Rorschach. Laurie. Hardened sugar and blunt fingernails.
I, uh. I don't know.
(Although slightly AU, this still contains spoilers for the amazing graphic novel. Don't ruin it for yourself, please.)
She traces the hollow below his Adam's apple - not with a lazy fingernail, blunt and smooth, but with her sharp gaze, waiting for a signal that does not come.
He stares only straight ahead, dispassionate as ever.
(Rorschach - Walter, she tells herself, digging her fingernails into the flesh of her palm, hard, almost as penance - is unused to this. Naturally.)
He has less than ten years on her, yet his face is unquestionably older. Weathered, with pockmarks and thin scars and other, nearly invisible marks, red and angry - most likely freckles, although if she squints hard enough, they resemble something else entirely.
She studies the hard lines, the angles of his face - sharp nose, jutting chin, stern eyebrows over an indifferent gaze; so different from the malleable material he calls his real face - and it's not easy to push Jon, to push Dan, from her mind as she does so.
His hair glints dull copper under the cheap kitchen ceiling light. Although his coffee sits untouched, the sugar bowl is nearly empty.
Laurie leans closer, resting her weight on her elbow, before pulling her arm away and taking a swig from her own mug. She chokes, sputtering, for a moment, and although more oxygen comes rushing through her lungs in less than several seconds, she briefly entertains the thought of him still sitting, unfazed, if she'd actually collapsed to the floor clutching her neck.
It almost makes her laugh.
"Irish coffee," she explains, although more Irish than coffee. The whiskey still burns the back of her throat.
More silence follows, intercepted at random intervals by quiet munching.
She's tempted to grab the bowl of sugar cubes from him, to tell him they've just been put on ration.
She settles for lighting a cigarette, instead.
Adrian Veidt believes he saved the world. Laurie knows better than that.
He smells of sweat, of grime, of death, but it's only the last bit that interests her - not endears him to her, of course not, not that miserable rotting stench, but draws her in - just that achingly tiny bit more.
(Perhaps it's because she thinks it's all she deserves anymore.)
They're still in the kitchen, the evening news report reduced to distracting static from the living room, when her hand slides under the table and finds his knee.
His clothing, like his (not-real) face, is threadbare. Worn. The material of his trousers scratches against her hand; not with the same ferocity of her nails slicing her own flesh, but a muted, pleasant bite.
"Laurel," he says quietly, warningly, yet. yet. there is just a hint of a question in the word, so she grits her teeth and sets her jaw and pays him no heed.
(He fucking owes her.)
He could break her neck in the span of a second if he wanted, rough (talented) hands twining around her throat and snapping, effective as any noose, and she almost wishes he would.
Without warning, she shifts her hand and scrapes her nails against him, through the fabric, desperate to be cruel, and hears the faintest hiss escape him before his knuckles meet her jaw and he knocks her down to the cold linoleum.
Years pass, flowers blossom from arctic tundras, and she still thinks of Dan, almost unyieldingly, unable to help herself.
She has a feeling the rotten bastard's thoughts don't stray far from her own.
He didn't hit her as hard as he could have, or she definitely wouldn't still be conscious. She's guessing that was sort of the point.
The back of her head hurts worse than her jaw, throbbing a staccato march from hell. She raises her left hand in front of her eyes, and despite the fact that everything that should be stationary seems to be swimming in her field of vision, there's no mistaking the crimson caked under her nails or the coppery tang that fills her nostrils and mouth.
She grins, feeling the blood slowly glide down her throat - so the bastard split into one of her fucking gums - and it's the brightest one she's been able to manage in a while. Licking her dry, cracked lips only smears it onto her mouth, a grotesque scarlet, and although she can't see it, she can somehow feel it. She begins laughing hysterically, relief and despair bubbling up inside her.
It's taken her roughly three minutes to become everything she's ever hated about her parents.
Angry hands grab the front of her vest, pulling her to her feet, but not before she finds herself pinned against the wall.
Oh, right. Great.
"Miss Juspe-- Laurel." He's somehow managed to make his voice even more monotonous and forbidding, even while remembering his manners. The guy should win a prize.
She merely raises her eyebrows, challenging him. He stares back expressionlessly, and honestly, it's even worse than that fucking mask ever was.
She wonders if she can make him hiss again.
When she raises her hand, his response is so lightning-quick that she doesn't even realize what he's done until he pins her hand, carefully, behind her back, her wrist bones grinding against one another.
Laurie inhales deeply. "Let. Go."
"You're being unwise."
"And you're being a prick," she shoots back. "Let my hand go, I'm not going to hit you!"
She honestly can't tell which of them is more surprised when he obliges. Staring at her free hand in wonder, she then moves her gaze to his. He holds it, unblinking.
"I am unsure of what you want. I suggest you find someone... more... experienced to deal with it."
It takes her a moment to catch on (now who's being the dense one, Laurie?), but when she gets it, the same disturbing laughter escapes her.
"Oh, but it... that's not..." --she pauses between chuckles-- "that's not what I want at all."
There's the briefest flicker of confusion in his eyes before the mask settles back in place again.
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
"Walter," she says softly, liltingly, gathering pleasure when he flinches at the name (and she really should've done this to begin with, she was always far better at honeyed tactics than vinegared ones). "I just wanted to see the rest of your scars."
She traces the space below his throat with her finger, this time, and he makes no move to stop her.
Losing Dan was an icy dose of reality; one that ushered in a new brand of cynicism.
It's unfair!, she shouted screamed cried, so goddamned unfair, and Veidt's cold smile at halting schoolboy theatrics was enough to send her hurtling out ineffective abuse of her own.
Strong, composed hands drag her out of harm's way. She never exactly forgives them for it.
She reaches across him for a cigarette, but a rough hand clamps over hers, the grip vise-like - not hard enough to break her fingers, but just barely.
"Unhealthy," he says. Contemptuous.
She snorts, quirking her lips, and rolls out of his reach until he finally loosens his hold on her, because oh, the fucking irony.
It doesn't take much to have him under her spell again - as much as he'll ever be, anyway. Despite his silent protests, she knows - she feels - that he enjoys when she slices into his arms, across his chest, with her fingers, tracing old scars and creating new ones, and it's sort of perfect that it ended with the two of them, really, because he probably thinks he deserves it just as much as she does. He shudders, so delicately, when she bites into his shoulder, tearing flesh, straddling him, inching back every time she feels him get close, feeling almost proud that she's added the musk of sex, something different, to the other odors that regularly envelop him.
Teasing doesn't last long; he growls low in his throat, calloused fingers pressing warnings into her arms (she imagines the bruises will resemble violent inkblots the next morning) and she inwardly grins before lunging, biting her lip, biting his, until their blood mixes for an entirely different reason than it did less than an hour ago. Brutal chemistry.
She is the daughter of a comedian, after all.
(She can hear the other word he didn't voice, echoing in the back of her mind. The one he's undeniably thinking.)
(And somehow, he'd be right.)