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The cold rain beats down on the old apartment's dirty windows. Through the thick curtain of water, the city lights glint as the last of the rush hour drivers slowly manoeuvre across Gotham.


Jim clutches his mug of steaming coffee in one hand with the barest contact as he avoids scalding himself. The ceramic gets placed down on the weathered coffee table and Jim hisses, shaking his hand, before sitting on the equally ancient couch. Muscle memory in his fingers push down on the remote, switching the channel to a sport game he doesn’t even follow.


His mind is still backtracking through the day’s events. A shabby robbery of a local convenience store, during which the shopkeeper's wife was shot but not killed, was all that entertained the detective. The thieves had parked close to a security camera, and it took all of three hours to track down the owner's residence and arrest him.

An hour, and one of Harvey's interrogations, later and his accomplices were apprehended and thrown into the cells. The rest of the day was spent writing reports and sorting through various piled-up paperwork from the previous week.


Jim groaned as he stretched his neck, one hand coming up to massage the sore tendons. He was used to his body aching but it normally came from physical strains, like fighting off drugged up goons or dodging bullets. At least that usually came with some satisfaction, but sitting five hours at a desk wasn’t rewarding or interesting. At least he and Harvey no longer had a mountain of files built up on the floor.

 

As he sits casually, sipping his coffee and lazily watching the women kick a softball around the AstroTurf, Jim starts to wind down for the evening. Just as he begins to nod off, chin dropping onto his chest, a sharp series of hurried knocks fall on his front door.


Startling back into awareness, Jim grabs his handgun from the kitchen table and strides up to the door. He glances briefly through the peephole and sees one of the last people he wants to ever talk with on any occasion. Reluctantly, he unlocks the multiple latches and opens the door with his gun raised.


Zsasz barely meets his eye before rudely pushing in, shoving both Jim and the door aside.


“Hey! What-“ The detective's protest dies as he notices Zsasz helping the Penguin down onto his couch.

Oswald is very pale, paler than usual at least. Jim closes the door and steps nearer. Blood soaks through Oswald's shirt in various places but before he can ask what happened, Zsasz is demanding to know where the first aid kit is.


“By the sink.” Zsasz rushes to it, dropping to his knees in front of Oswald and rummaging through the contents of the well-stocked box.

“Zsasz? What happened?”


“He was kidnapped.” The hitman's words are blunt but his voice shakes slightly despite the stone-hard expression. “You were closer than any safehouse.”


“Vi-?” Oswald mumbles weakly, dropping in and out of consciousness as Zsasz works efficiently to stop the heavy flow from the deep cuts scattered across Penguin's torso. Nothing vital was damaged, though.


“It's okay, Boss. You’ll be fine. It’s just a few scratches.” Despite the light hearted tone, Zsasz looks anything but relaxed.

Jim stands by, watching silently because he knows there’s no point in interrupting or trying to help. Zsasz has it under control, his hands work faster than Jim’s could and he seems to know exactly where the medical tools are without glancing away from Penguin's sullen face.

 

Secluding himself from the scene by heading into his room, Jim slumps back against a wall and rubs at his eyes tiredly. His hand fidgets with the phone in his pocket and he’s tempted to call Harvey.

The gun is still in his hand, so he holsters it, not willing to give Zsasz even the slightest chance.
The flip phone clicks open, and his partner's name is the first on the contacts list. His thumb hovers over the call button for a moment, but Jim relents.


If I call him, he’ll just get in the way. It’s not like Victor will even let him near Penguin... Just leave it for now. Harvey doesn’t need this right now. Jim settles on that conclusion, and pockets the phone.


Penguin will need a fresh set of clothes for the night. It’s obvious that neither of his uninvited guests will be leaving anytime soon. Yet another thing to go wrong in Jim’s life. He can’t have a single night of peace.


Jim heads to the dresser, digging through to the bottom where his older, smaller clothes are likely to be. He holds back a smile at the worn set of academy sweatpants and tee neatly folded with the faded logo staring up at him. Jim grabs it, his fingers pressing into the soft fabric. He chuckles at the thought of seeing Oswald in police wear. And then he remembers that Oswald is currently bleeding out on his couch and probably won’t be healed for a while. But Jim trusts that Zsasz will do his best.


He risks a glance through the open doorway to spy on the pair. It feels uncomfortable to act this way in his own home but it’s not like any part of his life is normal. In fact, it seems like he’s the one intruding on them.

 

Zsasz is meticulous in his work, stitching Oswald back together with an efficiency that worries the detective. How often has he been in this situation? Jim doubts Falcone ever needed to be rescued or put back into one piece on a cop's couch. Despite Oswald's constant security, his name isn’t respected anywhere near as much as the Falcones. Victor definitely has his work cut out, swapping between assassin and bodyguard on a daily basis.

After ten or so minutes, four neat stitch lines adorn the pale, sweaty skin. Jim finally returns into the living room, having rearranged his bed and left the folded clothes on top.


“The bed's made. I’ll help you carry him,” Jim provides as Zsasz rocks back and admires his work. The hitman finally raises his eyes and acknowledges Jim for the first time since barging in.


“Thanks.”

Jim nods and with Zsasz's help, they lift the unconscious man and lie him down on the fresh sheets. Oswald’s head is propped up on several pillows, his slicked hair fanned across the bland cotton. His breathing is steady but his face twists with pain when he moves in his sleep.


Jim watches him for a moment, contemplating how innocent and vulnerable Oswald looks. It’s not the first time he’s seen the Penguin beaten up and bleeding, but something he’s tried to bury almost yearns to make the small man feel better somehow. He knows for certain that Zsasz has killed whoever kidnapped Oswald and a feeling akin to jealously sparks up.


“We should-“ Jim stops his proposal to change Oswald's clothes, when Zsasz suddenly gasps and clutches his side. The hitman falls to his knees, one hand thrusting out to hold himself up. “Hey! Easy now, come on. Lie back.”


Jim rushes to his side, looping an arm under Zsasz's shaking body, and pulls him back against his chest. He drags him to sit up against a wall, and carefully pries Zsasz’s hand away. As soon as he does so, blood flows freely and heavily.


“Keep pressure on it. I’ll fix you up.”


“I know. Fuck...”


“You’ll be fine. I’m sure you’ve had worse.”

Zsasz chuckles, grinning through the pain even though his head slumps back against the wall. “Yeah, that’s true.”

 


Jim is back in an instant, after gathering the supplies left on the floor, and sits down besides Victor. He moves the hand away again and lifts most of the man’s shirt up, noting the small holes in the dark fabric. The smooth, white tally marks greet him but Jim pushes down his confusion and slight repulsion at them in favour of examining the wound.


“You’ve got some shrapnel stuck. I can get it out but it’ll hurt like a bitch.”


“Just get on with it, or I’ll do it myself.” Zsasz spits out through the pain.

Carrying Oswald caused some of the longer glass shards he had been stabbed with to dislodge. The pieces stick out of his skin, with little streams of blood snaking down to pool on his stomach.


“You ready? 3, 2-“ Jim yanks out the smallest piece with a pair of tweezers, and sets the glass down on a small plate he took from the dresser. He’s rewarded with a tiny whimper. “You should have told me about these.”


“Oswald needed my help. I’m just doing my job.” Zsasz attempts a nonchalant shrug but the pull causes the glass to move. He hisses in pain as Jim continues to work.


“He’s okay now. Let’s just get you sorted out.”


“You’re not a very comforting nurse,” Zsasz jokes even as he twists his head from side to side in pain and tries to sit still.


“I’m almost done.” Jim ignores Victor's words. “Hang in there.”


The last shard is the largest but it’s not deeply embedded. Whatever happened to Victor was only minor compared to Oswald.

Jim clasps the metal around it, gripping it tight, and yanks. He’s rewarded with a sharp cry and laboured breathes but Zsasz is still conscious. The hitman’s hands clench and unclench behind his head, holding his arms up so Jim can wrap the bandage around his torso once he’s wiped the blood away.

“You’re lucky you won’t need stitches.”


Zsasz glances up, his eyes reddened only slightly and clearly exhausted. Jim thinks he'll get a thank you or something sincere, but the hitman cracks a smile and joyfully asks, “Do I get a lollipop now?”


Jim doesn't feel the least bit guilty as he gathers his things and tidies up in the kitchen, leaving the giggling assassin to sort himself out on his own. The box will need refilling, so the detective makes a quick list of the supplies he'll need to grab on his way home tomorrow.


Later on, he'll blame a variety of factors for jumping at the sight of the assassin suddenly appearing beside him. Exhaustion will be the main one.


“I don’t have any sweets,” Jim teases despite using his ‘annoyed' voice on Zsasz, and promptly refusing to look away from his task.


“Shame. Also you should add some kind of injectable painkiller. The Boss could use some.”


“And you? I’ve got some paracetamol in the cupboard.”


“Nah, I’ll be fine. You got any food in this dump?” Jim fixes him with a glare, and Zsasz grins unapologetically.


“There’s leftovers in the fridge. Knock yourself out.”

 



Jim watches with amusement as Zsasz wolfs down the contents of his fridge, and then toss the multiple paper containers into the trash. The hitman barely speaks a word throughout his dinner, pausing only to make stupid jokes and try his best to make the stone-faced Jim Gordon laugh or at least smile just a little.


“I’ll take the couch tonight,” Jim says once he notices that Victor is getting sluggish. The hitman yawns loudly, confirming Jim’s theory.


“You sure? I don’t mind.” A small smile forms on the detective’s face at Victor’s humbleness. Jim knows he's just trying to make it up to him.


“I don’t want to share with Oswald.” Jim admits. It’s not a complete lie. Whilst the idea of sharing a bed with the Penguin doesn’t disgust Jim, with the state the small man is in, he would prefer not to risk injuring him further in his sleep.


A strange look crosses Victor’s dark eyes but the hitman shrugs and stands, already dragging his exhausted body over to the bedroom. He pauses in the doorway and turns to face Jim.


“Does this mean I owe you?”


“No, it doesn’t. Go rest.”


“Thanks, Jim.” Zsasz ducks his head with a smile as he speaks, before disappearing into the darkened room and shutting the door quietly with a small click.

Jim watches the door for a few moments but sighing heavily.
He grabs a nearby blanket and settles down on the tiny couch and sets his alarm. During the night he keeps waking up, the image of Zsasz standing over him in the dark still haunting his thoughts. Every time he looks into the unlit corners of his home but sees nothing. The door to his bedroom remains closed and only the sound of rain and traffic fill the apartment.