, "I am happy to say that you definitively are not frigid, but you will need some help, and I can't give that to you."

"What?" she asked, wounded. "I'm going to be like this forever?"

"No, no, of course not," the doctor replied, picking up a pad of paper and writing a name and an address down upon it. "No, I need to refer you to a psychiatrist." He gave her a sympathetic look, "You're suffering from a mental block because of your experience. I'd suggest making an appointment as soon as possible, for the both of you. I'm assuming your husband doesn't know?" She shook her head, looking down again. "It's not uncommon-sad to say-but it is out of my purview. This woman is an excellent psychiatrist. She should help the both of you immensely."

"Thank you, sir," Alana said, taking the offered paper.


Walter generally tried to collar the big criminals... the crime lords, the mafia dons who had escaped warrants, the drug distributors... the ones who helped to originate the crime, rather than those who partook of it. If the dealer couldn't get their goods, they'd go out of business. It made sense, but it also left him a bit out of touch among the people. When he saw a crime, he sure as hell stopped it, but he didn't go looking for them, the petty muggers and thieves. There was no way of knowing if the petty criminal had a warrant out for his arrest after all, and while he could make a citizen's arrest, it raised all sorts of questions the cops (and politicians) hated about what rights and privileges the masked vigilantes had. Were they like officers? Or just wild cannons? No, it was safer to go after the big fish.

He never hesitated in rescuing someone who needed help, though. That was part of the dream too. So, when he heard the shouts, he turned a mildly interested ear down the alley, and moved quietly to investigate. It seemed pretty typical: a man was beating on a woman, presumably getting ready to rape her, or worse, kill her. She was crying, mascara running wildly down her cheeks, sobbing loudly in the cool night air. The guy raised his fist again, ready to hammer it down on the victim. "I think you should let the lady go," Rorschach said, stepping out of the shadows.

The guy barely looked up. "I don't think it's none of your fuckin' business, fag." He didn't see the mask. The fist descended, and the woman crumpled to the ground. Walter sprang into action, on the guy before he could even draw another breath. His left hook slammed into the guy's jaw, and as the guy reeled back, a quick leg sweep sent him down to the ground to join his prey. The thug had more life in him, though, and as he scooted back on his rear, he reached into a pocket and brought out a switchblade. Pretty typical for a creep like him. But as Walter was feeling generous, he let the guy get to his feet.

Now he noticed the mask. The guy spat blood, "Fuckin' masks... I'm gonna cut that off and see what's under that."

"A better face than yours," Rorschach said, loving every minute of this. It was almost too easy. The guy had been drinking and was swaying on his feet, likely from a combination of the drink and the hit earlier. With an inarticulate grunt, the man charged. Walter stood his ground, tense, but ready to move. He twisted at the last second and lifted his arm up so the guy knifed only trenchcoat. Down came his elbow, crunching the forearm below it, and he grabbed the guy's jacket with his hand. The thug tried to rebalance, but as his arm was hit, he screamed in pain, and lost footing on his right foot. With his other fist, Walter rabbit punched him in the kidney, three times in quick succession before getting hit himself, from behind.

From the woman.

"You let him go!" she screamed, fists and open hand slaps raining down on his back and his fedora. "You let him go raight naaaaooooow!" the girl wailed, her blows ineffective, but making Walter shrink slightly into his coat regardless. He let the felon go, who then fell to the ground. The guy backed up on his rear again, this time cradling his arm which must have been broken.

Walter turned and snatched the woman's hands in the air. "Miss, I'm saving you."

She wrestled around like a wildcat, until he had no choice but to let her go. She kicked him in the shin while he stared at her, confused. "He's my boyfriend, you dip!" she shouted. With that, she went to the guy, falling on her knees next to him, and asking the thug if he was ok, and that he was her poor, poor baby. Walter could only watch. Her lip was split, and one of her eyes blackened, yet she cooed over his injuries and tried to help him to stand. He turned away, sickened, moving into the night, disappearing from view.

What was the world coming to, that the victims would defend their abusers? That thugs would be coddled by innocents? It was unthinkable. It was horrifying. Feeling disgusted with mankind, he climbed on top of one of his regular perches, and sat down with his notes. He shuffled through them until he found his most recent scribblings:

Saved a woman today who was being beaten to death. She turned on me when I attacked her attacker, driving me off in confusion. How am I supposed to protect the innocent *scribbled out* ordinary Americans *scribbled out* those who need it when they won't let me *scribbled out* when they attack me? Am I an invader/an invading germ/a parasite (dont' like any of that, what else would work for an analogy?)? Am I just another symptom, a side effect of fighting the disease? Will there ever be a cure in sight?

It would do for now, until he could think of a better analogy. Folding the scratch paper carefully in half, he pocketed it in his inside coat pocket. It was getting late, maybe he should just go home and rest anyway.

The memory of the scene hounded him all the way home. Walter could not imagine ever defending someone who was so clearly in the wrong. He didn't know anyone who would. What kind of person would turn around and defend the ones who hit them? The Jews certainly wouldn't defend Hitler, and it was the same thing on a much smaller scale. Uneasy, he slipped in his window, knowing no one would see him at this hour. Taking off his mask and uniform, he folded them and put them carefully away in the false bottom he'd made for his trunk. He laid down, but still, the woman plagued him. It was depressing. Looking back at his career, he wondered how many of the victims went back to their abusers now? It was an unsettling thought.


Going to the shrink wasn't a fun experience. First, they went together, and then Dr. Carlisle had recommended Alana come back on her own. Money wasn't tight with both of them having jobs and living in one place now, but the shrink's cost wasn't small either. They talked about it, and finally, after Alana had broken down, Michael asked her to go. She couldn't refuse him, not when he was so concerned. He took on a second job, part time, to help pay for it.

Dr. Carlisle was patient, and understanding, and best of all: female. Alana could relax a little in the tan office, with the tan couches, and talk about how she felt. That part wasn't so bad. It was when they ventured close to the abuse that she froze up. Michael's main complaint during the marriage counseling was he felt he didn't know his wife now, and he'd thought he had...that and they hadn't had relations since the wedding night, some weeks ago. Alana didn't feel comfortable with it. After another couple weeks, it finally came out that she felt helpless and out of control during. That fact was a small breakthrough, and the doctor suggested that perhaps they try female on top-if Alana felt comfortable enough with trying again-to give her the sense of control she lacked.

In early September, after multiple starts and stops, they finally had sex again. The doctor's advice had worked to a point; she needed to see where Michael's hands were at all times in addition to being in a position of power. And she didn't tell him she had hidden her knife (which he thought was ludicrous when she carried it around) inbetween the mattresses. She didn't really "feel" anything physically other than the sense of penetration, but emotionally, seeing the love in her husband's eyes, she felt accomplished, finally, as a woman. With that to spur her on, they had sex more or less regularly. Careful and slow love was made, finally bonding them together in a real sense.

In November, she found out she was pregnant, and was thrilled with the news.


During the break, Walter wasn't really interested in Alana's pictures. She was excited-having come back after taking maternity leave-and couldn't help but to brag about her child. He didn't blame her-he just wasn't that interested. The kid was cute though, a little girl they named Blair. He nodded in all the right places, and made the appropriate sounds (which came out sounding more like noncommital grunts than anything else), and kept right on turning his problem over in his mind. Trying to figure out how to find latest drug dealer's lair was turning difficult. The mobster was ingenious at hiding, and had several hidey holes prepped, knowing the "masks" were after him. One of Walter's involuntary informants got out of holding and hadn't wasted time on informing the crook Rorschach was after him. That had driven the criminal underground, and when they went to ground, it was difficult to dig them up again, to say the least.

He nodded again, as Alana got up to leave for more accomodating company. She left with a friendly wave, and left him to his own devices. How to find him...?


Blair's fourth birthday was a joyous event, even more so for Michael as Alana had finally relented and allowed Blair to be baptized in his church. It seemed harmless enough, and they were very... relaxed. There were no confessionals, which shocked Alana, and their priests could marry! After stepping in church (Dr. Carlisle had told her back in the therapy days that churches were there to support their parisionhers, not condemn them-she certainly didn't know what it was like to be Catholic) and meeting the pastor for the first time, she decided to come to a service with him, bringing Blair along. It was a missing piece in Alana's soul, and she began praying again, but to this stranger-God instead of the one she feared.

She was baptized on her birthday, in a cute little pink dress Alana had made for her. Alana made almost all of her clothing, except for underwear and socks. She loved dressing her little girl up whenever she could get away with it, and today was particularly grand, with elaborate embroidery along the hems and cuffs of the dress. Her gold hair (like her father's) was pinned back with a couple of barrets. Alana couldn't have been prouder.

The birthday party afterwards was what Blair was looking forward to, though, and watching their child unwrap presents with glee amidst the neighbor's children and Maria's two children made both parents warm. Alana wanted to give everything to her daughter, being as it was likely she would be the only one. Michael had wanted a son to carry on his name, but with one miscarriage and the doctor's warning not to get pregnant again, it was unlikely. Both of them positively doted on Blair, and Alana never felt happier watching her husband play with their child.

She always watched closely, though she never realized she was doing it.


It wasn't often Walter approached Alana; perhaps those two or three times in the early days when she had seemed to need someone so badly. He did today, just before she left on her last day to single her out and say goodbye. He'd probably never see her again, but that was alright. He had much more important things to worry about, and while the long association had brought him some peace, his crimefighting was what he lived for. Still, it was polite to say goodbye.

After he did so, he watched her walk to meet her husband, who was carrying their child with him. The three made the perfect image of the American family, and for a brief second, Walter indulged in thinking about his father. His family would have been like that if his dad hadn't have been killed by Nazis. Well, perhaps not, but the family made for a striking image, a patriotic image in his mind. If he ever needed a reason to fight, that was it... so that decent people could raise their children in safety. It lifted his spirits for the rest of the day, made it easier to ignore the whores and drug users which littered his streets.


The world ended.

It ended for Alana when she got the visit from the police, that her girl had been kidnapped. She was at her new job, at a place that did speciality dresses. She was one of the most valued seamstresses, and well paid. When things were turning around for the family financially, after scraping by for so many years for her therapy, and then doctor bills for the pregnancy, the miscarriages, and finally the second pregnancy, she had gotten a decent job which paid her very well for her work. As the officers told her Blair was missing and a note had been left behind, blood drained from her face, and she felt like passing out. Although she'd read over the years about the horrible killings by serial killers, and the various murders and rapes and thefts, she never thought anything like that would happen to her again. She'd paid her dues. She'd made peace with God. Now, he was torturing her again, but this time... this time, her daughter was the one paying for whatever cosmic balance had come due.

They'd called Michael too, and thank God for that. Alana wouldn't have been able to form the words his baby girl had been taken. A coworker had to drive her home. The police had instructed them to stay there, by the phone, in case they had any new information. There were interviews for both of the parents. Alana went over Blair's schedule time and time again. Michael dropped her off on his way to work. She picked her up from kindergarten. No, she wasn't allowed to walk alone. Yes, she should have known better than to talk to strangers. No, she didn't know anyone who'd want to hurt her, or her family. A ransom note had been left at the scene, at her school, where she had been kidnapped. It demanded a ten thousand dollars for her safe return. It might as well have been a million. They were doing ok now, but there were still back bills to pay and... there was no way. None.

She paced. She sat with Michael. She tried to cook dinner. She sat. She paced. She jumped when the phone rang, but it was only Maria asking if they had any news yet. She paced. Days passed with no word. She paced. She tried to sleep. She cooked dinner, only to watch Michael pick at it. She paced. What else was there to do?

Alana jumped again when there was a tap on the window. A shadowed figure crouched on the sill, wearing a fedora and a mask which moved. It wasn't the kidnapper; it was one of those costumed vigilantes. Rorschach, after the test. Alana sat down hard in the kitchen chair, staring at him. "May I come in?" He was very polite, but his voice was strange.

"Yes," she said, folding her hands together as if to pray. "Why... Are...?"

"I'm here about your little girl," he said simply, his voice quiet. He posture was confident, but underneath was a layer of something else. She shook her head, and he went on, "I'll find her. I promise."

"God, oh, god, please," Alana said, squeezing her hands together until her knuckles were white. "Please find her. Bring her back home."

"I will," he replied, his own voice low and husky, matching hers. "I promise I'll bring her back safe." He paused for a moment there, and seemed to be regarding her. There wouldn't be much to look at, she knew. Sloppy hair. Red eyes. Chalky white skin. She turned away from him, bowing her head. When she heard his footsteps, she lifted her head.

"Rorschach." He turned, and Alana stared straight at him. Her voice was firm, a command almost, "Do what you have to do to get her back. Please."

He nodded, and slipped out the window.


It took fourteen false starts before he finally got what he was looking for. Fourteen misleads which ended up with people in the hospital. He wasn't normally this rough, but this was a special case. He would find Blair, save her, and bring the light back to her mother's eyes... to see the joyful look, the hugs, the family reunited and the dream preserved. The hollowed eyed look she had given him during their exchange had chilled him; never had he seen such a look of desperation, eyes empty of all hope. He would find her, even if he had to kill every last thug in New York to do so.

The fifteenth man was spared the fingers on his left hand-the ones on his right were broken by the time he talked and gave up the information Rorschach wanted. A dressmaker's in Brooklyn, Grice. The police still had no leads. He could have told them, but it would have wasted time, and enough time had been wasted already. The longer she went unfound, the more likely it was something... no, best not to think about that. The thought of that child alone and frightened was bad enough. If he spared a thought as to what might have been happening to her, he would go mad.

The shop was not hard to find. Dusk was settling as he arrived, and the lights were off. The man kept a couple of dogs in the back yard, fenced off from the street, but Walter went in the front door, like a respectable caller. From there, he looked around. Where would he have hidden her? Someplace quiet, no doubt, where neighbors could not hear any cries or screams for help. The basement seemed the most likely, and as he passed through the dirty shop, he sweltered. It was... warm. He glanced to the stove pipe oven, and held a hand over it. Warm. It'd been used recently, even though it was summer. He opened it up, and rummaged around in the ashes. Inside, he found bits of burned clothing among the ashes, including a sizeable piece of what might have been a little girl's panties.

He didn't panic, nor think the worst off the bat. After all, he knew Alana made most of her little girl's clothing as well as her own, and if he was moving the child to another location, it would be best to dress her in something more ordinary, less identifiable. However, as the dogs snarled and growled outside, playing tug of war over a piece of food, he turned his keen perception to the rest of the house. The next thing he would find was in the kitchen. The butcher's cleavers were universally shiny and sharp, and looked immaculate; another oddity, a contrast to the rest of the filthy building. Closing the cupboards, he drew a finger along the big piece of wood sitting next to the sink. The chopping block had been freshly used; there were fresh grooves chopped into it.

Walter turned those pieces over in his mind as he looked out the window, watching the dogs play tug of war with a bone. Burned clothing. Freshly washed cleavers. Used chopping block. The dogs growled and yipped playfully, the bone going one way, then the other.

Burned clothing. Washed cleavers. Chopping block. Dog bone. There was a connection, but his mind stubbornly refused to see it.

Clothing. Cleavers. Block. Bone. No. NO.

The world ended.

The realization which hit sent him into freefall, spinning his mind off its axis... Images surfaced in his mind of an innocent child, with her mother and father. Pictures shown. A happy laugh. Alana, so content because of her child. But more than that, she was what a mother should have been, should always be. His mind peeled back, regressing, almost rewinding, as his life flashed before his eyes. Women flashed before him, images of whores offering their love, of Alana and her quiet friendship, of the teachers who had taken pity on him, on the girls who had taunted him... and of his mother. His own... oh, god, his own mother had committed unspeakable things to a young child, until that child, until he, was filled with rage. He could almost remember when he was very small, and treasured the warmth of his mother's pillowy softness. That had been ripped away by her own hand, when she wished aloud he'd never been born.

That, of course that, among other more unsavory memories.

Everything opposite to that built up into his ideal of a family, of what a family should be: the dream, everyone's dream, what he was fighting for. The images were a collage inside of him, and he struggled to hold onto them; a small child trying to catch the wind. When his hand touched it, it shattered into pieces. His world eroded beneath his feet. A howling vortex was beyond, a pit of blackness at the core of his being. It meant nothing. All of it... meant nothing. There was no God, there was no plan, no dream; nothing that wouldn't eventually crumble. His mind plunged into the vortex. He looked into the eyes of the true face of the world... and it gazed back at him. The only thing he knew, the only thing there was... was evil. And evil must be punished.

Walter picked up the nearest cleaver and stepped outside. The shock along his arm nearly made him let go of the instrument, and the warm blood splashed on his jacket. He closed his eyes, a muffled voice from behind the mask crying out, "Mother."

And then there was only Rorschach.


When Rorschach offered her the coffee can full of ashes, the woman screamed. She clawed at him, and when he pushed her away roughly, she tore at her hair, wailing. The father ran in, hearing his wife's screams. He looked at Rorschach, and was no fool. The bone sticking absurdly out of the can was all the explanation he needed to see what had happened. He stepped inbetween his weeping wife and the vigilante, taking the can from him, and then putting an arm around his wife, trying to comfort her as best he could. When her screams had subsided, the husband guided her to the table, and sat her down in a chair before turning to Rorschach.

"How?"

Rorschach explained, and the father paled, hands tightening around the can of ashes, which was once his daughter.

"Did he get away?" The lust for vengeance shone in the father's eyes.

Rorschach told him he did not. Told him how it happened.

"Good." The father helped the wailing mother up, looking to Rorschach, his jaw set. "Good," he said again, savagely, the fierce scowl on his face mirroring the beast's.


EPILOGUE:

Walter hated it in Minnesota. The kids all called him 'Wal-Eye', and taunted him, saying that his mother was crazy. They didn't understand anything. His family had moved to Minnesota a couple years after he was born because his dad couldn't help his mom all the time. She wasn't crazy; she was sad. A lot. That's what his dad said anyway. She spent some time away in a hospital after his sister died because she was sad, but then she got better.

Some days were better than others. Most of the time, his mom just looked real tired, like she didn't sleep well. She loved him though-sometimes too much because she was such a worry-wart, always making sure she walked him to and from school, and never let him go anywhere without her or his dad around. He was nine. He could go to the park by himself! Sometimes, she baked cookies just for him. His dad teased she would make them both fat, and then they'd kiss, and things were good.

Other days, she sat in her chair by the window making dresses. Little girl dresses. Then she'd cry. He hated it when that happened, because she'd hardly see him at all. Then, his dad would have her take some pills, and she'd get really tired and go to sleep.

Today, she'd been really upset because of something in the paper. His dad had come in from the bathroom, half done shaving, and asked why. She didn't say anything, until his dad looked at the paper.

"Rorschach caught!" the headline said. Even here, Walter knew who Rorschach was. And Nite Owl. And most of all Dr. Manhattan. He wished they still lived in New York, so he could meet them, although Nite Owl wasn't a hero anymore. The old pictures he saw in his mother's scrapbook was enough to make him wish Nite Owl still was... what a cool ship that was!

Whatever it was in the paper, that set his dad off too. "Did you know?" he demanded. When she turned away, he had grabbed her arm, and Walter had tensed while eating his cereal. Robert down the street said sometimes his dad drank too much and hit his mom. Walter had said that was a lie, because dads don't hit moms, but now it seemed he was watching it unfold before his eyes. "Did you know?"

"I knew," his mom replied. "It was the mask. I didn't know until months after, but I remembered the mask."

"And you named our son after that... that..." and it was at this point his dad looked up, seeing Walter sitting there. "Go to your room."

He got up and went up the stairs to his room. Throwing himself down on the bed, he tried to absorb what he had heard. His mom had known Rorschach? Too cool! He didn't see why his dad got upset over it. And he was named after a super hero...and not just a superhero, but one of the most famous superheroes ever. He wished he could be a hero like that; anything was better than helping his cousins milk cows, or taking out the trash. Walter kicked his feet on the bed, chewing his lip. He wished he knew why his dad was upset over his name.

It wasn't like it was the end of the world.


Author's Note: More of a blog this time, in struggling with this piece. As I said before, I do have an outline. The problem is that it doesn't all fit as neatly as the first two parts did. I'm still leery about the pack of stories on the net popping up about Rorschach and an OC. Even though yes, they connected briefly and still remained friendly, I'm trying to show how much they moved on with their own lives and out of each other's until the kidnapping brought them together again. But not really. It's hard... I mean, this is the fucking part where Rorschach loses it. The theory of the story is pretty strong. I just think I'm woefully underequipped to get the point across. The best thing to do is to get the first draft done and tighten it up from there, clipping and adding as necessary, trying to make the balanced whole, but... fuck. Woefully underequipped to even touch the Grice scene. Problem is, I can't cheat on this and not show it. It's the whole point of the fucking piece. ARGH.

Part of it is that the "American family" is an ideal for Rorschach/Walter. I mean, what's the point in fighting crime if he thinks everyone is disgusting and terrible? He doesn't. He can't. Otherwise, the whole character would just be a psychopath without any morals. He does have 'em. It's black and white, but still has them. Alana and her family have to represent that ideal, otherwise the story doesn't work. Still can't see an OC/Rorschach pairing. I've often wondered if he wasn't sexually abused by his mother as well... it just doesn't fit. I can see Nite Owl/Rorschach, and I'm thinking of adding a chapter where Rorschach finds out Dan got it on with the Twilight Lady. Lol. How much to build up? Where are the parts that need to be built up in relation to this piece? The point is that at first, life was sucky and horrible. There wasn't an out. Then, life didn't suck. The dream was attainable. The third section I want to show the little cracks in the dream then shatter it completely, sort of like a dam bursting (damn I use that analogy a lot).

The other problem is I'm not a parent. God, I'd have no idea what it would be like to lose a child, especially your only child. Should I play up the drama and have her be incapable of having another? It's a valid device, much as I hate to resort to cheap tricks like that. Yet symbols are important too. Like trading your sword for a plowshare, Alana traded her knife for her child. Also hate spending so much time on something that's not canon, a character who isn't. Yet, again, it's the point of it, and since I started, I'm going to finish it. I'm so jaded on fanfic it's like ANY OC is a Sue or a self-insert. I know it's not the case here, but that instinct still remains. The question of anyone doing justice with an OC fic seems outrageous there's so much bad stuff on there. I know I should stop reading the other Watchmen fics at this time, but at the same time it's like a measurement, checking for any obvious mistakes. Still don't like the second chapter as much as the first. Actually, I wish I could go back and add stuff, but again, my problem is verbosity. It's hard to keep things cut down to just what the story needs and no more.

Hee. The reviews help. The detailed reviews help a LOT in diffusing some of those arguments in my head. Also, thinking this is getting too long, and I should split it into four parts instead. ~3/15/09

Side note: I can tell where I had to spend the most time editing. Mirror scene, for example. That had four or five rewrites. Those parts are the tightest, and have gotten the most notice, I think. ~3/16/09

Kept getting interrupted at work while I was trying to write. I shouldn't really complain as I have a job where I *can* write at, unless something demands my immediate attention, but oh well. Maybe tonight at home. ~3/17/09

Rain the Revenant's review made me LOL. Also, it was gratifying to see that someone picked up on the parallel. It was always meant to be a parallel like that. A friend of mine described it as a double helix-Walter and Alana being the two threads winding around the events/plot. Something like that. Finished first draft and editing now. ~3/17/09

OMFG did I turn this the totally wrong direction? NUR, of COURSE she'd be a mother-substitute. Too late to pull the analogy out of my ass? ~3/18/09

Last notes: I left my thought processes in this so y'all could see how difficult it was. This one definitely gave me the most trouble... how far, what should I show, how do I build it up, and lastly, how do I end it? I'm a bit leery about the last part, but I like it so much because we KNOW how Rorschach's story ended; we don't know how Alana's did, and... well, if you enjoyed her throughout the rest of the story, she deserves a proper ending too. I couldn't slip back into her POV anymore though; too exhausting.

Thank you for all the kind reviews. I still hate Rorschach x OC stories. I feel hypocritical writing this one, but as I noted before, it demanded to be written. I tried to do justice to the canon, but I felt underequipped. However... overall, I'd say this has been a success. While I still have a hard time seeing Rorschach with anyone, if it WAS done, I think it'd be like this. I think I've learned a lot about fanfiction too, the why's of it, and that's all to the good. Maybe I won't be so hypercritical of other people's stories (*kaffkaffyeahrightkaffkaff*). Regardless, I hope you enjoyed my version of the FOC story, and I thank you again, deeply and heartfelt, for reading.

Cheers.

Post Author's Note: I realized I never said where I got the idea from, nor the name of the piece. When Rorschach was being interviewed by the prison psychologist, he said that days dragged by in the Roche case, and he thought of the small child alone and abused, frightened, and didn't like it. He investigated it for personal reasons. This story was meant to explore what those two words meant. Was it just because he was abused? Except, other than the fact of the abuse, the pattern didn't fit. It was a stranger doing it, not a parental figure. So, why would this case above all others be personal to him? Again, this is just my explanation.