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Ignorance is Bliss

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Ed trudged up the stairs in a daze. His head was spinning. There were so many thoughts and visions and memories flying through his mind as he tried desperately to cling to just one of them for more than a second.

“What's the last thing you remember doing together before Riddler went incommunicado?”

“I think we were going to do a heist?...I...I’m not sure. I—”

“My dad used to hit me.”

“Oh, Ed. I’m so sorry. I never knew that.”

“Looks like Nashton got his ass handed to him.”

“You really are your mother’s son. Your mother was a good-for-nothing, drug addicted whore. You are just like her! Stupid. Sick. Weak.

“I promise you, Edward, things will be better. I will make you whole.”

“A body! We saw a body!”

“...A body?...Was there something remarkable about it?”

“We are better off unencumbered.”

“He was hanging...from the rafters…”

“I doubt he’ll manage to choke out a word this morning.”

“I have to go.”

“Please, don’t. Please, Dad. Please.

“Ed? Wait, Ed, don’t leave! Just sit back down and we’ll—”

“You never answered me! How? How are you here?

“I told you, I’m here to protect you.”

“That’s not an answer!”

He reached the top of the stairs. Where was he? He didn’t recognize this building.

“If she saw you now, she’d kill herself all over again.”

“You aren’t thinking, Ed! There’s always a way out.”

He continued walking down the corridor anyway, too tired–distracted–to put much effort into deciphering where he was and why he was here.

“You think you want to die? Go ahead...But when you regret your decision as you suffocate on your own spite, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“So, tell me, can you keep a secret, Dad?

“There’s always a way out.”

“You were panicking. You were hurting. And the only reason I’m here is to save you from the pain. Harold caused you pain, and now he is gone.”

“You aren’t thinking, Ed!”

“Ed-Ed what are you doing?”

“Ed’s not here right now.”

“There’s always a way out.”

“Where is Ed?”

“There’s always a way out.”

“He’s...sleeping. I thought I’d take over, let him have a night off from the beatings. I was going to take it for him, but do you know what I realized?—”

“There’s always a way out.”

“There is no reason for me to get a beating when I can give one instead.”

“There’s always a way out.”

Edward knocked on the door in front of him. Why was he knocking? Where was he?

“The less of me you have, the harder I am to hold. What am I?”

“There’s always a way out.”

He knocked again. One, two, three.

“Your tone does not instill confidence.”

Knock, knock, knock. One, two, three.

“Trust me. The last time I saw Harold, the only thing he was suffocating on was his own incompetence.”

Knock, knock. One, two.

“There’s always a way out.”

Where was he?

“To plan B, then.”

Knock, knock, knock. One, two, three. Knock, Knock. One, two. Knock, knock, knock, knock—

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” echoed an irritated rasp from behind the door. Was it really echoing?

Where was he?

“There’s always a way out.”

The click of the lock.

Where was he?

“Why that sap feels a modicum of anything other than malice towards you is beyond me, but I don’t want to ruin our relationship so soon.”

The slow turn of the doorknob.

Where was he?

“There’s always a way out.”

 

“Riddler?” echoed a gravelly voice.

Ed was able to detect shock in the tone, despite its distant reverberations. He looked down through the warping haze.

“Jim?”

“What’s nowhere, but everywhere, except where something is?”

“Nothing.”

“Without fingers I point, without arms I strike, without feet I run. What am I?

“You’re a clock. I know it was you, Ed.”

“I was your friend.”

“Were you, Jim? Were you my friend? Or did you just pity me?”

“How about one last riddle, for old time’s sake?”

“What are you doing here, Riddler? What’s the game?” the Commissioner questioned apprehensively. Ed laughed. He didn’t know why he was laughing, but he was. He couldn’t stop.

Why was he here?

“There’s always a way out.”

“The less you have, the more they’re worth. To friends.”

Ah. So that’s why. He laughed even harder. Even after all this time, all they had done to each other, deep down he considered Jim a friend.

“Nygma? Are you alright?” Gordon sounded genuinely concerned. Was he getting farther away? Ed laughed even harder.

Why was he laughing?

“There’s always a way out.”

“Ed?”

Why was he laughing?

“There’s always a way out.”

“Ed, just calm down.”

“Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.’”

“Why don’t you come inside—”

“There’s always a way out.”

“—I’ll make you a cup of coffee—”

“The numbers are a little off here, but I think the sentiment still applies.”

“—we can sit down—”

“There’s always a way out.”

“—and talk about...this.”

Why was Jim being so nice? Ed didn’t move, couldn’t move.

Why was he laughing?

Oh. He wasn’t. He was crying.

“There’s always a way out.”

“Oh my God,” Ed whispered. The blood was rushing through his ears so loudly he couldn’t hear himself speak, “Oh no, oh no, no, no, no, no, no.”

“Ed, we should really sit you down.”

“No, Jim, I–Oh my God, I—”

“Well! That was fun.”

“I killed him.” The confession was barely audible. Barely distinguishable from the crazed mumbling pouring from the distraught man. “Oh my God, I killed him!” Ed screamed.

“There’s always a way out.”

“Who did you kill, Ed?”

“My–my—”

Was the floor tilting? Why was the floor tilting?

“I’ll have to try it again sometime.”

“I’ll have to try it again sometime.” He looked up at Jim with wide, glassy eyes.

“What do you mean? Who did you kill?”

“Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. The numbers were wrong, but the sentiment was still applicable.”

“Ed?”

“My mother was German. Did I ever tell you that?” His eyes were glazed over. “He knew he wouldn’t keep a secret, so he had to die.”

“Who, Ed?”

“Which one?”

“What?”

“Which he?”
Before Jim could formulate an answer, Ed’s mind switched tracks again.
“My mother was a good-for-nothing, drug addicted whore. Just like me.”

Why was the floor tilting?

“There’s always a way out.”

The room was spinning too.

“One of us had to die. I chose me, but he chose him. He won.”

“Who did you kill, Ed?” The question was slow, every syllable enunciated, as Jim grabbed Ed’s arm and looked him in the eyes.

“Dad.”

“There’s always a way out.”

Why was the room spinning?

“There’s always a way out.”

Why was the floor tilting?

“There’s always a way out.”

Why did everything go black?

“There’s always a way out...It was the only way out.”

Ed’s unconscious body plummeted to the ground.