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A most logical conclusion

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"I've been doing some research."

It's such an innocent sentence. Ed is a curious man by nature, it wouldn't be unusual for him to spend hours hunched over some book or another in an attempt at gathering as much interesting information as he can about the subject that happens to have piqued his interest this time around. Oswald knows as much. But he also knows that there's something different in the way he utters the words. Something implied by the way he keeps his head tilted to the side to avoid making eye contact with him, how the hand holding his half-empty glass of wine is suspended mid-air as if he was unsure of what to do - take another sip to work up his nerves or set it down for the sake of keeping his head clear. That something, whatever it may be, makes the hair at the end of Oswald's neck stand up in anticipation.

"Have you, really?"

"Mh mh," Ed confirms, settling for taking that one last sip before putting the glass down and turning to finally meet his eyes. "And I think there's something we could do that hopefully won't put too much strain on your injury. Or your leg, for that matter."

He's circling around the subject, almost as if he was afraid to call it for what it is. Some form of modesty that has survived little subdued Ed's transformation in the man he is now, all confident razor-sharp smiles and theatrics. Oswald feels somewhat proud at the thought of being the only one who still has the privilege of seeing this side of him.

"And what is it, exactly?"

He catches the glimmer of his eyes behind the lenses of his glasses. There's more to it than just the reflection of the orange flames cracking in the fireplace. Mischief, maybe, with a hint of excitement. His impression is reaffirmed by Ed's very next words. "I can show you. If you want to, that is."

Oswald doesn't respond. Or rather, he does but not in the most straightforward way. He sips the last drops of wine left in his own glass, puts it down carefully on the small table in front of the couch and only then does he turn towards him, cup his face in his hands and claim his lips in a heated kiss.

The rest happens in a blur. They stand up from the couch, not taking their hands off of each other for a single moment as they stumble out of the room and into the adjacent corridor. Oswald is peripherally aware of knocking over something in their haste, but his curse dies on Ed's lips as he leans in to kiss him again. On their way to the bedroom, they help each other shed their clothes, muttering under their breath whenever ties and cufflinks and buttons slip from their fingers, refusing to let themselves be unfastened. They're not sure it's even possible to make up for all the time they've lost in the last few years, but it doesn't matter. At this point, they may as well die trying.

It's weeks of hungry kisses and lingering touches taken to its most logical conclusion. The underlying question stemming from the not-so-rare times one of them ends up pushing the other up against the nearest wall (or counter, or table, or any other useful surface) and before they know it they find themselves grinding desperately against each other through too many layers of fabric. With timing so precise that Oswald has learned to anticipate it, Ed would always step back, face flushed but stern, and remind him that it wouldn't be wise to go there with the ever-present risk of aggravating his conditions by putting his still-healing body under unnecessary stress. The only exception being a hasty blowjob Ed once gave him against the back door of the Sirens' club, of all places, falling to his knees on the dirty concrete under Oswald's shocked gaze. It hadn't lasted nearly as long as he would have wished - very soon Oswald had found himself coming with one hand twisted in Ed's hair, half for guidance and half holding onto him for dear life, and the other between his teeth to suppress the series of needy whimpers pouring out of his mouth. Oswald likes to revisit the memory, from time to time. So raw, so filthy, yet so damn good.

And now there they are, laid bare in front of one another in the half-darkness of the mansion's huge bedroom. One moment they're all over each other, hands and mouths exploring every inch of naked skin. The next, Ed is retrieving something from a drawer and spreading his legs obscenely wide to allow Oswald to see each and every little shift and curl of his two fingers inside him, stretching himself open. He does it with such confidence that Oswald can't help but wonder if he's done this before. And that is almost too much for him to bear. The image burns hot in his mind. His guts feel like they're on fire and he's torn between staying back and allowing himself to savour the moment, commit to memory the enticing sight of Ed putting up a show for him and for him alone, or inching closer and touching every part of his body he can reach. Help him out, even, if only to discover how warm and tight he must be inside. He tries to reach out for him with a weak 'let me...', but before he can even finish his sentence Ed places his free hand on his shoulder and pushes him back.

"I won't have you doing any work, tonight," he says, stern as if he was scolding a stubborn child. "You're still recovering."

Oswald huffs at that. "Nonsense! I'm not dying, Ed, and I certainly have enough strength to help you if you show me how."

Ed's deep brown eyes settle on him, then, and Oswald instantly knows he won't be able to protest further after that. "Please, Oswald. Let me do this for you."

And with that, he finds himself lying back among the pillows, Ed's knees at either side of his waist. His head is bowing down, now, a short strand of dark hair falling in front of his face. His glasses have slid halfway down his nose, at some point, yet he makes no attempt at adjusting them - his hands remain planted steady on the mattress to keep his balance. Much like him, Oswald muses, there must be a lot of more important things that brilliant mind of his is focusing on, at the moment.

As naive as it sounds, he had never thought about Ed like this. Oh, he has had his fair share of private, embarrassing fantasies in which his dear friend took centre stage, but they were mostly about more refined, elegant things. Ed dressed in expensive, clean-cut clothes. How it would feel to let his hands roam over the fabric of his jacket, trace the outline of his ribs over his light dress shirt, pop the buttons one by one savouring the feeling beneath his fingertips. He has an aesthetic, after all. But Oswald Cobblepot is not made of hedonism alone, no. Boiling inside him, swelling in his chest there is also pride, oh so much pride and resentment. That's where his other fantasies came into play; Ed on his knees before him, the very picture of regret for all the pain and suffering he's put him through. Those soft lips of his spilling word of apology after word of apology as Oswald treads his hand in his hair and asks him to show him just how much sorry he really is. He's grown to feel somewhat guilty about those. Especially now that the war waged against Gotham has brought them together again, at last, with the promise to let the past be, if not forgotten, at least forgiven.

In all his pondering and fantasising about fine silk and revenge, one thing he has never lingered on is the appeal of a very dishevelled very flustered Ed straddling his lap. Until now, that is. The sight is endearing to say the least.

"Oh dear," Ed says, letting out a breathless chuckle. "I may have have underestimated your, uhm, size."

Oswald finds himself chuckling back at how endearing his voice sounds, suddenly unsure of how to approach the matter at hand. He's nervous, that much he can tell. And he would be lying if he said he doesn't share some of that nervousness himself at the prospect of what is to come, any moment now. But god, how much he wants it.

"It's alright," he reassures him, gently squeezing his thigh in silent encouragement. "Take your time."

As soon as they're out of his mouth, the words sound terribly hypocritical at his own ears. Oswald almost hates himself for it. No amount of stroking his bare thighs and soothing words will take away the fact that he's aching to just thrust up into him already. But even more unbearable than having to wait a few more minutes for Ed to gather his courage, is the thought of hurting him - deliberately or not. Long time ago he might have relished in the thought of making him suffer, taking sweet revenge for the day he had looked him in the eyes and put a bullet in his gut, but not now. Not anymore.

"I'm fine, just let me..." Ed shifts again above him, trying to adjust his position. He never completes his sentence, as whatever he was meaning to say next is drowned by a groan the moment his hips brush against Oswald's just right.

For all his usual bravado, he's surprisingly hesitant when he starts to lower himself on Oswald's erection, to the point that he has to stop after every inch or so to catch his breath and wipe a few drops of sweat from his forehead with the back of one hand. Oswald almost wants to tell him to stop. They can go back and prepare him some more, hell, they can call it off altogether and blame the one too many glasses they had after dinner. Forget about it until they both will be up and ready to make the final step. But he knows Ed, which means he knows he won't let anything stop him once he has an idea in mind. A little bit of pain won't prevent him from getting what he wants, and the thought that it's him Ed wants makes his heart beat twice as fast.

True to form, Ed doesn't let himself be discouraged by something as trivial as the initial discomfort. When he finally, finally sinks all the way down onto him it's pure bliss and torture at the same time. Oswald's good eye falls shut, in spite of his best efforts to keep it open not wanting to lose a single glimpse of the scene unfolding before him. He wants to moan - no, he wants to shout, but his breath catches in his throat and the only thing escaping from his mouth is a choked sigh, that in no way conveys just how good it all feels. When he realises he has been sinking his short nails in the flesh of Ed's waist it's too late, the skin beneath his hands is already marked red. His hips twitch involuntarily, making Ed hiss from above him. Oswald's eye snaps open at the sound.

"Oh Ed, I'm sorry--"

"Don't be," he dismisses it, though with some strain in his voice. "I just need some time to get used to it."

Oswald nods. "Of course, of course."

They stand still for what could be hours, could be mere minutes, both of them granting the other a chance to adjust to the wave of new sensation that has just washed over them. Pleasure bordering on pain. In the dimly lit bedroom, the silence is broken only by their breathing. It takes him a while to get used to it, and even when he manages to take in a series of deep breaths to try and calm the furious beating of his heart, there's still fire burning at the pit of his stomach and lower still, making the muscles in his legs tense with impatience. Ed doesn't seem much better off himself. He's all but panting, brows furrowed in concentration as he tries to elaborate all those strange yet pleasant feelings they're both so unused to. Oswald can't help himself. He raises one of his hands to cup his cheek, running his thumb over the sharp line of his cheekbone. The skin beneath is feverish. When Ed leans into the touch and offers him a smile he feels his poor heart jump in his chest.

"Enjoying the view?"

Hearing the smugness come back in his voice is a relief. So much that Oswald can't bring himself to care for the teasing edge in Ed's tone. "As a matter of fact, yes."

He catches Oswald's hand in his own and brings it to his lips, leaving a soft kiss over his knuckles before letting it go. "The hardest part should be behind us. Even though...I must admit I'm not quite sure of how to proceed."

"So you forgot to cover this part in your extensive research?" Oswald teases, smiling back up at him.

"I suppose," he admits. "There's only so much you can find on medical books and that other kind of educational material is pretty hard to come across ever since half the city has been blown up."

The picture of Ed walking into a back-alley shop to purchase a very specific type of videos with the excuse of needing them for 'research' falls somewhere between the amusing and the absolutely endearing, to the point that he doesn't really know what an appropriate reaction to that would be. His legs are already shaking a bit - though if it's because of pleasure, pain or ill-concealed nervousness he can't tell for sure - the last thing he needs is to add self-consciousness to the mix. What he does know, however, is that he wouldn't forgive himself if he left his dear friend sort it out all by himself. It's a team effort, after all, and he's more than happy to give his small contribution.

"I'm hardly an expert myself, but...maybe I can help you out?"

"Yes, that would be wonderful." Ed sounds almost relieved, then.

With none of them having much experience in the field to begin with, finding out what they like it's all trial and error. Oswald keeps his hands on the other man's waist, coaxing him into short, careful movements and Ed - dear god, Ed just lets him. The thought alone would be enough to drive him mad if the warmth of his body above him, clutched tight around him hadn't already. He guides him through it, with as much care as he can muster. Behind the thin lenses of his glasses, Ed's eyes are half-lidded with lust. Oswald has to restrain himself not to pull him down and kiss him some more, until they both run out of air.

Little by little - helped by Oswald's own sounds of appreciation - Ed recovers of his lost confidence, to the point that Oswald's guiding touch becomes a formality. His grip on Ed's waist relaxes, letting him set the pace.

"That's it," he sighs at a particularly pleasurable movement that leaves him shivering from head to toe. "You're doing so good, Ed. So good."

Oswald finds himself muttering all sorts of praise and encouragement, to which Ed responds with contented little sighs of his own, forcing him deeper, squeezing himself tighter around him. And right when Oswald thinks he's starting to get used to it, without any warning he tentatively rolls his hips at a different angle, drawing a moan from the both of them.

"That--" he pauses, letting a moment go by before he can complete his sentence. "Was definitely something."

"Do that again," Oswald urges him, before he can even think of how needy and selfish he will sound at Ed's ears, Ed who will surely take it upon himself to make a witty remark about it. And indeed he does.

"Bossy."

"To be fair," he huffs in response. "I've yet to hear you complaining."

Ed flashes him a smirk. "Touché."

Oswald knows he's mocking him, but he can't bring himself to care. Not when he can see right through Ed's ostentatious confidence, tainted by the way his chest heaves with uneven huffs of breath and by the pink blush creeping up his neck. He's as smitten as he is by all those new sensations flooding through his body. He really can't be angry at him when he's doing all of this for his pleasure. Before Oswald is forced to swallow his pride and retort to begging, Ed starts to move again.

They find their rhythm, eventually. Slow and unhurried, allowing them to savour and touch for as long as they wish. After all the work they put into getting where they are, it comes with unexpected naturalness. Ed just finds a way to roll his hips that makes him press against all the right places, and Oswald follows suit, meeting his every movement and gasping for air each time he feels him squeeze hard around him.

He soon discovers just how vocal Ed can be during sex. It doesn't come exactly as a surprise - he's well aware of his tendency for mumbling and talking to himself when working on something, yet nothing could have prepared him for the constant string of little moans and "yes" and "oh dear", and any other variation of Oswald's own name uttered in a low, husky voice that sends shivers down his spine.

Overcome with the urge to kiss him once more, he sits up just as Ed leans down. They meet halfway in a rough, sloppy kiss that leaves them panting against each other's mouth. One of Oswald's hands leaves his side and fids his way in his hair instead, deriving immense pleasure in tangling his fingers in it, ruffling it even more under his touch. Ed hums in appreciation, wrapping his arms around him, holding him closer. They're chest to chest, now, no space left between them.

In response to a particularly sharp upward thrust, he feels Ed shudder in his arms.

"Good?"

The question is rhetorical, of course, yet Ed seems to find it necessary to tell him just how much he likes it.

"Yes-- oh my god, Oswald, yes," he rasps, words barely intelligible over the noise of their laboured breathing.

Oswald's lips curl into a satisfied grin. Given such a wonderful reaction, it only seems sensible to do it again. And again, and again, for the selfish pleasure of hearing him gasp and call out his name.

Ed's forehead is pressed against his shoulder, now, so he's murmuring directly into his ear. "Oh my, oh my, oh my..."

It's so Ed refusing to curse even when he would be more than excused to. And, as ridiculous as it sounds, that's what does it. Before he can even process the warm feeling sneaking its way down his stomach and the way he holds onto the other man even tighter as if to save himself from drowning, Oswald is spent. Coming down from his high, he at least has the presence of mind to reach between Ed's legs and help him through his own climax. It takes but a few sharp strokes to send him over the edge with a low grunt, hot against his ear. They collapse back on the pillows, a tangle of limbs and damp bedsheets.

No wonder the French call it La Petite Mort, Oswald muses as he enjoys the afterglow. It's not unlike the euphoria of discovering you're still alive after the cold blade of a knife tears into your flesh, or the immense relief of knowing you weren't the target after you hear the gunshot. Even the dull ache of his bad leg is little more than a background nuisance in comparison. If he closes his only remaining eye he can almost pretend that it's been like this from the start. No betrayals, no dead librarian on the train tracks, no piers, no grenade taking his eye away, no jealousy and heartache. Only him and Ed, and that fateful dinner at the mansion. A million glances cast in each other's direction while trying to summon the courage to confess their feelings, months of mutual courtship before falling into bed together.

The illusion shatters as soon as he realises something is prodding at the patched-up remains of what once was his left eye. He lets out a small sound of discomfort when the touch shifts towards the area that's still red and sore from the wound.

"Sssh," he hears Ed whispering somewhere close to him. So close, in fact, that he can feel his breath against his skin. "It's alright, I'm just checking your stitches."

Oswald sighs. "Am I really going to die for having slept with you?"

"From the looks of it, I'd say no." The hint of a laugh in Ed's voice makes the annoying process more bearable, so he refrains from complaining further. At least until Ed is finished with his examination.

"Good," he mumbles. "Now do me a favour and come back here."

"As you wish."

The soft press of Ed's lips on his cheeks, just below the stitching, anticipates a weight shift on the mattress before he's finally settling down beside him, draping an arm across his middle. Oswald is quick to return the gesture, wrapping his own arm around Ed's shoulders and pulling him even closer to leave a small trail of kisses along the side of his jaw.

"You're going to be the death of me," he murmurs, lips brushing against skin.

Which is so cliché, something more suited for one of those romantic movies his poor mother loved so much and inflicted on him as a child, but is oh, so true. Oswald has had his fair share of close encounters with death in his life, some of them by the hand of the very man he's holding in his arms right now, who seems another person altogether from the one growling at the mirror, all fire and fury against the city that refuses to recognise his true genius.

"I almost was," Ed says, as if he has just read his thoughts. "More than once."

He doesn't need to look to know where Ed's gentle touch, up to that moment drawing invisible patterns on his back, has shifted towards. There's a white patch of skin roughly at the centre of his stomach, where a thin line marks the place where the bullet entered his body. Ed's fingers trace the scar reverently, as if he could erase it and the painful memories it represents with the tenderness of his touch alone. Oswald knows it's dangerous to let him linger on that kind of thoughts, so he does his best to stray his tired mind away from them. He needs something trivial, something unimportant they can focus on until exhaustion has the better of them and they fall asleep in each other's arms.

"I recall you mentioning a plan to reunite what's left of Gotham's old crime families under my authority, but I can't remember the details."

His attempt at swaying the conversation elsewhere isn't particularly smooth, and even if Ed is bound to have noticed his haste in changing the subject he doesn't comment upon it. Instead, he offers Oswald a little smile. "Well, I'm not surprised. You were too busy cursing against that - and here I quote, 'vile woman' who took your fortune and your 'precious little puppy' away from you when I was trying to tell you about it."

Oswald makes a show of rolling his eye. "Oh, please!"

Ed bursts out laughing then. A proper, infectious laugh and, in spite of himself, Oswald ends up laughing too. No use trying to hide it in the crook of the other man's neck.

Only when the last echoes of their laughter vanish, does Ed start to talk. He speaks of strategy and deceit, of the empire they'll build from the ashes of Gotham, of their glorious revenge against the city who turned its back on their sacrifice. Oswald drifts off to sleep with his head on Ed's shoulder and the soothing rambling of his voice in his ears.