Genre: Romance, Drama, Total Fluff.
Characters, pairings: Dan/Laurie/Walter
Universe and time period: Clockwork Eden AU, a few months after "The Company of Demons"
Word count: 3750
Rating: Uh G I guess, unless Laurie dropping the F-bomb takes it up to PG-13. lol
Notes: I have been itching to tie up a certain loose end from CoD. The fact that the story coincided with Walt's birthday was kind of incidental based on my time line, but made for added fluff to an already ridiculously sugary concept. (brush your teeth after this one guys)
The snow has all melted from the lawn, revealing matted brown grass and composted leaves. The trees are still barren, but the cherry on the west side of the driveway is beginning to show signs of budding. Dan and Laurie are working around the perimeter of the house, raking up dead plants in preparation to spread fresh top soil for flowers when it is warm enough. Laurie has her ideas about what she wants; sunflowers specifically, and maybe irises. Dan wants to plant local flora and wildflowers, citing that they will do better and require less care. Walter gave little input when asked, his only suggestion being a red rose bush. He was helping with the yard work for a while, but has wandered off.
“His birthday is in a few days,” Dan says after giving a quick glance around to be certain that Walter is nowhere within ear shot.
Laurie tosses a handful of rotted leaves into a trash bag and glances up. “Yeah, I was thinking about that too. It’s on the first day of spring this year. Ironic, huh?”
Walter never told either of them what day he was born, but they both remembered it from the news reports following Rorschach’s arrest and the subsequent articles detailing all the information gathered about New York’s most infamous vigilante.
Dan brushes the dirt from his work gloves before pulling them off and running a hand through his careless dark hair. “I want to do something special for him, and I,…I thought maybe we could give him the thing I bought back in December, when I was traveling.”
A faint smile strays over Laurie’s lips. “Do you think he’ll take it, Dan? I want him to have it too, and I know it makes sense in our hearts, but I don’t know if he’ll be able to bring himself to accept it.”
“I know, I know…” Dan drags his foot over a patch of soggy grass.
“Dan please, you know I’m with you on this. I just don’t know if he’s ready. Hell, he still has a nervous breakdown every time we try anything more intimate than kissing.”
“Yeah, but he sleeps in our bed with us almost every night now, and I think part of the reason he still freaks out about sex is because he can’t get over his whole ridiculous ‘whore complex’. No matter how many times we tell him it’s okay, he still feels like the intruder.”
Laurie is silent for a few moments, chewing her thumbnail as she considers his argument. “You could be right, giving him a symbol of our commitment could be what he needs, but if it goes badly Dan, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Dan sighs. “I just want to tell him, with no uncertainly, that he belongs with us. I want him to know.” Dan pauses then adds in voice thick with old guilt. “There are too many times in my relationship with him that I stayed quiet when I should have spoken up, and I’m not repeating those mistakes. I don’t ever want to watch him walk away again.”
Laurie nods, and then laughs, and in an effort to break the solemnity adds: “You do understand we are endorsing polygamy.”
Dan snorts, a wide grin spread over his face. “Well, we all grew up in the ‘Age of Aquarius’. Free-love, baby.”
“Ha! I don’t think so. You two boys are mine. Free nothing.”
“I’m just joking around,” Dan replies softly, his eyes scanning the line of trees for Walter.
“And I don’t really care what I am endorsing, I only care about the two of you.”
Laurie’s expression melts into something purely loving and she slips her arm around her husband’s waist in a gentle hug.
“Why don’t you go find him. I’m going to get a shower, and then we can have dinner.”
Dan kisses her and heads off in the direction of the trees. It does not take long. After tracing the line woods for about a hundred yards he finds Walter perched on one of the low limbs of a wide spreading maple, back against the trunk, knees drawn up, his journal open and resting against them. Dan is reminded of the times he’d find him waiting up on his fire escape before patrols.
“Hello, Daniel,” he says in his usual soft rasp.
“Hey, man, what are you doing up there?”
Walter holds up the journal.
“Ah, writing.” Dan scratches his head. “About what?”
“Just thoughts. Rambling, inconsequential. Mostly a habit. Helps me steady my mind.” He tucks the little book back into his coat. “You want to ask me something, Daniel?”
“Yeah.” Dan fidgets a little before shoving his hands into his pockets to keep them still.
“Well?” Walter raises a rusty eyebrow, his voice touched with irritation.
“Um, your birthday! It’s,…soon-ish.”
“In four days. Yes. Not important.”
Dan’s brows knit. “Hey, why do you have to be that way? I never knew when it was until recently, and,…I think we should celebrate.”
“Meaningless. Not even certain I am the man born on the twenty first of March, 1940, and even if I am; he’s not worth celebrating.”
“Okay, that’s enough. You need to knock that self deprecating bullshit off right now. I love you. Laurie loves you. Therefore you are special and important and very much worth celebrating,” Dan retorts quickly, his tone sharp with frustration.
Walter shakes his head, looking annoyed, and turns away from Dan, his grey-blue eyes drifting over the rolling hillside.
“Just tell me, please, if you could pick something to do for your birthday, what would it be?” Dan persists.
Walter continues to scan the vast rural horizon for many long moments before he eventually lets out a long exasperated sigh and turns to his partner.
“I would like to visit our city.”
Dan is admittedly nervous about returning to New York, and he is surprised that Laurie does not seem to be the slightest bit phased, instead she is excited, citing everything she missed about the city, and how great it would be to visit their old favorite places together; all three of them. The train ride only takes a little over two hours. Walter is very quiet the entire ride, watching with fascination as the landscape changes from desolate rural hillside, to posh suburbs, and lastly to the densely packed towns that surround the island metropolis, just before the train descends below the Hudson.
As the trio exists Pennsylvania Station, they are greeted by the familiar bustling chaos and refreshing diversity of the city they all risked their lives to defend. It is still a recuperating place; the last of the monster was cleared away months ago, but the echoes of catastrophe still linger like old grime stuck between the cracks in a polished surface. They head towards Herald Square to catch the downtown R train, and as they enter the busy plaza with its pristine view of the Empire State Building, shining silvery in the early afternoon sun, Walter breaks away from them. He wanders ahead a few yards, weaving through the crowd, before he stops, still amid the swarming people, head tilted back, so tiny in the shadow of the soaring buildings.
Dan catches up to him and lays a gentle hand on his thin shoulder.
“Hey, are you alright?” He gives Walter a little shake and pulls him so that they are facing each other.
“I-” Walter starts, but his voice gives out. He blinks rapidly and shakes his head.
Dan reaches down to squeeze his partner’s hand. “I know. I know, man…It feels like we’re home.”
They ride the subway to Astor Place and exit amid the usual swarms of bohemian types and NYU students that populate the lower east side. Dan always liked the vibe in this part of town, even if Rorschach had so often disregarded it as full of smooth talking liberals, decadent over-sexed youth, and snobby intellectuals. Oddly enough Walter did not bother to complain when Dan told him he had booked a hotel in the East Village. He only nodded and said: “Smart move, nobody will take notice of us down there.”
The room is tiny but clean, with one king sized bed, a nightstand with a lamp, and a minuscule bathroom.
“Well, no sense hanging around here. Lets hit the town, boys!” Laurie says excitedly as she digs through the suit case for the outfit she had selected for the night.
“What do you want to eat, Walter? It’s your choice,” Dan asks as he changes into a fresh pair of khakis and a clean spice brown button up.
“Told you, I agreed to go to New York for my birthday, but only because I wanted to go anyway. I don’t want any more special attention,” Walter replies irritably while threading his necktie through the knot.
“Lets get Indian food, it fucking doesn’t exist in that hillbilly place we moved to,” Laurie suggests from the bathroom. “Wish we could go to the Gunga Diner…,” she adds, the tempo of her voice falling sharply.
“Hurm…what about Chinese? Real Chinese,” Walter says slowly. “We are near Chinatown. There was a place there, that Daniel and I used to stop at after patrol sometimes, was open all night.”
“You always complained about that place!” Dan cuts in quickly.
“Suppose I did. Miss it now. Good memories there.”
It is unseasonably warm, and they all agree that they would prefer to walk the twenty-some odd blocks south to Chinatown. Laurie is bright and playful, laughing and cracking off-color jokes about anything she sees that amuses her. Sometimes Dan finds it hard to believe he never pegged her for the Comedian’s daughter before she told him. She is radiantly beautiful, dressed in a crimson tunic and black leggings with knee-high leather boots, her hair dark once more. She walks confidently with an affectionate arm slung over Walter’s shoulder, the two of them looking so adorably out of place together; Laurie tall and impeccably up to date with her style, Walter a good inch or two shorter than her and dressed like a man from 1950 in his modest slacks, shirt, and tie.
Dan looks at the old familiar buildings, just starting to light up against the late afternoon sky, and follows them down to the streets, alive with that vital city pulse, and finally he settles on his partners.
Rorschach and the Silk Spectre. How was it he was able to catch that fire in his hands and make it his own?
It has been almost fourteen years since the last time Walter and Dan have come to their favorite Szechwan noodle shop on Mott Street, but they move along the narrow twisting alleys, crowded with vendors, the local population, stray cats, and tourists looking for a ‘real New York experience’, as though it were 1967 and they are on their way for some quick dumpling soup after a long night. Lower Manhattan is thankfully still very much the same as it ever was, unlike Midtown which still feels as though it has been gutted and had its soul torn out.
They order excessively, Dan wanting to resample everything he’s been missing, and make sure that Laurie gets to taste it all since she has never been to the restaurant before. The place is packed and noisy, and nobody save them is speaking English. There are strange condiments on the table, and Walter remembers clearly which ones he liked and which he did not. Hot jasmine tea is still complimentary with the meal, and refilled constantly, and the spicy noodles still make you cry. Laurie and Dan get into a childish chopstick battle over the last shrimp dumpling only to find it snatched away by Walter at an opportune moment. There are no fortune cookies on the plastic tray with the bill, only three pieces of sweet melon candy. Walter actually smiles at the sight of the shiny green wrappers, and recalls the sent of honeydew on Dan’s breath when he would smile and say goodbye after patrol.
It is not yet nine when they leave the restaurant, so they decide to go uptown, to pay their respects in Times Square, but they do not stay long. They stand together at the cross of 42nd and Broadway and it feels like something from the twilight zone, the same but off in so many little ways. Many of the pornography stores that Walter so loathed are gone, replaced with polished tacky tourist traps. Even the prostitutes themselves are gone, swept away like all the rest of the ‘trash’ by Adrian Veldt’s guiding hand. And really that is the worst of it. Not that it is so oddly clean, so strangely void of the familiar filth, but that he is so present. That he is soaked into every single edifice, burned into the very fabric of midtown, permeated into the space that was once theirs.
“Where now?” Laurie turns to Dan and Walter.
Dan exhales deeply. “We don’t have to do this if you guys don’t want to, it’s a little sad and morbid, but If you don’t mind, I would like to visit my house.”
“Dan, are you sure? It might just bring back bad-”
“No, lets go,” Walter interjects quickly, a very slight hint of urgency in his voice. “It is an important place. Should not be forgotten.”
“Do you think someone else is living there now?” Laurie looks from Walter to Dan.
“Only one way to find out.”
Dan cannot bring himself look into the windows of little deli on the corner when they turn onto the street that was his for most of his adult life. The area is not physically damaged from the disaster but it was within the shock radius, and many of its residents hemorrhaged and died on the spot, or have been permanently committed to hospitals. He knows the woman at the counter will not be the same one who prepared his favorite roast beef sandwiches on rye.
The street was once some of the most desirable property in Manhattan, and now as the three ex-vigilantes walk silently down its vacant sidewalk, they notice that there are only a few scatters lights amongst countless empty black windows. Many of the buildings have for sale signs on them, the real estate companies finally seeing fit to attempt to refill the area with a fresh and innocent population. Almost all the signs are purple and gold.
As they approach the brownstone that once belonged to Daniel Dreiberg, Walter takes quick notice of a paper taped to the door, a work permit. Dan and Laurie follow him up the little flight of porch stares, peering curiously over his shoulder.
“Veidt…he bought it,” Walter rasps, his voice low and tinged with deep loathing.
“It looks like he bought the whole street,” Laurie adds, gesturing to the purple and gold for sale signs.
“To resell. But not this one.”
“Maybe he’s just not done fixing it up yet,” Dan replies grimly.
“No, done with the others. Wants to keep this one for some reason.” Walter’s fingers curl into a fists.
Dan looks up at the dark empty windows and feels his throat constrict. He wonders if his favorite books are still inside, and all the other little things that made up his life, or if Adrian took them and has them locked away in storage somewhere. He wants to kick down the door, to crack the shell of the structure and take back what is rightfully his, but the sensible part of him knows there are probably alarms, and the last person he wants to see right now is Adrian Veidt. He releases a long shuddering sigh and turns to Walter.
“It doesn’t matter. Whatever he wants to do with it; it doesn’t matter. We have taken what was most precious from this place,” Dan pries open Walter’s balled up fingers and threads their hands together. Laurie joins in, wrapping her arms around them both. She squeezes them tight as Dan breaks down on the stairs of his old home, sobbing bitterly into her shoulder. While her husband crumbles against her, Laurie scans the building from top to bottom and then looks to Walter.
“Dan had a finished rooftop, didn’t he?”
“Yes. Had a nice view too, even though it is not a tall building.”
“Hmmm.” She is quiet for a minute or so, weighing the possible consequences.
“I’m going to climb up the fire escape around back and check for an alarm. Why don’t you run down the street buy us some drinks, Walter?”
“What?! Laurie?!” Dan gasps but she is already gone.
As far as she can find upon examining the rooftop there is no exterior alarm system set up, and for a brief moment she considers picking the lock into the brownstone and seeing if there is any burglary system at all, but she decides she has tested her luck enough for one night. There is still a wooden patio, but the plants and chairs Dan had in place are gone. Satisfied that it is safe she steps to the edge of the building and waves down to her companions. Dan looks positively beside himself with anxiety, but he smiles and waves back nervously. Walter holds up a brown paper bag, indicating that he fulfilled her request.
“Come on up! There are no chairs but the view is nice!” She calls down.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” Dan shouts back.
“Stop being a baby!!”
Dan’s brows furrow and he looks to Walter, searching for a second opinion. The corner of the red-head’s mouth curves up in a half smile. “She’s right, Daniel. Stop being a baby.”
Dan relents with a shake of his head and follows his partner to the fire escape where the two men shimmy up the iron ladders and rusted stairs to where Laurie waits for them, perched on the outer ledge, her legs dangling carelessly over the brink.
“Hey, boys,” she greets them warmly.
They join her on the ledge, swinging their legs over the side, neither harboring any fear of heights. Walter sits in the middle and opens the paper bag, pulling out a can of coke for himself and two beers for Dan and Laurie.
“Yes! Beer!” Laurie snatches the can up gratefully.
“Daniel told me to get the beer, not my idea.”
“Ha! Figures. Good work, Dan.” She cracks the pop-top with a grin.
Dan smiles and gives his own can a little tip before cracking it open.
“Wait!” Laurie stops them both before either is able to take a sip. She raises her drink in the direction of the other two.
“To Walter. Happy 47th, honey.”
“I’ll drink to that!” Dan adds brightly, lifting his beer.
Walter blushes and grumbles, but obliges, lifting his coke just enough to let his partners tap it with their cans.
“Cheers,” he rasps softly.
They sit for a long while, quietly huddled against each other for warmth as the unseasonable heat fades away and the night rolls on, taking in the glittering lights, the soothing rush of the breeze through the skyscrapers, and the steady hum and pulse of the city they love. Laurie glances over at Dan and she can see that his face is tense and his outer hand is in his coat pocket. Her pulse quickens, and she tries to shoot him a little inconspicuous smile to let him know she is behind him.
“Walter,” Dan starts, but it comes out hoarse and awkward. His mouth is suddenly impossibly dry, and the words seem to catch in his throat before they are formed. Laurie bites her lip and waits, but Dan seems to be failing. Walter looks at him curiously, head tilted, waiting for whatever it was his partner wanted to tell him.
Dan takes a deep breath and smooths his hair back nervously.
“Walter, I-no, we have a gift for you.”
“This trip was more than enough, I told you I didn’t want anything.”
“It’s not a birthday gift,” Laurie cuts in. “It’s more than that.”
“What?” Walter looks nervously between them, his icy eyes flashing, everything about his posture all at once apprehensive.
Dan takes his partner’s hand and without saying a word places a small plain gold ring in the center of his palm.
Walter stares at the little metal object, its smooth surface cool against his skin. His mind fails him as he gazes blankly upon the gift, unable to let its meaning soak into his consciousness.
“We would like it if you would wear it, so that you never forget who your partners are,…and so you know, always, that we love you,” Dan whispers as Laurie wraps Walter in her embrace, the wind brushing her silky hair across his hollow cheek.
“It felt right to give it to you here, in New York City. The place where we met,” Dan adds as he searches Walter’s expression for a reaction.
“I…” Walter chokes, still staring transfixed at the little circle of metal. “I never thought that anyone would ever,…could ever, make this promise to me.”
He turns it over and holds it between his thumb and forefinger, very careful not to drop it.
“Wh-which finger is it for?” His voice is shaking and uneven and his nose is suddenly runny, and of course he knows the answer but his brain is a scrambled mess and in that moment it could belong on this thumb for all he knows.
Laurie holds up her left hand and wiggles her fingers. “Left hand, dear. Second to the last,” she laughs.
Walter nods, his freckled complexion flushed pink with embarrassment, and lets Dan help him slide the ring over his bony knuckle. A little cough of a sob escapes him but he quickly swallows up the rest, fiercely willing himself to be stronger.
“Thank you,” he manages as they encircle him gently.
Tomorrow there will be a long walk through Central Park, followed by shopping in Soho, and pizza on 29th street before they finally catch the evening train back to their hidden rural sanctuary. They will bid New York farewell again, and on the train ride back there will be talk of future visits and the possibility of purchasing an apartment somewhere down the line and splitting their time between two homes, but that is all still hours away. For now, as they sit together on the rooftop of a vacant brownstone on an empty street, the city belongs to them.