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There'd been no argument from either Rorschach or Nite Owl about patrolling on Christmas Eve; they both knew how petty criminals and scam artists loved to victimize the harried shoppers and moon-eyed tourists who flooded the streets at this time of year.  They'd even started before the sun was fully set, taking Archie up to wheel slowly over the busier districts.  Against his usual modus operandi, Rorschach suggested heading toward the more metropolitan areas with their upscale shops and glittering displays.  Much as he hated the rampant waste and hypocrisy that pervaded those places during the holiday season, he knew they'd be their best hunting grounds.  

"It really is too bad," Nite Owl sighed wistfully as they banked toward another cluster of multicolored illumination.

Rorschach turned his gaze away from the streets.  "What is?"

His partner shrugged, a bit self-conscious.  "It's just so pretty down there - and every year, a few jerks have to go and ruin it."

Rorschach nodded, looking back to the lights below.  He could admit to himself for a moment that yes, in spite of everything that was still wrong with it, it was pretty.  And there were still people out there who only wanted to have a few moments of joy, however fleeting they might be.   "That's why we're here," he finally said, and looked up to meet Nite Owl's grin.

"I guess so."  He flipped a few switches as Archie slowed.  "You ready?"

"As ever."

*

With the Owlship's foggers safely camouflaging it above one of the taller rooftops, the two of them disembarked and began scouting the crowds and alleys below for trouble.  It didn't take long - within minutes Rorschach spotted a gang of pickpockets working their way down a busy street, and the hunt was on.  

Dispatching them was almost too easy, and left Rorschach grumbling about criminal ineptitude and the blindness of the public as they resumed their patrol.  Time flew as they stopped multiple mugging attempts, a minor gang fight, and even an attempted arson.   Alley after alley filled with tied-up miscreants, while the would-be victims seemed to forget their vague suspicions toward vigilantes and expressed gratitude instead.  All in all it was shaping up to be a really good night.

Which meant, of course, that something had to go wrong.

They were taking a brief respite in a shadowed alley, warming their hands with a couple of hot chocolates given to them by a star-struck barista who'd witnessed their latest efforts.  Across the way, a Salvation Army bell-ringer dressed quite convincingly as Santa Claus was "ho-ho"-ing to passers-by as they dropped coins and often paper bills into his kettle.  Even Rorschach almost smiled as they watched "Santa" shake the hand of a shy little boy who was out with his father.  It was a rare peaceful moment, more like a picture on a Christmas card than an actual event.

Suddenly there was a shift in the murmur of voices and footsteps, a change in pitch and rhythm as jarring as a large rock dropped into the flow of a stream.  An instant later there was a violent blur of dark clothing and swinging limbs crashing into this idyllic scene that shoved past the shoppers, grabbed the donation kettle, and brutally knocked down the bell-ringer when he tried to defend it.  The thief barely broke stride, taking advantage of the crowd's shock to barrel through them and away while a few onlookers nearest "Santa" bent to see if he was all right.

It all happened so quickly that the two vigilantes stood frozen for a split second.  Of course each of them had seen any number of people attacked before, but... That's Santa Claus! Nite Owl's mind blurted in a moment of absurd outrage.   

It was Rorschach's voice that snapped him back to attention, growling with such ferocity that it made Nite Owl jump. In a blur of trench-coated fury, Rorschach burst from their hiding spot to give chase, his crushed paper cup rattling to the ground where he'd stood.  Nite Owl, still in a bit of shock, ridiculously grabbed it and put both their cups on a nearby trashcan before tearing off after his partner.  He spared a glance for the poor bell-ringer, who was being helped to his feet by the shaken father and now-tearful boy.  The sight lit a renewed surge of anger and purpose in him, and as he ran he grimly hoped he could get in a few hits of his own on the sonofabitch who'd done this.

They zigged and zagged through startled crowds, Rorschach following the thief and Nite Owl following Rorschach.  It was impossible to say whether the man they were chasing was naturally athletic or just hopped up on drugs; either way, he was vaulting over obstacles and sprinting over icy sidewalks like they were nothing, the jangling kettle tucked under one arm.

It was obvious the noise of the coins in the kettle wasn't something the thief had accounted for, but he was just as obviously not going to surrender it now that he had it.  He clattered his way down side streets and around corners, braving traffic and barging into hapless shoppers all the way.

Rorschach was nearly beyond coherent thought, seeing only his quarry ahead of him as he ran in his wake.  There were things one did not do, not ever, and that man had just done one of them.  He had no sense of their location, no idea if Nite Owl was even still behind him.  A part of his mind knew that this was unforgivably sloppy of him, but the rest of him couldn't be bothered to care.  He needed to catch this man.  Catch him and punish him.

He sped onward, keeping the thief in his sight in near-tunnel vision as he flew down a wide flight of stairs, vaulted over a short concrete wall and promptly... disappeared.  Without thinking, Rorschach duplicated the other man's actions, only recognizing where they'd wound up once he was in midair.

Nite Owl had lost sight of Rorschach, but his partner's shout alerted him to his location, sounding both shocked and irate.  He managed a burst of speed, ignoring the burn that was starting in his lungs and shoving aside the thought that maybe his armor was just a bit heavy and his cape was causing too much drag - there'd be time for that sort of thing later.  He realized he was approaching a familiar row of flagpoles and heading for a crowd of people who were all looking over a short wall and pointing.

Oh, no.  They didn't... he thought, instead of slowing down.

He had just enough time to process that his fears were correct before some miraculously-timed instinct made him launch himself upward at the top of the stairs, spreading his cape out in the insane hope that he could actually clear the knot of people who'd gathered at the base of the steps.  He watched them pass beneath him, completely unaware of him sailing overhead as their attention was completely absorbed by the spectacle below.  He was able to savor the briefest surge of relief and delight as one booted foot barely ruffled the tassel on an elderly man's hat before gravity reasserted itself and he landed in a skidding roll on the ice in the Rockefeller Center skating rink.

He was greeted with utter pandemonium.  Shrieks, curses and exclamations sounded from all sides, clashing with the chipper holiday music being piped in.  The immediate area around him was clear except for Rorschach - looking fit to be tied as he jammed his hat back on his head - and the thief, who had managed not to harm anyone - including himself - in his landing, and who still, amazingly, held the little red kettle in his grip.  They were surrounded by over a hundred surprised and frightened skaters.  The ones nearest them were scrambling to get away, pressing into the ones already on the fringe and trying to dive over the railing.  The three of them were all drifting slightly on the ice from their various trajectories, limbs scrambling as they tried to regain their balance for either flight or pursuit.

The thief - an unwashed-looking tough in his twenties, Nite Owl could see now - snarled at them as he scrabbled for purchase on the ice.  He looked sober enough, but sometimes it was hard to tell.  This was likely more about pride for him at this point than it was about the money in that kettle, but that only made things more dangerous - especially if he had a weapon under that jacket of his.

Nite Owl tried to close the distance to the other two, but his boots wouldn't cooperate.  They had enough tread to let him keep his footing, but not enough to make running possible on the ice.  As a result, he was reduced to a lumbering shamble that he desperately hoped wasn't as ridiculous as it felt.

As Nite Owl continued to struggle, Rorschach lunged (carefully) at the punk, but slipped and nearly went crashing as one foot went out from under him.  His target almost did the same as he tried to make for the rink's edge, and the three of them began a new chase in flailing, graceless slow-motion while Andy Williams insisted over the sound system that this was the "hap-happiest season of all".

Shouts and gasps from the crowd accompanied their efforts, as well as the occasional camera flash while they slid and dove back and forth.  Their pursuit played out like a bizarre game of hockey with the two costumed heroes playing goalie to the other man's efforts at escape.  Every now and then one of them would make contact with a grab (or a hit), but their footing was too treacherous for any one of them to get a good hold.  And they didn't just have to keep him from getting out; there were still bystanders inside the rink who were watching the spectacle like deer caught in headlights and neither vigilante wanted a hostage situation.

The chase was catching up with them - they were all breathing hard and beginning to slow down.  Rorschach managed to get a foot against one of the plexiglas walls to launch himself bodysurfing style at the perp's feet ("Look at Frosty go," sang the loudspeakers) but he overshot his target when the punk managed to twist out of the way and was headed straight for a dismayed Nite Owl some several yards distant.  Their quarry took advantage of the opening and in one last, desperate effort, skate-shuffled frantically toward the near end of the rink.

"No!" Rorschach snarled, still sliding off course as the thief approached the railing, but in a moment of mad inspiration twisted his head around to shout "Crack the whip!" to his partner as he sped toward him.

With only a fraction of a second to comprehend and act on the instruction, Nite Owl gathered his cape in one hand, whipped it around into Rorschach's path, and prayed that his feet would stay planted for this while trying to forget just how many people were watching them.

Rorschach caught the edge of the cape and Nite Owl pulled, adding to his speed as he wrenched them both around.   Every muscle in his legs went tense as he fought to hold his footing while pivoting as fast as he could.  Rorschach's legs swung out and forward, accelerating them both further until he was heading toward the thief's escape route once again.  With a final shout Nite Owl completed his arc and Rorschach let go, rocketing toward their stubborn foe and felling him at last with a kick to the back of his knees.

A collective cheer and gasp went up as the red kettle - the focus of all their attention - flew out of the punk's hands and clattered to the ice.  Amazingly, the tiny lock on it held and it clanged to a stop near a cluster of onlookers.  Torn between the criminal in his grasp and protecting the money from further theft, Rorschach growled, finally delivering a punch to the criminal's jaw that knocked him out cold.  Another cheer sounded at that, and a small flurry of flashbulbs went off around them.

Nite Owl caught up to them, gratefully receiving the kettle from a young woman who'd picked it up while Rorschach secured the thief for the police to pick up.  As the two of them dusted themselves off, movement caught their eye and they looked up to see "Santa" in the crowd, accompanied by the father and his boy who'd helped him.  His red suit had dirt on it and he looked rather mussed, but his smile was wide as he looked down at them.

*

"That was fantastic."  Nite Owl grinned as they rode back to the Owl's Nest, then winced slightly.  "I think I'm gonna be feeling that little stunt in the morning, though - even if it was brilliant on your part."

Rorschach shifted self-consciously at the compliment, the blots on his mask lazily following the flush in his cheeks.  "Not exactly how most people skate at Rockefeller," he admitted.

"Ha!  No, I think we've established a pretty unique style where that's concerned."  He chuckled, then adjusted the ice pack on his thigh.  Looking over to his friend, he reached out a gauntleted hand.  "Good job tonight, man.  And hey - Merry Christmas."

Rorschach took the offered handshake, glad they'd done so well.  "You too, Daniel.  Merry Christmas."

~ fin ~
Written for Slipstreamborne at LJ for the Watchmen Secret Santa. :) :holly:

:icongunga-diner: may display this work.

Disclaimer: This is not my sandbox. I just snuck in when no one was looking.

No characters were harmed in the making of this story. ;P
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:iconno-road-jess:
no-road-jess Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2010
Can't believe I missed this when it came out. EPIC FAIL. My sincerest apologies, my dear. I blame Final Fantasy X.

This is brilliantly written. I've only ever seen the movie, so most of the team pairings and so on are kind of lost on me, but this was ace. Makes me want to read the comic. Maybe I'll like the film better if I do :P

My favourite part was Daniel and the cups. Ha! So enviromentally concious. <3

Good work!!
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:iconfuguestate:
FugueState Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! ^_^ Don't worry about coming to it late; just think of it as an extension on Christmas. ;) A lot of the team pairings and such are more fanon than canon, but it's still fun. This was total crack, but very fun to write! xD
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:iconno-road-jess:
no-road-jess Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2010
I'll bet it was! It was fun to read. Rorsach (terrible spelling fail) was the only good character in the movie :P
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:iconselfish-eden:
Selfish-Eden Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2010
This was fun! :D
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:iconfuguestate:
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Glad you enjoyed it! (I know it was silly, but that was the order of the day. ;) )
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:iconselfish-eden:
Selfish-Eden Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2010
Hey, silly is good! :nod:
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:iconvoodoofish:
Voodoofish Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Were you wanting this to be entered into the Watchmen Winter Contest? The deadline is the 10th!! :0
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:iconfuguestate:
FugueState Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
whoops - yes, please! Thought I specified, but I was sleep-deprived at the time. xD
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