“Yeah? Well maybe I’d be better off without you!”
Those were the last words Oswald had spoken to Ed. It wasn’t anything completely out of the ordinary- they had been in their fair share of fights, and that probably wasn’t even the worst thing he had said to him in the past week. But still when Ed didn’t return home that night, Oswald began to worry. It wasn’t like Ed to disappear or to not speak his peace. In fact, he tended to have the opposite problem after they argued- following Oswald around, listing off 101 reasons why he was right and Oz was wrong- but not this time.
It had been six months now, and Ed was officially presumed to be dead or worse. With all the chaos in Gotham, there was very little anyone could keep track of. If someone went missing, you just had to pray to whatever power you believed in that you would receive a ransom note and your loved one would be returned home safely. Oswald wasn’t so lucky.
Oswald had every one of his people ruthlessly searching the city as well as himself. Six months of agony, of not knowing where his other half had gone. Suddenly the space beside him, forever occupied by Ed, even before he had wanted him to, felt empty and cold. A space he had never quite taken notice of. Its funny how we never think of puzzles as pieces until we can’t find their match.
And to think..that there was a time that Oswald wouldn’t have risked it all for him. There was a time where Eddie was Edward Nashton and Oz was Oswald Cobblepot, not ‘Oswald and Ed’. He often wondered when that happened. He and Ed had gotten closer recently- it was a relief for both when the finally set aside their past and decided to make amends. Ed still didn’t reciprocate the same feelings that Oswald had for him, but just having him by his side again was more than Oswald could ever ask. He would rather not look a gift horse in the mouth if it could be avoided; the world can be a dark, cruel place and to find someone you love whom you can share it with is a miracle in and of itself, especially for people like them. But often he still wondered: when had they become a set piece? Never one without the other, never Oswald without his Ed.
The world around him felt so much emptier without Ed in it. Little moments throughout the day would remind him of his friend, making the space left behind by him feel larger as the days passed. A single day didn’t go by where he didn’t see something that reminded him. Sometimes he caught himself talking aloud to Ed before suddenly remembering that he was no longer there.
Everything was still just the way it had been before he left, untouched. His bowler hat sat on the edge of the desk, a ring of dust forming around its shape. Occasionally Oswald would stop to brush it off, attempting to keep it pristine in the case of Ed’s return, always returning it to the same spot afterwards.
“He’s not coming back Oswald, its time to face the f-“
“You shut your goddamn mouth! I don’t remember asking for your opinion on the subject- and even if I had, what the hell would you know?”
And so this had become a pattern, people bringing up Ed it past tense, or trying to force Oswald to face the facts, only to be yelled at or aggressively escorted out of his sight. He saw the way people bowed their heads or avoided eye contact with him, almost as if they pitted him. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe these things himself- no, Oswald truly and honestly believed Ed was still alive- but the implication alone was enough to make him stumble. Was he doing enough to find Ed? What if Ed had been held captive this whole time? What if he was still alive right now but didn’t have much time left? What if- No. No he couldn’t think like that. Here he was devoting all of his time and resources into finding Ed and yet he was letting these people who knew nothing get under his skin. No Ed was alive, Ed was fine. He’ll waltz through those doors any day now with that stupid smug look on his face.
Restless days turned to night with still no sign of Ed. Oswald already didn’t get much sleep as is being the king of Gotham, but now even more so. It wasn’t unusual to see him pacing from room to room in his nightclothes with a scarce look upon his face. He stopped in the high-ceilinged parlour and sighed heavily, his fingers tracing the origami penguin which permanently resided on the coffee table.
“I would do anything to see you again Ed. I promise, whatever it is you’ve done or however you may feel about me, I can take it. I just need you to come home”
He had thrown out these words, to whom he wasn’t quite sure, most of the days that Ed was gone. No matter how desperate things seemed to be or how every other person in Gotham seemed to have put Ed into his metaphorically grave, he still waited patiently for his return.
“As you wish”
Oswald whipped around, wide-eyed at the sound of Ed’s voice. Ripped clothing hung loosely off his form as he inched closer to where Oswald was, a gun gripped tightly in his hand. Cuts and multicolored bruises adorned his face, choppy unwashed hair barely hiding his blank stare.
“Ed! Oh my god you’re alive!” He ran forward, not minding the gun that was still pointed unwavering at his head. “Everyone said you were dead, but I knew better. I knew you couldn’t be dead!” Ed continued to stand unresponsive as Oswald pulled him into a hug.
“Oh old friend, where have you been?!”
“I- um…” His voice came out scratchy and strained, as if speaking had suddenly felt unnatural to him. “I don’t know, Oswald, I mean I really don’t…I can’t-“ He stopped, silence permeating the air, only disrupted by the clattering of the gun hitting the floor.
“You don’t remember where you’ve been for the past six months?” The softness of Oswald’s own voice surprised him as he guided Ed to the couch, his hand hovering over the small of his back.
“C’mon let’s just sit, and uhh we won’t worry about that for now okay? When’s the last time you had something to eat? Can you remember that?”
A growing panicked look along with the quickening of Ed’s breathing informed him that he couldn’t.
“Okay, no no that’s okay Ed. I’ll have someone bring you something, just wait right there.” He attempted to get up off the couch before feeling a vice grip around on his arm.
“I’m just going to stick my head out the door right over there” he pointed to a hallway on the other side of the room with gold trimming around the doorframe, “you’ll still be able to see me, I won’t leave the room unless you want me to, okay?”
Ed nodded, giving a tight smile before slowly loosening his grip on Oswald’s arm. He stood up again, successfully making his way to the doorframe, peaking his head into the hall to bark an order that Ed couldn’t quite make out before turning on his heel and returning to the couch, not waiting for a response from whoever he was speaking to.
“Your limp…its gotten worse?” Oswald slowed at his mention of it. Of course Ed would notice. He couldn’t remember the past 6 months of his life or when the last time he ate was, but he noticed the second that there was something wrong with Oswald.
“Oh this old thing? It’s nothing, just needed a few little adjustments is all.” He patted Ed’s leg reassuringly. He couldn’t even imagine what Ed was going through. For someone who took so much pride in his intellect, to lose his mind yet again had to be terrifying. Oswald had been this cause for his fear once before, he didn’t intend on repeating that particular mistake again. Ed needed him right now, and he decided in that moment that he needed to be Ed’s anchor. Even if Ed didn’t love him, he needed him, and Oswald was okay with that. Ed was alive- that’s all that mattered.
His heart skipped a beat as he felt the sudden weight of Ed’s head upon his shoulder.
“You need to be more careful Oswald, I don’t know what I’d do without you”, he mumbled, his words slightly muffled by the material of Oswald’s jacket.
By the time his people had brought the food he had requested, Ed had already fallen into a peaceful sleep, his soft snores reminding Oswald of a house cat. All this time- all these months of searching every inch of the city, interrogating every suspicious character he came upon, and worrying himself sick (not that he would admit that last one to anyone)- and now here Ed was, leaning against Oz and sleeping soundly. He had so many questions: Where had Ed been? Was he really okay? Who was the cause of all of this? How did Ed find his way back to him? Would he ever recover the memories of the past 6 months?
It was for the best that he tabled those questions for a later day, at least until Ed felt more like himself. Carefully shuffling to the side, making sure not to wake Ed from what was probably the most sound sleep he had had in six months, Oswald grabbed a pillow from the other side of the couch, tucking it under Ed’s head while covering him with a soft throw blanket.
Without giving it much thought, he leant down and placed a chaste kiss upon Ed’s forehead.