Dan doesn't know a great deal about human physiology. He's not medically trained; the closest he'd gotten was learning CPR one college summer when he worked as a lifeguard, but everything else is gleaned from a textbook or learned in the field. He knows more than the average person perhaps – he knows how to fix a dislocated shoulder, how to splint fingers or set a broken nose, the best way to suture a wound so that it'll barely scar. But he doesn't know much else about the arcane inner workings of the human body, no matter how many times he's seen it spread over the blacktop.
He does know that something is wrong with him, though, and he doesn't need a doctor to tell him as much.
He feels fine, physically. It's how he looks is the problem. He's pale. Not 'barely enough sleep' pale – there are no dark shadows beneath his eyes (well, no worse than usual), no drawn features or heavy eyelids. Not 'sick' pale – he's not clammy or pallid. He's just very, very...
His veins stand out, blue webs on the back of his hands, at his wrists, in the crook of his arm. It's disconcerting.
He checks his neck for twin puncture marks, then chastises himself for being so ridiculous (but only when he doesn't find any).
Rorschach notices immediately. "Feeling well, Daniel?" he asks.
"Fine," Dan replies brightly, and wonders who he's trying to reassure.
It's getting worse. Parts of him are taking on a translucent quality – at least, he thinks so. His fingers seem to fade to nothing in the periphery of his vision, but when he jerks in alarm they reconstitute, solid and real in front of him. It's beyond disconcerting.
He wonders if he's going a little crazy.
Rorschach is in an odd mood (odder than the norm, anyway). He's led Dan to some rathole tenements with vague rumblings about drug dealing, but if Rorschach wants to be deliberately ambiguous, there's little point in pushing to find out what he's really up to. Dan just goes along with it.
Rorschach knocks politely on an apartment door. Dan's eyebrows shoot skyward.
The door opens a crack, and Rorschach's booted foot jams itself over the threshold before it can slam shut. There's a howl from the dim hallway, "Go away! I haven't done anything, you can't...!"
"Jacobi," Rorschach says gruffly, calmly. "Here to talk."
"Moloch?" Dan hisses at his partner. "What the hell is going on?"
Rorschach gestures with one hand: trust me. He shoulders the door open, breaking the security chain with laughable ease. Jacobi edges backwards down his hallway, eyes wide and glittering in the low light.
Rorschach follows him, hands up placatingly, clearly trying to make himself less threatening. That seems to terrify Jacobi beyond reason (and Dan admits, it is pretty scary).
"What do you want?" Jacobi asks shakily, circling until there's a kitchen table between Rorschach and himself.
Rorschach hits the light switch, the fluorescents flicker on slowly. "Help," he says grudgingly, guiding Dan forward by his elbow.
Jacobi stares at Dan, at his face beneath the goggles. His fingers work nervously at the buttons of his jacket. "This isn't— I don't know how to do something like that," he says finally.
Rorschach leans across the table. "Do you know how to undo it?"
"God, no," Jacobi laughs, high and reedy. "All I know are parlor tricks, compared to this."
"This isn't happening," Dan moans, face in his hands. Archie is hovering under cloud cover, the engines a gentle baseline hum under buffeting wind. Rorschach nudges him, pushes a cup of coffee in his direction.
The mug trembles through his grip, fingers tightening around the handle to no avail. It shatters on the floor, and dark liquid pools around his feet.
"Can barely taste it anyway," he says, offering a wan smile.
Rorschach makes a new noise, one Dan has never heard from him before. It sounds a little like distress.
His mirror is in silver shards across his bedroom floor. He checks for bite wounds on his neck again.
"Do you believe in me?" he asks Rorschach, their faces inches apart. His hands are caught in his trench coat lapels; he can see the crease and pucker of the fabric through his fist.
"Daniel," is Rorschach's reply, and he knows there are gloved hands on his arms, holding him at bay, but they feel whisper-light. Barely there. Feather strokes.
"You have to really believe." He tries to yank Rorschach closer, to make him understand. "You have to mean it."
"Daniel," Rorschach says again, and that's not an answer, it's never an answer. Never a real response, no matter how many times he says it or how many subtle inflections he loads it with.
"I'm scared," he says, like that's a normal conversation opener. He looks grotesque in his costume, spandex sagging and spindling where he no longer has physical mass; he's a different kind of nightmarish creature now, stalking the dark parts of the city. His goggles won't stay on.
He has no use for them now anyway, even through the crisp lenses his world is taking on a gray cast. Edges are indistinct and faces are fuzzy and ghostlike, everything moves out of sync. It's like dreaming.
Rorschach wraps an arm around his neck, pulls him down and kisses him through the mask, and that's like dreaming too. The latex doesn't disguise his desperation, and Dan finds that his tears are as incorporeal as the rest of him.
"What happens when you can't sense me any more? I don't want to be trapped here like a lost soul. Wandering among people who can't see me or hear me or know that I'm— I'd rather be dead."
"Maybe that's what dying is."
Dan sighs into Rorschach's shoulder, hears an answering exhale that barely registers against his skin.
He still has some form, shimmering into existence as he moves, and enough mass to make his presence known. Can exert enough force to make Rorschach writhe under him, to finally bring him undone with gasps that are too close to sobs.
He barely leaves an indentation in the mattress, but Rorschach always seems to know where he is.
There's a stranger in his bed, with red hair and freckled skin, and eyes that are squeezed shut. He's curled tightly in on himself, knees pulled up to his chest, and when Dan tries to rouse him with some soft words, it's like he isn't even there.