A warmth shifts beside Oswald as he drearily wakes from his fitful sleep. The blanket rustles and tugs him further into awareness despite his feeble attempts to smother his face in the pillow.
“Stop...” He whines quietly. The movement beside him stops and a gentle hand curves around his bicep.
“Hey boss... sorry I woke you.”
“Yeah, it’s me. You feeling okay?” Oswald holds back a smile at the soft voice drifting in the dim light. He twists to lie on his back, wincing slightly as his body protests. “Easy, Boss. It’s only been a day.”
“I’m alright, Victor. Would you get me a glass of water?”
“It’s right here. I’ll just turn on the light.”
A warm, golden glow fills the room as Zsasz switches on the bedside lamp on his side. Once Oswald has adjusted and no longer holds a hand over his eyes, Victor passes him the glass.
The water is refreshingly cool, and eases the dry walls of Oswald’s throat. He downs most of the glass in one go, handing it back to his hitman. With a sigh, he shuffles up against the headboard and allows Victor to rearrange a few pillows so he doesn't have the sharp wooden planks digging into his spine.
“Why did you leave me in Gordon’s apartment?” Oswald asks once his breathing has settled and he feels the silence has lasted long enough.
“He was the closest. I wasn’t willing to gamble with your life.”
“No, Victor. I mean, I woke up with no clue how I arrived here and when I left this bed you were gone.”
“You shouldn’t have moved so much.” Victor chides with a frown, shifting from his perch on the edge of the bed to a cross-legged position beside Oswald’s hip.
“I was scar-. Never mind, it doesn't matter now. I imagine you’ve been busy.”
“Yes, sir. Jim and I make a pretty good team.” Oswald snorts, never quite ready for one of Victor’s jokes. But the hitman doesn’t crack a smile.
“You’re serious?!” Oswald’s eyes widen in shock and he can’t help but stare openly at Victor. “How on Earth did that happen?”
“He wanted to help. I’m not really sure what he’s hoping to gain but he seems genuinely worried.”
“Well, he’s a damn good liar. Where is he?”
“In the living room. We figured we should rest a bit. We’ve been out all day and he clearly isn’t used to this much hard work.”
Victor smiles with too many teeth, reminding Oswald of the sharks he used to love watching whenever his mother could afford a trip to the aquarium.
The assassin has changed into his baggy clothes, softening his lean appearance. Oswald spots two bags dumped in the corner of the room, and he guesses they must contain some personal belongings and clothes. He wasn’t too amused to wake up with the GCPD logo on his chest, even if the comforting scent of Jim still lingered in the worn threads.
“Help me up, I’m sick and tired of this room.”
“Boss, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” The hitman leans forward to press Oswald back against the pillows, only to have his hand swatted away.
“Just do what I tell you, Victor.”
“Yes, sir,” Zsasz grumbles as he untangles his limbs and rounds the bed. One of his hands hovers behind Oswald’s back while his other arm is being used as support. Penguin shakes with the effort, gasping here and there, but managing to keep upright as his assassin leads him to the door.
The brighter lights of the living room greet them, along with the noise from the television. Jim busies himself with some paperwork at the desk, raising his head to say hello. He takes a second to take in the sight and then he’s on his feet and guiding Oswald onto the couch.
“How are you feeling?” He asks, using the moment Oswald is distracted to glare accusingly at Zsasz for letting Oswald out of bed. The hitman just shrugs and heads back into the bedroom to switch off the light.
“I’ve been better. Victor told me you took us in. That was very kind of you.” Oswald smiles wryly, searching Jim's face for any little tick that might indicate his motive in all this.
“I couldn’t just leave you out there. You should know, we're hunting down the people responsible. Does the name Sarah White mean anything to you?”
The unpleasant memories of the time he spent in captivity bubble back and Oswald can’t help but clench his fist in anger. They held him in a dark room, always wearing masks and never using names. He says this much to Jim, who nods and sighs dejectedly.
“Okay, well Victor and I will head out to the Red Card tomorrow night. She’s supposed-“ Jim stops short as the small man beside him starts to giggle uncontrollably, sending the Penguin into a laughing fit that leaves him breathless and red in the face.
“I’m sorry, my friend. It’s just that-” He laughs some more, prompting Jim to raise a quizzical eyebrow at Zsasz. “Oh dear... Jim, do you even know what the Red Card is?”
“A club, right?”
“It’s a bit more than that. It’s certainly not for the innocent hearted such as yourself.”
“I’m not innocent,” Jim retorts immediately without even contemplating what Oswald could’ve meant. His rushed defence causes the small man to fluster and clear his throat.
“It’s a sex club, Jim. Elite and certainly not a place I would imagine you visiting.”
“Send me, Boss. You know that stuff didn’t bother me.” Victor shrugs nonchalantly, plopping down on the armrest and crossing his legs. His arms fall limp between his knees, and the hitman suddenly doesn’t seem as threatening.
“Yeah, I think I can manage. Plus I can’t trust you not to start a fight.” Jim points an accusing finger at the hitman though there’s no anger behind it.
“Oh please, I’ll blend right in. You’re the one who screams vanilla.” Oswald snorts at the comment, giggling just a little at the confusion blossoming on Jim's face.
“I’ll ignore that. Since you’re such an expert, Oswald, anything I need to know?”
“Well,” Oswald starts, feeling soft and happy from the easy banter. “I suggest you find something dark to wear. Preferably all black. They have a strict dress code and if the security doesn’t believe you look kinky enough, you’re not getting in.”
“Christ. Would a black suit work? I don’t exactly have... that kinda stuff.”
“Relax, nobody’s asking you to show up in a gimp suit,” Victor jokes. His laugh carries longer as Jim has pulled several different disgusted faces. Oswald can’t help joining in.
“I'd rather die.”
“A suit would be fine. Perhaps with some silver accents thrown in there. Anything that makes you look intimidating. I’m sure Victor has some things you can borrow.”
Jim groans into his hands, the whole situation making him uncomfortably warm and aroused despite his best effort to ignore it.
But he can’t send Victor in and not expect something to go very wrong and very violent.
“Alright. I see what I’m getting into. Let’s drop the discussion for now. I’m starving.”
“Takeout?” Oswald chimes with an eagerness that shocks Jim. Just as he’s about to agree and grab the leaflets tucked beside the toaster, Victor crosses his arms and clears his throat.
“Your fridge is full, courtesy of Trish.” The other two swear quietly under their breath, the excitement washing away at the thought of eating healthy.
“I meant to thank you for that, but I don’t cook all that well.” Jim apologises, watching Zsasz get up and start digging things out of the fridge and placing them on the counter.
“Good thing you have me then. Okay, what part of the world do you wanna eat from? We’ve got Mexico, Britain, Germany or Asia.”
Oswald is the first to speak, hurriedly making his choice. “Asia.”
“Victor, as kind of you as it is to cook for us... I don’t have a lot of equipment.”
The hitman fixes him with a nonchalant look, and says “Pick.”
“Dammit Jim,” Oswald curses him from his comfy spot, melting into the pillows. “Asia is obviously the way to go.”
“All I eat is Chinese. I could use a change.”
“Alright fine. But Victor, you better keep it mild.” The hitman chuckles but nods, moving around the nearly empty kitchen to find what he needs.
“Oh, by the way, Jim. You said that I would be cooking. You’re my assistant in this. So go wash up and I’ll tell you what to do.”
Jim stands there for a moment, the domesticity of his evening crashing down on him. He'd never thought he would see the day when Victor Zsasz was cooking in his kitchen and the Penguin was laughing in the back.
A shy smile graces his lips at the stern but friendly order, and Jim can’t help himself chuckling just a little at how ridiculous his life has become. He salutes Victor mockingly and heads to the bathroom to wash his hands and try to calm his racing heart.
Gordon’s apartment has never been filled with so much laughter and happiness. Even with Barbara and Lee. The television normally serves to fill the black-hole silence that normally graces the rundown home, but tonight Jim switches it off because it’s wasting electricity.
He stands beside Victor, chopping up a variety of vegetables he hasn’t eaten since he was a child. Despite his minimalistic kitchen, the hitman has no problem getting things done. A pot boils quietly, filled with rice, and Victor busies himself by frying up meat and whatever Jim passes to him.
This is so nice, his peaceful mind provides now that the shock has faded away. His heart still beats too fast when Victor leans over or his hip brushes against Jim’s. Not that the hitman minds, if anything they both relish in the accidental touches.
He probably doesn’t get to do this often. Jim glances up at the younger man and smiles to himself. Victor’s concentrated face is rather adorable, and he glides around the tiny kitchen with far too much grace. The rising scent of food fills the room and Oswald comments on it, eagerly awaiting the finished product.
The mobster has found a stray book, flipping pages without interest, but he’s bored just being on his own. He longs to grab his phone so he can take a photo of his two favourite men, minus Edward. Having his lanky friend here would certainly make things better but he can’t bring himself to call him, not after everything.
Oswald sighs, unwilling to let the wounding thoughts take over and ruin his night. He turns back to the little domestic moment and relaxes further into the couch.
A gentle hand shakes Oswald’s shoulder and the small man wakes with a tiny gasp. Jim smiles at him, looping an arm around the Penguin’s back to lift him into a sitting position. The movement pulls on his wounds but he remains quiet. Eventually the pain fades to nothing.
“Would you like to sit at the table or should we eat on the couch?”
“Table. We’re not animals.” Jim chuckles and leads Oswald to the kitchen, helping him sit down before taking his place on his left.
Victor is still readying everything. He places down various plates filled with rice, vegetables, meat – all seasoned. Once he’s sat down, the trio pill whatever they please onto wraps and shells. Oswald thanks his two chefs and digs in, moaning at the first bite.
Dishes clatter in the sink as Jim washes up the many bowls and pans. He doesn’t mind at all, instead he dives into the task and lets the autopilot in his head do all the work whilst he contemplates the evening.
Behind him, Victor and Oswald are dozing off together. Jim risks a glance over his shoulder. Oswald has his head in the hitman’s lap, mewling and gasping at the fingers scratching his scalp and tugging his hair away from his eyes.
You’re never going to have that, a cruel part of Jim reminds. You destroyed everything between you and Oswald. He’ll never forgive you. You sold him out, treated him like shit. Why would he want you?
Jim sighs, clutching the side of the sink as the water drains away. He finds a towel to dry his hands with and once he has a grip on his emotions again, he turns to the two men with a fake smile.
Victor is entranced by the shapes his long fingers make as he massages down Oswald’s neck. A sharp, pleased gasp escapes Oswald and it’s a wonder how Victor doesn’t blush at the arousing sound.
Too bad he'll never make that noise for you.
Shut up! Jim’s mind fights itself, arguing back and forth though it’s all for nothing. His body moves of its own accord, and Jim find himself sitting on the armrest without ever realising that he’d left the kitchen.
A moment later and Victor's cheek nudges at Jim’s thigh. “I had a lovely evening, Jim.”
“Me too. You’re a great cook.”
“I had a pretty great assistant. Hey Jim?”
“Could we do this again sometime? It’s the most fun I’ve had in years.” Jim’s heart may have broken a bit at that confession. He smiles weakly and places a hand on Victor’s shoulder comfortingly, subconsciously pulling him closer.
“Yeah, I’d love that. Maybe he can help out next time, too.”
“I’ve been stabbed. I’m excused,” Oswald chimes into Victor's leg, his words muffled. He twists to look up at the ceiling, his head tilting back to observe the two handsome men.
He doesn't say anything about Jim’s odd acceptance of the situation but he adds the soft, happy look to his collection labelled Jim. “Could one of you help me back to bed? I’m more than ready to turn in.”
“I will,” Jim offers.
He carefully stands up, taking care of Victor's head by gently lifting it off his thigh. The hitman looks exhausted and Jim scolds himself for forgetting the hitman’s injuries.
His thumb brushes against a sharp cheekbone and Victor nuzzles his palm sleepily before letting Jim take Oswald away.
“Here you go. Can I get you anything?” Jim asks as he stands back from the bed.
Oswald shuffles the pillows around, keeping one just under his twisted leg, before settling down under the blanket.
“I'd like some answers, Jim. I want to know why you’re even letting this happen.” The Penguin gestures wildly, anger starting to flare at the confused, puppy-dog look he receives from Jim.
“Because you’re hurt. I couldn’t turn you and Victor down.”
“So we both owe you, now, is that it?” Oswald spits, praying that Jim will say yes and all of this will have meant only one thing: Jim wants to use him. After all, when hasn't he? And if he confirms it, Oswald can start to bury the want crawling up from where he last left it.
“No, of course not. I want to help you. I know I’ve been a terrible friend and I want that to change.” Tears prickle Oswald’s icy glare but he refuses to back down.
“Why? After everything we’ve been through, why are you suddenly so desperate to heal our friendship?”
Jim steps forward, taking a seat on the bed. His hand slips beside Oswald’s but the mobster moves away, refusing any kind of comforting touch.
“Because I realised what I was doing to you, and it’s not fair. You deserve so much better and all I do is make things worse.” In a much quieter tone, he says, “I always make things worse.”
“So what changed? You suddenly got up and thought, I should be nicer to Oswald. You expect me to believe that?”
“I don’t expect you to, but it’s the truth.”
“I hope you can understand why I don’t. I’m sorry, Jim, but I’ll need time to process this.”
“Of course, I get it. I know this is a lot to take in so. Sleep well, Oswald.” Jim stands, patting the bed twice with a sigh.
“Thank you for this. I truly appreciate your help. I know Victor already said so, but I also had a good time. It was nice to let go for a few hours and not be the Penguin.”
When Jim heads back into the living room, Victor has already fallen asleep on the couch.
Too bad you can’t join him, a snarky voice echoes in his head. Bet you’ve forgotten what a guy feels like.
Ignoring the voice and the cold memories of his crappy love life, the detective grabs the blanket from the back of the couch and drapes it over the hitman. The latter mumbles in his sleep, curling a hand around the fleece instinctively and pulling it closer.
Jim drags his knuckles across Victor’s cheek without thought, before stepping back and retreating to the armchair in the corner for the night.