sermocinare: (Silhouette and her nurse)
[personal profile] sermocinare
Fandom: Watchmen
Title: A Host of Seraphim (4/4)
Rating: R
Warnings: none
Characters/Pairings: Adrian/Dan
Disclaimer: Watchmen belongs to Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons.
Summary: Adrian reveals himself, first to New York's vigilante community, then to the press.
Previous chapters: 1, 2, 3


Dan had fallen asleep tucked away under Adrian's wings, surrounded by the smell of soft feathers and a warm human body. When he awoke, though, he found himself lying underneath a blanket, and Adrian gone.

Rubbing his eyes sleepily, Dan reached for his glasses and sat up. The door was standing ajar, the bright light of mid-morning falling through the crack, slicing through the semidarkness of the room like a dagger.

Dan yawned and stretched, then swung his legs out of the bed. Padding over through the door, he pushed it open, blinking his eyes against the brightness of the living room. Adrian was sitting in front of the row of wall-length windows, looking out over the city that stretched out beneath them. His chin was resting on his arms, which he had draped over the backrest of a chair in what had by now become his usual position.

“'morning,” Dan yawned, rubbing a hand through his hair. “You been awake for long?”

Adrian lifted his head, half-turning to give Dan a soft smile: “Good morning, Dan. Yes, I've been awake for a bit. You know how it is. Sometimes, you wake up at the crack of dawn, and then your thoughts start up and won't let you sleep any more.”

Dan pulled up a chair and sat down next to Adrian, mimicking his pose. “Yes,” he said, and chuckled. “Usually, it has me end up in my workroom, tinkering on some gadget, or trying to improve Archie's engines.” He eyed Adrian sideways: “What's been keeping you up?”

Adrian arched his back, stretching his arms above his head and loosening the muscles in his shoulders, and Dan couldn't help but notice the way the muscles moved underneath Adrian's smooth, pale skin. It reminded him vaguely of a tiger he'd seen at the zoo a few years ago.

“Well, I've been thinking about what to do now, what with the wings being here to stay.” Adrian settled down again, and sighed: “I can't hide myself away from the world forever, even if I'd like to. I mean, of course I could just dissolve my company, take the money, buy a cabin in the woods and disappear. But I know I wouldn't be able to do that for very long. I would go mad out there. I need to feel like I'm doing something for the world.”

Dan nodded. He knew the feeling. He wasn't exactly what you'd call a people person, but that didn't mean he did not like people. In fact, he liked them a lot, and being a masked vigilante was his way of showing that.

Adrian grimaced slightly: “So I guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and put myself out there. Show myself to people, and hope that they will accept me.”

“Have you come up with a plan on how to do that? I mean, you could just give a press conference, explain everything...”

“I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet,” Adrian said with a quiet laugh. Then, he once again turned around to face Dan: “I was thinking along the lines of, well, letting people on to things slowly. Letting them see...” he struggled for a moment, “see the angel, and then letting them know it's me.” He shrugged: “After all, it worked with Ozymandias.”

“So you're thinking of going on patrol again?” Dan asked, raising his eyebrows. “But what about your company? You've been absent for a few days, but how many more before people become suspicious?”

“You've got a point there. But I've though of that, and I think I can keep myself away from any board meetings or public functions for a while longer. Not very long, a week at most, but after all, I do vanish to the Antarctic for a week or two at times.” Adrian frowned slightly, a thin line appearing between his eyebrows: “The only problem is my secretary, and a few other people who will start knocking at my door sooner rather than later. I can only hope that I did well when I selected them, and that they are as discrete and loyal as I think they are.”

Dan nodded. It must be hard for Adrian, being so dependent on the discretion, and therefore the whims, of other people. Adrian had always been a bit of a control freak, something Dan had noticed soon after he had gone on patrol with Ozymandias for the first time. He liked to know where everything and everyone was going, and usually had a plan for everything, even events that Dan wouldn't have reckoned would happen.

“What about the other masks? You should tell them. They would find out anyway, once you've been out there. And honestly, I don't think you have much to worry about with them.” He pulled a face: “Except maybe the Comedian. You never know what he's going to do. But the others... well, I'm sure the Doc won't even blink. Silk Spectre, she's hooked up with him, so while she might gape a bit at first, I don't think she'll make a big deal of it. As for Rorschach, I know him well enough to tell you that some wings won't change his opinion of you.”

Which was the truth, even if Dan was leaving out the part where Rorschach didn't have that high of an opinion of Adrian to start with. To him, Adrian's wealth and liberal attitudes were something to be highly suspicious of. On their nightly patrols, Dan had heard many a rant about how Ozymandias was lacking in moral fiber, on how he was too tolerant of deviancy and the ills of modern society. But then, those were things that Dan himself had had to hear thrown at him now and again. Rorschach tended to see things in black and white, not really acknowledging how maybe there were different ways to reach the same goal. Still, at the heart of it, Dan knew that Rorschach was a good man, and wouldn't do anything to endanger the life, health or identity of a fellow vigilante.

Adrian seemed to consider this for a while, gazing out of the window, the slight frown still in place. But then, he nodded: “I guess you're right.” He looked at Dan, nibbling his lower lip in an unconscious gesture: “Do you think you could get word out that I would like to meet with everyone tomorrow night? I know that last time went rather, well, badly, but still. It would make things easier if I didn't have to find them one by one.”

“No problem, Adrian,” Dan said with a reassuring smile. “I'll get them together all right.”



A week ago, Dan would have looked at Adrian and seen nothing but a slightly aloof calm. But a week ago, he hadn't known Adrian the way he did now. Now, he noticed the tension in the other man's jaw, the way he stared at a fixed point somewhere in the distance. The crossed arms, fingers curling inwards slightly. The breath that went in and out like a metronome, measured and strictly controlled.

Adrian was nervous, but really, Dan wouldn't have expected anything else. One would have to be truly inhuman to not be nervous in a situation like this. Standing in front of New York's extremely loosely knit mask community, with everyone's eyes glued to Adrian, to the wings that sprouted from his back.

Well, everyone's eyes except for Rorschach's. But here was another reason where being good with people, and knowing how to see things as subtle as the movement of an owl's head at dusk, came in handy. Dan had worked together with Rorschach long enough for him to know that there was a subtle meaning, a pattern, behind the seemingly random swirls on the other man's mask. Dan wouldn't have been able to explain it to anyone else, but most of the time, he knew what Rorschach was probably looking like underneath that mask. This swirl, though, was a rare one. Bafflement.

“Well, fuck me.” As usual, the Comedian was the first to break the silence that had descended after Adrian had given everyone a very abridged version of why he was standing in front of them without a mask or costume, and with three pairs of wings growing from his back. And also as per usual, the Comedian's first line of defense was that of humor: “I mean, you've always been too damn saintly and sanctimonious. Small wonder you sprouted wings, Ozy.”

“I don't think I will be using that moniker any longer,” Adrian said levelly, not rising to the bait. Still, Dan could see Adrian's back tense up, the wings shifting subtly.

The Comedian grinned around his cigar: “Whatcha gonna call yourself, then? Cupid?”

Adrian had just opened his mouth to say something in reply when Rorschach's gravelly voice cut into the conversation: “Name of minor Roman deity would hardly be appropriate for guardian of the throne of God.”

Suddenly, everyone's attention shifted from Adrian to Rorschach. The Comedian took the cigar from his mouth, blinked, then put it back: “...what?”

Rorschach was looking directly at Adrian, the black marks on his mask showing a sharp, almost angular pattern. “Six-winged angel,” he explained, “Seraphim. The burning ones. Guard the throne of the Lord, singing his praises. Keepers of the divine order. Highest in the order of angels.” There was a short pause, and then, in a quieter tone: “Said to harbor the divine light, and communicate directly with God.”

There was a moment of silence, and the the Comedian barked out a laugh: “Where the hell did you get that from?”

“Christian theology. Foundation of western world. As you should know, Comedian.” Shifting his attention back to Adrian, Rorschach continued: “Archangel Gabriel is said to be a Seraph.”

“I don't think I shall be appropriating his name,” Adrian said, a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “That would be overdoing it a bit. I'm not an angel. I'm just a man with wings.”

“True,” Rorschach said, giving a short snort.

“Still, they're pretty impressive,” Laurie said, raising and eyebrow and grinning. “If I were you, I'd use that. Sure, not everyone knows all those details like Rorschach does, but everyone knows what an Archangel is.”

“Would be blasphemy, Silk Spectre.”

Laurie waved a hand dismissively: “Oh, come on. For one, everyone here uses this kind of thing, the associations people have, for PR. It's why we dress up like this and give ourselves these silly names in the first place, right? To gain something from it.” Her eyes flickered to the man who was standing besides her, casting a subtle blue hue over her hair and face, and she smirked: “Besides, I think we're totally beyond blasphemy, what with people calling Jon God.”

The blotches on Rorschach's mask arranged themselves in an obvious frown, but he didn't say anything.

“Well, whatever new identity I decide on for my vigilante activities, I'd be grateful if you could keep this to yourself for now,” Adrian said, looking around the room. “I am perfectly aware that I won't be able to keep this, or my real identity, secret for much longer, but I would like to have a bit of control over the timing.”

Dan took a step forward: “Which is perfectly understandable. Everyone in this room should know how dangerous it is to have your real identity exposed to the public. Adrian's taking a great risk with this, so we should respect his wishes.” He couldn't help but narrow his eyes in the direction of the Comedian at that last bit. While he respected the man's abilities in a tight situation, Dan had never really trusted him. The Comedian was too much of a wild card for that.

“Don't worry, Owlboy,” the Comedian said with an amused smirk. “This is going to be a good show either way. So I'm just gonna sit back and wait for the punchline.”

--

“...who described what she saw as “a man with wings, like an angel, only that he had three pairs instead of one”. The appearance of this man had such an effect on the would-be robbers that they immediately turned heel and fled.” Dan looked at Adrian, folding down the upper half of the newspaper he had been reading from, and grinned: “Seems like step one of your plan is going well. You've certainly made an impression. Even if it's just on the back pages of the Enquirer.”

Adrian smiled above the rim of his mug of coffee, his eyes a bit tired, but still shining with a cautious happiness: “Yes. Well, I didn't think I'd make the front page of the Times right after the first night, anyway. Right now, I'm a rumor. But give it a few more nights, and the rumor will have solidified enough for me to reveal myself to the public and have them think of me as something positive, instead of just a freak, something to be feared and mistrusted.”

Dan chuckled: “A bit of fear might not be such a bad thing. After all, you didn't even have to fight those guys in the alleyway. You just had to drop in and fan your wings a bit.” He shook his head in amusement at the memory: “The faces they made when they saw you...”

Adrian's smile widened, and he reached out to curl his fingers around Dan's: “You do realize that it won't always be this easy, right? The more people get used to me, the less they'll be inclined to just give up just because I'm there.”

Dan squeezed Adrian's fingers, sighing softly. “I know. I'm just hoping it will hold as long as possible. And that if they start fighting back, they'll at least aim for those parts of you that are just feathers, and nothing more.”

But only three nights later, Dan was gingerly trying to unstick a few bloodied feathers from a knife wound on one of Adrian's wings.

“Ow!” Adrian winced, the wing twitching away from Dan's touch.

“Hold still. I have to take a look at how deep this is,” Dan said, a worried frown on his face. They had faced off against five armed muggers that night. Two of them had fled immediately, but the rest had decided to make a stand and fight. Dan had disarmed one of them, Adrian the other, knocking the guy's pistol out of his hand with a snap of his wing. But at that moment, the guy's friend had pulled a knife, slicing it across the top of Adrian's outstretched wing. Adrian had whirled and taken him down, and after tying the guys up, Dan had insisted that they retreat to Adrian's penthouse so that he could have a look at the wound.

“There's not a lot of muscle to protect your bone and tendon on the edges of your wings. So if the cut goes to deep...” Dan shook his head, reaching over to take the moist washcloth from the shallow bowl it was sitting it and dabbing it at the wound, causing Adrian to hiss in pain. “Sorry.”

“It's all right,” Adrian said, attempting a smile that ended in a lopsided grimace. “It just stings a bit. I'm just glad that my boyfriend knows his way around birds,” he quipped, “since I don't fancy visiting a vet.”

Dan had to chuckle at this. The mental image of Adrian sitting in some veterinarian's waiting room next to some old lady with her sick cat was just too surreal. “Who would have thought that all those hours I spent as a boy fixing the wings of birds that had flown into windows or been attacked by our cat would come in handy one day.” He lifted his gaze from Adrian's wing to give the other man a soft smile: “Also, boyfriend, hm?”

“Well, you've practically been living here for over a week now, and shared a bed with me for the last few days. So why not put a name on it.” Adrian raised an eyebrow, his smile holding just the tiniest bit of insecurity: “Unless you're not comfortable with that word?”

“Oh, don't worry,” Dan replied, then leaned in to kiss Adrian softly, “I'm perfectly happy with it.”

Adrian nuzzled Dan's cheek before pulling back and letting Dan work on the cut again, trying his best to hold still.

“There,” Dan said after a while, “all clean. And it's only a shallow cut, so I don't think I'll need to do anything more than maybe put a band-aid on it. The bleeding's already stopped. Still,” he put the cloth away and turned to face Adrian, “we should maybe think about if there's any way that we can protect your wings a bit. Even though they're strong, they're at the same time quite vulnerable.” Dan bit the inside of his cheek, dropping his gaze: “And I'd hate to see you end up crippled just because some idiot with a gun got lucky and hit your wing joint.”

Adrian reached out, his fingertips brushing Dan's cheek, then along his jaw, gently lifting Dan's chin until Dan was looking at him: “Don't worry. We'll think of something. After all, I'm a genius, and you're a world-class inventor. It would be a shame if we couldn't come up with some kind of armor for my wings.”

Dan turned his head to place a kiss on Adrian's palm: “You're right. We'll think of something.”

Adrian put his other palm against Dan's jaw, taking Dan's face in his hands, and kissed him deeply. “Thank you. For taking care of me. For caring for me. For all of it. You're a good man, Daniel.”



“I guess this is it, then.” Adrian drew a deep breath, and Dan could see his arm twitch a bit, a suppression of the urge to run his hand through his hair. That, though, wouldn't be a good idea at the moment, not with all the care Adrian had just put into styling it just right.

Dan smiled, and patted the front of Adrian's shirt. Well, calling it a shirt was maybe a bit of a stretch. After some back and forth, Adrian's tailor had come up with a garment that did cover Adrian's chest – after all, Adrian had to be decent for his big press conference – but left the back completely open save for a few straps of cloth that ran between the wings, keeping it in place. After the necessary renovations in Adrian's bedroom had been done, Dan had caught him standing in front of the huge walk-in closet, staring at its contents with a look that could only have been described as sorrow. And, well, it was understandable. Adrian's wardrobe was something to behold, always had been. Dan had suggested auctioning it all off for charity, and Adrian had agreed that it would be the proper way for his suits to go.

“You're going to be fine,” Dan said, pressing a quick kiss to Adrian's lips. “Now go out there and give them hell. Or rather, heaven,” he added, chuckling.

Adrian took Dan's hand, squeezing it slightly before letting go again. Then, he stepped forward, pushing through the large double doors that led from the office into the sun-lit foyer of the Veidt Building. Dan could hear the collective gasp, followed by a moment's stunned silence so deep you could hear the water tinkling in the fountains. Then, just as the doors fell shut behind Adrian's winged form, a storm of questions broke loose, accompanied by the bright flashes of dozens of cameras. Dan couldn't help but frown slightly, worry creasing his brow as he slipped through a side door leading to a corridor that would, eventually, bring him out into the lobby at the back of the throng of reporters.

“...which I will answer shortly. But for now, I would ask you to listen, since I do think that the statement I have prepared will render some of them unnecessary,” Adrian was saying, holding up his hands in a placating gesture and smiling as if this were nothing more than the announcement of a new item in the long line of Veidt products. Dan shook his head slightly, smiling. He envied Adrian for his ability to appear calm even if, on the inside, he was anything but. Dan could remember standing in front of an audience of fellow ornithologists a few times, constantly fidgeting with his glasses and not knowing what to do with his sweating hands.

Leaning against one of the marble pillars that were spaced throughout the foyer, Dan listened to Adrian's speech. Adrian recounted his infection with the retrovirus, which had led to his transformation, even spoke briefly of the family legend. The reporters were hanging on his every word, some of them busily taking notes, others seemingly engrossed in the tale Adrian was spinning.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have truly entered a time in which science will expand the boundaries of our lives. It is going to redefine humanity, not just in the way we live, but also as to who we are. The only limits to human potential are those which we set ourselves, and to overcome those limits, we need to do away with the fear of the unknown, of the different and unfamiliar, that has plagued us for so long. Only if all of humanity works together can we finally use our greatest tool, our mind, to its full potential.” There was silence for a moment, and then Adrian smiled once more: “I am now open for any and all questions you want to ask.”

Once again, the initial uproar was so loud and chaotic that Dan had trouble understanding even one word of it, but Adrian quickly managed to get the horde of reporters under control.

“Mr. Veidt, are you planning to make the retrovirus that caused your transformation available to the public?”

“Definitely not,” Adrian said, shaking his head, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Right now, it is still untested and highly dangerous, and it would be quite unethical to open it up for public use. But,” he added with a slight smile, his posture relaxing, “I will be giving samples to those biotechnology institutes that are interested in working with and improving its properties, since it has great potential for possible advances in the health sector.”

“Mr. Veidt, does this prove the existence of God?”

You had to be really quick to catch Adrian's somewhat surprised blink, and the hint of a frown that crossed his face at this question, but still, Dan turned his head, putting a hand above his mouth to hide his grin.

“The only thing my existence proves is that of winged humanoids,” Adrian said, smiling almost nonchalantly. “Every other conclusion, I leave up to your readers. I'm a businessman, not a theologian. Although I would like to point out that winged beings such as myself are part of many more religions and mythologies than just the Judeo-Christian one.”

The question and answer session went on for quite a long time, and once or twice, Dan shook his head in bewilderment at what kind of question some reporters came up with. But Adrian handled it all quite gracefully, deflecting those questions that got a bit too personal, until at last everyone seemed to have satisfied their curiosity.

Back in the penthouse, Adrian slumped onto an ottoman, shoulders and wings drooping exhaustedly. “God, I thought they'd never go away.”

Dan walked over and ran a hand through Adrian's hair, messing up its perfection. But then, he liked Adrian more when the other man wasn't being perfect. “You did great.”

“Well, we'll see about that tomorrow, when the papers hit the newsstands,” Adrian replied with a lopsided smile. “Or, in case of the TV reporters, in the evening news.”

“I guess we'll just have to wait and see, then,” Dan said with a slight shrug. “How about we order some Chinese takeout? I don't know about you, but I'm feeling hungry.”

“No objections to that,” Adrian said. Then, his face lit up with a mischievous smile: “And I have some ideas about dessert, too.”

Dan grinned back, and ran a hand over the curve of one of Adrian's wings, which got a small shudder from Adrian. “Maybe we should have dessert first. I've got to say, I've been itching to really mess up that pretty hair of yours ever since you came out of the bathroom.”

Adrian snaked up a hand, wrapping it around Dan's nape and pulling him down into a kiss. “Be my guest...”



“Playing God.” Adrian snorted, a look of disgust on his face that Dan was sure was not due to the coffee, which was really rather good, but more to the fact that Adrian was currently reading today's edition of the New Frontiersman. “They're making me out to be Frankenstein. And Frankenstein's monster. At the same time.”

Dan simply shrugged, spearing a piece of waffle on his fork: “What did you expect? They never liked you, they're not going to start now. But hey,” he continued through a mouthful of breakfast, “how about that headline in the Post? The Archangel of New York. I rather like it.”

Adrian put the paper down, pushing it away with his fingertips. “Well, it does have a little too much pathos, but I'm not going to complain. After all, the PR boys say that I shouldn't shy away from playing on the associations. Also, the article was amazingly positive.”

“Most of them seem to be,” Dan said. “Even if there are some that are a bit sensationalist. I guess after Jon, it's gotten a bit harder to shock people.”

Adrian smiled over the rim of his mug of coffee: “I remember you telling me pretty much that, back when I was adamant about how my life was now completely ruined.”

Dan shrugged, but couldn't hide his grin: “This is the moment where I should say “told you so”, right?”

“And you would be entirely justified in that,” Adrian said, eyes shining with fond amusement.

“So, what's on the agenda today? More interviews?”

“I'm afraid so,” Adrian sighed. “The next few days are packed with them. What about you?”

Dan took a sip from his coffee: “I guess I'll head back to the brownstone. I had an idea for some wing armor that I want to put together. We could test it tonight, if you're up for it.”

“Of course,” Adrian said. “After all, that's what angels were made to do. Protect people. Well,” he said, reaching out for Dan's hand across the table, “angels, and Nite Owls, too.”

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