Tuesday starts at 4:00 (give or take a couple) when Zee wakes them with a knock on her way back from patrol.
If nothing else, seven years at St. Swithin’s taught John to get up and get going soon as his eyes blink open no matter what, so every morning he wakes up after four, five hours of sleep, so tired his fists shake and all he can think is Oh, God, not again, not yet, but John’s up and awake and he’s ready as he’ll be, and he’s out of bed before Zee trudges back down the hall, checking Gordon’s awake too before he stokes the fire.
Quick wash if there’s time enough to melt water (scrub down with a towel more often than not), power bar from the stash they keep hidden in the wall behind the bookcase, out the door by 4:15 at the latest, and if John stumbles on his way out the door, Gordon’s too bleary-eyed to notice it out loud.
John always does a walk-through round his block before he gets to work proper, and that doesn’t change no matter who’s staying with him this week – nor does the detour that takes him past St. Swithin’s every morning, 4:27 on the dot on Tuesdays, flashing a light four times up at the third-story window and waiting until he gets a response.
Three clicks – one long, one short, one long – and John lets out a sigh he doesn’t know he’s been holding in. It hangs in the air, white mist that disappears when John flicks off the flashlight and tucks it back into his belt. There are no gloves to be spared in a Gotham winter without power, and John’s fingers ache with the cold and his throat scratches every time he breathes and when he blinks it feels like he’s rubbed his eyes in grit, but the children lived the night – which means they’ve made it one night closer to safety when Gotham is freed (or – but John’s so tired today it hurts to think and he doesn’t want to make it worse).
“You coach ball there?” Gordon asks when they turn back around and head for the Cantina.
John stiffens but he keeps walking.
“Yeah,” he says eventually, when the silence starts bordering on uncomfortable. “Used to.” Three months is long enough to get comfortable around Gordon again, in a way, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to give the man his life story anytime soon. There’s not a lot of room for sob stories in Gotham now, anyhow; you try to play ‘mine is more tragic than yours’ with anyone and you’ll only ever end up losing.
Suffering is hardly a zero-sum game.
John and Gordon walk the rest of the way back in silence.
The Cantina’s not a cantina any more than the food relief workers truck in is sufficient – just the attic of a house that Bane’s men hit early on – but there’s coffee for those who know where it’s at, and tidbits of information shared around space heaters that actually work.
All the chairs are taken when John props open the trap door with aching arms. There’s a doctor, a couple of cops and an EMT, the baker who runs a place, and a woman who used to wear handbags worth more than John’s squad car. Hanson, who used to work homicide, hops up and sits cross-legged in front of the heater to let Gordon sit, but John doesn’t bother to wait for anyone to offer him the same; he leans back against the wall, away from the warmth, and slides down, letting his eyes drift shut as he cradles his thermos in his hands and listens. He takes a drink, but his stomach hurts and the bile rises into his throat, so he tucks his legs close and savors the moment.
Nothing of particular interest today: food shipments scheduled to come in today as usual; Bane’s men almost nabbed Davies over on 54th but he got away; four more bodies found on Dent Avenue, gunned down sometime last evening.
John lets Gordon share what they learned at last night’s meeting with Foley and Delacroix – rumors that one of the men on Dent was one of Bane’s, rumors of reprisals this afternoon in the shopping district, warnings to stay close to home. The usual.
John hasn’t quite nodded off when he opens his eyes to see the doctor – Ian? Ivan? – crouched in front of him, lips pursed.
“You’ve lost weight,” he says, and he puts his hand on John’s forehead before John can stop him.
John shrugs. “So have you – so has every-”
“Not like you.”
John can feel Gordon’s eyes on him – knows Gordon’s listening in despite the chatter by the heater – but he won’t look up. The man’s not stupid; maybe he hasn’t seen any of the kids come by the apartment (for everyone’s safety), but he has to know where any extra food that John can find is going. They didn’t make him commissioner for nothing.
The man in front of him snorts and rummages in his pocket. “Don’t have a choice, do you?”
He hands John several tablets before John can answer – before John can speak around the ache in his throat. “For the fever. Try and get some more sleep tonight, yeah?”
It’s John’s turn to laugh, but he nods instead. They both know it won’t be happening; it’s shipment today, which means he has to go watch the food distribution. Make sure no one gets too much, but everyone gets enough – which, in some cases, means stealing some for those in hiding. He doesn’t take enough, people starve; he takes too much, he gets caught and executed and they starve anyway. Can’t be anyone else, either; everyone else is already marked or in hiding or has a family depending on them. If he can’t do it, there’s no one else will step up to the plate and let him rest.
And he used to think being a beat cop was stressful.
He doesn’t say anything, though; just takes another sip of his coffee and stands when Gordon jerks his head at the door. They’ve been too long already.
Gordon opens his mouth to say something when they’re outside in the biting cold again, but John dry swallows a pill and walks faster, and Gordon doesn’t speak.
All around is quiet, and the sun’s not a glimmer on the horizon yet. They walk down the streets and watch and listen, hoping nothing comes.
Tuesday redefines the term ‘hellish’. John’s nose starts running sometime after ten, and he starts coughing sometime after three. No one says anything when they’re tracking the trucks, for which he is marginally thankful, but they keep their distance all the same. His lungs are burning by the time he makes it to the depot, but he’s in time for the shipment so it doesn’t matter. Barsad’s not there, but some of his men are; John’s fingers tremble – but not with fear – as he writes up this week’s delivery schedule. He’s careful as he can be, making up allotments for this district as fair as possible – and if some of the deliveries are to empty houses, at least the people who pick them up can claim ignorance. John wonders briefly how it’s going five blocks over; if anyone’s going to get caught today, if Barsad’s dragging one of his friends to court – but wondering is useless, and John has work to do.
When he’s done, he gives the schedule to the man with the semiautomatic for review. If the man recognizes one of the houses as a hiding place – if anyone’s been caught and John didn’t hear – John might very well be dead by evening.
He doesn’t flinch.
“Fine,” the man says, and jerks his head at the door.
John leaves and tries to look as if he’s not listening for anyone following.
After delivery, it’s time to relieve Saenz on tracking. John nods politely at the man as if they’re strangers and pretends not to see the piece of chalk lying by the wall until he bends over to tie his shoe.
Tracking is long and lonely and cold and interrupted by a street check every time he moves, and John doesn’t get relieved until a quarter past eleven tonight.
He’s too damn tired to go to the Cantina, even for hot soup, and he thinks he might well throw it up anyway, so he heads back home, eyes trickling and chest aching from the coughing.
He barely remembers Gordon’s there until he stumbles inside and there’s a fire on.
“Jesus Christ,” he swears, apropos of nothing, when the commissioner meets him in the foyer, and John suddenly realizes he’s swaying. There’s still the nightly meeting with Foley and Delacroix to get through, and plans to make for tomorrow, and he sleeps in to 5:00 on Wednesday’s so he has to make preparations tonight, but-
-but all the adrenaline is gone, suddenly, anything that kept him going vanished, and his head hurts and his limbs ache and his stomach burns and he’s so, so tired he thinks he might just fall over, and-
-Gordon’s hands are on his jacket, unbuttoning and sliding it off, and he leads John to the living room and sits him down to the bed by the couch (where they brought it from the bedroom to be closer to the fire, and God but the fire is warm today) and sits him down and brings him a blanket and a mug with something hot in it.
“I’ll deal with the meeting tonight,” he says, and puts his hand on John’s chest to hold him down when he tries to get up and brushes his fingers across John’s shoulder and they’re icy cold and John flinches away and feels his eyes tear up because he’s so damn tired. “Just drink that and get some sleep.”
John’s fingers shake so much that Gordon has to help him, and he only manages a couple of drinks (and where the hell did Gordon get chicken broth?) before he gags.
“It’s okay,” Gordon says, and takes his shoes off when he lays down. “It’s okay.”
Don’t be ridiculous, John wants to say, or I can stay up for the meeting or What the hell are you doing?, but he lies still instead, and Gordon sets a blanket over his shoulders.
Just one night. Just a few hours of this. He still has to be up at 5:00 tomorrow, to do rounds and track the truck and move the Cohens and the Emersons to different safe houses and God knows how he’ll manage that, but he has to – because everyone’s on the lookout for Gordon but no one knows John was a cop, and if he doesn’t do it then nobody else will, so tomorrow he’ll have to be back to normal but-
-but tonight he curls his fingers around his pillow case and doesn’t mind the door opening and falls asleep listening to Foley’s muted report.
Tonight is not tomorrow, yet.