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Let's Just Say it as it is

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Our future’s hard to tell
We play the game too well
We're pointing jealous guns
And you always call me drunk
What are we doing darling?
This indecision is hard
You're keeping all the pictures
They're keeping all your wishes
And I can't even really
Tell where my feelings want me
What are we doing darling?
I know this year's been hard
But let's just say it as it is

Oswald’s ceiling greeted him a bit too brightly, and he quickly realized he never closed the curtains after letting Edward in last night. Oh right. Ed.

Last night had been weird. Weirder than weird. What Ed had said…

No. Oswald couldn’t believe that. It must’ve been some kind of trick. There really was no trusting that man.

Oswald sat up, blinking the sleep from his eyes. The bed was obviously empty, but he spied Ed’s (stupid) hat still perched on a chair, so he was probably still around. Perhaps he was in the bathroom. What time was it anyway?

Oswald groaned, pushing himself to crawl out from under the sheets even though he fully deserved to fall back asleep again for at least another three hours.

According to the clock on his nightstand (which he swore tended to exaggerate things at times) it was 11:30 am. Brunch time, Oswald’s favourite. Hmm, he wondered if Ivy remembered to pick up those cream doughnuts he asked for.

Yawning and accepting his place in the world of the awake people, he stood and dragged himself to the door, snagging his robe and phone along the way.

As he stepped onto the landing, he heard cheery voices echoing through the empty halls.

Disturbing.

The Van Dahl Mansion was an old, curated place. Each shelf was laden with artifacts and inherited nothings. Either worthless or priceless, they cluttered the place up like paperweights. Oswald passed three portraits of smartly dressed strangers on the stairs along the way. Counted up to five angel figurines of various sizes on his journey through the halls. Encountered a shattered vase with a shiny green thread caught on its lethal edge as he neared the source of the chatter.

That is so true.” The conversation was coming from the kitchen. “You have no idea how snotty he gets about breakfast. He throws temper tantrums about eggs.” To be perfectly honest, Oswald hadn’t been in there since the benevolent murders of his step people and his consequential hire of Olga as his official cook and maid.

Oswald peered through a crack in the large oak door. Ivy was sitting on the kitchen island, her pale legs swinging freely, happily. Edward stood with his back to the door, cooking something by the sound of it. He’d obviously grabbed the trousers when he was getting dressed, the pants sagging around the waist a little while also revealing most of his calves. His shirt was rolled up above his elbows and his glasses sat in his hair as he turned around.

“He always was quick to bite,” he giggled. “But I don’t think he’ll object. I read the reviews and they assured me it was all high quality.”

“Ya know,” Ivy cocked her head, her red hair swinging in its ponytails, “You’re a lot cooler than Oswald said. I dunno why he’s always–”

“Always what?” Oswald stepped inside, shooting her a glare. If his gang was just a little bigger, he’d shoot her for consorting with the enemy.

“Always such a butthead,” She stuck her tongue out, hopping off the island under his scowl.

“So, mature.” He rolled his eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“Riddler was just telling me about the awesome trip he’s planned for you two!” she exclaimed, nudging Ed with her elbow. He shook his head and turned back to the stove.

“His name is Ed, Ivy,” Oswald spat, “–Wait, what trip?”

Ed looked over his shoulder, eyes round with false innocence. “I bought some tickets and booked a hotel,” He smiled. “You deserve to be pampered.”

Oswald pursed his lips. “And you didn’t think to ask me first?”

“Well, I thought it’d be a nice surprise.” He shrugged, suspiciously. “I meant to tell you last night but I, um,” Ed’s cheeks bloomed bright red and Oswald took some satisfaction from that, “...Forgot.”

“Come on, Ozzie, you’ll love it!” Ivy teased, somehow managing to poke her tongue out while speaking. “I mean, there’s a couple’s massage place.”

“And hot pools,” Ed added.

“And hot pools.” Ivy nodded.

Oswald gritted his teeth, glaring at her. “Ivy, can I speak to you in the hallway please?”

“Why can’t you speak here?”

He forced a tight smile. “I want to discuss something privately.”

“Why, what about?” There was a twinkle in Ivy’s eye and Oswald was seconds away from ripping it out with his teeth.

“BECAUSE,” he cleared his throat, “Because I would so hate to embarrass you in front of our visitor.”

“Oh, no, Ed’s cool,” Ivy smiled, “I doubt you could say anything that would embarrass me in front of him.”

“Ivy!” Oswald screeched, “It’s either talking to me in the hall or you can wait here as I take a little visit to the greenhouse with a pair of shears and a full tank,” he patted his lower stomach in emphasis, watching the alarm crawl into her eyes.

“Fiiiiiine. Let’s talk.” She dragged her feet, but she followed him, pouting all the way. Oswald stopped them when he figured they were a safe distance away. “So, Ozzie-wozzie-nozzie,” He frowned at… whatever that was, “What do you wanna talk about?”

“Ivy,” Oswald hissed, “What the hell are you doing with him?! You know I don’t trust him.”

“Oh, Pengy,” she rolled her eyes, crossing her arms, “You don’t trust anybody.”

Oswald smiled with blank eyes. “What are you talking about, Ivy? I trust you.” He dropped the act. “I trust you to be a stupid little girl who never does what she’s told.”

She scowled at him, hoisting her shoulders up higher. “Go to your room if you want to be a pissy little twelve-year-old. I’m gonna stay here with Ed and have some fun.”

“If anyone’s a pissy twelve-year-old around here, it’s you,” he spat.

“Oh, really?

“Yes,” Oswald waved his hand around to indicate just how literally the statement should be taken, “Really.”

“I can’t believe I bought you doughnuts,” she snapped before flouncing back into the kitchen. Oswald rolled his eyes before following a second later. Even if she was blind to Edward’s manipulations, he wouldn’t allow her to be pulled into any of his schemes. She didn’t deserve to become a pawn in their games.

Sniffing the air, he realised Ed was at work making pancakes for brunch, the mixture sizzling softly in a pan.

“What’s that you’re making?”

“Well, Mr. Penguin,” He’d turned, tousled fringe and brown eyes. Something in Oswald felt a tug, a pull, a magnetism, “Flat and fried, I’m lightly browned on each side. What am I?”

And he’d frowned. “Something gross?”

“No,” Ed cocked his head, “Pancakes.”

And he’d laughed.

He’d laughed.

Oswald blinked, shaking his head. “So, um, you’re planning a trip somewhere?”

“No, I’ve planned a trip,” Ed corrected, “It’s all set up and ready to go.”

“Are you going to give me any details?” He tilted his head.

“Won’t it be better as a surprise?”

“A surprise.” Oswald raised his eyebrows. Not questionable at all.

“Yeah,” Ed shrugged, “I thought it’d be romantic.”

If Oswald were drinking something, he’d spit it out around now. “You’re seriously planning to take me on a surprise trip to an unknown location in an attempt to be romantic?

Ed blinked innocently. “Well… yes.”

He was seriously doing this? Luring Oswald into a clear and obvious trap. Who did he think he was?

“Ed, I don’t know what you th–”

“Ozzie–”

“What?!” He snapped, turning on the red-headed traitor.

“Let’s revisit the hallway,” She cocked her head with a false smile, “Kay?”

Oswald glanced back to Ed. “...Sure.”

He followed her, stopping when she did. Admittedly, he should’ve seen the arm-punch coming. “Ow!”

“You’re an idiot, Ozzie!”

“Excuse me?” Little miss calling him an idiot?

“He’s trying to do something nice for you.”

“Oh, please,” He rolled his eyes. Ivy could be so foolish, “It’s obviously a ruse.”

“Ugh,” She groaned at the ceiling. “You are seriously the most paranoid person I’ve ever met. And I lived on the streets so I’ve met a lot of people.”

“Whatever, you know I’m right.” She could be so stubborn, but she had to see sense. “If this was some guy asking you to go away on a whirlwind getaway, would you seriously trust him?”

“Okay, well,” haha, got her, “This isn’t some guy. I know you like him.”

“Pfft,” Oswald rolled his eyes.

“And I know he likes you.”

“I love you.”

“That doesn’t mean anything,” he snapped, “I can’t trust him.”

“Fine,” Ivy sighed. “But if we go back to what you said before; if a random guy asks to go to a romantic getaway with champagne and strawberries and stuff, I’m gonna go. I don’t care if I trust him or not.” She shrugged. “That’s what the perfume’s for.”

The perfume.

“That’s right.”

“Huh? Whatnow?”

“The perfume,” Oswald grabbed her arm, “How much of that stuff do you have?”

“Enouuugh,” She looked at him sideways, “You’re not…”

“I absolutely am,” he confirmed.

“Oh, come on, Ozzie,” she whined, “Can’t you just trust him?”

“You don’t know what I know,” Oswald told her, “He’s a manipulator. He tried to kill me in cold blood. And this ‘vacation’,” he rolled his eyes, “Could just be another opportunity to corner me when I’m vulnerable. He’s done it before.”

Ivy looked up at him. He bit his tongue trying to figure out what emotion was in her eyes.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You’re a lonely kinda person, aren’t you?” She said softly.

“Excuse me?” he spat, “What kind of–”

“Doesn’t matter,” she sighed, “Let me get you that perfume. You can go tell Ed the good news.”

“Sure.” He returned Ivy’s nod then watched her walk away, turning down to head for the garden. “I’ll tell him soon.”

Fishing into his robe’s pocket, he pulled out his cellphone. Which was new. So it didn’t have Zsasz’s private line saved. Fuck.

With a sigh, he walked to the office, pulling out the yellow pages. Searching under A, Zsasz’s number was at the bottom of the line of assassins. He inputted the numbers and waited for it to ring.

“Hello, welcome to Zsasz’s Assassinations limited. Looking to kill someone but can’t stand the sight of blood? Are ya an executive of your company looking to get the opposition out of the way without getting your hands dirty? Are you tired of your neighbour yelling about your barking dog and are looking for a clean kill without a conviction? Well, for a reasonable fee, Victor Zsasz is your guy!”

Fuck, his message was still so long. How many times had Oswald told him to change it?”

“To speak to a receptionist, press one. To check on any of your current hits, press two. To order a body guard unit, press three. To talk to me directly, press four. And to complain, go into your cupboard, pull out your gun, put it in your mouth and go on and pull that trigger. Don’t worry, I’ll hear ya! You don’t–”

Oswald rolled his eyes, pressing four.

“Forwarding you to Victor Zsasz. Please stay on the line.”

A boppy pop song began to play and Oswald groaned. “Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line.”

Holy fucking shit, really?

Oswald pulled away, the temptation to hang up and just forget it finally getting to him when he heard the song disappear and a distinctive click.

“Hiya, this is Zsasz from Zsasz’s assassinations or whatever I called it when you rang. Who can I murder for you?”

“Zsasz,” Oswald sighed, “It’s me.”

“Penguin? Is that you?” Zsasz laughed. “Wow, boss, I never thought I’d hear your voice again.”

“Yes, yes, well–”

“And you called the public line? Wow, you must’ve been waiting for–”

“Yes, now shut up and listen!” Oswald sighed. “I just need you for a few nights. For protection.”

“You got it, boss,” he replied, “What’s the sitch?”

“Some hotel,” he sighed, “I’ll text you the address if you text this number from your private line.”

“Chill.”

“And don’t get spotted. I want you undercover.”

“So we’re going to a hotel and you want me undercover? So can I bring my boyfriend? That’s a good cover.”

Oswald pursed his lips. “Can he shoot?”

“Yep!”

“Then yes, he can come,” Oswald confirmed. “Also, bring me an extra gun. If I put one in my suitcase it could get spotted.”

“Righto,” Zsasz chirped happily.

“I’ll pay for your room but you can make your own way there,” Oswald told him.

Zsasz hummed. “Ya know, people are saying you’re dead, boss.”

Oswald rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well, people say a lot of things.”

Zsasz chuckled over the line. “I never believed it. The only person I know with the smarts to kill ya is me. And I haven’t sleepwalk-killed since I was little.”

Oswald sighed. “Will you be there?”

“‘Course,” Zsasz replied, “Seeya sooner!”

“Right.” He hung up, slipping the phone into his pocket.

Time to deliver the “good news”.

***

“Of course, you should be leaving the city too! We should all be leaving.” Barbara gritted her teeth. “You-you get it right? You should take Tabitha – and Butch. Go to a… safe house.”

“You didn’t ask me, Ed.” There was such a thing as a last straw. “Who are you really loyal to?”

“...You. Of course.”

And this was it. “Well, don’t holiday too long, honey. We may need you soon.”

“Yes, of course. Thank you, of course.” The line clicked off.

Barbara looked up across the glossy floor of her club. It was empty this time of the day.

He was screwing her. He was screwing them all. Well, fuck that. No one had the right. No one could take advantage of her like that again.

“Tabitha!!!” She yelled. “We’re going on a trip.”

Tabitha’s heels clicked loudly as she sauntered down the hallway and walked out onto the floor. “Business or pleasure.”

Barbara smiled. “Both.”

 

Sometimes I wish I'd never
Fallen in love, like ever
I always mess it up
And look where my feelings got you
What are we doing baby?
I don't get why you don't hate me
But let's just say it as it is
I'm like a ghost in the night
Can't seem to make it right
I keep you awake
I'm your biggest mistake
Regret is too late