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A Heart to Hold

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In the beginning, Ed Nygma wasn't exactly fond of children. They were loud, had little understanding of logic, and were generally unhygienic and messy. But he couldn't turn down the only neighbor who'd ever talked to him. She was a nice person, one of the few who was nice to him. At first, she'd said that she needed someone to babysit for her. The infant was two months old. She was called Jane. So he watched her and did everything her mother’s instructions and various books and articles had told him to do. She was loud or asleep most of the time. Even after three hours, it seemed that she would cry for no reason other than to make as much noise as her little self could. She would put anything within reach into her mouth and would change moods on a dime. He was so grateful to give her back to her mother when the time came. He bleached the entire apartment.

The next time she asked him to look after Jane was barely a few days after; she needed him to babysit almost all day. He did. She started asking him to look after her every weekend. He did. All his cabinets had child locks on them and anything sharp or remotely dangerous for an infant was tucked away, safely out of reach. He had several packets of formula, three boxes of diapers, a cover for the makeshift changing table, and several stuffed toys and blankets. He had been babysitting Jane every weekend and some weeknights when he changed his mind. All of the children he'd known in his life had been ignorant and cruel, so he'd guessed that children were like that by nature. Ed Nygma didn't like children that much, but Jane, he liked her plenty. Maybe it was how often he cared for her. There was something so addicting about holding a life in his hands, about nurturing it, about watching it grow. About watching her learn. A week after his realization, when Jane was a day shy of four months, her mother asked him to come over with his lawyer. She wanted him to have custody of Jane.

“I didn't want her, I still don't. I feel bad about it, but I still don't want a child, and you're the only person I would trust her with. Ed, you care about her more than I ever will, you take care of her so well. I can't think of anyone that could raise her better.”

“How could-but I-”

“I know it's a lot to ask, but I know you care about her. And I'm not asking you to do this for me, I'm asking you to do it for her. She deserves a parent that loves her, and I don't. If I keep her she would find that out someday and… it's just not right. She needs someone who cares about her, and I know that you do.”

“Thank you, yes.” Ed could have cried. He willed back the tears before they could form. If only his parents had been like her. If only he'd had someone who cared. But that was the past, and now he was getting a chance to make sure Jane wouldn't have to know what it was to grow up in a family that didn't love you. He would have done anything to have had that for himself, and now he could do that for someone else.

“What are you thanking me for?”

He couldn't voice it. So he tried to communicate in a different way. He hugged her. She hugged back. He was Jane's legal guardian before the month was out. But Jane...the name didn't sound right for her, it didn't feel right. There was something missing. And her mother confessed it was only her name because she didn't care on naming the child and decided on John or Jane Doe. So Ed got to work. He researched name after name, making a small list. The list included Imogene, Amanda, and Amaris. Amanda had the meaning that described her perfectly, but it didn't sound quite right. Imogene was also a little off. Amaris, that one felt right. So, at four months and eighteen days old, she got her new name. Amaris Jane Nygma.

 

 

 

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Kristen Kringle was more than a little confused when she walked into Mr. Nygma’s office to find him bouncing a baby in his arms and softly humming. The baby was chubby faced and drooling, with a mop of curls on their head and a pink onesie on under the yellow blanket they were swaddled in. Kristen had never seen the forensic scientist look so at ease and calm; he obviously had practice.

“I'm sorry to interrupt, but I need the Balloonman files, if they're finished.”

“The shelf, next to the door,” he whispered, still bouncing the infant gently.

“Who are you sitting for?”

“Oh, no, I couldn't find a sitter so I had to bring her in. As long as I'm not pulled to a crime scene she'll be fine.”

“You're not married,” Kristen started. That could be the reason he stopped harassing her everyday. Now he'd only pop in to say good morning or to borrow and return case-files. It was definitely a welcome change.

“Oh, no, she's not mine in that way, and no I'm not…” he took in a deep breath, then let it out. “She's adopted.”

“Oh.” The silence held an almost tangible awkwardness to it.

“Her name is Amaris, she's six months old.” Mr. Nygma said hesitantly. It took a second for Kristen to register that it was meant to be a sort of peace offering or ice-breaker.

“Pretty name.” She bit her lip, this is awkward . “She's very pretty,” Kristen offered. Mr. Nygma looked down at the swaddled, drooling, baby in his arms.

“Yeah, she is.” his eyes seemed to melt when looking at Amaris. It was very sweet. Kristen had no doubt that he was a good father and that he loved his daughter. The initial shock that he was a father --Mr. Nygma with his riddles and clumsy attempts at socialising,-- was raising a baby, had faded. It seemed right, natural, the way he held her, looked at her. She smiled as she left with the appropriate files, Mr. Nygma had found something precious, and she couldn't help but feel happy for him.

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When Amaris said her first word Ed was sure his heart would explode. It was only two weeks after Ms. Kringle had met her and two days after Halloween. She was 6 months and 3 weeks old. He was tucking her in, saying his usual “Dada loves you,” when she'd pointed one of her chubby fingers at him and repeated one of the words.

“Loff!” she may not have said it right, but that didn't matter, it was her first word, she was bound to make mistakes. He barely even registered that she had in fact mispronounced the word he was too busy letting his heart melt as the biggest smile spread across his face. Tears were in his eyes. She said her first word. Her first word was love. She’d pointed at him and said ‘Love.’ Anyone who ever said the having mama or dada being magical to hear as a first word was clearly mistaken, how could a name be more moving than having your little girl functionally say she loved you? How?

After that, every time he told her “Dada loves you,” she'd responded, pointing a little finger at him and saying; “Loff!” Kristen had thought it was adorable. Smiling bright, and clapping congratulations.

It took only three weeks for Amaris to string a two-word phrase together.

“Loff dada!” that time he did cry, holding her close, grateful and so unbelievably, dizzily happy. He kissed the top of her head, saving this memory. And after she'd gone to sleep he'd replayed it, over and over. He couldn't sleep, and even though his cheeks ached he couldn't stop smiling. Eventually, he did sleep, with the pleasant feeling floating him off into his dreams.

 

 

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Sarah Essen liked to think she was a bit numbed to Ed’s antics. But the possibility of him reporting in her office with a baby sling and a baby was not one that ever crossed her mind as even remotely plausible. But here she was with the forensic briefing her, Harvey, and Jim on Viper whilst a baby was strapped to his front. Leave it to Gotham to give her a new surprise at regular intervals. And apparently a drug that kills you within a few hours by crushing your skeleton wasn't enough of a surprise. She wasn't the only one surprised, as neither Harvey nor Jim could keep their confused eyes off the baby sling. At that moment one of the poor kids on the drug kicked through her office windows. She had never seen Ed move that fast, he turned and bolted away from the shattered glass, arms ensuring the infant was safe against his chest. The baby wailed. And Ed was almost instantly humming to and gently rocking back and forth, soothing the child with the ease and practice of someone who's done this many times.

“Ed, who is your...little friend?”

“Her name is Amaris, she's 10 months old.-”

“Who is she, in relation to you?” Sarah cut in, stopping the man from babbling himself off into a tangent.

“I'm-she... she's my daughter.” Ed fumbled a little bit, eyes darting from the baby to Sarah then back to the baby. Jim looked like his eyes were going to pop out of his skull.

“Congratulations Ed, I didn't know you had a kid.” Harvey looked and sounded impressed Not that Sarah could blame him, being a parent was no easy job.

“Thank you, Detective Bullock.” Ed smiled, arms still wrapped around the baby sling and the infant within.

Sarah wasn't shocked later to find Jim and Harvey quietly gossiping about the revelation, of all the people in the GCPD, Ed hadn't seemed like the one who'd be the single parent of a baby. Ed swiftly came around back into her office. Apparently speak of the devil was no longer the case, they'd updated to think of the devil and he'll appear.

“I'm sorry but could you watch her, I just really need to go to the bathroom and I don't want to leave her alone, I usually ask Kristen but she was busy and I didn't want to-”

“It's okay, Ed. Go on, I'll watch her,”

“Thanks a million, Captain Essen!” Ed said, carefully placing the 10 month old into her arms. A small voice in her head remarked how ironic it was that his baby daughter looked more Sarah herself than her father. But Amaris’ eyes were almost the same, curious and learning. They might be been darker than those of her father but the had that friendly and bubbly light in them. Sarah sat down, setting the infant in her lap. She was wearing a black onesie with “Cutie π” in glittery pink. She chuckled.

“You are a cutie-pie, aren't you?” She asked, lightly bopping the baby’s nose. Amaris babbled in response, sticking her fingers in her mouth and lightly chewing on them. She was adorable, that much Sarah had to admit. And when Ed came back, lifting the baby back into his arms she could see his eyes melt, with a dizzying bright smile. There was no doubt in her mind that he was a fine father. So she smiled, and good-naturedly sent him back to work promising to look after the infant if he ever needed her to.

 

 

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When Kristen came to his home for dinner the second time, he'd made sure Amaris, the smart little toddler, was with a trusted sitter. Dinner was lovely, he just adored Kristen’s company. She was his second favourite person to spend time with. --The first place always went to Amaris, even if she was now a “terrible two,” throwing tantrums when she didn't like the weather or when he had to put Apple the owl into the wash.--

“Stop,” they had been kissing, holding each other tight, but she pushed him away. He let her.

“I'm sorry did I-” Did he cross some unknown boundary? What did he do wrong?

“No, Ed it's not you. Believe me, it's not you.”

“What's wrong then?”

“It's Tom. I’m worried about what he'll do when he comes back.” She sighed, worried and tired and stressed.

“If he did, I wouldn't let him hurt you.”

“That's very sweet of you, Ed,” she chuckled, looking into his eyes a little bit patronising, “He's stronger and he's cruel. You have a daughter that needs you, and Tom...he wouldn't hesitate to kill you. He even promised to kill me if he ever saw me with another man.” That man was a monster. She would never feel safe if she thought he could come back at any moment. Maybe if he told her, she'd feel safer.

“He can't hurt you anymore, trust me, it's taken care of.”

“What do you mean?” She chuckled, an awkward sound that she used when she was confused.

“Well a while ago I confronted him about how he was treating you. I told him that he should treat you better and he uh-he and I had an altercation and then he was dead.”

“Ed, I'm not joking around here!”

“Neither am I! Kristen why would I joke about your safety, about mine or Amaris’?”

“What are you talking about!?”

“He hurt you! I couldn't let him keep hurting you! I didn't want to kill him!”

“You aren't joking…” horror dawned in her eyes. She looked so scared, that was the look she gave Officer Daugherty, he didn't like it when she looked at him that way. It hurt. It made him feel awful, sick and twisted. It made him feel like a monster… “You followed me home that night didn't you!? You were stalking me!” he felt dizzy, why was she saying such mean things?

“No, Kristen, I was only trying to keep you safe!”

“Safe!? You are a PSYCHOPATH! You killed my boyfriend! Then you-”

“You're wrong, that's not who I am! I only did it to-” she smashed a lamp over his head, the glass broke and he was dizzier.

“Get away from me you PSYCHO!” she hit him and beat on the door. It was locked? He grabbed her arm, she had to understand. He loved her, she had to understand…

“Please! I'd never hurt you! I love you! I've loved you since, since I met you!” that may not have been entirely the truth, he admired her since then...but love? Wait. She isn't moving. Why isn't she moving?! He yanked his hands back. Why was one of them around her throat?! When did he-?!  “Kristen?” she slumped down, sliding to the floor. His eyes burned. He was feeling dizzier than ever. She isn't moving. She isn't breathing.Sheisntmoving.Sheisntbreathing. He shook her by the shoulders. No. No.nononononoNO! The world spun faster. She was on her back and he was pushing her chest. One-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-!

She gasped in air. Her eyes stayed shut. She was breathing! She was breathing… He jerked away as if the close proximity burned him. He had hurt her. He hurt her. He had killed her. He killed her. He was against a wall, hugging his knees to his chest as he rocked back and forth. He couldn't breathe. I hurt her. I hurt her. I killed her. I love her and I killed her. I L O V E H E R A N D I K I L L E D H E R

She was sitting up now, her eyes were wide, a hand was on her throat. NO NO NOT AGAIN. DON'T DIE AGAIN! There was broken noise. It came from him. Snot was running from his nose and tears from his eyes. He rocked faster. He was a monster. Only monsters hurt the ones they love. Only monsters would hurt people who love them. He was a monster. A monster like mother and father had been. He was just like them, all along.

“Ed?” She looks sad. I don't like it when she looks sad. I hurt her. Why is she still here? She should run!

“I killed you,” he whispered between shaking sobs. “I hurt you. I love you and I hurt you-I killed you, you were dead!” Kristen didn't make any moves to get closer, she pulled the blanket off his bed, holding it in her fists. One of Amaris’ teddy bears was nearby. He wanted a teddy bear. He couldn't hurt a teddy bear. A teddy bear couldn't hurt him, or abandon him. He hugged the teddy bear, burying his face in it, bringing back the old habit.

Kristen looked at him. Ed. She knew, logically she should be trying to get out, away. But, he looked so helpless, so unbelievably upset. And the way he curled in on himself, clutching the stuffed bear as if his life depended on it...he looked like a kid. A terrified kid. She knew she shouldn't feel sympathy for him but… she couldn't leave him, not like this. Not crying against a wall, seemingly having a mental breakdown.

“Ed? I'm okay, see? I'm not dead, you didn't kill me.” He was still shaking and crying but at least he was looking at her. His eyes were so sad, so helpless… “It's okay, I'm okay.” that wasn't true. Being strangled, passing out and being resuscitated by a man she just found out killed her former boyfriend and possibly stalked her, it rattled her, a lot.

“No! It's not okay! I hurt you! People you care about shouldn't hurt you! People who are supposed to love you shouldn't hurt you!”

“Did someone?” He didn't seem to understand, “Did someone who was supposed to love you hurt you?” he broke eye contact, and nodded. She took a breath, “Who?”

“Mommy and Daddy.” His voice was small, everything about him seemed small. Small and scared. Small and helpless. “Mommy and Daddy hurt me and now?” He took a shuddering breath, “I'm just like them!” what? “I lied. I didn't mean to! I didn't mean to lie! I'm sorry! Please don't punish me!” his voice cracked and with it so did her denial. Oh god. His parents. Everything made so much more sense. His lack of social skills, his passivity, why he flinched away instead of trying to defend himself. Why he was trying to hide from her while hugging a teddy bear.

“Ed, you're not like them. Listen, it was an accident, I won't tell anyone. No one's gonna-” she said, trying to keep her voice calm, everything was so complex and confusing, why did it have to be so hard?! “-punish you. I promise.” Oh god, his eyes looked so hopeful, he was still acting like a scared kid and God damn her for wanting to help. “But you have to promise to go talk to a psychiatrist, ok?”

“The man in the mirror doesn't like them.”

“Do you mean you don't like them?” He shook his head, “Who, then?”

“My reflection, he yells at me, like Mommy and Daddy,” it was suddenly a much bigger problem. The time she finally didn't date a sexist creep she picked the guy with a past of child abuse who got frequent hallucinations. Great.

“How long has your reflection been talking to you?”

“Ten years,”

“Ed? You need to go see a psychiatrist, promise me you will.” She couldn't help the forcefulness of her words, ten years of hallucinating, ten years . How had no one ever noticed?

“I promise.”

“Good.”

“Ms. Kringle?”

“Yes, Ed?”

“Please don't leave me alone.”

“I won't.” and she didn't. She stayed the night, sitting on the floor, watching as he eventually cried himself to sleep and shook as he had nightmares. She felt awful but couldn't bring herself to wake him up, he'd be miserable either way. When morning came she went with him to pick up Amaris from the overnight sitter.

“Dada!” nothing was sweeter than the sound of a toddler reuniting with their parent, even if they'd only been apart for one night. Her presence seemed to immediately soothe him. “Wha’s wron’? Why you sad, Dada?” He dropped to his knees, pulling her into a hug. Kristen pointedly ignored the babysitters questioning look.

“Dada missed you.” He sniffled.

“I here, Dada, you no miss no more!”

“Yea,”

He stayed home from work that day. She went out that night, having a girls night with Lee, never letting loose the details of why they broke up. And there was a heavy layer of makeup on her neck.

Late that night he came together. Killing Kristen, bringing her back, holding her life in his hands for just a few seconds of total control. It was devastatingly beautiful.

 

 

 

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Ed was off in the woods, showing Amaris the different types of fauna, well, mostly the different leaves. She loved crunching them under her yellow rubber duck galoshes. She would jump up and down in circles in the leaves, giggling every time they crunched. They were setting up a picnic. With peanut butter sandwiches, Apple slices, goldfish, and a sippy-cup full of water.

“Where' Apple?” Ed moved to give her the baggie of fruit, she frowned shaking her head back and forth violently. “Not dat, where my Apple?”

“Apple the owl?”

“Yea! Where Apple?”

“Maybe she's in the car? Do you want to go get her?” the toddler nodded intently, “Alrighty then, let's hurry up!” he stood gesturing for her to do the same, she lifted her arms up bouncing in place a little.

“Up, please!” Ed picked her up and settled her so that she was almost sitting on his arm, held close so that she wouldn't fall. Amaris leaned her little head against his shoulder, by the time they reached the car she had dozed off, lightly drooling and her tiny little fists gripping his jacket. She was so sweet. She was more than anything he could ever put into words, she made a warm, proud feeling bloom in his chest whenever he really looked at her. He would do anything to keep her safe, anything . With Apple the owl safely in hand, he walked back to their picnic. He held his daughter just a bit tighter when he saw the state of their picnic. The blanket was ruffled, the lunch box turned over and the plates upside down and the baggies empty. There were no wolves or coyotes in this park. He'd checked. And deer wouldn't have done this. The definitely human footprints leading away were a testament to that. He gently put Amaris down before quickly shoving the plates and plastic baggies into the lunch box. He picked up Amaris, who’d been sleepily watching and tied the blanket into a little sling for her to sleep in. The sun would be setting soon and his body heat and the blanket would keep her warmer than just her little peacoat. In no time she was back to drooling on his shoulder with Apple the owl clenched in one fist and part of his jacket in the other. Ed kept an arm around her, not wanting to risk her slipping, also so that if anyone attacked he could keep her safe. He followed the footprints, and with them every once in awhile he swore he saw blood, in rusty puddles in the more yellow of the leaves. It took maybe 37 minutes until he reached a small metal camper, the door was slightly ajar and he could see the lights on through the single window. It was practically covered with ivy. Hedera Helix. He carefully pulled the sling off, keeping Amaris safely cocooned within it before setting her into the crook of a tree --she wouldn’t fall unless she got up and jumped--and whispering for her to stay safe. She snored on. A breath later he braced himself and approached the trailer. The door softly screeched as he pulled it open. He had to duck through the opening. There was a figure crouched on the ground. It launched itself at him before he had a chance to identify it. Ed scrambled back with a yelp, tripping over his own feet as falling painfully on his bum as his glasses fell off. The figure was brandishing either a small log or a broken baseball bat over its head as if to swing it down straight into Ed. He had only just managed to shove his glasses back on his face when the figure dropped its weapon and fell to its knees. It was-

“M-Mr. Penguin!” the underworld kingpin looked horrible. His hair was greasy, his skin was a much more sickly pale. There were deep, dark bags under his eyes, and the right shirt sleeve was soaked through with dark red. Blood.

“Help me!” the penguin wheezed, “Please.” Before Ed could respond his eyes rolled back and he pitched forward. Oh. Well, he couldn’t just leave him there. The Penguin may be a career criminal but Ed had killed almost two people to count. Besides who else would help him through his metamorphosis? The journey back to the car was very difficult, he’d ended up half dragging half carrying the man while Amaris was safely tied to his front. Ed swore to work on his cardio and maybe some weights because the amount of breaks he had to take was, frankly, embarrassing. Once Amaris was tucked into her car seat and Penguin was buckled in the passenger side He started the drive home. It was nearly 10 pm.

 


 

 

And that was how they got to the situation they were in now; Amaris was eating her breakfast while Ed was scarfing down his own and keeping an eye on the criminal in his bed.

“Ugnh…”

“Who’s dat, Dada?”

“That’s a new friend,”

“Wha’s hiss name?”

“Mr. Penguin.”

“Mr. Pen-Penguwin?” she sounded out cautiously, trying to get it right the first try.

“Yes,”

“Why Mr. Penguwin in Dada’s bed? Did he have bad dream?”

“No, he’s in my bed because he’s hurt, and I can’t let a hurt guest sleep on the couch,” Amaris took in the information with a thoughtful look then went straight back to her breakfast. It was her favourite; oatmeal with carrot shavings, cinnamon, crushed walnuts, molasses, and milk. Mr. Penguin groaned again, Ed approached. “Hello sleepyhead!” he smiled. Mr. Penguin didn't smile back, it was more of a confused grimace. Before he promptly passed out again.

“Wha’ happen?” Amaris looked up with her large, inquisitive eyes.

“He went back to sleep,”

“Is he sleepy cuz he hurt?”

“Yes,”

“Can we watch Pooh bear ‘till he up again?”

“Why not?”

Ed didn’t mean to doze off while watching Winnie the Pooh, he’d just been a bit tired and the couch was comfy enough…

 

“Dada! Dada! Mr. Peguwin is up!” What? “Mr. Penguwin is up!” Oh! Ed sat up, Mr. Penguin was sitting upright in his bed, looking at him.

“Where am I? Who are you?”

“Hello, Mr. Penguin, I’m Edward Nygma, we’ve met before; at the GCPD.”

“Are you a cop?”

“No! No, I work in forensics!”

“Why am I here? And, who is that?”

“You were injured and you asked for help, and this is my daughter, Amaris.”

“Hiya, Mr. Penguwin!” Amaris waved before focussing back on her cartoons. Ed got up, walking over to the bed-ridden mobster.

“Hi...why are you helping me? Shouldn’t you be turning me in?”

“Oh no, I wouldn’t want to do that!”

“Why not?”

“Well, the thing is, I’ve started murdering people!” He whispered excitedly.

“How many?”

“Well, technically only one, but-” Ed cut himself off. The mobster scoffed and rolled his eyes.

“If you’re going to kill me just get it over with, it’d be welcome-”

“No! No, I want you to teach me!”

“You want me to what?’

“To teach me, to be a criminal, like you.”

“So you can take over the remains of my empire?”

“No! So I can help you get it back!” The mobster was giving him the same tired and confused look he’d been giving him for the past five minutes. “I’ve admired your work for awhile, and it would be an honour to assist the Penguin in his triumphant return to power.” The cuckoo clock rang, one, two, three, twelve coos. Noon. “Oh! It’s lunchtime! Would you like a grilled cheese? You kind of slept through breakfast --you must be thirsty!--I’ll get you some water to go with your sandwich!”

“Sammich?” the two men looked over, Amaris was looking over the back of the couch, her interest peaked at the mention of food.

“Yes, we’re having grilled cheese sandwiches!”

Oswald’s heart ached at the display. This man, Edward Nygma, and his daughter reminded him of his mother and how sweet and loving she’d always been. It seemed the universe wanted to mock him for his recent loss. But he couldn’t find it in himself to resent the smiling man or his toddler, it wasn’t their fault his mother was dead. It was his own. He should have looked after her better…

The grilled cheese was good, the bread was grilled with a heavy helping of butter that made it heavenly. Not to mention the cheeses, Swiss, Havarti, and real Cheddar. It was a meal that shouldn’t seem luxurious but somehow...it was. It felt like he was biting into something precious, that he was being invited into this intimate father-daughter meal. It tasted like home. Not his home, or his childhood, but home all the same. Then the little girl decided to pester him.

“Why you hurt?”

“I made a mistake and someone hurt me because of it.”

“They’s a big meanie!” How was he supposed to reply to that?   “Wha’s your colour?”

“What?”

“She means your favourite,” Nygma chipped in, smiling softly.

“Purple.”

“Mines yellow! Dada’s green!”

The toddler started a little ramble about colours and rainbows. Oswald couldn’t interrupt, the girl knew quite a bit about the history of colour meanings and uses...

“-I’m sorry, I completely forgot! I have an appointment and I don't’ have a sitter, could you look after her?” Ed jumped up, looking at the criminal with pleading eyes.

“What do I do?”

“Her nap time is usually in half an hour, just make sure she doesn’t hurt herself until I get back!”

“Okay…”

 


 

“Dr. Pierce, is love a weakness?”

”What do you think?” Dr. Pierce was a patient looking man with salt and pepper hair and kind eyes. He looked like the kind of man who could be a librarian at a children’s library if he wasn’t a psychiatrist.

“Well, if you love someone then they can hurt you, or someone can use them to hurt you.“

“Has someone? Used someone you cared about to hurt you?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to share?”

“There was a girl in my second-grade class, her name was Myrtle, Myrtle Jenkins. She was the only one who wanted to be friends with me,”

“And?”

“Father wasn’t happy that the only person I played with was a girl. He called me a sissy and said I needed to play sports like the other boys, he said that I needed to stop being a girly little freak.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Ashamed, I told Myrtle I couldn’t play with her anymore.”

“Why did that hurt?”

“I couldn’t help that no one else wanted to be my friend, that no one else wanted to be near the nerdy little freak!

“Ed, you’re not a freak. Being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And to answer your question, love shouldn’t be a weakness. People draw strength from those they care about, they get comfort from them. While it is true that someone could hurt you by using it against you, that doesn’t mean you can’t love.”

“Because you still need a support system?”

“Among other things.”

“Thank you, Dr. Peirce.”

“You’re welcome, Ed. I hope this doesn’t mean that your hallucinations have returned?”

“No, they haven’t.”

“Have a good day, Ed. I’ll see you next week.”

“Yea, next week.”

 


 

“Why do you want to go down this path? I assure you, friend, it only leads to pain. Especially if you have love. It’ll only weaken you.” Mr. Penguin pointed to Amaris’ bed, were she snored, snuggled up with Apple the owl, Charlie the narwhal, and the Teddy bear.

“Love is not a weakness Mr. Penguin. It’s a strength.”

“What if someone hurts her, threatens her?”

“I would make them wish they were never born. And everyone else would learn from their example.”

“You really want to help me get back my empire?”

“Yes.” it came out like a whisper, Ed couldn’t get the air in to do more than that. Would he really get the opportunity?

“Alright, then we’ve got some planning to do.” Mr. Penguin smiled, it was a wicked, twisted smile. Ed felt a little light-headed, it was really happening, he was actually going to be mentored by and help The Penguin.



 

Chapter Text

 

Ed missed three days of work tending to the Penguin. He had even gotten Amaris to a night-time sitter and they killed a man together. He was one of Galavan’s old lackeys, Mr. Leonard. He made such ugly noises as he died. And the Penguin looked so, powerful, captivating, ...desirable? With the man’s blood splattered across his face. It was a vile form of beauty, but still beauty in the highest order. It at first seemed like controlled chaos, but the more you looked at it, it was perfectly planned, every detailed made to appear chaotic from the outside. It was intricate. And it made Ed’s sweater feel a little tight around the collar. After Mr. Leonard was properly disposed of, he picked up Amaris and they all sang songs into the night, way past her bedtime. They all slept in past noon. Those three days were full or learning, games, and smiles. They were amazing. Then, of course, he had to go back to work. Before he’d always found work interesting, and if he was underwhelmed he had the equipment to do experiments and his own research like the decomp rates of different colours of tattoo ink and the ignition points of different explosive substances. But after four days at home either teaching Amaris or tending to the Penguin as he, in turn, became the pupil. It was boring. There hadn’t been a triple homicide in a month, and they hadn’t had a double homicide in at least three weeks. It wasn’t like he wished death upon random strangers, just it was his job, and his job wasn’t interesting or helpful unless people died. You couldn’t help solve a murder if no one was murdered. And it wasn’t like there was a shortage of horrible people who deserved it. Like the multitude of child and domestic abusers who’d somehow evaded prosecution and Blackgate. His phone rang. He fumbled around before answering it. Mr. Penguin. This was the third time today, it was getting a bit irritating. The complaints about mustard, the broken radiator, something about having a bad taste in books. --His library was meant to educate, and the only fiction books had the target audience of small children, for obvious reasons.--

“I found Galavan,”

“What?” No answer. He’d hung up. Great.

 


 

When he got home with Amaris the apartment felt empty. The criminal had only stayed three days, yet his absence felt odd, wrong. They had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. When he tucked Amaris in she asked about ‘Mr. Penguwin’.

“Is he gonna come back?”

“I don’t know… Goodnight, Amaris, Dada loves you,”

“Love you, Dada, g’night.” She yawned, she was snoring in a matter of seconds. Even though she’d been saying it every night for around two years it still warmed his heart. He pulled the installed curtain closed, wishing her a final goodnight. Then he sat on the couch and read, the words went by in a boring daze. After an hour there was a knock at the door. But who would-? He stood up, not bothering to mark his page, it wasn’t like he’d actually been paying attention to the book. When he opened the door Mr, Penguin was there, one of his goon’s behind him with a man slung over his shoulder.

“Hello again friend, I hope you don’t mind helping out a little more?” Ed grinned.

“Just stay quiet, Amaris is sleeping.”

 


 

Jim Gordon woke up to three people singing. Very off-key. Well, one of them was loudly humming and trying to follow along, there was a piano somewhere and… Where was he? The last thing he remembered was Galavan beating the hell out of him then Penguin’s face for some reason. He was in an apartment. Penguin was standing by a man at the piano and a toddler. They looked oddly familiar…

“What the hell?” He asked. Someone needed to explain something to him, because that was Ed, and presumably his daughter. What were they doing-? This is probably Ed’s apartment, so, why was Penguin here, and why was he here?

“Tha’s a bad word!” the toddler scolded, “He said a bad word!” she shouted, pointing at Jim and looking up at Ed. Penguin looked fondly at the kid, holding back his laughter.

Sorry, James, old friend , but there’s a strict language policy here,” Penguin said, with sarcastic emphasis on a few choice words. Jim looked between Penguin and Ed.

“Nygma?”

“Hi, there!”

“Long story, he’s a friend.” the criminal explained, relishing the look of utter confusion on Jim’s face.

 


 

 

Ed dropped Amaris off at pre-school and went to work with a quick goodbye, and a promise to tell Dr. Thompkins where her boyfriend was. It was easy to find her, she was shouting at Captain Barnes --really, why had Ms. Essen hired him?-- over the fact that a one James Gordon was an ‘armed and dangerous’ fugitive.

“Is your lover-man alive? Go to Grundy 805.” he left to go find another file to fill out while he wandered about the main hall of the precinct, eavesdropping on conversations as to keep an eye on Galavan’s movements and to keep up with the people who might possibly be joining Mr. Penguin in getting rid of him. It seemed all of them happened to like to shout at the Captain as the British, grey-haired man in a three-piece suit--it seemed Mr. Penguin wasn’t the only one who dressed up nicely-- Harvey Bullock, and another slim man with a goatee. He’d only been caught for lurking when they mentioned that no one knew where Jim Gordon was and he giggled. Whoops.

“Something funny, Nygma?”

“No detective I jus-”

“Do you know where Gordon is?” the grey haired man asked.

“Do you?” Harvey Bullock continued, they were all advancing on him. He couldn’t help looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

“Start speaking, windows,” grey-hair encouraged in a somewhat threatening way.

“I-ah- A diamond plate, a glowing grate, a place you never leave. Where am I?” He panicked, stuttering a bit before responding the way he normally did when nervous; with a riddle. Harvey looked annoyed, the grey-haired man looked confused.

“What?” Grey-hair asked.

“Home.” Ed turned to stare at the third man in shock. He answered the riddle, it wasn’t like it was a hard one but, still, he wasn’t used to actually getting answers. “Who’s home? Your home? Gordon’s at your home?”

“No--Yes--Who are you?”

“Lucius Fox,” the man said. Holding out a hand to shake.

“Edward Nygma,” he said, glancing down at the hand awkwardly. The man --Mr. Fox-- put his hand back down without a comment or falter in expression.

“Alfred Pennyworth. Right then, now that we’re all introduced take us to Gordon.”

“Roger Dodger.” Ed nodded before dropping his clipboard and file off in his office and making his way to the parking lot. The three men tailing him like ducklings the entire way. Ed unlocked his car and the three men followed to get in.

“How is the kiddo?” Harvey asked as Pennyworth gave the car seat a confused look.

“You’ll see her soon, we’re going to pick her up on the way.”

“Hi, Harbey!”

“Hey there, kiddo,” Harvey smiled as he stood, waiting for Ed to get her into her car seat, that was in between the two back seats.

“Who ‘s them?”

“These are some of Jim’s other friends,” Harvey answered, the toddler jerked up, remembering the morning.

“Jim said a bad word!” she said it with great conviction, Ed choked down a fond chuckle, smiling.

“Did he then?” Mr. Pennyworth asked, humour in his voice as he entertained Amaris.

“Yea!”

When they got to his building Dr. Thompkins and Jim were having a shouting match by her car. Upon her non-verbal request, Ed picked up Amaris.

“-Jim! I’m pregnant!” Ed forgot why Jim or any of the people were standing outside his apartment building. He didn’t pay attention to Jim as he walked past him to the men Ed drove there.

“Congratulations, Dr. Thompkins!”

“Thank you, Ed,”

“Wha’s that mean?”

“It means I’m going to have a baby,” Amaris’s eyes went wide with wonder.

“A baby? Can I be the baby’s friend?”

“Sure,” Dr. Thompkins chuckled, seemingly relaxed by Amaris.

“If you ever need a sitter,-”

“I know who to call, thank you, Ed.” She smiled and Ed went up to his apartment. Mr. Penguin was sitting at the table, looking a bit forlorn.

“You want some tea?” Ed asked, setting Amaris down.

“That would be nice,” the criminal sighed.

“Hi, Mr. Penguwin!”

“Hello to you, little friend,” he replied with a small smile. There was a bubble in his chest, a happy little bubble. Ed let the little bubble swell as he bustled about the kitchen, preparing a pot of tea. He put the kettle on the stove and while he waited for it to boil he made three sandwiches. The last one cut into four little triangles. He pulled out the chair with a booster seat and Amaris toddled over, letting herself be lifted into it before setting her attention to the sandwich and small carrot sticks sitting before her. She chatted with Mr. Penguin, talking about dinosaurs and all the other stuffed animals that they played with at her preschool that day. It was peaceful, domestic almost. Like a small family sitting together for dinner. There was a knock at the door and with it Ed dismissed that thought. It was Jim and his entourage of friends. Mr. Penguin left his conversation with Amaris to talk to the four men. Ed closed the door and seated himself at the table, listening intently to his daughter tell him about her day. When the tea was ready he brought a cup to his criminal mentor and offered some to the other men. Jim and Harvey refused --no surprise there-- and the other two, Mr. Pennyworth and Mr. Fox said yes. They thanked him and continued the discussion. The rest of the night went by almost like normal, with Ed ushering Amaris into the bathroom and shutting the door before helping her into her footie pajamas. Mr. Fox kept sending him glances, curious or worried Ed didn’t know. Though the softness in his intelligent eyes as he looked at Ed taking care of and reading to Amaris made Ed flush a tiny bit. Every time, if Ed met his gaze the man would give him a small smile and Ed would bashfully smile back. It was shier than any of his interactions with the Penguin had been. But that was probably only because he’d known so much about the criminal before actually meeting him. The group left not a half an hour after tea, Mr. Penguin lagging a little behind.

“Thank you, friend, I won’t forget what you’ve done for me,” this was genuine, real, earnest. Not like the sarcastic and showy way he talked to Jim, his ‘old friend’.

“What are friends for?” Ed replied. The penguin nodded.

“Goodbye,”

“Drop by next week if you can?” Ed couldn’t just let him go. He cursed himself for being clingy, this was why-

“Yes, I think I will.” Ed smiled. He would come back.

“Bye-bye Mr. Penguwin!” Amaris, who sat in bed waiting for another reading of ‘Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!’ called.

“Bye!” the criminal waved, smiling in a way that made Ed completely forget the amount of metaphorical blood on his hands and how dangerous he could be. Right now, Mr. Penguin was first and foremost a friend, almost family. It hurt to see him go. If Galvan had really orchestrated all the chaos in the city for the past month then Mr. Penguin could very well be headed straight to his death. Ed tried not to think about that as he tucked Amaris in for bed. Saying the customary ‘Dada loves you.’ He didn’t sleep in his own bed that night, even though he could have. It just didn’t feel right to, it was still property of the Penguin. And even though he had shared so much with the man, a bed was simply beyond the limits of friendship. Even if he would never know...

 

Chapter Text

 

Ed was shaking. How had he gotten to work? Why did the clock say it was 4:36 pm? He couldn’t remember anything after breakfast. And his reflection stood in the corner, noticeably not within the confines of a mirror.

“How did I-?”

“Sorry about that, I just thought we needed some fun!”

“What did you do? Why are you back?”

“You need more fun anyway! And you even get to finish it! Now, read.” The escaped reflection pointed with a flourish at a green envelope on his desk. There was a single question mark on the back. Inside the envelope was a letter. ~ You may have seen me here or there, we work together, it’s only fair. My initials are C.P. and I was new at the GCPD~

“Was?” Ed asked, voice shaking a little bit.

“Keep reading,” the reflection said with a devilish grin. He looked back down at the paper, clutched between his fingers, gulping. ~that is, until you murdered me.~

“Oh dear, What did you do?! Oh no, oh dear,-” breathing started to feel like a difficult task.

“I said, keep reading!” he was snarling now, and Ed had a harder time telling himself that the reflection wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t there. He looked, there was more to the letter. Why did there have to be more? ~Now my body is in a box, sent to the charming Lucius Fox. It’ll arrive, tomorrow by 10. You have something special to give him then. Hint: A nightmare for some. For others, a savior I come. My hand's cold and bleak. It's the warm hearts they seek. What am I?~

“Death.” his reflection nodded, still grinning like a menace. “So; you hijacked my body, killed one of my co-workers, sent the corpse to one of the few people who was nice to me, and now you want me to kill him too?”

“Oh, please he was more than just some guy who was nice to you. You love him, just like you loved Penguin.” Ed bristled at that, “Oh sorry,” he started sarcastically , “Mr. Penguin” that he said batting his eyelashes and mockingly posing like a lovestruck schoolgirl would in a cliche movie.

“Fine, I admire them, but that’s not-”

“Look what love got you with Penguin, he’s gone and you’re all lonely and pathetic,”

“It was a small crush if anything! It wasn’t love!”

“Methinks the Eddie doth protest too much.”

“Even if it was you heard Dr. Pierce!”

“You really listen to that quak?”

“Love isn’t a weakness!”

“Really? Because all it’s seemed to do is weaken you.”

“Are you going to hurt Amaris then too?”

“What? Why would I hurt her? She’s our daughter.”

“Isn’t that love?”

“That’s not the same.”

“It’s love, isn’t it?!” The reflection was silent. “You’re going to hurt her.”

“No, I won’t! She’s my daughter too!”

“What if you do?”

“I won’t!”

“But what if you do?!” the hallucination was silent, “I can’t let you hurt her, I can’t let you do this, and I can’t let you walk free.”

“They’ll throw us in Arkham.”

“I know.” the hallucination followed him as he walked to find someone he could trust. Commissioner Essen was there, checking in on how things were going.

“Ed, it’s-”

“I think I killed someone.”

“You- what?” Ed handed her the letter. She read it, her eyes getting wider as she did so. “Who wrote this letter?” She was almost whispering.

“I-I’ve been suffering from hallucinations for around ten years and, I can’t remember coming here today, I can’t remember anything that happened and my hallucination, he told me that he was ‘in charge’ of my body and he wrote that.”

“Your what?” The commissioner asked. Mirror-Ed was screaming.

“Reflection, he usually just taunts me from the mirror, but he’s been out of it and he killed someone, please I-I need help. I don’t want to hurt her! I don’t want to hurt Amaris!” The next few hours were a miserable blur. He signed a confession, gave Amaris to CPS and Dr. Pierce came to verify that Ed had been having trouble distinguishing reality and what went on in his head. His mirror self screaming and pitching a tantrum the whole time. Then the CPS agent came in with Amaris.

“Wha’s happening Dada? Why is you crying?” She asked, looking at him through the bars of the cell that seemed much more like a cage.

“Dada is sick, and I’m going to stay with the Doctors until I’m all better. Can you listen to the nice people until I’m better, please? Can you be good for me?” Her eyes were big and sad, she didn’t understand and it only made it worse. “Don’t worry, I’ll see you when I’m all better.”

“Edward Nygma?”

“Yes?”

“I’m here to transport you to Arkham Asylum.”

“No! Don’t take my Dada!”

“Amaris, it’s ok, he’s just taking me to the doctors, I’m going to be back before you know it!” He said, with a tight throat, a fake smile, and tears running down his face.

Arkham was a miserable place. It seemed to amplify all negative emotions and thoughts and squander the few positives. There was nothing that could distract him from how much he missed his life. His apartment, his job, and most of all; Amaris. After the first month, he lost track of time and stopped trying to figure out how the other patients’ minds worked. He ran into the Penguin once. Nothing could possibly be more wrong than seeing Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin, reduced to a pacified smiling doll. When the man attacked him for having ice-cream he’d tried to share and shivered away from the brute. That was the only time Ed saw him. Arkham became a miserable blur of off-white and dirty greys. With scratchy clothes that were far too big around and a bed that was only slightly less uncomfortable than the cold floor. It felt like a place that dreams came to die in, where happiness ended and cold detachment and insanity ruled. He felt almost brain-dead. He would rather be in a coma, at least then he wouldn’t be conscious while in this hell-hole. He wouldn’t be conscious to miss Amaris.

 

Chapter Text

 

The misery of Arkham was all-consuming. Sometimes he thought he’d be swallowed whole, tortured until he was a smiling little puppet like they’d done to the Penguin. Somehow Ed managed to fly under the radar of Hugo Strange for quite awhile, following all rules and requests through survival instincts. He didn’t start trouble, he didn’t socialize. He simply existed as an afterthought, sitting in the corner, not bothering to pay much attention to the room around him. Not unless there was a scuffle or any hint that he might be placed in danger. He didn’t complain, act out, he didn’t really do much of anything. Mostly he thought about Amaris. Hoping she was well, wishing her the best care and education she could get while he was barred from her. He thought of what they did to people here, what they might do to him. He thought about the poor man he’d killed. Carl Pinkney. He had only been with the GCPD for two months and fifteen days. Ed didn’t like thinking about Carl. He had been a young man, barely twenty and Ed had ripped his life from him. He’d ripped someone’s family apart, by killing their son. Ed couldn’t begin to imagine how he would feel if something happened to Amaris. He thought he deserved to rot in here, spending his days hidden in the corner and his nights wasting away to the screams of the insane. He knew he deserved this, but at the same time he knew this wasn’t treatment. Arkham knew that he experienced hallucinations and yet they did not medicate him, despite him being a danger to others. His reflection liked to spend his days screaming at Ed for turning himself in. It wasn’t until he blacked out that the Arkham staff really started paying attention to him. He’d been in the mess hall, eating the mush that was customary breakfast. Then he was standing on the table, fist clenched in his hair. Screaming. Screaming. His head was screaming. Imploding and Exploding and Crushed and Pulped and Noise and Chaos and- then he was on the floor, the guards were holding him down. He wasn’t sure if it was he was laughing or crying laughingcryingscreamingdying his head hurt. His lungs screeched and burned. Air! air breath life! needair needairtobreathtoliveneedairneadair N E E D  A I R !   Then he fainted. When he came to he was in the office of none other than Hugo Strange.

“Awake at last, I see.” Ed didn’t respond. “Well? Have you got anything to say about that stunt you pulled?”

“What did he do?” Mr. Strange (Professor? Dr.?) lifted an eyebrow, it peaked over the circular frames of his glasses.

Strange started talking. Avoiding the question and instead started talking about his word choice, asking why Ed had said ‘he’ instead of ‘I’. He had a funny way of asking questions, a smug sort of tone with a practiced neutral face. Ed found it irritating. “So you don't remember what you did?”

“I blacked out. When I came to the guards were tackling me to the floor.”

“You said, he before. Who might you have been referring to? Is it the same ‘he’ that took over and killed that police officer?” Hugo Strange’s tone was far too manipulative, it just felt reptilian, it was smooth but rubbed him all the wrong ways. It didn't help that the man was staring him down the way a snake would stare down its prey. The only person who made him more on edge was a figment of his imagination that was glaring at him, with arms crossed out of the corner of his eye.

“Yes.” Ed bit out. There was no point in lying, nothing to gain, and nothing he could lose by telling the truth as he was.

“How would you describe this separate persona?”

“Handsome, confident, the smarter half of the brain!” his reflection started, he was leaning against the wall, counting on his fingers as he listed the ways in which he was superior. Ed ignored him.

“He’s my reflection most times, though lately, he hasn't been staying inside mirrors. He likes to try to egg me on to do things that I don't want to. He likes to shout at and mock me.”

“And when you black out, he's the one that takes-over?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because he gloats about it afterward.”

“That's because I should be in charge! We have fun when I'm in charge! Whatever gave you the reins simply didn't know what they were doing!” this time Ed did roll his eyes. Which sent his reflection into a temper tantrum. Really he was going to get a headache from just the noise inside his head. Strange dismissed him back to his cell soon after that with only the promise of medication that would either prevent or cause more blackouts, Ed wasn't sure he trusted the so-called doctor to actually help him. He was also told that he would be allowed visitors. Oh. Before then, Ed had simply thought that no one would want to visit him. Why would they? He turned himself in for killing an officer who'd only been in the precinct for a few months. He hadn't really had that many friends either. After supper, he was led back to his cell and given a pill and water. He swallowed down the unknown medication willingly, for fear of how the guard would force him to take it if he hadn't.

Sleep came like a baseball bat to the skull. In that it was suddenly there and he woke up with the worst headache of his life. He felt like his head had been used as a bass drum and someone was trying to pry his eyes out of their sockets. It hurt. And with every scream of some other inmate, the pain would spike. Oh, and the medication didn’t banish his reflection, it only made him blurry around the edges and his voice distorted. Mirror-him only seemed to be more irate with him, given that he’d agreed to the medication without knowing what it was and calling him weak for not resisting. Needless to say, Edward Nygma had a less than fantastic morning. After lunch he received another dose, only barely waking up in time for supper. After which he was given another pill to swallow. He sat on the pallet bed and took his dose of what he was starting to think might just be a tranquilizer. The next time he woke at the lovely hour of what he could only guess was between one and three am. At least at this ‘ungodly hour’ --that would be what Harvey Bullock would dub it-- most of the louder inmates had been sedated into sleep.They upped his dose after that. A few more days passed -or maybe a week? Ed wasn’t sure anymore. All he knew was that every time he woke up was breakfast and he was promptly given a pill to swallow so he would sleep until the next morning. He had another nine or ten breakfasts before he saw two faces he was sure he wouldn’t ever see again. His reflection was sitting on the table, trying to make a weapon out of a piece of toast. And Ed was desperately trying to read a five-year-old newspaper. But the words kept swimming and his head kept fogging.

“See, if you hadn’t’ve turned us in you wouldn’t be miserable and stupid.”

“I’m not stupid.”

“You’ve been trying to read the same sentence for fifteen minutes,”

“The drugs have side effects,”

“Besides only being conscious for like three hours a day?”  Ed rolled his eyes, looking anywhere that wasn’t his disturbed duplicate. He met the gaze of Detective James Gordon and Mr. Lucius Fox. Jim was glaring at him as if his existence was a personal insult. Mr. Fox was regarding him with apprehension and maybe some concern. Why? Ed --well, Mirror-Ed really-- sent a corpse to him in the mail with the intent to also kill him. So why was this man still looking at him in the closest manner to kindness he’d gotten since his confession? “That’s why you love him right? Because he’s nice and forgiving and a total push-over?”

“Shut up!” Ed hissed back before standing. “Just to be sure, you are real?”

“What do you want Nygma?” Jim sounded so hateful.

“Can you tell Mrs. Pinkney I'm Sorry?”

“S-sure thing, Ed.”

Then in a blur, he was in Strange’s office. Sitting in the slightly cushioned seat facing the man himself. Had any of that been real? He wasn’t sure. His head hurt. His neck stung.

“Mr. Nygma, could you tell me something?” Ed squeezed his eyes shut, trying to remember how he’d gotten there. He had sat back down after talking to Gordon. Then- “Mr. Nygma?” What did Strange want? How had he- Why was he here? “You’ve cooperated beautifully with your treatments,” How is that a question? “Why are you being so cooperative? What do you want?”

“I want to be sane.” the only tell that Strange heard him was the little raise of one eyebrow. “I want to be sane and I want to be safe for her, I want to see my daughter again!” the tears were welling up and his head was spinning and throbbing. “I don’t want to be a danger to her, I want to be able to trust that I won’t hurt anyone when I’m asleep!” Why was he telling all this? Why was he-

“Thank you Mr. Nygma, this has been a rather elucidating, Guards? Mr. Nygma would like to be escorted back to his cell.” The brutes grabbed him. He was still reeling. What made him say all that? Why had he- Had he been drugged? Was he- tired. He passed out as soon as he reached his cell. They stopped giving him the pills. Hugo Strange and Dr. Peabody were gone. And with them, there were rumours of monsters escaping from the basement. What basement? The new warden and top psychiatrist were hacks. Strange and Peabody may have been mad scientists playing with their patients as if they were lab rats but at least they seemed qualified to run an insane asylum. Though at least they allowed him visitors and didn’t try to drug him with tranquilizers. Mr. Fox visited him twice, all pleasant conversation and repeated apologies on Ed’s side. Even if his reflection leaned over the other man, making faces and threatening gestures the whole time. Mr. Penguin visited him often. First every other Wednesday night. He was back to his old self, no longer the pacified doll Ed had encountered in his first weeks at Arkham. With each visit, the time between became less and the penguin became friendlier. He received a tin of cookies, a sweater, fuzzy socks, and an empty puzzle box. All of which amazed Ed, the penguin had found things and thought of him? He was flattered. He started to feel like himself, his reflection bothered him less if he was talking to or thinking about the once again Kingpin of the underworld. He listened to all of Oswald’s --he insisted Ed call him that-- stories about his father, about his step-family, Fish Mooney being alive and ruling a group of escaped monsters that did, in fact, come from the basement of Arkham. Edward Nygma wasn’t too surprised when Oswald told him about running for mayor. It was a smart move, he’d run both light and dark sides of the city. Then, only two days after the mayoral candidacy announcement Ed was being released by the warden. The man kept fearfully insisting that Ed had been evaluated and found sane. His reflection begged to differ. But then the limousine had pulled up and he understood, even before Oswald had stuck his head out the window.

“Hello, old friend!” Ed laughed, smiling freely for the first time in almost forever. The ride back from Arkham felt amazing. Free. He was finally out of that place. And his friend had done this, all of it. They pulled up to the mansion that Oswald had described in his stories. “If you don’t mind, this will be your room.” Ed hugged him.

“Thank you,”

“What are friends for? Now, get some sleep, I’m sure you’ll find the beds here much more comfortable than those at Arkham.” Oswald smiled at him, patting his shoulder and letting Ed get familiar with his surroundings. He slept like a baby that night, dreaming about seeing Amaris again after the six month and two-week stay at the asylum.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The deep olive suit fit so much better than anything he'd ever worn or owned before. It was a magnificent gift, though he didn't understand why Oswald had given it, or any of the other suits that were in his wardrobe. Or why he was letting Ed stay in his home. Or that he’d already given Ed a job. He'd already freed him from Arkham and visited him whilst there, and that was so much more than Ed had ever done for him. But if he asked again, like he had at Arkham -- Why are you being so kind to me?-- Oswald would just brush him off stating that their being friends was the reason, that he simply wanted to treat his friend. And given that Ed had always been a bit lacking in the friends' department he couldn’t dismiss the behaviour as unusual because he had nothing to compare it to. Besides, Oswald hadn’t exactly had friends before either. The dining room, or now more appropriately the campaign room was abustle with bodies. It was truly remarkable how Oswald could garner support like this, though he supposed a few were only here for the paycheck.

“I must say, you are looking like quite the dapper fellow,” Ed smiled, turning towards his friend. “I do hope it fits, I had to guess on the jacket,”

“It’s perfect, don’t worry, if it weren’t for you I’d still be falling asleep to the screams of the insane,”

“It becomes almost a white noise after awhile doesn’t it?”

“It does,” Ed laughed along, “Thank you again for getting me out of there,”

“Well, as a celebration of sorts on our combined freedoms, I’ve had our certificates framed!”

“Oswald I don't know how I could ever thank you, you’ve done so much-” Oswald held up a hand, stopping Ed in his tracks.

“There’s still one thing. Olga, if you would?” An older, larger woman with tight lips walked in ushering along Amaris. Amaris!

“Dada!” He dropped to his knees and Amaris was in his arms. He cried, so did Amaris. He kissed the top of her head, her forehead, smiling through tears as she cried. He picked her up, holding her close, her arms wrapped around his neck. She sniffled out words and phrases mostly consisting of missed you, Dada and don’t leave again, never leave again!

“It’s okay, Dada’s back, I’m not going anywhere.” He spoke around the pleasant lump in his throat. He was back. Everything was right now. It didn’t matter that someone had taken a picture of he and Amaris. He looked at Oswald, mouthing a tearful thank you. Oswald was smiling, his cold, green eyes soft, far too soft for the kingpin of Gotham’s underworld. But Ed couldn’t bring himself to want Oswald to harden, there was something so nice about this softness. It only made the reunion with Amaris, his daughter, his sweet little girl, all the much sweeter. Because his friend had done this for him, after everything, how could he ever repay him? Ever thank him? It didn’t matter now, what mattered that he was out of that dump and Amaris was in his arms.

 


 

Mayoral Candidate Cobblepot Reunites Single Father With Young Daughter

Valerie Vale

After a six and a half month stay in Arkham, single father Edward Nygma has been reunited with his three-year-old daughter all thanks to the mayoral candidate Oswald Cobblepot. He has been providing the little girl with a home for a while and has given the father a job. Along with the countless other people that have finally been given a decent job so that they can get back on their feet and return to their lives. Oswald Cobblepot, a reformed criminal himself, might be the key to bringing crime out of Gotham and rehabilitating criminals back into good citizens. . .

 


 

The first day as campaign manager was a little overwhelming, a completely new kind of work that he had never tried before. Amaris only left his side to go to the bathroom, and she would only go if he stood outside the door, waiting for her. He was relieved to see that Oswald had bought a training potty for her. She was potty trained before he was locked up in Arkham but she still was too small to use a normal toilet. He had to lift her up so that she could wash her hands in the sink. He missed this, having his daughter close. His reflection sat in the corner, smiling softly, staying quiet. He was so content, even if running a campaign was stressful. He enjoyed every challenging moment. The praise Oswald gave him and the sweet way he talked to Amaris made him so warm, like those soft sweaters Oswald gave him while he was in Arkham. The maid, a large woman, Olga if he recalled correctly eyed him suspiciously but soften her hard gaze when he was with Amaris. The woman seemed to like Oswald better, which made sense Ed had only been in the house since late the night before. She was so sweet with Amaris. Amaris even called her ‘Auntie Olga’. She listened to Amaris babble on and on about the adventures of Charlie the narwhal and his new sister who was round and pink. How they were heroes at the north pole, saving the baby polar bears from drowning. Or how Apple the owl was a gardener who grew the best strawberries. The whole day, he couldn’t keep a smile off his face. It was so good to be back. To be Amaris’ father, Oswald’s friend, to have a job that challenged him. He started to feel like himself again.

 

Chapter Text

He scheduled an appointment with Dr. Peirce the next day. Happy to get back to a competent psychiatrist that wouldn’t drug him with tranquilizers. That day he dropped off Amaris at pre-school himself. He ended up delayed from returning back to the mansion as Amaris insisted that she had to introduce everyone to her Dada who was “the best Dada in the whole world!” She had made three friends at her new school, a sweet and curious gaggle of girls. He was kneeling down, holding Amaris’ hand as she introduced him to Josie, Tien, and Nitza. Josie was quite assertive and, like most young children had an interesting way of framing her questions. She was darker than Amaris, with more tightly wound curls. Instead of being asked why he and Amaris looked almost nothing alike she asked him what colour his soul was. He didn’t know quite how to respond to that question. Thankfully, his daughter filled in for him.

“Dada’s librarbry,” Amaris stated matter of factly, still holding his hand as she nodded to her friends. The girls all avidly watched Josie as she thought.

“Amaris is yellow, and libaries are made of trees that are green! You are soul-family!” Josie proclaimed, patting the center of her chest. The other girls were ahhing and nodding their heads in agreement. Ed was deeply flattered, within five minutes one of Amaris’ friends was adamantly saying that he and his daughter had to be related through their being, not their blood. It was incredibly sweet. Tien tugged at his sleeve. She had a round face with wavy almost-black hair and almond eyes.

“Amaris says you make the bestest food! Can you teach me, pleeease?” He couldn’t help but smile and say;

“Of course I can!” Tien lit up and did what could only be described as a skipping happy dance. It was positively adorable.

“Do you like flowers?” Nitza asked, she had her mid-tone brown hair parted into two lopsided pigtails. She was half standing behind Tien and Josie, maybe a little shy.

“I think they’re very pretty,” It took Edward Nygma another fifteen and a half minutes to disengage conversation with the girls to get on his way back to the mansion. Of course not without giving Amaris a hug and kiss goodbye. He knew he wouldn’t have to worry about her safety there, half of the staff were on the Penguin’s payroll as well as their normal salary. Being close friends with the kingpin of the underworld had its perks. Sadly, it also came with a few downsides, one happened to be a 300 lb gorilla of a man named Butch Gilzean. Former right-hand-man of one Fish Mooney, who had a metal prosthetic hand. While the man was skilled in the workings of the criminal underworld, he had questionable loyalty and seemed to be the kind of man to take the easy route even if it would have a lower chance of success. Or lower satisfaction. A prime example would be the bribing of the vote counters to ensure Oswald’s winning. That was cheating. --I didn’t cheat! Ed flinched, pushing the memory down, he’d address that later with Dr. Pierce-- And how could a prize be satisfying if you didn’t earn it? Oswald had the support of the city, they were practically eating out of the palm of his hand. He didn’t need to bribe anyone to win, and if he did he would never know that the city truly supported him. Well, Ed knew how to fix that.

When Butch barged into the room Edward Nygma was not surprised; the brute preferred to confront things, including people, head-on. He was a bit insulted however to see the lack of preparation that went into his own confrontation, only shouting and running up to him. Being shoved into the wall did, however, bring back a few painful memories. When the gun was drawn in his face he was distinctly grateful that Amaris was in the other room with ‘Auntie Olga’. At least then if the gorilla pulled the trigger Amaris wouldn’t have to see it.

“You ruined everything!” He couldn't exactly respond with the man almost crushing his windpipe under the force of his forearm.

“Butch! What is the meaning of this?!” Oswald’s voice was not quite shrill but it was getting there, and the volume certainly allowed it to hurt through the hubbub easily.

“This sniveling son-of-a-bitch just cost you the election!” He hoped that Butch wasn't yet loud enough to be overheard in the other room. He'd hate to have Amaris pick up on his awful language.

“How?” somehow the soft, betrayed tone was so much more terrifying than near-blind rage.

“He went to the counters and took back all the money, said you wanted to run an honest election!”

“Ed, is this true?”

“Yes, I-”

“How could you? After all I’ve done for you...You knew how much this meant to me!” Please, just let me explain!

“You didn’t need to fix the race to win!” Ed insisted, just then cheering started. “Look!” Oswald turned, just in time for-

“-And this is history being made, Candidate Oswald Cobblepot, former kingpin of the criminal underworld has won by a landslide!”

“I still won? But how?” The smile and disbelieving joy on his face and in his voice was precious. Like a small treasure Edward was allowed to witness and save in his memory.

“The people love you, if you've fixed the race you never would have known,” the smile Oswald gave him made his heart swell like a bubble.

“The people of Gotham aren't the only ones who love him,” his reflection added on, giving him a pointed look. Ed swallowed, keeping his gaze fixed on Oswald's smile.

“But, how did you know?”

“I believe in you, even when you don't believe in yourself,” there were happy tears welling in the corners of Oswald's eyes, the sharp icy green was so soft… like it was melting. Oswald pushed the gun down so it wasn't in Edward's face.

“Put that thing away. You, you never had faith in me!” Oswald rounded on Butch and Ed almost felt sorry for the brute, Oswald's rage was truly a force to be reckoned with.

“Which is why you're hot under the collar and why I'm starting to think love might not be so bad, y'know... if you ever tell him,” Edward ignored the hallucination, or tried to, he could still feel the heat of a blush on his face. He couldn't quite remember the rest of the exchange between his friend and the gorilla. A bunch of hostile words back and forth, the man might've been demoted. But Ed was too busy replaying Oswald's soft melting eyes and smile in his head, wandering away from the two in a happy feeling that almost made him a bit delirious. Once in the other room, Amaris hopped into his waiting arms and started insisting she had to congratulate Mr. Penguwin for winning may-er. Olga was biting her lip and trying to pinch her mouth to hide the fond smile. When Ed was back Butch was sulking in the corner and Oswald was being congratulated by various campaign staff that had stayed for the announcement. Oswald smiled and waved them over upon entry. Amaris tried three times to say ‘congratulations’ after being coached through it about four times she gave in and simply said “You did good! Yay!” Oswald’s face shone so brightly, so softly. Ed couldn't help but feel like the moon reflecting back the Sun’s brilliance with his smile. They shared a few chuckles at the expense of Amaris’ adorable mispronunciations and mishaps. She didn't seem to mind much, only to puff up and smile brighter under their attention.

The formal speech in which Oswald accepted the rank of Mayor the next day and thanked the people was very similar. Oswald was speaking with genuine cheer and joy from earning the position and he was simply thriving with the support of the people. Ed had been so caught off by Oswald's announcing of his new position that he'd clamored up to the platform with Amaris still balanced on one hip. Which lead to a little bit of an awkward exchange of trying to find a free arm for Oswald to pull up along with his own to celebrate the victory. Amaris seemed to love the cheering, or more likely, the effect it seemed to have on Oswald and by that effect, him as well. She was beaming brighter than the sun. He felt so light, like the bubble swelling in his chest was buoying him up like a balloon making him almost weightless on his feet. His reflection smiled from the audience, barely visible in the crowd and constant flash of cameras. He remains present but barely there and content throughout the victory parade. When they drove through the city Amaris sat between them, holding their hands and smiling at all the people as they waved with the other hand. She kept calling out “Hi!” and looking up between him and Oswald. She sat on his hip at the outdoor opening for a soup kitchen in the narrows, and several ribbon cuttings. Oswald leaned over and whispered something to her when she was being unruly before a photo and she would immediately stop and pose, smiling brightly and resting her hands on Ed's shoulder in the closest thing to elegant that Ed had ever seen in a three-year-old. The third or fourth time around he caught what Oswald had been telling her. “Remember to act like a princess,” in her pretty yellow dress she looked like a pint-sized princess, and given that her only reference for what princesses behaved like was the Disney kind… it was effective. The day was a blur of smiles, photos, and celebration.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

He had to promise Amaris that this time he would be right back home from the Doctor’s. It had taken a good while which is why he'd started to leave a good half-hour in advance. After a final goodbye kiss, he was on his way. Walking into Dr. Peirce's office by itself felt so therapeutic. He was going to see a real doctor again. Someone who wouldn't treat him as a guinea pig or drug him with sedatives.

"How are you?"

"Much better now that I'm out of there."

"Arkham?" A nod. "How was it?"

"Dehumanizing. I felt like an afterthought in my own life. Like I wasn't myself, I was just my loneliness and discomfort."

"Were you medicated at all?"

"With sedatives only, nothing that made my reflection go away."

"Is he still here?"

"Yes, but he's been a lot more docile now, he seems happy to be out of there."

"What does he do?"

"Mostly sits back and watches things happen, with occasional remarks about Oswald."

"Oh, Congratulations on your new position,"

"Thank you, Doctor," Dr. Peirce nodded. "About Oswald, I-" he breathed, his reflection was leaning in the corner of the room. He gave a small nod of encouragement. "I think I love him,"

"And?"

"What should I do?"

"What do you think?"

"If I tell him I don't want to seem ungrateful for all that he's done for me. What if he's insulted by my feelings and decides that I'm not appropriate for the position and throws me out?!"

"Edward, take a deep breath. How about you explain your circumstances and we try to look at this calmly?" Ed nodded and started the explanation.

"Now, he's taken care of your daughter while you were incarcerated, picked you up on your release, given you a place to stay and a job?'

"Yes."

"I may not know the man, Edward, but I think he likes you a great deal. And that your feelings for him won't be a deal breaker,"

 

Chapter Text

 

 

After resigning to the will of his three-year-old daughter with one pink glittery bow in his hair and one in hers --which counted as matching to his little princess in pink-- he found Oswald in the dining room, where his mother's statue stood. He was talking to her.

"Have I made you proud?"

"I believe the answer is yes," Oswald spun, wiping his red eyes.

"What?"

"She would be proud, you're the mayor and king of this city, the people love you, what more could someone ask for?" Ed smiled, encouraging his friend.

"Someone to share it with," Oswald answered, looking back to the statue. Ed didn't breathe. He had to be reading too far into it. Oswald didn't mean him, he probably didn't even consider Ed as material for a partner in anything other than crime anyway.

 

 

When the shots started up Ed dove in front of Amaris. hugging her to his front as his back faced the bullet spray. She was shaking. Ed saw the red hoods climb the stairs and topple Ms. Kapelput's head from her stone shoulders. He was frozen in horror, hugging his daughter staring back and forth between the toppled head and Oswald.

 

 

“You mean through me,” the GCPD went silent. “It is good to be back!” he muttered to himself. Everyone stared, a select few grimaced. “Harvey, finally getting some peace, now that Jim’s nowhere to be seen?”

“What the hell are you wearing?” That was not the response Ed expected. Maybe; What are you doing here? You don't work here? Or even That’s none of your damn business! Not that.

“I beg your pardon?”

“On your head,” Ed reached, his hand met stiff fabric. Oh. The bow.

“My daughter wanted us to match.” he shrugged. In truth Amaris had all but pitched a tantrum, complaining that she and Dada weren’t going to match and that for the special statue ceremony, and they had to match. So he had relented, letting her put one of the glitter-covered pink bows in his hair, while the other went in hers. Harvey nodded, smirking a little. It wasn’t a malicious smirk, just one of simple amusement. Harvey always did like children.

“Your what?!” Ed turned his focus to Captain Barnes, who looked like he had mistaken a glass of vinegar for water. Disgusted, shocked, and horrified. How had he not known? Ed was a bit confused, he had never been secretive about Amaris, and he talked about her when he worked there. Often even. In truth, he had gushed about his daughter to Ms. Essen, Kristen, Dr. Thompkins, Detective Bullock, and anyone else who would listen. Especially now that the newspapers had almost no pictures of him without his daughter. This was just a testament to how little attention Barnes had paid him. Though his inattention to the newspapers for the past few weeks --at the very least-- was a bit concerning.

“Dada!” a little someone slammed into the back of his legs, hugging them tightly. He grunted upon unexpected impact, it didn't manage to buckle his knees. Ed looked down over his shoulder, speak of the devil or... in this case the little angel. All he could see was a mop of dark curls and a glittery pink bow. One that matched his perfectly. He smiled fondly down at the little girl holding onto his legs. After the events of that morning, he wasn’t too surprised.

“What are you doing here? I thought you were going to stay with Ms. Peggy?” He asked, keeping his tone soft, calm, Oswald called it his ‘Amaris voice’ because he apparently always used it when talking to her. Little did Oswald know, Ed always spoke to children in this tone, it was just a habit he couldn't find the need --or desire-- to break.

“Aah-anh, the red-hoods gonna get Dada!” she buried her face into his pant leg. Peggy ran in, out of breath, she mouthed a quick ‘I’m sorry’, he nodded, dismissing her, he could take care of Amaris. She was his little girl, and he’d taken care of her for years, after all. “They’s gonna hurt you!” the toddler continued, still pressing her face into the back of his pant leg.

“Can you look at me, jellybean?” she poked her head out, looking up. “Dada is gonna be just fine, see?” He tried in his best soothing voice.

“They’s gonna hurt you bad! I can’t let them!” Well, so much for that plan…

“Alright, how about you stay here and protect me?” her eyes were bright with the prospect. ‘Protecting’ him would mean she got to spend the entire day with him. And it would make her a hero. She would probably draw this later, bring it to show-and-tell at school, brag about it to Tien, Josie, and Nitza. Oswald or Olga would stick it on the fridge as well, with her other artworks.

“Yea!” She let go of his legs and let him pick her up. She was sitting on his arm, making her head just a bit lower than his. She was holding onto the shoulder of his suit and glaring at various GCPD members with pursed lips. Most of them were smiling or biting back a smile. Ed couldn't help but smile as well, she was just too adorable, especially when trying to appear threatening. He almost snorted when he saw Captain Barnes, the man looked like he was going to drop dead from shock.

“Captain, this is my daughter, Amaris. Amaris, this is Captain Barnes. He's the boss of the GCPD.” Barnes was still staring, slack-jawed, frozen in a rather unflattering expression. Ed almost wished a bug would fly into the man’s mouth.

“Where's Ms. Sarah?” Amaris turned her little head over to look at him, he smiled back at her.

“She's the commissioner now,” he watched as she screwed up her little face in thought, with the tiniest and cutest of pouts.

“Com-mish-onner?” she asked, sounding out the new word slowly in the tone that meant she wanted an explanation.

“That means she's his boss.” Ed pointed at Barnes. Who was still standing with his mouth hanging open like a large, discoloured fish. Amaris peered over at him.

“Boss of the boss?” she asked, looking back up for confirmation. Ed smiled and nodded, Amaris smiled, proud of her own deductive reasoning.

“Someone please tell me who the hell thought it was a good idea to give a kid to a cop-killer, who should be in the looney-bin!?” Barnes had apparently had sufficiently dealt with his initial freeze-stage of shock and was moving on. Amaris gasped at the ‘bad word’, scandalized.

“I would never place her in harm’s way.” he held her tighter to himself, he’d already turned himself into Arkham, proving just what he’d said. He hated people thinking that he would ever let himself hurt another innocent person, much less a child, much less his own daughter. No, he wasn’t like they thought, he wasn’t like his parents, he wouldn’t, he couldn’t.

“You’ve killed two cops, who else would you-!”

“-You’re a meanie!” Amris shouted, interrupting the police captain, before blowing a raspberry at him. “Leave my Dada alone! And stop saying bad words!” The tension dropped immediately from Ed’s shoulders. Harvey looked half-impressed and half-trying to hold back his laughter. He didn’t do a very good job of it.

“Hi, Harvey!” Amaris waved, moving her attention from foe to almost-friend.

“Hi kiddo,” Harvey smiled back, without Jim he was a very decent guy. Barnes didn’t try to say another thing as Amaris glared at him again.

The rest of the GCPD mostly kept their distance, peacefully going about their work and only flash a few smiles at him and Amaris. Dr. Lee Thompkins slapped him. It was for Carl Pinkney. She was instantly berated by the shouting fit of a very angry toddler. Ed kept trying to get her to calm down and “please stop shouting at her, I deserved that.” it wasn’t very effective. Then again Amaris was stubborn enough to rival Oswald. That was probably how he could get her to sit or stand still for photos and events other than his ingenious 'act like a princess'  line.

Kristen said hello and asked how they were doing. Amaris immediately stole the spotlight proclaiming: “I’m protecting Dada from the redheads!”  That was met with understandable confusion.

“She means the red hood gang, that attacked Oswald this morning and destroyed the statue of his mother outside the library.”

“Oh, well, I’m sure you'll do a great job!” Amaris preened at the praise. “You're better?” Kristen asked, focussing back on him.

“I'm still seeing Dr. Pierce, I have more of a security blanket now, more people to help tell me when I've not been myself or-”

“Good.” Kristen cut him off, her eyes telling him it's okay, don't worry. I won't attack. I won't hurt. I forgive you. He smiled, nodding silently. Amaris stayed quiet, she knew this was an adult conversation she wouldn't understand even if explained to her.

Mr. Lucius Fox was kind and easy-going. He entertained Amaris’ questions and smiled at the two of them throughout their stay in the forensic lab. He was a huge help in ensuring that Amaris didn't get hurt touching something she shouldn't. He distracted her with origami at his desk whenever she got to close to some dangerous substance.

 

 

After that, it was lunch at the mansion. They ate peacefully enough and Olga whisked Amaris away for a midday nap. Oswald was still very upset, pacing back and forth with a glass of wine. While Ed was still mulling over the strange substance they'd found on one of the hoods left behind. Then he'd spilled the red that he hadn't in fact been drinking on his sleeve.

"Oh, just great!"

"Oh dear, Oswald take a deep breath," Ed dipped a napkin in water then grabbed the salt shaker and poured the tiny crystals onto the stain and dabbed at it. The wine came out easily.

"How did you-?"

"Trick I learned a few years back at the lab, most solvents have as their base-" he smiled.

"Not another riddle," Oswald warned at seeing him prepare to speak. Ed stopped, knowing his friend was frustrated.

"Salt! While sodium salt is a food additive, potassium salts are used in soaps and detergents!"

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"I know where the red hoods are!"

 

 

When they got to the scene Butch was already out front with a machine gun. The red hood gang was all dead, thanks to him.
Barnes was still being standoffish, really, what was the man's problem? Ed just wanted to help solve the case. Lucius was fun to work with as he was neither sloppy nor inobservant. The only point that confused Ed was the suits and placement of bodies. It was like they just waited to get shot. None of them had seemed to defend themselves. Almost as if they were betrayed... He had some work to do.

 

 

“Mr. Pennyworth could you please look after her for a sec? I need to take care of something,”

“Alright then, go on”

Tricking Butch into thinking that he was betraying Oswald was almost insultingly easy. Though the part where Butch had insisted "but you're his guy" confused Ed. What did 'his guy' mean? Surely Butch hadn't thought that Oswald felt that way about him? He shook his head and continued with the plan, telling Butch exactly what he was going to do otherwise the very cooperative Victor Zsasz would kill Tabitha. It was a simple plan. And he trusted the Alfred to keep his daughter safely out of this, after all, Bruce Wayne was still alive.

 

The plan did not go...well, as planned.

 

The club was in chaos, people screamed, Amaris cried, and Ed clawed at the hands on his throat. Until he stopped, arms going limp at his sides and eyes rolled back. Alfred held up Amaris as she wailed, kicking and screaming, trying to get free so she could get to her father. Then a bottle crashed over Butch’s head and the 300-pound gorilla collapsed.

“Ed?! ED!?” A gasp. He coughed, alive. Amaris kicked Alfred in the stomach, he let her go and she ran. With little legs, she quickly weaved her way through the crowd.

“Dada!” she clung to Edward’s shirt, crying. “They hurt you! I didn’t protect you!”

“Shh, shh, Amaris, I’m fine, see?” She calmed only a hair, still clutching his shirt within little vice-like gripping fists. They went home ten minutes later. Oswald wanted them both home where it was safe and where wounds could be tended in peace.

 

 

“Kiss it better!” the toddler demanded, she had refused to change into her pajamas and both Ed and Oswald had been chasing her across the mansion for at least fifteen minutes. How she could go so fast on such little legs was beyond Ed. He was easily winded from the combination of running and his mistreated throat. Why had they let Olga take the night off? At least if she was here the odds of corralling Amaris to bed might be a bit better. And a bit less exhausting. “Kiss it better!” she repeated, staring straight at Oswald and pointing to Ed. Oswald looked at him, confused, silently asking for help on how to settle her. They had already allowed her to cover the bruises in several --six-- Winnie the Pooh themed children’s band-aids. Ed flushed.

“Amaris, he uh, but-” Ed tried to formulate why that was inappropriate but he couldn’t think of any way to explain this to a three-year-old. While she was clever he wasn’t sure how to explain that an adult kissing another adult on the neck wasn’t a thing that friends did. Well, not people who were exclusively friends. And as much as Ed might want that, now was not the time.

“Kiss it better! Then, I go ta bed!” she huffed, crossing her arms. Great, now there was no way of getting out of it. Why were toddlers so naturally stubborn? How could they fit all that energy and will in their little bodies?

“Alright, Oswald will -uh- kiss it better,”

“I will?” Oswald asked, with wide eyes and a face that looked as red as Ed’s felt.

"Yes," Ed confirmed with pleading eyes focussed on the man that he harbored more than platonic feelings for. He leaned his head back while Oswald planted a quick kiss half on bruised skin, half on band-aid. His face was burning.

"I go ta bed now," Amaris announced and turned to skip down the hall into her room. They followed her, she did, in fact, get into bed and settle into the covers. She only asked for a good night kiss from each of them before quickly dozing off. It seemed all that running did tire her out after all.

 

Oswald insisted that Edward go to his own bed while he brought tea up. Edward didn't protest. Even when Oswald had wrapped him up in his late father's robe over his undershirt and pajama pants. Or when Oswald pressed a teacup into his hands.

"Ginger tea with lemon, my mother's remedy for a sore throat," the day beginning and ending with Oswald's mother. It almost seemed like she was looking after them, avenging the wrongs done to her by helping them. "Are you sure you don't need a doctor?"

"I'll be fine," he coughed again, his throat scraped raw inside and out, like he'd swallowed gravel.

"I still don't understand why you couldn't tell me what you were doing,"

"Your shock had to be genuine when Butch was unmasked, the people had to believe it, and they did. And once again you're the city's hero."

"Our hero too,"  his reflection added. Ed swallowed, hoping his smile didn't waiver. Oswald couldn't quite bring himself to smile. Ed hoped he hadn't said anything wrong.

"You were almost killed," Oswald insisted, his eyes much more piercing than usual.

"And you saved me, again" Edward remedied, smiling still, trying to get up the courage to tell the man in front of him what he'd been trying to for a while. But was now the right time? "I hope you know Oswald, I would do anything for you," he tried to push as much of what he felt into the words as possible. Oswald's gaze was locked on him, as it had been the whole conversation. "You can always count on me," He hated how it sounded like he was going to cry, he couldn't cry here. Not now. Oswald looked almost amazed, but that couldn't be right, could it? Then he was leaning in, and for a second Ed's traitorous mind thought the mobster was actually going to kiss him.

Instead, he found himself pulled into a hug that felt too intimate to be called that. Arms clutching him close and shifting to fist the robe and hold him closer.

"Thank you," Edward could hear the smile in his friend's voice. "Thank you," he repeated breathlessly. Ed smiled too, wanting to kick the part of himself that felt --not disappointed, more unsatisfied. He wanted to kick himself from wanting more from the man. The embrace lasted so long, but not nearly long enough. He wished that the other man could stay there and hold him through the night. But he could hardly ask that, it wasn't the least bit appropriate, even though he'd been on the brink of death an hour or two ago. Oswald left to go to his own room and bed. Leaving Ed, selfishly wanting more from the man who literally saved his life. 

"You should tell him,"  his reflection spoke.

"I will," Ed swallowed, "-just not today,"

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The next morning he was feeling significantly better, his throat only a fraction of the soreness of the previous evening. He was letting Amaris sleep in a little more, he'd been up since 5:36 am. He’d eaten and had been working on Oswald’s schedule and various other small tasks to keep his mind off of what he’d promised mirror-him, or well, himself the night before. He’d just given Peggy a bomb in a shoe box to rid of some minor trouble when Oswald walked in. He gulped. Very aware of the promise he’d made himself. And of how good Oswald looked.

He was freshly dressed and just finished his morning routine, if the strong scent of hair product and the drying eyeliner were anything to go by. He looked nervous, like he wanted to say something. Had Edward done something wrong? He swallowed, was Oswald upset that he hadn’t tracked down Butch and Tabitha yet? Was he-?

“Oswald- I- here is your mayoral schedule for next week, and your schedule as Kingpin,” Oswald blinked, taking the papers in hand, “And I couldn’t locate Butch or Tabitha, I’m sorry if I’ve let you down,”

“You have done nothing of the sort! I would be lost without you!” It was Ed’s turn to blink, and then stare.

“Tell him,” and he wanted to. But his throat was closing up, as if the gorilla still had his meaty fist wrapped around it.

“Ed?”

“Yes?” he answered, almost frantic, anything to distract from the subject his reflection was trying to push.

“There is something I need to tell you,” Ed was having a hard time breathing. What could it be? If Oswald looked so worried, what-

“What is it?” Edward asked.

“He loves us too?” mirror-Ed asked, gently curious. Edward wanted to tell him to hush and stop being ridiculous. While it may not have been impossible for Oswald to feel the same way it was probability of that was very unlikely. As much as it hurt to think that way.

Oswald is trying to say something, opening and closing his mouth, swallowing down nothing-

“You know what? I forget!” he says, waving dismissively. Pretending that whatever he was going to say wasn’t important. Edward knew better.

Did Oswald not trust him?

 

The school visit was not too bad, because of the fiasco the other day Amaris felt she needed to improve her protecting skills. Which gave him a bridge to the children there. Many of the children were quite civil. Even when asking about the winnie the pooh bandaids on his bruised throat. Amaris dragged him around and insisted that he ought to draw crayon pictures with her and the other kids.

“I bet she’ll love it if you draw her protecting you,” his reflection suggested, he was on the other side of her, hovering with a fond look in his eye. Everything in his head had been so peaceful since he got out of Arkham, sure, his reflection disagreed with him on some points still, but they agreed on the important things, like their daughter... like Oswald. Edward settled down in the chair that was comically small compared to his legs, actually with the way they were bent, coming to a point several inches above the chair, it made him resemble a daddy long legs spider. He chuckled to himself, in a way he was very similar to the spider, he was a Dada long legs. His reflection groaned, “Ugh, that’s awful!”

As his reflection predicted Amaris was ecstatic about the drawing, and most of the surrounding children seemed to catch her joy like some extreme contagion smiles quickly passing from child to child. Soon they passed to a few adults. But one child was not with the group, he was sitting alone at an empty table. Then Oswald talked him into coming to play and socialize with the other children. Well, Edward didn’t hear what he said, though he did see the boy gain confidence and a smile while Oswald seemed patient and encouraging. Edward was once again reminded of how amazing the man was.

Two minutes later Oswald invited him to dinner.

Dinner. They’d had dinner together before, almost countless times now. It should not have felt like a big deal. But the way that Oswald had been looking at him, they way he had been talking to him. The way Oswald seemed to be holding back something. Whatever it was, it was important and Oswald was having a hard time telling him. Probably the same thing from this morning. Which made Ed feel a little lackluster, had he truly made himself out to be so untrustworthy? Did his stunt last night go too far? Was Oswald now trying to get rid of him nicely? He really hoped not.

 

The wine store smelled like oak and alcohol, granted it smelled like expensive alcohol. There were a few adults milling about through the aisles. Amaris curiously took in her surroundings, looking all about as he moved to the red section. Oswald liked a good red wine. What were they eating? He should have asked, then he would know what would pair well.

“It’s impossible to find the perfect bottle isn’t it?” a woman asked from behind his right shoulder, he turned to look at her.

“Kristen?” he responded, why was Kristen talking like that? And why had she gotten a style makeover and bleached her hair? Where were her glasses?

“No? My name is Isabella Flynn.” The woman sound a little annoyed. Amaris was eyeing her as if she was a jigsaw puzzle she couldn't solve. He agreed with her in that sentiment.

“I’m sorry, you just look like a friend of mine,” he excused himself, awkwardly retreating from the store and deciding against wine. While he was quite certain he wasn’t hallucinating the woman he was quite sure that he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to continue being near the woman.

“That was freaky.” Ed agreed with his reflection. Scientifically speaking, there were probably at least five people in the world who looked exactly like you, and by that extension every person you knew. Running into one of these people however, was quite strange.

“Why’s Ms.Kristen have yellow hair?” Amaris asked as he buckled her into the car seat.

“That wasn’t Kristen, I don’t know why she looks like Kristen.”

“Is the yellow hair Kristen a cone?”

“Yes, she does look like a clone! What a smart little jellybean I have here!” Amaris giggled, high pitched peels of laughter filling the limo and settling his stomach from the noxious strangeness of the Kristen look-alike: Isabella Flynn.

 

Amaris was first to greet Oswald when they arrived home.

“I made a picture!” she had, and would not let Edward see it throughout the day, nor had she shown it to anyone, as far as he knew. Amaris had folded it up and put it in her pocket, insisting it was a surprise and a good secret. Now, with her stubby little fingers she was carefully unfolding it. It was crayon, like the one Edward had made for her at the school. It was the three of them and Olga. Under the tallest figure with glasses was the label “my dada”, then the little figure in the middle was Amaris (“me”), and there was “Onti Olga” and under the last figure was “my uh-thr dada”. Edward blushed up to his ears and Oswald coughed, his face a little redder than normal. Amaris was confused at the reactions but went along without complaint to the dining room.

Dinner was fantastic and overwhelming. There was so much food, Ed shouldn’t have worried about pairings any wine he would have chosen (if he had gotten any) would have worked for at least part of the spread. He, of course, profusely apologised for the lack of wine, which Oswald waved off in his usual forgiving manner. Maybe he hadn’t angered the man after all…

Amaris sat beside him on a booster seat, eating mashed potatoes and the roast pieces that Ed cut up for her. Oswald was looking at them softly, though he always seemed to cough and look away whenever he got caught.

“Tell him,”

“Edward, Amaris, I can’t say how much you’ve helped me, I’m sure I would not be where I am without the two of you, and I hate to ask any more of you both.” Edward watched with bated breath, Oswald was finally going to say whatever it was, Amaris was busy chewing away at her little piece of roast, not trying to interrupt and speak, she wouldn’t until she’d finished chewing. “But, my mother- she believed that life is best when you are brave enough to chase what’s worthwhile. A man comes to a crossroads in his life and he has two choices, live safely but unsatisfied, or have courage and risk it all for something greater. I choose courage, and I’d like to say…uh...”

“I’m in love with you!” It took a second for Ed to realise that he was the one who’d spoken.

“That was a little less graceful than I was thinking of, but okay,”

“You- I- what?”

“Yay!” Amaris shouted, a great big grin on her face. “We a real fam-ly?!”

“Only if Oswald-”

“I can’t imagine life without the two of you here.” Oswald cut him off, gently. “I love you, Ed. And I can’t think of anything better than helping you raise your little girl,” Oh gosh. Oho gosh.

“Jackpot.” his reflection sounded about as amazed as he was.

“Mr.Penguwin is uh-ter dada?”

“Yes?” Edward answered, looking to the man across the table for confirmation.

“Well, little one, it seems you have two fathers now!” Oswald smiled brightly, his voice bright and soft. “But, I’m sure calling both of us dada will get confusing-”

“Can I call papa?” she asked, anxiously waiting for a response from her new almost-guardian.

“I’d love to be your papa.” Oswald smiled, his eyes melting in warmth. That warmth seemed to swallow the world whole, worry, anxieties, it all just melted away. He and Oswald were going to be a thing, Oswald wanted to be involved, he wanted to be a parent to Amaris. It didn’t matter what went on outside this room, this mansion. World war three could break out and nothing would change how whole and content Edward Nygma felt. He could feel that same warmth, love, and contentedness from his reflection, who looked just as happy and slightly less dazed.

And the feeling didn’t go away, all throughout the rest of supper it stayed. It stayed when Oswald helped him tuck in Amaris (who insisted on bed time kissed from both of her guardians).

“Goodnight, Amaris, dada loves you,”

“Sweet dreams, little one,”

“Love you, dada! Love you, papa! Night-night!”

Oswald was smiling so softly, eyes filled with wonder. Ed knew exactly how he felt, it was how he felt when he first became Amaris’ father. It was wholly amazing, the knowledge that you had a little life to nourish, a little heart to hold, to love and watch it grow.

“I understand why my mother put up with me now,” Oswald whispered, still quite awed.

“I’m sure you were a wonderful child!” Edward joked.

“I’ll have you know I was a spoiled brat!”

“Well, I think your mother raised a perfect gentleman,” he retorted, meaning it wholeheartedly.

“You flatterer!” Oswald accused, hand over his heart, trying his best to sound aghast, grinning mischief. Ed laughed and Oswald joined in, joy in the little crinkles around his eyes.

“For what it’s worth, I really do think you’re a gentleman, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you want to be there for Amaris,”

“Edward, I love you,-”

“And that still hasn’t really sunk in, I fear I might be dreaming,” He wished that it would settle in as real soon, because he knew that however happy he was now, it would be more so.

“Oh, Edward, I do love you, and I am over the moon that you feel the same, I don’t know what I would do without you. Honestly, I am not sure I would even be alive had I not met you and your daughter, you found me at my worst and I cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve done, letting me be a part of your little family is the greatest privilege I’ve ever been granted. I was sure when my mother died that I would never find anything that would make life worth living again, that without her to make proud my goals and aspirations were nothing. I am so glad you’ve proved me wrong.” Tears had gathered in his eyes. He did not know how to respond to that. Wow. How Oswald could speak so sincerely was beyond him, but he was certainly grateful.

“Oswald, you make me feel whole, not that there’s a piece missing without you, though I certainly missed you like there was, but I’ve always been at war with myself, my head has always been too loud. Before, Amaris was the only thing I could ever agree on, but with you, I feel like all of me is okay, like all of me can be content and not in constant struggle. I feel like you accept all of me, since you’ve been around the voice in my head isn’t out to get me anymore. And I finally feel like one whole person.” Oh, well, that felt awkward and somewhat nauseating but now that he’d said it all, it was a lot better, like a weight was lifted off of him. Oswald pulled him into a hug. Maybe that was how Oswald could speak so sincerely, it felt nice afterwards, especially now that he wasn’t being shut down for his feelings. Right, Oswald did care, he wasn’t like the Nashtons. A lot of people weren’t like the Nashtons, Edward wished he would remember that more.

“I am sorry that you felt that way, but glad that I can help,” Edward ducked down to kiss him. He could feel Oswald smile against his lips.

“I love you,” Ed whispered, eyes wide and utterly afraid of how honest he was being, as if somehow it might be ripped from him. But it wasn’t fleeting.

 

“I love you too, goodnight.” Oswald whispered back, his smile reassuring Edward that this was in fact real, that smile was too radiant to be imagined.