Genre: Drama, Romance
Characters, pairings: Dan/Laurie/Walter
Universe and time period: Comic-verse, Clockwork Eden AU part 3
Warnings: Slash, and early 'OT3', and walter doing yoga
At thirty-seven thousand feet Dan gazes out the small oval window and takes in the expanse of blue ocean below. Flying without being the pilot feels entirely unnatural to him and he wishes more than ever he was in his own beloved aircraft, which he and Laurie were forced to abandon when then FBI got too close for comfort. He sighs miserably and takes a long sip of red wine. It was served to him by a very lovely young flight attendant who flirted with him shamelessly, hoping for tips. It amuses Dan to wonder if she would ever believe the truth: that his heart belonged to a far more beautiful woman than her, and an ugly, sullen faced little man who had once killed gang leaders with his bare hands.
Dan closes his eyes, the thought of them hanging heavy in his mind.
He can see Laurie, two days after they moved to their new home, helping to care for Walter when he was so terribly ill. The former ‘Terror of the Underworld’ is scarcely conscious as she cradles his frail shivering body in her arms, coaxing him with a gentleness Dan did not believe her capable of to drink a glass of water. He can see Walter, a man who rejected all human kindness for so many years, resting wearily against her, finally allowing himself to be vulnerable.
The image is one of many he has locked tight in his memory, little snapshots of what is most precious, the reasons he can continue on in a strange new world; a world built on a foundation of cadavers. Sam Hollis passed through airport security without so much as a single sideways glance. Daniel Dreiberg, it seems, may have finally joined the of dead once and for all.
Laurie reheats chicken soup on the stove top while listening to the local weather over the am radio. Walter is sitting at the kitchen table, hanging over a day old Sunday paper. On the radio there are reports of heavy snow in the following days. She sighs and pulls her honey colored hair back into an untidy ponytail.
“Do you think we’ll need anything from the supermarket in the next few days, Walt? I have a feeling when this storm rolls in tomorrow night, we’re going to stranded out here.”
Walter does not seem to hear her and instead remains intently focused on the paper, gnawing absently on the eraser of a pencil.
“Walter,” She tries again.
“Heard you. No, am fine.”
Laurie rolls her eyes.
“Why didn’t you just answer me th-” She stops and takes a deep breath. “Alright. Good, lets just hope the pipes don’t freeze on us, I have no idea how to fix things like that.” She feels a surge of genuine panic run through her at the thought of being snowed in so far from any other houses or businesses; alone without Dan, who seemed to have an almost instinctual knowledge of how people survive in rural areas. An instinct that she in no way possesses, and is certain Walter does not either.
“Pumpkin pie spice. Six letters.” Walter rasps, just above a whisper.
“What?” Laurie turns quickly, confused.
Walter is pointing at the paper, at a row of six small squares. “Fourth letter is ‘M’. Cannot figure it out. Don’t know anything about baking pies.”
Laurie’s expression breaks into a smile. There is something so absurd about the man she once knew as Rorschach asking her about pie spices that she cannot help but feel lighter in spite of herself.
“Ahh. Yes. Thank you, Laurel.”
It is early morning when Dan checks into his hotel in Zürich, tired and jetlagged. He is anxious to call home, to let Laurie and Walter know that he made it through the airports without incident, to reassure them that there is nothing to worry about, or perhaps just to hear their voices.
He makes himself wait. It is four am where they are, and as he sits in a quaint European coffee shop, looking out at the picturesque cobblestone streets and jagged pure white mountain peaks, he imagines them sleeping. He wants to picture them huddled together, sharing their body heat, safe in each other’s arms, but he knows they are in their separate rooms. Laurie must look small, alone on their king sized bed, and Walter is likely curled tight in his twin, face to the wall, covers pulled up so that only his wild tufts of hair stick out from beneath.
Dan sips his coffee and considers how to spend his afternoon. He has not had a day to himself in over a year.
The New England Sky is pale gray, dense with loaded snow clouds. Walter scatters his last handful of dried corn before creeping over to a log some fifteen yards away. He is silent, and like any predator, very good at sitting still. But he does not seek to hunt anything, only to watch. He waits. It does not take long. They come, just as Daniel said they would.
Five female whitetails enter the clearing where he left the food, their enormous black eyes nervously scanning for danger. He watches curiously as they eat. They are about as innocent as he can imagine an animal being, and for this he finds himself feeling oddly protective of them. He found them all on his own not long ago, and when he told Daniel he was disappointed that he was not surprised.
“Ah so you found some deer, Walt? Yeah, I saw some by the driveway too, They are common in places like this,” said Daniel, with a knowing smile.
Walter is glad the deer came so quickly. Soon it will snow, and the corn will be buried. He wonders if they would know it was there. He remembers hunkering down behind the same log he now sits on, showing the little herd to Daniel a week earlier.
“They breed in the fall, so in the spring, we’ll have little spotted fawns running around,…as long as these girls take good care of themselves through he winter.”
He must have given away some look of concern, for it was then that Daniel suggested they put out food.
Going soft, Walter thinks, but the bitterness he expects of himself will not manifest.
Fat cotton-like flakes begin to fall as he watches the slim legged creatures paw the forest floor, nibbling up every last kernel he dropped for them. A strange peace comes over him, and he wonders, not for the first time, if he is still the same man he once was.
There is a loud crack: a branch snapping under the foot of some heavy creature. The deer scatter, their feathery tails high in alarm. Walter is on his feet as fast as they are. One boot on the log, he pushes off, launching himself like a puma in the direction of the noise.
In a single instant, one tenuous, vital moment, he is over taken and something primal stirs within him. He forgets that he has dropped twenty pounds since last he fought. He forgets that his muscles are weak and atrophied and that the cartilage in his joints is decaying. He forgets that he promised Daniel and Laurel he was no longer a dangerous man. He forgets that he does not have his face.
None of these things matter when there is intruder on his territory, and after all, he always was smaller than his prey.
“Dan!” He can hear the laughter in her voice over the receiver and cannot hold back his smile.
“Hey, Sweetheart! How are you and Walt holding up? Did your first night alone go alright?” He replies eagerly.
“Yeah it was alright, Walter was a little ornery, but that’s to be expected. God, Dan you wouldn’t believe what he was doing last night.”
“A crossword puzzle. Can you believe it? I don’t know why I find that so funny, I think it’s just the domesticity of the whole thing, ya know?”
Dan chuckles into the receiver. “Who’d have ever thought that tiger could be tamed. I think you’re the one with the claws now, Laurie.”
“Oh Darling, you have no idea. Walter, he’s a pussycat compared to me.”
Instinct tells him to reach for the throat, or the hands, where he can get a hold of fingers, but he resists and instead halts just short of a terrified man dressed in an odd combination of camouflage print and fluorescent orange.
His posture is reminiscent of a feral beast, with wild reddened eyes and bared crooked teeth. In the back of his seething mind it occurs to him that he must look hideous without his beautiful symmetrical face to hide such raw and unbidden fury plastered over an already unforgivably ugly visage. It is a wonder the man did not shoot him out of sheer horror.
“Who are you!” He snarls, and it is Rorschach’s voice, harsh and unhinged, that leaves his lips so naturally, as if he were never for a single moment anyone else.
“I-I-I’m s-sorry, Man! I hunt here, The owners gave be permission a while back, I’m a f-friend of the family and--”
“You are no friend of mine, or anyone else who lives here, and you are not welcome!”
“O-OH! They finally sold the place then! Man, I am SO sorry. I had no idea! They’ve been trying to sell it for years and--”
“Leave,” Walter growls venomously.
“O-Okay, I’m really sorry, Uh my name is Jim, I-”
“Where is your vehicle, Jim?”
“It’s parked up the road a ways, I usually enter-”
“I will see you to the road.”
“Err- Okay, sure.” Jim nods nervously as Walter turns and guides him in the direction of the road.
The hunter finally disappears around the curve of desolate highway. Walter listens closely until he hears the sound of a car engine before allowing himself to relax, and has he does it feels as though something is draining out of him. Like a comic book hero who’s super ego only comes when there is danger, he is all at once small and frail again. He can hear foot falls on the stone walk behind him. It is Laurie. He already knows her step by heart.
“There you are!” She says breathlessly. “Dan called, he arrived in Switzerland just fine. I called for you, but you must not have been able to hear me,” She pauses. “Walter?”
He says nothing, his chill unblinking gaze still fixed on the road.
“Walter, Honey, what’s the matter?” Her deep blue eyes narrow and she reaches to lay a hand on his shoulder. He twitches under her touch.
“Are you alright?”
He sags as he exhales slowly, still coming down off the adrenaline, and turns his head to look upon her worried face.
“Trespasser,” he rasps quietly.
“I really am very sorry that you had to come all the way out here for this, Mr. Hollis,” Dan’s jovial Swiss accountant apologizes profusely as he gathers up the newly finalized documents scattered over his desk.
“It’s alright, Rafael, gives me a chance to do some holiday shopping without the wife knowing,” Dan replies as he stands.
“So, Samuel, How is it you plan to spend the rest of your time in my Country?”
“Well, I fly out early the day after tomorrow, so I was thinking of doing a little sightseeing this afternoon, and then a nice dinner, and tomorrow some shopping,” Dan answers with a shrug.
“How about this: my cousin owns a wonderful restaurant, right in Altstadt, near the river. Why don’t you join me and my family for dinner tonight. All on the house! After all, you did come all the way from America just to sign papers, it is the least I can do.”
Dan hesitates, he is so used to being cautious of every invitation, every seemingly innocent gesture, but he cannot think of reason to object so he nods and smiles appreciatively.
“Sure, Raphael, that sounds wonderful. Where is this place?”
The shorter man scratches his bald head as he fumbles through his wallet for a lightly worn business card.
“How is, eight-thirty for you?”
“That sounds perfect.”
Laurie rolls her mat out in front of the television. It is new and still possesses a strong foam rubber aroma. She pops a yoga tape into the VCR, deciding she wants to take it slow and build up her flexibility before breaking into kickboxing again. She exhales deeply and assumes the first position, holding it for a duration before controlling her breath and moving smoothly into the next form.
She catches the sound of bare feet padding on the hard wood floor behind her.
“What are you doing, Laurel?” Walter’s hoarse voice, quiet and monotone as ever, interrupts her concentration. She pauses the tape.
“Yoga,” she replies simply, glancing over her shoulder. Walter is in his pajamas; plaid flannel pants and white tee-shirt. “Do you, um, want to join me?”
“Hurm…Don’t know yoga, Laurel. Not overly fond of foreign martial arts.”
“It’s not really martial arts, Walter. It’s just exercise. It helps you relax and find inner peace while building strength and flexibility.”
Walter eyes her coolly.
“C’mon, it will be good for you. You are still pretty weak from being sick last month, this will help get you back in shape without putting too much stress on your body.”
Walter considers her suspiciously for a few seconds before approaching the television. Laurie grins wide and scurries off to the adjoining room, returning quickly with another mat.
“I got a second one hoping you or Dan would join me. Okay, I’m going to restart the tape, just do what the instructor says.”
Walter nods stiffly and faces the screen.
The tape starts and the pair moves into the first position. Laurie cannot help but follow Walter out of the corner of her eye as they transition from one pose to the next. She is startled by how confidently he moves, and how flexible he is in spite of coming off months of inactivity and illness. There is a grace about him that could not have come without some kind of formal training, and she wonders at this as she bends over backwards, hips to the ceiling, palms flat on the floor.
“These poses are indecent,” Walter mutters and Laurie can’t help but giggle.
“Are you sure you’ve never done yoga before? You’re a natural, Walt.”
“Took gymnastics many years ago.” He replies simply.
“Ahh, that explains it.” She nods as they transition into a seated pose.
They rotate into three more positions before the on screen instructor prompts them to assume the ‘corpse pose’, savasana, and they lie side by side, eyes closed, boneless and still.
Outside it is pitch black and the snow is falling, no traffic, no city lights. Laurie feels as though there is a void closing in around them and without opening her eyes she reaches for the remote, and turns off the television. She then slides her hand to the right and threads her fingers through those of the man beside her.
“Walter,…will you talk to me about something?” She whispers, her eyes still closed.
“What is it, Laurel?”
“I think you and I are the same…We are killers.”
When Dan enters the restaurant he finds it décor immediately to his liking, rustic yet elegant, and tastefully upscale without being pretentious. A well dressed hostess takes his coat at the door while asking if he has reservation.
“I’m Sam Hollis, Rafael invited me to-”
“Ohh yes! Right this way Mr. Hollis” She chimes in expectantly, ushering him down a side corridor. “We have a private room ready for you.”
“Private room, wow.” Dan chuckles as she guides him into a room lit only by a fireplace along the right wall. Before Dan can say another word he hears the door shut behind him, followed immediately by the metallic twist of a lock sliding into place. The sensation of thousands of tiny needles plunging into his skin rushes through him as he whirls around to find the hostess gone.
His eyes are fixed on the locked door in clammy disbelief. He is numb as he slowly turns, not wanting to know who is sitting on the other side of the long mahogany table that occupies most of the little room. The lights raise slightly, and he can hear something breathing, a low rumbling sound. Purring. His palms are slick as he turns.
“Daniel, once again, It’s been too long.”
A man with violet eyes and an ageless face regards him with unsettling affection from across the table, while a monstrous cat, languidly curled about his chair, idly cleans its paw.
“It doesn’t surprise me that you remade her, ” Dan says slowly, his eyes on the great purple feline.
“Oh? You think me shallow and petty for rebuilding my beloved friend? Well, dearest Daniel, if that is how you feel…I think you have some hypocrisy to answer for.”