A double-breasted suit straight out of the 1950s, made to measure. Suspenders and a stubbornly white dress shirt. Scarf at the throat, always in a knot. Always. Brown leather gloves scarred at knuckles and fingertips. Brown fedora, drawn low over invisible eyes. Trench coat with seemingly bottomless pockets. Old but well-pedigreed boots showing miles upon miles of walking (and climbing, and fighting) underneath their careful polish – they've been re-soled at least twice. The mask, the only truly alien aspect, covering everything in shifting black and white shapes that only appear unreadable.
And only Dan is allowed past any of it.
"You should never have kissed me, Red. Hee!"
"It wasn't on p-purpose, you idiot c-c-clown. How was I to know you'd b-be here tkkxxnt-too?"
"Amazing, isn't it? You and I, so very different, in the same place at the same time... with the same plan."
"Ahahaha-! At least poisoned lipstick makes sense for m-m-me. I ne-heh-ver knew you had a thing for the Bat."
"Oh, I'll try anything once. The cross-reaction really is fascinating, don't you think?"
"You like being p-p-aralyzed?"
"Considering death was probably your aim, abso-fragging-lutely! HaHA! Besides, you're cute when you giggle, my dear."
"Shhhut up, y-yuhuheheeheeheeheeheeheeeeeeeee!"
III. Slow Night
The universe really had a sense of humor between three and four a.m., Nite Owl decided as a melee unfolded before them in the one restaurant they'd managed to find open on this side of town after a ridiculously slow patrol. He was prepared to have to cajole his partner into the tiny Vietnamese place (fifty-first state or no) but an ungodly shriek had Rorschach practically dragging him in.
A youngish man scrambled over the counter, half-blind from a faceful of chili oil with Bánh phở noodles plastered to his hair. Behind him, screaming in a combination of Vietnamese and English, was a tiny woman who would have appeared grandmotherly if not for the meat cleaver she swung with alarming expertise.
The would-be robber barreled between them to get out and his miniature pursuer seemed content to let him go, her invective winding down to maniacal cackling as she stood between the two stunned vigilantes. "Can't take heat," she laughed as she brandished her weapon, "get out of kitchen!"
By unspoken agreement, they stopped at that restaurant whenever they were in the area.
"Did you ever think this would work? No, don't answer right away like that. I'm not one of your officers or some desperate civilian. Did you really believe?"
"...No. I never have. But what other choice is there? Without the idea of Earth – without the hope that we have something left, however remote – we may as well just let the Cylons mow us down now. I don't know about you, but I can't do that."
"So instead you choose a suicide mission. We're chasing a dream, likely to our deaths."
"And to think I assumed you had no faith."
"I never intended this. Please believe me." The greying gentleman turned back to the implacable figure behind him on the rooftop. They stood overlooking all of London, the streetlamps illuminating empty streets plastered with the Norsefire cross.
"And what do your intentions matter to the dead, Mr. Veidt?" The figure was as still as any statue, it's cloak shifting in the night air. The Guy Fawkes mask grinned and grinned.
A faint, bitter smile flickered across the gentleman's features, giving a hint of the beauty they once held.
"Nothing. Any more than yours, I dare say." He received a faint nod of acknowledgement. "And now?" He turned back to the view before them. "My journey is done – it has been for years, ever since my last gambit for peace failed. I used what was left of my resources – of myself - and barely slowed the collapse." He braced withered arms against the parapet. "I wanted an end to war. A new golden age."
Black-clad arms spread wide. "Behold and embrace your progeny."
Veidt turned, staring with haunted, pitying eyes. "And what of you, in this brave new world?"
"I yet have promises to keep, Mr. Veidt. But rest assured, I will not overstay my welcome."
The words thank you could faintly be heard as the two silhouettes merged.
"You can't be serious."
"Why wouldn't I be, Evey?"
" You're winding me up, that can't be true!"
"I assure you, my dear child, it is very true."
"Nutmeg? But..." Evey's mind cast back through childhood holidays, "My mother used it all the time!"
"In small amounts it is harmless – one has to ingest quite a lot for any dangerous side effects to manifest. And then..." the smiling mask tilted as the mind behind it catalogued. "Nausea, dizziness, gastric disruption, hallucinations -" The frozen grin turned to her and she shivered, just for a moment. "Use enough, and it's deadly."
Rorschach's Journal. September 21, 1984. An unusual evening.
Was pursuing line of inquiry on upcoming drug dealer. Informant very forthcoming after only moderate persuasion; was well on my way while evening still young.
Arrived at address only to find dealer had company. Confused at first – did not expect such pathetic whimpers to be coming from next would-be drug kingpin.
Reconned, saw dark figure standing over my target. Male voice, English accent. Uttered lyric from old subversive song as though it was something profound, and left a corpse behind.
Was slightly irritated at the loss of possible drug network information. Must have betrayed presence somehow because killer turned to face me. Observed grinning mask and belt of long knives over archaic caped costume.
We stared at one another. It has been years since anyone could look at my face without flinching.
Stranger never spoke - only gave a theatrical bow and departed. Displayed almost supernatural speed and disappeared before pursuit even possible.
Another mask, though allegiance remains unclear. Is this an ally at long last, or just another replacement in the city's never-ending hemorrhage of filth and decay?
Must investigate further.
VIII. What's This Button Do?
"What are you doing, Daniel?"
"I just tried clicking another link – something called 'p-chat'. It sounded like some virtual chat-rooms I've heard of; I wanted to try it out. See, you log in there, with a name –"
"C'mon, it's meant to be fun. Would you rather I'd posted my actual name?"
"It's loading really slowly, but - oh hey, there it goes..."
"It's in... Japanese? Why are there imag—Oh, it stands for 'paint chat'! Wait, it's for chatting and draw—oh. "
"Hrmph. Should have known they'd draw nudes."
"What? It was well done, and wasn't even finished. Wait to see what it... turns... into... wh-bahahaha! Omigod, buddy, looks like you can add 'centaur' to the list too."
" 'Grab my tail'?"
"I gotta say, the little stars are what really make it. And you've got nice... hindquarters, there."
"-they finally developed polymer filament that's based on spider silk; just a fraction of an inch of this stuff is strong enough to hold up a tank. I couldn't believe it but I did some tests on my own and this can absolutely hold your weight, even stop you from falling. You don't even have to replace the filament after a shock load like that, which is amazing because with other types of - uh. Buddy?"
"I'm rambling again, aren't I? Do you like it?"
"Appreciate gift. Very much. Thank you, Daniel - will take good care of it."
The first thing he's aware of is violent motion nearby; something he should be concerned about but can't quite place why.
Pain is the next thing to make itself known... ribs, shoulder, head. The world almost fades out again as it hits, but his eyes are working again so he tries to concentrate on that.
A horrible cry lends him a target to focus on not far away. He watches the shape of a man fall to the ground with one limb moving in a way it probably shouldn't. Other shapes are there too, he can see now - two other men, faces covered in blood.
Pallets of construction material surround them and he remembers they were busting an inside robbery. His eyes roll sideways, which is now up. That must have been the steel beam that hit him, he thinks with a vague memory of something large and fast swinging into view as they passed a crane.
Another howl, something not human, pulls him blearily back to see a dark form – Rorschach, he realizes slowly from his tilted perspective – beating down yet another of the men who'd attacked them.
Something's wrong. Rorschach isn't stopping. He makes out the word "kill" amidst his partner's furious sounds and thinks he should do something.
His first attempt does nothing, which is irritating. The second failure starts to scare him, and Rorschach still isn't stopping, not even when the other stops moving. Panic hits him as he watches his partner's fist rear back and he finally, finally manages some incoherent noise loud enough to make things stop.
He blinks, and suddenly there's Rorschach bending over him, looming close. His partner goes to touch him but stops, makes an odd choked noise and pulls his gloves off before trying again. His hands are warm on what little exposed skin his face has and his voice sounds all wrong and out of control, but it's all right.
The rest of his body feels like it might be able to work, maybe, and he's drunkenly pleased when he manages to roll onto his back. Rorschach's hands are supporting him, then moving to his front where he must have been hit, then moving back to his face like he can't decide what to do.
He solves things by lifting his own hand up to cover his partner's, which seems to do the trick. They sit for a moment in the sudden quiet, just breathing. It's always the quiet ones, he thinks.