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As Helzinger is dragged from the room and Oswald is left on the table, he shakes and involuntarily curls around himself. There is no one to comfort him. No one left. Eventually, Oswald manages to get back into his seat, the sight of the ice cream making him sick. Giving up the ice cream to protect himself would be a simple exchange in any other context, but these simple-minded people could not be reasoned with. Oswald had no idea how to reason with them; his ability to bribe or talk his way out of a situation was all he had, and it simply did not work here. It left him isolated. He didn’t belong in this place, with these fools and their mindless violence. Sure, Oswald enjoyed a bit of violence himself, but he was methodical. He was capable of reasoning; he did not endanger himself with his sadistic tendencies. He was not insane.

Oswald hears footsteps, and he hopes they aren’t bringing Helzinger back, because he hasn’t touched his ice cream. He doesn’t plan on it.

“You missed lunch, dinner is at six. Play nice and make friends, Nygma. You aren’t going anywhere.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Ed hisses. The guard shoves him in and slams the gate behind him. He staggers and then turns to yell as the guard retreats.

“You can’t hold me here! I’ll find a way; there will be an opportunity, eventually. Mark my words, you ignoramus!” Ed huffs and turns back to face the room, eyes downcast and his arms coming across his chest to hold himself for a brief moment before he opts to take in his surroundings.

Oswald stares at him intently, waiting to catch his gaze. Ed’s eyes sweep the room and meet his.

“My friend!” Oswald exclaims.

“Mr. Penguin!” Ed chirps, delighted to see him. Oswald had always understood him—he would understand why he had to do this. He wouldn’t treat Ed like he was crazy. The relief almost knocked him over. He wouldn’t be alone.

“Come, sit with me, old friend. Are you hungry?”

“Starving,” Ed admits. They had probably done it on purpose, come to think of it. His transfer this morning had been early enough to miss breakfast but ran late enough for him to also miss lunch. His stomach growls as if for emphasis. Oswald chuckles, sliding his tray over.

“Dig in, I don’t have much of an appetite lately.”

“You, eating like a bird? Tell that to the contents of my fridge. I never got it stocked up again after you left, you know. The most gluttonous roommate I ever had.”

“I was the only roommate you ever had,” Oswald reminds him as Ed inhales his meal. Ed searches for a napkin to wipe his mouth off but comes up empty. Turning away from Oswald, he licks his lips and wipes the corners of his mouth with his thumb. They were going to force him to eat like a slob? Fine. He wouldn’t be here forever, Ed reminds himself.

“So, how did you end up in here?” Oswald asks. Ed rolls his eyes and sneers, the expression twisting his face into a near impression of ugliness. Oswald has never seen him like this. It’s entertaining.

“Two words. Jim. Gordon.” Ed bites out, lip curling as he grimaces. He grips the edge of the table until his knuckles are white.

“What a coincidence,” Oswald deadpans, his mouth tightening into a line. “Go on,” he says, and Ed does.

***

Elsewhere, Ethel Peabody makes a note in addition to their findings on the ice cream test: Patient continues to have a low appetite. She directs her attention to another monitor.

***

“... and to make a humiliating situation even worse, I tripped over a log as I was escaping and fell face first into the snow. After that it was only a matter of my trial and sentencing. I was deemed incompetent to stand trial by the court’s idiot psychologists, and was unable to enter my own plea. Then my lawyer decided to go for the insanity defense, which I did not agree to. I’m not insane! I shouldn’t be here!” Ed says, searching Oswald’s eyes for agreement. He nods, and Ed continues. “Obviously the plea ‘worked’ since I wound up here, the closest approximation of hell on earth. All thanks to Jim Gordon,” Ed finishes venomously.

His explanation had lasted through the lunch hour while Ed explained everything that had occurred since Oswald’s incarceration in great detail. Oswald is fully aware that he is the only person Ed can brag about this to. He doesn’t mind indulging him, occasionally interjecting with a question to show Ed that he’s interested, which he knows Ed appreciates. When the lunch hour ended, Ed continued talking up a storm as they were relocated to the rec room, where they are now.

“He’s the reason I’m here,” Oswald says, leaning in. “I didn’t even end up killing Galavan, it was him. I wanted to have fun with him, make him suffer.” Oswald clenches his fists, slamming one onto the table and making the items upon it, and Ed, jump. He feels more like himself already with Ed here to remind of who exactly that is.

“James had a heart though, he couldn’t let poor Galavan suffer as I wanted him to. So he put a bullet between his eyes. If anyone is guilty of his murder, it’s Detective James Gordon.” Oswald recalls their meeting a few days ago for Ed, how he screamed as they dragged him away that it was Gordon and no one believed him. He had been willing to take the fall for Jim, but not at this cost, not if he had known where he would end up, what they would do to him.

“That… that bastard!” Ed gasps. “He let you take the fall? He left you here? He called me a psychopath, but where are his morals? He killed a man in cold blood; I told him he was no different from you and I!” Ed shakes his head in disbelief. “I was more correct in my beliefs about him than I realized.”

“You shouldn’t be here, Mr. Penguin. Why did you let him do this?” Ed couldn’t believe that the Penguin he knew would willing go down for a crime he hadn’t committed.

It was no news to him that he harbored a bit of a crush on his friend. Ed had idolized Penguin for some time before he had gotten to know him personally. Now his awe of Penguin was also informed by the more private, emotional side of him as well. Ed’s hero crush had only solidified into something more real the more time he spent with Penguin.

Perhaps it’s his crush misleading him into a false sense of knowledge about the object of his affection, but Ed enjoys the notion that he knows Penguin well, and it’s not like him to do something like this. He could have told someone what really happened in his confession, at the trial, and Jim almost certainly would have had the book thrown at him. Everyone was already suspicious of Jim: a word from Penguin and they would have put him on the chopping block, too.

“Jim let me take Galavan. Let me beat him. Then he was dead.” Oswald pauses. “With my mother gone… and my revenge complete… I didn’t care anymore, Ed. There was no reason for both of us to be convicted and I didn’t care what happened to me. It was easy to take the blame. I had gotten what I wanted and I- I didn’t want anything else, at the time. I was so consumed with killing him that afterwards I… I was just numb. I didn’t even try very hard to hide. They never would have found me if I didn’t let them.”

Ed is silent for a long while, and Oswald plays with the sleeve of his uniform.

“You could have come back to the apartment,” Ed says quietly. “I would have helped you.”

“And put you in danger as well? No, I don’t think so. I wasn’t looking to take anyone else down with me, Ed. I would never have done that to you. I value our friendship.”

Ed smiles for the first time since his arrest, and then frowns.

“Your last request… Mr. Penguin, I—there’s no one left to bring lilies to your mother’s grave. I didn’t think I’d get caught, I didn’t have a contingency plan or time to set something up. I’m so sorry. I let you down, I—”

“Ed!” Oswald interrupts, “You did as I asked? Occasional visits? Lilies?”

“Yes. I went on Sundays. I liked the church bells,” Ed says wistfully.

“Then you have not reneged on what I asked of you. That means everything to me. I did not expect you to go so often. Every month, maybe, but—thank you, my friend,” Oswald says sincerely, clapping a hand on Ed’s shoulder in camaraderie. Ed flinches but settles quickly, and Oswald makes a note to be more gentle with displays of affection in the future.

“What are friends for?” Ed asks, truly optimistic for the first time in a long time. He has someone, someone who appreciates what he does for them. He’s not alone here.

“And please,” Oswald says, letting his hand drift across Ed’s back, “I think we’re far past formality. Call me Oswald.”

***

Oswald stumbles into the rec room the next day wide eyed and jittery.

“Oswald?” Ed tries to beckon him discretely, to draw his attention to where Ed sits, showing the other inmates how to make origami cranes. Oswald just stands there, looking around in a daze.

“Oswald,” he says louder, standing. There is no reaction. Ed walks over to him, peering into his face. It would appear that the lights are on, but nobody’s home. He takes Oswald’s arm and guides him to the table, sitting him down and then taking a place beside him.

“Oswald,” he calls softly. Oswald looks into his eyes but he may as well be looking through Ed. “Can I show you something?”

Oswald stares blankly.

Ed takes a square piece of paper, folding it in halves and triangles of various sizes. Oswald is watching his hands now, which is encouraging. Nearly finished, Ed pinches the beak of his masterpiece, folding it into place.

“It’s a Penguin,” Ed says faintly. “Do you like it?”

Oswald runs a finger over it gently, like he’s afraid it might break.

“A Penguin?” he whispers, looking at Ed for confirmation.

“Yes, Oswald, like you.”

“Like me…” Oswald says, his brow furrowing. His eyes widen again as he takes the fragile paper penguin carefully into his hands and clears his throat. “Thank you, Ed. I don’t—I don’t know what came over me.”

“What are they doing to you, Oswald?” Ed asks. He knows electroshock therapy can cause short term memory loss, but this was different. Oswald wasn’t himself. Even so, electroshock doesn’t cure sadism. Ed has no idea what Strange’s play is here.

“They tie me down and put this… thing on my head. Lately they’ve been putting an IV in my arm as well. It’s been making it even worse when I—when I see things. And believe me when I tell you, my friend, it was already awful without the drugs,” Oswald’s voice breaks, his eyes tearing up. Oswald doesn’t cry over nothing. Ed has a hunch, and it’s not built on much, but—

“What do they call it? The drug they use,” Ed says, his curiosity getting the better of him.

“Strange has called it the Crane Formula, but—”

“That’s fantastic!” Ed shouts.

“Ed, it’s really not—”

“No, I mean—I know what they’re using on you!” Ed exclaims, seizing Oswald by the shoulders. “I’ve read Crane’s research. All I need is a sample and I should be able to develop an antidote for the Formula. It—well, it could take a while. I don’t exactly have access to the best equipment here, but—”

“Ed, slow down. How do you know about this at all?”

“Oh, right, sorry. When I was working with the GCPD, there was a series of murders committed by a man attempting to inoculate himself and his son against fear. Fascinating stuff.” Ed pauses for a moment, his gaze seeming to go straight through the walls of the Asylum.

“You know, it’s funny, I first encountered his research the day I met you,” Ed smiles, turning to look at him.

Oswald smiles in return, and says, “Do you believe in fate?”

***

Ed sneaks into an abandoned lab during the dinner hour, and Oswald insists on coming along.

“You’ll need a lookout,” he explained, seconds after swiping a clean syringe off of a nurse. Ed knew better than to argue.

Ed covertly took a sample of Oswald’s blood after he wandered into the rec room in his usual docile state following ‘therapy.’ Ed hoped there were enough trace amounts left to get a decent idea of the components of the final Formula Crane had synthesized.

Ed sets a different test tube in the centrifuge, then dials the timer, tweaking various other settings. There’s nothing else to do as he waits and he’s suddenly glad for the company Oswald provides. Oswald is currently hovering a lump of plastic over a lit Bunsen burner.

“What are you doing?” Ed asks, coming closer to watch him work.

“Making a shiv,” Oswald says simply, rolling the hunk between his fingers. Ed knows for a fact Oswald has an actual knife from the kitchen, but he was probably keeping it in his room. A tool like that was too valuable to lose, to risk carrying on your person. Oswald also has a small razor, but it would be nearly worthless in a fight. He can understand why Oswald would want something with a little reach that was easily replaceable and less incriminating.

“Do you have any plans for it?”

Oswald shakes his head. “I’ll feel better for having it, though.”

Ed is glad Oswald is more himself now: he had him worried earlier. He watches Oswald until he hears the centrifuge slowing down. Now the real work begins.

***

Ed works late into the night (morning, to be accurate) for a week when Oswald’s situation becomes dire. He sends Oswald back to his cell around midnight each night, not wanting Oswald to know how much time he’s spending on this or to fret over him when Oswald is the one who’s truly suffering. It’s a small sacrifice and one Ed is more than willing to make. He’s exhausted, but close to a decent amount of antidote to the Formula. What he has is potent but may not be a large enough dose yet. He doesn’t want to risk trying it and setting himself back days while he synthesizes more.

That is, he isn’t willing to risk it until Oswald stumbles into the room like a zombie, heading for the table he and Ed normally occupy on muscle memory more than anything else.

“Oswald,” Ed says gently, like he always does when he’s trying to bring him back to earth after therapy.

“He’s not my friend!?” Norton screams, jumping his table and storming over to Ed and Oswald. Ed’s not sure what set him off, he had been focused on Oswald, who was currently still in la-la land.

“Oh my,” he says as Norton comes directly at them, launching himself over the table and taking Oswald to the ground. Ed bangs his gangly legs on the table as he attempts to spring into action, hissing at the impact. He snags the back of Norton’s collar to keep him from biting Oswald and screams for the guards, trying to pry Norton off.

Oswald lays on the ground, complacent, only mumbling various alterations of the phrase “Calm down, my friend. What’s bothering you? I meant no offense!” on and on until the guards storm in, sedating Norton. Ed can’t stand seeing Oswald like this. He remembers the shiv Oswald had so carefully crafted and wishes he could have seen him use it, trying to remember how beautiful he had been to watch as he took apart Mr. Leonard.

Ed wanted that Penguin back. Not this benign, submissive doormat. He was going to give Oswald the antidote tonight, and he would know by this time tomorrow if it had been the right decision.

As he pulls Oswald up from the ground he wonders if he’s already too late, but after a few minutes of coaxing Ed is able to remind Oswald of the injustices that have been done to him, and just like that, he’s back.

He doesn’t think Oswald can last another session; it has to be tonight.

“Ed, I don’t think I can handle another ‘therapy’ session,” Oswald confesses, echoing Ed’s thoughts and swaying against him.

“I know,” Ed says, his level of anxiety heightening as he thinks about everything that could go wrong. He debates with himself about the merit of waiting versus the risk of there being nothing left of Oswald left to save, but Oswald’s admission has convinced him they can’t afford to wait another day. “Tonight, Oswald. I’ll have enough to help you by tonight.” He might as well be optimistic. If he’s wrong, Oswald won’t care that it didn’t work because he’ll be a husk of the man he used to be. If it does, well, then they can celebrate.

***

The next day, Oswald swaggers into the rec room with a smirk on his face. Ed is ecstatic.

***

“The Crane Formula appears to have no effect, Doctor. The patient has the same reaction to the enforced REM stimulation with or without it.” Strange takes the file from her, thumbing through it.

“And his progress?”

“Not only had it ceased, Doctor,” Peabody says, “But he has begun to regress.”

“It appears the human body is capable of building a tolerance to the Crane Formula,” Strange muses. “Without it, our patient makes no progress…. How unfortunate; he was making such strides.”

“Shall we return him to regular therapy?”

“Yes, Ms. Peabody. There’s no use continuing this experiment, however impressive it might have been for us.”

***

“Everybody has a story,” Ed says, doing his best to convince Strange he can help him with his Jim Gordon problem. He needs stimulation. Creating an antidote for the Crane Formula had consumed him for a week, but he’s bored. He has all the inmates figured out and there’s nothing left to do.

“That's it. Mr. Nygma, you've actually been very helpful,” Strange says cryptically. “Ms. Peabody, if you would? The other sedative.”

She puts away the needle she had out and draws another, walking towards him.

“Arm through the bars,” she says, clipped. Ed swallows. He doesn't want to, doesn’t know what’s in there. He knows what they’re capable of: Oswald was proof of that. Yet refusal meant that the guards would come in and force him to comply anyways. Not only that, but he wants to play nice, to be on Strange’s good side in the hopes that he might give him something to do.

He puts his forearm through the bar and Peabody inserts the needle and depresses it. It’s a quick prick; she’s clearly very practiced at this. The pair of them turn and head off down the hall like nothing happened. Ed is still furious from his earlier encounter with Gordon, and this only compounds it. He’ll show them soon enough. He’ll show all of them.

He wants to tell Oswald about it—they’ll be in the same rec room in five minutes, if his sense of time is right. Ed sits, tapping his foot as he waits. After a few minutes he feels antsier than usual, his heart rate picking up. He puts it down to the anticipation of telling Oswald about Jim and takes deep breaths.

***

He’s frantic by the time he’s done telling Oswald, every sound in the room grating on his nerves as he paces in front of him, and there are a lot of sounds.

“And then he said—he said, ‘Mr. Nygma, you have been... you've actually been helpful.’” Ed imitates Strange’s voice for him, the recitation only making him more agitated “Mr. Nygma, you have actually been helpful.”

“Can you believe it,” he exclaims, whirling on his heel to face Oswald. “Dismissal. The complete arrogance. ‘Mr. Nygma. Mr. Nygma, you have actually been…’”

“Ed,” Oswald says gently, stroking a hand down his arm to try and keep him in place, “What happened after that?”

“Peabody gave me a shot and they just left, they just left me there! I’m smarter than everyone in here, they should pay attention to me, no one ever pays attention to me!”

“Ed, lower your voice, you’re screaming,” Oswald tries to pull him closer. Had he been screaming? He hadn’t noticed. He’s angry but that anger is turning quickly into fear. What if he died here in this pit of insanity and ignorance with no one to acknowledge his brilliance? What if they were right and Ed wasn’t even worth paying attention to?

Oswald is speaking but it seems far away. “You don’t look good. What did they give you? Ed? What did Strange give you?”

He doesn’t know. He never knows what they give him. He’s stupid, useless. Of course he doesn’t know, why does Oswald expect him to know? Ed doesn’t know anything, he can’t get anything right. He can hear his father’s voice telling him so and he’s right, he’s right.

His father is louder than Oswald, stronger. There he is now, peering over Oswald’s shoulder. Ed hates him, he fears him. All his life he’s been afraid that his father was right about him and he hates him for it, hates him for being right. Ed doesn’t realize that his father couldn’t possibly be in the Asylum with him now, that he’s hallucinating. He’s overwhelmed, yelling into his father’s face, “I hate you!

His father howls and grabs him by the shirtfront and Ed is a little boy again, pushing him away with his thin and useless limbs. Then someone is between them. No one ever gets between them.

Oswald. It’s Oswald. He pushes back his father, holding something to his throat.

He can just barely make out a woman’s voice over the sounds of his mother and father blaming one another for him, she says, “Inmate Helzinger, come with me.”

Then men come into the room to take his father away and it’s Oswald in front of him, holding his face.

“Ed? Ed!” he calls.

I hear you, Ed wants to say, but he thinks he might just be screaming. Oswald shouldn’t be touching him like this, what if Pop sees? Oswald pulls Ed into a corner of the room and holds him, talking over the sound of Ed’s mother asking if it’s too late for adoption, his father asking when he was going to get a girlfriend. It’s a good distraction. He likes Oswald’s voice, likes the repetitive thud of his heartbeat beneath his ear. It’s soothing in a way Ed normally thought Oswald incapable of being. He feels a hand card through his hair as another rubs circles into his back and feels tears on his face for the first time. Is he crying now or has he been crying? He’s not sure.

For the first time in a while he can make out what Oswald is actually saying, “He dosed you with the Crane Formula, Ed. There’s nothing you can do, nothing to be ashamed of. I’m far worse when they give it to me, did you know they have to tie me down? You just have to ride it out. I can’t imagine what you’re seeing right now but it will end, I promise you. I’m right here, I won’t let anything happen to you, I won’t—”

Oswald keeps talking to him and Ed focuses on it, tries to pull himself out of the visions and disregard every other sound. Those sounds aren’t real. Oswald is real. Listen to Oswald. Let him bring you back to reality.

He doesn’t know how long he’s been sitting there when he straightens, pushing his face into Oswald’s neck and smudging his glasses. No matter. He stops hugging himself—when had he started?—and puts his arms around Oswald.

Oswald’s hand leaves his hair and he wraps both arms around Ed, hugging him tightly to his chest.

***

“What was the purpose of this?” Peabody asks.

“I had a suspicion that Mr. Nygma had something to do with the recent hindrance of our patient’s progress. I was testing that theory. It appears his only crime is that of being a bad influence. I was also curious to see how the Formula would affect a man with Mr. Nymga’s high IQ. It appears even the most brilliant men can be taken apart by fear.”

***

“Excited to see your boyfriend?” the guard asks, bringing Ed into the rec room from his latest therapy session. Oswald’s schedule had changed after his special therapy sessions with Strange ended—now Ed was usually the one late to the party.

“Excuse me?” Ed says, twisting in the grip the guard has on his arm to look at him.

“Penguin. He’s sweet on you, it’s no secret.”

Oswald is my friend and I don’t like what you’re implying.”

The guard laughs, swatting Ed’s backside as he opens the rec room door and ushers him in. Ed gasps and turns to face him, red-faced and livid, but the door has already been shut behind him.

“Whatever you say, Nygma. Everybody knows you’re his bitch.” He turns and leaves Ed sputtering at the door. Ed stomps over to their table and crashes down, crossing his arms and huffing, making his displeasure so overt it would be stupid of Oswald not to ask him—

“Ed, what’s wrong?” Oswald asks, just as he hoped. Oswald glares after the guard, “Was he bothering you?”

“People are getting the wrong impression of us, Oswald. I appreciated your help the other day when I was… not myself, but this is getting out of hand.” For the last few days Oswald had been snapping at anyone who came near them, chewed out every guard that he perceived as being too rough with Ed, and practically spit in their group therapist’s face when she suggested that Ed was anything less than absolutely brilliant. “I don’t need your protection.”

Oswald has the decency to look a little chastised but still feels the need to make his case. “I’ve been here longer than you, Ed. They respect me. I won’t apologize for defending you.”

“I’m not asking you to apologize, I’m asking you to stop. You made me look weak, you undermined me. I need to have a reputation, too.”

“Ed, since Helzinger… I’ll admit, I’ve been on edge. I know that you’re capable of defending yourself... but I don’t want it to get that far if I can help it.”

“Well I’m asking that you do so I can handle it myself.”

Oswald sighs.

 

“Ed, I know you can handle it yourself, I just—your control of the others is mental, and you were not capable of that following the injection, so I stepped in. Your particular brand of defending yourself isn’t applicable to every situation, especially when you aren’t in your right mind.”

“Oh, so I'm not weak, my skills are just less valuable.”

“I never said that. Ed, the way you handle the others is fascinating. When I first came here I was at a loss for how to deal with these imbeciles. You had them wrapped around your little finger in days. You’re brilliant.”

Ed huffs. Alright, yes, he’s brilliant. But— “Then let me handle things my way.”

Oswald shakes his head.

“You’re not getting it, Ed. I don’t want them putting their hands on you and you can’t always prevent that ‘your way.’ I’ve kept you safe and I’ll continue keeping you safe from that kind of attention.”

“Why do you care?” Ed snaps. It’s not like he can keep people here from touching him, there’s no privacy, personal space or boundaries here. Ed’s never felt more violated in his life, but this is an Asylum for the criminally insane. He can neither change the way things are run, nor the people. Oswald has been a help with keeping unnecessary touches at bay, he’ll admit that much. But why does it bother Oswald so much that he’s made it his mission to keep everyone’s hands off of him?

“You helped me, Ed.” Oswald leans in to whisper into his ear, mindful that they could be being monitored right now. “I would have lost my mind if it weren’t for you. I owed you. I owe you for more than that.” He takes a deep breath and says, “You’re my best friend. If it really bothers you then I promise I’ll stop; I don’t want to lose you.”

It’s more than that, but Oswald isn’t quite ready to tell Ed. He’s been developing feelings for Ed. Feelings that had only strengthened after Ed risked horrible, unthinkable punishment at the hands of Strange in order to help him. The Crane Formula had just been a test. Oswald knows Strange. He would have done much worse to Ed if he had any concrete proof that Ed had inoculated Oswald.

Ed realizes that this is probably their first major disagreement, and he wants to win. Yet Oswald’s acknowledgement that he is his best friend makes him completely deflate. So what if Oswald wanted the other inmates to keep their hands to themselves? Ed would have done the same for him if Oswald hadn’t already made his boundaries perfectly clear to them. He appreciates that Oswald is only trying to help him, not undercut him.

“You’re my best friend too, Oswald.” He lets the subject drop and pointedly does not tell Oswald to stop.

***

The next day is the same routine, the same guard. It’s also different, because this time, Ed is ready for him. He won’t let him touch him again. Not without consequence, at least. He’s going to take a page out of Oswald’s book and backhand him so hard he sees stars.

The oaf tries the same trick, opening the doors and ushering Ed though. This time he doesn’t just slap at him, he cups Ed’s ass in his hand and lets it linger. That was a mistake. The guard keeps his hand on Ed long enough for Ed to whirl around halfway through the door and backhand the pervert with everything he has.

Which, admittedly, is not very much. Ed succeeds in dislodging a few strands of his hairdo and leaving a red mark on his face, but almost instantly the guard is snarling at him and pushing him back into the room, slamming the door shut behind him. Inmates quickly evacuate the table he slams Ed into, face-down, twisting his arms up behind his back.

“You little bitch,” he spits, lifting Ed by his arms and slamming him back down into the table. Ed knocks his chin against it and bites his tongue. Rookie mistake, he thinks, bracing himself for a beating. “You’d better fucking apologize—”

Ed never finds out what he needs to apologize for; one moment the guard is on top of him and the next he’s not. Ed pushes himself up off the table by his newly freed arms just in time to witness Oswald slamming the knee of his bad leg into the guard’s groin and then crashing the brute’s head against a table.

Okay. Maybe it had been a bit of a stretch to think he could do violence like Penguin does violence.

Two guards run in just as Oswald is winding up with the shiv he’d managed to hang on to after Helzinger. One guard wrests it from him and hurls Oswald farther back into the room while the other drags out their unconscious buddy. Oswald snarls and tries to get up but falters, finally getting to his feet just as the door slams shut behind the trio.

Ed can feel himself trembling, noting the reaction in a distant, almost scientific way.

“That is exactly the kind of attention I want to keep away from you!” Oswald shouts, limping over to him. “Are you okay? Ed! What happened?”

“He grabbed my ass.”

“What!?” Oswald screams, furious and incredulous.

“He did the same thing yesterday. I was handling it, Oswald.”

“Well excuse me, your definition of handling a situation must be very different from mine. I don’t usually count ending up face-down under a two hundred fifty pound gorilla as handling a situation!” Ed is humiliated, but he’s not crying here. Not again. Without the influence of Strange’s drugs to weaken his control he can keep the tears at bay.

“It’s because of you he thought he could get away with it!” Ed blurts. This isn’t his fault!

“What are you talking about?” Oswald exclaims, and Ed admits, he does look a little confused.

“All the guards think I’m your helpless little boyfriend, and I needed to prove them wrong. Now you’ve just gone and proven their point!”

“So I should have just let him knock the snot out of you? Is that what you wanted me to do?” Oswald asks, frantic and in disbelief at the request. Ed was his friend, he wasn’t just going to stand by if he was in trouble.

“No, it’s not just that, they—they think I’m your ‘bitch,’” Ed says, thoroughly disgusted. He doesn’t want any of those men thinking of him like that. His anxiety has been through the roof since yesterday and he desperately needed to establish some kind of dominance to curb their ideas about him. So much for that.

“This is all—this whole performance—is because the guards think I’m your boyfriend?” Oswald says, his jaw dropping. He’s a little flattered they think he could bag Ed, but Ed is clearly disturbed by the very idea.

“No that’s—the idea of being your boyfriend is not the issue it’s—it’s the implications. I’m frightened of the guards and as you can see the idea has already… emboldened them,” Ed clarifies. He knows Oswald isn’t interested but it’s an important distinction. He’s only wary of the guards and the predatory turn their attention has taken since Oswald first began coming to his defense.

“Do you want to be?” Oswald blurts out before he can help it.

“What?” Ed asks, confused. He’s still on the subject of trying to show Oswald how the guards’ perception of him is endangering him.

“Not my bitch! I mean—my boyfriend,” Oswald says, his gaze dropping to the floor. “Do you want to be my boyfriend?” Oswald asks a particularly scratched tile.

“Um,” Ed answers for the floor tile. “Okay.”

Oswald’s head snaps up. “Okay?”

“I mean—yes. I do. If you aren’t opposed?” Ed scuffs the toe of his shoe against the floor, breaking eye contact with Oswald.

“I- I wouldn’t have asked if I was,” Oswald stutters. Was this really happening? Could it really have been that easy?

“Good,” Ed says, still watching his feet with rapt attention.

“Good,” Oswald says, unable to take his eyes off Ed. Ed looks up at last, walking past him to their table. He sits, looking at Oswald expectantly. Oswald jerks into motion and settles beside him, then decides to continue his streak of bravery and takes Ed’s hand in his own beneath the table.

“I’m going to kill him,” Oswald says, squeezing his hand. “I’m going to kill him for you.”

“I know,” Ed replies with a shy smile, squeezing back.

***

It’s dinner time when they find the body. Male guard, 250 lbs, Caucasian. Strange has the authority to identify the corpse, and he’s called in as the Asylum’s officers contain the scene.

He’s not surprised by who it is.

***

The next day Ed begins his machinations to find out where Strange keeps disappearing to. He knows Strange is hiding something. In the morning he sneaks out after the guards take Rudy for electroshock. Oswald has been enrolled in music therapy during the mornings and Ed can do whatever risky business he’d like. He’s noted that Strange and Peabody always walk down this hall minutes after Rudy is taken. It’s a small matter of sneaking out after the guards and concealing himself long enough to tail Strange. Ed follows them to a dead end, and that’s when he knows there’s more to this.

Ed returns to the rec room and gathers the usual crowd to assist him in stealing the materials he’ll need to find Strange’s hidden exit. He knows his boyfriend would not approve of this behavior, but if there is a way out of here, he has to try. Ed assigns everyone their tasks—bobby pins, ammonia, black light—and breaks the huddle before any guards or nurses get nosey.

Helzinger has been absent since Ed was dosed with the Crane Formula, otherwise he would be useful as a distraction later in the day while Ed sneaks away. No matter.

Everyone delivers the goods as promised that evening, although there was some debate with Norton as to whether a fly swatter counted as a bug zapper. Once that’s settled, he has what he needs to go snooping tonight. He conceals everything on his person.

Oswald doesn’t need to know unless he’s successful, he tell himself, just as his boyfriend swaggers through the door and smiles at him. Ed smiles back, feeling the tiniest bit guilty.

***

It had been a complete failure. The things he’d seen—no, he can’t think about that. Ed crashes into his bed after thanking the guard, rubbing at his eyes. It’s still dark out, maybe it had all been a nightmare?

Unlikely. Had he even had nightmares this horrifying before tonight? This was a whole other level of messed up Ed had never even dipped his toe into, and now he had been plunged into a world of monsters.

He needs Oswald. Ed needs to tell him what’s happening here and they need to be on the defense more than he ever could have imagined in his wildest dreams. Nightmares. Semantics. Ed swipes at his hair as it tickles his forehead. The feeling is distracting, irritating. He needs to think, he needs to—

He looks up.

Oh.

Genius.

Ed laughs.

***

Ed crawls through the vents with a purpose, following the layout of the halls to get to Oswald’s cell. He knows every turn, every twist in this route. There are no surprises—

His head collides with something.

Something living. He screams.

“Holy cow!” Ed scrambles backwards and looks up to see-

“Forensic guy?”

“Street trash girl?”

“You framed Gordon,” she says, pointing at him.

“And you set me up!” he blurts. She shrugs. Ed doesn’t have time for this craziness, he needs to find Oswald, but he’s just the slightest bit curious. How did she get in? Why would she get in?

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asks instead.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

Answering a question with a question is only amusing when he’s the one doing it. Ed doesn’t appreciate it.

“Stretching my legs,” he deadpans, feeling more cramped than ever.

“I need to find Strange,” she says. That’s not something she should want. Although some part of Ed would like to take revenge for her hand in his current incarceration by ‘helping’ her find Strange, he’s seen what that man has done. He wouldn’t wish it on his worst enemy.

Okay, maybe he would wish it on Jim Gordon, but not a child.

“Okay, look, I barely know you, but that is the last person that you want to be looking for.”

“Why is that?”

What was it they say about curiosity killing the cat? He needs to try harder to deter her.

“The basement here, it's horrible. Just trust me, stay away. He's a very dangerous man,” Ed says, trying to emphasize his earlier point

“Basement?”

He really doesn’t want to think about this right now, but—

“Alive people, dead people, dead-alive people... it's horrible,” he finishes, hoping his account will be enough to send her packing.

“Okay, how do I get there?”

Unbelievable.

“Wow, it's like I'm saying things, and you're just not hearing them,” he says sarcastically. Ed was trying to help this kid, but clearly she was a lost cause.

“He has a friend of mine, and I'm here to get her out. Now, how... do... I get... there?”

Ed thinks he understands her motivation, now. If Oswald had been taken down there… Ed would follow him back into that hell in a heartbeat. Ed sighs.

“Okay. There's an elevator. I'll tell you where it is, but... can you pick a lock?”

Street trash girl scoffs. He likes her on some level, even if she helped land him here. She’s spirited, a strong personality.

He needs to find Oswald... right after this.

***

Ed crashes through the grate and lands hard on the floor of Oswald’s cell. Oswald yells, unable to see the intruder as he backs up on his bed. Ed doesn't have time to moan about how much that hurt. He scrambles over to Oswald and clamps a hand over his mouth.

“It’s me,” he hisses. Oswald relaxes in his grip, and Ed lets go of his mouth.

“What the fuck!” Oswald attempts to whisper. It’s still closer to a yell in volume.

“I need to talk to you,” Ed whispers.

“You scared the shit out of me!”

Ed shushes him, climbing onto the bed.

“Oswald, I did something dangerous and you’re not going to like it, but I’m scared and I need to talk to you.”

Oswald finds his cool almost instantly. Ed feels it like a physical chill in the air.

“What happened?” Oswald asks, his voice like ice.

“I’m okay, I promise. I just—I saw things, Oswald, horrible things.” Ed takes a breath. He can’t see Oswald’s expression in the dark like this, but he doesn’t seem so tense now that Ed has assured him he’s unharmed. “Remember how I told you I thought Strange was hiding something?”

“And I told you to drop it and keep your nose down?”

“Well, I ignored you, and I found it. But it’s not an exit. It’s… it’s awful. Strange is experimenting on people,” he takes another breath, “and dead people.The living dead. Half-dead people. Alive people that should, by all logic, be dead. All of it. And more. More than I can stand to describe. And they were… they all had things done to them, Oswald. Some of them barely looked human any more.” He shudders, and Oswald wraps his arms around him. Ed leans into the embrace, hugging himself and curling up against Oswald, who sits back against the wall.

“I just needed to see you,” he says, shaking anew. I need you to tell me it’s going to be okay, that I won’t end up down there with my brain being picked apart.

“Ed, I promise you,” Oswald says, his voice like icicles, “if they come for you, I will cut through every last one of them to make sure you are never taken down there.”

“Thank you,” Ed says, because he knows Oswald means it, and because he’s never felt safer than when he’s wrapped up in this killer’s arms. It doesn't make sense.

It doesn’t have to.

Oswald holds him well into the night, and Ed recounts his encounter with Selina for him, pillowed on his chest. Oswald laughs at her determination.

“She reminds me of you, actually,” Ed says. “I like her.”

“You just called her obstinate,” Oswald says, teasing him.

“I like that, too,” Ed replies. “It’s hard to argue with someone who just gives up.” He twists around to face Oswald, taking his hands in his. “And you never give up, do you?”

“No, I don’t,” Oswald whispers, finding Ed’s lips for the first time there in the dark. The kiss lands off center, but Ed quickly rights them, tilting his head and shuffling closer, his knees between Oswald’s legs. He lets go of Oswald’s hands so he can bring them to Oswald’s face instead. Oswald settles his hands on Ed’s hips, running his thumbs over the bones there.

Ed breaks off for a quick breath and then crashes his lips back against Oswald’s, parting them. Oswald follows his lead, parting his own and gasping when Ed’s tongue swipes between them. The sensation creates a molten feeling in his stomach. Oswald licks over Ed’s bottom lip, brushing their tongues together. He sweeps into Ed’s mouth, chasing it, moaning as Ed sucks on his tongue.

Ed crawls into his lap as they kiss, tugging Oswald against him by the collar of his uniform. He swings his long legs over Oswald’s and plops down into his lap, wrapping them around his waist. Ed loops his arms around Oswald’s shoulders, and Oswald’s hands roam across his back, his sides. Oswald slips a hand under Ed’s shirt and Ed shivers but doesn’t stop him. Oswald supposes his hands might be a tad cold.

Oswald breaks their kiss in favor of sucking at the exposed portions of Ed’s neck. He wants him. He wants Ed more than anything.

“I need to go,” Ed says, regretfully.

“Why,” Oswald whines, slipping a hand down the back of Ed’s pants. Ed jolts.

“Oh my! Oswald, I’m serious. I need to go, it’s getting light out.”

Oswald huffs, pulling his hand from inside of Ed's pants.

“Alright, but promise me you won't pull any more crazy stunts like that.”

“So… you don't want me to come back tomorrow night?” Ed teases.

Oswald sputters. “I- I did not say that.” Ed silences him with a finger pressed to his lips.

“I'll come back tomorrow night, earlier.”

Oswald kisses his finger, then takes Ed's hand in his.

“I'm glad you came.”

“I trust you,” Ed says, squeezing Oswald's hand. He untangles himself from Oswald and stands. “We need to move the bed so I can reach.”

“My bed is bolted,” Oswald says, “yours isn't?”

“Oh crud,” Ed says, eyeing the distance to the vent. He has no upper body strength, and getting into that vent is more than a pull-up, which he can't do.

“No big deal,” Oswald says, standing up, “I'll just give you a boost.”

Ed doubts Oswald has the strength to lift him, but instead he says, “I'm too heavy.”

“Nonsense, do you know how to climb up?” Oswald says, standing under the grate.

“Um, no, not really. I've never done this.” Ed had thought Oswald was going to try to pick him up, which was ridiculous, but apparently he had something else in mind.

“Well, first you give me a kiss goodbye,” Oswald says seriously. Ed smiles, standing and leaning down to kiss him. Oswald puts his hands around Ed’s waist, pulling him closer and deepening the kiss. Ed lets him, parting his lips and letting Oswald lick into his mouth. Oswald’s hands dip lower, into dangerous territory. As much as Ed is enjoying this, moaning into Oswald's mouth as he does something clever with his tongue, he needs to stop. Ed puts his hands on Oswald's chest, gently dislodging him and putting some space between their chests. Oswald keeps their lower halves pressed tightly together and Ed can feel how interested he is against his thigh.

“I have to go,” he whispers, wanting more than anything to stay. But they're both on Strange's shit list after that stunt with the guard, they can't afford any more trouble. It won’t take much for Strange to single them out, less before the guards start getting persnickety and belligerent, forgetting what happened to the last one that messed with them.

Ed wonders when he and Oswald became a them. It's nice.

“Okay,” Oswald says, beginning his instruction, “get behind me….”

***

After successfully climbing his boyfriend like a tree, Ed had collapsed into bed for a few hours of sleep.

He’d been roused and taken to shower, and he’s grateful to see that Oswald is already there. Every second they're not together is one where they can't watch each other's backs. Ed had slept fitfully, preoccupied by worries that Oswald would be taken for experimentation in the basement now that Strange had exhausted other methods of ‘normalizing’ him.

Today feels… different. Ed had seen Oswald nude before Arkham, and even in Arkham’s showers before, but that was before they were… together. He finds himself shying under Oswald's gaze and averting his eyes, focusing on getting clean and dressing as efficiently as possible.

Ed is half dressed when Oswald walks by, still drying his hair. He tends to take all the time they are afforded in here. Oswald pecks Ed on the forehead as he continues to his cubby, leaving Ed a blushing mess in his wake as he watches Oswald's backside, the unique sway to his hips that his injury lends him.... Ed shakes himself off and starts pulling his shirt on.

***

“The first thing I'm doing is finding Tabitha and making her pay for what's she's done,” Oswald says, clenching his jaw. They had somehow come to the topic of what they would do when they got out of here, after their usually gossip about the guards and nurses. They always wrapped up with the doctors. Arkham psychiatrists had notoriously dramatic loves lives and made for an interesting subject of study.

“I would like go after Jim Gordon right away, but the second I get out of here he’ll know I'm coming for him,” Ed says. He's thought about this. “I’d rather wait, make him sweat while I set a plan into motion even greater than my last. And this time, I'll make certain I put him somewhere no one can spring him,” he says darkly.

“It sounds like you know where that is, ” Oswald hints.

“You can't free a man from his grave,” Ed insinuates. “Riddle me this: the man who built me doesn't want me, it the man who bought me doesn't need me, and the man who needs me doesn't know it. What am I?”

Oswald ponders it for a moment, assuming the answer must be related to their conversation, then smirks devilishly. “A coffin.”

Ed smiles. It takes the right kind of riddles, but he'll make Oswald a fan of them yet.

***

He’s a bit more graceful that night. Ed carefully removes the loose grate and sets it farther back in the duct so it’s not a hindrance to him later. He turns onto his stomach, letting his legs dangle over the edge and shuffling back until his forearms are the only thing holding him up. Now he just needs to gently drop—

“Be careful!” Oswald yells, and Ed slips back. His heart skips a beat as he falls and he lands awkwardly, but not badly. Oswald catches and steadies him before he can tip back onto his ass, grabbing him by the front of his uniform.

“I was being careful!” Ed says petulantly, “Or at least I was until you startled me.”

“If you had a good grip, no amount of fear should have caused you to fall,” Oswald counters, dragging Ed over to sit on the bed.

“Aren’t you happy to see me?” Ed pouts exaggeratedly, “you haven’t even kissed me hello.”

Oswald gasps theatrically. “What a grave oversight.” He pounces on top of Ed, pressing him back into the mattress and peppering dozens of kisses on his face and lips. “Better?” he asks eventually, smirking.

“You missed a spot,” Ed says, sticking his tongue out.

“I was saving the best for last,” Oswald quips, winking. Ed can barely make it out in the setting light of the sun. Oswald sucks Ed’s tongue into his mouth, and before long they’re making out like horny teenagers (or at least what they’ve been told horny teenagers are like, having no personal experience with the subject). Oswald settles between Ed’s legs, pressing them together from chest to groin as their tongues slide against one another.

Oswald runs his hands over Ed’s sides, Ed’s fingers combing through his hair and trailing over his back. Ed whines every time they pause for breath, and Oswald can’t stop diving in to taste him. They lay there for what must be an hour, exploring one another’s mouths and making up for time lost during the day that they could be doing this. Their kisses are sloppy and inexperienced but electric. The feeling is white hot in its newness.

They kiss until Oswald is harder than he’s ever been in this life, and then some. They kiss until his cock is aching, but he preserves. They map each other’s faces with their lips in the dark until Oswald feels his balls turning blue, his cock throbbing in time with every breath Ed lets out against his lips. Oswald lets a hand drift into previously unmapped territory, dipping it between their bodies and cupping the front of Ed’s pants. Ed gasps and goes still.

“Not good?” Oswald asks, taking his hand away. Ed had been soft in his pants. He was more experienced, Oswald reasons. This won’t effect him the same way it does Oswald. Of course, he’s a little upset he hasn’t managed to affect Ed significantly in the past hour. He might have to redouble his efforts, is all.

“No, Oswald, it’s not—it’s just… not here,” he concludes, as if that clarifies anything for Oswald.

“So… not good?” Oswald asks, trying again.

“I haven’t… you know… since I got here,” Ed says, crossing his arms. Oswald folds his hands over Ed’s and balances on his chest, peering into his face.

“To clarify, you haven’t touched yourself since you got here,” Oswald says, prolonging Ed’s agony and making him blush.

“I- I can’t. It’s this place, and the stress… The drugs as well, probably. I wish I knew what they were giving me…. But to answer your question, no, I haven’t done that. It doesn’t—it doesn’t really work.”

That makes Oswald feel a lot better. Of course Arkham was affecting Ed’s sensibilities. It was loud, and disgusting. There were many threats, and it was hard to even think sometimes when the person the cell over was screaming their head off about any number of truly awful things. Oswald understands.

“Do you want me to try to…?” Oswald asks, breaking off.

Ed shakes his head and then realizes that Oswald probably can’t tell in the dark. “No… no, I’d rather you didn’t. I don’t really want to… do anything… with you… in here, that is.”

Oswald’s a bit disappointed, but Ed has been giving him plenty of material regardless of this one stumbling block, that’s for sure. He’s alright with rubbing one out once Ed leaves, even if his cock is aching right now.

“But, if you wanted,” Ed continues, “I wouldn’t mind.” Ed lets his hand trail to the front of Oswald’s pants, the palm of his hand gently massaging over Oswald’s cock. Oswald hisses. The pressure feels divine; he hasn’t done anything to relieve himself in quite some time. Having another person’s hand on him is a foreign experience, and he desperately wants Ed’s hand to really touch him, not just through his clothes. There’s just one hang up.

The experience of sexual intimacy won’t be as satisfying for Oswald unless he’s certain he’s pleasuring Ed as well. Oswald gently takes Ed by the wrist, removing his hand, and says, “That’s alright, I’d rather wait for you to be ready as well.”

“Are you sure?” Ed asks, his voice small. Oswald is absolutely certain. He wanted whatever this was to go both ways, and he’s already waited this long. What’s another week, a month, a year? What he has with Ed is good. It’s great, more than he ever thought possible.

“I’m positive. I’m so lucky to have you, have I told you that?”

“No,” Ed says quietly, and then, “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” Oswald says graciously, leaning down to kiss him. He touches Ed’s chest, his lower back, one hand drifting down to squeeze Ed’s ass. Ed moans and Oswald meets no resistance there, running a hand down the back of Ed’s thigh as well. It would appear that the only area off limits is between his legs. Oswald can work with that. He’ll just touch him everywhere else.

“When we get out of here,” Ed pants, “I’ll let you do anything to me.” Oswald groans, kissing him again. That is an excellent promise to look forward to.

He can wait.

***

Eventually they’re too tired to continue. Ed yawns into Oswald’s mouth three times when Oswald decides to pull the brakes on. The doze for a while, Oswald laying back against his one pillow with Ed pillowed on his chest, a leg between Oswald’s and an arm around him. They wake when there’s a commotion down the hall, and Ed decides it’s probably a good time to leave.

“I gotta go,” he mumbles sluggishly into Oswald’s chest, pushing himself up. Oswald grunts, pulling him back down.

“Oz, let go. I have something to tell you before I leave.”

Oswald moans and stretches his arms above him, allowing Ed to untangle himself and then sitting up.

“What,” he says gruffly, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“I saw Helzinger today, he’s out of the infirmary,” Ed says. Oswald waits.

“Why would I care?” Oswald says when Ed is not forthcoming.

“Helzinger described the same elevator I found. He said he was taken down into the basement. The details match. That’s not all, though.” Ed says, pausing. He needs to phrase this next part as delicately as possible.

“What else, Ed?” Oswald asks, playing Ed’s game. At least he isn’t asking riddles.

“I’m not sure I should tell you, but you deserve to know,” Ed says vaguely. He’s not certain he should have waited to tell Oswald until right before he left, but he has his reasons. If Oswald doesn't want him to leave, he’ll stay. If he does want to be alone, Ed has already given Oswald an out, that he was just leaving anyways. It’s preferable to making Oswald feel like he has to let Ed stay because he doesn't want to hurt Ed’s feelings.

“Tell me what?” Oswald says, getting a tad impatient.

“You won’t get angry?” Ed asks before he can help it. It’s been troubling him. What if Oswald really does become angry with him for waiting this long? He has no indication that he would, but if past experiences have taught him anything—no, Oswald isn’t like that with him. Ed needs to suck it up and be honest about what he’s learned, regardless of the potential emotional impact of what he’s about to say.

“I can’t promise that, Ed. I won’t hurt you, if that’s what you’re asking,” Oswald says, trying to be as honest as he can. He’s quick to anger and has a volatile temper, but there are very few things Ed could do that would make Oswald hurt him.

“Okay,” Ed takes a breath, “Helzinger is unreliable, it’s true. So take this as you will, but… he says he saw the mayor down there.” Oswald doesn’t say anything. Ed’s not sure if he understands, perhaps he should clarify. “Theo Galavan.

Oswald can’t believe this: it’s not possible. He saw the body, he help make him a body. Ed’s observations come to mind… dead people, alive people… ‘Alive people that should, by all logic, be dead.’ Strange had brought his mother’s killer back from the dead. That had to be it.

He doesn't want to frighten Ed, but he’s furious. Oswald grabs his pillow and presses his face into it, screaming. It’s not enough. He throws it back onto the bed and goes to the farthest corner of the room from Ed, slamming his fists into the wall the way he wants to slam them into Strange’s smug face, into Galavan’s.

Ed isn’t sure what Oswald’s doing until he hears something cracking on impact with the wall. He leaps to his feet, almost tripping over the blanket as he crosses the short distance to Oswald, pulling him back.

“Stop it! Stop it, Oswald. You’re hurting yourself!”

“I don’t care!” Oswald screeches, “He killed my mother! And now he’s back and I’m stuck in here!” He lands another particularly vicious blow and Ed winces in sympathy for his hand, turning Oswald around and taking his hands into his own.

“It’s not forever, shh, let me explain. After I talked to Helzinger, I needed more proof that it was true before I talked to you. I spent today gathering that proof.” Ed takes a breath, this is going to be difficult. “I went into Strange’s office and the news was on, they were reporting about a man named Azrael who first appeared two nights ago and murdered some people, terrorized the city, blah-blah-blah. The point is, he was recently revealed to be Theo Galavan. After that I didn’t need to pilfer any files for more evidence. Do you know what this means, Oswald?”

Oswald doesn’t, he’s shaking with rage at the fact that Galavan isn’t just alive, he’s roaming free as a bird in Gotham City.

“No, I don’t,” Oswald bites out.

“It means you haven’t killed anyone, as far as the judicial system is concerned. You can appeal your case, Oswald. You’re going to be a free man.” Ed leans into whisper into his ear, “Not only that, but you’ll be the one to do it this time. Jim Gordon couldn’t even kill him right, apparently.”

Oswald thinks he’s in love. He pulls his hand’s from Ed’s and puts one on his hip, crowding Ed back against the wall and using his other hand to pull him down by the nape of his neck and kiss him. “You brilliant, brilliant man,” Oswald whispers between kisses, wanting to apologize for how quickly he had erupted without letting Ed finish. It wasn’t acceptable, he should have known Ed would never offer him a problem without a solution in his favor.

“I’m sorry about… all that. You know I have a temper, and my mother was very dear to me.”

“I think you’re improving,” Ed says, kissing him again, “you didn’t threaten me at all, much less put a knife to my throat.”

“That was before,” Oswald says, pressing against Ed.

“Before what?” Ed asks once Oswald gives him room to breathe.

“Before I—” Oswald stops himself. He wasn’t just going to say it, was he? His lack of filter had worked in his favor last time….

“What is it, Oswald?” Ed asks softly, expectantly.

“Before I fell in love with you,” Oswald answers. “I’m in love with you, Ed.”

Ed gasps and crashes their mouths together, backing Oswald up until he’s sitting on the end of the bed. Ed tangles his fingers in Oswald’s hair and clambers into his lap, his feet hanging over the edge of the mattress on either side of Oswald’s knees. Oswald pulls Ed closer, letting his hands roam over his back and ass, digging his fingers in. They break apart to take in gasping breaths.

“Do you think we can get conjugal visits?” Ed asks.

“What,” Oswald says, dizzy from the rush of confessing and Ed’s enthusiastic reaction.

“When you’re out and I’m still here,” Ed says.

“I will get you out,” Oswald promises, leaning in to seal it with a kiss.

“I forgot!” Ed exclaims, pushing Oswald away before he can kiss him as intended.

“What,” Oswald repeats.

“I forgot to say,” Ed’s chest heaves against his as he takes a deep breath, “I love you, Oswald.”

Oswald thinks he might expire. His mind goes blank, and he can feel the beat of his heart so distinctly it’s almost as if Ed’s words have somehow bolstered its cadence.

“Oswald?” Ed calls, his voice bringing him back down to earth. Oswald crashes into Ed, wrapping his arms around him and rolling them onto the bed so that Ed is beneath him. Oswald kisses Ed deeply, trying to show him the depth of his feelings, what this means to him. What Ed means to him. They pull apart, panting into the inch of space between their lips.

“So,” Ed says, “conjugal visits.”

***

“I know about Galavan,” Oswald says. He’d told Strange he wanted a private therapy session, and Strange had been very accommodating, as always.

“Oh?” Strange says, refusing to elaborate so that Oswald is forced to say more. Psychiatrists.

“I know he’s been traipsing around Gotham, very much alive, while I’ve been locked up here for his murder. I’d like to contact my public defender.”

“And how did you find out about this?” Strange asks, his voice and gaze mild. Oswald knows him, though, that his questions are a trap, predatory.

“Word gets around,” he says vaguely. It’s not a lie Strange can call him out on or ask more about without giving himself away.

“We both know that’s not quite true, though, don’t we?”

Oswald is stunned at the turn.

“It doesn’t matter how I found out, I’ve been wrongfully imprisoned and I want to speak to my lawyer.”

Strange ignores him.

“No, I know you received this information from Mr. Nygma. He has a worrying penchant for snooping, doesn’t he?”

Oswald swallows, trying not to let his fear show on his face. Strange can smell it. He doesn’t react, even though every part of him is screaming to protect Ed. He reminds himself of the plan. The best way to protect Ed right now is keeping his cool, getting out of here, and then busting Ed out. He can play the long game, too.

“You’re an intelligent man, Mr. Cobblepot, and I’m sure you could have figured it out, but your friend is the one with the compulsive need to dig deeper into... mysteries, shall we say? Even at the risk of his own life. You have a self-preservation instinct that he, quite frankly, lacks when it comes to his little puzzles. Not only that, but he’s been conspiring with other inmates, eavesdropping, sneaking out of the recreation rooms and disappearing from his room at night.” Strange sounds like he’s talking about a disobedient child.

Strange sighs, and pushes a button on his desk before continuing the almost fatherly tone as he concludes, “it’s a shame, but such actions cannot go without punishment.” Oswald jerks to his feet at that, just as two guards burst into the room to take hold of him.

“I’ll put your request through,” Strange says as the guards grapple with Oswald, trying to get him under control as he snarls with rage at Strange, struggling against them. “But you should know, Mr. Cobblepot, the process for these things can take weeks, months, even.” Oswald screams with fury, battering his captors. Strange comes around the desk with a needle. “Now, now, no need to be so upset,” he soothes, plunging it into his neck.

Oswald stops fighting.

“What now?” Peabody says.

“Now, we have a little chat with Mr. Nygma.”

***

Ed almost cries out in relief when he sees Oswald in the rec room the next day. Ed runs to him, hugging him before Oswald can even extract himself from his seat.

“What happened? Why are you still here?” Ed asks, pulling out of the hug to look as Oswald. He’s happy to see him after what he just endured, but Oswald wasn’t supposed to still be here. Ed’s cell had been reinforced and he had been unable to verify whether Oswald had been released last night.

“Strange told me it could take a while for my release to get through the system. I believe he plans on causing the delays himself. Then he threatened you, because he’s noticed you breaking the rules and believes you told me about Galavan. I... got a little worked up, and was sedated. I woke up only this morning. Ed… you look pale, tell me he didn’t follow through on his threat?”

Ed doesn’t answer, breaking eye contact to look at the floor. It might as well be an answer, as far as Oswald’s concerned.

“What did he do?” Oswald asks, “Was it the Crane Formula again?”

“No, they… they put me with Stirk. Said he was my new cellmate.” Oswald snarls, taking his hands off Ed so he doesn’t unintentionally bruise him with the strength of his grip. He digs his blackened nails into his palms instead.

“How long?” Oswald asks, intending on using the number as a ballpark estimate of how long he will torture both Peabody and Strange.

“Not very,” Ed answer vaguely. Oswald gets the sense Ed isn’t telling him something.

“Anything else you want to share?” he prompts.

“Oswald, I was terrified and I… I told Peabody that I know they’re making monsters in the basement.”

Oswald is stumped. How would that help Ed at all when the very thing he’s being punished for is sneaking around?

“Ed I don’t understand—”

“It was the only card I had left up my sleeve. Jim Gordon and the GCPD have been here twice in the last week. Telling them that I already know about the monsters leaves no reason not to let me help.”

“Did you tell her that?”

“I told her that Jim Gordon is coming, and that they’re going to need all the help they can get. Then I suggested she tell Strange that if he wants to stop Gordon and the GCPD then he's going to need my help.”

“And?”

“Well… surprisingly, I think it worked. I mean, she let me out, which was preferable for me. I was put back in my cell for the rest of the day and told Strange would consider it, and this morning it was the same routine as always. I’m not sure if they’re trying to psych me out and lure me into a false sense of security, or if Strange has realized what a valuable asset I can be now that I’ve proven myself by discovering his best kept secret.”

Oswald isn’t sure which it is either, but they wouldn’t have let Ed out at all if they were worried about him running his mouth, that much is true. Perhaps this is a test, and Strange wants to see if Ed is trustworthy. If that’s the case, telling Oswald about the basement is not a good idea. Unless Strange already knows that Oswald knows… Oswald sighs. There are too many unknowns; he feels helpless. He hates being helpless. It’s why he’s carrying the kitchen knife on him. He’d been sedated and had no idea what Strange had planned for Ed. He had wanted to be ready for a fight. Oswald has nothing left to lose now that Strange has revealed he’s going to keep him here for as long as he can, and that Ed has an even greater target on his back than before. He might as well risk keeping his most valuable weapon on him.

“I think we should expect the worst,” Oswald decides. Ed quirks a brow. “This is Gotham,” Oswald deadpans, and it’s an explanation enough in and of itself.

***

Oswald is furious with himself for not being able to protect Ed, so a hour later, when six guards roll up to the gate, he’s itching for a fight.

“Nygma, Strange wants you.”

“What for?” Ed asks, not moving or looking up from his jigsaw puzzle. If he doesn't like the answer, they’re going to have to come and get him.

“Strange has plans for you,” one guard says says nastily, and no, that’s not encouraging. Ed doesn’t trust Strange and he’s been given no reason to.

“I think I’ll stay here,” Ed says, slamming a puzzle piece down harder than necessary. Oswald moves his hand to hover over his side where he’s concealed the knife.

“Have it your way,” the guard says, shrugging. All six guards enter the room, coming casually towards them. Oswald palms the knife, and the second one is within reach he strikes, knife flashing. He nails the guard in the carotid and doesn’t stop to watch him die, targeting the next one. This one is ready for him, but Oswald has a weapon in hand already and that gives him an advantage. The guard takes some defensive wounds to his arms as Oswald closes in, and the room erupts into chaos.

Helzinger grabs one of the guards in his paws, smashing his head onto the table repeatedly while politely explaining in a slow voice, “Eddie is very nice to me unless Doctor Strange gives him bad juice but that only happened once so you can’t be mean to him.”

Norton sees an opportunity he’s been missing for some time, leaping onto a guard's back and sinking his teeth into his neck while he screams. Delicious.

Oswald finally dispatches his second quarry and turns to locate Ed, seeing that he is having far less success with the last two guards. One is dragging him towards the door in a chokehold, while the other covers him. Oswald hurries to the gate, plunging his knife into the man’s shoulder as he stumbles, barely missing his heart. Damn.

The guard screams and elbows him in the face, sending him to the ground while black creeps in on the edges of his vision. He shakes his head clear in time to look up and see Ed fighting the uninjured guard’s hold on him. They’re on the other side already, the door closed. The guard drags Ed around the corner, his arm tight against Ed’s throat. The other guard still has Oswald’s knife in his shoulder, calling on his radio for backup to their location and a doctor.

Oswald wants to cry. Wants to scream and rage and desecrate the corpses of the men he killed in his fury because he failed. He let them take Ed.

What is he going to do?

***

Ed screams and claws at his captor, reaching back to gouge his eyes out, trying to bite the arm in front of him, but it’s too tight around his neck. The guard twists Ed’s arm up behind him and then he’s screaming in pain instead. They come to a room and he puts his arms out, bracing against the frame, trying to keep himself from being pushed through the door. He is easily overpowered. Ed puts distance between himself and the guard, quickly scanning the room for a weapon, an escape, anything.

“Get undressed,” the guard says, and all the blood drains from Ed’s face.

“Now, now,” Strange says, coming through the open door behind the guard. “Mr. Nygma can be trusted to change in private, isn’t that right?”

Ed nods furiously. He was used to changing in front of the guards before showers, but being asked to under these circumstances nearly had him panicking a moment ago without proper context.

“These are for you,” Strange says, leaving a pile of clothes. Ed focuses on the white lab coat. It makes him almost... nostalgic. “You’re going to help me with something, Edward, and you may as well look the part. Come,” he says to the guard, who exits behind him and closes the door.

Ed’s not sure what he’s getting into, but if it's something interesting to do (not that there’s been much competition lately) or something that could potentially show him way out of here, he’s in.

***

Ed thinks he did a spectacular job with Lucius and Bruce, but he’s been left in his cell like a crazy person since then. That is, until Jim Gordon had come knocking.

Ed is furious that Strange used him and then dumped him, happily leading Lucius and Jim to the elevator. Jim’s manhandling is less appreciated. Ed triggers the door mechanism, smiling happily at them.

“So, what’s the rush?” he chirps madly.

“Strange is about to blow this whole place to smithereens,” Lucius says casually, “so Gordon and I thought we’d try our hand at defusing a bomb.”

“You can’t be serious,” Ed says, his smile quickly fading.

“Deadly,” Jim says. “And now, you’re going back to your cell.”

“You can’t do that!” Ed shrieks, his mind working furiously. How long until the bomb went off? What was the range? Would he even have time to find Oswald before these two morons killed them all?

“I can, and I’m about to,” Jim says dragging him along. Ed has just about had it with this kind of treatment.

“You said I would get to live if I helped you; if you lock me back in that cell, I won’t have a chance!” Ed says, trying to appeal to his morals.

“I lied,” Jim says, shrugging. Right. Ed forgets that Jim has his own moral code, one that fluctuates depending on the time of day and what he ate that morning.

“You do that a lot, don’t you?” Ed hisses. “The GCPD should be evacuating the Asylum, that bomb will kill us all!”

Jim shrugs.

“That includes Oswald! You owe him, you bastard!”

“So you are a thing,” Jim says, unphased. Ed rolls his eyes. Jim had been overly invested in their relationship status from the time that he and Oswald were nothing more than friends.

“You’re wasting time!” Ed tries for his final appeal, looking to Lucius for some practicality. Lucius notes how Jim, exhausted as he is, has only managed to move Ed a couple yards so far.

“He has a point,” Lucius allows, “I mean, he’s crazy and tried to kill Bruce and I, but he has a point.”

“That gas was a sleeping agent,” Ed says defensively. Although it does help his case, come to think of it.

“Fine,” Jim says, pushing Ed away. Jim’s actually a little relieved. He’s exhausted, and Ed is very adept at squirming in the most irritating fashion he has ever witnessed.

Ed takes off at a run the second Jim loosens his hold, not taking any chances that he’ll change his mind. He needs to find Oswald, and quickly. Before Jim Gordon blows them all up.

***

The Asylum is in chaos. Ed pushes past nurses and guards, going in the opposite direction to everyone but unnoticable to them with the simple addition of a lab coat. People are idiots. He snags three different key cards off people on the way as they brush past him, just in case. By the time he rounds the corner to Oswald’s cell, the hall is deserted.

Ed swipes one randomly and gains access, pulling the door open, “Oswald! We need to go, now!”

Oswald jumps up, and Ed turns, already heading down the hall. “What’s going on, Ed? Slow down!”

“We need to get to the storage room where they keep everything from intake,” Ed says slowing his pace to accommodate how quickly Oswald can move. He’s so frantic he’d forgotten.

“We’re breaking out?” Oswald says, looking around for any personnel. “Well, seems like a good time, at least.”

“It might be the only time—there’s a bomb under the Asylum that’s been set to detonate—I don’t know when. Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox are the only ones who are attempting to defuse it, so I suggest we move quickly.”

“What?” Oswald screeches, hurrying after him. “Jim can’t defuse a bomb! Why are we wasting time going to storage? We need to get out of here!” he says, snagging Ed’s sleeve. Ed whirls on him, grabbing Oswald’s face in both hands and kissing him fiercely. It could be the last time, he realizes as he pulls away, kissing Oswald again with that in mind.

“Trust me,” Ed says, turning on his heel. Oswald grumbles and follows.

“Alright, walk and talk,” Oswald demands. Ed smiles.

“If we try to get out of here with you dressed like that, the officers outside will detain us and we won’t be able to leave, and we’ll either get blown up or put back in here. If we’re doing this, we need to do it right or not at all. There is no room for failure right now,” Ed says with conviction. He never does anything by half-measures; he’s not starting now. Not when there’s a chance they get caught and either die by explosive or rotting away in here. The bomb is a perfect distraction, even though it’s attracted a large police presence. They won’t be looking for civilians in plain clothes trying to escape the bomb.

They finally reach the storage room. Ed swipes another card at random, unlocking it. They enter and he quickly locates Oswald’s effects. He finds his own while Oswald dresses, taking what’s of value and leaving the rest.

After that it’s only a matter of getting to the staff parking lot.

***

“What now?” Oswald asks. “Can you hotwire a car?”

“I can, but this is easier,” Ed says, pulling a set of car keys from his lab coat. Ed presses the unlock button on it, but nothing happens. He pulls out another set.

“You little thief,” Oswald says affectionately.

Ed tries again, and sure enough there’s a flash of light from the row next to them. They hustle over to it and Ed presses the button again, locating the exact car this time. It looks sturdy enough for their purposes, and Ed actually likes the style.

“It’s so ugly,” Oswald sneers.

“Be grateful,” Ed reminds him, secretly very pleased with his acquisition.

“That’s my car!” a man screams, running towards them. Oswald takes the keys from Ed and opens the trunk as the man sprints towards them. Oswald pulls out a tire iron and closes the trunk. He holds it by his side so that the man can not see the slim black weapon in the dark.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” the man asks, like an idiot, still walking towards them, like an idiot.

What an idiot, they think.

“Stealing your car,” Oswald says once he’s close enough, smashing him over the head with the tire iron. The idiot falls to the ground but is still conscious, and Oswald delivers another hard blow, using both hands on the iron.

“Shall we?” Oswald says politely, tossing the keys to Ed. He pats down the man’s pockets, snagging his wallet and getting into the passenger’s side door. Ed miraculously catches them in the dark, slipping into the driver’s side.

He kisses Oswald over the center console, then starts the car. “We shall.”

Ed peels out of the lot and gets waved right through security, heading for Gotham City’s limits.

“You think they’ll manage to diffuse it?” Oswald asks.

Ed snorts. “I’m not taking any chances. I’m driving at least a hundred miles and then we’re getting a hotel room and crashing. We can check the news in the morning and see if Gotham is still standing.”

“Are you tired?” Oswald asks, putting a hand on Ed’s thigh.

“Not really,” Ed answers, unsure at what Oswald is playing at.

“Does your offer still stand?” Oswald says, squeezing Ed’s thigh.

Ed swallows. “What offer?”

“That I can do anything to you once we’re out,” Oswald reminds him suggestively. Ed has a sudden urge to floor it, but he’s not getting arrested for speeding. Come to think of it, though, the GCPD was pretty much at Arkham in its entirety…. He lets gravity do a little more work on his foot.

“I meant it, Oswald,” Ed says, glancing at him quickly, “anything.”

Oswald hums and takes his hand off Ed’s leg. “I’m looking forward to taking you up on that offer.”

***

The hotel is nice; Ed’s glad Oswald had the foresight to steal that guy’s wallet. He sends Oswald up to their room with his own keycard, keeping the other for himself.

“I just need to—to make sure the car’s in a less visible spot from the road!” he makes up on the fly, lying poorly.

Oswald rolls his eyes but decides not to argue. In the real world, they were the dangerous ones, and people needed to watch out for them. Ed would be fine on his own for five minutes, Oswald assures himself.

Ed heads to the hotel’s small shop, buying toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, deodorant, and more soap and shampoo. He takes a breath to center himself and grabs condoms and lubricant as well. Ed pays without making eye contact and hustles to their room.

“Oswald?” he calls through the door. He hears water running, but it could be their neighbors. Ed investigates further, finding the bathroom light on, steam leaking from under the door.

“Oswald?” Ed calls again.

“In here,” Oswald yells from behind the door.

“I bought some things for the bathroom, do you want them?”

“There’s enough stuff in here for my shower,” Oswald replies.

“Alright,” Ed says, heading for the television to check on the current state of Gotham. He sits on the end of the room’s single king size bed and flips through channels.

Oswald finishes his shower in ten minutes, stepping out of the bathroom clad in a white robe. “Those clothes are filthy. I think I’m going to make you buy me something before I can go out in public again.”

“Or I could buy you nothing so you’re forced to walk around here naked and you can never leave,” Ed suggests, gathering supplies for his shower. He discreetly grabs the lube as well.

“The water pressure is divine,” Oswald flops onto the bed, completely ignoring Ed’s threat.

Ed showers efficiently, scrubbing all the filth from Arkham away, and then he’s not quite sure what to do. He turns the shower off, not wanting the lube to wash away. Ed dries himself, hanging up the towel. He brushes his teeth next, delaying the inevitable.

Finally, he uncaps the bottle, coating the fingers of his right hand. He braces his left against the sink, leaning forward a little, and reaches behind himself. Ed widens his stance a little, then circles a bit before pushing the tip of his finger in, trying to get a feel for the level of resistance. He’s never done this—perhaps there’s an easier way. Maybe he should just let Oswald do it. Well, he has one finger in, at any rate. He wiggles it around, feeling his own insides for the first time, feeling something inside of himself for the first time.

He tries a second finger, and fails. The angle isn’t good. He puts his foot on the lid of the toilet and reaches behind himself again. He isn’t any more successful. Ed considers trying it from the front, but it would be easier on his back and he doesn’t want to lie on the cold tile floor of the bathroom. He huffs in frustration. Fine, he’ll just make Oswald do it. No need for all this fuss.

Ed grabs the lube and doesn’t bother with a robe; he’s just going to take it off anyways. He opens the bathroom door, steam rushing out around him. Oswald looks at him and does a double take, his jaw dropping. Ed pushes a hand through his hair, suddenly very self-conscious. He coughs.

“So... um... I don’t know if you’re still interested, but I have lube here and... I tried fingering myself but it wasn’t working out, so if you want to do that and then make love to me that’d be swell,” Ed says in a rush, moving to sit on the bed. Oswald jaw works for a few moments before any words form.

“Ed, I am still very interested,” he says, tilting Ed’s face up. “You look so different without your glasses.”

“You also look different without my glasses,” Ed deadpans. Oswald smiles.

“I had better even the playing field before we get started,” Oswald says, disrobing and throwing it onto the floor, careless. Ed puts the bottle of lube on the nightstand, next to the plastic bag with the box of condoms. Ed has never seen Oswald hard, but he’s seen him soft and felt him hard, so he’d guessed at the size. Oswald is soft at the moment, but Ed’s positive he can deliver. Ed isn’t so sure about his own performance. True, he had missed his medication, whatever it was, the past few mornings. Being out of Arkham had also relieved a huge amount of stress. Not only that, but their hotel room was clean, it smelled clean. He and Oswald were both clean, and no one was screaming about horrible things a room over. Feeling a little more confident after his mental pep-talk, Ed situates himself in Oswald’s lap, kissing him.

Oswald feels amazing against his bare skin, their sharp edges coming together like a puzzle. His hands span his back, caressing Ed. He moans into Oswald’s mouth, licking over his lips. Oswald parts them and allows their dance to begin, kissing one another with fervour. Ed presses impossibly closer into Oswald, rubbing his cock against his soft stomach. He feels himself responding for the first time in weeks, his cock twitching between their stomachs.

“I love you,” Ed gasps, rocking down onto Oswald’s cock experimentally. Oswald moans, sucking a hickey into Ed’s neck.

“I love you,” Oswald says into his ear, rocking up into Ed to counter him. Oswald lets both hands travel down Ed’s back to grip the cheeks of his ass, spreading them apart. He plants his feet, rocking up into Ed, grinding his cock against him. Ed shivers at the contact, the mere simulacrum of sex sending electric currents up his spine.

Ed moves so his legs are around Oswald, rolling onto his back and taking Oswald with him. He pulls Oswald down to kiss him as Oswald grinds their lower halves together. “Get the lube,” he says once they pause for breath. Oswald reaches for the nightstand, immediately uncapping the bottle and coating his fingers. He bends to kiss Ed again. Ed wraps his arms around Oswald’s shoulders, gasping against his lips as the feeling of Oswald circling a finger around his rim takes him by surprise. It feels nice, and Oswald eases his first finger in after another minute of gentle caresses.

“You’re really tight, Ed, how far did you get?”

Ed blushes.

“Just one finger,” he admits. Oswald groans, dropping his head into the crook of Ed’s neck. He drops kisses on the sensitive skin there, licking over the veins in Ed’s throat.

“That is… exceptionally alluring,” Oswald says, moving his finger methodically from side to side and pumping it into Ed.

“Yeah?” Ed says, feeling dizzy as Oswald’s teeth trace over his throat.

“Yeah,” Oswald confirms. “I’m going to do the second one now.” Oswald pushes another digit into Ed, wiggling it in. It’s a snug fit. Oswald groans at the thought of sinking his cock into the tight heat currently squeezing around his fingers, biting down on the soft flesh of Ed’s neck. Ed gasps, his fingernails digging into Oswald’s back, toes curling. His cock is definitely hard now; he had been so worried he wouldn’t be able to have this. Ed’s happiness bubbles over, he feels like he’s bursting with it. He sniffs, feeling the prickle of tears in his eyes. Oswald scissors his fingers for the first time and Ed cries out loudly. It’s so good, so good….

“So good, Oswald, please. I love you, feels amazing. Please, please….”

Oswald coats his fingers again, pressing three inside of Ed at once. It’s slow going, but Ed breathes through it. He wants Oswald inside of him: he’ll do whatever it takes. Oswald has all three in now, slowly turning them inside of him. He crooks them, pressing against Ed’s prostate very gently.

Ah! Oswald!” Ed screams, the sound ripped from his throat. Oswald smirks, leaning down to kiss Ed fiercely, biting his bottom lip between his teeth.

“You’re almost ready,” Oswald assures him, taking his time with three fingers to make sure Ed is well and truly loose. A cock is a lot different than fingers. Ed gasps, throwing his head back as Oswald starts pumping all three into him.

“It’s so good already; I can’t wait to—oh—I want to feel you inside me, I—AH! Oh my, oh my, oh my,” Ed gasps, rolling his hips down onto Oswald’s fingers.

“Alright,” Oswald says, slipping his fingers free. “Condom?”

“Oh, yes, in the bag.” Oswald roots through it and grabs the box, opening the packaging and taking one out. He opens it and rolls it into himself carefully. Oswald doesn't want any hiccups—he wants to show Ed he's a capable and competent lover, despite this being his first time. Oswald sits back against the headboard, shoving pillows behind himself to help stay upright. He grabs the lube once more, stroking himself lightly. Oswald feels as though he might go off at any moment; he hopes he can make this last for Ed.

Ed watches as Oswald makes his preparations, hoping for further instruction. Next to him, Oswald strokes himself quickly, coating himself with more lube. Should he have helped with the condom? Should he have been doing this part for Oswald? He feels more like an observer than a participant, still laying on his back and waiting while Oswald bustles around. Ed was hoping Oswald would show him what direction he wanted this to take. Finally, Oswald leans down to kiss him, putting a hand in Ed’s hair. This, Ed can do. He hums, sucking on Oswald’s tongue and reaching his hands up to grip his shoulders, trying to pull Oswald down on top of him.

Oswald breaks the kiss and whispers against his lips, his pupils blown wide with lust, “I think you should be on top of me.” This close, Ed can see the veins in his eyes, the way his lashes curl.

“Okay,” Ed says, glad for some directive. He has no idea what he’s doing. Ed throws a leg over Oswald and sits, letting Oswald’s cock slide though the trail of lubricant he’s left behind. “Should I—should I put it in?”

“Yes, please,” Oswald says shakily, “take your time.” Ed sees the logic in having him start out on top. This way he can control the pace, immediately stop at any discomfort, and figure out what actually feels good.

“This is very thoughtful of you,” Ed says, putting his hands on Oswald’s shoulder and leaning down the kiss him gently. Oswald puts his hands on Ed’s hips, fingers pressing in. “Thank you.”

“It’s no trouble,” Oswald whispers, lifting a hand to Ed’s face, captivated, “You’re so beautiful, Ed. Did you know that? I almost can’t believe this is really happening.” Ed flushes harshly, reaching behind himself to take hold of Oswald’s cock. It’s the first time he’s actually touched it, Ed realizes, stroking Oswald once, down and up. Oswald moans, his fingers digging harder into Ed’s hip. Oswald lets his other hand drop from Ed’s face to take hold of both his hips again, holding Ed steady.

Ed shuffles up a little higher onto his knees, pressing the tip carefully inside as he allows himself to sink down on it. He sighs once it slips inside, feeling the way his muscles flutter around the intrusion. The girth of Oswald’s cock feels nothing like his fingers.

 

“You’re alright?” Oswald asks, his chest flushing. There’s sweat on his lip and looks like he’s clenching his jaw.

“Yes, fine. Adjusting. It’s not bad. Weird—not bad weird! I—you feel really big already. Is that normal?”

Oswald’s chest heaves. “I don’t know. I mean, I suppose it is the largest thing you’ve had inside of yourself, right?”

Yes, okay. That’s right. Oswald’s right. It’s very simple, actually.

“Of course, yes. That makes sense. I think I’ll keep going, now.” Ed gasps at he lets himself slip further down onto Oswald’s cock. He puts his hands on Oswald’s chest to brace himself, leaning his forehead against Oswald’s and panting. He closes his eyes and breathes, focusing on how Oswald feels inside of him.

“Still okay?” Oswald says tightly. Ed feels a pang of guilt for taking so long.

“Yes,” Ed assures him, his voice cracking painfully on the word. “Just a moment.” He opens his eyes and then kisses Oswald for a distraction, squeezing them shut again once their lips lock together. Oswald’s hands run soothingly over his back, moving in small circles and larger, slowly sweeping gestures up and down. “Okay,” Ed says, “okay.”

He relaxes himself as best he can, slowly dropping the rest of the way into Oswald’s lap. He lets his full weight rest on Oswald, shifting closer. Ed wraps his arms around Oswald’s shoulders, pushing his face into his neck. He breathes so his chest is expanding in time with Oswald’s, trying to pull himself together. Oswald is as deeply inside of him as this angle allows, and it feels divine.

“Ed, you’re crying. Do we need to take a break?” He’s crying? Ed pulls back, noticing a patch of wetness in the crook of Oswald’s neck. He swipes the back of his hand over his eyes, and sure enough, tears glisten back at him.

“I’m fine, Oswald, it feels really good.” Ed presses a hand to his stomach, trying to fathom the depth of his connection to Oswald. He isn’t sure if he’s being literal or metaphorical or both, everything is blurring together right now. “You feel really good.” Ed rolls his hips very carefully, getting an idea of how completely Oswald fills him—Oswald’s cock feels so incomprehensibly massive inside of him.

“You feel amazing,” Oswald says, sweat beading at his hairline now. “You’re so tight, Ed, how did I even fit inside of you? It’s incredible. You’re incredible. I’ve never felt anything like this.”

“What do you want me to do?” Ed asks, working his hips in wider arcs, barely allowing Oswald to slip out of him.

“I don’t know,” Oswald says. “I’ve never done this, remember?”

“Surely you must want something?” Ed insists, bouncing a little in Oswald’s lap experimentally. Oswald jerks under him, nearly dislodging Ed. Ed squeezes around him in surprise, moaning at the way easily he sinks back down, at the way Oswald’s open display of desire makes heat flare in his stomach. Oswald nearly does it again as Ed clenches around him, throwing his head back with a groan and surely leaving bruises around Ed’s hips.

“That,” Oswald decides, “more of that.”

“Yeah, that’s—that’s good,” Ed agrees hastily, repeating the same motion as before. He hardly even lifts himself off Oswald’s cock, doing little more than rocking back and forth in his lap. Oswald kisses him, his hands roaming over Ed’s chest, thumbs brushing over his nipples. Ed’s surprised to feel pleasure race through him at the touch: he’d never really considered that to be an erogenous zone before.

Ed rocks gently, feeling his orgasm building already. He’s not ignorant to the existence of the prostate and what it can do, and the way he’s rocking his hips down onto Oswald ensures that he’s brushing that spot inside of himself every time he moves. In minutes he’s shaking, moving slowly on Oswald’s cock and coming apart from the slightest movement of Oswald inside of him. Ed’s never stimulated his prostate before, and the sensation is unlike anything he’s ever experienced. He barely has to move, barely has to lift himself from Oswald’s cock to send that novel pleasure coursing through him.

Oswald feels Ed slowly coming apart in his arms, wanting nothing more than to plant his feet and jerk up into him. He wants to drive himself deeper into Edward in long, hard thrusts. He wants Ed screaming, overwhelmed. Perhaps next time. For now, he finds himself on the brink. Ed is still hardly even lifting his hips, letting Oswald’s cock slide out from inside of himself only slightly as he works his cock inside of him. The sight of Ed rocking wantonly in his lap is doing wonders for his ego. He makes soft little sounds as he does, like every time Oswald shifts inside of him is a surprise.

Ed rests his forehead on Oswald’s as he moves, then pulls back, kissing him softly. “I’m really close,” Ed says, a little ashamed. They’ve just started.

“I am too,” Oswald says, and it’s true. Ed has been randomly clenching around him as different sensations set him off, and Oswald had been forced to concentrate everything he has on not thrusting harshly into him as his cock is enveloped by Ed’s body. He doesn't have much willpower left to keep himself from coming, and he’s been close since Ed first sank down around him.

“Should I go faster?” Ed asks, rocking his hips marginally harder.

“You don’t really have to,” Oswald says, already feeling strained. Ed continues the slow pace, still scarcely moving in Oswald’s lap, his cock only just leaving the heat of Ed’s body with each of Ed’s small motions. Oswald reaches for Ed’s cock, touching him lightly and then wrapping a hand around him. He strokes Ed in time with his gentle rocking, feeling and hearing his breath hitch. Oswald kisses Ed’s neck, picking a small freckle to suck a hickey into.

“Oh, oh,” Ed whimpers softly, his whole body shaking as he comes messily over Oswald’s hand and stomach. Oswald can’t take his eyes off of him, transfixed by the way Ed’s nose scrunches, his eyebrows pinching together, the soft ‘o’ of his mouth. The sight Ed makes, the soft sounds and the knowledge that Oswald did this to him, sends him over the edge as well.

Ed’s hips stutter as he orgasms, but he quickly stills, much to Oswald’s frustration. He digs his fingers into Ed’s ass, moving Ed over his cock as he comes, hunching over, finally allowing his hips to thrust up into Ed while his climax washes over him. Ed gasps, dazed, willingly letting Oswald manhandle him as he bounces Ed on his cock and pushes up into him. Ed holds on to Oswald’s shoulders, trying not to fall over as the fireworks that accompanied his orgasm retreat to the edges of his vision.

“Fuck, fuck, you’re perfect,” Oswald groans as the last waves of pleasure thrum through him, letting his hips still and unclenching his fingers from Ed’s backside. He threads the hand that isn’t sticky with come into Ed’s hair when he feels like he’s managed to inhale a decent amount of oxygen, pulling Ed down to kiss him.

Ed slumps into Oswald, parting his lips for Oswald's tongue. Ed notes the lingering tremors in his legs and stomach as Oswald licks into his mouth. He feels himself twitching around Oswald’s cock, still buried deep inside of him. Ed gathers the scattered remains of his mind and tries to focus on kissing Oswald, but after a while Oswald’s cock inside of him is becoming more uncomfortable than pleasurable. He lifts up onto his knees, letting Oswald’s soft cock slip from inside of him. Ed hisses into Oswald’s mouth as it drags out, breaking the kiss and realizing just how sore he is.

“Are you okay?” Oswald asks, eyes wide. He cups the side of Ed’s face in his hand, tracing his thumb over Ed’s cheekbone. Ed turns his face and kisses the palm of his hand.

“I’m sore,” he says, settling back into Oswald’s lap. Perhaps they should lie down, he thinks, yawning comically wide.

“And tired?” Oswald teases.

“And tired,” Ed agrees, pecking him on the lips.

“Did I tire you out?” Oswald asks, winking.

“Oh, you certainly did,” Ed says, flopping down onto the bed beside him. “That was… really something else, Oswald.”

Oswald swings his legs over the side of the bed, disappearing into the bathroom to dispose of the condom and wipe off his hand and stomach. He comes back with water and Ed’s glasses, “So you don’t have to look around for them in the morning,” he explains, putting the glasses on the nightstand and handling the water to Ed.

“Thank you,” Ed says, oddly touched by this gesture even after the intimacy of sex.

“It’s my pleasure,” Oswald says, slipping under the covers next to to him. “It doesn’t hurt at all, does it?”

“A little,” Ed admits, “But it was well worth it. I wouldn’t be opposed to doing this again.”

“Neither would I,” Oswald says softly, carding a hand though Ed hair and leaning over him to meet his lips. “You were terrific, Ed. Never in my wildest ambitions did I ever hope to experience something so extraordinary. Thank you.” Ed feels short of breath and a little light-headed, tears pricking the corners of his eyes again.

“Glad you liked it,” he whispers, holding back tears. Oswald kisses him again.

“I loved it. I love you,” Oswald says quietly, petting his hair.

“I love you, too,” Ed says, cupping Oswald’s face in his hand and pulling him down into another kiss. Oswald lays beside him when the kiss ends, pulling the covers over both of them and spooning up against Ed, wrapping an arm around him. Ed lays a hand over his and settles into his pillow.

“Gotham didn’t blow up,” Ed mumbles sleepily after a minute, “forgot to mention that earlier.”

“Good,” Oswald says, stroking his hair, “we can go home tomorrow.”