Oswald grumbled through his morning routine, shuffling slowly around his room this way and that. Today was the interview with Valerie Vale and he was dreading it. More than a nosy reporter sticking her nose where it didn’t belong, Oswald hated the idea that she had insisted on using his home as a backdrop for the interview. A way to, ‘make him more personable’, as she’d so nicely put it. Oswald would never have agreed if it were up to him, but his chief of staff would never steer him wrong, of that much he was certain. If Edward said it was best, so it was.
The door opened suddenly, startling Oswald from his ire.
“Good morning Mr. Mayor,” Ed’s chipper voice rang out.
“Edward, good morning. But I thought we talked about this, there is no reason to keep referring to me as ‘Mr. Mayor’. And you might want to knock next time--I might not have been decent.”
Oswald hoped his laugh would shield his embarrassment. Even hinting that Edward might see him in some state of undress was absurd and entirely inappropriate, if not a bit of wishful thinking.
“My apologies, the title just has a certain ring to it. And no need to worry about that, I know you’re stubborn about dressing until the last minute, figured the coast would be clear.”
Figured it would be clear. And if it hadn’t? Oswald shuttered at the idea.
“Right,” he smacked a palm to his forehead when Ed turned his back, “and can I ask exactly why you’ve shown up in my room unannounced?”
Ed looked like a puppy that had been scorned for jumping on the couch.
“I’m sorry Oswald, I didn’t mean to intrude I only thought--”
“No! No, don’t be silly you aren’t intruding. I’m just giving you a hard time, happy to have you.”
Oswald forgot that Ed didn’t always understand the fine line between sarcasm and sincerity.
“Thank you, Oswald.”
His shy smile could have melted the arctic.
“Please, continue. You said you were here for something.”
Ed lit up, “Yes, I thought I would help you dress for your interview with Valerie Vale today.”
Oswald didn’t have the heart to remind Ed how much more knowledge he possessed about fashion than his chief of staff, the excitement on his face was enough to silence Oswald for decades. Help him dress, those careful hands skirting his arms and shoulders, close enough to feel the warmth of Ed’s skin on his own. Oswald wasn’t sure how much more his heart could take in one morning.
He beamed at Edward, “I think that is a fine idea.”
Ed was awash in decision, his hands carded through every one of Oswald’s suits at least four separate times. He held up various neckerchiefs and ties, mumbling things under his breath that Oswald strained to hear. He was happy to watch Ed buzz about his closet all day but eventually a choice had to be made.
“I think this is the one. Sharp but not too flashy--we’ve got to make the people believe you can be humble.”
Oswald pressed a hand to his chest in mock offense.
“The King of Gotham’s underworld, seen as boastful? Well, I would never,” he exalted.
Edward laughed, nearly wrinkling the jacket he held as he hugged it to his chest. His own expression took on something dramatically bashful.
“Of course, sir. I would never wish to offend--I can’t say I’ve ever met a man more modest than you!”
Oswald tried to ignore the feeling in chest when Ed called him ‘sir’. He stood with his chest puffed out, circling Ed with exaggerated movement, both of them fighting back fits of laughter.
“Now, dress the King before his humble heart grows cold!”
Ed saluted and made his way to lay out Oswald’s outfit on the bed and stood with hands behind his back. Oswald cleared his throat.
Oswald shifted on his feet, hoping against hope that Ed would draw the conclusion for himself. For all that came with being the smartest man in Gotham, social cues seemed to elude him.
“I’m going to undress now.”
Finally Ed seemed to understand, the look on his face equal parts endearing and ravishing from the dust of a blush on his cheeks before he scurried from the room. Oswald undressed in silence, fighting his muscles at every turn with how slow they seemed to go, hindered by the thought that Ed was so close with so little standing between them. He regarded himself in the mirror, not even sure he would wish for Edward to see him. Oswald had only been in office for a matter of months but the stress was already evident, he was softer around the edges and his eyes looked sunken from the lack of sleep. He spent too much time poking and prodding when he finally heard Ed’s soft knock at the door.
“Is it alright if I come back in?”
Oswald blanched and slipped on his pants, hardly finishing the last button of his shirt before Ed opened the door.
“See, I knocked this ti--um, Oswald.”
Ed stood directly in front of him and Oswald wanted to look anywhere but the scrutinizing eyes that fell on him.
Ed gestured to Oswald’s shirt and sure enough they were hopelessly askew, threaded through the wrong parts and gaping out over Oswald’s torso. His cheeks were unbearably hot, Ed must have thought he really couldn’t dress on his own after this. Before Oswald could fix the mistake, Ed’s quick fingers were undoing and refashioning the buttons until the crisp shirt lay flat. He managed to sputter out a fumbled thank you before Ed was on to the next article of clothing.
“So, for the interview with Valerie Vale I propose you keep it all surface level. Don’t indulge too much on one question and try to lead her away from one topic for too long. We’ve done a good job of covering your tracks via Gotham’s underworld but I’ve heard she is a tough nut so we can’t be too careful.”
Oswald wanted to hang himself on every word Ed spoke but it was impossible to focus with the feeling of quick fingers working the tie around his neck. Silk slipped through itself while Ed’s hands brushed above Oswald’s collar--he wasn’t sure which feeling was more heavenly.
“Consider it done, you are the authority on this sort of thing. I’m sure that beautiful brain of yours knows more than I could ever imagine.”
The hands at his neck faltered and Ed cleared his throat.
“Thank you, I thought it best if this interview’s theme was damage control.”
Oswald’s face screwed up in confusion.
“Yes, you are a former Arkham inmate now risen to political power with the most influential seat in Gotham. The citizens may be morons but they are morons with a moral compass.”
“I seem to recall we both claim Arkham as our Alma mater,” Oswald teased.
Ed straightened Oswald’s collar with one last swipe to smooth it all down.
“Correct, but I don’t have my hands in every cookie jar around Gotham.”
He smiled and declared a job well done, turning Oswald to face the mirror. He had to admit, despite Edward’s eye for garish green suits, Oswald thought he cut a fine figure.
“Well I ought to put the finishing touches on everything--I’ve added some ‘homey’ decorum for Ms. Vale’s visit.”
“ Decorum , Ed she’s conducting a verbal interview.”
“I know. But first impressions matter.”
Oswald could feel the words at the tip of his tongue, how utterly, disgustingly enchanting it was for Ed to think of every last detail. The excitement on his face for how they would deceive and manipulate the public into viewing Oswald as some reformed sinner, a dogooder for the ages. How devastatingly wrong they were.
Oswald made his way downstairs to the sound of Ed telling Valerie Vale exactly how the interview would go, what questions were off limits, and how he expected them to finish on the dot. How very like his chief of staff to dictate everything according to their plans. Oswald felt a surge of deep satisfaction watching Ed fuss over him, fix the smallest details that nobody but Ed would notice.
“Are you ready?”
He picked an invisible piece of lint off Oswald’s shoulder.
Ed’s smile might be the answer to ending world conflict. Oswald sat across from Valerie Vale, primed and poised.
“Good morning Ms. Vale, Edward and I appreciate you coming all this way.”
Valerie’s smile was tight and calculated, “It’s no trouble, thank you for welcoming me into your home, it’s all very--warm.”
Ed seemed to preen at the last part, Oswald couldn’t help a small chuckle seeing him so proud.
“Now, Mr. Cobblepot you’ve been mayor for a few months, how are you settling into the role as the captain of our fair city?”
“Well Edward and I find the life suites us both, I get to make sure we are keeping Gotham’s streets safe and Edward keeps that busy mind of his occupied with the bureaucratic day to day--it’s pure bliss,” Oswald grinned to his chief of staff, looking nowhere near Valerie.
“Right, happy to hear it. You appointed Mr. Nygma the night they announced you’d won the election, is that correct?”
“I knew as soon as I heard my name called that there would be nobody better suited for the position.”
Valerie looked calculating, her eyes narrowed.
“Is it true that Mr. Nygma also spent time in Arkham Asylum for trying to frame James Gordon?”
Oswald’s gaze flickered to a very irate Edward, fumes practically billowing from his ears. His mouth was a tight line and his grip was clenched around the papers he held. Oswald felt a flutter of panic in his stomach, he knew Ed loathed to bring up his past especially if it was being used to discredit his present achievements.
“That’s a matter of public record Ms. Vale, but it does not take away from the fact that this mayorship would be nothing without him. We’ve both taken a hard look out our checkered pasts and decided to change our ways,” Oswald quipped, his words short and temper flaring, “that is the last thing I’ll be saying on the matter.”
Most of the tension was released from Ed’s shoulders, earning a small thumbs up for Oswald and a quiet, ‘great job’ .
Oswald hemmed and hawed his way through the rest of Valerie’s questions, boring and usual as they were he admired the young journalist for how steadfast she was in prying more personal answers from him. Oswald felt it odd that she continued to come back to the topic of his and Edward’s friendship--what their daily routine was, how often they saw the other, how long Ed had been living at the Van Dahl estate.
“Forgive me Ms. Vale but I fail to see the relevance of all the questions about Edward and I.”
Valerie looked confused for a moment, she turned to look between Ed and then back to Oswald. Her brows furrowed, she seemed to look back through her notes as if they held some secret key to her understanding.
Oswald craned his head foreword, “Is something the matter, Ms. Vale?”
Ed was starting to look nervous again, he shifted on his feet. Oswald shot him a bewildered look hoping they were both on the same curious page.
“No, nothing’s the matter. Forgive me I figured you and Mr. Nygma were public,” her casual chuckle only worsened Oswald’s confusion.
“If by public you mean we both attend public functions regularly, then yes--I would say we are as public as they come.”
“But I haven’t heard any official statements about your relationship in the news, I’m sure it must create some conflict of interest,” Valerie said.
Oswald thought he must be in a waking nightmare where he was doomed to misunderstand everything that happened around him. He shook his head in exasperation.
“Ms. Vale if you would kindly explain to me what you are talking about I--”
“You and Mr. Nygma are in a relationship, is that correct?”
Now Oswald really felt dizzy with confusion, he sputtered nonsense, felt like his lungs were being ripped apart by glass every time he took a breath. A relationship--him and Edward --he couldn’t think of anything that would lead Valerie to such a ridiculous conclusion. It certainly wasn’t the worst rumor Oswald had heard about himself, and he’d wished for it more times than he cared to keep track of but that’s certainly not something he would reveal to Edward or anyone else.
“A relationship --Edward and I? Ms. Vale that it one of the most absurd rumors I have ever heard,” Oswald felt a laugh bubble in his chest that he didn’t know how to stop.
Valerie looked thoroughly offended.
“Well you’ve certainly talked about him enough times in this interview to warrant assumption, Mr. Cobblepot.”
Oswald’s laughter was cut short, his head snapped forward to glare at Valerie.
“I have heard quite enough, I think you’ve gotten enough material for your interview. Isn’t that right, Edward?”
Ed looked like a deer caught in headlights, he stared wide eyed between Oswald and the reporter, finally moving to usher Valerie out of her seat.
“I do think that’s quite enough for today. Mayor Cobblepot is a very busy man with a full schedule,” Ed practically pushed her out the door, “good day, Ms. Vale.”
The closed door echoed in tense silence, Ed lingering by the entrance longer than was necessary. All the tension seemed to bleed back into his shoulders and Oswald couldn’t tell if he’d taken any breaths in the few minutes he stood by the door.
“Can you believe her? How presumptuous--how low of her to make such wild accusations just to get a rise out of us. I’m sure you share my embarrassment.”
Ed stayed quiet, his back still turned to Oswald.
He approached cautiously, placing a hand on Ed’s shoulder.
“I’m sure she didn’t mean any harm, you know those reporters will always dig for a silly story that isn’t there,” Oswald kept his voice soft.
Ed jerked like he’d been burned.
“Ed, what’s gotten into you?”
“Do you really find the idea of being with me so embarrassing?”
He kept his back to Oswald as he spoke.
“What--Ed, what are you talking about?”
Ed turned, his eyes looked glassy and red like he was ready to cry if he hadn’t been already. He pressed fingers against his eyes and shook his head from side to side. Oswald felt like he’d swallowed rocks, entirely unsure what could have made Ed so upset.
“I’m talking about how clear you’ve made it that even the idea of being with me is ‘absurd’ and ‘silly’, well I apologize for being such an embarrassment,” his voice shook.
The entire situation dawned on Oswald all at once, nearly knocking the breath from his chest. He had said the idea of their being together was silly and absurd, but only to throw off suspicion from the determined reporter and revealing his own true feelings about Edward. The truth was his heart raced when Valerie brought up the possibility that they belonged to each other in that way, Oswald felt faint thinking about how badly he wished their life was the same as what lived in Valerie Vale’s head. They lived together, they worked together, they ate meals together--they were halfway to courtship already.
And Oswald had laughed the idea out of existence right in front of Ed.
“No, Edward I--,”
Ed ripped his arm away from Oswald’s touch, “You don’t have to try and make things better Oswald, I understand what you meant.”
That same sense of panic during the interview resettled in Oswald’s stomach. He had to keep Edward from storming out, once a mind like his was made up there was very little Oswald could to do change that.
“Do you understand what I meant?”
His face stayed stern, “I think you were pretty clear about your feelings, Oswald.”
Oswald laughed, he knew it was entirely inappropriate but what a mixed up situation to be in. His options were either let Edward believe the idea of their being together was deplorable, or spill every ounce of love in his heart and risk losing the greatest friend he’d ever had. It felt like a cruel joke, but the masked hurt on Ed’s face told Oswald it was very much the opposite.
“Ed, I--,” his jaw felt useless, like every muscle in his body was conspiring to ruin this.
Ed turned to start upstairs and the pain in Oswald’s chest grew sharper.
“I said those things to Valerie Vale because I was afraid if I told the truth I would risk giving away my true feelings,” the words came out in a frantic string.
Ed stopped, his expression walked a fine line between anger and disbelief.
Oswald sighed with heavy breath, his shoulders dropped low, “I don’t think the idea of being with you is absurd or silly . In fact I think the exact opposite--I mean my god, Edward I would give the world to been seen with you in that way.”
If he was going to confess, he might as well leave it all on the table before the inevitable condemnation. Oswald silently thanked the universe for all the wonderful things he’d been granted in his time with Edward, since they were surely going to be ripped away any moment. Ed made his way slowly down the few steps he’d climbed, wary and calculated.
“What do you mean, Oswald--seen in what way?”
Oswald dragged his hands down his face with a groan, “Please Ed, don’t torture me. This is hard enough already without having to spell it out.”
Ed was closer now, Oswald’s breath hitched.
“Why does it have to be hard?”
“ Why ? How about because the second I tell you I’m certain you’ll be frightened off and I will lose the most important person in my life,” Oswald shot back.
He took a step closer, the smell of Ed’s cologne now filled Oswald’s lungs and made his heart ache.
“Just tell me, Oswald.”
The expression on his face was impossible to read, Oswald wanted to look anywhere else, but Ed was so damn close. Well, his mother had raised him to always choose courage, and Oswald would be letting her memory down if he didn’t at least end in a blaze of glory. He steeled his heart and looked into Ed’s unyielding face.
“I was afraid of answering Ms. Vale’s questions truthfully because if I did,” he took a deep breath, “it would reveal that I am in love with you Edward, deeply and desperately.”
Ed’s entire expression changed, his mouth dropped open in a quiet gasp, gentle eyes went wide with surprise. Oswald braced himself for whatever came next, whether it be verbal or physical retaliation, he was prepared for it. Ed grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket and Oswald closed his eyes tight, ready for impact. He expected an open palm, or worse, to collide with his jaw.
What Oswald hadn’t planned for was the feeling of soft lips being pressed against his own. A warm, needy kiss that knocked the breath from Oswald’s lungs. But before he had time to react or reciprocate, they were gone, replaced with Ed’s bewildered look as if he couldn’t even believe what he’d done.
“What was that ,” Oswald asked in disbelief, ghosting fingers over his tingling lips.
Ed looked mortified, quickly releasing his grip on Oswald’s suit.
“Oswald, I am so sorry. I-I don’t know what came over me. Please, don’t be angry I promise it won’t happen again.”
Oswald held a hand up to quiet his rambling friend.
“You kissed me, I didn’t imagine that.”
Ed swallowed hard and gave an almost undetectable nod. Oswald let the thought sit with him a moment, unsure how to process the day’s countless curveballs. He squared his shoulders and turned back to a very sheepish Edward who looked like he’d been thoroughly scorned. Oswald took a step forward, leveling himself toe to toe with Ed and swore he saw his friend flinch. Now that just wouldn’t do.
Oswald took a firm hold on Ed’s tie and pulled him down into a dizzying kiss, his lips moved unsure and unpracticed against Ed’s but the surprised sound he earned was worth the fumble. Oswald snaked a free arm around Ed’s neck, pulling him impossibly close. Ed’s lips were soft and sure against his, clearly holding something back.
Oswald broke their embrace and smiled when he saw Ed’s sorry state, all red cheeks and desperate eyes.
“I think I’ve done a thorough job of assuring you I’m very far from angry.”
It seemed like Ed didn’t know whether to laugh or cry in that moment. Oswald stood on tiptoes to kiss Ed once more, chaste and sweet.
“You said you love me.”
Oswald gave a playful scoff, “And I thought the smartest man in Gotham would be able to keep up.”
Ed practically beamed, so big and bright Oswald thought he might go blind from bathing in radiance. He was swept up in Ed’s long arms and held tight, Oswald’s own hands bunched in the fabric of Ed’s coat. Ed pulled back just enough to kiss Oswald once and then twice, three times and four in fervent succession, their buoyant laughter bounced off the mansion walls.
Once they calmed themselves, Ed looked at Oswald with an earnest gaze.
“I do love you Oswald, I have for a very long time.”
Oswald didn’t hide the shock in his expression, now he really felt like this was all a cruel joke at his expense.
He narrowed suspicious eyes, “You’re not just saying that?”
“What? Oswald no-- no , I’ve loved you ever since I saw your case file when I still worked for the GCPD,” Ed’s wild grin returned, “you looked so wild and dangerous, and so striking it nearly took my breath away. I made copies of the file and studied it every night, just so I could feel closer to you.”
Ed blushed with the last confession.
Oswald huffed, “I don’t think either of us are as smart as we claim to be. We’ve both been walking around like love struck fools without so much as a hint of the other’s affections.”
“It is rather ridiculous if you think about it.”
“Well,” Oswald draped his arms over Ed’s shoulders, moving his hands up to weave through short curls, “we have plenty of lost time to make up for.”
He enjoyed the way Ed’s eyes widened at the implication, his jaw going slack. A long time indeed, and Oswald intended to make good on his promise, second by blissful second.