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Title: Clean (2/3)
Author: MustInvestigate
Disclaimer: I only own action figures
Rating: eventually NC-17
Character(s)/Pairing: NiteOwl/Rorschach
Warning: Graphic m/m sexual activity
Summary: Hrm...I wanted to get Rorschach naked. So I packed every possible cliché around that idea and called it a story.




Father Poponian regarded the silent, scowling boy on the other side of his olive-drab desk and fought the creeping weariness that made his shoulders want to hunch and his carefully genial expression collapse. It certainly wasn’t the first time he’d had to have this conversation – neglected children, sadly, often lacked not only affection and guidance but even modelling in the basic elements of human dignity – and he suspected this was one that would go badly. Remembering the boy’s file, the chaplain wondered bleakly if he’d ever even been bathed in a kitchen sink, mother tenderly counting the toes underneath soap bubbles.

“Son,” he began, suppressing a grimace when the boy twitched bodily. His expression remained stony.

“Young man,” Father Poponian began again. “As I know you’re aware, there are some standards we expect everyone to meet. You need to keep up with your studies – which you certainly have – treat your peers and teachers with respect – and again, we’ve certainly found no fault with you there! But how you present yourself, Walter…”

Cut to the chase, the padre thought, watching the small face close even further. “As they say, young man – cleanliness is next to godliness.”

A line of red worked its way down the immobile features, and Father Poponian cleared his throat.

“You know,” he said, “They didn’t always say that. ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness.’ It was quite the opposite in the early days of the church.”

A flicker of the eyes in his direction was encouraging. “The first leaders and saints actually discouraged bathing, for the devout. It was in reaction to the dominant Roman culture, you see, particularly the famous Roman baths. They may have cleansed the body, but, well, they were also often places of sin. They dirtied the soul. And it probably didn’t hurt that an unclean and smelly skin certainly didn’t encourage any, well, sinful thoughts in others!”

The boy met and held his gaze then, listening. Father Poponian warmed to his subject.

“So, for many centuries, holy men and women only felt the touch of Holy Water for their entire adult lives. St Benedict and St Francis of Assisi were two you might have heard of who espoused this view – I’m sure you know of St Francis, at least. The friend to animals?”

The boy shook his head.

“Hrmm. Well, here.” He snagged his battered copy of
Lives of the Saints from the bookshelf behind him. “You might find this an interesting read.”

The boy took it from his hands, warily, and flipped to a random page near the end, then back near the beginning. The chaplain watched him read. He’d been a surprisingly well behaved charge over the past six months, given the circumstances that brought him to the Home for Problem Children. Where other boys had transitioned easily from street life to the circumspect pleasures of the dorm gangs, Walter seemed to have embraced the discipline his teachers offered. Outside of classes and mealtimes, he could most often be found cross-legged on his bed, stolidly churning through his schoolwork.

The chaplain made a mental note in his overstuffed to-do list to keep a closer eye on this boy. It wasn’t unheard of for children from his background to hear the call, given a little quiet space and attention.

“Saint Benedict,” the boy said, eyebrows rising in surprise. “’To those that are well, and especially for the young, bathing shall seldom be permitted.’ Hrmm.”

“Yes, well,” Father Poponian replied, realising he’d oversold the wrong case and a little unnerved the boy had found the appropriate passage so quickly. “The Black Plague did put an end to that particular school of thought. An unclean body encourages fleas and other unhealthy particles, and is unpleasant for others to be near. There’s no spiritual enlightenment to be found in neglecting the body the Creator has given you.”

The boy slipped the book under his American History text.

“You can keep that as long as you like,” the chaplain said. “As long as you promise me that you’ll take a proper shower after every gym class. And in the morning when you don’t have a class. Promise?”


Rorschach moved uncomfortably inside the far-too-large suit jacket and regarded the bathroom with suspicion. The sunflower-yellow tiles gleamed and oozed the scents of lemon and bleach.

Through that, he smelled bacon and melting cheese, slithering up from the kitchen below.

It wasn’t a room for a human body to stand in, let alone strip away and leave behind its filth. It was a room for admiring from a distance, to carefully seal in cellophane for future generations to admire.

His one-room tenement apartment came with rights to a bathroom down the hall, shared by the entire floor. The mold there thrived out from the grout in swirls around hectic splotches of hair and semen, intimate cast-offs of the great roiling mass outside his door. Walter bathed at his own sink, quickly working a washcloth around and underneath his clothes before heading off to the garment district. It did well enough. No one complained.

To his face.

His stomach growled, taunted by the promise of food. He moved to violate the sanctity of the showroom, flipping his face up under his nose and cupping his hands under the cold tap, sucking greedily. Catching his reflection in the mirror, he sighed.

His chin was now noticeably cleaner than the rest of the visible skin, which had a greyish tint.

Rorschach wanted his own clothes. Possibly breakfast. It was Sunday, so no work to rush off to, but he wanted to leave. To sleep. To start what new lines of investigation could be accomplished in the glare of daylight. None of these…complications. These aches.

Daniel’s socks felt very, very nice inside his shoes.

He wiggled his toes darkly, refusing to enjoy the comfortable stretch of fabric. He needed to not have comfortable socks. He would think of them when he ran through puddles, soaking his shoes. He didn’t want trousers that would show a new stain if he shinnied down a tar-covered spout. He didn’t want the softness of new cotton against his chest, spoiled by trickles of sweat.

Was better to have clothes that wouldn’t change if he chased human sewage down a manhole. No hesitation.

But – he’d seen the mattress, as he dressed. The imprint. A perverse shroud of Turin on the cream-colored fabric, the lines of his skinny shanks clearly visible. Fainter sketches on the sheet that had covered him.

Walter had stripped the bed, stuffed the sheets in the back corner of the closet behind a dusty set of football padding, and shot across the hall.

Rorschach closed and locked the bathroom door. Walter unlocked it, darted next door into Daniel’s study and returned with a chair, which he wedged under the doorknob.

He pinched and tugged on his sleeve. Good material, he thought grudgingly. Strong. Will be easy to take in to proper size – only an afternoon’s work. Pinstripes wouldn’t suit him, anyway. Wrong build. What hack sold him this?

Rorschach stripped, refusing to double-check that the door was secure, and ducked into the relative safety of the shower stall. He crouched to examine the ominous crystal knob that seemed to be the sole control and risked a careful tug. A patter of lukewarm water on his neck rewarded the effort, and he quickly ascertained that a twist to the right was hot and cold to the left; pulling it out from the wall intensified the stream; and it could roll in any direction like a hip joint, as well. Feeling experimental, he pushed it upward, and the showerhead…pulsed.

He shuddered away from the revolting sensation and settled the knob dead center: weak stream, lukewarm water. More than sufficient for the job.

Except he then nudged the control in hairline degrees to the right until it was as hot as he could stand, telling himself it was more efficient. Quicker to wash anything in heated water. He wasn’t savoring the dissipation of filtered, drinkable gallons as it soothed away the lingering muscle cramps, just relief at having his full range of motion back.

He wasn’t sniffing the soap that smelled of Daniel.

Rorschach pulled his face off with one brusque gesture, setting it inside-out on the soapdish, and rubbed suds over his cheeks and closed eyes. He didn’t know a name for the scent – something like trees might smell, but only in a very clean forest, free of rotting debris and the picked-over carcasses of prey. There were bottles of shampoo and something called “conditioner” but he ignored them, rubbing the bar from his face into his hair and dunking the whole mess under the stream when the soap slipped from his hands.

Grey suds sluiced from his body to the drain. He breathed in snuffling lungfuls of the sweet-tree steam and noticed two darker places on the linoleum below. He adjusted his feet to match them, a slightly wider stance and closer to the showerhead.

This where Daniel stands he knew, and shivered, surrounded by the scent of his partner, imagining him in this space day after day, naked, and wet, and rubbing…

Oh…hell.

Rorschach was free of petty lusts, entirely focused on his mission. Walter, less so. It was Walter who wrestled the wet mask down over his ears and chin, seeking to block out the loathsome enticements, but this only intensified the smell of the soap lingering on heated skin.

He choked off a moan.

The soap was next to his heel, slowly dissolving into mush. He picked it up and stoically, deliberately, pushed suds around his shoulders, down his arms. It was easy to imagine Daniel doing the same. Nite Owl’s light armor could deflect a switchblade but did not breathe well, and on many early mornings he would strip naked to the waist in the brief minutes it took to bring the Owlship in underneath the city. Skin left with a pungent sheen, drying to goosebumps under Archie’s internal vents. Rorschach took no notice.

Walter moved on to his chest, stomach clenching as he brushed pointlessly sensitive bits. Which was most of his skin, suddenly. Still, he scraped every inch, digging in with his ragged fingernails. Anything to put off the inevitable moment when he’d no longer be someone virtuously bathing and instead…

“Mmph.”

Walter moved down his stomach, rubbing in slow, reluctant circles.

He gritted his teeth, thinking of the degenerates they stumbled across at least weekly, old men sucking off raggedly pretty hustlers in shadowed parks, husbands and fathers trading Polaroids of other people’s children, sick men sharing their diseases in the filthy alleys behind Village bars. All the churning sickness of twisted brains, polluting the city as much as their own bodies.

But those images wouldn’t linger, not with the clean smell of Daniel, the vision of him twisting under the water, rinsing water from his face, his back, his…

Walter licked his lips and whimpered, tasting soap. He longed for something to derail this loathsome process, but it had gained crushing momentum. Nothing else for it but to…

He groaned as his brain actually formed the phrase …grab bull by the horn, and put action to words. He squeezed, experimentally, feeling slightly cooler liquid ooze to the tip, washed away a moment later. He ground his molars together, feeling the ache build already, glad it would be over soon, wishing he had more time to stop himself, glad again it was nearly done, with his partner not ten feet below awaiting his return.

Possibly wondering, what was delay. Likely to worry, to come check?

Nite Owl had different technique with locked doors than Rorschach, but nearly as effective. Even the chair braced under the knob would be no challenge. What if he were to pull back shower curtain, look in – intentions purely honourable, of course, concerned expression – find him…in state…

Walter slid a soapy hand down his buttock, squeezing in counter time to other, wrong, movements, eyes wide and watching the shadows change on his face as if in rainfall, tension tightening and sinking like the leap from owlship to street, and the realisation hit him again like a kick to the solar plexus, both hands flying to the wall for support.

Daniel had seen him. Had stripped him bare. In better state than now. And locked him away, sent him to bathe. Wrinkled his nose and covered offensive thing.

Daniel was good. Better than Walter, better than Rorschach, even. He’d be disgusted. He was disgusted.

Derailment. Good. Had almost given up hope. Almost succumbed.

But didn’t.

Good.


Rorschach braced himself and yanked the knob to the left until it snapped off in his hand.

* * *

Daniel tried not to sigh in relief when a herd of elephants stomped down the stairs. He’d started to seriously worry his partner had drowned.

“Leave any for the fishes?” he called.

The footsteps paused. “Shower broken. Made in Malaysia – child labor. You should know better. Have implemented stop-gap solution.”

“What solution is – no, nevermind. Don’t tell me. I’ll fix it later.” Daniel tried to remember what was in his bathroom that could possibly be used to turn off a broken faucet, and came up blank. He almost looked forward to discovering the Rube Goldberg invention that waited in his show stall.

“There’s a plate in the oven for you,” he said. “Just scrambled eggs and bacon.”

Daniel grinned in anticipation of the reprimanding: Not kosher, Daniel. It was on the tip of his tongue already: What part of Secular Humanist did you need defined, again?

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?”

“What part of…” Daniel trailed off and looked in the direction of his partner’s trembling, accusing finger at the ironing board in front of him. On which was an elderly pair of boxer shorts.

“Ah,” he breathed, and whipped the half-wrinkled garment out of sight, into the brown grocery bag that held the rest of Rorschach’s perfectly pressed and folded outfit. He held it out as a shield. “Sorry. I wasn’t thinking. The iron was still hot, and…it’s more habit than anything else. Really.”

Rorschach clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides. The rocking pattern on his face looked to Daniel like one figure throttling another. Or, in a gentler world, playing patty-cake. He’d clearly transgressed one of Rorschach’s more important masculine boundaries.

He tried to shrug it off. “Hey, lots of guys iron their shorts. I do, for one. They feel nicer that way.”

Daniel’s nerveless fingers dropped the bag as Rorschach silently launched himself across the kitchen. He felt nothing more than a puff of wind, though, as Rorschach snatched up the bag and disappeared down the basement stairway, slamming the door behind.

Heart pounding, Daniel tried not to think on how goddamned adorable the vigilante had looked, stomping away with his trousers rolled up and a jacket hanging nearly to his knees.

Part three here.

Date: 2009-03-26 06:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brancher.livejournal.com
The friend to animals?”

I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE

Date: 2009-03-26 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mustinvestigate.livejournal.com
I DID NOT LEAVE THAT SECTION IN SOLELY FOR THAT LINE.

And I especially have not seen that so often I've been singing the theme at work and scaring small children grad students.

Date: 2009-04-06 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] por-queeee.livejournal.com
OH GOD I JUST NOW GOT THAT READING THIS COMMENT

Date: 2009-08-21 06:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] justapieceofme.livejournal.com
...I still haven't. *Wonders what she's missing*

Date: 2009-08-24 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mustinvestigate.livejournal.com
If you've somehow managed to go this long without seeing it, you're in for a treat here :D

Date: 2009-08-29 08:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] justapieceofme.livejournal.com
Haha. Verrry interesting. Thanks for the link! :D

Date: 2009-12-21 06:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radishface.livejournal.com
This is the hottest thing ever since woodfried pizza and just as delicious-- Rorschach in the shower was just. I cannot even.

I am stranded overnight at an airport and I have just discovered your archive and thank you for what I am sure is going to be a very wonderful evening of reading instead of sitting here sleepless and angsting over empty airports :D

Date: 2009-12-21 08:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mustinvestigate.livejournal.com
Love the icon!

And thanks :D I'm glad to make a purgatorial stay in an airport more tolerable and hope you're enjoying them. Man, Clean was the first fanfic I'd written in yearsnyears - I think (hah, hope) the rest get a bit better and less wordy :)

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