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I will hold your Umbrella

Chapter Text

The normally dark roads of Gotham are alight with the flashing of police sirens, and traffic is forced out of the way as a lone individual attempts to escape the GCPD. The police stations radios are blaring as the nights destruction overwhelms the officers of the GCPD's rallying force. Grim voices are merged with static as reports of officers down hit the airwaves, cold settles into the guts of those listening. A few miles away in a rundown industrial building sitting next to Gotham's bay, a woman's body sits cold in the dark corner of an isolated cell. Shaking hands exhaust the life of another woman, the man being the monster of his own fleeting nightmares, cries go unheard through the thick walls of his apartment. Two GCPD detectives stand guard of the new mayor, one feeling relief that the perpetrator had gotten away with his life still intact, the other worried about the future retaliations to their actions on this dark night.

Oswald Cobblepot floors the accelerator of the black limo he lifted during his failed assault on Theo Galavan. Police had been quick to pursue him as he began to pave a destructive path through the throng of Gotham City’s night traffic. The few vehicles ahead of him are quick to pull over, their drivers watching excitedly as the chase ensues. Oswald rubs stubborn tears from bloodshot eyes, a blood saturated sleeve marking his freckled cheeks a brilliant crimson. Anyone could tell that he had been a complete wreck the whole day, but his failure at avenging his mother brought out something he had been blocking entirely. Utter grief, unhindered by his volatile fury. It was with pure determination that he could hold himself together as he kept the wheel straight, his body shaking. They should have made sure that he did not survive the night, put a bullet in his head when the chance was presented. It was what he had been expecting, the devils of Gotham felling him in an instant. Instead his intended assassin had missed target and shot through his damn shoulder.

The blood flow is steady, the pain agonizing. How much longer it will be until he couldn't go on, he is unsure. This weakness of damaged flesh was accelerating his minds crumbling foundation. The forts were going to come down, sooner rather than later.

Gotham’s streets are mostly empty as he maneuvers himself towards the outskirts, something he is afterword thankful for as the road seems to tunnel a bit, the world not quite as it should be. The past was trying to seep into the present, his gut clenches as he tries to fight the urge to hurl. ‘You were always such a good boy…’ his mind is pummeled with large unseeing eyes, and the growing pool of blood. Black eyelashes flutter quickly, and he finds himself inhaling deeply. The black limo edges its way in-between the streets dividing line, a single car is forced to make an emergency pullover as the driver curses the madman being pursued by the GCPD.

Breathe, just breathe.

Oswald manages to keep the contents of his stomach, only acid at this point. Throughout the day he had to excuse himself from his own meetings, as he was forced to hobble to the nearest private restroom. Nothing in his stomach would stay down. Once, he didn't make it to his office in time and could only stare in mortification at his soiled shoes and the once impeccable carpeting outside his door. An embarrassing amount of time passed until Gabe found him. The larger mans reassuring grip on his shoulder helped him move away from the mess, and the quiet promise of there being no evidence made him grateful for the man's unwavering loyalty.

'We'll get the bastards who killed your mother, boss.' Gabe’s sympathy was evident in his tone at the time. Oswald knew it was only a matter of time before that statement became truth.

Unfortunately, things went sour quickly and he had to leave his mothers murderer to live another day. And this current predicament of trying to outrun the police was starting to feel suicidal. Not that he was given much choice at the turnout of events. He refused to be caught, but even he could see that his chances of escape were not being improved while on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Concentration was just a vague concept at this point, it was just going to be more useless as his body weakened. This was a game of cat and mouse, but instead of being the sly and cunning cat, he was the mouse cowering in the corner after being battered by both teeth and claws. 'Men such as Penguin will no longer be tolerated. Men who…not even a mother could love.’

Without warning the limo drops dangerously low on his right side, he had driven through a deep pothole while he was preoccupied with his memories. Oswald grits his teeth at the violent bouncing, the world seems to become clear again. The jostling is mostly tame compared to the spiderweb of pain which shoots through his shoulder. The tire remains intact as he pushes up the pace, but he imagines that the scraping of the undercarriage against the asphalt could potentially pose a serious issue. Oswald glances at his gauges hoping that none of the fluid lines had been compromised. Nothing flashes on immediately, he may be lucky.

A quarter of a mile is unobstructed until an unmarked cruiser pulls out in front him suddenly, the headlamps shut off. Oswald quickly pulls the wheel into the oncoming lane, narrowly avoiding being t-boned. Sweat breaks across his forehead as vehicle after vehicle maneuvers out of his way, cars slamming into each other to avoid a head on collision. The two police cruisers giving chase avoid the carnage, and start to put on some pressure. With a weary look at the rear view mirror he watches anxiously as one of the white cruisers giving chase speed up alongside him as he launches back into the right lane.

Oswald makes eye contact with the officer behind the wheel, and his stomach clenches as the man gives an eerie smile. The fiberglass of the limo door crunches inward as he is slammed abruptly; the glass of the window fragments and small pieces slice his face as it sprays inward. Shards embed themselves into his sweat drenched hair, and a thin trickle of blood runs down his neck into the collar of his already blood soaked suit. His body recoils at the force of the next hit, his fingers painfully holding onto the leather wheel. Oswald yells hoarsely on impact, his wounded shoulder bashes violently against the stiff leather seat, the pain is excruciating and his vision blacks out for a terrifying moment. The officers are unrelenting and bold, a planned tactic now in action. His limo shudders as the second cruiser rams the rear, both officers synchronized in the assault. Trembling, Oswald rights the car hastily as the back-end tries to escape his desperate attempt of control. Up ahead there are the flashing lights of a promptly made police road block.

He bares crooked teeth in a self deprecating gesture, thin body trembling with adrenaline and barely suppressed fury. Of course he wouldn’t be able to catch a break. His plans have been falling apart rather consistently throughout the night. But if he were to be honest with himself, control had slid from his fingertips as soon as Galavan began his pursuit of candidacy for mayor. This devil had sinister plans for the future of Gotham, unfortunately Theo’s plans had introduced Oswald as the main puppet in the play. Oswald’s hold of power throughout the city was ousted when his mother was abducted, taken right underneath his nose. This puppeteer was an expert at pulling nearly invisible strings, all of his puppets moving smoothly into whichever direction pleased him the most. Tonight he was released from those strings, Theo no longer controlled what became of him. Inadvertently Jim Gordon had been the catalyst for his escape.

‘I have to get away. Make them pay for what they did to mother.’

Rammed again, Oswald is forced to slow down. There is traffic up ahead in a standstill, he’ll have to go in-between the lanes as the police attempt to box him in. Bystanders be damned. He makes note that the checkpoint is close to a half mile down the street, there isn’t much time left. Oswald bounces in his seat as he is reared, his leg struggles to find its way back to the pedal and he loses some more speed. Metal grinds against the bumper and side door, both officers trying their best to remove his already waning control. Pushing against the side cruiser he avoids taking out several parked vehicles side mirrors. Heart racing, he decides to take out the side officer, there will not be enough room for the both of them. Swiftly, Oswald cranks the wheel to his left. The black limo was a force to be reckoned with, the impact making the side cruiser swerve into oncoming traffic.

One down.

With his shoulder giving protest he swerves back in-between the lanes. Due to over-steering, the back end pulls out from his control and lightly clips the side of a bystanders vehicle. Insurance companies had to love the criminals of Gotham, premiums had to be astronomical in the inner city. Behind him, the officer quickly brakes in anticipation of the police car barricade, and to avoid the idiot getting out of his car…most likely to inspect the inflicted damage, if the hulking mans enraged face was an indicator.

Two down. Only the barricade was left.

Nervous officers squat behind their cruiser doors, their guns at the ready. Safety off. Oswald has not doubts at this point that they did not intend to keep him alive, he has done too much damage to the force tonight. Hurt and killed too many of their own in the name of vengeance, some had to be out for his blood. Accidents were bound to happen. None of them were like Jim, they didn’t care if they gave the bad guys the easy way out. Death was swift and immediate, Jim and that new police chief would give nothing but to see their culprit rot in a cell. He also couldn’t be sure that some of those officers were working under the orders of someone else. The devilish smirk of Theo Galavan takes the forefront of his thoughts in that regard, his hands have to be in more than one cookie jar.

A loud ping hitting the front hood alerts Oswald of the incoming mass of bullets. Hot shells embed themselves into the frame of the black limo, he hopes that his current ride can handle the damage until he makes it to either safe house or the outskirts of the city. Oswald ducks his head just as a bullet goes through the windshield straight into the driver seats headrest. Heart rabbiting within his chest, he can't help but imagine one of the cops bragging about making the lucky shot; his brain splattered across the car seats as the police stand by his lifeless body. He wonders how Jim would feel about seeing his corpse. With wide eyes, he swerves the car hoping to lessen the possibility of death, his focus zeroing in on the rapidly diminishing space.

Oswald spots a possible weakness in the barricade.

With only seconds left, he aligns his car for impact. Time seems to slow down, the sound of bullets hitting target fade away into the quiet of his mind. Everything is tunneling on one point, this is his only chance. Dispassionately, Oswald observes a few officers fling themselves away from their vehicles as he strikes head-on. Jamming the car between two cruisers, his one remaining side mirror is torn off, and the crunch of both metal and fiberglass make him startle as real time seems to flow once again. A mangled mess, the limo continues down the road. One flat tire now pulling the wheel constantly to his right. Somehow, he thinks it is something that he can manage.

Peering over his shoulder, Oswald notes the lack of police pursuit. The GCPD may be calling it quits and licking their wounds. If things continued as they were, there may not be a police force by the end of the night.

Oswald grins smugly as he pushes the limo up to a suitable get away speed, finally unhindered besides the shredded wheel pulling him all over the road. Chances are that he spawned an ample amount of mayhem tonight, he shouldn’t be pursued immediately. Though he knows he shouldn’t have too much of a reprieve.

The dark corners of his city give cover as he hastens his way out of downtown Gotham and onto the dark highway leading out of the city. There are a few safe houses that are setup in case of emergency, he could drive back into the city and risk visiting them. Perhaps even see one of his doctors to have his injuries tended to…but his gut is telling him that they may all be compromised. Too much has gone wrong, he can’t risk being caught now. Not after all that he did tonight. Not only that, but the GCPD’s anticipation of his escape route makes him uneasy. Perhaps he was too obvious, it wasn’t everyday that he led a high speed chase. Or, perchance they have an informant. Someone on the inside who knew of his safe house routes, of his driving habits and what roads he frequented.

Was he right? Or was it just paranoia…

Oswald can already see with his vivid imagination the stony faces of Galavan’s hired underlings sitting out in their vehicles waiting and watching for him to make an appearance. Theo is quite naughty as he has proven time and time again these past couple of weeks. He was so conniving, and full of overwhelming hatred. So similar to Oswald in some ways, yet…It would be so easy to have someone already waiting inside each of his hideouts, lurking in the shadows, or behind a door. A cold shiver runs down his spine as he envisions some unknown goon riddling him with bullets. Or perhaps even someone he knows.

Lord knows who else may have betrayed him. Butch’s had been anticipated in its eventuality, but there were still other players who will try and take advantage of his loss of control. Any one of his men may stab him through the back...he knows that he would in order to gain power.

With how his inner workings transpired it didn't leave very many men to point fingers toward, he has an idea on who this potential betrayer could be. There were too few people that he trusted on such important matters. It is painful to believe that he may have given too much ground to certain individuals. Shown too much of himself, let them see his weaknesses. Let them see him.

Oswald hopes that he is wrong, but…

He shakes his head to clear his thoughts from the direction they are going. There was time to point fingers at anyone he may have suspected, but right now he needed more information. For now he should think about taking back what was his.

If he is going to pull his empire from the ashes, he would have to start another fire and burn down all of the competition. Put everyone on equal ground, beneath his thumb.

All of the rat bastards out there who think they can double cross him will be shut down. They will realize how foolish it is to even consider laying a finger on him. If anyone in his council was betraying him, if they had the gall to give out information regarding his properties, they would pay dearly. He will cut off every hand that goes palm up attempting to line their pockets with the meager pennies from his competitions power hungry hands. Anyone who helped keep his mother from his grasp would be thrown from the highest tower in Gotham. How many were accessories to her murder? How many bodies would he need to leave as an example.

He told Galavan that he would kill him, and Oswald will be keeping that promise. It doesn’t matter who gets in his way, no one will stop him for taking his revenge. Not even Jim Gordon can stop him when the time comes. The fact that Jim had protected that murderous coward knowing what he had done to Oswald’s mother; that hurts him more than this gunshot wound. Once again he was proven right that no one is loyal in Gotham, not even the one person he called friend. Jim may have been trying to protect Oswald in his own way, keeping him from murdering a man in cold blood. In the presence of the GCPD nonetheless, but this attack wasn’t without reason, and Jim didn’t seem to understand that Galavan needed to die, tonight. Jim owed him, but he had to make a stand with that filth cowering at his back.

That monster of a man took away his light, tore down his remaining pillar. Oswald was willing to die if he could even get a shot in, and that made him even more willing to be put in prison if he could kill Galavan. God knows how long they would put him away for if they had caught him, if Jim just stepped aside. But it was because Jim had been in front of his target that he couldn’t pull the trigger, this was the last person he had his complete trust in. He was the only exception to his own rule. Jim may have had reason for standing in the way of things, a reason for letting things play out the way they did. It didn’t go unnoticed the way Jim had been hesitant throughout their stand off, how he acknowledged him by name for the first time. How Jim kept a steady aim, but showed a shaking resolve. He guesses that most normal people wouldn’t like seeing their mafia connection shoot and kill someone right in front of them. But he still saw the regret, still saw the man's inner struggle to uphold his side of the law. Perhaps one day Jim would join his side in the shadows of Gotham, though he does not find comfort in such an outcome. Jim was a beacon, and Oswald needed something to latch onto…even after he had been slighted from executing his wrath.

Jim wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it in the end though, Oswald had a plan to avoid killing him and taking out Theo. He had information, but the verbatim between them went on for too long, as there was too much history between them to keep things short and simple. Everything was complicated, and that made time for Harvey to appear. More complications, and then he was shot.

No, Jim’s unbreakable sense of duty wouldn’t hold back Oswald the next time. Nobody would stop him, he would take Galavan out with his bare hands.

Chapter Text

The trailer is set deep in the woods of Gotham. Off the main highway and down a partially hidden dirt road. Oswald hopes this is where he will find his salvation. But before he can make his way there he has to ditch his current ride. Tires would leave obvious tracks on the path, and he doesn't need there to be a large tipoff that someone was around the area. Of course there is the possibility of hunters using this road at some point, sure. Deer season was upon them and someone might take their chances at being the early bird and setting up early. If he remembers correctly there should be other camps forking off from this road, and if there were camps than there will be people. Few that there may be, he can’t take the chance of being spotted or heard.

The trailer was an unknown gem that he kept to himself soon after he had first returned to Gotham. Something he purchased in celebration of being promoted to Maroni's restaurant manager, and to celebrate his fateful encounter with one Jim Gordon.

While he would have enjoyed taking the one he had been hidden in during his two weeks away from Gotham, he had instead opted to burning it down to remove his footprint from the area. He's positive the owner was less than thrilled on not just the fact it was destroyed, but that the fire department had discovered Oswald’s former hostages remains in the charred remnants. Oswald was delighted when he read about the man's apparent arrest on murder charges when that little discovery was made. When he found the ad in the newspaper, a trailer slightly reminiscent to what he had taken shelter in…he had to have it.

Oswald had one of Falcone’s underlings purchase it and hitch it out of town to its current rest area. The man had been given instructions to fill it with the most basic of necessities, medical supplies, and enough food to last over a week. It didn’t take more than a few hours before the man was standing before Oswald in order to report that the task had been completed. In normal circumstances he would have been more grateful at the work, but business is business. And the job had not completely been taken care of. Oswald shot and killed the man, had driven to the bay and dumped the body. He didn’t want to have that constant worry about the man selling him out, of questioning the reasoning for such a strange request. Not even the few people he had as confidants knew of his purchase. If the guy did his job right, it should contain the supplies necessary to keep Oswald put together. Of course, there was the chance that he had been sloppy with his duties, but Oswald was willing to take the chances that he was thorough.

Oswald parks at a closed down rest stop about two miles away from the dirt road’s entrance. There are a substantial amount of trees blocking the view of the shoddy parking lot, so he feels confident that the limo will not be visible from the highway. If he was lucky no one would be snooping around this area anytime soon, or else he might be found much too quickly for his liking.

It takes a moment for him to gather himself, both hands squeezing the black leather of the steering wheel. The world around him is tunneling, time slowing down substantially. Oswald begins to feel as if he is outside of his own body, observing. Until he isn't.

Oswald slides out of the limo, eyes darting around as he takes in his immediate surroundings. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, and it didn't seem that anyone is around. All that surrounds him is crumbling concrete, trees, and a dilapidated building which used to house clean toilets and vending machines. He also observes that there are only a few more hours until sunrise, he’ll need to do things quickly.

Doing a thorough check of the limo, he is disappointed by the lack of supplies that could be of use. Other than a few sampler sized bottles of whiskey from the back and a couple personal size bags of peanuts, Oswald finds nothing of interest to pocket. He'll take what he can get though, and is quick to stuff his inner coat pockets with his newly acquired goodies.

Time to go.

Unfortunately, Oswald will have to make his way to the trailer on foot. Something he already loathes, as his bad leg drags behind him. He is already suffering from the days exhausting trauma. From a lack of nourishment, a gunshot wound, and from mental fatigue unlike anything he's experienced. The drain just makes him want to drop and give up.

It's not like he has much to look forward to; anything or anyone to go home to. No one to love, no one who loves him. However he does have memories of his mothers love, her warm smiles, and the comforting hugs she would give him when he was at his worst. Whether she knew it at the time or not…he could use a hug right now.

He has memories of her killers also. And with those specific memories, he has the passion, no, the need to continue on and avenge her. To kill Theo Galavan who is the ring leader to his personal hell, a place full of pain and torment. And to kill his bitch sister who put the knife in his mothers back. He can only hope that the immense pleasure at their deaths will help fill the hole they made.

He wonders if he will ever be whole again.

‘Someone is being mean to my boy…’

Oswald tries to ignore his mother’s voice, now isn’t the time. Getting away takes priority over his feelings and memories.

Tapping from his dress shoes and the constant sound of pebbles being kicked and dragged across the broken concrete fill his ears. He can appreciate the lack of stimulation after everything, the time to think after everything he had been put through the past few weeks. He was all he had left, there is no one else to help him through his loss.

Up ahead the rest stop’s long service road finally connects to the main highway. His available hiding spots reduce with each step, until he no longer has any trees to hide behind. He is out in the open and he desperately hopes that he will not be seen before he can make it into the cover of the woods opposite of his current location. Traffic is currently nonexistent, but at anytime that could change. He'll take his chances and wishes for the best.
 
Crossing the double highway takes longer than he expects, but his luck holds out as he makes it into the dark shadows of the woods. He takes a sigh of relief as he leans heavily against the nearest tree, his face flushed from rushing across the road. Uneven chunks of bark dig into his good shoulder, the rough texture pulling his jacket and dress shirt taut on his wound. Grabbing his arm to help offset his mind from his pain, Oswald notices that the fabric has dried quite a bit since his drive. There is now a constant tug on his skin, fabric sticking like glue. Hesitantly he pulls at the fabric around his gunshot wound, instantly it generates just enough pain to clear his feverish head, and gives him a small boost of adrenaline to keep him moving. His arm is bleeding again, just an ooze. He begins to hike slowly through the woods edge just as the first set of headlights brighten up the road. Confident that he won't be seen from the passing vehicle, Oswald continues on his way.

A few minutes pass, the trek relatively easy even in the dark...until it wasn't anymore. The foliage becomes denser, and the ground is softening into a muddy mess right under his feet. He finds himself stumbling over tough tree roots and their fallen branches. His shoes start sinking into the mud, one of them almost slips off as it suctions into the ground. He already can’t wait to get out of these god forsaken woods, his shoes are not even salvageable at this point. To say he is disappointed is an understatement, he purchased them after besting the big three. Now, they are just garbage. He tears his trousers on the sharp end of a downed tree. Its long stretching branches remind him of claws, his pulse increases. Another stick pulls and grabs his pant leg, this time ripping through and scratching across his calf. Cursing loudly, Oswald tries to keep calm. Now he is furious, there goes his image. He is just a laughing stock, the freaky little man on the run from the cops and half the city of Gotham. Not only has his assets most likely been ceased by now, but he has to replace his whole suit and everything else he owns. Fate will not stop until he is run down into the ground.
 
Mud makes its way into his right legs shoe, there goes the socks. Oswald wants to scream suddenly. He stops himself, his teeth grinding together. Even he realizes how he is being irrational. Emotions are becoming more volatile and every slight seems to be consuming him. Stopping, he takes a moment to just breath. His throat is parched, his body aches, he is still bleeding, and reality is fuzzy as his fever grows and grows. He doesn’t feel like himself, he doesn’t even feel like he is in his own body.   

Take back control, and keep going towards the trailer. Sound advice if he had heard any, he walks.

The sounds of car traffic keeps him constant company as he struggles against the brush, and whatever nature decided to throw his way.  He should be less than a mile away from the dirt road now. Oswald decides to go deeper in the woods when he notices a clearing up ahead, a small field alongside the highway. The moon would bathe him in light and he would lose the advantage of the shadows. That is unacceptable.

So step by step he begins to go off track, eventually Oswald can no longer hear much from the road. And then there is nothing except him and the crunch of leaves and squelching of mud. All of the trees are crowding closer and closer to each other, the moon no longer shines as brightly through these parts due to the almost impenetrable canopy above. It becomes harder for him to avoid getting caught on branches, and his anxiety starts to go sky high. It feels like there are eyes watching him as he goes deeper and deeper through. Dark and sinister eyes.

The shadows up ahead seem to be moving closer and closer, each branch reaching their long limbs towards him. His heart is starting to beat erratically, everything is closing in on him. Something catches the corner of his eye, turning quickly to his left side he looks around. Nothing is there, or at least he doesn’t see anything. But that doesn’t stop him from frantically looking every direction he can, he was so sure that there was something. Cracked lips spread in the shape of a crazed smile, everything is starting to become amusing. Laughter is bubbling in his gut, and he has to grab hold of the nearest tree as he bursts. Oswald begins to cackle into the darkness, feeling like he is ready to crack. His eyes are watering, and his body is shaking.  Misery and paranoia become a trigger for his hysterics, he just can’t stop laughing.

A sudden chill runs down the entire length of his back. He isn’t sure, but it felt like someone just dragged their cold fingers across the nape of his neck. Slowly, Oswald turns. His temporary madness stopping completely as he sobers in mid laugh. Did something touch him? He isn’t sure what he expects, but the fact that nothing was near him suddenly frightens him. The black night had been calling him to go further into these woods, seducing him. And he willingly went deeper into the belly of the beast. It was trying to suck him in, but he couldn’t afford to fall in its embrace. It was as if the devil was here with him in these woods.

Oswald didn’t believe in God, but he knew that the devil was real. Mother told him often enough when he was young to be wary. To be good, and to keep out of its way. He just hoped that he hadn’t caught its eye. He had been anything but good. Life taught him to fight back, and he has. Mother knew the devil was real, but what she didn't tell him was that the devil was laying dormant in the hearts of man.

Those who discovered their darker side early knew that there were real demons roaming among men. If man knew anything absolute, it was the fact that there was great evil in the world. It walked among some, but effected all. But what if he was wrong this whole time, what if the devil was in the woods with him. What if he was one of its demons, and it was time to pay his due. One of hell’s demons left to roam in the world of the living. Tormenting all of the lost souls that they touch. Thinking he was free to do as he pleased, but would one day be claimed, because the devil did not dawdle and let them out for too long. It wouldn’t want them to forget the reason they were just servants, that they were inferior. That they were once human themselves. It would make them feel the humanity they thought was long erased, force its demons to relive their past miseries over and over again. That is until they were blank slates once again, just sadistic puppets ready to be unleashed on earths populace.

Oswald has met men and women who would say he was a demon. A monster lurking in the darkness waiting to play. He wants to believe he is better than that.

But if he was supposedly a demon, what did that make Theo Galavan?

Was he the devil in disguise, both charming and commanding? Spiteful and vicious. Was he out here with him now watching and waiting, ready to manifest and drag Oswald back into the pits? Is he to be collected tonight in these god forsaken woods, kicking and screaming for his release?

Oswald won't be put in the devils cage or in one of hell's fiery pits. And if he does find himself in hell he will transform, evolve into something other. He will become a monster that the devil will fear, and he will claw his way out of its grasp. He will become the night itself and he will become the master over the devil. He will become the tormentor instead of being the tormented. He is sure he could be better, something worse to be feared. He wanted to kill the devil.

If it was there waiting among the trees, he wouldn't let it take back control. Oswald planned to tear it apart with his hands.

A stick snaps behind him. Oswald is sweating profusely, his fists are clenched tightly together. He is all alone, nothing is there in the woods other than the wildlife that roamed the night. Nothing that he can see. He tries to relax, there wasn’t really anything to worry about. Just an overactive imagination, because he all alone and it is dark outside. He’ll be fine.

He’s fine. Everything is fine.

Another stick breaks, closer to him now.

“Wh-who’s there?”

He waits and waits…there is no answer. Sweat is dripping off of him, his clothes soaked through. His body is shaking so hard he wouldn’t be surprised if he started having convulsions. If he just went down, he is afraid that he would be unable to get up as the night pulsed closer and smothered him.

The woods begin to speak to him. Phantom voices start to echo through the trees, the wind caresses his face and whispers into his ears. It’s his own voice. The devil was here now, invading his memories. It was making him remember how feeble he was, how human he is. How weak he is due to his ability to love.

‘I told you everything would be okay. Didn’t I?’

Oswald wants to stop fighting, he stands stock still as his shaking ceases completely. Everything begins to feel meaningless, what is the point of continuing on? Tabitha had been right this whole time, he didn’t even have control over himself. He was just complete garbage; scum. He wants to lay down in the debris of leaves and sticks, and just die. So many memories and thoughts start swirling around him, so many regrets...too many. Her voice comes unbidden, it feels like he is still holding her in his arms.

‘Oswald? What is wrong? You look so sad.'

He finds himself rocking back and forth. Both arms pulled tight across his chest as if he was cold. Sullenly he answers back, the darkness feeding from his building despair.

“Nothing’s wrong, Mother. Nothing at all…”

Tears had begun running down his face, chapped lips curl as he tries to hold back from sobbing. The devil didn’t need to be here to break him, his memories were enough. He was weak and useless. It was impossible for him to break free from hell, he wasn’t better than anyone or anything else. He just wished that he was better, that he was special. But Oswald would suffer as man will always suffer, and he will suffer due to his failure of keeping the only person who cared for him alive.

‘You were always such a good boy.’

It was because he had once again reached too far. How he did whatever he could to gain the power that he thought he deserved. Oswald was so sure that once he had become the king of Gotham, had gained respect from its dark underworld, that he would be able to keep her safe and secure. Make her untouchable. He had been combating between her safety and his empire. His constant need to be respected trumped, for a time. And so she was taken without his knowledge, she was used against him. His poor mother had to suffer due to his all consuming lust for power. She had been alone in a cell for weeks, no one there to give her the care and respect that she deserved. All because of his rationale and thoughts regarding her safety being dimmed, in compassion to bettering himself. That need to be respected led to her death, had led him here…alone in the woods bleeding out slowly from a bullet wound.

His body is on fire, he begins to talk to himself.

“You’re weak, pathetic garbage. Got what you deserved.”

He was being punished for his hubris. You can’t beat the devil, because it had a legion. There were real monsters out in Gotham that the devil could send your way. And if the devil wasn’t Theo Galavan, at the very least he was a monster. That something that he wanted to become to beat the devil at its own game, something other.

‘And there I was, thinking you understood the meaning of consequences…’

Galavan was a monster feeding on his loss, because loss had made him weak and easy to exploit. And realizing that now, he isn’t quite sure that he would have ever become the man that he wanted to be. He had become Galavan’s little bitch, Oswald had to sit at the man’s heel and wait to be given his masters command. Of course there was a reward for being the man’s pet, his mothers supposed release. Galavan knew that he had the perfect bait to dangle in front of Oswald’s nose. And boy, did he run.

‘Whoa, chill, birdman. I got a job for you.’

He set his home on fire, let himself be used. Nothing meant more to him than his mother, especially when he realized she was something to lose. That he could lose his precious mother to that monster had been eye opening. He had to get her back no matter what the cost, would do anything that he was told. Oswald threw caution into the wind and let it blow away. Until an idea came to him, a spark to bite the hand that held his leash.

‘You are going to go to Galavan…Once you’re inside his organization, you will find my mother and rescue her.’

It was an idea that needed to work, and he truly believed he had bested Galavan when Butch had told him that he had found his mother…

‘Where?’

Relief washed over him so quickly at that moment, he wasn’t even thinking of it being a trap. Oswald had trusted that Butch was still under his control, that he wasn’t able to deceive him. He could have kissed the man he was so relieved, he was going to free his mother. Or so he was led to believe.

‘In a warehouse down by the port…but they caught me looking.’

It was so convenient that Butch could get away with his life, escape Tabitha, and report back to Oswald. Of course, it was very quick that he discovered Butch was no longer a puppet. That Tabitha had bested Zsasz’s conditioning, and she had released Butch. That he was a free man, now able to get his own revenge.

‘Hey. It’s a tough business.’

Everything went south from that point. Galavan decided that mother didn’t deserve to live, as she had apparently lost her worth. He also no longer needed a dog that he could no longer leash. So Oswald lost his usefulness as Galavan’s scapegoat, he was now just useless trash. Not that Oswald was ever fooled that it wasn’t always in Galavan’s end game to begin with, to set him up and kill him.

But Oswald survived that night, and he planned to make him pay for what he had done. Oswald no longer had anything to hold him back from killing that monster. Yet, his own mistakes have been pulling him down this whole day. He may have escaped with his life, may have bested the man in his cunning and resourcefulness when his mother was murdered…but Oswald was made out to be the monster. Everyone had been fooled for so long, that he was out to destroy Gotham, that all of this was what he wanted. But they all had things wrong, they were pointing fingers in all of the wrong directions. Galavan fooled the city and made himself seem like one of the good guys. But Oswald knew better. Oswald knows a good man, and Galavan is not even close. Oswald was the lesser evil, and he knows that Jim can see it. Jim may be the only other man who see’s the monster that poses as mayor. But he still did nothing, Jim did nothing to help. Gotham needs to rid itself of Theo Galavan, or else the city will rot. When will people see?

Now Oswald is rotting right at the core, the only person who knows the monster dressed as a man. The only one willing to kill it, even though it was now purely in revenge. And while he was once mighty, he has fallen completely. His empire possibly in shambles, everything is on the verge of destruction.

He is weak, and all of this was meaningless. Could he even kill the man by himself? Everyone was right, he was just a loser. The weak and strange little bird man. Was there even a point to what he’s done, did he never learn?  

‘You will amount to knowing.’
‘Look at the little bird trying to fly, let’s clip those wings…’
‘Everyone already knows that losers can’t have friends.’
‘Perhaps she has served her purpose.’

The whispers carried by the wind intensify, he can’t stop hearing them now. Why won’t they leave him alone, why must he be reminded over and over of everything he’s done wrong. How useless he is, how it is his fault his mother is dead. How he’s trash, will always be garbage.

“Go away, GO AWAY!”

Trembling hands attempt to block out the phantoms whispering in his ears. Words are starting to tumble out of his mouth, he isn’t even sure what he saying anymore. Red rimmed eyes search frantically for the ghosts of his past as everything starts spinning. He is ready to combust, pain and fear is all he can recognize.

And then he was falling.

His body slams down, he doesn’t even feel it at first. All of the voices fall silent, the only sound is his frantic panting, everything starts to hurt. Oswald's body lays crumpled across foliage and overgrown tree roots, there is a rock digging into his hip, one of his legs is stuck in a bush. He exhales in despair, it is becoming a struggle to keep his eyes open. The fever has taken control, he struggles to keep calm as his body uses whatever energy he has left.

He doesn’t want to give up here, though he doesn’t have much choice. Control has been taken away from him, his body not even following his commands. He hopes that he wakes up, that he isn’t claimed by the growth of the woods, no one ever finding his rotting corpse. The canopy above swings with the wind, it is beautiful and eerie. It isn’t the worst place to die, but this isn’t what he wants. He doesn’t want to be alone. Tears collect in the corners of his eyes, and then unconsciousness takes him.

Down.

Down.

Down.

‘Hello, boy…’

Chapter Text


Jim Gordon stands alone in the grand ball room, bloodshot eyes haunted as they gaze at everything and nothing. He feels like a husk, empty like the bodies that littered the floor not too long ago. Jim’s eyes sweep through the room, the ghosts of murdered men and women keeping him company. His mind is still focused on the chaos from just a few hours ago, like a music track set on repeat. Blood, balloons, and the glass from broken windows cover the room’s tiled floor. His leather shoes are speckled with dried blood, the collar around his throat has a spatter of crimson clashing against brilliant white. A large portrait framed with maple hangs in the center of the room. Its heavy weight is supported by thick chains which are screwed tightly into two support arches. The newly elected mayor’s satisfied smile a stark contrast to the dire state of the room. Jim wants to tear it down, light it on fire, and watch it burn.

All of the guests and emergency personnel had long been cleared, and about four hours ago so were all of the deceased. Forensics had their work cut out for them, the room was a disaster, but even they were gone after all of this time. Only Jim and one other officer were still around. There was so much that was being processed, that they needed to make sure that nothing was missed during bagging and labeling. Jim already knew that paperwork was going to be a complete bitch. They had just finished going over everything for the second time when the other officer, Reggie, decided to go outside for a smoke break. Stress transformed the usually calm man's face, and his lack of composure showed as he departed after informing Jim of his much needed break.

Everyone was wound tight, the attack inflicting more damage than they imagined. The police thought that they were prepared to take on Cobblepot and his horde of lookalike gangsters, but the man had outsmarted the whole lot of them. Cobblepot unleashed everything within his power to get close to the mayor, that way he would get the chance to kill Galavan. The Penguin’s disregard for anything but vengeance made him nearly unstoppable, until he was met with someone he called friend. A policeman who recognized him as something more, someone who was fractured and in pieces also. Jim was someone who the Penguin seemed to think highly of, someone he cared for. Jim wasn’t supposed to be just another connection, or at least that is what he read off of the distraught man. He was a good man and a friend, someone who would listen.

Jim was livid at the implications.

The truth is that Jim isn’t sure what their relationship is, what they could be labeled as. What he wanted to even consider them being, because friend was pushing the boundaries he had laid down. But whatever the Penguin is to him, that was one of the deciding factors which kept Jim from shooting him tonight. Jim had attempted to appeal to Cobblepot’s set belief of their friendship, to drop his weapon and not kill a man in cold blood.

‘Oswald, listen to me. You have to put the gun down.’

Jim had tried to keep himself from giving in to the man’s pleas for revenge, tried to keep hold of his mixed reactions. Show how he wasn’t unaffected by the man’s every word. How he had been fooled once again.

‘I would be honored if you would consider endorsing me for mayor.’

Galavan was the trigger for this bloodshed. But it had already been too late when the pieces clicked together completely for Jim. How everything had been too perfect and opportune for Gotham’s new mayor. How Jim was being used for his positive endorsement by a fraud. That the reason Cobblepot had been spilling blood within the city was because his mother had been taken from him. How this rampage was due to Gertrude Kapelput’s murder. Theo Galavan was supposed to be one of the good guys, but he was just a wolf dressed in a sheep’s skin. Jim can envision Galavan slipping inside a fresh and bloody pelt. The mayor’s teeth much too long and dangerously sharp nails instead of dulled hooves. Galavan had used Gotham’s most powerful criminal as the perfect scapegoat, had created this swift catalyst of chaos.

‘He killed my mother, Jim.’

Jim wanted to keep listening, wanted to give in. But he couldn’t let Galavan die that way, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. This wasn’t how the Penguin was supposed to be taken down. It was Jim’s decision that kept Oswald alive when they first met, and this is how the man wanted to repay him? Jim’s fury at the whole thing was building into something akin to a hurricane, he wanted to destroy something, anything to escape the madness from tonight. He is angry at himself, angry at Oswald for spilling all of this blood. Making him want to give in and join the man in the cover of the night. Let Oswald put a bullet in Galavan’s head.

Maybe things wouldn’t have turned out this way if he had just pulled the trigger that day…

‘Please, Mr. Gordon, just let me live…’

Cobblepot complicated everything, and Jim hated him completely for it. He told himself that he would stop this city’s disease at the source, but he just couldn’t make the call. Selina Kyle had been right this whole time, Jim wasn’t going to stop Oswald. He wasn’t willing even though every belief he held told him to wipe away the stain he had created. His personal feelings had let a criminal get away, the main tactician of tonight’s slaughter.

‘My friend? Do you mean Penguin?’

But he knew there was another reason things happened the way they did today, and it was all in part thanks to their wonderful mayor. It was Galavan who knew that there would be retaliation for Ms. Kapelput’s murder. Galavan knew this and had called in the GCPD for assistance at his initiation ceremony. Innocent men and women are dead due to this man’s scheming. Tonight, and into the morning the guests families would be told that someone they loved had died. For the police families, they would be told that their loved one died protecting someone else, that they had died honorably doing what the loved. Protecting the city of Gotham.

What were Galavan’s motivations, why did he push so hard to become mayor? What made Galavan believe that he wouldn’t be discovered in all of this scheming, what was worth all of this savagery? How could this abomination of man be a master of manipulation and lies? How was it possible to have fooled nearly everyone within the city; been so convincing?

Had it all been a part of his plan to have Cobblepot killed during his attack, or was there already a botched attempt. If so, Galavan had made a mistake of underestimating the Penguin. He had managed to escape with his life despite being shot, and now he was under the radar. How big of a storm would Cobblepot create in the future, and how much damage would be unleashed in order to spill Galavan’s blood? Jim wasn’t a fool to believe that Cobblepot would be giving up, he was most likely in hiding trying to mend his wounds. If so, Galavan should be prepared to fight a losing battle, Cobblepot would be merciless.

‘I thought you were prepared to do whatever it takes, to rid Gotham of it’s monsters.’

Jim averts his eyes which had strayed to Galavan’s portrait, it is disgusting to look at.

‘I am. I’ve just decided I’m gonna start with you.’

He needs to get out of here and just breath, maybe it would be best to head home and take a shower. Go to bed and try to get some much needed sleep. The night had been too long, and all of the consequences of the day were starting to consume what little energy he had left. Good men and women died today, and Jim had wanted to stay until their bodies were collected. GCPD officers lost in the never ceasing war waging within Gotham. One by one, Jim watched silently as several bodies were loaded into emergency vehicles. Most would have been going directly to the morgue, their bullet riddled bodies having gone cold long ago. The ones who weren't going, were instead rushed to Gotham's closest hospitals. They were still alive, sure, but they weren't all going to walk away from their injuries, some of them would eventually make their way to the coolers.

‘We lost more people tonight. Good people, including Martinez.’

And the ones that survived...well they weren't going to all be the same. If the police force was extremely lucky, some of them would be coming back. Maybe a strange few will have gained a stronger resolve after their close encounter with death, a growing will to combat the evil hordes controlling the city.

So Jim held hands with those who wanted the comfort, told happy lies to the ones who might not make it to the mornings dawn. He owed them, he had to see that they were taken care of. He couldn't stop himself from watching every ambulance as they had driven away, the bright lights flashing reds and blues into his squinting eyes. He was one of the reasons this all happened, how many lives did he need to forfeit over the life of one of the monsters he was trying to crack down on.

His heart had been beating rapidly throughout the night, even now he is still cranked up. His mind had been vividly showing each and every person who rode away, imagining what was happening behind closed doors. Imagining how most of their bodies were already being stored for autopsy, their families crying over their chilly corpses. He still sees a broken man trembling with shotgun in hand, ready to shoot Gotham's new mayor if Jim would only move.

‘He had her murdered in front of me. I held her…watched her die. It changes a person.’

Harvey had attempted to make him go home earlier, told him that he needed to get away from all of this before it tore him apart. Jim was already in pieces though, he just taped the worst of his tears away when they became too big. Harvey was right, that Jim ought to leave before he did something idiotic. That he needed to go home to the woman who loved him, to Lee. Jim just wants to be held in her arms, wanted comfort and reassurances that he wasn't one of the bad guys. That he would overcome this, not make the same mistakes the next time around. But he couldn't do that, it wasn't that simple this time. His agenda had changed.

“Just go home, Jimbo. We'll deal with this tomorrow, see if we can't get a lead as to where Penguin could have gone.”

So Jim did what he does best, he lied. As smooth as an alley cat he assured Harvey that he would just be here a while longer, just to make sure the station had a handle on things. And that he would head home as soon as he could. That they should meet at the coffeehouse next to the station before work so they could talk.

But of course, here he is still standing around. Still not home, but at least now ready to leave.

Harvey seemed to believe him at the time, but Jim knows that he's once again lying to himself. He knows that Harvey has him figured out, wasn't fooled by his reassurance of taking the night off. Of getting the rest he would need for the day’s to come, taking what comfort he could from Lee. Harvey has to know that Jim would not be leaving until everything was done. Would wait tight lipped until every body bag was filled. So Harvey left. Jim still feels the man's firm grip on his shoulder as he passed by.

Jim knew that Harvey meant well, but at the time Jim felt bitter at the man's ability to disregard all that happened. Or rather how he was able to channel out the bad, to expect that something even worse could have happened, could still happen. Jim didn't need to be told to care less, that it wasn't his fault. That things could have been much worse, that cops have their bad days. Jim already knew all of that, but what Harvey didn't acknowledge was that all of the things that happened tonight stemmed off of their first day together. On his choice to spare some gangster. How Jim was in too deep, how he was taken in by Cobblepot’s darkness.

While Harvey had grown since they've started working together, had been making efforts to become a better man since they had first met, Jim was beginning to degrade. Harvey was starting to come back into the light, trying to overcome the dark nights of his past. Redeem himself from all of the corruption he had once been a part of, to become a good man. Jim had grown more hateful of the systems deficits, angry at the dramatic loss of life due to Gotham's dirty underworld. He wanted to take the law and twist it, he wanted to stop caring about whether or not the criminal he was shooting at or trying to capture would survive and serve their time in jail. Was it even worth letting some of these murdering scumbags live? Especially since the system couldn't even seem to keep them in their jail cells. That it did a bang up job of keeping the people of Gotham safe.

Jim is constantly struggling to create reasons to care about staying behind the book. Slowly he has evolved from being a man wanting to do everything the right way, to a man willing to do anything to take down Gotham's criminals. How Jim had someone to guide him in the dark, a helping hand when the light wasn’t enough. Jim couldn't let go, he didn't understand how Harvey could just watch people die and not get worked up and become vengeful. The detective just took it as he saw it, that this was the way it was, how things worked in Gotham. But Jim refused to see it that way. Bad things kept happening because Jim was making mistakes, it was his fault these people were dead or dying.

He didn’t want to destroy his connections yet, but he needed to. He needed to break away, but it felt so good doing bad things sometimes. Jim needs to stay a good man, but…

When he had been alone in Barbara's old apartment after their unexpected breakup, Jim would lay in bed for hours thinking about how feeble everything he did was. How useless it was to fight the corruption spread across all of the city. He began to see how little the law was able to accomplish. One day something seemed to click into place, how impossible everything was when he was alone in his struggle to uphold the law. Jim realized that he was one of the few willing to make steep compromises in order to make sure that justice was served.

‘There’s not a single cop or lawyer in the city who will help you.’

He became fervent in his need to set an example, to prove that laying stagnant inside of the station did nothing to solve Gotham's problems. Criminals would no longer remain above the law, and people like Falcone or Maroni could be brought down.

‘I think there are plenty of people willing to help me once they see it’s possible to fight back.’

No one wanted to side with the crazy new rookie, Jim became avoided like he had been diagnosed with the plague. It was as if he was the only one who thought he could make a difference, that the police force actually had the power to change Gotham. Jim became lonely those first couple of months, it isn’t like he had any friends, and even Harvey at the time was the reluctant partner. Social isolation became easy after that, the fact that he needed to prove himself becoming his mission. That he needed to prove these mobsters wouldn't run the show. So he would jump at every case and make it his mission to find every perpetrator, put criminals behind bars. Slowly, he was digging his own grave as he ran himself into the ground...

And then Lee came into Jim's life. A strong woman who saw something worth pursuing in Jim, something that made her want him despite how quickly he had begun to unravel. Despite how very apparent it is that he's a loose cannon, just a hair's width away from being shot off.

Of losing total control.

She is a pillar of support that he is in desperate need of, but doesn’t often enough seek comfort in. Lee means so many things to him, but Jim isn't sure he can keep her happy as he is slowly pulled deeper into Gotham's grasp. Is enveloped by his growing bond, his corrupted soul. He truly loves Lee, and he wants her to be happy. But as he is now, he doesn’t understand how she can stay with him. She may have slowed his descent, but Jim was still free falling towards danger. She has been slowly changing him, evolving him, but there are stronger forces at work. Whatever progress they make is always pushed back due to unavoidable circumstances. Jim’s insistent pull towards danger and to dangerous people doesn’t work in their favor either.

When they lay in each others arms after a long day at the station, Lee tells Jim that he needs to slow down, needs to get away from the darkness trying to overwhelm him. Jim keeps making promises so he can get her to drop the work subject, reassuring her that he would take some time off soon. How he would consider moving away with her, starting a family. Telling Lee that she would be his number one priority. That she is his first choice. That saving this city didn't take precedence over their lives and growing relationship. Jim just needed a little more time, had some unfinished business to deal with. Then he would kiss her and ask Lee to get some rest, that they could talk more the next day.

Tonight wouldn’t be any different, he would reassure her that everything was fine. That he was asked to stay longer, that it wasn’t how it seemed. That he wasn’t throwing himself at another case, wasn’t trying to kill himself. And he wasn’t this time. Jim already knows that Lee would not understand how everything that happened tonight is different. How it’s complicated, and more personal. He just isn't sure that she will completely believe him. Lee’s ability to read him might lead her to finally call him out on his bullshit. She might start picking at his obvious lies, begin asking questions as to why he was always the first to run into the line of fire. Why Jim was taking this one so personally, and why this case was any different from normal. Why wouldn’t Jim just leave all of this behind, come with her and go somewhere safer?

‘Walk away, Jim.’

Jim already knows that he will never escape from Gotham, he doesn’t want to leave. So it would be impossible for him to run away with Lee and never return to Gotham. And she wouldn’t get it, no matter how well he articulated his reasoning, it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy her. How he can’t just leave his work behind, how there were larger forces at work holding him here. To leave would be betraying himself, who he wants to be. Jim wants to protect the innocents of this city. To prevail and conquer madness, even as he sinks deeper and deeper. So many lives were at risk, and he couldn’t leave people who were in need. Criminals were overrunning this city, and he needed to stay and evolve right along with them. Take risks that pushed at his moral compass, make tough decisions, things that he wouldn’t normally take into consideration.

‘I need a favor. I figure you owe me one.’

Jim loves Lee, wants to give her the love she deserves. He already lost Barbara, he wasn’t ready to let another person go. But if there came a time of choosing, he would be pressed to pick the city. Someone had to make a stand, say enough was enough. Too many people were being killed in the streets, and not enough people cared about how deep the rabbit hole led. He didn’t want to see this city become a breeding field for criminals, he wanted to see Gotham as it used to be. Somewhere safe, a place people would be happy to call home. Jim wanted to feel empowered as he fought with something that seemed impossible to conquer. He wanted to prove that this city wasn’t all darkness, that good people were present and would eventually overcome the growing hate.

Jim wanted this city to be his home.

If Lee wanted to hear the reasons why Jim was taking this more personally, well, he isn’t comfortable about bringing them into conversation. His own feelings make him squirm uncomfortably.

‘Jim! Come on in! My dear old friend…’

Jim felt responsibility for not only the GCPD's officers who lost their lives tonight, but for Oswald Cobblepot. The man Jim just couldn’t seem to arrest or kill. Wouldn’t kill. Jim kept the power hungry snitch from meeting certain death at that oceans pier almost a year ago. His continued mercy wasn’t necessary and completely unfavorable at this point, but Oswald had become the face figure of Jim’s continued humanity. Cobblepot was a formidable criminal, but Jim had seen the person underneath. Jim sees beyond the facade and can see the distortions underneath the chilling mask. It has taken time, but he had started to see Cobblepot’s true face which lays beyond all of the lies. There was something there, something that made Jim continue making these mistakes, something he didn’t hate. And his hatred was a desperate thing, necessary to keep him objective.

‘But you came here alone, Jim, with no warrant, no cuffs, no backup, and why?’

Jim had been on radio giving out order’s when the manor was attacked. He had planned to have one of the snipers take out the Penguin, the man was starting to push into a fate he couldn’t avoid for too long. But when the time eventually came, Jim insisted that they not shoot. It wasn’t even seconds after his command that a calm voice told him that one of the men on the street went down. That Penguin was dead, because someone else took the shot. There should have been a sense of satisfaction at that news, but Jim’s heart seemed to stop beating when he believed that Cobblepot had been killed in the road. Confirmation came quickly that the deceased was not in fact the leader, but one of the men used as distraction. Jim would be impressed at the man’s cunning strategy that he implemented if only the GCPD and close to a hundred innocent people were not on the receiving end of his terror. Cobblepot was quite the clever man, something he proved over and over. Jim is ashamed at the instantaneous relief that washed over him at that moment, how it made him feel alive again. He hates that he was thankful for some scumbags continued existence.

He isn’t just seeing in black and white anymore.

‘Hello, Jim.’

Jim had been given an opportunity to take the man out already, but he was completely compromised when he saw the broken man in front of him. Pain had been radiating off of Cobblepot in waves which were thick and nearly tangible. Pale hands had trembled uncontrollably around the man’s raised shotgun. The Penguin’s voice had cracked with sorrow when he greeted Jim, and that was enough for Jim to believe what he had been told by Butch earlier in the afternoon. That Gertrude Kapelput was dead, and that this was a grieving man who was no longer chained down by whatever morality he once demonstrated. This wasn’t a power play, this was a last stand. Cobblepot appeared to be a man who no longer had any reason for living, other than serving what he saw as justice for his mother.

It shouldn’t have mattered to him why Cobblepot was out for blood, Jim should have remained objective. But it was at that moment that Jim realized how high in regard he held the wobbling criminal. How similar they were, how fate had thrust them together despite their differences. How he avoided the truth, and enjoyed their continued interactions.

‘It’s complicated, okay?’

He needed to build walls between them. Because after all of this, he still wasn't ready to end their dance. Jim wanted to coil and encircle around Oswald’s suffering soul, devour the pain and feed his own. It was disturbing how much he enjoyed that aspect of their relationship, how they complement each other in their continuous torment. And it is easy for one to make the other suffer, as they are on opposing ends. They may keep each others head’s above water, but if the time ever came they could easily drown together. Both of them have a bond, their lives completely revolve around the other. He sees this now. Jim wanted to hate that they were wrapped so tightly, but he craved the connection. It is almost effortless to become deluded into thinking there is something more between them. Another reason for their continued tolerance, what their real intentions were towards one another. But it wasn’t something Jim wanted to think on, things between them were complicated enough.

Build those walls higher and higher, they are straightforward, simple.

The scent of tobacco startles Jim from his thoughts, Reggie had finally returned from his smoke break. Jim smiles wearily at the other officer and he is met with an equally strained expression. How many times did they need to check the evidence tonight, nothing had been missed. Jim decides that they had done all they could, checked everything thoroughly enough.

“How about you go on home and get some rest. I’ll just check everything once more and then lock up, okay?”

Reggie looks like he just might breakout into a mess of tears. It has been a rough day, and Jim hopes the man will be okay after all that has happened.    

“Are you sure you want to finish by yourself, Jim? ”

About as sure as he can be. This man wasn’t one of the inadvertent reasons that tonight came into fruition. He wasn’t the one who was compromised.

“Yeah, I shouldn’t be here too much longer. I’ll see you tomorrow, alright?”

Reggie is quick to depart, and soon Jim is left alone to the scent of stale cigarettes and congealed blood. He’ll go home soon. But first he needs to rebuild his mask, become less volatile. Lee deserved better, didn’t need to see as Jim crumbled into dust. See what Jim was underneath, how he wasn’t the man he used to be. How he would continue to become a stranger. She wouldn’t be ready to accept what he may soon become.

Because Jim was beginning to see in shades of gray.

Chapter Text

‘Why am I here again, I don’t want to be here…’

Oswald Cobblepot stands alone, enveloped in a shroud of mist. No matter which way he turns, there is nothing but the veil in front of his eyes. He shouts and screams, his voice unable to carry beyond what sounds like a whisper. Walking around frantically he searches for an escape from the perpetual obscurity, his leg dragging silently on a ground unseen. Within the deep, he hears a voice call out to him, its familiarity stops him completely. Listening, he waits for the voice to return, but it isn’t heard again. Heartbeat racing, he tries to convince himself that he is alone. No one should be here, and if someone was here it should be near impossible to find him in this mass density of mist.

“Hello, Boy…”

Breath escapes from quivering lips, both of his eyes expand in abject terror.

Not this, not again…

Oswald purses his lips and tries to concentrate on escaping the predicament he finds himself in, that person doesn’t exist anymore. A ghost, not worth his time. Something brushes against his arm, and then a bruising pressure expands just above his elbow. Like a hand grabbing hold. Breathing becomes difficult as he finds himself in a near panic, nothing was there to touch him. No one was here to hurt him. What was hurting him?

“Where do you think you’re going, who said you could leave?”

It’s him. Oswald’s pace increases until he finds himself in what constitutes a near run considering the condition of his damaged leg. Where can he escape to, when will all of this let up? That man is long gone, he shouldn’t be here. But Oswald hadn’t forgotten the deep and slow cadence of that voice. Shivers of dread slink down his spine, his gut feels heavy and his tongue seems too big for his mouth. Breath in, breath out.

There is a light ahead, a way out. He doesn’t stop, even as another voice rings out. Just ignore them, just ignore them. His countenance becomes fearful when the mist begins to dissolve to sunlight. Vivid images of a time in his past becomes his present, and he finds himself somewhere he never had wanted to see again. He tries to pry his eyes away, wants to turn around, but something catches his eyes in the field.

A little boy runs alone in a small field of long grass and small swaying flowers. Oswald’s startled gaze locks onto the small child, and he finds himself lost. He knows just where and when he is. Things used to be so much easier, so beautiful and illuminating. Darkness hadn’t grabbed a strong hold and twisted him completely quite yet, but that was only a couple years from this point. He had been so hopeful that things would become better through time, how naive he was. How disgustingly young. But misfortune was soon to unfold, that disgusting piece of trash man had made sure of that.

“You little piece of shit, get over here!”

Mist starts to crawl up his legs as a wind forces it upon him suddenly. The past clutches him, it yanks him to and fro. Wild black hair sways with the growing gale, and Oswald’s wide icy blue eyes flutter closed. Everything goes black for a moment, and then he is the small boy running through the field. Young and unafraid, completely unblemished by the coming future. Only the echo’s of his true self resound amongst the world.

I don’t want to be here.

The little boy runs and runs. On the horizon he watches in anticipation and unhindered glee as a building comes into view.

Just keep running…

There is a small farm house that they would go to in the middle of summer. It was always hot and muggy when they arrived in the middle of July, but the water at the lake was always at just the right temperature. Mosquitoes and horseflies seemed to be everywhere, so Oswald would always be itching and scratching even after they left. Mother always tried to make him some home remedies for the bites, but usually they didn’t work and he just smelt weird until it was bath time. But he loved their time together at this house, the city’s filth would be washed away, and they would be cleansed of all their problems. If they had stayed there forever he would have been so very happy, but a week was just enough. He didn’t have to be greedy, because it was something he could always look forward to the next year.

There were no worries when they arrived, just peace and happiness.

Mother didn’t have to worry about her job at the bread shop across the street, on how she couldn’t come home in time to see her little boy get home after school. There were no worries about how tight their money was, how mother would cry in her room at night after having a fight with the landlord. No one was here to spit at and belittle Oswald, tell him that he was a nobody. No one was here to chase him after being released from his classes, no one was here to bully him like they did at school. Mother wasn’t cruel like those little boys, she was kind and loving. She didn’t have to worry about him getting into fights here, getting beaten because of his slight limp slowing him down. Making him an easy target. When they were here he didn’t need to worry about the man that mother was seeing, how he might be moving in soon. Oswald didn’t have to think about how much he hated Walter, how he was just like father. Father is a horrible man, he’s glad that he left.

Father is garbage, disgusting.

Why is mother even with Walter? When they are home mother fights with that man for hours. Here neither of them had to fight or listen to the never ceasing yelling. Oswald didn’t have to stand outside of mothers door afraid of what could happen. Here he had no reasons to put his little hands inside of his pocket, where he keeps a pocketknife.

He doesn’t have to worry, and neither does mother.

When they are here, Oswald was always afraid to look at the clock. It never felt like they had enough time, as if every moment was in fast forward. He wouldn’t even shut his eyes immediately after being tucked in, he would just smile to himself as he huddled underneath the thick covers on his bed. Would think about how wonderful it was to be here with his beautiful mother, how he hated it at home.

Why did they have to go back?

It wouldn’t be too long before he would eventually be pulled into a deep slumber though, his fuzzy eyes refusing to stay open no matter how hard he tried. He would snore softly as he slept, his little fingers curling tightly into the pillow cover as he curled into a ball. Sometimes he dreamt of things he loved, other times it would be of much darker things. Things he refused to dwell on, he was a big boy now. Dawn always creeped up on him in the early morning hours. The suns rays penetrated through tasteful white sheer curtains to the side of his single bed, the muted light spilling across his sleep slack face. It would take a while, but eventually he would stretch out and realize it was morning. That there were things to do. He would jump out of bed and get ready for the day as quickly as he was able.

These were such happy times.

Mother would always be outside sitting on the porch when he was finally ready for the day. Her long curly tresses would billow in the wind, and she would be holding a glass of tea between both of her hands. Oswald would often try to sneak up behind her in the mornings, just a little good fun. So he would normally find himself sneaking out through the back door in the kitchen, the front door much too squeaky and obvious. Oswald would tiptoe through the dewy grass trying to be as quiet as a mouse, but mother always seemed to know when he was there. She would usually spot him as soon as he came around the side of the house and she would smile at him, her eyes shining bright in the light.

‘It’s morning my sweet boy, come and give your mother a hug.’

He would run to her with a cheshire grin and hug her as enthusiastically as possible. Oswald loved it when mother hugged him, she smelt of honey and the potpourri she made at home. They often laughed when Oswald decided to stop squeezing her and eventually let go.

I wanted to hold her tight forever.

Afterwards mother would sometimes bring up how when she was a young girl she would come here with Oswald’s grandmother. May she rest in peace. Mother would lament on how she never wanted to let her own mother go either. Oswald would always know that mother was sad in those moments, and would give her another hug. He would cradle his head between her shoulder and neck, and try to give what comfort he could. Mother would always become so distressed. She would wipe her eyes as discreetly as she could, he always tried to pretend that he didn’t know what she was doing as she held him in her arms. Mother didn’t want to appear weak, but Oswald already knew just how strong she was. She would eventually be the one to break their embrace and she would always suggest that they get moving. It would be a waste to sit around all day. They would do whatever took their fancy, while talking about everything and nothing.

There was no need to remind themselves of their dark apartment, their real home. No need to remind Oswald about how Walter slapped him across the face when he accidentally spilt milk on the man’s leather soled shoes. Oswald didn’t mean to do it. He didn’t want to be reminded on how last week when mother wasn’t home on time, that the man had lost his patience and the loose restraint he tried to project in adult company. Oswald had become the patsy for that lack of self discipline and the man’s constant thirst for control.

‘Where is your mother at, boy? She should already be home, but she isn’t answering the damn door. We were going to the restaurant tonight, so you need to change that god awful outfit.’

Oswald had been afraid to answer him, but he tried his best to be brave on that day. To make the man go away until mother arrived back home, so he could be safe a while longer. So he wouldn’t be left alone with the man full of bitter rage and the penchant of unnecessary violence.

Why was mother even with that man, couldn’t she see what he was?

‘Mother is going to be running late tonight. She told me she’ll be at the bakery for a couple hours longer than normal. Could you come back later? I’m sure mother would be pleased to see you then…’

Walter didn’t appreciate Oswald’s gentle coaxing to leave, and what he considered to be an outright lie. With his personality doing a complete turn around, the man went from a strained courtesy to total indignation.

‘What do you mean she isn’t there, you little shit? Let me in, I need to talk to her.’

Oswald takes a moment of pause. It reminds him too much of father.

‘But…she isn’t here.’

Walters face turns red as his temper rises, the man’s eyes widening and nostrils flaring.

‘Move, or else you’ll get what’s coming to you boy.’

The little boy tries to hold his ground.

Why did he need to make things so hard?

‘Mother doesn’t like me inviting people in while she isn’t home.’

Walter proceeded to make demands of entry at that time, not believing a word he heard. Oswald attempted to defend himself from the cruel verbal assault he had been inflicted as he followed his mothers rule. It wasn’t long before Walter forcibly grabbed Oswald’s small arm, and said he better watch his mouth. Lied to the little boy on how he was supposedly a burden to his dear mother. How Oswald was trash and a waste of space, and that he would get another slap across the mouth if he didn’t move out of the way. Oswald tried to pull away from the crushing grip and malicious words. Tried to raise his trembling voice in protest. It had been extremely painful, both physically and mentally.

It always has been easy to make the weak crumble…

Mr. Otto from next door had peeked out from his doorway, the old man’s face covered by the gloom of the poorly lit hallway. Oswald tried to make eye contact with the man as soon as he spotted him, but the man’s squinting eyes wouldn’t meet his own. He wanted the man to help him. Needed someone to help, there had to be someone who wouldn’t let this stand.

There are no good men. Just cowards saying they’ll do the right thing.

He knows that the old man had heard everything, and that he was curious on what the commotion was next door. Oswald had been sure that Mr. Otto was about to interfere, his mouth opening in probable protest, but Walter had seen the man and was quick to push them both through the apartments creaky door. He didn’t want the neighbors to see the scene he had orchestrated. The door slammed forcefully, and Oswald was stuck alone with the furious man. Time crawled as he was forced to deal with the hot fury of Walter’s temper when he discovered that mother really wasn’t in the apartment. It wasn’t something he wanted to think about, something he wanted purged from his mind. He wished that his neighbor would have called the police, that someone would save him.

I should have known…

The little boy had tried to get away, to get out of the apartment. But he wasn’t going anywhere, he was forced to stay. And he wouldn’t say anything, the man had forced him to make that promise. Scared him into keeping his silence.

Why does he grab on so tightly, why does he keep hurting me? Why? Why?

The little boy had to sit on the couch for the remainder of the night with his abuser, the television set on Gotham’s news. It was just something to keep his attention until mother had returned. To make it less obvious to the man sitting alongside him that Oswald was afraid. Everything at that point was a facade, he had to fool his mother. Show her that everything was normal, nothing was wrong. That he wasn’t hurting both inside and out. What would have Walter done if he’d known that it was Oswald’s fault mother was late that day? How the little boy had gotten into another fight, and that the school had to send him home early. That Oswald called mother and she had to leave in the middle of her shift. It was all his fault, if only he didn’t get into a fight again. Mother told him to stop fighting, to be a good boy. He is a good boy, he is good.

‘Can you please pick me up?’

Mother didn’t know what was happening when she wasn’t home, or even out of the room. Walter never hit his face hard enough to bruise. He was careful to only leave the lasting damage where she couldn’t see the bruises. But little hands found those ones easily enough.

He didn’t want to be reminded about home, didn’t want to think about it at all. No need to be reminded about what life would be like if Walter moved in. He didn’t want to worry about mother noticing how he was changing, becoming more angry. She didn’t need to worry about this kind of stuff. He would protect her, she didn’t need to see. Her heart to break if she found out. Mother already watched him come home from school with split lips and bloodstains. That was enough. Mother wanted Oswald to stay innocent, to continue being her sweet little angel. If he ever fell, she had wished to forever stay ignorant of that fact. Let her stay ignorant, don’t let her find out.

There were no worries when they are here, it would be so much easier to just stay.

‘Mother, I’m hungry. Can we go inside for a little while?’

A little hand grabs the hem of his mothers dress, he is so hungry. Mother would take delight at the suggestion, because neither of them normally remember to eat in the mornings. They would go inside of the house, and race each other into the kitchen.

‘What should we make today?’

He would suggest one of his favorites, because mother made the best chocolate chip cannoli’s in the whole world. He would sometimes ask if he could help her to make the shells and the filling. If he was lucky she would sometimes say yes, and that he could help. Other times she would say no, but he would still be so happy. Oswald liked to stand at her side and keep her company, listen to her explain how she makes the cannoli shells.

How you had to mix everything just so, why he needed to roll and cut the dough just like how she showed. How you need to heat the oil only so high, that you had to leave the dough in for only so long. She would laugh when Oswald whined that they had to wait for the shells to cool down. Can’t we eat them now? It would always be a no, there was still so much to do.

‘Let’s make the filling now.’

It was like a magic show, and it was mesmerizing to watch her put it all together. And when everything was done, they would always roll the cannoli’s together. Oswald liked to add extra chocolate chips when mother wasn’t looking. And she always seemed to add a lot of pistachios to her own. They would sit at the table and eat together, smiles on both of their faces. Mother would later mention how they had dessert a little too early, how about they make something for lunch? Of course he would join her, she had so much to teach, and he had so much he wanted to learn from her.

Once they were done with their lunches, they would go out for walks in the trails. There were so many around the house. He knew them all by heart. Oh, how wonderful it was to be here with his sweet mother.

She always did love it here.

One of them led to the lake, and that is where they were heading. This wasn’t how things usually went though, something was wrong.

What are we doing, why are we going this way today?

Mother was leading him by the hand as they crept silently through the dirt path, the trees were becoming more frightening after each and every step. Tree hollows turned into menacing eyes, the woods were watching. The trees begin to grow taller and slowly crowd closer to the path. Roots penetrate from the soil below, and Oswald grips mothers hand desperately. The sun is setting quickly and it is getting dark out, Mother still won’t say anything. Oswald watches as an onrush of thunderwood and bullbrier vines blast out from the earth. They climb through the underbrush and up the numerous pines. It wasn’t long before every single trunk within view was covered completely. Behind them various thorny vines sprout along the path and clamber across the dark soil. Everything around them is covered with thorns, and they begin to crawl faster towards both their feet. There isn’t much daylight left, they should have already been at the lake.

It felt like they were trying to escape from something other. Was someone there? Mother is starting to run, Oswald has to grasp harder around her hand. Slow down! It feels like he is sinking into the dirt, but he keeps going, and going. Mother is scared, where are they going? Oswald trips over his own feet, his limp wouldn’t allow him to go any faster. His knees smack the dirt, both are now scraped up. It should hurt, but he doesn’t feel a thing. It takes a moment to get up though, his body becoming less animated. Everything slows down as he realizes that he is now alone. Where is mother at? His heart thuds loudly in his chest, the beating resounding in his ears. Mother wasn’t anywhere in sight. Oswald is afraid for her, he knows what will soon come to pass. A vine encircles around his ankle, and a long thorn penetrates the skin. It is a struggle, but he eventually unravels the bloody plant, and runs off limping. Blood trickles onto the ground and down his bare foot. More vines slide across the earths surface and become streaked with crimson.

He needs to keep moving, it’s almost time.

Night has taken control, but moonlight penetrates through the branches which helps Oswald see in the vast darkness. He hears something behind him, but he dares not turn. There are monsters in these woods, or so mother warned him once. She told him, and yet mother still left him here alone. Fury bubbles through his body, he knows it wasn’t her fault because the shadows took her. Why else would she leave him? But he is now alone here, and he can’t run for too much longer. Unearthly eyes watch him hungrily.

Just a little farther, hurry, hurry!

The pathway begins to evolve into another. He has seen this one before, he knows right where this one should lead. He is always led back to this twisted trail, but he doesn’t want to be here this time, not now.

Don’t let her see it this time. But mother was taken, and now she is alone with him.

The path suddenly ends as quickly as it came into being, and the little boy stands in a small field. He sees it. It is the same farm house that both he and mother used to go to, but everything is strange now. Why does he always end up here? He used to love it, but he didn’t want to be here. Why couldn’t he go somewhere else? This isn’t something he wants to remember, but he doesn’t have a choice. Mother needs him. His feet move on their own violation and he can’t stop now. He is now just the eyes, and he already knows how the story unfolds. But maybe it will be different this time around. The little boy hopes it is different this time. He walks closer and closer, it is like horrid mirror image of that day. But he has no choice on if he wants to go or now, he has no choice. He hates it, he hates this.

Mother was still dating that bastard, he wouldn’t let them have their vacation together the past few years. Walter would take away mother’s money, tell her what she could and couldn’t do with it. Oswald hated that crook for using his precious mother. Mother was afraid of the man, but she couldn’t leave her home behind. Where would they go? But at least he didn’t hit her. The little boy didn’t want her to ever go through that humiliation, so he would take the hits. He didn’t even flinch anymore. Mother still doesn’t know what was happening, he won’t tell her because he didn’t want her to cry anymore. The pocket knife still sits in his pocket, the weight has been growing each and every day. He doesn’t want to make mother even more sad, so he doesn’t use it.

One year, mother was able to convince Walter that they should all go to the house. A real family vacation. But that disgusting man wasn’t family, he would never be family. But Oswald still packed for their trip, maybe it would be a good time regardless of the fact that Walter would be around. Maybe he and mother could go to the lake, and along the trails. If they were lucky, that man wouldn’t be around them the whole time. It could be just the two of them, like how it used to be. But things didn’t turn out that way.

Why do we have to go, why am I back here again?

Oswald’s body has complete control, his legs walk across the grass even as his mind tries to resist. The moon is blocked by heavy rain clouds now, the wind is blowing his black hair back, trying to push him away. Just leave! You don’t want to be here. The house wasn’t the same. Everything was wrong on that day, and even now everything is wrong. It is all wrong. The house wasn’t supposed to be like this, what happened here? The pine trees are bare of their needles and the grass is scorched black. The house was in shambles and all of the front windows are broken in and boarded up with wooden planks. The front door swings back and forth as the wind howls its way to the inside. There isn’t even a light on, but he knows that is where mother is. The darkness shouldn’t bother him because he knows what is ahead, but he is so very afraid.

Something lingers behind him, he can hear its deep breathes over the screaming winds. Oswald’s arm hairs stand on end, mother had warned him about the dread living in the dark, the devil. He refuses to take a peek. But he can hear its voice resounding in his head, its warnings.

His body leads the way, his back open and vulnerable.

The porch is pulling him closer and closer, and the shadows shamelessly squirm in elation. He’s here, let the show begin. Bare feet take him up its two steps unwillingly. He used to love jumping off of these steps, but now the wood is warped and long nails are poking through the splintered surface. One of the boards creak, abruptly he stops. He knows that he has to be quiet, as quiet as a mouse. The shadows shove gleefully at him from behind, the little raven haired boy hastens quickly to the door. Small hands grab ahold of the swinging door, and slowly he creeps inside of the house. The door slams shut suddenly, he stands rigidly listening. Inhaling through his nose, Oswald shakes when he feels the damp exhale from the devil behind him.

Just ignore it, don’t stop.

The darkness envelops him in an impassioned embrace as he limps forward, it has been expecting him. Oswald is aghast, he needs to be quiet as he goes through the foyer and into the hallway. But there is broken glass and the remnants of once beautiful furniture strewn across the warped floor, he is still making too much noise. There are doors on all sides of him, but he knows not to bother checking on them. Oswald keeps walking, a piece of glass slices the heel of his left foot. He doesn’t even stop, as there isn’t any pain. Stepping across more glass he continues on, both feet leaving a trail of red down the hallway. It twists and spirals as it stretches longer and longer. It appears to go on forever, but he knows where he needs to go. The shadows whisper into his ear, they tell him what to do. He blinks, once, twice and then suddenly he is no longer in the same hallway.

Oswald stands between three crimson painted doors, he is upstairs now. A tear trickles down his freckled face, he wipes it away with the back of his hand. It looks black and oily, it reminds him of something ichorous. The shadows told him this would happen, that there was a small toll to be paid for now. That it was like a contract, a promise. That Oswald would be forced to give the shadows something to feed their ravenous hunger, something important since he had needed their help. But it made a bargain with him, the promise that it wouldn’t collect just yet. That something would be taken from him when he was older.

I’ll do anything to save mother, anything.

Something rustles behind the door to his right. It is mothers room. He wouldn’t normally go into her room uninvited, but he had to see what was happening. Had to stop it, just like he did before. He turns the knob slowly, and peers inside. Walter is grabbing mother, there are tears in her eyes and splotches of red cover the sides of her cheeks. The man is yelling himself hoarse, his malignant glare pinning his dear mother against the side of her nightstand. She is afraid, but she had spotted her little boy watching from the crack in the door. Mother’s face hardens, one of her hands reach desperately behind her. Slim fingers wrap around a glass perfume bottle. It is one of mother’s favorites. Oswald knows what happens next, the memory brings him agony.

I don’t want to be here…

Walter crowds closer to mother, there isn’t much space between them anymore. He is angry, furious even. Oswald cringes when a burly hand slaps across mothers face. Her head whips to the side, a tear trickles down her abused face. It is just as black as his own tears. She made a deal with the shadows, and that throws him. No mother, why did you do it! Her grip tightens around the perfume bottle, and Oswald watches mesmerized as it is thrust against Walter’s skull. Glass slashes into the man’s scalp and small fragments collect in his sweaty hair, he gives a vicious cry of indignation. Blood drips onto the floor. The angered man doesn’t go down, instead his strong hands wrap around mother’s dainty throat. She punches and scratches with all of her strength, she has to get away. Long fingernails tear skin from Walter’s cheek.

Mother still can’t breath, her small hands desperately try to pry gripping fingers off. Oswald watches her eyes widen in terror. Walter won’t let go, and it looks like he is about to snap her neck.

He has to help her, mother is in trouble. But he is shaking, and shaking. I’m scared. The devil stands behind him, he can feel its heat snake through his small body. A shiver runs down his back as the damp puffs of its breath brush perversely against his neck. He jolts when something skims down his side and ghosts lightly against his pocket. His hand digs into the same trouser pocket, he tightly grips the pocketknife. He doesn’t want to make mother sad, but she is so scared. Walter is hurting her, just like he hurt Oswald. Was trying to kill his precious loving mother. The little boy promised to protect mother, to make sure she didn’t suffer the same humiliation. He needs to stop this. He needs to…

Do it.

The knife plunges deep into the man’s vulnerable side, the little boy caught him off guard. The man lets go of mother, she is breathing heavily as her hands grip her neck, her slim body shaking in fear. The little boy pulls out the knife right before he is smacked into a dresser. It's still in his trembling blood covered hand, the man doesn't seem to notice it as he tries to pick him up. Walter’s rough fingers pull Oswald’s hair, his head feels like it is going to snap as he is lifted up by the one hand. A fist strikes him, once, twice, and a third time. Mother tries to rush the injured man, but she is thrown aside like a rag doll. Stop it! And then it happens, the slice and deep plunge of the pocket knife.

Look away mother, don't watch.

The knife is sticking out of the man’s chest, and blood gushes from the slash across the man’s neck. It had been deep enough to knick the carotid artery, and Walter was now bleeding out. The chest wound is flowing like a stream, and it’s pooling around once pristine shoes. The same ones that he was slapped over. This would be a stain that would never come out, this wasn’t an accident. Oswald is dropped after a couple of moments, his heartbeat thudding loud enough so it is the only thing he can hear for a couple of seconds. Walter tries to pull the knife out of his chest, but his hands had become useless due to the continued blood loss. Eventually the man falls to the ground, his knees giving out. Walter’s chest continues to rise and fall for only a few more moments, ragged breathing becoming more labored until it just suddenly stops.

The pool of blood is touching Oswald’s own slashed and bloody feet. But it is soaking him, becoming a part of him. His blood becoming unified with the rapidly cooling pool. It is destroying and recreating him, becoming a part of him.

Mother is staring at the body. She no longer looks afraid, even with the blossoming bruises on her pale neck. Her body is no longer shaking, she isn’t moving.

Look away, please stop looking mother. This isn’t your fault. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

The small boy is still sprawled across the floor in terror at what he had done. Breath hits the side of his oily tear streaked face, and he can almost see the devil now. He can hear its twisted words, and its cackle of glee. But he can also hear the undercurrent of pain and revulsion.

'He deserved it.'

But mother, poor mother. She is broken now, she isn’t going to be the same.

The devil materializes in front of the dead man, it is in the shape of a man. A freshly pressed suit and oily black hair is all that he can make out. The face is covered in deep shadows, and whenever the little boy thinks that he can make out the devils facial features they morph into something else. Something other. Mother doesn’t see the devil though, she is staring vacantly at the body.

Turn around, little one. You don’t need to see this.

The devil now has an umbrella in its hands. Mother turns away, as if she knows what is about to happen. The little boy doesn’t understand, what is happening? Why did any of this have to happen? His mother is standing in the corner of the room adjacent to the carnage, her face pushed against the wall. Words are escaping her mouth, they sound like prayers.

‘Mother…’

Turn around. Turn around. Don’t look, please.

He wants to look, he wants to see.

Let me see, let me see.

Turning, the devil’s ink black eyes lock with the little boy’s own icy blue. And then he understands.

‘We are one and the same. You can’t escape from this fate, little one.’

Blood begins to ooze from the walls, and the dead corpse at his feet begins to bleed anew. Warmth washes over his freezing body, but it slinks and slithers over his abused flesh. The small boy wants to hurl, he didn’t want to hurt anyone. But mother was in pain. He had to protect her, he promised that he would.

‘But I’m a good boy, I'm good! I don’t want to be like you, I refuse to be you!’

Mother’s prayers become louder and louder, but they don’t make sense. The devil’s face is coming into focus now, thin chapped lips open and it utters what the small boy wishes to be lies.

‘We are what we are. And I am what you will become…’

The room starts to overflow with copious amounts of blood, the little boy stands but soon finds himself floating as it rises higher and higher. Mother hasn’t moved from the corner, her body doesn’t even float when the blood rises. The devil grins maniacally, but its eyes show how much agony it is in. The little boy tries to swim towards his mother, but something grabs him from the expanding depths. It begins to pull him down, a small hand reaches out towards the devil. He wants to beg for help, but he already made a deal with the shadows. Nothing could help him now. He was on his own, and he would pay the price. Now they’re drowning, mother is drowning. But she doesn’t seem to care, she hadn’t even moved as the blood crawled up her neck and flowed through her hair. Didn’t move as a current went into her open mouth, and soon over her wide unseeing eyes. Her dead eyes.

‘No…NO!’

This isn’t how it was supposed to be. Why can’t they ever be happy, what happened to all of their happiness. Why isn’t mother doing anything?

I don’t want to be here. Someone help, help me…please.

The devil is drowning, Oswald is drowning. Everything is black and red. All becomes nothing, and the world turns into an oppressive mist.

And then there is light.

Oswald startles awake, his body covered by dry leaves. He makes note that a rock is digging into his hip as he tries to calm down his frantically racing heart. He just wants to forget everything. Get away from his nightmare, begin anew. Sweat runs through his hair, and his body aches. His tongue feels thick, and his mouth is dry. He’s parched. The gunshot wound is agonizing, yet also subdued. He isn’t sure, but it still feels like he has a light fever, but it should be manageable.

He had survived. It felt like the night had baptized him in shadows and built him anew, that he had become what he had feared. As he blinks he envisions blood, umbrellas, and dead eyes.

We are what we are.

And he has become.

Chapter Text


Oswald had survived throughout the night, somehow. He made it to the dawn of a new day, or rather the early afternoon. Oswald isn’t sure he can give himself much console on his unfortunate sleeping arrangements for the past few hours, but he is willing to congratulate himself on escaping and surviving after the nights events. He considers himself lucky to be alive. Not only had he made it through a grievous gunshot wound, but he also wasn’t eaten by a bear or anything else with sharp teeth and claws. A miracle of sorts, he has once again beaten the odds. The weak man manages to get himself up and onto his feet.

Something crackles amongst the leaves to his side. Oswald watches in muted fascination as a brown rabbit with a thick coat hops towards him curiously. He feels his hand reaching out in beckoning motion before he even thinks about it, his legs carrying him in an awkward shuffle towards the woodland critter. Both shoulders slump in dejection as the rabbit runs in a mad dash through the underbrush close by. Pain spikes dully across his body, but he ignores it in his moment of disheartenment. It is long gone by now, far away from the injured and lost man.

Building a barrier for his absurd rising melancholy, Oswald briskly begins brushing leaves from his soiled suit. Everything hurts, but he keeps building walls. A few moments pass until his suit is deemed remotely respectable. Warily he begins to contemplate how long the animal had been close by, and if anything else had been watching him throughout the night and early morning hours. He wonders if some of the fuzzier animals of these woods kept watch on him because they knew that something else was out there watching him the whole time, or if they knew that there was something new to fear in these woods, that he could become something terrifying.

What waits in these woods? Is there something waiting to chew him up, to spit him back out. Or is he the only thing worthy of concern, something to be watched from afar. As if he was part of some freak show. The devil’s whispers from his dream echo in his mind menacingly, factually.

‘We are what we are. And I am what you will become…’

A shiver shakes his body all the way down to his toes, he just wants to forget the night. Cold fingers glide through raven strands of hair, sweat coats his hands uncomfortably. He feels disgusted at his body, at his weaknesses and inability to conquer his roiling emotions and unceasing thoughts. Everyone was right, he was completely worthless. Oswald attempts to quiet his tireless mind, but it is halfhearted at best. The nightmare took a lot out of him, on top of everything else that’s happened. Slumber didn’t bring him actual rest, but it was enough. What it brought him though is shame at his obvious disgrace, on his inability to keep his dear mother safe after everything that happened in the past. She kept him as close as she dared, attempted to protect Oswald in her own way even after her mind became a broken mess on that night her cruel lover attempted to strangle her to death. Seeing her little boy murder a man had destroyed her internally, whether it was in defense or not. She became not unlike the gramophone that she had played endlessly afterwords, the same few records playing over and over throughout the past few years. He broke her, and now has managed to finish her off. It was only a matter of time.

He missed her so much.

Just let it go for now. Get out of this hell hole, and pull yourself together.

Sighing tiredly, Oswald digs into his coat pocket and pulls out one of the small bags of peanuts he pilfered from the limo. It takes a moment to open, but once he gets the first small handful into his mouth he quickly realizes how ravenous he had become over the night. With an almost sickening fervor he finds himself pouring them all into his greedy mouth. He would find the whole scene sickening and unbecoming, but he finds that he can forgive himself for the whole thing. It isn’t as if he has much of an audience.

As if nature was out to spite him, a lone bird begins to sing in a tree branch overhead. Oswald finds himself beaming in uncontrollable pleasure at the delightful sound, his cheeks comically puffed up as he chews through a second package of peanuts. Swallowing down his small meal he carefully feels into his pockets once again, his fingers lovingly glide over the smooth surface of glass. Thirst makes an appearance, and Oswald finds himself opening one of the miniature bottles of whiskey. Licking his lips in elated anticipation, he finds an absurd amount of amusement on his early start of alcoholic binging, peanuts included. He deserves something to make him feel less. Chuckling lightly to himself, Oswald takes a dainty sip. Warmth hits the tip of his tongue immediately, and before he knows it he’s moaning in rapture as it slides down his long parched throat.

Another bird begins to chirp in lugubrious song as he finishes off his first bottle, and then second bottle. Oswald’s chest begins to ache, and his stomach clenches as equal parts discomfort and scorn consume him abruptly.

I want to be a free from all of this, instead I am just a small bird that has been locked into another cage.

Oswald’s mood swings from a small budding of buzzed pleasure, to self loathing and pity. He finds that he doesn’t want to be around the trilling of songbirds any longer. He has to patch himself up, needs to make plans for avenging his dear mother. Oswald chucks the bottles into the woods in frustration, something he quickly regrets. Crying out in agony, he finds himself struggling to keep his head about him due to the dreadful bolt of sensation. The pull of muscle had aggravated his gunshot wound further and his shoulder has begun to trickle more blood onto his suit. Waiting for the moment to pass he takes in deep slow breathes, reigns in control in small increments until he is finally ready to leave. He begins to walk through the foliage and up a steep hill, vaguely he remembers heading in this direction before he passed out during the night.

Silence greets him as he ascends and reaches the crest of the hill, not too far off through the thick mass of trees he can see the dirt road. There is still some distance to go in order to get to the trailer once he gets on the road though. Unfortunately the walk wouldn’t do much good for his leg, it was still throbbing from the awkward angle it was positioned during the night. Even now it pains him to journey through the woods, but it isn’t something that he can’t overcome. He has been in worse positions throughout his life, dealt with more agony than he cares to think on. Leg pain was just a part of life due to a long list of innumerable consequences, it was expected. Just like he expected to remain in more pain due to his open wound.

The trailer better have supplies, he isn't sure how much longer he can manage to keep himself up, he was knocked out for several hours already. The feverish haze from before has been edging tendrils of sensation throughout his body since he had awoken. Oswald wasn't going to miraculously be getting better, he needs help.

So he walks, manages to make it to the dirt road and continue on his way down to his trailer site. At one point he is forced to dart back into the cover of the trees, a couple of vehicles were parked up ahead. Walking through the woods once again frustrates Oswald, and brings about his more pessimistic thoughts. So much progress was being lost as he is forced to extend the distance of his journey, Oswald desperately hopes that he doesn’t encounter any of the vehicle inhabitants any time soon.

Behind him, droplets of blood speckle across the expanse of moist leaf piles and broken twigs. Oswald wishes he could wash it all away. There is too much evidence, he would be much too easy to track if the hounds came running.

He needs to avoid being seen in his current state, it would raise too many questions and before he could do anything, the police or worse would be here to apprehend him. What is also horrible is the thought of being coddled by some do-gooder civilian, to be pitied. He needs someone he can trust, not some stranger who could turn on him in a matter of seconds. There has to be a reasonable option, but his mind is blank on options. Oswald doesn’t have friends, he has associates and a few hard earned allies. There was also that possibility of another traitor amongst his perceived allies, something he would venture to guess as being inevitable. It was just a part of the business.

But there was someone he knew without a doubt was on his side, had been on his side since the start of the fruition to most of his plans. Someone he had no issues with ordering around discreetly, someone who was a tool, but also an invaluable tool. His most honorable and trustworthy man, someone he finds himself confiding in more often than he cares to analyze is Gabe. But he can’t take the risk of involving him right now, too much is at stake. Too many people were compromised and he didn’t need to drag in his only reliable underling, only for him to be taken away from him in some way or another. He has begun to trust the older man, and has had felt it building for a while now. Perhaps one day soon he would be able to consider this man a true friend, at present he is the closest he truly has. But he needs to keep his distance for now, until he has become more stable and has come up with a plan to take back his empire. It also doesn’t help matters any that he didn’t seem to have his phone on him, its current whereabouts unknown. If Oswald had wanted to inform Gabe on his current location then it would be impossible regardless.

And isn’t that truly inconvenient?

A solid half of an hour goes by before Oswald comes into a small clearing. What he finds is a sight more firmly to some surreal dream. The first thing most people would notice is the lovely picnic scene that was currently being displayed, the large basket and two plates of food so delightfully quaint in their exact placements. A perfect setup for an overly romantic date one would quickly assume. That is until you noticed the dug up hole in the ground, where a fresh corpse was carelessly thrown. Oswald warily hobbles to the edge of the grave, and notices a nondescript suitcase resting under the heavyset man. If he were to make bets, he would take it that this man made a surprise appearance and paid with his life. The smell of decay wafts to Oswald’s nose, the man was too fresh to have this specific stage of scent yet. So that would mean there was another body hidden within the suitcase.

Oswald has seen a great deal of these type of murder scenes, and every time he encounters one he becomes more desensitized to the carnage. Death was where all life led, just some people were forced to meet their end sooner than others. He wasn’t unfamiliar with killing, but it generally occurred to further his rise to power. He has found killing some individuals more pleasing than others, but he never made displays quite like this. Everything about this particular burial is much too loving, and much too campy for his tastes, aside from the murdered intruder. But who is he to judge? It seems that this particular murderer is new to the art of body disposal, because they did a shoddy job of actually burying the bodies. No one was here to finish the current proceedings, but Oswald knows better than to remain here. At any moment the killer could return, and Oswald finds that he doesn’t want to become a part of this particular tableau.

But before Oswald makes his swift and purposeful departure, he walks towards the picnic setup. There awaits something he would label as a small piece of heaven, a setup for two, yet just enough for one. An abandoned feast just for him.

Kneeling over the plaid blue blanket, Oswald’s mouth begins watering in anticipation. Greedily the hunger struck man takes hold of the nearest plate with shaking hands. Droplets of blood splatter across the white porcelain plate. A soft moan escapes his lips right before he ravenously begins to devour one of the two sandwiches, hunger had accompanied him for several hours now. The peanuts from before hadn’t eased his complaining stomach, but this sandwich was a work of art and filled him just fine. If he were to rate it on taste alone it would easily enter his top ten, and it does. The way this unknown killer built a Caprese was truly criminal. The thick french baguette was split so elegantly, the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella were perfectly complimented by a delicious basil pesto, the added sprouts bringing just that extra bit of texture. And…

Is that Dijon mustard?

Oswald is over the moon by the time he finishes the sandwich masterpiece. He finds himself licking his fingers clean of pesto as he eyes the other sandwich critically, he might not be able to eat another decent meal for a while. His stomach rumbles in complaint, and that is enough to make the decision for him on that matter. Picking up the other delicious Caprese, Oswald laughs gleefully as he decides to snatch a glass of red wine with his free hand, blood smears across the crystal glass. The alcohol burns delightfully on its way to the pit of his stomach, it compliments the meal perfectly and should help ease some of his agony. Chewing with gusto, Oswald puts down the wine and begins to pick the grapes from the stem, he needs to finish quickly before he gets caught.

Finishing his task in record time he celebrates by taking another long drink from the wineglass to help wash away the rest of the pilfered sandwich and rises slowly to an unsteady standing position. Heat floods his insides, and numbness mediates the continuous pain of both shoulder and leg. Head light, and stomach grateful for being filled, Oswald deviously pockets the bunch of grapes for something to snack on the remainder of his walk. All of the food was left behind anyway, how could he not take advantage of the opportunity?

Walking through the expanse of woods once more the injured man regrets the fact that a bloody trail shows his path through the vegetation. But he’ll make do, and deal with whatever repercussions may appear from his trespassing of the burial scene.

He will kill whoever gets in his way, sandwich connoisseur or not.

 


 

His search finally bears fruit as his trailer comes into view. Nature had begun to take back the previously cleared campsite, tall grasses growing wherever the pine and maples didn't leave a shadow. Their leaf foliage too dense to grow through. It was with an enthused delight that he noted the climbing vines growing up the sides of the white trailer, a natural camouflage to shield it from the less observant.

It was a true sight for sore eyes. Wonderful.

It takes a while for Oswald to open the door to the trailer, his instructions to leave the key hidden taken to an extreme. It was after a good twenty minutes or so of hectically searching, that Oswald finds himself tripping over something. Grunting in agitation he bends down, his hands rake through a pile of damp leaves only to find a long flat stone underneath. Flipping it over he finds the key taped to its underside. With as much dignity as he can muster, Oswald controls his childish impulse to throw the stone afterwards in his agitation of the key’s placement. Oswald sneers in disgust at the lackluster job.

He is getting really sick of this.

Opening the door is easy enough afterwards, and as soon as he enters the main room he immediately spots the trailers built in lounge couch. He throws himself onto it in absolute relief, his tired body sinking into the cushions. Both body and couch feel as if they had merged and become one. With a blissful sigh, he rubs his head into a plush satin throw pillow. Even through the drunken haze his shoulder protests with a steady growing blossom of pain due to his poor positioning, but Oswald feels numb enough physically that it doesn’t bother him as much as it probably should. The filth from his suit quickly dirties the once pristine fabric of the lounge, and the blood stains will be impossible to get out. Oswald could honestly care less though.

God, this is so comfortable.

Both eyes slide closed, Oswald finds that sleep could take him easily enough if he let it. But there is still too much to do. Unfortunately he still needs to start the outside generator. Letting out a sigh of anguish, he forces himself back up after a few minutes of reprieve. One can only hope that it was an electric start. Oswald doesn't have the energy to deal with the pull starters. Of course, he’ll find out soon enough as it was going to be night soon. Light is going to be of the utmost importance for all that he had to do still, all of the plans he had to set into motion. Oswald also has the creeping feeling that he won’t be leaving anytime, so lighting candles would be useless in the long term. Might as well be comfortable.

Mouth pinching tightly, the limping man exits the trailer in a hurry in order to fulfill his task.

 


 

A single forty watt light bulb brightens the trailers interior, shadows scatter into the borders of the room. Sitting on the blood stained lounge, Oswald grinds his crooked teeth as he pulls off his suits jacket, the stretch pulling at all of the wrong places. It will be quite an endeavor to do this by himself, his hands will not stop shaking. He already came to the conclusion that it will be impossible to stitch the back up himself, well with him not having enough reach quite obviously and the substantial lack of visibility. The list could go on, and on. This whole scenario finally registers as being a complete and utter mess.

While this isn’t the first time that he has been shot, it is the first time that he’s been untreated from a gunshot wound for a prolonged amount of time. There was always someone he could payoff to keep quiet about his injuries, so many men were willing to fill their pockets with the mobs cash. There was a blackmarket doctor at every corner of Gotham it seemed, you just needed to have the right connections. Unfortunately when he was beaten by Fish Mooney he discovered the consequences of avoiding medical treatment, on how much one can suffer from inaction. She had beaten him severely with a baseball bat for his mistake of outing her to the police. It didn’t take much effort for her to break his leg, and now he had to suffer all of the ill effects. It wasn’t that he wanted to let the fracture heal misaligned, but a time sequence had been set in motion.

Both he and Falcone struck a deal on that fateful day. Just a little tradeoff of favors, and an opportunity for new beginnings. He was granted a chance of redemption, to start a new life as Falcone's ears within the territory of Sal Maroni. Time was of great importance, and unfortunately his leg did not take precedence. And while it would have been easy to avoid Ms. Mooney and acquire a much needed bone realignment, Carmine Falcone had issued a warrant for his death in order to keep face with his number two. Snitches had to die, so Oswald had to stay ‘dead’. So that meant that any efforts he would have taken within the city to get treatment would have destroyed his chances of survival. Of his own rise to power.

And he still thanks the heavens that Jim Gordon ended up being the man that he expected. That Jim was a good man, an honest man.

And that had saved his life, but at a steep price.

It was amazing to discover how much a person can suffer just from a break, how much pain he could tolerate in order to pursue his own agenda. The swelling had been a nightmare, and the pain he had to endure if he dared to put weight on his right side was nothing he had ever dealt with before. Agony had become a dear friend, is still a friend on his more torturous days. It had been a struggle to remain completely inactive during the couple of weeks he spent outside of Gotham. There were things he had to accomplish, information that needed to be discovered through whatever means he dared to acquire. While he did attempt to earn a ransom from his hostage during that time, the plan fell through. The kid had been useless, and that meant he didn’t have currency to afford an out of town Orthopedist even if he had wanted to. And without a doubt he had wanted to rid himself of this issue, to take away the pain. But the chance at gaining power was like a sirens song, and he wasn’t invulnerable to its destructive call. So he suffered with his injury in that trailer.

Since that time, Oswald made a promise to himself to seek medical attention for whatever issues came along. But things were complicated as always, and now he is alone in another trailer with a hole in his shoulder. What would have been icing on the cake, was if he had managed to break his leg again.

What a joy that would have been.

Things are not looking well, he won’t even be able to do the bare minimum in self treatment. In fact he wasn’t quite sure he knew enough about this level of damage. Would there be remnants of the bullet since it passed through his shoulder completely? Oswald isn’t sure what kind of repercussions he will be facing if he doesn’t get this checked. The possibility of severe complications doesn’t easily disappear from his mind once it entered. Instead it becomes a tangible reality of what could yet come to be in his near future. Complications could lead to death, and death led to failure. He already lost his mother, he couldn’t fall to a mere shoulder wound. Theo Galavan and his sister still had to pay for what they had done.

Of course there would be muscle’s that were damaged, an operation might be necessary if he didn’t want the wound to become a constant issue. If he is lucky there will not be much damage to his shoulder joint, he doesn’t need to add nerve damage as another one of his deficits. Arterial damage doesn’t seem to be an issue, he would have bled out long ago, but his risk of infection probably skyrocketed as soon as he lost himself in the woods last night. He had been in a feverish haze, exhaustion had to be the main cause, minor blood loss a close second. Laying there didn’t do him any favors aside from a much needed break. Though if he were honest with himself, the state of his dreams were something he does not wish to reflect on. Oswald is thankful that he was wrong about how much blood he would lose during the night, that he didn't die outside in the elements.

He needs to get a feel on the damage, look for supplies and just go from there.

Both fresh and dried blood make his white dress shirt adhere to his grimy skin, a complete waste considering how much he spent on the outfit. Spasmodic hands gently skim around the exit wound, he flinches at the pressure regardless of the careful inspection.

The spindles of doubt etch their presence into his mind, he wants to have someone here helping him consequences be damned. Unfortunately calling Gabe for help was out of the question for now, he truly was alone to patch himself up.

He isn’t sure he can do this.

 


 

Raiding the cabinets and drawers within the trailer proves to be fruitless, he is just making a mess of everything in his desperation to find anything worth his time. The moron he hired had proven useless at doing what he was asked, nothing was here. Medical supplies were non existent, and there were not even enough provisions to sustain himself for a day. The only thing of possible use were a few select weapons in one of the tall cabinets. He should have killed the man slowly and far more cruelly, as a bullet in the head was a mercy. If he knew what he does now, he would have ended it with the serrated blade curled comfortably in his trouser pocket.

It is all useless junk. Everything was absolutely worthless.

He spots a toaster oven on the counter, what is the point of having the damn thing? He feels completely affronted that someone would waste their money on something so impractical. That his money had been spent on garbage. Why is it even here? Was this all a joke? Was he a joke?

The longer he finds himself staring at it, the more irrational he finds himself becoming.

Oswald hobbles over, unplugs it from the outlet and uses his good arm to push it off the smooth tiles of the compact countertop. It does nothing to cool his building outrage and before he knows it, one of the pipes he found earlier is in his hands. He begins yelling in uncontrollable furor as he repeatedly slams the pipe down. Over, and over.

"There is nothing to cook in this!"

The urge to destroy doesn't go away as the door of the toaster throws glass everywhere around him. He keeps swinging.

"There is nothing here!"

Doesn't go away as he destroys the frame completely, the inner contents out in the open now. Blood drips all over the floor as he starts using both arms to bring down the pipe.

"There is nobody here to help me."

Doesn't go away as the heating coils are smashed to bits. Both eyes are watering now, he is in agony.

"I have no friends to go to."

Doesn't go away as knobs start flying, as its racks are dented and deformed. He can't even see what he is doing, eyes overflowing with tears of despair.

"Mother...mother is gone."

Doesn't go away as he changes target, the counter tiles cracking into fragments, the few dishes that were never put away. The wall being smashed in.

"I'm all alone, I'm going to die here."

And that stops him. His chest heaving as he struggles to breath.

Oswald drops the pipe in disgust, and falls to his knees as he sobs uncontrollably.

If anyone was watching, he would seem to have finally gone off the deep end. And they would be right, he is drowning.

Completely alone and sinking down the oceans depths.

 


 

Someone was outside of the trailer, he is sure of it. Red rimmed eyes open blearily, as he forces himself into a higher state of alertness.

After having his breakdown Oswald had drifted into a stupor, the alcohol from the picnic and the growing fires of fever having helped the darkness pull him into its clutches. It was a struggle when he first got here to rise from the comfort of these cushions, and now he finds that he has to get up from the lounge once more. Oswald moans in weariness, in resignation. It is a struggle to stand after all of the damage he inflicted across the trailer, after all of the renewed blood loss.

Oswald doesn’t feel so good, how much more punishment did he need to go through?

If you die, who would even care?

Galavan must be more resourceful than Oswald gave him credit for. No one else knew about this hideout, yet somebody had already found him. Bitterly, he concludes that the limo had been found, it wasn’t as if there were too many places he could hide while injured and on the run. Maybe his lost phone had been tracked, the technology existed, so why wouldn’t Galavan use it? Oswald isn't sure he will be able to hold anyone off in his current state, he can hardly stand as it is. But battle comes whether one is ready or not, so he’ll make do with the time he is given. It is the best he can do considering the circumstances.

Oswald grabs one of the baseball bats from the compact closet he discovered a few hours prior. He had managed to bend the pipe he used before, though it was only a slight change of curvature. But it was enough to imprint him with complete disgust at his lack of self control, it was one of the many visible remnants left over. He finds himself thinking that his hands will become stained with the remnants of his despair and resentment. That he will wither in unseen residual filth if he even touches it for a moment. Besides, he just needs something he could keep his grip on, so why not use another one of the weapons that are available to him. If he is extremely lucky and he swings hard enough, he might be able to incapacitate whoever was roaming around outside. Once someone was down, it was almost too easy to take them out. Although if there are more hitmen outside hiding in the cover of the night he might just topple and fall.

Oswald leans against the wall in anticipation, he is feeling extremely light headed and feverish still. His heartbeat increases substantially as the sound of a crunch can be heard nearby.

All of the puppets were now coming out to play, and one is just outside the door…

A long shadow shifts slowly from the outside of the door’s small grime covered window, a sliver of light shines through eerily. The person is carrying a flashlight, its bluish beam is strong enough to remain visible even inside of the lit room Oswald stood.

Oswald’s thin lips shift into a mirthless grin, he feels a small measure of satisfaction at this lack of subtlety. Whoever was outside had made a big mistake. With one hand being used to hold their obnoxiously bright flashlight, whomever was on the other side of the door only had one available hand to hold him off. If they are amateurs, which he believes to be true, they should be vulnerable targets. Professional killers were a different story, but whoever was sent to take him down is already showing a lack of skill in the stealth department, or they were just that confident on their abilities. He hopes otherwise, especially since they came up on the trailer making as much noise as possible. As if they didn’t have the faintest clue on how to use the darkness to their advantage in stealth.

Oswald smells weakness, but his own is considerable.

Listening closely he finally hears as the person stands in front of the door. He can see as a partially shadow concealed face peers through the window. A few long seconds pass in silence, and then Oswald makes the first move. He quickly takes advantage of the persons close proximity, they were apparently amateurs being so close and obvious. This was already too easy. Lunging from the wall, and with as much force as he can muster, Oswald throws the door open. A surprised yell is still ringing in his ears as a strangely dress man is thrown from the door’s impact. Frantic breathing fill his ears, it is a lullaby that fills his heart. Blue eyes cling desperately to the outline of the person, but Oswald’s vision still wavers for a couple of seconds as he thinks he see’s someone else in the woods. No one is there, just his imagination.

Thankfully the man had been caught off guard, he watches as long fingers scramble across the grass. The mystery man shaking uncontrollably as he feebly attempts to reach his flashlight. Oswald stumbles outside, vertigo washing over him. It is embarrassing how he is barely holding himself up as he raises the steel bat to bash the fools skull in.

Clearly frightened, the man struggles to shove a dirty pair of glasses on his face. When his vision returns, the terrified man takes an extremely loud and startled breath. Clearly he knows whom he is dealing with, good he’ll know who his killer is. Waves of extreme exhaustion and dizziness pull Oswald down to his knees before he can bring his weapon down though. His body is on fire, the fever now consuming him completely. It feels akin to defeat when the bat slips from his fingers, landing on soft ground right beside him. He is once again the weakest of the two, nothing can help him at this point. Getting up by himself is out of the question now that he is down in the dirt. Oswald moans in pain as he rocks back and forth, both arms stretched bare on his knees. Everything is too much.

Breathing had already been a battle due to his previous physical exertion, but now it was near impossible as fear started to claim his heart. Penetrating eyes meet and hold his own when he bothers to look. His usual facade had disappeared and it was impossible to hold back the growing fear from showing on his face, the defeat. Oswald can only stare hazily at the man in front of him until a curious voice breaks the silence.

"Oh, my...Mr. Penguin?"

Oswald is hit with a faint flash of recognition, he has met this man before. Maybe even someplace that wasn’t hidden within the back alleys of Gotham. This man didn’t appear to have the mettle necessary to commit the atrocities necessary in the underworld. But the wheres and hows do not matter much right now, the man might be able to help him. He takes a chance that the man is friendly, it’s all he really can do. He is literally at the man’s mercy. A tremor eases out as he makes his plea, much to his disgust.

"Help me…please."

Heat simmers over his entire body, and then feels like he is suddenly falling. Oswald’s vision blacks out, and his battered body hits the ground. One last thought lingers as his consciousness is snuffed, the smiling face of his dear mother.

‘My sweet little boy…’

And then, that too was gone.

 


 

Oswald waits in the shadows of his dank and dirty cell, he had already tried to get out a long time ago, but the partially rusted bars keep him from going anywhere. Being locked up and left alone had always been a nightmare scenario he dreaded, and now he is truly alone here. The only light comes from the lone florescent bulb just above his shabby prison bed. Beyond the wall of bars there was only a pitch black darkness, the faint light from the bulb does not even penetrate beyond his cell.

Everything is still and quiet.

He is waiting for something, anything to happen. Oswald’s eyes struggle to penetrate in and beyond the abyss, to see anything that wasn't his prison cell. But that is all there is. It is just him, the chipped acrylic of the walls, strong impenetrable bars, and the silent darkness beyond.

Oswald looks at his frail hands, watches in morbid fascination as they begin to wrinkle and age. Years are taken from him in but a short moment. His once near perfect vision begins to blur, the world becomes just a misty haze. The tick of a clock resounds around the room, and his mouth tightens in thinly veiled disgust as his skin starts to rot and slide off in a gristly mess. Now he can see muscle and bone. Something slinks past him in his cell, the bulb begins to flicker erratically. Real fear begins to contort what is left of his face, breath blows across the back of his neck. The devil is back, and now the shadows begin to caresses him lovingly each time the light recedes away, the velvety black lapping at his diseased body. He made a promise, and he didn’t give them enough.

Collection time was coming soon.

The rusty cell door creaks open slowly and Oswald's vision suddenly leaves him completely. He begins to hear the ghosts of his past whisper into his ear, their words overlapping each other in a dramatic crescendo. Their haunting melody is oddly reminiscent to the freezing Atlantic Oceans constant tide, similar to the hypnotic sound of the oceans violently crashing waves breaking heavily over the gritty sands of a private beach mother took him to as a child. Octaves lowered and raised into a song unfamiliar to him, it was both pleasing and terrifying, but never enough of each to make him wary.

It was just a pulsating wave of audial information.

The skin from his body slides off completely in one sickening moment, he is now just a mass of muscle and bones. Nothing seems to bother him quite as much as it should suddenly. He is being consumed by his actions, his past. Soon he won't even be Oswald Cobblepot, he will just become a part of the wave. Dissolve and become a part of the black depths.

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

Oswald’s bones are all that remain now. Without much feeling he supposes that the prison guards will be quite unhappy at the mess his corpse has made. But what they don’t know is that they will one day soon become one with the wave themselves. Unless that is, that he’s the only one in the building wave. Perhaps he will end up alone when his bones crumble into dust, no one else bothering to join him in this matrimony with death.

I don’t want to be alone! Why am I always the only one who ends up alone…

Does he want to be alone with only the sad memories of his past, no one their at his last moments, with no one left to love him? No one has ever loved him except his precious mother. And she is now long gone because the shadows took her, and they just left him to become what he fears. Something that he tried to hide because mother was afraid of what was lying dormant deep inside of him. She isn’t here to tether him any longer though, and now he is changing.

He begins to become angry. Why is he always left behind, always left alone? No one cares that he is falling apart, that he will soon be gone. No one wants him. He is useless and weak, is always holding people back and making them pity him. Oh, he is positive that they wouldn’t remember him for long, because he has never left a lasting impression beyond being the weird little bird man. Just another fool attempting to take what he can’t have. He had been lucky to get so far, it was only a matter of time before everything would fall apart. And he is definitely falling apart.

Tick, tock, tick, tock. The clock is ticking, and it’s almost time for the curtain to open.

He doesn't want to be alone.
He wants to be with someone.
He wants to fall in love.
He wants to be loved.

His bones are no longer in the cell anymore, instead Oswald finds himself completely whole and standing in a large prairie. The sun shines brightly, and the tall grasses writher in anticipation. With bated breath, Oswald notices a presence suddenly. Now there is a lone figure in the field besides himself. The man stands aside Oswald shoulder to shoulder, his black suit identical to Oswald’s own. Turning fully towards the strange character, he gasps in terror. The man doesn’t have a face, instead there are only the sharp hands of a clock. They begin to spin rapidly.

Round and round they go.

The man is grabbing a hold of him now, Oswald tries to pull away, but the grip is much too strong. He wants to scream, beg for help. But no one is here, no one is here!

‘Someone, please help me!’

Spinning faster the clock hands begin to deform into something else, and with growing despair Oswald’s struggles cease as he is finally released from the crushing grip. The stranger is gone, and now the world is being swallowed whole by an unnatural and destructive force. Oswald begins to race as quickly as he can through the prairie, but in just a short moment he is sucked into the vortex and spiraled out of existence.

Oswald is suddenly waking, startled and gasping in confusion. Heavy lidded eyes dart wildly around.

Where am I?

He isn't alone, as a tall spectacled man in a gaudy cardigan and dress slacks approaches him, his intent unknown. It takes just a second for something to click in his mind that this is the same man he asked for help in the woods. But the way he approaches makes him uncomfortable, vulnerable. As if he is prey about to be eaten up.

What if he tries to kill me?

He panics, and beings to beg for his life as he attempts to leave the comfort of the strange bed he currently rests on. Fighting back ends up useless as strong arms hold him down, a thin needle pricks into the side of Oswald’s pale neck. Groaning in discomfort at being forced down and drugged, the broken man’s eyelids flutter frantically in his unrestrained terror. It takes a few mere seconds before he is thrown back into unconsciousness once more.

Chapter Text

Jim's hands grab desperately onto the back of Oswald’s head, his blunt nails running through short raven locks. Darkened eyes stay locked on his own as Jim slowly pulls the smaller man’s parted mouth closer. Their bodies are heating into an uncontrollable fire as the anticipation builds between them, the animalistic need of sensation and greedy fulfillment. The head of Jim's cock brushes against soft pale flesh, a trail of precum is left behind on one of Oswald's heated cheeks. Jim can barely keep his eyes away from the filthy scene the man made, nothing could pull him away from this ferocious desire to take.

"Come on Jim, don't you want to fuck my mouth. Put me in my place?"

A firm hand grabs onto Jim's dick, and he can't help but groan as he is stroked slowly through a couple of tight pumps. It feels glorious to piston between those warm fingers, but how much better would it be to push into Oswald’s hot mouth?

"Does Leslie know how big of a whore you are? How you have someone to fuck on the side?"

"Shut your mouth, Cobblepot.” Jim snarls, his face contorting with rage. He should stop, but his hips continue bucking in insatiable need. Oswald’s eyebrow raises as he shows his faint displeasure and the budding seedlings of doubt at the seething response, but they are both quickly masked as a dark and toothy grin spreads across his tongue moistened lips. Jim licks his own in response to the troubling man’s mixed show of reactions, and his cock twitches impatiently as Oswald continued his ministrations with predatory intent. Irritation deflating steadily, Jim darts his eyes away from the impeccably dressed man. He has always been too much. They should have been avoiding the pull which has dragged them closer, and deeper into the others life.

“I enjoy how easy it is to rile you up, Jim. How you take what you really want, morals be damned.”

Deft hands now explore languidly across Jim’s exposed body, teasing him superbly. Jim holds back a low moan as cool fingers brush across his lower spine and then down to grab at Jim’s tight ass greedily. Oswald is right once again, Jim is too easy to predict and control. A puppet in the other man’s seeking hands, Jim wants to pretend that it isn’t true. He stares blankly at the wall to his right and stiffly asks, “And what do I want?”

Oswald sighs dramatically when he doesn’t get the reaction he was looking for, his breath ghosting across the head of Jim’s cock, his nails dragging slowly down the back of Jim’s thighs. Pain zaps along his spine as Oswald pinches him unexpectedly. Surprised, Jim’s eyes dart quickly back to the other man’s upturned face. Oswald stares back, his countenance calculating and seething with anger. Jim watches the man mournfully, hungrily.

“Me. You want me.”

Jim’s fingers slide easily through the man’s disheveled hair, his blunt nails scraping softly against skin. Conflicted blue eyes hood, and pink lips part in pleasure at the offering of pure sensation. A distraction from the unsaid question lingering on Jim’s tongue. Leaning over, Jim pulls Oswald into a needy kiss. Their noses bump together, and Jim nips deviously at Oswald’s lower lip as it becomes wet with their shared saliva. Oswald moans lecherously in response, his free hands digging its nails into the flesh of Jim’s bare hip.

Loathing constricts heavily against Jim’s chest as Oswald melts at his touch. He makes his own choices, and he sticks with them both good or bad. Yet, the impulse to jump into these deep waters with Oswald was an inescapable self destruction. Lee would never forgive his willing unfaithfulness, this insatiable need to ruin their relationship and throw it down the drain. Jim pulls away from the other man, his mouth wet and slick.

"Jim..."

What he is doing would be heart breaking for everyone involved, he couldn't fool himself into thinking that Oswald wouldn't feel something in all of this either. Too many individuals had their happiness riding on Jim’s current actions. He wants to stop, he has to stop. But he also wants to be greedy, he wants to take and take from this man. Both of them were so wrapped up in each other, their constant consumption of the others misery had been bound to become a twisted reversal. Something necessary to feed their outstandingly insatiable need of relevancy. Fate should have forced them back to continuously circling around the other, reaching but never quite touching. Walls had been created on Jim’s side, but they had crumbled with just a single touch. This could destroy them both, fill them with more anger and disappointment.

But consequences are not enough to stop Jim’s body from responding to the words and enticing touches from moments prior, to the promise of release by deft hands and a willing mouth. They have been on replay, teasing the side of Jim that he tries to hide. His body is greedy for Oswald’s attention, for his touch. Everything about this is self destructive, and it gives him a thrill. Jim wants to coil around and consume the destructive force that is Oswald Cobblepot.

“For the love of God, touch me.”

Oswald's eyes shine with excitement as he begins to touch Jim once more. He could get used to this. The pleasure builds continuously as Oswald's jacks him off slowly, his hands twisting lightly across the head of his cock occasionally. They are more experienced at giving pleasure than Jim had imagined, almost familiar in the way they touched him.

"What's keeping you here with me, Jim? Are you not letting off enough steam at home, things not going well with Lee? I guess that I should be flattered that you thought of me, especially since we are such great friends."

Jim shouldn't be doing this, the words keep hitting him too close to home for multiple reasons. That he was a liar and a cheater, that he shouldn’t be here right now. Oswald's bitterness was beginning to drip through every spoken word, self loathing and jealousy visible on the man’s upturned face which he is quick to mask with cold indifference. But it isn’t fast enough to fool Jim, this wasn’t right. He isn’t even sure Oswald wants to do this, if he wants to be used this way. If he would settle for being Jim’s second option for a night.

Jim starts to pull away, he doesn't get far as a single strong hand pulls his retreating hips closer. Oswald’s other hand continues to pleasure Jim, and the pressure on his hip turns bruising. Jim wants to keep himself from continuing with this mistake, to get away from the fact he would rather cheat on the woman he loves, with a man whom he is supposed to hate. A man who doesn’t deserve this sort of treatment, a man deserving something better than being a stress outlet. The itch that Jim can’t seem to scratch, the person who throws him into a whirlwind of hate and confusion. Someone who understood him.

"We can't do this, I can't..."

Jim's thoughts trail off as Oswald rubs parted lips across his engorged cock, his soft bottom lip catching on the reddened tip. Jim swallows slowly as lust consumes him, his eyes almost black with want. Heat spreads like wildfire from his groin, up to his chest and further to his neck. Voice velvety smooth and deep, the next utterance from Oswald is like a sultry whisper in his ear.

"I know what you want, Jim. You just need to let go and use me. Consider this a small favor from a good friend, something I’ll do only for you.”

He wants to wreck that mouth, show Oswald how much he hates hearing him speak sometimes. All of the time. Jim wants to scream in agitation, he could no longer tolerate hearing Oswald's continuous offer of friendship, his assumptions that this was how friendship worked normally. They were anything but friends, they were just using and hurting each other. They may understand each other, but it didn’t go much further beyond that, did it? Jim hates what the man wants them to become, what they might already be. He doesn’t want to hurt the man, but he needs to see how far he has to stretch their combined reality so that he may see the truth.

“You don’t know the first thing about what I want, Oswald. Our whole relationship is based on favors, hell, we aren’t even friends. You’re just using me, just like I have been using you.”

Oswald’s wet lips turn in distaste and exasperation, his eyes hardening with indignation. He knows that Jim is just putting up another wall between them, one last defense to hurdle over. They stare each other down, the tension and denial robbing them of their usual witty remarks. Oswald looks away first, a dissatisfied sigh escaping his pretty little mouth. With harsh strokes he continues to touch Jim nonetheless, his teeth sinking deeply into his bottom lip. A rough laugh creeps from Jim’s throat as he delights at the petty slight, on how completely petulant Oswald was.

“You say that, but you have to be in complete denial to not realize the truth of the matter. There is something between us, something deeper than our mutual carnal desires, something more than the growing number of favors. But alas, I wouldn't want to tarnish your reputation with an actual friendship, Jim. Perhaps I should just leave, and do us both a favor? I know you have to get back to Lee sometime tonight, I doubt you want to keep her waiting all night.”

Jim just wants Oswald to shut the fuck up and stay out of his head for a while. He doesn't want to think about what their relationship is, how Lee is waiting for him at home, on how little he cares about his police reputation. So he'll make things simple, and give in. He wants that slick mouth on him, teasing him until he can no longer worry about anything other than the pleasure between them.

“You are the only one with delusions on what our relationship is, on what it could become. I know what the truth is, and I know what I want from you. So just stay where you are, please.”

Strong fingers pull Oswald's short hair taut, Jim’s body tenses as it anticipates the chance of further pleasure. He knows that Oswald is more than willing to accept his request, his plea to stay and to understand what Jim is not saying. A knowing smile blossoms over Oswald's face, and his eyes glint wickedly in the light.

"My, my...you are such a delight. Always so demanding aren’t you, Jim? I guess that I could stay for now.”

Oswald stops stroking him completely and holds Jim's hard cock steady as the man’s deviously clever tongue runs a broad wet path from the shaft, and up. Jim's toes curl in pleasure as he is sucked into that hot mouth when Oswald reaches the tip after the agonizingly long lick. Lips tighten deliciously over the head of Jim’s cock as Oswald’s head bobs at a leisurely pace, the man’s tongue pressing slickly against the slit every few passes. Long fingers dig sharply into Jim’s hip, as he moans immodestly at the slick sounds coming from their intimate contact.

Their eyes remain locked as Oswald hums obscenely around Jim’s throbbing dick. The hand which had been pumping Jim just a moment ago now cups Oswald’s own straining erection through tight black trousers. Jim wants to do obscene things to the other man, make him pant and moan in pleasure. But he’ll be satisfied with this for now.

Oswald’s hot mouth suctions just right as he takes Jim all the way down suddenly, Jim can’t help but bite his lip painfully as he holds back a pathetically needy whimper. The smaller man’s prominent nose presses tightly against blonde curls, the feeling of his deep excited breaths almost taking Jim past the boiling point. His knees lock as he becomes dizzy with desire. He wants more, so much more.

“Like that, fuck.”

Jim’s head rolls back as Oswald takes him in deeply again, a loud groan escapes his now openly panting mouth as he loses himself to the feeling. The more animalistic part of his psyche takes over, as Oswald whimpers around Jim’s cock after a few more slick passes. Snarling in unrestrained lust, Jim roughly holds Oswald's head in place as he pulls his cock out only to force his way back into the man’s offering mouth. Both of Oswald's hands quickly take a hold and squeeze onto Jim's pistoning hips. That deliciously hot mouth becomes lax as its owner lets himself be used. Jim could become addicted to the wet sounds filling the room, the harsh breathing coming from Oswald as Jim takes what he wants.

"Look at you, taking my cock like a good little bitch. I bet you love sucking on my big cock, you look so sexy on your knees just for me.”

Saliva is dripping from stretched lips and down Oswald's chin, his long eyelashes flutter in unreserved ecstasy and his breathing is harsh against Jim’s flesh. Fascinated, Jim watches raptly at the subtle stretching of that long pale neck as Oswald is forced to deep throat Jim like a cheap whore. Jim’s hips piston more harshly the longer he watches the continuous exit and reentry into Oswald’s red and puffy mouth, his fingers tighten as he begins to near the pinnacle of pleasure. He wants Oswald to feel him for weeks. He wants the man to swallow him down and think of nothing else when he touches himself for now on. He wants Oswald to beg for Jim to use him, to fuck his mouth open wide. He wants more.

“Fuck, you feel so good. I wonder if your ass feels as good as your tight mouth. Do you want me to come deep inside of you, Oswald? Do you want to be worked open and fucked until you are a loose mess? Or, how would you like it if I just sucked you off? Just like how you are taking me right now?”

Jim finds it hard to look away from the sight of his cock pushing in and out of Oswald’s wet mouth. Lightly he brushes the tip of his thumb against the outline of his shaft through the flesh of Oswald's cheek as he slows his thrusts to a less punishing pace. Puffs of breath heat him as Oswald becomes used to the easier pace. Eager hands run reverently up and down Jim’s flexing body, the touches teasing and demanding. The smaller man moans around Jim’s cock, the vibrations pushing him close to the edge. Jim brushes unruly hair from the man’s forehead as a sigh escapes his parted lips, he wants to fuck into Oswald’s mouth for hours. Just like this, again and again.

“Oswald…”

Black eyelashes flutter rapidly, catching Jim's undivided attention. Oswald is completely wrecked, his face red from exertion and his own body's consuming lust. The man has his pants undone, one of his hands stroking quickly at his own arousal. He is beautiful in this state of disarray, his hair wild, him mouth stretched tight and filled with cock, the groans of pleasure and the urgency in which he touched himself. Oswald moans helplessly as he begins to squirm deliciously, his hips pounding into the grip of his hand. He is about to come, and this observation seems to be what Jim needed to set himself off, because his balls are tightening and his thrusting suddenly becomes erratic. He is going to release inside of Oswald’s slick and abused mouth. His eyes close, the image of Oswald disappearing completely. He is about to be thrown over the edge, and he only has a moment to mention his impending release.
"I'm going to c--!"

The whole world seems to shift, and Jim’s eyes fly open in both confusion and ecstasy as he finishes his warning. He is already too far gone, his body thrusting into wet heat.

"-um!"

His hands are both holding on for dear life, fingers curled in long raven locks as he releases into Leslie's waiting and familiar mouth. Jim's back arches off their bed as she sucks him dry, he moans loudly as he comes down from his body high in a daze. This wasn’t what he was expecting.

His gaze goes from the white popcorn ceiling, and then down to Leslie whom is giving him a sly smirk. Her bruised mouth parts and Jim can tell she is talking, but he can't process anything she is saying.

What just happened?

Jim scrunches his eyes closed, he feels like he is going to throw up. If he could, he thinks he would just curl up and die in the bed covers. Everything had been so vivid, yet it was all a dream. That’s right, it was just a dream. He should be thankful, all of it was a very realistic dream, he didn’t do anything to betray his girlfriend. He didn’t touch Oswald, he didn’t do anything wrong. He hasn’t even looked at him, or touched him inappropriately in his life. Hell, Oswald’s mother had just died. And not only that, but the man was injured and was currently being hunted by the police.

But…

Self loathing came easily to him, but this was a whole different level. He may not have cheated on Leslie in real life, but it felt like it. He needed to think about this, get away from here and just think. He had never even considered using Oswald for anything other than his connections in the underworld, aside from a few passing moments of weakness before he became involved with Lee. But those were blurs, just a small trickle of thought. Even when it was basically gift wrapped, with a bow and all, he didn’t even consider accepting the man’s declaration of real friendship or his more obvious infatuation. Jim feels like he has just been thrown into a bath full of ice water, this wasn’t something that he wanted, right?

He feels dirty.

Which is the reason he scrambles off the bed, Leslie’s sweet voice rolling at his bare back.

How fucked up can I get? What is wrong with me?

He needs to leave, get some fresh air.

Jim aggressively opens the bedroom door, the handle rattling in his shaking hands. He heads to the bathroom in a rush, his body tensing as he flicks on the light. His clothes from yesterday are still in the laundry basket when he enters, he sighs in relief at the sight. Jim wrestles himself into his suit and dress shirt, some of the buttons remaining undone as he quickly tries to piece himself together. Struggling with his pants for a moment, Jim begins to feel the dark tendrils of anxiety wash through him. Attempting to ignore his dissipating composure, he laments on how his trousers could use some starch and an ironing. Unfortunately, the wrinkles will have to do. He needs to get out.

Jim looks uneasily at himself in the mirror for a moment, his eyes wild and his hair in complete disorder, and then he tries to make a quick escape to the front door. In the background of his mind, Jim can hear Lee calling out to him. But he can’t do this right now, he needs to get away. He needs to think.

He shouldn’t have come back last night, he should have gone back to his own apartment. Too much had happened during the night, the attack on Galavan’s mayoral celebration was obviously eating at him even when he arrived.

Most of the night Jim stared at the dark ceiling as he contemplated his feelings about Cobblepot’s obvious trauma. On what the man’s next possible moves could be, on where the man could be hiding. If he would survive his injury, or if Jim would be called in to a scene where the man’s bloody corpse lay coldly. So Jim had been thinking about the man exclusively, obsessively even. It wasn’t until he began to think about his own complicated hatred and acceptance of their strained partnership, that Jim was able to fall asleep. He had dreamt of the man sometimes sure, but it was usually a dark flurry of pictures. Of heated arguments, and of their fateful meeting. He dreamt of what would it had been like to put the bullet in the man’s head, on if he should have left the man to die when Maroni was storming the hospital. But this was a first, his dreams had vaguely started with his unusual first meeting with Ms. Kapelput, and then deteriorated from there.

Only his dreams bastardized, and corrupted whatever views he had on his peculiar relationship with the vengeful man. The fact that Lee had decided to touch him while he lay asleep may have triggered the unusual dream, especially since his thoughts had been plagued by the other man’s continued reemergence into Jim’s life.

The door slams behind him, and Jim quickens his pace down the hall towards the elevator and emergency staircase. His body feels like it doesn’t belong, that something was shaken out of place. Jim presses the button to the elevator, he stands impatiently waiting for it to rise to his floor. Only a few seconds pass before he can’t stand the wait, he taps the button a few more times, hoping the elevator would rise faster. Jim’s breathing becomes erratic as he hawkishly watches the number above the door rise floors.

Couldn’t this damn thing go faster?

Behind him, Jim listens as someone begins to approach quickly from down the hall. He turns his head swiftly, and snarls like a wounded animal when he makes eye contact with Lee. Her mouth is moving, but Jim isn’t hearing her words. They all stream into a single sound that rings eerily in his head. Jim’s fingers press desperately at the button, hoping that she won’t reach him in time. But she keeps getting closer, and he can’t have that. She doesn’t need to see him like this, Lee shouldn’t have to deal with another one his many problems.

He didn’t want to fight about his involvement during the night, on how he didn’t want to pull the trigger on a murderer like Cobblepot. How he didn’t want to put a stop to a man who was trying to kill a supposedly innocent man, the new and already beloved mayor of Gotham. But Jim had discovered the truth revolving around Galavan’s landslide win, on his lack of competitors. Apparently Galavan had his hands deep in the candidate murders around the city, the conspirer of the sickening slaughter. The man’s had also planned the unnecessary abduction and murder of an innocent citizen of Gotham. The mother of the underworld’s current leader, a man who would play the perfect scapegoat and hitman in order to release his precious mother. But even that knowledge shouldn’t have stopped Jim from ending the dangerous man, but his heart sang in sorrow at the man’s misery. The fresh tears tore cleanly through Jim’s built up walls. He couldn’t tell Lee about his reasonings, she wouldn’t understand. He didn’t even know all of his motivations, so how could she?

It would have been easy to kill Cobblepot last night, especially since it may have become necessary in order to keep the man cowering behind him alive. But killing Cobblepot even out of necessity would have left him empty inside. He had saved the man, he wouldn’t be the one to kill him, he wouldn’t pull the trigger. There was too much history between them, to many unsaid complications regarding what was going on between them. Too many secrets, and now one more to go left unsaid between them.

Lee is only a few meters away now, the worry on her face punching the wind out of Jim. He wants to be held in her arms, wants to let out everything. But he can’t, it is too much.

She deserves better, I need to do better…

In a dramatic rush of scrambling arms and legs, Jim throws open the door to the emergency stairwell. Heart thumping erratically in his chest, he runs down the steps like a rabbit being chased. On the last few steps leading to the promise of sanctuary, Jim takes a brief moment to look up. Lee hadn’t followed him down. Jim would be pleased, but his gut turns completely. She could already be waiting for him, the elevator was about to open so she may have already made it to the bottom. Sweat runs down Jim’s face, and his hands are clammy as he attempts to wipe away the growing number of beads away. His breath comes in short puffs, and his hands shake as they once again rest at his side. He just wanted to think, to get away and collect himself. He would apologize to Lee when he arrived home later, he could explain away all of this.

Jim opens the heavy door leading to the apartment buildings main floor and steps out. He is completely alone, and this he thinks is just fine. With long strides, Jim walks down the lobby and pushes his way through the double doored entrance. Faint rays of sunlight penetrate through the large masses of clouds overhead, the light agitates his sleep deprived eyes. Taking deep controlled breaths bitter early winter air helps ease an infinitesimal amount of the barbarous heat engulfing Jim. His hands still continue to shake, and his legs are taut with nervous energy.

I will be fine, everything is going to work itself out. It was all just a dream and I’m just a little spooked is all. Lee will understand. She has to understand.

People walk with purpose down the long sidewalks, not one spares even a cursory glance at the disheveled man with haunted eyes and unruly hair. Perfect anonymity, a ghost in the throng of Gotham’s masses.

Jim continues to shake as he walks to the parking garage.

He’ll be just fine.

Chapter Text

Twitching in agitation, long fingers pull loose the overly tightened fabric across the man’s neck. It wasn’t long ago that it wouldn’t have bothered him, but he was sweltering. Even with the winter breeze, a sheen of sweat wet his furrowed brow. It had been several minutes since his leg fell asleep, but he was content sitting on the bench. Exhaustion made him irritable, and the exposure outside made him feel sickly. But there was more trouble inside of his mind, both minor and major worries which manifested in periodic vulgar assaults from within. Self pity and bewitching sorrow was eating through his sanity. Long lashes, party balloons and confetti, fallen men, and the hum of his current lovers voice streak through his imagination. Sleep was no longer a want, it was a necessity. Release from his rapidly evolving reality. Was his life especially difficult, or was all of this normal?

Why is this city filled with endless torment? Was there any possibility of saving it?

Tired dopey eyes flicker over the countless individuals walking by. Even at this park there was such wondrous diversity. People from all over the world, confined in such a tightly grouped area, all of them having their own all encompassing lives. Everyone had things to look forward to, things they sought, problems they manage to conquer. Yet there is so much hostility, so many people being deceived by what Gotham has to offer, so many hopes and dreams snuffed out by ignorance, selfishness, and through the outstanding number of chaotic figures talking pleasure in impulsive destruction. Madness had gangling claws embedded throughout the city.

His eyes linger on a young couple holding hands, their smiles wide and vibrant. How long before their smiles turned into snarls of disgust? How long before they fell out of love? When do they figure out they are wasting time, that all of their moments together was for nothing? He still loves Lee, but he was pulling her to a dark world, just like Barbara. Jim averts his eyes as they look his way in curiosity, he had been blatantly staring. They continue on their way, their pace filled with more purpose. Their eyes filled fresh with pity. Jim wouldn’t want to be around such a pitiful sight such as himself either. When did he become this fucked up, where did his hope wander to? Why was all of this shit so complicated?

Jim's stomach protests loudly, startling him from his reverie. He should leave, but he would rather continue to sit in self loathing.

Several old women gather nearby to feed a small group of geese. It wouldn’t be too much longer before the flock departed to warmer grounds, winter was now in command. Heated breathe escapes his mouth as he slouches forward, both arms hanging uselessly on his knees. Jim sighs as a heavy breeze makes the women retreat for warmer shelter, their heavy coats pulled tightly over their heat deprived bodies. The geese depart in a loud squawk, thick feathers dispersing randomly across the grass. Jim wants to fly with them, escape his morbid life. Leave behind his skin in metamorphoses.

Now he is finally alone, the cold keeping prying eyes away for several minutes. Pinching skin between his fingers, Jim clamps onto the shiver of pain that cascades up his hand. He feels hot all over, but his mind is both blank and cold. The pain gives an edge, but he still hasn’t come back to himself. He's stuck in a limbo inside of his misconstrued mind. Blue eyes beckoning him towards carnal fantasies and an ocean of coagulating blood.

Objectivity was what he wanted to keep, but the dream last night had forcefully blended his resolve into a horrid concoction. He would have rather of dreamt of his fellow officers, at least their empty eyes would have been less of an intrusion to his dreams. The snitch should have died, Jim should have given in and unloaded a bullet into his brain. Screw his humanity, at least he wouldn’t be haunted by the issues of his morality, he would know what cheap trash he was. There wouldn’t be a need for his conscience, he would be just like every other dirty cop. There wouldn’t have ever been a situation regarding Galavan, he would have endorsed him just for the hell of it at that point regardlessly. Harvey told him to ice the scumbag, but he made a judgement call, and now it was biting him on the ass. Real life issues aside, this mess that Cobblepot created wouldn’t be nearly as chilling if Jim had refused to see the man underneath.

He knew he was compromised during the shooting of the ceremony, but now he knew he was completely smitten with bad choices. Overtaken by desire, by selfishness. Never was he happy with what he had, he instead has taken advantage of every opportunity presented. Slowly twisting it to fit his own need, never really looking to please others unless it fit his own agenda. So many people openly regarded him with trust and love, but Jim just took their faith and crumpled it with his own hands. Molding them into his own vision, until they fit his imagined scenes. Everyone had a role, and within his personal life he would compare him to a conductor.

Ring, Ring, Ring.

Vibrations from within his pocket caress his thigh. A gruff voice greets him over the line, Harvey’s whiskey laced words drenching him. Jim looks at his wristwatch, it is still early. He doesn’t have to be at the station for possibly another hour or so.

“What do you want, Harvey?”

Jim isn’t sure he can take the possible coddling over the events from last night.

“Jimbo, we need you to come in. Barnes is losing his fucking mind over here.”

Jim sits up straighter on the bench, his focus zeroing in on the silence over the line. He takes in a breath, and finally responds.

“I’ll be there.”

The line goes dead. It’s time for him to go.

High in a tree, beady black eyes watch as Jim crosses through the park.


 

Lee is frantic, her dark eyes wide as she urges Jim to step away from the whole Galavan fiasco. Jim stands in rigid aggravation through their openly displayed argument beside the GCPD’s holding cell. She wants him to listen to Barnes and keep away. Jim was becoming too involved, and she knew he was falling deep inside the void. She has seen what it is doing to them, how everything is changing. Jim knows she is clinging on, trying to understand. But he knows that after he ran out on her, things would no longer be fine. If only she knew how miserable this was making him, if she could understand what he is hiding so desperately. This incomprehensible desire, the stinging waves of unease at where they will lead. He wants to feed on misery, and he wants to conquer this growing madness. He needs control.

“I know that look in your eye. Jim, be cool do not make this personal.”

Jim’s lips purse in distaste. He wants to pull his hair out in disbelief. Will no one listen to what he has to say, has everyone lost their damn minds? Why would Lee take Barnes side? Someone has to take a stand up to this dangerous man before he devastated the city with sin. Galavan is a dirty criminal, a menace to Gotham’s people and future. He desperately needs to be put down. There are disappearing leads out there, but no one wants to pursue Gotham’s new mayor. The way was cleared conveniently for his place in office, but no one from the GCPD aside from Harvey wants to believe the truth.

Will nobody take Jim’s possible lead of Gertrude Kapelput’s murder seriously? It’s as if there was no way Galavan could be pinned to her murder. Everyone already assumed that there was nothing solid, nothing absolute. Yet wasn’t there a chance to prove of his involvement, some damning evidence they could find? How the hell will they know nothing exists if they won’t even look?

He already has witnesses. Barnes insists that criminals would have no issue with lying about such dark circumstances, their words and actions dripping with sad little lies as they attempt to gain the upper hand. As they attempt to gain more power. Deceived, he has been deceived many times, has misjudged peoples intentions before. But this was powerful, Jim has never seen such raw emotion from Cobblepot before, it was completely heartbreaking and honest. He now knows how Cobblepot sounds in absolute grief. He has seen Cobblepot’s tear soaked countenance; watery eyes pleading for Jim to move out of the way. Jim has watched the man’s blood blossom from an unknown assassins bullet, a bullet meant to kill. Leave no witnesses, leave the perfect scapegoat. Jim has heard the frenzied reveal from Butch as he sat handcuffed in a restaurants parlor, how he didn’t know they would do it. How the woman was now gone, they just haven’t discovered her body yet. Someone has to avenge the poor woman’s unnecessary death, lock Galavan up and throw away the key. It just seems that Barnes believes that taking a criminals word was similar to spreading a disease throughout the city knowingly. Devastatingly vile, completely revolting, and absolutely unbelievable. But even murderer’s speak words of truth.

Jim would make them believe that there was something out there. Truthfully though, he doesn’t even know where to begin, he needs Cobblepot’s testimony. He needs a location, he needs to find the missing link. Jim needs the snitch, if the man is still alive. There was so much blood though, what if it’s already too late?

Grinding his teeth, Jim hisses a response to Lee's worrying.

“Well it is personal, isn’t it?”

Every second that ticks by shows how personal it has all become. He knows what Galavan has done, what lengths he will make in order to have power within Gotham. Galavan’s mask was painted on, but its soft oily layers were rubbing away. Now he could see through it, he could see the hideous thing underneath. Jim had his own proof, his own experience within all of this. The man’s urging for public approval, his ego boosting words, the two timing lies, the growing body count. Jim has heard the whispers on the street, a place where the truth continually unravels.

“Only if you make it that way.”

Hurt, confusion, and fear from the night before carries into each syllable uttered by her. Lee is right, Jim knows as much. Yet, his idiotic pride keeps him from openly agreeing with her. He still hasn’t explained why he ran out on her. Her insecurities on his unsaid intentions seeping through. Jim wants to pretend nothing ever happened, keep the truth concealed for now. There still may be a chance to fix all of this, but haunted eyes have already penetrated his resolve. Voracious wants, tempting chances for release of his own base carnalities. Jim is starting to doubt his intentions, his damning desires. Feathery hair laying in disarray, and swollen lips flash behind his eyelids as he blinks the crystal clear images away angrily. What’s keeping you here with me, Jim? Jim looks away from Lee’s penetrating gaze, a sour feeling spoiling in his gut. She deserves better.

Watching with dismal interest, a sudden commotion catches his attention. The sharp intake of breath comes before normal rational thought.

She's here.

Long tresses of golden hair bounce in time with the click of advancing footfalls. Every sound of impact brings Jim nearer to a dreadful clarity. Barbara was here at the GCPD. The woman he had planned to marry, had promised to protect, the woman he had left behind was here. Barbara who had willingly murdered her own parents while under the wings of a serial killer. The once lover who had turned into a confusing stranger, someone who had willingly joined the continuous war of crime. A woman now on a side opposite of his own. Barbara whom had become a part of Gotham's near innumerable crime population. She was a beautiful woman using her arsenal to tear the world apart into shreds. A woman wanted by the law, someone who had to pay for the crimes she committed, for the ones she planned to commit.

Why is she here? How can she just waltz in, with the whole of Gotham's police force watching her with ravenous fury and disgust? Several officers stand it alarm, their guns quickly drawn as everyone whirls in frantic action. A lewd smile morphs Barbara’s stunning features as she catches his eyes, her teeth flash menacingly for a moment. Jim’s stomach plummets with dread as he feels the residual arousal she used to invoke. The bitterness of acid reaches his tongue, he wants to barf. He feels like an animal pinned to the ground.

Slender arms go up in a mockery of surrender, black gloved fingers twitching in glee. Jim looks back at Lee in bewilderment, her own expressive eyes showing distaste at Barbara’s untimely appearance. Stiffly he makes his way between the desks of the GCPD, the force of Lee’s glare itching between his shoulder blades.

“Hi, Jim.”

With growing unease Jim waves a group of officers to lower their weapons. He will have to deal with this exquisite stranger, play her games and listen to her twisted words.

“Long time no see.”

Devilish carnal glee scorching the very earth she stood upon. Where had all of this strength come from, this complete change from within? He had let her down, watched as she drowned in the misery of their shared life together. She had struggled with the horror of his life, yet now she embraced what it embodied. There was so much power radiating from her, confidence that she didn’t once have. Did she always have this lurking darkness within, did he smother out her once radiant light? Was Lee going to become like Barbara? Is his selfishness going to roughly push her down a dark corridor? Jim yearns for it not to be true. Lee is determined and will plow through just about any situation. He has to believe he isn’t the reason for Barbara’s continued path, and the possible downward spiral of the woman he currently loved.

Jim prays for the strength to press forward as he wanders shrouded by overwhelming bleakness, right into his former lovers meticulous plans. A needle pumping into his neck.


 

The day runs like a watery stain over Jim's exhausted and slowly awakening consciousness, colors turning muddy as everything blends together. The building spirals like a merry-go-round, sweeping peeks and perilous ledges bending ceaselessly, contorted into obscurity as it all spins. Beady eyes blink slowly from above, waiting for the upcoming judgement. They are completely hypnotic, utterly alien and unnaturally focused. Black feathered plumes slick and oily merge into the rafters endlessly deep shadows. An alter of candles and lit flames flicker and lick the air, preparing to gorge on the feast. Light bends and casts ominous shadows across the mutating environment, broken wings flutter overhead and cast jagged and jittery mockeries of their avian counterparts.

An airy sound rings similar to a fragile porcelain bell, it catches and contains his scattered focus. A laugh, his mind supplies. It is mesmerizing; important. Jim squints as a lone woman becomes the focal point of his dissolving and revolving world. Long curled tresses of blonde, royal navy eyes, and a dress of pearl white material. Ethereal, but not unfamiliar. Bells ring through the dark expanse, long shadows converge as the figure is enveloped and removed from existence.

It remains silent, the bell broken. Overhead a black cross looms in accusation, and glass figures point in disgust. Jim begins to slowly fade in and out of existence. He wants to be taken and become a figment of the past.

They'll take him, he is sure.

Drugged eyes roll up and gaze contemplatively at the ruby red of the stained glass below the roosting creatures in the rafters above. The apostles illuminate and pulsate eagerly, flames reflect across the large expanse of church windows. Shadows bristle in agitation as the light tries to penetrate them from below.

Slick black wings flutter spasmodically as one of the creatures escape the dark rafters overhead. Its disfigured body contorts sickeningly as fragile bones snap and crack ominously while it descends onto the elegant tiles of the monastery. Jim moans weakly as the alters candle light is extinguished one by one, until only a single glowing light remained next to the crude cross.

The dim light creates an ethereal aura around the looming creature from behind, it's massive black wings set ablaze in flickering reds and yellows. They begin twitching erratically with barely suppressed violent energy as they expand across the room, it is but a moment in time before they begin to fall apart. Feathers fall like snow and litter the floor until only the skeletal frame remains. But even those porcelain white bones crumble quickly and scatter over the nest of feathers. The creature lets out a disturbingly amused cackle as its hunched back snaps and pops sickeningly as it breaks and elongates into a different form. The creature blinks in and out of the realm of existence, swallowed by the shadows as the lone candle flickered in and out of life.

Bells sound from behind, and squawking echoes across the stone walls throughout the church. Jim's vision drifts from the grisly sight of sliding flesh and the harsh grind of bones, his head lolling from side to side. He falls in and out of consciousness until the creature wails in anguish, its transformation complete. It has become the crude mimicry of a man, its face hidden by the deepening shadows swallowing the guts of the church. Another cacophony of laughter penetrates Jim's ears, nausea pushes in his throat.

It is time.

The stained glass depicting the apostles create a sinister backdrop behind the false man, their faces writhe in terror. Crimson runs from their painted eyes, and long cracks slowly spiderweb up the glass panels.

He's here, he's here!

Hundreds of beady eyes penetrate through the shadows just along the edge of the lone candle's light. Small creatures are now settling along the feather and bone littered floor and atop of the now deformed cross, the audience. The Jury.

Jim shuts his eyes, the drugs almost taking him into its unwanted embrace. Struggling against the enticing pull, his eyes snap open groggily as a single long nail runs across the expanse of his vulnerable throat, the man now looms menacingly over Jim. Its facial features twist and swirl like smoke actively evading the possibility of recognition, but he knows who it is. He knows.

"We are just alike, you and I. So many people see this good man, but I know the truth. How deep the rot penetrates underneath your hot flesh, and let me be frank on saying how deliciously filthy you really are. Mmm, there is so much anger locked up in you, so many regrets and secrets. It all just keeps building doesn't it, all of that fury. How many times have you wanted to let your finger tighten over that trigger just so you could splatter some bad guys brain, Jim?"

Jim's eyelashes flutter, and his heartbeat spikes erratically at the growing pressure against his throat, his insides squirm in frightful delight. The mimic's face no longer swirls like billowing smoke from a raging fire, it eerily reconstructs itself into that of a hauntingly familiar and curious man. A menace to Jim's psyche, a man trailing him in both dreams and reality, The Penguin.

"Everyone is going to see what you are someday soon, Jim. You're going to slip up and say it was for the best, that there was no other option. But we both know that it won't be the truth, because you want to do bad things, don't you. You have a taste for it now, Jim. You killed for me, remember?"

The pressure on Jim's throat eases for a moment, he swallows thickly as he attempts to form what could pass as denial.

"No, I..."

The Penguin smiles mirthlessly, spitefully, angrily. His index finger presses teasingly against Jim's parted lips, interrupting Jim's trail of thought.

"Ah, ah, ah! Don't speak. Let's face it Jim, you didn't have to kill him did you? In fact, you didn't have to do anything, but the problem is that you keep coming to me for help. For some reason you decided to do as I had asked regardless of the task's criminal nature, regardless of who was asking. You know what I am, yet you can't seem to keep away. And why is that, Jim?"

The Penguins hands caress Jim's drug slackened face, the touch featherlight, nonexistent. Moaning weakly, Jim tries to turn his head away from the probing questions. Tries to turn away from hooded eyes, and the reddened lips hovering mere inches from his own.

"It is because you love being bad, you love how intoxicating and thrilling it is to get what you want. To have someone's pitiful life resting in the palm of your hand, to know you could end it in a second. I've been thinking, it seems like you want to be just like me, don't you Jim? You are envious of what I can accomplish, of the power and respect that I have gained. Tell me, how often do you imagine yourself being where I stand? How often do you dream of throwing me from my throne, and molding Gotham into the paradise inside of your head? Do you plan on having your way with me once you tear me down, do you dream of taking me again and again as you show me who is boss. I only ask because we both know you can't get rid of me, so why not take me over body and soul. Break me down, and use me until you get your fill."

The Penguin's expression is smoldering with pent up rage, and tarnished by undisguised lust. Jim's body melts into the seat completely as lips press lightly against his own and retreat away. Blue eyes fill with inky black, even as Jim rolls his head away from the false man. He wants more.

"I don't want you..."

Breathing erratically, the Penguin pulls away in a flurry of movements. With his back turned, the man cryptically responds to Jim's obvious lie.

"I will not wait forever, Jim. You have three choices, but you need to decide between us. You may need all of us, but we will not all need or want you by the time you decide. I want you, but you keep pushing my offer of friendship away. Soon I may not be so generous or willing to deal with your continued charades. I will no longer answer your calls, or listen to your pleas of help. So decide quickly."

Jim struggles to speak, his lips loose and unwilling to work as he attempts to stop the other man from departing. The Penguin hobbles through bone and feather, around the curious creatures hidden by shadow, and then stands before the lone candle mere seconds before extinguishing the light between his fingertips. A piercing array of squawks come from behind and above, a warning. It's time. A heightened moment of awareness comes to pass, until it is taken away by the consuming depletion of light.

Jim goes back under into a drug induced sleep, and a blackbird stares curiously from its perch by the alter of candles.

Almost an hour passes before Jim startles awake, his earlier hallucinations pushed deeply away from his currently confused and panicked thoughts. Breathing heavily through his parched mouth, Jim begins to notice as a dull ache pulses in multiple areas of his abused body, and as a building knot of tension builds between his tightening shoulder blades. Both of Jim's arms are restrained behind his back, thick cords of rope bind him tightly to an old fashioned wooden wheelchair. Fingertips run across the coarse surface of an iron bar, it might be rough enough to shred his restraints he fervently hopes. Still in confusion on how he has found himself in such a predicament, he wildly surveys his surroundings. He's been here before...

Jim's eyes widen in recognition at the great stained windows of Gotham Cathedral, he knows right where he is. Squinting, pain spikes near his temples as the sudden impact of the car accident bludgeons the forefront of his mind. Did everyone come out of it okay? Where’s Harvey at? Wandering eyes close in violent protest to a surge of pain. I could really use a hand here…

Several minutes tick by before he makes note of clacking footsteps on the stone several paces behind him. He already knows who it is. Jim looks back as she begins to hum ominously as she walks down the aisle.

Barbara…

Plump lips purse in obvious distaste, and a rich mixture of complexities wash over the woman’s face. Dressed head to toe in pearlescent white dress with a gorgeous sheer veil flowing lightly across her shoulders, Barbara looks absolutely stunning. Pointing a sawed of shotgun towards his face, Jim beings to understand the threat before him. His heart thuds sporadically when she closes off her normally expressive countenance and puts up her walls, a grim and put upon smile twisting her mouth. He isn't sure he understands what is happening quite as quickly as he should. He should have listened to Barnes, he should have listened to Lee. Testing the restraints he becomes immediately irritated at the current predicament, he needs to get the upper hand. Quickly. Jim begins to slowly saw the ropes against the coarse bar, his wrists burning due to the rough agitation. Barbara stands before him, and raises her arms in mock elation.

“I know, can you believe it still fits?”

In that wedding dress, she looks absolutely stunning, so pure. Her countenance devious and dangerous, a complete turn around from her during their time together prior to all of this madness, before Gotham took them and twisted them more than they already were. Before he had to leave her alone to fend for herself, before she was held hostage by Don Falcone. Before she was taken by a serial killer, coerced to do what she would have found unimaginable.

She had tricked him into yet another trap, shown him how visible his weakness had become. Trust which he was too willing to give a pair of pleading eyes. She was just another person proving he was naive to believe her supposed truth. His plan of keeping his distance, and keeping a weary eye on the woman proved to be useless. He was already compromised, and his profoundly disorganized feelings made him an easy target. Jim had hoped their past history would have helped pave his path and lighten the strain between them. But he had been foolish to hope for some form of compassion. She was making his life a living hell, and he knew deep down that he deserved the continued torment. This was her way of taking back her own disastrous life.

“Do you remember, when we first visited this place? How excited I was to get married here?”

Oh, he remembers. Sometimes he still dreams of them walking together into perfect matrimony, but that is all it was, a dream. Barbara Kean had always been a beautiful woman, and her continued reemergence into Jim's life put this one thing into perspective. That he still loved her, that he hadn't thrown away all of his feelings for her. And that it wasn’t meant to be at the time. It didn’t matter that the way she smiles still warms his heart, the feel of her fingers holding his hand would make him squirm in delight even now. He knows that it would lead into a desolate thing, that their opportunity was tarnished by their current inner corruption. She needs to let go. He needs to help.

Fingers caress his arm as she slowly circles around him. Anger spoils his feelings of fear.

“How long do you think you have before the GCPD finds us?”

He wants to goad her for more time, and she responds beautifully. A long arm reaches behind him, gentle pressure easing across his back. Cold metal taps against his temple as she presses the gun barrel against his temple.

“So typical. I’m talking about us, and your head is in work.”

Jim sneers and turns his head away in agitation. She always has known his dedication for the city shadowed their relationship. The fact that she uses it against him still hurts.

“There is no ‘us.’ What is all this?”

Barbara pulls away, embroidered fabric billowing softly behind her. Several hostages are pointed out as she delves on and on about their history, and the scenario she had constructed. It is all revenge for him bringing her down to this grungy world, for not protecting her as he should. Jim was to be a catalyst for rebirth. The worst part Jim finds, is that she has him figured out almost spot on. That she still knew him intimately, even after their time apart. It makes him feel vulnerable and weak.

“You knew from the start that this was a trap. But you thought, ‘Hey let the bad guys take their best shot. I’m Jim Gordon. I’ll find a way to win’. Or die.”

Of course she knows this, has seen him repeat the same mistakes. From day one on the job, Jim already had secrets that he had kept from her. She didn't need to be dragged down because of his choices. He had been ashamed to tell her the truth about how the city was already trying to corrupt him, how he had to convince Harvey that he had put a bullet in Cobblepot's skull. She had deserved to know at the time, but he didn't want to leave his home in order to rectify the issue. He hadn’t been ready to give up on Gotham. Even now he still isn’t. So he let her wander into the maw of the beast. The destructive outcomes of his various decisions…

Oh, how prettily she did fall.

“It’s option B, baby. Your fondest wish come true.”

Impish eyes glitter with glee. Jim wants to sink into the chair and slip from his confines. Death wasn’t on the forefront of his thoughts, though his actions often spoke otherwise. Passion for justice pushed him into recklessness. He had a reason to fight, he had reason to believe in his vision of safety and prosperity. There were monsters disguised as men walking the city streets, and countless people that needed to be saved.

“I don’t want to die.”

He wants to believe his own lies.

“Aren’t you tired of hiding your true self? Tired of lying to yourself? To Lee?”

A shudder creeps up his spine as imagined feathers brush against his neck, and the ghost of warm breathe blows by his ear. He ignores that specific escalation of desire, and concentrates on what he holds onto currently. Why is Barbara bringing up Lee? What does she have to do with any of this? This was between the two of them.

“I don’t lie to Lee.”

He lies easily to everyone, they words just ooze from his mouth these days. These silly little lies. But he wanted to be better, he was sick of holding back. Yet, at this point it is the only thing keeping him glued in one piece. Barbara sees through his deceit easily enough though. She has practice dealing with the constant stream of verbal duplicity.

“Really? Let’s ask her.”

Jim’s mouth parts in momentary confusion, and he soon finds himself hollering loudly as his lover is wheeled down the aisle. Duct tape covers her pretty lips, but he can still hear the muffled sound of her cursing.

“Lee!”

Blue eyes twinkle with laughter as he is thrust between the two women he has feelings for, what a fitting opportunity. Time flies quickly from that point on. Petty insults and bitter resentment spat continuously between the three of them. The hallucination from before echo’s words through his mind.

You have three choices, but you need to decide between us. You may need all of us, but we will not all need or want you by the time you decide.

He finally understands, but it is already too late.

Barbara is on the verge of cold blooded murder just as Jim manages to escape his binds. He holds the woman’s own weapon in hand as he overthrows her from power. Pain tingles relentlessly down his arms as they strain from disuse, and cold sweat trickles down his spine. For a brief moment it felt as if he had control of the situation, the chance he needed in order to stop her from making a horrific mistake. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. She shouldn’t have a gun in the first place. This isn’t her world, this wasn’t what she deserved. He tries to hold her off, but a hostile group interferes. Just what he fucking needed. Barbara flees the scene.

Shots ring out, and Jim drops several bodies moments before police officers storm through the church. Harvey catches his eye for a moment as he runs inside, and Jim can see the question forming on his lips. What the hell was going on? Ignoring the growing number of officers and his partner, Jim makes chase after his retreating ex fiancé.

Lee watches him bitterly run away.

Blonde hair bounces up and down as Barbara climbs the church’s stairs quickly. Her intentions of escape now complicated by the presence of the numerous GCPD. There was no escape down below, there was only a chance for revenge up above.

Jim follows quickly behind. Their game of cat and mouse was soon to come to an end.

Barbara waits for him just past the summit of the stairs. Cold fury radiates from her lithe frame, her face hard as she stares him down. It was time to end all of this madness. Brows furrowed, Jim concludes stiffly.

“It’s over.”

A grimace of disappointment, and a snarl of animosity curls Barbara’s sublime lips. She bites back viciously, “Not yet.” Their standstill quickly escalates towards the physical as Barbara lunges at him with a long blade that she had concealed behind her back. This wasn’t how things were supposed to pan out. This isn’t how he wanted things to end. He didn’t want to shoot, he didn’t want to injure or kill the woman he still had lingering feelings for. Jim grabs hold of Barbara’s arm as he tries to defend himself, but she fights back wildly. He trips, and they both topple in a tangle of fabric and limbs. Both of them break through the window, fractured pieces of glass splintering outwards as Barbara is thrown completely into empty air. Jim flails violently for a moment, only his legs and midriff inside the building. He breathes violently through his nose, and a gasp of pain escapes from him.

He refuses to let go.

Their hands grasp each others desperately, he still wants to save her from all of this. Jim’s voice quivers with emotion as he looks down.

“Hold on. Hold on!”

Wind blows the white veil gently, it flutters quietly like the wings of a butterfly. He just needs to pull her back in.

“I’m sorry, baby. I’ve been kind of a bad date, huh?”

Barbara’s face softens, and her eyes glisten with the easing astonishment. A soft smile eases through her features. She looks gorgeous, even as the world below reaches greedily upward. Sweat drips down Jim’s face, and his brows furrow from the strain of her burden. Barbara proclaims softly, “I love you, baby.” Her hand going lax within his own.

No, don’t do this Barbara.

Jim’s muscles bulge with effort, this isn’t how it should be.

Just hold on Barbara. For the love of god, don’t…

Jim finds himself squeezing sweat slick fingers until the moment they slide from between his own.

No, no, NO!

He watches mesmerized as Barbara does a downward spiral in a flutter of white. His scream follows her to the ground.

Chapter Text

Barbara was a broken, fragile thing. The white lace of her wedding dress cascaded down the sides of the stretcher the paramedics were placing her on. Her arms dangled uselessly towards the ground until one of the men carefully placed them against her sides. Jim watched uselessly as two of the paramedics worked together to support Barbara’s neck and shoulders, another gingerly placed a sturdy brace in order to stabilize her delicate throat. Fingers curling into fists, Jim wishes desperately for things to be different.

With a practiced efficiency the paramedics strapped Barbara to the stretcher, the orange of the straps looked extremely gaudy laid across the pristine material of her dress. Jim had a feeling if she saw the clash of colors herself that she would think the same thing. Barbara always had a knack for anything stylish, had the eye to get just the right look. Their wedding would have been perfect, as Barbara was so skilled in the flair of design and aesthetics. She was a meticulous planner, a lover of some sort of order even when chaos knocked at her door.

But now…

It seemed so wrong for her body to be limp and unmoving. She had been so animated fifteen minutes ago, a ferocious fire licking its way through the insides of the church. Barbara had been in control of the whole damning situation up to a time, she had orchestrated an unpredictable and organized plan of revenge. Barbara had taken him by complete surprise.

The sting of a needle, the abstract feelings of longing and fear. The hallucinations of dark feathered birds watching from the rafters, the disturbing creature mimicking Cobblepot. There was the eventual realization that he was not in his true reality.

Jim felt bruised where the needle was jabbed into his neck, and he still felt some of the lag of the drug cocktail he was dosed with. Barbara’s plan would have gone smoothly if she hadn’t underestimated Jim, but he was used to people being underwhelmed by his assumed lack of skill. However, Jim was bullish and unrelenting. Barbara didn’t know how stubborn he was on the field, how much he fought to survive. It helped that he had luck on his side, or else he would be dead thirty times over. So as soon as Jim escaped the game for her was lost, and he also knew that something would go wrong.

He had a gut feeling that the outcome would become grim. And he had been right, of course.

Jim wanted to get closer to Barbara and press his hand to her chest, to feel her heartbeat for himself. Perhaps it would calm him, ease the pressure just underneath the collar of his shirt. It was a surprise that she had survived the impact of the fall, a possibility he hadn’t considered as he stared down helplessly at her body. He didn't consider she was alive as he yelled himself hoarse through the broken window from which she fell, or as he shook helplessly from the left over adrenaline. It had taken Harvey several minutes to get him to listen, for Jim to hear the other man's words. To even acknowledge his existence. It wasn’t until Harvey had grabbed him by the shoulders and roughly jostled him that he finally heard. She was alive, the ambulance was on the way. Jim could only stare in bewilderment as the words processed, it took even longer for him to climb down the churches staircase, his hands trembling around the rails.

Harvey had followed quietly behind him as Jim made his slow descent down.

Jim hadn't felt so rattled, felt so deeply in years. The past few days were taking a toll, he wondered if he would be able to survive much more devastation in his life. Barbara was really stretching his resolve, and he knew there was only more to come. Gotham kept reminding him of the war zones he had been forced to battle, how Jim had lost his only friend to enemy fire barely three years ago because of a mistake that he had made. The city was a constant reminder of the life he had to live right after his father perished in the car accident when Jim was just a child. It was like the weeks that him and his mother struggled to maintain order after the funeral. It was like when his uncle left them to fend for themselves, even when it was obvious they were drowning. It was like his police chief being murdered right in the heart of the GCPD.

It was the promise of death. And it followed him around every street corner.

Everything that was happening was pricking him, draining him of his lifeblood.

Losing Barbara wouldn't be easy if she didn‘t pull through this. There was still hope for her though, there was time for healing. Maybe if he were lucky there would be time for reconciliation, time to let go of their gloomy past and make their peace. Perhaps they would see the problems with their relationship and finally be able to point out where it all went wrong. Barbara might make it though another day.

Please. Please let her live.

Lee had watched him guardedly as he passed by, her expression mostly neutral. Jim was thankful she hadn't tried to pull him close and attempt to comfort him, he didn't feel worthy of her attention. He wasn't sure he could stomach lying to her even more by saying he wasn't worried about Barbara. He couldn't say that his feelings were gone, that he was only upset seeing her hurt. He couldn’t tell Lee that he was devastated, and that he needed to put more space between them. That Jim just needed to think, to be given room to breathe. Maybe Lee already understood that though. Jim can only imagine how she feels watching her lover walk past her in order to see another woman he loved. Distractedly he wonders how much his face is telling her, what emotions he is unable to conceal.

He already threw something on Lee’s plate this morning. Wasn’t it enough that he had run away after waking to her pleasuring him to orgasm. What would Lee think if she knew that it wasn’t her Jim was thinking about as he came in her mouth. That as Jim came into consciousness from his erotic dream involving another man he had been mortified at the results of her loving touch. Lee had to have a feeling that he was afraid of her judgment. But how would she feel if she knew he went running because of his long growing attraction to Cobblepot and his growing guilt of holding to her too tightly even when he was slowly letting her go. Jim ran because of how her ministrations helped manifest the dream into completion, made him feel as if he had committed the act of betrayal.

He wants to stay faithful, because he really does love Lee. But was it right?

He wasn’t ashamed of his lust, he was afraid of his desire to follow through. Commitment was something he held dearly, but he wasn’t sure he could keep his promise, to hold on to Lee through thick and thin. She deserved someone greater, a better man. This city was changing him, and his needs were evolving. Why would he want to let her suffer from his indecision? Would Lee try and talk him out of it, would he let her? Did he need to talk this through, was he just confused?

God, he loved her. And he loved Barbara, and he just had too many feelings invested between them. He couldn’t keep things right with Barbara, and now he was having these second thoughts about Lee. What made him think he could have anyone else? He could still fix things, he could get some help. Counseling.

Damnit all to hell. I don’t even know what I want anymore.

So in the heat of things, his feelings for Barbara were just another small betrayal among many. He would have turned Lee away if she had come any closer, it did not matter that he should be giving her the attention she desperately deserved after being threatened. Or that she would want to be there to help him recover from his grief of almost losing a woman he cared for. He wanted to stand alone on this front. Selfishly he wanted to avoid the confrontation, avoid the swell of resentment when she finally forced his hand. When he told her his wish to no longer remain faithful.

No, Jim could not stop himself from walking away from Lee if he tried, the broken image of Barbara called him to go to her side. So many of the people he cared for were falling apart around him, and he could only deal with one at a time.

One problem at a time, until no more remained.

Why are you doing this to yourself Jim? When did you become so cold? Why do you constantly push me away?

One of the detectives on scene had pulled Lee aside, his hand lightly placed on her upper arm. Jim heard the older man quietly ask if she was alright. Lee had smiled weakly in assurance, it was more than she had been willing to give Jim as he walked by. A small flicker of jealousy still curled its way up his gut, but he had no right.

Jim made the bed he slept on, it was his own mistakes that led the path ahead.

He had increased his pace as he stumbled closer to the broken woman outside.

By the time Jim pulled himself together and made his exit from the chapel doors, the emergency vehicle had already arrived, the officers circling around her body quickly moving out of the paramedics’ way.

Now Barbara's fate was in the hands of Gotham's hospital system.

Would they be able to save her? Or would she slip out of their grasp, just as she had slipped from Jim's?

Harvey stood silently at his side, the older man's expression glum. The man's strong hand came up unexpectedly to grip Jim's shoulder as they gazed worriedly at the woman's looming departure. Blonde hair blew softly in the wind as the paramedics hastily lifted the stretcher into the ambulance. Jim wanted to tuck the stray strands of hair delicately behind the woman's ear. He wanted to give her comfort, to hold her hands within his own and make selfish promises. Jim's chest was tight, and his breath was coming in short as he lost sight of his ex fiancé. He lost his chance with her long ago, and their growing animosity put the last nail in the coffin.

You only had three choices, Jim. Now only two remain.

The ambulance doors slam closed, and Jim feels lost as the vehicle squeals out of the churches parking lot. A small noise escapes from his parted lips. Harvey turns to look at him, his hand sliding away from his shoulder. Jim can't find it within him to look at the man even as the ambulance escapes his line of sight.

The older man sighs and then says, "If we leave now we might make it to the hospital in time to see her go into surgery. You ready?"

Jim's eyes feel wet as he nods his head gratefully.

"Yeah, I'm ready. Let's go."

He needs to see this through, make sure that she lives that way he can let himself loosen his grip and finally let her go.

Jim and Harvey walk through the parking lot, several officers give Jim looks of pity, one gives him a reassuring smile that seems to tell Jim that things will be alright. He isn't so sure that anything will ever be okay, no matter what the outcome. Too many events making impact, they were spreading him thin. His skin felt tight, and his face itches from the drying tears that had cradled his face as he was pushed closer to the edge.

He only has two choices left. One had slipped away.

Jim and Harvey slam the cruisers doors in near synchronization, Harvey sitting at the wheel. The older man throws his hat into the back seat and gives Jim a quick assessing look, and then pulls out his keys. With the start of the ignition and the quick shift into drive, they are off.

In the side mirror Jim quietly observes Lee as she watches the car leave. Her hand raises in a small wave, her lips seem to tremble with barely concealed emotion. Jim wants to imagine that it is the car hitting a small bump instead. That it was just an illusion, his eyes playing tricks on him. Yeah, that's all it was. She will be fine. She’ll understand.

He looks away.

Harvey turns on his lights as they pull into the street. Before long, Lee was no longer in view.

And maybe that hurt just as much as seeing the ambulance go.

Chapter Text

21 Days After the Fall: Jim Gordon's Point of View

 

Wearing nothing more than a pair of boxer shorts, Jim Gordon stares dully at the smooth fine finish of his wooden dining table. Strong hands twitch sporadically in his lap for nearly an hour as he waits for the calm to come. However it escapes him, stranding him in his thoughts. The only thing that changes during the hour is the shift of light shining steadily from the blinds of the widow to the right of him. It is late afternoon now, and he should be thinking about doing something with the day. However the bottle of scotch is nearly empty, and the day didn’t seem like it had much to offer. So he might as well drink away his numerable troubles.

Someone passes by his apartment door, their voice echoing down the hallway. No doubt talking on the phone with someone who actually gave a shit about them. Jim has that, but was it really enough?

Taking his eyes off of the table he glares at the bottle in contempt. It will be a while longer before he pours himself another glass. Ticking from the clock down the hallway catches his waning attention. More time passes him by as he broods, and he finds that he could brood all day if he was given the chance. It isn’t until another person passes his front door that he finally gives up on holding off from his liquor.

The harsh odor of the scotch hits his nose as soon as he uncaps the bottle. It only becomes stronger as he begins to pour it, the liquid sloshing precariously close to the lip of his tumbler. It would have been better to get shit faced on something that actually tasted good.

Lifting the glass up, he toasts to the promise of more liquor regardless of its flavor. Golden light shines through the glass and caresses the dining table. The glare of the light reminds him of the mosaic of the church windows, the judging stares of the Saints both penetrating and invasive. Jim downs the drink swiftly, the harsh flavor of the liquor burning the back of his throat. The discomfort of the drink is a good distraction from the memory of his vivid hallucination several weeks ago and of his search for Cobblepot. Or about the fact that Barbara was still in a coma and Lee was most likely going to leave him. Better to forget about that shit show with Ed. He just wanted to forget everything.

‘Just keep on drinking, Jimbo. See where that gets you.’

His lips twitch in a faint smile as he remembers how he told Harvey that he would be blowing off work today. The older man had been livid, his voice going gruff over the phone. It wasn’t like the man had much that he could really say about Jim’s drinking habits. The man was often the one calling in late over his hangovers. This was just one day of recuperation. No need for Harvey to complicate things with posturing and hypocrisy, things were rough for both of them. So it didn’t surprise him that the older man relented quickly and had promised to inform Barnes of his call-in. They had both ended the phone call with terribly sober farewells, held back words lingering in their mouths. It wasn’t until he hung up the phone that he regretted not calling Barnes himself. Jim imagines that Harvey most likely came up with embarrassing excuse for him. Something he would have to hear about in the morning, possibly something involving another impromptu trip to the woods.

Yeah, he might as well make the best of the day. Nothing made a working man feel more like a loser than sitting at home with an empty shot glass in hand. So he better fill it up once more, and forget how pathetic he had become in his personal life.

He pours one more glass, the bottle now unfortunately empty. He lets the glass sit as he stares across the room, his eyes settling on the bare wall of his dining room. The cream-yellow is surprisingly calming in his growing intoxication. And to think that he thought of painting over it just a month ago, what a waste that would have been.

Time escapes him once more, his thoughts a film of vague thoughts and lingering hopes. He wants to get lost in himself, to overcome the strangling grip of loneliness and desperation that he has been battling with since he had dreamt of Cobblepot on that troubling night weeks ago. His thoughts turn darker as he remembers the bloody jacket he had found, of the small chances of the snitch being alive. He locks that thought away and lets more pleasing musings ease through him.

He throws back the last of his bottle in another quick movement as the vision of Cobblepot sucking him off replays vividly through his imagination. It still took him off guard when he thought of such possibilities. Or rather the promise it had held. The other man was most likely dead, thus potentially destroying his recent dreams. Yet even that didn’t stop him in the comfort of his bed, or his shower.

Jim chuckles to himself, his eyes crinkling at the corners. His problems just grew by the day, Cobblepot should be the least of his worries. Gotham was in a constant state of unrest, and it was starting to wear on him. Day after day he was visiting various crime scenes of murder. The bodies never really seemed to stop coming in, and the images of the grieving families he had to interview over the weekend were still fresh in his mind. Just another shooter killing people on the streets of the city. Murder was so frequent that it was a wonder that people kept joining the steadily affluent underworld.

I know so many murderers, don’t I?

Cobblepot never seemed to have issues recruiting new people to serve under him. Someone new always seemed to be guarding the doors leading to the man’s base of operations. Or rather, had guarded.

God, there you go again. When will you stop thinking about some criminal? Forget about him, he is probably dead. Why pretend any longer?

Drink more, remember less.

Jim knows that there is another bottle in the kitchen, the bottle well hidden in his pantry. He has been thinking about it since he sat down, how he wanted to drink his feelings away in the comfort of his own apartment. He was at least halfway there now.

He raises his glass back up in another toast, this one on his accomplishment. Swaying in the seat, Jim lowers the glass back down. The world is starting to wobble, but it isn’t enough. He still has that obnoxious clarity.

He can still feel.

If only he could just stop thinking. Dull it away, numb himself from his worries. He'll take whatever form of help he can get.

This one just seemed to be the most simple and least caustic to his general wellbeing. One he found to be less addictive than the habits he had picked up before entering the service. Habits he dropped in order to reclaim his life, more things he didn’t like to dwell on.

‘Just one sip kid, and your brain will drain away. Round and round it will go.’

One sip at a time would bring in the fuzziness of useless wonderings, the giddiness of the trivial things in his life. That little spark of hope that things would get better, that he could help bring the city back to its former glory. That every relationship he created wasn’t crumbling into millions of pieces and being blown into the wind.

Jim wanted to ease into his drink and swim in a pool of alcohol. He wanted some form of happiness, anything to stop all of his pain.

If he was lucky it would only take a bit more liquor to make him loose in the arms, to ease the weight on his shoulders. Just a little while longer until he escapes his near constant musings of Cobblepot's whereabouts. Or maybe it wasn’t Cobblepot he was looking for, maybe it was a bloated corpse. The shell of the man he had been falling for over in the dark of night.

Grimly he imagines someone stumbling upon the man’s body. Maybe he was still in the woods. But Jim had searched for hours and found nothing.

He better be alive…

It has been weeks since Jim had last seen the snitch. While that was a normal occurrence it was a fact that the man had been in rough condition. Galavan’s hired assassin had blasted a bullet into Cobblepot’s arm. Lucky for Cobblepot, the man wasn’t taken out with by a well placed chest shot. The drops of blood that splattered on the gravel as the snitch retreated had caught Jim’s eye. It had been hard to tear his eyes away, but he had to be sure. Be sure that the man wasn’t actually laying on the ground. That Jim wasn’t trying to deny the incomprehensible. Revving from the engine had brought him back from a dark place, and made him more aware of the fact that the snitch was alive. That it hit somewhere non vital.

Jim hadn’t thought the damage was too critical as Cobblepot had driven off on the night of the mayoral celebration. But of course he might have been wrong on that assumption. Perhaps he didn’t reach help in time, maybe he had bled out. God, who even knows. Jim couldn’t find him, not after the trailer anyways.

Was the man even alive? Jim felt wrong in assuming that the other man didn’t make it. Cobblepot was resourceful, and always had a plan. Well, it seemed like he normally had a plan. But there wasn’t much for Jim to go off of, no destination that the man would have sneaked off to. That is, until they had discovered the limousine.

Cobblepot should have been there! Instead there had only been blood, and a long trail leading to the middle of nowhere.

Jim had good reason to assume that Cobblepot was dead, but he had his hopes telling him otherwise. There hadn’t been a body laying in the small trailer, and tire tracks had led away from the scene he discovered. Oswald had to be alive, the other man was his shadow. They had this connection that surpassed any other he had, and his gut was saying that the Penguin was not dead.

There was that spark of something, and Jim wanted to see where it took them.

Oswald, where are you?

Jim slowly eases himself onto his feet, both legs wobbling uneasily. Grimacing he hunches over and grips the back of his chair. The drunken man waits until the room stops tilting sideways.

“This used to be easier when I was younger,” Jim moans to himself.

When the waves pass he finally lets go of the chair so that he may tentatively make his way into the kitchen. “One step at a time,” he murmurs quietly. Two more steps and he is still on his feet. It is definitely an accomplishment.

He just makes it into the kitchen when he trips over the transition strip between rooms. Waving his arms madly in an attempt to keep balance, he lurches towards the nearest available surface. Anywhere besides the floor, Jim. Come on! Both hands slap against the rooms closest wall, and Jim’s chest touches the smooth white surface. Breathing a little harder he takes a moment to stop himself from crumpling to the ground. Might as well take a little break. He was almost where he wanted to be anyway. Leaning heavily on the wall Jim laughs out loud at his carelessness. Drunkenly he exclaims, “Keep it together, Gordon! You fight bad guys on the street daily and somehow have managed not to croak off yet. So don’t break your neck in your own home.” The laughing dies out at the sobering statement. This city is going to kill me one day. Jim pushes his face against the cool surface of the wall, the texture comforting him more than he wanted to let on.

Rubbing his face side to side over the cooling surface, Jim pulls himself together. It was inevitable that he would have to face death. So why get so worked up on his obvious mortality. Just live life one day at a time, and hope that maybe one day he made it to retirement. If he was really lucky he might one day see this city become safer, somewhere he could be proud to call his home.

‘But you are so proud, aren’t you? And that just might be your true undoing.’

Sighing, he rolls further down the wall until his back is against the wall. Right where I usually find myself.

The cupboard is so close now, Jim can almost touch it. Like a newborn fawn he takes his first steady step, and then another. Confidence boosted, he makes it to the pantries cupboard without further incident. The scotch is calling him from beyond, Jim can almost hear it. Drink me, Jimmy boy. Just one sip will help you forget. Flinging the door open with more strength than necessary, Jim feels a pang of sympathy for the cracking sound the hinges give in protest. They were already abused enough as it was. But then he spots the bottle in the back of the pantry and his thoughts narrow to his escape.

With a firm hand he pulls the bottle out of the pantry. Pleased, Jim eases the pantry door closed and listens to the faint tap of it settling back into its rightful position. Much better, now all is well. Cradling the bottle against his naked chest, Jim makes his way back to the dining room. With more surety in his movements and the stable pressure of the wall against his shoulder, he eventually is able to throw himself back into the comfort of his seat.

Reverently the bottle is opened, the smell promising him everything he wanted. Jim licks his lips as he pours his tumbler, the amber alcohol dribbling over the sides. Wetness meets his clumsy fingers as he brings the glass up to his face. His tongue flicks out to capture more of the scotch when his hand begins to shake, whatever he misses spills across the table and his chest. It doesn’t matter at this point. Jim swallows it down, and his thoughts begin to replay things he wished to bottle up.

Oswald better hope that he is dead when I find him. Not that he would do anything about it, he already feared for the man enough. But it was so much harder not knowing.

It would have been easier if he had just killed him that day. All of this wouldn’t be so fucked. The past few weeks wouldn’t have been such a disaster.

Cobblepot seemed to be the center of a storm, and Jim was caught in it.

It didn’t matter what was happening in his personal life, other things kept coming up. Gotham was never at rest. More violence erupted on the street, and there were funerals that needed to be planned. There was also the personal vendetta he now carried with him. The necessity to follow through with his vague plans of bringing Galavan to his knees. Proving the man was a monster. Jim had begun the torturously slow invasion of the man’s history while sitting at his desk at work, just the day after Cobblepot had gone missing. Even now there were files that Jim needed to be read up on.

However the spiral continued to grow. The fingers of Oswald’s ghost were gripping tightly on his sleeve. It was just a few days after Barbara had tumbled out of the church window, her white dress billowing in the wind. Days after he had left Lee to fend for herself right after she’d nearly been murdered. It was just another day in the week that he had to follow through with his early morning routine and make his commute back to work. It was just another day when he heard the news.

God, I hate when people tell me this bullshit.

 

Four Days After the Fall: Jim Gordon's Point of View

 

A voice met Jim’s ears as soon as he entered the GCPD bullpen. Harvey was pulling in close and asking fervently, “Have you heard the news yet?”

“No, what’s going on?”

Harvey claps Jim heavily on the back. Face inscrutable the older man says, “We got in a call about the limo Cobblepot jacked. Someone found it up the highway just past the interstate, and we’ve been asked to go to the scene.”

Voice perfectly neutral Jim probes, “Is there a body?” Not what he wanted to ask, but it will have to do. Fear clings to him like a second skin. His choice may have been taken from him, the man that wormed deep inside.

Turning away, it takes a moment for Harvey to answer. He sounds disappointed as he finally stated, “No, we haven’t found one yet. But listen, Jim. There is a chance he is out there in the woods somewhere.”

Before Jim can demand anymore information the older man is already walking away. Anxiously he stares after the man, his hands clenching into fists. Taking a deep breath he waits until Harvey is just passing through the entrance to follow. Walking past several officers and a few detained law breakers, he builds back his walls. No one needed to see his weakness. He wasn’t supposed to care. He was Jim Gordon, the man who wanted to bring law back to Gotham. At least that is what others thought, but he was changing. Every second was taking him down a path unobservable to most, somewhere dark and hideous. Somewhere he may soon wish to retreat, yet never be able to remove himself from.

‘You’re going down the Rabbit’s Hole, Jim. Just wait until everyone see’s.’

Better get this over with.

Harvey fills in more details as they drove through the morning traffic. Voice gruff, and hand gestures screaming all of the explicative’s that he forcefully held back from saying, Harvey gave his recount. “So it seems like the GCPD only just received this information from some concerned citizen a couple of hours ago. Said guy, we will call him Tim, informed Janet over the phone line that he was apparently forced to make an emergency stop during the crack ass of dawn. The guy was on his way to work when his car started pulling him towards the edge of the road. Of course it was a freaking flat tire, apparently his second blowout this month. Doing the right thing, Tim pulled off of the road. Great guy, right? Anyway, what Janet said was this guy had pulled over into one of those shitty closed down rest stops just past the ramp heading to upstate.”

“Now this is where it gets interesting,” the older man had begun. Jim listened attentively as Harvey continued on, his eyes resolutely directed in front of him and both hands laying flat over the his knees. He had a pretty good guess on how rest of this story would go.

“So this guy drove into the parking lot, got out, popped open the trunk and dragged out his spare tire when something caught his eye. It wasn’t until he bent over and got closer of that something, that he realized that it was blood trail. Now since he saw all of this blood he apparently got a bit freaked. Totally normal if you ask me. So anyway, he called in one of his buddies and the two of them followed the trail. And guess what they found?”

Playing along Jim throws out, “Let me guess, a car.”

Nodding his head at Jim’s easy answer Harvey chimes in loudly, “Ding, Ding, Ding! You got that right, Jimbo. And it wasn’t just any vehicle, it was your friend Cobblepot’s getaway car. Tim said that it was parked behind a bunch of trees which separated the second half of the parking lot. He didn’t even know it was there when he pulled in. A perfect place to lose a car for a while if you ask me. What makes it even more impressive is that it’s a big ass limo.”

Under his breath Jim mumbles more to himself than Harvey, “Yeah, pretty smart…”

Fired up Harvey continues, “What Tim and his friend didn’t know at the time was how important this information would be to us, so they had contacted a third party. Now don’t ask me who this person was, because I don’t know, but what I hear is that said person might have been one of Don Falcone’s goons. The dude must have been awfully pissed off that Cobblepot wasn’t dead in the vehicle, because by the time anyone from the GCPD was called to the scene the car had been plowed into repeatedly by this loser. He must have been pretty crazy, because Tim was already giving us a call before the guy even left the area. How do I know all of this already? Well, Janet had persuaded our good samaritan to spill the beans when he wasn’t giving her the whole story.”

“How did she know he was omitting details?” Jim couldn’t help but ask.

Smirking the other man revealed, “She could hear Tim’s buddy hollering his head off in the background. However, I’m thinking she really got his tongue loose when she said she would track him through his phones GPS and kick his ass for withholding vital information from our law enforcement.”

A small chuckle creeps out of Jim, his lips twitching in amusement. Looking away from the road for a moment, Jim catches Harvey giving him a searching look. His laughter dies away, and the fear comes back. Harvey was onto him, Jim was sure of it. Pain emanates from his leg as his blunt fingernails bury themselves into his leg. Carefully concealing the fact he was hiding anything he finds himself holding eye contact with his partner. Harvey looks away, his attention thankfully returning to the roadway.

Feeling uncomfortable Jim breaks the silence with another question.

“How was there still blood on the ground of the scene? Didn’t it rain a couple of days ago?”

Gripping the steering wheel with a tight grip Harvey drawls out, “Lucky for us it hadn't rained here during that time. The storm system must have just missed the area. Not only was the trail mostly preserved in that area, but it is intact all the way across the damn highway. Cobblepot had been on the move.”

“One more question. Who the hell do you think this guy they called in was? Is there any way we can find out? It feels a bit strange that they didn’t report the limo as soon as they discovered it. What is the point of calling in a third person to look at a bloodied up limo? Makes me wonder if our caller was trying to get some money out of this. I bet that there is money being offered to anyone willing to bring Cobblepot in. You and I both know that most of the criminal in the city want Oswald’s head on a pike.”

“As I said before, I have no idea who this guy is. Maybe I can get one of the guys from the lab to pull fingerprints from the limo. If we’re lucky maybe this guy put his grubby hands on one of the door handles or something. This whole thing smells fishy, Jim. Honestly, at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if he was being tracked.” Harvey sighs before he continues, his hand smoothing its way through his long locks of hair. “I’ll try and get Nygma to work on that, he is the best we’ve got. That is if he ever came in to work.”

Confused, Jim blurts out, “Something wrong with Ed?”

“I’m not really sure, he has been calling in nearly every day this week. I heard he has the flu, but I don’t think that is the case. Truthfully, I think that he is crying his eyes out since Kringle left him. I can really feel his pain. Kringle just really loved that bastard Tom, which is a real fucking surprise. Hopefully the kid is taking care of himself whatever the case.”

“Lee mentioned that they broke up to me only yesterday, I can’t believe that she even went back to Dougherty. That man may have been a decent cop, but he wasn’t somebody capable of actually treating Kristin the way she deserved. I know I wasn’t the only one who saw the bruises. Why go back to that when she was with such a good guy like Ed?”

Frowning the older man points out, “People go where their hearts tell them to go, Jim. You know that as well as I do. It just seems a little extreme to go back to such a destructive relationship, everyone at the precent knows that he wasn’t exactly gentle with her. If she would have said something, we could have put him away for the abuse. It’s the least he deserved.”

If he ever laid his hand on her in my presence, I swear to god I would have killed him.

“He should have been put away a long time ago, Harvey. I just wish that we were the ones to put him in cuffs.” Anger brews underneath his skin, just another crime left uncharged. How long before Dougherty snapped and killed the woman in a fit of passion. Would anyone even care at that point? The very thought disgusts him, Kristin Kringle a broken and bruised mess.

‘Why do you just let them walk away, Jim?’

Pressure on his arm brings him back from his thoughts, Harvey pulls his hand away when he knows that Jim was back with him. Changing the subject Harvey queries, “So how are things going between you and Lee? It’s been looking a bit tense.”

“You could say that. She hasn’t been talking to me since the night the Barbara fell.”

“Is that the only reason she isn’t talking to you right now?”

“I’m not sure what you mean. Has she told you something different?” Jim wouldn’t be surprised if Lee had confided to Jim’s closest friend. But it still struck a cord that she hadn’t spoken to him about their own problems. However he understood why she had been keeping her distance, she was seeing it. The gradual fracturing of their bond. A second opinion on what she was seeing from Jim was absolutely necessary. Jealousy still flares up though, just like when the officer had comforted her at the scene that night. Not that I have much of a claim anymore. Jim pushes it back down, he knows that his feelings had no place here.

Jim’s lips part, and the words stop when his partner interrupts him. Harvey reassuringly says, “No, nothing like that. I just wanted to make sure everything was okay, you’ve been acting a bit strange.” There has to be more that Harvey was seeing, or maybe it was all in Jim’s head.

“I’m fine, Harvey. I just…” He can’t help but sigh, the words coming to a halt. A string of guilt wraps around his neck, choking the words away.

“Don’t want to talk about it? I get that. But if you need someone to talk to you know where I’m usually at.” Jim can’t help but feel touched by the concern in Harvey’s voice. The guilt pulls tighter, it is hard to swallow and his hands are sweating. Jim wanted to be there for Lee, but it wasn’t working. He was going to lose her one day regardless, and he isn’t sure he can take that heartbreak. His job came first, but she still refused to let his loyalties be. She could do so much better, she could escape this damned city.

The temptation to tell the other man that he wasn’t one-hundred percent on board with his relationship with Lee anymore hits him right in the gut. There was so much uncertainty on both ends, and every day they are apart sets his wavering thoughts further in concrete. Staying with Lee shouldn’t be difficult, everything had been so easy, so right. Now he isn’t sure about anything. Could he salvage it, could he leave Gotham for her?

‘If you love her, you will accept the change. You’re scared, Jim.’

“Thank you, maybe after things start to settle down we can go grab some beers.”

“Now that is what I like to hear, Jim!” A wide smile spreads easily over both of their faces at the enthusiastic response. Feeling a little light, Jim eases back into his seat as the tension in his shoulders eases.

They get caught in more traffic over the following forty minutes, the car staying pleasantly silent. Before long Jim dozes off in the car only to be startled awake when Harvey yells out, “Oh shit, that might be our turn off. Hold on to your britches!”

The car beings to brake at a rapid speed,and Jim isn’t sure they have enough time to safely make the turn ahead.

“Whoa, what the hell! Slow down Harvey!” Jim bellows with panic, his eyes are locked on the quickly approaching road. Hand flying up to the overhead handle Jim gives his prayers as Harvey takes a sharp turn off of the highway. It wasn’t until they were safely parked behind the small line of cruisers parked at the edge of the scene that Jim was able to unhinge his hand from the handle. Turning in his seat he glares at Harvey, but he is mostly ignored as the man unbuckles his seatbelt. Before he can say anything to the wild man before him, Harvey finally meets his eyes.

Giving a broad grin the older man boasts proudly, “I learned them moves from my Granddad. The old geezer would have been proud of how I handled this deathtrap on wheels. I was pretty cool, right? Though I have to say Jim, it looked like you were going to shit your pants. You good?”

Raising his eyebrow Jim grudgingly admits, “I’m alright. Let’s just get out of this car before you try and kill us again. I’m not sure your Grandpa is quite ready to see you yet.”

Harvey playfully slaps the top of the steering wheel as words bubble from his mouth, “Ha! You’re wise beyond your years my friend, my Granddad was saying the same things when he had me drive. But it still doesn’t change the fact that I nailed that turn. No, no! Don’t give me that look, we’ve got work to do. So let’s get this show on the road.”

Pulling off his own seatbelt Jim is just opening the door when Harvey leans in closely, voice conspiratorial, “Wait, before I forget. Get yourself ready to harass the new guy subbing in for Ed. I hear he is a bit of a hard ass, and that he was talking smack about how things were being run. Can you believe it?”

“Reminds me a bit of myself when you complain like that.” Jim can’t help but point out the comparison. The older man still picked on him for his attitude, but it was definitely more fond. Harvey had been changing for the best, while Jim was slowly decaying as the days went by.

“Yep, just like you. The GCPD can’t have two Gordon’s running around here. You cause enough trouble as it is.” With those last words Harvey pulls himself out of the car, a loud grunt coming from his side of the vehicle. Jim stares after him for a moment before making his own exit.

The day still had not begun.

Jim and Harvey had arrived late to the scene as was expected, the interstate had been clogged with the morning traffic and Harvey had been taking his sweet time until the end.

Several of the officers on scene had been less than amused by their late arrival, and had been more than willing to complain. Harvey let them do their complaining, his head nodding in time with their worked up speeches. Once they had their say, Harvey had quickly gotten them to business, his demeanor changing completely. Just the right level of professionalism.

The teams on scene had scoped out the area already, and were beginning to pack up their gear. Forensics had collected several things that needed further analysis, various fingerprints, blood samples, and the remnants of three different paints scraped onto the fiberglass carnage that was once a limousine. Other than that, there apparently wasn’t much for them to go on it seemed. Which Jim found ludicrous, but he kept his mouth shut as Harvey continued to get the necessary details.

Several of the detectives insisted that the only things worth their time was the ruined limousine and the pending investigation on the mystery man who had smashed the vehicle that couple of hours ago. It seemed Cobblepot’s blood trail led across the highway and right into the woods beyond. No one was able to find any other traces of the raven haired man beyond a mile or so into the woods. Too many things had ruined the integrity of the path the man had taken.

Jim thought that was a pile of horse crap and he said as much. The officers had just looked at him pityingly, and said they did the best that they could. But they wouldn’t be finding anything. Jim wanted to demand the search dogs to be brought in, for them to take the time to find any remains. However he was the only man that felt it was necessary, he could see it in their faces. Of course they were right, it would have been a waste of resources, and their department was already pinched tight. However Jim still felt bitter, his attitude turning like the flick of a switch.

He wanted them to try, but he didn’t fight the other detectives farther than that. Still, he seethed internally as Harvey continued to speak to the other men. Everyone already thought Cobblepot was dead, Harvey included.

An hour passed before the officers started to disperse, there was nothing else for them to do. Someone would be coming to pick up the limo and take it to their evidence yard. After that, there was no reason to remain. Jim just stood stiffly while Harvey said his goodbyes, his face completely blank.

It wasn’t until they were mostly alone that his partner finally spoke up. But of course it was nothing that Jim wanted to hear.

“Well, it is about time we got some good news.”

“What do you mean, Harvey?” Jim can’t help but ask, his eyes narrowing in fear of where the conversation was about to lead.

Harvey pulls off his hat as he begins to speak, his other hand carding through his hair. He avoids looking at Jim. “It seems like Penguin might have finally got what was coming to him. All I have to say is thank the heavens for that.”

The older man puts his hat back on his head with a flourish, and stuffs his hands in his pockets. Jim can’t help himself as he softly remarks, “We don’t have a body to prove that. Cobblepot might still be alive.”

“Do you see that blood trail, Jim? We should be saying good riddance at this point in the game. How he survived that long is a mystery to me.”

He’s quite tenacious that way, isn’t he.

Jim crosses his arms, his muscles flexing with excess energy. With some forcefulness he finds himself arguing back, “We need to check though. We can’t be lazy about this.”

“Are you serious? Does it look like any of these guys want to go looking through the woods? None of them even want to be here, they all hate Penguin for what had been doing to the GCPD. Not only that, for some unknown reason Penguin thought it would be a great idea to send in his goons to that damn party. And for what, revenge? He couldn’t even manage to get his intended target, Jim. Instead his little group of doppelgängers murdered several of our officers, and made a mess of the celebration. Lucky for us most of his men are dead, and my best guess is that Cobblepot’s body is out there somewhere in them woods. Some would say it was about damn time.”

“That’s fine, I get why they wouldn’t want to help. But even criminals deserve a burial and some proper respect.”

“He killed a bunch of our men, Jim! He doesn’t deserve any respect.” Harvey yells out vehemently. Several heads turn in their direction as the older man’s voice rings out. Giving the other remaining detectives on the scene a glare, Jim pulls his parter farther away from their prying eyes and ears. It isn't until they are near the rest stop bathroom stalls that he takes his hand away from the older man. He walks back and forth for a few moments before he says anything. Jim’s thoughts are jumping in various directions, and his emotions are running high. Pissing off Harvey will do no good. But he doesn’t want to relent either.

He is going to be so pissed at me.

Tilting his head back, Jim looks Harvey straight in the eyes as he begins to argue back, “I know what happened Harvey. I don't need you constantly reminding me. We both watched the bodies being taken from the scene, we both visited the morgue and talked to the families. We both witnessed how ruthless Cobblepot was that night. However we both know that the only reason any of this happened is that our new mayor murdered his mother in cold blood.”

“Allegedly was murdered,” the older man spits out, face red with annoyance. “We only have the Penguin and Butch’s word on that.”

Jim steps in closer, his face not far from his partners. He can almost taste the fury leaking out of the other man. But he can’t stop now. “Damnit, Harvey! We have two witnesses, and we have a possible motive. I’ve been telling you and Barnes to look out for her body since that night. We already have a search area, we just need to canvass the abandoned warehouses and industrial buildings near the bay. We will have our proof that Cobblepot was telling the truth!”

Harvey’s finger pokes threateningly at Jim’s chest. His face is stormy as he gets more worked up, the words are rushing out of the man at a rapid pace now. “Jim you aren’t going to like this, but I’m saying that you’re being yanked around by these guys. Someone would have reported her disappearance, a family friend, someone from work, maybe a mysterious lover. Yet nobody has given a report besides Penguin! And look how good his word is. It isn’t! She most likely tailed it as soon as she heard the news on who was running the streets now. Probably figured she didn’t want to die because her kid was turning into some criminal mastermind.”

He wants to pull his damn hair out, the man was so stubborn, why couldn’t he see what was right in front of him? He tries to reason. “Bullshit. We both know that she was a retired woman who kept to herself, and had no one she could go to besides her son. There wouldn’t be anyone else to report her besides her landlord. However even that doesn’t seem likely, because it is safe to assume that Cobblepot would have been paying the bills since he had suddenly become the moneymaker of the family.” Fingers twitching, Jim continues. “Cobblepot told me that she had been murdered that day, he had told me whom the killer was. He had insisted that Galavan was the murderer. We both heard how heartbroken he had sounded, how real it was. How angry he was that she had been taken away.”

“Yeah, yeah. He might have been all teary eyed, but he said all of this while he was pointing a gun at you. Now why is that? Oh, I know! So that you would move out of the way and he could blow Galavan to smithereens. He was trying to use your pity for him against you, Jim. Especially since you two seem so close.” Listening intently, Jim can’t help but feel offended at the fact he may have been used. He tries to push it away, but he suddenly doubts. Harvey doesn’t normally lead him off track.

It was real, he wasn’t lying to me. Was he?

Jim’s voice grows quiet, his fingers digging into his biceps while he speaks. “I'm telling you that it is the truth, I know how he normally acts. This was grief, and he was ready to kill the man who took away the only person he seemed to love. Why go through all of the trouble of trying to kill Galavan if not for revenge? He already had everything that he wanted. Power and respect.”

Harvey’s arms go up in the air in exasperation, “Gee, maybe it's because he is a murderer? Isn't that what good little killers do? Kill? He probably thought he didn’t have enough power and thought killing Gotham’s mayor was the next step up.You actually think that our mayor is some scumbag?”

“It's more than that, we both know he always has his reasons. Her death makes the most sense to me though. He has his power, Harvey. If he wanted more, he had other ways to get it.”

“You know these things, not me. You're the one all buddy buddy with that deadbeat. And I’m not sure I trust your judgement on this.”

Ignoring the man’s insinuation, Jim tries a different path. “Harvey, we have to find out if he is really dead. He is one of two witnesses to an innocent woman’s possible murder. Not only that, but Cobblepot is also the culprit for sending the hit on Gotham's mayor. The mayor who has been accused of murder. This is something that Galavan would have to pay for, right? We have to find Cobblepot, we have to find his mother, and we need to discover the truth. At the most if we do find his body, we may be able to have forensics run the bullet to see if we can get a lead on who was responsible for shooting him. We have to make those responsible for these crimes go through trial.”

“Why is your face telling me that this actually matters to you? You know better than I do that it was only a matter of time until someone put a bullet in Penguin. I mean, what are the chances he is really alive? He was bleeding like a damned gut fish. He was lucky he even got through our police barricades in the condition he was in. And somehow you think he managed to make it alive through the freaking woods?”

It was a long shot.

“He was shot in the arm, it is something he could easily survive with the proper help. There has to be a reason he came this way instead of going to a safe house in the city. He must have a cabin, or maybe he knows someone up here.”

Harvey looks less than convinced, “Or maybe the bullet clipped him just right and he lost so much blood that he didn't even know what the hell he was doing. I mean, do you see where we are at? Where the hell would he even go? I'm telling you he is dead. Gone! Probably eaten by the damn bears, or something.”

“Cobblepot tried to tell us months ago that something was wrong. He had to have some sort of plan if things went south. There has to be something up here, there has to be a reason he came to these woods.” Jim hopes that he is right.

“We can't justify the time needed to look for him Jim. And let me repeat what I said earlier, no one here wants to be out there looking for him. I think this is right where his story ends. It has been nearly a week and no one has heard a peep from him. Nobody has even been whispering about where he could possibly be hiding out. He is a wanted man, and not even the slimiest know-it-all’s know where he is at. Everyone seems positive that he’s gone. This is it for Penguin, and it’s a fitting end for your short little pal.”

For a moment Harvey seems remorseful at his insistence, as if he knows that somehow his words are wounding Jim. As if he knows…things.

‘You’re an open book, Jim. I can see how much all of this bothers you, and that makes you weak.’

Jim closes his eyes and presses the heel of his hand up to his forehead. He doesn’t even know why he keeps arguing about this. But he just wants someone to help him. He doesn’t want to do this alone, he wants somebody there if they find a body. A reason for him to hold himself in check.

“Those people wouldn't be dead if we just listened to him in the first place. If I had listened to him. I knew something was wrong, and I did nothing about it.” Jim’s shoulders shake, he hopes that Harvey doesn’t notice.

“Jim, are you even listening to yourself? Why are you trying to justify his actions and why are you trying to share the blame? You’re wasting your time feeling sorry for yourself, it’s not like you had the whole story. It’s not like you could have actually stopped him. I understand that you two had some sort of arrangement, these past couple of years. But we both know that the well had run dry for some time on his end, and that you shouldn’t even be trying to protect him. He was worthless, Jim.”

“He was the leading man of Gotham's known underworld. How useless could he possibly have been?”

Frustrated, Harvey swears, “God, that's not the fucking point. He was one of the bad guys, and he was a known murderer. That isn't the type of person you want to owe favors for, Jim. I say we let him stay in these woods, dead or alive. Why should either of us waste anymore time on him? What do we owe him? Jack shit! If you want to keep searching that's all on you buddy. But me? I’m not going to waste my breath going deeper into those woods.”

Pissed off, Jim can barely think. He says the first thing that comes to mind, his voice clipped and brooking no argument. “I think I will, Harvey. Believe it or not, I do owe him. He’s saved my life more times than I can count. If I were to make count, it might even be more times than you’ve done. And if I can’t find Cobblepot? Then at least I tried. And since I do owe him, I will also make an effort to find Ms. Kapelput’s body. So don’t worry, you don’t have to waste your time looking for her either. Now give me your keys.”

Furious, the other man digs into his coats pocket until he finds them. “Here take them,” Harvey dangles the keys for a moment, they smack together ominously in the man’s large hands. The sound is irritating. Jim swiftly snatches the keys away, his mouth a tight line as the keys press into the palm of his hand. Without another word, Jim turns away from Harvey. Both hands of his are curled into tight fists, he wants to scream.

He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand me.

It is better if he walks away now before he gets in a fist fight. Jim doesn’t want their argument to escalate that far, they were both already worked up over all of the killings. Over the continuous waves of criminals surfacing, the madmen trying to make the city fall. I’m letting Oswald get to me. Leather bottom shoes crunch over the grass and then tap loudly as they hit the parking lots concrete. Jim is putting as much distance as he can between him and Harvey. He just hopes his partner keeps his mouth shut, hopes that he isn’t following.

He is just making it past the last remaining cruiser when his partner’s voice reaches his ear. “It's not like Cobblepot would have wasted his time like this. He doesn’t even give a shit about you, why should you even care? Let it go, Jim!” Harvey is livid, but Jim won’t look. He won’t turn around. Instead he continues on, his face a storm of emotions.

The last remaining detective on the scene is standing next to his cruiser, his eyes are wide and his mouth open in panic. The man must see something, because when Jim cooly meets the others gaze the man looks away quickly. Panicked.

He must have heard them arguing for a while. It’s not as if they were that quiet. Jim can’t help but wonder what his coworkers must think. What the rumors are circulating about what is going on between him and the Penguin.

Jim just continues marching forward. In the background he hears Harvey curses out, “Fuck!” Jim ignores the rest of the other mans words, his heart pounding like a drum. The car isn’t that much further.

He can go fuck himself for leaving me to deal with this alone.

Harvey yells out one last parting shot. “You don't owe him anything Jim, do you hear me? Nothing!”

Jim throws the door of Harvey’s car open and slumps onto the brown leather seat. Wasting no time he attempts to start the car, he pushes the key towards the starter. It takes several attempts for him to realize he was having trouble getting the key in, his hand numbly missing every pass. When the keys fumble from out of his grasp, Jim slams his hands on the black steering wheel, the horn goes off with each hit.

Around the same spot that Jim left him, Harvey watches. Jim gives him a quick glance, something to warm him off. For him to keep standing where he was at. Convinced that the other man got his hint, Jim bends over to grab the keys resting next to his right foot.

With keys in hands he feels victorious. Jim slams the key home and starts up the vehicle. He pulls off a neat three point turn, and drives down the driveway of the rest stop. In the rearview mirror he watches as Harvey begins to run after the retreating vehicle. His arms are raised and waving, Jim can tell he is hollering for him to stop. Harvey must not have believed that Jim would take off. Sucks to be him.

He’ll get a ride with Philip, Jim thinks to himself. He smiles grimly at the shrinking figure, his satisfaction only a temporary distraction.

Jim pulls onto the highway, his foot pressing down the accelerator. He doesn’t want to be anywhere near the scene, even if it is only for a couple of minutes. Flicking on the radio he focuses on the music playing, a concert piece plays on the AM radio. It takes a minute before Jim accepts that he doesn’t recognize the piece, the violins and cello’s working in harmony to create a vibrant story. The song plays for several more minutes, and then dissipates. Jim wants to know the songs name since the melody had eased him back to a safe state of mind. However a Gotham Medical Group audio advertisement begins, his chances of hearing the song again dashed.

Going north, he drives up the double highway for several miles. It isn’t until he clears a series of hills that Jim finally sees a turnoff. Forgetting about the musical piece, he focuses on taking the quickly approaching roundabout. Pulling into the lane, he eases back into the seat. Several calming moments pass before he finally is driving back down the south end of the highway. The miles fly by, and before he knows it he is pulling over and setting the car to park. He looks across the highway and sees that he is just across from the entrance of the abandoned rest stop. Harvey is most likely still at the rest stop still. Jim doubts that the remaining detective was going to be pleased by his and Harvey’s future car ride. Philip could handle it.

Breathing heavily for a moment, Jim mentally prepares himself. Everyone was right, Cobblepot was most likely dead, and Jim was just beating a dead horse by continuing with this search. That did not mean that he wanted to stop. Holding tightly to the steering wheel, he listens as the afternoon traffic passed by. The car shakes as a series of semis drive by. It isn’t until the last semi in his rear view goes by that Jim releases his grip on the wheel. With a fleeting look at the rest stops driveway, Jim climbs easily out of the car. Slamming the door behind him, he walks around the back of the vehicle and begins his search.

They said it was straight across. Ah, there it is.

Finding the trail of blood easily enough, Jim looks from his current position to the thick of the woods. Bringing a pair of hiking shoes would have been a good idea, it looked like the walk was going to be a bitch. He would have to make do.

What were you doing here, Oswald?

Following the speckled pavement to the edge of the woods, Jim hesitates a moment before entering the thicket. Looking over his shoulder, he watches a blue sedan come down the road. It was going much slower than the rest of the traffic, and several other vehicles passed it as it seemed to drag close by. Windows tinted, Jim can’t tell if the driver is looking at him or not. But it feels like he is being stared down. Jim can’t help but wonder if it was just a curious bystander wondering if he needed help, or someone more dangerous. The car drives off with a bit more speed after it passes, and in a couple blinks of the eye the sedan finally disappears. Jim feels lighter knowing it was gone, safer.

I hope they don’t come back…

The coast is clear of any further traffic when he enters the woods, the trees grab his long coat loosely as he pushes his way through. A sharp branch slides across the side of his face, scratching lightly over his cheek. Brushing the branch out of his way, he pushes onward, the pain was of little consequence. It takes a few minutes to find the trail through the leaves and downed branches as Jim steadily moves past the first few sets of trees. A blood splattered leaf is pushed into the dirt, a marker the injured man left behind. Jim follows it without thought.

Practical, Oswald had been practical.

The injured man’s trek through the woods seemed less of a run for his life, and more like an uneventful and planned hike. There was definitely an ending destination, perhaps a safe house hidden in the middle of the woods? Cobblepot’s trail progresses easily, the path almost too easy as Jim follows it closely. The injured man had apparently decided to stay close to the edge of the woods for nearly a mile, until slowly Cobblepot’s trajectory began to change. The man had made a detour. Up ahead there was a small open field, from there the highway was visible. A place where Oswald could have easily been spotted by passing traffic, even in the dark of the night. The other man must have know that he would have stood out like a sore thumb, so he had gone further into the darkness.

Jim follows the clues gratefully.

The integrity of the path begins to diminish until it becomes nearly impossible to find the correct direction Cobblepot had ventured. The only identifier that the snitch left were partial footprints that had dried into the ground. Vaguely, Jim remembers that it was raining the night before the celebration, so the mud would have been widespread when the injured man went through. Something for Oswald to struggle in, something to make it that much more difficult.

His leg must have been killing him.

However, even the prints begin to become less frequent as his clues started to dry up. Eventually he loses the trail, the other man lost once again.

Jim looks around helplessly, searching for anything to give away the direction the other man had gone. He continues heading farther from the highway until the sounds from the road no longer chase after him. The gentle quiet soothes him as he presses forward, the rush of cars had made him feel twitchy and anxious. Now the soft sounds of the woods help push back the unease that wrangled at him. He can concentrate on the task ahead, he can handle what may soon be revealed. It didn’t matter any longer how far Oswald had come. It no longer mattered that he may have become lost in these woods, that he may have met his end. It didn’t matter that Jim may never find him, that the woods may have already taken the other man and hidden him away. It was just the clarity that anything was possible. That there may still be hope, or that there isn’t anything to hope for. Jim doesn’t have to waste his energy on where his thoughts want to take him. There is just the calm.

He will find his way, or he will not.

He pushes farther into the welcoming arms of the woods, the trees grab desperately at the fabric of his coat as soon as he changes direction. Their long arms pull and tug him closer to their gnarled trunks.

‘Why don’t you stay?’

The spruces and pines are steadily growing closer together, enveloping Jim and pulling him deeper into their territory. A branch jabs into his arm, the pain is fleeting as Jim mostly ignores it. He wonders if Harvey knows any good menders, or if he would have to buy himself a new coat. Another branch tears at his clothing. He’ll definitely need that new coat.

The light above disappears slowly, he guesses that he may be three or four miles deep by now. But it seems like he has been walking for hours, and that he will be walking for many more. Several more miles go by, he figures that he may have circled around at one point because he could swear that he saw that same tree twenty minutes ago. The canopy overhead steals away the suns light, and it becomes harder to see where each step is taking him. Maybe he should stop for a while, get his bearings. Jim trips over a thick mass of roots and almost tumbles down a hill just to his right. He hadn’t noticed it as he was walking along. Steadying himself on the trunk of a dead tree, he looks down the small descent. A single rock catches his eye suddenly. On it is the rusty color of dried blood. He pushes out a trembling breath. His gut had been telling him that Oswald had gone in a different direction, but luck seemed to push him in the right direction once again.

Look how lucky I am today.

Jim eases slowly down the hillside, his hands waving out for stability. Breathing lightly his heartbeat becomes more steady with each step. “I’m definitely getting a workout today,” he mumbles under his breath. His body seems to enjoy the small reprieve from going downhill. He keeps going down, and down.

Sunlight streams with more force through the trees, and it heats him up. A sheen of sweat covers his face and the dress shirt clings to him. Several horse flies buzz past him, the loud hum of their wings grow louder as they plan their attack. He reaches the bottom of the hill without incident, and the flies disappear as he approaches the protruding rock. He bends over and lets his fingers brush against the rough surface, and then hovers them above dried blood. Oswald may have taken a short rest in this exact spot if the numerous busted branches and pillowed down leaves meant anything. Jim finally felt like he was back on track. Getting closer and closer to the truth.

Standing back up Jim’s back gives a twinge of protest. He should take a short break, but it seems useless at this point. The damage was already done the moment he started hiking with his dress shoes. Ignoring the dull throb of his back, Jim gives the rock one last lingering gaze.

Did it hurt?

The track still seems fresh, but Jim know that is impossible. There must not have been anything around to disturb the scene. He can’t help but feel thankful at the peculiarity. Shoe prints litter the ground, their direction heading east. Jim follows Oswald’s renewed path with more vigor as he walks it step by step through the shade of the trees.

Deeper into the woods Jim was struck by the deafening silence that hung heavily through this area of the woods. It was much more silent now, eerily so. He stops in place, his eyes darting left and right. The sudden sound of leafs rustling to his left startles Jim. His heart begins to pick up speed and he stops to listen for any other sounds as he turns in that direction.

Anything could be out here.

The wind whistles over the top of the canopy, displacing a multitude of leafs and pine needles. They flutter to the ground, and once they hit the underbrush it is silent once more. Then something cracks further in the depths of the woods, the sound echoes in cacophony with another snap that races through the numerous pine and birch trees. Frantically Jim tries to spot the origin of the disturbances. Growing nervous he pulls his gun from its holster and takes aim as he spins in a tight circle. There is something watching him, he is sure of it.

Nothing moves, not even a birds sweet song calls into the sky overhead. Everything just seems dead and lifeless. A minute passes without incident, and Jim lets his stance become less threatening. In the distance he thinks he hears something. Someone is whispering in the woods, he is sure of it. Holding position he tries to make out the words he is hearing, but the source is too far away or the words too faint.

Jim lowers his gun.

A snap comes from behind and a thick birch tree thumps to the ground, the branches splinter and the leafs rustle weakly on its fresh deathbed. Cursing, Jim backs away. Its death seems premature, wrong. It wasn’t that far from where he stood. Suddenly he is glad that he hadn’t taken his time with his hike. That he wasn’t lying underneath the heavy weight of the birch. He takes another step back as another sound echoes down his path. It is the whispers again, they sounds louder now. Only as soon as they are heard they disappear once more.

Something groans loudly from the birch.

Curious, Jim steps closer. He doesn’t quite trust what is going on around him, so he keeps his gun drawn just in case. He is almost beside the fallen tree when something catches his eye. Fearfully he watches as not far behind the freshly fallen tree, another hits the ground below. The path he had walked not even ten minutes ago was becoming a graveyard.

Farther down the path the sharp snap of a tree snapping echoes. He watches a large pine fall.

Taking a few steps back Jim pushes into the back of a tall maple tree. The woods seem to be pushing closer to him with every breath. This wasn’t right. He needed to get out of this area. But it didn’t feel like anything was out there, but he kept hearing things.

Just find the trail and get out of this place.

Pushing away from the temporary safety of his hiding spot, Jim walks deeper into the woods. Keeping a critical eye on his surrounding he heads through the maze. It feels like something is close behind, and he can feel warm air tickling at the back of his neck. When he looks back there is nothing there. He doesn’t want to think about how it had felt like someone puffing air across his flesh. Shuddering, Jim stares resolutely ahead and plows forward with more speed in his step.

It isn't until he nearly trips over a long length of gnarled root that the fact he sprinting through the woods registers. Cheeks red and eyes wide with barely checked terror, he forces himself to slow down. There is something ahead.

A dark shadow looms in a small clearing ahead. Jim keeps it in his sight as he slowly creeps closer, his body shielded by the trunk of a thick tree. Putting his hands out for support, he grabs onto a branch and waits. Something soft touches his hand as he changes his grip for extra stability. Without looking he pulls loose whatever had been hanging off of the branch.

The shadow up ahead moves steadily through the clearing, and then begins to ease closer. Jim tries to pick up any other sounds as it moves through the foliage, but he hears nothing else of interest. He wants to call out. But he has a strong feeling that it wasn't the man he was looking for.

The figure finally comes into the light, and Jim has to hold in his breath.

What the hell.

He can hear the whispers again, only now he knows from where they come. Up ahead in the clearing was a man shoveling deeply into the hard ground. Even from a distance Jim knew he was looking right at Edward Nygma.

 

21 Days After the Fall: Jim Gordon's Point of View

 

Jim is in a bit of a stupor, the alcohol addling his brain. He just wanted to forget what ended up happening that day. He just wants to sleep, he wants the guilt to go away. He wants the dirt to come clean from his hands.

Jim makes an uneasy beeline to his bedroom. Yeah, he wants to forget who he saw, and what he found. He wants to make it all go away for a while, to pretend nothing was wrong.

What the hell had Ed been up to? Well, that question was easy enough to answer after Jim had kneeled patiently in the woods for several hours. The man had been digging a grave. A very discreet grave, something that wouldn’t normally be found without some sort of assistance. It wasn’t until the man had dumped a body and finished up covering it with dirt that it really smacked Jim in the face that his friend may have murdered someone.

He still had let Ed walk off, let him get away with hiding a body in the middle of the woods.

It wasn’t until he was sure the other man wasn’t coming back that he had finally moved from his spot in the woods. His legs had cramped up, and his back hurt from slouching over. But the pains didn’t stop him from marching to the site of the burial.

Ed is a murderer. How many of your friends are killers now?

Jim had stood next to the grave in quiet contemplation, his mind running a mile a minute. The time came when he eventually made a decision. He had to know who Ed buried.

So Jim dug up the body.

It took longer without a shovel, but as he dug the loosened dirt with his hands he had time to build up a sad little theory. Kringle had to be dead. Hell, maybe even Dougherty was dead and buried up here somewhere. Ed was the last person to have heard word from Kringle, and the way she had departed seemed suspicious. And Tom had left work without a single word, supposedly moving away. Ha, yeah right.

When Jim finally reached the body and uncovered the face, he only discovered a stranger who had been viciously stabbed to death. The man had been dressed well, but still managed to have that cheap hitman look. It wasn’t Kringle or Dougherty. Ed had been lucky that someone else was buried there that night, or else he would already be sitting in a prison cell. Instead, Jim found himself covering the body back up without a lick of guilt at the time.

Jim had just walked away with dirt covering his knees and the soft flesh of his hands.

He let Ed get away with it. And why had he done that? The reasons were not something Jim wanted to think too critically on, instead he wanted the alcohol to rinse his mind clean of the problem. He just wanted to fall the fuck asleep, but the pillow was lumpy and uncomfortable. And his brain didn’t know when to quit.

I helped a murderer. Again.

Not far from that clearing Jim had discovered a long dirt road and along with it Cobblepot’s trail of blood. The area had been accessible the whole time. Quickly he had passed several camps and even a small parking lot. It wasn’t even a half hour later that Jim had eventually found Cobblepot’s trailer.

And that infuriated Jim.

That anger quickly changed to fear, pain, and then faintly of hope.

There had been blood splattered throughout the small trailer. Blood on the soft cushions of the built-in seat, blood covering the floor, blood in the bathroom, it had been everywhere. Jim had almost lost him damn mind when he had found the remains of Cobblepot’s flashy jacket. How much blood could he fucking lose before he didn’t have enough left to function? Apparently it hadn’t been enough, the man hadn’t been down for the count while he was hiding away. At least that wasn’t the impression the toaster oven gave Jim.

He had been here, he had been alive! Oswald was alive, or at least it had seemed likely.

But Jim doesn’t know where the injured man had gone, someone had taken him away.

How does he know this? The first hint had been the tire tracks that had been plowed into the dirt road right in front of the damn trailer. The second hint had been the baseball bat that was left behind. It had sat uselessly several feet from the front door. Cobblepot might have been snatched away. In fact it was a most likely scenario.

God, even after all of the days that had passed since the trailers discovery Jim still has no idea what went on. And maybe he never would.

Jim just wants to know the truth. He just wants his chance.

I just want…

Jim passes out on the covers of his mattress, his mind finally going blissfully blank. The only thing that wakes him up throughout the night is the loud thundering snap of a tree breaking just down the road.

Chapter Text

The Night of the Fall - Bruce Wayne’s Point of View

 

‘Are you sure this is wise, Master Bruce?’

Maybe this was a bad choice. I should have listened to Alfred when he warned me against coming here tonight.

Deep in his gut, Bruce knew that something was off about the esteemed Mr. Galavan. His numerous fears and doubts which had been building for weeks, comes into fruition as soon as he enters the mayor’s office. The one thing he is thankful for is that Alfred stands resolutely at his side. The joyless man in front of Bruce was not the same person from before. This wasn’t the kind gentleman offering advice, or the one who had readily made promises of resurrecting this city from its inevitable grave. No, instead there was a stranger standing up to greet Bruce. This wasn’t Mr. Galavan, not a version he had met before.

“Bruce, I am pleased that you decided to come here on such short notice.”

There is a peculiar light in the older man’s eyes when they shake hands in greeting. Bruce’s arm hairs stand on end as soon as their hands make contact, he wants to pull away. Instead Bruce keeps his grip firm, and ignores the warning signs. Hiding his weariness of the situation, the young man politely replies, “It seemed like an urgent matter, so I didn’t want to keep you waiting. Can I ask what has happened?”

Mr. Galavan releases his hand and grimly begins, “I have something that I must ask of you, and I’m not sure how you will respond. So why don’t we take a seat over here so that I can explain.” Galavan walks over to a small wooden table with two matching chairs, he pulls out the chair closest to him and sits down. On top of the table Bruce notices a sealed file, something important? Bruce suspiciously glances at the back of the mayor’s head as he is ushered into one of the empty seats by Alfred. He attempts to get comfortable in the seat, but fails. The tension in the room is extraordinary.

Turning slightly, Bruce makes guarded eye contact with Alfred. The other man tips his head forward, yet remains silent. It is a brief moment of acknowledgement as the older man remains a steady presence behind him. Bruce wonders if Alfred felt the change in Mr. Galavan, if he noticed the impatience that was manifesting. Bruce gives his full attention back to the mayor as the man starts speaking. “I called you here so that I could make an offer, one that may finally give you the answers that you want.” The man pauses for effect as he leans forward and then goes to say, “I’ve come across some information on the man who murdered your parents.”

Bruce nearly topples the chair as he jumps to his feet. “What? May I ask what you found?” He knows that he shouldn’t become so excited by the man’s potential knowledge, but he can’t stop himself. His emotions would be exploited by the strange man in front of him if he wasn’t careful.

Mr. Galavan spreads his hands on the table. Dark eyes narrow as he says, “I have everything you want to know right here in this file, Bruce.” Alfred takes a sharp breath, but doesn’t intervene.

“May I look at it?” Bruce asks somewhat desperately as his body shakes from a sudden spike of adrenalin. He could finally know who had taken his family away that night. I have to know. However, I can’t help but think this all came with a steep price. Irrationally, Bruce wants to simply grab the file right off the table, but he refrains from touching anything. There is a reason the mayor hadn’t told him the information already. Extortion, blackmail?

What is Galavan plotting?

“No. No, you may not.”

Heart plummeting, Bruce let’s the man continue on without interruption. “This is where things become a little more difficult, as there is something that I want in return for this information. And it will not be an easy decision on your part. See, what I want in exchange for this information is for you to sell your shares for Wayne Enterprises to me. Your families company in exchange for the name of the man who left you an orphan.”

Alfred steps forward as he barks out, “And why in the bloody hell would he do that? The company is all he has now and you want to take that from him. All of this just for the promise of him knowing his parents murderer? There could be anything in that fancy little package you’ve got there. Why it could just be a bunch of blank pages for all we know. We already have everything that the GCPD could find dealing with their deaths. There were no names, no evidence on who had killed them. And what you’re saying is that you just came upon this knowledge, and that you feel it is worth the price of a multi-billion-dollar company?” Alfred looks like he is about to lunge over the table so that he could strangle Gotham’s mayor. Bruce glares at Alfred in warning. Now was not the time. The older man seems to get the message, as he quickly backs off.

Bruce takes a collected breath as he clears away his immediate emotional response. He couldn’t jump into this conversation without being clearheaded. The stakes were extremely high.

“Alfred is right. What you’re asking in return for this information is extraordinary. I can’t hand my company over to you knowing that it was for such selfish reasons. Even if you did have the information, how can I trust you? Who are your sources and how long have you been withholding this information? Why do you want my company so badly? Please, say what you mean.”

Mr. Galavan lifts up the sealed file and waves it towards Bruce as he steadily reveals, “Here is what I know about that night, Bruce. I know that you were not even supposed to be with them that night. I know that your parents were supposed to be heading to the theater without you. Of course, that was right up until the point when your father had suddenly changed his mind. I know that instead, he had suggested that all of you go to a movie that night. You all arrived late. I know that this man was following your father that night, even before the alleyway.”

“I didn’t tell anyone what happened that night. How do you know this?”

“I told you already, Bruce. I obtained this information from multiple sources. In fact, in this packet I have the name of the man who killed your parents. There is documentary proof, accomplices, motives. Everything thing you need, the why, how and who. And as to why I want the company…”

Bruce watches as the man leans comfortably back into the hard wood of the seat with the file now resting in his lap. Patiently Bruce waits for the mayor to continue finishing his reasoning. He doesn’t have to wait long.

“Well the reason isn’t very complicated. For a while now I’ve been investigating Wayne Enterprises. And do you know what I‘ve found?”

“What?” Bruce can’t help but question.

Mr. Galavan conspiratorially begins his explanation, “It’s amazing really, but it seems that Wayne Enterprises has many unsavory business practices. I’ve discovered information on how the company has numerous toxic waste dumps, which are currently polluting our precious land and water resources. I know that the company has been using banned chemicals in almost every industry that it has control of. The one chemical I’ve seen pop up numerous times in the past few weeks is the insecticide Tetraethyl Pyrophosphate, better known as TEPP. Now this is some nasty stuff. It is amazing how many people became ill or died in the decades before its federal ban. And now after years of it being out of the food supply, it shows its face once more in our city‘s markets. And it’s all thanks to your company, Wayne Enterprises. Should I even begin to mention the numerous illegal weapons that is has sold in shady deals, or the sickening experiments that have been done in your labs?"

All of this is happening at Wayne Enterprises?

How deep does the corruption run. Who is behind the deeds that Mr. Galavan so easily discovered? Would I be able to contain the issue without his help? Would it be wise to give someone like this more power than they already had? Is he a bad person, someone like the people possibly exploiting Wayne Enterprises? Would it be better to let him run my company…Is any of this even true? Maybe I should ask Mr. Gordon for help.

Alfred stands stiffly by the chair Bruce had abandoned, the man glaring holes through Mr. Galavan‘s skull. Bruce can tell that his butler was just as disturbed by the information and assumptions as he was, however he could also see the anger simmering through Alfred. The younger man can barely imagine what choice words were flying through Alfred’s mind at the moment.

Bruce paces around the room in thought, his mind racing to digest the information dump the mayor was apparently privy to. Did the people corrupting the company hire someone to kill my father? Was it not just a common criminal, but instead someone’s hired hand? Behind him Theo Galavan watches on at his struggle, a pleased glimmer in his eyes.

More words spew from the mayors mouth when Bruce fails to respond fast enough.

“I just want to save innocent lives, Bruce. And I know that I will be able to stop what your company has been doing behind your back, as long as I am the one in control. They don’t respect you because you’re still young, and they do things behind your back. I’m afraid that your naivety is being against you, and there is nothing that you will be able to do about it.”

“People often underestimate me.” The younger man warns. Bruce’s fingers curl into tight fists and then relax against his sides. Galavan continues as if he had never been interrupted. Resentment weaves its way through Bruce. Everyone thought he was a child.

“And if you do try to bring the perpetrators to light, who knows what these people will do to keep its secrets. What lengths will they take to keep you in the dark, hmm? Let me restore your company and the Wayne name, Bruce. Trust in me to make Gotham prosper in this dark time. I can stop whoever is responsible and bring them to justice. However, I will need an answer. A simple yes or no.”

Bruce stops pacing and assesses the mayor for any deception. The man only stares back at him. Galavan’s face is purposefully neutral, concealing something. It was more than likely that he is trying to get an accurate read on Bruce. He is underestimating me, just like everyone else has been. Bending me to fit some bigger agenda…

Not wanting to appear intimidated, Bruce lifts his chin in defiance. With a steady voice he insists, “No, I need time to think. It would be unreasonable for you to make this offer and not give me time to decide. You are asking me to give away everything my father worked for, just so that I would will have the peace of mind knowing who had murdered them. I want the man to pay, but I need to justify to myself having to hand over everything I have left, just for closure.”

“This will be the only time that I make the offer, Bruce. There is no way that you can lose. Everything you want is right at your fingertips. Through this agreement we can both help Gotham in our own ways. I know this is something that you want…so I will give you as much time as you need to decide. I just hope that you give me the honor, Bruce. You won‘t be sorry.”

Don’t let him know how much you want this.

Bruce’s eyes latch onto the packet that Galavan left on the table unattended, and then he flickers them back to Gotham‘s mayor. With some regret he finds himself saying, “Thank you, Mr. Galavan. You’ve uncovered a great number of issues that I knew nothing about. I have much to dwell on in the days to come, and I have even more things to unveil. I will give you a call when I come to my decision. Will you see me out?”

“Of course. It is getting late, so it’s about time we let the night come to an end regardless.”

Mr. Galavan stands up and quickly walks over to Bruce. A firm hand grabs onto the younger man’s right shoulder as the mayor slowly walks him to the door. Alfred follows closely behind. Wearily he eyes the friendly gesture, something only Bruce seemed to notice.

Alfred always did have a good eye for seeing through people.

Bruce knows that there is a chance he was being fooled, but he decided to play along. For now. Both of them would have to discuss the proposal when they were safely in Wayne manor.

The hand on Bruce’s shoulder disappears as Mr. Galavan opens the door. Gesturing to the empty hallway beyond, the man asks one more departing question. “By the way, Bruce. Will I still be seeing you on Friday? Silver has been asking about you, and I wouldn't want to disappoint her. She wants to have dinner at the place we went to last week as long as you are agreeable.” Smiling for the first time that night, Bruce beams, “Of course.”

With one last handshake between himself and the mayor, both Alfred and Bruce leave.

There was much that they needed to discuss.


One Day After the Fall - Tabitha Galavan’s Point of View

 

Music flows steadily through the speakers of the elevator leading to Theo Galavan’s posh penthouse. The dark haired woman occupying the boxed deathtrap couldn’t be more irritated by the annoyingly soft orchestral tunes. Whoever decided to add this to the automated sound system had no taste in music. I should find out who programmed this and kill them. Of course, brother dearest would probably disprove. What a damn drag.

Tabitha leans heavily against the hand railing of the elevator wall, a grimace on her face. The song changes to something upbeat, but it was no less garbage then the last. Tabitha’s mood sours considerably as she briefly wonders if Barbara would share the same attitude to the pathetic entertainment currently playing. She would ask, however Barbara was in a coma.

Only one person was to blame for all of this, and it was Barbara’s ex-fiancé. Gordon was the cream of the crop in emotional constipation and generally bad relationship decisions. That man was truly an ungrateful idiot, and he never should have had a chance with Barbara. She was too damn good for him.

Tabitha wanted to throw Gordon out of a twenty-storey building. He wasn’t even worth keeping around as a plaything like Penguin’s pathetic mother or the cowardly former Mayor Dent. Neither of those two had been much fun to have around, and Gordon was already a huge stick in the mud so she doubted he was even remotely entertaining. All the other two had ever done was whine and beg all day. Tabitha wasn't ready to have another crybaby waiting around for punishment.

Something quick would be more fitting. A punishment that fit his crime. Barbara would love it.

Tabitha’s lip quirks in a pleased smirk, and then vanishes. Brother hadn’t approved though. Theo had only laughed when she begged for permission to destroy the irritating detective. He never let her do anything fun anymore.

She can’t help but think that there was going to be even more restriction now, especially since she failed to kill Penguin at the party. Theo was already immeasurably furious, but he hadn’t taken any action against her that day or since. He was biding his time, waiting to corner her with some important mission. Something that had to be done before the consequences became too dire.

Trouble was already brewing though. It prickled and pecked at her skin, it followed her down every road she walked, every building she entered. It was here with her now, trouble was everywhere. It had even recently rang her phone in disguise as Theo. The man wanted to talk about some unfinished business.

‘There are always consequences to your actions, sister.’

She had a good idea where this would be going, and it had nothing to do with the monks. And, she knows about them already. Theo needed to conceal them better, maybe he would even bring it to light.

The elevator dings and the heavy doors slide open without a sound, even the music is gone. Tabitha saunters out of the elevator and spots her brother dressed in a thick red velvet robe. Silently he stands by the wide-pane window of the living room, his eyes taking in the filth of Gotham City. His domain.

The newly elected mayor’s back is turned towards her, his arms held laxly behind his broad back. It was a position seen as weak by most criminals, however it was in fact a position of power for Theo. He wasn’t vulnerable, he wasn’t unaware. No, the man was alert of everything around him, and he was waiting to see if she would make the mistake of retaliating against him. She knew better than to attempt it.

Everything was a game to him, so why wouldn’t my loathing be something that he used against me constantly?

Tabitha comes to a stop next to a handcrafted table the man had acquired in auction three years ago and waits to be acknowledged. It could be a long time before he deems her worthy of his time. She looks away from her brother, there were more interesting things to observe.

The long black table standing aside her was a piece that really spoke volumes about Theo’s tastes, which were extremely simplistic and bland. However he had a truly magnificent piece sitting atop it, one she wanted to acquire for her own pleasure. She wants to touch it, but refrains. Instead she grazes her index finger across the table, as she marvels at the nearly life size sculpture the man had commissioned.

A large hellish humanoid creature sits straddled atop of a naked man fighting for his survival. The terrified man is lying on his back, his body pinned to the ground. One arm is raised defensively in front of his ruggedly handsome face while the other is digging harshly into the creatures stormy countenance. It was obvious that the struggle would be in vain, but the short haired man didn't seem ready to give up. He would fight death for as long as he was able. Tabitha thinks that the unlucky man must have been caught unaware by the creature as it had attacked.

It was a predator after all.

The creature had a thin beaky nose and a delicately masculine face. Its body was mostly humanoid, however on its back were a pair of nearly skeletal wings that stretched out towards the ceiling. Flesh and feathers sloughed off the decrepit wings in chunks, the thick disgusting mess slid down onto the body and ground underneath its looming mass. The creature is forcefully straddling the vulnerable man’s chest, and both of its spread legs are straining against the doomed man’s ribcage. It appears as if it was trying to squeeze the life out of its victim. Long claws dig deeply into the flesh of its victims arm which was desperately grabbing at its snarling face. Its other clawed hand is just barely grazing the soft flesh of the man’s defenseless neck. Its touch almost appears tender, loving. Like a caress.

But there is no love here, there can’t be. Long scratches mar both the creature and man’s bodies. The artist made it obvious that the struggle had been long occurring, and that soon it would come to a bloody end. Tabitha can only see their pain. Terror filled eyes were locked onto the creatures face in denial. It was as if the man was searching for answers within its sunken depths, seeking mercy and understanding on why this was happening. All Tabitha saw was emptiness staring back, like the creature was dead on the inside. As if this inevitable murder had already destroyed it. There was no forgiveness here, only death.

A shiver runs down her back as she takes in the two figures. Since the first time she had seen the sculpture she couldn’t help but notice the uncanny resemblances to both Gordon and the Penguin. Tabitha wouldn’t be surprised if Theo had intended it that way when he hired the sculpture nearly a year ago. He had already been keeping tabs on the two infamous men; watching them through the eyes of his many spies. Her brother had been impressed with them long before they moved back to Gotham. Obsessed, even.

From what she knew, Gordon and Penguin had always been at odds with one another. So perhaps this is the vision that Theo had involving them. Some sort of vicious battle to the death to see who would become the keeper of the city. Theo always did love a good drama.

Tabitha’s eyes flicker to her brother as his smooth, melodic voice rings through the penthouse, “My sweet sister. It is so good to see you. Please, have a seat.”

Speaking of dramatic…

The man finally faces her and then extends his hands towards the plush black love seat centered across from the sculpture. Wearily, Tabitha sits down and waits for her brother to join her. He takes his time, as it seems that he is unconcerned about how much of her time he wastes. She just wishes he would sit the hell down already, he was deliberately stealing her personal time away. She keeps her complaints to herself though, as she already knows that he is in a particularly intolerable mood just by the dead look in his eyes. The stiff smile on his face solidifies her observation. She refrains from testing the waters, her lips press tightly together and her body buzzes with energy.

It is easier this way…

Theo grabs a two crystal tumblers from the top of his desk and then places them on the end of the accent table closest to Tabitha. Leisurely he begins to browse through his extensive liquor cabinet, bottles clink together softly as he preoccupies himself with digging deeper into the cabinet. Tabitha listens to the man tsking loudly at something that must have displeased him, the bottles smack harder together in his growing ire.

Tabitha’s gaze goes back to the sculpture. It was by far much more interesting than her brother could ever become, as he was too predictable. Any minute now the man would do something utterly chaotic for no reason at all. He presented himself as a stable and impeccably mannered man, but people didn’t see what she was privy to. They didn’t know his razor sharp mind, or his numerous fanatical obsessions. Very few knew of his horrific transgressions, the numerous lives that he has taken in the past ten years. Gotham’s citizens would be terrified if they knew how dangerous Theo had become.

They gave him the city not knowing what he was planning to do to it.

Crossing her legs, Tabitha sits further into the comfort of the couch. Slowly she twirls the hair bound by her hair band, the strands twist in a chaotic loop. Overhead the lights flicker, and then settle back to normalcy.

Tabitha turns her head in time to see a wine bottle crash to the floor, the alcohol drenches the white carpet. Theo stares at the broken glass and the pink stain on his meticulous flooring.

Oh, joy. Here it comes. Three, Two, One…

Unimpressed, she watches as her brother simply grabs hold of the liquor cabinet and topples it over. Glass litters the floor, and the stink of alcohol makes the room absolutely rank. Theo stands dangerously still as he pulls himself back together, his face smoothing out into a peaceful expression. The man reanimates, and the monster disappears in only a brief amount of time, his hands wipe harshly against the fabric of his robe.

Don’t worry, brother. You didn’t sully your clothing, you’re as impeccable as normal…

Theo walks out of the room with more bounce in his step than before, his mood somehow improved. Tabitha watches as he goes down the hallway connected to the living room and into his master bedroom. The door slams closed. Tabitha can only sigh, as she pulls out her cellphone and hits her top contact. Someone had to deal with this mess.

Entitled baby.

The phone rings once, static tickles her ear for a measure of a single breath and then the line goes dead. Someone would be here soon enough to clean up this mess. The cleanup crew were always prompt, so she knew to expect them sooner than later. She wonders how quickly they can replace the carpet. It had been so gauche, and tasteless. Just like my dear brother.

Five minutes pass before her brother returns in a tailored grey suit. That one’s new. In his hands he carries a black unlabeled liquor bottle, Tabitha gets an uneasy feeling at its true contents. Things were never as they truly appeared. He would always want to test her, make sure that she is alert of the danger that he posed. Was it a test though? Or a celebration of some kind?

‘You must be prepared for the greater threat, sister. Never drop your guard, no matter who you are with at the time.’

Walking over the mess of glass, Theo swiftly unscrews the cap of the liquor bottle. With little grace, her brother pours the two tumblers to the brim with the mysterious drink. He sets down the bottle and then hands her one of the generously filled tumblers. Without hesitation Tabitha takes the offered drink. Breathing in she smells the harsh scent of the drink, her nostrils flare, and her eyes feel like they are about to water. Theo picked something good for once. Patiently Tabitha waits to take her first sip. She wouldn’t want to offend her brother by starting first, especially since he had to be the leading man.

Theo grabs the other glass for himself and walks around the couch with a delighted smile. The man seems pleased with himself as he eases next to her on the couch. Softly he says, “Tabitha, they’ve finally come. My brothers have made it into the city, and are ready to begin the culling. The time for decimating the Wayne lineage is upon us.”

“What? Why didn’t you tell me that they were set to arrive?”

“I wanted to make it a surprise my sweet. Are you not pleased?”

It is almost time.

Heart beating a mile a minute she answers automatically, “Of course I am, brother. I just wish you would have shared the news a little sooner. When did they arrive?”

“They’ve been in the city for most of the day, last night they came through the port. I’ve been given word that they have already made their first sacrifice. We are so close, sister. Soon we will have Gotham in our control. We just need Bruce Wayne to agree to our terms, and then everything will finally come together in all of its glory.”

Theo raises his tumbler into the air. Cryptically he toasts, “To the grand days ahead.” Tabitha raises her tumbler and clinks it delicately against the one in his hand as she repeats, “To the grand days ahead.” Tabitha watches as Theo takes a hearty swallow of his procured liquor, his eyes lock on her face as he silently gives permission to follow in the act.

Tabitha drinks.

The burning sensation is incredible, the heat instantaneously warming her body with every swallow. The flavor wasn’t anything to call home about, but she could still appreciate the power of the liquor. Her eyes close in a flutter of lashes, effectively blocking the wicked face of her brother. Quickly she finishes the drink and slams the tumbler onto the accent table as her brother watches from half lidded eyes. His expression thoughtful, Theo begins to speak once more.

“There is something I must ask you to do before we complete the ritual.”

“Anything for you.”

Theo rests his elbows on the tops of his thighs as he leans forward. Taking a calculated breath he speaks, “I need you to find our loose end, Mr. Cobblepot. Once he is in your possession, I want you to bring him to me. The man is a great threat to everything that we will be doing in the days to come. I can’t have this man running through the streets with the vendetta or knowledge he has about us. Everything could come tumbling down if he finds the right person to make alliance or take shelter with. Mr. Cobblepot is a devilish and tenacious creature, he could surprise us at an inopportune time. This is unacceptable. Will you find him?”

It’s not like I have a choice.

“Yes.“ she confirms without a single word of protest. Theo smiles wickedly, he knew that she wouldn’t refuse. It was an order after all.

“Excellent. One more thing…”

Tabitha gets off the couch and looks down on her brother. He gazes back at her evenly as he knowingly suggests, “Perhaps you should take your one handed toy along for the search. He is quite the asset, especially after being Mr. Cobblepot‘s right hand man. He may be able to point you in the right direction at the very least.”

Holding her breath, she waits respond. Theo continues, a smarmy look on his face.

“While you are both out, there is one other thing that needs to be done. I need you both to weed out and kill as many Penguin sympathizers as possible. Destroy all of his known resources and businesses. Once that is done, he won‘t have too many places to turn to. This will be the time where you will discover his whereabouts. Do this, and you shall be awarded. So bring him to me sister.”

“You’ll have him by the end of the week.”

Tabitha departs the penthouse immediately after the words are out in the open. Theo’s pleased hum of approval follows her all the way down the elevator. Desperately she hopes for her words to be true.

‘If you fail, there will be consequences. Understand?’

Come out, come out where ever you are.

A tall man dressed in a fine blue pinstripe suit brushes by her as soon as she exit’s the building. Tabitha doesn’t even bat an eye when she recognizes the man.

Looks like cleanup finally arrived. Theo would be pleased.

Tabitha hails a taxi. There was a lot of work that needed to be done.


Two Day’s After the Fall - Nathaniel Barnes Point of View

 

Cooped up in his office, Captain Nathaniel Barnes feels absolutely drained. It was only six in the morning, but he is already exhausted. Several of his men had been murdered by that homicidal maniac Penguin two days ago, and no seemed to know where the bastard had gone. It wouldn't have made his stomach curl so much normally, however the Penguin had only escaped because Gordon hadn't taken the shot necessary to end the conflict.

They almost had that little twerp, he was easy pickings at that point. However, according to Bullock it seemed like Gordon might have been a little soft on that bastard. Apparently Gordon had pitied Penguin, the foolish man had believed that killers bullshit lies about the city's mayor being some sort of criminal. Gordon had even assaulted the mayor when he came in yesterday regarding their progress on finding the criminal.

It's not like Galavan was waving some sword around killing people in the city. No, this man was respectable. A man of admirable repute, a man of high standards and incredible morals. This was a man that Barnes could stand behind. But Jim didn’t seem to see the man in a positive light.

Penguin on the other hand was just gutter trash. Barnes just needed Gordon to realize that. It would be for the best if their ties were severed as soon as possible.

Barnes already knew that they had some sort of history, but what was keeping Gordon from doing his damn job? Pity wasn't the only thing holding Gordon back, Barnes was sure of it. Did the Penguin have some sort of collateral against Gordon, or was the detective getting some bankroll from the other man?

What are you hiding?

How was he supposed to trust Gordon with the team if he couldn't make the tough calls. For Christ sake's the man had almost gotten the Mayor murdered, and he did let good men die under his watch.

Barnes cradles his shaven head in his hands. He doesn’t even want to think of the even bigger cluster fuck that went on just a few days ago.

Gordon had choked once again, and this time his fricken ex-fiancé was the culprit of the latest violence in the city. And it was just for some strange and convoluted plan to marry and murder the man. Was this the best way to get married? Not in his books, but some people do wild things in the name of love. The only plus side was that Barbara Keen was currently out of commission. Of course more men were in body bags at the morgue thanks to that woman, which was a definite negative point. So there was that apparently minor detail.

None of this would have even happened if people actually listened to me for once. I said it was a bad idea, but Gordon apparently knows what is best. Ha!

What the hell is all of that crap even about anyways? Does Gordon drive everyone around him bonkers? Hell, Barnes was pretty sure that if Gordon spent much more time with Ms. Thompkins that the poor woman would also lose her damn mind. Or maybe Bullock would be the next to succumb to Gordon’s influence. Who the hell knows, Barnes can’t even keep track of the people gunning for Gordon’s head. The list was significant.

Maybe it was time to lessen the detectives work load, give him some time to get his head out of his ass. Would it work? Hell no, Gordon was too damn stubborn.

But I'll sure as hell feel better.

The hollow feeling in his chest eases marginally at his simple decision. Time away from some of these cases might help with Gordon’s clarity. Maybe some one on one time was necessary also. The longer Barnes made Gordon's leash the worse things became, so maybe he just needed to be brought back closer to home, needed to be pulled away from the influence of men like the Penguin.

Barnes needed to remove whatever it was that was holding Gordon back. He also needed to ease Gordon's doubts on the mayor. It was becoming tiring to hear the man throw out baseless accusations against Theo Galavan. Telling tales of murder and the like.

All lies made by that twisted scumbag.

Gordon wasn't useless like most of the clowns he had to work with. In fact the detective was the golden boy this department needed. Just a little guidance and the man would be the shining knight this department needed. He didn't need somebody parading the damn streets causing more trouble then necessary. Barnes needed Gordon to be an extension of himself. Together they could make this city great once more, and together they could bring Gotham's criminals to justice.

Just shorten that leash, keep him close.

It didn't matter how much Barnes worked his ass off, and it didn't really matter what most of his officers did during their work hours. Nothing was being done right, and the innocent within the city paid for the police’s idleness daily. So this was his chance to prove himself, show off his exceptional leadership though a man many in this building respected. Most of these officers looked up to Gordon, and if they would all rally behind the other man then things would get done.

We could lead the fight to save this once great city. Bring it back from its slow destruction.

Gotham's criminals were evolving, so the police needed to change. The task force needed more members, and Gordon's leadership was vital on the teams survival. Barnes trusted no one else with their progress. Gordon just needed to trust in the system, he needed to believe he was doing good work. That all of this mattered. That the work they did wasn’t useless.

Change would help define the future of Gotham.

Leaning back in his chair Barnes studies the men and women working beyond his office windows. There was potential for these people. Some more weeding was necessary, but he was convinced that he was getting the best the city had to offer. The bad seeds infiltrating the city would be brought down. Justice will be served in time.

He stares grimly at Gordon and Harvey's desks. Both of the men were glaringly absent this morning. Gordon had called in a sick day, and Bullock was probably out gallivanting in the street stuffing his face with some danishes. Barnes could care less as long Bullock brought in some perps.

Barnes is tempted to ask Ms. Thompkins what was keeping Gordon from work, but he had a feeling that they were having a bit of a rough patch. Everyone knew that there was some hostility between the two love birds after Keen had waltzed into the precinct. It would be for the best to keep his questions to himself, for now. The detective probably needed some time to recover from his shock dealing with the past couple of days. The man's ex was in a coma, his desire to stay away was understandable.

I’ll give him some time, but when he gets back things are going to change.

Nodding his head, Barnes finalizes the deal.

A time for reckoning was soon to come, the city would finally be saved.

The phone on his desk rings ominously as soon as the thought passes by. Barnes picks up the line and says, “This is Barnes. What do you got for me?”

“There is another murder, sir. We just got a call from a possible witness at the eastern docks. A security officer was stabbed to death, possibly by multiple assailants. We need forensics and a couple of officers to come to the scene.”

The poor bastard didn’t even have a chance.

“I’ll send over Edward Nygma and whoever else I can scrounge up. Keep me updated.”

Barnes hangs up the phone, and sighs.

It was going to be a hell of a day.

Pulling a cellphone out of his right pocket, Barnes begins to dial Bullock’s number. Barnes hesitates to enter the last number as his eyes narrow in thought. This was more than likely a dead end case so what good would it be to send one of his best detectives out to the scene? And if he called Bullock, chances were high that Gordon would become involved. He didn’t need a loose cannon on the field right now. Chances were good that the two troublemakers would create some wild conspiracy theory involving the murder, and then they would proceed to waste their time on nonexistent leads.

No, those two would survive missing this call.

Gordon needs this brief respite. There are going to be some tough days ahead of him. Even tougher days when we start sweeping all of these freaks off the streets.

Barnes hangs up and enters another series of numbers.

Nygma picks up on the second ring, his voice is weary as he says, “Edward Nygma. May I ask who is calling?” Not wanting to deal with any false pleasantries Barnes hammers out, “It’s your boss. I need you to come in, Nygma. We’ve got a case for you.”

There is a pregnant pause, and then the man carefully answers, “I can’t come in sir. I have the flu, I’ve had it all week in fact. I already told the receptionist, and presented my doctor’s note via fax. You’ll have to call someone else in. Have a good day.”

The phone goes silent. Nygma had hung up on him.

What the hell?

Feeling put off, Barnes dials the second lead forensic scientist. With more success, he informs Bryson of the murder site’s location. The forensic scientist quickly promises to be at the scene within the hour. Pleased, Barnes says his goodbyes and hangs up his cellphone. He would have to deal with Nygma’s issues later on, right after he caught up with whoever failed to notify him of his absence.

It was going to be a hell of a day…

The older man begins his morning paperwork. In the background of the captains office he listens to the muffled sounds of Gotham’s finest taking phone calls, to the sound of their shuffling feet. Yells of the recently apprehended ring out sporadically, but someone was always yelling here. It was just another day in the city that never knew peace.

Just another day in Gotham.


Three Days After the Fall - Oswald Cobblepot’s Point of View

 

Fog, it is like there is fog in front of his eyes, inside his mouth and up his nose. Or was it smoke? Was anything there though or was this all in his head…is he going to die? Periodic shakes move his body, and his throat aches as the muscles contract. It sounds like someone is coughing, are they okay?

I’m coughing, feel that? Another cough. Yes, now I do.

The fog clears as more time flows by, everything becoming clearer as he weakly coughs. Pain, is always the first thing he feels anymore. Mental, physical, whatever. It all hurts. It’s the standard way of this miserable life he is in. Doesn’t mean I have to like it though, no one does. Head pounding, leg and shoulder throbbing, and throat aching he slowly comes back into himself.

Galavan failed once again, I guess I’m not dead.

The next thought is a question. It is important, vital to know. Does the trailer really look this big? No, it wasn‘t this wide, was it? Oswald slowly attempts to sit up so he can look around, it isn’t until the fourth attempt that he is finally able to make any progress. Arms shaking from the effort of lifting himself into a sitting position, he finally takes notice of his immediate surroundings.

He is on a queen sized bed, and it sure as hell wasn’t his trailers couch. The blanket resting at his feet isn’t his either. In fact, nothing here was his. This isn’t even…this is not the trailer. Where the hell am I? Oswald looks up and realizes that he is in a studio apartment. It has to be. He looks to his left, and then his right. What is that light bulb thing? Light bulbs on a small board flash intermittently to show a question mark. What’s that even about? Shaking his head he looks away from the strange and sparse decor. Who did he know that lived here? Did he even know? Were they planning on killing him? Was there even a ‘they’?

Falling back onto the bed Oswald croaks, “Why is this happening?”

Not even three seconds go by before a voice cheerfully singsongs from across the living space, “It’s about time you got up sleepy head! I wasn‘t sure if you would be waking soon. At least not so quickly after the last time anyways. I was a bit worried that you were going to die, however you managed to pull through. How do you feel?”

Shuffling up the bed like a startled animal, Oswald presses his back against the bed’s headboard in near fanatical fear. His voice seems to be stuck in his throat, even as he wheezes “Who the hell are you?” Oswald raises his arms in a defensive position in front of his body as a bespectacled man approaches him from a discreet door on other side of the room The man wouldn’t normally be someone that incited fear, but in this weakened state Oswald was an easier target than usual. He wasn’t sure that he was ready to fight at all. Shaking he squawks, “Stay away from me! Don’t come any closer.”

The man stops his approach, and raises both hands in a show of peace. Softly he says, “I won’t hurt you.“ Oswald doesn’t believe that for a minute as he points at the man in accusation, “Says the strange man holding me hostage in his home. Ah! Don’t move a muscle, mister. You‘re going to tell me what your intentions are, right now! Who sent you? Was it Galavan?”

“Who…Like the mayor?” The man seems confused, but it could all be a ploy. He had to get to the bottom of this.

“The exact person!” Oswald exclaims.

Still holding his hands up, the stranger moves closer to the bed. Oswald scrambles to the other side of the bed, putting more space between them. The adrenaline seems to help him move around better now. Maybe he had a chance. I can’t die here, not in some strangers home. Oswald watches the man critically as he stops at the foot of the bed.

“I don’t really know what the mayor wants with you, but it has nothing to do with me. Did you have some sort of business with him? I know someone who might be able to get him to talk to you. Actually, you already know him…” The other man rambles on under his breath for a moment, lost in thought it seems.

Who do I know? Does this guy already know who I am? It doesn’t really matter, does it. He needed to know his situation. His chances of survival. Escape. Will the stranger make a move soon? He didn’t seem armed, but people were always full of surprises. His fingers curl into the bedspread. Things were not going to go well, were they.

Taking a long breath through his mouth, Oswald looks for an escape out of the corner of his eye. Vaguely he see’s outline of another door, the apparent entrance. Would he be able to get out fast enough? No, not with how his leg has been. He has to slow the other man down first. Was there anything close by to use as a weapon.

The lamp on the nightstand perhaps?

Carefully Oswald asks, “You don’t work for him? So you say. Who do you work for then?” Shaking his head in apparent confusion, the stranger starts to speak once more. Oswald listens carefully for any falsehood in his words as he backs up towards the edge of the bed on his hands and knees. The lamp was now much closer. It’s proximity may be a matter of life or death.

“I work for the GCPD.”

It was time for Oswald to be confused. It didn’t sound like a lie. But what was he doing at an officers house? Was this guy even an officer though? He wasn’t…very intimidating. Didn’t have the right aura, or attitude. But sometimes killers didn’t appear to be as they were.

What are you…

“The GCPD?” Squinting at the mysterious man Oswald finally asks, “Your name, what is it?”

“Right, right. I am Nygma.” The man says with a flourish of the hands.

Amused by the man’s answer, Oswald smirks. “Is that your whole name, kind of like Cher? Because I‘m not really sure you are famous enough.” He is only half joking, not sure if the other man will even know what he was talking about. However this ‘Nygma’ flashes his teeth in a pleased smile. Oswald finds himself fascinated. His fingers loosen their hold of the blanket in his hands. The man could be quite disarming, couldn’t he.

The sense of danger eases slightly. But it wasn’t going to just disappear.

Slowly Oswald creeps into a more comfortable position. His leg felt like it was on fire from kneeling on the mattress and his shoulder felt stretched and it ached something fierce. If the man wanted to hurt him, it would have already happened. Nygma had the upper hand after all.

I just need to wait and see what he wants from me.

He listens as the stranger continues his introduction. “Sorry, it’s Edward Nygma. You know, we’ve actually met before. I’m not sure you remember, but it was during one of the numerous times that you met with Detective Gordon at the prescient.” Oswald’s nostrils flare. How many times could I have visited for it to have left an impact on this man? His eyes narrow as Jim flashes through his darkening thoughts. That bastard had ruined everything. But he wasn’t at the top of his priority list at the moment.

Oswald looks at Nygma for a long moment taking in his features. He really was familiar. It was the eyes, wasn’t it? Suddenly it hits him, “Oh! You’re the riddle man. Aren’t you?”

Oswald remembers their first encounter, he was so sure that he would never have to meet this strange man again. Was Nygma mocking me at that time? First impressions were important to him, and Nygma had flunked in Oswald’s eyes. However, now it seemed like the man had possibly redeemed himself just by being somewhat friendly. He isn’t an enemy, is he. That whole initial exchange felt like it was a one time deal, but apparently not. What a strange occurrence to meet again in such a troubling setting. Would this whole scenario be similar in its oddity? No, I don’t think so. Something is off about him. He has changed since that time.

Didn’t I see him at the trailer?

‘Oh, my…Mr. Penguin?’

Ah, yes. It was all making sense now. This was the third time they've met, wasn’t it?

‘Help me…please.’

Fiddling with the end of his sweater, Nygma nods his head approvingly. “The very one. I’m relieved you remember me, it makes things a bit easier now that you know that I’m telling the truth.”

Why was Nygma at my trailer? Something still doesn’t add up.

A moment of silence passes between them. Oswald still doesn’t trust this Nygma, but he is more than relieved that he isn’t one of Galavan’s lackeys. In fact this man had been the one to help him when he was at his worst. His savior.

“So…how’s your shoulder feeling?” Nygma asks tentatively. The man sits carefully at the edge of the bed, his left leg folding underneath him as he makes himself comfortable. Still on edge, Oswald inches further away, before he settles once more.

His shoulder does hurt quite a bit, he even says as much. Grudgingly.

“It…hurts.”

Oswald flinches as he presses the heel of his hand against the wound. The pain is nowhere near as agonizing as it had been after the initial attack. He digs his fingers harder into his shoulder, until it feels like liquid fire is running through his blood stream. There, that is it. It was not an experience that he wanted to go through again, however he needed to know that this was all real. I’m here. This is real. Squeezing his eyes shut, Oswald probes his shoulder with just the tips of his fingers to find the extent of the damage. He hisses in pain as he brushes them lightly against the wrappings sitting over the bullets exit wound.

“Stop that.”

Heat surrounds his hand as it is pulled away from his inflamed shoulder. Oswald blinks his eyes open to see that Nygma is hovering over him. The man drops his hand carefully, and Oswald lets it fall limply into his lap. Nygma looks down at him with irritation for a moment before he says, “I have spent days trying to fix you up, and now you’re aggravating your wounds. I’m sorry Mr. Penguin, but I can’t afford to let you keep hurting yourself. So just stop, please.”

I’ve been here for days?

Feeling slightly ashamed Oswald purposely avoids giving his thanks at the man’s obvious efforts. It wasn’t like he knew the man, or could really believe his story just yet. So instead he says, “What do you mean by, can’t afford?”

Chagrined, Nygma walks away and heads into the small kitchen across the room. Oswald hears him say, “The antibiotics that I needed aren’t exactly cheap. I can only afford so much on my budget, and I can’t have you making matters for yourself even worse. If I can’t get the supplies I need, there is always the chance for infection. And we both know that you can’t go to the hospital, so you could possibly die if you have another flare up. Also…I've missed work for a couple of days now, so things are going to be a little tight for a while.”

And wouldn’t that just be horrible. There are still a few people that needed to die before he could ever truly rest.

Oswald states the obvious. “So you’ve been drugging me.”

The other man laughs, “Of course. You were a disaster when I found you. It was out of necessity though, I assure you. I couldn't have you running off while I was out in the city.”

“So you say…” Oswald mumbles under his breath.

Pulling a small glass from one of the kitchen cabinets, Nygma walks steadily over to the sink and begins to fill it with fresh water. Oswald keeps an eye on the man as he turns the sink off and begins to walk back over.

“Here, you go. One cold water.” Nygma carefully hold the glass in front of Oswald, waiting.

“You didn’t do anything to this did you?” Oswald still finds himself asking even as he stares longingly at the fresh water. His throat has been hurting since he woke up, and his mouth was so damn dry.

“Like what? You just watched me pour you this glass. Now drink up.”

Not wanting to be seen as rude he ends up saying, “Force of habit, I guess. Thank you, friend.”

Oswald takes the glass out of the man’s hands after only a short hesitation. It doesn’t look like the drink was tampered with, but he couldn’t be sure. He would just have to hope for the best. Nygma watches expectantly as Oswald takes his first sip. The water is cool and leaves him wanting more. Holding eye contact with his gracious host, Oswald chugs the rest of the water in only a few swallows. Coughing lightly he clears his throat. It still felt scratchy, but it was better than it had been before.

Oswald doesn’t look away as Nygma licks his lips.

“Do you feel calmer now, Mr. Penguin?”

“Calm? Oh, I’m anything but calm right now.” And it’s the truth. Nothing was going as he had planned. Ever since he had acquired power within the city his luck ran right down the drain. There was constant struggle in everything that he did, and now all that he worked for had fallen through once again. He wasn’t the king of anything. Perhaps Galavan’s sister was right, maybe he was just the king of garbage.

“Oh. Is there anything that I can do?”

Well, isn’t that a loaded question. I don’t even know what to ask for first. Oswald’s fingers curl tightly around the fragile glass still in his hands. He thinks for a moment before he says, “Actually, yes. I need to know, is there a bounty on my head at the GCPD?”

“Let me take that…” Edward takes the glass in Oswald’s hands and gently sets it on the nightstand. The man is walking over to the couch in the center of the apartment when he finally answers Oswald’s question.

“It is safe to say that pretty much everyone in the city is out looking for you. You‘re lucky that I found you first.”

The bespectacled man seats himself, strong hands come to rest on the top of the man’s thighs. He continues, and Oswald listens attentively. “There has been a lot of coverage dealing with your attempted assassination on Mayor Galavan. The GCPD has been getting a lot of anonymous tips on your whereabouts which have obviously been false. I had to make a few of them myself since people have been snooping around the area.”

They don’t know I’m here. Not yet.

Galavan’s men had to be everywhere, so it wouldn’t be safe to leave at this point. How long until he would be able to bring his mother’s killer to his knees? No, don’t think about her right now. Just, don’t do it. Oswald’s eyes begin to tear up, but he quickly wipes the moisture away. There would be time for crying later. He had company…

“And what about Jim? Is he looking for me?” Oswald finds himself asking with the traitorous breathiness that normally showed up when he was discussing the detective.

‘Oswald, listen to me. You have to put the gun down.’

Would he have shot me?

“I know that detective Gordon has been especially keen on finding you, but I think that he has different motivations compared to everyone else. I've seen him fighting with the mayor on several occasions already, before you went missing that is. Word from around the station is that Gordon has been trying to clear your name.”

Jim was trying to help him? Was he still trying though?

Feeling uneasy Oswald asks, “Why would he do that?”

“I’m not sure. But it seems that they don‘t agree on anything in regards to you. There was even an altercation at one point. Apparently detective Gordon punched the mayor in the face when he walked into the prescient the last day I was in work. Our captain was absolutely furious, and Gordon got quite the reprimand.”

Jim punched Galavan? He suddenly doesn’t feel as angry at the man.

Looking away Oswald quietly questions Nygma, “Did he get suspended?”

Edward frowns. “Well, he has been thrown off the case. But he has not stopped with his investigation. He even asked me to pick up a part of his ongoing case, which I had to refuse so that I could care for you. Gordon is trying to prove that you were used by the mayor to further his political career…Is it true?”

Jim is rallying on my side, now this was a surprise.

Oswald hums in acknowledgment and nods his head in assent. “Of course it is. Gotham’s precious mayor had been using me for nearly a month for his own personal gain. He just used up his only bargaining chip too soon.”

Across the room Nygma stares quizzically at Oswald. He seems uncomfortable as his back slowly becomes ramrod straight. Cautiously he asks, “Are you and Detective Gordon friends? He seems to be…worried about you.”

Surprised at the obvious change of subject, Oswald finds himself answering the question. “Maybe. I’m not sure what we are, but it seems like he is an ally at the moment.”

“Do you trust him?” Is the next question. Was this Nygma man always so damn nosey?

‘He killed my mother, Jim.’

I thought I did, but he always seemed to be working against me. Would we ever agree on anything? Was it possible to get past the fact that Jim protected Galavan? He isn’t sure.

‘I know.’

“He is the only good person I know. I want to trust him.” How honest was he going to be today? Oswald moves to lean against the back of the headboard, a moment of silence passes as he settles against the frame. He moves his legs into a more comfortable position, and then he finds himself asking, “What do you want from me?”

Nygma gets off the couch and begins to pace in front of the bed, his hands wave back and forth as his voice rings out. “I brought you here, because I was hoping that you would help guide me through a new path I have found myself walking down. I‘ve been going through a sort of change, and you would be the best person to help me through this metamorphosis.”

“What kind of change?” Oswald asks easily.

“I’ve started murdering people.” Nygma comes to a stop and laughs, his eyes sparkling with glee as he looks for approval from Oswald. Uncomfortable the injured man raises his chin and watches Nygma as he continues, “Wow! That is thrilling to say out loud.”

The man laughs again, and Oswald has to swallow several times before he questions, “How many people?”

“Three in total.”

Oswald rolls his eyes and laughs in false amusement. Undeterred by Oswald‘s attitude, Nygma says, “Two of them I didn’t really care for. But one of them was my girlfriend, Ms. Kringle. She was the love of my life.”

“And now you want my help. Listen, friend…”

“Ed.”

“Whatever, Ed. My empire is in shambles, and I’m a wanted man with no one willing to stand by my side. My precious mother, the one person I swore to protect is dead because of my weakness.” Oswald breathes in sharply as he tries to hold back his tears. He wouldn’t cry in front of this man, not now. Passionately he continues, “Believe me when I tell you that this path you’re on leads to nothing but destruction and pain. So, wanted or not I’m leaving. And I think it would be best if you stop while you can, as I will be of no help to you.”

“Mr. Penguin…” the man in front of him looks stricken, and Oswald can’t help feeling chagrined.

I can’t handle this right now.

“Can you leave me alone? I just need some space.” A quiet sniffle fills the space between them. Tears are welling up in the corners of his eyes. Too bad for keeping it together. Desperately he demands, “Now. Go, now…please.”

Edward begins to back away, his eyes narrowing as he says reassuringly, “Of course. Rest up, my feathered friend. We have a big night ahead of us.” The man turns away and makes a beeline to the apartments entrance, not even bothering to wait for a response. Oswald blinks several tears away as the door closes as he is finally left in peace.

Oswald leans forward and grabs the blanket that is hanging near the edge of the bed. Slowly he lowers himself onto the mattress and rests his head heavily on the pillow. Curling into a ball, Oswald hugs the blanket around his body. A strangled breath is ripped from him as he attempts to pack the pain away.

Minutes pass by before the tears begin to come in earnest, the struggle to contain himself is lost. A small whimper comes from the back of Oswald’s throat as the utter exhaustion and grief finally breaks him.

Body shaking, the man finally grieves his lost mother.

Hours pass by before Oswald finally falls asleep with red rimmed eyes and a puffy face. His body and mind are both completely spent from the stress he endured. The only thing holding him together is the lava hot resentment that was created on the day of mother’s murder, and the plans that he was going to have to create to finally achieve his revenge.

I’ll make you proud. Just wait, mother.


Five Days After the Fall - Edward Nygma’s Point of View

 

Nygma scrambled into the safety of the men’s bathroom of the GCPD.

Everything was too much.

Edward tosses his glasses onto the edge of the sink farthest from the door, and turns on one of its squeaky facets. Spraying his face with a handful of water, he tries to calm himself down. Get a handle of yourself, you‘re at work right now. The cool water does nothing to ease his growing ire. The day had already been hell, and he wasn’t sure if he could handle any more of the work drama that he had become privy to. And this was in no thanks to one of the new recruits. No, Tom. I don’t want to know who was fucking who. So just shut the hell up already. Edward just needed to get out of this damn building, and go somewhere else.

*Like the woods, Ed?

Grabbing a paper towel, Edward roughly wipes the remaining moisture from his face. He tosses the wet wad of paper into the overfilled trashcan and just stands there with both hands raised in front of him. Looking into his palms, he searches for a reason of his continued employment.

I hate it here. This isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing, this isn’t my calling. I can’t be myself here. So why do I stay?

The door to the bathroom opens behind him, and one of his least favorite detectives makes an appearance. “Nygma! I haven’t seen you all week, where’ve you been? Barnes told me that you were due to come in, so I’ve been looking for you all morning. When you’re done up in here, come meet me at my desk. Okay?”

Edward drops his hands as he turns around slowly to face an excited Harvey Bullock. Dressed in his standard mocha brown jacket and pants, the older man looked as unkemptly handsome as Edward had come to expect. How was he a detective again? Didn’t Captain Barnes fire all of the corrupt officers?

Apparently not…

“Hey…did you hear me?” The man asks with a small show of concern.

Edward clenches his fist in irritation. How much of his time was this man going to waste? How much ridicule did he have to go through on a daily basis before enough was enough. Is it ridicule though? Teeth clenched Edward speaks in a faux singsong voice, “I’ll be there in a moment detective Bullock! Do you need help with something?”

The response is less than inspiring, “Obviously. I just need to find it…”

With a troubled face the detective leaves without another word. Edward stares at the door for a long moment, as he tries to understand why the detective even bothered to look for him. Bullock didn’t even have whatever it is that he need to show. How did anything ever get done around here?

Walking back to the sink, Edward grabs his glasses. Gingerly he places them into his breast pocket, and sighs in exhaustion. It was best not to lose them, he couldn’t really afford to replace them at the moment. Not with another person living under his roof. At least he knew that Oswald was knocked out from the drug cocktail that was injected into his thin arm. That would save Edward the trouble of having worry about what trouble the mobster was getting into in his home.

Just get through the day.

Edward glares at his reflection for a moment, and then turns away. It was business as usual. Not wanting to keep detective Bullock waiting any longer, he leaves the safety of the bathroom.

With a growing sense of purpose, Edward makes his way to the bullpen of the GCPD. Catching sight of detective Bullock, Edward makes a chaotic beeline through the crowded police station. Harvey is nosing through Gordon’s desk, his large hands slipping through a couple of the drawers in his obvious snooping. Edward walks up the steps, and watches the man continue his search. For what? He didn’t really care much, but it must have been the reason he was called over. The sooner that he did whatever was asked of him, the sooner he could go home.

The sooner he could leave this man’s presence, and the confusing swirl of emotions he invoked.

“Detective, you needed something?”

The bearded man finally acknowledges his presence when his search proves fruitless. Scratching the back of his head in dismay Harvey briskly begins, “Yeah, I need your help with some evidence. A call came in yesterday that someone had discovered Galavan’s stolen limo and not only that but we also found Penguin’s hideaway last night. So, what I need is for you to run some of the prints from these two scenes. Can you do that for me?”

Eyes wide in blatant surprise Edward finds himself responding, “Of course I can do that for you, detective. But why have I not heard anything about this until now? Do we have Mr. Cobblepot in our custody now?” Edward makes a show of looking towards the temporary cells, his eyes piercing every criminal that was currently behind the thick barred enclosures. It was important to know what details the police already had. He couldn’t have Bullock realizing that he knew more about the trailer then he should. Oswald’s protection was a priority at the moment.

Bullock leans his hip against the edge of Gordon’s desk, “I appreciate that, Ed. When I find the paperwork that you need, I’ll have everything sent over to your desk. Now regarding being a part of the loop…Well, I told Jim to tell you this morning since we heard you‘d be in. However it seems like our golden boy just ran out without saying a word to anybody. And to tell you the truth, I have no idea where the hell he is at. The idiot won’t pick up his phone, and his car’s radio is also turned off. I have noticed that he has been a bit pissy ever since he found Penguin’s place last night. So it’s possible that Jim is trying to find a lead on our wanted man’s whereabouts, since he apparently wasn’t home.”

Gordon was sniffing around, that was never a good thing.

I was in the woods yesterday. Was it possible that Jim could have stumbled on what I was doing? No, that is impossible. I would be in jail, I would not be standing here with detective Bullock. But what if Gordon knows!? No one could have been there. I was all alone, for hours. I would have seen him, he was probably already at the trailer. Do I need to check the body?

Everything is fine, I am safe.

The chances of being found had to be extremely low. Those woods were thick and ran for miles in every direction. Jim would have just arrested him on the scene, wouldn’t he have? Jim didn’t have any reason to protect him.

“Was there a tip on Mr. Cobblepot’s location?” Edward questions with growing dread. Lips pressed together in a tight line, he finds himself unconsciously gravitating closer to the detective as his mind begins to swirl with panic.

Does Bullock know?

He can feel several beads of sweat forming in his hairline as he starts to become overheated. Edward is nearly face to face with Bullock as he impatiently waits for more information.

Running his fingers through his beard, Bullock looks at Edward with a strange glint in his eyes. “Huh? No, nothing like that. We got a call on the vehicle that Penguin jacked, and Jim decided to follow the man’s cookie crumb trail through the damn woods. Everyone sort of assumed that he would have at least found a body, but I guess there was only a bunch of bloodstains in Penguin’s trailer.”

With a deliberate show of casualness, Edward sits on the opposite edge of Gordon’s desk. Having put a little more space between them, he looks up at Harvey with a forced calm as he drawls out, “Interesting. Did the forensics team that was sent to the scene take any samples of the blood? It would be a wise idea to run them, just to be sure that it was indeed Mr. Cobblepot in that trailer.”

*Act interested about the case. You’re too obvious, and you look guilty.

“Trust me, Ed. It is definitely Penguin’s. The guy was bleeding all over the damn place.”

Tell me about it. I would know this first hand.

Edward watches as Bullock presses his hip harder against the corner of the desk while crossing his arms. Was he uncomfortable? Ignoring his concern he questions the bearded man, “Is it possible that anyone else was there at the scene? An accomplice of Mr. Cobblepot's?” For a moment Harvey looks like he is contemplating the idea, but then the detective dismisses it with a shrug of the shoulders. Edward wants to sigh in relief at the man’s lack of imagination. It was always safe to assume that there were more parties involved in these types of circumstances. It was Oswald Cobblepot, the man had been the king of Gotham.

Did everyone underestimate him?

Bullock’s eyes never leave Edward’s as he says, “Doubtful, it seems like Penguin isn’t going to be getting support from his goons any time soon. Word on the street is that if you help him, then you’re going to end up with a knife in your back. We’ve already been finding bodies left and right, many of them we’ve confirmed to have worked with Penguin at some point. Someone out there wants him dead. So the chances are good that we won’t find anyone else‘s DNA at the scene. We’ll still be thorough though. Jim and I did make forensics take several samples last night, and we already have those running.”

Feeling less threatened as their conversation went on, Edward nods his head along with Harvey’s information dump until the man finally tapers off. He lazily smiles his approval at the detective. At least someone here had some sense to take the samples. Perhaps there was more to the detective than meets the eye. What a surprise. Edward fills in the silence that grows quickly between them, “Sounds really messy out there. I hope that you and detective Gordon find another lead in the meantime, it seems like Mr. Cobblepot is quite the slippery fellow.”

Harvey laughs pleasantly, and his eyes twinkle with mirth. “You don’t know the half of it. Penguin is a big player, so misjudging him would be the worst thing we could do. I got to give the guy credit though. Penguin is a lot stronger than he looks, and he is hell of a lot smarter than people want to admit.” Suddenly serious the older man says, “I just hope we find him before Galavan does, because the mayor is out for his head. And the way things are going, he will most likely have it.”

“We wouldn’t want that, now would we…” Edward sincerely says.

Wouldn’t that be a real shame, especially after all of the work Edward did? He finally had someone he could be himself around, a friend. Neither Galavan nor the GCPD could have Mr. Cobblepot. Not if Edward had anything to do with it.

Bullock runs his fingers through silvering brown hair, as his dark eyes linger between Edward’s mouth and his assessing eyes. The older man says seriously, “Penguin may be a thorn in our sides, but he at least needs a fair trial. Jim is convinced that Galavan has several cops in his pocket, and that we need to be extremely cautious from here on out. Will you come to me if you suspect anyone of giving the mayor our growing intel? I would be extremely grateful if you could keep an eye out for me.”

*He would want you to do that, wouldn’t he? Interesting. Shake him up, Eddy.

Standing up with more confidence than he was feeling in the men‘s bathroom, Edward draws close to the older detective once more. With only a couple of inches to spare, Edward invades the man’s space. Bullock’s eyes flutter, and his mouth parts as he is crowded tightly against the hard edges of the desk. Watching Edward’s lips with more interest than was necessary Bullock gruffly complains, “What are you doing?”

“We don’t want any of Galavan’s men suspecting us, do we? It would be a shame if they were to get a head start on us just because you decided to get a little loose lipped while talking to me about their intended target. The problem is that they may have already figured you out, detective. Anyone could hear what we are talking about, so how about we try and be more discrete for now on.”

*Touch him.

Harvey’s breath seems to catch, and Edward finds himself amused at the man’s nervous display. Edward places his hand between them and grazes his fingertips feather light down the detectives chest. He finds himself extremely pleased at the fact that Harvey hasn’t pushed him away at this point. Leaning forward, Edward lets his next words caress the shell of Bullock’s left ear. “So how about this, Harvey. If I discover anything from those fingerprints you've yet to give me, I’ll come to you immediately. We can then go somewhere a little more private, that way we can discuss my findings without any interference. Does this seem like a reasonable course of action? I wouldn't want anyone overhearing…any of our secrets.”

Edward pulls back a couple of inches so that he can see the other man‘s expression. Bullock doesn’t disappoint him. An attractive flush colors the detectives shell-shocked face and it colors the exposed portions of his neck. The man’s lips are parted from disbelief, and his bluish grey eyes are nearly pitch black with desire.

He wants me.

Feeling dizzy with power, Edward tries to memorizes Bullock’s arousal. This was something that he could use to his benefit later on. Several heated seconds of silent communication pass between them before Bullock hisses between his teeth, “What’s this about, what are you playing at Ed?”

Suddenly feeling foolish and extremely insecure, Edward attempts to back away. Harvey grabs his arm in a firm grip, and pulls him nearly chest to chest. Looking around Bullock’s shoulder, he notices several pairs of eyes watching them. Not wanting to cause a scene Edward quietly spits out, “I think this whole conversation speaks for itself, doesn’t it detective? So if you would unhand me, we can pretend that this never happened.”

“What about Ms. Kringle? Why are you doing this?” Edward grabs at Bullock’s hand and tries to pry it off, but he has little effect. The other man just pulls him in closer, so that he could deter Edward’s efforts. Huffing in irritation he glares heatedly at the detective. Edward doesn’t want to do this right now, people were staring. What possessed him to even throw himself at the older man? Was he just feeling cocky or was he actually interested? If so, how? Maybe he had always known that the other man wanted to fuck him, and he just wanted to see what would happen if he pushed him.

This is quite the power play, isn’t it detective? Am I playing him, or is he playing me?

Gritting his teeth, Edward makes it a point to glare at the hand on his arm as he says, “She left me weeks ago, and do I really need to explain myself to you? I made a mistake. It will not happen again, so you can let go. I‘ll be on my way and out of your sight.”

Without missing a beat Bullock says, “It wasn’t a mistake, so don’t disappear now that you’ve said it. You don‘t need to use those fingerprints as an excuse, do you understand? We‘ve had a lot on our plates lately, and maybe it is time we got rid of some of our frustrations. I know you’ve been ready to pull your hair out all week, especially after you were dumped. So let me help you relax, Ed. How about we meet somewhere after work?” Tilting his head in question, Harvey contemplates Edward’s surprisingly bashful expression.

Feeling unexpectedly aroused by the detectives forwardness, Edward finds himself both baffled and speechless. What was happening right now? Seeing his current difficulty at coherent thought, Harvey takes pity on him as the detective slowly releases Edward’s arm. Softly the man says, “You can come to me whenever you need to, Ed. If you want to meet later, you can give me a call. You already have my number. Now watch out, I‘ve got a lot of work to catch up on. Have a nice day, Nygma.”

Backing away several steps, Edward let’s the bearded man push past him. Feeling out of his element, Edward watches as Bullock eases himself into the chair at his own desk. Edward even watches as the detective pulls out several folders from the desks drawers. It was all so fascinating. Nearly a whole minute goes by before his brain seems to start back up.

Taking several deep breathes Edward turns his attention away from Bullock and lets his eyes instead wander across the numerous files present on Gordon’s desk for a brief moment. The man didn’t have any organizational skills, what a surprise. Nothing catches his interest at first, his mind too involved in fantasy. And then suddenly he sees it.

Edward N. Nygma

All thoughts of arousal and sordid affairs turn to ash. Heart rate increasing, Edward pulls his glasses out of his breast pocket and puts them on with less than steady hands. Maybe he misread? Closing his eyes he waits fifteen seconds before he rereads the label of the file on Gordon’s desk. No such luck, the forensic scientist can feel the panic from earlier coming back with twice the force behind it.

Jim knows, or he at least suspects something. Why else would my file be on his desk? And if Gordon had his nose stuck in something, then the chances were good that Harvey was in just as deep. Did Jim know about the body Edward just buried? Did he think that I killed Ms. Kringle, or did they suspect me of murdering someone else? What do they know, or think they know!?

Edward wants to throw up.

Looking away from the file, Edward catches Bullock openly staring at him. Dark eyes look him up and down, assessing him. Not backing down from the possible intimidation, Edward keeps an intense watch on the man. He still had to play the game, only this time he would be deeper down the hole. Edward couldn’t let them know that he knew about their doubts.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

Edward smiles winningly at Bullock as he carefully makes his way past the man’s desk, but there was no real feeling behind it. He felt dead inside. The detective doesn’t seem to notice as he looks absolutely smitten, but Edward knows better. It was all a lie, just another game between them. Edward doesn’t bother to say anything, but he knows that the Bullock must have received the unsaid message.

I’ll see you later.

Oswald would not be pleased with the current developments, but Edward could care less. He would deal with both Bullock and Gordon; his new friend wouldn’t have to know what lengths he was willing to go for their freedom.

He was willing to do…anything.

Edward catches the eye of several officers as he walks down the staircase. Their curious and judging gazes burn into the back of his skull as he passes through. In the back of his mind, Edward seethes. I’m sure there will be plenty of gossip in the locker room this week. Why couldn’t any of these idiots mind their own business?

Let them think what they want. None of them would be able to guess what was really happening, not the whole story that is. Not even Harvey would ever become privy to the less than appetizing thoughts circulating through Edward’s head.

Edward finally makes it to the safety of the forensics lab, and finds it empty of any extra personnel. Taking off his jacket, he goes to his telescope. There was plenty of work that needed his attention, and he did have quite a mystery on his hands. Barnes had asked him to work on a reopened cold case nearly a week ago, and it was absolutely fascinating.

Throwing his jacket onto the back of his chair, Edward glances at the massive backup of paperwork that had grown while he was absent. A tentative smile reaches his lips as he notices a folder next to the base of the telescope. Someone had already sent over the fingerprints, and by the looks of the time stamp, it might have been on his desk for several hours now.

Harvey was going to be looking for that file for hours. Good.

With a swell of mirth growing in his gut, Edward sits down with little flourish and picks up his first file. If he got started now, he would be able to finish the paperwork for most of the files by two o’clock.


Six Days After the Fall - Oswald Cobblepot’s Point of View

 

It is nighttime, and once again Oswald finds himself alone in his newfound friends breezy apartment. The only thing to keep the sickly man company is the ticking of a clock. Clacking lightly, the faint sound fills the quiet of the room. Oswald’s ears catch every single sound, every precious moment of time that is now gone past. Every opportunity of immediate action gone.

What a damn waste.

Leaning against the side of a large metal support beam, Oswald can’t help but feel restless. Even through the irritating soup of drugs he was on that night, something kept him from succumbing to its magnetic pull. However, that was slowly creeping through him, and soon enough it would take him back into darkness. It made things distorted and strange in the real world, and often created a world of nightmare in his dreamscapes. But apparently he was here of all places, taking this medicine for his own protection. Or at least that is what he was led to believe by Edward.

And Oswald believed him, which was mind blowing.

His recent savior had a endearing tenacity to him, an alluring charm that was able to sway Oswald to consider his strange proposition of safety. And all that for the simple price of becoming a mentor of sorts. A murder buddy, or something. To tell the truth, he wasn‘t sure what Edward‘s expectations were and he didn’t understand the man’s motivations for keeping him around. After their previous night of mindless murder he was starting to get a vague idea on what was going to be expected of him. However, he didn’t want to be reduced to another lowly murderer, there were thousands of them in Gotham. No, if he survived Galavan he wanted to become something great.

He had already been the king of the underworld, there had to be something a more esteemed role he could take control of. There was work that needed to be done in this city.

If anyone can stop the madness, perhaps I can come to the city in its time of need and bring it back to its golden age.

He had done his fair share of horrific deeds, and the consequences had been high. Perhaps a change would be for the better.

Yeah right…

The dark gloom within the apartment throws Oswald into a fit of melancholy, and the strange ambiance keeps him feeling low. Shadowed eyes stare beseechingly at the city beyond the thick glass of Edward’s apartment windows.

I think the drugs are getting to me. The pain had already been leaving him slowly, but he doesn’t really care. None of this mattered in the long run, his continued existence was hardly a blessing. Instead it was an extension of the suffering he had been pushing through for the past week. One day it would end though, whether it was with him going down in a bloody heap or him surviving his mother’s killer with victory on his lips. So what did it matter if he tried to better himself? Once a murderer, always a murderer. Or at least that is what everyone would believe, and how could he ever come to any power that way?

All little lies to keep me going.

The sign from the hotel across the street shines through the large windows, filling the room in an eerie fluorescent green. The color brings down Oswald’s mood further as he stares out at the cityscape, his thoughts once again edging towards the memory of his mother. Her sweet smiling face had been haunting him for nearly every hour that he was lucid.

I thought I could escape her for just a few hours, but it is not my lucky day.

Starting to feel fidgety at being forced to coop up in this little bubble of Gotham, Oswald acknowledges that this inactivity wasn‘t ideal for his current mindset. Every single moment he was stuck in this room, ever day that blew by, every second of inaction leads him further down into more ridiculous thoughts of vengeance. More self hatred for failing the one person he loved. Would this feeling go away, or would it forever keep dragging him down into this state of loathing.

Oswald pinches the bridge of his nose, and refocuses on his problematic acquaintance. It was an easier topic, a reasonable distraction from all of his past problems. The man didn’t want to think too hard on things he couldn’t control, on plans he had no power to make. It wasn’t until his newfound friend came back in the evening hours that he was able to pull himself out of his musings normally. However some nights Oswald didn’t get the reprieve that he deserved. So why not use Edward as a mental deterrent for the time being?

Why couldn’t he just be here for once? I’m sick of being alone all day.

Edward was showing his face less frequently, and Oswald knows that the mysterious man only has been to work one time this week. Ed’s first day back was only just yesterday, so where the hell was he at now? He just decided to leave out of the blue, right after dinner. Now Oswald was stuck here alone while Edward roamed the city doing whatever the hell he was doing. And it wasn’t like Oswald could do anything himself; not after taking his damn medicine.

I need to get out of here, but I’m so useless. Weak. Damn you, Ed.

Edward could be out collecting more of Galavan's henchmen, or getting something to eat for all Oswald knew. If he were to make bets though, Oswald would put his cards on the first option. However, he couldn’t even be sure of those choices either. Something had been off about Edward last night, he had been distracted. Clumsy and inelegant. But it wasn’t Oswald’s business, he just hoped that the reasoning’s were simple and didn’t involve him.

It is a little strange to hope that the man caring for me is out on the prowl.

But he can’t seem to stop himself from hoping that he is right. Oswald knows that Edward’s appetite for chaos was going to one day be unparalleled, his penchant for murder was odd enough already. Perhaps he would be like Victor Zsasz? Or was that an overreach, did Edward have a different vision? Whatever his future goal was, the man had reached out to Oswald and asked for his help. And I agreed, how foolish. Especially since Edward believes that Oswald was the city’s most ruthless murderer. It was quite a compliment, but if only it were true.

Which it was not.

Oswald has lived on the dark side of Gotham for his whole life, so the dangers of the city were always present. It didn’t take him long to learn of men who had killed hundreds of people, all in the name of sport or for a bit of extra cash. There were more bodies on their hands than Oswald could even dream of taking.

Oswald knows of real monsters that lurk in Gotham's alleys, creatures waiting patiently for someone to enter the belly of the whale. In the blink of an eye these killers would swallow their Innocent victims whole. Edward will learn quickly about these monsters if he continues on his current path. We all learn about the wicked things lurking in the shadows. Of the devils that couldn’t wait to smother the life right out of you. They were everywhere, and Oswald wasn’t sure if he was not creating one right now. Edward was once an inhabitant of the righteous and just, and he has been falling quickly. Ever since the bespectacled man had killed the man abusing his once fetching love, Edward had been in a constant state of freefall. The fool thought at the time that he was saving the poor woman from a life of pain, instead he had written her death warrant.

And look who killed her. Edward in a moment of idiocy.

How do you kill the one person you love? Was it really love at that point? Was it for the best, was it just fear eating away any remaining sanity. Does Edward regret it, or does he say that he does because it would be the normal reaction. Self preservation, was it worth it?

Edward doesn't kill for the same reasons that Oswald does. It seemed like Ed was still trying to discover his reasoning behind each murder, and that is terrifying. His obvious instability combined with his impressive abilities of manipulation and information retention were all effective weapons for his decent. Oswald had no doubts of the man becoming a ruthless killer. Perhaps if Edward was around long enough, the man could even rival Oswald in his cunning.

Will he be my ally or another contender?

What does any of these matter, he probably wouldn’t live that long anyway. And if Edward didn’t get his act together, he would more than likely be dead not too long from now also. He just hopes that he will have already killed Galavan by that time. And then he wouldn’t have too many regrets.

Oswald blinks several times to push away the fog that was battling through the lucidity of his mind. He didn’t want to sleep yet, not with the way his dreams had been haunting him. The medicine is starting to make him extremely woozy though, his eyelids are getting harder to keep open.

The devil had been visiting him for days now, and he wasn’t sure he could take another night of terror. It wasn’t letting him forget what he had failed to keep from happening, of the sins he had made. The bodies piled up in his dreams, but in his heart he knew that he only cared for one. He didn’t kill his mother, but the devil in his dream showed him a different tale. And Oswald was getting so exhausted by the bombardment of deaths that replayed over and over in his mind. The ones that had been real, and the ones that the devil had created in order to torture Oswald with.

I don’t want to dream, or think. I just want to rest, and forget the miseries that kept snapping at my heels. I don’t want to think about the fact that at any point now, Galavan could bust down the door and murder me while I slept. Or Edward could change his mind and decide that enough was enough. He would probably even make it nice and clean. He would likely bury me in the woods with Mr. Leonard. Or maybe I would get the honor of being buried with Ms. Kringle, now wouldn’t that just be a true honor. A mentor and a lover buried in one grave…and wasn’t there some other random person Edward mentioned? I guess it doesn’t matter. I’d just be a corpse at that point.

The drugged man leans further against the support beam. He stares blankly at the world outside of the large panned windows. As far as the eye can see there is lights, the city never slept. Not really, he knew first hand how important the night was, how one shouldn’t waste the opportunities that waited for a man willing to face the darkness.

Something moves out of the corner of his eye. Oswald’s head swivels towards the place he noticed the movement. Nothing was there. He does an about-face and sweeps the room for any intruders. He doesn’t see anything, and nothing seems out of place. Did he imagine it?

“Ed? Is that you?” Doubtful, the man would have announced himself already.

Oswald stares worriedly at the bathroom door, it was closed. Was it closed before? Should he check it out, what if someone was hiding in there? With fear building in his chest, he hobbles closer to the refresher. Wide eyes dart throughout the apartment as Oswald went further through the apartment. Glancing briefly towards the kitchen, something catches his attention. Calculating eyes fall onto the clean kitchen counter. Quickly he decides that being armed would be in his favor.

Oswald changes his trajectory to his right as he begins to creep silently to the kitchen island. Without taking his eyes off the door, he pulls a stainless steel knife from the miscellaneous drawer Edward had pointed out. Feeling reassured by the knifes heavy weight and obvious durability, Oswald grins manically. He could do a lot of damage with this.

Silently, the man inches towards the bathroom. His body is on high alert, and sweat clings to his loose pajama‘s. However, there is still an artificial swell of lethargy that creeps through his thin body. It was becoming a battle to keep himself from falling into the drugged madness the poison running through his veins brought. Good job, Edward. You are most likely the reason I’m about to get killed if anyone is in here with me. Oswald tries to think past his growing feebleness. He would have to overcome whatever was thrown at him. It didn’t matter what the cost at the end was, he would kill anyone that got in his way. He couldn’t take any chances, not when the odds were so poor already. I have a reason to live, at least for a while longer.

Reaching the bathroom door, Oswald’s hand automatically grabs onto the doorknob. Please tell me I was seeing things, that it was an imaginary creature that was lurking in the shadows. Tell me it was the drugs, because sometimes I see strange things when Edward gives me my medicine at night. Let it be another bizarre night full of hallucinations, artificial fantasy becoming temporary reality.

Taking a deep breath, the raven haired man slowly turns the knob and pushes the creaking door open until it hits the wall. On edge, Oswald stands still and waits for something to attack, he can only hear his own light breathing and nothing else.

I guess the clock isn’t as loud as I thought, but was it ever really ticking? I might have imagined I was hearing the tick, tick, ticks. Did Edward even have a clock? Oswald suddenly wants to see if there was actually one in the apartment, but his eyes stay locked on the abyss that was the bathroom.

Nearly a minute passes by without any sign of movement or sound.

The grip on the knife tightens until Oswald’s hand is white, his body is tight with fear and his mind is in a perplexing state of disorientation. When nothing jumps out to get him, Oswald feels a sharp spark of relief. But he can’t really see anything either, the green light from the windows only creep a foot or so into the room. With growing trepidation he flicks on the light switch.

The overhead bulb flickers on, and immediately beings to hurt Oswald’s sensitive eyes. Blinking several times, he has to squint as he carefully observes the room. Yellowish fluorescents bounce right off of the gaudy pear colored walls in the bathroom and its floral accent borders. Being a very small bathroom with only the standard setup of a toilet, small porcelain sink, and modest claw footed bathtub; Oswald instantly finds that the room is empty. No one was here.

Frustrated, Oswald flicks off the light and closes the door behind him. His eyes still flicker around the apartment, but he can’t find any threats.

It must be the drugs. I’m…not myself.

If someone did want him dead, they would have already done the job. They wouldn’t be creeping in the apartment, that would be completely ridiculous. Some people like the hunt though, don’t they? You used to know people who got off on this kind of thing.

Still, he quickly checks the front door to make sure that Edward had locked it on his way out. And it is locked. Oswald even turns the handle and jiggles it to be sure. It would have been unlike Ed to forget, especially since he seemed so invested in Oswald’s safety.

That only left one more place to check, the closet.

He doesn’t bother to turn on the overhead lights as he passes by them; the hotel across the street lit most of the apartment in a bright green and that meant there was enough light for most of the floor plan. Aside from the bathroom of course.

And possibly that damn closet. Screw it, just go. Any intruders already knows where I’m at anyway.

Dragging his foot behind him, Oswald turns toward the other side of the room. Waves of vertigo nearly drop him to the erratically shifting ground after his third step. Everything in his little world wobbles and spins, now the fun was about to begin. Oswald was nearly at the limit of what he could handle, the drugs had won the battle. As he should have known. He really needed to get off of his feet soon, or else he would be passing out on the cold hard floor.

I’m an idiot, why didn’t I realize that I was losing it sooner?

Why did Edward think his cocktail of medicine would be beneficial again? Look at what it was doing to him, he was a mess. Soon he would start seeing things, just like all of the other nights.

I have already been seeing things though, right?

Oswald shakes his head, it doesn’t have any effect other than making him slightly nauseous. He would have to deal with his withering focus, the lack of control.

Disgruntled, Oswald continues his mission. Thankfully, in as little as ten steps he has his hand around the door handle. See that wasn’t too bad. Steeling himself, he slams the door open with little finesse. The knife in hand is raised threateningly as Oswald prepares to battle off whatever could be inside of the closet. The hotel’s light bathes the room completely with its fluorescent green and shows that it was perfectly empty.

Oh, thank god.

Oswald sighs in relief, he was alone. Frowning, the man lets the knife drop onto the floor. The sharp blade misses his right foot by inches. Why pretend that he cares though? Edward would patch him up. Ignoring the close call, he turns away from the closet. He wasted enough time on Edward’s murder closet.

With single-minded focus Oswald hobbles towards to the dark grey couch Edward had taken to sleeping on. The tiled floor underfoot might as well be sand at this point. His bare feet scuffle against the floor with every wobbly step. Oswald doesn’t want to sink through the floor, so he goes and goes. Without incident, the drugged man slowly eases himself onto the couch with a satisfied little moan. It is like he is melting into the furniture as his body molds itself to the cushions of the couch. This would be a great way to go, everything was as it should be. Worries disappear as his body relaxes further, and thoughts of murderers float away into the distance.

Oswald’s eyes close, and his head lolls back. The couch catches his head, and he doesn’t sink into the sand. The floor, it’s the floor. The ground always ate things, so it was good that he was up here. The drugged man smiles as he opens his eyes. Forty minutes had gone by, but he didn’t know that. He was just riding the medication, and that extra little something Edward put in to keep him agreeable.

Was the room spinning, or was it just the couch? What was up? Is this up?

Blue eyes glance left and then right, it was like everything in the apartment was moving waves of green and black liquid. The lamp? It was water. The table? It was water. Everything had become fluid, and luminescent green waves pounded against the walls. Were those fish by the window? City lights and light bulbs, right? Yep. Those are fish swimming in deepening water. Oswald chuckles, it was a wonderland of motion.

Green waves lap eagerly at a solid figure that is brave enough to wade through the waters depths, it is getting closer. Why weren’t all of the fish swimming?

Oswald squints. Who’s that over there? You missed it, now you‘re going to drown.

“Come over here, Ed.” Oswald mumbles incoherently.

It has to be his friend, who else would it be. Dizzy, the man’s head lolls in the direction of the approaching figure. There is no answer, but Oswald doesn’t find it in himself to care. Ed, always did like to be extra foreboding. He thought it made him cool. Oswald huffs dramatically when the figure stops wading through the ocean that was filling the room. It is hiding in the black liquid swirling at the bottom of the oceans floor. Pay attention. Oh, there he goes.

“You didn’t tell me you knew how to swim, friend. Why haven’t we gone out to the bay before?” An unnaturally wide grin breaks across the man’s lips, as one of the bigger fish swims away. Where did it go?

“Look at the fish, Ed!” Oswald exclaims in amazement. “What…where is it?” A useless arm flops against the man’s side as he attempts to point in the direction the fish had gone. Was my arm always like this? How did I get here if I was just a pudding cup?

Oswald doesn’t feel much of anything at that point, and the ache in his shoulder is nonexistent. In fact, all of his aches were gone. He was free of all the pain. Did it always feel like this? It is like he doesn’t even have bones, he is just a big bag of chunky jelly.

I thought I was pudding?

Pouting, Oswald asks seriously. “Am I pudding or that purple stuff? You know what I’m talking about, the stuff that goes on the big crackers.” His friend doesn’t even answer. Why couldn’t Edward be civil? He’ll just have to listen then, because I want to have fun.

Oswald has a sudden insight, “Wait that’s jelly. I’m not a sandwich!” Another chuckle escapes, a slight moment embarrassment has the man closing his eyes. If he can’t see me, it never happened. Shhh! I have to be quiet.

“I’m not here, Ed…”

Mind going blank, Oswald goes completely quiet and still. Green waves caress his relaxed features, and the black liquid is kept at bay by the light. Oswald forgets about the fact that someone is in the room with him as more fish swim across the ocean outside of Edward’s apartment, only this time he is seeing them in his own head.

Eventually everything in the ocean fades to black as Oswald falls asleep.

The vulnerable man doesn’t hear the whispered words, or feel the breath of the figure speaking right next to his ear. Oswald doesn’t even hear the door being unlocked, or it being relatched from the outside. He doesn’t hear the door opening several hours after as Edward let himself into the apartment.

Oswald doesn’t wake up to hear Edward’s soft words, “Mr. Penguin?”

No, the drugged man doesn’t even react to being picked up from the couch, or being carefully placed back into the comfort of Edward’s bed. Instead, he just sleeps a dreamless sleep. One without fear or a single worry. It is just a whole lot of nothing.

It isn’t until morning that Oswald begins to think that anything is wrong.

Chapter Text

Ten Days After the Fall - Nathaniel Barnes Point of View

“We’ve got a call that a man dressed in a monks outfit is wrecking the massage parlor on Elm street. Should we send someone, backup? Bullock and Detective Gordon are already on the scene, sir.”

“You can’t be serious!” Captain Barnes spits out.

Those bastards.

Barnes slams his fist against the top of his desk, the pain splintering up his wrist. It is agonizing, cathartic. Ignoring the sensations moving up his arm Barnes snarls, “Get some backup for those two idiots, we can’t afford to lose any more officers. Do you hear me? Now go.”

Nodding stiffly the officer departs from Barnes office; the door slams as it is harshly pulled closed. How dare he. The desk takes several more hits as Barnes seethes. Couldn’t Gordon just listen for once? How the hell did those two get there before the damn call was made? Was there going to be another murder by those freaky monks? This would be the ninth body linked with the group according to the growing number of witnesses and evidence. Now Barnes would have to deal with the fact that he had hidden the case from Gordon. No doubt, the man would try to involve himself in it after he knew the number of bodies the monks had dropped.

Now what am I going to do with them?

Barnes lets the irritation fade away; he needed to keep a cool head around his officers. These people looked to him for leadership, and they needed to see that he was stable. He had to be the rock in this precinct. If too many of them became any more strained morale would start to degrade, and more mistakes would be made. There would be even more funerals that would have to be attended. How many bodies have they already laid to rest? Too fucking many.

Stay cool.

Taking a deep breath, he relaxes into the fact he was unsuccessful.

Rising from his chair, Barnes marches to the window of his office. Resting his arms against the small of his back, he stares out into the busy street the precinct connected to. He would just have to see how everything went. Perhaps they wouldn’t mess up as astronomically as he was predicting.

Damn, who the hell was he fooling? This was going to become another idiotic disaster. He needed to gather up a few of the forensic guys and make an appearance at whatever mess those two dumb asses had gotten themselves into.

What crap…

Now where was Nygma?


Ten Days After the Fall - Edward Nygma’s Point of View

All it takes to agitate an injured man are a few well placed words. Whether it is making them feel worthless or striking too close to a sore spot, the wrong words can prove to be volatile.

The wrong words apparently come easily to one speckled forensic scientist.

“I’ve got to go, so you stay right here. I can’t have you leaving until Galavan calls off his search.” Edward Nygma digs into his trouser pocket and pulls out his cellphone. Looking away from his new roommate, he begins to dial the number to the medical examiners office. Things were getting tense at work no thanks to his patient. It also didn’t help that the moral was down after Ms. Kringle disappeared. So it was necessary to keep up on appearances, and to do that he actually needed to show up to his job.

Edward vaguely listens as the injured man whines out pathetically, “I can’t just sit here all day, that monster is still out there. I have to make him pay for killing mother!”

Of course, Oswald would be offended. Sometimes the man was a complete infant.

Unfazed, Edward only gives Oswald a cryptic glance before responding. His voice carries no room for argument, “Mr. Penguin, don’t make this difficult. Please. I’ve got to make this call, and I have to get out of here. I don‘t have time to coddle you or force you to get some rest.”

They had been over this already; couldn’t he just listen for once?

“Coddle? What does that even mean? Where are you going?”

Edward turns away as he brings his cellphone up to his ear, his attention diverted away from the other irate man. The phone rings several times before anyone answers. A woman’s voice efficiently voices, “The GCPD’s medical examiners office, this is Leslie Thompkins. What can I do for you?”

“Ms. Thompkins, this is Edward Nygma. I‘m calling to inform you that I will be late to the office today. Can you inform Ms. Smith for me? I've tried to reach her several times and she hasn‘t answered my calls.”

A pause. Edward takes a few careful breathes before Lee finally says, “That won‘t be a problem, Ed. I’ll let her know.” The line on the other end goes silent just before he can thank her. Edward pulls the phone from his ear just to verify his conclusion and sees that the call had ended. Lee had hung up on him. Lovely.

Edward flips open his phone again and dials another number. Perhaps he can get out of going to the office today. The number only rings once before it is answered. The man on the other end of the line grunts out inelegantly, “Jim Gordon. What do you want?”

Across the room his guest yells out angrily, “ED! Answer me, please.”

With a quick glance at his feathered friend, he answers the detective. “Yes, Mr. Gordon. It’s Edward. Do you have a minute?”

Something loud sounds on the other side of the line, and Edward listens intently as Jim curses underneath his breath. Good, it doesn’t seem like Gordon noticed who was here with him. Oswald was extremely lucky. Edward makes brief eye contact with Oswald, the other man had fallen deathly silent. It was about time. It had been getting hard to even think. And if they were discovered, it would be a giant mess.

Edward turns away, and presses the phone closer against his ear.

The phone crackles as another sharp sound bursts from the small speaker against his ear. Winching, he pulls the offending object away. What exactly was going on over there? Edward brings the phone back to his ear once more as it goes deathly silent. Did he just put me on mute? That isn’t a good sign, maybe now wasn’t an opportune time? Why should you even wait? Several seemingly long seconds tick by before the sound returns. Edward nearly jumps when Jim suddenly yells out, “Ed, I can‘t talk right now!”

Why the hell not? Edward seethes quietly to himself.

“Is everything alright over there detective?” Edward finds himself asking instead as he begins to walk to the door. He really did need to get the hell out this apartment. No need upsetting his patient with whatever drama that Jim Gordon was going through.

There is no immediate answer from the detective, only his harsh breathing blowing through the speakers. Frowning, Edward waits to see if the other man would answer. Another curse comes from Jim’s side and then the man hastily informs Edward, “I’m getting chased by some guy in a bathrobe, and I really don’t want to get caught. So I‘ve got to go, bye.” The line goes silent, and Edward knows that the call had been disconnected.

Odd.

It sounds like the detective was out on a case and was in some form of danger. Was Harvey with him? Edward shakes his head furiously, and clutches the phone in a dangerously tight squeeze.

He had to go to the office.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, he looks at his silent companion. Oswald is as still as a statue, even his face was pinched in a peculiar position for longer than Edward thought appropriate. Not wanting to point out the man’s strange change of demeanor he announces with little enthusiasm, “It seems like I won’t be home for a while, you’ll have to fend for yourself. Let me just get you-”

Il Ricco D’un Giorno by Antonio Salieri begins to play. Rage flares up in Edward’s stomach as he howls, “What now?”

Startled, the man under his care backs away several steps. Oswald’s eyes are wide with surprise, and he suddenly looks as if he was going to flee. Ignoring the man Edward answers his cellphone with gritted teeth, “Hello?”

No one answers his stiff greeting, but he can still hear their breathing. Irritated he hisses a vicious, “Yes? This is Edward Nygma, can I help you?” A slow hearty chuckle strokes at his ear, soothing and angering him at the same time. “Now not a great time? You sound a little stressed out…”

“Hold on a minute.”

Edward grabs his green coat and walks out of the door. He slams it closed without so much as a glance at Oswald, the phone is clutched tightly against his ear. Edward makes his way swiftly down the corridor, and all the way to the emergency staircase before he feels safe enough to speak. It was Harvey, and Oswald didn’t need to know what was happening between them at the moment. In due time it would have to be brought up. But not now, he already felt like he was going to have a meltdown just from thinking about it.

He had been avoiding Harvey. Edward wasn‘t sure if he was ready to take up the older man’s insinuated offer of getting together in order to ‘relax’. But he wanted to do it, wanted to see where things led. However, the whole thing was growing into a bizarre personal crisis, one that Edward had started on some whim. Why the hell was that again? Was he lonely, was he suddenly some sexual fiend? It could be good, couldn’t it?

Should I risk it?

Just act natural, nothing is going on here.

The first thing he can think to say is, “You know that Jim is being chased by, and I quote, some guy in a bathrobe?” A beat of silence passes, and then he hears a muffled curse. Suddenly the sound of pounding shoes on concrete is all that makes its way though the speakers. Relieved that so far he was able to avoid any embarrassing conversation, Edward begins to jog down the staircase. With as much grace as he can muster, he slips into his coat just before he throws open the nearest exit door to the outside world.

His pace in near synchronization with the detective on the phone as he continues a light jog to the parking lot down the street. Couldn’t they have built a parking garage closer? It was cold outside, and the coat feels insufficient to keep him warm.

Nearly two minutes of silence stretch between his revelation and now, he is starting to wonder what was happening on the detectives end. He doesn’t have to wait much longer before Harvey huffs out, “Damn it all. I leave Jim alone for a single minute, no, a second and now I’ve got to go and save his sorry ass.” Another curse floats between them, and Edward holds his breath as the tension escalates. How much trouble could Gordon have gotten himself into?

Coming to a stop in front of the parking garage Edward listens as Harvey hollers, “What the hell happened Jim? Are you bleeding?” Edward chews on his bottom lip as Gordon responds, “I’m fine, but you need to call for an ambulance. This guy is going to bleed out.”

“I’m calling them, you keep that guy alive! You heard all of that right, Ed? I’ve got to go, but I‘m hoping that we can talk tonight. So call me, please. Talk to you later.” The line goes dead, but this time Edward doesn’t mind. A small smile curls the edges of Edward’s lips as he pockets his phone.

It looked like the danger for the two detectives was gone, and the culprit was more than likely going to die. In the city, the ambulance arrival times were atrocious, so unless they were a couple of miles away from a hospital, then good luck on having a breathing man instead of a corpse.

What a tragedy. May whoever Gordon maimed have someone available to collect their body at the morgue. Edward was sick of helping Leslie with the paperwork on the Jon Doe’s.

With a little more spring to his step, the bespectacled man eases his way through the parking garage and manages to make it to his vehicle without issue. Relieved that his driver’s side door hadn’t been blocked in by some jerks horribly parked car. Pulling out the keys from his cardigan’s pocket, he opens the door and throws himself into the leather seats with a small huff.

Throwing his car into reverse Edward quickly backs out of the parking spot, puts it in drive, and begins his trek to work. The radio plays concerto classics, and Edward listens halfheartedly to the smarmy ads of Gotham’s newly opened shopping center. Purposely he blanks out any thoughts of the day ahead, he didn’t want to think too critically about what would happen that night. Traitorously he can’t quite keep his mind quiet for long.

I don’t think I can do this, not after what I did to the last person to touch me. Maybe I should just kill Harvey, he wasn't really interested. It was just a tactic to be in a position of power, a weakness to exploit. It would save me so much trouble later on just to end it. I can even make it seem like some sort of accident, no one would ever know. And then I can be free to be who I really am, instead of being held back by someone who was using me. I wouldn’t have to be ashamed of the things I’ve been doing. I have Oswald now, I have someone who understands me. I don’t need to acquire validation from him, it is already there. Oswald is more of an equal, there was this duality between them. Not even Ms. Kringle had that feeling of completeness to her. But I loved her so much, but now she is gone.

*You killed her, because she was a liability. Now you have two more, one just doesn’t know it yet. Do you really plan on killing Oswald and Harvey too? Because I know that you won’t stop at just one, you have a certain button that they can both trigger. You’re a ticking time bomb. Are they next, Eddy? Because we both know that they can both be so annoying. Look how whiny your new friend is, how needy. The only good thing about Oswald is that he has experiences in the world that you fancy. He is a gate to the future. Harvey though…he is just a waste of your time. He is going to be in the way every second that he is breathing. Harvey must know about that body, why else would he pretend he is interested so soon after you killed that man? Just get rid of him, I’ll help you do it. Together we can transform into the metaphorical butterfly that you want to become. Don’t let them use us. Use them instead.

Frustrated by the thought of being used, Edward finds his foot pushing harder against the gas pedal. Taking several calming breathes through his mouth, he slowly eases back to a more reasonable speed. Getting a ticket was not on the ‘to do’ list. As soon as he was at work, everything would calm down for him. The work always seemed to keep him busy, kept his mind quieter. But this time, his insecurities just kept pecking at his brain. Pay attention to me, listen, listen. Well he didn’t want to listen, he didn’t want to think. I just want it to be quiet, for once.

*I guess you have to suffer a little longer. I’m not going anywhere.

“Shut up.” Edward hisses.

*Now that isn’t nice, you know I am just thinking about us. Someone here needs to. I mean you can’t even come to a decision on anything. Are you going to do it, aren’t you? We are just wasting our precious time, is all of this effort with Oswald even worth it? The most you two accomplished was killing Mr. Leonard together. And look at that! You had to do all of the cleanup, and didn’t that take forever? The blood was everywhere, it was a fucking mess. You are just going to be his little errand boy, you are not an equal.

Long fingers stretch over the large steering wheel and dig tightly against the leather covering. The speedometer gradually begins to rise once more, maybe he would get that speeding ticket. The silence is thick inside of his mind, and the world around him goes on mute. Agitated, Edward swings the car onto the shoulder. Edward’s arms bulge as he fights the steering wheel for control, and the tires pull tightly to the right as he comes to an erratic stop

Sweat pours off of Edward’s brow as he takes off his seatbelt with jerky movements, and his legs feel weak. It takes four attempts to open the door, but as soon as it opens he falls out of the car like an unbalanced heap. Traffic passes by, and Edward can feel the numerous curious sets of eyes staring at him as he gets back onto his shaky feet. He could care less what they think, let them get their fill of him having this moment of absurdity. He feels too strange to give them any mind.

It was like he wasn’t even in his body. Not really, anyways.

“Where are you, I want to talk to you!” Edward yells. Unnerved, he can only feel his vocal cords moving, the sound still seemed to be turned off. Face burning bright red, he marvels at the level of anger running through his body.

“You did this to me! Stop it.”

Edward finds his fist slamming recklessly on the door of his vehicle. One hit turns to two, and then three. It hurts, but he can’t seem to stop. Arms shaking he manages to bang several fist shaped dents into the body of his car. Thin blotches of blood smear the vehicles new imperfections.

A wave of exhaustion finally stops his hand.

*Are you done?

The frustration suddenly disappears, as the hold vanishes. The sound of cars driving by fill his head like static. It is too much, why does he keep doing this to himself? Several people honk their horn as they pass. Edward’s uninjured hand goes up, and without any conscious thought he flips the bird at nearly a dozen commuters. They should get the hint at this point.

Tired, the sullen man stares vacantly at the impressive imprint on his passenger door. He would have to get the car into the shop soon, unacceptable.

*You did this to yourself, Eddy boy.

Throat aching with tension Edward shouts, “Can‘t you just leave me alone, I thought we were past this point already. It was you. It wasn’t me, not this time. You made me do this, and thanks for that. Thanks for NOTHING!”

*This is really quite the number, how much is it going to cost to fix your precious car? It will have to be out of pocket again. Maybe you should forget this identity thing, and just ask your Captain for a raise. Keep working at the same boring job for the rest of your miserable life. I don’t think this ‘murderer’ thing is really going to work out. You don’t have the right stuff, you’re just the same sad little man you’ve always been. It is honestly hilarious how hard you work to fail. Your new friend would be roaring with laughter at how idiotic you are. It has always been like this though, just one mess after another. You’re a walking comedy show, one in a billion.

I’m not some freak that people can laugh at.

*Aren’t you though? How many times have you heard people like Bullock laughing their asses off over your ridiculous antics? If the cops are laughing, imagine how funny you are to the real tough guys on the streets.

He doesn’t think I’m a joke, if he did I would know. He wasn’t laughing at me, he wasn’t.

Fresh anger streams through Edward, but he ignores the pulsating hatred instead of feeding onto it. His hand knew firsthand the consequences of losing further control. He wasn’t partial to having two bloody fists. One was much less inconspicuous, easier to lie about how it was damaged. Not that anyone would believe him, but it made him feel better about his fib. He stretches out his hand and stares gloomily at the blood scrapes covering his flesh. He just needed to focus on something else. The voice would go away sooner than later.

I’ll be fine, no one will even notice.

With a growing sense of composure, Edward drops the injured hand and gets back into his vehicle. Calmer, the man grabs a rag from the glove compartment. Pressing the cloth against his bloodied hand he takes the time to pat away the slow oozing of blood. When he is satisfied by his efforts, Edward wraps the rag around his hand and ties it into a makeshift bandage.

Grim smile in place, Edward starts his vehicle and pulls out into the slowing traffic. Time blinks away, and before he knows it he is driving in front of the police station. It isn’t until he is parking in front of the GCPD that he remembers something vital. He didn’t give Oswald his medication.

*Good job! Now your friend won’t even be home, he’ll be dead in the streets.

Panicked, Edward puts the car back into reverse. However, he finds that he can’t go anywhere, someone was standing at the rear of his car. The bulky man raises his hand in a halting sign, and Edward grinds his teeth together in annoyance.

Not now, damn it.

Parking the car, Edward makes a show of grabbing his briefcase from the backseat and the keys from the ignition. The rap on his window has him swiveling his head quickly towards the man right outside. Feeling cheeky, Edward rolls down his window with a bright smile on his face.

“Hello, Captain. What can I do for you?”

Without an ounce of amusement, Captain Barnes leans over and says, “I need your presence today, so you’re not going to be going anywhere. So get your ass out of the car, and let’s go. We have to another murder scene, and I need your expertise.”

“Yes sir. You just need to move over to the right a little bit.”

“Don’t be smart with me, come on. We’ve got to go, so move it. Lee told me you were coming in today, and I‘ve already been waiting for almost an hour.” Barnes opens the door and holds it open for Edward to get out. With a sour face, the bespectacled man does just that right after rolling up the window.

With more care than expected, Edward watches as Barnes closes the vehicles door behind him. His boss doesn’t even blink at the damage that had obviously been inflicted on the vehicle, instead he just grumbles under his breath about tardiness and then brushes by Edward.

“Follow me, Nygma.” Briefcase in his injured hand, Edward sighs as he tags along behind his boss.

I guess I’ll have to hope for the best. Oswald better not do anything idiotic.

*Where would the fun be if you don’t get to kill him?

Edward cringes. Was this all that was left for him? The ridicule, and disappointment. The chance of murdering his only ally? His feet clack against the concrete, and his eyes remain on the back of Barnes’ bald head.

Oswald will be there, and we will deal with him on my own terms.

*I’m rooting for you Eddy, maybe this time you’ll get something right. Once he’s dead we can take care of your other big mistake. And after that? Well, then we can kill Jim Gordon. Don’t disappoint me.

There is a long pause. He can barely think, and then.

I wont…

Slowing down, Barnes waits for Edward to catch up. Another minute passes in silence as they steadily make their way down the extensive parking lot Barnes decided to park in. Feeling uncomfortable Edward listens as the other man finally asks, “Nygma, do you have everything you need in that briefcase of yours? I’m a little short staffed at the moment, so I’ll need you to do most of the processing. I have a couple of other guys already at the scene, but most of them don’t know jack squat. So, will there be any issues?”

Typical. Nobody knew what the hell they were doing, how did they even get their jobs in the first place. It was madness. With more irritation than he was planning on showing Edward retorts, “Nope, no issues here. Everything is just peachy keen.”

“It doesn’t sound that way. Everything okay?” Did Captain Barnes actually sound concerned? Oh, now wasn’t this just a day full of surprises. Pushing up his glasses, Edward glances at his boss suspiciously. Barnes stares back blankly as he comes to a gradual stop in front of a black sedan.

“Yeah, everything is fine. Why wouldn’t it be?”

Barnes raises an eyebrow dubiously, “What am I, an idiot? Everyone in the office knows that you’re down in the dumps over Ms. Kringle leaving.”

How nosey can he be?

Feeling affronted at the obtuse assumption Edward snappily bites out, “She didn’t want to be with me, and she went running back to Tom. Would you be okay with any of that happening to you?”

*All lies of course. You murdered her, and one day someone is going to find out.

Crossing his arms Barnes says, “Of course not. I would be furious at myself for pushing her away in the first place. It would be especially frustrating if she left me for another man without any warning. Seems a little out of character for her though, or at least that is what I‘ve been hearing. But people do crazy things when they are in love. Don’t they Nygma?” Penetrating eyes gaze speculatively at Edward.

Ms. Kringle…

“I-I didn’t push her away. She was perfect, and kind. I don’t know how she could have left me for him, not when I would have given her the world.” Tears of frustration begin to well up in the corners of Edward’s eyes. She was going to leave him, turn him in. He did everything for her, but she wouldn’t listen! Tom had been hurting her, abusing her. I was protecting her from him, but she didn’t care. She just wouldn’t keep quiet, she wouldn’t stay and listen. Why? “Why would she do that to me!? What did I do that was so bad?” The tears begin to come in earnest, and a small sob escapes his lips. Why did I have to kill her? I loved her.

*Ha! You were just trying to save your own skin. We both know that you didn’t want to face the consequences of what you did to Tom. I mean, yeah that guy deserved what he got. But you still stabbed him over and over. People go to jail for those kinds of things. And let me tell you, the inmates of Blackgate would have loved you. You’re just so supple and sweet, perfect for the lonely men counting the days until their release.

Edward covers his face with his free hand, and tries to conceal his face. Crying in front of the boss had never been on top of the list of things to do. However now he couldn’t stop. Embarrassed, Edward turns away from Barnes and wipes at his face. Thankfully the injury was on his other hand, so at least he didn’t have to worry about smearing blood all over himself. Wouldn’t that have been a wonderful sight.

*What a load of crap. Is this the best that you can do Eddie? I mean, the whole pity party seems to be working well enough for you. However your performance was so dry. Luckily, your good old Captain is eating this all up. Of course, he is an idiot.

Behind him, Barnes averts his eyes with a chagrined expression. Indistinctly Edward hears the other man muttering softly underneath his breath. Sneaking a quick peek, Edward takes in Barnes staring down the parking lot with a faraway look. He didn’t even want to look at Edward it seemed. The big guy was probably staring down a light pole or something. A necessary reprieve for such a pent up man. Wouldn’t want Barnes to catch any feelings or anything. Especially something that wasn’t anger or confusion.

Guys like that don’t want to be embarrassed. And if they do then it was best to duck and cover, because they were about to blow.

Edward sniffs pathetically into the corner of his coat sleeve. Green woolen fabric rubbing roughly against the corner of his eye, Edward listens as Barnes walks away. It was better this way, who would want to stand there all day while he cried? The sound of a car door slamming closed perks Edward’s interest and he turns to watch as Barnes marches toward him with determination in his steps from the same black sedan they stopped in front of.

“Captain…” Edward begins with a slight warble in his voice. Before he can get any farther, Barnes pulls a pack of tissues out of his pocket and holds out his hand in offering. “Here, you could use a few of these. I’m sorry for upsetting you…I know it’s hard losing someone you love. We can pretend this never happened and leave as soon as you‘re done with all of that.” Barnes points vaguely at Edward’s face, trying to point out what ‘that’ was.

Staring questioningly at Barnes, Edward unexpectedly finds himself moved by the small offer of comfort. The man must have dug through his glove compartment or something. Thankful, Edward takes the package from his captain with a shy smile ghosting his lips. “Thank you, captain. I felt like my face was being rubbed raw from using my sleeve. This will help immensely, please just give me a minute.”

*What a complete moron.

Obviously unsettled at his thoughtful act, the older man rubs at the back of his head nervously. Barnes looks away as Edward loudly blows his nose with several tissues. After the fourth tissue, the man must have finally had enough as the car door slams again.

Perfect.

Back towards the car, Edward smirks. All of this should work in his favor. The more people seeing him in utter disarray, the better. Captain Barnes would be eating from the palm of Edward’s hand once this performance was over with. Of course, the man would end up losing all of his doubts on Edward‘s involvement in any shady dealings involving Ms. Kringle. Those deep seated doubts had been so obviously on display, Barnes wasn’t very subtle.

*You’re learning fast. Now you just need to stay on your toes, it gets a little trickier from this point. Barnes isn’t completely convinced, you need to solidify things. Be transparent, let him see what he wants to see.

I know. He needs to see that I’m innocent, that I’m the victim who is suffering from all of the emotional angst that unfortunately comes with these types of relationships. You already know that I’ve got this under control.

*Had me fooled. It seemed so genuine.

Shouldn’t it be genuine? I am devastated.

Ms. Kringle had disappeared from the map, gone to the wind as far as everybody was concerned. Her friends at work were, to say the very least, utterly baffled. However, they didn’t even seem to question the fact that Ms. Kringle just got up and left in the first place. Not out loud anyways, maybe they didn’t even care. Yet, somehow they expected for this to be an outcome at one point. It was as if Edward never had any real chance, and maybe he didn't. Perhaps Ms. Kringle was going to leave him sooner or later, she just didn’t get the chance to actually follow through.

So conveniently it looked like everyone only had Edward’s word that she walked off, and nobody wanted to believe that he was lying. Strange little Edward wasn’t some murderer. Gasp! How could you even think that? Edward already knew that people had some doubts, but dispelling them was of the utmost importance. Starting with Barnes and working his way down was the best course of action at this point.

Expectations had to be met, and even with the Harvey situation people would assume it to be a pretty normal reaction. Didn’t people fuck all of the time after getting dumped? Not that they were, but people would naturally assume that Edward would be looking to get rid of some of that frustration through a more physical means. Sure, they both would probably look pathetic. I more so will look utterly pitiful. Barnes would be the most likely to expect and understand it, the bull that he was.

However, some people suspecting his abnormal reactions as particularly devious would raise their eyebrows in suspicion. Fingers pointing in his direction would be undesirable, but he wouldn’t be able to dispel everyone’s doubts. So the more people that he could get to pity him, the better.

*The face of stability you are not little Eddie. Do you really think that you can pull this off without anymore of my help? I am what keeps you bound together, the building blocks from which this whole scheme came from. The glue. Without me, you are going to fail. Slim Jim is already on to you, and today you’ve messed up with your little house project. Do you think they will disappear? And all because you think that the big man behind you believes your sob story? That no one else could possibly go out and think or prove otherwise?

I guarantee that I know more about what is going on than you think. As you keep obnoxiously pointing out, we are the same darn person. I’ll deal with whoever gets in the way. You know this already, so just…be quiet. Please. I can’t work this way.

Sweet silence. Finally the other one was quiet.

“Are you done?” Barnes hollers impatiently out of his window as he almost certainly watches Edward‘s every move. Not even bothering to look, Edward waves his hand in the air as he cheerfully responds. “One more minute!”

Blowing his sore nose into one more tissue, Edward feels more firmly put together. It was time to get Ms. Kringle out of his system. A few extra tears now and then might be good enough to even get rid of that residual buildup of guilt he was feeling lodged in his chest. Already it was starting to alleviate, thank god.

Glancing at the large parking lot, Edward takes in the scenery. He zeros in on several unmarked police vehicles and the majority of the GCPD’s personal vehicles that sit silently in wait. Several cars are double parked, and someone left a soda bottle on the hood of their car. Overhead it is overcast, the clouds a light gray. Perhaps it will snow later on in the day, didn’t the weather man say something about that happening? Looking wearily at the surrounding buildings he doesn’t take notice of anyone snooping out of their windows. Not seeing any other possible witnesses to his moment of weakness, Edward takes one last deep calming breath and turns.

With a little more pep in his steps, Edward walks to the vehicle Barnes currently occupied. Slipping into the car, he sinks into the thick black leather of the seat. With his briefcase held lightly across his lap, Edward only gives his boss a brief nod. He knew that his face was probably splotchy and red, but it helped with the look he was aiming for. Innocent, weak. Barnes looks at him for a tick, before starting the car with a slight huff. “You good to go, Nygma?”

Ignoring the mild look and apparent change of attitude of his boss, Edward stares out of the window as he easily states, “Absolutely, I’m fine now. Thank you for the tissues, Captain.” The older man grunts out his acknowledgment without any real heat, as he eases the car into drive. Patiently, Edward waits for Barnes to pull out of the parking spot. Another huff comes from Edward’s left as his prickly Captain exits the parking lot and drives down main street to location unknown. He really had no idea where the hell they were even going.

“So…where are we off to?” With a thin veil of confusion Edward looks at Barnes in question. Not even looking at Edward’s reaction the other man gruffly asks, “What?”

Did I stutter or something? How hard is the question, really.

Darting a stern look towards Edward, the man realizes what was being asked. “Gordon and Bullock found a live one. Apparently this monk and some of his buddies dropped a few bodies in the sewer by this popular message parlor on Duncan Street. Bullock was a little hysterical on the phone so who knows what we are really getting into. Guess it doesn’t matter too much, just as long as we cover the scene.”

It mattered, this wasn't the first time some monk murdered somebody this week. Was a religious cult on a killing spree? Sacrifice by murder? It couldn’t be some coincidence, not with this current streak of murderous monks on the loose. Edward couldn’t help but find this spree utterly fascinating. “Was there a call this time, or did those two just end up on the scene at the most opportune time like usual?”

Turning right onto Jefferson Avenue with ease, Barnes chews thoughtfully at the question. “Yeah, it was a little bit of both. Those two always seem to be at the right place at the right time. It’s honestly a little bit of a relief that they keep getting the constant exposure.”

“Hmmm, you don’t say.”

It was dumb luck, there is no way those two could normally be at the scene of so many murders and high profile crimes as they were occurring. Nobody else on the force had the same numbers that either Bullock or Gordon seemed to conjure up from thin air. Not wanting to voice any of his thoughts, Edward changes the topic as Barnes turns left onto Fuller Road. “It took me a while, but last night I found something on our case involving Aubrey James. Detective Patterson searched several of the abandoned warehouses that Mr. Cobblepot had ownership over near the ocean. It has taken a while to go through all of the locations, but Patterson found blood at the scene of the warehouse on Templeton Pier. After my analysis I found that we have a match on our previous Mayor.”

Tapping at the steering wheel in thought Barnes stiffly questions, “So what are you saying? Do you think that someone killed him off or something? It could have been Penguin, since it was his warehouse. It would explain why we haven‘t been able to find James all of this time.”

No, it wasn’t anything like that.

“I’m not so sure about that, Captain. I also identified another match from a separate sample at the same location. It was a match to Mr. Cobblepot’s mother.”

The car comes to a screeching stop in the middle of the road. A horn honks behind them, as they are both thrown forward in their seats violently. Is he trying to kill us? Once the car settles, the sounds behind them fade as a wild look emerges from his Captain. Barnes bellows out, “Shit, you’ve got to be kidding me!? Why didn’t I get this news sooner?”

Pulling at the collar of his sweater Edward stalls for a second. He hadn't even told Oswald the news yet. “I just told you, I only found out last night.”

Barnes narrows his eyes in aggravation. “Unacceptable, you should have called me as soon as you found out. It doesn’t matter how late it is. So what you’re telling me is that both the Penguin’s mother and the Mayor were murdered at the pier? Oh, my fucking god. Gordon was right, the freak wasn't lying.”

No duh. Oswald had been a witness, not that Barnes would have taken the man’s word for it. Picking at the handle of his briefcase, Edward nods his head. “I’m still waiting for several sets of prints to come in, but it seems like there were a number of parties involved. I found nine separate sets of fingerprints, two of which must belong to both Ms. Kapelput and Aubrey James. If Mr. Cobblepot’s story were to be taken into account, we can safely assume that he was at the scene at one point, thus adding another possible set. We could also find both Mayor Galavan and his sister Tabitha’s, if what Cobblepot told Detective Gordon is to be believed.”

“When do you get in the results?”

Looking at his watch for a moment, Edward quickly calculates the time. “I’d say that Alfonso will be done within the next three hours. Probably less if he listened to what I told him to do for once.”

A beat of silence before Barnes asks, “Okay. Will he be sending the paperwork to my desk then?” Without hesitation Edward reassures his Captain, “Naturally. I told him to have them printed off as soon as he was able. Once we get these in, we can start to build the scene from the ground up. There was enough blood for a few bodies, but the other samples we took came in inconclusive. Which is a shame. Now we have to find where all of these bodies went, however the chances of finding them is looking rather grim. If the murderers had any brains, they would have tossed the corpses into the ocean after the deed was done.”

“We may never find them if that is the case.” With a frown, Barnes presses down the accelerator of the vehicle. Slowly the car starts to roll forward and the traffic that was still behind them eases off of their horns. Adjusting his position, Edward sits stiffly with his back ramrod straight.

Uncomfortable, Edward pulls at the knot of his tie. “I know that I don’t really have any say in this kind of thing, however I want you to hear me out.” A thoughtful look crosses Barnes face before he says, “Alright, shoot.” Edward pinches the skin between his thumb and pointer finger as he slowly suggests, “Perhaps, it would be wise to assign Detective Gordon to this case. He already has both credibility and trust with Mr. Cobblepot. We both know that he may be the only witness to the murder of one known innocent individual, that being his own mother. Gordon already has a brief statement from the day of the shootout, and Mr. Cobblepot made it obvious that someone needed to investigate Mayor Galavan who may have been the trigger for the bloodshed that day.”

Barnes doesn’t even twitch as he takes in Edward’s words. It takes several blocks for the other man to formulate his response, by that point Edward is thinking that he may have made an error. “It’s not a bad idea, but…we still aren’t certain that Galavan had anything to do with any of this. Hell, we don’t even have any bodies! If we do get any real evidence placing Galavan at the scene though, I’ll throw our dynamic duo onto the case and we’ll take him down for the possible murders of Penguin’s mother and our previous Mayor. For now though, I need you to plan on putting in some overtime to revisit the warehouse. Patterson is only one man, so it is possible he could have missed something. We both know you have a more keen eye in these instances, so if you find anything you will have to call me. Do you think you can go tonight, after this crime scene?”

Hell, what am I going to do now. Oswald could already be dead on the street somewhere, and if he isn't he soon will be. How could he even hide? The whole city had to know who he was at this point. And I know that it will be impossible for that idiotic little man to stay still once he got a scent of freedom.

*He is a loose end, just let him die already. I thought we went through this?

Biting at the inside of his cheek Edward grits out with a slight huff, “It would be my pleasure, Captain. Anything else that you want me to check on while I’m in that area?”

Drumming his fingers against the wheel, Barnes slowly nods his head as another idea comes to mind. “Would you go over to some of the local hangouts and try and gather some intel? We need to find out if anyone has been paying attention to all of the activity around that area. Possibly find out if anyone has been recruited by our Mayor for less than savory work.”

“I’m not exactly qualified for that kind of work Captain. Are you sending me alone?” Edward can’t help thinking that the idea was already dreadful. A sickening feeling curls in the pit of his stomach. Why did he ask in the first place?

Eyebrows scrunched together, the bald man quickly follows up, “Hell no! I don’t care who, but I want you to take one of the detectives with you. Just in case things get hairy. Everybody is loaded up to their ears with cases, but if you have seen anybody slacking recently I would say that would be your man. Actually, take whoever you need, almost everyone has been slacking these past couple of days.”

“Alrighty, I think that I have just the person for this then…” The words taper off, and everything goes quiet. That would have to be enough for now.

The rest of their drive goes by in silence until they reach the massage parlor.

“Great, another circus show.” Barnes grits out with enough annoyance to choke a seagull.

Well, isn’t this a cluster. Edward gasps silently at the building, this wasn’t your average masseuses work place. This was somewhere interesting, new. Edward grins as his eyes rake across the bounty before him.

Cordoned off from the general public, Edward observes as a few overworked officers hold back the growing group of onlookers trying to get a peek of the scene. Beyond the crime scene tape are several half dressed men and women being interviewed by the police. Was this some sort of brothel? On the side of the building where Barnes was coming to a stop, there was a single ambulance still on the scene. A small dark haired woman shouldering a blanket stares broodingly at their vehicle, her face seemingly haggard.

Dark brown eyes come into contact with his own, and the smile dies quickly. The woman has an uncanny resemblance to Ms. Kringle. A loud gasp comes out of his mouth as he zooms in on her features. Was it really her? This wasn’t real, some hallucination.

It wasn’t possible. She was buried in the woods, never to be found again. And when that wasn’t enough, he had cut her up into several pieces and put her inside a vat of acid.

She’s dead, she’s dead. She is DEAD.

“You okay? You look a little spooked.”

A hand lands on Edward’s left shoulder. Startled out of his growing horror, he twists his head quickly to look at the offending hand. Wide eyed, he shrugs off Barnes hand and looks to see if the woman was still there.

The only thing that he catches sight of is two EMT’s swinging the ambulances doors closed. A cold chill runs down his spine as they get into the vehicle and drive by. With a slight tremble in his voice, Edward softly says to the other occupant, “I’m fine. Let’s go already.”

“If you say so kid.” Barnes frowns.

Not wanting to be pressed into any more conversation, Edward grabs the door handle and pushes it open. Just before Edward can bother to get out of the vehicle he hears, “About what I said earlier…”

Edward becomes frazzled as he stutters for a moment, “F-Forget about it, Captain.” His boss should just fuck off, he was already pushing it too far. Nosey bastard should just shut his mouth, he wasn’t sorry at all. If Barnes was trying to apologize that is. Edward could honestly care less at this point at whatever angle his Captain was going for, he was just exhausted and done with the day.

Not only was his life going to hell, but he was seeing ghosts now.

Edward needed to do something before he completely lost it. Feeling anxious, he is quick to get out of the car and march towards the front of the building with his briefcase in hand. Knowing that Barnes isn’t far behind him, Edward flashes his lanyards badge at the nearest officer. Eyes widen in acknowledgement, and the officer guarding the entrance lets him in. Nodding his head, Edward walks by the younger man without a second look. It wasn’t like he knew him, what was the point in idling. Barnes doesn’t seem to feel the same way as he jumps into Captain mode. Several orders are off the man’s lips before Edward is out of earshot.

Better that guy than him. There was enough on his plate as it was.

Going through several rooms, Edward discovers that there were two separate areas of business, one being more lawful than the other. It seemed that he was right on there being a brothel; it was just carefully concealed from the typical customers curious and probing eyes. Perhaps this side of the building had a separate parking lot, or maybe there was another entrance. Curious, but unconcerned, he finally enters the location that he was needed.

The first thing that catches his attention upon entry is the strange fact that the scene was nearly empty of any other personnel. It had been tight ever since the city had begun its downward spiral. One disaster after another left the force lacking in officers, so it wasn’t a surprise that only a small handful of people were around. But this was still too few for the location. Maybe the rest were in the sewer where the monk was apprehended?

Walking further into the spa-like room, a very specific person grabs his attention. It was a big number two, almost as interesting as the befuddling scene he was coming in to. Mesmerized, Edward gazes openly at the man lost in a heated discussion with one Mr. Gordon. Harvey seemed to be impassioned with emotion as he pointed threateningly at his partner with his hat.

Edward wanted to know what could liven the man up like that. Perhaps he could discover the little trigger and use it to his own ends. What things could he get him to do in that state? All it would take was a little push, wouldn’t it…

A disagreement of sorts, that much was obvious. But what about? Unable to overhear them, Edward watches for a brief moment as Harvey argues quietly with the other man. What did Gordon do this time? Could it be about what had transpired earlier? Not wanting to be noticed overtly spying, Edward takes his eyes off of the two men and continues his trek through the building. Perhaps he could find out from the source later on.

Wandering down another long hallway Edward finds himself drawn like a moth to a black door two rooms down to the left. An itchy sensation worms its way into his consciousness, split skin asking to be scratched. Just keep on digging in, and maybe it would go away. Just one little scratch…

God, just do things right for once.

Fingers spasm at his sides; he needed to clean out his wound.

I can’t afford to contaminate the scene. Do it right, don’t mess up. Be better…

Pushing open the door with little preamble the man enters the restroom. The smell of piss hits his nostrils like a fist, and he nearly gags as he ushers himself to the closest sink. Taking off the rag tied around his hand is like peeling off a three day old bandaid. It sticks to the crusty blood and ooze coming from his wounds. Flinching, he pulls it off with as much care as he has patience for. The pain makes the numbness he was feeling go away, and his mind finally situates itself into a more aware state.

Blood beads across his knuckles and drips into the white of the sink. Dark eyes follow the trickle as it eases toward the drain at a snails pace. Still feeling slightly nauseous from the smell of the urinals, he turns on the sink and quickly scrubs at his knuckles. Making use of the soap dispenser, Edward cleans the filth away. A minute goes by agonizingly slow, but it was all of the time he needs. Done, the man pulls several brown paper towels from the dispenser and dries his hands off.

All of this could have been avoided.

He gazes into the mirror and frowns.

Edward wishes that he could have held himself back. Wished that he still had semblance of control, instead of whatever they called this mess he was exhibiting. Where was the CONTROL? It didn’t exist anymore, did it? Whatever he had must have died as soon as he killed Tom that night in front of Ms. Kringle’s house.

The reflection in the mirror speaks to Edward, the voice haughty and full of confidence that Edward seemed to lack. Like it knew something that he didn’t. As if Edward couldn’t even fathom how things were supposed to be. Gripping his injured hand against his chest, Edward watches it spew its filth.

*You would have lost it regardless. This is just how it was meant to be. The edge has been right under your heels for years, you know that this is true. Now you finally are over the cliff, spreading your wings. Flying. We can accomplish so much together. It takes a little trust on your part though. I need you to listen to me. We are doing what you always dreamed. Making a name for ourselves, becoming more. There is nothing wrong in what happened.

That answer just doesn’t feel right. None of this was right.

“I could go and get help, or turn myself in.” The words are out of his mouth, but they don’t mean a thing. Just useless little things that he wouldn’t ever dream of doing. He didn’t want people to think that he was some lowlife, and he definitely didn’t want to be put in some cage or institution. They did things to people, deplorable things. He wouldn’t even have a mind left if he was ever released, instead he would be an empty husk. Dead man walking, not caring about a single thing.

*Why should we let this beautiful brain be restrained and addled with drugs? Or be hindered by all of that good wholesome ‘therapy’? We are better than that.

That is right. He was better than that.

No, he was a man of vision. He didn’t deserve to go behind bars, they would have to have absolute proof. And they would never find it. They wouldn’t find any of the bodies that he disposed of. He would not be going, period. Especially if he did anything about it. Oh, he had so many things that he could weave together. The lies would just roll off his tongue, and people like Barnes would eat the words straight from his hand. He would make them chew their own words into useless mush.

Whoever got in his way would be finding themselves at the end of his knife; never to be found again by the end of the day they decided to do anything. And he already knew who to take down. Now it was just about opportunity.

*Now you are on the right track, Eddy.

Time to let the show hit the road. He would be home free in a few months, everything would die down and the suspicion would diminish. People would actually believe that Ms. Kringle left her whole life here in Gotham to go and be with the ‘love’ of her life. They were that idiotic. Of course, this would all benefit him.

I can get through this.

Suddenly feeling assured, Edward turns away from the reflection in the mirror and makes a quick exit with his briefcase in hand. There was a job to do.

Going through the door directly across from the restroom, the man finds a multitude of doors lining another narrow hallway. Edward quickly marches through. His sharp eyes take in the absolute carnage on either side of him as he enters the actual scene, the place looked like it had been trampled through by a bull. Blood is sprayed across several locations, and Edward easily walks around the scene without touching anything that needed his immediate attention. Edward wonders why there were so many overturned tables, and how anyone could destroy so many room dividers.

Sighing tiredly, Edward kneels onto the wooden floor as he sets down his briefcase. Quickly opening the case, the man takes out his equipment and sets it out carefully and in a proficient fashion. Feeling more sure of himself now that he was in a zone of comfort, he pulls out a packet of gloves and pulls them on his hands with practiced ease. With nothing out of place, Edward gets to work.

Nothing but the evidence matters, as he tunes out the rest of the world. It isn’t until he is nearly done with taking photographs of the scene that he realizes that he isn’t alone in the room. Camera in hand, Edward looks left and right. Not seeing anything, he turns around and sees someone leaning against the wall near the end of the hallway.

“Mr. Gordon, nice to see that you are well. You have a little something on your shirt…”

Edward can’t take his eyes off of the large bloodstain marring the white fabric of the detectives dress shirt, not even when the other man stiffens at the sudden attention that he was receiving. What was he doing? Curious at the lack of verbal response, Edward finds himself asking, “Is there something you need? Or are just here to watch me work?”

The other man huffs in amusement, but then cuts himself off. Edward looks away from the blood, up to Gordon’s dark blue eyes. Looking uncomfortable, the detective clears his throat. “We’ve got to talk.”

“About what exactly?” Edward finds himself asking.

“Have you heard anything from Ms. Kringle? Lee hasn’t been able to get a hold of her for a while now.” Gordon looks genuine as he asks, so Edward lets himself fall into a sense of ease. Things would be fine, it isn’t like anyone would ever find out what happened. Gordon may have suspicions already, but he wouldn’t find anything. And if he did…

“I haven’t heard anything from her, she disconnected her phone recently. I’m guessing that she just wants to be left alone so that she can focus on her…relationship with Officer Dougherty.” Edward sniffs loudly for effect as he runs his fingers under eyes. They were dry, but the other man wouldn’t have been able to notice from across the room. The show had to go on, and he had to entertain his audience.

“Really…” Gordon looks skeptical. “What I don’t get is how she could just leave? I mean, did she know where Tom was this whole time? She didn’t say anything about it to any of her friends, and none of Tom’s friends knew that he was going to even take off in the first place. In fact, I am pretty sure that you are the only person that knows where either of them are at.”

The man had a point. Not liking the detectives tone, Edward feels his heart begin to race. Free hand curling into a fist, Edward takes a single deep breath to calm his nerves. “It is surprising that I even know this much, I think. All she left me was a letter saying that she was leaving me to be with him.”

Grim, the other man pushes away from the wall and closes in on Edward. It isn’t until Gordon is within arms distance that he grits out his next handful of words. “Do you still have the letter, Ed? Is there any proof, anything to keep me from investigating you?”

Feeling cornered Edward becomes defensive. With a bite of anger he asks, “What are you trying to insinuate detective? That I killed her? Are you and Barnes both reading from the same script today. I already told you what happened as soon as she had disappeared. What more do you want from me? I didn’t do anything.”

Before he can even react, Edward is pushed up against the wall. Head slamming against the wood, he grits his teeth in annoyance as he stares down the detective manhandling him. Gordon crowds in close, his expression pinched off as presses his right arm into the center of Edward’s chest. The other man’s hand is digging into the meat of Edward’s arm, holding it against the wall. Somehow the camera stays in his hand, the leather strap actually doing its job. The presence of the detective against him doesn’t hurt, but it is uncomfortable knowing that the other man was holding himself back. Barely. “Don’t play with me, Ed. Do you have the damn letter?”

The pressure on his chest is infuriating, but Edward keeps his head level as he acts innocent. “There is nothing else that I can say to make you happy. I have the letter, I can show you it anytime that you want. Now please let me go detective, before I make a complaint to Barnes that you are harassing me.” A hint of pain runs up his arm as the other man’s grip becomes tighter.

*Slam the camera into his idiotic skull. Come on, just do it.

The fingers around the base of the camera clench as Edward slowly comes to a decision. If Gordon kept on pushing, he was going to have something new to chew on. As if he can hear Edward’s thoughts, Gordon presses even closer as if asking for Edward to make a move. Discomfort begins to blossom as he is pushed even harder into the wall, and his fingers are white around the camera. Not seeming to be pleased by his answer, Edward watches as Gordon’s eyes flare with even more anger. “I saw you the other day. I need to know if you—”

Gordon roughly pushes away from Edward as the words come to a sudden halt. Why did he stop? What was he going to say? Distracted, the detective looks over his shoulder with a weary expression.

“Did you hear that?”

“Hear what? You were too busy roughing me up for me to notice.” Thudding is the only other sound Edward hears, his heart throttling in his chest. What was the detective getting so worked up over?

Gordon looks around, his finger going up to signal that Edward shut his mouth. There is a dark look in the other man’s eyes, one Edward never had the pleasure of seeing before. It was familiar in a way. Companionable.

The gun is drawn from Jim’s holster with a quick calculated movement as a soft thud is heard down the hallway. Troubled, Gordon raises his voice. “Is someone there?”

Confused by the sudden turn of events, Edward observes as Gordon creeps down the hallway with his standard issued gun in hand. Nothing happens as the man slowly clears the remaining rooms and turns back towards Edward with an uneasy frown on his face.

“I could have sworn that I heard something…”

Sighing in relief that nobody was hiding in any of the rooms, Edward clutches at the camera for a moment. The press of metal and plastic calm his nerves and growing fear. It isn’t until Gordon begins to walk back toward Edward that he even sees anything out of the ordinary. Before he sees anything that he should fear.

A figure clothed in black robes stalks out of one of the rooms that Gordon had cleared.

What?

“Behind you!” Edward yells out in warning. He begins to move before he even comes to a concrete decision on interfering.

Within the span of a second thick corded arms wrap around the detective’s waist in a vice grip. With little effort the attacker lifts the man off of his feet. Before Gordon can react in defense, he is roughly thrown through a screen that had missed the initial rampage. A grunt of pain comes from the room that Gordon was thrown, and the sound of the gun hitting the floor is unmistakable as it disappears inside alongside the detective.

“Ed!” Gordon yells desperately. Weakly.

Unfazed at the fact that anyone else was in the room, the attacker moves with renewed purpose though the broken screen. Edward hardly has time to think as he jumps onto the back of the man and tackles him to the ground amongst all of the wreckage. Caught off guard, it is easy for Edward to get into a position of power. Camera still in hand, Edward bashes the man in the face with the device hoping for the best. Third hit in, Edward realizes that his attack is mostly ineffective. The man doesn’t so much as blink at the pain that Edward had to be inflicting. Losing momentum, Edward takes a couple more shots at the man before the cloaked figure retaliates.

Gordon lays still on the ground, unresponsive as a thick fist makes home with Edward’s gut. He loses his breath, and then loses his position on top of the man in just a single move. Weakened, he tries to take in a breath as the world spins. But it hurts as the man starts to punch at his exposed sides when he is rolled violently onto his back.

The air doesn’t seem to reach his lungs, and Edward can only curl in on himself as he takes another hit to his stomach. Not far from him, Gordon starts to pull himself up from the ground, his teeth gritted with determination.

“Fuck, hold on!”

The back of his head hits the floor and he cringes as the pain tears at him. Feebly he tries to push the other man away as his hair is pulled sharply in the attackers fierce hold. It isn’t until Edward is being slammed into the floor repeatedly that he beings to think he may not make it out of this alive. God, I do deserve this. Don’t I? His face feels numb, and his sides feel like they are on fire. What was this guy on, steroids?

Cringing, Edward closes his eyes and waits for the next hit. His body is stiff as he prepares himself for the next strike and his arms sit heavily at his sides, useless. He was beat.

A sharp blast rings though the building suddenly, the sound overwhelming Edward as he waits patiently for the end to come.

Nothing happens for a sickening moment, and then the oppressive pressure that was sitting on his chest is gone.

There is a thud, and then there is silence.

Coughing thickly, he opens his eyes and finds Gordon staring blankly at the body slumped over on the ground next to Edward’s legs. Gun in hand, the detective was a motionless statue. It was almost laughable, but Edward couldn’t find the energy to try and make light of the situation.

Blood crawls towards him at a sluggish pace, and it isn’t until that point that he realized the attacker was possibly dead. Looking at the motionless body, he looks for the origin of the man’s wound only to find a bulls eye on his forehead. Sickened, Edward crawls backwards in order to put more space between him and the dead man that had nearly murdered him.

Somewhere inside of the building there are several voices yelling out, but they don’t really mean anything at this point. It was just him and Jim, having a little bonding moment. Who knew that the other man even cared.

He should have just let it end.

Instead of being ungrateful though, Edward finds himself gurgling out, “Thank you…”

Long seconds go by before Gordon’s eyes finally drift towards Edward in acknowledgment. At that point, Edward is too tired to care at the devastation that was apparent on the man’s face. Instead he just tilts his head back and stares at the ceiling until several officers find their way to the reopened scene.

Time seems insignificant as a multitude of voices greet his ears, each of them as grating as the other. Nothing really makes sense anymore as everything begins fading to white noise, It isn’t until he is floating towards the ceiling that he realizes that he is being placed on a gurney. Was something wrong?

Feeling outside of himself, Edward watches passively as the world goes on without him. The only thing that makes any sense are the two people talking over him as the ceiling rolls away into pitch black. Their words do not mean anything, just noise. However he can’t help thinking that everything would end up alright as long as those two were there.

They are my friends…

The thought dies quickly as his eyes slowly close.

In the ambulance, two men watch as one of their own fights for his life.

One feels guilt, while the other wants to pat himself on the back.

Only one of them is Edward’s friend, but he doesn’t yet know it.