The satisfaction of the previous night's successful proposal had barely had time to sink in before Walter became distressed yet again. He knew Laurie had acted for the best, but he couldn't help but panic at the decision she had made while he was at work. He knew he was just fearing the worst, but there was no stopping the feeling of dread that grew in the pit of his stomach with each footstep he took as he paced in the small space of his apartment. Laurie watched him silently for a few minutes before she finally intervened. She firmly took him by the hand and pushed him onto the couch and joined him with her arms around his shoulders.
"Why did you have to call him?" Walter asked her, knowing the answer already but all the while staring into her eyes with a mournful expression that was bound to make her feel guilty.
"Walter, it's not the end of the world," Laurie told him as she stroked his hair. Walter paused to enjoy the sensation; he especially liked it when she did that, though any touch from her was naturally welcome.
Walter allowed Laurie to comfort him, feeling a little too content at the moment to really care about Sam Petersen. Only one day had gone by since Laurie officially moved in with him, but it felt like they had gotten married instead. Having Laurie in his bed at night and expecting her there when he came home wasn't anything new to him, but the knowledge of this arrangement being long-term filled Walter with no small amount of joy. They had only just barely gotten engaged, but to Walter it was as secure as actually being married. Laurie seemed to have had the same idea, as she took it upon herself to call Mr. Petersen's son while Walter had been at work. She told him that it was the natural thing to do after being fully moved in and packed with no tasks left to accomplish but the one she had in her hand in the shape of a small business card she had found while cleaning out the remaining boxes. Laurie had agreed to meet with Sam Petersen at a nearby diner that very evening, and though Walter hated the very idea, he loved her terribly at the same time for doing what she did.
Walter had complained, of course, but it was futile as the appointment had already been set. So they waited instead, and though it was a mere couple of hours after Walter had returned and learned of the news, to him it was an eternity. An eternity in Laurie's arms was better than anything he could think of, so he tried not to express too much disapproval. He quickly quieted himself after making a few expected complaints. He only gripped Laurie's hand tighter the closer they got to the hour, and she played the part of his life jacket when they went down the street to the diner; his breaths were shallow and he felt as if his heart would burst in his chest, but Laurie glanced at him reassuringly and he tried not to let his paranoia win over as they stepped into the diner together. Sam Petersen was there already, much to Walter's chagrin -- he had wanted to delay the inevitable, though that would only mean it would prolong his agony. All right, maybe he was a little bit of a masochist at times, but resolving this was like pulling teeth to him.
"Good, you're finally here," said Sam Petersen as he gestured for them to sit down. "I ordered for us; hope you don't mind."
Walter and Laurie barely had any time to answer or sit down when a waitress arrived with their food -- pancakes.
"Can never really go wrong with breakfast," Sam laughed. "But, before we dig in... to business."
Sam Petersen reached down and pulled out a file, and from the file, some papers. Walter stared at the pancakes and wished he could vomit over them and ruin the dinner for everyone else. Instead he pushed his plate away and turned his attention to Mr. Petersen's son.
"Look," Sam began, as he handed Walter the papers. "I've had a lot of time to think about this arrangement, and I'll just say to you that I think I've been acting like a real jackass over it, and if you've noticed I apologize."
Walter barely heard the man's words as he read the text before him, then reread it again as he did not trust what his eyes were showing him.
"Kind of made me bitter, initially," Sam continued, "But you know, I hadn't seen my old man since I moved out, and that was over thirty years ago. What do I expect him to do for me, you know?"
"He left me his shop?" Walter asked in disbelief.
"Who cares about the shop," Sam sounded exasperated. "You're skipping the important part -- did you see how much money he left you? Must have been real close."
Walter relinquished the papers to Laurie and he watched her as she read them, the smile on her face growing wider. His forehead felt hot and he desperately wished he could rest it on her shoulder.
"Walter," she said, taking his hand when she had finished. Walter stared at their hands as if he didn't understand the gesture.
"There's the contract, lease, everything," Sam pointed. "And the will. You can read it, of course. No funny business here. Eh, I'm not that bitter, really. He left me the house, at least. You seem like a good kid -- well, both of you do."
Laurie and Walter looked at each other.
"Well?" asked Sam. "You gonna read the contract, or what?"
"Oh, yes," said Walter, taking it. Laurie read it over his shoulder -- it was legitimate, of course, but Walter could still hardly believe it.
"All right, just sign there," said Sam. "And a lawyer will call you."
Sam picked up his fork.
"Pancake time," he told them. Walter and Laurie just watched him eat the food on his own plate, leaving the others untouched, even though Walter and Laurie made no move to eat from them. Walter couldn't guess if he even remembered how to eat anymore.
"You can probably look into setting up the shop as early as tomorrow," Sam said as he reached for the bill. "Talk to the lawyer about the money, of course, but the shop's been left as is since Pop's death. I'm guessing you have the keys and everything, but no one's going to care if you go in there and start today, even."
"Thank you," Walter managed to say.
"You kidding?" Sam laughed. "Didn't do anything but bear the message. Lawyer would have found you eventually, anyhow. But if it makes you feel better, I suppose I can give you a tart welcome on Pop's behalf."
Sam stood up and gathered his belongings before he winked at them, dealing out money for the bill and tip as if they were poker cards.
"Don't spend it all at once, ya hear?"
Walter and Laurie gazed after the man as he left the diner. It wasn't until the waitress showed up half an hour later and gave them a dirty look that they finally made their own way back home. Once inside, they sat side by side on the couch, not saying a word. Walter wasn't sure what to do or say, but he needn't have bothered to rack his brains for an answer. Laurie made the first move -- it was her hand on Walter's thigh -- there wasn't any question on what they would do after that.
"What are you going to do with the shop?" Laurie asked Walter as they lay in bed that night.
"Run it?" Walter laughed. He hadn't had much time to wrap his mind over the idea, but suddenly in the afterglow it was a much more pleasing thought than it initially had seemed to be. The shock of the sudden information had worn off and he had finally moved out of his state of worry, and he could only be happy for his future.
"I figured as much Walter," Laurie rubbed his chest in an affectionate manner. "I mean -- are you going to keep it as it is?"
"Probably," Walter said. "Maybe expand eventually, but it's fine as it is."
"You should make a women's section," Laurie said, as she rolled over to look at him.
"Oh goodness no," said Walter, laughing. "I'm done measuring women."
"I was thinking that maybe I could measure them."
Walter paused for a moment.
"You want to work in the shop?" he asked her, incredulously. His brain was finally starting to catch up with the past hour, and he had to struggle to process the conversation.
"Only if you want..."
Laurie smiled at him.
"Good," she said with a kiss. "I'm glad."
"I still can't believe he gave me the shop," Walter told her softly, as allowed his eyes to close.
"I can," Laurie's hand was still on his chest, and she let her finger draw a lazy pattern on his skin, making Walter's eyes flutter open again. "You yourself said that he wasn't very close with his relatives."
"True, but..." Walter paused for a moment. He felt that he didn't entirely deserve such a big gift, and that wasn't even counting the money that Mr. Petersen had left him. How to formulate all this into words, however? All of a sudden his argument just didn't seem to matter so much anymore.
"Walter, if you think it was a mistake that he gave you all this, don't even continue in that line of thought," Laurie told him. How did she know?
"It's just that--" Walter had to at least try to pretend he was going to argue with her.
"No." Laurie laughed. "Are you kidding? You deserve it -- well, I think, at least. And I'm sure Mr. Petersen saw it the same way as I do."
Walter finally gave her a tired smile.
"If you say so," he relented. He didn't have time to enjoy the surprised look she had on her face before he drifted off to sleep.
Walter was up bright and early the next day, cheery mood matching the beautiful morning as he practically skipped to Mr. Greer's shop. Walter informed his employer of his situation and plans as concisely as he possibly could, and Mr. Greer's initially bewildered expression melted into one of genuine good will as Walter explained to him why he would no longer be able to work for him. Walter was surprised to realize just how fond Mr. Greer had been of Walter. It seemed quite obvious now, and he thought it was odd that he had never noticed. The older man gave Walter quite a few pats on the back and sent him on his way; Walter stopped at a payphone to call Laurie. He told her to meet him at the shop, then he stopped at a shop to pick up a bouquet of roses to give her, feeling a silly all the while doing it, as it was really for no particular reason. It wasn't until he saw the pleased look on her face when he gave them to her that he remembered why he did these things. He wanted so much to be distracted by her right now, but even Walter -- far from Rorschach's bidding -- had to admit that wasn't the ideal way to spend an afternoon when he could be busy reopening the shop. Laurie seemed only eager to help him set up, greeting the customers as they eventually entered. Walter was grateful for Laurie's presence once more when she cordially and patiently explained to each person who stopped by what had happened to Mr. Petersen, and even managed to mention their future plans for the shop. Walter didn't think he would have been able to handle it quite as nicely as she had. If it had been up to Walter, he would have put up a sign saying, 'Mr. Petersen dead. Under new management' and left it at that. Walter chuckled darkly at the idea and only gave Laurie a knowing look when she glanced curiously in his direction.
By the next day, Walter felt his life had returned to normal. Back in his beloved shop, he had to admit just how much he had missed working there. With Laurie there to help him, it felt as if they had been that way for years. Walter couldn't remember if the shop had ever been this popular. It certainly seemed the case as a steady stream of people came in and out of the shop. It wasn't until Dan showed up that Walter suspected that something was going on. Judging by the look on his face, Dan seemed to have known that the shop was open beforehand.
"Word certainly travels fast," Walter told Dan. "How did you know the shop was open?"
"I heard it from Hollis," Dan explained. "He heard it from a friend who heard it from Mr. Greer."
"What a gossip," Walter joked, and Dan and Laurie laughed with him.
"Remind me to order a suit or two from you," Dan told him. "Judging from the word on the street, you sell some nice material here."
"Same source says you're not so bad at making rings yourself," Walter said in an amused tone. Dan brightened and looked in Laurie's direction and she waved her left hand at him.
"You finally asked her," Dan said happily. "I'm glad. When are you getting married?"
"Within the year," Walter said.
"Well, I hope I'm invited to the wedding."
"Of course," Walter and Laurie said in unison. Walter couldn't tell who was more startled, him, Laurie, or Dan. Even given how close the three of them had gotten over the past year, the fact of it still seemed to surprise them once in a while.
"Hey," Dan looked as if he had just now remembered something. "If you'll allow me to direct the conversation topic elsewhere to more criminal matters... Guess who's back in town?"
"God, I hope it isn't Captain Carnage," Laurie moaned.
"No," Dan adjusted his glasses. "I forgot about that guy, as a matter of fact. It's Moloch, actually."
"Really?" Laurie looked surprised. "Just now?"
"Yeah -- well, I think he must have come back a little after word got 'round that the Comedian was off the docks."
"Of course," Laurie said with a nod.
"But I guess, with the whole Agent Orange business going on he took his own setup and hid it even better than he usually would. I just happened across a source who gave me some information on him."
"A source, eh?" Walter teased him.
"Uh, yeah," Dan blushed furiously. "Anyway, I thought maybe you guys might be interested in going with me to investigate."
"Without a doubt," Walter told him. Dan gave them a quick nod.
"It's settled then," Dan said, excitement apparent in his voice. "Tonight?"
Dan nodded again and they settled down to discuss a few things of a more trivial nature before he left the shop. At the end of the day, Walter closed up and returned home with Laurie.
"We should start looking for a better apartment," Walter told her as they entered through the door. Even the doorway seemed smaller to him now.
"I was thinking," Laurie paused and looked at him. "Maybe we could wait a little?"
"For what?" he asked her as he gave her a puzzled glance.
"I thought maybe we could look for a house," Laurie said as she put her arms around Walter for a brief hug before she turned and started to search through a box for essential parts to her costume. "We could start looking for one now, and just move in when we get married -- but stay here until then."
Walter nodded thoughtfully. He kept forgetting about the money Mr. Petersen had left him. It wasn't much -- the old man had not been rich -- but even meager savings added up over the years, and it was certainly more than Walter had managed to save before. He was still trying to get used to the idea, and of course, it had slipped his mind until that moment.
"All right," he told her, carefully. "We'll look at our options starting this weekend."
"Oh," said Laurie, looking surprised. "Does that mean you're going to have Saturdays off now?"
"No," Walter watched Laurie with fascination as she slipped out of her clothes and started tugging on her costume. "Just this Saturday."
"Sounds good to me," Laurie smiled at him, and Walter had to snap himself out of his reverie. He started to look for his own clothes and tried not to stare too much.
Fully attired now, Laurie sighed as she looked at her gloved hands.
"It seems almost a shame to have to take off the ring to put on the gloves," Laurie told him as she showed him her hands. "I'm afraid that I might break it somehow during a fight."
Walter nodded to her as he pulled on his pants.
"I know it's ridiculous," said Laurie, "I mean, how many people are going to pay attention -- but I wish I had something else that indicated that I was engaged to you, Walter."
Walter smiled a little but said nothing. He buttoned up his jacket and threw on his coat before he put on his own gloves, all the while studying Laurie's costume.
"Hurm," he said to her, as he put on his mask. He took the scarf from around his neck and placed it around Laurie's, tying it carefully and arranging it in a way that he liked to wear it. He stepped back and looked at her for a moment before he nodded to himself and placed his hat on his head.
Laurie smiled down at the scarf.
"I love it," she said, "Though I just hope nobody tries to use it as leverage to choke me."
"Don't worry," he told her in a mild tone. "I would break their fingers."
Rorschach felt pleased when she laughed. They playfully nudged each other as they left the apartment, checking themselves as they emerged out of the building and into the night. They stood under the evening sky for a moment, side by side. They surveyed the area as Rorschach got into the necessary frame of mind. He was a little excited -- after all, Moloch was a man the Comedian himself had been tracking for most of his life. At the same time he had a strong feeling that they would capture Moloch soon. He was quite positive, in fact. With his partner with him, he was certain of most anything now.
"Back to business," Rorschach told Nightshade politely.
Nightshade gave him a knowing smile, and even as they moved to patrol he couldn't help but smile in return. These days, he didn't have to wonder if she could see it -- he was pretty sure she knew.
Author's Note: Vaudeville needs thanks on this chapter for coming up with an idea that Rorschach would give Laurie something that would tell everyone -- "MINE". She suggested it about a billion chapters ago, however... and I'm finally getting around to putting it in. We couldn't decide at the time what exactly this thing would be, so thanks to my roommate for coming up with the scarf idea. Thanks, guys!
And finally, we are here at the end. Can you believe it?? Thanks go out to:
Vaudeville -- My first reviewer! Thank you so much for the ideas and support. I thank the fic too because it made us friends. (How many times can I use the word 'thank'!?)
MK08 -- Your supportive comments really helped me out. And of course, your own RxSSII fic. You need to write more!
Agent l Gecko -- You were suspicious of Adrian all along... Good job! LOL
Chargeable -- I enjoyed our conversations! Thanks for making the journey easier!
Queenofhearts214 -- I had a lot of fun discussing the fanfic with you. :) Thank you for being there!
Special thanks also to ColorOfInfinity, Temeti, Kairan1979, Riot-Angel, fEmAleNoMad, atheneblue, and SkarletK... I would also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to review my fanfic. It really helped motivate me to stick to the end. Thanks again, everyone!
I really enjoyed writing this story, and I hope you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. It was a crazy ride -- can you imagine that I had initially intended for this fic to only have a few chapters?? That idea seems ridiculous now. Of course, along with that thought, I was pretty sure that I was going to write up to 1985. This was before all the dramatic changes happened in my story. Now you know what goes on when you let the characters run wild... Suffice to say, it was a difficult process and I still don't feel like I'm done. I'm planning on going back for a full edit -- nothing drastic, but just a few details (like dialogue, for instance) that need to be tweaked. As for what would have happened next, I don't know yet if I have anything left to write a sequel of some sorts, but maybe if Walter nags me long enough, or if you guys really want one, I might. Also, I really want to write a Comedian story, so I'm might turn my attention to him for a while. If Walter and Laurie bother me enough, maybe I'll write another little something for them. I do have another alternate AU reality for them planned, but I'm going to try to work out the details before I start writing. You know what, though? After one and a half months of straight almost non-stop writing and planning, I'm exhausted. Time for a break! I hope you guys keep the look out for anything I write in the future. Someone mentioned fanart in one of my reviews, so I will set up a deviantart account soon with some of that. You can check out my profile for updates on that. And of course -- again, thank you so much, everybody for reading. I really appreciate the time you guys took to read my story and comment. Thanks, you guys!