A/N: I dunno, guys, I think Rorschach/Adrian is my new OTP; so thought I'd give it a try.
Title: An Abstract Identity
Rating: T for angst and m/m relationships.
Character(s): Adrian Veidt, Rorschach/ Walter Kovacs, mentions of Blair Roche, and the other Crimebusters.
Summary: It's the summer of 1975 and Adrian Veidt is about to see Walter Kovacs for the last time.
Adrian Veidt is lounging around his penthouse apartment. It is almost two in the morning, and he has been rubbing his eyes for several hours. There is a meeting at seven this morning and he knows he can't possibly miss it or reschedule. Still, it is impossible to talk him into sleeping. His pale eyes dart up toward the clock every few minutes; although he tells himself repeatedly that he is not nervous.
It is very hot out tonight and so it is one of the first times this summer that he's had the door to his balcony shut tight. The blinds are drawn against the evening, and he has to get up and part them if he wants to look out. He does this almost without thinking every few minutes. He's poured out two glasses of discreet white wine that wait on the counter in the kitchen. He knows they will need it.
He has his feet up on the sofa, something he doesn't ordinarily do, but tonight he isn't particularly worried about the furniture, no matter that it had cost a small fortune. (He's been told that his taste for extravagance is ridiculous, but he has always thought himself to be merely a collector of pretty things and surely there is no shame in that.) Surrounded by pictures, no one could mistake the place for anything but a home. Ordinarily it is so comfortable to be alone, but there is a feeling of dread in every corner somehow. It is as if every shadow of the night had leaked in from some unseen crack in the walls while he'd been out during the day. Now they all converge and huddle in the corners menacingly. He tries not to feel too alone, choosing instead to let his eyes seek the things that normally bring him peace.
There is the coat rack in the front hall, the one that is almost always home to a dark brown trench coat that he can't get rid of no matter how hard he tries sometimes. He can almost see the dark hat that sits on top of the coat except for on evenings like this one when it is taken out for exercise. The bookshelf in the corner is littered with random literature of various genres that he has never been able to weed out or separate. It gives the room just the right clash of disarray, and he actually finds that he's grown quite fond of it.
On the walls there are a couple of abstract paintings that he'd purchased a few years ago. He dislikes abstracts; he thinks that they turn what is clear into something indistinguishable and meaningless. He can't see the point, but still he'd paid quite a hefty sum for these. They'd been purchased for his lover, if he is quite honest with himself and he always tries to be. Adrian had picked them out because he'd thought that someone else would find them fascinating, and although the other man has never commented much on them, he knows that he was right.
Then there are the photographs. The framed picture of the Crimebusters, he often finds himself glancing at it. They had been such an ill fitting group in the beginning that no one had actually expected them to work out. Years later though, they are all still together with the exception of Nelson Gardner. He is proud to call most of the members his friends.
Also framed, another picture sits on the table beside the sofa. In this one, easily recognizable to most anyone is Adrian. He's got his arm slung almost cautiously around a more unfamiliar face. It's a much smaller fellow with freckles and brilliant red hair. He looks messy, but he always looks that way, no matter what he does about the matter. His eyes are a tawny shade of brown, they're wide and he looks terrified.
That is the most remarkable thing about the picture. Adrian can still remember when it was taken with perfect clarity. He can remember turning toward the camera and unthinkingly draping his arm around his companion. He can still feel the other man trembling against his side; can still remember why he was reminded of a deer in the headlights. Yet, now, when he looks at it he notices the small, tentative smile. He reads a million different things in the turned up corners of that mouth.
It was 1968 and they had known each other for almost two years. Walter Kovacs was twenty four years old and probably more innocent than anyone Adrian had ever met. He'd only known the other man's real name for three months, but he'd known for a long time that they were both dreamers. They both longed to live in a perfect world, a Judy Garland "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" kind of world. It was this idealism that was the cement to their bonding.
Adrian had never had a friend quite like Walter. His ever present cynicism was a direct contrast to the enthusiasm for doing what he believed was right. He did not do things half heartedly, he believed in everything he did with such a passion that it could make him quite fierce sometimes. Secretly, Adrian had come to believe that his refusal to compromise for anyone made him quite the tyrant sometimes. Still, he admired it, and perhaps he felt some kinship between them for this. He'd found that Walter had no education following the necessary schooling, and it was true that he worked a menial job for even more menial wages; but he saw in him a man with a desire to know and understand everything. At times he would find himself shocked at little pearls of knowledge that Walter would produce from some book he'd picked up.
He is staring at the picture when the door opens. He stands up automatically, at the door with the speed that had once made Walter joke that he was fast enough to catch a bullet; but something is wrong.
Still dressed in his trench coat with his hat down over his eyes, Rorschach leans against the doorway. His hands are balled up into tight fists at his side, and he's shaking violently. At first, Adrian is afraid that he is hurt; all else has ceased to matter and he trips over himself fumbling for the light switch. Electric light floods the hallway and leaves a sickly, yellow cast on the dirty white of the mask Adrian stars into. There is blood on him, but he doesn't seem to be in any physical pain.
"Good God, what's happened to you?" He is almost afraid to reach out to his lover of five years, afraid of the ominous shadows that seemed to be pulsating, waiting to spring on him. "Are you all right, Ror?"
"Fine," he doesn't sound fine. He sounds afraid and miserable. He sounds like someone that doesn't have a friend in the world. Suddenly, Adrian is anxious to take him into his arms. He doesn't want to hear about what has happened to cause this, he just wants to fall into bed and hold onto each other until morning came. Forget his meeting, forget the whole superhero business if necessary, he just wants to cling together and think about a world where troubles melt like lemon drops.
He reaches out to touch the collar of the coat, brushing his fingers against the fabric of his partner's mask as he does so; it is an affectionate gesture that he's often used when he can't do anything more personal. Walter flinches, shrinking down lower and shudders. "Come now, Rorschach, you've got something on you; and besides you reek of smoke." He crinkles his nose to show his obvious disapproval of this, hoping to lighten the mood somewhat, "we've got to get you out of that thing before you take another step."
A long period of silence passes where neither party will back down; and in which neither knows how to proceed. Finally, with unsteady hands, strong hands reach out and gently lift the masked vigilante's old hat from his head. He is slow about depositing it on its usual peg near the door, hoping that the usual movements would allow Rorschach to compose himself. When he finally turns around, the smaller man is swaying unsteadily on his feet, but no longer leaning against anything for support.
Adrian hooks his fingers in the buttons of the coat and is marginally relieved when he watches it slide off of bony shoulders. He puts it away and turns back for the last item, his hands don't quite reach the mask before they are stopped in a stubborn grip. If this sends alarm bells off in his head, he tries not to show it; instead he draws a quivering breath and nods. "That little girl..." Rorschach mumbles this a few times before he realized that he will never be able to get out the full story himself. Instead he lets his head drop heavily onto Adrian's shoulder and wonders if he might cry.
"Little girl? Blair Roche?" Puzzle pieces fit together in his head and the picture finally becomes clear. He sighs, stomach sinking just a little inside of him. He does hate that things have ended badly, but at least this is something he thinks he can deal with, no matter how tragic. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. You tried so hard, Walter." His hands tangle in the mask and he leans his face against him gently, inhaling the remnants of long nights and fire.
"If you could know what he did…" He makes a noise that is a cross between a whimper and a growl, as if half of him is a beast that wants to trip something apart, and the other half wants to weep like a child. "What I did...," he trails off and doesn't care to explain any further.
Suddenly the feeling of Adrian's hands on his shoulders, the feeling of their bodies pressed together is obscene and he can't bear the thought of human contact. He struggles, trying to break the hold on him, but the other man is bigger and stronger and the effort is in vain. He wants Adrian to say something, something to either drive him away or make him cling closer; he wants to know what to do to make himself feel better.
It breaks Adrian's heart to see him so vulnerable, and he needs desperately to see his face. He needs to know that Walter is crying and needs someone to clutch him so tightly that it hurts, to whisper that he's done everything that he could have done. He wants to tell him that he doesn't have to ever be alone. "Let me take your mask off, I need to see your face, Wally." He never calls him by funny little nicknames, but right now he's desperate to show his affection and it's what comes out without thinking. He reaches for the mask again and is rebuffed.
"Don't." Although Rorschach whispers this plea, he still manages to pull the cloth off and he puts it carefully aside, never releasing his grip on the redhead's shoulders. He doesn't waste any time pressing his mouth against the other's colorless lips, letting his hands get lost in the wiry hair. He wants to touch every tiny scar on his body, physical and otherwise, but he settles for clinging tightly and murmuring comforting nonsense. He doesn't even know what he's saying anymore just that he has to keep wiping tears away.
It's will be one of the last times that he gets to hold Walter Kovacs this way, it will be the only time he ever calls him 'Wally.' He won't ever see this vulnerability again. In another few weeks he'll be alone with only memories and pictures of someone that is dying inside of the flames that avenged Blair Roche.