Excerpt from Carnal Cruelties by Professor Edward Nygma, Head of Criminology, Gotham University:
Sexual attraction is confusing, maddening, euphoric, even dangerous. It drives people to extreme behavior, even unspeakable crimes. The beating pulse, the sweating palms, the rise of chemicals in the brain are the symptoms of a much deeper, more mysterious affliction. The mechanism that chooses and controls the objects of sexual desire can only be found in the heart of the unexplained.
Hearts are not as easily acquired as one might expect. Ed had to track through the black market to find one. He picked it up in an ice box from a dealer in the Narrows. Brought it home and kept it in the freezer. Unpacked and dissected it. Tore apart the capillaries and ventricles, following the lines. It beat in his hands. He took a bite. Wiped blood of his chin. Rotten as ever. He didn’t know why he held out hope. Nothing ever tasted as good as the first.
He was a med student. She was beautiful. He tied her down against the morgue table. Red string wrapped around her throat. He pulled it until she gasped.
“You never even saw me not once. Looked straight through me.” Ed smiled and patted her cheek. “Look at me now, my love.” He pulled the string and forced her eyes up.
“Now you see me.” He plunged his knife into her eye socket. “Now you don’t.”
Love: clarity and vision. Rose colored blooming. Tore open her chest cavity and carved out her heart. It should have always belonged to him. The first bite divine. The second comedy.
The doors burst open and the room flooded with light. Ed held his hands up and her heart fell to the floor. Blood on his shoes and all over his chin. He wiped it off absentmindedly. The security guard raised a gun at him with shaking hands. Ed laughed. Picked the heart off the floor.
The guard fainted. Ed took his gun, shot him and dragged him into a body bag. Zipped up tight. Placed a candle in her stomach and lit it. Poured himself a glass of wine. Finished his meal.
He would undoubtedly be expelled sooner or later. He would need to switch schools, switch disciplines altogether. He transferred to Gotham University. Took up sociology, abnormal psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. He wanted to understand the bittersweet beautality festering inside him. Found a kinship with killers, a connection.
Wrote his thesis on the matter of brain matter. He was offered a grant and took a position some years later.
Sits in his kitchen heart in hand and grades his papers. Taking a bite every now and again. Blood drips onto the essay and blends in with the red ink. His teaching assistant Isabella was so good at getting bloodstains out of papers. Shame he ate her last month. In his defense, it was a Monday and she looked scrumptious.
The taste similar to something he had had before. He ate leftovers for a week.
The door opens. Home early. Ed quickly hides what little remains in the icebox, stuffs the box in the freezer. Cleans himself up, checks his reflection in the hallway mirror as he heads to the front door. Oswald hanging up his hat and umbrella. Ed helps him out of his coat and carries in his luggage. Returning from yet another spot as a guest lecturer. Disappears for months at a time. Always finding reasons to be out of town, out of reach.
They met at a teaching conference some years ago and have been together ever since. Ed sets the bags down in Oswald’s wing of the mansion and returns to the living room. Oswald in his favorite robe with his feet up on the coffee table. He hands Ed a snowglobe he picked up from some chincy store at the airport. He does this after every trip. Ed has an entire room filled with places he’s never been and people he will never meet.
Separate lives, separate beds. Dinner for two in two different places. They eat at opposite sides of the table and drink from the dregs of their shared isolation. The work comes first.
A hole at the center of them rapidly filling up with river water. They drown dry.
Oswald fast asleep in his armchair, he takes a blanket and drapes it over him. The fire goes out and he stokes the ashes. Returns to the kitchen and eats his heart out of the freezer. Unsatisfied.
To love is to devour. Hunger spreads.
Five Years Prior
Warfare is an artform practiced by many, understood by few. The field littered with amateurs, a scrawling mess of crayon carnage and elementary cruelty. There remains a handful of master artisans alive today. Oswald Cobblepot was one such.
Ed clutched his event badge and took his seat. The lecture about to begin. He has stayed up all night watching his TedTalk on Elizabethan executions. He was riveting, revolutionary. Ed couldn’t take his eyes off him. Devoured all of his reading materials like a starving man. The leading expert on torture alive today, Cobblepot was one of the most well respected and well despised figures in academia. The lights went down and he took the stage.
“Ladies, gentlemen and all the rest of you - good evening. Tonight we embark on a journey into the unknown and the unimaginable. You are of course familiar with water torture cells and their use. I will be demonstrating their effects with the help of a volunteer if any of you are willing.”
Ed stood up immediately and marched over to the stage. “I volunteer.”
Oswald laughed and held out his hand, lifting him onto the stage. Ed fell onto him and they nearly toppled over. “Eager are we? Always nice to meet an admirer. Now allow me to explain how this device wor -”
“I am familiar. You will be suspending yourself from the ceiling and lowered into the tank head first, correct?
He smiled. “Well you’re the regular expert aren’t you. Next time we’ll try it with you upside down, alright? For now, you’ll secure the straps and turn the keys. I’ll do all the work.”
Cobblepot removed his suit layers, a striped bathing costume underneath. Took off his shoes and socks. Lay down on his back at the center of the stage. Ed adjusted his feet within the stocks and snapped the locks. The steel frame passed over his body until at the base of the stocks where Ed clamped him in securely. The metal bar pulls him into the air where he hangs suspended.
Ed’s hands on either key on each side, awaiting the signal. Oswald winked at him. “Bottoms up.” Turned the keys and he was lowered head first into the water. The clock starts. Two minutes.
He smiled inside the tank and pressed his arms against the glass. Used the weight of his upper body to pull himself up in the water. Slow and steady, he makes his way to the top of the tank, hands on his shackles, he pulls a pin out from his hair and gets to work. Forty seconds left on the clock. The pin won’t move, the shackles stuck. Thirty seconds.
Oswald pulls back his arm and bashes his arm against the glass wall. Ed rushes to turn the keys and Oswald breaks free, the shackles falling to the bottom of the water. He opens the top and heaves fresh air. Ed pulls him out of the water over his shoulders and Oswald sits on the top of the tank, all smiles for the crowd. They applaud and he basks in it. Hushes them with a motion.
“Water is the most cleansing and cruel element of our world. For centuries, we have used the seas to seize and conquer. Ideally, this device would have been used for significantly longer but I’m afraid I had to survive it in order to continue speaking to you charming people.”
“Give me a hand, would you?” Ed picks him up by the waist and lowers him back onto the stage floor, his entire side soaked in water. Dripping all over. Oswald shakes water out of his hair and picks a white towel off a cart, hanging it over his shoulder.
“A round of applause for my lovely assistant, everyone.” They cheer and Ed beams.
Oswald squeezes his hand.“Meet me in the greenroom. I’d like to discuss a collaboration.”
“I’d like that.”
They collaborate. Three times and once more in the morning.
Theirs was a whirlwind, a hurricane. Blew too hot and too fast to ever stay. Now they live at the center of an old storm. Debris scattered everywhere, remnants of what was. They sit down to eat with their books in hand. Biography of a military general and a limited edition of Charles Darwin's’ field notes. Sit in silence, as they so often do.
They finish their meal and leave the dishes in the sink. Oswald rolls up his sleeves and washes up. Ed stacks the dishes and clears the table. Blows out the candles and throws the flowers in the trash.
Roses. Red. Redundant.
As if a bit of floriography could save them. How like his husband to think that all could be forgotten with a flower arrangement. He was given towards dramatic, sporadic gestures of affection. As if he only just remembered what was expected of him.
Ed didn’t want violins and he certainly didn’t want roses. He wanted his time and time and time again he was left alone.
Ed didn’t need roses and violins only his time, his tenderness. Time and time again he is turned away. Another conference, another calling. Business trips trip them up and send them falling.
He goes to work and eats his feelings. Third year, pre-med. Blonde. Barely illegal just a craving.
Snackish is all. Cuts her up and sticks her bitten ear into his lunch box, sticks it in the communal fridge in the teacher’s lounge. His phone buzzes and he checks the notification.
Jim and Barbara want to arrange a dinner date. He says yes, doesn’t bother consulting Oswald. It’s not like he’ll bother to attend and if he does he will monopolize Jim’s attention and ignore everyone else. Lose-lose. The lesser of two evils is still an evil in of itself.
Ed brings home the med student and stuffs her in tortellini shells, sets her on ice overnight.
Barbara brings the wine, Jim starts to whine about his latest case. Ed isn’t paying attention.
Oswald is paying too much attention.
Ed digs his knife and nearly cuts through the china pattern. Their wedding china. Only ever broken out on special occasions. They use it every time Jim visits. He was Oswald’s best man, the better man. Ed thought he was marrying the most decent, honest man in Gotham until he met Jim. And realized that for his betterment some things better not get any better.
He tried. Tried for years. Tried to be good, good enough. Worthy. He was never going to be enough for him. Why does he even bother? He falls up and ever down.
Jim is telling them about a serial killer who specializes in water torture. Oswald leans forward, riveted by rivers and veins. Ed is intrigued despite himself. Smiles fondly. It reminds him of their honeymoon. They visited the Dead Sea. He still has a jar of salt he collected somewhere.
“Tell us more.” Oswald demands and Jim laughs it off, clasping his shoulder.
“Any more than that and the commissioner will have my head.”
“What a shame that would be.” Ed drains his wine glass entirely. “Would you look at that we’re fresh out - I’ll get some more.” He retreats to the kitchen and resolves to steal the reports from the medical examiner the next time he consults with the police. They pull him in for criminal psych evaluations from time to time. He finds them a great deal saner than the people working there half the time.
Barbara comes in and sits up on the counter, crossing her legs. She looks at Ed assessing.
“How are things?”
“Please specify. There are a variety of things.”
“Things with you. You-shaped things.”
“The shape doesn’t matter as much as the contents and I don’t have enough alcohol in me for this conversation.” She silently pours him a double and they sit on the kitchen floor.
Laughter coming in from the dining room. They sit on the outside of their marriages and wonder what it sounds like. Ed can’t remember the last time he laughed at anything. She throws back her rum and coke. Offers him a line of coke. He politely declines. She settles down on the floor utterly empty and content. Bored is better than bleeding.
“On second thought, I’ll have something.” She opens up her purse and a cocktail of chemicals spill out. He looks carefully through the rows and pulls out a bottle. Small white pills.
He spins out on the floor, pinwheels. She turns her head and smiles. “How’s the sex life?”
Chokes and spits out swallowed pride. “It’s fine. We’re fine. It’s all very fine and dandy.”
She snorts. “Jim and I haven’t been fine in a good time either. Whether that’s the medicine or the marriage is anybody’s guess.”
Pats her hand reassuringly. “I’m sure it’s the medicine.”
“What a kind offer. But our husbands are in the next room. Ask me again later.”
His smile contorts his face, stretching rarely used muscles. His head pressed up against the freezer door. “How did we ever get to here? Where did they go?”
She blots her lipstick. Trail of red. “Passion dies. If it’s any consolation so will they.”
“The sooner the better. Tradesies? You take care of mine, I’ll get rid of yours. ”
“I’ll keep mine for a little while longer. I still like him. For some reason.”
“That’s because you married for love. Like an idiot.”
“What did you get married for?”
“Life insurance. The assurance that I was alive and functional. I’m not. It was nice to pretend.”
He looks down into his drink. “I’ve been pretending for a long time. I’m never gonna be good enough for him, am I? Never going to be Jim Gordon.”
She laughs and messes up his hair. “Don’t worry about Jimmy. You’re exactly what Oz deserves. What you need is a hobby. Mine is named Tabby. I could set you up with someone.”
Shakes his head. “No, thank you.”
Shrugs and gets off the floor, high heels in hand. “Suit yourself. I’m gonna find where you keep the good stuff.”
“In the library, inside the globe.” She sends him a two finger salute and saunters off.
He presses into the cold. At least he’s not that. Things could always worse-er.
Although she’s not entirely wrong on all accounts. A hobby could be nice.
Jim and Barbara leave in a cloud of liquid courage, having found the bravery to talk to each other long enough to get in the car. Oswald is asleep on the couch again. Might as well live there.
He changes out of his dinner jacket and slips into something less comfortable. Black, slick.
Breaks into G.C.P.D headquarters and steals all the relevant files. Posts them up in his private study. So much beauty, so much blood. His breath catches in his chest. He has never seen anything so exquisite. All the water extracted from their bodies, drained completely dry.
Where does it flow and where does it lead?
His mouth waters at the thought of it.
As best he can figure the killer has been operating in Gotham for the last five years. Making random appearances, too spontaneous to be traced. They have no motivation, no preferences, no agenda whatsoever. Kill for the thrill, the sport.
The kills themselves are gruesome and grotesque. Little better than battery and assault. An unusual amount of viciousness perhaps but this is Gotham after all. No, what’s really interesting is the care and reference with which they treat their victims afterwards.
The clothes especially. Neatly folded and pressed. Completely clean and freshly laundered. Not a drop of blood to be found. Not a drip of it in their bodies at all in fact.
Bloodthirst never fully quenched.
Ed sneaks into the morgue after dark and pulls open a body or two. Leaves notes all throughout.
love this part here
you really have a way with knives, have you considered going professional?
Feedback is an important part of the process. He pulls open the lining of their jacket and the lining of their stomach and places the notes. Ink curled up and wet. Slips them in thin.
Absorbed under the skin.
Seals them up tight and leaves his review. Leaves the station, walks into the night. He doesn’t subscribe to the modern notion of murder. No, this is something altogether different. Something entirely new.
In his line of work, there’s not much room for innovation only imitators. How refreshing. How depressing.
Is his life so devoid of interest that it comes to this?
Apparently so. He gets home and hangs up his hat. He can hear Oswald’s voice faintly from the other side of the house. Sneaks as quietly as he can up to his office.
Ear pressed up against the door.
Murmuring too quietly to be understood. He sounds happy. Good. One of them should be.
He pretends that he is speaking to him.
Listens as long as he can until his eyes start to drop. Falls asleep right then and there.
Waiting for god knows what.
He wakes up in the morning with a crick in his neck and a gold robe wrapped around him.
Smiles and tugs it closer. Breathes him in. There’s hope yet.
An advertisement in the newspaper. The personals.
LETTER TO THE DEAD EDITOR
Leave my bodies be or join them.
This is not a game for two.
Ed smiles. What a nice letter. He drafts his response and sends it anonymously to the paper. He’s never had a pen pal. Could be neat. He heads to the university and gives a lesson.
“Can anyone tell me at what weight a body floats?”
Hand raised. Ed nods.
“One hundred pounds.”
“Incorrect. There is right weigh and a wrong weigh and you’re not close to either of them.”
“Sir, I fail to see the relevan-”
“You also failed to see the relevance of attending class last semester so your vision is null and void. Now as to the answer: the weight of a floating body will be equal to the buoyant force acting on the body or equal to the weight of liquid displaced by it. Concurrently, the insanity in a person at any given time is equal to the force being exerted upon them. No one goes mad in isolation. It is a public event. I’d like three thousand words on societal pressures and group thinking by Thursday. Extra points for water stains.”
He dismisses them with a wave of his hands and pushes back his blazer, dusting chalk off the elbow patches. Sits at his desk with his legs up against the wall and opens up his tablet.
Oswald has posted another article in a scholarly journal. Ed never gets published anymore.
Too many fights with his colleagues. They don’t even bother censoring Oswald anymore. It’s hard to argue with someone at the top of their field. That doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t.
He is wrong frequently and fatally. Ed sets up a private account and deconstructs his entire argument. Backspaces and deletes the entire thing. He is tired. Tired of fighting the concept of a man he barely sees any more. Publicly belittling him will accomplish little. He gets a text from Jim asking to come over again next weekend.
He rewrites his criticism and submits it.
Sits back in his chair smug and snug. Completely comfortable in casual cruelty. It’s the little things that get you through the day.
He sits in the teacher’s lounge and pulls the ear out of his lunch box. Nibbles around the edges and does the crossword puzzle. Finds it insufficient. Rearranges it into a three dimensional crossword puzzle and finds it more satisfactory.
He passes the rest of the week in a heady haze waiting for the Friday edition of the paper.
It arrives on their doorstep and he snatches it off the welcome mat. Rips it open and tears the plastic. Turns to the personal section and sees his own response.
FOR WANT OF A BIRD
My feathered friend I merely meant to express my admiration for your craft and your cutting...wit. Allow me to learn from your bad example.
Playing with yourself is no fun. Better with a partner.
Ed smiles at his own cleverness and takes out his lunch box. He’s got a heart left over from the night before. He decides to visit the precinct that night. He’s got a late night delivery to make.
He swings by the morgue and opens up a body. Takes out the heart and replaces it with his. Carries the heart out in his lunch box, whistling merrily all the way. He opens the door out of the morgue and runs into Lucius. The lunch box nearly falls to the floor and he scrambles to catch it in time. Lucius catches it and hands it to him.
He smiles at Ed somewhat confused but still pleased to see him. “Last call was hours ago, what are you doing here?”
Ed shrugs casually and sticks the lunch box under his arm. “Stopping by to drop off some psych evals. You’re due for yours next week by the way. So is Jim.”
He winces. “Don’t go too hard on the guy. Things are rough right now. Understandably.”
Tilts his head curiously. “Jim is an unstable individual at the best of times. I don’t see how it's any different this week.”
Lucius looks around the empty station. “Barbara left him last week. Ran off with some woman.”
Ed smiles and covers his laugh poorly. “Wow, what a shocking turn of events. I’m shocked.”
Poor, poor Jimmy. Good for her.
Lucius looks at him disapprovingly but gives it up as a lost cause. His stomach rumbles. All he’s had today is an expired protein bar from the vending machines. Whatever Ed’s having smells better. Like raw sushi. “Would you mind splitting that? I haven’t had anything all day.”
Ed turns up his nose at him. “Your pallet is not sophisticated enough. Now if you will excuse me, I have to be getting home. Can’t keep the old ball and chain waiting.”
He flees quickly, holding the lunch box protectively.
Lucius rolls his eyes.
Some people are such picky eaters.
Jim Gordon is not supposed to be here. Jim Gordon shouldn’t be anywhere really at any given time but he really shouldn’t be here right now. Ed sneaks out of bed for a midnight snack and sees them. Sitting in the living room by the fire, drinking bourbon. Entirely too close together.
“It’s not your fault, Jim. It wasn’t built to last.”
Jim sighs and buries his head in his hands. “I know, I knew. I always knew.”
“Things fall apart. It’s the way of things. At least you have me.”
Jim laughs and clinks their drinks together. “You and me, pal. Till the end.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
Oswald refills their glasses and rests his hand on Jim’s knee. Ed nearly breaks his water glass.
“What will you do about the policeman’s ball next week? You have no one to accompany you.”
“Skip it. No one wants to see me in a penguin suit anyway.”
“I can think of a number of people who would disagree with you rather strongly. You are going to that event. I’ll go with you if it's any consolation.”
“You’re not a consolation prize, Oswald.“
He puffs up arrogantly. “Of course not. I’m a trophy husband. Ask Ed.”
Jim snorts. “He puts you up on a lot of shelves does he?”
Ed closes the door quietly and sneaks out into the kitchen. Pulls a knife out of the drawer and runs it through his hands. Cuts his thumb and sucks off the blood.
He could kill a cop tonight. Kill his husband. Either one would do. Possibly both.
Puts the knife back in the drawer and goes to the bathroom, pulls open the medicine cabinet. Pours iodine in the wound. Winces at the sting. A deeper cut than he anticipated.
Wraps a bandage around it and goes back to the kitchen. Opens up the hidden freezer drawer and a secret door slides loose. Steps into the meat locker and looks at the student bodies.
Blonde and red. Red and blonde. Not a brunette anywhere among them. He could never bear to hurt anyone who bore the slightest resemblance to Oswald. Tastes change.
Remembers Barbara's offer to kill him, how very thoughtful of her. Still, she’s not an ideal partner. Too unstable, untrustworthy. He needs someone precise and practical.
He knows just the man for the job.
Phones up the newspaper office and places an advertisement.
For a good time, look for me.
I’ll be the boy in blue.
Like so many others.
Let’s make it a fight to remember.
He has no indication of reciprocity, not the faintest glimmer of hope. Still, he has to believe that someone with such a similar soul would recognize his own kind. There’s something there worth all the trouble and the tribulations. If his hope is misplaced, he still gets to kill Jim Gordon. Possibly Oswald as well. Remains to be seen. He goes to his wardrobe and opens it up.
Wants to look his best-worst.
If there’s one good thing to be said about Gotham’s law enforcement it’s that they know how to utilize their resources correctly. They don’t waste their money on useless things like community outreach or rehabilitation. They spend it on booze and banquets like sensible people.
Ed stands over by the champagne tower and adjusts his collar. Blue chrome suit gleaming with a metallic shine. A feather pinned to his lapel. Black and white and blue all over.
Waterfowl has reluctantly agreed to meet him. He feels a tingle all the way from his toes to his spine. The thrill of the kill no doubt. His colleague will be wearing a single question mark somewhere on his person. He looks at every man there and tries to find him. Nowhere to be seen.
Drowns his sorrows and assures himself then he can always drown someone later.
Oswald arrives on Jim’s arm and the champagne flute in his hand breaks to pieces.
Spilling everywhere and getting him all wet. He tries to dab it out with a napkin and a hand reaches out with a handkerchief.
Wipes the stain off his suit and reaches out for his chin. Cleans him off.
Oswald smiles. “Hello dear, I didn’t expect to see you tonight.”
Ed leans in close and kisses his cheek faintly. He shudders and holds on tight to his cane for support. “I wanted to surprise you.”
He reaches up for his cheek and presses against the skin he kissed. Smiles brighter than he has in years. “Color me surprised then.”
“It’s a good color on you. Then again you look good in just about everything.”
He blushes and can feel it everywhere. Blood rushing. “Hmm, you know what I’d look really good in is -”
Jim steps between them with three glasses of champagne. “Get a room. Actually, you have a house. Just go. To your house. I’ll hold down the fort.”
“And abandon you in your hour of need - what kind of friend would that make me?”
Ed touches his shoulder reassuringly. “Everyone knows how good you are to him. You don’t have to keep proving it.” In fact, Ed would prefer it if he was a little less good to him.
Oswald reaches over and holds the hand on his shoulder. Squeezes it just a tad too tight. “Friendship is a rare and precious thing, I won’t neglect it. Not for anything, not for anyone.”
Ed releases his hand and as he pulls away the cufflinks come loose. One of them falls to the floor and he gets to the ground. Picks it up and notices a gear on the side. Turns it. The front face of the cufflink flashes and turns. A question mark. He gasps and nearly drops it to the floor.
Oswald’s hand on his chin. “Is everything alright, my dear?”
He nods shakily and slips the cufflink back onto his shirt sleeve, fastens it tightly. Fingers brushing against his wrist. Oswald’s steady hands pull him up off the floor.
He reaches out and adjusts his cufflinks for him. “Where did you get these? I haven’t seen them before.”
“Do you like them? I thought they were rather nice. It’s a special occasion after all.”
His hands tremble for the switchblade in his pocket. His wedding ring against the blade.
Closes the knife.
“They’re marvelous. Jim, if you will excuse us, we have some matters to discuss. At home.”
He drags Oswald out of the ballroom, Oswald yelling all the way.
Jim sighs wistfully as they leave.
Why can’t he find what they have?
They drive home in utter silence, Ed’s hands tight against the wheel. Oswald glaring at him from the passenger side. They arrive back at home and Ed opens his door for him. Oswald shoves the door open wider so it hits him. Steps into the main hall and hangs up his white scarf and top hat.
“You better have a very good explanation for this, Edward, you cannot simply take me away fro-”
“I can take you any time I wish. Any way I like.” He pushes him up against the wall and pulls the scarf down from the hat rack. Ties it around his wrists. “Isn’t that right, love of mine?”
Oswald leans into him, breath hot against his skin. “After all this time, now is when you want me? Your timing is impeccably bad.”
Laughs and pulls the scarf tighter till he cries out. “What can I say, I’m an impatient man.”
He draws him into the dining room and ties him down against the chair with the scarf. Hands behind his back. Takes off Oswald’s tie and blindfolds him.
“I’ll be back, don’t start without me.”
Oswald smirks. “No promises.”
Goes to the kitchen and turns on the stove. Takes out his pans and ingredients. Pulls out a very large knife, unlocks a compartment and takes out a scalpel. Steps into his locker and drains a body of its blood. Affection drips, red and bitter. Fills up the wine glasses and takes out their wedding china.
Steps back into the dining room to find Oswald struggling against the chair. He taps him lightly on the cheek. “Now, now settle down. You’ll get what’s coming to you.”
“Come along then, don’t hold me in suspense.”
Bite against his ear and he screams. “To have and to hold is half the fun. Are you feeling peckish, darling? I for one am absolutely famished.” He pulls out his scalpel and runs it down his shirt and opens it up. Oswald presses up against the knife and smiles. He plunges it into his chest.
Takes off the blindfold and carves out his heart.
Blood dripping down his hands as he holds it out to him.
Oswald gasps for air and looks down at the gaping hole in his chest. “Why-why-why-”
“You lied to me. For years. Which is all well and good - after all I was lying to you too. Was anything ever real between us? Did you ever love me at all?”
“I loved, I love, I love you.”
Ed pushes the knife in deeper, where his heart used to be. “Even now?”
Tears in his eyes. “Most especially now. More than ever.”
He smiles and kisses him softly. “Good. Then you’ll do anything to prove it.”
“Anything, anything at all.”
“Eat your heart out, my love.” Shoves it down his throat and forces him to take a healthy bite.
Pulls it out of his throat and licks blood off his mouth.
Unties his hands and gives him the scalpel. “Cut me open already.”
Oswald lunges forward and pins him against the dining table, spilling blood wine everywhere. Kisses and cuts him and digs his bare hands into his chest. Pulls out the heart and tosses it the side. Yanks him down with bloody hands and bites into his neck. Ed laughs and stretches up into it. Oswald holds him down with one hand on his throat and picks up the heart with his other.
“What now, what do you want now?”
Ed smiles. “I want to eat.”
Oswald helps him off the dining table and they limp into the kitchen and prepare the meal.
Two hearts rare and raw covered in truffle oil. Wrapped in string. Butter heated up in the pan. Hearts browned on both sides. Sauce drizzled over them. Placed in the oven and left on high. They stand together, arms wrapped each other’s waists as they watch it cook.
Ed lets him go and kisses his hand as he walks away. Watches him walk. Whistles.
Oswald flips him off.
He laughs and polishes their wedding china. Hums Wagner.
Oswald pours out the bloodwine and sets the table. Pulls perfectly good roses out of the trash and cuts off the black thorns. Places them at the center.
Puts on his oven mitts and pulls out the hearts. Right on time, not a moment too soon. He removes the string, slices and returns it to the sauce. Stirs it through chopped parsley and plates it. Garnishes it with just a bit of regret and an ounce of hope. Not too much, just enough.
He comes out of the kitchen in his apron and lays out the meal. Oswald pulls him down into his lap and kisses him. Blood, blood, blood. Sweet as can be. Ed pulls off his oven mitts and wraps his arms around his neck. Picks up a fork and feeds him.
The two hearts interchangeable, unrecognizable. Impossible to say which belongs to which.
They share and feed each other well. Drink up the blood and the wine and the kisses.
Ed has never tasted anything so delicious in all his life.
Oswald leans back in his chair and he cuddles in closer, blood all over his chin and dripping down their shirts. Oswald tugs at the fabric, nose wrinkling in disgust. “We need a bath.”
“Hmmm bloodbath could be nice, I’ve still got suppli-”
“Get your mind into the gutter, dear. We’re going to get nice and cleaned up first.” He slips his hand down past the apron. “I want to eat you up with a spoon.”
Ed laughs, head thrown back. “You already have.”
Oswald tugs him in closer by the hips. “There’s always room for seconds.”
The proverbial penny drops and Ed does too. Knees on the carpet.
Oswald laughs and pulls him up for a kiss. “Bath first. Behave.”
Ed runs into the bathroom as quickly as he can, pulling Oswald along after him.
The water runs and the bubbles pop.
Blood washes clean off.
Red flows down the drain. They lie in the clawfoot tub with just an inch of water between them.
Oswald reaches for the towels and Ed pulls him down. “Five more minutes. I missed this.”
Kisses him teasingly. “They’ll be plenty of time for that later. We have work to do.”
“Ten more minutes.” Ed rests his head against his chest. “I just want to hold you a little longer.”
Oswald smiles. “I’m not going anywhere. Not ever again.”
“Why did you leave me so often, where did you go?”
Pushes back his hair and straightens his part. “You made me want to be a better man. I’m not. Whenever I felt the urge to do something unspeakable I had to leave town. I never wanted you to see me like that.”
“I want to see you, see all of you.”
Oswald looks down rather pointedly at their lack of clothes.
Ed throws a shampoo bottle at him. “You know what I meant. And I know what you mean. I never thought I was worthy of you. Now I know, we’re worth the same.”
“Just a couple of bad pennies you and me. I tried to change for you, resented you for it. If we’re to do this again, we have to do it right. Take me as I am or not at all.”
Ed reaches down and Oswald lets out a squeak. “I think I can manage that.”
“Again? You’re insatiable.”
Ed hums quietly against his mouth. “Again. And again. And again. I feel like a newlywed.”
Oswald lights up. “Our second honeymoon. We’ll do it right this time.” He gets out of the bath and grabs a towel and robe. “Get up, I have so many things I want to do.”
Ed sighs. “This isn’t what I had in mind.”
Oswald kisses him just to shut him up and holds out the robe. “Come along, Edward. We’ve got a lot of time to make up for.”
Ed puts on the robe and Oswald races out the door, towel wrapped around his waist. Ed steps on the towel and it falls to the floor.
“EDWARD EDWIN NYGMA GIVE ME BACK MY TOWEL THIS INSTANT!”
Ed picks up the towel and smiles, runs out the door. “Bet you can’t catch me first.”
Runs through the halls, Oswald yelling and chasing after him.
He laughs. Married life is treating him well.
The doorbell rings.
He skids to a stop and nearly falls over, Oswald falls over on top of him and holds up the towel triumphantly. They wrestle for it, elbows in faces and more interesting places.
The doorbell rings a second time.
Oswald pops up like a cuckoo clock. Hair sticking up everywhere. “Did you invite someone?”
“I’m not as stupid as you look right now.”
“No, you’re as stupid as you always look which is very.” He sighs and straightens his hair, pulls Ed up off the floor and fixes his towel. “For once in your life, you’re better dressed than me. Answer the door while I get changed.”
Ed sends him a thumbs up and heads down the stairs. Opens the front door, robe displaced by the breeze. A large bruise on his neck. “Whatever you’re selling, we’re not interest-”
Jim coughs and looks up at the sky. “Oswald said I could come over? For my psych eval?”
Ed shoves him out the door. “You’re fine, 100% sane, a-okay, all good and cleared for active duty, please get out.”
Jim nods quickly. “Right, gotcha, thanks bye.”
“Jim! So good to see you.” Oswald stands at the top of the stairs, dressed in white. He wore that suit to their engagement party. “Will you stay for tea?”
Ed and Jim look at each other. Look at Oswald. Back at each other.
“Tea sounds great.”
“We’re out of tea. And coffee. Liquids in general. This is a dry household.”
Jim nods. “I wasn’t thirsty anyway. See you later.”
Ed closes the front door in his face and triple locks it. Oswald comes up behind him and wraps his arms around his waist. Kisses the side of his face.
“Don’t be jealous. You’re the one I come home to.”
He grumbles and Oswald smirks. “Although if you want I could ask him if he’s open t-”
Ed slams him up against the door. Oswald laughs and pulls him down, bites into his mouth.
“Don’t you know by now? I live only for you.”
Ed kisses him up against the front door, unlocks it and pulls out the welcome mat. No one else is welcome, he doesn’t want anyone who isn’t already here. He resolves to set it on fire.
Oswald surges against him, against the door. Ed’s eyes widen and he pulls back. “You did that on purpose. You wanted me jealous.”
He pokes Ed’s chest. “I wanted you. Any way I could have you, even if you were angry. At least then I would know you still wanted me.”
“I never stopped, not for a minute.”
Oswald swoons. “I chose you. I’ll keep choosing you. Again and again.”
Ed pulls his hair to the side and bites behind his ear. “And again.”
Ed drags him into the living room and presses him down on their couch in front of the fire.
“You put your hand on his knee right here in this very spot. What would you do if he were here now?”
Oswald rolls his eyes. “I’d tell him my husband is an emotionally needy idiot, is what I’d do.”
“I nearly killed him for you, you realize.”
Oswald mimes wiping a tear from his eyes. “Yes, I know. You’re such a romantic”
“I nearly killed you as well.”
Oswald’s eyes darken with anticipation. “Why not kill me right here then?’
Ed kisses him sweetly. “I’ll kill you alright.”
“Are you just gonna talk about it or are you gonna kill me already? I’ve got better things to do.”
Ed kisses him just to shut him up.
He kills him. Again and again and again.
Dies happy in his arms.
Ed opens up the fridge. They haven’t left the house in four days. Honeymoons are like that. He checks the meat locker in the back and finds his bodies gone.
Goes into the snowglobe room and finds Oswald serenely sitting up on a shelf.
“Honeybunch. Turtledove. Lovebird. What have you done with my corpses?”
Oswald shrugs casually. “I threw them out. They were going stale. Besides we need to have a discussion about your diet.”
“You didn’t seem to mind my appetite when I was eating you earlier.”
“That was different. I am pure stock. I don’t want you bringing home anything that isn’t fresh.”
“You don’t like them because they’re women, is that it?”
Oswald glares up at him and knocks a snowglobe off the shelf. It shatters on the floor. “I don’t want any women around my house, it’s not an unreasonable request.”
“You’d rather I eat a man then? Fine. Did you have someone in mind?”
“Jim’s quite tasty.”
“No? I thought you would have leapt at the chance.”
“I’m cooking for two now and I don’t want your mouth anywhere near him.”
Oswald sighs, somewhat disappointed but willing to compromise. “Butch?”
Ed’s eyes light up. “I’ve always wanted to go fox hunting.”
Oswald smiles and takes his hand. “I think we can arrange that.”
He receives an invitation for a dinner party in the mail.
Mister Nygma And Mister Cobblepot request the pleasure of your company for dinner
He frowns. He never expected them to host a dry party, to not provide the alcohol. Oswald has such an addictive personality and Ed’s an enabler. And vice versa. Lots of vice with those two.
Shrugs. He hasn’t been out in awhile and Ed will be good for conversation at least. He checks yes and sends it off with the mail carrier. Leaves at the end of the day and changes into a suit that’s not covered in blood matter. Little matter since that’s most of his suits at this point.
Picks up a bottle of wine for Oswald and a puzzle book for Ed. He’s not as much of a drinker as he is a thinker.
Hopes it will endear them long enough that he can discover why they’ve decided to start being social.
Arrives at the mansion at a quarter of eight. Knocks. Oswald opens the door. Dressed in a red riding coat, black cap, white pants and black riding boots. Carrying a small switch.
“Ah, Mister Fox - thank you ever so much for joining us. Now the festivities can commence.”
He walks past him and Lucius trails behind him into the forest. A trail of lights leading from the mansion. A banquet table laid out under the trees with only two chairs.
Ed steps out from behind a tree, dressed identically to Oswald. Carrying a shotgun.
He cocks the gun and points it directly at him. “Do you prefer we start with the thigh or the breast?”
Lucius starts to run and Oswald pushes him down into the leaves. “I’d say head first.”
Ed miles down at Lucius, all teeth. Wild and predatory.
Picks him up off the ground and dusts the leaves off him. “Now, now my darling. Where’s the sport in that? Let’s give him a fair chance.” Ed blows a whistle. “On my mark, get set - go!”
Lucius runs as fast as he can and Ed laughs. Shoots him in the back of his shoulder and he struggles to regain his breath. Keeps running.
He lines up the shot, a perfect clear bullseye. Oswald steps in front of the gun and he lowers it.
Throws his hands up in frustration. “What did you do that for?”
“Do you really want to eat something covered in gun residue? I think not.” Oswald claps his hands and unleashes the hounds. They chase after him into the night.
He pulls a pistol out of his jacket. “And now we hunt.”
Ed smiles gleefully. “He really should have known better. We told him B.Y.O.B.”
Bring your own body.
The Fox manages to outwit them. They are still not entirely sure how. They stand in front of the fire. Oswald drinking his wine, Ed paces.
“He’s going to tell.”
“He’s already told. There’s nothing for it. We’ll have to kill them all.”
“I don’t know if I have space in my locker for the entire GCPD.”
“Good.We’d be eating pig for weeks. You don’t have to play with your food before you eat it every time, sometimes you just let it rot.”
Ed nods. “So how do we get them to dinner? Our invitations aren’t good anymore.”
Oswald picks up the phone and dials. “We do nothing. She’ll take care of everything.”
They meet Barbara in the warehouse.
Oswald kisses her cheek. “Divorce is agreeing with you, you look worse than ever.”
She smiles and giggles. Points a gun in his face. “Hey, Eddie? You still want em or can I kill em?”
Ed puts his hand around Oswald’s waist and pulls him close. “He’s a keeper. And he’s keeping me well.” He shows her the fur lining of his green coat and she gasps. Reaches out and feels the softness. Whistles loudly.
“Married rich, I respect that.” She nods and acknowledges Ed’s game.
He smiles wide. “Ask me the sex question again.”
She leans forward conspiratorially. “Do tell.”
Ed holds out his hands in a jazzy gesture and mouths the word ‘ten’.
Oswald rolls his eyes fondly. “We can talk pillows later. We got company.”
She throws herself to the floor and cries out in agony. “Jim? Jim is that you baby? Jim, they’ve got me, they’ve got me-”
Oswald hits her upside the head with a pistol and she swears loudly.
Ed pulls him aside. “That wasn’t in the agreed script, stick to the stage combat.”
“Ed, I love you but I swear to god if you micromanage my torture session I wil-”
“Hands where I can see them. Guns on the ground.”
They smile and turn around in unison. Their coats flowing out revealing explosives and guns. Ed pulls out a hunting rifle and Oswald points his pistol. Barbara laughs on the ground and wipes mascara off her cheeks.
“Boys are so easy.”
Ed and Oswald look at each other and shrug. She’s not wrong.
She stands up and walks over to Jim. Pulls a gun out of somewhere, Oswald is trying not to look honestly.
“Hey handsome, me and the boys been talking all about you.” She turns back to them and winks. “We’ve decided that I get to kill you but they get to watch. A good time is had by all.”
“Barbara, you don’t have to do this we don’t have to end like th-”
“We ended the second you gave me that ring. I’m not meant to be caged.”
Ed squeezes Oswald’s hand reassuringly. “I like my cage.”
“I know you do.”
“It’s gilded. And it gives grea-”
“Boys, boys we got better people to kill.”
They look sheepish. “Sorry, Babs.”
Jim uses their distraction to call for backup. He’s got two dozen officers on standby. Gives the signal and reaches for his gun. Oswald kicks it out of his hands.
“Oh no old friend, I’m afraid that won’t do.”
Jim glares up at him as Ed and Barbara hold him down. “I don’t understand you, I was your fri-”
“Were you really my friend, Jim? Or was I just convenient for you? I was yours but you were never mine not once. I was just an emotional receptacle, a place to put your sorrow and rage.”
Ed presses him down further into the stone floor and whispers in his ear. “You had it all and you threw it all away. You’re such a fool to lose the best thing that ever happened to you.”
“Barbara is not the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“I wasn’t talking about her.”
The doors burst open and the GCPD storms in. They have them surrounded. Jim smiles and Barbara yanks him up against her, holding a knife to his throat. “Hubby and I are going away together. Knock em dead, boys.”
She drags him out of the warehouse amid gunfire and Ed pulls Oswald down behind crates. Duck and covers his body with his own. Oswald shoves him out of the way and takes fire.
Ed pulls a remote switch out of his pocket and presents it to him. Oswald pushes his button.
The room explodes and glass rains down soaking everything in blood and despair. Ed holds a bulletproof umbrella over their heads and holds him close. Wrapped up protectively.
The rest of the world falls to fire and fury and they laugh.He takes the umbrella from him and closes it. Turns the handle a certain way and a blade pops out. He sticks his pistol under his jacket and favors the knife. Ed re-loads his hunting rifle.
They look at each other and smile. Step into the warzone.
A-hunting they will go.