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Forged in Fire: A Tale of Two Penguins

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Chapter 1

 

It was the worst storm Gotham had seen in years.

The streets were running with water as the rain came down relentlessly and the skies flashed with forks of lightning that lit the skies as thunder rolled. The river was wild and churning, the wind was howling. A bolt of lightning struck the dried up pool at Gotham Zoo, where the old, empty Penguin enclosure used to be...

In the morning, the city was looking a real mess. Roof tiles and fence panels were gone thanks to the wind, here and there windows were cracked in the city centre where anything that wasn't tied down had been whipped up and the Gotham river had churned so hard it had thrown debris from its depths, trash and litter and mess would take days to clear up. News reports were already calling it the biggest storm in more than thirty years.

And amid the chaos by the river, among the debris washed in, was a strange figure dressed in dirty white clothing, he was face down and slumped awkwardly over rocks, as a black oily substance ran from his mouth. His body jerked, beady eyes set in deep shadowy pits snapped open, and he started to choke. He raised his arm and as his deformed hand with fingers fused like flippers, twitched and then slumped down again, he was spotted.

The workers cleaning up the river front called an ambulance, then they called the cops. And that was when Jim Gordon got involved. By the time he had called the hospital, he was told the unknown man had been exposed to a potentially fatal toxin that was unidentifiable. That was when the name Hugo Strange was mentioned, because no one else could help – and Jim considered all this information and then looked across his desk at Harvey. The two of them had both struggled to get to work that morning with debris and felled trees blocking routes thanks to the storm, and now this...

 

“Tell me again,” said Harvey as he drank his morning coffee, “This freak -”

“Don't,” Jim said as he shook his head, “The poor guy is in a real mess. All Gotham General could tell me was they had to search for a contact to reach Strange because what ever he's been exposed to, is not a known substance.”

“He's still a freak, from what you said... flippers for hands?”

Jim winced at the use of the word freak. From what he had heard, before Harvey had arrived and heard the word going around the GCPD – that everything from a sea monster to a part human creature had been washed up – the poor guy was poisoned, and on top of that, he was deformed.

“He's not a freak, Harvey. He's got deformities. The hospital said he would have been born with it – he's short, very fat, his spine is curved and apparently his internal organs are messed up too. His fingers are fused together like flippers. He's disabled, he's not a freak.”

Harvey unwrapped the hot dog he had bought on the way in and took a bite.

“Sounds like a freak to me.”

Jim shot him a look, then shook his head.

“He's probably not going to make it – for a doctor at the hospital to have him sent over to Strange is very worrying. How can they not be able to identify a toxin?”

Harvey shrugged.

“Jim,” he said, “Think about all the shit that goes into that river every day. The factories don't care, they dump everything in there.”

“But they can't identify it,” Jim repeated, “That doesn't make sense.”

Harvey drank his coffee and grabbed the rest of his hot dog.

“I guess we should pay a visit to Hugo Strange.”

Jim nodded in agreement. Strange had cleaned up his act these past few years, his days of creating monsters were over, these days he worked for the city, ironically one of his jobs was to ensure the toxins in the river didn't reach dangerous levels. Clearly, the victim had been exposed elsewhere. Jim could only hope Strange could identify the poison – because if he couldn't name it, they really did have a problem on their hands...

 

Oswald stood alone in the grounds of his family home, the mansion standing grand behind him as he leaned on his cane, he was wearing a dark suit and his hair was spiked and styled so well it was unaffected by the breeze that lingered after last night's terrible weather. He stood looking sadly at the tiny tree, snapped in half by the high winds. Ed had watched him from the window, and as he went out to join him, he shared Oswald's sorrow. That tree had been planted in memory of his late mother Gertrud, and overnight, it had been destroyed.

“Sorry,” he said, placing a hand on his shoulder as he joined him.

Oswald turned his head, forcing a smile as he looked into the eyes of Ed Nygma, who he still truly loved, despite the fact that Ed had not returned his love, had pushed him away, and what had followed, had almost destroyed their friendship. But the death of Isabella was in the past – and so were their criminal lives, too. The city war that had changed Gotham forever had changed everything. Now Ed was his business partner and together they ran the Iceberg Lounge, which was a highly successful club and still thriving to this day. Oswald was just over forty and had gained a little weight since the old days. He also wore a monocle, a legacy of a war injury that had seen him almost lose an eye. Through it all, the two of them had bonded stronger, closer. But not close enough for Oswald. He still kept a tiny flame alight in his heart for Ed, who never seemed to notice...

“I can plant another tree,” Oswald said, “I'm sure there is worse damage to this city of ours than a snapped sapling to worry about.”

The wind was whipping up again. Ed buttoned his dark green jacket.

“It's caused a real mess,” he agreed, “Worst storm in thirty years, the news report said. Oswald, would you like me to me help you plant another tree? I know how much this means to you.”

Oswald felt a flicker of hope rising in his heart, but as he turned to Ed and thanked him, he saw only deep friendship there. Of course it would never be more. Not after all the animosity that had passed between them over the years...

Ed was aching to wrap his arms around Oz and say he was so sorry about that little tree. But he couldn't. He felt as if his heart had been firmly been locked away from any possibility of love with Oswald, maybe it was the fact that he would always remember what he did to Isabella...It wasn't logical to live in the past, he knew that. But some things stayed the same. Some things in life just got... stuck. They never moved forward...

Ed looked over at the new house nearby, it had been build just over the border to Oswald's estate and there wasn't a thing he could do about it. The building was big and had been designed to look old and to fit in with its nearby neighbouring estate, and it was just standing there, empty and intriguing...

“I wonder what the new neighbours will be like?”

On hearing that question, Oswald glanced at the newly built property, and smiled.

“I don't care, Edward! They might be very nice people. If not, I plan to put up very high fences!”

Ed frowned as he looked at the house again.

“It's odd, there's not been a word about who bought the land... I asked one of the builders while the place was going up and he just shook his head and said he couldn't give out confidential information,”

“Let's hope it's someone respectable, then,” Oswald replied, “It's obviously someone who can afford a grand home and a select neighbourhood.”

The wind was picking up and still Oswald's hair didn't move, not a single, well styled and sprayed spike of it, and that made Ed smile.

“Let's go inside, Oz. It's too cold out here,” he said, and the two men walked back towards the house together.

 

Hugo Strange didn't have a secret location any more. He ran a medical practise and a private laboratory a short distance from the city, in a quiet, lonely area close to woodland. As Harvey rang the bell he and Jim exchanged a look, wondering what this case would turn up next. Life in Gotham wasn't like in the old days, but it was still the kind of city where a cop had to expect horrible, dark cases to land in their lap on a regular basis... Strange answered the door wearing a lab coat over his brown suit and he greeted them with a smile.

“Jim, it's been a long time,” he said, “And Detective Bullock... come with me, I have a fascinating case for you.”
Then he went back inside as Jim and Harvey exchanged a glance. Jim wasn't feeling too impressed as he followed Strange through the building and down a corridor towards his lab area. The fact that he had just referred to the man washed up from the river as fascinating was a stark reminder that the former monster maker clearly hadn't changed as much as he claimed, he didn't have compassion in his voice, fascinating had been said exactly as he meant it and no more...

When they went into a small room next to the lab, Harvey recalled what he had said about the guy being a freak and instantly regretted it. All he could do was stare at the grotesque little man who had a sheet draped up to his shoulders. Jim was staring too. He didn't mean to, but he had never seen anyone like this unfortunate person before:

His hair was dark with streaks of grey that fell to his shoulders. His neck was short, his spine was curved and his body was so rounded it was almost impossible to make out any kind of bone structure, but his face was deathly pale and his nose was freakishly long and pointed, his deep set eyes were surrounded by darkened shadows and his parted lips were dark, showing blackened gums and stained teeth. One of his arms rested above the cover and a flipper-like hand twitched as two lines ran from his arm, one drawing out toxin that was a shade of grey mixed with red, as the other fed in fluids.

“What happened to him?” it was all Jim could think to ask.

“What indeed,” said Strange, and he half smiled, “This truly is fascinating, Jim. You need to prepare yourself for quite a shock. The toxin he was exposed to does not exist – at least, not in our reality. I can not break it down to any one component I could name.”

Jim and Harvey exchanged a puzzled glance.

“Obviously it does exist, or he wouldn't be poisoned!” Harvey exclaimed.

Strange continued:

“And the mystery deepens. He was talking once I flushed most of the toxin from his body – what he said is quite astonishing. He claims to be a Cobblepot. He also claims to be known as Penguin. Having knowledge of Oswald's history, I asked him about his background. He said his parents were Esther and Tucker Cobblepot. They do not exist anywhere on record, detectives. I asked him where he was from and he told me Gotham. I showed him a picture of the city skyline and he informed me that was not Gotham City – at least, not as he knows it. As he has no links to the man we know as Penguin, I ran his DNA through the city data base and astonishingly, he has similarities in his DNA that match to Oswald. Which means he is either a long lost relative, or perhaps, we are looking at some kind of transportation from an alternate universe.”

Jim stared at him. Harvey laughed.

“That's the craziest theory I ever heard, Strange!” said Harvey.

Strange did not laugh. He looked Harvey in the eye as he continued, “This man who claims to be known as Penguin – in his reality – said he tried and failed to run for mayor of Gotham. He also said he became engaged in criminal activities that were stopped by Batman. His last memory is falling into a pool of toxic water, full of toxins that cannot be identified in our reality. Also there was a storm last night, and lightning hit the old Gotham Zoo, the pool in the penguin enclosure, to be precise – the location where he claims to have sunk in toxic water. Yet in our reality, the zoo has been closed for many years and the pool he is referring to is bone dry. Now tell me, is my theory so unbelievable?”

It was so unbelievable it might just be true, Jim thought, then he looked to the unconscious man and back at Strange once more.

“How come his DNA shows a link to Oswald?”

“Ruling out the possibility that he is a relative, I can only assume that in another reality, there is a city called Gotham that also has a crime fighter named Batman – but in that reality, their Mr Penguin is very different to ours.”

Jim didn't want to think about other realities or dimensions. His concern lie with the deformed, injured man who was unconscious.

“So he could be linked to Oswald.”

“Perhaps,”Strange replied, “But he is most unusual. As he claims to have attempted to commit crimes in his reality, I'm sure you will agree the authorities would most likely put him in Arkham, even if only on the basis that he sounds quite insane. How ever, it is clear that the toxins he was exposed to have affected him. He was close to death when he was found and I am limited in my ability to treat this man. I can not say how long he has to live or what his life will be like with the remains of this toxic substance in his body. And as he is so....unusual, he is better off staying here with me, where I can care for him and study him.”

Jim heard alarm bells going off inside his head. So, Strange hadn't quite left his days of human experiments behind him... This poor soul wouldn't stand a chance. Strange probably wanted to dissect him...

“Did he give you any more information about his background?” Jim asked.

“No, because then he panicked and attempted to strangle me. He demanded I let him go. I had to sedate him.”

Jim and Harvey exchanged a glance. Harvey rubbed the back of his neck, feeling a prickly chill. It was the look he had just seen in Jim's eyes that had done it, the one that said, This is Hugo Strange. We can't leave this man in his care, he's still a monster maker under the surface...

“Thank you for your time,” Jim said, and Strange shot him a look of surprise.

“Don't you want to close this case, Jim? I realise my theories may sound wild but under the circumstances -”

“My next course of action,” Jim said as a warning tone crept into his voice, “Is to contact his likely next of kin – Oswald. And then we will back, Strange. You won't be keeping this man for any kind of study. He's clearly got health issues, he's vulnerable and he needs proper care. I'm hoping Oswald will be able to take him in. If not, I'll personally arrange for his care at Gotham General. You've removed most of the toxins?”

Strange glared at him, feeling an opportunity to study a real freak slip through his fingers.

“Most, but not all. The remainder will slowly kill him over time – how long, I can't say. I can't cure something I can't identify, Jim. But perhaps his condition can be improved for a short while - when the need arises - by blood transfusion. Oswald may be able to help him.”

“Be sure to pass that information on to Gotham General,” Jim replied, then he glanced at Harvey, “Let's go, we need to pay Oswald a visit.”

As they reached the door, Jim turned back, looking hard at Strange.

“If anything happens to this man before we return, I'll hold you responsible,” he warned, and then they left. Strange had smiled politely, but now his smile vanished as he looked at the deformed man on the bed and shook his head.

“You would have been a fascinating opportunity for study,” he said with sincere regret.

 

Back at the Van Dahl mansion, the last thing Oswald or Ed had expected was a visit from the cops. It had a been a few years since they had indulged in criminal activity, and as the doorbell rang Ed was first to look out the window, and he turned sharply to Oswald in alarm.

“Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock are here. We haven't done anything wrong!”

Anger flashed in Oswald's eyes.

“Leave this to me, Ed. Thankfully my legally generated wealth is more than enough to hire a good lawyer, should the need arise!”

Oswald wrenched open the door.

Jim and Harvey stood there just looking at him, then as Ed joined Oswald, it suddenly occurred to him that if this was a police matter, it was nothing to do with old crimes resurfacing... they both had a sombre look in their eyes as if they were about to break bad news.

“Hi Oswald,” Jim said, “This is an official matter, but neither of you are in trouble. I have some news and I'm afraid this will be quite a shock. Can we come in?”

This was certainly not the response Oswald had been expecting.

“Yes, you may,” he replied, opening the door wider, “And please, start talking now – what the hell is going on, Jim?”

“You need to sit down for this – both of you,” Jim replied.

“No, I do not!” Oswald said as he led the way down the hall, then they reached the front room.

“You might want to sit down,” Jim reminded him.

Oswald stood there defiantly next to the fireplace, looking at him intently.

“I prefer to stand, thank you Jim. What's this about?”

“You might wish you'd taken a seat,” Harvey warned him, “And you might want to think about a strong drink too, this really will be a shock.”

A sound cut through the air. It was a bottle connecting with a glass, quickly. Ed was hastily pouring a drink for Oswald, expecting bad news. He joined him at the fireplace, set the drink on a table then stood beside his closest friend.

“I really can't imagine what kind of news you have to break,” Ed told them, “So I'm sure what ever you have to say, won't be the shock you imagine.”

It was Jim who started to explain.

“This morning a man was found washed up after the storm. He was suffering from poisoning caused an unidentifiable toxin. It was so hard to treat, he had to be referred to Hugo Strange. He claims his name is Cobblepot, but he seems to have no family link to you or your late mother Gertrud, yet his DNA suggests similarity, indicating you seem to be related.”

“Or you could go with the wild theory of Hugo Strange,” added Harvey, “who says the guy could be from some kind of parallel universe, because he mentioned a Gotham City that isn't this one, and back there, he claims his name is Penguin.”

Oswald's eyes widened. Ed stared at the two detectives. Oswald reached for that drink, deciding he did need it after all.

“Let me get this right...” Oswald drank from the glass, then leaned on his cane as he paced the floor and turned back to Jim and Harvey, “A stranger is claiming to be a relative of mine -”

“No,” Jim cut in, “He told Strange about a city like this one – he claims his last memory was falling into toxic water in Gotham Zoo. This would also be the location of the lighting strike last night. Maybe it's a coincidence, but after everything I've seen happen in this city, my mind is wide open to all possibilities.”

“And he calls himself Penguin?” Oswald said, “Clearly this man is fraud, Jim. Who ever he really is, he's trying to find a way into my home and my wealth. I think we should consider this conversation closed.”

“He's deformed,” Jim added, “And Strange can't entirely rid his body of the toxins. He doesn't know how long he has to live.”

Oswald looked down at the floor, trying to resist this obvious attempt to tug at his heartstrings. Then he looked back at Jim coldly.

“This stranger is nothing to do with me!”

“There is a similarity in your DNA. He could be a relative or he could be from another time and place, as crazy as that sounds. If he is, where he comes from, he IS Penguin.”

Ed spoke up, looking to Oswald.

“What Jim said maybe far fetched but it's not impossible. The theory of parallel worlds has been around for a long time. Or... maybe he is a relative you never knew about.”

“From another city called Gotham?” Oswald said, looking at him in confusion, “No, this isn't possible!”

Jim spoke again.

“Oswald, you're his only possible link to anyone in this city. He's got disabilities, he's been poisoned and he's vulnerable.”

“And if Strange keeps hold of him, he'll end up being dissected and put into many little jars,” Harvey added, “Especially his flipper hands. I can see Strange putting those on display, probably in his front room.”

Oswald's eyes widened.

“What...what did you say about his hands?”

“His fingers are fused together. He seems to have been born with many defects. If you can't offer him somewhere to go, he will wind up in Arkham simply because he's a freak,” Jim added, hoping the use of that word he so disliked might prick Oswald's conscience, “And eventually, he will die there. I'm not asking you to take him in, no one can force you to do that. But would you please come and see him, just have a little bit of compassion and see this guy?”

Oswald opened his mouth to speak but Ed placed a hand on his shoulder, then spoke up first.

“Yes, of course we will!” he said.

Oswald turned his head and looked up at him.

“We don't even know him -”

“But there's some sort of link to you,” Ed reminded him, “Jim's right, we should see him. I'll come with you, Oswald.”

“I really appreciate this,” Jim added.

Oswald reluctantly looked from Jim to Harvey, then nodded.

“Very well, I shall see this man who claims to have a link to me...Let's get this over with!”

 

It had been a few years since Ed or Oswald had been in the back of a car driven by members of the GCPD, but memories of the old days were the last thing on both their minds as they made the journey across the city. Oswald glanced uneasily at Ed, who responded by giving his arm a gentle, reassuring pat. It was the smallest gestures that went straight to his heart, Ed was so good at those... Oswald reflected on that thought briefly, and then after travelling in silence for another thirty minutes, they arrived at their destination.

After leaving the car and making their way up to the door, as Jim rang the bell he exchanged a glance with Harvey. They were both silently sharing the same thought:

If Strange said his patient was dead, he would be in Blackgate within the hour. It had been frighteningly clear he had wanted to keep hold of his unusual patient, and knowing Strange of old, it wasn't hard to guess why...

 

Hugo Strange answered the door at once, and a brief flicker of surprise registered on his face to see Oswald had actually bothered to show up. Ed was standing beside him, and he was looking concerned.

“Oswald,” said Strange, “I take it the situation has been explained?”

He pushed past him and limped inside.

“Just show me this fraudster who claims to be a Cobblepot!” he snapped.

Strange led the way. Ed hurried alongside Oswald, who was limping quickly as a look of annoyance came to his eyes. He wanted this over with. He didn't believe he could possibly have any connection to this odd man washed up from the river...

Then Strange opened up a door and Oswald went inside, coldly looking down at the man on the bed. His expression changed around the same time Ed joined him.

Oh no... oh god no...” Ed said quietly, taking in the sight of the small, fat, deformed man with flipper-like hands.

Oswald took in a deep breath and leaned on his cane, taking a few short steps to his bedside, where he stood and looked down at him.

“No,” he stated, shaking his head, “This... creature can't be a Cobblepot.”

“He told me his parents were Esther and Tucker Cobblepot,” said Strange.

Oswald shook his head again.

“Never heard of them. As you know, my real family name is Kapelput. No, no, he's nothing to do with me, I am very sorry, I can't help you.”

Oswald!”

Hearing the tone of Ed's voice stung a little as he guessed Ed didn't approve of the way he had turned his back on such an unfortunate person, but as he had said, it was nothing to do with him. Oswald limped quickly out of the room.

“I should speak to the detectives about making some kind of provision for this gentleman,” Strange added.

Ed had stepped forward, looking down at the odd man who lay in the bed with his eyes closed. He turned his head, glaring at Strange.

“At least you don't get a chance to make him suffer!” he snapped.

As Strange left, Ed studied the face of the man who claimed to be called Penguin, in another Gotham City. He took a good look at his deep set eyes and his long, sharp nose, and quietly concluded this Penguin actually looked like a human penguin... Then he gave a low groan and breathed out slowly. His beady eyes snapped open and he gave a gasp.

That man is trying to kill me!” he said weakly.

His voice was deep and rough and he was nothing like the man this city knew as Penguin, nothing like him at all.. And yet, as he looked into his eyes, Ed wondered: Could there be another Gotham City somewhere? If such a thing as a parallel dimension existed perhaps in that city, this man was their Penguin...

“Professor Strange took most of the toxins out of your body, “ Ed said cautiously, “He's not trying to kill you. And you won't be staying here much longer, don't worry...”

He moved far quicker than Ed expected, as he gasped in alarm, feeling the grip of his flipper as it closed about his hand.

This is not my city!” he gasped, “I don't belong here!”

Then as intensity turned to fear, he gave a quiet sob as he gave into his exhaustion and laid back against his pillow. He was still clinging to Ed's hand, sobbing softly. And the feel of that deformed hand was surprisingly human, soft and warm - and looking into his eyes was like looking into the eyes of a wounded animal who had grown to hate humanity after much pain and rejection. Ed caught his breath as he felt a deep ache in his heart at the thought of what this man had been through in life. One look in his eyes was all it had taken to see something much like what was reflected in the eyes of the Gotham Monsters created by Strange back in the old days – outcast, unwanted, feared, and ultimately, hated...

“I don't know what to call you,” he said, as his other hand closed warmly about his flipper, “In this city called Gotham, the gentleman you just briefly met... his name is Oswald Cobblepot, and in his former days as a criminal, he was known as Penguin. Obviously, he finds it a little hard to understand why the two of you would share the same name,” Ed forced a smile, “But I think maybe I should call you Penguin, would you like that?”

He nodded, blinking away tears.

“I am not as helpless as I seem,” he said darkly, “I caused much destruction back in Gotham! Until the Batman stopped me... then I lost everything!”

“What's the last thing you remember?” he asked.

Penguin blinked his dark, beady eyes.

“I was drowning, in a toxic pool of water... Why am I not dead?”

Ed shook his head.

“I don't know,” he said softly, and then he patted his flipper and let go, “But you should get some rest now. I'm going to talk to Oswald and see what I can do.”

Wait.”

Ed turned back.

“What's your name?” Penguin asked.

“Edward Nygma. Call me Ed.”

He managed a faint smile.

“Thanks, Ed,” he said quietly, then he closed his eyes again.

As Ed left the room, he felt overwhelmed with pity for the deformed man who called himself Penguin. He had never seen such terrible birth defects in another human being and it surprised him how moved he was by it, and how determined he felt to try and make Oswald change his mind...

 

Ed joined Oswald in the corridor outside, as Jim and Harvey waited a short distance away. Ed glanced at the two cops and then stepped closer to Oswald.

“He says his name is Penguin and he's from another city called Gotham. I realise you have no family link to this man but the fact that he has said this means there's something, somewhere - maybe we can't explain it, but I feel it! We can't turn our back on him, Oswald!”

Oswald glared at him in defiance.

“What are you suggesting, Ed? That we bring a stranger into our home?”

Ed looked hard at him.

“Yes!” he said, then to Oswald's surprise, Ed blinked away tears, “Oswald, I've never seen anyone like that poor guy. I never knew I could pity someone that much... his hands, his body, his face... Please!”

Oswald caught his breath. Ed had just grabbed his hand as he looked pleadingly into his eyes, and that touch had gone straight to the heart that ached for him.

“Please,”Ed said again, “He's got some kind of link to you, don't you see that? Maybe Strange is right, maybe there is another Gotham somewhere and in that city, he's Penguin. So maybe we should take him in.”

“Ed...” Oswald slowly shook his head, “I realise you feel compassion for that unfortunate...creature -”

“Stop calling him that, he's a person! You walk around with a limp and call yourself a freak for that, but you look at him and see a true freak and you have to look away?”

Oswald stared at him. Ed had made a valid point.

“I have never claimed to be remotely attractive or desirable, Ed.”

That's because you won't let yourself see what others see!”

Oswald's face flushed.

“And that has nothing to do with this situation! We can't take him in. We don't know him, and he's been exposed to poison that Strange can't identify or cure.”

Ed's gaze softened.

“He's got terrible deformities. His life must have been hell, too – constant rejection and bullying, I could see it in his eyes. And Strange said he doesn't know how long he's got left. He will eventually die from that substance he was exposed to, Oswald! I just want to make his last days probably better than the rest of his life has been. I've never felt such sympathy for anyone. I pity him. I can't turn my back and leave him to be sent to Arkham, or spend his last days in a lonely room in the hospital with no one to come and visit or care if he lives or dies!”

As Ed fell silent Oswald looked hard at him, turning over all that he had said.

“Wiat there,” he replied, then he turned away and limped back towards the open door.

“What are you doing?” Ed asked.

“Deciding,” Oswald said quietly, then he went inside and hobbled over to the bed and looked down at the freaky stranger who claimed his name was Penguin.

 

“Are you awake, Mr Penguin?” Oswald asked quietly.

Penguin's eyes snapped open.

“No,” he said weakly, as his gruff voice took on a tone of sarcasm, “I'm practising to die! What do you want now?”

Oswald leaned closer, looking coldly into his eyes.

“You claim to have a life that shares similarities with my own. If this is true, I feel obliged to offer you some help. If I find out you are lying, you will pay!”

Penguin raised his flipper and caught his wrist.

I was almost mayor of Gotham.”

Oswald's eyes widened.

“I was mayor, a few years back...” his voice had become hushed.

As Penguin had grasped his wrist, Oswald had got the oddest feeling - a strange connection between them, almost like they could have been brothers... He pulled his hand away sharply.

“I will talk to Strange about making alternative arrangements for you,” he said, “You will be able to leave this place as soon as you are feeling stronger.”

Penguin looked up at him in confusion.

“This isn't my city, I'm far from home. I have nowhere to go!”

Oswald stepped back.

“You will stay at my family home.”

Penguin blinked.

“Thank you, Mr Cobblepot -”

“Oswald,” he replied, “You may call me Oswald, Mr...Penguin.”

Then he turned away and walked quickly out of the room, closing the door behind him.

 

Ed was still waiting outside, and one look told Oswald that Ed was still visibly moved by the plight of the Penguin Man.

“Well?” he asked, “Will you reconsider?”

“I told him he can stay with us -”

Thank you!”

“I didn't say it was a permanent arrangement,” Oswald added, then he limped off up the corridor to speak with Jim and Harvey. Hugo Strange saw them talking and came over at once.

“He will be staying with me – for now,” Ed heard Oswald say, and he started to smile as he joined them.

“The sooner the better,” Ed added.

“He will be strong enough to leave tonight,” Strange replied, “But please remember the effects of the toxins will slowly return, eventually. I can't cure what I can't identify. And he will need a lot of rest.”

“I'll arrange transport tonight,” Jim said, looking at Strange as he cast a glance that was a silent reminder he had not forgotten what he had done back in the old days. He agreed with Ed on this, the sooner this patient was out of his care, the better...

Oswald was already heading for the way out, and as he hurried off, Ed caught up with him just as he opened up the door and stepped outside.

“What made you change your mind?”

“Because we have some kind of link, and that intrigues me,” Oswald replied, limping towards Jim's car, then he leaned against it as he waited for Jim and Harvey to leave the building and join them.

“We're doing the right thing,” Ed agreed, “He has too much in common with you, the name, the coincidences, the similarity with the DNA - we couldn't walk away from this.”

Oswald looked up at him as his pale eyes sparkled and a smile came to his face. As he gave his answer, he clarified the situation swiftly:

“My connection to this man is vague and unproven. And we are not doing anything, Ed. You wanted to do this. He's your responsibility, not mine!”