I know, I know. I should be finishing Night Watch but this would NOT leave me alone. It refused. So here you go. One Rorschach/Daniel adventure. Enjoy~

Post-Keene, 1979

Jail Bird

Accused Bird

"Local ornithologist Daniel Dreiburg was arrested today for the brutal murder of co-workers Dr. Steven Smith and Dr. Sarah Tom. The two fellow ornithologists were found beaten to death in their office early this morning by a student trying to check his assignments. According to the janitorial staff, Dreiburg was the last seen with the victims last night in an after hours appointment…"

A red headed man carrying a large sign plastered with the message 'The End is Night' turned on his heels swiftly to walk away from the television display blaring the daily news to the streets. He had heard enough of the broadcast to know that the lying media would not be an accurate source of facts for the event. He also probably would not have even stopped to listen if he hadn't heard a familiar name amongst the lies and filth the television normally reported. Rorschach's frown increased as he walked down the busy street wishing it was dark and that he could get out of this disguise of freckles and tattered clothes.

Rorschach made a sudden decision turn down an alley towards his uniform hidden away. Against his better judgment, he found himself fully intending to get an early start on the night regardless of the daylight still clinging to the sky. A liar and a murderer had to be brought to justice as quickly as possible.

Rorschach dawned his face and scarf feeling particularly bitter. He had done his best to put Daniel and his betrayal to the cause behind him after the man surrendered to the Keene Act. Rorschach was no longer furious at the man, but he still thought him lesser for quitting. However, that did not discount over ten years of partnership, of which led to one of the few friendships Rorschach could claim. Regardless of the man's cowardice and failure, Rorschach still knew Daniel well enough from his daily routine to know when he went for a jog to where he kept the sugar cubes in his kitchen.

Daniel did not beat to death two professors in cold blood, but Rorschach was definitely going to find out who did.

Dan jerked awake on the stiff bench in the local police holding when a ball of paper smacked him in the forehead. He growled to himself before remembering that beating the crap out of his gangster wannabe cellmate would not help his cause. Dan took a deep breath and calmed himself. It was just his idiot teenager cellmate who hadn't gotten over the laugh of sharing a cell with an overweight nerd. Nothing to get upset over. Breathe, Dan. A second paper smacked into his head harder than the first and this time his patience was done. "Cut that out you-" Dan cut himself off with a choke.

Rorschach stood, back straight and shoulders tense, glaring down at his former partner. Dan darted his eyes to the side to see his roommate knocked out cold and slumped against the far wall on his own uncomfortable wood cot. The inkblots on Rorschach's mask were lazily moving about, but everything else about Rorschach screamed 'danger' from the rolled back shoulders to the fists at his side and Dan wondered what the hell would bring Rorschach to a police station. That was suicide for a guy still fighting the Keene act and he could get himself arrested and-Right. Dan grimaced to himself: Dan had been arrested for double homicide.

Really, Dan should have seen this coming. There was no way that Rorschach wouldn't take this personally. Ex-Partner and Crime-Fighting vigilante goes killer? Yeah. Add in Rorschach's brutal streak that came forth a few years before Keene and Dan would be lucky if Rorschach only broke half of his fingers and smashed his head into the concrete before he actually got to the killing part. Dan swallowed and tried to keep his voice down lest he wake someone up (not that he wouldn't appreciate the help, but Rorschach was a big boy who could take them all out easy enough anyway) as he made a small attempt to convince his ex-partner that jail was better than his personal brand of justice. "Rorschach."

"Daniel." Rorschach stared at the man who was looking slightly terrified, eyes widened. He hoped it was just because Daniel had just woken and up and had yet to adjust to the situation. Two years had made him lazy, fat. Rorschach growled slightly at the simple sight of his once proud partner so pathetic. Those familiar brown eyes however, reminded him why he was here. Rorschach pointedly ignored the other memories that surfaced as well. "Need details. Suspects for your set up. Names. Police files predictably uninformative."

"My…set up?" Daniel trailed before biting his lip and looking down to the ground feeling suddenly hysterical. He had to cover his mouth to smother the chortle threatening to break free. It was too funny. His shoulders shook as his body trembled not knowing if it wanted to laugh or cry. Dan yelped when he was yanked from the bench by his collar to come face to mask with Rorschach.

"Not funny, Daniel." Rorschach snarled in his partner's face. Daniel far too amused. Co-workers dead, man about to go to jail until trial. Shouldn't be laughing. Rorschach smashed the tiny voice claiming Daniel might actually be guilty like the rest of the insects running around the city. "Why laughing?"

"Sorry." Dan bit his lip to stop the chuckle, he shrugged. "Relieved I guess?"

"Relieved?" Rorschach replied.

Dan's smile faded into a tight grimace; Rorschach was still choking him slightly from the grip on his collar. "A second ago I thought you were here to kill me, so yeah Rorschach, I'd say I'm relieved you had other things on your mind."

Rorschach felt his insides twist in conflict. Pride that Daniel was aware Rorschach would not compromise justice for a friend, but disgust that Daniel would assume Rorschach thought him guilty. Not knowing how to respond, he remained quiet.

"Figures, you know?" Dan chuckled and shook his head. "The first guy to think I didn't do it and it's you." Rorschach growled and Dan threw his hands up in defense. "Don't take that the wrong way, but last time we saw each other you gave me a black eye and said some things I'd rather not repeat. It's not totally out of the ball park you'd like to get a kick in for yourself before the judge got me."

Rorschach had to give Daniel that much. Still didn't explain why he was the only one screaming 'innocent.' Where were their fellow Crimebusters to his aide? Neighbors? Character references? Rorschach had no faith in the system, but surely if it was Daniel it would be an open-shut case. "No one else?"

Dan's laugh was bitter before running down the list. "Adrian is keeping out of it to preserve press so who knows what he thinks. Laurie and Jon looked at the evidence and can't find a reason to argue against it." Dan grit his teeth and turned his head away from Rorschach. "You want to know the one that really gets me? Hollis came to visit me right after the arrest. He used his old job as an officer to convince them he was okay to talk to me in private. Do you want to know what he asked?"

Rorschach slowly loosened his grip on Daniel's collar and allowed the other man to breathe. He could see Daniel's frustration in his eyes and tense body. Reminded him of when Daniel would frown and growl at a particular problem with the OwlShip he couldn't solve immediately.

"He asked if it was an accident." Dan snorted and reached a hand up to brush through his hair. "Said 'it happens sometimes after you retire, reflexes kid, can't help it' before telling me I could admit it to him if that's what happened." Dan shook his head. "I told him that's not what happened but he just got this disappointed look on his face and pat me on the back." Dan sucked in a breath. "He thought I was lying to him, Rorschach."

The man twitched beneath his face. Mason was Daniel's hero, idol. Had to hurt. Rorschach snorted at the irony. Mason had never seen Daniel in field. Nite Owl had trouble going past broken bones in fights with scum and the deserving. Not possible for him to beat two people to death on accident. "Why suspect, Daniel?"

Dan threw his hand up and shoved at Rorschach's wrist to force the man to put him down. The ex-vigilante made sure to keep his voice lowered before a night guard came to find out what was going on. "I was last seen with the suspects, mostly. We got into a heated argument," Dan paused and ruffled the back of his hair, "Sure as hell left the guy alive, but I won't deny that I grabbed his collar and shook him pretty hard."

"Why?" Rorschach rubbed his knuckles through the gloves to keep himself busy.

"Reason two why I'm number one on everyone's list," Dan smiled. "Steve was plagiarizing my old papers. Apparently he had stolen some of my unpublished work from my home office when he was over last." Dan rubbed at his face and sucked in an angry breath. "After he retyped the damn things with his name and dates, he burnt the originals. Sadly, I don't keep copies of works in progress so my proof that he stole it from me is gone."

Rorschach growled before cracking his knuckles. "Scum everywhere."

"Apparently." Daniel moaned. "I saw his article in one of the latest research journals and recognized it immediately. I went to confront him last night and ended up walking in on him and Sarah on his desk." Dan held in the laugh when Rorschach flinched. "Regardless, I was mad enough that I decided to yell at him anyway despite her bra hanging off the table lamp. He denied it and dared me to find proof. I promised him that I would, at this point grabbing him by the collar, and made some vague threat to scare him." Dan shrugged. "Then I left and went home to cool off."

"Take it police visited you soon after?"

"This morning." Dan shrugged. "I have no clue who killed Steve and Sarah or why they'd want to."

"Stole your work," Rorschach supplied. "Could have done same to others who are less forgiving."

"But not more fit." Dan hid his face behind his hand. "I did think of that, but let's be frank, Rorschach- most ornithologists couldn't beat a person to death like that if they tried."

Rorschach tilted his head. From the photos and autopsy report, the victims had died of blunt force trauma. Fractured skulls. Rest of the damage was mostly bruising –yet another reason for Daniel's innocence. If Nite Owl was serious; more bones would be broken. "Damage could have been managed by civilian. Fairly tame."

Dan blanched. "For you maybe. If it had been a gunshot or something, I'd believe it, but their heads were smashed in. Completely." The crime scene photos that had been thrown in front of him during the initial interrogation would have been stomach turning for anyone else. Sarah's head had been practically concave from its place wedged into the desk corner. Dan however had only frowned slightly at the photographs. As expected, this had not helped his case with the police. The lack of disgust was associated guilt almost immediately. Dan had never wanted to scream out he was Nite Owl so much in his life; with a partner like Rorschach Dan had seen worse. Much worse. "It takes a little more emotion to pull that off and I just can't picture my fellows being able to muster up that sort of anger."

"Be surprised what people can hide under timid exteriors." Rorschach shoved his hands in his pockets. Researching Daniel's co-workers had moved up to his first suspects. "Think of anyone else?"

"No." Dan sighed. "I think instead of finding the guilty party I need to concentrate on getting that believable doubt into my case first."

Rorschach grunted in agreement. "Will do both." A rustling distracted Rorschach and he noticed the man on the ground had started to stir. He frowned to himself and walked over to the gang member on the ground. A swift kick to the head ensured another few hours of unconsciousness. Rorschach ignored Daniel's flinch and the bump raising on the back of the vandal's head. "Be back tomorrow with more information."

Dan shook his head. "Sorry, buddy." The younger man tensed and laced his fingers together, elbows leaning on his knees. Dan swallowed thickly when he continued. "My bail is too high even for my blood. Turns out someone has a good lawyer and I'm on my way to Sing Sing in the morning and will be stuck there until the trial."

"Hurm." Rorschach grunted. He wasn't too concerned for Daniel's safety in the prison. Surely not all his skills as Nite Owl had diminished in only two years. Rorschach smiled slightly under his mask. The inmates at Sing Sing would get a nasty surprise if they attacked the frumpy man in the glasses. Rorschach frowned again though at the idea of Daniel in prison. Didn't belong there. "Will have to work faster than thought."

"Yeah," Dan laughed before pulling down his glasses and wiping them on a sweaty dress shirt. "You do that, buddy."

Rorschach ignored the sarcasm and headed back out of the cell the way he got in.