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Breathing freely with you

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Gotham stank. A bit like Metropolis, yeah, because mega cities did that, but Gotham’s smell was even darker, heavier. Breathing in too deep would lead to choking… The rotten smell of death and insanity crept into clothes, and into skin, and not even the most expensive perfume could eradicate it. Not that a detective’s salary could buy her one of those.

The smell was just there, overpowering everything that could possibly be good in this city — at least that had been Maggie’s thought, until the moment she’d met Kate.

Other than that, Maggie had always smelt it, since her first day in Gotham. Sick sweetness covering her nose, her tongue, and her brain. It was everywhere. She hated it with passion. Gotham had the worst smell she'd ever met...

But Maggie had to admit, the smell of Mr. Meier’s flat was a close second.

Incense sticks, literally thousands of them, lay burned on the floor. And the cats had been pissing everywhere, and the water the Weeping Woman had left certainly didn’t help. The whole floor was a mess, sticky and murky. Blood, and splinters, and glass from the smashed in window everywhere. Maggie didn’t envy the landlord who’d have to clean that up if he ever wanted to rent out the flat again.

From the broken window, Gotham’s smell came in.

Maggie threw a glance at the clock. Surprisingly, it was still ticking: With the flat being the war zone it was, the cuckoo-clock stood bravely among the wreckage, not even dented a little, as if even water from the Weeping Woman couldn’t hurt it.

Still, the Weeping Woman had killed Mr. Meier and had taken his two children, and Maggie hadn’t been able to predict a thing.

And now Maggie had told the Commissioner that she’d handle the rest; he could get home, get some sleep, with all the stuff that was happening lately…

The officer on the phone had told her, “Just half an hour, Detective. Not any more!” — but still, almost an hour later, there was no sign of the crime scene unit.

Maggie understood, she did; she knew what evening rush hour traffic was like, but still…

The smell, burning disgustingly sweet incense sticks, made her want to throw up.

She turned to the window, as if the air in Gotham was any better. Then, suddenly, a flash of red in the corner of her eye. Another flash, slightly more to the left and there was a figure… red hair…

“Detective Sawyer?”

Maggie whirled around. The officer in the doorway actually took a step back, blinking repeatedly.

“What?”, Maggie barked. Promptly, she winced. Days had been long, nights had been even longer, and she missed Kate, but she missed a good night of sleep even more. “Sorry,” she told… Pilar Otiz, that was her name, yeah. “What did you want?”

“The crime scene unit called. They were briefly stuck on twelfth, but now they will arrive in a few minutes.” She smiled, obviously a bit unsure. But her eyes were focused on Maggie, not the wreckage around them and certainly not the severed cat’s body that lay a few feet away, soaking in the water from the Weeping Woman.

Maggie forced herself to relax. “Thank you, Officer Otiz,” she said. “Get them up here as soon as they arrive.”

“Yes, Detective.”

She left.

Maggie sighed and turned back to the window. Outside, it had begun to rain. At first a light drizzle, it soon became a small downpour, endless strings of water, streaming down, down, down.

And no sign of Batwoman.

Maggie looked back into the room. She had probably imagined the red. She was tired enough…

From the window frame, a flutter of cloth drew Maggie’s attention. She turned slowly, her heart beating frantically in her chest.

A cape.

Maggie’s hands were sweaty, too wet to be useful for anything. If she'd had to grab her pistol, she was sure it would have slipped her fingers, tumbling to the floor, into the water.

Red hair.

naked white Kate stretching between Maggie’s tights… Maggie was so tired.

A cowl.

Just a few more minutes, then the crime scene unit would arrive.

But first: Batwoman.

Maggie breathed out slowly and an odd calm befell her, as if she was empty, as if she had left every annoying thing behind, just for this second.

Batwoman surveyed the room, her armor glistening from the rain, tiny drops clinging to her hair. When she was finished, she turned around.

“Wait!” Maggie called out, louder than she’d intended. Her voice ripped through the flat, out of the window, into the rain.

To her surprise, Batwoman actually waited. Maggie couldn’t see her eyes underneath the cowl, but she thought they must have been piercing.

Maybe like Kate’s…

Batwoman tipped her head to the side, indicating that she was listening.

“Do you have anything?” Maggie finally asked. “On the Weeping Woman, I mean?”

A moment of silence. Then: “I thought it was your case, Detective.”

Maggie wanted to scream, scream about children dying, again and again and again, and that they didn’t have even the smallest fucking clue where to look for the Weeping Woman. That they were at their wits’ end and Maggie was getting so fucking tired of seeing crying parents in front of her, of making promises she couldn’t fucking keep.

She swallowed. “I’d appreciate your input,” she said slowly, but she never took her eyes away from the cowl. The words seemed to burn on Maggie’s lips. Of course there were things she wasn’t able to handle, let alone without help, especially in Gotham. She was only a detective, after all.

“To be clear: This goes both ways,” Batwoman said, her voice hard.

Maggie nodded. “Of course.” The rain was still pouring down, and with the general gloominess in Gotham and the fact that it was evening in winter, it was already pretty dark outside. Even with the red cape and mask and her white skin, Batwoman was almost invisible. “But the Weeping Woman has to be stopped. This— every child that dies—”

Maggie’s throat closed up and she stopped talking. This wasn’t her. But she was so tired that even her eyes burned, and these fucking incense sticks stank more than anything…

“I’ll contact you,” Batwoman suddenly said.

Maggie blinked. “I— thank you—”

“Can’t have Gotham’s best detectives falling over because they aren’t able to get any sleep—”

The jab was so lighthearted, delivered grim, though, that Maggie first thought she had misheard. But Batwoman was actually smirking, her red lips stretched wide. “You got yourself a deal, Detective Sawyer.”

Then, without another word, Batwoman dropped backwards, out of the window.

Maggie’s heart stopped.

She jumped forward, to the ledge and peered down. But there was only rain, and darkness, and Gotham ,and its smell.

“Detective Sawyer!” A call came from downstairs. “The crime scene unit is here!”

Maggie threw one last glance at the rain. That went surprisingly well.


Kate’s apartment was quiet and dark by the time Maggie slipped in. She put the spare key Kate had given her back into the pocket of her jeans.

Kate was already asleep.

As silent as she could, Maggie stripped of her uniform, folded it onto a chair and slipped on the nightgown she had left for exactly this purpose at Kate’s.

Her arms were heavy, her head swam, everything hurt… and the big bed with Kate in it looked more inviting than anything.

Carefully not to dip the mattress to much, Maggie crawled under the covers, next to Kate. Kate didn’t look well, even in the dim light from the window— There was some stuff going on with her cousin. Kate had told Maggie that, but nothing more.

Maggie was sure that Kate would talk — when she was ready.

But now, it was time for only one thing: sleeping.

Maggie pressed her head into the pillow, then slid closer to Kate. Maggie closed her eyes, and breathed in, and Kate smelled like Kate, and like Gotham, and rain, and incense sticks.

Maggie knew: Someday, in her own time, Kate would talk.

Maggie slept.