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Unnecessary Things

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It is August, and Daniel is cooking French toast and scrambled eggs over a hot stove that is making the already stuffy kitchen even hotter. Four-thirty in the morning, and it's already 80 degrees.

He screwed up tonight. Turned his back on a man he thought was down for the count only to have him get up again and jump him, nearly knifing him in the ribs with a switchblade. If Rorschach hadn't moved as quickly as he had, Daniel would have been down in the basement right now letting his partner stitch up his side, instead of here making breakfast.

He has been waiting for Rorschach to point that out -- warn him that he was sloppy, tell him he needs to be careful, something -- for the past hour. Instead, all he hears from behind him is silence.

Rorschach doesn't talk as much as he used to. Never very talkative to begin with, he is almost completely uncommunicative now. Dan has gotten used to it, but it worries at his nerves tonight, as he waits for the post-mortem on their take down of tonight's section of the drug ring they've been after for the past month to commence.

The French toast batter has so much sugar and vanilla in it that the smell of it cooking almost makes him feel sick. He can still smell the blood spattering from the guy with the knife's smashed-in face, hear the sound of the bones in his forearm splintering as they're twisted. Hear the choked-off whimpers of pain from the man Rorschach had left in a bloody, broken heap in order to come and save Dan's ass.

If it weren't for the man with the switchblade, the guy Rorschach had been pounding on would probably be dead right now.

Dan flips the pieces of French toast over, to find one's newly revealed side perfect and gold and the other piece browner, a little overdone. He flips the eggs, too, listening to the pan sizzle and trying judge whether or not they're done yet.

A glance through the kitchen window shows that the sky outside is starting to lighten, ever so faintly. It will be morning, soon.

The eggs are done, he decides.

In silence, he piles the eggs onto two plates, slides both pieces of French toast onto one of them, and sets both plates on the table.

"Eat," he commands.

Rorschach stares at the plate in front of him, and Dan imagines that he can practically see the gears grinding indecisively in the other man's head. The slowly shifting black ink on his mask even looks vaguely like gears for a second.

He hasn't seen Rorschach flip his mask up to eat or drink in months, not since the talking stopped. He knows he *is* eating, because food mysteriously disappears from Dan's kitchen in the dead of night every week or so, and last month he came down for breakfast one morning to find two empty coke bottles lined up neatly on the counter, but he hasn't seen so much as a millimeter of Rorschach's real face -- well, the face under the mask, anyway, actually referring to it as his real face once got Dan an entire month patrolling the city by himself -- in a very long time.

Dan fetches a jug of maple syrup out of the refrigerator and set it down in the middle of the table. "Would you like me to turn my back and face the other way while you eat," he asks sarcastically, "so we can continue pretending you're some kind of justice-dispensing robot with no human needs?"

There is a long, frozen moment wherein Dan is utterly certain that Rorschach is either going to hit him or fling the content of his plate in Dan's face.

Then he makes a strange choking/growling sound that Dan thinks might actually be amusement, and pulls the bottom edge of his mask up just far enough to expose his mouth -- it rests on the bridge of his nose, about a half-centimeter further down than it used to.

Dan sits down and starts to eat his slightly runny eggs, trying not to stare at Rorschach while he shovels down syrup-smothered French toast like a starving animal.

Table manners have apparently been relegated to the "unnecessary" pile alongside complete sentences and ever washing his trench coat again.

"About tonight," Dan ventures, after a few minutes, "that punk with the knife-"

"Distracted," Rorschach interrupts brusquely. "Made mistake. Will not happen again."

Dan feels his face start to flush with embarrassment, and only when Rorschach nods at the slash in Dan's costume in what might be some kind of vague apology does he realize that Rorschach is referring to himself, and the fact that he'd been too busy beating one gang member half to death to notice that the guy's buddy was about to gut Dan until the knife was already flashing toward him.

"I should have seen the knife sooner," Dan says, because it's true, because he *was* distracted, the lethal poetry of Rorschach's movements drawing his eyes like a magnet even as he wanted to flinch uneasily from the level of brutal violence the other man had employed, and Rorschach grunts.

Rorschach leaves a few minutes later, just as the sky outside is starting to turn pink and blue with sunrise. He hesitates at the basement steps -- he always uses the sewer exit these days -- and says, his flat monotone somehow making the words grudging, "Breakfast not necessary."

There's a long pause while Dan tries to think of some way to reply that it is necessary, that sitting down and eating a meal with someone else like a person -- instead of stealing food in the middle of the night -- is important, for reasons he can't quite define.

Before he can, Rorschach adds, "Eggs were good, though," and is gone.