Title: Squeaky Clean
Characters: Rorschach, Dan
Word Count: 2,076
Summary: Dan tackles a terrifying subject… Rorschach's hygiene.
A/N: Can you guys tell that I've been on a Watchmen kick lately? :p It's definitely in part because I picked up Minutemen #1 yesterday! Woo! Seriously, my comic shop opens at 10:00 and I was there at 10:15 lol. I really encourage all you Watchmen fans to keep up with Before Watchmen. Personally, I think it's a fabulous idea. Yes, Moore's work is a masterpiece but one of the characteristics that make comics unique as a medium is its ability to reuse characters. It would be a shame if some of our best – like Dan and Rorschach – never got the chance to be explored by other artists. Even if you're completely against the project – pick up a copy anyway. If you hate something it's always important to be informed so that you can defend why you hate it. We can learn a lot through things we don't agree with! /end rant.
"Hey buddy, if I ask you a question will you promise not to punch me?"
Dan sat at his kitchen table, playing host to the underworld's most feared vigilante. Said vigilante was currently making an impressive dent in a frightfully large plate of spaghetti. Dan's counter, doing battle against cheese-laden sauce, would never be the same again.
Rorschach hummed as a strand of pasta disappeared between his lips. Thoughtfully, he wiped his mouth on his trench coast sleeve. Dan winced.
"Impossible to say." He grunted.
"Oh come on! Surely you can promise not to sock me!
"No. Will punch you if deserving of it. Should know this by now, Daniel."
Scoffing, Dan rolled his eyes. Tipping his chair back on its hind legs he balanced there a moment, thinking. "I'm just going to be blunt then."
"Expect no less."
"It's really the best way to go about this."
"All righty then - you stink Rorschach."
The forkful of spaghetti halted halfway to his mouth and hovered there a moment. Rorschach carefully, almost hesitantly, lowered the utensil back to his plate. He rubbed one gloved hand over his mouth again - spreading more sauce along the way – and finally nodded. "Didn't think you'd actually be blunt." He said. "Should have known better. Nite Owl doesn't shy away from the truth, Dreigberg shouldn't either." He nodded again, confidently. "Good of you, Daniel."
Dan let his chair fall back with a bang. "Good of- Rorschach did you hear me?"
"Henk. Stupid question. Obviously heard you."
"And you're uh… not going to punch me?"
"Oh. Well good."
Dan picked up with his owl saltshaker, running his finger along the pointed ears. Rorschach resumed the inhalation of his spaghetti. "So yeah... what are you going to do about it?"
"Do about what?"
"Rorschach!" Salt flew in every direction, some of it landing on Rorschach's trench. He shook it off without even pausing to lower his fork. "You aren't listening to me are you? Rorschach, you stink! And quite frankly it's getting on my nerves."
"No need to be sensitive, Daniel."
"Sensitive? You smell like curdled milk. And mildew. And those newspapers we find stuffed in the sewers. It's awful!"
"I'm convinced you have selected smelling."
"And you know what else, man? It's not just annoying, it's distracting. You realize it's harder to concentrate on patrol when I've got you reeking beside me?"
For the first time Rorschach actually stopped eating, lifted his head, and seemed to pay attention. He stared at Dan for a long moment – and he knew he was starring because the ink blots barely moved. A neutral temperature, and a completely stationary Rorschach. It was a scary thing to contemplate.
Dan blinked. "Uh no, actually I'm not." He put down the saltshaker, tapping it thoughtfully. "Did you ever take biology?"
There was a tensing, starting in Rorschach's wrists and working its way up his body. That, however, wasn't anything unusual. Rorschach tensed if anyone came within his three-mile personal bubble, eyeing the newcomer with all the love of a rabid mongoose. Rather, the interesting reaction was that he looked away, turning the mask from Dan and aiming it towards the stovetop. It was the same reaction he had whenever his education was mentioned – or the lack thereof. But, if there was one thing Rorschach was not, it was a liar. He'd refuse to answer your questions, flat out ignore them, or pummel you if you went too far… but he'd never outright lie. Not to one of his own, at least. So when he drew in a small breath Dan knew that whatever was said should be acknowledged and respected.
"Just a little."
"Great." Dan nodded. "Well, I don't know if your teachers got into this but smell is one of our strongest senses. You can recall deep memories just from catching a whiff of a related scent. And that doesn't even compare to some animals. Of course, birds don't really rely on scent that much. People never seem to get that though! They all think that if you handle a fledgling the mother won't take it back because they – I don't know – suddenly smell human or something but-"
"Enough about birds."
"Oh… right. Sorry." Fiddle with your glasses. Best way to gain time. "Listen. What I'm trying to say is… I don't know what I want to say, really. I'm not trying to be mean-"
"Mm." Rorschach picked up his fork and as it rose, Dan's shoulders relaxed. Ror wouldn't be eating if he was actually mad. He'd be tossing the plate straight at Dan's neck and heading for the door. So yeah, good sign. "Not one to be mean, Daniel." He said, scooping up sauce. "I appreciate honesty. As said, too many shy away from the truth. They become self-deceptive, couching themselves in fantasies that quickly turn sick. Vile. Unnatural. It's a slippery slop, Daniel. Glad to see you still have your footing."
"Right…" So Dan wasn't a liar either? That was… also good. Okay. He'd focus on that, and just ignore all those other interesting opinions. They'd tackle those later. "So about your hygiene-"
"Sorry." Rorschach popped off the top of a box of parmesan cheese and began sprinkling pinch-fulls into his mouth. He didn't sound very sorry. "Water supply at apartment is unreliable. Also, it's probably filled with synthetics, not sure what though. Need to investigate further. But if smell really bothers you, should think of investing in nose plugs. Normally, they should be avoided at all costs – businessmen coat them in chemicals that will influence your thought process, make you buy their merchandise – but I'll keep an eye on you. Check your bank statements." He took a handful of parmesan and inhaled it.
That was oddly… sweet. Dan smiled. "Uh, thanks. But, I thought ahead! Already worked out the water problem, come on." Feeling childish, he dumped a bit of salt in his hand and threw it at his partner while running past. Rorschach grunted, catching it in the fold of his coat and then deliberately dropping it on the clean floor. Dan laughed.
"Come on, come on." He could hear Rorschach following, stopping only to pull down his mask again. Dan took the stairs two at a time, all at once feeling oddly excited about all this. It was a little thing, but something he thought Rorschach would appreciate.
They reached the second landing where Dan had his bedroom, the guestroom, an old work closet (that was quickly abandoned once he started in on the basement) and, directly in front of them, was a small bathroom.
"Ta da!" Dan gestured towards the door, distinctly aware that his partner would think he was nuts. Well, more nuts than usual.
Dan chuckled. He ignored a sudden urge to slap Rorschach on the back. Or punch his arm, or – heaven forbid – nudge him in the ribs. Manly expressions of affection just didn't work with him. "Here, just let me show you." He moved to open the door, allowing Rorschach his customary space to dodge in case of attack. Even within his own home, safe and cozy, they worked as an instinctive team.
"Ta da" Dan said more quietly, pointing to the top of the door. "See? The guy was here to replace – ahem – another lock and I had some bolts set up too. Three actually. Bit overkill, but I thought… never mind. Just, you can lock the door, right? And you'll be safe. Of course, you are safe here, of course you are, but…" Dan didn't need to see Rorschach's face to know he was rambling a bit. His partner was starring at the locks, unmoving, unspeaking.
"Look," Dan said. "I had the window blacked out, and we're on the second floor, so no one is looking in there. The bolts are just extra protection" - he would not use the term 'security blanket' with Rorschach, - "because I'm giving you this." Dan held out a small key, waiting an agonizing moment for his partner to take it. "It's the only copy. I had another but it was destroyed. Well… " A teasing grin, despite his best efforts, started to grow on Dan's face. "I really gave it to a jeweler to melt down so I suppose there's always the chance that he kept it. And maybe he'll figure out what it's to, then he'll somehow connect you with me and he'll follow you here, using the key and attacking when you least expect it." Dan lounged against the door jam, all fake seriousness. "It could happen…"
"But highly unlikely." Rorschach muttered.
Lightly, with one gloved finger, Rorschach touched the highest bolt. It clanked against the wood and he drew back, as if startled by the noise.
"You did all this for me?" He questioned, voice softer than a psychotic vigilante's had any right to be.
"Of course. Who else would it be for?"
"I figured you could shower here, maybe after patrol. You usually hang around anyway, so maybe you could get cleaned up while I make some food. It's just a thought. I swear, that's the only key and I won't be using this bathroom from now on. I'll use the one downstairs, or the basement's shower… kay?"
They stood there a long moment, the silence moving from familiar to uncomfortable. Finally, Dan slunk back into the hallway and closed the door. Maybe he'd made a mistake. Rorschach – regardless of how much he cared for him – was a paranoid, so what made Dan think he'd be okay with showering in another's home – even if it was Dan's? Worst case scenario, Rorschach gives the key back and questions how his partner could know so little about him after so much time. Best case scenario, he just thinks Dan is an idiot.
Well, that wasn't anything new. And he'd tried.
The silence was thickening. Time for damage control.
"Right." Dan said, trying to smile. "It was just a thought. Listen, I've got more leftovers in the fridge if you're interested. God knows they'll probably just sit if you don't-"
He'd been heading back down the hallway, desperate to end this, and for all his courage it took quite a bit of strength to look back at his partner.
Rorschach was looking at the key in his palm, the metal reflecting some of the light that skimmed off his mask. With all the lack of finesse one would expect, he dumped it into one of those endless pockets.
"I'll think about it." He muttered. Then, in a stronger voice: "More leftovers?"
Dan felt like he'd taken down a whole herd of knot tops – singlehandedly, blindfolded, and quickly enough to still make it home in time for his favorite TV show.
"You bet! Come on, I think there's Chinese tucked away somewhere."
"Fortune cookies. Should avoid them Daniel, full of deceptive sentimentality. Bad for you."
"Of course they are." Dan may have been light on his feet while heading downstairs, but it definitely wasn't a skip.
Four months later and the upstairs bathroom hadn't been touched. Rorschach may have avoided it but Daniel kept up his end of the bargain too, using only the other facilities. He didn't say anything else about the smell or Rorschach's appalling lack of hygiene, he just sterilized wounds and tried to schedule patrol on rainy days.
Even if the bathroom wasn't put to practical use, it was still a symbol of equal trust: Dan's gift as well as his promise, coupled with Rorschach's willingness to take the key. That, as far as he was concerned, was a huge step. Really, the more Dan thought about it, the less he needed Rorschach to use it. That just wasn't the point anymore.
But during the fifth month, while getting a glass of water late at night, Dan heard the tell-tale rustling in the kitchen. Bleary eyed and stiff, he headed straight back to bed. After all, Rorschach knew where the food was and would – hopefully – put the dishes in the sink and not on the banister. Or the couch.
It was only when he was in that halfway point between drowsiness and sleep that Dan took note of a new sound, this one foreign to him. It was the sound of water, hot and steaming, just two doors down from where he lay.
Smiling, Dan drifted off to sleep.