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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

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The moon is high and bright, and Jerome regards it from behind bars with a wicked sort of grin.

It’s a good night to get a feel for the most recent addition to his grand plan, and there’s nothing quite like a smidgen of brutal hazing to widen the smile on his face.

Oswald Cobblepot is either going to crumble or he’s going to prove himself to be just as entertaining as the whispers and gossip that have trailed behind him like a second shadow ever since he became someone worthy of being feared or respected or detested, and Jerome is willing to bet it will be the latter once he’s had a chance to get over whatever outside connection is currently keeping him so dreadfully mum and bland.

Jerome can be very compelling when it comes to helping people get over things, but he can also be blunt once the tedium sets in.

Get over it. Or else.

A good laugh is what he needs tonight. He’ll get it one way or another. And after this…

He’s so close. He can feel it in his bones, in his blood, in the depths of his chest with every breath he takes; an excited mania taking him over and leaving him restless and even more mercurial than usual. When he closes his eyes at night he sees Gotham being ripped apart, he sees his brother’s frightened eyes, he sees—

BruceBruceBruceBruce

—the only thing in the world worth caring about. His partner. His darling. His Prince of Gotham.

A Prince of ruins is what he will become, but he’ll survive the decimation and grow even stronger because of it.

They’ll survive everything that comes; an unstoppable force and an immovable object joining forces. Matter meeting anti-matter; leaving behind nothing but a smoking crater.

Jerome closes his eyes thinks of the way Bruce had looked at him before they’d last parted ways. Soft and open; incredibly easy to read. So strangely sweet for someone so capable of violence and destruction. Jerome misses him.

“It won’t be much longer, Bruce,” he murmurs. “Not much longer at all.”

He thinks of Bruce’s promise to find him, to stop him, and he snickers. It’s like their own special game of cops and robbers, and Jerome can’t wait to play.

“Catch me if you can, Brucie. If you’re too slow, I’ll be the one catching you.”

And this time…

This time he’s not going to let himself be separated from his other half without a fight. He’ll drag Bruce into the dark and seal their intertwined destiny with a kiss.

He’ll do it with all of the love in his vicious heart.

Jerome allows himself another moment of looking up at the night sky—wondering just what his favourite boy might be up to on a night like tonight—before making his way out of his unlocked cell.

He has a Penguin to test.

x-x-x

His neck aches.

Such a small incision—the prick of a nail is nothing compared to some of the other things he’s gone through—but it wasn’t just the broken skin causing him discomfort. He should have been more on his guard, and he really ought to ensure that their security systems around the manor are up to date, because Ivy had been able to sneak up on him and nearly kill him as he was pouring over his research.

He supposes he should be thankful that she’d left as soon as she felt her business was done, evidentially not the least bit curious about the contents of the papers that Bruce had laid out before him.

Bruce feels himself break out into goosebumps at the memory: paralyzed and helpless, his body slowly beginning to shut down, his mind tripping through a dizzying formation of nightmarish visions as whatever she’d introduced into his system began to take over.

A dark figure. A terrifying figure.

A reflection of himself, born on the night his parents had been murdered in the shadows of Crime Alley.

It hadn’t been real. Nothing he had seen had been real, but…

There was something recognizable there, if not somewhat distorted. A reflection in water rather than in smooth glass. A flash of something dark behind his eyes in the moments where he lost control of his temper. Perhaps that had been what Jerome had seen, back when Bruce had him pinned to the floor and was raising a shard of mirror in his hand.

Bruce shakes his head to clear away those memories. He doesn’t have the time for them. Not when he’d been on the precipice of something right before Ivy had left him for dead.

Stacks of papers lay out before him; newspaper clippings and articles which he’d gathered through aboveboard means, as well as very different kinds of reports that he’d managed to get his hands on with more clandestine methods, as well as more expensive ones. He hadn’t set up a board like he had with his parents’ murder, mostly because if Detective Gordon happened to drop by unannounced he’d no doubt realize where some of the precious photocopies that Bruce had made had come from, and neither of them were ready for what that revelation would entail.

So he puts everything away in his father’s desk when he’s not actively shifting through them, jotting down notes and chasing theories and making comparisons: what the Gotham Gazette is willing to publish sometimes differs from online freelancers or civilians who happened to be in bad places at bad times and decided to write three thousand words about the experience. Somewhere in between the woven words of news stories, Doctor’s assessments, and police reports lay small shards of truth. And with some of the documents that he’d only managed to get his hands on courtesy of his bank account, well, they at least give him enough of a starting point for some of the indistinct to become distinct.

Strengths. Weaknesses. Histories.

Knowledge truly was the greatest power.

Jerome may be who he focuses the most attention on—for reasons that have become all too obvious to Bruce even though he refuses to say it out loud—but it would be remiss of him to ignore the other inmates currently in Arkham who had—once or twice or more—brought chaos upon Gotham.

The sort of chaos that Jerome—conveniently located within the same building as them and likely with far less supervision than he deserved, when taking certain recent events into consideration—might find amusing. Might feel like recreating.

There have been Arkham breakouts before. There will be Arkham breakouts again.

Bruce isn’t going to let himself got caught off guard. Not anymore.

With steady hands he picks up the file folder that had captured his attention so completely that he hadn’t noticed an intruder in his home until it was far too late for him to do anything but bow to her will.

He flips it open, staring at a copied set of medical documents that were not so very unusual, were it not for how taken aback he had been at the sight of them. Not even exhaustively reading over Jerome’s file from the police station had prepared him for this.

Birth certificates.

Not one. Two.

He trails a finger along an unfamiliar name that he had never seen or heard, and his thoughts begin to whirl.

“Where did you go, Jeremiah Valeska?”

Was he just another body in a grave, dead for so long that he had been forgotten by all but a few?

Or was he out there somewhere?