The punks are starting to wise up, Dan thinks. White-hot adrenaline cascades through him as the heel of his palm connects with a nose, blunt force splitting cartilage and sending a spatter of blood across the filthy alleyway. There had been no laughter or mockery from them this evening; not the usual derision of his costume nor slur on his sexuality. They'd gone on the offensive immediately, circled like jackals, knives bristling like claws and teeth.
Nite Owl must be earning a name for himself. The thought pleases him, even as he realizes that risk scales with reputation in this business.
Dan spins, cape swirling as he floors a greaser with a snap kick, then intuitively shifts his weight to grab another and ram him into the graffitied brickwork, using his own momentum against him. Nite Owl's body is his weapon, fluid and honed and quickened by the pursuit of justice; he is a knight-errant, a paladin, championing these beaten streets. An elbow to the stomach takes out the last thug and leaves him sprawled face-first in a pile of burst garbage bags.
Dan lowers his guard and takes a moment to catch his breath, hands braced on his knees as he recovers his wind. Something moves on the periphery of his vision, and he is immediately alert, dropping back into a combat-ready stance.
Rorschach descends from the second level of a nearby fire escape with casual grace, limned in neon and shadow. He slips his hands into the pockets of his pinstripes as he straightens, detectivesque in a billow of sewer steam, open trench coat swept over his hips and flapping against the back of his legs.
"You're late," Dan chides, unable to check the grin that spreads across his features as Rorschach falls into step beside him.
This is his favorite part of the evening; the inevitable appearance of this strange, faceless man with whom he'd struck a tenuous alliance. Their first meeting had been wordless and brief, breaking up a straightforward mugging, but the thrill of encountering another mask had fired Dan's imagination. He'd spent restless nights seeking inkblots as much as blood splatters; spinning glorious adolescent fantasies and indulging himself with notions of a rare partnership, wrought from unspoken trust and respect and the shared desire to right the city's wrongs.
He'd been refused bluntly but politely, though that hadn't dampened his enthusiasm for long. Not when Rorschach had begun slinking from dark places to fight at his back regardless, his unpredictable brawling a compliment to Dan's disciplined martial skill. As their meetings became more frequent they'd developed a modest camaraderie, and Dan had been privy to demonstrations of the man's keen investigative skills, as well as his propensity for dry humor and puns that were so awful as to be endearing.
"And you're bleeding," Rorschach retorts, a light touch on Dan's arm drawing him to a halt. "Sleeping on the job this evening, Nite Owl?"
He butts his chest up against Dan's to get a better look at his face, right into his breathing space with no regard for personal boundaries or other such social niceties. Dan can feel the sting across his cheek now, can taste the blood on his lips, but he is more distracted by Rorschach's mask. He's never seen it this close before, and it is utterly mesmerizing; the black of the strange fabric is in constant flux, myriad subtle diffusions conspiring to create a perpetually shifting pattern. Dan wonders how the dark blossoms map to the expressions beneath.
He reaches out to touch. It's brazen of him, he knows for sure it's a gross breach of the trust they've been building and Rorschach will probably crucify him, but he cannot seem to stop himself. The fabric is smooth and unexpectedly warm and it makes him think of scar tissue. Ink pools beneath fingertips that rest on Rorschach's cheek, pulling away from the swooping raven wings that constitute his features for that moment. The broken symmetry is jarring, aberrant, and Dan jerks his hand away. "Oh, hell. I'm sorry, I—"
His apology stutters out to nothing as Rorschach raises a hand to Dan's face, mirroring him. A gloved finger tracks through the blood glistening there and smears it over his other cheek in some kind of gruesome baptism, decorating him like it's war paint. Rorschach releases a gruff syllable from back of his throat. He sounds pleased, and dark shapes leer at Dan in a gargoyle's grin.
Dan exhales sharply, the peculiar intimacy of the gesture excavating the shape of his idolization and sifting away the fantasies, an unearthing that reveals it to be something much hungrier, much more dangerous.
He wonders how the latex would feel against his tongue.
It's slick, and almost obscene the way it shifts against the skin underneath.
He can see the outline of Rorschach's mouth beneath chaotic shapes, lips parted in surprise, or perhaps alarm. Dan doesn't hesitate – seems neither of them will make any concession to the other's boundaries tonight – he presses his own mouth to the contours and tastes the bitter residue of the city there.
Rorschach all but convulses, body snapping rigid. His breathing comes heavily through his nose, warm huffs of air against Dan's cheek as he clamps his mouth shut beneath the latex. He doesn't pull away though, doesn't lash out or break bones, not yet. He growls in warning, the bass note churning deep in his chest; a vibration that roils outward and triggers something in Dan, some primal modulation that urges him to ensnare and devour.
Daringly, Dan hooks his fingers under Rorschach's mask – he doesn't want to see, just to touch the mouth he'd kissed, to feel his thumb slide over parted lips – and that's it, that's the catalyst that razes Rorschach's delicate control. Through his gauntlets, he gets the tactile impression of abrasive stubble and a raw-boned jawline before he is spun in an about-face, arms gripped hard and twisted behind him. The impact of brickwork leaves him on all fours, gasping, hands splayed on the gritty pavement.
"Don't," Rorschach snarls, "touch."
He hooks a hand under Dan's arm and hauls him to his knees, forcing him to tip his head back and gaze upward in order to see Rorschach's shifting mask. It's a powerfully submissive position to be in, kneeling at his feet as though in devotion, and Dan wonders when he'd stopped being the predator and started being prey.
Wonders when he'd started praying.
Rorschach looms menacingly over him, but he can read indecision in his stance; in the flex of his hands and the tense set of his shoulders. He'd never be so careless as to give that much away in combat, and it's almost reassuring, up until he crouches over Dan and insinuates his fingers under the straps of his goggles.
"How does it feel?" Rorschach says, voice deceptively even.
It feels dangerous. Exhilarating. Dan's fingers curl into soft, dirty leather and shaking hands. Some tension has shifted here, a careful balance has been upset and he can feel everything teetering on a knife-edge, and—
He guides Rorschach's hands, tugging his goggles up and sweeping back his cowl in the same motion.
Dan blinks, vision dismantled from crisp edges into amorphous, soft darkness. A weight surges into his lap and oh Jesus, he feels the drag of latex across his cheek, fingers threaded into the hair at the base of his skull, holding him steady.
"Nite Owl. Your real name, what is it?" The rough timbre of Rorschach's voice is evened out when he speaks so quietly. It's a reciprocation, his real voice. Not much of one considering, but Dan still breaks out in goosebumps.
"Dan," he obliges. There have to be a thousand people in New York who share his name. It's not a dangerous secret to give away, and hell, whatever. He'd just unmasked himself for a cheap thrill.
"Dan. Daniel. 'God is my judge'." A strange noise against Dan's ear, almost a sigh. "Tell me, Daniel, is that something you want to be judged for, on the day of reckoning? Do you have a token for the angels that will outweigh such a sin?"
Dan's mouth twitches into a half-smile, "Going all prophet of doom on me, Rorschach? 'Cause that's not the kind of rapture I was hoping for."
Rorschach's fingers tighten in Dan's hair, penance for his flippancy. "What were you hoping for, Nite Owl?"
"I—" Dan swallows hard, tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. He wants to touch, feel lean muscle tense under his palms, wants to press against this infuriating enigma of a man, as if he can solve the mystery of him by memorizing the planes of his body. He wants—
"I want—" The words are lost somewhere, consumed in the thunder of his blood.
"We all want, Daniel," Rorschach mutters. The revulsion doesn't quite disguise the burn of desire in his voice, nor distract from the way he keeps repeating Dan's name like a litany. Dan watches in fascination as he hooks the mask over his nose with his thumb – has an alarming moment where he thinks, human, as if he expected him to be anything else – and then Rorschach's mouth is on his; inexpertly, but with a tenacity usually reserved for hunting and destroying. Stubble scours his chin, glass-sharp and almost unbearable.
Dan arches against Rorschach involuntarily, hands grabbing at his hips and pulling him down flush against him, last splinters of propriety washed away in this insane deluge of lust and want and sparking need. Rorschach moans into his mouth, biting the sound off as if it hurt, shying like a trapped animal. Dan takes advantage, pitching his weight forward and settling Rorschach across the grimy alleyway, nestling between his thighs to work fervently at the buttons of his jacket, the zipper of his pinstripes. His scarf unfurls into the gutter, white silk sullied by the gray rainwater.
Rorschach's hands fist into the front of Dan's costume; he's breathing hard and violently shaking, uttering brittle almost-words that cling to Dan like cobwebs, invisible gossamer threads cocooning them. Dan replies with urgent little sounds of his own; vocalizing enough to echo, a benediction between the strata of indecent noise in the city's soundscape.
The sodium streetlights catch the hard edges of Rorschach's face and throw his features into sharp relief, chipped teeth and blemished skin, deep lines around his mouth, inkblots crawling like spiders. Ugly, a petty corner of Dan's brain thinks. He leans in and kisses him anyway, softly this time, lingering to temper the hand that works briskly over the heat between Rorschach's legs.
Dan can tell that he's on the brink already, silent now but for the hitch in his throat as he gulps for air. He watches Rorschach's mouth work soundlessly for an instant, then the man is thrusting against Dan's hand and clutching at his shoulders to pull himself close, shuddering out acute, disbelieving noises as if he'd never been held by a lover before.
Dan buries his face into the crook of Rorschach's shoulder, mouth against his flushed neck, and desperately fists himself with a slick gauntlet. The broken edges of Rorschach's climax slice into his chest and diffuse through his blood, burn his cheeks, make his fingers tingle and his teeth hurt.
He feels gloved fingers stroke through his hair, gently; a laying on of hands – hands that can snap a man's wrist, break his neck. Dan curses, blasphemous and loud in the night, and breathlessly spills himself over leather and rumpled fabric.
"Filthy mouth," Rorschach says without malice, shouldering Dan until he slumps off against a wall, then rolls aside to compose himself in the safety of latticed shadows.
"Sorry," Dan is distracted, staring at the palm of his hand and the way the neon catches the fluid spattered there, making it shine. Orgasmic headiness resolves itself into a difficult, uncomfortable thing and Dan's shoulders bow under the awkward weight of what they have done.
"Christ," he whispers. "Forgive me."
There's no absolution; Rorschach is gone.