'I dreamed that I was in a white abyss of glowing light, and the light became fire and I rose from it not as Magpie but as a phoenix from the ashes. I opened up my wings and I flew, and I saw the wreckage of the city – my beloved home, a smoking, war torn ruin. And that was when I knew I saw my destiny. I knew I would take that wrecked city and turn it into something beautiful. I would be a queen without her king – but I wouldn't settle for a mere kingdom. I would build an empire... I knew I could do this. And when I felt broken inside, I knew I would look into the eyes of my son and see his father looking back at me, and that was all I would need to carry on. Nothing would stop me, I was going to hold a big, shiny jewel in the palm of my hand – that jewel was the city of Gotham!' ~ Magpie.
Ten years before:
The poor girl was on the floor bleeding in an underground room filled with stolen treasure. Selina had started to think of that treasure as ours instead of Oswald's, and Magpie's attempt at theft the first time around had filled her with rage. But as she stood there looking down at a girl no older than twenty, pale even beneath her white face paint as the life drained out of her and she clutched at her bleeding gut, Selina felt a huge change of heart about the whole situation.
“Don't kill her.”
Oswald looked at her sharply, his gun pointed at Magpie as a cold look of pure murderous rage burned in his eyes. He was about to say, Bang bang, and shoot her in the head. But Selina's hand was on his wrist, urging him to lower the weapon as she started to speak.
“She was just a street kid like me – and she's got a belly full of buckshot, that's enough punishment, look at her!”
Oswald's eyes reflected cold rage as he limped closer, lowering the gun as looked down at her.
“She stole from me,” his voice was edged with ice as he glared down at the thief, “No one steals from Penguin! What do you think it would do to my reputation if I let her live – why should I let her live?”
Magpie's gloved hands were clutching at the wound to her belly, blood flowed out and ran to the floor as he she looked up him, dragging in a sharp breath as she pleaded for her life.
“Please don't kill me, please, Penguin...” she raised a bloody hand, reaching out to him as he stepped back to avoid the mess. Her gaze was locked on his as a tear ran from her eye, making her pale face paint run as white ran into black streaks and she gave a weak sob.
“Let her live,” Selina said quietly, “Look at her, Oswald – she's no threat to you now. And she might be useful, she's a skilled thief. She could steal for you.”
That suggestion made his grip on the gun loosen as he glanced at her.
“There's nothing left worth stealing. I've picked the city clean.”
“There's always something out there worth stealing, she might be useful,” Selina reminded him.
“I won't take the shiny things...Let me fly away...Set me free...” Magpie's voice was weak as she gave another sob and clutched harder at her wounded body.
Oswald watched as more blood ran from her wound, her slender body shuddered as she gave a weak whine of pain and then took a gasp. She looked up at him, eyes wide and pleading as he suddenly wondered if he had stayed too long in this isolated city, maybe it was making him go soft or crazy – but the thought had just occurred to him that she was so fragile and helpless now. He looked away, giving a heavy sigh as he made his choice.
“Take her upstairs and fetch a doctor.”
The spark of victory he saw in Selina's eyes was soon snuffed out as his expression hardened and he spoke again.
“And you can carry her out of here, I'm not getting blood on a good suit!”
Then he turned and limped away. Selina leaned over Magpie and reached for her.
“It's your lucky day,” she said, “Well, it might be – if you survive.”
Then she lifted her into her arms as Magpie gave a cry of pain and more blood flowed from the wound, dripping to the floor. As she turned to carry her out, Magpie was losing consciousness. She saw the treasure in a blur all around her, so many shiny things all out of her reach, and then she thought she saw scattered rubies shimmering on the floor. She realised it was actually her own blood just before she passed out.
A short while later as her screams echoed about the high and wide rooms of marble, Oswald limped stiffly towards Selina as she waited outside the upstairs room where a doctor was tending to Magpie's wounds.
“Doesn't that doctor have anything for pain?” he complained.
“No!” Selina reminded him sharply, “The city is cut off from the mainland, supplies are low everywhere. He's pulling that buckshot out of her without anaesthesia!”
As she screamed again from the room beyond, Oswald turned to the doorway, his expression one of anguish, then he looked back at Selina with desperation in his gaze.
“He must have something for pain, anything!”
Selina's eyes widened.
“Oh wow, you actually give a shit about that girl! So you do have a heart!”
Oswald briefly closed his eyes, drawing in a slow breath as he tried to contain his temper, then he snapped his eyes open and glared at Selina.
“Not for her, for me!” he said sharply, “Her yelling is giving me a headache!”
Magpie screamed again, then fell silent. Oswald breathed a relieved sigh.
“Peace at last!”
Selina looked at him in alarm, then hurried into the nearby room where a doctor was using bloody instruments and the sheets on the bed were stained scarlet. Oswald waited outside, savouring the silence. Selina left the room and rejoined him.
“Thankfully, she's still alive. She passed out.”
Oswald glanced to the open doorway but made no attempt to look inside, instead he turned to Selina as that same shade of ice reflected in his eyes that had been present since he had found the thief bleeding on the floor of his treasure chamber.
“As soon as she can be moved, I want her out of here!”
Selina shot him a look of anger, and it was only the thought of how much his stolen treasure was worth that stopped her from saying what she really thought of him – Barbara wanted him dead for killing Tabby. Personally, Selina didn't share her hatred of Oswald, she understood why he had stabbed Tabby, it was ultimate revenge long overdue for the murder of his mother. Now the city was closed off there were no rules, only personal moral codes which in these changing times were not much to rely on, considering those who thrived in this situation were criminals...
“As soon as she can be moved, you can be sure I'll get her out of here!” Selina said coldly, “And if anything happens to her while she's under your roof, I know who to blame!”
“I agreed to let her live!” Oswald said, looking hard at Selina as his eyes reflected Arctic ice, “If she dies now, it's because of the blood loss and that won't be my fault!”
“But you set the trap for her!”
He didn't match her anger as he pulled back his rage, he understood why Selina wanted Magpie to live – they had both started out as street kids. They were not friends, but coming from the same background made her perceive some kind of bond with the girl. Oswald didn't see it that way. She had stolen from him, and like anyone else who dared to steal from Penguin, she deserved to die. But he had changed his mind, and he wasn't going to go back on that decision now.
“I am a gentleman, a man of my word,” he reminded her, “I said I would spare her, and she's still breathing. If she stops breathing before you return, it won't be my fault, it certainly won't be due to my actions!”
Selina looked back at him, deciding she could argue about this blame all day and it wouldn't make a difference - Oswald had his take on the situation, and that was final.
“I'll be back at the end of the week,” she told him, “And when I return, Magpie had better be okay - or you'll have me to answer to!”
Oswald forced a tight smile.
“Goodbye, Selina,” he said, and it sounded more like fuck off.
She walked away without a backwards glance. Oswald limped closer to the open doorway. The bedroom was a mess as the doctor packed away bloody instruments. Magpie was sprawled on the bed, a thick bandage wrapped about her tiny waist and covering all the way down to her hips. Bloody sheets were on the floor, the mattress was bare and she was just lying there like a broken doll, her face ashen, this time not from the face paint – that had long since been stripped away first by tears and then by sweat, she looked pale as death and her chest rose and fell slowly, her eyes were closed and her lips were parted. Her white hair fanned out around her, almost the same shade as her pale flesh. He entered the room as the doctor was leaving, and assured him he would be rewarded handsomely for his services, and left that payment in the hands of his staff as the doctor made his way out.
Oswald reached the bed and looked down at Magpie, then he kicked aside her bloody, discarded clothing, pushing it towards the pile of blood stained sheets. Olga would have a great deal of laundry to do, and she wouldn't be happy about the mess... As he stood there he gave a sigh, then turned away and limped stiffly to the foot of the bed, opened up a storage box and took out a blanket. Again he wondered if this crazy city was messing with his mind, making him go soft – or perhaps it was just that his mother had raised a gentleman, that was the most likely reason, he decided, as he placed the blanket on the bed, covering Magpie up to her shoulders, because all of her clothing had been soaked in blood and had to be removed, and he wasn't going to leave her lying there naked. He turned away from the bed.
“Who the hell is that?”
Ed was standing there in the doorway. He looked to Magpie, still unconscious beneath the blanket, then back at Oswald as his eyes reflected confusion.
“A jewel thief - Magpie. She walked into my trap, I was going to put a bullet in her skull but Selina persuaded me to show mercy.”
“You let her live?”
“Yes, Ed, and she's gone as soon as she's able to walk. She's not my problem – Selina's coming back for her.”
Ed stood there, his gaze shifting from Magpie to Oswald.
“And who will take care of her while she's here? Because I've got more than enough to do building a submarine - on my own!”
Oswald's eyes flashed with indignation. Ed's heart skipped a tiny beat. Yes, it was true that Oswald had supplied everything he needed and they had gone over this issue many times – Oswald left him to do all the work, even though he denied it – but Ed didn't mind, not really. Love had been growing in his heart for a long time, a deep fondness for Oswald that had seen the two of them switch from enemies to allies to friends who needed one another in these troubled times. And maybe it had taken the world going to hell for him to realise how he really felt about his short, spiky-haired companion who dressed to the nines and walked with a limp. Maybe, when the time was right, he would tell him how he felt. When he was ready. Some day, when this city wasn't a war zone and they could think about a future...
“I've done more than enough to help you with the sub!” Oswald protested.
Ed couldn't help but smile. Oswald just didn't know how warmly his heart was melting, how he wanted to reach for him and shut him up with an unexpected kiss. But not yet. Not while they had to focus all their energy on getting out of this city. Not until he was ready to summon the courage to reveal the truth in his heart and hope that after all these years Oswald still felt the same...He had seen the look in his eyes, seen such depth of fondness there, warmth that came from old ties that would never be broken. Theirs was a very old story now, bonded unbreakable as they stood together, surviving in this war zone city. And after all this, if Oswald said he didn't love him, Ed knew he would feel crushed. So he put it off and kept on putting it off, hoping he wouldn't wait until it was too late, because theses days, life was very fragile - or maybe he had just started to think about how precious life was. How precious Ozzy was to him...
“I'm not going to quarrel over it,” Ed replied with a smile, “I'm busy with the sub, and Olga's busy keeping this place clean, and she cooks for you, too. She's got no time to look after Magpie. I guess you will have to do it!”
Then still with a smile on his face, Ed walked away as Oswald stood there, eyes wide as his jaw dropped. He looked back at Magpie, then to the door, but Ed was gone now, leaving him to do what, look after Magpie by himself?
“I don't know what to do!” he protested.
Then he had company as Edward the bulldog trotted in and sat at his feet, looking up at him. Oswald looked fondly down at his dog.
“I bet you'd help Daddy if you could, wouldn't you, Edward?”
The dog got up and trotted out the door again.
“Is that a no?” he asked as the dog trotted off, heading for the softness of his very regal dog bed.
Oswald looked back at Magpie and gave a heavy sigh. She was still on her back, the covers had shifted slightly as she had stirred, pushing back the blanket as her hand rested on the outside of it, the edge was folded down exposing the curve of her breast and Oswald gently took hold of the blanket and covered her once more. She drew in a slow breath, heavy eyes half opened and through hazy vision she looked up to see him standing over her, as she saw his spiked hair and the cut of his dark suit, she remembered his name.
“Penguin...” she murmured, “I saw you first...” she struggled to focus as she laughed weakly, “You are a handsome devil... then, bang bang... I called her Charlotte...you have such pretty things...” she was breaking into a sweat as she turned her head, pain registering on her face for a brief moment, “Let me go!”
He gave a soft gasp as her hand reached for him, closing about his wrist.
“Let me fly away...” she whispered.
“Go to sleep,” Oswald said in a hushed voice, and as he pulled away from her weak grip her hand fell back to the blanket as she closed her eyes, gave a sigh and slipped back into unconsciousness as Oswald stood there looking down at her, wondering what the hell he was supposed to do to take care of her. He didn't know her. She had stolen from him and deserved everything she got. And he knew nothing about nursing an injured person... Then as he watched her sleeping, he thought on what she had just said, as he recalled sneaking up on her while her back was turned as she lifted shiny treasure and looked at it, saying, You're a handsome devil...
And then it hit him:
She had been talking to him, not the treasure. She had seen him reflected in the surface of the precious jewel in her hand...
And Magpie had just said, she saw him first...
She thought he was a handsome devil? That was surprising, Oswald didn't think himself remotely handsome. What was even more surprising was the fact that she still held that opinion after his trap had left her bleeding on the floor... She shifted again in her sleep, then gave a whine of pain as her hand
trembled as fingertips groped blindly at thin air, as if reaching for someone or something to cling to as the pain throbbed deep inside her. Oswald reached out, closing his hand over hers as she clung on weakly.
“Go to sleep,” he said again, sounding as stiff and awkward as he felt, standing there at the bedside of the woman he had tried to kill, the woman who had stolen from him, who was still breathing because he had given into a moment of weakness and found a glimmer of mercy still existed in his soul.
And she looked so fragile. She was young and... beautiful? Oswald gave a small shake of his head, dismissing that notion as ridiculous. Love had long since iced over his heart, after Ed's cruel rejection years before and then what ever might have been with Sofia had been dashed to pieces, he had come to the conclusion that he would never have luck in love - with men or women. Love wasn't something he welcomed, either. It would make him weak, it just would set him up for more pain. He thought of Ed and felt a lingering ache in his heart, then he let go of Magpie's hand. She murmured something he didn't catch.
“Go to sleep,” he said again, then he turned away and limped out of the room, craving a strong drink to chase away these odd feelings of softness and tender mercy that didn't fit into a heart of stone, the kind of heart required for survival in this wreck of a city...
Ten Years Later:
A lot had changed in Gotham since the days of the war. Magpie had certainly changed. Now her white hair was long and fell like a roll of silk to her lower back. She had lost weight, her slender legs looked almost too delicate for the monster stilettos she wore with a raised snake coiled about each heel of her black shoes, they added to her height, made her legs look longer in her black dress that skimmed her thighs. All her shoes had snakes about the heels. These shoes were special. They were based on the design of the black and silver shoes she had kept in her youth, along with all her stolen treasure. Her late mother's shoes. They looked impossible to walk in, and like she had once told Selina, Momma didn't wear these shoes for walking, I'm told they were for customers only...
Those same shoes had been hard to stand up in after she had struggled to walk for the first time after waking from the coma. Selina had looked at her like she was crazy as she had watched her put them on and then struggle to stand, her legs shaking like a baby deer.
“What the hell are you doing?” Selina had said.
“If I can take a step, I can walk to the door. If I can walk to the door, I can leave this building. If I can walk a mile in these shoes, I can begin again. I have work to do, great work.”
Selina had stood there staring in disbelief.
“Where did Magpie go?” she exclaimed, “You're... different.”
By now Magpie had crossed the room and was still standing as she placed a hand on her cheek as their eyes met.
“I had a dream,” she told her, “I saw the future of this city. All the shiny things I collected before are nothing to how Gotham will shine before me! I have new ways. I see an underworld that embraces harmony with the authorities. An underworld that is a force for good and works to make this world a better place for the children of the city, to forge a better tomorrow!”
Her hand was still resting on Selina's cheek as she looked at her in confusion.
“What are you talking about, Magpie? You don't even sound like you any more...”
Magpie smiled as she looked into her eyes.
“My underworld will embrace new ways and open the hearts of the people. I will be so much more than Queen of Gotham. I will be Empress! My underworld will have a heart of purest gold – but teeth like a shark!”
Selina looked back at her as an uneasy feeling crept through her. Magpie had woken up a changed person...And they way she was talking, and that look in her eyes...She had seen enough people grasp power in this city to know she meant every word she said...
“Don't be afraid,” Magpie told her, taking her hand from her cheek and placing it on her shoulder, “I know what must be done. And you will be the first to follow me, child.”
“Child?” Selina had exclaimed in confusion...
Much had happened since.
Much had also happened before then, too much to think about right now as Magpie sat in the back of her limousine and looked out through tinted windows as the rebuilt city flashed past, shiny like the most precious jewel she had ever laid eyes on. Shiny, so very shiny...
As she headed for home, her hand shifted over the fabric of her dress, over an old scar left by buck shot. Below that scar was another, the legacy of the day she had almost bled to death after the birth of her son... Oswald's son. Thinking of her child's father, her heart ached. Oswald had been in jail for almost a decade. He was the last of the Gotham monsters who wasn't insane and couldn't be locked up in Arkham, he was the former mayor too – there were so many reasons for the authorities to keep him behind bars because someone had to pay for the lawlessness of the old days.
But despite her power, in her new life as the Empress M, queen of Gotham's new underworld, she could not go against the pact with the authorities to get him out. She had bent and twisted the new rules over the years, Ed Nygma was a free man now, she had seen to it that Oswald had regular visits from him, and there wasn't a damned thing the prison system or the GCPD could do about it... But still they would not release Oswald Cobblepot. And he didn't know Empress was really his Magpie, a few people knew her identity, but not Ed, and certainly not Oswald... Behind the silver mask that covered her eyes and obscured the upper half of her face, Magpie blinked away tears. How long had he thought she was dead? He didn't even know he had a son...
But it was better this way, for now. It was safer for all concerned, because even in these changed times, the publicly adored Queen of Gotham had enemies...
Then her phone rang. She saw at a glance it was Jim's number. She and Commissioner Gordon got along well, and she assumed this call would be about her public speech planned in the vast city square later that evening. But she was wrong. As Jim began to speak, the news hit her like a bomb dropping as she felt shaken to the core.
“Empress, I'm on my way over to see you about tonight's arrangements.. but there's something you need to know, I just heard...Oswald's hurt, it was an accident -”
“An accident?” she fumed as her temper rose and her calm facade melted away as in that moment she recalled the girl she used to be, the Magpie who had loved the Penguin, “I said, anyone touches Penguin, bang bang! He's safe, protected by me, even in jail!”
“Magpie – Janey...I need to explain.”
First he had called her by her old name, and then her real name - Janey Magelena was a name not known by many – and hearing that made her pause for a single breath as Jim jumped in quick, keen to diffuse her rage.
“It was an accident, Magpie. His cell is on an upper level and he's been having more trouble with his leg, he slipped and fell -”
“I said, change his cell! He struggles to walk and needs to be on the ground floor! Maybe the governor of Blackgate should have an accident too? Have fun proving it was me, Jim!”
Jim gave a heavy sigh.
“Magpie, you know there are things you can't touch – one is the living arrangements of a prisoner, the other is sentencing and security rules around dangerous criminals - and you can't have a say in his release. Not if you want to stay in harmony with the authorities. And don't make threats, I know you're concerned, just let me finish -”
Her hand shook as she clutched at her phone.
“Some day I will lose patience and Boom! Maybe the gates of Blackgate will be blown apart!”
“It was an accident,” Jim repeated, “But it's serious.”
All her rage drained away as her eyes filled with tears and she struggled to hold back from weeping.
“What happened?” she demanded.
“It was his leg, he slipped and fell halfway down the steps to a concrete floor, He's in the prison infirmary but not in great shape. I'm sorry, Magpie. I know you wanted to get him out of there, but there's nothing you can do.”
Behind her silver mask a tear escaped as she drew in a slow breath, composing herself as she forced her rage to quieten down. There had to be a way. She had to get him out of there, she had power... She also had influence...A plan was forming. There was a flicker of a crafty smile to her lips and a shine to her eyes that banished her tears as Jim asked if she still wanted to meet with him to discuss arrangements for tonight.
“Oh, that won't be necessary, Jim,” she replied, “I have too much on my mind. I think you'll find all the necessary paperwork is in order for a vast public gathering. I'll see you at the show!”
She hung up the call, then as the limousine passed by her heavily armed guards at the gates of the mansion, she held back her tears as the car came to a stop and the door was opened for her by one of her security staff. She got out and paused to look up at her home: After she had used Oswald's wealth to build her empire, she had secured the Van Dahl mansion as her private property. One day, it would be Oswald's again. Her little birdie wasn't going to come out of jail with nothing, she had made sure of that...
She entered the house, closed the door heavily, then as tears blurred her eyes she took off her mask, walked into the front room and saw Olga busy dusting a shelf. Olga turned around, saw the tearful look on the face of Empress, and knew at once that something was very wrong.
“Miss Magpie?” she said.
Magpie set her mask on the table, then reached for a glass and a bottle and poured herself a stiff drink. Tears still shone in her eyes as she thought of her son.
“Where is Oliver?”
“He is in the garden with the dogs.”
Magpie breathed a relieved sigh. That was okay, her son was outside. He didn't need to know about this yet...
“Call Ed Nygma, tell him to get over here right away. I have some bad news.”
Olga nodded and hurried from the room. Then Magpie stood there, leaning against her desk as she stifled a sob and took another drink and the brandy hit her throat like liquid fire. Across the room, mounted in a glass display case, a bleached, grinning skull looked back at her, the amethysts set in the eye sockets had been her idea. This was the skull of Nyssa Al Ghul, taken from the sunken submarine when she had it raised from the river to retrieve the rest of Oswald's gold. The amethysts caught the light and sparkled in shades that reminded her of Oswald.
In that moment, her heart went out to Ed. She had treated him with caution over the years, never revealing her identity to him, recalling how much he had disliked her in the old days, seeing her as the one thing standing between him and Oswald. She had tried to put that right after getting him out of Arkham, then arranging a clever plan to allow him visits to Blackgate to gain limited but precious time with Oswald. But to this day, Ed did not know the identity of Empress. When he arrived, her mask would be on... They both loved Oswald, she knew this would shatter him. But there was still hope. She had a plan...
“Magpie, is something wrong?”
She looked to the doorway. He stood there in pale jeans and a white shirt partly open, his hair was light brown and he was in his mid twenties. His name was Josh, and she had found him four years back when overseeing the execution of a rival gang in an abandoned warehouse. He had been a reporter, trying to catch a big story, trying to film the dark side of the new, apparently open and friendly Gotham underworld. Her men had caught him, destroyed his camera and forced him on his knees with the others as one by one, each man was shot in the back of the head. Then she had stepped closer, he had looked at her with tearful, frightened eyes as he begged to be spared. And in that moment, the colour of his eyes had reminded her of Oswald.
“Not this one...” she had told the executioner...
He was in her life now, she had made it clear she could never love again, but her bed needed to be warm. He was happy to accept, at first, grateful to be alive and then, grateful that her need to dominate fulfilled his needs, too. He was always there for her, and she guessed she didn't appreciate that often enough, but she was Empress and he knew his place in her life. But it didn't stop him caring when he saw how distressed she had become.
“Oswald had an accident. It's bad. I have to get him out of there!”
Her hand closed about the glass so hard Josh half expected it to shatter, but then she drained the last drop from it and set it down on the table.
“Can I help?” he asked.
She turned her head, her lips tracing a ghost of a smile as her eyes reflected sadness. Often those who met Empress for the first time said she had the saddest eyes they had ever seen. Josh knew why. She told him everything, keeping no secrets from the man who kept her from going insane while she grieved for the father of her child as if he was gone from this world instead of locked away in Blackgate. Her thoughts turned to the public address she would give to the people tonight.
“No,” she replied, “I know what must be done. Tonight's speech is going to be longer than expected. And certainly not what Jim Gordon is expecting...”
Josh felt a flicker of alarm as he said nothing in reply. What the hell was she planning? There was a look in her eyes, he had seen it many times before, but never as deeply as now. It was a look of utter desperation...
Magpie turned her head, looking to the window as sunlight escaped in through the glass as she thought back ten years to a time when life was very different and she was very different, too...
Ten Years Before:
“Olga!” Oswald's voice echoed up the marble hallway as he limped after her. She turned around, a look of weariness on her face. She had this place to keep clean, she had food to prepare for Oswald and his dog, and now he wanted her to take care of the Magpie girl, too... Not enough hours in the day, she thought as she looked at her employer.
“Yes, Mr Cobblepot?”
“Could you sit with Magpie for a while?”
“I have tended to her all morning. I also have much cleaning to do!”
“But she keeps calling out for help!”
“I will clean the stairs,” said Olga, “Then prepare dinner... I will tend to Magpie later.”
Oswald gave a heavy sigh. Olga was giving him a look that said a thousand words, she was here to serve him, to cook and to clean, and that was what she intended to do and everything else would just have to wait.
“Very well. But come back as soon as dinner is served and… just shut her up!”
“Yes, Mr Cobblepot,” she replied, then, armed with a feather duster, she turned around and walked off.
“Oh, this is ouchie!” moaned Magpie from a nearby room.
Anger briefly flickered in his eyes, then Oswald turned back sharply and went into the bedroom where Magpie was resting.
“Magpie, will you please SHUT UP!”
His sharp words made her briefly snap out of her crying as she took in a quick breath as her hand above the covers pressed to her painful belly. She looked up at him with a tear streaked face as he glared down at her.
“You're lucky I didn't kill you!” Oswald said, “You stole from me and then you tried to steal from me again! Anyone else who did that would be dead! And right now, I'm very tempted to shut you up with a bullet - you're giving me a headache!”
She looked up at him and gave a quiet sob.
“But...” her hand pressed against the blanket, over the bandaged wound, “It's ouchie!” she gave another sob, it was a helpless, frightened sob as her eyes reflected pain and fear.
In that moment he suddenly recalled the look in his mother's eyes as she lay dying in his arms after Tabitha had put a knife in her back. He knew that look of fear and pain. Magpie was crying again, his harsh words had been too much for her as she lay there recovering from her wounds with no access to pain relief. He felt it again, that change in his heart where there was still a place not quite iced over by all the pain and loss and hurt he had suffered since becoming the Penguin. She was still crying.
“Perhaps I can be a little too harsh sometimes,” he said, and after an awkward, stiff pause, he leaned over her, as she put an arm around him and pressed her face against the shoulder of his jacket and weakly sobbed. He heard her give a whine of pain as she tried to raise herself up, and he sat on the edge of the bed, drawing her closer, as she leaned weakly against him weeping and he cautiously patted her back.
“There, there... no need for all this crying,” he said in a hushed voice, “I'll speak to my staff, see if they can locate some pain medication for you. I know it hurts, and...”
He was glad her face was still pressed to his shoulder because his eyes had just gone wide as a sudden thought had shocked him: He had almost said, I'm sorry?
“Lie back down, get some rest,” he told her, easing her back down again as he kept a hand on the blanket that kept slipping, and as her head touched the pillow she gave a weary sigh, closed her eyes and slipped into a exhausted sleep. Oswald lingered there for a moment, then slowly reached out, his fingertip touching her cheek as he brushed away a tear.
“That's better, you sleep my dear,” he whispered, then he shook his head, again questioning why he felt so soft towards the young woman who had dared to steal from him.
His leg hurt as he got up, then he limped quietly to the door, pausing to look back at her. She was still sleeping soundly. He didn't know why this had happened, but there was no denying the fact that a small part of his heart cared about this jewel thief. She was sleeping soundly now, and he felt relieved but didn't want to think about why. Then he limped away from her room and went off to find Ed, to talk about plans for the submarine, he would even lend a hand today, if that was what it took to get Magpie off his mind...
Magpie woke with a jolt, taking in a sharp breath as she looked around the comfortable room and wondered where the hell she was – then she remembered trying to rob Penguin – again – and the gun going off and her guts pained with fire... He had let her live. He had taken pity on her. She didn't recall much about the wound being repaired, just screaming until she had no voice left and then everything had gone dark. Had he comforted her? Yes, she remembered him holding her and speaking softly, he had told her to go to sleep. How long ago had that happened? She vaguely remembered Olga, that was her name, Penguin's housekeeper – she had come in and tended to her, fed her, changed her dressing... the past few days had been a blur. What stuck in her mind mostly was Oswald shouting at her to shut up when she was in pain, but then he changed, he had been kind and spoken softly. She had seen something in his eyes that said there was so much more to the Penguin than his dangerous reputation...
She sat up, felt a pull deep in her gut and placed her hand against the bandaged wound, then she looked down at the t shirt she was wearing. Not hers. She sniffed it, and decided it carried a definite masculine scent brought out by the heat of her body as she had slept - not Oswald's scent, she had pressed her face against his suit when she had cried and he smelled of musky heat and expensive cologne. This guy smelled of something between soap and shower gel with a trace of masculine sweat beneath the surface...
Magpie cautiously got out of bed. She caught sight of herself in a mirror on the dressing table, and she didn't like what she saw. Her face was pale and hair that usually fanned out in a thick bob hung flat and she looked as weak as she felt. But with a hand pressed to her healing wound she could walk, so she slowly and carefully made her way out of the bedroom, stopped to listen to the sound of voices coming from the lower level, then she cautiously began to make her way down the stairs.
Once on the ground floor, she paused to take a breath and then press her hand to her scar once more, then she saw a bulldog padding towards her and she smiled as the friendly dog looked up at her.
“Hi there!” she said softly, and she wanted to lean closer and stroke his big, wrinkled head, but her scar was too fresh and she wasn't capable of leaning that far just yet. The dog trotted off down the hallway, and she made her way cautiously to an open doorway that led into a vast room. She peered inside, then watched as Oswald and a taller man with glasses who wore a green suit squabbled next to a bench where blueprints were spread out.
“You said you'd help out – that was four days ago!”
“I've been busy!” Oswald snapped, standing closer as he glared up him, “You know I've had a lot on my mind, Ed!”
“And I'm trying to build a submarine to get us out of Gotham!” Ed snapped back, then he slowly turned his head as Oswald did the same.
“Oh shit...” Ed muttered as he realised his mistake, “She wasn't supposed to hear that...”
Oswald was staring in disbelief at the sight of Magpie, leaning in the doorway with one hand to her healing wound, looking pale and weak and wearing nothing but Ed's borrowed t shirt that fell to her thighs.
“A submarine?” she said as her eyes grew wide and she pressed harder against her belly and made her way over to join them, “You're building a sub? That's great news!”
“Why?” Ed said in confusion.
Magpie's face it up in a smile that almost brought a living shade back to her pale face.
“Yay!” she exclaimed, making a little jump for joy that pulled at her stitches, “We can escape the city together!”
“Excuse me?” Oswald said in dismay, “We?”
Magpie almost forget her painful, healing scar as she turned her head, looked up at Ed and spoke again.
“I'm sure there's room on your submarine for a little Magpie, if you and Penguin birdie can fit in, so can I!”
“Penguin birdie?” Oswald repeated in disbelief as he carried on staring at her, wondering what planet she was on, to seriously think they would take her with them...
Ed glanced at Oswald.
“And this,” he said, “Is why one of us should kill her. She knows too much.”
He pulled a handgun as Magpie gasped.
“Not again!” she exclaimed.
As Oswald stepped closer and briefly grasped his wrist, forcing him to lower the gun, Ed looked at him in dismay.
“Oswald, she knows about the sub!”
“And she's too injured to go anywhere and tell anyone else!”
Magpie's gaze darted between the two men as they squabbled again – this time, over whether or not to kill her.
“I said I'd take care of her, I promised Selina. She's my responsibility,” Oswald reminded him, “And besides, I don't want to kill her, Ed.”
“Why not?” he asked in genuine confusion.
His question left Oswald feeling lost for words as he shook his head.
“I just don't want to!”
As she stood there Magpie wished she had a ticking bomb or a ticking watch, anything to toss at them to use an excuse to make an escape – but she was in Oswald's palatial home in city hall, and there were armed guards surrounding this place. She couldn't run or do her usual acrobatics to fly away and make an escape, either – her wound was too deep and still healing.
Ed looked angrily at Magpie.
“As soon as you're well enough to leave, you'd better keep your mouth shut about the submarine – or you won't be going anywhere. And now you're up, you can get dressed again – and I want my t shirt back!”
“Fine!” she said sharply, “Have it back, I don't want it anyway, why would I wear your clothes, they stink of your cheap deodorant! You see me and think, bang bang, kill Magpie! Fuck you!”
She moved so fast Oswald didn't give a gasp right away, because it didn't register immediately as she moved in a blurt, then the shirt was off and hurled in Ed's face. As he adjusted his glasses, his eyes grew wide.
“Oh...Oh dear...” he stammered, getting a good eyeful of her firm, high breasts and the view past the bandage had registered as a neatly trimmed triangle, and then he realised his face was flushing and he tugged at his tie hoping to breathe a little easier as he carried on staring, partly in shock, partly angered, and partly aroused at the unexpected show of flesh.
Oswald stepped in front of him, blocking the view of her standing there angry and naked in nothing but a bandage to cover her bullet wound as he stripped off his jacket and hastily draped it around her shoulders, covering her nudity as he tried not to think about his mother's portrait on the wall, smiling down at them.
“Come along,” he said quickly, leading her from the room as he kept an arm around her to hold the jacket together, “Let's get you back upstairs. I shall send someone out to find you some clothes, you can't go about like this!”
“He hates me, he wants to kill me!” Magpie protested loudly as her voice echoed about the hallway.
“Upstairs,” Oswald replied as tension filled his voice, “And please be quiet!”
Climbing the stairs had proved painful, the upward climb had seen her stop twice and then she clutched at her aching wound as she shook her head.
“Yes you can.”
Oswald kept his arm around her as he used his free hand to clutch at the rail, walking up and down a flight of stairs was hard enough even with the leg brace, but with a wounded woman to assist, it was twice as hard.
“One at a time, you can do this, we can do this together,” he said, tightening his grip on her waist as again he felt that odd sense of deep concern that was most unlike him. There was something about Magpie that brought out a tender side to his nature that he wished did not exist, but he focused on each stair, patiently waiting for her to summon the courage to climb the next, until he reached the top, then he breathed a relieved sigh as she no longer needed support, and made her way back to her room, where she slumped on the bed with a groan. Her hand was on her bandaged wound as his jacket fell open, then to his dismay she moved to take it off.
“No, keep it for now,” Oswald said, grabbing the covers and folding them over her as she laid back, still with a pained expression.
“I think I moved too fast down there...” she managed a weak laugh, “The look on his face! That's what he gets for pointing a gun at me!”
“Ed doesn't know you,” Oswald said as he stood there looking down at her, “And neither do I, but I must confess, I am rather glad I didn't kill you.”
As she asked that question, he felt caught out. He knew he was blushing and didn't know why. Did he really like her that much? If so, why? He had never met any one quite like her before - not that he had any experience of closeness, with anyone, his life so far had been spent entirely alone, and he had resigned himself to staying that way...
“I don't know,” he smiled then gave a small, shy laugh to cover his awkwardness, and as she smiled too, his blush got deeper and he wished it would stop. Then he recalled something and drew a bottle of pills from his pocket.
“I was busy with Ed this morning, I forgot to give you these, they arrived today – take one every four hours, it will help with the pain.”
He set the pill bottle down and turned away and began to limp towards the door.
There was something pleasing about the way she said his name, the way it danced off her tongue so sweetly. He turned back.
She was still pale, but now she was resting again she was out of pain, but she reached for the pill bottle and popped the cap all the same, then she met his gaze with a smile on her face.
“People say you're dangerous. High profile criminal, a man with blood on his hands... But I think you're not a bad birdie at all.”
She was still smiling. Oswald smiled too, shaking his head as he tried to fight the wave of fondness that washed through him as he looked back at her. What could he say to that? Nothing came to mind, so he left the room, leaving her to rest and sleep while he sent out one of his men to fetch some clothing to ensure next time Magpie got up, she would have something to wear. The memory of her standing there naked lingered as he went back downstairs to join Ed. Oswald had never seen a woman naked in front of him before. Oswald had never seen anyone naked, up close to him like Magpie...That was something he wasn't going to forget, and he was sure Ed wouldn't forget it either, but all the same, he didn't want to raise the subject in conversation. There was something about that girl that he couldn't shake off. Maybe he liked her, that thought was starting to grow on him now...
Magpie recovered quickly. She had gone from being fragile and weak to finding her strength in a matter of days. Ed kept out of her way. She was trouble, he sensed it, and every time he remembered her stripping off and throwing his T shirt in his face, he felt sure that girl was either going to wind up with a bullet in her, or worse – she would come between him and Oswald. Not that there was anything to come between, yet – or maybe he worried too much. Ed had started to notice how lonely the nights could be, more so since Magpie had arrived. Most evenings used to see him sharing a drink with Oswald, and there had been many times when he had thought about shifting closer, locking with his gaze, making a move, a hand on his thigh, leaning in closer, saying his name softly... But it all required courage and that memory of how he had once pushed him away after Oswald had so openly declared his love for him felt like an invisible wedge that remained between them. He wanted to know if Oswald still felt the same. He still couldn't ask. But it would be so different when the sub was ready and they left this city...
Ed used thoughts of what the future might hold to kill the loneliness he felt at night as he lay alone, while Oswald talked with Magpie, picturing the day he would impulsively grab Oswald and kiss him. He was sure he would see shock and surprise register in his eyes, and then, if only for now in dreams, Oswald would reach for him too, kissing him deeply...Those images flickered through Ed's mind as he lay there in bed, jerking hard as he panted, eyes closed as he pictured their bodies joined, the way Oswald would shout his name at the moment of climax... then Ed came hot and fast, his orgasm running over his hand as he whispered Oswald...
But Oswald wasn't thinking about Ed. Since they had formed a new partnership based on working together to leave this ruined city, he had focused on nothing else but his plans to leave Gotham behind. He still wasn't sure if he could actually board that sub and leave when it came to it, Gotham was in his blood he loved his city... but he didn't want to think about that as he limped towards Magpie's room and paused to knock on the door.
“It's open!” she called out, and she sounded stronger and that made him smile, although he still wasn't sure why.
Oswald entered the room and the sight of her kneeling beside two large trunks of clothing as she dived into them and pulled out items of interest made his eyes sparkle. She was happy to be diving in to explore just like she had dived into his chests of treasure – but this time, she was allowed to keep what she liked. She was already dressed, and she paused to put a string of black pearls around her neck, on top of a thin string bead of black beads of polished opal. She put a hand to her belly as she cautiously got up and then she stood with ease, turning towards him as she gestured to her clothing.
“What do you think, Penguin?” she asked with a smile.
She had changed her style a little. Now she wore a short black and red lace skirt that fell in layers that fanned out mid thigh length, a plain black vest hugged her upper body and on top of that she had put on a black studded leather jacket. Her black shoes had low heels and she had found some make up in one of those trunks because now she had added the black stripes to her face once more, but not the white face paint. Her lips were glossed red and as she smiled, her eyes shone warmly.
She turned around and the short skirt shifted briefly as he caught a flash of black silk underwear and immediately raised his line of vision to meet with her gaze once more.
“I'm just happy you have clothes!” he exclaimed, laughing nervously, feeling suddenly shy and awkward, “I'm even happier you plan to keep them on!”
Magpie glanced back at the clothing in the trunk as she spotted something else.
“Ooh!” she said, and snatched up a pair of leather fingerless gloves and slipped them on.
“Now I feel dressed!”
“And you look very nice,” Oswald told her, “But it is rather late, you should be thinking about going to bed soon, you still need rest. And I expect Selina will be along in the next couple of days, then you can be on your way.”
He wondered why he felt a sense of loss as he said that.
Magpie stepped over a pile of clothing and joined him by the open doorway.
“No, I like it here,” she told him, “Maybe I should stay.”
“You want to stay here?”
“Well I don't have anywhere else to go! My place has been left empty since I got this,” she gestured to the wound beneath her clothing, “And this city being as it is, my treasure will gone, stolen by others!”
“Now you now how it feels!” Oswald said sharply, and instantly regretted it as he saw a look of hurt in her eyes.
“You still have your gold!” she reminded him, “I've lost everything because you wounded me! I can't even go back to my place, someone else will have it now.”
Oswald looked at her apologetically.
“I'm sorry, Magpie. I guess I'm still mad about you trying to steal from me. I should let that go, things have changed...” he felt awkward again as he looked away, then looked back at her and met her gaze.
“So...I can stay?” she asked.
“Yes, you can stay.”
As he made that promise, he knew Ed wouldn't like the idea of it, because he had said several times the girl knew about the submarine, but at least this way they could keep her close, keeping her here meant she wouldn't be telling anyone... that was what he planned to say to Ed, as he felt a flicker of guilt and wondered why, then he looked at Magpie and it suddenly hit him that he was feeling a definite pull towards her...an attraction? He cancelled that thought quickly.
“I was going to have a drink before bed. Would you care to join me?”
She smiled as her eyes shone and he loved that look on her face, but he still didn't like to think about why. No one he had ever cared about had returned his feelings, he had written off the idea of relationships long ago, and wasn't about to start reconsidering the option now. But he could use a stiff drink, and he didn't object to her company. Ed had gone to bed early, Olga had retired to her staff quarters an hour ago. They could sit by the fire together, have a pleasant conversation... But it was going to have a very unexpected outcome, and he didn't know that as they left the room together and headed for the stairs...
Ten Years later:
That first night together, that messy, clumsy night fuelled by booze and bad decisions and impulsiveness and lack of self control and all the other things Oswald had blamed it on afterwards, was heavy on her mind as Magpie stood in the front room of the Van Dahl mansion, the mask of the Empress cast off on the table as she poured herself another drink to steady her shattered nerves. That first night that had thrown them together could have been the start of something beautiful - and it had been, for a while - but ultimately, like everything else in those bad old days, like the state of life in the city leading up to the Gotham war, it ultimately became a train wreck, because it could lead no where else in those crazy times... Her heart ached for Oswald.
“It kills me inside, to know I can't be with him. He needs me, he needs to know about his son. He needs to know he's loved...He may never see his son, I have to get him out of Blackgate. He is going to die in that place if I don't do something!” Magpie's eyes filled with tears and for a moment, the sting and the blur of it blinded her, then Josh was in front of her, wiping away her tears.
“Magpie,” he said softly, “Listen to me, I know my place here, I know my place in your life, too – but I'm only saying what no one else will dare to say to you, because they fear the Empress: If you do anything to break to pact between the underworld and the GCPD, the pact will be worthless. We both know that.”
Anger flashed in her eyes. He knew a threat when he saw it, and right now, speaking to her like that was much like standing at the edge of an abyss and hoping he didn't fall in. He had come into her life first as a prisoner and then as a willing servant who surrendered to her every need, taking the pain and the pleasure to fulfil her needs and kill her loneliness, and somewhere along the way, she had realised they needed each other, he was a source of satisfaction and a shoulder to cry on – but for Josh, Magpie had become so much more to him than she knew, so much lie silent in his heart after these past five years, but he dare not speak of it, because her heart had only one name written on it - and that name was Oswald Cobblepot...
“Maybe you don't know your place!” she said sharply, “Giving orders to me? I gathered the finest legal minds in the country to draw up the pact when Gotham became an independent island state! I forged the plans for the future of this great city and all of its children – including you! And I will do what ever it takes to save Oswald!”
Josh looked at her, saying nothing. For a brief moment he recalled how they had first met, when he had been a young and ambitious reporter, keen to get himself a big story and completely naive and unaware of the dangers of tailing the Empress and her men to an old warehouse, where executions were about to take place:
He had been clumsy, stumbling as an empty crate connected with his shoulder and clattered to the floor. Next thing he knew, he was grabbed at gunpoint, his ID was tossed aside as he realised it didn't matter to them who he was, he had seen too much, and now he was forced on his knees like the other men who were shot in the back of the head, one by one. As the fourth man in the line up hit the floor with a bullet hole in his skull and blood and brains began to pool out in a mess, the shooter paused, looking to the masked woman who stood watching.
“All of them, Empress?” he asked.
She rubbed her hands together, ran her sight along the line up, then as she stood there in a white dress with a plunging neckline decorated with small black feathers, she stepped forward in white, shiny shoes with huge heels decorated with coiled snakes. A smile came to her ruby lips.
“Bang bang!” she said.
Another shot rang out, then another as Josh knelt there trembling, his face streaked with tears. The next shot made his ears ring painfully as the body beside him fell.
“Please don't kill me!” he wept.
The executioner stepped behind him, pressing the cold barrel of the gun to the back of his head. And then she looked at him. She raised her hand and the gunman withdrew his weapon.
“Not this one,” she said, as Josh shook so hard he felt his bones rattle.
He watched her through tearful eyes as those shiny white shoes walked closer, until the was standing before him.
“Look at me,” she commanded.
He raised his head, looking up at her as she looked down at him through a mask that barely hid the saddest eyes he had ever seen.
“Please... Empress. I'm just a reporter, I wanted a story... I can forget I ever saw this, please don't kill me, I want to live!”
She leaned closer, right over him as she reached for him, cupping his face in her hands as another tear ran from his eyes, those hazel eyes that reminded her of Oswald...
“What is your name?”
“Well Josh,” she said, pausing to brush a tear from his cheek, “You're coming with me...”
She had taken him back to the mansion, her people had left them alone together. He had begged for his life and she had told him he could forget his old life, if he wanted to live... He had knelt before her, kissing her shoes. She had fallen to her knees and grabbed him, stealing a kiss that was rough and unexpected. He had enjoyed it, being taken like that, on the floor with her on top and taking her pleasure as she used him. Later that night she had called him to her room and given another order.
“Take off your clothes,” she had said, and he had stripped naked...
She had been rough with him, later the handcuffs would come out, and he got used to submitting to her. The thought of it made him instantly hard. He called the newspaper – not with a story, but to explain his absence and hand in his resignation. He gave up his apartment, too. He became her property. She never had to worry about him trying to make a break for freedom – he didn't want freedom. He wanted her, and what she did to him.
But after five years he was also in love with her and he knew if he ever said that, a perfect arrangement would be shot to hell, because he had lost count of the nights she had cried in his arms and clung to him as she mourned for her Oswald, serving a life sentence in Blackgate for his crimes – profiting from war torn Gotham with illegal ammunition manufacture and arms dealing, and of course the murder of Tabitha Galavan. It seemed the authorities would never let him go, determined to make an example of the former mayor of Gotham who had risen through the criminal ranks to become so powerful and feared back in the day. They never wanted another to claim as much power as the Penguin had... And Josh could never tell Magpie how much he loved her, because her heart was firmly with Oswald...
As they stood together in the front room of the mansion Josh looked at her, wanting to reach for her but knowing to do that without permission at a time like this would mean a rough rejection as she pushed him aside, so he stood there, making no attempt to pull her close.
“I just want you to be safe,” he reminded her.
Pain reflected in her gaze.
“Oswald will die in jail if I don't get him out,” she paused, draining the last drop from her glass, “The speech I give tonight will be very different to what the GCPD have approved. Changes are coming, Josh, big changes.”
Just then Olga's voice echoed up the hallway, an advance warning as she yelled, Miss Empress, Mr Nygma is here!
Josh grabbed her mask and handed it to her. Their eyes met.
“Thank you, Josh. Leave me now,” she ordered, then she put on her mask as he walked out, turning around as Ed walked in wearing a dark green suit and a worried expression.
“I got the call... something about bad news, and Oswald? What's happened?”
“He had an accident. He's in the prison infirmary.”
Ed's face paled as a flicker of panic reflected in his gaze.
“Oh no... how bad is it?”
“Jim said it was serious. As you know, I am very keen to secure Mr Penguin's release and I can not have that put at risk. You must go to see him and assess the situation.”
Ed stared at her.
“You busted me out of Arkham under the peace pact agreement, gave me a place to live and helped me gain some qualifications so I could use the title Doctor Nygma... But we both know, as grateful as I am for this arrangement to see Oswald once a month, I'm not an actual doctor, Empress!”
Her eyes reflected sadness through her mask.
“I know that,” she replied, “But I think at this time, he needs you. Blackgate is expecting you. See Oswald, let him know the Empress is very keen to secure his release and will be employing new tactics. And go now, because I need you ready for the show by seven pm. We all know how much my crowd loves the newly reformed and entertaining Mr Riddler.”
Ed was still staring at her.
“What new tactics?”
“Go, see Oswald, there is no time for discussion.” she commanded, then she turned away.
As Ed left the room and hurried off, she stifled a quiet sob as tears formed in her eyes again. Ed didn't know who she was. He didn't know about Oliver, either. He was eternally grateful for his release from Arkham and her bending the rules to ensure his new, legally gained qualifications listed him as a doctor, meaning he could visit Oswald privately. Oswald had told her all about his love for Ed in the days before the war, before everything had changed, and as soon as she learned that secret, she had known, she had to bring him into his life in some way – that way had come about after her rise to power, her first move had been to request the release of Ed Nygma, his rehabilitation to be overseen by the new underworld... It was all for Oswald.
Now, she just hoped it wasn't too late. She wanted to visit him, but that was too risky. If the truth got out that he was her former lover and father of her child, he would be a target for her enemies as much as her son would be – and while she could protect her son with her security staff, there was only so much she could do for an injured and vulnerable man incarcerated in Blackgate...She wiped away a tear that escaped from the edge of her mask, thinking about the speech tonight... Yes, there would certainly be some big changes now, and she would be making them without the expected permission of the GCPD: Fuck the rules. Times were desperate. She had power, and she was going to use it...
Ed was used to the routine by now, show his ID, go through security, wait for the doors to unlock, then he quickly made his way to the infirmary, taking a path from the prison to the building set at a short distance nearby. As he hurried towards the entrance, his heart was racing as fear twisted his guts like a mass of coiled snakes. He could still recall he day he had been told he was leaving Arkham, to be released to the care and protection of the New Underworld. He had held such high hopes until he found out the so called new underworld certainly did have new ways – how time had changed in the years he had been in Arkham! The criminal powers that be ran things very differently now, the Queen of Gotham was more like a celebrity than a feared criminal leader, and while the underworld still cleaned up trouble in agreement with the authorities, they also worked very closely with them, there were no more clashes between the law and the underworld, everyone was so damned polite.
As he made his way to the infirmary, Ed recalled how he had been taken to a meeting of the underworld gang leaders for the first time– how things had changed since the old days:
No guns. No knives. Everyone smiling. The meeting was in a board room. Everyone had coffee and talked about their families before business began. Accounts and other business records were kept online – where the GCPD could access them, too. Ed had made a remark that at least the cops were not present, so this was a pig free meeting. Silence had been the response, only broken by Empress, whose mask had shimmered silver as the light caught on it as she had spoken:
“Ed,” she had said to him, “The old days are long gone. We don't use insulting language. Someone might get offended.”
Ed had sat there drinking his coffee, listening as they talked like this was a regular business meeting. Then a guy who held a great deal of power in the newly rebuilt Narrows spoke up, mentioning a sex offender who had attacked three women in the past month. A massive manhunt had begun involving the underworld and the cops. Empress had smiled as she gave her reply:
“That's dealt with,” she said, “Case closed, too. My people tracked him down today. The body is in the river and his testicles were delivered in a bag to the GCPD.”
“I hope the bag was carefully sealed?” said another of the gang leaders.
“Of course,” Empress had replied, “We can't have blood on any one's hands – or clothing. That's just foul and unnecessary.”
There were murmurs of agreement as Ed cast his mind back to Oswald's blood stained path to glory in the days when he had become king of Gotham. How times had changed.
“More coffee?” Empress had offered with a smile...
Ed pulled himself away from thoughts of the past as he passed through security at the hospital and entered the building. The nurse on the desk recognised him, as did all the staff here who believed he was Oswald's doctor, who regularly visited him to help with his increasingly painful mobility issue. In truth, those cries sometimes heard behind the locked door of the treatment room was Oswald having a hard climax. The look on his face when he had first walked in three years before and told him about the set up, was a day he would never forget. Oswald had been overjoyed. Then he had cried in his arms. Then Ed had kissed him like he never wanted to stop. That day his plans for lovemaking had to be put on hold because Oswald had lost control in his arms, jerking his cock so hard he had come on his prison uniform as he panted his name...
Ed pushed those fond memories aside as he met with a doctor and looked at x rays and scans and listened to the bad news. His time in forensics combined with his extra qualifications since, made everything easy to understand, but no easier to take in. He remembered to hold back from showing his true feelings as he nodded and thanked the doctor for bringing him up to speed on the condition of his patient, then he turned away, blinking back tears as he headed for the room where Oswald was resting. The news was bad. Oswald had cracked ribs and bruising to his spine. The fall had knocked him out, he had a small skull fracture and a cut to his hairline that had needed stitching. Thankfully the scan had come back showing no brain injury, but Oswald had torn a muscle in his damaged leg and that, given his previous state of health, was the worst news. He would have difficulty walking again, at the very least he would need his leg brace and a cane. They wouldn't let him use a cane in prison because he was Penguin and it was assumed he might use it as a weapon. Without that cane, he would most likely never walk again. The Empress was right. Oswald needed to get out of here, urgently...
Ed took a deep breath, walked into the room and closed the door quietly behind him, pausing to turn the lock with a quiet click. His heart felt bruised as sure as he felt Oswald's pain as he went over to his bedside and took a seat, then reached for his hand, raised it to his lips and kissed it.
Oswald turned his head, there was a heavy bruise below a small row of stitching below his hair line, and as he opened his eyes, they looked glazed due to the pain relief that flowed into his body through a line fixed to his arm.
“Ed...” he sounded weak as he looked up at his love, then he blinked away tears, “It was an accident...my damned leg again!”
Ed kept a tight grip on his hand, love reflecting in his eyes as he smiled down at him, then leaned closer and gently kissed him.
“You gave me such a fright!” he said as his voice trembled and he stayed determined not to cry, because that was the last thing Oswald needed.
Strength burned in his eyes as Oswald looked up at his lover.
“I'll be fine, Ed. I just need to get stronger. Is there any news on my release? What's the Empress doing, she said she wouldn't give up on me.”
Ed held his hand gently as he fondly rubbed the back of it.
“The Empress said she's going to employ new tactics to get you out of here. She must want the Penguin on her side badly... I wonder why?”
“I don't care why,” Oswald replied as he struggled to sit up, then pain registered on his face, “I just want to get out of Blackgate!”
Ed placed his hands on his shoulders, easing him back down again.
“Ozzie, you have to rest. And don't worry about what the Empress wants...” a crafty gleam came to his eyes as Ed held his hand a little tighter and spoke again, “I've done everything she wants. All her way. And she's been good enough to give us time together in here too. But she's very powerful and the only thing standing in our way. I don't doubt she wants you out of jail so badly so she can have Penguin and Riddler working for her. We're not going to do that, Oswald!”
As he looked up at Ed, he felt confused as the pain relief made him drowsy. Was Ed talking about taking over the new underworld?
“You have a plan?”
“Yes!” Ed declared excitedly, “I'm going to get closer to her, gain her trust... and then, I'm going to take over. Everything she has should be yours, Oswald! The underworld hasn't been the same since the war, it's like a joke! We need a return to the old days. Gotham needs its king back,” he paused to gently stroke Oswald's hair, taking care to avoid the painful looking stitches, “I told you she's even taken over your family home, she's got no right to do that!”
Oswald gave a heavy sigh.
“Ed, I'm so tired,” he said, “I just want to get out of here and start a new life with you. If there's an opportunity to have some of my old power back in this city, of course I'll take it. But I don't think we should make an enemy of the Empress – at least not until we know what she wants from us – especially from me.”
“Let's just concentrate on getting you out of jail. And it will happen!” Ed vowed, then as Oswald's gaze softened and he smiled up at him hopefully Ed smiled too, keeping a firm grip on his hand. His heart ached at the sight of Oswald so badly hurt, but at least the Empress had a plan. He didn't know what it was, but she was determined to try new tactics to get Oswald out of jail, and for now, that was all that mattered. He didn't care if she was going blow up the damned prison and shoot everyone who got in the way, if that was what it took – he just wanted Ozzy out of Blackgate and free, he couldn't do much more time in this place, he needed to get out before he gave up - and while he still had a chance of walking again...
Magpie had left the mansion, going out of the heavily guarded door that led to the garden area. As she walked towards her ten year old son, love filled up the crack in her heart as sure as for a moment, the pain melted away:
There he was. Her little boy, her precious son with Oswald's hair and eyes and face, every day she was thankful that her child looked like her lost love. How could he ever be far away when she saw him in the eyes of their child? Little Ozzie. Oswald Two. Her son Oliver Cobblepot, born in the chaotic days after the war had ended, when she and Oswald had been torn apart – first by a terrible explosion, leaving him to believe she was dead, and then by his arrest a day before she went into labour.
The army were still a heavy presence in the city, and thanks to that, Selina had spotted a truck close by and yelled out the window for help. The guy standing by that truck who had stepped out to smoke a cigarette had come running, he was an army medic called Oliver, and he had delivered her son in Selina's apartment...
Oliver was ten years old now, and slightly chubby, which made him look even more like Oswald. He knew his father was the Penguin and had seen old pictures of him and video footage of his time as mayor of Gotham. Oliver spiked his hair disco vampire style, and his deepest wish was to meet his father. Right now, he was standing on the lawn with a bulldog puppy in his arms. He looked up at his mother, saw the tearful look in her eyes and wondered what was wrong. He had seen her cry before. Sometimes, she cried over his Dad. Most of the time, Josh was there to put an arm around her to stop her crying, but right now, she was alone.
“Mom, are you okay?” he asked.
Magpie stood there for a moment looking at her son, seeing Oswald in his face. Of course I am, she told herself, because I have you. She blinked away tears and nodded.
“I'm just worried about your Dad. I need to get him out of Blackgate, Oliver.”
She paused, drawing in a slow breath as she wondered if she ought to tell him about is father's accident. No, he didn't need to worry. That wasn't fair, he was ten years old and could do nothing to change the situation... But she had planned to change her speech that night, and the whole of Gotham would hear what she had to say. Her heart ached. She didn't want to tell him, but if she didn't say something, he would hear it all tonight because he always watched her speeches...
“Your Dad had an accident, he fell on a flight of steps,” she told him, “It was his leg, he has a lot of trouble with it these days, and he was hurt pretty bad.”
Oliver's pale eyes grew wide as he tearfully spoke up.
“Is... is my Dad okay? He's not going to die, is he?”
“No, he's strong and brave and he's going to be just fine,” she said quickly, placing her hands on his shoulders as she forced a brief smile, “Please don't worry, Oliver....” she hesitated, but knew this had to be done, he had to know what lie ahead, “I am going to make a special change to my speech tonight – and it's a secret! You must tell no one!”
“Are you going to do something to get Dad out of jail?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, feeling a surge of hope, “Yes, I am!”
“I hope it works this time.”
“I think it will!”
Now the look of optimism that shone in her eyes matched his as he started to smile. He looked down at the puppy in his arms and stroked his soft fur as the bulldog looked up at him.
“Have you thought of a name for him yet?” she asked.
“Not yet, but maybe Dad can think of one when he comes home!”
Her heart ached sharply as she dared not dream until this task was done. Magpie had lost count of the times she had got her hopes up that Oswald was coming home, only to have them dashed away. But not this time. This time, she would succeed even if she had to risk everything...
“Maybe he will,” she said, “but I have to get him out of Blackgate first.”
“Is he really coming home this time?”
The hope she saw in her son's eyes made the ache in her heart go deeper until the pain of it was almost too much to bear. She looked into his eyes, then she studied the face of her son who looked just like his father, and that was all she needed to do to find her strength again.
“I think so, I hope so. I know I'm going to try harder than ever before, and if we both hope for the best, maybe he will. I won't give up!” she vowed.
Oswald was resting and after a long, lingering kiss goodbye from Ed, he wasn't sure if it was the meds working, or if he was just starting to feel better now. Maybe all he had needed was to see his Edward, to be reminded there was life beyond the walls of this prison and a man with a heart full of love waiting for him when the day finally came when he would be set free.
Would he ever be free?
That question was something he didn't want to think about too much, over the years he had been aware the New Underworld had tried many times to push for his release, and each time, they had failed. It seemed the underworld worked differently now – in harmony with the authorities, with new rules and ways that barely seemed to belong in a world of criminal power. His own reputation had served to protect him here in Blackgate as the new queen of the underworld saw to it that no other prisoner tried to harm him. But he had been living in a bare cell with no privileges, and visitors were limited to his lawyers – and his doctor, thanks to the Empress and her clever plan to reunite him with Ed...
As he lay there, he tried to move and an ache shot down his bruised back and his damaged leg felt dull and painful despite the medication. He briefly wondered if he would ever walk again. His leg had been in bad shape before the accident, but now, he didn't want to think about the long term damage...
He knew he was starting to sink into despair and closed his eyes, thinking back to a time before prison, before the war and the eye injury, back to a time when he was ten years younger and still had plans to leave the city in the submarine. There was something safe and reassuring about the past, it was a place he could travel back to in his mind, blocking out the horrible reality of today, confined to the walls of Blackgate. The past had already been and gone and he guessed that was why it seemed such a safe place to visit, because there were no new surprises or shocks waiting there that hadn't already played out... He was back there now, at a time when he could walk easily with his leg brace, when he still had plans to make a life outside of the city...Back in those days, he was yet to get closer to Ed, so much else would happen first, including the first, fateful night with Magpie...
Ten Years Before:
They had sat in the vast room where the firelight flickered warmly, reflecting its light off the marble pillars of his grand, stolen home that had become his palace in the days since Gotham had fallen. They shared a drink, just one drink, then Oswald had poured another as Magpie sat there on the couch, comfortable and warmed by the fire as that one drink had made her feel slightly drowsy. She was still recovering from her wounds, but now she could manage the stairs easily and showed no sign of pain as they talked about their lives. She had looked to the painting of his mother, and asked about her. Oswald had told her she had been murdered, and Magpie's eyes had filled with sadness.
“I'm so sorry,” she told him, “She looks like a nice lady. I wish I could have met her. Do you think she would have liked me?”
Oswald set his drink down on the table, smiling as fondness filled his heart and thoughts of his dear mother filled his mind.
“Perhaps,” he replied, “When you got to know her, I'm sure she would have seen you as I do.”
Magpie looked at him intently, and Oswald felt a flicker of panic. Had he just said too much? He shifted slightly, setting the gap between them on the couch a little further apart. He hadn't realised how close they were until now, their legs almost touching. Magpie noticed he had stiffened and she shifted too, but closer as she curled on the chair with her legs up on the couch. He was going to warn her about damaging the expensive fabric, but she had kicked off her shoes.
“Like how?” she asked.
“I'm sorry, I don't understand?” he knew he sounded nervous as he said that.
“How do you see me?”
Such a direct question. Oswald smiled as he looked away, then turned back to Magpie.
“You're a very... likeable person.”
She smiled as amusement danced in her eyes.
“And you're a handsome devil, little birdie!”
Oswald's face flushed as he laughed to cover his nervousness as she leaned closer.
“It's getting late. We should be going to bed.”
Her eyes widened. His eyes grew wide too, but not with the hopeful expression that reflected in hers. His jaw dropped. He looked back at her speechless as her smile got wider, then he laughed and shook his head.
“I mean, we should both retire for the night. I'm off to bed, goodnight, Magpie!”
He smiled warmly as he got up, then turned around and held out his hand. She accepted it and got up easily, then paused to put on her shoes. Oswald let go of her hand, as she felt the loss of his touch and instantly wanted him to come back as he began to limp towards the door.
Oswald stopped and looked back. Magpie was pressing a hand to the healing wound beneath her clothing.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
She kept her hand pressed to her wound as she joined him at the doorway.
“It's ouchie again, Penguin. Would you help me up the stairs?”
There it was again, a look of sudden compassion reflected in eyes that had once been cold as ice towards her.
“Of course, my dear,” he said, and as he put his arm around her and led her to the stairs, he paused.
“I can sympathise with how you feel – stairs are often painful for me with my leg.”
“I didn't know... I feel bad now. I can manage -”
“No, I insist, let me help you.”
His arm slid around her waist, she didn't look at him as he slowly and patiently helped her up the stairs as she watched how he leaned hard on the rail as his leg, supported by a brace, remained stiff as he took the stairs one at a time. She had wanted to get him alone, she wanted a kiss goodnight or maybe more. She had seen the shine in his eyes as he had smiled as they talked and she wondered if he would be shocked if he knew just how turned on she was... But she hadn't thought about his leg when she had faked pain from her healing wound. Poor Oswald was in more pain than she was, probably every day of his life, too...
“Wait for a moment,” he said, as they reached the top.
Magpie looked at him.
“No, it's okay, I'm fine, Oswald.”
As he stood there he briefly glanced down at his leg brace, frustrated at the ache that was throbbing in his ankle.
“Not you, Magpie – me. Sorry about this.”
He took a deep breath, then limped forward, still with his arm around her.
“Honestly, I'm fine, I can manage,” she said.
“No, I'll escort you back to bed. I insist!” he replied, and then with his ankle still throbbing he stiffly limped towards the open door of her room, as he helped her inside.
As she sat down on the bed, his arm was still around her.
“Goodnight, Magpie,” he said politely.
She kept her arm around him, playfully jerking him back towards her as a brief look of alarm came to his face.
“Where's my goodnight kiss?”
Oswald reached for her arm, unhooking it from his waist as he stepped back.
“Goodnight, my dear,” he said firmly as his face flushed and he turned for the door.
“Is that all I get?”
Her sharp demand shook him a little as he turned back, looking at her in surprise.
She smiled playfully, hanging one leg off the bed as her skirt rode up higher and he caught a flash of her panties. Her damp panties, he could see the darkness against the fabric... She was turned on? She wanted him? Oswald blinked, feeling his blush grow deeper.
“You can manage a goodnight kiss, I'm only asking for one little kiss, Penguin.”
He felt a mix of flattered and flustered as he limped back to her bedside, leaned stiffly over her and kissed her cheek. She put a hand on his shoulder, turning her head and brushing his lips as she pulled him closer and his leg ached and for the sake of his ankle, as he drew back from her eager mouth, he sat down heavily beside her.
“Magpie, I really need to go to bed! Please control yourself.”
But she didn't. She moved fast, climbing on to his lap as he gave a gasp and she rubbed that damp fabric against him, holding him in her gaze as she spoke again.
“I know you want me, I've seen enough guys look at me the way you do, to know what you want! Take me, Penguin, I'm all yours!”
She was on his lap, the heat of her pressing gently against his cock and he was getting hard. No one had ever touched him, provoked him like this before – no one had ever got close enough to be so intimate - and his erection was rapidly rising along with a fast and hard desire to release his sexual tension.
He was breathless and flushed as he placed his hands on her hips, gently pushing her backwards. She took the hint and climbed off, but he didn't get a chance to stand up because her hand was on his thigh now and he was aroused and didn't want her to stop as she rubbed gently up and down the fabric of his suit.
“I know you're always alone, that's what they say, Penguin is always alone... I know how to make that better... Stop fighting this, my little birdie, lonely birdie... kiss me -”
He got up and limped sharply away. As she watched him leave, she spoke up again.
“I know what else they say about you.”
“Goodnight, Magpie,” he said firmly, using every ounce of his fading will not to turn around and go back over to that bed and give her what she wanted. He was turned on now, no one had ever done that before, not this close and intimate... He reached for the closed door. And then she said something. He turned back sharply, glaring at her.
“What did you say?”
She sat back on the bed, leaning against the pillows with one leg raised and her shoes kicked off on the floor as her skirt fanned out at the top of slender thighs and that damp patch in her panties was visible - for the world to see, for all she cared.
“I'm only saying what they all say...”
Anger flashed in his eyes.
She said it again, like a playful little chant:
“The Penguin is a virgin...”
He limped stiffly over to the bed and looked down at her.
“That... that is not true!”
His eyes widened. His cock was getting harder. She was teasing him beyond anything he could take and his body was still screaming for release. The look in her eyes changed to one of deepest need.
“I want you, Oswald,” she whispered, “Please take me...I've been with enough guys to know when I'm wanted and I know what you're thinking! Take me, stop fighting this!”
His cock was aching as he reached for her, she gave a gasp as he climbed on to the bed, she fell on to her back and he was on top between her open legs as she gave a whine of frustration, then reached down, tugging at her underwear. Oswald's gaze didn't leave hers as he reached down too, fumbled with his belt then tugged on his zip.
“So you've been with a lot of guys?”
“Many!” she said breathlessly, “But none like you, Oswald! I want you so fucking much!”
He was shaking as he leaned closer, kissing her gently, then harder as she welcomed him into her open mouth and took the lead, kissing him hard and deep and leaving him fighting for air as he raised his head, breathless as he broke into a sweat.
“You little temptress!”
She spread her legs wider. He could barely handle his own hardness long enough to guide it towards her body because he was afraid of losing control. She wanted him to fuck her. She had fucked many men, why the hell was that such a turn on? Because she was implying she was the kind of woman his mother used to warn him about? She was so hot and wet and he was so hard and impatient and hoped he didn't seem like the virgin that he was, he was Oswald Cobblepot and he was powerful - and had never felt so turned on or out of control in the whole of his life.
“Oh Penguin, you're so big!” Magpie said, looking down at his solid erection. He glanced down, it was around nine inches and he knew it was big, but hearing her say that was mind blowing as the closeness to her heat and the feel of her wetness caressed the head of his cock.
“You want this?” he whispered as he hoped she didn't feel him shaking.
Her hands slid to his shoulders as she looked into his eyes.
“Give it all to me!” she gasped.
Oswald didn't need to be told twice. She had a great deal of experience, he wanted to be sure he satisfied her. He thrust in hard, burying the whole of his length deep inside her. Magpie clung tightly to him, her fingers digging into his jacket as she threw her head back, giving a sharp cry.
“Oswald...” she gasped, “Slow down...I need to tell you something -”
“Oh Magpie!” he said breathlessly, thrusting against her hard and fast, her body shaking with every movement as she gave another cry and he felt his balls go tight.
“I hope this is enough... that I'm enough... Oh, you drive me wild!” he covered her mouth with a kiss, the bed began to knock against the wall as he thrust in a fast rhythm, feeling his building climax. Magpie made little gasps as he thrust in, she was still clinging to him as he kissed her again and with one more hard thrust, he closed his eyes, gasping softly.
“Oh god....yes....Yes!” he breathed heavily, feeling every last throb spill inside her.
As the last throb of pleasure faded out, their bodies were still joined as Oswald slumped weak on top of her, breathing hard and with a look of wonder in his eyes as he saw her lying there, breathless and wrecked by his lovemaking. Surely he had satisfied her just as well as all these other men with their great experience? He could do the same, he had satisfied her, he felt sure of it...
“That was wonderful!” he exclaimed, then as he carefully withdrew from her body his orgasm ran out of her, and his expression changed to one of alarm as he noticed a small red stain on her thigh and on the mattress beneath her.. She had been bleeding?
“What have I done?” he said in alarm, tidying his clothing as he sat up, looking at Magpie with a startled expression.
She sat up, looked down at the damp patch below her sticky thighs, noticed the blood and then met his gaze slowly.
“About what?” he demanded.
As he got up his leg ached and he felt the pain deeply thanks to all that activity he had never experienced before, but right now, his concern was with Magpie.
“There were no other guys,” she said as for a moment her platinum hair shaded her face, then she raised her head, meeting his gaze again, “I was a virgin too.”
Oswald's jaw dropped as he stared at her... She had lied, she had gone to such great lengths to get him into bed?
“Why?” it was all he could think to say.
“Because....” she blinked away tears, “I love you, Oswald! And I wanted you so much -”
Her words were silenced as he leaned in, sliding a hand behind her head and pulling her closer and kissing her tenderly. His heart was pounding as he drew back and looked into her eyes...She loved him? No one had ever said that before, no one had ever got this close or intimate... And she had never made love before, yet she had chosen him? A swirl of emotion hit him at once as he looked into her eyes.
“You stole from me and I injured you! How can you love me after that?”
“I didn't know you back then, but I do now,” she replied, “And I do love you -”
“No, no...” he said quickly, reaching for her as she attempted to get up, easing her back down then lifting her legs and gently laying her flat on the bed, “Don't move, Magpie. You need to rest your....” his gaze shifted to her thighs, “Your new injury. I'm so sorry,” he reached for the covers and draped them over her, then took her hand and kissed the back of it as remorse filled his eyes, “I'm sorry I was inexperienced and clumsy and I hurt you down there... Do you need a doctor?”
She gave his hand a gentle squeeze as she laughed softly. He looked utterly confused.
“Oswald, I'm not hurt!” she exclaimed, “I was a virgin, you popped my cherry, I'm just fine!”
Oswald felt heat rising in his face again. He knew the basics of sex, of course – but had never put it into practise, nor had he known a woman could bleed after first time sex...
“I've been so busy building an empire I haven't had time to pursue intimate encounters,” he said, looking away, “I'm sorry, I won't be rough next time.”
“I was a virgin!” she said again, “It's okay, I'm fine.”
Her hand was still in his grip as he realised what he had just said... Next time? Yes, he wanted to be with her again, but next time, he would make it special.
“Come to bed, stay with me tonight,” she said softly.
Oswald smiled as his eyes sparkled.
“Of course I will, my love!”
He limped to the door and quietly locked it, then went back to her bedside and began to undress as she kept her eyes on him the whole time. He didn't feel shy to be naked for the first time as she took off her clothing too and waited patiently for him. Then he got into bed beside her, and she turned out the light. They slept all night in a close embrace as for the first time in his life, he felt truly loved...
The next day felt like a dream as Oswald woke beside Magpie, then he got up first and ran a bath for her. While she was in the bathroom he changed the sheets, bundling them up quickly to hide the stains when Olga collected the laundry. When the bed was made, he took his turn in the bathroom as she left, and as they passed each other, they paused to share a kiss. Just then Ed walked in, he had passed by the door and the stopped, curious to see Oswald and Magpie standing so close. They broke off from their kiss just as Oswald turned his head and saw him standing there and he got a tight feeling in the pt of his stomach around the same time Ed felt a deep ache in his heart along with a sting of jealousy as he wondered why Oswald would possibly want that annoying, irritating woman who had tried to steal from him...
“Excuse me,” Ed said, looking away, “I wanted to talk to you about the final plans for the sub...I can see you are busy. So... later, then.”
He left the room and Oswald's gaze lingered after him. It was still there, that restless feeling of want and need that he was sure Magpie ought to be able to banish, but when he looked at her, she was not Ed. That thought stayed with him all day. She was not Ed, no matter how much love was growing in his heart for her...and he had to fight it, he decided, because he and Ed had never even got started before the possibility of their love becoming reality had crashed in flames. He focused on Magpie. It seemed like the best thing to do...
Ten Years Later:
Oswald was warm in thoughts of how he had carefully planned out that second, gentle, romantic night with Magpie. But just as he reached the moment where he laid her on the bed and leaned over to kiss her, sleep claimed him and he drifted off into a dreamless place where war had never been fought, his eye had not been damaged by a grenade, and Magpie and his unborn child had not been killed in that terrible post war explosion. Oswald forgot all the tragedies and the things he believed to be true, and that dreamless sleep was wonderful, because while he slept, his leg spared him pain.
While Oswald rested in Blackgate, back at the mansion, Magpie was making her plans as she made arrangements for the changes to the speech that night. Josh looked on, watching and listening as he realised exactly what she up to. Okay, it wasn't so bad it would cause the New Underworld to collapse, but it was a serious breech of trust to make such a sharp change, and she was also planning a protest without the knowledge of the GCPD, too... What she had thought up was clever, but there would be a lot of disapproval from the authorities to know the queen of Gotham had suddenly done something so major with out a single word to them first... When the last of her calls were made, Josh waited until she put the phone down, then as she rose from her desk he joined her, looking into her eyes as he spoke softly, hoping to be able to do something to calm the storm he saw behind her gaze.
“I can see you've thought this through and I know I can't stop you. But please be careful.”
The sadness he saw reflected in her eyes had never changed since the day they had first met. She was resigned to this now, she would do what ever it took to free Oswald...
“Oswald won't last much longer, he's giving up hope,” she told him, “I have to get him out of there.”
As she reached for him Josh welcomed her embrace, holding her close as he rested his head on her shoulder, inhaling the scent of her hair as his heart yearned for the love she kept only for Oswald. As he let go again he recalled the many nights she had demanded satisfaction, pushing him to his knees, grasping him by the hair and ordering him to eat her pussy. She would come hard, still breathless and shaking as she pushed him down to the floor, then she would slide down hot and slick on to his cock and ride him until she had no strength left and he could hold back no longer. She had done it all to him over the years, paddles, whips, she had gagged him to stifle his cries as she used a vibrator on him until he could take no more and lost control, succumbing to the slow, firm and unrelenting massage of his prostate, coming with his hands cuffed in a helpless spurt of white heat as she told him Good boy. She had a black leather collar she sometimes made him wear, and when she attached a chain to it, she would playfully tug it, choking him briefly as she toyed with his hardness. She liked to make him wait to come, too.
But only when she wanted to play.
Some nights saw her weeping for Oswald, and then she would call to him and he would join her in bed and wrap his arms around her. Once, he had forgotten the balance of power and made love to her as he dried her tears. Just as she had gasped on the brink of climax she had almost said I love you. Almost, than then pulled back, recovering her breath and running her fingers through his hair as she lay on top, pinning him down and their eyes met.
“Never look at me like that,” she had whispered, “My heart belongs to another. You warm my bed and kill my frustration, you keep me company and for that I am fond of you. But never assume you could ever take his place....”
But Josh looked at her like that all the time, when her back was turned, when she looked away. He loved her – how could he not love her after five years in her service, in her arms and in her bed?
As he looked at Magpie, he spoke softly as his heart kept its secret and silently waited for a hopeful response.
“Would you like me to come to your room?”
She paused for thought, then met his gaze still with an expression of deep sorrow.
“Perhaps.” Was all she said, as her mind stayed on the speech that could alter history, the speech she would make that very evening, and then she left the room.
Magpie went upstairs alone, her thoughts on the distant past and the days before the war had changed everything. Back then Oswald was a free man and doing very well for himself in the fallen city of Gotham. He had thrived in that violent and desperate atmosphere, making a good living for himself and a life of luxury – but of course, it all had to come to an end, and that was why he and Ed had been building the submarine when she had come into their lives... She went into the bedroom and closed the door, giving a sigh as she took off her shoes and then climbed on to the four poster bed framed with a lace canopy. This room was so romantic, yet so lonely. Sometimes she thought she would go crazy if not for Josh. But Oswald was always in her heart. She didn't know what would happen if he got out of Blackgate – he loved Ed, he needed to be with Ed, but she wanted him around, too. Oliver needed him. Oswald would find a reason to embrace life once more if he knew he had a son. She didn't know how Ed would react to the news, when it hit, that Empress was the Magpie girl he had once detested so deeply. But, that revelation was a long way off. All that mattered was getting Oswald out of jail...
As she lay back grabbing much needed rest before her speech that evening, she thought back to the day after she and Oswald had first got together. He had been so clumsy the first time, then so concerned about the fact that he had taken her virginity so roughly. He was so sweet, so kind... That second night had made up for everything, he had seen to that...
She drew in a deep breath, resting against a pillow as white as her platinum hair as she closed her eyes, a smile playing about her lips as she remembered their second night together. How different it had been from the first:
She had been ready for bed in a sheer, short gown of white lace that just about skimmed the top of her thighs. She wore nothing beneath it. If his leg was hurting, Oswald didn't show it as he locked the door behind him and limped over to her looking his usual dashing self in a black suit with his hair spiked. He had lifted her into his arms and laid her down on the bed, as their eyes locked, he had told her that he loved her, then he had stripped off his jacket and started to undress. She had watched him, savouring every moment as his pale flesh became visible and his expensive clothing was cast aside, his body was slender but toned and he had many scars, a legacy of the gangland battles he had endured to rise to the top of his game.
Love making was close and gentle and heated as he slowly eased inside her, taking care, then pausing to ask, Am I hurting you?
“No,” she had promised, “I want you, Oswald. Make love to me.”
He had held her close and rained kisses down on her shoulders and throat and finally claimed her mouth, coming up for air as he thrust harder, trying to hold back but sweating and panting as the heat of their bodies moved together. The look on his face as he climaxed was something that went straight to her heart as she held him tightly and told him she loved him.
“I love you too,” Oswald had whispered as they separated, then he had laid beside her all night, holding her in his arms as he talked about how wonderful life would be when they left the city together in the sub.
But of course that never happened. The war had got in the way... But at least for a short, sweet few months, they had a chance to dream and to be together...
Magpie was pulled from thoughts of the past and Oswald's lovemaking by the unbearable ache between her legs. She slid her had into swollen wetness and started to rub as she gave a soft moan, needing release as she recalled the feel of Oswald's cock deep inside her. They had made love so many times in such a few short months, every moment, every chance they could get, even when his thoughts turned back to Ed, he was still fucking her, by then he had learned to stimulate her and it didn't take much from Oswald to make her come hard, every single time... She was very aware of her empty, lonely room as she rubbed at her swollen sex. Then she heard a tap on the door.
“Do you need anything, Empress?” she heard Josh say.
Empress. He always called her by her underworld title when offering himself, it was a mark of respect he would never cast aside. Tender flesh throbbed beneath her touch as she drew in a breath and gave her response.
“Yes, come in...”
Josh entered the room, closed and locked the door behind him, then went over to the bed, where Magpie lay back with her dress up to her hips and a manicured hand between her parted thighs, her fingertips were shiny with her own arousal as he joined her on the bed. She spread her legs wider as she rested against the pillows, her eyes full of a silent desire for release – and he knew exactly how to to do it, exactly how she liked it... Her hands were at her sides now, crushing the sheets in her grip as she watched him place a hand between her legs and press a fingertip firmly to her swollen clitoris as he started to rub in a circular motion.
“I know what you want, you're so turned on... you need to think about Oswald and the old days...”
“Yes...” she whispered as she threw her head back and her eyes stayed shut. Josh used his other hand to dip two fingers into her body, moving them in and out as he rubbed a little harder and she gave a small thrust of her hips.
“No, not yet, we both know you need this to be intense...”
He drew his wet fingers out, then slid them lower, sliding them rigid into her ass as he carried on stimulating her. She gave a low cry as she felt the fingers inside her scissor apart, stretching her as he worked on her clit. She was soaking wet, she was flushed now and her thighs shook.
“You told me he used to do this to you... he fucked you like this, didn't he?”
Magpie took a heavy breath, recalling how Oswald had mentioned birth control was in short supply during they days leading up to the war when everything was running out - and that was when he had said they had better be more careful, and he started fucking her anally. She had come hard every single time, come screaming. It had been too late to think about caution, though – she was already pregnant but at the time, they didn't know it... Sex with Oswald had blown her mind... Josh pushed his fingers deep, then stretched the ring of muscle again as she she gave a cry of longing.
“You need to come hard, Empress,” he said, “I can do better than use my fingers, you need to come screaming...”
He was still toying with her ass as he buried his face between her legs, sucking hard at her sex, then firmly and roughly flicking his tongue over and over her swollen core as she thrust her hips hard and gave a helpless whine. Josh lapped at her again, showing no mercy as she trembled and tried to hold back, pausing only to give one last, sharp suck before licking her roughly. Magpie slammed her body against him, drowning in him in the gush of her climax as she hit her peak. She cried out sharply and he didn't know if she was thinking of him or Oswald, but it didn't matter as she came hard and he kept his fingers deep inside her and waited for the last squeeze of her muscles to fade out, then he slid his fingers out of her body and placed a kiss on her swollen sex. The softest of kisses down there was too much now as she shuddered and gave a gasp, then he got up as she lay back, her face still flushed, her sex still wide open and glistening.
“Do you need anything else, Empress?”
She turned her head, her eyes still glazed from orgasm.
“Don't leave,” she whispered, “Hold me.”
Josh sat down on the edge of the bed as the all powerful queen of Gotham curled into a tight ball with her head on his lap as he stroked her hair.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked softly, but he already knew her reply.
“Oswald,” she whispered, “I'm going to get him out of Blackgate even if it costs me everything I have, I don't care any more, Josh. I just don't care. He needs to be free...”
As she said those words, Josh tried not to think about the heavy sense of dread that had descended as they sat there in silence, it was as if a storm was slowly approaching to cover the city in a turbulent cloud, and nothing could be done to stop it now...
Ed's heart was aching as he drove away from Blackgate Prison. It was always painful to say goodbye and leave Oswald, but today was much harder, to walk away and leave him in the infirmary, knowing he was in so much pain. Sometimes he thought about the power and control wielded by the New Underworld and felt sure the day would come when Ozzie would be set free. But today, he just ached sorely in his heart, and Oswald walking free from jail seemed like an impossible dream...
Ed sat in his car a short while, thinking about the one he loved as he wished for another life, one where Oswald wouldn't have had this accident – because he would have taken care of him. Ozzie's leg had been getting steadily worse these past few years, it was a combination of being locked up and the years passing by, it had quickly taken its toll on him as damaged bones and stiff joints had steadily deteriorated. The cocktail of painkilling drugs used to treat his problem had caused him to put on weight – by the time he first visited him, Oswald had been over joyed to see him, and the look of disbelief he had seen on his face when he realised his new doctor was Doctor Nygma, was a day he would never forget - the day Oswald had wept in his arms, then while his tears were still wet on his face, Ed had pulled him close, told him he had missed him, and kissed him deeply. Then all thoughts of lovemaking were cancelled as all he could do was hold Ozzie tightly as he jerked his cock hard, losing control quickly as years of waiting and frustration ended with that first orgasm in his arms...
Ed was still thinking about the past as he left his car and then went back to his apartment. By the time he had closed the front door behind him, he was lost in fond memories of the past:
His second visit to Oswald had also been one to remember, but this time because there were no tears and Oswald was more than ready for him...
Ed had closed the door to the treatment room and locked it, then looked to his patient with a sparkle in his eyes.
“How are you today, Mr Cobblepot?” he asked as he smiled and Oswald smiled back at him with pure joy shining in his gaze.
“Not good, Doctor Nygma,” Oswald had replied as he laid back on a bed in the corner of the room wearing nothing but a bathrobe, “I really need your help, I hope you can fix me...”
As Ed had joined him, he had taken off his jacket, draped it over a chair and then sat down on the bed as he smiled down at Oswald.
“You look so good!” he said, still with a big smile on his face.
Oswald hesitated, then placed a hand against his robe, over his broad belly as he looked up at him with a flicker of insecurity in his gaze.
“I've gained a little weight, actually, a lot of weight - are you sure you still want me?”
“Oh, yes!” Ed replied keenly, taking control as he untied the robe and opened it up.
Oswald gave a gasp as Ed pressed his face gently against his chubby belly, then he kissed it as he ran his hands over his broad hips. Oswald just lay there, a slight expression of panic in his gaze as he wondered if Ed really meant it, he was exposed, completely naked, and Ed was drinking in the sight of him like he was the most desirable man he had ever laid eyes on.
“Are... are you sure?” Oswald asked quietly.
“Very sure!” Ed promised him, “Damn, you look good enough to eat!”
He leaned in and covered his mouth with a deep and passionate kiss. One hand was still caressing a chubby roll of fat around his middle as the other slid between his legs, Oswald's breathing turned to soft pants as he broke into a light sweat as Ed stimulated him, then stopped before it all happened too fast.
“Slow down, Ozzie,” Ed said softly.
Then he paused to carefully lift his damaged leg and bend and then move it as he spread the other easily, then Ed applied lube to his fingertips as Oswald closed his eyes, trying not to shake too hard as excitement overwhelmed him, because that shake was heavy and he didn't want his leg pain to get in the way of this moment. Ed stroked the lube on his ass, then slid in one finger, working it in and out slowly as Oswald lay there on his back, wide open and giving murmurs of pleasure. The second finger went in easy, he was relaxed and aching for more but Ed patiently stretched him, slowly and carefully taking his time as he spoke to him in such a way it made his cock weep with the need for release.
“Yes, I'm going to fuck you, Oswald. And I'm going to be careful, you have to wait a little longer... wow, you're opening right up for me...”
Ed withdrew his fingers and as he went down on him - all the way down, past his balls and buried his face in is ass as his tongue began to explore - Oswald gave a soft cry and slid his fingers through his hair, breathing harder. Ed came up for air, his mouth shining with lube and saliva as he met Oswald's glazed eyes and shifted position and tugged at his zip.
“You and me,” he said in a voice husky with need, “Together as one, at last... I love you, Oswald.”
“I love you too -”
His words were snatched away by Ed slowly pushing into him. His cock felt as if it would explode as Ed began to slowly thrust, gently at first, but when Ozzie said, Fuck me Ed, fuck me harder! He had to get a little rough, and with every thrust, Oswald was pushed further to the edge. His face was flushed, his hair was damp and he was breathing hard as a deep thrust hit the right spot and Oswald grabbed at his cock just in time as hot white cum spilled out sharply. Ed thrust in again, saying his name as he filled him up deep inside.
Both men were temporarily wrecked by the intensity of it all, and Ed's legs were unsteady as he stepped back, pausing to clean himself up and tidy his clothing. The sight of Oswald spread open, his entrance still closing after that first, beautiful fuck as the climax leaked out of him was a sight Ed couldn't look away from. Then he reached for tissues and began to clean him up.
“Next time, I'm coming on that big broad belly of yours!” he said with a grin as Oswald laughed softly and his eyes reflected the words he spoke from his heart.
“I love you, Edward Nygma!”
“I love you too,” Ed had replied softly.
Then he had turned his attention to his formal duties, administering pain relief and helping Oswald to move his painful knee and ankle. His softly spoken words helped as Oswald struggled to comply, but Ed assured him, next time there would be massage and a little more movement of his damaged joints, and if he was good, he had added playfully, he would get a blow job afterwards... Ed had left him to rest, kissed him fondly goodbye, then unlocked the door, leaving instruction with the staff that Mr Cobblepot had to rest for at least twelve hours before he was taken back to his cell.
“Keep him comfortable,” he had added, and then looked back at Oswald, exchanging a quick look of love, before leaving the room...
There had been many encounters with Ozzie in jail, always behind the locked door of the treatment room. Ed had sucked him and fucked him and even had him up on the examination table with his legs open and up in the leg rests so he could adjust the table and gain easy access. Oswald liked the bondage aspect of being restrained in such a position. There had been kisses and words of love and sometimes Ed had laid on the bed with him, just holding him and stroking his hair as they talked about the past :
Why had they not got together sooner?
He always asked that, and Ozzie always looked into his eyes and gave the same reply:
“It doesn't matter, Ed. Better late than never...”
Now as Ed sat alone in his apartment, he was still thinking on the past and would have jerked off at all the beautiful memories, too – but then he had cast his mind back too far, back to the days before the war when they had built the sub and he had gone over to the dock to meet Oswald:
There they were, standing by the water's edge, Magpie and Oswald wrapped in an embrace and kissing passionately. Even back then, before they had realised their love for each other, the sight of him with that girl made Ed's heart sink like a stone, all the way down to his guts.
The worst time had been after the sub was almost ready, when he had climbed the ladder and was just about to board to finish off some last minute work, when he had looked down to see Oswald leaning against the ladder that led into the submarine, and there was Magpie on her knees, sucking his cock like her life depended on it. All he could hear was her sucking and Oswald gasping. He had quietly gone back down the ladder and stood there on the dock, feeling resentful as he glanced at Edward the dog, who was tied up close by.
“At least he left you outside, you didn't have to see what I just saw,” Ed had complained...
Ed went over to a table by the window and picked up a small, framed picture of Oswald, it was a picture he had taken of the two of them a few years back, in the photo he had his arm around Ozzie as they embraced, and Oswald looked so happy – but only while they were together, the background was the walls of Blackgate... Ed put the picture back and took a deep breath, trying to clear his mind as he focused on the fact that Empress was due to give a speech that night, and he was expected to hold the crowd for ten minutes before she made her appearance. It was time to think about doing his job, even though he didn't like it – because if not for Empress, he wouldn't be in a position to visit Oswald at all... He went through to the bedroom, opened up his wardrobe and took out a dark green suit covered with question marks as he shifted into his entertainer mode. Tonight was show time...
In a city like Gotham that had seen so much turbulence and change over the years, it was no surprise that many often paused to think about the past in the face of such changing times. Another who was doing just that was Selina Kyle, as she walked along a familiar street marked with old bullet holes, a legacy of the Gotham war, as she made her way to the river front. She was also thinking back to a time before the war, to a time when she had realised something had changed in her absence:
She had returned just over a week later, after leaving Magpie in Oswald's care. She had expected her to be keen to leave by now, but instead, as Magpie had draped her arm around Oswald, who blushed, she had said, “I kinda like making my nest here, Selina. Me and Penguin get along just fine...”
They had exchanged a glance. Their eyes had locked. It was the kind of look only lovers would share... Magpie and Oswald? She was stunned.
“Let me know when the sub's ready,” was all Selina had said to him, then she had glanced at Magpie, “Are you sure you know what you're doing?” she had asked as Oswald shot her a look of indignation, “I mean, Oswald, really?” she had added doubtfully, “After he almost killed you?”
“Jealous?” Magpie had replied playfully.
“No, I'm just worried for you. Don't get yourself killed,” Selina had told her...
But now as she took to the road where in the distance, the water looked dull reflecting rain skies as Bruce Wayne stood alone watching the river, she felt a deep sadness in her heart. Not for her and Bruce. That had been over before he left Gotham. The sadness was for him, for what he couldn't let go of, and it was also one of the reasons he had returned, an old heartbreak he could never shake off...
Bruce was leaning on the rail, looking out across the water as he thought about Jeremiah Velaska as he used to be. Young, handsome and crazy but still Jeremiah, that name that could send shooting tingles up and down his spine. He had tried to resist all those years before, but had ended up in his bed. When the city had fallen and he knew Jeremiah had made his choice – the darkness not the light, his heart was broken forever and for Bruce, it felt like this fight would never end. He still wanted to pull him back, to kiss him senseless and fuck him until all he could do was gasp his name. He wanted to grasp him in the twilight, love shaded haze of those moments after making love, grip his chemical ravaged face and ask him what the fuck he was doing with his life...
Bruce had returned to Gotham eight years after he left, returning because Jeremiah had escaped from Arkham. He had thought after the accident at Ace Chemicals, when Jeremiah was believed to be almost brain dead, that all he could do was leave him in the care of Arkham and leave Gotham with a broken heart and never return. But Jeremiah had escaped years later, proving he was certainly more capable than the staff at the asylum had been led to believe. He had gone to ground now, there had been a few incidents, but even with his newly honed fighting skills and his bat suit and the anonymity of hiding behind that mask, he didn't know if he could bear to do what he did to the other criminals - he handed them over to the cops – no, he couldn't see Jeremiah go back to Arkham. He still loved him, it was toxic, it was probably the one thing that would spell the end of him, in the end – but he still loved Jeremiah Valeska...
He turned from the water to see leather clad Selina standing there, with a look in her eyes that was somewhere between wanting to hug him and needing to grab him by the shoulders and shake him until he came to his senses. They had talked here before. Always about Jeremiah.
“I don't need to ask who you're thinking about.”
Bruce gave a sigh.
“Love isn't a choice, Selina. It just happens. I believe in following my heart.”
Her gaze hardened.
“You'll follow it all the way to an early grave if you don't forget about Jeremiah! He's crazy, Bruce. What can you possibly hope to gain by tracking him down? And what if he doesn't want to be found? Are you going to carry on with this vigilante stuff in the hope that your good deeds outweigh his latest crimes? He belongs in Arkham. You can't change him.”
Bruce paused for thought.
“You're right,” he agreed, “But it doesn't mean I have to feel any better about it. I do have to find him, and stop him before it's too late.”
Selina's eyes widened. Wow, this was a first – Bruce agreeing with her stance on the Jeremiah issue?
“And then what?” she asked.
There it was again, hesitation in his eyes.
“I don't know,” Bruce replied, “But I have to find him.”
“Because you're locked in a vicious circle with a crazy guy. Your ex is crazy, Bruce!”
“I know he is,” Bruce replied, “He's more than crazy, Selina. The word is out that that he's planning an attack on the New Underworld.”
That news had stunned her.
“What kind of attack?” she said in a hushed voice.
As he gave his reply, she felt a flicker of alarm as she hoped Bruce, in his desire to protect the city, would put the city first and not let his feelings for Jeremiah get in the way, because the news he gave her was shocking:
“There's a rumour on the street that Mr J is planning to assassinate the Queen of Gotham.” he replied.
Harvey Bullock was in his office at the GCPD when Jim Gordon walked in.
“All set for tonight?” he asked.
Harvey paused for thought. These speeches given in public by the queen of Gotham were always something of a show, and huge crowds would gather in the city square, there would be additional screens set up around the city in other areas too, because in these modern times, crowds were limited in one place due to health and safety regulations.
“Our people are covering the ground, and the Queen's people are on the rooftops. It's watertight. We have scanning for knives and guns on the way in, and security staff thick on the ground at the main event. If any criminals out there want to hit a bank or a jewellery store tonight, we'd better hope Batman has it covered. This event is taking all man power from both sides. But yes, I can confirm it's all covered.”
Jim walked over to the window as Harvey got up to join him, he looked out at the city, now a mix of new and old where rebuilding had repaired the damage of war. So much had changed in the past ten years. One revelation he had not expected was the fact that Magpie was Harvey's daughter. The other secret was that Batman was Bruce Wayne. And he and Harvey and Bruce all knew Magpie was the Empress – a secret known by very few, even Ed Nygma didn't know the identity of the Empress – and neither did Oswald Cobblepot who was in Blackgate, unaware the Queen of the underworld fighting for his release was his lost love... It made sense for Oswald not to know yet, because he was vulnerable in Blackgate, and so was his son, even at home with Magpie – that boy was heir to the entire underworld one day...
“What are you thinking about, Harvey?” asked Jim.
Harvey fell silent again, thinking back to the days before the war...
Ten Years Before:
It was all down to Selina, who had come to visit Magpie, assuming the affair with Oswald would be over, but no, they were still in love. And Selina had asked her about her parents. Magpie had answered without hesitation as they had dinner together as they sat at the table with the firelight flickering.
“My mother's name was Tara Magdalena,” said Magpie, “She was a street walker. But I never saw that side of her. She always told me she was a dancer. Then she met this guy, he asked her to look after something for him. That was the night she put on her black and silver snake heel shoes and got ready to go to work – but then they came in, three guys, yelling about a stash of drugs. My mom told me to hide, she put me under her bed. They didn't find me, but they found my mom. They killed her. I was nine years old and had no where to go, so I took to the streets. And I took my mother's shoes with me. To this day, if I have to do something that's difficult or dangerous, I put those shoes on and I walk tall and proud.”
Oswald and Ed had stopped eating, Oswald was poised with a wine glass in his hand, listening as she related her tale.
“And your father?” he asked.
“Just a name on my birth certificate... some lousy cop called Harvey Bullock. He didn't even know about me, he was only with my mom for a week.”
Oswald had sipped his wine just as she spoke, then he coughed and spluttered as Ed gave a gasp.
“Harvey?” Selina had exclaimed, “I know him, you should meet him, Magpie – he stayed on after the evacuation. He's a good guy. I bet he would would have been there for you, if he had known about you. I really think you should meet him.”
That meeting had taken place three days later when Selina had taken Magpie to Harvey's apartment...
It had taken some explaining.
Harvey had stared at her in disbelief, recalling his encounter with her mother years before – but what stuck in his mind most was the murder of her mother, and the hunt for those responsible back in the day. The case had been solved eventually... He heard she had a kid, but that kid had cleared out after the murder, vanishing into the dirty, shadowy streets of the city. He had never known Janey was his daughter, or that she had become Magpie. His daughter was a jewel thief...
They had talked, the news had sunk in and then he had hugged her. He also said he'd tell her to stop stealing, but with the city the way it was now, she had to survive somehow. He offered her a place to stay. She smiled and said, “No thanks, I'm happy with my birdie.”
“Who?” asked Harvey.
Selina had said nothing, looking on as she hoped the bomb that was about to drop didn't cause too much damage.
“My birdie,” Magpie replied, “I'm dating Oswald Cobblepot.”
Harvey had stared at her.
Harvey had held back his concern and his anger as he looked at the daughter he barely knew and spoke again:
“I know I'm still a stranger to you but I am your father, and if you only take one piece of advice from me, take this, Magpie – stay away from Cobblepot, he's trouble!”
That advice had gone unheeded.
Harvey had not seen her again for months, but he had seen Oswald, he had stormed into his stolen, palatial home and landed him a hard punch on the jaw as he accused him of being linked to the Haven bombing. Then he had glared at him in fury adding, “If you've dragged my little girl into this shit, I'll have your balls, Oswald!”
By the time the truth had come out about the bombing, Ed was reunited with Oswald and had the chip removed from his brain. And Magpie was still with Oswald. Harvey didn't see her again until after the war, after an explosion that had led everyone to believe Magpie was dead.
By then, Oswald was in jail.
Then one evening, there had been a knock at the door. He had opened it to see a tearful Magpie standing there.
“You're alive!” he said as tears of joy filled his eyes – but that joy was short lived.
“Of course I'm alive, Dad! And you have to help me!” she had sobbed, “You have to make the cops let him go! I need Oswald back!”
Harvey had looked at her helplessly. There was no way the authorities would release Cobblepot, he was well and truly fucked this time, his war crimes had caught up with him and so had the murder of Tabitha Galavan...
“I can't stop this, they want to make an example of him, he's a high profile criminal!” Harvey had said.
Magpie blinked back tears as she looked down to the huge baby bump she cradled.
“But my baby birdie needs Daddy bird!” she wept.
Harvey stared at her wide eyed... Jesus, his daughter was huge. She looked like she was going to drop that kid any day now... Oswald had got her knocked up? Five minutes later, she was in the apartment sobbing on his shoulder. Harvey had hugged her and promised everything would be okay. Again, he offered her the spare room, but she said no, she was staying with Selina for now...
Ten Years Later:
Harvey was still thinking about the past, and how the past had changed the present. He didn't hate Oswald, not now. He often joked to Jim that for all the favours Oswald had done for the law over the years, the best thing Penguin had ever done for the GCPD was to give him a grandson... He loved Oliver. And strangely, perhaps his love for his grandson was the reason why he had added his name to a petition just put up online to free Oswald Cobblepot. He was the father of his grandchild, and he had served his time. Of course he wanted him to get out of jail, Magpie had plans. She wanted him to know his son, for them to be a family. He couldn't begin to imagine how Ed would react to any of it, given the fact that he didn't know Empress was Magpie – but surely, it would all come good in the end, he hoped...
“You're quiet,” Jim remarked.
“Do you know about the petition to free Oswald?”
“Yes, I signed it,” Jim replied.
Harvey glanced at him and smiled.
“So did I. And I was just thinking, there's a toy store on the road that leads to the park... they sell toy boats, really nice remote control boats. I think Oliver would love to sail one on the pond over the park – I saw a big one in the window, this huge yacht...”
Jim thought of Oliver, the little boy who was so like his father.
“Yeah, a big yacht sounds about right for Cobblepot junior,” he said with a smile, then he sat down while Harvey went to fetched the coffee. There were a few hours to go before the speech that evening, and it was good to spend the afternoon taking about the old days.
The Empress was resting. Josh had left her to sleep. Oliver was in the garden with his puppy, only stopping play to eat dinner, the going back outside again. The mansion was quiet, as he quietly worried. He checked his phone. The online petition to free Oswald was gathering a lot of signatures, and there had been a notice slapped on it by the GCPD that stated in future, any petitions raised in respect of releasing those linked to the underworld had to be run past the GCPD first. They had also added their good wishes and said they hoped the effort succeeded, because that was what it was like now, both sides had to be nice to each other... He wondered if that would still stand once Magpie had spoken that evening. She was about to break some serious regulations...
Josh got ready early. He showered and then combed his hair and put on a grey suit and a tie bearing the monogram of an E and an M, the symbol of the Empress. Tonight his job would be simple : Watch over Oliver. That boy ordered him about like a servant, but only because Magpie wanted him to be treated that way by everyone. Even Olga, who was back under the mansion's roof as housekeeper, sometimes snapped her fingers if she saw him standing idle and told him to help out and scrub the floor.
“Maybe you should take off that nice shirt while you do it, Josh,” she had added with a smirk, “And then, you go and wash my car...”
As much as he hated to admit it, Olga's little game was enjoyable. He had seen a look of amusement in Magpie's eyes as she had watched Olga give him orders, and he didn't doubt it was Magpie who had told her to treat him like the submissive that he was. But she knew he enjoyed it. Right now, he didn't feel like enjoying anything. The thought uppermost on his mind was to make sure, no matter what Magpie chose to wear that night, that she was also wearing a bullet proof vest. Security would be tight, it always was - but that didn't stop him fearing for her safety...
Magpie had woken alone, sat up on the bed and pushed down her skirt. She felt satisfied from the orgasm that had blown her mind, but her tension was creeping back and it had nothing to do with sexual needs and wants. Her thoughts were back with Oswald, as her heart ached for him. She caught sight of herself reflected in the mirror, and saw a face so changed by the past and the day she had almost died. Then she thought about the day Oswald had almost died, on the day the war was fought for Gotham:
She had been resting at the mansion, because Oswald had sent her there when he lost City Hall. She had been five months pregnant and feeling tired. Then news had reached the radio of the battle that had won the city and she had got up and gone out there and heard of the brave few who had stood at the wall and fought for the city. They said the Penguin had been hit by a grenade, and she had taken off without leaving Selina a note, making her way through burning streets and climbing over rubble as she kept a hand to her heavy baby bump as she made her way towards the only place she hoped he would go – back home, to the mansion. There she found Oswald hugging Ed, and as he drew back, Oswald said, I hope Magpie is okay...
“Yes, let's hope she's not dead,” Ed replied, forcing a smile, still stinging from Oswald's suggestion that their new partnership would work as friends and brothers.
Magpie had run into the room, straight over to Oswald and into his arms as tears filled her eyes at the sight of the blood below the bandage that covered his eye.
“Oh no, my poor birdie's eye!” she had exclaimed.
Behind her back, she heard Ed mutter something that sounded like, Oh shit, still alive...
She was hugging Oswald tightly as she turned her head and glanced at him.
“What did you say?”
“I said, Oh great, you're still alive. SO glad you made it!” Ed replied, forcing a smile that didn't reach his eyes...
Magpie forced her thoughts back to the present as she blinked away tears. She hadn't known it at the time, but a few short months later, she would be separated from Oswald by an accident that saw half of Gotham cut off, as he assumed she had been killed in the explosion. By the time she got through, she was a day away from giving birth and begging her dad to help Oswald get out of jail, but Harvey could do nothing. She had gone back to Selina's apartment and gone into labour...
For a brief moment, her hand slid down the fabric of her dress, over the old scar that had happened after she had given birth, then bled heavily and needed emergency surgery. She had been in a coma afterwards, and in that time, had dreamed a dream that would change her life, as she became a phoenix born of ash and flame, that rose and flew over the ruined city as she saw her destiny...
Her heart was still aching for Oswald. She didn't want to think about the day she had burst in on him and Ed working plans for the sub and said, “I'm pregnant!”
Oswald had almost fallen over as he slammed a hand on the work bench to steady himself. Ed's jaw had dropped.
“Oh no!” Ed had muttered, but then Oswald had limped over to her, held her in his arms and wept tears of joy, before turning to Ed and saying, I'm going to be a father! They just hadn't known how fate would have turned, to tear everything part...
If she thought too much about Oswald and her son and how they had never met, she would be a weeping mess. Instead she opened up a door and stepped into a vast walk in wardrobe as she cast an eye over her many luxurious and breathtaking items of clothing. She didn't know which one to wear yet, but she was sure of one thing: She would definitely be wearing a bullet proof vest tonight...
Josh was alone in the front room when the phone rang. He picked it up and answered in the way he always answered a direct call to the house.
“Residence of the Empress, staff speaking...”
“Staff?” said a voice he had never heard before, then the stranger laughed almost manically, “I'm willing to bet you're her little pussy fuck toy?”
Josh was stunned. This was not a playful prank orchestrated by Magpie. She was in no mood for fun and games, not today... and the man on the end of the phone was a stranger – a stranger who had an odd habit of speaking darkly, punctuated by crazy giggles...
“I think you have the wrong number,” Josh said firmly.
“Oh no, this is the house of the Empress. And I am speaking to her little pussy fuck toy. I will call you pussy, and you will call me Mr J! Listen up, pussy boy - here's news for the Empress - there's going to be a big surprise coming her way very soon - a bullet right between the eyes! And when she's dead, the underworld is mine and we will see significant changes... Not sure what I'll do with you. Maybe I'll skin you and have you made into a coat. Can human skin dye a lovely shade of deep purple? Or should I just beat you purple before I peel off your flesh? You can be my pussy fuck toy jacket! But how to colour it right... Decisions, decisions... Well, that's my message delivered, I'm going to kill the Empress. Catch you later, pussy...literally!”
More manic laughter. The caller hung up.
Josh stood there in shock. Out in the garden, Oliver was playing chase with his puppy and laughing. Magpie was upstairs, either still resting or getting ready for her speech that evening. His hand shook as he reached for the phone then hit the emergency line, doing the only thing he could under the circumstances: There was a threat to the life of the Empress. It seemed to have come from the Joker. He made a call to the GCPD, asking to speak to Commissioner James Gordon, because this was a code red emergency...
As the cops and the Queen's security staff gathered for an emergency meeting at the GCPD, the presence of armed guards around the mansion was doubled as security was tightened. And while this was happening Selina Kyle, arriving to accompany Magpie to her speech, yelled angrily at the guards who had forced her to show ID and then waited for confirmation from staff that she really was Miss Kyle.
“I've been here more times than I can count!” she yelled as she pushed past the security staff who were about to finally step aside, “This is crazy, what the hell is going on?”
“Jeremiah Valeska,” said Josh as he met her in the hallway as the door was closed behind her.
“I already know – I heard from Batman, there's a rumour Joker plans to kill Magpie. He won't get far with that, she's guarded.”
“We can't be sure she's safe. I'm still concerned,” Josh replied as they walked together up the hallway.
“Where is Magpie?”
“Trying to convince her son he needs to stay home tonight. He was going to watch her speech on TV, then he changed his mind and wanted to come with us – then this happened... I was the one who took the call. Joker threatened to skin me and turn me into a coat.”
Josh looked pale and shaken up. But not as shaken up as he had been five years before, when Empress had spared his life, took him home and decided to keep him...
“We both know that won't happen, security is watertight here,” Selina said, following him into the living room, where he offered her a drink and she shook her head, still lost in thoughts of the past:
Enjoy him, Magpie had said...
Back then, Josh had been at the mansion for less than two weeks, he looked tired, he was jumpy, he had bruises and marks around his wrists where he had struggled against restraints. At least she let you live, Selena had told him, She won't kill you, Josh, she likes you too much to do that...
At the time, Josh had been alone in the main bedroom with his shirt off, and a look of confusion in his eyes.
“Do you trust her?” he had asked.
“Of course, she's my friend, we go way back,” Selina had told him, then as Josh had sat down on the bed, Selina had sat with him. His hands shook as he nervously rubbed them together.
“I don't know how to feel,” he told her as tears filled his eyes, “I had this other life and now, all I want is her. I never thought I'd be held captive and find a dream come true! I want to be here, am I crazy?”
“No,” she told him as she brushed a stray lock of hair from his eyes, “No, you're not crazy, Josh. You just found what you were looking for. No one will judge you for welcoming your role in her life. And I'm sure she would let you go now if you asked her, too.”
“No, I don't want to leave her,” Josh said quickly, “I could never do that. I'm so happy to be here I never want this to end!”
Selina smiled in an understanding way, reaching out to hug him. To this day she didn't know if he had moved in towards her, or if she had leaned in first, but their lips touched and they shared a kiss. As he drew back, Selina slowly let go of him.
“Magpie said, I can enjoy you if I want to – but I don't think you need two of us using you for sex!”
Josh laughed as his face flushed.
“Actually, that would be a dream come true!”
Selina laughed too, then she got up from the bed.
“I like you, Josh,” she told him fondly, “I'm glad Magpie has you in her life. You're a good guy...”
Selina stopped thinking about the past as she looked at Josh with worry reflecting in her gaze.
“If you have to watch Oliver tonight, if she lets him attend the speech you could both be in danger!”
There wasn't much Josh could say to that – as much as Magpie adored and protected her son, he would beg her to be there and she would give in if she saw tears in his eyes, tears for his injured father...
“He won't be allowed into the public area. She'll keep him heavily guarded.”
“And what about you?” Selina demanded, “What use is her armed protection for her son and for you against whatever Joker has planned? What if there's a bomb?”
“The bomb squad will sweep the area before we go in.”
“I'm still worried.”
“But you'll be there too,” Josh reminded her.
“I'm not worried for me,” Selina told him, “It's the safety of those I care about, that is what's worrying me!”
“You're including me in that list?”
The look in her eyes softened.
“Of course I am. Now, I'd better go and find Magpie.”
She left the room and headed for the stairs as Josh stood there alone still deeply worried for the safety of Magpie and her son. It had just occurred to him that Selina cared for him far more than she let on, too. But his heart remained firmly with Magpie. He was worried sick. Tonight would more than stir potential legal and political trouble, tonight would now be very, very dangerous indeed...
Oswald had slept for hours after Ed's visit,only waking when a nurse checked on him, then left the room again. Even here in the infirmary, the windows were barred, but through those bars he saw a smoky evening sky as it began to darken down towards dusk. The nurse had switched the TV on and told him he might want to see the speech made by the Empress. Maybe it was their way of trying to keep him awake now he was starting to recover, but Oswald still felt drowsy. He tried to move his leg and felt that same dull ache, along with weakness that was much more pronounced than before. The middle of his back throbbed from the fall, but the way he saw it, he was crippled before the accident. If he ever got back on his feet again, it would be some sort of miracle.
Strangely, he was starting to not care, not even feeling sorry for himself. He could revisit the better days any time he wanted to, all he had to do was close his eyes and remember. He guessed these dull walls of Blackgate would be his home for the rest of his life. The one ray of sunshine escaping in was the fact that he could see Ed on a regular basis.
He knew he was giving up.
Maybe this is how I die, he thought silently, A few years from now, a fat, crippled old wreck who lived out his last days in jail... I'll never see home again...
Yes, he knew he had truly hit rock bottom to be thinking like that. He had never given up, he had always been a fighter. But now? He could barely move, he was in pain, he was tired of hoping for a dream that wouldn't come true... He gave a heavy sigh, closing his eyes as he tried to think of Ed and the future... What future? He was in jail for the rest of his days. Maybe he was just a burden on Ed, no matter how much he loved him, he was holding him back from a real life he could live every day with someone who was free. It wasn't fair on Ed, to expect him to live like this, living for visits in jail, even though they could be alone, he still felt guilty – and not for any of the crimes he had committed, either – he felt guilty for putting Ed through this permanent state of separation...
Oswald thought back, trying to recall something, anything that was a worse pain than this, just so he could pull himself up again and find the will to fight on and maybe get out of this bed again one day.
The worst moment of his life?
His mother, dying in his arms. He had held her as she slipped away, watched the light fade from her eyes as his heart had shattered...
Then he recalled the other terrible pain, the loss of his other family, and as tears ran down his face he wept quietly, recalling events in the post war days, when he had waited for hours with Ed in a city struggling to revive and find a sense of normality, there had been one bus due to arrive in the city every six hours, and when he got the call from Magpie, on the other side of town, saying she was in the queue to board, he had expected her to be in his arms an hour later.
He had not expected it to be the last time he ever heard from her...
Ten Years Before:
Oswald's damaged eye was covered by a patch, and while he felt a little self conscious about his obvious injury gained in the battle for Gotham, at least he could still stand okay - thanks to his leg brace - but after waiting an hour because the bus was late, due to congested and partly blocked roads and countless diversions - his damaged leg had grown stiff and he had stumbled against Ed, who caught him with a quick arm around him, then Ed had insisted they went back to his apartment.
“We can watch from the window, we can see the road from there,” he had reminded him.
It had been a long and painful climb up the stairs to Ed's apartment, slowed by his aching ankle and stiff knee and the bone - deep ache in his hip from several years of too much limping with bad support. They had stood together at the window as Oswald looked to the road and smiled, thinking of Magpie and his unborn child – he had sent her away from the mansion on the day he decided to stay and fight for Gotham. She had gone to the other side of town, to Selina's apartment, where he believed she would be safe.
The night before he prepared for battle, he had made love to her and promised they could be together once the war was won. Half his treasure was off the sub and hidden away with Magpie, just in case the sub was lost to the ravages of war. But today, she was joining him. He didn't know how long they could stay. Word was spreading that when the city was settled back to its normal routine, there was a risk that some of Gotham's most notorious might be rounded up and placed under arrest. Right now, he was a free man. Tomorrow, that could change. Today, they would meet in the heart of the city, Oswald would visit contacts and finalise plans, then they would be on their way, as soon as the baby arrived...
“I'm looking forward to a new life away from the city,” Ed had said as they stood together at the window, and as he smiled, this time, that smile reached his eyes. As much as he loved Ozzie, he was happy that he was with Magpie now, because he was going to be a father - and he was even more happy that Oswald wanted him to go with them. They were going to be one big, happy family.
And then it happened.
The traffic moved along, the bus came into view.
And as a large oil truck ran into a skid and went sideways, it hit another vehicle just as it rolled, spilling oil as the car exploded. The blast ignited a leaking gas main that had, until now, been undetected in city ruins. The explosion was like a bomb going off, as the fireball spread along the road, incinerating everything in its path as the blast shook buildings and toppled nearby structures. Oswald and Ed both felt the apartment shake as if an earth quake had struck. Oswald was staring in horror at the vast mass of destruction, the sheer scale of the carnage was impossible to take in – and the bus had headed straight into it just as the explosion ignited.... He was still staring in horror and helpless shock at that blaze that was so bright it hurt his eyes as he gave a sob... Magpie and the baby...
“NO!” he screamed as he fell to his knees, “No, no...”
He was still sobbing as Ed sunk to his knees too, as Oswald clutched at his jacket, knuckles white and hands shaking, his eyes wide as tears streaked his face.
“Magpie...” he sobbed, “My baby.... Ed, my baby!”
All Ed could do was hold him, gently turning him away from the blaze as Oswald wept hard, then pressed his face against the green fabric of his jacket as he screamed in anguish. Magpie was dead. His baby was dead...
Ed had tried his best to keep Oswald together in those dark days after the accident. Part of the city was blocked off by more debris, two tall buildings had fallen due to the explosion, it would be many weeks, maybe longer before it was cleared because the city was still recovering from war.
By the time the road was cleared once more, Oswald was in Blackgate and Ed was in Arkham...
Ten Years Later:
Oswald weakly raised a hand, wiping tears from his face as he lay in bed in Blackgate infirmary, this wasn't the first time he had remembered the explosion and cried for the loss of Magpie and his unborn child. If he thought about it, he could still recall the last morning together when he had placed his hand on her belly and felt his baby kick. During the conflicts, medical help was limited. They had no access to the usual care that a pregnant woman would have received. He didn't even know if his child was a son or a daughter. All he knew was that Magpie and his unborn baby had died on the day of the explosion, just a short time before he was sent to Blackgate for his crimes in wartime...
“Stop it, Oswald,” he whispered as he wiped away another tear, “That was ten years ago. They're with Mother now...”
Then he thought of Ed, and remembered Ed loved him. He had to hold on for Ed's sake, even if his circumstances were not ideal. Ed loved him completely, and Magpie would have wanted him to be happy, to have something to live and hope for... He blinked away the last of his tears and looked to the TV. He saw a reminder that the Empress was due to speak in a couple of hours. He decided he would stay awake to watch. He had heard a lot about the new underworld, but never seen it, not yet. Today was his chance, and even if he wasn't impressed by the new ways of the modern crime world, at least it would be a distraction from his own situation for a short while...
The ruins at the edge of the city were a stark reminder of the days of war, and Bruce had made his way through those ghostly ruins with a heavy heart as he realised it would take more than a decade to fully rebuild Gotham in its entirety. He followed the instructions carefully, his heart growing heavier as he entered the factory with its cracked walls and debris littered floor.
Second floor, that's where you'll find me, lover, Joker had said when he had called him an hour before...
Bruce had been ready to sit down and have dinner when the call had come through, and as he took that call, Alfred had been standing there to witness the break in his voice and the tears form in his eyes. Bruce had kept it brief, saying, I'll be there... and Alfred had said, Not again, Bruce. That bastard's poison. Take him down and finish him once and for all... Bruce had shook his head, reminding him as yet, Valeska had done nothing to act on his threats.
He was still hoping for a peaceful solution. His head was screaming this had to end now, this had to stop – but tell that to his heart, it refused to listen and right now, he was following it with every heavy step he took up to that second floor to meet with Jeremiah...
He reached the top and stepped through a wide doorway into an empty room with brick walls painted white that were cracked and peeling with the ravages of time. And there he was at the broken window, standing with his back to him, his coat tails flapping behind him as the sharp breeze flowed in through the empty frame:
Jeremiah. His shoulders were broad and he looked heavier now, and his hair was sparse and hung in lank tendrils. But it didn't matter that his once beautiful face was ravaged by the chemical burns. Bruce wanted him to turn around, to look into his eyes. Jeremiah was sick, not evil, no one was beyond redemption and he could not deny a love that refused to die, it lit in his heart and burned bright as a flame eternal...
As he said his name, Bruce stood there in an ordinary suit and a long dark coat, this wasn't a time for the bat suit or a battle – that was not the purpose of this meeting, no matter what Jeremiah had to say. While there was still hope, while they could still talk, there was a chance for this to end differently...
“I told you long ago that's not my name any more, Bruce. These days, they call me Joker.”
Jeremiah, now Joker, turned around, the smirk on his white painted face accentuated by the red smile that bled into the curve of his mouth like blood. There was a dark gleam in his eyes somewhere between need and cold hard darkness as he looked at the man who had stayed away for far too long.
“I heard you were asking about me,” Joker said as Bruce took a slow walk towards him, “But I've been busy...places to go, banks to rob, weapons to steal, followers to amass... the usual shopping list.”
He laughed as darkness glittered in his gaze, then raised a gloved hand, beckoning to Brice with his index finger.
“Closer, Bruce. It wouldn't be a reunion without a kiss -”
The words were knocked from his lungs as Bruce grabbed him by his colourful jacket and slammed him against the wall.
“Oh...shit, that hurt! You should have warned me you wanted to play rough!” He laughed again as Bruce held him in an iron grip, fixing him with a steel glare.
“I know you threatened to kill the Empress. I know you want to take over the New Underworld. It won't work! Your ways are old ways. These days the most powerful criminals work with the authorities, not against them! You'll get yourself killed for nothing, you fucking idiot!”
Despite the brutal grip that held him against the wall, Jeremiah laughed again.
“You sound so serious, you should lighten up, Bruce! Why do you care if I kill the Empress?”
“Because she holds the underworld together in a way that's never been done before, she's changed everything for the better out there! Your ways will never work, and you will never take this city, Jeremiah.”
Joker rolled his eyes.
“How many times, Bruce? My name is Joker now!”
He shifted fast, slamming into Bruce with a head butt that glanced him as he staggered back, then he was crashing to the ground as Joker landed on top, rolling with him as they traded punches. As Joker pinned him down, Bruce broke free, slamming a fist into his face as Joker's lip spilt and blood flowed.
“I'll stop you any way I have to!” Bruce vowed as he staggered to his feet and Joker did the same, pausing to spit blood then glare back at him.
“Don't make me kill you!” he said darkly.
As he lunged at him again, Bruce caught him hard, hurling him against the wall, Joker hit the brickwork with a crack and laughed.
“Pain! Hello, old pal! It's nice to feel you again, it's so nice to feel anything - it's been too long!”
Then his expression changed to a snarl as he grabbed at Bruce and the two men struggled, then Bruce had him on the ground, face down as he pressed a knee to his back and a hand to the back of his neck.
“I could take you back to Arkham right now!”
“But you won't...” Joker gasped.
Bruce moved fast, shifting back and flipping him over sharply, grasping his hands as he sat astride him, slamming their clasped hands to the concrete as he leaned in so close Joker's breath was hot on his face.
“You lose everything if you carry out your threat,” he said darkly.
“My liberty?” asked Joker, “Been there, done that – I can bide my time and escape again, Bruce! I have nothing to lose!”
“You will lose me,” Bruce vowed.
Silence passed between them as Bruce sat there pinning him down, looking into his eyes. Joker's expression changed and Bruce felt it in his heart as sure he saw the brief flicker of fear in his eyes.
“I mean it,” he told him, “I came back to Gotham for you, I waited for you to contact me and sure enough, eventually, you did. I knew you couldn't stay away. Don't make me choose now!”
Joker's hands tightened in his grip as his lips parted. Bruce claimed his mouth with a hard kiss as he tasted his lover and his blood as they kissed for the first time in many years. Now Joker was on his back and making no attempt to move as he lay there in surrender, kissing him deeply as he thrust his hips upwards, grinding his hardening cock against Bruce, noticing the growing bulge beneath his clothing as Bruce broke off from their kiss and sat up, letting go of his hands.
“If you came here to tease me, that's not even funny,” Joker said flatly.
“I came here to make up for lost time,” Bruce replied as he pulled open his coat then tugged at his zip, “You feel the same as me. Don't try and deny it.”
Joker had no time for a reply as Bruce flipped him over roughly and reached around for his belt. Joker gave a moan of desperation as Bruce tugged at his clothing.
“I like it rough you know that...” Joker whispered.
Bruce spat on his hand and slicked his erection as he gave Joker's thigh a soft nudge, spreading him further apart as he knelt there.
“You want me?”
“Stupid question, Bruce! Get on with it!”
Joker gave a yell as he was entered slowly but firmly from behind, lubed with just spit as Bruce pushed all the way in, then started to thrust slowly, in small, fluid movements that made Joker gasp as he lay there, cheek pressed to the dusty floor as he was fucked from behind.
“I...still... love... you!” Bruce gasped as he moved against him.
Joker could only whine and then cry out as he lost control, coming over his suit and the concrete floor beneath him as Bruce buried it deep, throbbing inside him. He withdrew right away, breathed hard and then got up, adjusting his clothing and brushing off the dust as Joker crawled to his knees and then leaned against the wall as he tugged at his suit, hastily covering up once more. As he turned to face him, Bruce stepped closer.
“I will not leave you, nor will I abandon you – not while there's a chance for you to turn this situation around. I love you, Joker.”
A look of genuine, startled surprise came to Joker's eyes... Bruce had finally said his new name...
“I believe you,” he said in a hushed voice.
Bruce placed a hand on his chemical ravaged face as he looked into his eyes.
“Kiss me,” said Joker.
Bruce drew his hand away, denying him tenderness.
“If you kill the Empress, you lose me,” he reminded him, “Don't make me choose, because you will end up alone – and it doesn't have to be that way.”
Then he turned away and walked off, leaving Joker standing there, jaw dropped and staring after him... Bruce still loved him? He had not expected their meeting to end like this... But even as he heard his footfalls on the stairway fade out, Joker's mind was made up: Yes, he did love Bruce. But until the day came when they could see eye to eye and Bruce would join him, there was no point considering his offer. And when the Empress was dead, becoming king of the underworld would be great compensation for the loss of Bruce Wayne's love...
As he looked out the broken window, he saw Bruce walking away on the ground below, and for a brief moment, his heart ached. But only until he laughed, thinking about the fear he had caused, the mass panic over security at the speech tonight.
“Oh Bruce,” he murmured as he watched him leave with a smirk on his face, “I won't kill the Empress – at least, not tonight. It will happen when she's least expecting it...There's no fun without the element of surprise...”
As shades of dusk deepened, Josh waited in the downstairs hallway with Selina. The car was waiting outside, and the Empress was running late.
“Maybe I should tell her to hurry,” Josh suggested, but at that moment, Oliver hurried down the stairs. His hair was spiked and he wore a dark three piece suit, and as his pale eyes met with Selina's gaze, he reminded her of his father. He looked just like a mini Oswald.
“Mom said, we have to take the main car. She's riding alone with security,” he said, then as Josh and Selina exchanged a surprised glance, Oliver led the way out of the house.
“What is going on now?” Selina muttered as they made their way towards the waiting limousine.
Oliver got in the back first, and then as Josh and Selina joined him, he smiled, just like his father as a spark of mischief played in his eyes.
“On my Mom's orders, I lied,” he announced, “She left alone. She said she'll meet you there.”
“What?” Selina exclaimed, and then she looked out of the open door to an armed guard who stood nearby.
“Have you see Empress?”
“She left in plain clothing. Had her mask on, but I think she took it off before she left. She drove off in my car, said she wants to mix with the crowd before the speech.”
“Not again!” Selina exclaimed in despair, then she closed the car door heavily.
As the limo drove away towards the gates, she gave a deep sigh. Magpie had done this before, taking her mask and fine clothing with her in a bag, arriving alone, anonymously to mix with her people – all her children, as she said, she loved to be among them – even, it seemed, at a time like this, when security was on high alert...
“You should have told us before,” Josh said.
Oliver glanced at him.
“You don't give orders, Josh,” he reminded him, “In my Mom's absence, you take orders from me!” then he smiled as he turned his face to the window, watching the world go by as the car headed into the city.
Selina couldn't help but smile too as she looked away. Oh, that kid was so like Oswald... As they drove towards the city, Selina cast her mind back to the day of Oliver's birth. That day had changed everything – it had certainly changed Magpie forever...
Ten Years Before:
Selina had entered her apartment to hear wails of anguish coming from the bedroom. She burst in with wide eyes, fearing the worst for nine months pregnant Magpie - but as she entered the room, there was Magpie on the bed, wearing a white shirt. Not hers... Penguin's. All she was wearing was his white shirt as she reached for his expensive black suit jacket and hugged it to her tearful face.
“Get him out out of jail!” she wept, and looked up at Selina as she sobbed again, “I love him, we need him...”
She dropped the jacket and climbed off the bed, then fell to her knees and crawled across the floor, dashing aside a curtain where she had told her she had stored some of her stuff. Selina's eyes went wide at the sight...
“It's all worthless without him!” Magpie sobbed, “Even my Dad can't get him out of jail – Ozzie doesn't even know I'm still alive!”
“Honey,” said Selina, staring at the sight of the stashed away gold and jewels taken from the submarine, “That's not worthless...”
Then Magpie had clutched at her heavy baby bump and yelled sharply as a puddle of liquid pooled on the floor beneath her.
“Help me, Selina the baby's coming!”
“Oh shit...” Selina muttered, and she had run to the window, seen the army medic standing by his truck smoking a cigarette.
“Hey!” she yelled, “Help us, my friend is giving birth!”
Magpie had crawled back to the bed and climbed up on to it again, now she was on her back and breathing hard as she gave another sob.
“I need Oswald!”
“No, you just need to breathe,” Selina said.
“No, I need OSWALD!” she had yelled, and she was still yelling in pain as Selina hurried down to open the door for the army medic.
Forty minutes later, after a lot of pushing and a lot of pain and screaming, Oliver was born with a healthy cry. And Magpie had wept for Oswald, locked away in Blackgate, turning her face away from the newborn in Selina's arms.
“What life will he have?” she sobbed, “I'm so sorry he was born to this... Oswald is in jail forever. He's never getting out, Selina...”
“Magpie,” Selina said softly, “Take your son, look at him, he looks just like Oswald!”
Magpie had turned her head, then given a sob as she took her son in her arms as her tears turned to joy.
“My little baby Oswald...” she wept, “I love you so much... oh my god you look just like your Daddy! My precious little boy...”
She held him close, as in that moment she looked into eyes like Oswald's and felt the start of a bond that would last forever. And suddenly her face paled.
“I don't feel so good...”
She gave a gasp, then as blood began to pool between her legs and soak the mattress, her face turned chalk white as she passed out. Selina grabbed the baby and yelled to Oliver, who was in the bathroom washing his hands after assisting with the birth. Selina had stood back, cradling the child named after the medic who had delivered him as Oliver quickly examined Magpie, then glanced urgently to Selina.
“These scars on her belly – how long ago did she have a gunshot injury?”
“A couple of months before she was pregnant...what's happening?”
Oliver wrapped her in the blood stained sheet and lifted her from the bed as she lay as a dead weight in his arms.
“She's got serious internal bleeding – it could be the recent scar tissue. We have to get her to a hospital!”
The next few hours passed in a blur for Selina as she waited for news on Magpie, who was rushed straight in for surgery. When the doctor returned to speak to her, Selina was feeding baby Oliver, as her heart ached and all she could think was that his mother should be doing this... But Magpie had suffered a severe internal bleed. Blood loss had put her in a coma. After giving birth, the scars from the recent gun shot wound months before had caused damage all over again. The doctors cut her open and gave her a hysterectomy and did what they could to repair the damage. But no one knew if Magpie would ever wake up again...
Selina took care of baby Oliver.
She visited every day, as Magpie stayed pale and weak. The days became weeks and stretched into a month, then longer. Magpie didn't look the same any more. She had lost weight, her cheekbones became more pronounced, her pale face became slender as those days of unconsciousness took its toll on her.
And somewhere in that twilight time, Magpie had a dream that she rose as a phoenix from the ashes, grew wings and flew over the ravaged city. When she suddenly awoke with a gasp, she had changed in every way as she told Selina about her dream, whispering of the future that was in her hands. The first time she got up and walked, she walked in her mother's shoes with a new fire in her eyes as she touched her cheek and told Selina the people of Gotham were all her children, and she would build a better tomorrow, she would create a new underworld whose mission was unity...
And that was exactly what she did, with the treasure Oswald had asked her to hide. She had built a brand new empire, always hoping that one day, Oswald would be free to meet his son and take his place as head of the New Gotham Underworld...
Ten years later:
Selina pulled away from thoughts of the past. Oliver was sitting there restless as they drove along, impatient to get to the venue as he kicked at the seat.
“Don't do that,” said Josh.
“Don't give me orders,” Oliver replied, and Selina smiled again as she shook her head. Yes, that kid was definitely like his old man...
By now, they had reached the city and the limo was heading towards the square where Empress would give her speech.
“Are you sure your Mom said you could come along tonight?” Josh asked doubtfully.
“Are you armed?” Oliver enquired.
Josh pushed aside his jacket, flashing a holstered gun.
“Of course, I'm always armed when you accompany your Mom to any public meeting. You're the reason she made me learn to shoot.”
“In case I really get on your nerves, ha ha!” Oliver laughed.
Josh smiled as he shook his head.
“Very funny, Oliver. I'm here to protect you tonight.”
“We're all safe anyway,” said Oliver, “My Mom has many people with guns out there, all looking out for her and us. The cops protect us too. They have to, it's part of the unity agreement.”
Selina looked at him in surprise.
“You've been reading up on the new laws?”
“Of course,” Oliver replied with a smug look on his face, “Some day, all of this will be mine. I have to study the rules. Good thing I'm smart, some of it is very complicated!”
Suddenly he looked down, then about the seat and then on the floor as his expression changed.
“Oh no I forgot it!” his voice was almost breaking up as he blinked away tears.
“Forgot what?” asked Josh.
“I wanted to bring an umbrella. My Dad sometimes carried an umbrella....”
Josh wanted to hug him, but at that moment, tearful Oliver would have refused any offer of comfort as he sat there blinking back tears, determined to make his father proud.
“At least I have a nice suit, he would approve of that.”
“You look great,” Selina told him, smiling kindly, “And your hair is just the same as his, all spiked up - honestly, you look just like your Dad, back in the old days.”
“Really? Do you mean it?” he asked as eyes like Oswald's went wide.
“Absolutely,” she assured him, “In fact, I can't tell you apart!”
Oliver started to smile.
“Thanks, Selina,” he said, instantly brightening at the thought that he looked just like his Dad.
Josh checked his watch. The traffic was heavy. His thoughts were with Magpie. He hated it when she took off alone like this, but he just had to trust that she would be okay and meet them there, she had done this before, gone off alone, mixing anonymously with the crowd, wanting to be close to her people...
Magpie was already at the square. Her chosen outfit to be worn for addressing the crowd, along with her high heeled shoes, was in a closed bag she wore slung over her shoulder as she made her way through the crowd, her platinum hair was piled up beneath a baseball cap, she wore an ordinary t shirt and dark jeans and flat shoes and no make up. No one recognised her as the Empress. And she felt filled with hope and purpose. People were waiting to see her, Ed Nygma was up on the stage playing a riddle game for a crowd of kids, then he paused to lean closer to a few of the parents who approached him to sign autographs. Music was playing. People were selling hot dogs and glow sticks and the atmosphere was great.
For a brief moment, she thought back to the days before the war had ended, when she had searched the city to find Oswald:
She had seen Nyssa Al Ghul taking the submarine, still half filled with Oswald's gold. She was in bad shape, dripping blood from a knife wound, and as she boarded the sub, Magpie had untied Edward's leash from the dockside and lifted him into her arms, then she had looked over at a nearby military ship. It looked deserted. Grabbing a gun from a corpse along the way, she hurried, heavily pregnant, with a bulldog in one arm and a gun in the other hand, boarding the ship and making her way to the deck where two soldiers kept watch.
“Get your radar up and sink that sub!” she ordered, raising her weapon, “Do it now, she's getting away – she's the enemy, not me, she must be part of Bane's army!”
As the torpedo fired, it shifted along the radar's path, connecting with the sub as a hit.
“Yay!” she exclaimed, jumping for joy as Edward looked at her in bewilderment.
“Thank you,” she added, still waving the gun in the direction of the men who manned the deck, “Do not follow me, I don't want to shoot you...”
Once clear of the ship, she had ditched the gun and ran off, Edward in one arm and her other cradling her baby bump. Oswald's treasure had been saved...
And that treasure, combined with the wealth he had trusted her to keep for him, had built a new empire. All of it Oswald's, when he was released... and it would happen, she would make it happen...
Magpie pushed aside thoughts of the past as she made her way through the crowd, smiling as her hands brushed against the arms and shoulders of those who stood waiting. These were her people, and she loved them all...
As a hand closed on Harvey Bullock's shoulder as he stood near the stage, he turned sharply.
“Boo!” said Magpie playfully.
“What the hell are you doing out here?” he said in alarm, “I've told you before, don't do this, Magpie, stay with your security staff!”
She leaned in and kissed his cheek.
“Just take me backstage, Dad, I have to get ready!”
Harvey gave a weary sigh, then led his daughter towards security as she put on her mask and he showed his ID. The armed men parted like a wave and they hurried backstage, where Magpie would put on her make up and her bullet proof vest, and then get dressed and get ready to speak to her people at last...
As she entered the private room where no one else was allowed to go because Empress demanded privacy, she had a smile on her face as the door closed. Tonight was the night. Tonight, she would make history. She would make a speech that would snowball into something much, much bigger - tonight, she would begin the campaign that would see Oswald walk free from jail at last...She was ready to do this. She would do what ever it took to free him, even if she had to get the whole of the city involved in her campaign...
Magpie was running late, but that was okay. It just meant Ed had more time with the crowd as he spoke of the good work the underworld had done to rebuild the city and donate to good causes. Ed loved attention up on that stage, and he was enjoying every minute she delayed making her appearance.
Magpie sat in her locked room before a mirror, her face was transformed with ruby lipstick and dark, cat-like winged eyeliner. She wore a long black dress with feathers around the plunging neckline, and she was ready to slip into her black and silver shoes, the ones with snakes coiled around the heels, the oldest shoes she owned... her mother's shoes, because tonight was a big night... Her mask was in front of her and she was ready to put it on, but then she paused, picking up her phone instead.
It was crazy, really.
All these years, that number had been in her phone:
The number of Blackgate prison.
And tears filled her eyes as her heart seemed to rise and fill her throat as she raised the phone and hit the number on speed dial.
It was easy. All she had to say was, This is the Empress, calling on behalf of Mr Cobblepot's lawyer. She was allowed to do that, they would put her through to Oswald.
And then what?
She would hear his voice and tears would choke off her words.
Her heart was pounding now...
Magpie drew in a deep breath and waited as the phone rang. As it was answered, she spoke up as her heart raced and the phone trembled in her grip.
“This is the Empress M. My caller ID will confirm this. I am calling to speak with Oswald Cobblepot, on behalf of his lawyer.”
“Please hold the line,” came the reply.
She took in a shaky breath. The thought raced through her mind faster than the beat of her racing heart, I'm calling Oswald. I'm actually calling him, I'm going to hear his voice for the first time in ten years... Oh my Ozzie, my poor, sweet Oswald, how I've missed you! I have tried so hard to set you free... and you have a son...
Tears blurred her eyes as she caught her breath and blinked as a tear ran down her face.
A reply came through on the line.
“Your caller ID is confirmed, Empress, transferring you now.”
“Thank you...” her reply was half lost on the tears that choked her voice, coming out as a whisper as the call was transferred.
“Hello... Empress?” said a female voice.
“Yes, I'm calling to speak to Mr Cobblepot,” she replied.
“Oh wow... Empress, I'm a huge fan!” gushed the young nurse on the end of the line, “You've done so much good work for this city...I'm just going into Mr Cobblepot's room now, I think he's awake, he was planning to watch your speech, sadly I will be working all evening but I hope to catch it later...”
Oswald was watching the speech tonight?
Magpie put a hand to her mouth as she stifled a sob and her tears ran freely. She was crying, she couldn't stop it and she would have to fix her make up before she went out to address the people, but that didn't matter.
I love you, Oswald, ran through her mind.
Then she listened.
“Oswald?” the nurse said, “I have an important call for you, it's the Empress.”
“The Empress is calling me?” Oswald said in surprise, and he sounded weak but still like Oswald. Her Ozzie, she had just heard his voice for the first time in years and her heart was breaking...
“Hello?” said Oswald.
Magpie stifled another sob as she looked to the mirror and saw her make up streaked with tears. For all her power as queen of the underworld, at this moment she felt helpless, a prisoner of her own broken heart. She wanted to say, It's me, its Magpie! But he couldn't know that yet...
“Empress?” Oswald sounded so tired.
Another tear ran down her face.
No, she thought, Not Empress. I'm Magpie! And everything I've ever done as Empress is for you! It really is me - I've held you in my arms and took you to bed and loved you and carried your child, and he looks just like you and he is my reason to carry on - and some mornings, even now after ten years, I wake and I cry because you're not there beside me. My heart will be broken forever until I hold you in my arms again, until I see you and our son reunited...
She took a deep breath, as with tears still wet on her face, she found the strength to speak, maintaining the poise of her Empress persona.
“Oswald, we meet at last. Let's hope soon we can meet in person. I want you to know I'm making every effort to free you. I hope you can watch the speech tonight. Good things will be happening.”
“What?” he said as hope crept into his voice, “You're going to try and use your publicity to free me? I can't thank you enough – I am at your service, as soon as I'm out of here, anything you require -”
“No need to thank me,” she said as her heart ached sharply, “Just know I'm determined to set you free. I will be in touch soon.”
“I...I don't know what to say! Thank you Empress,” his voice sounded weak and shaky as he struggled to contain his emotion, “I dream of leaving this place a free man!”
“And you will,” she assured him, “Now I must go, I have a speech to make. You rest, Oswald. Rest and get stronger.”
“Yes, I will, and thank you, Empress, you're most kind,” Oswald replied.
“I'll be in touch soon,” she reminded him, and then she ended the call as more tears filled her eyes, but now, as she looked into the mirror her reflection smiled back at her as her heart sung with joy:
I spoke to my birdie! I gave him hope! Now, I must get to work...
She fixed her make up and put on her mask, then she got up and slipped on black and silver shoes with high heels patterned with raised, coiled snakes. She was ready to speak to her people...
As Magpie headed for the stage, her tears had dried. Now she was stronger and feeling the love that waited for her when she stood before her crowd. She briefly thought back to the day she cheated death – before the birth of her son:
She had been desperate to get on that bus. A four hour queue had seen her fourth from the front when the doors had closed.
“Hey!” she yelled, “I need to get on that bus!”
The armed guards stood shoulder to shoulder as the crowds jostled and pushed forward, not one person wanted to wait and other six hours to get into the city. Magpie took off her black stiletto shoe and flung it at the guy guarding the bus. It sailed through the air over the heads of those in front of her, smacking into the side of his head with a thump as he fell sideways. Magpie put a hand to her belly, hoped for the best and jumped, somersaulting through the air, over the queue and landing in front of the stunned guard as she reached for her shoe and put it back on.
“The Magpie flew!” she announced excitedly, “Up and over, very high. Landed well, heavily pregnant and I didn't pee myself!” then her eyes blazed with frustration, “NOW LET ME ON THAT BUS!”
The guard she had almost knocked out was on his feet now and glaring at her as another seized her and cautiously pushed her back away from the vehicle.
“Let me on that bus, I'm meeting Oswald!” she shouted.
And the bus had pulled away without her, driving off towards the heart of the city – and straight into a disaster that would see half the city cut off for many weeks... That had been the second time she had cheated death. The first had been when she was wounded by Oswald's trap. The third time had been when she gave birth to his child... Magpie pulled away from thoughts of the past as that lingering doubt came back to haunt her and she wondered, how many lives did she have left? Her luck would run out one day... But she was about to walk on stage, and now, she felt immortal...
In the prison infirmary, Oswald was sitting up in bed leaning against pillows that cushioned his back as he watched the scene unfold:
Ed was centre stage, addressing the crowd in a shimmering green suit decorated with question marks.
“And now,” he announced, “The moment has arrived...You've all been so patient, and now your patience is rewarded... I give you, The Empress!”
Ed disappeared into shadow as spotlights swept down a tall staircase. As she emerged at the top in a black dress with feathers around the plunging neckline to the tune of the Katy Perry song Roar, the crowd went wild. Oswald stared at the screen in disbelief:
This was how the underworld was run these days? She was more like a celebrity than Queen of Gotham...
“What is this circus?” he said, then he carried on watching, waiting for her speech to begin...
It took a few minutes for the crowd to quieten down. Magpie was ready. She looked through her mask and into the sea of faces before her, and then began to speak:
“People of Gotham, my people,” she paused to smile, “ Three months from now, we cerebrate six years since the rise of the New Underworld and its unity treaty that has brought us together, uniting the authorities with the underworld in a way that works for everyone. And I was going to talk more about that tonight, about how the impact of this has changed the city for the better and how local history will soon be taught in schools. We already teach the true facts of the Gotham War and what led to it, and we tell the story of the brave few who fought to save Gotham – a tale that must never be forgotten...”
She paused, as her tone of voice changed, “But tonight, there has been a change of plan. Tonight, I must speak to you all about a very urgent matter....”
Jim had arrived just before the speech, and as he looked on with Harvey, his expression changed to one of confusion.
“What the hell is she doing? This is not the officially agreed speech... She can't do that!”
“She just did,” Harvey replied, “And brace yourself, Jim. I sense trouble.”
Jim looked sharply at him, as for a moment he wondered whose side Harvey would take if there was ever a rift between the cops and the criminals, because Gotham's queen was his daughter...
“How do you know that?” he demanded.
Harvey looked back to the stage.
“Because she's wearing her mother's shoes tonight,” said Harvey.
All Jim could do was stand there, looking on as the Queen of Gotham gave a very different speech to the one that had been agreed...
“For several years now,” said Magpie, “I have been trying to secure the release of a man who is being held unjustly in Blackgate Prison...”
As she continued to speak, Jim made a move to step closer to the stage, but Harvey grabbed his arm, tugging him back. Jim shot him an angry look, but his anger wasn't directed at the subject of her speech – he also felt Oswald should be released, he had served more than enough time – it was the fact that she had broken rules by not running this past the GCPD first.
“You can't stop her,” Harvey said, “Let her do this for Penguin.”
“She could have done this by the book!” Jim told him.
“She did, for years – and no one listened,” he replied, “She's not starting a war, Jim. She just wants Oliver's father out of jail.”
Jim said no more in protest as he watched her speak, hoping she said nothing that would cause ill feeling towards the authorities. As she carried on talking, she kept her poise with no anger in her voice, spelling out the facts as she saw them as behind her, a screen showed an image of Oswald, post war.
“Many of you know the story of The Penguin, the former king of Gotham,” she said, “But I'm not here to talk about how he kept the underworld in good order in the old days, when old ways were very tough and often unpleasant. Nor am I here to talk about the fact that he manufactured ammunition and dealt in weapons when the city fell, enabling those who needed to protect their families to do so. And of course, part of his trading involved gangs and a lot happened in the old days that falls into a grey area where neither is right nor wrong. But none of that is why I'm speaking to you today about Penguin...”
She paused, casting a glance about the vast audience. Beyond the city square, other screens were broadcasting to more crowds. Every word she said was getting out there, to everyone...
“We know his criminal name was Penguin,” she added, “But let's talk about the man behind the legend. I want to talk to you about Oswald Cobblepot. During the times of trouble in our city, he killed a woman named Tabitha Galavan. She had murdered his defenceless mother several years before, in fact Oswald was present when Galavan knifed her in the back and Gertrud died in her son's arms. At no time, in those days of poor balance between the authorities and the underworld, did the police do anything to seek justice for the death of a defenceless old lady. But....” she paused briefly, raising a hand to bid for quiet as a murmur of disapproval went around the crowd, “Today we are in unity with the police department and all aspects of the authority that run the criminal justice system in our great city. For that reason we look to the past with forgiveness in our hearts, because the old days were dark, before the age of enlightenment. However, due to the fact that Oswald was a high profile criminal, and also once mayor of Gotham, it was decided at the time to make him accountable for all crimes committed before the war and he was sentenced to life imprisonment....”
Magpie paused again, drawing in a slow breath as she looked to the crowd, holding back her emotions and her tears as she spoke again:
“Oswald is also a war hero. He is one of the brave few who stood together to fight against Bane's army. This is no way to treat a member of our underworld family – and he is family – nor is it the way to treat a hero! There are worse criminals locked away in Arkham, and even to this day, the underworld have been asked on occasion to track and eliminate certain dangerous criminal elements that the GCPD have been unable to capture. There are far worse people in this world than Oswald, who killed to avenge his mother, who did all he could after the city fell to provide weaponry in a hostile environment to maintain the balance of peace!”
She paused again, blinking away tears as the ache in her heart became too great, then she found her resolve once more, and carried on speaking:
“Oswald almost lost an eye fighting for this city. He also has disability – his leg was damaged many years ago in gangland hostility, but that brave man selflessly chose to take up arms and fight for us! We don't leave our war heroes to rot in jail, my children. We rise up, peacefully and with determination and we put this right together. I'm calling on all of you to do what you can to help Oswald. There is a petition to sign, there are details of a planned event to force the authorities to look at Oswald's case and release him immediately...Or face this going worldwide as an example of a flaw in the justice system! Here in modern Gotham we take great pride in our independent status and in our legal system and in the way the authorities and the underworld work together. This time, there was been a mistake and it needs to be corrected. Oswald has served his time...” she paused again as she started to smile, “We are breaking no laws by working together to free him. We are acting out of deepest love for one of our war heroes. All details of what will happen next is already out there and it's too late for the authorities to object. We can't be stopped now, my children – what to do next is out there for all to see, published on my Twitter account. Now tell me, people of Gotham, are we going to free Oswald?”
As the crowd went wild and started to cheer, Jim looked to Harvey in alarm.
“She used the web? The world wide web? She's just put this out for the whole world to see?”
Harvey couldn't help but smile as he nodded.
“That's right Jim, that's just what my smart daughter has done – and that's the modern underworld at its best, she's not going in there with guns blazing to bust him out – she's using the internet, and the power of a damned fine campaign.”
“But she didn't seek permission for any of this!” Jim exclaimed.
“And maybe it's about time she acted without permission,” Harvey replied, “She's tried everything else, Jim. Now she's getting desperate. Don't tell me you disapprove – she's trying to get Oswald out of jail, she's not starting a riot or a war, she just wants some compassion for Oliver's father.”
“So do I, but I would have gone through legal channels and kept on trying the right way,” Jim replied, pausing to watch as the crowd cheered the Empress again, “And is this what you're going to call him from now on, Oliver's father instead of Penguin or Oswald?”
“Absolutely,” Harvey replied, “We all want Oliver's father out of jail, right, Jim?”
There wasn't much he could say about that as he nodded, knowing Harvey wasn't wrong. But he still wished she had sought permission for these plans – she had just broken several rules and there was no one who would dare to raise their voice about that, in case the harmonious balance between the two authorities got tipped. He hoped this was over with quickly, and if Oswald was out of jail at the end of it, he knew he would be happy about that. Harvey was checking his phone as he smiled, then showed the screen to Jim, who glanced at the details of the protest.
“See, Jim?” said Harvey, “We won't need the riot squad. It really will be peaceful, all the schools are closed tomorrow. She's asking the kids and their mothers to walk to the gates of the prison. That's great, a mother asking other mothers and their children to make peaceful stand.”
Jim looked at him doubtfully.
“Today's children will grow up to choose a side. They're tomorrow's army for the underworld.”
“And we're all on the same side now, Jim,” Harvey reminded him as he proudly looked to the stage, applauding as his daughter made her exit.
That night, Oswald barely slept as he thought about the hugely public move the Empress had made to try and free him. Suddenly his pain and weakness didn't matter so much as he dared to hope that this time, there would be a positive outcome. If she had the people on her side, anything was possible...
Magpie left the city square in a limo where Josh and Oliver waited with Selina, who paused to hug her before they got in, telling her the speech was dynamite. The press had been barred from entry to the usual place at the back of the stage where the Empress posed for pictures, tonight she wanted all impact to be focused on her speech only as they sped away into the night, heading for home as her thoughts stayed with Oswald.
That night Ed went home and opened a bottle of wine, feeling hopeful and in a mood for some early celebration. But by midnight the bottle was empty and he was tearful as he lay on his bed, clutching a pillow for comfort as he feared this effort would fall flat like all others before it. He wanted Oswald free. To hope for too much seemed like an impossible dream...
Next morning, Oswald woke to aches and pains and as he stiffly sat up to watch a news report about the plans to protest for his release, he felt a real spark of hope ignite in his heart. He still struggled to move. He really didn't know if he would ever walk again, either. But last night he had heard the Empress make a speech that had been very well received by the people of the city – and today, there would be a protest outside the jail. He really didn't know why she was so desperate to free him, he was sure in all the time he had been in jail she had found many clever criminal minds to join her ruling circle – so why him? Oswald didn't know the answer to that question, but he didn't doubt he would find out soon enough.
There was a news report on TV, and a representative from the underworld was speaking on behalf of the Empress. She was sitting there in a dark blue business suit with her fair hair tied back and a string of pearls around her neck. She looked more like an office supervisor than a criminal. The underworld had certainly changed in his absence...
“Let me explain what will happen,” she said, “When the wheels of justice turn as they should and Oswald is released - we can only hope for that outcome in the name of fairness... As soon as Oswald is no longer serving his sentence, he is free to leave the jail and we will send a car for him, this will be done out of sight of the public as he has been very unwell lately and we're considering his emotional state as well as the fact that he's recovering from a recent accident. He will be taken into the care of his family – the underworld. The Empress will release a statement when she feels the time is right, with Oswald's agreement. While of course, his release will be a reason to celebrate, the main priority is his welfare. There's already a legal move being put into place to prevent the press from harassing Oswald and anyone connected to the underworld involved in his care once he is free, any interviews or pictures will be strictly by invitation of the Empress, at a later date.”
The interviewer, an older woman who looked doubtfully at the underworld representative, paused briefly and then spoke up.
“You seem very sure of a favourable outcome,” she said, “While this may be optimism on your part, while no offence is intended by my next remark, I can't help but look back to the old days and wonder if any dark deals are being made?”
The cool and calm representative smiled politely as her eyes shone like ice.
“Oh wow, you do sound out of touch with the modern times! And maybe I'll put your daughter through a meat grinder to make you pay for that insult.”
The interviewer's face paled.
“I... I don't have a daughter... Did you just make some kind of threat?” she said in horror.
The underworld representative forced a smile.
“That was of course a joke - as I assume your remark about dark dealings was also an attempt at humour!” she reached over and patted her hand, still with that forced smile set on her face.
“Bless you,” she added sweetly...
Oswald shook his head as he watched the rest of the interview. The underworld representative was talking about all the good work the underworld had done for the city, and then she was talking again about his release like it was a certainty. He thought again about the Empress and her passionate speech the night before. He still couldn't figure out why she was so desperate to secure his release...
Magpie woke early to the sound of birds singing in the trees beyond the open window. She smiled as she turned over in bed, then reached for Josh, who was on his side and sleeping deeply.
“Wake up...” she whispered in his ear, then reached down and gave his balls a playful squeeze.
He woke with a jolt and that made her laugh softly as she sat up and he looked up at the sight of her naked body as the sheets fell to her hips.
“You were magnificent last night,” he said, blinking away sleep and making a move to sit up. Last night Magpie had gone to bed, told him to go with her, and fallen asleep in his arms. The speech had taken everything she had, leaving her exhausted. She still looked tired now, there were shadows under her eyes and he was sure she had been crying at some point last night, but it had not happened in front of anyone else, clearly she was drained and needed this to be over, but even if he said that to her, he knew she would deny it. She lived and breathed to see Oswald set free.
“Do you need my help today?” he asked, “You look tired, Magpie.”
She touched his face softly, then slid her hand to the back of his head, tightening her grip in his hair as she pulled him closer, forcing a hard and unexpected kiss on him that made him yearn for more, but then she let go quickly.
“Stay here with my son. I know he wants to join the protest. I can't let that happen. We have to keep Oliver and my link to Oswald out of the press until he is free and back here with us, where he belongs.”
Then she got out of bed and headed for the bathroom as Josh sat there alone as a thought hit him that until now, he had not wanted to consider too deeply:
What would happen if Oswald did get out of jail? Oswald was with Ed now – but Magpie had made it sound like she wanted him back in her arms as well as back in her life...
“What about me?” he said quietly as he thought about the future and the possibility that Magpie might no longer need him. He was in love with her, where did that leave him, if she asked him to go? The thought of losing her had never scared him as much as it did now. He took a deep breath, thought about it some more, reasoned that Ed was with Oswald and even if the two of them returned here to Oswald's family home, Magpie would not be with him in an intimate way, surely he wouldn't leave Ed for her? But Oswald didn't know Magpie was still alive and when he found out she was Empress and they had a son... He blinked away tears, unable to think about a future where he was not with Magpie. Instead Josh got up, heading for the bathroom just as she got out, and he went inside, took a shower alone, then planned to start his day doing exactly what she had asked him to do: Take care of Oliver. By the time he was out of the shower and dressed, Magpie was already downstairs, dressed and ready to leave to meet with the protestors at the jail...
The press coverage of the protest was huge, and just as Jim had feared, had caused worldwide interest. Ever since the formerly troubled Gotham had become a separate, independently ruled city, the rest of the world had been curious. Now they were all hungry for more as international press filmed the protest and spoke to marchers as cameras captured footage overhead from choppers. The Empress stood at the open gates of Blackgate prison surrounded by armed guards and wearing a dress of pure white patterned with sequins that sparkled in the sunlight as she smiled behind her mask, and spoke of a peaceful solution to an unjust situation. The throng of people who had taken part in the march sat around outside the prison talking while their children played and the prison guards looked on.
“And we're not going anywhere until Oswald's situation is reviewed,” she added, smiling into the camera, “And as there are young children here and mothers with babies, I think that's reason enough for the authorities to rapidly review this situation. The authorities wouldn't stand by and see all these good people waiting here for days for a solution, they wouldn't see vulnerable mothers and children suffer, yet they are allowing a sick and vulnerable war hero to languish behind the walls of Blackgate...”
As she carried on with the interview, Magpie stayed calm as inside, she felt sick with fear : This could easily go wrong. If the authorities refused to work with her, they would have to wait it out. The situation had been explained before the march had taken place, and everyone present understood what was asked of them, and all had been willing. But she was also mother, she had a child too and she couldn't tell them that, not yet... She stayed calm, keeping her fears silent as she played her part, speaking with the press and waiting, and hoping...
And as the press attention peaked and calls came in from news channels all over the world, the governor of Blackgate began to make phone calls. Enough was enough, there had been much done to reform the system in recent years, but they didn't need their brutal past dragged up, a past that could even go back as far as the savage days before the war and the fall of the city... Reputations mattered, and no one wanted to lose their job. Oswald had been in jail almost ten years. That was time enough served to make this all go away.
The paperwork was rushed through.
Six hours later, at the request of her legal team and following the instructions exactly as the plan had been laid out, the message was sent discreetly to the head of security, who spoke quietly to the Empress.
It was a moment she would never forget. He walked up to her, touched her arm and gestured to lean closer, then he whispered in her ear:
“Oswald is free.”
Magpie nodded to her security chief.
”Thank you,” was all she said, and then with a shaking hand, she pulled out her phone and sent a message to Selina:
He is free!
By now she was sure she was shaking harder as she looked around at the sea of strangers who had joined her on this day to help Oswald, and she wanted to hug each woman and child and tell them how grateful she was, but everything had to be kept quiet for now – Oswald didn't need to leave the jail faced with a huge crowd, he was still recovering from the accident. She wanted his release to be quiet, away from the eyes of the press. But as the joy built up inside her and she blinked away tears that ran down her face and out from under her mask, she had to hug someone. She looked about, saw a young woman standing nearby and went up to her and hugged her tightly as she gave a sob.
“Thank you so much!” she said tearfully.
The Empress giving a sudden, emotional hug to one of the protesters had attracted attention, and as people turned and stared, the press began to make their way over. Just then the woman's six year of daughter ran up to join her mother.
“Oh wow!” she said, looking up at the Empress, “You just hugged my Mommy!”
“And I'm going to hug you too!” Magpie said as she shed more tears of joy, then leaned closer and hugged the child warmly. As she stepped back, tears were still shining in her eyes.
“What's your name?” she said to the child as she struggled to compose herself.
“My name is Emily,” she said.
“And what do you want to be when you grow up?” Magpie asked, using her well rehearsed line of questions when meeting supporter's children, to steady her emotions.
“I want to be the queen of Gotham, just like you!” she said.
Magpie had tried, but she was failing to hold back from weeping as she smiled and her eyes filled with tears that threatened to choke her voice.
“Well Emily,” said Magpie, “You're a smart little girl and when you grow up, you will be a strong and capable woman just like me and just like your Mom, too - because mothers are very strong and capable people, we can do wonderful things!”
Then she looked to the child's mother, who was staring at her, still surprised the Empress had chosen them and hugged her and spoken to her daughter so warmly.
“It's an honour to meet you, Empress,” she said.
Magpie smiled radiantly.
“You've all done so well today,” she said as her voice trembled, “I love you all so very much!”
Then as the press reached them she turned away, as she was rapidly enclosed by her security staff who took her back to her waiting limousine.
Later, the picture of an emotional Empress hugging a female protestor would hit the news worldwide along with the question, Is the Penguin free?
But the crowds would soon leave and the press would be moved far back by underworld security and cops alike as a route was planned to secretly take Oswald away from Blackgate.
While so much had been happening to change his fate, Oswald had been sleeping. He had grown drowsy on pain meds as he rested after a disastrous attempt at standing up, and then the doctor had told him perhaps it was too soon, and added that given his state of health before the accident, he needed to be aware that he might not recover well enough to walk again. That news had been quite a shock even though he had not expected to hear anything good after damaging his already shattered leg, Ed had already warned him it could be a long time before he was walking - but he didn't feel despair because he was still holding on to the hope that the protest would work. Then he had fallen deeply asleep. He was woken by a nurse, who said Oswald, wake up, Doctor Nygma is here to see you.
He opened his eyes and blinked away a blur that lingered then cleared, but only from his undamaged eye, as he missed his monocle more than ever. The nurse left his bedside and Ed stepped closer, and Oswald saw tears in his eyes and a big smile on his face.
“Ozzie, you're free!”
Oswald struggled to sit up as he looked in confusion at Ed.
“No... I can't be, I'm dreaming.”
“No you're not!”
Ed grabbed his shoulders as he pulled him closer.
“This is really happening! You're a free man, Ozzie! The protest worked. The authorities got nervous with all the press attention and they pushed the paperwork through in record time. You're free, you can walk out of here any time you want to!”
Oswald looked back at him.
“Say something!” Ed exclaimed, “You're free, Oswald!”
“I can't walk out of here, Ed,” he replied as he blinked away tears, “I may never walk again. You know how bad it is.”
“But you're free!”
Excitement shone in Ed's eyes. Tears filled Oswald's gaze as he felt a huge surge of sweet relief. It had sunk in. Yes, he was free, this was real, and all he wanted to do was hug Ed and cry...Oswald started to smile too as joy filled his gaze.
“Help me get dressed, Ed, I want to get out of here!” he said.
Oswald's release was quiet and secretive. He was impatient to get away from Blackgate, but Ed had paperwork to sign or as he put it, It's yes to all the good stuff and no to all the bad stuff, and my signature many times and I will hurry, Oswald! Then Ed had gone off to sign his papers, and twenty minutes later, the door had opened and Selina had walked in flanked by armed guards, and they were in suits and wore ties bearing the emblem of the Empress. He looked as stunned as he felt. Selina Kyle? It had been years since he last saw her, back in the days when she was close friends with Magpie...
“Hi Oswald,” she said warmly, “I've been sent to escort you back home.”
“Home?” Oswald said, feeling confused. He had been in jail so long, home had simply been the city, those familiar streets, the places he used to know and love. Home had blurred into a dream of the impossible and this still felt like a dream, even though he knew it was happing at last.
“Yes, home,” Selina replied, then she stepped closer, the look in her eyes reflecting something he hoped was not sympathy as she looked at him, the once proud and powerful Penguin, now in a fine suit that barely fitted him due to his weight gain as he sat there in a wheelchair because that fall had been too much for his damaged leg.
“You're going home to the mansion, it's still your home. The Empress took possession of your family home to take care of it, for you,” she said.
Oswald's eyes widened, behind his monocle his damaged eye seemed magnified hugely as he stared back at her.
“I thought she stole it!”
Selina smiled as she shook her head, then she gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
“I can't tell you any more, but you have to leave now, because the Empress needs to speak with you urgently. Don't worry about Ed, he will be given a message to meet you at the mansion tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Oswald exclaimed, feeling suddenly panicked at the thought of leaving jail without him, to meet with the Empress, a stranger whose motives he was yet to understand. Suddenly he felt trapped in that chair as Selina began to wheel him out of the room.
“But I need to see Ed,” he said again.
“You will see him tomorrow,” Selina promised, “Don't worry, Oswald. You're quite safe.”
There was something strangely soft and comforting about the way she had said that, then as they left by the back of the building and he saw the waiting limousine, he looked back, and it struck him as ironic that he was longing to go back to Blackgate after all these years he had spent wanting to get out – but Ed wasn't with him, and he needed him.
“I want Ed...” he said again, feeling uneasy as he was helped from his chair and into the limousine. Then he stared at the young man sitting opposite him, he didn't know him, but the guy was smiling.
“Hello Oswald, it's nice to meet you, I'm Josh,” he said, “I was sent here to escort you home, along with Selina. I'm here to assist you in any way that you need me.”
Oswald stared at him.
“Yes, Oswald, sir. I was told to help you out in any way you desire.”
“I don't want a blow job, thank you!” he said sharply.
Selina had joined them in the limo. She giggled as the door was closed, then she looked at Josh and laughed harder.
“He's the property of the Empress,” she said as Josh blushed, “He's here to help you with practical stuff, like issues with your leg, getting out of the car, climbing the stairs, stuff like that.”
Oswald bushed too, looking apologetic as he glanced at Josh, who smiled and gave a shrug.
“It's okay, I can see the funny side.”
Selina giggled again.
“You may as well have slave written on your face!” she exclaimed, and she laughed as Josh laughed too, then he blushed harder.
“Stop it, Selina!” he said as amusement danced in his gaze.
As Oswald looked at Selina, he felt confused. She saw the look in his eyes and took hold of his hand, gripping it gently.
“I also have a message from the Empress,” she told him, “You are yet to learn facts that you're unaware of, but she wants you to know that you are loved...You are safe and loved, Oswald.”
She had said that so sincerely. He looked at Josh.
“It's okay,” he assured him, “You think you're going home to strangers – you're not. You're going home to those who only want to give you love. Be ready to receive that love.”
Oswald stared at her...Who was this Empress? And all this talk of love, and her owning Josh - and Selina so willing to go along with her wishes... Was the Empress the leader of some kind of cult?
“This love you're talking about...” Oswald pulled his hand away from her grip, then adjusted his monocle as he looked hard at her, “I need to make it very clear right now that I have no wish to participate in an orgy!”
“Oh my god, no Oswald!” Selina said, and she started to giggle again.
“What's going on?” he demanded, looking to Josh for an answer.
Josh had his orders too. Only Magpie could tell him the truth, so he did his best to lay his fears to rest without revealing too much information.
“It's not an orgy,” he said with a smile, “Everything is okay. You'll understand when you get home.”
But Oswald could only wonder about the situation in a mix of confusion and mild panic as the limo drove away from Blackgate...
Ed had finished up the paperwork, then hurried back to Oswald's room. When he found him gone and the nurse explained he had left to meet urgently with the Empress, he read the note she handed him, explaining that he was welcome to be reunited formally with Oswald tomorrow – until then, Mr Cobblepot had urgent underworld matters to attend to regarding his release. Ed had stormed out of the prison as all joy drained from his eyes, replaced by rage that seeped into his voice as he got into his car.
“The Empress took him?” he said darkly as he started up his car, “She'll pay for this. It's about time I got rid of her, Oswald should be in control of the city, not her! I'm going to kill that bitch!”
Evening shadows had fallen deep, giving way to nightfall as Oswald was helped into the house by Josh and Selina. Oswald had struggled to walk and felt conscious of that as he insisted he was fine, but knew he wouldn't have managed another step without support, earlier he had tried to stand and almost fallen, but that had been down to his insistence that he had to do it alone. He clung to the fact that he had managed to get into the house, and focused on the fact that he was home instead of thinking about how they had more or less carried him as he clung to them. He was home. The mansion looked the same. Memories were crowding him and it was just enough to push away the pain as his legs buckled and he insisted again that he was fine.
“No you're not,” Selina said as she and Josh helped him to sit in a comfortable armchair, “Josh will take care of you until Empress gets here. I'll go and get your chair.”
Then Selina left the room. Oswald's back was aching and his leg was throbbing and he knew Josh had seen the look of pain in his eyes as he tried to get comfortable, and as he grabbed a cushion from another seat and placed it behind his back, Oswald thanked him then looked away, feeling relieved that at least he was sitting down now. Selina brought his wheelchair into the hallway and then paused by the door.
“Are you sure you don't need your chair, Oswald?” she asked.
“I'm fine,” he lied, as he looked from his seat to the door and that short distance suddenly seemed immense.
“Would you like a drink?” Josh asked, “Nothing alcoholic, of course – you're on a lot of pain medication, I've been advised you can't have alcohol yet.”
“Some tea would be nice,” Oswald said, and Josh smiled.
“I'll go and find Olga.”
Surprise registered on Oswald's face... Olga was employed by the Empress?
He looked to the doorway.
“I'm going to tell the Empress you're home,” Selina told him, and she smiled kindly as he looked at her, feeling bewildered. This was still his home? She had kept it for him? Why?
He was left to wonder on many questions that needed answers. He sat there and rubbed at his aching leg. His pain meds were wearing off, either that, or he had put too much weight on his damaged leg, his own fault for insisting on walking into his family home before he was ready to stand. He waited in silence as he watched the door, waiting for the Empress to arrive.
Selina went upstairs, knowing exactly where Magpie would be at this time of night. She passed a door that was partly open and saw Oliver fast asleep in his bed. He was in for a big surprise in the morning, when he realised his father was finally out of jail... She softly closed his door, then went to the master bedroom, where she found Magpie, and she smiled at the sight of her.
“Oh my god, it's like stepping back in time!” she exclaimed.
Magpie was at her dressing table, putting the finishing touches to back stripes below her eyes - her old face paint, just the stripes - and she was sitting at that table still in her sequin dress, her platinum hair tumbling over her shoulders as her ruby lips shone glossed by the lamplight. She was just sitting there looking into the mirror, lost in her thoughts as Selina quietly approached and put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Magpie,” she said softly, “Oswald's here.”
Magpie met her gaze through the mirror as tears of relief filled her eyes.
“So go and see him!” Selina urged, “Don't just sit up here, you've waited for this moment!”
“My birdie's free!”
Magpie turned her head, meeting Selina's gaze as she started to smile, then paused to brush away a tear.
“How is he, Selina?”
“He couldn't walk very well, but he hates his wheelchair and doesn't want to use it,” Selina replied, “And he's tired and overwhelmed and everything is still sinking in, I can see it in his eyes. And he's going to need help to get up the stairs tonight.”
“I can help him,” Magpie replied, “I remember a long time ago, he helped me up a huge flight of stairs, I could barely stand.”
“Only because he wounded you,” Selina replied.
Magpie smiled as she shook her head at the memory.
“I came to steal his treasure and bang, bang, I was on the floor with a belly full of buck shot. My fault. But I ended up stealing his heart, so I guess we both won out of that - Oliver's here now. He's going to meet him in the morning.”
Magpie got up, looked to her Mother's shoes, then instead slipped on a pair of comfortable flat white shoes that matched her outfit, she didn't need the snake heels for this. All she needed was the strength not to cry, at least until he knew everything...
“I'm ready to see him now,” she said, and then she put on her mask.
Oswald had been sitting there thinking about that flickering pain that was getting worse in his injured leg, then Olga had come in with the tea, placed it on the table and greeted him warmly as if he had never been gone.
“And you must take these,” she added, placing two pills next to his tea, “For the pain. Your medication is in your room upstairs, all of it. Do you need anything else, Mr Cobblepot?”
He took the pills with hot tea, sipping it as his hand shook, then he set the cup down and smiled as he looked up at her.
“No, that will be all. Thank you, Olga.”
She left the room, and he breathed a relieved sigh knowing it wouldn't be long until the pain meds kicked in... The rest of his medication was upstairs? He had to take on a flight of stairs? Suddenly he wished he hadn't allowed his pride to get in the way, insisting he didn't need his chair. Those stairs seemed impossible to climb...
Then the Empress walked in. She paused to turn back to bid Selina goodnight, and Selina said she would be staying until late, to keep Josh company.
“That's fine,” Empress replied, then she entered the room alone, her eyes meeting with his as she smiled.
“Welcome home, Oswald,” she said, and she carried the same poise and elegance he had seen when she had addressed her people.
He wondered what she looked like behind her mask. Her eyes were shining with absolute joy as she walked over to his seat and suddenly, she was kneeling before him.
The Empress was kneeling?
Oswald was confused.
He felt even more confused as she took hold of his hand, kissing the back of it.
“This house is yours,” she said, “And there is certainly a place for you in the New Underworld. A place at the head of the table.”
His eyes widened as his jaw dropped. She was gazing at him like.. he was a god? Like she adored him? She was a stranger...
“I'm very flattered,” he said, smiling warmly, “But Empress, no matter what you may have heard about The Penguin, I'm not the king of Gotham any more. I've been in jail for almost ten years and you can see I am not the same man who was locked up long ago. I'm weak and tired and I can't even walk without support... and I shroud have stayed in that damned chair, look at me, I'm overweight, crippled and finished!”
“No, you're not,” she said softly, “You just need rest and time to get over your ordeal. You will get stronger and when you do, there is an empire waiting for you to control.”
He stared at her.
“Your empire? Why?”
“Are you hungry? Would you care for some dinner, Oswald?”
“No thank you, but I am very tired,” he said.
One look at him was all she needed to know the events of the day had been exhausting. Oswald wanted to rest, he had insisted on leaving the infirmary long before he was ready, keen to escape the walls of Blackgate, and he really did need to rest, he needed to be back in bed and stay there as he slowly recovered.
“Allow me to escort you to your room,” she said.
Oswald felt awkward as she let go of his hand and got up once more.
“I can't walk,” he admitted.
“Don't worry about the stairs,” she told him, “I'll help you.”
The most powerful underworld leader in the city was offering to help him up the stairs? Oswald didn't refuse, purely to be polite. She brought his chair into the room and helped him into it, then she wheeled him out of the room and down the hallway. When they reached the stairs, she held out her hands and he grasped them, standing was awkward but not as awkward as he would have felt if she had asked one of her security staff to carry him. At least this way he kept his dignity, he decided. She put her arms around him, supporting him as he grasped the rail.
“One at a time, you can do this, we can do this together,” she said.
Oswald had focused on each step, but those words suddenly brought to mind the day he had helped wounded Magpie back upstairs to rest...
Magpie? She had not crossed his mind all day, too much had happened but now, his heart ached as he took another step, then another, as she helped him all the way and he tried not to think too hard on the fact that he had lost Magpie and their unborn child. Today wasn't a day for thinking about loss, he had just got out of jail and that had to be worth celebrating, even if he was too tired to do more than simply feel deepest gratitude towards the Empress for all the help she had given. Thanks to her, he was free at last...
Oswald was glad of the support as she led him to the master bedroom – his old room – but now, he noticed, it was clearly her room. But it didn't matter, because all he wanted was to sit down, and to finally sit heavily on his own bed was a sweet relief. He sat there for a moment, thankful to take the weight off his leg. The pain meds had kicked in, and he just needed to take a breath and pause to recover from walking.
“Your room is just across the hallway,” she said as she stood there and he sat on the edge of the bed meeting her gaze, “But first, I must talk to you alone, Oswald.”
She went back to the door and closed it, then she turned back to him and their eyes met again and he got the oddest feeling as she looked at him through her mask. There was so much emotion in her gaze, it seemed almost familiar but as he looked at her, he still did not recognise the small, slender woman who stood before him.
She paused to go over to the dressing table, where she opened up a drawer and took something out, holding it carefully in both hands as she joined him, sitting next to him on the bed. Excitement shone in her eyes once more, in a way that reminded him of... Magpie?
No, Magpie was dead...
“Who are you?” Oswald said in a hushed voice as it struck him again, that feeling that he should know her from somewhere...
Magpie held out her hands, and he stared at the large diamond, then met her gaze with a stunned expression.
She smiled brightly.
“All of your treasure was saved. I sunk the sub! The skull of Nyssa Al Ghul is in a display case downstairs, I had amethysts set into the eyes, purple...” her gaze shifted to his soft purple jacket, then she smiled again as she looked at him, “Your wealth is invested safely in the New Gotham Underworld. It's your empire, Oswald...”
His jaw dropped.
This was impossible, but as she spoke, her voice was changing. Now she sounded like... No, it couldn't be Magpie...
“Well, I used most of your treasure to build your empire,” she added as the jewel in her hand caught the light, “But I kept this one. I kept Charlotte.”
He gave a gasp. She set the jewel down and reached for her mask, taking it off and meeting his gaze once more as love shone in her eyes. And he knew those eyes... She had changed, but he knew her at once, and as her eyes shone with tears of joy her voice trembled as she spoke again.
“Bang Bang!” she said with a smile, “I'm still alive, I missed the bus that day!”
She brushed a tear from her face as he stared at her:
Magpie was alive? If she was alive, what about the baby?
Oswald drew in a sharp breath as he blinked away tears.
“Oh my dear, it really is you!” he said as he reached for her hands and grasped them tightly, “Tell me, what happened with the baby?”
She smiled through tears of joy.
“The city was cut off, I couldn't reach you... I gave birth at Selina's place. An army medic helped us. His name was Oliver. That's what I called our son.”
“We have a son?”
Magpie nodded, smiling as her tears fell.
“Yes, he's ten tears old and he looks just like you and he's my reason for everything, for holding on... My baby looks just like my birdie...I love you, Oswald!”
As she gave a sob he pulled her close, holding her tightly as he wept too, it was still sinking in, this was an even bigger shock than knowing he had just been freed from jail. Magpie was alive. He had son, too... As he drew back, he looked into her eyes once more.
“Where is Oliver?”
“He's in his room, fast asleep,” she said.
Oswald suddenly understood everything.
“You did all this for me and Oliver? You built the empire with my treasure, you worked to get me out of jail so we could be a family?”
She nodded. Words wouldn't come now, she was exhausted and overjoyed and so very tired.
“I'm so proud of you!” Oswald exclaimed.
Then a thought hit him.
“You got Ed out of Arkham, got him qualified to treat me and sent him to me , so he could see me in Blackgate?”
She nodded again.
“But if you love me, why did you arrange for me to be with Edward?”
She smiled again.
“Because I know you love him,” she said, “You've always loved him. He loves you too. And I want you to be happy.”
Oswald was speechless as he looked back at her. He recalled the trap he had set, intending to kill her all those years before. He remembered finding her bleeding on the floor as she wept and begged for her life, then he recalled raising his gun and Selina saying, Don't kill her...
It had just hit him:
That one moment of mercy had changed everything.
Magpie had changed everything, because she had lived.
She had loved him, given him a child and built him an empire.
She had got him out of jail.
He was here now, with a future to look forward to, because of her.
She had even made sure he and Ed were together despite the fact he was locked up in Blackgate.
Magpie had taken care of everything, that one life he had spared at time when he was cold and ruthless and never showed mercy to anyone, had paid him back in return, taking care of him, saving him, she had even given him a son...
Words failed him as he looked at her with tears shining in his gaze.
“I want you and Ed to live here, with us, we can be a ruling crime family,” she said, “But I won't be Empress any more. It's your empire now, Birdie.”
Oswald started to smile as tears streaked his face.
“Thank you so much, Magpie!” he said with deepest gratitude, then they embraced again.
Oswald didn't object as she pulled back from his embrace, then helped him to take off his jacket. She took care of everything, even taking off his shoes then helping him to lie down comfortably on the bed.
“Let me hold you tonight,” she said softly.
Oswald smiled radiantly as he reached for her, pulling her close then kissing her cheek.
“I love you so very much, Magpie!”
“I love you too,” she said, closing her eyes as she smiled, resting in his arms at last. He was home, he was free, and she was exhausted, but happy...
Edward Nygma was far from happy as he sat in his car outside the mansion and swigged from a bottle. Since leaving the prison without Oswald, he had struggled to contain his anger and mistrust, then he had gone home and had a few drinks to calm down, trying to apply logic:
Empress had freed him from Arkham. She had helped him to see Oswald on a regular basis, so surely, she didn't plan to hurt him now? Or maybe she did. Maybe this was all a big plot to kill Oswald for some crime he had committed years back, maybe she was an old enemy and he didn't know it.. Maybe, it was time to load up a gun and bust him out of there and kill the Empress at the same time, so Oswald could take over as king of Gotham.
At least, that was the theory that alcohol gave him after swigging almost half a bottle of scotch. And alcohol was very, very wrong, too...
The mansion was heavily guarded, but security knew him, he was a frequent visitor because he worked for the Empress. No one had a problem with Doctor Nygma walking up to the entrance, even if he was staggering a little. Oswald had just been released, he had probably been celebrating...
Then he raised his gun.
“Drop your weapons!” he said darkly, his eyes glazed as he made his way closer, “Don't make me kill you all!”
The world around him spun in a blur of trees and gravel as the booze made his head swim.
“I just... want … to see Oswald!” he demanded drunkenly.
He had chosen the worst place to pull a gun, as he heard weapons drawn behind him.
Then Selina opened up the door, her eyes wide.
“Don't shoot him!” she said in alarm, “Lower your guns!”
The guards stepped back and Ed stumbled forward, rage burning his gaze.
“I want to see Oswald! She's got NO fucking right to take him away and...and keep him prisoner! I will free him!”
Ed had been waving that gun dangerously as he spoke, and Selina reached up and snatched it from him as a stunned look came to his face.
“Go home, Ed!” she said sharply, “He's in an important meeting. You can see him tomorrow, just go home and sober up!”
Ed lunged, grabbing at the gun at they both collided with the open door, sending it against the wall with a crash. The gun went off and hit the ceiling and plaster showered down.
“What the fuck is going on?” Josh demanded as he ran to the door and armed guards followed.
Ed finally lost his balance, saving Selina the task of knocking him out, which she had wanted to avoid. Ed was on his knees now, drunk and sobbing as she kicked the gun far from his reach.
“It's okay,” she said to security, “We can handle this, he's just feeling very emotional.”
Then she leaned over Ed and glared at him.
“You stupid drunken prick!” she hissed, “You know Oswald's medical records inside out – what do you think, being woken sharply, in his weakened state, to the sound of a loud bang, will do to him?”
Ed was still on his knees, now he was blinking away tears as through the fog of booze he remembered.
“Oh shit... no... Ptsd... he's got Ptsd from the war... flashbacks to the grenade explosion...”
“You're an idiot!” Selina told him.
Josh had hurried to the stairs to see Magpie looking over from the balcony above. She had spoken quickly and firmly and then hurried off to comfort Oswald, who had woken sharply with his heart racing as his hand flew to his damaged eye as in his mind, the grenade exploded again.
Josh rejoined Selina in the hallway by the open door.
“The Empress said, all will be explained tomorrow. She also said you scared Oswald, and you can't see him until you're sober. Either go home or sleep in the car tonight, your vehicle can stay in the driveway, but you are not coming back in this house until you're sober. She also said if you ever do something like this again, she'll shoot you herself. Now get out, Ed.”
He staggered to his feet.
“I just want to see Oswald!” he said tearfully.
“Not like this,” Selina replied, “Not drunk, Ed.”
He apologised quietly as she led him out of the house, then across the driveway to his car. Josh watched from the doorway as she helped him into the back, where he slumped down across the seats, then she got out of the car, and before closing the door, she took the keys from the ignition just to be sure he wouldn't drive drunk. She returned to the house and closed the door quietly. Olga was cleaning up the mess caused by the bullet, as security staff began to relax a little.
“Make sure the guards outside know to keep an eye on Mr Nygma – for his own safety,” Selina said, then she turned to Josh.
“I'm going to stay here tonight, in case Ed tries anything stupid. He will understand everything in the morning... I can't believe he did something so dumb, he could have been killed!”
Then she stopped, seeing the sad look in his eyes.
“Josh, what's wrong?”
He paused for a moment, thinking about Magpie upstairs with Oswald.
“I think she wants him back.”
“No she doesn't! She knows he's with Ed. She wants him and Ed to come and live here at the mansion – she wants him to have everything back, Josh!”
Sadness still shaded his gaze.
“She told me some of her plans, but not all. You know more than I do, Selina. I don't think she cares about me at all.”
She saw tears in his eyes and took him by the hand, leading him back into the front room, where they sat down together.
“She cares about you. I know it for a fact!”
Josh wiped his eyes and gave a small shake of his head.
“I wanted to think so for many years, but all she can think about is Oswald, and she's got him now, he's upstairs with her.”
Selina stared at him, and then she laughed as she realised what he was implying.
“That is crazy,” she told him, “You think he's up there making passionate love to her? He's so weak he can't stand without support, and he's on so much pain medication all he wants to do is sleep, Josh!”
Hurt still reflected in his gaze.
“There's a reason why I stayed, Selina. I love her! I would do anything for Magpie, I'd die for her – and maybe I've been wasting my time. I'm leaving in the morning. She doesn't want me any more.”
“You're wrong about that!”
Selina sounded so sure as she looked at him, silently pleading with him to change his mind. But Josh shook his head.
“I'm leaving tomorrow,” he told her.
Upstairs, Oswald was resting once more, but still slightly shaken from that gunshot that had woke him as he clutched at his eye, reliving the grenade.
“It's okay,” Magpie reminded him, “It was just Ed being drunk and stupid! He's gone to the car to sleep it off. It seems he thought I was trying to abduct you, so he got drunk and started waving a gun around!”
Oswald was sitting up on the bed, his shirt was partly open but he was still dressed.
“Is he okay?”
“Yes and none of my staff were hurt,” she replied, “And he can come in tomorrow, when he's slept it off and I'll explain everything. Don't worry, Oswald.”
But he did, and it showed in his weary gaze as she swept a hand over his hair, pushing it out of his eyes.
“You look so tired. Go back to sleep.”
Then the door opened. He walked in wearing his pyjamas, his usually spiked dark hair was flat and he rubbed his sleepy eyes. Then he blinked, looking to his mother and then to the man who sat on the bed: He was chubby and rested one leg at an odd angle, he looked tired with vague shadows under his eyes and as he reached for his monocle and then put it on, Oliver noticed the eye behind the monocle was bright blue...
“Who are you?” he said as he walked over to the bed.
Oswald swallowed down a lump in his throat as his arms ached to hold his son.
“This is Oliver?” his voice trembled as he looked to the boy who had to be his son, he looked just like him...
Magpie nodded. For a moment she struggled to find the right words because despite the gunshot downstairs, Oliver was a heavy sleeper. He had even slept through a late night party once, yet tonight he had woken up, walked into the bedroom and come face to face with his father... This wasn't how she had planned it. He was supposed to meet him tomorrow, when she explained he was free and had come home...But it was too late for plans now, it seemed life had taken its own turn here as Oliver went over to his bedside and looked at him.
“Why are you in my Mom's room?” he asked.
“Oliver, this is your father.”
Oliver looked confused as he took in the sight of the chubby man resting on the bed with eyes two shades that didn't match, who wore a monocle. He thought back to the pictures he had seen of Oswald Cobblepot, mayor of Gotham.
“You can't be my Dad, my Dad's not fat, and he's younger than you and he doesn't have a weird eye.”
Magpie felt an ache in her heart as she looked at Oswald, but he laughed softly as he looked at his son with love shining in his gaze.
“I am your father, Oliver,” he assured him, “I had a very rough time in the war. I was caught in a grenade explosion and my eye was damaged. I have trouble with my leg, it got bad while I was in jail and the medicine I had to take to stop it getting even worse made me gain weight. Come closer, look at me properly.”
Oliver leaned in, looking closely at his face. Their eyes met and suddenly he could see it, of course this was Oswald...
“Daddy?” he said as tears filled his eyes.
Oswald smiled as joy shone in his gaze as he nodded.
“Yes, I'm your father, Oliver!”
“I love you so much, Daddy!” Oliver said tearfully, then he climbed on the bed and threw his arms around him as he wept tears of joy.
Oswald held on to him, tears shining in his own gaze as he smiled at Magpie, as the three of them sat there together and he held his son for the first time. It was a moment he would never forget. They were a family - he had never lost them, he still had his family, and he was never losing them again...
When morning came, Oliver was up first. He jumped on the bed and Oswald groaned in pain as the mattress jolted, then as Magpie sat up he reached for her, grasping her arm gently.
“I need my pain meds. I can't move!”
“I'll fetch them.”
Magpie got up, smoothing down the dress she still wore from the day before, then she left the room.
“Are you sick, Dad?”
As Oliver got off the bed and looked at him with a worried expression, Oswald sat up stiffly.
“No, not exactly. I have an injury to my leg. I also bruised my back very badly when I fell in the prison. It could be a while until I'm walking again.”
“You can't walk?” he said in alarm.
Oswald didn't care about his pride any more. He wasn't going to lie to his son or himself about his situation.
“I have to rest my leg for a long time,” he told him, “I might get better – if not, I'll have to use a wheelchair forever. I'll certainly be using it every day for a while, that's definite because I can't stand up or walk without help.”
“But I can help you,” said his son.
Oswald smiled kindly.
“And that is very kind of you, Oliver – but I have to rest my leg or it won't get better. And I'll be in good hands, Doctor Nygma will be taking care of me as soon as he arrives.”
“If he's sobered up!” Magpie remarked as she placed a bag of medication and a glass of water next to the bed, “Security said he's still asleep in his car.” Then she headed for the bathroom. Oswald started to take the many bottles of pills from the bag as he sorted through them for the right one.
“That's a lot of medication, Dad.”
“And I won't need most of it for much longer,” Oswald told him, “Don't worry, I'm getting better. I just need a lot of rest.”
Josh had packed his bags. He waited upstairs until he heard Oliver talking to his father as Oswald thanked the security staff who helped him from the main bedroom to the one next door, then Oliver was told to have breakfast and he ran off quickly down the hallway.
Josh knew Magpie had entered the room, but he kept his back to her as he stood at the window, looking down at the garden below.
“What's going on?” she demanded.
She had seen his bags packed and left on his bed and she sounded worried.
“I'm just making it easy for you,” he replied, still looking to the window as he blinked away tears, “You've got your birdie back, Magpie. You don't need me any more.”
“I never said anything like that!” she exclaimed as she joined him, grabbing his arm and giving it a tug as he turned to look at her.
“You don't love me,” he stated, “All you've ever wanted is Oswald! You slept with him last night!”
Maggie stared at him.
“Yeah, I slept on the bed with Oswald, because he was in too much pain to get up. Then Ed turns up, bang bang, makes a hole in the ceiling and wakes Oliver! So he comes in, meets his Dad – and we all cuddled up, Josh. We both held Oswald! And soon, when he wakes with a hangover, Ed will be holding him too. Ed will be moving in with us, Oswald and Ed will live here with us. Then I'm going to hand the empire over to my birdie – it's always been his!”
Magpie was looking at him intently. He looked back at her.
“And what does this mean for us?”
Magpie smiled as for the first time she shared plans she had only dared to dream about until now:
“Oswald gets the underworld. I get to take off my mask and stop being Empress and start being Magpie again! And we stay together, here, as a family.”
Josh felt a huge wave of relief wash over him:
She had been planning a future with him all the long and not told him about it? That was just typical of Magpie, to have great plans and share them at the last minute...
“I never knew you loved me so much,” he told her as he looked into her eyes.
She reached for him, pulling him close.
“You never asked me!” she said, then she kissed him deeply as they embraced.
Just then Oliver ran into the room. He had intended to ask his mother what Oswald wanted for breakfast, but he stopped sharply, staring at the sight of Josh and his mother kissing.
“No, no, you're with my Dad now!” he said angrily.
As Josh pulled away, Magpie turned to her son.
“Daddy will live here with us,” she promised him, “But I need to explain something, about me and Josh.”
Oliver glared at Josh.
“You're not taking her away from my Daddy! I hate you!” he yelled, then he ran out of the room, heading for Oswald's room.
“I can handle this,” Magpie said.
But Josh felt ready to do more than just take orders now he knew where he stood – the obedience was in its place, in the bedroom. Outside if it, the balance had changed, they were properly together now.
“No,” he said, “We'll talk to him together.”
Magpie met his gaze and nodded.
“You've always been so good with him, you'll be a great stepfather,” she said.
He was still processing that statement as they headed for Oswald's room. Yes, she really did want to spend the rest of her life with him...
Oswald had been resting, waiting for his pain meds to kick in. Soon Olga would be bringing him breakfast and his morning tea. That was what he had expected as the door opened, but instead his son came running into the room, clearly upset.
“Josh and Mom are kissing!” he said, “She has to stop doing that, she loves you, she's going to marry you and we're going to be a family!”
Oswald leaned forward stiffly and placed a hand on his son's shoulder.
“We are going to be a family,” he said, “But there are all kinds of families in this world, Oliver. I don't have to be married to your mother to live here and be a father to you. I love you and your mother with all of my heart – but I don't have to be with her as her husband to care for you both.”
Oliver looked at him in confusion. As Magpie and Josh entered the room, Josh shot them both an anxious glance.
“It's okay, I've got this,” Oswald assured them, then he spoke to his son again.
“I was with your mother a very long time ago. And around that time, there was some one else in my life who I cared for – like your mother cares for Josh. And you've seen him come to the house sometimes to meet with your mother, and he opens the show for her whenever she does speeches to the public.”
Josh looked at him in surprise.
“Yes, Ed is my partner. We love each other very much, Josh. If I ever get married, I will marry Ed, because I love him as a husband.”
Ed had just stepped into the room. His hair was hanging in his eyes and he felt hungover and stiff from sleeping in the back of his car, but hearing those words Oswald had just spoken had lifted his heart and made him smile.
“And if that's a proposal, I accept!” he said brightly as his face lit up with a big smile and joy shone in his gaze.
Oswald looked to the door as he smiled too, holding his arms out to Ed, who hurried over and embraced him tightly.
“I'm so sorry I was drunk last night, I don't know what I was thinking!”
Oswald pulled back from his embrace, still with a shine in his eyes.
“You'd better say sorry to my son and his mother,” Oswald replied, “You woke Oliver and blew a hole in the ceiling downstairs!”
“Oh... Yes, so I did,” Ed said with regret, and then it sunk in... His son? Oswald had a son? He turned sharply towards the door, where she stood with Josh. He was looking at the Empress with her mask off for the first time. And then he stared at her, and as she smiled, he knew those eyes... He drew in a sharp breath, hit by the shock of what he had just realised.
“Magpie?” he exclaimed.
“That's right – not dead!” she told him, “I missed the bus that day. Later I used Oswald's treasure to build an empire – for him, and one day, for Oliver, too.”
Ed was still staring at her. She had done all of this for Oswald, because he was the father of her child? She was going to give him everything, too - it had always been for him...
“You worked to set me up as Oswald's doctor so I could see him because you know I love him?”
“Of course I did. I knew he loved you too. I always knew.”
Ed didn't know what to say. The thought ran through his mind that he had so casually plotted to kill the Empress and take her empire for Oswald – but it was for Oswald, it always had been... He was so glad he hadn't acted on his plan...
“Thank you,” he told her, “Magpie, I...I don't know what to say, just... thank you so much!”
He hugged her tightly, then as he let go, he turned around to go back to Oswald's bedside, but Oliver was standing there looking up at him.
“You want to marry my Daddy?” he asked, looking at him with a serious expression.
Ed glanced over at Oswald, and as he saw a look of deepest love in his eyes, his own gaze softened. Yes, they were definitely getting married. He looked down at Oliver, who stood there in a back three piece suit and shiny black shoes with his hair spiked just like his father.
“Yes, I do want to marry your Daddy. Are you okay with that?”
“Only if you can promise me something,” Oliver replied.
“Of course, anything,” Ed said with a smile.
“Promise me you will take care of him and never let him fall over and hurt himself again.”
Ed looked fondly at Oliver.
“I promise you, I will take very good care of your Daddy,” he assured him, “And he won't be falling over any more. I'm a doctor, I can take excellent care of him, and I will.”
Oliver gave Ed an unexpected hug, then let go again.
“Okay,” he replied, “As long as I know you will look after him, you can marry him.”
Ed couldn't stop smiling as he met Oswald's gaze.
“We have the approval of the future king of Gotham, sweetheart,” he said.
As he stood beside the bed and he and Oswald exchanged another look of deepest love Magpie spoke up, knowing it was time to leave them alone together. They needed time to rest, to enjoy simply being together after the long, hard fight to get Oswald out of jail.
“I'll tell Olga to bring you breakfast a little later,” she said, “You two look like you have a lot to talk about...” she glanced to her son, “Come on, Oliver – time to go downstairs, breakfast is ready!”
Oliver followed them out of the room and Magpie closed the door behind them, giving Ed and Oswald the privacy they needed. Now they were alone, tears of relief filled Oswald's eyes.
“This is all so perfect, Ed!” he said as he reached for him, “My family, my empire - I even have my family home back. And we have a great future to look forward to!”
“Yes, I know,” Ed replied with a smile as he sat on the edge of the bed and drew him closer, “A future we can share together, Ozzie!”
As they headed for the stairs, Josh and Magpie linked hands, then exchanged a glance.
“It's all different now,” Magpie said, “Life changes for the better. Oswald gets to have his empire, and share his freedom and his days with Ed, and we get to be happy too.”
“Sounds good to me,” Josh agreed, then they paused to share a brief kiss. As they broke off from that kiss, Josh saw Oliver waiting at the top of the stairs, and he gave him a warm smile.
“I'm going to be your stepfather,” he reminded him, “You'll have me as a Dad, too.”
Oliver felt anger rising again as he remembered his hopes for his parents reunion had not worked as planned. He was fine with Oswald marrying Ed, but Josh wanted to take his father's place? That wasn't going to happen...
“I only have one Dad, Josh! My Daddy is Oswald, you'll never replace him!” he said sharply as eyes like Oswald's narrowed, reflecting pure ice. “I hate you!” he said, “I hope you die!”
“Oliver!” Magpie called in anger, but he stormed off down the stairs.
“It was probably too soon for me to say that,” Josh told her, “He's only just got his Dad back in his life, he doesn't need me talking like I'm a replacement.”
“No, he's got to apologise!” Magpie told him, then she hurried off down the stairs after her son.
Josh stood there for a moment, wondering if a happy ending really was for everyone who lived under this roof – clearly, that wasn't going to happen right away, at least not for Oliver. He started to make his way down the stairs as he heard Magpie's voice echo from the lower level as she told her son to treat Josh with respect. He lingered halfway down the stairs as he waited for Magpie to take her son to the kitchen for breakfast, then he took a deep breath and went down to join them, still feeling sure life would not be as perfect as Magpie was hoping. He also had an uneasy feeling, but couldn't figure out why, as if his intuition was trying to tell him something – like there was a storm about to roll up and block out the sun, as if something very bad was on its way, but yet to be seen on the horizon...
“Ozzie, I've missed you so much, I've missed you and me like this, away from Blackgate, this is what I've been waiting for, I've been dreaming of it, sweetheart...”
Oswald smiled brightly as his heart warmed through with love and Ed whispered those softly spoken words in his ear. Ed had undressed him, carried him to the bathroom and then he had relaxed in warm water that helped to lift out his aches and pains. Now he was back in bed, and Ed had locked the door and joined him, and to lay beside him out of the jail, in his own bed in his own home, felt like another dream had just come true. They kissed tenderly as Ed caressed him so carefully, ever mindful of his painful leg and his bruised back.
“I''ll get you walking again,” he assured him, “But not yet, Oswald. You need a lot of rest.”
“I know that Edward. I'll do what every you say, Doctor Nygma!”
Ed laughed softly.
“Damned right you will, Oswald! I'm taking the best care of you. From now on, I'm not letting you out of my sight!”
They kissed again, close and warm together beneath soft sheets as Ed reached down and closed his hand around his solid cock. It had taken a while for Oswald to get hard because of the pain meds that had dulled his senses, but Ed had patiently stroked him as he spoke softly to him, and now, at last, he was ready. Oswald shared another kiss with him and gave a soft moan as Ed began to jerk him firmly but gently.
“I love the feel of your cock in my hand...Oh, fuck yes, Oswald... touch me, don't stop!”
There was a playful sparkle in Oswald's eyes as he saw the look of helpless bliss on Ed's face as he had unexpectedly grabbed at his hardness. Now they were working on each other, jerking in a rhythm that was becoming more urgent as they both made the steady climb to climax together.
“I'll love you forever!” Ed gasped as he struggled to hold back. The thought of Oswald's hand down there, working this magic on him, was too much to bear as he lost control, pumping hot come over his lover's hand.
Oswald said his name in a breathless whisper as he looked into his eyes, his lips parting in a sharp gasp as he clung to him, coming hard as Ed held him and he trembled.
“I love you so much, Ozzie!” he whispered, kissing him softly, then they lay together in a loving embrace, both breathless but happy and both deeply relieved to finally be making love to one another here, away from the confines of the jail. Ozzie was finally free, and that was wonderful, but it was also still sinking in. They could spend every day together now, nothing would ever separate them again... Oswald rested in Ed's arms as he lay beside him, stroking his hair as he watched his Ozzie slip into a restful sleep, then he tenderly placed a kiss in his soft hair, smiling as he looked at his sleeping lover. Their nightmare was over, from this moment, everything could only get better...
Ed and Oswald were not the only ones sharing some close and loving time together. The weather was warm that morning and while her son was outside and under the watchful eye of Olga, Magpie had grabbed his hand unexpectedly, laughing softly at the startled look she saw on his face as Josh recognised that gleam in her eyes:
In the daytime, while the security staff were around?
He had never been comfortable with the idea of anything sexual happening while others might catch a glimpse of the action, but Magpie led him by the hand into the study, leaving the door a jar, and they were in clear view of one of her armed female security staff, who looked through the partly open doorway as she stood in the hall, then she looked away again. She was in her twenties, wore the same suit and tie as the male staff and her make up was heavy, all smoky eyes and red lipstick. Josh caught her looking again and she glanced away for a second time.
“Don't worry about the guards,” Magpie said, and it sounded more like an order, “Security is doubled now, we had a threat, we have to be guarded.”
“But we could close the door!” he said in alarm as she placed her hands on his shoulders and pushed him playfully as he sat down on a leather couch by the window.
“Let them watch, I don't care today, I want you right now!”
She sunk to her knees and pushed his legs apart, placed a hand at his throat and the other on his balls as she gave a playful squeeze to both.
“Cock, now! ” she ordered, and those words sent a tingle of sharp arousal though his groin as he instantly hardened.
“Yes, Empress,” he said as he tugged at his belt and then his zip and freed his erection.
She knelt there before him, sliding her hand from his throat to his thigh as her other hand gently gripped his hardness and she admired the way the sunlight escaped in through the window and made the head of his cock shine.
“It's not Empress, it's Magpie from now on, but this,” she tightened her grip, giving it a squeeze, “Is still mine!”
“Yes, all yours...” he whispered.
Then he glanced up to catch a glimpse of the guard outside who stood in shadow, red lipstick curving into a smile as she watched her boss take his cock into her mouth. Josh gave a gasp as Magpie sucked sharply, leaning back hard on the couch as he closed his eyes. The feel of her sucking his cock was divine. His arousal was climbing as he thought about the guard who was watching:
She can see my cock being sucked, he thought, maybe she'll come in, we'll have a threesome. But it's not up to me. It's up to Magpie. She can do anything to me, my body is hers... I'm her property. Oh, fuck, yes...
He kept his eyes closed, concentrating on holding back as she savoured the taste of him and he sat there, surrendering to her desire...
As his phone rang, Bruce Wayne was about to get into his car. He was in the city, he had just finished a business meeting and as he recognised the number as Jeremiah, he answered quickly.
“Where are you?” he demanded. He didn't care how urgent that had sounded, his heart had demanded urgency as much as his worried mind.
“I'll let you guess, where would Joker be when he's planning to kill the Empress and she's just taken the Penguin home? I'm sensing some kind of alliance might form here and I can't have that. I'm killing two birds with one stone today – or many bullets!”
Bruce gripped the phone harder. All around him the busy street was teeming with life on an ordinary day, the city was oblivious to the threat that was looming as traffic rushed by as usual... If the Empress was killed, there would be a war, and without a man of Oswald's influence to get Gotham under control without her, the city would fall again... Joker wanted this. He really wanted a return to chaos and anarchy... Bruce felt a stab to his heart as sure as if Joker may as well have buried a blade there. So much for his willingness to talk and see reason...
“What about my ultimatum? I mean it, Joker! Don't do this, draw a line and -”
“Oh Bruce,” he gave a sigh, “I don't need rules, the only sensible way to live is without them! I never had any intention of considering your plea for so called reason – I was just hopeful of another rough fuck on the floor! It was good by the way, I like it rough and dirty as you know. And it's about to get very dirty here, at least, as far as blood spatter is concerned. I'd stay and chat, but I have people to kill.”
He hung up.
“No!” Bruce said as he glared at his phone and anger burned in his eyes.
He made a quick calculation. He was closer to the mansion than he was to home. There was not time to go back, get the suit and the Bat mobile. He would have to jump in his car, drive over to the Van Dahl estate and turn up just as he was, and hope for the best... Bruce got into his car, paused to check his loaded gun, then fired the engine up and drove off into the busy traffic that instantly and frustratingly slowed his pace as he desperately hoped he wouldn't arrive too late for Magpie and Penguin. But it wasn't just about them. He also he knew a piece of his heart was still hoping it was not too late to save Joker from his own crazy actions. He still loved him...
As Bruce was delayed in traffic, behind the closed doors of the Van Dahl estate, Josh was still leaning back on the sofa, his eyes closed as he thrust his hips forward, giving a moan of bliss mixed with frustration as Magpie closed her hands about his wrists, pinning him as she sucked hard, stopping, then sucking again, holding him there on the edge of a steep drop into hard climax.
The guard outside stepped closer once more, her red painted smile grew a little bigger as she watched her boss teasing Josh, flicking her tongue over the head of his cock as he gave a helpless moan, legs shaking as he struggled to hold back. Josh had a big cock. Nice, she could only imagine how much Empress enjoyed tasting that on a regular basis... Then a hand touched her shoulder. She turned, giving a gasp, too shocked to react and pull her gun as she saw the weapon pointed in her face. A gun with a silencer... Then a squeeze of the trigger from his gloved hand sent a bullet into her skull, she slumped to the floor as dead as the other guards he had encountered, just as Josh cried out and hit his peak and Magpie sucked it all down. Now a new face was peering in through the doorway, emerging from the shadows as another red smile was stretched wide... But this time, it was the smile of The Joker...
Upstairs, Oswald was sitting on the edge of the bed with a joyful shine in his eyes as he smiled at Ed, who finished tying his shoelace for him and then got up. Oswald looked great. He had just helped him to get dressed, and now the two of them were ready to go downstairs.
“Are you sure you want to be out of bed this morning?” Ed asked him as he paused to turn to the mirror and straighten his tie.
In the glass reflected, Oswald smiled radiantly back at him.
“Yes, Ed, I'll be just fine. I'll use the chair, I won't try and walk again for a long while. Like you said, with time and patience, I can do this.”
“Of course you can!” Ed agreed as he turned back to him, “Now, let's get you down those stairs.”
“Are you sure you can lift me again?” Oswald asked, briefly glancing down at his chubby build, impossible to hide in a jacket that only closed thanks to a very strong button. Ed looked at him with deepest love shining in his gaze.
“I coped with the bathroom okay. And you're not that heavy, Oswald. Of course I can lift you!” he assured him.
Downstairs, as a door burst open and a guard shouted, then a muted shot followed, Magpie got up quickly as Josh tidied his clothing and then jumped up from the seat. All thoughts of resting in an afterglow, post orgasm, were gone as his senses switched to high alert. Magpie ran to the desk, unlocked it and took out a loaded gun.
“What the fuck is going on?” she whispered, checking the weapon, then glancing to Josh.
He was staring towards the door. Blood was pooling into the room in a slick, crimson puddle and beneath it was the guard who had watched them moments before. Her head was turned towards them, her gaze was lifeless and there was a bloody hole between her eyes where the scarlet trail ran out like a tiny river of red to join the pool beneath her on the floor.
“Shit!” he said as his face paled.
Then a thought hit Magpie that eclipsed all else:
Where was her son?
And what about her birdie, he couldn't even walk...
She thought quickly. She knew Oswald was upstairs with Ed, Oswald couldn't walk and Ed – shit, Selina had taken his weapon away last night when he was drunk, and Selina had gone home this morning... She heard a tap on the window and turned sharply, breathing a relieved sigh as her very worst fears faded out: There was Olga with a heavy rolling pin in her hand, and Oliver was beside her.
“Keep him safe!” she whispered as through the partly open window, Olga nodded.
“How many are there?” Josh said in a hushed voice.
“Just the Joker man,” stated Olga as she placed a hand on Oliver's shoulder and they stepped away from the window, towards the safety of the shadow of nearby trees.
Magpie and Josh exchanged a glance:
Joker was here, in the house?
A shot rang out and they raced to the door, stepping in blood as they peered out in time to see Joker standing a short distance away, gun raised as the silencer muted the shot and another guard fell. The front door was locked. Other security staff were pounding on it, and he turned from the chaos and looked at them calmly as his eyes reflected ice.
“I came here to kill you,” he stated, “And that's what I'm going to do!”
He moved fast, firing off a shot that splintered woodwork as they ducked back and Josh took a chance, ducking low to grab the weapon from the fallen guard. He turned for the window but Magpie grabbed his arm, pulling him back.
“No,” she said as fear shone in her gaze, “He will follow us, then bang bang!”
“But we can escape through the window!”
“And he will follow - Oliver is out there!” she reminded him urgently.
The shots had been heard upstairs just as Ed was about to lift Oswald to carry him down. They exchanged a look of alarm as Ed told him to stay put, and then he raced out of the door. Oswald stared after him, worrying for his lover:
He wanted him to stay put? What else could he do with his leg in a bad way?
Then he looked across the room, saw his old cane with the familiar Penguin shaped head. Beneath that head was a dagger... He braced himself for the pain that would follow and slid from the bed to the floor, then started to drag himself painfully and slowly across the room towards the cane and its hidden weapon.
Ed had looked over the balcony and seen Joker on the floor below as he stepped over another body and then headed up the hallway. There was blood shining on the floor, and he didn't doubt the guards outside were planning to get in quietly, and someone must have called the police by now, but in these minutes to spare, Joker was loose with a gun and security staff lay dead and bleeding out on the floor below. He guessed he would go for Magpie first, because she was downstairs. Oswald's son was also downstairs! Ed caught his breath in panic, then looked back to the bedroom. Oswald would be safe up here, he decided, and began to quietly creep down the stairs. As he reached the bottom, Joker was heading for the study. Ed held his breath as he grabbed a gun from the holster of a fallen guard, then he ducked back and hurried up the stairs again.
“Take it, Oswald.”
He thrust the gun into his hand, then snatched the dagger from his grasp as Oswald's eyes grew wide.
“What the hell are you doing,Ed?”
“Keeping you safe as priority! Now I'm going downstairs to try and protect Magpie and your son.”
Oswald's heart raced in fear as Ed hurried out of the room, knowing he could do nothing to follow, because he was on the floor, his cane across his lap, now with a gun in his hand instead of a dagger. He clutched the gun tightly, ready to shoot if Valeska came in, as his heart stayed with Ed and the danger he had chosen to face without him.
“He's going to try to kill us both!” Magpie whispered as she clutched the gun tightly, “Get out of my way, Josh. I have to get him first!”
“No!” Josh stood in front of her.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?” she exclaimed.
“Saving you,” he told her, “I won't let him kill you, he'll have to shoot me first.”
“He doesn't care who he shoots to get to me!” she exclaimed, then she scrambled up on to a table and stood there, watching the doorway.
“What are you doing?”Josh demanded.
Magpie wasn't quite sure how to answer that. It had been years, and this could end badly...
“Something I haven't done since I missed a bus!” she whispered.
“What?” Josh said in confusion. Then a shadow crossed the hallway and he quickly ducked behind the door.
“Leave this to me!” Magpie hissed.
Josh didn't know what she was about to do, but he soon found out. Joker stepped into the room, and she flew straight over his head, landing out of the doorway, in the hall as he turned sharply with a stunned expression on his face.
“Joker,” Magpie said, “We meet at last. I take it you came here to kill me? You'll have to catch me first!”
As he fired off a shot she ran, fuelled by pure adrenaline, jumping and somersaulting through the air then landing fast in shadow. She darted into an open doorway as her back ached and her hips hurt as she silently concluded that when she was younger, flying around had seemed like a good idea, but after having a kid? No, no. Bad idea, very bad idea... She ached all over as she stood there in shadow, trying to catch her breath without being heard. His gun was raised. He was ready to shoot at anything that moved. And she was ready for him as she slowly began to raise her weapon. He was walking up that hallway so calmly, so sure of himself, and all it would take was one shot, and he would be down...
And then it all went wrong.
“No, no, I have to look after them!” she heard her son yell.
“Come back, Oliver!” Olga called out, but Oliver climbed back in through the window and ran out into the hallway and as he stood there, he gave a gasp as Joker stopped walking and looked back at him.
“I'll be with you shortly, kid,” he said with a smile, “Right after I kill your mother...”
Magpie raised her gun. Joker saw her and took aim, then Josh jumped him and they crashed into a wall. As they fought, Oliver darted into a nearby room. Magpie was shifting her aim as the two men fought, then the gun went off and Josh slumped to the floor as blood began to spread through his shirt. Magpie gave a shocked gasp as the weapon trembled in her grip, tears blurred her eyes. He had shot Josh... Oliver would be next...
“I won't let you kill my son!” she yelled, as Ed crept down the stairway with the dagger gleaming as it caught on the sunlight.
“You can't stop me,” said Joker as he approached her.
The front door was kicked in with a crash.
“GCPD!” yelled Harvey as he burst in accompanied by several cops, and Joker didn't take a backwards glance as he slipped his finger to the trigger and looked Magpie in the eye. She was tearful and shaking as she tried to steady her aim, but Josh was bleeding on the floor and she didn't know if he was dead and it didn't matter that she was Queen of Gotham, she loved him and she had just seen Joker shoot him - and her aim was unsteady as she stood there, hurting all over from acrobatics she had not done since before Oliver was born. All she had to do was shoot him, and her finger was sliding weakly to the trigger as he spoke up.
“Give up the fight,” he said to her, “It's over, Empress. You're dead.”
And the gun went off.
Not his gun.
Not hers, either.
Joker gave a gasp as he felt the burning pain in his back and then saw blood seeping through his shirt. The bullet had gone straight through him. He stared at Magpie, then turned him head with a smirk on his face.
“Nice shooting, kid...”
As he slumped to the floor, ten year old Oliver, who had picked up a gun from the hand of a dead security guard, slowly lowered the weapon, a vengeful look was in his tearful eyes as a gaze like Oswald's reflected a mix of fear and anger. Magpie dropped her weapon and rushed over to him as Harvey caught up and saw the scene before him:
Joker was shot, there were several bodies in the downstairs hallway. All security staff. Magpie was unharmed... And his grandson had just shot the Joker?
He yelled to the cops to check the rest of the house. Ed Nygma had just gone back upstairs with a blade in his hand, he tried to conceal it as he spotted the cops, that blade looked suspiciously like the one Penguin used to carry in his cane. Then he heard him call out, It's okay, Oz...
He watched as Magpie glanced to Josh, who was reviving now and clutching a shoulder wound. She breathed a relieved sigh, then turned her attention back to her son.
“This is a special moment,” she told him.
Then she leaned over Joker, placing a fingertip in his blood. She looked proudly at Oliver as she marked his brow with Joker's blood.
“You drew the blood of an enemy. You'll be a fine king one day.”
Harvey gave a small shake of his head. He could only guess what Jim's reaction would have been if he had seen that happen. But this was the modern underworld, they looked nice and friendly and approachable, but they had their dark ways, including initiating new members of the family by marking them with their first drawn blood... He glanced at Josh who was clutching at his bleeding shoulder, then he called an ambulance. Joker wouldn't need to go to the hospital, he thought as he watched him being cuffed as he bled out on the floor, he was still out cold. They would take care of him back in Arkham...
Magpie was still speaking to her son.
“You did this to save me and your father?” she asked.
“All of us,” Oliver replied, glancing back the other way down the hall, “Especially my other family!”
Surprise registered in her gaze, then she hugged her son.
“You really think Joker broke in to go after them?” she said in surprise.
Oliver shook his head.
“I don't know, Mom. I'm only ten years old,” he reminded her.
“I thought you might have done it to save Josh,” Harvey added as he walked over to join them, wondering who they were. Then it fell into place, the other family that lived in this house...
He wanted to hug his grandson, but Oliver had just realised what had happened, in all the commotion he had not realised Josh had been injured until he turned around to see him up against the wall, clutching at his bleeding shoulder as he fought pain from a gunshot wound. Suddenly the little boy who had shot Joker so coldly and easily as his gaze had resembled Penguin, fell to pieces as he started to cry.
“Oh no, not Josh!” he said tearfully, and he knelt beside him as tears streaked his face and he watched in panic as blood flowed from his shoulder.
“Please don't die! I didn't mean what I said, I love you, Uncle Josh!” he wept.
Josh reached for him, giving him a comforting hug.
“I know you didn't mean it and I love you too,” he told him as he pressed harder on the wound and managed a smile, “I'm okay, please don't cry.”
Ed was climbing down the stairs now, heavily supporting Oswald. They stopped on the final step as they surveyed the scene of carnage.
“Oliver shot Joker,” Magpie said.
Oswald was still holding on to Ed as he smiled brightly and looked to his son.
“Good boy, well done!” he said warmly.
Harvey shook his head again, thinking, What kind of a family am I mixed up with? Then the paramedics arrived and soon after, a vehicle arrived to take Joker back to Arkham.
While the aftermath of the shooting was happening, Bruce Wayne, who had struggled through traffic minus the bat suit and the bat mobile, sat parked outside, watching tearfully as Joker was put in the back of an emergency vehicle, unconscious and bleeding and cuffed. The cops had arrived in time, Joker was under lock and key and no one else was hurt – except for Josh, who had a shoulder wound but was well enough to walk to the ambulance as Oliver hurried after him accompanied by Ed. He guessed Magpie was still in the house, and Ed had offered to go with them. Oliver Cobblepot looked upset, clearly he thought a lot of Magpie's lover.
“Bruce, I didn't expect to see you here,” said Harvey as he walked over to the car and watched as the dead staff were taken out in body bags.
“I saw the cars arrive, I wanted to see if I could help,” Bruce replied.
Harvey looked at him again.
“Have you been crying, Bruce?”
“No,” Bruce replied, blinking to clear his vision, “I guess I just got concerned, seeing a family subjected to such terrible violence. Is everyone okay?”
Harvey recalled how years before, Bruce's parents had been murdered. Maybe it had triggered memories, he silently concluded.
“Josh took a bullet to the shoulder. Five security staff were shot dead. Joker took a bullet to the back, it went straight through him and into a door. He was shot by Oliver Cobblepot.”
Penguin's kid had shot Joker? That was a surprise, he was only ten years old...
“He was defending his family,” Bruce replied.
“Not just his own family,” he added, and as he explained the rest, Bruce smiled, then as Harvey assured him again that Magpie and her family were okay, he thanked him for his time, and then he drove away.
As he left the gates of the mansion, tears welled up in his eyes again. Bruce drove off at speed, taking a sharp turn off the highway where the road led down a quiet route, then he pulled over, turned off the engine and gave a sob as he slammed a fist into the wheel.
“Why didn't you listen to me?” he said tearfully.
But Jeremiah had made his choice. Bruce had drawn a line in the sand, but Jeremiah had chosen to carry on as Joker and crossed that line. They were over now, it was done with and no matter how hard it would be to put the pieces of his heart back together, Bruce knew he would never hold Jeremiah Velaska in his arms again...
Much later that evening, after the bodies had been cleared away and the blood had been cleaned up, Olga was still mopping the floors to be sure every trace of it was gone. Oswald was resting on a sofa in the front room as Ed sat beside him. Magpie was in the study, she had just finished up some paperwork - and tomorrow there would be more - as she begun the process of handing control of the underworld over to Oswald. She paused to call Josh, just to be sure he was okay. Ed had kindly gone with Oliver to the hospital earlier because her son had refused to leave Josh while she stayed home and spoke with Harvey about the shootings, but now they were back and the family was almost complete again. Josh would be back as early as tomorrow afternoon, the shot had been clean and gone straight through, it was a flesh wound and could have been much worse, but he would still need time to heal. She was still talking on the phone as she approached the front room, just as Oliver had run in from outside.
“Come here, son,” said Oswald, and as Oliver went over to join him, Oswald took a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the blood stain from his brow.
“Look at the state of you!” he exclaimed, “I can't believe you got cleaned up and changed into fresh clothing and didn't wash your face! No son of mine is going about looking like that!”
Ed smiled as he looked fondly at him.
“You sound like a father already!” he said.
Oswald spat on the handkerchief and moved it towards Oliver, who pulled back sharply.
“No!” he said in alarm.
Oswald fixed him with a hard stare.
“No, you're not wiping it off!” Oliver said.
“Eww you spat on it, Ozzie!” then he glanced to Oliver, “Go upstairs and wash your face.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you have blood on your face!” Oswald told him, “Clean it off!”
“No, I protected you all, and my other family!”
Oswald looked at him in confusion.
“What other family?” he asked.
But Oliver was too worked up to answer his question.
“I'm not washing it off, Dad! I became a man today. It's my mark of honour!”
Oswald stared at him. He looked to the neat line in Joker's blood drawn down the centre of his son's brow as he realised what he meant.
“Oh no... no, son! You're far too young for this!” he told him in a hushed voice, “Go upstairs and wash your face, please. Then I want you to go to your room, it's getting late.”
“But I wanted to keep it!” he protested.
Oswald was silently fuming as he glanced at Ed.
“The thought had crossed my mind that maybe I should turn down the offer of running the new underworld,” he told him, “But now, I'm decided – I need to take over. We'll have no more of this insanity!”
Just then Magpie came into the room, just as she ended her phone call. Oswald glared at her. She looked back at him in confusion.
“Is there a problem, birdie?” she asked.
His gaze darkened.
“There most certainly is a problem, Magpie!” he told her, as she stood there, looking back at him as she wondered what she had done wrong to provoke such anger in his eyes. Oswald was looking at her like he wanted to kill her...
As Oswald sat there glaring at Magpie, Ed looked away, keeping out of it all as he got up and went over to a cabinet and started to pour himself a drink.
“Well Oswald,” he muttered, “We're certainly a family now... At each other's throats already...”
Magpie went over to join Oswald, as she stood there and he sat on the couch glaring at her icily, their son was also present, stepping back as he wondered why his parents were about to quarrel.
“What's wrong with you, birdie?” Magpie asked in alarm.
“What's wrong?” Oswald fumed, “What's wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong, Magpie – he's ten years old! You don't mark him with his first blood at that age, he's just a kid! He shot an intruder, well done, you saved us all would have been enough!”
Magpie stared at him.
“But he's the future king of Gotham!”
“One day, after I have taken back control – and it's going to be very different now I'm back, Magpie!”
She paused for thought, and then she nodded.
“It's your empire,” she reminded him, “I was only looking after it for you. And you should run things as you wish. I wouldn't want it any other way.”
Ed was having a drink on the other side of the room, smiling as his eyes sparkled at the sight of Oswald firmly laying down the rules. Yes, he would do this exactly as he wanted it to be done – he would rule the city very differently to Magpie, and things were certainly going to change. He also knew this meant Penguin was back. He was over the long hard years in jail and all his health had put him through – being back on top and running the underworld was exactly what Oswald needed now, to regain power, it was the perfect situation that would see him do well, more than that, he would thrive again... Then Oswald looked to his son.
“Come here,” he said kindly.
Oliver stepped closer, looking cautiously at his father. This was the first time he had seen him get angry, and he had just realised Dad had a hell of a temper for a small guy who had been so weak and barely able to move when he first arrived. But Oswald looked at him with love shining in his gaze as he spoke again.
“Your mother shouldn't have done that, son,” he said, “You did a wonderful thing to protect us all – but you are far too young to be considered a part of the criminal aspect of the family. You need to be much older for that to happen. But you did save us all and for that, you are a true hero.”
Oliver started to smile. Oswald held his arms out to him.
“Give me a hug, son.”
As Ed stood there looking on, he smiled at the sight of Oswald hugging his son. Two days ago, he didn't even know he had a kid and now, he was already becoming a great father, he was going to raise his boy well, and Ed wanted to go over and hug the pair of them, but instead he stood there looking on, as Magpie did the same. Then as he stepped back from his father's embrace, Oliver spoke up again as pride shone in his gaze.
“I had to shoot him, Dad. He might have hurt Mom or you...or my other family...” he paused, recalling that first, terrible fear that had flashed through his mind as he had broken away from Olga and run back into the house, straight back into danger...
“What other family?” Oswald asked.
Finally, Oliver answered that question.
“Mom always says that because I'm heir to the empire, some of her enemies – or yours – might come after me. And when Joker got in here I thought he had come after me.”
“I still don't understand where this other family comes into things,” Oswald said to him.
His son looked back at him, wide eyed.
“Mom said if an enemy got in here, they would do something terrible to me. That's why we have guards... and when Joker broke in, I thought he was going to do something terrible.”
“I always try and keep you safe,” Magpie reminded him.
Oliver glanced at her.
“I know you do, Mom.”
He looked back at Oswald.
“I didn't think he was going to kill me... I thought he was after them.”
“Them?” Oswald asked, still feeling confused.
“My other family,” said Oliver, “The bulldog family. I thought Joker had come here to hurt them.”
Oswald felt a huge rush of love for his boy, who, as he had said after shooting Joker, was, after all, only ten years old... Then his eyes grew wider as behind his monocle his blue eye seemed magnified as he realised what Oliver had said.
“You have bulldogs?”
“Edward is a very old man now,” he told him, “He used to have a bulldog wife called Bella. She died four years ago, so he got himself a new wife, her name is Lola. And Lola had puppies! One of them is mine!”
Joy shone in Oswald's eyes as he looked to Magpie.
“Edward is still alive?”
“On the day I sunk the sub, I saved him. He's been with me ever since.”
Oswald blinked away tears of joy as Oliver ran to a nearby door and opened it up. In the next room there was Edward, in a majestic dog bed, his face was grey and he was heavier, and slower as he got up, but there was a bright shine in his eyes as he joyfully made his way over to Oswald and sat at his feet. Oswald leaned closer, fondly stroking his head.
“Edward, it's so good to see you!” he said, and the dog raised his head as his stumpy tail wagging as he licked his face and Oswald laughed.
Then another dog came out of the adjoining room, she was a little smaller and much younger and trotted over to greet Oswald. The puppies followed. Six of them. One sniffed the rug and peed on it, another went over to Ed and started chewing his shoe lace. Magpie laughed.
“They're a handful!” she said, “I'd better call Olga...”
As she left the room, Oliver picked up his puppy, a small brown and white bulldog who sniffed his face and snuggled up to him as he hugged him.
“This one is mine,” Oliver said proudly.
“Make sure you toilet train him!” Ed reminded him.
“What are you going to call him, son?” Oswald asked.
Oliver looked down at the puppy in his arms, holding him a little closer as he gave his reply.
“I have thought of a name, but not today - tomorrow,” he said with a smile.
Then Olga came in and carefully stepped over the puppies as another peed on the rug and she started to clean up the mess.
“They are cute, but they piddle on the rug!” she muttered, “It is always the rug!”
It was late that evening when they met, and it was a meeting that reminded Selina of so many they had shared back in the old days when they were teenagers – but the years had flown by and now there was an air of sorrow about the occasion as Bruce walked up to the edge of the rooftop to meet with her and as she glanced at him, he seemed to tower taller as Batman as he stood there in his suit, with a sombre expression on his face.
“It's worked out for the best, Bruce,” she told him, “You get to carry on fighting crime, doing what you need to do, what's right for you. If Joker had listened to you that would have lasted five minutes and he would have gone back on his word and done terrible things and expected you to break and cross his line instead. You would have ended up messed up by him, one way or another.”
“And it doesn't stop me loving him,” he replied, and his eyes wore a haunted expression as he stood beside her, looking out over a city covered by the shadow of night.
“You don't have to be with him to love him, I don't doubt he loves you too, Bruce. But sometimes, that's the best we can hope for. To know the other person feels the same. As long as the love is there, it's not really a loss.”
“And I'll miss him.”
“You've missed him for years, what difference does that make now? For you, missing him is the price you pay for loving him. You tried. It's all we can do for those we care about. He belongs in Arkham, Bruce.”
“I'm aware of that,” he replied, his voice hushed as beneath the tough exterior of his bat suit, his heart ached.
“I'm always here if you need to talk,” Selina reminded him.
He met her gaze.
“Thanks,” he said.
Far off in the streets below, a robbery was taking place. He was off once more to fight crime with a heavy swish of a cape that briefly engulfed her in shadow, then Bruce was gone and she was left alone on the rooftop, watching the moon and the stars as they shone down on the city. A thought struck Selina that even in the depths of night a city as grim and dark as this one could still be beautiful. Then she turned away, a silhouette by the light of the moon as she made her way, cat-like, over the rooftops and headed for home.
Next morning, there was a happy atmosphere in the mansion. Ed and Oswald had hoped for a long, lazy, wonderful morning in bed together, but then Oliver ran loudly up the hallway and thumped on their locked door.
“Josh is home!” he yelled joyfully, and then he ran off again.
Oswald turned over in bed, looking up into the eyes of Ed Nygma.
“We should get up soon.”
“Right after I do this,” Ed said with a smile, and he dived under the covers, straight on to Oswald's cock as Oswald laughed with surprise, then he slid his fingers through Ed's hair as he slowly and lovingly started to suck.
While Ed and Oswald were making the most of their constant togetherness, downstairs, Olga was cooking breakfast in the kitchen. Oliver was hungry but breakfast would have to wait. He had just seen a car arrive and his mother had got out and Josh was with her. As they entered the house, Oliver ran up to meet them with his puppy in his arms.
“Welcome home Josh!” he said, and Josh leaned closer, careful of his damaged shoulder because his arm was in a sling, and gave Oliver a hug.
“Are you okay now?” Oliver asked as he looked up at him.
“I'm fine, I just need to rest for a few days,” Josh told him, “Don't worry about me.”
“I have a name for my puppy.”
“What is it?” Magpie said.
As he held the puppy, he looked from his mother to Josh.
“I know the story of why Edward is called Edward. Because my Dad loved Ed and when he missed him, he named his dog after him. So...” he paused, stroking the puppy's soft fur, “It's a tradition to name our dogs after people we love. And I love you like a second dad, Josh. So I'm calling my puppy Josh!”
Magpie glanced at Josh, amusement sparkling in her eyes as she thought of the times she had dominated him and he obeyed her like an obedient dog, and he got it too, as there was a slight flush to his face as he glanced at her and smiled, then looked back at Oliver.
“You named your dog after me?”
“Thanks, Oliver!” he said as Magpie giggled again.
“That's a really nice thing to do,” she added, smiling at her son.
Then she told him to go and have breakfast, because she needed to take Josh upstairs, as he had to rest now. As Oliver went off to the kitchen still with his puppy in his arms, she and Josh began to climb the stairs.
“I've missed you,” she said as she looked at him.
“You'll have to be gentle with me for a few days,” he reminded her.
“Of course I will,” Magpie replied with a wink, and on the way up the stairs, she gave his ass a playful slap.
The days and weeks passed by.
Batman was in the news, bringing a high profile criminal to justice – Jervis Tetch. But what wasn't in the news was the fact that in the course of apprehending him, Batman had broken his jaw. Bruce had been thankful he was able to write it off as an accident, when the truth had not been so simple:
He had busted Tetch after a battle with his hypnotised gang, and when Tetch was cornered, he had looked into his eyes and started his rhyming, but this was more like a taunting chant as Bruce realised Joker had told Tetch all about their relationship before his capture.
“Nowhere to run, for me all is lost,” Tetch mused as Batman cornered him, “So I'll dip in the spoon and stir up the shit pot...”
Bruce had glared at him through his mask as Tetch laughed.
“Why is Batman oh, so sad? Because that's what it looks like when love turns bad!”
Bruce had wiped that smug look off his face with a punch that broke his jaw. So Tetch knew his identity? No matter, no one would listen to a lunatic, who would be locked away in Arkham... He had written off the broken jaw incident as an accident and thankfully, because he was Batman, he was believed...
For Magpie, it was a slow process to transfer all of the ownership of the crime empire to Oswald, but he was happy to wait. As the time had gone by, he had trusted Ed to care for him and get him through the worst of his injury. Four months later he was walking again, limping heavily and back to using his cane, but he had recovered. When the news hit that the Empress had handed over control of the underworld to The Penguin, it generated much media excitement. Oswald held a press conference on the steps of the mansion – with only a limited handful of media representatives invited. When he was asked when he would make his first mass public speech, he paused, then regarded the reporter thoughtfully.
“As of today,” Oswald said, “I control the Gotham Underworld. We will be keeping a low profile as we maintain a few of the new ways, but mostly embrace the old. I would also like to take this opportunity to put a stop to the rumours that Edward and I will be marrying in a lavish ceremony open to the public in Gotham cathedral. We actually got married last month in a small private ceremony. You may take pictures now, and that is all.”
He and Ed stood together smiling for the press, Oswald in his top hat and monocle and a shimmering purple jacket, as Ed stood there in a green suit covered with question marks, as they linked hands that wore matching gold bands. Then they turned for the door.
“Excuse me, Mr Penguin?” called a reporter, “When will your first big public speech take place?”
Oswald looked back at the sea of reporters.
“This was my speech. Welcome to the new age of the underworld - and a new age of privacy!” he replied, then he and Ed went back into the mansion and closed the door firmly behind them.
Two weeks later, Josh and Magpie stood together by the path that led from their beach house as they watched Oliver playing in the sand as in the distance, calm waves washed to shore. This was the first vacation they had ever managed to take, and now they had all the time in the world to enjoy a life together, now Magpie was no longer queen of the city. Josh the dog was pushing small paws into a sandcastle as Oliver laughed and started to rebuild it. The sun was high and the weather was warm and now his only reminder of the day he had been shot was a scar on his shoulder, hidden for now beneath his open shirt as Josh pulled Magpie closer and looked into her eyes.
“Are you sure you won't miss being Empress?” he asked.
“No,” she replied, “It was always for Oswald, and now he has his empire. And when we get back home, we're all together again, so I can help him if he needs advice. But I doubt he will need any help from me. He knows what he's doing.”
She paused for a moment, as a sparkle came to her eyes and the sea breeze ruffled her platinum hair.
“But I will be needing my mask again.”
Now he was worried.
“Why, Magpie? You don't need it any more, you said, you can stop being her and just be you again, we can have a quiet life.”
“We will,” she said with a smile, giving him a playful squeeze as her eyes shone with excitement as she thought of her plan, “But now I'm not Empress, I need to be doing something. And Empress inspired a whole generation, Josh...” she reached into her pocket and drew out a picture, unfolding it as she started to smile again as she revealed her plan, “This is what I was doing last week when I said I had loose ends to tie up. One last thing to end the publicity circus.”
Josh started to smile too as he looked at the picture: There was Magpie, dressed in an elegant gown wearing her mask, holding an exotic looking bottle with the word Empress etched in gold across its dark, red glass surface. This was her next plan. Empress Perfume... he laughed softly.
“So every little girl who wants to grow up to be queen of Gotham at least gets to smell like her.”
“And it carries on the inspiration a while longer, and we make a fortune!” she added.
“And then, no more Empress?”
“No more Empress,” she confirmed, “Just Magpie, being mother to Oliver.”
“And wife to me?” he asked hopefully.
Their eyes met. As the sea rolled to shore softly and Oliver laughed and Josh the dog barked as they played close by, the world felt perfect to Magpie. She briefly thought about home, and Oswald, and the empire she had built for him. Then she recalled the moment that had changed everything, when she had been wounded by a vengeful Penguin and he had almost killed her – then changed his mind. It had all come to this, because he had not pulled that trigger. And his future would be a happy one, just as theirs would be, too... she drew him closer, looking into his eyes as Josh waited for her answer.
“Wife to you,” she agreed, giving his ass a playful squeeze, “Keeper of Josh....”
He laughed as a playful shine came to his eyes.
“I definitely like that. Especially the keeper part.”
“You won't miss me being Empress?” she asked.
He didn't need to think about his answer. Now they had all the time in the world to enjoy life together.
“No, I won't. I just want Magpie.”
“And you've got me!” she assured him.
As she embraced Josh and her son played on the beach with his puppy, back in Gotham, she knew her birdie was also enjoying a new start. It was Penguin's empire now, and one day, it would be Oliver's. Until then, her son had a happy childhood to look forward to, with his family whole once more.
As she and Josh shared a kiss under a summer sun set in a cloudless sky, overhead, birds dipped and weaved – but the little bird on the ground had no wish to spread her wings, she was a Magpie that had found her nest, and she knew she was quite happy to stay that way forever...
The story of her life had started darkly and almost ended too soon – but Oswald had not pulled the trigger, and all had led to this.
And this is where we leave her.
Magpie's tale ends here, on a beach, beneath a bright sun as she and Josh embraced - not thinking about endings, but about beginnings - as they looked forward to the future, a future they knew they would spend together.