A/N: My foray into the Watchmen fandom started because I wanted to learn more about Ursula Zandt. Currently my knowledge is limited to (most) of the comic, the film, and sadly no Minutemen/Before Watchmen books yet, but my love for her knows no bounds.
The title is taken from song by my babies The Indelicates: "New Art for the People."
The year was 1945. Japan had finally surrendered; the joy in the air was palpable, they had all been waiting for this. Sure, it was a bittersweet feeling when you'd lost everyone and you were all alone with yourself, when you'd spent nights on the cold, hard floors in the orphanages overrun by horrid villains, when you'd narrowly avoided being tortured and killed yourself because you managed to find a pistol and your shaking fingers managed to pull the trigger and hit the shot just right. But there was no more mutiny; only victory. They were America, and they'd won.
Gretchen's eyes were shining and a curl had escaped her prim, neat nurse's hat and as she laughed, Ursula pressed her lips to the neat cupid's bow of her darling's, the two of them were caught in the moment as lovers all around them embraced and no-one said a word, they just cheered. No-one protested that the Silhouette's hands were not the large, clumsy hands of a sailor's, or that her body was lithe and tall, soft curves instead of harsh lines and angles. A camera flashed.
Ursula had to admit that it was perfect cinematography; she and Gretchen, pistol-wielders, the ingenue and the femme fatale, against a backdrop of lovers. She was even foolish to let herself believe that it was the end of that. The Americans were so different from Nazis. The times would move on. Of course, she was wrong.
She had to pretend it was a gimmick for the press, a spur-of-the-moment thing. Gretchen understood, or said she did. No-one cared if they were Austrians, Krauts, but two women fucking, yeah, that was different, even if they stood side-by-side when they were scared, even if they held a gun to the head of someone who tried to hurt the other and didn't care if the bullet ended up in their own temple - even if they were just a nurse and an orphan, really, but they held each other close when they shook and writhed and sweat with fear, when it was dark and the moon was unforgiving.
You can't live like this for very long, not if your identity depends on being in the public eye because you won't hide your face away, not any more. Not if your happiness depends on something that could very well have you killed because people don't like it if you take somebody to bed that they don't approve of, if you're harsh and sarcastic sometimes and you tend to sneer more than you smile genuinely, if you're not being constantly fucked and put in your place and waiting until someone decides they want to rescue you.
And if they do, you have to get down onto your knees, apparently and be very, very grateful, and open your mouth like a very, very good girl.
She knows they can't live like this for very long and they can't play pretend in a world that isn't safe for them and doesn't approve of their little games. But until that day comes, they can sleep curled up in the same bed, they can wear stockings that don't have holes in and they can buy Christmas presents and they don't have to run away and pick pockets for money, and best of all, they never have to apologise for who they are.
When she was apologised to - because really, the Silhouette was a great crime-fighter and she was tough and she knew how to use a gun and all, but she was in love with a woman and they couldn't have someone like that on the team (it was all well and good saving people from depravity and killing the bastards who made pornos with children, but what Ursula and Gretchen were doing was immoral), she looked at them - the Comedian, the Silk Spectre, even Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis when they weren't busy fucking against some surface or another - and she walked away, and maybe she wasn't the Silhouette anymore but she was Ursula Zandt and she was okay, she'd survived -
- and then there was a man with a gun and oh, God, everything was so dark and everything was pain, and there was a fist, with a glove. And when it hit her stomach the first time, she cried out. She tried to move but her limbs were like lead and she couldn't curl up like she wanted to. She hit out, but it just made him angrier and there was the first crescent mark of blood on her bedsheet -
- and Gretchen is screaming now and her heavy, ringletted curls are all a mess and her face is rage and fury as she leaps at him, ("That's my girl," thinks Ursula), but a bullet rings clear and she falls backwards like a ragdoll, eyes frozen wide in horror, and Ursula's pain seems to come from the very bottom of her throat. She won't go quietly, she won't, and her teeth sunk into the man's wrist, her gloved hand clawed and gouged at his eye.
And then a loud noise and then pain and then quiet.
She is lying beside Gretchen's mutilated body, her chin pointed downwards, the wound in her head pounding drip, drip, drip and it rolls down her lover's forehead. They lie in a morbid embrace for as long as Ursula is conscious, and then her head drops down to her chest, and she is barely aware, in her last moments, of someone writing on the pretty patterned walls in her own blood.
Nobody will tell the Silhouette that she didn't try, in her last moments, to make a new world, a better world, for the people, no, not a single one.