watching the lights go down

other worlds through sunglasses


white space, my heart is an open book, distant
Rook the Librarian gisho
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[Watchmen] massive set of ficbits
Idea nicked from eugenetapdance. The theory: put your music on shuffle. Write a ficlet for each song, taking only the time the song runs to do so. When you have ten, post.

The practice: I can't type that fast on my PDA, and between that and the fact I was doing some of these on breaks at work and kept getting interrupted, and the fact that some ideas just would not shut up . . . well, they're short. About half, the ones I did on my laptop, were done while the song played. I should do a formal variant where instead of time, you have the wordcount of the song.

Also, there are twenty. I'd done twelve before I remembered to check. And I skipped some songs which were just impossible. I got 'We Will Become Silhouettes' and all I could think of was to go the Cage route, make six blank lines, and declare it a ficbit. I swear it'd work for 'Watchmen' and that song, but I couldn't bring myself to. And you just

okay, I was going to type 'You just try writing a fic that relates to 'Other Places Jimmy Hoffa Isn't', but I had a flash of inspiration and apparently, you can:

other places jimmy hoffa isn't [paul and storm]

Bill, Dave, and Larry met at a Teamsters meeting, so of course every few months their Friday beer session brings up Jimmy Hoffa. "I swear," Larry is saying tonight for the fifth time, "he's not dead. He was abducted by the CIA and he's in a secret prison in Cuba. I swear. Heard it from a guy whose brother-in-law works for the FBI."

"Nope. Sorry," says the big man in biking leathers at the other end of the bar. He's been steadily knocking back whiskey. None of them have seen him before. "He's dead. Very dead."

"How do you know, huh?" Dave says, just tipsy enough to be defiant. "You kill him?"

The big man grins. The scar down his face turns it into a sneer. "Nah. I was supposed to, but the Mafia got there first. The guy who did it told me about it, though. They buried him under a Wal-Mart parking lot right here in Hoboken. But I like the way you think, gentlemen."

"You're kidding," says Bob. His throat is dry.

"Not a bit." He fishes out a hundred-dollar-bill and pluks it in a puddle of spilled beer. "Barkeep! This should cover it, the rest is for my new friends here. And if you'll excuse me, I have a plane to catch."

The big man walks out without finishing his whiskey. They hear the roar of a motorcycle taking off.

Dave hesitantly declares, "He was messing with us. That's all." Bob and Larry nod in unison, and they turn their thoughts to spending the hundred. They all put it out of their heads. But somehow, they find excuses not to shop at the local Wal-Mart ever again.


That was fun. But there's still stuff I just can't fic to. I enjoy the challenge, and it's good exercise writing short pieces, but given my worldbuilding obsession stuff is going to get long.

Most of these could be movie- or comic-verse; the two are congruous. Some are movie-verse, more or less. Honestly, my inclination is to declare my 'personal canon' to be a hybrid, with the comic's richness of bckground detail and backstory, but the movie's masterplan and denouement, which made vastly more logistical sense to me.

Am undecided whether I should go with Rorschach warning Adrian, as in the comic, or Dan, as in the movie. On the one hand I like the implication that Rorschach and Veidt have parted ways so far Rorschach doesn't care enough to warn him, and there's no way the grappling gun could reach that office or break the window. On the other hand, the "smartest man in the mourge" line is a personal favorite.

Detail, details. Aaaargh. Also I do subscribe to the theory that Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis aren't as dead as everyone thinks, and have plotbunnies brewing as to how they managed it.

Anyway, onto the ficbits:


smile like you mean it [the killers]

Eddie lived life to the fullest. He grabbed on with both hands. All that cliche shit, which was really just code for 'laugh, dammit, and look like you're having fun'. What kind of comedian didn't have fun? He ate, drank, and was merry. Someday soon he was going to die.

Everyone was. That was kind of the point. He didn't know when or why, but the missiles were going to start flying. Probably a computer glitch. Somebody spots a migrating crow on the radar. Some shit like that, it'd just be appropriate.

Even when he's not working he goes for long walks through the ghetto neighborhoods. Fallout shelter signs on every big building, and graffiti on everything flat. Trash in the gutters. Children laughing and playing. It's the last that gets to him. What kind of idiot brings a kid into this world? Kids are for the future. There's not going to be a future, not anymore.

He gives it twenty years, tops. If they're lucky.

He brings the newspaper up to the roof of his rowhouse and reads it, smoking a cigar, keeping an eye on the sunset sky for incoming missiles. There's an article tucked in the local news that says Silk Spectre and Dr. Manhattan have moved in together, in a neighborhood not far away. Eddie thinks about getting their address, dropping by. No. She won't want to see him.

Eddie bets, though, that however he stacks up against the warheads, there's one thing Manhattan would protect. Teleport her to India. Put up a force-field. Something. It should be a reassuring thought. But really, it'd just be the best joke of all. Eddie, of all people, having his little girl turn out safe, while all the fine upstanding citizens' precious jewels get cooked. He should love the idea.

It makes him sick to his stoumach. It makes him want to cry. But he makes himself grin anyway, and he stubs out his cigar and goes back in to watch the news. Maybe tonight's the night.



photograph [verve pipe]

Sally loses track of how many times she's been photographed. She's on tabloid covers, news spreads, girlie magazines. She clips out the best ones and pins them to her walls. So do thousands of teenage boys. Sally doesn't mind; it's flattering. They think well of her. They think she's beautiful. Who doesn't want to be beautiful?

There are picture of her in her costume, in every kind of clothing, in lingerie. There are pictures of her alone, with her friends, in a lineup of models. Mostly alone. Young and beautiful and enticing. She's always smiling in photos.

As she gets older her face develops frown-lines. She never bothers to dye her hair.



get on your boots [u2]

"You like it?" Sandra says, and Sam's mouth goes dry. Okay. Tight is fine. She kept the tight. And the boots have flat, chunky soles, very practical. Except they also have buckles. Big silver buckles, halfway up her calves, and he can't keep his eyes off her legs.

"Sam? You don't like it?"

"Uh, no, it's great," he says hastily. "Really great."

Sandra grins and pulls her goggles down, and suddenly she's something else entirely, something dark and predatory and mesmerizing, a creature of darkness. Forget the peace talks, forget higher noble purposes, forget the whole damned mess. This is what it's all about. Boots on the ground. "Good," says Sandra happily. "Let's go kick some ass."



space oddity [dave bowie]

1960. Jon is visiting Mars for the first time. He would still be getting used to the idea of teleportation, but he knows he will be accustomed to it, so he already is.

Jon and Laurie, in 1985, are walking across the surface of Mars for the last and only time. Laurie is too caught up in the swirl of emotion to notice her amazement. Years later, she will remember how beautiful it was, and be grateful she got to see it.

It is 1962, and Jon is bringing back samples of Martian rock for NASA to analyze. "There is no life there," he tells them, "and there never was." The science team looks dissapointed.

Laurie is reading a newspaper in 1993. The Unified Mars Mission's rover, Druzhba, has sent back photographs of what looks like a huge pile of broken glass. NASA is at a loss. She thinks of calling Cape Canaveral and explaining.

Jon, in a time past counting, is examining the remains of a spacecraft in the deep void between galaxies. Its name is written on the prow in letters of gold: SPECTRE. He smiles.

In 1938, a clockmaker is helping his son adjust a telescope to point to Mars. "See?" he says. "The planets move in their orbits by rules. It all fits together."

His son nods, and remembers.



bleeders [wallflowers]

The smell of dried blood is becoming familiar to him. Rorschach is not sure if that's a good sign. He doesn't want to get hurt, of course, but it's good that it no longer puts him off when he does.

It's a pity that masked heros are required. If they are required, let them be good ones.

He washes out his suit in cold water in the sink, which is stained with years of bad water. He's getting better all the time. More observant. Stronger. It all feels horribly inadequate just the same. He fails every night, doesn't dodge fast enough, misses something he should see. Every cut is a rebuke. But he's getting used to that, too, and the fear and the pain are sliding away as he slips his mask on each night.

Any night could be his last. He slips on the trenchcoat and tells himself he's not afraid of that, either. After a while, it's true.



darkness, darkness [solas]

She's good with shadows. She blends in to them, lurks, dances through them, emerges at the perfect moment. None of her fellow heros, Silhouette thinks sometimes, can say as much. They're brash, loud, trying to leave a mark on the world too bright to be erased.

She lights a cigarette and watches the people flicker in and out of their clubs, laughing, trying to drive off the darkness.

She lives in shadows, thrives on them. She doesn't need to be loud or splashy, just sharp. Plenty sharp. Fortunately, this has never been a problem for her.

Her knives glisten just a little, and as she steps out into the circle of lamplight the shadow clings to her body like a lover.



high and dry [radiohead]

The lights get in his eyes.

Veidt can't stand television. It's an irritating and irrational prejudice, one that a man in his position really shouldn't entertain, but there it is. Too many lights, too much glib superficiality. He can't appear on camera without feeling like a pinned butterfly under glass. (He doesn't allow it to show in his face, of course.)

The world is watching. At least, the parts of the wold that follow the newscasts are. Close enough. Veidt fixes a smile on his face. This is all a necessary step in his plan, and the pangs of regret he feels to be killing off the noblest part of himself are insignificant. By this time next year the dimembered corpse of Ozymandias's legacy will appear in toyboxes all over America.

"The rumours are true," he tells the interviewer aloud, and ignores the dry feeling in his mouth and the dizziness in his head. "My name is Adrian Veidt."

What does it matter if he's losing his old mask? The new mask will be better. More convincing.



we didn't start the fire [billy joel]

He wondered for the first time when he met the Comedian, fifteen and gleefully brutal. But Hollis wasn't that far from fifteen himself then, and he put his misgivings aside in favor of fatherly pride.

It was inevitable, he told himself. The tide of history. People had always looked to heros to save them. Now they were getting heros.

When the Minutemen disbanded, there were approximately four dozen costumed heros active on the East Coast. Most were second-stringers, active only a few months or years, who lost as often as they won. But it was enough to keep the idea alive.

Hollis handed his name over to Dan Dreiberg with a sick feeling of inevitability. The world was changing. It was time. They were a part of history now.

The damage had long since been done.



if you believe [our lady peace]

This is the vision laid out before then: peace. Shining cities laid out in harmony, a better world, a world with a future. It's a beautiful vision.

Their world, their future, all there for the taking. All there, whatever they do. They just have to close their eyes and step in.

Laurie is exhausted. She has seen more devastation than the human soul was meant to comprehend, and somewhere in the wreckage she shut down. She steps forward. She can do nothing else; new life, new hope, is on the other side of the lie. There is no hope left here.

Daniel was furious. He has run out of fury, with everything else. He clenches his fists and hates himself for it and agrees, because there's nothing else to do.

Rorschach is the strongest. He does not belive the glib vision, even when there is nothing else but darkness. He will not bend.

So he breaks.



ants marching [dave matthews band]

Bernie always starts the day with coffee and a pastry. What kind of pastry varies. There's this nice little bakery two blocks from his apartment; he gets whatever the lady who owns it thinks is good. She's plump and wears rhinestone glasses and if he didn't miss his wife so much he'd flirt back. Maybe someday.

A newsstand is a wonderful place for people-watching. They speed past, all on their own little missions. He wishes sometimes they had his perspective. Could see the big picture, not just their own mad little lives. He's got years and he reads the papers, so he sees it all.

Today's pastry is a jelly-filled roll with a buttery glaze. Bernie's just picking it up when the damned New Frontiersmen hobo comes looming up. He bites down instinctively and splurts jelly on his face. "Hey," he says, hastily trying to wipe it off. "Man, you scared me. Hey, you're early."

Not that he really has a schedule, not like some of the customers. There's one lady who comes by at nine, exactly nine, and gets a Gazette and tips him a dime, and walks off with the paper rolled into a club. There's a guy who wears a different color tie by day of the week, who hits between eight-fifteen and eight-twenty. The hobo's a bit more random. Bernie wonders about him. Bernie wonders abouzt everyone whose lives he sees through the zoetrope of their paper-buying, but he's long ago resigned himself to making up the juicy bits.

"Time is short," intones the hobo. The sun outlines his red hair with a gold halo. Maybe he's really a KGB agent, keeping an eye on the competition. Yeah, that'd work.

"Well, no rush. Here." Bernie hands over the New Frontiersman and examines his pastry. The splurt of jelly looks like a blood-splatter on the cheery yellow glaze.



the rose [bette midler]

They had it all working. He would have sworn. It was delicate, it was difficult, but they'd built something precious and wonderful. Then came the damned HUAC. Rolf said he was going to lay low for a bit. It'd be fine. They had an argument and Rolf walked out, and a few months later, Nelson read about a John Doe pulled from the harbor and had to take a few days off to cry. Fifteen years, dammit, fifteen years and now it was all dust.

He kept going somehow. He kept crimefighting; it was his memorial. He never talked about it. In 1966 he gave up and called it quits.

A few weeks after his retirement he wakes to the feeling of a heavy body settling on the bed beside him. He's shocky with adrenaline and half-upright before there's a big, strong, familiar hand over his mouth. "Shhhh," says Rolf. "I have a lot to explain, love."

Old, slim hopes suddenly leap up. Nelson doesn't want the hand to go away. Proof it's real. "Yeah," he says, mouth dry. "Rolf ..."

"Brought you something," says the gruff voice, and produces a bouquet of roses from the floor.

Nelson smiles and takes them. More than ten years, and it's all swept away in an instant. "Welcome back."



viva la vida [coldplay]

Dear Hypatia Hollis,

We've never spoken and never will, which I regret. I would have liked to meet you, and explain in person. But perhaps I don't have that right.

You must know that your parents have secrets, that your mother is the hero called Black Crow. They probably haven't told you, however, that they used to be Silk Spectre and Nite Owl. I counted them as my dearest friends, once. I have no friends left. We parted ways fifteen years ago. Perhaps I should take the circumstances to my grave, and trust that they will as well - but that would be too merciful an ending. One person, at least, should know the truth. Jon is beyond caring, and in an hour or so, I will be beyond caring. Yet truth is still important.

Ask your parents, and they will tell you the truth. It's a heavy secret to lay on you, but I do not doubt for a moment your ability to carry it. You have great strength.

I care for you more than you know, and in a way, everything I've done for the last fifteen years was for your sake. I am leaving you a better world.

My wordly riches go to you, as well, but they're not important. Dispose of them as you wish. The secret is important. Sometimes the word is made better by an evil act. The act is still evil, and I deserved the hell I'm unjustly escaping now. The world is still better.

It's your world now. I did my best to keep it beautiful. Look after it for me, Hypatia.

Sincerely,

Ozymandias
Adrian Veidt



sour girl [stone temple pilots]

Jon knows when he meets Laurie what's going to happen. She's sixteen. She's sharp-edged and beautiful and she looks at him as if they're the only two sane people in the room. She kisses him, she touches his cheek as if she's not afraid, and she's never afraid, just angry. Very angry. She takes after her father. He doesn't tell her about it.

In 1985, she is storming out. Still angry. Knowing he doesn't understand. He never will. He can't change human nature. He can only watch her and hope that Dan can make her happy. He doesn't know just then, doesn't know anything past the tachyon storm.

He'd go after her if he could. Beg her to stay. She's all he has.

But he can't, because he doesn't.

So he goes through the motions, already knowing what's going to happen. He plays his part. And twenty years later, when Jon comes back to Earth just long enough to visit her again, make sure she's alright, it's like the lifting of a weight he'd forgotten was there, an emotion he can't even name, to know that things worked out and Laurie is happy.



thunder road [bruce springsteen]

Sally shows up at his door one morning. Hollis blinks at her. She's dressed in yellow and has her hair done up and she looks miserable. "Hollis," she says. "Get me out of here?"

"Sally - "

"I know. We're not kids anymore. I've a got a daughter to look after. She's the damned Silk Spectre, she can do her own laundry for a bit. Get me out of here."

So he does. He strokes her hair back from her wrinkled eyes and sits her down in his latest restoration project, a 51 Mustang, and they go approximately west. She laughs and her hair blows back in the wind, and he goes far too fast and whips them around curves until she's almost thrown into his lap. He doesn't ask what brought on the sudden need for escape, doesn't think about old dreams and the men who looked at her and the way she made herself into whoever other people wanted. He wishes she were twenty years younger. He wishes both of them were thirty years younger, then they could be young lovers with their whole lives ahead of them. Instead they get to Chicago and get a motel room and lie in the same bed without touching, and he can hear her crying in the night.

They arrive in California three days later, footsore, sunburnt, and aware of their age. They feel better anyway.



all tomorrow's parties [velvet underground]

She's not just going to wear her mother's old costume. That would be silly. She designs a new one, and takes advantage of the wonderful new world of vinyl and see-through fabrics to create something really eye-catching that doesn't look like it came out of a costume party from the thirties, and that doesn't restrict her movement. At the time Laurie likes the idea of being eye-catching. If nothing else, it'll be a distraction. Her mother approves whole-heartedly of it. Says it's futuristic. Stunning.

When she walks into the meeting she can feel all the eyes on her, although she has eyes only for Doctor Manhattan. He's fascinating. Utterly fascinating. But the Comedian catches her eye, too, with his map stunt, and afterwards she decides she'll go to him. He seemed to think the whole thing was just as ridiculous as she felt. Maybe they've got things in common. Maybe he'll give her some pointers. She's still weak on self-defense. Not brutal enough. And he was smiling at her.

When her mother collapses crying in the car, Laurie just feels stupid in her getup. The whole idea of being a costumed hero is starting to feel pretty silly. Even if the clothes are cool.



windowsill [arcade fire]

The sensible people were in bed hours ago. Steve Fine know he's not really one of the sensible people. Sensible people don't become homicide detectives. He sits at his kitchen table and sucks on his cigarette instead.

He can't get the image of the blood-splatered poster out of his head. What kind of guy does it take to do that? If you don't want your kids getting nuked, you don't do them in yourself first, you - hell. You don't move to the middle of nowhere, because if the Soviets launch everything they've got, the only safe place is going to be a concrete bunker in Antarctica. That poor guy must really have thought it was a kindness.

How sick is he, sympathizing with a murderer? Well, everyone has reasons. Maybe it's good. It's what seperates him from a nutcase like Rorschach. They've formally pinned one murder on him, but there've been a lot more that smelled of him. All wanted men. Men Fine wouldn't have minded pulling out his pistol and shooting in the head, if he's being honest, although he wouldn't have. He upholds the law.

Fuck, what does any of it matter now? He goes over to the window and stares out at the dark city. There's not that much difference between him and Rorschach. Just the rules. That's all he has. He plays by the rules.

He has to help people. It's what he does. And he interviews crying widows and measures bloodstains and wonders if any of it is going to do any good, if the nukes start flying tomorrow.

Somewhere outside, someone is sobbing. Fine's hands go white-knuckled on the windowsill and he stares at the 'Nostalgia' billboard and the broken windows on the building opposite, and wishes he knew what to do.



these things [she wants revenge]

She walks out. Months of work setting up the fake theft ring, a lovely boudoir, and Silk Spectre calls him a damned pervert and walks out without a blow.

So Captain Carnage follows her home.

She works it out, of course. She's halfway out of her costume and he's watching through the window, and suddenly she looks right at him. He swallows, hot anticipation burning in his groin.

Silk Spectre emerges in full costume, heels clicking. She glistens in the dark. She hisses and grabs Captain Carnage by the scruff of his neck, and he can't conceal his groan. Even in the chill night air he's sweating. "Look," she says, and then she stops. "You like getting hurt? Fine. I'll hurt you."

The emergency room doctors ask him if he wants to file a report, how many men attacked him. He giggles through the broken ribs. Silk Spectre's expression of terrible glee is burned into his brain. He won't go back. By the end it hurt too much even for him.



leeds [indigo girls]

He gets sick for the first time in a decade on the last day of an iatrogenetics conference, which juxtaposition amuses him a little, but not enough to make up for it. He holes up in his hotel room with the curtains drawn, since the light hurts his eyes, and alternates annoyed transatlantic phone calls with throwing up and trying to keep down asprin tablets. He isn't supposed to get sick; he should be too strong for it. Right now he's weak as a kitten.

Bubastis would help, if she weren't on the other side of the Atlantic. She'd curl up beside him and purr and lick his ear. And probably catch it and be miserable. No. Best not to risk contact with anyone. He's too sick to fly, anyway.

The news sounds like it's underwater, and it's all depressing.

Never mind. People are stupid and petty and the world encourages the worst of them. Things will change. Someday.

When Adrian finally sleeps he dreams of the great world-serpent of the Norsemen, and of swimming through fathomless depths, frozen to the bone, looking for a far-off light that never comes any closer.



bizzare love triangle [new order]

Jon keeps coming up. It makes it worse when Laurie keeps apologizing. Dan isn't enough of a jerk to blame her for it. They'd been together for a long time.

No. He's a jerk, he tells himself very firmly, for being glad. Laurie loved Jon. Loves Jon. He brought her home, he should be looking after her as a friend, not trying to seduce her when she's at her most vulnerable.

So it's a relief when she seduces him, instead.

She's decided, she wants this, hallelujah, she wants him, and Laurie has always gotten what she wants. He wonders how she and Jon managed to get involved in the first place. Probably it was all her idea. She's that kind of woman. He loves her for it, always has. He wonders what she sees in him after, well, after Jon. Other than the ability to be wrong.



streets of philadelphia [bruce springsteen]

Rolf Mueller vanished in the 50s. Nelson Gardner died in a car crash in '74.

Shortly afterwards two men called Wolfgang and Justin bought a rowhouse in Philadelphia. Wolfgang was, he said, retired - he never said from what - and Justin did something mysterious and managerial for Veidt International. They lived very quietly. Sometimes they went out to dinner, or drove up to New York for a concert.

Once they were gone for three days, and when they came back Justin was weeping softly. Old Mrs. Wellesley from next door asked where they'd been, what the matter was. "Maine," said Wolfgang shortly. "Visiting a friend." He bundled Justin inside without further comment.

Most of their arguments were too low to be heard, or masked by the television.

"I just don't know," Justin was saying, at ten past midnight. The Keene Act had been the biggest thing in the headlines, and the argument had begun during the late news and only now risen to audibility. "Can't tell who I am anymore. I used to think it mattered. That I was a good man doing good works. And now it all looks like so much -"

Wolfgang said something, too low to be heard. There was a soft thump.

Justin sounded shaken. "I guess so. But it still feels like we messed up. If we'd done better, kept strong -"

"Hush. It's over." Wolfgang's voice, raised and stern. "You will not feel guilty. I won't allow it."

"I don't. I just wish I could forget. Really forget."

When the low noises turned to moans Mrs. Wellesley took her glass away from the wall and went to get a drink, shaken for no reason she could name.

They were friendly to their neighbors, and Justin had a genial kind of charm. But they never made friends. It was just the two of them, and the neighbors, if they wondered, decided that they must have clung together for protection back when two men weren't supposed to love each other, and never broken the habit. Mostly, nobody wondered. Whatever they had between them seemed to satisfy them, and if they seemed melancholy, it was no more than anyone might in this sad, uncertain world.

These are all amazing, but I think I love 'windowsill' best, because I loved the small glimpses of Fine we were given in canon and I love how you portray him here even more.

There's not that much difference between him and Rorschach. Just the rules. That's all he has.

Just. Awesome.

Hey, 'Fine' is only a bad mispronunciation away from 'Vimes'. ;P

Glad you enjoyed.

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