HI, OSWALD HERE | xXxThEpEnGuInxXx
“Hello! My name is Oswald Cobblepot.”
He made his first video seven years ago. Blue hairspray and rubber bracelets were still in style, but his fashion choices weren’t even the most embarrassing thing about his vlogs.
They were badly lit, mostly unedited, and utterly depressing. He’d flatter himself by calling them honest, but truth be told, he was always a dirty little liar. He was aiming for sympathy. He didn’t get any.
Re-watching them years later was like standing in front of the mirror, naked, late at night. He couldn’t quite recognise his features, prying on the collection of shamefully private moments.
He’d tell everyone who was willing to pay attention what he had for breakfast and which of his classmates he hated the most that week. It was the false intimacy of trivial knowledge.
Then the vlogs got deeper, darker, almost sublime.
Then he stopped making them.
And when he returned - he returned with a vengeance.
FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS #BURNBABYBURN 7 | xXxThEpEnGuInxXx
They say that if you defeat your enemy, their powers will possess you. Oswald was hungry for Fish’s glory. The girl was a twenty-something beauty guru, a real pro, and the seventh would-be victim of Oswald’s very own show, #BurnBabyBurn.
His thriving followers were licensed haters. The internet despises losers, so Oswald had decided, with some cannibalistic instinct, to turn on his own kind and feast on their failures. One tiny mistake, and Oswald was at their throats, tearing them apart with sticks and stones.
He’d pop his tongue, looking directly into the camera. First, the whisper:
“Burn, baby, burn.”
Then, the laughter.
His fellow YouTubers turned to ashes. He’d choose the ones who had a handful of faithful followers. With Fish, he went for a big shot.
With Fish, he made a mistake.
You see, he was quite well-known by then, notorious, even. He bought a fucking Canon camera, a microphone, and a light set for beginners. He’d sit in HD in his faux-Victorian leather armchair, legs spread, smile even.
“I’d call the fashion police on Fish for that wig alone, but I’m afraid it’d do some serious damage on the officers. It looks alive. I’m legit scared.”
He earned some nasty comments. Some thousand nasty comments, to be exact, and not just on YouTube, oh no: Fish’s fans were everywhere, they hunted him down on tumblr and twitter, and he even received death threats on his home address, mailed by a certain cat13.
It made him angry, miserable and helpless.
Then Fish herself made him utterly humiliated.
xXxTHEPENGUINxXx MAKEUP TUTORIAL | ___fish___
Fish applied the BB cream while Flawless boomed in the background.
Don’t forget it, dont’t forget it / Respect that, bow down bitches / (Crown!)
“Put some powder on your teeth as well - at least something’s gotta be white in your dirty mouth.”
Oswald’s hands were shaking. He was staring at the screen without blinking. Fish’s slim fingers, adorned with gold rings, were slowly taking him apart.
“I’m using Punk Wannabe eyeliner in the shade of Aubergine Arsehole. Make sure your lines ain’t even. Smudge it, or just punch yourself in the eye for the same effect.” Fish’s glance met the camera. She purred like a panther, a predator sinking its teeth in their pitiful prey. Don’t forget about the beak, darlings. Just shove an icepick in your face.
He kept getting comments: “like if Fish brought you here.”
For months, he’d hear her voice when he put on his makeup. It used to mean safety. He could cover his freckles and bring attention to his eyes, the one thing he was proud of. Grey eyeshadow. Black eyeliner. Looking less like an emo kid from junior high and more like a fucking rock star. After Fish’s video, after all the comments, he couldn’t feel the buzz anymore.
If he squinted, he could almost make out their words written on his face, permanently marking him. He knew them by heart.
And one day - one day he simply decided not to give a flaming fuck.
GTA V ONLINE / BEST MOMENTS WITH BUTCHR!! | xXxThEpEnGuInxXx
A collab saved his ass. He got BUTCHR to play GTA V with him, and subscribers rushed in to hear more of Oswald’s salt. Within a few weeks, his followers doubled the numbers of Fish’s loyal fanbase.
The ugly thing is, BUTCHR was totally BFF with Fish (friendship bracelets and everything), so making him collaborate with Oswald took a certain amount of creativity. Victory4Zsazs was involved. So yeah. Enough said.
Oswald was now king of Gotham.
MINIMAL PARIS HAUL | xXxThEpEnGuInxXx
By the time he was twenty-one, he got the reputation of being cool, cruel, ruthless, ambitious beyond measure and above all: entertaining. And that was all that mattered.
He was everyone’s most beloved problematic fav.
He swiftly dropped out of college, bought an apartment strongly resembling a vampire chamber, sent expensive gifts to his mother via FedEx, made videos every two days, and lived the dream.
It was exactly like a dream.
“Hey there, sweet sphenisciformes! I know, long time no see. Gotta excuse me, my social life got in the way.”
What actually happened was this: he spent three days in the same underwear, under the cold covers of a king sized bed. He didn’t draw apart the heavy velvet drapes: the darkness was soft, almost plushy, suffocating. The air conditioning was on and on and on. The striped wallpapers seemed to be melting, as if the apartment was also bored to death.
Oswald couldn’t even bring himself to order takeout. He ate leftover fishfingers with mustard and kidney beans, and left the plates lying around on the ground.
Sometimes, he was lying on his stomach. Other times, he was lying on his back. He felt every creeping moment.
On the second day he filled the copper tub, and once the bath was ready, he decided he wasn’t feeling like it.
He listened to the same songs over, and over, and over again, then the music completely stopped. He listened to the faint traffic noises of the city. He could hear helicopters passing and his neighbors downstairs shouting and either murdering twelve monkeys with a chainsaw or having really weird sex. He couldn’t care less.
And then it was over. He took a shower. Styled his hair. Shaped his eyebrows. Highlighted the dark circles under his eyes, so they looked deliberate. Cleaned his lacey septum, put it in. Ironed a dark shirt, put on a pretty waistcoat, painted his nails matte black. Sat down in his favourite armchair.
The double-paned windows were open. Opaque lights poured in. Oswald was sitting there, stone fireplace in the background, some grotesque baroque sculptures, strange mirrors and many-many candles, and he said:
“Hey there, sweet sphenisciformes! I know, long time no see. Gotta excuse me, my social life got in the way.”
2015 VIDCON VLOG: DAY #1 | xXxThEpEnGuInxXx
“‘Twas literally the best damn day in the history of best damn days,” Oswald announced. He filmed this part once he was back in the hotel, his designer trash shirt with studs and rhinestones disarranged, his makeup completely ruined, voice hoarse, and still, he was positively beaming.
He couldn’t quite recall the best damn day in the history of best damn days. He was drunk on triumph. He was twenty-three, and having the time of his life, having those Big Fucking Moments he promised himself he’d have.
His name, screamed, shouted, written on printed selfies, forearms, fanarts. The high-fives on tiptoes. The squeezy handshakes. The sweat and the tears.
The squeak his shoes made as he limped on the stage. No one fucking cared anymore how he had to drag his busted leg. The wings of his vinyl coat seemed to be carrying him. He had his Canon with him, filming the living proof of his success: every glittering eye, every waving hand.
He turned his back to take a selfie, eyebrows arched. He popped his tongue.
“Burn, baby, burn!” the crowd howled.
He filmed the afterparty, dishevelled images dimmed by dry ice, vivid lights and psychedelic rock. Shadowy figures moved, jumping out of the mist, dissolving in thin air. The last frame reflected the gaze of a grim guy, visibly checking out Oswald.
He took a selfie in the mirror of the men’s room, chin up, long neck exposed. He lifted his arm, fingers spreading on the collar like spider legs. The pale lights illuminated his face just right - he didn’t even need a filter.
#trash #punk #grunge #vidcon #thePenguin #followme #OswaldCobblepot
The door opened and someone stepped to the neighboring faucet. Their eyes met in the mirror and widened in recognition.
Oswald pouted. He couldn’t remember the guy’s name - he had long hair and an eyepatch and he might have been the lead singer in some acapella punk band.
“Digged your panel,” the guy said, turning to him. “Big fan. Congrats.”
“Dig your jacket. The shoes? Mmm. Not convinced.”
The guy half laughed, half barked, his head lolling back.
Oswald checked him out, licking his lips. He had a thing for tall and lean guys with dark eye(s) and good cheekbones.
And the guy’s leather jacket was really quite sexy.
The guy bit his lower lip, and asked, voice husky and the air around them suddenly heavy:
“What’s it gonna be then, eh?”
They made out in one of the toilet stalls, trembling, breathless. The guy tasted of tar and sour champagne. He grabbed Oswald’s hair, pulling his head back, and palmed his erection through his trousers.
Oswald panted, and seized the guy’s belt. They stared at each other, gasping, lips meeting again and again.
“Suck my dick?” the guy asked.
“No fucking way.”
He just shrugged.
They settled for a handjob, cocks squeezed together in their joined hands. Oswald was the first to come, with quick squirts and a dry gasp. Utterly spent, he leaned back, and closing his eyes, he whispered:
“Jizz on my pants, you’re dead.”
Cobblepot went CobbleNOT at VidCon (vs Jim Gordon) // H_Bullocks
On the second day it all went straight to hell.
In his vlog, Oswald talked about the meet and greet, his live beauty Q&A with QueenBee aka Barbara Kean, and he never mentioned Jim Fucking Gordon once - which was kinda ironic, considering that he wouldn’t shut up about how he was looking forward to meet the guy.
It was a friendship crush. Oswald was well past the mistake of falling for heterosexuals. He wanted a buddy. A confidant. A comrade. Jim seemed to be the kind of fellow you could grab a beer with and spill your heart out.
On the other hand, he was a social justice vlogger. It should’ve been a warning sign.
“Hey, Jim, hey!” he waved with both hands, limping towards him, looking exactly like a penguin. Jim stopped dead in his tracks. “So good to finally see you, whoa!”
Jim grimaced. With a forced smile, he waved back.
Oswald offered his hand.
“It’s such a big moment for me. So sorry, I-I’m kinda starstruck. Got a minute?”
“Actually, no, but hey man, take care.”
Jim gave him a thumbs up, and fucking fled. And Oswald should’ve left it to that. Jim’s been perfectly civil. Sure, it was disappointing, but whatever.
Problem is, they had an audience. Forty, fifty people tops, including Harvey Bullock, and most of them had cameras and phone phones with them. And he and Jim - they starred. So Oswald shouted:
“Gotta rush to the restroom to take that stick out of your ass, eh?”
Well. It was not the best method to make friends. He earned some claps and fleeting laughter, but it all died down as Jim turned back.
“You know what?” he growled. “You’re a fucking disgrace.”
It took only a few steps, and Jim had him cornered. He was a big guy, wide-shouldered, muscular, and he used his strength to shove Oswald against the nearest metal column. Somebody gasped, and Harvey hoorayed.
“You’re only popular because you humiliate others. You’re a bloody parasite. People only love you because they love to hate. I’m watching you, understand?”
He should’ve said:
“I’d hope so. You know, that’s kind of the point of having a YouTube channel.”
He should’ve popped his tongue, winked and smiled. Everyone was waiting for a comeback, but his mind was blank. Jim gave him a whole fucking speech, and he just took it. He stood there, small and helpless, his face drained, eyes wide, and all he could think about was don’t fucking cry.
Within minutes, it was all over the internet.
The penguin got burned. Someone even started a kickstarter to get him some ice.
It wasn’t even the worst part.
The worst part was standing there, paralyzed, powerless, surrounded by fans, and knowing that none of them will step forward. None of them will do anything to protect him.
Because Jim was fucking right.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCMENT | xXxThEpEnGuInxXx
This is his newest video. It’s hardly a minute long. Oswald’s spread over the leather armchair. Rock plays in the background, vindictive, violent.
“Someone’s gotta burn.”
He’s in the soft spotlight, staring blankly at his own reflection. His hands, helplessly spread, flash.
“No idea who.” He’s searching for the words. His gaze is clouded. Slowly licking his lips, he looks up. “Why don’t you tell me?” He leans in.
Pop. There it is.
“Ladies, gentlemen, others: for the first time ever, it’s your decision. Leave a comment. I’ll give you the Fifth of November. Think bonfire. Think pyre.”
Cut. He’s got sunglasses on. He’s humming, biting his nails.
“It’s gonna be… amusing.”
He reaches out, turning off the camera. There’s no outro this time, no self-promotion, no nothing.
Then the comments pour in. It’ a level four tsunami at least.
Oswald’s still online when the first few hundred suggestions come. They’re all a waste of his time: the recommended YouTubers are either too famous or virtually nonexistent. Oswald’s disappointed, but not remotely surprised.
He’s having cereal for a late midnight snack and heads to bed. He’s still hungry when he curls up under the covers.
He’s sleeping til three. He’s in front of the laptop within five minutes, an unlit cigarette between his dry lips. He’s wearing nothing but silky trunks, hair a mess, craving a hot cup of tea, but he doesn’t feel like making it. He checks the comments, his thoughts still mostly with a streaming Earl Grey.
The top comment got more than five-hundred likes. Interesting. It says:
Lark 1 day ago
Screw the R1DDL3R.
He lights the cigarette, eyebrows arched. The screen is too bright, he should draw back the drapes and let in the dusty lights of Gotham.
View all 18 replies ˇ
CRiver 1 day ago
HOLY SHIT WHO’S THIS CREEP AND WHERE DID YOU FIND HIM??
jayjayjay 1 day ago
electronicsheeps 1 day ago
Reddit creepy vids.
Reply + 1
BOSSWORTH 1 day ago
raven. 1 day ago
Reply + 11
Tonggsss 1 day ago
ok he’s gotta burn
hAmMeR 1 day ago.
He was featured on Reddit.
No url attached, of course. Oswald inhales the smoke and exhales it through his nose as he’s typing. R-1-D-D-L-3-R.
He clicks the first vid which comes up. It’s the viral one. The others got like forty views alles zusammen.
WHAT AWAITS US IN THE ABYSS? | R1DDL3R
Riddler takes himself quite seriously. He’s even got a long ass intro. Oswald rolls his eyes, and when he looks at the screen again, Riddler is staring back.
“Okay,” Oswald says. “Okay, I’ll screw the Riddler. Anytime. With pleasure.”
“Howdy-do!” He raises his hand with a stiff, wide smile. “Riddler here; okay, actually, it’s Ed.”
Ed’s slim and bony, brown hair carefully combed into the haircut of WWI soldiers haunted by nightmares. His eyes are dark and deep behind the glasses. There’s something eerie in his facial motions, his ever-changing expressions and taunt shoulders. There’s something about him, Oswald decides, which is both sinister and sexy.
He leans back in the armchair, the leather sticking to his naked skin.
“I have neither beginning nor end, yet I touch the world’s corners,” Ed says. “What am I?” He pauses. It’s a long pause. A very long pause. “The ocean!” he shouts then, and Oswald flinches. “We’re going to dissect me today. Let’s see what we can find inside my belly.”
The screen is suddenly filled with the fugliest fish ever created. Its stomach is big, transparent, and…
“Oh my God,” Oswald whispers.
“Let me introduce you to Chiasmodon Niger, the Black Swallower! It’s also called the Great Swallower.”
The camera is back on Ed, and Oswald sucks the cigarette.
“That’s right,” he mumbles. “You’re a good boy, you swallow.”
“I cannot begin to describe how fascinating this creature is! Although it’s only about seven inches long…”
“Whoa, seven inches is more than enough for me, baby.”
“...it can swallow prey twice its size and ten times its mass, and it swallows them whole…”
“Glad to hear it.”
“...and bony fishes are its favourite! Rawrrr!” Ed imitates a bite. His teeth are white and uneven. There’s no music to his video, it’s almost ten minutes long, and it’s nothing but Ed babbling and staring into the lens. It’s like Oswald would have him there with him in the muddy darkness.
Once it’s over, Oswald clicks on the next video.
Then the next.
And the next.
Ninety minutes later Oswald’s in the kitchen, and as he puts a cup of water in the microwave he realises he’d given ninety minutes to Ed. His mouth is a fucking wasteland.
He hops on the counter. The kitchen is classy black with an untouched, antique charm - Oswald never used it for cooking. He combs his hair back with his fingers, and freezes.
He should start filming right fucking now. By this time he should have the script outlined.
He doesn’t have any shade to throw. None. Ed is just too… bright. Sure, he’s awkward and amateurish and far too enthusiastic, but he has all that intelligence to make up for it. His brain is quite simply amazing. He’s like the lovechild of Wikipedia and Google, a human supercomputer filled with data and trivia, but like, handsome. And cute. Not to mention adorable.
Still. Oswald won’t be tricked.
So Ed’s got comfy sweaters from sweater heaven, and geeky glasses and a goofy grin and a shitload of horrible riddles, but there’s that dark wisdom in his glances and danger in his smiles.
The microwave pings. Oswald plunges a teabag in the hot water and forgets about it within three minutes.
He spends roughly forty years in the bathroom and another eleven by his dressing table. He walks into his closet without the faintest idea what to put on. He clenches his fists.
He’s having sushi for late lunch, sitting on the counter, and bite by bite, he’s reminded of the abyss.
Trying to get distracted, he tweets a short message:
Oswald Cobblepot @xXxThEpEnGuInxXx 1m
#hh. ask away. #thepenguinreplies
It’s anything but sufficient to take his mind off Ed. He’s always getting the same silly questions. Are you gay? Are you single? Where did you buy this or that? Is it from the webshop you fucking linked to the description? What would be your superpower?
He visits Ed's channel just so he won’t get horribly bored. He watches the ones entitled “Does the Human Heart Still Beat On Once It’s Torn Out?” and “How Could You Use the Dead Bodies on Mt Everest?” and “What Science Owes to Nazi Human Experiments?” for good measure, and before he knows it, he’s bingewatching “Are There Antiallergic Nuts? and “Are Lobsters Immortal?”
The answers are rather upsetting, by the way.
Ed’s chatting about a tumor which can grow teeth and hair, when Oswald notices the mug. The mug only appears as Ed takes a quick sip, but the text on it is still legible: my bookshelf is my boyfriend.
Oswald’s bi-fi catches signal.
He can’t take it anymore. He goes shopping. He leaves his phone behind; it’s like chopping off an arm. He spends the afternoon with recording and editing a haul featuring all the shit he spent his hard-earned money on, but he’s not like super committed.
He googles R1DDL3R. Turns out his full name is Edward Nygma. He’s on Facebook. Oswald doesn’t add him. He keeps on googleing.
Edward Nygma won a riddle competition back in high school. He’s a med student of sorts, something to do with pathology; it’s not clear. He has a thing for question marks and Oswald cannot decide whether it’s a perversion or a part of his identity; probably both.
He turns off the laptop.
Well past midnight he heads to bed. He’s tossing and turning under the black covers. The pale neon lights of Gotham illuminate the thick baldachin. Some drunk is singing from the top of his lungs and sirens wail by.
An hour later he’s still wide awake, and he’s kicking off the covers. He puts on an all night long shirt and shuffles off to the balcony barefoot.
He’s got his phone and a pack of cigarettes. The air smells of stuffy asphalt; smoke and mist veil the view. He sits down on a wrought iron chair, forcing his right leg to cooperate. It’s 02:15. His game is getting weak. He lights the cigarette. The septum cuts the fume as he exhales.
He’s watching the night crowd deep down, eyes dry. He’s all by himself, behind the safety bars of his balcony, locked away in this fucking birdcage.
Grimacing, he unlocks the screen. He re-watches one of Ed’s oldest vids. Slowly blinks.
He starts typing, biting on the cigarette. Deletes it. Starts it again. He’s searching for the perfect emoji, then never uses it. It takes two fucking minutes.
“Whatever,” he whispers, and publishes the comment.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx 5 minutes ago
this torn out hearts stuff reminds me off that beheaded hen stuff lol
That’s it, take it or leave it. He drops the mobile into his lap and would very much like to continue watching the city and wallow in self-pity if only someone would let him. It takes two drags of the cigarette, and he’s got an answer.
R1DDL3R 1 minute ago
Oh, you’re referring to Miracle Mike, aren’t you? Indeed, one can clearly see the connection, although Mike was a rooster, not a hen - his name is a teller. (-;
Furthermore, Mike’s survival had more to do with a “miracle” (or sheer dumb luck, as I like to call it) than with the laws of science. It’s not very common that a beheaded chicken lives on for months, is it? The axe missed the jugular vein and left most of the brain stem intact. As for Mike’s heartbeat and breathing...
…and so on, and so on; it goes on for lines. Oswald’s eyes coss by the time he finishes reading it on the bright screen. It seems impossible to be able to type a whole fucking essay within four minutes, but yeah, Ed had miraculously done it.
He must reply.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx Right now
ohh ok :> intriguing. did you know that radioactive chicken heads got their name from him
A ping. He’s got a private message.
He puts out the cigarette in the set of false teeth he’s using as an ashtray and holds up the phone with both hands.
An hour and a half later they’re deep into discussing favorites. Ed’s a bitch for Lynch and Hitchcock, the X-files episodes are his best childhood memories, he wants to live in the Twilight Zone universe, and his guilty pleasures include The Outer Limits and Breaking Bad. Oswald doesn’t watch series, he doesn’t even have Netflix, for crying out loud, but somehow he’s still interested, he just can’t stop reading Ed’s fun facts and fan theories. Ed asks him about his day, and he lies. Ed likes baking, reading, singing, gaming, fishing; he plays the piano and collects vinyls.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx no offense which is like super rare when it comes to me so better fuckig appreciate it
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx the hell you got so much free time
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx arya multitsking rn?
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx *are *you
R1DDL3R Well, I’m studying, but only because I was bored. Also, there’s a documentary on Discovery I’m kind of watching, “10 Ways the World Will End.” Classic.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx you study when you bored?
Oswald’s back aches, and he’s slightly shivering. Theoretically, he should get the fuck back inside, but sitting here, under the trembling, twinkling stars, he just sorta feels closer to Ed. If that makes any sense.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx how many tabs y got open?
R1DDL3R Only the one.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx amateur :p
R1DDL3R I’m just appreciating the company.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx hmmh is that so
R1DDL3R I’m really enjoying our conversation, Oswald.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx betcha ;)
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx wait... you know my name??
R1DDL3R I know who you are.
R1DDL3R I mean, I looked you up?
R1DDL3R You didn’t look me up?
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx why would I do that
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx didn’t mean it like that, we’re cool
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx you here?
R1DDL3R So sorry, I forgot to feed the girls. You kept me occupied, haha!
R1DDL3R My snakes, Query and Echo.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx oookkkk what’s with the animal fetish
R1DDL3R What do you mean? (-8
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx you like animals. a lot.
R1DDL3R I do, but I wouldn’t say I’ve got a fetish. My sexual desires have nothing to do with the poor souls. Are you into it?
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx not the least bit
R1DDL3R That said, I must confess, a certain penguin does get me all hot and bothered!
Oswald was typing, but suddenly, he stops.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx …………….. … . . . . …
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx if that was meant to be a joke
R1DDL3R is typing…
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx Nevermind. It’s getting late.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx I gotta go.
xXxThEpEnGuInxXx Good talk. Bye.
R1DDL3R Gosh, no, nononono, no! I didn’t mean to offend you in any way - I do realise that what I said might have been in poor taste, and I apologise if I was in any way too forward. People often tell me that my communication skills lack finesse.
R1DDL3R Are you still here?
OOTD #25 THE PERFECT LOOK FOR RISING FROM THE DEAD | xXxThEpEnGuInxXx
He always films his outfit of the day vids outside. There’s an abandoned quadrangle he rather fancies with huge iron gates, walls scattered like broken glass and decorated with spraypaint. The party people always leave some litter to remember them by, empty cans and lipstick-tainted cigarettes. All the flowers are long dead, and the only light is that of the sick sun.
He’s limping towards the camera. He tries to calm the vehement movement of his shoulders, concentration straining his face, nostrils flaring. His lips are pressed to a thin line, with a bold smile trembling at the corner which says I know I’m hot as hell.
He zooms in on his face. Turning to the right, turning to the light, his sharp profile is illuminated (the earrings: two small silver circles and a fine chain almost touching his jawline). He turns back, hanging his head. He’ll edit this part, playing it backwards, adding some old school television effect.
He laces his fingers and stretches towards the camera, revealing his bony wrists. The ring, made of metal, looking like a skull of a bird, glitters.
He looks back behind his shoulders. Patience. The shirt is plum, with elegant cuffs. The vest is decorated with fading pastel-roses, small minerals and tiny shells. It reminds him of his mother’s apartment, nostalgia and syrupy scents.
He’s pressing his legs together, the left feet pointed. Chin up. And then his fucking phone chimes.
He stops, eyebrows furrowed. The camera is still on when he’s unlocking the screen. He’s got a text from an unknown number. It simply says:
I may only be given, not taken or bought. The sinner receives me, and the saint hails me. What am I?
Oswald’s staring at the screen, mouth agape. He wobbles to a turned over trashcan and sits down on its mortal remains.
He’s got like ninety-nine problems. First of all, Edward Nygma (it can only be him) somehow took hold of his private number, and it took him less than four days. Oswald cannot decide whether he should be awed, impressed or very damn scared, so he’s… all.
Second, the aforementioned Edward Nygma had the nerve to apologize in a riddle. If it is an apology.
Ed already got the notification that his message was received and read. That’s enough of an answer; he locks the screen, and pockets the phone.
He steps to the camera, and turns it off.
When he gets home, he uploads the record to his laptop. It takes forever. A sudden impulse makes him tweet:
Oswald Cobblepot @xXxThEpEnGuInxXx 1m
#sphenisciformes, how about a quick #meetup today at IDK. #robinsonpark? 6PM? raise ur flipper if ur with me
Twelve people are on board within half an hour.
Yay. It’s almost like he’s got, you know, a life.
Oswald heads to Midtown Gotham. He’s a bit early, so he invites himself for a Bloody Mary in a ruined pub. Dim neon lights pour on the plastic curtains, and moths flutter around. He’s at his third glass when he realises he should really get going.
He’s driving to the park under the influence, and keeps checking his phone. (Ed didn’t text him again. He doesn’t know why he’s so disappointed. The hell did he expect.)
The die hard fans are dutifully waiting for him in the park. Most of them are underage with undercuts, smoking cheap cigarettes. They sit down on the soft grass. Mellow mist floats between the twisted trees.
His fans beg him to read them. Oswald proceeds to throw grass at the nearest one, a boy with flowers in his lilac hair.
“Do you think you’re ready for the truth about that jersey, honey? Unless you’re applying to major in pedophilia I suggest you take it off. No, not in front of the children, Jesus!”
There’s a guy with glasses who brought homemade cookies and he’s kind of a cutie with beautiful brown skin, around Oswald’s age, but he can’t be bothered.
They’re all laughing and chatting and bitching and Oswald just can’t get really invested or even slightly interested. He keeps thinking about Ed. He’s wondering what he might be up to.
He finds out within an hour.
A girl in a Kurt Cobain shirt asks him about his leg, very politely, because they’re always so fucking polite when it comes to his disability. Before he’d answer, Oswald takes a drag of his cigarette, and then - well. Suddenly Ed is just there.
Ed’s taller than he estimated. He’s got a baby blue shirt on and he’s holding onto his satchel for dear life.
First, there’s stunned silence. Then he says:
“Sorry I’m late,” and takes a seat.
Some of the sphenisciformes start to whisper.
Ed is approximately sixty percent legs, which he attempts to fold under himself so he can sit cross-legged. He’s not right next to Oswald, but he is still close. The cigarette burns out. Oswald fumbles for another one, inhales, clears his throat. He’s looking for words to say.
“So you’ve asked me about my leg,” he mumbles, but at the same time, someone else says:
“You’re the Riddler, right?”
Oswald could strangle her in a spoonful of water. The girl doesn’t notice his murderous gaze, but Ed must have, because he chuckles. Oswald heard this soft laughter many times, but IRL, the voice makes him feel a tickle slowly traveling up his stomach.
“Well yes,” Ed answers. “I happen to be me.”
He’s still watching Oswald when he turns to the girl, first his torso, then his head, and finally, his glance. Oswald sighs. He’s dizzy.
The girl doesn’t stop.
“So you’re like, a fan?”
“By all means.”
He’s talking fast, in a singsong, slightly nasal voice, which sounds a bit deeper and softer without the microphone.
Everyone’s at a loss for words, sharing confused glances. Oswald is just… done. He’s smoking in silence, trying to suppress a stubborn smile.
Ed’s under attack.
“You excited for the next vid?”
“Which one’s your favorite?”
“Are you subscribed?”
“Who’d you like to see burn?”
“Do you guys know each other?”
Oswald pops his tongue. His fans shut up. He throws away the cigarette and leans back.
“Let him catch his breath. You go on like this, poor Ed’s gonna run away like a chicken with its head cut off.”
“Like Mike,” Ed mutters, his gaze back on Oswald. It’s like he just can’t get enough. Overwhelmed, Oswald says:
“Like Mike.” His tongue is dry. They both snicker.
No one else understands the reference. Thanking god for their bewilderment Oswald glances at his nonexistent watch, and stands up. He can feel it under his skin that Ed’s still watching him.
“All right then. Gotta go, folks. Thanks for coming, catch you later.”
“Who’s staying for a drink?” one of them asks - he looks like the leader of an underground biker gang; most of them raise their hands, including Ed. Oswald’s smile is wide and honest. They all wave him goodbye.
“We’ll drink to your health!”
“Moment you're gone, we’ll burn you like nobody’s business!”
Oswald turns on his heels and gives them the finger in a loving gesture. Ed is still observing him, head cocked, and Oswald thinks, you coward, you fucking coward, but he’s not sure which one of them he means.
RECORDED FILE 157
Oswald fled to the roof of a parking structure. His hands still smell of the rust of the fire escape and his right leg is killing him. Lukewarm oil puddles surround him, their shiny surfaces reflecting the last purple rays of the setting sun. The skyscrapers are ablaze.
He’s still panting. He’s recording himself, trying to be objective about his own reflection, eyes wide and cheeks flushed. He sees a flash in his eyes, he sees how his teeth sink into his chapped bottom lip, and before he knows it, he’s closed the camera app and called Ed.
The phone feels hot and heavy.
“Hel-lo?” Ed picks up, speech slightly slurred. Oswald searches his pockets for a cigarette.
“Where are you?”
“Still in the park. Havin’ fun.”
“I’m at Monolith Square, top of that oversized parking structure. Get your ass over here.” Oswald pauses, putting the cigarette between his lips. He doesn’t light it. “Bring booze,” he adds, and ends the call.
He’s waiting, dangling his legs as he’s lying on his stomach. His boots hit the ground and the hard concrete scratches the shiny leather. He tsks. The cigarette is still not lit.
He gets rid of his thin leather jacket, suddenly too hot. He’s just staring at it. He feels helpless, out of place, and it makes him angry.
He grabs his transparent backpack, pulls out a bottle of watery rosé, squeezes the jacket in. He found the wine in an alleyway on the way here. It looks more or less sanitary, and he desperately needs a drink. Choking, he drinks down what’s left at the bottom.
Once he’s finished, he touches his lips, keeping his fingertips there. He resists biting his nails. The gesture is comforting.
It’s only been ten minutes. Ed needs about half an hour to find him.
He closes his eyes, the aftertaste of the wine sour at the tip of his tongue.
* * *
Ed’s standing above him, wide shoulders blocking the hazy streetlights. He’s holding cans of root beer.
Fucking root beer.
“You call that booze?”
“Oh?” Ed looks down, as if he just noticed what is he carrying. “Well, as a matter of fact, they are alcoholic, and rather refreshing, and it’s such a frowzy evening, isn’t it, so I was thinking…”
“Next time, don’t think, just reach for the hard liquor, please,” Oswald sighs. He’s lying on his back, knocking his knees together. The smoky sky is empty. The low lights of the city cling to the heavy clouds.
“Alrighty. Next time.” Ed’s enthusiasm doesn’t falter. He crouches down, and puts the cans to the ground in an even line. “Sprecher or Rowdy?”
“Give me death.”
Ed’s eyelids stir.
“I can’t help with that.”
Oswald reluctantly raises his head up. Frowning, he surveys the line. He’s still clutching the rosé’s neck.
”Sprecher, please and thank you.”
Ed’s teeth flash. Oswald maintains eye contact as he reaches for the wet can. Their fingers brush; it could’ve been taken for an accident, but Ed is far too quick to withdraw his hand, as if he was found out.
Ed sits down, legs spread, peering at Oswald. He leans back on his elbows and gulps down the root beer. It’s too cold and bubbly. Ed sips on it carefully, as if he was drinking coffee.
Oswald can feel the warmth of the concrete pulling him down, his stomach sinks, and there’s that tingling feeling slowly spreading to his limbs. He’s telling himself it’s merely because of the chilly weather.
Once he’s finished, he pops his tongue, satisfied, and Ed beams at him.
“Anyway,” he says, as if they were talking in the last couple of minutes, “I’m sorry for showing up at the meetup. I know you weren’t expecting me.”
“Mm.” Oswald pouts, putting away the empty can. He lies down, staring at the smoky skies, and listens to Ed. His voice is filling him, quenching a thirst he never knew he had.
“And I’m sorry for being late.”
“I had a class. Immunology. Had to wait it out.”
“It’s okay,” Oswald repeats, sneaking a peek at him. Ed is flushed.
“Are you still angry with me?”
Oswald shrugs, and crosses his arms. He rolls over so he can look at Ed from a more comfortable angle.
The air smells of sweet alcohol, soap and fresh cotton. Ed’s scent is clean and comforting and Oswald is just content in his presence, content even with the awkward pauses of their conversation. And it terrifies him.
“Entertain me,” he says, resting his head on his arms. He knows he’s lying like a Baroque whore. Ed cocks his head and grimaces, the sudden movement clearly making him dizzy.
“Should I tell a joke?”
“We’re youtubers,” Oswald says. “It’s what we do. We entertain. So give me your best shot and impress me.”
“I already did,” Ed states. His voice is dry. His glasses reflect the lights. “Listen,” he says, adjusting the rim. “I know my audience laughs at me, and not with me, and I don’t care. I know my value. My content is illuminating and thought-provoking. So I lack certain editing skills; so what? I never said I was good at vidding, but I’m good. I’ve got the knowledge, I’ve got the personality, I’ve got the looks, I’ve got humour. If they don’t see it, it’s their loss.” He chuckles. “But you’re different, aren’t you? You read people. You understand what drives them. You’re intelligent. So you were impressed, because greatness recognizes greatness, and we’re the best.”
“Bing-bing-bing,” he sings, and stands. Ed seems surprised as Oswald comes closer. His crotch is only some inches away from Ed’s face, but the guy doesn’t click. “It’s not your strongsuit,” Oswald sighs, “is it?”
Ed blinks. Oswald steps back, pants too tight and uncomfortable.
“Whatever. It’s getting late, grab your shit and come with me.”
He leads the way, adjusting himself, and Ed’s still not getting the hint.
They’re walking the misty streets. The concrete is soaked in glow, like the surface of a glistening sea. Ed follows his uneven steps as a discipline walking behind his master, between them, an afterthought of distance.
Oswald has no idea where they’re heading, where the whole thing’s heading, he just soldiers on, feet dull with pain and heart bursting with expectations.
Oswald looks back. Ed’s eyeing a store on the other side, its neon signs reflected on his glasses.
“I’m out of tobacco.” Ed looks down at him. “Plus, I want you to have fun.”
Oswald sucks in his lips.
“I’m ha--… Aren’t you, like, broke?”
“I am,” Ed says, eyebrows arched. His smile says it all. He looks around and crosses the street, half jogging, hands in his pockets. Oswald snickers, head back, like he was howling up the moon.
Ed’s sneaking down the aisles, almost invisible. A darkwave melody booms from the speakers; Oswald’s memorising the lyrics so he can look it up later and use it in a video. Following Ed’s footsteps, he’s looking for cameras. He’s limping with an awed expression fixed on his face; his legs are no longer hurting him. He follows the lines of the shelves with careful fingers, stealing a glance at Ed’s shoulders. He licks his lips.
The store stocks alcohol like nobody’s business. At least it’s hidden in the back behind plastic curtains. A handful of drunk students stand around, arguing about money in slurred words. Ed winks at Oswald, and heads towards them.
Oswald stops, observing the scene. He crosses his arms, leaning to a pile of boxes. Ed looks back, eyes glinting in excitement. He grins. Oswald struggles not to return it.
It happens all of a sudden. He can’t even see Ed’s hands move, but a bottle of brandy falls and crashes to the ground with a loud splash. Ed spins, his left arm hidden behind his back. The students hiss.
“What was it?”
“Stu, for fuck’s sake!”
“It wasn’t me!”
The cashier bellows from the other side of the store:
He comes a-running, clutching a baseball bat.
Ed steps to Oswald, and their arms brush.
“I think we should get going,” he whispers, leaning in.
They stop by the counter. Ed hands the stolen bottle to Oswald and drums on the desk, tilting his head back. He cannot hear the cashier coming, as he’s still shouting with the kids.
He hops on the desk, spins, and grabs the tobacco stocked with the cigarettes. He bites on the pack and jumps to the ground, gracefully. He nods to Oswald, mumbling something.
He cannot take it any longer. He bursts out laughing, and Ed joins in with a high-pitched giggle. They make it to the exit, Oswald on the verge of tears. Out of breath, he holds the door for Ed.
Ed leaves behind some evidence, pulling out his immunology notes and scattering the scribbled papers to the ground like confetti. It’s reckless and entirely unnecessary, but makes a hell of an exit, so Oswald lets him.
Oswald taps the camera app on his phone and wishes for a selfie stick. He tilts the angle so Ed’s in the frame. He’s rolling a cigarette, long fingers playing with the filter. He looks up and licks the paper.
The camera sways off for a moment; there’s a click, there’s an orange flash. Flame flickers. Ed is back, cigarette between his lips, smiling. He leans closer, chin almost touching Oswald’s shoulders as he blows smoke to the screen.
Oswald chukles. Cut.
They’re at a subway station. Ed’s about fifteen feet away from him, leaning on a metal column. The very last train closes its doors with a loud hiss, the leading wind blowing Ed’s hair. Lights flicker and noise fills the vast place. Everything seems larger than life, run-down and radiant.
Ed slides down, shoulders still touching the column.
Oswald wobbles closer with echoing steps.
Only their voices can be heard, the screen’s empty like starless space.
“...much the same as Dengue-fever.”
“Are you cold?”
“I’ve got a jacket in my bag. Let me...”
Movement. Rustle. Faint footsteps. Silence breathed into the darkness. Ed whispers:
“Mmm, yeah. Hey, is this still on?”
Oswald leans to Ed’s shoulders. There’s the smell of cold stones and rust and Ed’s tobacco vanille. Ed strains, then inches closer, resting his chin on the top of Oswald’s head. His neck is so close now, adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows. Oswald pictures himself strangling him. His throat would be all purple and green and pretty.
Ed opens his eyes, staring into the dark tunnel. The tracks clang. There’s silence.
“Your last train is long gone. Now what?”
“Ah, I never use it anyway.”
Oswald raises his head from Ed’s shoulder.
“Didn’t we come here so you can go home?”
“I thought we came here because you need to get home by train.”
“I am parked in that parking structure, y’know.”
“I’m parked near the park.”
“We could always catch a taxi to drive us there.”
None of them move.
“I’d offer you a ride,” Ed says, gesticulating with his fingers, “like I could go and get my car and get you home, but I’d get us killed, because I had drinks to drink and I’m getting tired.”
Oswald huffs, smiling, and fumbles for a cigarette. Ed nods to himself.
“Taxi it is, then. Sorry I can’t be your escorting gentleman.”
“I don’t feel like heading home anyways.”
The smoke obscures Ed’s face.
“So what’s your plan?”
Oswald pats the cold, hard grounds half-heartedly. Ed squints.
“You want to sleep here?”
“...May I join you?”
Oswald slowly lets the smoke out. He casts down his eyes, head lolling back. He licks his teeth, mouth open.
“If you want to.”
Then he grabs Ed neck with twitching fingers, pulls him down, and presses their lips together.
His nails follow the lines of a blue vein, leaving behind tiny little scratches. He wraps his trembling legs around Ed’s waist. Ed holds him.
Their kiss deepens. It’s hot and open-mouthed and wet. Ed mimics Oswald’s movements with discreet eagerness. He’s not entirely sure what to do with his tongue, so Oswald shows him, licking into his mouth. Ed doesn’t tilt his head, so their foreheads bump and Oswald’s nose hits his glasses. Ed grins, and Oswald takes revenge by biting his lips. He lazily pulls away, looking up. Ed stares down at him, glasses smeary, and he’s softly panting. Oswald lets go of his lips, and Ed’s head rolls back, his face awed.
Oswald is looking into his eyes as he grabs his shoulders for balance. He nestles into his lap. Ed’s fingers are caressing his sharp hips in slow, steady circles.
Oswald fists Ed’s shirt, mouth dry. His lips are tingling with the taste of him.
“You like me?” Ed asks, all too loud and sudden. Oswald twitches.
“For fuck’s sake, Ed,” he breathes, trying to hold back laughter.
”Do you?” Ed demands, leaning back to the column. Oswald is still straddling him.
“Fuck yeah. I do. Yes. Very much, in fact.” He bumps their foreheads. “Okay?”
Ed’s eyes soften, color a mellow brown.
“Okey-dokey,” he grins, and swiftly kisses the top of Oswald’s nose. He pulls him closer. “It’s settled then,” he concludes, closing his eyes. Oswald buries his face into Ed’s neck with a crooked smile.
The neon lights twinkle behind his eyelids. He lets the moment wash him over. Ed is warm and he smells really nice and he’s caressing him, his side, his back, his hips. They’re cuddling in a fucking metro station and it should be ridiculous. He just listens to Ed breathing, each breath becoming more and more even, and he’s lulled by the rise and fall of his chest. He’s covered in Ed’s jacket and he doesn’t want to leave, ever.
They’re drifting off to sleep in the underbellies of Gotham.