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The Uncanny Misery of Oswald Van Dahl

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There’s something morbidly poetic about being caught in the act of burying your dead girlfriend.

Context, brief but sufficient, he’s trying to do things quietly. Kristen was a nice girl, and she deserves to have a nice, proper burial. He made lunch , he drove out to the forest, but unfortunately, he neglected to check whether or not hunting season is still active.

A mild setback, of course. Holes can always be dug bigger after all.

And he’s this close to being done with his digging so he can enjoy his lunch. Because really, as long as he treats them both nicely he’s sure Kristen wouldn’t mind sharing. But just beyond the trees, far enough to muffle the sound but not enough to silence it completely, Ed hears what he preliminarily identifies as some sort of crash, and he rolls his eyes before setting his shovel against a tree and trudging across the dried leaves towards the main road.

-

Near a fork in the road he finds a nice car, certainly nicer than his own, and well maintained down to the prim leather seats and well polished bumpers, excluding, of course, the mangled front end that appears to have impacted a very sturdy tree at a rather fast speed. The driver’s side door is open, the driver nowhere to be found, and Ed scans the area, quickly, and studies the scuffed leaves near the side of the road, following disturbed leaf litter and small droplets of blood until they start leading directly to his picnic.

“Crud.” He grimaces and begins walking briskly, pushing through brush and young trees, weaving through the forest and speeding along until he sees his car in the distance, and his shovel, and a figure, hunched and breathing heavily, clutching at his sides and stumbling as he backs away from the hole Ed’s dug. “Oh crap.”

Oswald Van Dahl turns, startled and shaking and backing away from Ed (and towards the hole if he isn’t careful), wincing with every step he makes using his left leg. He looks to the hole, to the shovel, to Ed, and his face twists with fear. “Oh God,” he says thickly, “please, please don’t kill me, I,” he cries out when he slips on the uneven ground, landing on his knee and retching, squeezing his eyes closed. “Please don’t kill me,” he begs, shaking his head and trying to scramble away.

“Mr. Van Dahl,” Ed says as he speeds over to him, “you are going to stop aggravating that leg, and you are going to remain quiet while I think.”

His back hits the bumper of Ed’s car and he jumps, turning around and closing his eyes tightly when he sees the licence plate, or possibly from the fact that he’s backed himself into a corner. When he opens them again, looking up at Ed, they’re watery, and he covers his head with his arms when Ed kneels down in front of him. “I don’t want to die ,” he whimpers, “please I, my family, they’re expecting me-”

“Oswald Van Dahl,” Ed says, loudly, and he flinches, “let. Me. Think. Please.”

He’s a socialite, a well known figure, an heir of one of Gotham’s prominent families. He’s also going into shock or damn near it, and Ed nods to himself, and grabs Oswald by the left arm.

“No please! Please I’ll-my father is wealthy-”

“You’re going to go into shock if you remain in this chilled air,” Ed explains quickly as he half carries, half drags Oswald to the passenger side of his car, “and you are going to sit down and stay here.” He looks past the bumper of the car to the picnic, now thoroughly ruined with this little setback, and he makes a stop motion with his hand to Oswald before hurrying over to his supplies and packing up the food and setting it in the trunk of his car, then he takes the blanket over to the passenger side and, “crap, Oswald!”

He hasn’t gotten far, not with his leg, and Ed pulls him up off the ground, patting his chest reassuringly as he pulls him back to the car and makes him sit again, this time buckling him in and draping the picnic blanket over him. “You need to stay warm unless you want to go into shock.”

Oswald’s covered his face with his hands, and Ed takes a moment to tuck the blanket more securely around his shoulders before shutting the passenger door and finishing up with his burial, which has been interrupted far too many times at this point to take any proper time to say any words as he hurries to bury the two of them.

Ed takes a brief moment to say goodbye, then he hurries to put away his shovel and gets into the car. Oswald hasn’t moved, but he peeks out from behind his fingers when Ed starts the car and sets as many of the vents towards Oswald as he can and cranking up the heat.

“You aren’t going to kill me here?” Ed takes a moment to look over at Oswald after he’s gotten his car onto the main road. “I mean that’s fair,” Oswald gulps, “because my car, my car is just right over there.” He wipes his face on the sleeve of his suit coat. He takes a shaky breath and exhales. “I’m afraid of,” he swallows, looking conflicted, and Ed has to look away in order to turn onto the next road, “I’m afraid of drowning,” he whispers. “So, if you could-”

“I’m not planning on killing you.” He’s not certain what he’s going to do about Oswald Van Dahl, but he’s certainly not going to kill him. And even if he was, no, he’s not going to entertain the thought when it’s an impossibility. He can’t kill one of Gotham’s notable figures without numerous questions coming his way, and he’s going to have to lay low enough now with Kristen, well, he’s going to have to lay low. “But you’ve seen quite a bit of damning evidence in a short amount of time.”

“I, I can lie,” Oswald offers. “Really, I will. You’ve, you’re the one that saved me, after all, right? Had I,” he pauses, long enough to make Ed worry, and when he looks over he sees fresh tears falling. “There’s no reason to think you were anything but a good samaritan at the right place at the right time.”

“But the reality is the inverse,” Ed counters, “for you, at least. I was where I meant to be, at the time I intended. I don’t mean to offend, but currently I have no reason to believe that you would actually lie for my sake. Perhaps that will change in the coming days.”

Oswald’s face crumples, and he remains silent for the rest of the drive to Ed’s apartment.

He helps Oswald to the elevator, keeping the blanket securely around his shoulders to help hide his identity, and once they reach his loft he drags a chair over to the front door and makes Oswald sit.

“I need to categorize your injuries to determine a course of treatment,” he tells Oswald. “Are you in pain anywhere aside from your leg?”

Oswald refuses to answer, and Ed shrugs, looking over what he can see of Oswald, noting the small gash on his forehead. “Would you be opposed to removing your shirt?”

Oswald pushes Ed away. “Leave me alone,” he spits, now he’s angry, and he glares at Ed, defiant. "If this is some Stephen King fetish you've just been dying to reenact let me tell you, am most certainly not a willing party, but I suppose that just fits better with the narrative now doesn't it?"

“Intersting,” Ed says, mostly to himself, and he stands. “Well I certainly can’t make you.” The expression on Oswald’s face says otherwise. His anger is gone almost as quickly as it appeared in favor of being afraid again. “If you’ll cooperate I can look at your leg, otherwise you should rest.”

Oswald looks at Ed, searching his face, his own crumpling and turning red, and he bursts into tears, covering his face with his hands and hiding under the blanket. Ed looks left and right, and back to Oswald, and he says, “I am unsure how to proceed.”

Oswald stops crying almost as quickly as he started, and he looks at Ed with wide, scared eyes. Ed hesitates, then dives forward, checking Oswald’s hands (cold), his face (clammy), and his heart rate (far too fast), “Oswald, you are in the preliminary stages of shock,” he says as he loops Oswald’s left arm over his shoulders, “and need to lie down so I can elevate your feet,” he continues as he pulls Oswald across the room to his bed. “Now, sit please, thank you,” he rubs his back briefly while easing him down and moves quickly but carefully to elevate his legs, putting extra care and attention towards not jostling his left leg too much. “I know it’s a lot to ask but please attempt to slow your breathing.”

And it seems he can’t, although it isn’t too surprising. He covers Oswald with blankets and crosses his home to pull out the vial of sedative he took from the pharmacy. Ed fills a needle, flicking the end and removing any air, and crosses the room again, on a mission, and he exposes one of Oswald’s shoulders. “I am very sorry but I’m going to have to sedate you,” he says as he inserts the needle despite Oswald’s protests and administers the sedative. “This is a mild dose. You’ll feel drowsy and sluggish mostly likely, but I would recommend you try to take advantage of that in order to get some sleep.”

-

“You drugged me,” is the first thing Oswald says to him the next morning. Ed is busy making breakfast for the two of them, but he hurries over with a glass of water with a straw.

“I did,” he says, nodding and handing over the glass. “Shock is caused by physical trauma, most commonly, and can restrict blood flow to your vital organs. But now the worst has passed, and you appear to be feeling more like your old self, at least that’s my opinion.”

“You drugged me.”

“I did, yes,” he says, frowning. “You already said that-”

“Why are you keeping me here?” Oswald looks around the room at Ed’s things. “Why are you bothering to help when you’re just going to kill me?”

“Because I’m not going to kill you,” he says. “I thought I made that clear yesterday, although I understand you weren't necessarily in your right mind-”

“You killed two people. I saw them. I saw that,” he stops, grimacing, and covers his mouth. He swallows twice, and takes a drink of water. “You’re a murderer.”

“I suppose that’s accurate.” He covers his mouth when he feels the corners pulling up into a smile. “But Oswald-”

“Why do you know who I am, exactly? I’m certain I don’t know you.”

Ed frowns. “There aren’t a lot of people that don’t know the Van Dahl family, Oswald.”

“Well then you should know my father will call the police when I don’t come home.”

“There’s been no reports,” Ed tells him, and Oswald glares at him from the other side of his glass. “I’ve monitored the news cycle since your accident and my,” he pauses, “insistence that you come to my home. It’s been silent.”

“Give me the paper,” Oswald demands, and Ed decides to comply. He hands Oswald today’s paper, and watches as he flips between pages, and back to the first page, then to the back, all the while his movements becoming frantic, until he tosses the paper aside and rolls so he’s facing away from Ed. He sobs once, quietly, and Ed cleans up the paper before moving to the other side of the room to give Oswald some space.

-

He stays home from work the next day. Oswald continues to mope, and Ed gives him space, preferring to stay on the other side of the room, reading his paper or playing songs on his piano as Oswald continues to refuse the food Ed offers him. Unsettled by the silence, Ed turns on his television to help provide a little noise while he cooks.

“The mystery of Oswald Van Dahl continues to stump detectives-” he turns in a flurry, watching as Oswald pushes himself upright and stares at the television, newfound hope brightening his face. Ed turns off the news before it can finish but Oswald is looking at him, defiant and smug, and Ed sighs.

“It appears they are looking for you.”

“It really only makes it worse if you keep me here longer. They’ll throw you in Blackgate so fast once word gets out.” Oswald lies back, content with himself, and Ed scowls at him.

“It only makes it worse if they find out you’re here, which is unlikely since we’ve never properly met,” he says. “But I think we both know what I’m capable of, Oswald.”

“I think you would’ve killed me already if you were capable of anything more than empty threats.”

Ed storms over, getting close, feeling angry and frustrated and he grabs Oswald’s collar, dragging him up and he snarls, “don’t presume to know me, Oswald Van Dahl. I think you’ll find I can be rather unpredictable if pushed.”

Oswald glares up at him, then there's a flicker, something unsure in his eyes, and he looks away, huffing and blinking fast. It was a bluff, Ed realizes, and he’s passed. He’s the one in control.

Ed lets Oswald go and returns to the kitchen to finish his pasta. Oswald says nothing the rest of the night, but when Ed presents a small plate of carbonara to him he picks up a fork and eats quietly.

-

“It’s Friday,” Oswald tells him the next morning, apropos to nothing. Ed had just begun pouring pancake batter into a pan.

“Yes,” he hazards.

“I,” he pauses, and Ed turns away from the pan to watch him speak, “on Fridays I go and visit my mother,” he says. “She’s in Arkham; she has been for a good deal of my life.”

Ed takes a moment to turn around and flip his pancakes before asking, “why are you telling me this?”

“I need to go and see her today,” Oswald insists. “She worries, if I don’t go to see her. She goes into a panic if I’m a few minutes late,” he laughs, sounding helpless, “and I can’t do that to her. Please,” Oswald gulps, “I need to see her. Two o’clock. I go at two o'clock every Friday.”

Ed turns back to the stove and flips the pancakes a second time, noting the color, and flips them back over once before scooping them out of the pan. He puts them on a plate and adds a few berries before setting the plate on a tray. He brings a tray with the plate, syrup, and some juice over to Oswald. “You’re asking to go to Arkham.”

“I’m asking if I can see her, yes,” Oswald sighs with relief, and nods. “Please. If it was anyone else I wouldn’t bring it up, but it’s my mother . Surely you understand.”

He doesn’t, actually, because his mother was never in Arkham, never required him to visit in a timely manner, but he licks his lips, thoughtful, and nods. “I suppose, but the guards will recognize you.”

“I,” he takes a breath, “I meet her in the garden. Yes. She hates to have me see her in a small, dark, windowless room. And she’s not a danger. She’s allowed time outside. I promise,” he pauses, steeling himself, “I just need to see her, please.”

“You’ll need to clean yourself up,” Ed says, and he gestures to the bathroom. “But I am cautious, you understand why, to trust you.”

“Thank you,” Oswald sighs, and he actually smiles, eyes watering. “Thank you, really. You have no idea what this means to me.”

-

During the drive Oswald stares out the window, watching cars and pedestrians, but never making a fuss, and because of this it’s even more shocking when Oswald says, “you’re Ed Nygma.”

“What did you say?”

“I,” he takes a  moment to compose himself, “when you were in the bathroom I,” he bites his lip, “I went through your mail. I’m sorry,” he starts breathing fast, “I just, you never said your name. And I assumed you wouldn't be forthcoming, so I found out for myself. I’m sorry, please, I was just curious.”

That isn’t good. Ed takes a few calming breaths and turns onto the bridge towards Arkham island. Oswald says nothing, breathing still fast and shallow, but he gestures to a lot on the outskirts, and Ed turns into it without thinking. He shuts off the car, and the two sit in silence.

Oswald blurts out, “this is a heavily traversed area-”

“Quiet.” Ed closes his eyes and thinks . “Did you bring us here to meet someone?”

“No,” Oswald says quickly, “well, my mother , obviously. But, but they never listen to her. They never listen to any of the inmates. Please,” he begs, voice cracking. “Please-”

“Get out of the car,” he unbuckles himself and opens the door.

“Ed,” Oswald keeps saying his name, keeps reminding Ed that he was careless, “if I can just explain myself-”

“Consider your convenient memory loss payment for being here. Lead the way,” Ed gestures to the building. He stares Oswald down when he gapes, and then Oswald nods, turning and hobbling down a path leading away from the main gates. “Oswald I assume the garden is attached.”

“We need to go this way,” he says, glancing back and then continuing forward. “It’s not far.”

He leads Ed to a gravestone near a pine tree, the ground around it littered with dried needles and blown over leaves. Ed looks at Oswald, and at the gravestone, and the etched words Gertrude Kapelput across the front of the simple gray headstone.

He’s made a very, very big error. Oswald wipes his face, staring down at the simple stone. He glances at Ed, and then he clears his throat. “She passed away while at Arkham. My grandparents,” he shakes his head, “they convinced my father that she was unfit to raise me, that,” he opens his mouth, and closes it, swallowing thickly, “that she could be a danger to such an impressionable boy.”

“Why did you insist on coming here then?” Not that this is irreparable, no he can still figure out his next move. He just needs a moment to think , and to formulate a plan. He turns back to Oswald, and he’s about to demand an answer when he sees a car pull up next to his and an older gentleman gets out of the car. At first the man doesn’t notice them, but once he does he’s barreling over, and Oswald is smiling, laughing in relief, and he accepts the hug he’s offered immediately. “Oh crap.”

“Oswald,” Elijah Van Dahl laughs with relief as well, and kisses his son’s forehead. He smoothes back his hair, smiling, and pulls Oswald back to him. “Oswald, thank goodness. I didn’t dare to dream, but I did hope .”

They come here together. It fits, the insistence, the current reunion. Oswald knew this would work out in his favor. He let Ed think he was in control when all along, it was Oswald pulling the strings. Oswald knows his name now, and his father will know shortly, as will the rest of Gotham, and the GCPD. Ed gulps, and he watches them exchange a few more hugs before coughing politely, just to get the awkward conversation started now that it’s an inevitability.

“You must have found him,” Elijah says, rounding Oswald and grabbing Ed’s hand, shaking it vigorously. “I cannot explain to you how grateful I am to you.”

“I,” Ed stops, mind going blank. He watches Oswald glower at him, but when his father turns back around he smiles. Ed realizes at this moment that he was played, and he was played well . Oswald is far more cunning than he first let on.

“Father, I really should see our physician,” Oswald tells Elijah, and he continues with, “let me just tell Ed thank you once again, and I’ll join you in the car.”

“Of course, of course,” he tells Oswald, and he smiles at Ed. “Thank you.”

Ed nods, not capable of a genuine answer, and he turns to face Oswald, and his eventual fate, head on. “Oswald, I know I have no right to ask anything of you, but I am sorry things got a bit, strained, following that day in the woods, and if you could give me a fair warning, perhaps, before you report me to the GCPD, so I can get my affairs in order, I would be very grateful.”

“I think we both know that you don’t deserve even that bit of kindness after what you’ve put me through.”

“That is a fair assessment.” Ed nods. “I never intended to kill you Oswald, and I mean that.”

“Well some things are a bit worse than death, Ed.” He turns away and starts hobbling towards his father’s car without another word.

-

There’s a certain agony waiting for an inevitability.

Ed continues to go to work, to cover up any and all trails that lead to him regarding Kristen, and he tries to make sure all of his work is well documented and in order, because the moment he’s arrested someone else is going to have to take over and manage his duties in the lab, and he would prefer if he left it in as pristine a condition as possible.

A full week goes by, and still he’s not arrested.

After two, he’s actually starting to let himself relax. But then he panics anew, when he wonders if maybe Oswald wants him to be relaxed, just so he can take that away from Ed. He can’t say he doesn’t deserve it, but it doesn't make him feel any better about the whole situation.

After three, when he’s lying awake at night, tossing and turning, he gets a call, and Ed jumps out of bed and scrambles to the phone, mind telling him this is probably Jim, telling him to turn himself in quietly, to just accept his fate, and he’s shaking as he picks up the phone and says, “hello? This is Edward Nygma.”

“Help me,” someone whispers, “please, Ed-”

“Who is this?”

“Oswald, it’s Oswald, it’s,” he gulps, “please. It’s an emergency.”

“I’m on my way,” Ed says, rushing over to his dresser and pulling out clean clothes. “Are you home? Downtown? Arkham?”

“Home, I’m home,” he starts breathing fast. “Hurry, please hurry.”

“I’m coming Oswald,” he says, and hangs up.

Then, he stops, and looks at the clothes in his hands. Why is he doing this? He shouldn’t  be around Oswald Van Dahl. Being around him already made Ed do stupid, careless things once, and no one really calls someone in the middle of the night if things are going well . It could be a trap, or maybe Oswald prefers to enact revenge himself, and he’ll keep Ed captive for days. He’d like to think he was at least hospitable but Ed’s done a fair amount of soul searching in three weeks and no, he was most definitely ill advised when he thought keeping Oswald in his home was a good idea.

Help me, please Ed-

He hurries into his clothes and sprints down the stairs to his car.

-

It’s nearly one in the morning when Ed parks his car in the Van Dahl estate driveway and sprints up to the front door. He knocks twice, and when he finds the door unlocked he lets himself inside.

“Oswald?” He calls out as he walks through the main floor of the house. “Oswald, it’s Ed Nygma!”

“Here,” he calls out, weakly, and Ed enters the dining room on the first floor, and he sees Oswald, standing, shaking like a leaf, a knife in one hand, and a small puddle of blood near his feet.

“Oh,” Ed exclaims, blinking, “well, I suppose I’m glad I have a kit in my car.” Oswald’s face crumples, and he looks to Ed, helpless. “Give me a moment.”

Ed rushes out to his car, and back inside, clean up kit in hand, and he sets it on the table, opening up the top portion and slipping on a pair of thick gloves. “Oswald, if you could just hand me that, yes,” he says this gently, gesturing to Oswald’s knife and offering his hand out, and Oswald raises the knife slowly. Ed takes it, and slips it into a bag. “Thank you.”

“They, it all happened so fast,” he whines. “I was, my father and I, and then he, and I only remember seeing red, and then I was,” he sobs, “and I-”

“Oswald, please, I know you’re distressed,” Ed touches Oswald’s arms to ground him, “but we need to move quickly. You need to tell me everywhere that I need to clean.”

“In here,” he whimpers, pointing to the floor by the table. “Just in here.”

“Fortuitous, considering,” Ed mutters, and he carefully pulls out a chair for Oswald, but first he covers it with plastic. “Oswald, please sit here and try to breathe evenly. I’m going to do some preliminary cleaning here, and then I’ll turn my attention to you.”

Oswald sits, shaking, and Ed begins blotting pools of blood with a few black towels.

It takes most of the night, five towels, two large boxes of baking soda, and two gallons of vinegar, followed by a bleach chaser, but he’s able to clean the space and move the three bodies into plastic tubs. Oswald watches him the entire time, or possibly he watches nothing, just staring ahead and sniffing quietly.

“Oswald,” Ed whispers, walking over to his chair and tapping his shoulder with his clean hand, “I think I’ve gotten everything cleaned to the best of my ability, which I believe is quite adept considering I work in a forensics lab.”

“I can’t go to prison,” Oswald says, distraught, “I don’t know what to do.”

“I’ve cleaned up the room, and we’re going to get you cleaned up next.” He pulls Oswald up out of the chair. “Now, if you’re comfortable with this I’m going to need you to strip out of your soiled clothes, and I’ll put them in one of the bags.”

Oswald nods, and he starts unbuttoning his waistcoat and shirt, then his pants, and he hands items over to Ed one by one, and in the bag they go. He’s down to just an undershirt and boxers, plus a knee brace. Underneath the black support Ed can see the thin red line of a surgery scar.

“You should bathe,” he tells Oswald, giving him direction and something to focus on. “Please be thorough. I’ll be preparing a few things downstairs.”

He watches Oswald walk towards the stairs, gait a bit labored but otherwise stable enough, and Ed turns back to the mess he’s agreed to help clean up. “Well shit.”

-

“You never explained what happened, exactly,” Ed tells Oswald as he gets dressed. He’s pulling on simpler clothes than his suit from last night, a well tailored pair of pants and a sweater with an uneven neckline, and he’s eerily calm for someone that’s just murdered his stepfamily in one night.

“I,” Oswald takes a moment to breathe, and he turns to Ed, “I was with my father in the study. We were talking, laughing, it was a nice night. Then he,” Oswald stops, face distressed and eyes watering, but he continues, “he collapsed. I knew,” he shook his head, “I knew they had something to do with it, that they,” he blinks fast, “they were behind everything .”

“What is everything?”

“Well,” Oswald hugs his arms around his chest for a moment, then grabs a towel off his bed, “when I, that day, when I was reunited with my father, my step family,” Ed presumes this is the same family he sent sinking into the river about an hour ago, “was shocked, to say the least. I was never terribly comfortable around them. Admittedly, I resented the fact that she was supposed to replace my mother, in a loose sense,” Oswald fluffs his hair up with a towel and holds it over his face for a moment, “but I saw that my father was happy enough, and if he was happy I could put up with them.”

“But it seems that they couldn’t put up with me,” he says. “My brake lines were cut. It’s a miracle I didn’t drive into a lake and instead, I wound up finding you. Somehow you’re the only fortunate thing to happen to me for an entire month.” He laughs to himself. “When I learned about the brakes, there was this moment where I thought I might do something, something unspeakable, and I pretended that my leg was in terrible pain so I could lie down and be alone. I couldn’t prove they’d done anything at the time, so I tried to keep to myself for a few days so I could think.”

“They took everything from you,” he assumes out loud, and Oswald nods.

“And now,” Oswald tries to talk through fresh tears with some success, “now you’re the only person I can trust.” Oswald covers his face with a hand. “And if I’d turned you in like I should have I’d be alone. Or already on my way to Arkham. My step mother asked my father a few times, back when they first started seeing each other, whether or not I’d been talked to, just to make sure I wasn't like her .” He laughs cruelly at himself. “Well I guess she was right to worry wasn’t she?”

“Why didn’t you? Turn me in, that is. I assume your potential shared mental illness is a moot point at the moment.”

Oswald shakes his head. “That day, between my car and you, somehow you weren’t the real threat to my life. I knew,” he sucks in a breath, “I knew I could at least blackmail you into helping me. But you just came over without even questioning anything.”

“You asked me for help,” Ed replies plainly. “And you clearly needed it.”

“I need help one more time,” he says quietly, and Ed nods. “Please just, get me out of here, just for a little. I can’t think in this house.”

-

Ed pours some coffee into Oswald’s mug and sets the pot on his table. Oswald nurses his warm mug, leaning in close and breathing in the scent.

“You’re going to call an ambulance to your home,” Ed tells Oswald, and Oswald nods, attentive and desperate and a little hopeful. “You were going to get lunch with your father, but he didn’t show, and you found him in the study, alone, with the glass of wine.”

“Okay,” Oswald nods.

“You haven’t seen any sign of your family, be sure to call them family and not your step family,” Ed reminds him, “and you’ve noticed that one of the family cars is gone.”

“I should try to call them, right? To make it more believable?”

“Definitely,” Ed agrees. “And remember, they’re the ones that started this, and you have shown them that you are the stronger person, that you were the one that survived. I’m sure your father would be proud of your strength, Oswald. I could tell he cared for you a great deal.”

Oswald nods, then his face falls, and he sobs, pushing aside his coffee and hiding his face in his hands. Ed scoots his chair around closer and puts a hand on Oswald’s shoulder, and Oswald surprises him by dragging Ed into a hug. He startles, but wraps his arms around Oswald's back.

“I’ve never been alone before,” Oswald whines.

“You aren’t alone,” Ed tells him. “You are actually very far from being alone if you consider our current predicament.” Oswald laughs, and then he cries, and Ed holds him until he’s calmed himself down. “Your secret is safe with me, Oswald.” He sits back and holds Oswald by the shoulders, and Oswald smiles briefly. “Now, if you’re feeling better, I believe it’s time to put the plan in motion.”

Chapter Text

“Here,” Jim offers Oswald a cup of coffee and Oswald takes it, grateful, “you ready to tell me what you found Oswald?”

“I think so,” he whispers. Oswald takes a sip of his coffee. “Thank you, Jim.”

“Take your time. Why don't you start with yesterday morning.”

“I was out, I believe at the shop first,” he huffs once, sniffling, Ed told him being emotional would help his case, “I had a fitting. Downtown. Then I looked at watches. My father's birthday is coming up.” He gulps once, and Jim offers him some tissues. “Thank you.” He wipes at his eyes. “Last night I was out with a friend until it was fairly late, and I decided to wait until morning before returning to the estate. Today I was planning on having brunch with my father, but when I went home to tell him I was ready I, I, I'm sorry.” He feels his eyes watering, and he wipes at them. “I found him in the study. He, he wasn't breathing.”

“You didn't call an ambulance right away. Why?”

They hadn't talked about this part, the awkward, suspicious gap in Oswald's timeline. He'd had time to drink coffee with Ed before calling. “I don't know. I'm sorry, I should have, I should have I know, but I wanted to find my family. They weren't home. The car was gone. They're not answering their calls, either.”

“It's alright Oswald,” Jim says quietly. “You're distressed, it's okay. I'm just asking so we know the whole story.”

“When I couldn't find them I called,” he says. “I should have been at home. Do you know why he died? Could I have done something?”

He knows the truth, but somewhere along the line he's sure there's something he could have said or done to prevent this. Dying, maybe, when they'd cut his brakes, although his father might not have survived that either.

“We don't know anything yet.” Jim offers his hand, resting it on the table with his palm up, and Oswald takes it, squeezing Jim's hand tightly and blinking fast to clear his eyes. “But when we do you'll know, okay?”

“You've always been such a good friend to me,” Oswald manages to choke out. “I can't imagine how I'll repay you.”

“You don't have to do anything.” Jim squeezes Oswald's hand once. “As long as you keep going to the policeman's ball so I have someone to talk to I'll consider us even.”

“Deal,” Oswald says, smiling briefly. Out of the corner of his eye he catches a glimpse of Ed lurking around the office, motioning to his wrist. Time, perhaps. Oswald isn't sure. They didn't discuss what happens next. “Do you have more questions?”

“Not until the autopsy report comes back. You can go home if you’d like to get some rest.”

“No.” He shakes his head. “I don't think I'll be able to rest until I know what's going on. Could I stay here? Is that going to be a nuisance?”

“You can stay,” Jim reassures him with another squeeze of his hand against Oswald's. “I'll work on finding your family. Do you have any idea where they would have gone?”

“No.” Oswald shakes his head. At the bottom of the bay , he thinks. “I have no idea.”

They got what they deserved , he reminds himself. His father is dead because of their jealousy. His father. Oswald sniffs, and covers his face. “I'm sorry, Jim, thank you for your help. I'm going to go wash my face.”

They both know he means he's going to cry in the dingy GCPD bathroom but Jim just nods, releasing Oswald and returning to his files while Oswald rushes out of the room. He stands before the main area of the GCPD, sniffling, uncaring that his makeup must be running terribly as tears collect in his eyes. Across the room he watches as Ed slips into one of the smaller bathrooms, and Oswald crosses the hall, making his way quietly but quickly until he's opening the bathroom door, coming face to face with Ed the moment he steps inside.

“I couldn't hear what you said, but it appears that you've acted convincingly.” He smiles. “While you were speaking with Jim I took care of a few things. Your family's apparent escape from Gotham will be all the more believable. I am green but not with envy, made but not grown, and though they may hate it people always seem to give me away.”

“What are you doing?”

“Money. It's a riddle. I'm fond of riddles.” Ed's smile grows a fraction wider. “Are you?”

“Not really,” Oswald admits. “But even if I was I doubt I'd be in the mood right now.” He wipes at his face with a facial tissue from the small box on the counter. His makeup is running, pooling grossly underneath his eyes and trailing along his cheeks when he blinks. He turns on the faucet and begins washing his face. “You understand why don't you?”

“Of course. Everything should settle once I've finished establishing the means of escape.” Ed puts a hand on Oswald's shoulder. “Have you ever been to South Carolina?”

“Never.” Oswald leans into Ed's hand, wanting to rest his cheek there. He settles for wiping more of the makeup off his face. “Is that good or bad?”

“It's perfect. Everything is falling into place.” He moves his hand off Oswald's shoulder and pulls out a small tube of eyeliner from his pocket. “I found this on my bathroom counter, and I assume it's yours. I brought it in case you'd like to reapply. The crying is a nice touch, and when your makeup runs it draws attention to your apparent distress. Very convincing.”

Oswald takes the eyeliner from Ed and turns it over in his hands. Then he looks at Ed and his smiling, somewhat mischievous expression, noting the way his eyes light up when he's getting away with something bad. It's oddly endearing. “You're sure this will work? I can't go to Arkham, Ed, I can't.

“And you won't. I promise you, Oswald, you will not set foot in that facility.” His hands clasp Oswald shoulders, thumbs rubbing against his collarbone through the soft knit of his cashmere sweater. “Your step family is going to pay dearly for what they've done to you.”

“They're already dead,” he whispers, suddenly afraid someone who works here, excluding Ed, is going to come in and hear what they're saying. “What more can be done?”

“Reputation transcends mortality. Your father's death will be their ruin.” Oswald nods, and he feels his throat closing, eyes stinging as he blinks, and he sobs, just once, but it shocks Ed, and he backs away for a moment, watching Oswald with trepidation, but when Oswald pitches forward, landing snugly against his chest with his hands grasping handfuls of Ed's shirt, he doesn't push him away. “I see, well, I suppose crying genuine tears is rather convincing.” He holds Oswald with one arm slung over his shoulders, the other gripping his elbow. It isn't the most comforting hug he's ever received by a long shot (he briefly thinks back to his mother's funeral, the rain, and Jim hugging him like there's no tomorrow, which felt poetic and appropriate at the time but possibly a bit overdramatic now that he's older) but Ed's doing what Oswald assumes is his best attempt to make him feel better, and that counts for something.

-

Oswald hides in a small interview room once he's calmed down, sipping away at coffee and eating some crackers Jim brought him, and he thinks.

He thinks about his mother, actually, about those blessed, few years he got to spend with both of his parents, tiny hands clutching theirs with all his might, and being swung high up into the air between them, laughing and shrieking while they smiled at him and each other, and he decides it's the last genuinely happy moment he can remember having in his life.

It isn't his younger self’s fault though. It's hard to not be genuinely happy when he wasn't carrying any sort of baggage along with him. And it's not that he hasn't been happy since then; he remembers plenty of happy memories with his father, laughing and smiling while enjoying a play, or maybe the days in the park, hands tucked warmly away in his pockets while they have a quiet stroll through the gardens. But it comes with sadness, and a bitter aftertaste of longing, wanting to be able to include his mother in those activities. She would have loved the show , he thinks, or, maybe I can bring flowers from that shop. They'll remind her of the gardens in the springtime.

He does resent growing older at times and the unforgiving awareness it brings. What he wouldn't give to just relive one of his early childhood years over and over again.

Occasionally Jim pops his head in the door, asking Oswald if he needs anything and keeping him up to date. “It was poison,” he says abruptly during this most recent visit, and he shakes his head sadly, “I'm so sorry.”

He's asked more questions, verifications of who he was with and how long, but Jim doesn't show any signs of suspicion. He even goes so far to say, “I'm only asking you because I have to, Oswald. I know you wouldn't do this.”

“I know, thank you,” Oswald assures him right back. “I'd rather see you doing your job properly than getting in trouble for cutting corners.”

“We'll figure out who did this. For now though, you should try to get some rest.”

“I'll try,” he says quietly. He can't imagine ever sleeping in the mansion again.

He exits the GCPD around ten that evening, and shortly after he starts heading for the parking lot a familiar car's window rolls down. Ed's inside, beckoning Oswald over, and he nods. He crosses the lot the rest of the way and opens the door, climbing inside and buckling up before Ed begins driving away.

“Would you like anything before I bring you home?”

“Don't take me home,” he says hurriedly. “Please. I can't, there's no way I'll get any sleep there.”

“I meant my home, apologies.” Ed smiles at Oswald when he stares. “But I don't have any of your clothes. I assume you'll want to change.”

“I do, thank you.” He licks his lips. “Did you actually mean your apartment when you said home?”

Ed's quiet for a moment as he pulls out of the GCPD staff parking lot. Then he says, “The apartment, yes. My home. I suppose I meant whichever place feels like home.” His cheeks pink up after he blurts this out. “The mansion feels too large.”

“It does,” Oswald agrees. “It always did, but now especially.”

-

Sleep does not come easy for Oswald. He tosses, he turns, and he frets. He dreams, a cruel, alternate reality, one with his father safe and sound, and it's enough to send him reeling yet again, but only quietly; privately having a meltdown on his half of the bed. Beside him Ed snores peacefully, sleep currently unhindered by any of the recent goings-on. Oswald is envious, but he lets him sleep.

(Oswald remembers at least one night filled with Ed's distressed whimpering while he was here the first time. He can't decide if Ed doesn't remember or if he's pretending he doesn't, but he has no plans to bring it up either way.)

“I'm an orphan,” he whispers to himself. It feels clumsy, and not quite fitting. Bruce Wayne, now he's an orphan, but he's also a child. Oswald supposes it's the age that makes it feel wrong to label himself that way.

“Hm?” Ed hums, lifting his head from his pillow. “You're awake?”

“Go back to sleep, Ed.” He prefers to wallow alone, lest he be deemed too sensitive by yet another companion.

“Are you cold? Too warm?” Ed's words are slurring together, eyes barely open. He won't remember this in the morning. “Water?”

It's painfully obvious that Ed isn't fully awake. “Am I water? No. And I'm not thirsty.” He turns so his back is facing Ed and bundles up more snugly in his quilt. “Go back to sleep. I'm fine .”

Ed starts snoring again almost immediately, sprawled out on his half of the bed, one hand brushing against Oswald's back. He tells himself not to overanalyze the actions of the half aware, but it doesn't stop him from savoring the light touch either.

-

“I need you to do something for me,” Ed begins his frantic demands before Oswald has even started the coffee maker, let alone had the chance to drink his first cup of the day. He blinks up at him from the edge of the bed, his left leg held up at an uncomfortable angle as he pauses pulling on his brace. “If I’m not mistaken you’d agree when I say you and Jim are close, correct?”

Oswald shakes his head to clear out some of his half awake thoughts and finishes pulling on his brace. “Jim and I are friends. I don’t see what that might have to do with anything.”

“See, this is an important step when covering your tracks following a crime. We’ve set the ball in motion, and the GCPD could not have been more fooled by my little tinkering I did in South Carolina last week,” he pauses to grin mischievously, and to do a bit of preening, then his face becomes serious again, “but unlike you I have a couple other issues I need to make sure I tend to in the following weeks.”

Oswald stands and moves past Ed, not giving his fretting any acknowledgement until after he’s poured water into the coffee pot and fills a filter with fresh grounds. Once his morning caffeine is being prepared he turns back to Ed and crosses his arms. “You mean that woman you buried in the forest?”

“Jim can’t seem to leave well enough alone,” Ed growls. “I don’t know what he has, but it’s something , and eventually his suspicions will land on me, being the last person,” he trails off, and after a bit of silent questioning Ed sighs and begins to explain, “well, we dated a bit, Kristen and I. I’ve managed to stave off any line of questioning for now, but if she had any faults I’d say being a bit too friendly is one of them.” Ed sighs to himself and pulls down two mugs, one for himself and for Oswald. “I can’t exactly replicate communication from her without raising more suspicion.”

“She wasn't a fan of the written word?”

“She was extroverted, in her own way. People liked her. They still do.” Ed sounds particularly bitter about this fact. “Which is why I need you to talk with Jim. See if he has any cases with promising leads, suspicions about his co-workers, that sort of thing.”

“That's not going to come up organically in conversation.”

“Then bring it up in organically. Just, please,” Ed takes a few calming breaths and Oswald’s hand twitches with an urge to reach out to him, but he keeps it firmly pressed against the counter. Even without any intervention the little fit passes and Ed takes the time to pour them both a cup of coffee before he continues, “I'm not friends with him, understand? If I ask him anything then he'll assume I'm feeling guilty about something.” Oswald eyes Ed critically, but he’s moved on from the conversation in favor of pulling a small container of creamer from the top door shelf of the fridge. “You aren’t busy today, I assume. There was nothing in your planner to suggest you have any obligations, social or otherwise.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m definitely free ,” he scoffs, but even as he takes a drink of his coffee to buy himself some time Oswald can’t actually think of anything he needs to do. “I may be able to pencil something in.”

“I hope you understand I’m not asking this of you without expecting to return the favor,” Ed assures him. “We’re aiding one another because we’re in the same situation. Now that I’ve strengthened the ruse that your step family has moved on to another state you should be safe from suspicion. And in return you can help me by talking to Jim.”

“I already agreed to speak with him,” Oswald sighs, taking sip after restorative sip of his coffee. “I’m a man of my word, Ed. I can’t promise I’ll be successful but I’ll certainly try.”

-

He never has any trouble getting into the GCPD, and today is no exception. A few of the officers Oswald doesn't remember or possibly never met nod in greeting. He waves back, maintaining his friendly attitude towards Gotham's protectors despite the gnawing worry in his stomach. If Ed is correct, if Jim has managed to scrape together evidence pointing that girl's murder to Ed, then Oswald needs to be ready. He's not exactly sure what he needs to be ready for, but he can't deny the feeling is there. When the time comes he's certain he'll know.

Jim, as usual, isn't by his desk, so Oswald drops himself into his chair and begins fiddling with some of the odds and ends cluttering up the smooth surface. There's the obligatory family photo, the one with his father sturdy and very much alive in the back, one hand on Jim's spindly shoulder. There's a set of paper clips and pens in an old coffee mug, but Oswald is always fond of the only “desk toy” Jim owns, a paperweight in the shape of a hawk, gifted by Oswald back when Jim was still a rookie and Oswald hadn't discovered the wonders of proper application of his mascara.

“Snooping around?” Jim asks from behind Oswald, and he spins around in the desk chair, still holding the hawk in his hands and smiling up at Jim. “Didn't expect a visit.”

“I thought we could get lunch,” Oswald offers. He reaches back long enough to set the hawk back down on top of some of Jim's folders and smirks, willing Jim to accept his invitation. “I know you're just doing your job, but I do feel an undying need to treat you to something nice as a token of gratitude for the time and effort you’ve dedicated to my family's case.”

“Undying huh?” Jim rolls his eyes, but he does it fondly. “Sure, why not?” He steps to Oswald's side and grabs a stack of folders. “Let me sweet talk the captain and I'll come get you.”

“Don’t keep me waiting,” Oswald calls after Jim, and Jim waves a hand without looking back at his desk. He scowls down at the place where Jim’s folders were, then he closes his eyes, trying to recall the last names he saw on the tabs. Nothing remarkable, certainly not his own name or Ed's; it's probably just Jim's usual caseload.

Out of the corner of his eye Oswald catches a certain someone eyeballing him from a filing cabinet across the room. He spares Ed the barest of glances and smiles at him in a very cheeky, I know you're watching me, sort of way. Ed snaps his attention back to the folders in front of him and avoids meeting Oswald’s eyes as he retreats to the safety of his workspace on the upper floor.

“Ready to go?” Jim asks as he approaches and Oswald eases out of Jim's chair. “This isn't going to be super fancy is it?”

“Jim please , if I had the time to properly thank you for your hard work you'd need to take off an entire week. ” He begins to usher Jim out with a firm hand on his bicep. “Now let’s get going before we make too many of your fellow officers jealous.”

-

“Still can’t believe you’re getting rid of this place,” Jim says to Oswald as they walk through the first floor of the Van Dahl mansion. “Gotta be a lot of memories in this old home.”

“Believe it or not, that’s a reason why I’m going to sell,” Oswald counters. “Of course, if the GCPD would rather I wait before putting it on the market I understand completely.”

“Nah,” Jim shakes his head and runs his fingers over the smooth wood of the dining room table. “We searched every inch of this place. If your family left any other clues behind we would’ve found them.” He picks up one of the tacky vases Grace was so fond of and turns it over in his hands. “Isn’t Ed’s place kind of small?”

“I think my old bedroom is larger,” Oswald agrees, “but there’s something charming about it despite the size.” Or maybe because of it. There’s something nice about seeing where his roommate is from any spot in the studio apartment.

“Not that I’m judging,” Jim starts, and Oswald groans, “I’m not . He’s just-” Jim swallows around whatever he was about to say and his face twists into something vaguely cringey, “he’s Ed. I’ve worked with the guy long enough to know he’s kind of,” he pauses when Oswald gives him a pointed stare, “eccentric. How the hell did you meet anyway?”

“James, I go to the GCPD almost weekly to bother you. In fact, I could say my current situation is a direct result of our friendship.” He flashes one of his patented cheeky smiles and Jim rolls his eyes. “So really it's all your fault.”

“Ha,” Jim fakes a laugh. “He ever gives you any trouble just say the word.” Oswald’s expression visibly droops before he can look away, and Jim sets the case back down before he hurries to Oswald's side. “You've got that look. What's wrong?”

“Nothing,” Oswald smiles, but Jim continues to be attentive, curse his chivalrous nature. “You say it like you expect trouble from Ed of all people.”

“Only if you hate riddles,” Jim says, and Oswald's smile must look more genuine, because Jim returns it with one of his own and a firm hand squeezing Oswald's upper arm.

-

The moment Oswald unlocks the door to Ed’s (and sort of his) apartment and lets himself inside he finds himself crowded against the door by six feet of nervous, jittering energy. He pushes Ed out of the way with a light push and takes off his overcoat, “will you at least let me get inside?” he shoos Ed away by filling his fidgeting arms with the coat and locks the door behind him. “Don’t do that,” he groans and pulls the coat out of Ed’s worrying hands. “If I wanted it to wrinkle I would have just dropped it on the floor.”

“You were at lunch with Jim for over an hour,” Ed says, “so you must have gotten around to discussing his caseload.”

“Good evening to you too,” Oswald huffs. He hangs his coat on the coat rack, pausing his routine long enough to sniff the air. The lack of anything familiar or new makes him frown with confusion. “Not that it’s a deal breaker but I’m guessing you didn’t make any dinner.”

“This is important!” Ed shouts, then he calms when he takes in Oswald’s surprised expression, pulling back meekly and giving Oswald a with berth. “If Jim suspects me do you honestly think our association will go unnoticed? You’re living with me. We had zero contact before- you didn’t even know my name !” Ed closes his eyes and shoves his fingers under his glasses. “What do I have to say to make you take this seriously?”

Oswald walks into the kitchen and pulls out ingredients for some sandwiches, since Ed is in a particular mood and dinner isn’t going to make itself. He can feel Ed hovering just outside the kitchen area, huffing and puffing while Oswald slathers the slices of bread with mustard and mayo.

As Oswald adds some lettuce to each Ed storms across the wood floors towards him, voice getting louder with each step. “I am trying to make you under stand -!”

“Turkey, or ham?” Oswald interrupts. He turns in time to see Ed stutter to a stop on the other side of the dining table. “Well?”

“I- there’s more important -”

“Have you eaten?” He says this slowly, and Ed’s gaze flickers away. “I am taking this seriously, but I’m also taking care of myself. Now, do you want turkey on your sandwich or ham?”

Ed glances up from the floor for a moment, mumbling, “ham,” as his gaze flickers away again. “You're still prioritizing food over-”

“What? Becoming nonsensical with hunger? Sit down so you can eat.” He hands a plate to Ed and settles in at the table to eat his own dinner. Despite Oswald’s suggestion Ed chooses to stand and pace as he wolfs down his food, already halfway through the sandwich after a few hurried bites.

“Better?” he asks, and Ed nods once. “Good,” he takes a moment to wipe his mouth on his napkin and squares his shoulders before stating, calmly, “Jim and I didn't get around to discussing his caseload.”

Ed's plate clatters to the floor along with the uneaten half of his food. He rounds the table and stands over Oswald, seething, nearly frothing at the mouth with anger. “I asked you to do one thing . And yet, here- what can be possessed-”

“Can I finish before you get too deep into this tantrum?” Oswald asks plainly, indicating his sandwich. Ed’s face takes on a deep shade of red. Oswald is quick to explain himself. “I told you I would try, not that it was a guarantee, and before you start snarling at me,” he stands up and jabs a finger into Ed's chest, “we did not discuss it, but we discussed you.

“Wh-” Ed flounders. “Why?”

“Because I'm living with you. I'm planning on selling my home . He was worried about my living situation, understandably, because he is a friend.” He takes a calming breath before continuing. “If you were under any suspicion he would have told me to stay far away from you. Can't you see that? Trust me when I tell you he’s not suspicious of your involvement with that woman .” Ed's expression doesn't shift from grim acceptance, and Oswald does his best to hide his eye roll before letting himself get dragged into attempting to convince Ed again. “If nothing else reassures you at least accept that helping you does help me. Our credibility as innocents is too tightly tangled to ever truly separate again, so I have no reason to lie to you.”

Ed ignores him and turns away, crossing the apartment to the farthest point from the kitchen, the piano on the far wall. He makes several aborted moves to start playing, ending with his posture cowed and meek, hands twitching in his lap as he mutters to himself. Oswald makes the wise decision to maintain a certain amount of distance until his emotional state levels out on its own.

-

It takes hours for Ed to calm down, long after Oswald has given in and cleaned up Ed's plate off the floor. It's terribly inconvenient for Oswald to kneel for that long but the smell of warm ham and mustard isn't terribly pleasant, and even though Oswald is sure Ed could smell it just as easily across the small space Ed seemed content, or at least thoroughly occupied, in his own little world.

Convenient, then, that he would begin snooping while Oswald is on the phone with Jim. It's gradual, at first just a pointed stare while Oswald listens to a story about Jim's partner. “Honestly, and you think I put up with a lot here.” He flashes Ed a smile, an 'I see you trying to eavesdrop’ expression behind the gesture, but Ed seems to take it as an invitation to come closer and loom over Oswald as he sits on their only couch.

“I still can’t imagine living with him,” Jim says, as he's said at least a dozen times before. “Sometimes it's hard to get some privacy,” he says pointedly, glaring up at Ed as he does. Ed has the audacity to look offended even as he listens to Oswald’s conversation. “I'm sorry, I'm going to have to let you go,” he closes his phone before Jim can protest and continues to glare up at Ed, “what.”

“You two are very close.”

Oswald sighs tiredly. “This isn't anything I haven't heard from you before. I'm beginning to think you're obsessed with our friendship.”

“I am not-” he snarls and begins to pace- “you're keeping something from me,” he rounds back on Oswald and jabs a finger into his shoulder while he's trying to stand up, “because, well it's only logical. I can't-” he clacks his mouth shut, teeth clicking loudly; his hands are curling into fists, shaking- “You can have me but cannot hold me; gain me and quickly lose me. If treated with care I can be great, and if betrayed I will break. What am I?”

Oswald shakes his head, befuddled at the intense desperation all over Ed's face. “Is this really the time-”

“The answer is trust !” He shouts, pressing fingers into his eyes from underneath his glasses. “And you, you have none of mine. Your loyalties obviously lie elsewhere, with him .”

“My loyalties can extend to more than one person, Ed, but nevermind that. You should realize I can't really trust you either,” Oswald says this low and slow, hoping it sound like a warning. Ed's hands fly away from his face, nearly taking his glasses with them. He's left gaping at Oswald again with them slightly askew. “You can't stand here and tell me you've never considered just turning me in. It would save you the trouble of lying to your colleagues for my sake. I did kill my family after all. It can't be that hard for them to believe I threatened you into helping me, even with Jim in my corner.”

But Ed's expression flickers through confusion and embarrassment, settling into something in between the two. “No I, no. They,” he glances right, searching his memories for something, “they wouldn't believe me. They don't like me.” It's flimsy, and if Oswald pressed Ed he's certain his claim won't hold up to scrutiny. Belief or not there's a car full of hard evidence somewhere in the bay. “I suppose this means you've thought about turning me in.”

“Yes,” he says. Ed sucks in a breath. “Before I needed your help, it was on my mind constantly.” He watches Ed's fingers as they start to press against his eyes again; Oswald pulls Ed's hands away from his face, holding them still between their bodies. “Not recently though, alright? We're in this together.”

“But we don't trust each other.”

“Not completely,” Oswald admits. “I doubt anyone has ever trusted someone all the time.” Ed nods slightly; his eyes, half lidded, are focused on their hands. He's moving his thumb very slightly over Oswald's knuckle, soft enough that he can hardly feel the soft touch. “Don’t act like having self-preservation is a negative thing.”

“And Jim ?” Ed grumbles. “He hasn’t convinced you to spy on me?”

“Are you going to believe me if I tell you no?” Oswald asks. Ed turns his head away from Oswald, but he keeps their hands clasped together tightly, squeezing his fingers around Oswald’s even as he looks like he wants to pull away. “We’re in this together . I can’t just proclaim I know the truth about you without him wondering why I’ve spent so long by your side and said nothing. Revealing one truth drags the  rest out with it eventually, and I'd rather not have that happen.”

“It’s a definite flaw of his, being so nosy,” Ed mutters.

“He is a detective,” Oswald teases, and Ed mutters something inaudible to himself. He feels an all too familiar warmth and fondness from the sound, and the brief glance Ed spares him doubles down on things he shouldn't be entertaining, but he can't find it in himself to suppress this side of him.

Instead he embraces it, throwing himself headlong into uncharted territory, and the soft gasp and an even softer pleased hum Ed emits as Oswald drags him down for a chaste kiss cements his fate.

Chapter Text

Over the next few days there's a gentle swelling of feelings threatening to spill over in Oswald's chest. Something in Ed responds to affection and touch very strongly to the point of near absurdity; there's a dangerous edge to it too, something Oswald should be wary of but instead embraces with all of his might. He's never felt quite as powerful as he does when Ed stares up at him with wet, wide eyes and one of the softest expressions Oswald has ever seen on the man, just begging for more faster please without having to utter a single word.

But their little honeymoon phase can't last forever. Ed needs to go into work and Oswald has to leave the apartment several times for meetings with his accountant and the realtor. He hates the small talk about his plans, hates having to stand over the wood floor Ed bleached and scrubbed for him, but she never calls any attention to something out of place. Everything that spews from her mouth is full of praise and cloying, over the top descriptions, but somehow between her can do attitude and Oswald's winning (albeit forced) smile there's an offer on his home within a few weeks.

“And open houses are dreadful ,” he complains to Jim, who's sitting reclined in one of Oswald and Ed's dining chairs while drinking a glass of wine Oswald thrust upon him the moment he stepped inside the studio apartment. Oswald sucks back some of his own glass, snarling with distaste at the memory. “I'm never moving again.”

“You two don't want a bigger place?”

“Who do you think will clean a bigger place? Ed?” Although he is the one cleaning now, and he's always so meticulous about it. “Maybe if he were a kept man, although I’m certainly not working, and I rather enjoy my lack of a schedule.”

“Pretty sure it isn’t Ed’s GCPD salary buying you this wine,” Jim comments, and Oswald sends him a half-hearted glare over the rim of his wine glass. “What’s he up to?”

“Hm?” Oswald nearly spills on himself, but he recovers by turning it into a cough. “What was that?”

“Where’s Ed?”

“Oh,” Oswald chuckles, “he's at work. Some big case down at one of the train depots. Actually,” Oswald smirks at Jim, “I'm surprised you're not down there too.”

“I don't work every case you know.” Jim shrugs one shoulder and drinks from his glass briefly before moving it to the table and sitting back so he's only using two chair legs. “I'm at a stand still until Ed can match ballistics, but they dragged him out to the trains.”

Oswald pushes away any unwanted thoughts of Ed being literally dragged somewhere on the outskirts of Gotham by gulping down the last bits of his wine in one long pull. The warm buzz in his cheeks intensifies and he sets aside the empty glass on the small kitchen counter, frowning at the glass as it teeters before settling upright.

Water , he thinks. He needs to keep some of his wits about him, and after more than his fair share of the wine bottle he’s going to need to take some countermeasures. There’s a thump as Jim’s chair presumably lands on the two unused legs, followed by a scrape of it moving away from the table. Oswald finds a clean glass and turns on the tap, listening to Jim’s soft footsteps on the hardwood floor. Oswald gulps down half his glass, stopping only when he needs to breathe and gasping with satisfaction. “I’m not trying to kick you out, but if you’re not planning on sleeping on our couch you should have… some…” he’s turned around as he’s blathering, but Jim isn’t paying attention to him. He’s staring down at something in his hands, something from the small side table by Ed’s half of the bed. “Jim?”

“Uh,” he smiles over at Oswald and pockets something, blatantly ignoring Oswald’s distress and confusion as he proclaims, “I should get- there’s paperwork I should be doing, actually. Just remembered,” he laughs. Oswald can’t get his feet to move. “I’ll see you later?” he inquires.

“Later,” Oswald blinks, “yes.”

“Great,” Jim sighs, and he pulls his jacket off the coat rack and slips out the heavy industrial door.

The second he’s gone Oswald drops his glass and rushes over for the bedside table, digging through the miniscule amount of sundries and other items, trying to piece together what Jim must’ve seen. He never bothered to snoop in this drawer before. It’s all Ed’s things for his nighttime rituals; his crosswords and pens, a small clip light, and his spare pair of glasses.

He tries calling Ed, and again when he doesn’t pick up. Five back to back calls later he still has no answer from Ed; he tells himself he’ll wait five minutes before trying again. Oswald only makes it to three before he’s hitting redial and pleading with his phone, “just answer already Ed!”

And then there’s a soft beep. “You do realize I’m at work ,” Ed whispers, harsh and irritated, “if you can’t find the mustard just buy some more.”

Oswald laughs with relief. “Oh thank goodness. It isn’t the damn mustard, Ed. You need to come home.”

“I can’t just leave ,” he says. Oswald imagines him huddled up somewhere out at the tracks, ducking his head low and maybe trying to hide his activities behind actual work. “I’m- just, please make whatever this is quick.”

Oswald nods even though Ed can’t see and takes a deep breath. “What was in your bedside table?”

“Beg pardon?”

“It’s, it’s probably nothing,” Oswald laughs, “but Jim left in a hurry-”

“He was there ?” Ed says something else far enough away from the phone that Oswald can’t hear but close enough to tell that he’s agitated. “He is the enem-

“He is my friend !” Oswald shouts. “Now answer me!”

“Fine, fine,” Ed seethes, “there’s my reading light, a pocket dictionary and my current crossword book.”

“Yes yes, I found those. What else?”

“There’s,” he huffs. His voice is very soft, hushed, but still urgent. “A pair of glasses-”

“He isn’t interested in your spare pair of glasses.”

He’s quiet for a few beats, “they aren’t mine.”

“Then whose glasses are they!?”

“Kristen’s,” he’s nearly inaudible, but Oswald feels a chill settle into his chest. “There’s nothing else?”

Oswald throws himself onto the bed and reaches over to the side table, throwing it open and pulling the contents out onto the bed. “Crosswords, pens, clip li- Ed this is idiotic if there’s something important I should find just tell me!” There’s an audible click in his ear as the line goes dead. “Ed? Hello?”

-

Ed refuses to answer his phone no matter how many times Oswald tries, but there also isn’t a righteous swarm of GCPD officers trying to break down the apartment door, so he does his best to remain calm until Ed returns home. He showers to try and sober himself up the rest of the way and downs another glass of water. At one point he attempts to take what could best be described as a stress nap, but he never manages to keep his eyes shut longer than a few seconds.

He’s staring down at an unopened bottle of brandy when Ed arrives home, face flushed and distressed, and he foregoes any sort of greeting. Instead he hurries over to the contents still strewn out on half of their bed, tossing his crossword book and dictionary aside, frantically pulling off the quilt and shaking it. When the blanket drops and Oswald can see Ed’s face again he nearly gasps at the obvious fear and anger he sees.

“It’s gone.” Ed snarls and tosses the quilt aside.

What's gone, Ed? You're being awfully cryptic at what is most definitely not the time.”

“I’m, it's a mark, a call, a symbol of justice-”

“ED!”

“A badge , it's a badge.” Ed picks up the pair of glasses from the bed and grimaces down at them, smudging fingerprints all over the lenses. “Kristen- she was seeing him , but he was, he wasn't a good person . Or a good cop. I wanted to help her, so I… got rid of him, and I kept the badge.”

Oswald scoffs, “what? You're standing here, criticizing me for having a friend , when you kept a trophy ?” He laughs once, harshly, and shakes his head with disappointment. “And here you claimed I could learn a lot from you. Honestly, even I know you don't keep trophies.”

“Well it seems like my decision was fortunate for you both, since you're working against me.” Ed makes himself small and helpless looking, looking over at Oswald with eyes full of hurt.

“Now Ed,” Oswald begins, and Ed turns away from Oswald’s placating hands before he can even put them on Ed’s shaking shoulders. “I called you immediately . I, I,” he swallows against the burning sting in his throat, “I never meant for this to happen, you have to know that.”

“You know what we have to do,” Ed says. He turns back to Oswald, all emotion drained away, leaving something dangerous in its wake.

“No,” Oswald shakes his head. “No, Ed he is my friend -”

He is the reason we’re going to prison !” Ed presses his fists to his temples and groans.

“We won’t go to prison,” Oswald says, and Ed looks up at him, hopeful. Oswald hates to quash it so quickly, but he has to be honest. “We’re going to Arkham. At least, I definitely will be.”

“That is all the more reason for you to agree with me!” Ed closes the distance between them and grips Oswald’s shoulders. “Oswald I can't go to Blackgate. I,” Ed pauses, “I'm not well suited to that kind of environment. My strengths aren't physical in nature. I,” he drifts off, dazing out to some far off place. Oswald covers Ed's hands with his own and waits out the silence. “I have an idea.”

-

Oswald shuts off the engine of Ed's car and sits back in the driver's seat. He turns the rear view mirror towards his face and inspects his hair (mussed and out of sorts) and his makeup (running from a few well placed water droplets from the sink); it's not his best but they didn't have much time to get him to cry for real.

It should be enough to fool Jim, at least, and that's what counts.

Oswald exits the car and keeps his movements slow and measured, nervous but not too nervous, as step by step he makes his way through the small entryway of Jim's building and up to his apartment. It's late enough that even a go-getter like Jim should be at home resting, and as Oswald approaches Jim's door he hears the telltale signs of Jim moving about inside as he bangs a pot or pan against something sturdy.

He knocks four times, rapid and loud, and the banging stops long enough for footsteps to approach and the door to open a crack, straining against the chain latch. “Oswald?”

“Jim,” he tries to sound relieved; there's a waver in his voice he didn't expect but he runs with it. “I don't mean to impose-”

The door shuts and the chain slides to the side, and then it's open again. Jim pulls Oswald inside and locks the door behind them. “You look upset.”

“Very observant,” he laughs weakly. “You left in quite a hurry this afternoon.”

Jim ignores his attempt to segue to Jim's discovery; he ushers Oswald to the table and makes him sit in one of the old, creaky dining chairs and moves away to get a glass and fill it with water from the sink. “Do you want to talk about anything?”

He could say no, could shake his head and claim he just needed some space- “it's Ed,” he says, and Jim nods. “He hasn't been himself.”

“How so?” There's an edge of detective Jim behind his concern.

“I left for a bit after you did, just for a walk,” he assures Jim, “just to clear my head a bit. Wine, you know, it tends to linger. I sat in the park for a bit. When I returned Ed was home, and he was agitated. Something about,” Oswald huffs, “something was off about him. He kept insisting something was missing, and he became-”

“Violent?” Jim tries to fill in the blank.

“No, no of course not.” Violently upset , maybe. He's rather skilled at throwing tantrums. “But he was loud, screaming, and his hands were shaking. I didn't know what to do, so I left.”

“You can stay here,” Jim says.

“I was hoping you could help me in a different way,” Oswald hazards. Jim, halfway out of his chair to presumably grab Oswald some blankets for the couch, pauses his movement and gives Oswald a weary look. “He isn't above reason, Jim, but sometimes he gets a bit jealous. Of you,” Oswald clarifies, and Jim's eyes widen with surprise, “because of our friendship. I mentioned that you'd stopped by for a chat, and I'm afraid he's convinced himself that you're the culprit of whatever he thinks is missing. I didn't believe him, but surely you understand, don't you? I'm afraid you're just a convenient scapegoat.”

Jim does a damned good job of covering up his guilty look, but not well enough when it comes to Oswald. “Yeah, seems like it.”

“Would you come with me? Please, I’m sure we can reason with him.” Oswald reaches out his hands and grabs both of Jim’s. “It’s not like you actually took anything.” And there it is, the all too obvious look away. Oswald squeezes Jim’s hands lightly to get his attention. “Jim?”

“I,” he pauses, “might have taken something.”

Oswald scoffs and drops his hands. “James Gordon, I am shocked -”

“It’s not even his in the first place, look,” Jim speed walks across the room and shuffles through his clothes from earlier. He pulls out a glinting, metal object, and when he gets closer Oswald feels his stomach drop when it is, in fact, a police badge. “It’s Tom Dougherty’s badge. Why would Ed have this?”

“Safe keeping?” Oswald guesses.

“Dougherty dated Kristen Kringle before Ed dis. You remember her, right?”

“Vaguely,” Oswald admits. “Occasionally we would say ‘hello, how are you?’ things like that.”

“Well she's,” he pauses, “she isn't a missing person, but no one's heard from her in quite awhile. Ed told Lee that Kristen and Tom left town together-”

“So maybe he left the badge,” Oswald reasons. “On purpose, like a message.”

“It still doesn't explain why Kristen hasn't called , Oswald. And now Dougherty's badge,” he trails off unhelpfully.

“You think something happened.” Jim refuses to look at Oswald until he forcibly moves Jim's face with his hand. “Don't lie to me, James. You think something happened to her.”

“I don't know,” he says. “It's a gut feeling, okay? It just feels off, finding this at Ed's place.”

Oswald let's Jim's face go and crosses his arms. “It feels off about Ed, is what you're saying.” He stomps a foot when Jim looks away, snapping his attention back. “What? You think Ed's dangerous now?”

“I don't know! I haven't even gotten a chance to look into any of this.”

“Ask your gut then, since it's gotten you this far.” Oswald feels his resolve wavering when Jim gives him a wounded look, but he squares his shoulders and keeps his gaze steady. “You must know how crazy this sounds. This is Ed we're talking about.”

Jim turns the badge over in his hands a few times, looking at it from every angle and sighing with what Oswald assumes is defeat. “I can't be certain, alright? I don't really know Ed that well. No one at the GCPD does.”

“Well I do,” Oswald insists, “and what you're suggesting is ludicrous. Please, just-” he huffs- “just come with me. We'll talk to him. You did take something after all. Being truthful might inspire him to explain.”

Oswald wills Jim to listen, to just believe him enough to get out the door and to the apartment. His claims are anecdotal, potentially love-blind fallacies at best, and at worst (and factually) they're downright lies. But the longer Oswald pleads the more Jim's face softens, until he's moving to a series of coat hangers near the door and throws a jacket over his casual wear. “Let's not make him wait all night.”

-

Oswald's anticipation builds and overflows the closer they get to the apartment, but he tries to appear casual. It's reasonable for him to be a bit nervous because Jim probably assumes Ed's been throwing a tiny fit all alone for an hour; Oswald just hopes Ed managed to reign himself in (if he did set aside time for a fit) enough to do as Oswald asked.

He and Jim both bump into one another trying to press the button for the elevator, and Oswald gasps out some relieved laughter. “You shouldn’t be so nervous, James. It’s just a badge .”

“Right,” Jim doesn’t laugh, but the tense set of his shoulders softens. “And you’re right, and it’s Ed. What’s he going to do, make me answer riddles?”

“Quite possibly,” Oswald agrees, though he also doesn’t feel all that amused. Jim drops the line of teasing before they’re even halfway up the elevator. “If he does I’d humor him, since you’re the reason he’s in such a state.”

“It’s not even his !” Jim exclaims. Oswald doesn’t respond.

He takes a moment to be a bit theatrical, holding a hand around his ear and listening through the heavy door. There isn’t much that can actually get past the door aside from an actual fight, although it is a relief to know Ed isn’t fighting himself in there. Jim clears his throat and Oswald ends the charade long enough to unlock the door and let them both inside.

There's no sign of Ed in the main area of the apartment, but Oswald is pleased to see a set of suitcases and a box or two near the foot of the bed. He never discovers whether or not Jim finds this odd, because mere moments after entering the apartment the door shuts behind them with a loud bang and Oswald turns just in time to watch Ed swing something heavy and solid at the back of Jim's head.

He gasps and practically throws himself onto the ground to check on Jim, who's out cold but breathing normally. There's a moment of shock where Oswald can't get any thoughts to form past 'help Jim’ and 'what the hell oh my god why’, but it passes and he sends a biting glare Ed's way. It diminishes the smug look on Ed's face, but doesn't get rid of it entirely. “What. The hell. Do you think you're doing !? Does this look like reasoning with him?”

“I may have embellished the plan a bit,” Ed says. He's handling his frying pan gently, although the dent in one side means it's probably destined for the trash.

Oswald feels the urge to yell crescendo and build somewhere in his chest, but he holds his breath and closes his eyes until it passes. It's not ideal , but he's capable of improvising if need be, and this is definitely one of those times. “You do realize that now we have to carry him.”

Ed's mouth falls open and he looks down at Jim, then back up at Oswald. He gulps once, but he recovers quickly, setting his pan down on the nearest surface and kneeling down by Jim's still frame. “There's a possibility that-”

“Your embellishment of the plan wasn't thought out? I'm aware.” Oswald rolls his eyes and moves over to the travel items by the bed. “You found everything you can't live without?” He turns around when Ed doesn't immediately answer and the wounded look Ed is trying to hide makes him sigh tiredly. “Thank you,” Oswald says, “for packing. We'll make this work somehow.”

-

Oswald chooses to drive to give himself something to do, and Ed seems perfectly content with this arrangement, as it allows him to continue to stare at Jim's unconscious body lying across the backseat. He's a bit too jumpy for Oswald's liking, and he'd much prefer it if Ed's fingers were farther away from the trigger of Jim's firearm, but credit where credit is due, Oswald is still impressed Ed managed to get Jim downstairs without any sort of aid.

“You already handcuffed him,” Oswald says. He still hasn't asked where they came from and doesn't plan to. “Ed he's out cold. Please just turn around. You're going to make other drivers suspicious.”

“What's real to all unless spared a glance?”

“Not one of your best,” Oswald mumbles.

“A fake ,” Ed says. “It's, a fake often fails under scrutiny- nevermind. I'm being careful ,” he insists, but he does turn around after another few seconds.

“Why the riddle exactly?”

“He could be feigning sleep,” Ed says. Oswald shrugs, but he also turns the rear view mirror down so he can watch Jim a bit better. “Turn towards the river at your earliest convenience.”

“Ed-”

“There isn't another option available to us unless he's corrupt enough to accept a bribe.”

“You know he isn't corr- Ed I am not doing this.” Oswald catches a small twitch of Jim's cheek and he quiets his volume slightly. “Ed I don't want to kill him. We can't.

“We don't have a choice,” Ed says. Oswald sees Ed move closer out of the corner of his eye, and turns to the side so he can take in the worry and manic desperation on Ed's face. He has to look away. “Prison, or Arkham, or you could do what I say and drive to the river. Please,” Ed grips Oswald's arm and he turns to face Ed again, “you don't- I can do it. But either way one of us has to.”

Oswald looks at the road ahead and signals left. He can feel the relieved sigh as it escapes Ed's lips, but the hand stays secure on Oswald's sleeve until he parks the car on a dirt road just outside Gotham.

“I'll look for a good access point,” Ed explains, “and you'll stay here.” He places the gun in Oswald's hands and touches his cheek.

“And if Jim wakes up?”

“He won't do anything to you,” Ed says. He leans back for moment, looking more shy than anyone that just clubbed someone on the back of the head should be allowed, and he swoops in and kisses Oswald once before slipping out of the car and ambling off towards the water.

Oswald waits until Ed is out of sight before speaking. “You can't fool me with your fake sleep, James.” He turns around and watches Jim's eyes crack open. “Do you feel alright?”

“Head hurts,” Jim rasps. He jerks against the handcuff keeping him attached to the passenger side door and groans. “Please tell me you have the keys for these, or for the car.”

Oswald hesitates for a moment and eyes the set of keys still dangling out of the ignition. Jim can't see them from his current angle, so Oswald leaves them in place for now. “I don't,” he laments. “Ed must have them.”

“Car keys too?” Oswald turns bodily in his seat so Jim can see him nod. “Damn it, I should have listened to my gut.”

“And what would that have done for you?”

“Probably would have avoided the head injury, for one.” Jim squeezes his eyes shut and does his best to rest his head against the seat. “Where are we?”

“We're by the river,” Oswald says. “Ed wants to kill you.”

“Jesus.” Jim struggles against the cuffs a bit more, then settles when he makes no progress. “Why?”

“I think we both have a good idea why.”

“Dougherty,” Jim sighs. “Did you know?”

“No,” Oswald scoffs. “Jim I tried to defend him not even a day ago. Do you think I'd have done that if I'd known?”

Jim struggles to sit up with his hands still stuck by the door, but he manages to get most of the way upright. Oswald does his best to keep his body in front of the keys. “There's got to be a way out of this. We just need to work together. Where is he now? Is he armed?”

“By the river,” Oswald trails off, “and he has your gun.”

“So we need to get it away from him,” Jim says. “He's not a fighter. If I can get these off,” he gestures with his head at the handcuffs, “then I should be able to overtake him.”

Oswald turns back to the front seat and sighs. “Jim, I don't know.”

“For Christ sakes Oswald he wants to kill us.” You , Oswald thinks. “He's a menace. He probably killed Dougherty, and hell, that means he could have killed Kristen too.”

“You don't know-”

“No, but I have enough to investigate . Oswald we don't know what else he's capable of. Hell, he could have had something to do with your family disappearing.” Oswald flinches, and Jim presses on. “I know you don't want to believe that, but he might've killed Kristen, and they were dating . And if we're talking motive, well, it can't hurt to have a rich boyfriend to pay the bills-”

“Shut up!” Oswald screams. “You don't have any idea what you're saying!”

Jim stares him straight in the eye and doesn't blink. “Then tell me how I'm wrong.”

I killed them!” He screams in Jim's face. Jim's face pales, his eyes widen with horror, and Oswald says it again. “I killed them,” he says it quietly, letting his voice crack. His eyes sting from the effort to keep any stray tears from falling. “And he helped me lie to you, the GCPD, to everyone.

“No,” Jim starts to protest, but Oswald holds up the gun, and pulls the keys from the ignition. “Why?”

“They tried to kill me,” Oswald explains. “Twice, and the only reason I survived the first time,” he starts laughing, “is because I crashed my car close to where Ed was digging a grave.” He swallows, and turns so he’s facing out the windshield again, unwilling to look at Jim’s distress any longer. “And the second time, they,” he clears his throat, “my father died instead.” His chest shudders when he takes in his next breath. “And after they poisoned him by mistake I killed them.”

“That’s, you were distraught. Oswald it wasn’t your fault,” Jim insists. “It’s a crime of passion. You weren’t in your right mind-”

“If I got the chance I would do it again,” he counters. This time Jim doesn’t have anything to say. The awkward silence builds  between them until Oswald stand to stay in the car any longer, so he gets out, hoping the fresh air will help calm him down.

It doesn’t, but he can’t imagine what will calm him down at this point. Possibly just evaporating and not having to deal with the mess they’ve gotten themselves into. He does his best to at least keep it on the inside.

Ed comes crashing through the undergrowth separating the dirt road from the river, looking mussed and a bit roughed up but otherwise in decent spirits. As he gets closer Oswald can see a small cut on his cheek, most likely from a low hanging branch or a bush. Some of Ed's earlier panic appears to have faded at least.

“The fence around the river is damaged about five hundred feet out,” Ed points as he explains, “and two hundred feet beyond that is an old dock.”

“Perfect,” Oswald snaps, “sorry.” He turns around and finds Jim watching the two of them intently, maybe even hoping Oswald will change his mind or reveal his true plan. “Jim knows.”

Ed's face falls. “Knows what?”

“About my family, the truth.” Oswald's breath shudders, but he doesn't seek physical comfort for now. “I told him I killed them.”

“So, you know we have to-”

“Yes, Ed, I know.” Oswald covers his face with his free hand and leans into Ed's shoulder for a second. “I’ll do it.”

“You were rather reluctant before,” Ed says, accusing in his tone.

“That was before he looked at me like that,” Oswald gestures to Jim's scowling face, thankful he's still looking very hurt about Oswald's betrayal. “He wants to lock me up, Ed. And you too.” He straightens the collar of Ed's shirt and smooths it down. “I would like to say a few things to him, though, without an audience,” he whispers. “Because, well,” he gives Jim a longing look and turns back to Ed, pleading, “we have a history, and there are some things I still want to keep between us.”

Ed's face darkens, “what kind of things?”

“Ed,” Oswald sighs, “Jim was there for me when my mother died.” And just like that the stormy look goes away. “He was a dear friend to me. There are aspects of our friendship I still cherish, but I know what must be done.” He holds up the gun and clicks off the safety. “But now that he knows about my family there's no going back. I just feel,” he pauses, “sentimental, I guess, but he could never replace you.”

Ed is wary, but he nods, and after some careful maneuvering he and Oswald get Jim out of the car without incident and begin marching him through the trees. Just as Ed said, there's a small dock with rickety planks and a few rotting lines of rope. Ed pushes Jim forward, and Oswald takes the lead, indicating the spot just behind the tree line. “Please wait here for me.”

Ed nods, and Oswald ushers Jim closer to the edge of the dock, and farther away from Ed's prying ears. Oswald turns Jim around so they're face to face, and he sighs. “Please don't look at me like that Jim.”

“Like what? Like you're planning on murdering me and dumping my body in the river?”

“You wound me,” he says loudly. “You should have never snooped, Jim. We wouldn't be out here if it wasn't for you.” Jim arches one eyebrow and Oswald scoffs, “don't start bringing up any semantics. There isn't another option , I've tried .”

“You don't have to kill me,” Jim says. “No one has to die today.” Jim bends in closer and Oswald backs up a step. “Oswald you're,” he groans softly, “you're not well, Oswald, but that doesn't mean you can't get help. Arkham-”

“No, Jim. I can't go to Arkham.” He sniffs, and the more he talks the thicker his voice sounds. “I watched that horrid place slowly suck the life out of my mother until there was nothing left.” He shakes his head violently, and has to look back to Ed for a few moments to calm down. There's concern there, but not fear, and he offers up one of the weakest smiles ever, but it's enough to keep Ed by the trees. “We're leaving Gotham, understand? Forever.”

“You don't have to go with him,” Jim whispers, reaching out to grab at Oswald’s coat. He's straining against the cuffs; Oswald hopes they won't be too much of a hindrance.

“I do.”

“You really don't-"

“But I want to, Jim! I want to.” He slaps Jim's hands away before they can advance farther.

“Why?”

“He is,” Oswald bites back his words for a moment and blinks his eyes fast to dry them, “the only person that knows who I really am, what I'm really capable of, and doesn't look at me like I'm a monster .” Oswald lifts the gun up and points it at Jim's face. It's shaking. “Even you ,” he pauses to grip the front of Jim's jacket. “And that's why I'm going to leave with him. I only ask you extend one last courtesy and refrain from butting your nose into our business, and we'll do the same.” He sighs. “Goodbye James. I only wish it was on better terms.”

He fires the gun over Jim's right ear and they both gasp at the sound, shocked by the force of the blast, but he moves quickly, shoving Jim into the water and watching as he appears to struggle away out of sight. Oswald closes his eyes and rests his hands on his knees, taking deep lungfuls of air. A moment before he turns around towards Ed he snarls and throws the gun into the river, and then he's hurrying up the creaking dock and into Ed's waiting arms.