“Ni dieu ni maître!” — Auguste Blanqui
Rorschach’s journal. March 21, 1986:
Quiet, too quiet. Rain perhaps too much even for criminal element. Like to think scum is running scared, that rumors have reached their ears already. Back on streets. Comedian’s death avenged, if not by me. Can sleep easier tonight. They fear me, still.
Glad to hear you have also resumed operations. Will be much needed voice of sanity in days to come. Liberal weeklies lauding Veidt’s legacy, proclaim modern-day sainthood and look for successor to provide same smug platitudes and concessions. Talk with condescension about resurgence of interest in masks as Red tanks patrol New York. Even Dreiberg apparently hopeful enough to believe world will last long enough for these pages to be filled.
Don’t share optimism. Need it anyway.
City heals as men do, new skin tougher, harder, concealing rot below. Scarred, diseased, but alive. Its gods, monsters, kings, all slain, all banished. Remain only broken men in fallen world. All that is left to save it.
“I thought I’d find you up here.”
Rorschach, crouched on a milk crate on the roof of their latest hideout, looks almost guilty and folds the journal closed. Dan pulls up another one to sit beside him as the sun’s dying light scatters across the wet rooftops, awkwardly balancing two bottles on his knees. He’s spent most of the week across town, working on Archie. The scent of motor oil clings to him and rings his fingernails black no matter how many times he washes his hands. He likes the smell; it reminds him of Hollis, and besides, they’ve stopped making the cologne he used to wear. “Let’s stay in, okay? Give the criminals a night off.”
Rorschach stares down at the journal for a moment, tracing his fingers over the cover, and hurms before tucking it back into his coat. Dan adds, unable to suppress the amusement in his tone: “It’s on your arrest report, Rorschach. I looked it up, since you never tell me anything.”
He huffs. “Thank you.”
“I brought drinks.” He holds the bottle while Rorschach digs in his pockets for sugarcubes and crumbles them into the Coke. Their fingertips touch for a moment as Rorschach takes it from him with a nod of acknowledgment. Dan clinks his own bottle of cheap champagne against the glass. “Cheers.”
They toast to absent friends, to Hollis and Blake and Nelson and even, he thinks, to Veidt, despite everything. Rorschach, drinking Coke with one arm in a cast and unkempt curls spilling over his eyes, looks like an overgrown kid in the gathering dusk. In the morning, when Dan stirs beside him and drapes an arm over his body to quiet his nightmares, he will notice, for the first time, the speckles of grey at his temples. He will touch the bite marks on his collarbone lovingly and nestle back down against his partner’s freckled shoulder, resisting daylight as long as he can.
They sit together as the night music of the city overtakes any conversation they might have had—a street cleaner, sweeping dead petals from a memorial wreath, the grind of a tank’s treads over cracked asphalt, the distant lament of a saxophone—and without him being aware of it, Rorschach’s gloved hand covers his own where it rests on his worn jeans.
He imagines them outside of history, beyond the passage of time, overlooking a lattice of streetlights and neon signs that blot out the stars, the city’s wounded heart cradled in their calloused palms. They hold watch over it.
For all they’ve lost, they are given this much.