Chapter 1: Chapter One
It was a Friday night and The Iceberg Lounge was packed full of customers with very deep pockets. Business had been booming since Oswald cut back on his…extra curricular activities, which meant way less trouble from everyone’s favourite masked idiot, the Bat. But if the news a certain bodyguard was about to bring him, judging by the look on his face, did anything to change that? Well, blood would be spilled.
“Sir?” The man was practically trembling.
Oswald rolled his eyes and set his glass down onto table harder than he meant to. “What is it?!”
“The Riddler, he's waiting for you in your office.”
A spark of interest shot through his bones, but he masked his features. Well, this could turn out to be a pleasantly eventful evening indeed.
When Oswald didn’t respond right away the man quickly explained himself. “You told us to let him into your office without question should he ever show up-"
“Yes, yes.” Oswald waved a hand through the air, dismissing the man out of sight and mind.
Edward Nygma, once a stranger, then a friend. Once an enemy now an…acquaintance? Oswald wasn't sure what to categorize what they were doing, though he supposed it didn't matter. These 'visits' had been becoming more frequent and more intensely flirtatious, which definitely bode well. Though he was understandably wary, Edward seemed more genuine in these visits than he had in years.
With a smirk, Oswald downed his whiskey, straightened his jacket, and headed to his office without a second thought.
Feeling dramatic, Oswald pushed the twin doors open, stepping inside, not bothering to hide his cheeky grin. But before he could say anything, he noticed Ed slouching unusually in his chair (and not sitting on the edge of his desk like usual to get a scoff from Oswald, though he secretly loved it). His uncapped head was hanging between his shoulders, and his gloved left hand was tightly gripping a silver cane with a dark green handle; the leather clearly straining with the effort. Something was very wrong.
The bottle of Blue Label Oswald kept for such an occasion was immediately removed from the bottom drawer. Oswald uncapped it and poured them both tumblers, before sliding Ed's gently across the desk and sitting down; Ed caught it without looking up, ever the showoff.
Getting comfortable, he leaned back in his chair and chased the smooth burn that only came with good whiskey, before gesturing to Ed, who still hadn't lifted his unkempt head.
“What can I do for you, Ed?”
Finally, and slowly, Ed lifted his head, revealing his pale and gaunt face. Oswald could feel a twitch of concern go through him but pressed on before giving to much of himself away. He waited for Ed to speak; he knew this dance.
“I ran into Ivy,” was all he gave as an immediate explanation.
“Oh?” Oswald clenched his fists before sighing and taking another drink, still staring at Ed, waiting for him to finish.
“I went to talk to her about a plant I was…interested in,” Ed pulled his left hand up to cover a raspy cough, cradling his right arm. “But it would seem Harley Quinn is more protective of her than previously thought.”
Oswald pinched the bridge of his nose. “I probably could have told you that. Though something tells me you're not giving me the whole story.”
Ed uncharacteristically downed his whiskey, before letting out a sputtering cough and grimace. Showing this amount of weakness was unusual, and Oswald felt slightly uncomfortable because of it.
“I may have unknowingly insulted Ivy along the way. I then had to stop Harley from attacking me with those vile animals, which, well, led to Ivy attacking me with some sort of toxin. I fled, but not before her mysterious toxin had infected me, clearly. I started showing symptoms two days ago.”
“Symptoms?” Oswald asked annoyed, missing their usual banter.
“Loss of energy, asthmatic attacks, and complete numbness in my right hand. It seems to be spreading to my arm as we speak, judging by my grey, scaly skin.” Ed pulled the glove his cradled arm, revealing a stiff grey hand.
“No offense, Ed, but…” Oswald sat forward taking another drink and trying not to flinch at the horrific sight. “Why are you coming to me with this? Surely you have some chemist allies who would be more suited in helping you with this problem? Perhaps talk to Ivy…without insulting her?”
Putting the glove back on his hand, Ed shook his head, jaw starting to twitch. “Tried that already. And it’s not that simple. I know people with chemist backgrounds, but no one adept enough at this type of biology and definitely no botanists. I may,” he cleared his throat and scowled again, “need some of your connections with this problem.” Leaning forward Ed fidgeted, but his voice was soft. “You’re the only one I trust with this knowledge, Oswald. Please, will you help me?”
Oswald wanted to make show of it, make it seem like it might be a hassle, but as close as they'd become recently, he couldn't stop himself from speaking immediately, heart pounding. “Of course, Ed. Whatever you need.”
As if being popped by a pin, Ed visibly deflated, looking more vulnerable than he had seen him in a decade. “I appreciate it, Oswald. I will find some way to repay you.” Ed stood and donned his bowler hat, before turning to leave. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Oswald watched him leave, annoyed at the flutter in his heart. The room filled with loud music before immediately disappearing as the door clicked shut, leaving Oswald in silence.
When Oswald was sure he was completely alone again, he put his head in his hands, softly groaning, and rubbing his fingers against his eyes. This was not what Oswald had been hoping for this the evening. Just when he thought they had been finally getting somewhere closer to romance, fucking Ivy and Harley's stupid dogs had to throw them a curve ball. Fucking Ed Nygma, nothing could ever be simple with him, and fuck his own heart for still gasping for breath whenever Edward was near. What he wished he could do was find some gorgeous blond that would be easy to get along with and adore him unconditionally; but in this city? You'd be better off looking for a flying fucking pig (which was bound to happen any day now, statistically).
Putting a brave face on, Oswald did the only thing he could at the moment; he called Fries.
He had been reckless and stupid going to see Ivy; he knew it before he even stepped foot inside that god forsaken green house. The air was sickly sweet, a hazy fog had settled close to the ground, which was lined with shrubbery and plants alike, all lovingly tended to. His spies had been clear, Harley Quinn had ended things with Joker six months ago (finally) and was hiding with Poison Ivy until things blew over; everyone knew the Clown hated betrayal more than anything, including the Bat. Everyone knew Joker hadn't treated Quinn right, but Gotham was still wary for Joker to inevitably strike hard because of her absence.
Though Harley was a doctor, she wasn't bright enough with strategy or laying low, and neither was Ivy, which is why he thought he could waltz right in (as a friend of course) without being accosted. Ed had been altruistic in his intentions, had only wanted one plant, but a provocation could not be unmet, and well, here he was. He’d only been looking for a flower he could infuse into a wine that would allow the drinker to expel…a light amount of secrets without the shame or guilt; he'd hoped to drink a glass with Oswald. He felt their flirtation was reaching a climax, and he knew Oswald would never act first; the man was unbearably stubborn. Unfortunately, he found he couldn't either, and had hoped this flower would give them a little nudge. Ivy clearly wasn't in a giving mood. But now that he had Oswald's help in getting rid of this infernal toxin, perhaps they could continue where they had left of once this was all over; he truly had the utmost faith in his fine feathered friend.
When Edward finally stumbled into his home in the Narrows, he was exhausted. The stiff numbness had reached his shoulder, and the coughing had become nearly unbearable. It was clear he didn't have much time left, but for now, sleep.
“What?” Ed snapped, voice full of gravel.
“It's me.” Oswald's familiar voice made Ed perk up slightly for traitorous reasons. “Go to the old North Refrigeration facility for 10:00. I have someone who might be able to help us.”
Before Ed could verbally protest, Oswald hung up. He knew what that location meant. Fucking Freeze. For unrelated reasons, a pleasant shiver went through Ed. Us, Oswald had said. Not you, us. Ed shook his head and rubbed his eyes; he couldn't afford to be distracted. It was time to get to work.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Wow, so sorry for the wait! Nothing like having writers block for 8 months! I hope you like it. Constructive criticism is welcome.
Oswald always hated this part of getting Freeze's help; standing in his frigid lab, shivering even though he's bundled up in just about every winter coat he had. His nose was red and dripping, and it was becoming hard to speak without his teeth chattering. Ed was clearly in the same predicament, but he was much better at hiding it, by simply standing there with his arms crossed and glaring at a shirtless Mr. Freeze with fogged up glasses.
Fries held up two vials, one clear and one blue, frowning and grumbling under his breath.
At his left, he heard Ed scoff. “Don’t you think I’ve done this already, I’m not an idiot.”
“Yet you were dumb enough to get poisoned. Shut up and let me do my work, Riddler.”
Ed simply scowled harder but kept his mouth shut. Had there been any heat in the room at all, Oswald was sure his face would've went red.
“Are you able to…do whatever it is you were trying to do?” Oswald asked hopefully. Anything to get them out of this icy hell.
“Separating the toxin from his blood is proving to be pointless. It keeps replicating itself and attaching to each blood cell. The only thing that will work is the cure. Most likely a part of the plant. Which I don't have,” Freeze said with a final glare at Ed.
“Yes well I didn't have time to go searching for the super-secret-poisonous-shrubbery while I was there. Is there really nothing else you can try?” Ed whined, “You’ve been at this for hours.”
“Believe it or not, science takes time. If I come up with something I'll let you know, but until then…” Freeze looked at them, before shrugging and letting out a deep sigh, “Keep your fingers crossed.”
Oswald tapped the drivers seat in front of him and leaned back against the leather upholstery. “And you've tried all Ivy's hideouts?''
Ed turned his wrathful glare to Oswald. “Oh gee, why didn't I think of that!”
Rolling his eyes, and trying not to let his disappointment show, Oswald rubbed at his leg. “You don't have to be a dick about it.”
He remained quiet for the remainder of the car ride, even as it jostled and dipped violently through pot holes. Oswald could feel Ed fidgeting at his side; could even see his mouth opening and closing in the windows reflection. Guilt was an emotion Ed was accustomed to, but he still didn't know how to say sorry. Typical. Sometimes Oswald wanted to punch him in his beautiful face.
When the car pulled into Oswald's driveway, Ed finally seemed to become aware of his surroundings. “This isn't my place…”
“Perceptive as ever, Ed,” Oswald sighed. “It’s not safe for you to be on your own while you're out of commission. It's best if you stay with me where you're protected.”
Rubbing at his shoulder, Ed exited the car once the driver opened the door for them, Oswald following suit. He could see Ed taking in the familiar Van Dahl Estate grounds; the manicured lawns, pruned gardens, and the antique but looked-after brick. He’d had no idea the place was even still standing.
“I imagine you still know your way around,” Oswald said once the front door closed behind them. “You can have your old room if you'd like.”
Looking more awkward than he could remembers seeing him in years, Ed cleared his throat and nodded. “Thank you, Oswald. I suppose this isn't easy for you, having me back here but I…” he coughed heavily into a closed fist, before meeting his eyes. “I appreciate everything you're doing for me. Truly.”
“Yes well,” Oswald nodded, “can’t have the only other intelligent mind in the entire city waste away now can I.”
What Oswald wasn't expecting was the toothy, thousand-watt smile in return. There's the man you fell in love with. Smiling back, he hoped he didn't look as smitten as he felt. There were so many reasons this was a bad idea, but for the life of him, as Ed looked at him fondly, Oswald couldn't think of a good reason why.
“Oswald I…” He coughed with his good hand before grimacing.
“Are you alright?” Oswald gasped, clenching his pants in lieu of a cane and no leg brace.
“Yes, I-” Ed once again coughed violently, before resting his head against the side of his mattress. “I’m alright. I didn’t mean to wake you.” His face was pale, and his good arm was shaking; though he tried to hide it, his chest was heaving and each breath wheezed.
“I’m not stupid, Ed,” Oswald snapped.
Without answering, Ed attempted to pull himself up onto the bed without help, even as a bead of sweat ran down his temple. Oswald, without needing to be asked, limped over to help, using his good side to help push Ed back onto the mattress so he could lie down. His chest heaved, the buttons on Nygma’s dark green pajama shirt straining, damp with sweat.
“Speak,” Oswald spoke sternly, glaring at Ed’s struggling form.
“I….” Ed swallowed, before glaring at the wall opposite to them with a slightly flushed face. “I can’t feel my left leg. And my…my entire side right is numb.”
Oswald gently lifted Ed’s shirt to reveal his grey, stiff side, ribs quaking with the pressure.
“At least I’m ambidextrous,” He forced out, laughing pathetically.
Oswald softly ran his fingertips over Ed’s straining ribs, leaving goosebumps in his wake. Clenching his jaw, he finally willed himself to speak. “Ed, I…”
As he trailed off, he felt Ed looking at him intently, almost straining to hear him finish with that soft look in his eye; the one that made Oswald take risks, the one that made Oswald feel brave, and so very in love.
“You’re going to be okay. I swear I will get you an antidote.” Though Oswald was unsure if he truly could, he knew that if the time came to it, he would risk help from Batman; surely he’d have an answer, even if it meant Arkham for life, he wasn’t about to let Ed die. He stroked his hair until Ed fell asleep before retiring to his own room.
“Yes?” Ed croaked, responding to the knocking.
“Mr. Penguin request you get up now. He has gift for you,” came the tired reply of Olga.
Ed put on his glasses before struggling to sit up. How the hell was he supposed to get downstairs on his own. His silver cane was nowhere to be found. Before accepting defeat, there was a softer knock at the door.
“Ed?” Oswald spoke softly, but loud enough he could be heard. “May I come in?”
Suddenly nervous, Ed brushed his fingers quickly through his hair and rubbed at his cheeks to bring colour into them. He cleared his throat, “Come in.”
Before entering, Oswald poked his smiling face in, lighting up once he saw Ed. In a surprisingly good mood, Oswald hobbled over to the bed and sat down, bouncing slightly on the soft mattress with a long rectangular box held between eager fingers. He wore a fitted black suit with a pale blue shirt and purple tie; his hair was coiffed and he looked rather fetching.
“I hope you don’t mind…” He thrust the neatly wrapped box towards Ed, who slowly accepted it. Whatever it was, it was slightly heavy, and clearly solid.
“Open it!” Oswald laughed when Ed shook it next to his ear.
After tearing open the green wrapping paper and purple bow, Ed unfolded the tissue paper inside, to find a beautifully custom-made cane. His heart thudded in his chest as he slowly set aside the box, before reaching inside and holding the cane in a firm grip. This was not something they did, give each other gifts; but somehow the sentiment caused a burning lump in Ed’s throat as he inspected it. It was clearly hand made and expensive. Though it looked like it was for aesthetic purposes only, he could easily feel that it had been made specifically with his condition in mind. Ed ran his shaking fingers up the polished gold stem, before gripping the curved top handle, which was in the shape of a question mark.
“Oswald…” he asked softly, before directing his gaze to the man in question. “How did you get this made so quickly?”
If even possible, Oswald just grinned wider, eyes sparkling. “Never mind that, do you like it?” Though he tried not to show it, his nervousness was given away by the way he nibbled endearingly at his lip.
“I... I love it, Oswald. Thank you,” Ed answered sincerely.
For a moment, Oswald had the decency to look bashful; he shrugged before quickly standing up and looking anywhere but at Ed. With rosy cheeks, he bit his lip again “It’s nothing, don’t mention it. Now, will you come downstairs. Breakfast is ready.”
Lost for words, Ed simply watched Oswald leave in a flurry of shy smiles and red-faced embarrassment. If he wasn't before, he was an absolute goner now.
Testing out his new cane, Ed tossed on a housecoat that was left at the foot of his bed, before slowly making his way downstairs to the dining room, one step at a time. He was truly glad he was alone in this endeavor, which he assumed Oswald had planned. He was red faced and out of breath, but he had time to compose himself before sitting at the table across from Oswald.
Breakfast was a polite affair in terms of conversation, they stayed away from anything too personal, other than Oswald asking how he was feeling. The food was magnificent, as usual, and it looked like Oswald had pulled out all the stops because of Ed’s arrival. There was way more food than the two of them could've eaten in a week.
Once Olga shooed them out of the dining room, Oswald took Ed to his library. He instructed Ed to help him gather books relating to botany, biology, and poisons.
“It’s time,” Oswald announced, “for us to do some research while we wait for the Human Freezer to find your cure.”
Ed handed him a thick tome called “Poisonous Plantation and Their Remedies” to Oswald, before reaching for another. “Are you sure this is worth it? I don’t imagine you have many books on this specific subject.”
“Believe it or not, I do.” Oswald fell back onto the loveseat and flipped open a dusty "Volume I of XII" in his lap. “When Ivy and I were partners, I let her store all of her boring plant books with my own. It seems to be quite fortuitous for us now, don’t you think?” He grinned at Ed before beginning to read the Index.
Softly, Ed smiled back and sat down next to him with a book of his own. Quite fortuitous indeed.
Once the pile of books in front of them was stacked high, nearly three hours had passed. Oswald leaned back and cracked his spine and neck, groaning in pain. “Tea?”
“Mmm,” Ed nodded, without looking up from his paragraph and coughing into his good hand.
This was becoming intolerable. Neither of them had found anything remotely helpful yet. Ed waited for Oswald to stand up and limp out of the room, silently noting the stiffness in his leg from prolonged sitting. Once he was alone, he sat back, took off his glasses, and rubbed at his straining eyes.
An hour into their venture Ed had suggested using Oswald’s desktop computer.
“If you want to spend your time dealing with dial-up, be my guest, Ed,” he had sighed with barely a glance.
All he could do was nod in agreement and keep focusing on the blurry text in front of him, though it felt completely hopeless.
Oswald and Olga returned with tea and a plate of triangle sandwiches for a snack, Olga not saying anything except glaring at Ed as if it would make him disappear. The tea was fragrant and hot, but soothing against his sore throat and it seemed to warm the edges of his paralyzed extremities. Ginger tea with honey. He had made this specifically for him.
“Anything?” Oswald asked, hopeful after taking a sip of his tea.
“Not really. There was something about a plant called White Baneberry, but it says the effects aren't nearly as prolonged.”
“I've reached the same conclusions. It would seem we need more than a few dusty old books to find the answers we need.” Oswald took another sip of his tea, before finishing off a sandwich. “I’ve tried contacting Ivy multiple times, hoping maybe our past acquaintance would help, but it seems she has abandoned her past life for that unstable Quinn woman.” He spat her name as if it held a disgusting taste in his mouth.
“Agreed.” Ed leaned back, cradling his arm and sighing with closed eyes.
He could feel Oswald watching him, but he didn’t have it in him to care anymore. The numbness in his right side was spreading up his neck, making it hard to move his head; his right eye was blurry but he wasn’t about to tell Oswald that, lest he become frantic. His worry was endearing but so unexpected that it was almost uncomfortable.
The next few hours were fairly quiet, except for the moment of frustration that overcame Ed resulting in him attempting to use the computer. An hour into waiting for each page to load, Ed gave up and limped back over to the couch to continue reading.
“Told you,” Oswald grumbled without looking up from his page.
They broke for lunch, then returned to it. Only when night started to fall, did they get up and have dinner; the conversation remained polite and civil, though both of their eyes were tired and blurry from reading so many boring texts.
“Why don’t we take a break?” Oswald suggested once they’d finished their meals.
“Isn’t that what we’re doing?”
He rolled his eyes fondly, “I meant for the night. I was gifted a rather pleasant Bordeaux that needs to be finished. Drinks in the parlor?”
“I’d love to, though I’d hoped to take a bath first. If that’s alright, of course,” Ed asked awkwardly, clearing his throat.
“Of course! If you need any help, myself or Olga would be happy to assist you,” Oswald blushed.
At that moment Olga entered the room to clear the table. At Oswald’s offer, she glared at them both and swore in her native tongue.
It was a bit of a trek to get upstairs and into the bathroom, but once he finally made it and settled into the warm bubble bath, he groaned into his hand. The smell of the lavender soap and the heat of the water did nothing to quell his stress, the numbness in his arms and leg more noticeable than ever. He felt hopeless, and more than a little frustrated that for all the intelligence in the world, he couldn’t figure out what was happening to his body. Ed groaned, and leaned his head back, fighting back traitorous tears that threatened to pour. He had to believe that Oswald would do everything in his power to help cure him. It was all he had left.
“Are you listening to Fleetwood Mac?”
Oswald whipped around, eyes wide and slightly embarrassed at being caught. He straightened his disheveled jacket before responding.
“I didn’t think you were that cultured,” Oswald grinned.
Ed chuckled, stepping forward and accepting the drink Oswald offered.
“I don’t live under a rock, you know. I dabble.” Though that wasn’t entirely true, Ed relished in the laugh he received. He favoured classical music, but he was known to enjoy the occasional Queen song.
“Cheers,” Oswald said, offering up his glass.
“Are we celebrating something?”
“Why not? To us.”
Heat spread through Ed’s face and chest. It had a nice ring to it. He raised his glass and coughed into his shoulder. “To us.”
Oswald motioned for Ed to sit down after handing him his cane. He poured the rest of the wine into his own glass, before setting it down onto the coffee table, and heading over to his tray of spirits.
“Any preference?” Oswald asked as he sniffed a decanter full of amber liquid.
“No, just nothing too sweet.” He downed the rest of his glass and leaned his head back with eyes closed, allowing a comfortable warmth overtake his body.
The sound of liquid being poured into his wine glass startled him forwards, causing a pungent liquor to spill over the sides. Oswald giggled lightly, before filling his own glass and sitting down unceremoniously next to Ed on the loveseat.
“I don’t remember the last time we sat and had a drink together,” Oswald sighed, tipping his head back and looking at Ed with glassy eyes.
“A year ago, at the Lounge. It was Martin’s birthday, I think,” Ed quickly rattled out before looking at his companion. When had they gotten so close? Their arms pressed tightly together, and there was barely an inch between their thighs. Oswald was still gazing at him, long eyelashes fluttering against his blush covered cheekbones.
Oswald sighed dreamily, “that’s right. Though I remember the conversation still being quite stilted.”
A comfortable silence wove itself about the room as they slouched further on the couch. Oswald’s head rested on Ed’s shoulder, while Ed leaned heavily on the armrest, robe falling open to reveal his silk pajamas. They knew they might wake to regret their own vulnerability, but for the moment, they allowed the alcohol to loosen the tension between them.
The music playing in the background went quiet, leaving a static noise to fill the air until a soft melody took over, a classical album that they had both grown fond of years ago. It made Ed’s heart hurt.
Oswald softly began to hum the melody, the vibration seeming to reach the tip of Ed’s toes. He squeezed his eyes shut tight, basking in the slightly off-key tune.
“I love this song,” Ed softly whispered, feeling Oswald’s head lift from his shoulder.
“Do you remember when you used to play it for me, on the nights when I couldn’t sleep for the nightmares.”
Ed could feel Oswald’s stare burrowing into the side of his face, and he was helpless to look away once he met his eyes. He swallowed hard and nodded, voice catching in his suddenly dry throat, “I do.”
Oswald licked his lips, and Ed couldn’t stop himself from following it. He knew that he wasn’t imagining the desire in his eyes, a desire he thought he’d never see again, especially up close.
“Ed…” Oswald whispered, eyes glancing down to his lips before meeting his gaze again.
The way he said his name sent a shiver down Ed’s spine, and before he knew it, they were slowly leaning towards each other like gravity, eye’s fluttering closed. He could feel the rapid puffs of breath coming from Oswald’s mouth and dancing over his dry lips; god how he wanted a taste.
A loud RING jolted them apart, their chests heaving, and eyes wide with shock. After a second and third ring, Oswald clumsily scrambled for his cell phone, flipping it open.
“What?!” His tone was murderous. It would’ve been terrifying had there not been a gorgeous blush to his cheeks and a daze in his eyes.
Ed fell backwards and rubbed his face, internally kicking himself for letting Oswald get so close. He barely heard the terse conversation.
Once Oswald flipped his phone angrily shut, he sighed and looked anywhere but Ed. “That was Fries, he says he may have something. We’re to meet him tomorrow afternoon.”