“Why is one of the FBI agents who was supposed to die from the ‘accidental gas leak’ this morning lying in our bed?”
“Because the guest room isn’t ready for him yet.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Dr. Spencer Reid and I go way back. I’m being practical, though, not sentimental - there’s a ton of potential there, Os. Wouldn’t you agree, Spencer?”
Spencer didn’t move or open his eyes.
“Come on, I know you regained consciousness minutes ago.” There was a slight edge to the words, but Edward Nygma otherwise sounded cheerful.
Ed had been watching him before Other Voice showed up, then. Spencer opened his eyes and tried to sit up. And lit up with pain. Ed rushed over to gently nudge Spencer back down. “Careful. You’re heavily bruised and have first and second-degree burns. I treated them, but they’ll take time to heal.”
“Oh. Um, thank you. Where are my clothes?” He was dressed in unfamiliar pajamas.
“I threw them away. They were singed, and very unfashionable. I thought G-men wore suits on the job.” Ed was in relaxed, though still slightly nice casual clothing, complete with a green sweater and indoor slippers instead of shoes. His companion was still dressed very formally, including gloves, though they were unusual in being purple. He’d likely just arrived home from an event.
Spencer finally noticed the bandages on his limbs and torso. He couldn’t lose sight of Ed having spared his life at the risk of angering at what sounded like a superior, at least professionally. Then he recognized Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot, controversial but reasonably well-liked mayor of Gotham, standing by Ed’s side. Until he had a better grasp of the situation, it would be best to stay on both men’s good sides. So he said in the politest tone possible, “I’ve heard a lot about you, Mr. Cobblepot. I have no idea why I’m in your home either.”
All Spencer remembered was walking down the hall to the conference room, a hand clamped over his mouth, and being dragged backwards from an explosion. He must have been pulled just out of the fatal blast radius at the last minute. There’d been a lot of pain until the forced injection, and he’d weakly protested against narcotics as things went dark.
Oswald didn’t reply to Spencer. He angled his body towards Ed, getting into his personal space, making the most of his short stature in comparison to Ed towering over him. He was doing his best to remain calm but his microexpressions spoke of distress. “So how many unconscious guys have you brought back to your home to nurse back to health?”
“You were my first and he’s the only other one, I promise. What plant grows deep with branches high, but needs blood rather than the sun in the sky?” Ed draped an arm over Oswald’s shoulders.
Ah. Spencer’s hypothesis that Ed was still capable of attachment since he'd become a murderer had been decisively proven. In an unexpected way. Spencer felt a bit happy for him, then remembered he was in the company of two men who casually spoke of blowing up several people. Spencer tried moving his legs. One of his ankles was chained to a bedpost.
Oswald still seemed upset, and Spencer noticed his gloved right hand clenching into a fist. Romantic jealousy? “A family tree. Ed’s my cousin.”
“Second cousin,” said Ed. They’d always shared a tendency to be pedantic, but Spencer’s team had gradually coached Spencer into suppressing it when it wasn’t helpful. “I don’t have any pictures of us during the time we spent together as children, but if you sanctioned me breaking into a medical lab, I could demonstrate that Spencer and I share mitochondrial DNA, which is passed completely intact from mother to child. Fortunately, the two of us are linked entirely through maternal relatives: our mothers were cousins, and they were related through their maternal grandmother. There’s no reason to feel threatened by…”
“I’m not happy with how attractive he is,” Oswald mumbled. Insecure. Abandonment issues. Still recovering from the loss of a loved one, perhaps, and had few genuine connections other than his romantic partner. “I know I’m overreacting, but, but, second cousins aren’t that close.”
Spencer was ready to start laughing hysterically, but instead he said, “There’s something called the Westermarck Effect in which if children who spend formative years regarding one another as family, they are unlikely to develop sexual or romantic attraction to each other as adults. The rates of attraction between adoptive siblings who were raised together since before adolescence are low. On the other hand, there is a disproportionate likelihood of siblings unwittingly separated at a young age to become attracted towards one another, due to a different phenomenon that I can go into later if you’re interested, which is one of the reasons why monitoring sperm bank donations is so impor-”
“Close enough,” Oswald declared, his aggressive posture fading away. Ed beamed at him. “But what’s the plan? The FBI is going to look for him. Maybe we should talk about this elsewhere.”
“It’s good for him to know this part. Hey, Spencer?”
“One of our junior staffers used a few unacceptable slurs when talking about us, when he thought I wasn’t listening. He was your height and build. I made sure he was thrown into the room just before the ‘gas leak’ proved fatal. Nobody smelled the gas beforehand because of the garbage being burned at the nearby landfill, of course. There are always inconveniences about setting up in an office building on the edge of town. It’s not the Mayor’s fault he didn’t consider that when he offered to clear the building for them, near the crime scenes, so you’d all work in peace. Not at all.” Ed came closer and sat on a chair near the side of the bed. He clasped his hands together and tilted his head while observing his younger cousin. Second cousin.
”Stop being pedantic, Dr. Reid, you were closer to him than you were to any of your first cousins. He was the only one who understood you, and I know how much you value understanding,” Reid imagined Amanda saying, wreathed in smoke in the high-security psych ward where he’d sent her, where they let her grow her hair long in respect of this personality’s gender. ”That’s why I will never let you see Adam again.”
“You don’t need to do this,” Spencer said. Standard line, but it had to be said.
”You do get abducted or held hostage or shot or beaten, infected with anthrax an awful lot, don’t you? They should call you Agent Job,” said Tobias, sad and yearning, thankfully not a hallucination. Just a figure in his mind’s eye. A needle in his hand, to make it stop hurting. If he were a hallucination, he might turn into Raphael, or worse, Charles.
Ed smiled with gentle patience. “I do need to do this, Spence. You see, I was like you once. A caterpillar among worms. I had something inside me that they never did, and never would. After my metamorphosis, I could finally fly, be what I was meant to be. Happy. You’ll realize it soon. Because you’re free now. No small-minded bureaucrats to impress. No need to worry what anyone thinks of you. Your mother doesn’t know what month it is much of the time, she won’t be affected much. I’m sorry I was so brusque with you when you were kind and came to Arkham, bearing gifts. It was a difficult time for me. In retrospect, I realized that my parting jab had a grain of truth to it. You’re teetering over a threshold. I want to help you over it, and you can be the closest thing I have to a younger brother all over again.”
”Remember all the bullying when you were a kid? Remember what it does to you? Ever wanted to get back at them?” Owen in his head, just a boy, just a desperate and tormented boy with a gun.
This wasn’t the time to imagine what Ed would consider useful for “helping” Spencer over the “threshold”. Spencer had been certain all along that the releases of both men had nothing to do with any lasting reformation of character. “I appreciate you wanting to help me, Ed, but…”
“Shh. You’ve had a stressful day, you need rest.” Ed turned to Oswald. “Is that okay with you? I’m sorry I didn’t consult with you beforehand. By the time I realized he was among the group, I had to act quickly, and then when I got him back here you were in endless meetings.”
Oswald smiled, not without some work, but it didn’t appear fake, either. With what little Spencer knew about them, and what he could piece together from this interaction, Oswald was learning how to love more unselfishly, rather than mostly out of infatuation and need. And was finding it an uphill climb. “If it’s what you want. We have the space. We’ll have to tell Olga something.”
“I’m protecting my cousin from being sent to Arkham by keeping him under house arrest instead. My poor, delusional cousin, who justifies his massacre of cops by making himself think he used to be one, and that someone else killed them. We pay her enough to not overthink things.”
“That’ll probably work, if we can get her to understand it. Who’s fixing up the guest room?”
“Annie Wu. Remember her? The one with prosopagnosia, who accidentally killed the wrong person twice so we took her off assassination duty?”
Oswald raised his eyebrows. “Why is she still on the payroll?”
Ed pointed at Spencer’s face. “Wu’s face-blindness means that she cannot recognize someone from a picture, unless they have unusual scars or something. Bland cuteness makes no impression. Such as a ‘Have you seen this man, who we think is dead but we’re just checking!’ sort of picture. She only recognizes you by your voice and gait, by the way. If you stood still and didn’t say anything, she would have no idea who you were. In case you ever need that to happen. By the way, you promised you’d get her birth certificate fixed. The stupid officials put down the wrong letter just because of her body and nobody realized it for years, including her. Can you imagine? Must be worse than me taking so long to realize what I am. Also she’s great at certain types of remodeling.”
Oswald walked his characteristic walk over to Ed, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Remind me tomorrow. He’s going to that room before bedtime, right? Because you owe me. Lots. Please change the sheets once he’s gone, too.”
“Mm hm. I’m looking forward to paying you back.” Then Ed patted Spencer’s knee under the covers. “You won’t be chained up forever, just until I’m confident that you’d rather stay with me that try to go back to your miserable old life. I’m looking forward to having someone around who shares so many of my interests. The ones Oswald doesn’t share, I mean. Different parts of the Venn diagram. You’ll get a few things to amuse yourself for when we’re gone, but right now you need to rest and get better. I’ll bring you dinner. There’s a bottle of water just under the bed, in reach. Do you need to use the bathroom? We’ll switch to a longer chain later, but anyway you’re hurt, you’ll need help getting there…”
“I’m going to go talk to Wu,” Oswald said.
“Wu who?” After Oswald had acknowledged the joke and left, Ed said, “I think he’ll like you. Eventually.”
“Woohoo,” Spencer said dryly.
He had one advantage over Ed, though, and he’d keep it close to his chest. The team that had died this morning was not Spencer’s team. He’d been on loan because the UnSub (who presumably worked for his hosts) had been poisoning people with a mysterious compound. They’d requested the one fully qualified agent they knew of who had a Ph.D in chemistry.
His real team was alive and as well as they ever were. Even if they stopped looking for him, though he knew they’d try at least, if he knew they were out there, he wouldn’t give up.
Spencer thought of Nathan. “He’s right that there’s darkness inside you. Why’d you think I came to you for help? Nathan, who tried to kill himself rather than become the monster he feared.
Wu helped Ed move a sedated Spencer to the new room. Ed had gone through his pockets before tossing the clothes, and found a Narcotics Anonymous medallion. Spencer had faded track marks, too. So he made sure to sedate Spencer with something not part of that drug family. He could use it for leverage later, when Spencer was conscious and Ed could gauge his reactions. The Penguin’s criminal empire moved plenty of heroin and such.
That night, after Ed had compensated for the recent inconveniences, Oswald said,“If he becomes a threat, are you willing to kill him?”
“Absolutely.” Clearly some cuddling was in order, if Oswald was thinking such dark thoughts.