"Maybe better off if world did end," Rorschach says, out of nowhere, as if they'd been talking about it for hours.
Dan turns his head to stare at him. "What?"
"Drown the filth. Scour it all away. Bible says God lost patience, did same thing once."
The air in the Owlship is close and stale; it's been filtered and recycled for several hours as they hide at the bottom of the river, waiting for nightfall. The heavy metallic chill of the air-conditioning clings to his skin. The yellowish emergency lighting, which consumes less of their scarce fuel, flickers dully. Dan can feel the pressure of thousands of tons of water around them. Rorschach is sitting ramrod straight in his chair, apparently immune to discomfort.
"And let millions of innocents die?" he demands.
"Aren't millions. But...maybe not." Rorschach darts his head like a sparrow. "Doesn't matter. Only idea. This is a mask-killer. Will stop him."
He goes still again. He's hardly moved once in four hours, except to eat the cold Spaghetti-Os Dan had dug out of the rations straight from the can. With his fingers. Dan can still see traces of the unnatural red on the leather of the gloves.
These may be Dan's last hours on earth, and he's spending them buried alive with a lunatic. It's not how he envisioned the end at all, no glorious last mission of legend making them over into their iconic selves once and for all. They're just fugitives now, and they can't even decide what kind of story they're in. Rorschach sees a mask-killer, yet another individual criminal to be dispatched with contempt. Dan...Dan has bigger, wilder, vaguer terrors that he can't put into words. At least not the words that could disrupt the insane simplicity of Rorschach's forcibly ordered universe.
Twenty, maybe even fifteen years ago, maybe. Not now.
Rorschach senses that he's looking at him and turns his head. "Problem?"
It's an absurd enough question that he almost chokes with laughter. "No."
"Still think we should go now."
"It's not safe yet." It's frustrating to have to keep arguing about it when he wants to go himself, but-- They may not be able to reorganize the atomic structure of existence, but they aren't going to screw up the work. Not if he can help it.
Rorschach regards him. "Pity that Miss Juspeczyk couldn't come with us."
The dull, mechanical tone irks him. "Is it, really?"
"What do you mean?"
"I can't think of a single one of my girlfriends that you've ever approved of, Rorschach." Not that he'd ever voluntarily introduced even the ones who had known about the suit, but Rorschach had somehow run into them all anyway. "Not in twenty-five years."
"Girlfriend?" He can see the cloth pulling out of shape in the way that means a frown. "Bad idea, Daniel. Miss Juspeczyk is Manhattan's--"
"I know that," Dan snaps. That had been made perfectly clear in Rorschach's kitchen. He'd just been a ridiculous middle-aged man deluding himself. The minute Manhattan had turned up, Laurie had gone off with her accidental superman. And left him behind with the self-made subhuman.
Who really had been a person once, he swore. God, how has his life come down to this?
There's a pause. "Disappointed in you. Poaching. Lust. Greed. Weakness."
"Which you know nothing about, right?"
"Not with face on."
Rorschach believes it, he really believes it, and that's what sends Dan over the edge. "Bullshit!" he yells, and lunges. He hauls Rorschach up, yanks the trench open, and maybe the smell should bother him, but it's been in the air so long it hardly registers anymore. "You can't fucking bury yourself in a piece of cloth forever--"
Buttons shatter under his fingers. "Daniel," Rorschach says. He's got one hand closed around Dan's throat; he could probably kill him in a second.
"You can't just decide to drop out of the human race--"
The flat monotone breaks and squeals like a glacier calving. The grate of it is horrible, and Dan freezes. "Oh, my God, Rorschach, I--"
Rorschach's thumb twitches near his pulse, and then he shifts his balance abruptly, tangling the two of them in a roll to the floor that leaves Dan on top, staring down at a slice of chest dusted with red hair and the blankness of the mask.
He's actually hard, and Rorschach is, too, or starting to be, and he hasn't done this since college...
"Take face off," Rorschach says.
And, God, he does want to rip that damned thing off, but..."You do it."
Rorschach's fingers are crawling against the floor now, looking for the purchase they won't find. "Can't."
Dan's a hypocrite. He knows it. It's always better with the costume, whoever it is. He's afraid of the pale, squirming, half-formed thing he might find beneath Rorschach's mask this time. He's not even sure he'd want to touch it.
He wants Rorschach to be a mask and a person. It's not fair. It may, he's starting to think, not even be possible. But there they are at the bottom of the river, waiting for the world to end, and Rorschach is talking about the human race like he doesn't even have to belong to it, and Dan isn't really interested in being fair right now.
He shoves his hand between them and awkwardly undoes Rorschach's pants. Rorschach's cock jumps in his grip. He's touching Rorschach's skin. It's bare and hot and pulsing with life. Dan can drag him up like this. Can't he?
He shifts a little to free himself, then jostles their cocks together. The contact jolts some lower center in his brain, something that feeds on friction and warmth and doesn't care what the connection actually is. One of Rorschach's hands comes up and grips his cheekbone, painfully hard, bracing the heel of his palm against Dan's jaw but not actually shoving him away. In this position, Rorschach could shatter his face. Dan's seen him do it before. He doesn't know if this is supposed to be a threat, or a plea, or some crazy kink thing.
"You're one of us, Rorschach," he grits, stroking. "You're right here."
Rorschach is hitting the back of his head against the floor, faster and faster.
"You can...hide behind the mask, but...I've still got you. This...doesn't lie."
This must be what it's like to be struck at by an owl, except Rorschach's talons don't tear, just dig in bruisingly. And he knows, he knows Rorschach in the way the great alien beings of the animal kingdom can never be touched.
"Not black and white. Part of all the mess. The filth. The struggle. The hate. The stupid goddamned love, oh--"
He comes first, and Rorschach reflexively cringes away, but Dan holds him for the few seconds he needs, and then Rorschach shudders, too, and kicks Dan away.
It takes a long time for him to catch his breath. When he looks up, Rorschach's already wrapped up again, and starting to get up. He's not looking at him.
Dan's anger is gone as suddenly as it came, and he feels like a colossal jerk. "Rorschach, jesus, I'm--"
"Apology not needed."
"But I didn't mean...I mean..."
Rorschach looks at him now. "Sometimes wondered. Now I know."
Dan's jaw drops. Oh, of course it was Rorschach's first, that should've been obvious, and, wow, he really was an asshole.
"Are you okay?"
"Was uncomfortable." He's on his feet, tightening the belt of his trench coat. "But reminded me. Reminded me..."
"Nothing." Rorschach sits down again in the chair, but this time he leans back, wrapping his arms around himself. "If must wait, going to sleep now."
He feels like he could sleep for a hundred years himself. He wishes he could. "Yeah. Good idea." He levers himself up into his own chair, sets a timer, lowers the lights further.
After a few minutes, Rorschach's voice comes again. "Daniel?"
"Yes?" he answers reluctantly.
"Maybe God made mistake with Flood. Washed away everything. No distinctions. Not even black and white."
Rorschach and theology. He was not getting into this discussion. "Maybe."
"Good thing he could take it back."
"Yes," Dan said, huddling in his suit beneath a sudden chill. "Good thing."