When I write these earlier scenes and feel that Rory dear is slightly OOC, I try to keep in mind that he really didn't become the Rorschach we all know and love until 1975. Right now I believe the year is '68/'69, so he still sort of has a…personality(?). There's also another skip in time, but not as long as the last one. I just kind of need to keep things going. REVIEW if you think it gets too confusing.
Music: Okay! So, "container park" by the Chemical Brothers for the first scene, "Le Jours Tristes [Instrumental] by, you guessed it, Yann Tiersen for the second, "Hero" by Regina Spektor for the shortest part and the part after, "My Dear Acquaintance" by Regina Spektor for New Year's, and then the obvious "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by the Beatles for the end.
Two women trotted along a street in New York. They weren't being loud or obnoxious for the hour. They talked quietly, occasionally laughing in the chill night. Streams of fog floated in their wake, the sharp tapping of their shoes accompanying their chatter.
"You came across the Atlantic to have a drink with me?" Jackie asked with a smirk, then a chuckle. "I suppose I should be flattered."
"Well, not the only reason." Lucy replied, shrugging. "Gets a bit insufferable to stick with relatives for long periods of time. Thought I'd come back for a few more years."
"Ta." Jackie said, putting her hands in her pockets and feeling a strange object there that she hadn't paid mind to in a good year or two. "Huh, look at this." She withdrew a little box of cigarettes and a black lighter from her pocket and looked at them curiously.
"What? Just your cigarettes, right?" Lucy said casually, not sparing the things a second glance.
"Yeah. I haven't smoked in about three years, though. So much has been going on, I suppose I just forgot about it." Jackie said thoughtfully, turning them over.
"Good on you. More than I can say for myself." Lucy plucked one of the little white sticks from the crumpled packaging. Jackie reached over and lit it with her old lighter. "Thanks. Hey, let's go in here."
The two women turned into a small pub with a flashing neon sign that Jackie didn't read. The inside was dim and smoky, but the atmosphere seemed all right and non-threatening. Only the gangly bartender looked up when they entered. The patrons at the bar kept their eyes on their drinks. A few groups of two or three people sat at the tables, muttering and chuckling together. Lucy made a beeline to the bar and sat down a seat away from another guy. Jackie sat next to her friend, still looking over her shoulder.
"Can I have a glass of red wine?" The blonde asked as the bartender shuffled over.
"Sure." He looked to Jackie.
"I'll take a gin and tonic."
"Coming right up, ladies." The guy walked away.
"We're sticking with the ground rules again, Lu." Jackie drawled nonchalantly.
"You're no fun!" Lucy whined quietly. "Come on, I haven't seen you in—"
"Three and a half years changes nothing, love. I control the tab, and then I'm walking you back to the studio and you can sleep there. No one-night stands with anyone, no driving yourself home, and absolutely no getting sloshed. I've always played the responsible one and I don't think I'll stop now."
"Fine." Lucy huffed and accepted her glass of wine, taking a long sip. Jackie grabbed her drink and drank it in one breath. When she swallowed she put down the glass and scrunched up her face.
Her friend laughed at Jackie's face. "Not enough gin?"
"It's mostly tonic." She muttered sourly. "What bloody git gave that idiot his job?"
"Calm down, Jack-Jack." Lucy chuckled. Jackie mumbled something under her breath before calling over the bartender, now with specific instructions on the g-to-t ratio. Lucy sighed as the guy skittered off, hurriedly making another drink. "You're the only person I know that's so calm about everything, yet almost cuts off someone's head if they mix your g and t wrong."
"It isn't that hard!" Jackie hissed. "It's gin, and bubbly water! Two steps!" She took her new drink and sipped it experimentally. "Much better. Thanks." She reached into her wallet and pulled out a twenty. "Here's your tip ahead of time. Just start up a tab."
Half an hour later, Jackie was only on her second drink, and Lucy was on another glass of wine, probably her fifth, now talking louder and giggling at almost any word that came out of Jackie's mouth. The latter gave up trying to talk to her friend and let her babble without really listening. At one point the guy sitting a seat away leaned over with a smirk.
"She's a talkative one, huh?" He said, slurring a little. Jackie's eyes darted around him, narrowing and reading.
"Keep away from her." She growled, turning back to her drink.
"Hey, I never said I was talking about her, kitty." He grumbled. Jackie felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Keep away from me." She said more forcefully, smacking his hand away. The guy grumbled something, but turned away and didn't bother them again. A few minutes later he paid his tab and stumbled out. Jackie and Lucy both stayed for a while after, but the former called it off and paid for their drinks. Picking Lucy up out of her seat, she gave a little wave to the bartender and shouldered her friend out.
As they began down the street, a hand grabbed painfully hard around Jackie's upper arm and yanked her sharply to the side. She yelped a little bit in surprise, getting torn away from Lucy and into a narrow alley. Quickly overcoming her surprise, Jackie glared up at the person she now recognized to be the bloke from earlier.
"You know, I wasn't really asking." He growled threateningly in her ear. Jackie thrust out a fist, right into his soft belly. The man coughed sharply and doubled over, but moved his hand to keep a firm grip on her throat, pressing her against a wall.
"Lucy," Jackie gasped, pointing forcefully at her friend. The man's other hand was getting dangerously close to places she did not at all want them to be. "Whatever happens next you need to stay right there, do you understand?" The woman whimpered, but nodded and leaned against a wall. Once Jackie knew she was going to stay out of it, she reached up to the man's arm that was on her throat and decisively snapped it. The man cried out and stumbled back, holding his broken limb. Jackie swept a foot under him, and then gave him a sharp kick to the side.
"Get yourself to a hospital." She spat, then walked out of the alley and patted Lucy's shoulder before tossing the blonde's arm over her shoulders and helping her walk steady.
When they arrived back at her studio, Jackie helped Lucy to a corner of the room and tossed a blanket from behind her desk on top of her. Then she went back to her piano and sat at the bench, put her chin in her hand and her elbow on the closed keys, and promptly fell asleep.
"You're a lesbian."
Jackie paused in her work. She was putting the final, intricate touches to her blade contraption, hunched over the half-dissected gauntlet with a thin metal rod she used to poke the various mechanisms. Her hair was sticking up at odd angles, carelessly pushed away so she could work unhindered. The newspaper on the counter blared headlines on the Presidential election and Vietnam and Dr Manhattan. Rorschach was sitting across from her, his chair kicked back against her wall and his fedora sitting on the counter. He seemed to be watching her, but she was never sure. The question he had posed, however, was so random and relatively personal that she couldn't help but wonder at it.
"Where did you get that idea?" She asked him, straightening up.
"Saw you with that woman yesterday. Seemed very friendly." The other vigilante answered bluntly. Jackie wondered if he ever answered anything with any other tone of voice.
"Lucy? She's my friend, not my lover." Jackie pulled the trigger on the gauntlet. The blade slid smoothly out, but got caught by something and jammed halfway through. "Oh, hell's bells." Jackie stood up, exasperated and craving more tea. "And for your information, I'm not a lesbian."
Rorschach didn't reply as Jackie filled up the kettle and set it on the stove. She set a tea bag in her mug and turned to lean on the counter, fiddling with a pin in her hair. After a few minutes of silence she wandered back to the gauntlet and tugged the trigger again. The knife inside shot forward, again, and got jammed, again. She released the trigger and the blade slid back inside the leather. After repeating this a few times, an idea snuck into her mind.
"So, you followed me to the bar last night?" She asked with a smirk.
"No. I just saw you."
"Ah. I thought you were that bloke for a second, but then you would be wearing a cast."
"What?" Rorschach asked, looking at her a bit more directly.
"Oh. Some duffer at the pub last night. He caught up to me and Lucy after we left and tried to . . . well." She paused and glanced down, but it didn't last long. "I broke his arm and probably a couple ribs. Put me in a bad mood the rest of the night."
Rorschach's reply, if he had had one, was cut off by the whistling of the kettle. Jackie turned off the flame and poured the water. Yawning, she steeped the tea until it was black and took a sip, smiling. She gazed down at her long-suffering device, half-pulled apart and still incomplete after years, before her gaze drifted up to the window. The last few beams of soft orange were fading, to be replaced by the deep blue of the night.
"Do you ever wonder if we do the right thing, Rorschach?" She murmured, taking a small sip of tea.
"No. What we do is right. It has always been right. It will always be right." He replied without hesitation.
"Yes, but you can't do this forever. I can't, you can't, no one can." She sat next to him with a sigh, stretching her legs under the table. Jackie set her tea down and looked seriously at Rorschach, her voice now dropped even lower, sadder. "What will you do when you can't fight anymore?"
"Nothing. I will die before that happens."
Jackie was taken aback by his answer, though in retrospect she shouldn't have been so surprised. She smirked dryly. "I expected nothing else from you, Rorschach." She stood back up and moved back to her gauntlet with her earl grey. She took her little rod and pulled away the front of the dark leather, peering down into the pieces of meticulously structured invention.
"Oh, here's the problem . . ." Jackie muttered, setting down her little tool and picking up two even more delicate pieces of metal. Carefully, holding her breath, she secured the line in the blade to the tiny pulley system near the wrist section of the blade. Once she was somewhat sure that it was in place, Jackie dropped her tools and took a deep breath. After a moment of deliberation, she reached out and gave the trigger a little, fearful pull. The long knife inside shot out completely, smoothly, and when she let go it retracted again.
"Ha!" Jackie jumped out of her seat, laughing manically. "Ah, I've done it!" She danced past Rorschach and into her room, where she grabbed up Leo and shook the cat happily. "I've done it, Cat!" Throwing the animal back on the bed, she pranced back to the kitchen and grabbed Rorschach's hand, spinning herself in a circle as if they were dancing, even though the other participant was like a statue. The kitchen smelled like tea, and the orange sun's light had vanished, creating a dark twilight in the apartment. The completed gauntlet was on the table like the shining diamond in her coal mine of a house. She almost felt like crying with joy—so she did. Not sobbing or anything like that; just tiny little tears that were almost invisible, and dashed down her high cheekbones.
Jackie made a little, teary laugh and sat down with a sniff. Rubbing her eyes and chuckling, she sighed, "Okay. I think I'm done now. Sorry."
"For what?" The rumble of Rorschach's voice made her blink and look up. It was a strangely grounding sound.
"Because . . . oh, I don't know! Because I'm acting like a bleeding idiot." Jackie checked her watch and took a last drink from her tea before standing. "Time to go."
As she was walking into the bedroom to change, she felt a hand tightly grab her upper arm. She stopped and looked at Rorschach. There was no way to tell the expression behind his ever-changing lava lamp mask, but the message was clear enough.
"I'm fine. I'm just being silly." Jackie smiled and gently pulled Rorschach's gloved fingers off her arm with her free hand. "But that kind of hurts." Rorschach dropped his arm at lightning speed and took a short step back.
Jackie smirked and trotted behind her screen, her shirt half way off before she was hidden. "So," She sang, throwing the garment over the screen. "Anywhere particular tonight or just the rounds as normal? You find all sorts of great places to clear out and all that, and I admit I'm eager to try my absolute brilliant little invention because I think I've really outdone myself this time."
Phalanx pushed aside the screen, now dressed in her costume, and bounded into the kitchen, gleefully grabbing up her gauntlet and strapping it on her right forearm. Giving it a few more tests, she jumped back into the living room and right out the window. "Come on, then!" She called down. "Baddies aren't out there catching themselves!"
Baddies were most certainly catching themselves. Phalanx stood on the top of a tall building, looking down at the city lights. She smiled behind her mask, loving that she was in no rush whatsoever. Criminals were sprinting down the street, heading in the directions of the nearest prisons. Phalanx turned around and picked up her tea, taking a satisfying sip of it. She stepped through the door to the kitchen, and her senses were instantly assaulted in every way. The smell of eggs and sausage, and those absolutely lovely beans. Everything was illuminated with golden sunlight. Dashing excitedly into the kitchen, she clung to the leg of a woman, whining about something.
"Jacqueline, please, I'm cooking." A warm voice hummed from above.
"But I'm hungry." Jackie moaned. "When will breakfast be done?"
"Soon enough, love. Now, go run and play with Lucy 'til I'm done." Jackie released the leg and ran off, back through the kitchen doorway. She fiddled with the trigger on her gauntlet and looked down over the city again.
Smiling at the person next to her, she murmured, "Hello." She leaned against the person, whose identity she was only vaguely sure of. "Good to see you." Her voice was garbled and strange, like she was speaking underwater.
Stepping down off the rooftop, she strode across the studio to her piano and sat down on the bench. She smiled down at her old keys, which shifted and moved like a lava lamp, but never mixed. She set her fingers on the keys, and the floor dropped out from under her. Her stomach flipped as she plummeted down, down, until she plunged into something cold. Water. She clawed to the top, but when she got there, the surface was covered in ice inches thick. Her nails scratched vainly at the ice, wearing down until her fingers bled into the water. Freezing water poured into her lungs and darkness consumed her sight.
Jackie gasped loudly, almost screamed, a huge inhale as she jerked straight up. Cold sweat coated her skin in a thin, sticky sheen that was barely visible in the dim light before the dawn. Jackie took deep breaths, running a hand through her hair to push it out of her face. She couldn't seem to take in enough oxygen. It had been years since she had ever dreamed that vividly before. Jackie heaved in a few more breaths and threw back the sheets to sit on the edge of her bed.
Leo jumped up on her knees, little claws pricking her skin. Jackie scratched his ears, and the sleek animal purred in contentment. Cat clambered up her arm to sit on her shoulder as Jackie stood, leaving little scratches on the pale skin. The woman walked to the window and threw it open, letting the chill autumn air fill the apartment. For a while she leaned on the frame, gazing out at the night. There was no way she was going to go back to sleep. Cat slinked around to perch on her opposite shoulder when Jackie bowed her head, staring down at her clasped hands. Letting out a long, winded sigh, she pushed herself off the sill and went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.
-w-Four Months Later-w-
A champagne glass hurtled through the air. It cartwheeled, end-over-end, across the room. Little drops of honey-coloured liquid jumped off the rim when it pointed down. Lights hung around the room reflected off its curved, crystalline surface. A thin hand reached up and cleanly plucked it from the air and in the same move filled it to the brim.
"Lucy," Jackie warned, handing the glass of bubbly back to her friend. "I'm not a Retriever, this isn't a game of fetch."
Lucy giggled. "Well, you could have just let it drop."
"And scuff my nice floors? You're mad." Jackie tilted back the bottle and took a swig. She checked her watch. "It's eleven twenty, Lu, and I don't want you wasted before midnight."
"Ah, where's the fun in that?" The woman laughed, finished off her glass and threw it at Jackie again. The latter rolled her eyes and grabbed it again, filled it and gave it back to Lucy.
"Hey, don't be like that." Lucy's boyfriend of about a year, who had travelled back from England with her friend, had come along to Jackie's New Year's party, much to her displeasure. She had no real like of the guy, and she wanted to spend time with her friend.
"I know how you act after you've put back a few, and I kind of want you awake for New Year's." Jackie grumbled, taking another drink. God knew she needed it. She would play on the piano, but she needed one eye on Lucy at all times. Who knew when she was going to throw glasses? On the piano she was a sitting duck. As she considered the possibility of being smashed over the head with a champagne glass, said glass jumped across the room again and Jackie caught it, frowning. "That's it, I'm cutting you off."
"Nope. Here's a cracker, amuse yourself for a few minutes." Her friend pulled the cracker apart with a pop, confetti sprinkling everywhere.
Jackie hummed a little laugh and took another drink. She was starting to feel quite a bit tipsy. Her gaze dropped over to her window on instinct. Standing, she stepped over and opened the window, letting a few fat flakes of snow drift in with a gust of freezing air. Lights were on in almost every window, the silhouettes of party-goers flashing around. Smiling, she glanced down at her watch, and noticed something else. Down on the pavement below was a single figure, trudging along in the relatively shallow snow. Jackie squinted, then turned back to Lucy.
"Lucy, stay right there. Don't touch the piano. I'll be back in two ticks." Her friend nodded, hooking her arm with her boyfriend's. Jackie gave them a stern look before clambering out the window and skidding down the studio building.
"Oi! You with the face!" Jackie had to lift her feet a little higher to get through the snow. She hadn't dressed out, obviously, and her tee wasn't much to ward against the wind. Rorschach turned around at her call.
"It's cold outside. Shouldn't you be indoors?" He asked, almost reproachfully.
"Shouldn't you? It's New Year's Eve, Rorschach. Aren't you going to celebrate even a little?" She rubbed her arms a little.
"Oh, no you don't. Let's go." She grabbed his hand and began tugging him along, back to the studio. To her amused surprise, he didn't protest as much as she thought he would. When they were right under her window, Jackie reached into the top inside pocket of his coat where he kept the grappling hook, and gave it to him.
"Are you climbing up?" He asked.
"Nah, I'll take the easy way." The grappling hook rocketed up with perfect aim and landed on the open studio window. Jackie grabbed the rope and began easily pulling herself up, blinking against the sudden onslaught of wet snow. She quickened her pace and eventually toppled inside the studio with a laugh. As she brushed herself off, Rorschach hesitantly lowered himself in after her.
"It's all right; we're not going to—damn it, Lucy!" Jackie snarled after ducking to avoid being probably killed by a flying champagne bottle. The green glass shattered against the wall behind her, leaving a small scrape on the plaster and scattering razor shards across the floor. Her friend laughed hysterically, throwing and arm around her boyfriend.
"Oh my god, you thould haf sheen your face!" Lucy giggled, doubled over. Jackie didn't find it as funny.
Running a hand down her face, she turned to start picking up larger pieces of glass. "You can leave if you want." She muttered to Rorschach. "This was a bad idea. Ow!" She flinched sharply, the glass in her hand tinkling down again. A thin stream of blood oozed down her wrist. Grumbling, she stood, holding her cut hand, and walked around to her desk, where she rummaged through the drawers for bandages. Smears of blood were left on her desk. Pulling out the clean cloth, she awkwardly tried to wrap her own hand when the bandages were neatly snatched away from her.
"Give me that." Rorschach growled, sounding annoyed. In just a few seconds he had tightly wrapped the cloth around the cut and tied it off.
"Thanks." Jackie rubbed the bandage. It still stung. She glanced at her watch and raised her eyebrows. "Eleven fifty-nine." Even as she said it, the minute hand ticked another millimetre. "Midnight. Happy New Year, 1969."
"Did you thay New Year?" Lucy called drunkenly. She laughed and sang, "Happy New Year! Kiss shomebody!" Before promptly leaning over and giving her boyfriend a good snog. Jackie sighed and grabbed a broom and dustbin. As she walked back to the glass across her floor, she brushed past Rorschach. The midnight minute slowed as she looked to the side, at his expressionless, shifting mask. The side of her mouth slid up into a small smile.
Time resumed its normal pace. Jackie stalked around behind her piano to sweep the glass into the bin. Lucy and her boyfriend broke apart with an obnoxious smack. Neither had noticed Rorschach's presence. Jackie finished sweeping the green shards into the bin and put it back next to her desk.
The next half hour passed slowly. Jackie reluctantly played fetch with Lucy and her champagne glass, talking lowly with Rorschach. It was a mostly one-sided conversation. She had made a pot of coffee at one point and consumed most of it herself. She caught and tossed back Lucy's glass with one hand and played random ditties on her side of the piano with the other, still making one-sided conversation with Rorschach. Caffeine helped her mood. Eventually, Lucy and her date decided it was time to head out, and Lucy tossed Jackie her glass one more time before giggling her way out.
There was a pause. "Why was she here?" Rorschach asked the obvious question.
Jackie sighed and rolled her eyes. "I don't know. I've known her since before I could talk. She's my Lucy." She chuckled. "Lucy, in the sky with diamonds." Her tone grew more sombre. "Plus I don't really know anyone but you. The other masks don't count, really. I don't know any of 'em, except for probably Dan." Her fingers, previously playing nothing in particular, began rolling out a rather pathetic version of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".
Jackie laughed. She knew that meant he wasn't sure what to say next. She checked her watch. "It's getting late, you know. You don't have to stick around with little ol' me. Or you can, I don't care." She fumbled on the chorus and replayed it. Looking up at Rorschach, she smiled at his guarded pose. "If you stay, I'm not going to seduce you or anything like that. I'm also not going to try to convince you to stay. That would be pointless."
Rorschach actually seemed to consider it for a moment. "Then I should go."
Jackie nodded. "Okay. And Rorschach?" The vigilante stopped as he was climbing out of the window and silently regarded her. Jackie smiled at him, a little sadly. "Thank you."
As he left, she could almost catch the quiet response, "Of course." But then, it was probably just the wind.
Jackie smiled and turned back to her piano. She wasn't a good singer, but she did so anyway. Her voice was too hoarse when singing, and unless she was playing she was out of tune. But she did so anyway. "Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly; A girl with kaleidoscope eyes."