Ordinary World: Epilogue
This latest apartment used to belong to an art dealer. He must be dead now, or too scared to return. Rorschach hates the place, both for its conspicuousness and its all-too-modern, minimalist décor (he’s partial to the abstract expressionist painting in the living room, though), but he doesn’t really get a say in the matter, and the filthy places they’d been hiding in before are breeding grounds for infection.
Dan chose it because of the view. You can see all off the red brick buildings down Wooster St., the latticework of balconies and staircases. When the sun comes in through the bedroom window, the stark designer white of the carpet and walls glow so brightly that it hurts your eyes. SoHo is emptier than it should be, and it feels like the beginning of the world.
But now it’s night. He sits on the bed, adjusting the covers over his partner’s shoulders, listening to the drunken revelers outside. The spirit of Bohemia has revived here, in the monster’s wake, and they celebrate in the bars and cafés, stagger into the streets arm-in-arm, singing, laughing, because they aren’t dead.
“Decadence,” Rorschach grumbles. “Plague on society.”
“You like it.”
“So do you.” He doesn’t, but his condition has improved enough that Dan thinks it’s probably safe to tease him a bit. He understands why strangers sit on the curb trading swigs from wine bottles and stumble off to fuck in alleyways. He gets it. He’s never been so in love with being alive. He’s just about to climb into bed when he feels Rorschach tense up. “What is it? Are you in pain?”
“It’s just the drunks outside.” But Rorschach, even drugged to the gills on morphine, is still usually right about these things, so Dan grabs the crowbar under the bed and whispers, “If you so much as get off this bed, I’ll punch you.”
He opens the bedroom door, just a crack, sighs and slams his head into the doorframe. He drops the crowbar—it’s not like it’s going to be any use—and steals out into the living room.
Adrian Veidt glances up from the five-thousand-dollar, utterly uncomfortable sofa. “Hello, Daniel. You’re looking good—other than the hair, of course. Have you lost weight?”
Dan groans and slouches against the exposed brick wall. He’s done some questionable things in his life, but not nearly enough to deserve the karmic payback of having vigilantes and mass murderers break into his home on a regular basis. “I need to buy a better lock.”
Veidt grins, his teeth white in the shadows. “It wouldn’t have made a difference.”
“Why are you here, Adrian?”
“Consider it a professional courtesy. Keep your attack dog on a shorter leash, or I’ll put him down.”
Dan wishes he hadn’t dropped the crowbar. It takes all of the effort he can muster to not just lunge across the room and throttle Veidt with his bare hands. Instead, he just stands there, shaking, impotent. “You touch him, and I’ll—”
Veidt raises a hand. “Relax, Dan. If I’d wanted him dead, I’ve had plenty of opportunities. More than you realize. As long as he’s just an unhinged nutcase, it’s all the same to me. But don’t think that his life means anything to me, measured against every other life on this planet.” He bends forward, legs crossed, like he’s at a stockholder’s meeting. “Do we have an understanding?”
“We’ve always had an understanding.”
“Good, good.” Veidt looks genuinely pleased. “Nice apartment, by the way. I wouldn’t think that it was your taste, though. Very stark, very formalist.”
“Thank you. I think.”
Veidt stands up, nods perfunctorily. He moves as if to leave, then stops abruptly. “You know, I figured out Rorschach years ago. No one who dresses like that could possibly be—well, it was obvious, even if he had no idea. But you?”
“I’m not,” Dan starts to say, but he doesn’t because it’s one thing to be outmaneuvered by a superhero-turned-supervillain but quite another to have Veidt completely laugh in his face.
“One of these days,” Veidt says, and his tone is warm, almost sympathetic. Dan rages silently; he isn’t one of those broken things that Veidt needs to feel sorry for. “It won’t be a question of loyalty to him or to me. It’ll be his life, or the world.”
“I know,” Dan says hoarsely. “Best of luck building Utopia, Adrian,” and he almost means it, almost hopes that Veidt will wish him the best of luck living in it.
Veidt leaves as quietly as he came, and Dan retreats back to the bedroom, to his shattered, defeated friend and the play of moonlight and shadows across the walls. He leans his forehead against Rorschach’s, feels the other man’s breath hot and ragged against his cheek. It isn’t perfect or even really right, he thinks, and they’re both as scarred and bent as the ruins of Ground Zero.
But he can still take some small joy in this. It’s midnight, and they’re alive, and below the window, the city sings them to sleep.