essence & alchemy | nygmobblepot
“I could,” Ivy begins, winding a strand of copper coyly around her right index finger, “make a love fragrance, you know.”
Oswald hesitates, looking at the rows of glass bottles, the sets of mortars and pestles, the oils and crushed flower petals and piles of seeds and imagines, for a moment, what that might be like: to be desirable, irresistible to Edward, the compulsion of pheromones overwhelming the senses.
“No.” He sighs regretfully. “It wouldn’t last. And it wouldn’t be real.”
“It would last long enough,” she murmurs, releasing the trapped lock of hair which immediately springs back into place with its brethren. “Your body wouldn’t know the difference.”
“My heart would.” He reaches for a delicate looking leaf, a spade shaped pale green wedge, before Ivy halts him hurriedly.
“I wouldn’t touch that, if I were you.”
He recoils, eyes flicking to his companion’s features. “Poisonous?”
“Nope. Just tends to stain your skin.“ Ivy shrugs at his exasperated look, humming thoughtfully as she begins removing ingredients from the shelves, then setting them on the nearby workbench. “Truth compulsion it is, then. Every fragrance has three notes: top, middle, and base. The trick is to get the right balance between those that you first experience, and those that linger later on…bergamot, jasmine…and…sandalwood, perfect.” She surveys her chosen materials with a small smile of satisfaction.
Oswald settles into an ivory patio chair nearby, watching the young woman’s progress with interest. Her fingers move deftly, expertly grinding and mixing, pausing to inhale the results every so often.
“You should, of course, ideally be placing this on right after a hot shower, when your pores are open. Applying it on your pulse points enhances its effectiveness, triggered by your body heat. You don’t want to rub it in; that changes the chemical nature of the fragrance, so it doesn’t last–”
“I know how to apply cologne,” Oswald snaps.
Ivy pouts. “I’m only trying to help. I don’t have to do this, you know. You’d already be dead if I hadn’t intervened.”
He inhales deeply, then lets all the air leave his lungs in a rush. He knows she doesn’t intend to try his patience; she’s just incredibly vexing at times. He plucks at a loose thread on the worn striped sweater he’s borrowed, calming his frayed nerves. “You’re right. I apologize.”
Huffing in acceptance, she resumes her previous activities. “You know, it would probably make more sense just to make a poison and be done with it. That is your ultimate goal, after all: to destroy Edward Nygma.”
“Poisoning is too simple. I have something else in mind.” He rises to his feet as she offers him a small clear vile filled with a pale almond colored liquid. “But first, I want answers.”
“So am I.”
It’s not exactly how Oswald had envisioned it; this first encounter with his former chief advisor since the attempt on his life.
Oswald glances at his surroundings with disdain. A cage, of all things. The Court of Owls has him locked up like some circus attraction.
Beside his prison, Edward is trapped in an identical cell, pacing restlessly. He’s gotten over the initial shock of seeing his intended murder victim alive, clearly; now it appears that he’s itching to be free for another attempt.
“Will you stop that infernal movement, Edward?” the shorter man queries, the fingers tucked into the pocket of his jumpsuit rolling the vial of cologne contemplatively. He’s been waiting for the right moment to use it, but the other captive has been anything but cooperative.
“For the last time: don’t call me that.” His long limbs fold as he slides to the floor, resting against the side of the cage closest to Oswald’s.
“That’s right; it’s Riddler now, isn’t it? Brilliant concept, by the way,” he mocks, grimacing slightly as he eases down to join his fellow prisoner’s seat on the floor. His knee is stiffening up something fierce; he probably should have asked Ivy to mix him up something for that, too.
“Shut up.” Edward scowls, shoving at his glasses.
“No, I don’t think I will. In fact, I think it’s time you and I had a little chat.” He withdraws the sliver of glass pierced between index finger and thumb, staring at the mixture.
“What is that?” In spite of himself, Edward can’t help but look interested.
“Cologne,” Oswald murmurs, carefully easing the stopper loose.
“That’s what you chose to smuggle in here?” he scoffs. “Instead of something useful to escape, you bring perfume?”
“Cologne,” Oswald corrects again, pressing the pad of his middle finger against the vial before inverting the delicate container. “And on the contrary, I believe this is going to be quite useful.”
“Ridiculous,” Edward sneers, but his expression softens the instant the raven haired man swipes a streak of the fragrance across his wrist. The scent permeates the air between the two captives.
There’s something of the old Ed in that visible transformation–more…vulnerable, perhaps is the word Oswald is searching for. The cruelty and disdain has slipped completely from the angular features, leaving behind a kind of innocent wonder that makes Oswald’s heart stutter for a moment.
“What did you…” he pauses, clearing his throat. “What did you do, after you left me for dead?”
“I tried to find a mentor, to help mold my new identity.”
Oswald shakes his head. “No. I mean directly after that day on the docks.”
Edward’s nostrils flare slightly, drawing in a deeper measure of the perfumed surroundings. “I went back to the Van Dahl mansion. Dismissed all the staff. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep.” He pauses, rubbing a thumb along a rusting spot on one of the iron bars. “I went to someone I knew, back from my days at the GCPD. They had access to…pharmaceuticals. I originally was going to get something for sleep; nothing I could obtain over the counter was working. But then I realized that rest wasn’t what I truly needed. I needed to see you again,” he says quietly.
Oswald swallows thickly. This isn’t going at all like he’d imagined. The anger surging through his veins is already being flushed from his system. “Why did you need to see me again? You murdered me; tried to, anyway. You said I’d ruined your chance at happiness with that woman,” he struggles over the word, refusing to say her name, “and that you don’t love me. So why, Ed? Why were you so desperate?”
“Because I lied,” he admits simply. “I lied about how I felt. It was easier than admitting the truth.” He inhales deeply, resting his forehead against the cage.
“You lied,” Oswald repeats blankly. His heart is doing that awkward stuttering again; was there some side effect to Ivy’s concoction?
“Yes, Oswald. I lied.”
“How do I know you’re not lying now?”
Edward meets his interrogator’s gaze. “I’m still not sure you’re real. Even though I stopped taking the hallucinogens days ago…I just can’t tell anymore. So it doesn’t matter, does it? There’s no reason not to tell you the truth.”
“You still want me dead.”
“I never wanted that. But I was so overwhelmed with grief. The concept that you, the only person I really trusted, had betrayed me…I couldn’t cope with that knowledge. I had to destroy it. I had to destroy you. And in doing so, it killed a part of me. At least, I thought it had. But you’re still alive. So what does that mean for me?” He digs the heels of his hands against his eyes as if attempting to correct his vision in the dimly lit room. “You are real, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Ed. I’m real.” He reaches out a hand, hesitates, then threads it between the bars.
Edward accepts the offering, letting their fingers tangle together, remaining intertwined long after the last of the cologne has dissipated.