Dan Dreiberg stopped on the top stoop to his apartment and surveyed the door. Busted open. Again. Second time this month. He pushed the door open lightly, almost certain of whom was inside. Just in case it wasn’t whom Dan was thinking, he entered his home without turning the lights on. He heard a faucet running from the downstairs bathroom. Sounded like the shower.
“That’s a first,” Dan whispered to himself. As he closed the door behind him, he surveyed the busted door jam. He was going to have to get it replaced. Again. Dan sighed as he hung his head. A flash of lightning burst outside as Dan turned his attention back to his intruder. Dan slowly pressed into his house, both fists clenched.
He found the sliver of light just beyond the staircase that indicated the first floor washroom. He peeked in and a familiar gravel hardened voice confirmed his suspicions.
“Hello, Rorschach,” Dan said through the slightly open door, relaxing his fists. “You alright?” Dan inquired, not really expecting an answer from his former partner.
“Small gash. Nothing serious. No need to worry. Just stitched and cleaned up.” Rorschach cocked his head back towards his ex-partner. That’s when Dan noticed that Rorschach wasn’t wearing his trench coat, scarf, or fedora and he was missing his right glove. Dan also noticed that his shirt was half off.
Dan spied into the tub and saw pink water flowing down the drain. He shook his head, sighed and removed his own coat.
“Something wrong, Daniel?” Rorschach questioned.
“Not really. Can’t you give me a straight answer once, Rorschach?” He watched as Rorschach turned off the shower and turned towards him. He had never seen Rorschach this exposed before. He was surprised by the sheer number of scars that covered what Dan could see of Rorschach’s chest.
“Hurm?” Rorschach didn’t seem to notice Dan’s wandering eyes. Then Dan saw the ‘small’ gash down Rorschach’s right arm.
“Small gash, Rorschach?” Dan finally entered the bathroom. “It runs all the way down your arm,” Dan couldn’t hide the concern in his voice. Rorschach twisted his arm to get a better look at the wound. Dan noticed the stitches were far too taught and pulling at the skin.
“Shallow. Nothing serious,” Rorschach reiterated as he placed his tattered fedora on his head. He started to pull his shirt back on when Dan grabbed his arm.
“These stitches are serious though. They need to be redone.” Dan let go of Rorschach’s arm and grabbed the suture kit from the sink. “Sit.” Dan pointed at the toilet. He saw the ‘look’ that Rorschach’s mask gave him. “This is no time to argue, Rorschach. They don’t get re-stitched, you’ll catch gang-green or some other infection, now sit.” Dan pointed at the toilet once more. This time he waited for Rorschach to grudgingly sit before moving to other business.
Dan opened the kit, pulled out the scissors and forceps. He snipped each stitch and slowly pulled the thread from Rorschach’s skin. Dan knew that Rorschach could handle most any pain, but he felt the muscle tense beneath his hands as he worked. When he pulled each stitch from the slats of skin, he looked up at the masked face; trying to read the blots as they constantly shifted. Deciding that he couldn’t stand the silence any longer, Dan spoke.
“So, how’d you get this one?” Dan threaded the needle and started to work his way up Rorschach’s arm as fast as he could, without messing up and without causing too much pain to his friend.
“Doesn’t matter. Dead now,” Rorschach stated bluntly. Dan could tell he was trying to mask the pain that was starting to seep into his voice.
“Need a painkiller?” Dan asked as he knotted another stitch.
“Have six on board. Should be fine. Cot still downstairs?” Rorschach winced slightly, Dan could see it in the blots.
“Can’t go back to your place?” Dan asked feeling the muscles tense as he pulled another stitch through. “Almost done, Rorschach.”
“You say that, but if your muscles tense up much more, these stitches’ll be too loose to do any good. Try to relax,” Dan instructed, pulling one of the last stitches through.
“Am relaxed,” Rorschach tried to assure Daniel. Rorschach was more than a little surprised that Daniel had such a gentle tough. He’d seen Daniel kick as many asses just as hard as he had. Rorschach had no intention to tell Daniel that it wasn’t the stitches that were making him tense.
“Doesn’t feel like it,” Daniel said as he pulled the last stitch through. He knotted the thread and grabbed a wash cloth, which already smelled of alcohol and looked a little pink. “Cleaned it once already?”
“Yes. Should again,” Rorschach said as he watched Daniel turn the cloth inside out and hesitate. “Been through worse. Just clean it,” Rorschach ordered. Dan obeyed and pressed the burning cloth into his friends shoulder. Dan felt Rorschach’s muscles tense a moment then relax.
“Better?” Dan asked as he rinsed the cloth of blood.
“Much. Thank you, Daniel.” Rorschach was already pulling his shirt back on.
“Wait, let me wrap your arm real quick.”
“I’ll be fine without it.”
Dan and Rorschach both looked around as thunder clapped loudly in the world outside the apartment.
“It’s raining, I’m wrapping it,” Dan insisted as he pulled the gauze from the suture kit. He turned back to Rorschach whom: much to Dan’s surprise, left his shirt half off so his arm could be wrapped. Rorschach saw the hesitation.
“Surprised?” Rorschach’s voice cautiously portrayed the word he’d just spoken.
“Honestly? Yes. You’re not one to follow instructions so much as make them up as you go along,” Dan said as he began to wrap Rorschach’s arm carefully. When Dan reached the shoulder, he came to realize a slight dilemma. Rorschach noticed the pause and why the pause happened. He pulled the left side of his shirt down slightly so Daniel could get his shoulder wrapped properly. Dan paused for another second, taking in the new and massive amount of scar tissue that covered his friend’s chest.
Dan quickly recovered and finished wrapping Rorschach’s wound going under his left arm and around his back. The gauze ran out and Dan secured them tightly.
“Finished. But, please, just be careful with those stitches. They aren’t my best, but they’re damn close. They’re a little loose near the shoulder, same with the gauze. So you can still move with some freedom.” Dan considered helping Rorschach with his shirt and jacket, but thought better of it. Rorschach did and didn’t have personal boundaries, but there were some things he insisted he never needed help with.
“Cot still downstairs?” Rorschach asked once again, buttoning his trench coat and tucking his scarf in.
“Yes, but it isn’t set up. And now that I think about it, I’d have to look for it. I can have it set up for the next time you come over. You’re more than welcome to sleep on the couch for tonight, if you’d like,” Dan offered his old friend. Dan studied the shifting blots of Rorschach’s face. It was hard to understand what he was thinking. Rorschach slipped his right glove on the plunged his gloved hands in the deep pockets of his coat.
“Better not. Have work to do.” Rorschach stuck out his right hand to Daniel. “Thank you, Daniel.” Dan placed his hand in Rorschach’s and shook.
“You’re welcome, Rorschach. Be more careful next time.” Dan walked behind his ex-partner as he started to leave the apartment. Rorschach opened the door and Dan could have sworn he saw the blot smile at him for a split second.
“Always am.” Rorschach turned up his collar as another strike of lightning streak across the New York skyline. Dan watched as Rorschach disappeared into the shadows created by the sheet rain. Dan continued to look at the spot where Rorschach had vanished into the night for several minutes.
“Be careful, Rorschach...,” Daniel finally said to the rain. Dan closed the door and walked to grab his coat. It was off to see Hollis for this Nite Owl.