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An apartment is not a hideout.
That's a truism.
But it's still valid.
Edward Nigma dragged his thumb and forefinger from his temples to the center of his forehead in a pinching motion, his breathing steady. He had had it all, back then – all the deathtraps and henchmen and informants, as many riddles as he could puke out, each one a clue to his increasingly-brilliant plans. But the riddles has brought him down to the level of the Bat, weakened him. He had embraced his psychosis and never reached his full potential.
Now, however, he was further away from that than he had ever been. He was without a place to hide, he was without weaponry of any sort, besides his cane. That would not save him against a man like Michael Lane.
No, what Eddie had was his mind, and that was still keen. Growing keener by the day.
The thin man sat still in his cheap chair, scooping forkfuls of microwaveable lasagne into his mouth and steadily tightening his brow. If his mind was his weapon, then how would he use it? Gotham had seen an exodus as of late, reducing crime to pitiful levels, and harming his old fellow villains in the process. He couldn't think of many that were left... but he could think of a few.
“Not a chance! Waugh!” Oswald griped, drawing his umbrella from his side and pointing the amusingly lethal tip directly at Edward. “You're trouble, Riddler! Nothing but trouble! Bad for business! You shouldn't even be in here.”
Nigma held his hands up harmlessly, his cane dangling from his palm. “Come now, Oswald. I didn't do anything to you – you're still sore about the Joker thing?”
“We would had him, waugh!”
“Well, as far as I know, Harley Quinn killed him only a few months after. Don't pretend you aren't doing well for yourself. Gotham's exodus has made you king of the roost, hasn't it?” He had to balance the bird puns he used here. A few may endear him to the Penguin, but too many would force Cobblepot to use repeats, and he wouldn't like that.
Penguin sneered, his leathery face crinkling into an expression of grudging resignation. “In a way. With you, Joker, Bane, and Hush out of the game...” Oswald allowed himself a small smile, holding his hands up, “Crime has become reasonable again, not driven by psychosis and lust for power. As long as Dent doesn't expand his corner of Gotham I'm livin' easy.”
Okay, progress. He'd never get anywhere with that umbrella pointed at him. “So we're on good terms? I stay out of the game, keep playing nice, don't interfere with your extortion runs, and we're fine?”
Oswald sighed, placing the tip of his umbrella on the floor and leaning on in as he settled back into his seat. “Waaugh, I never had a problem with you, Nigma. You never got in my way. That, and the deals we make usually tended to be... waugh, profitable.”
“I'm so glad you're of that opinion.”
“...What do you need, Nigma?”
“I need Croc.”
Penguin swept his arm in a sudden, dramatic stroke across his desk, sending paperweights, the papers they had been weighing down, pencils, and stray bullets scattering across the room, a few of them pelting Nigma. Edward tried to sit still for the onslaught. “I coulda given you money! Goons! A hideout! Credit! You ask for Croc?! WAUGH!”
“Now, don't you think we're overreacting a little bit, Oswald?”
“Don't you tell me I'm overre--”
“You haven't even heard my part of the bargain yet.” Nigma kept a straight face, despite the urge to smile. While Oswald may have been among the less greedy people in Gotham, he couldn't turn down something of unmeasured worth – couldn't resist an enigma.
The thick, short crime boss narrowed his eyes, shuffling in his seat slightly and eying Eddie. “What's your end?”
“I can get Ra's al Ghul out of Gotham for one month, minimum,” now he let himself smile; Eddie leaned back in his chair and pushed his legs out casually, tilting his head and eying Penguin right back. Two-Face was staying quiet and Scarecrow had been in a professional coma, sticking to the shadows and synthesizing new toxins without making any big moves. Tired of losing to the Bat, perhaps. The one contender right now was Ra's – he had people in Gotham, too many people, and with a few words Cobblepot's passive empire could crumble. But a little time away from this dour city and Penguin could strengthen his turf. Getting Ra's out of the way would change things, possibly permanently, even after he returned.
“How the hell do you plan to do that?!” Oswald spat.
“If I tell you, then I can't give you the results in exchange for Croc. But I can promise to make Ra's look the other way for a decent period of time. You'll know the time to strike and you can regroup without the League breathing down your neck. No promises on Talia – but a beast with one head is much less dangerous than a beast with two.”
A puff of air was released as Oswald leaned back, his posture now mimicking Nigma's. “Do you know how hard it will be to get Croc out of the sewers? Get him to agree to doing anything for you or for me?”
“Nowhere near as hard as it will be for me to convince Ra's al Ghul that a new Lazarus pit has been discovered in southeast Asia.” Eddie tilted his head, arching a brow slightly. “So... do we have a deal, Mr. Cobblepot?”
“Dammit Nigma... you drive a hard bargain,” Penguin sighed, allowing himself a small nod. “Croc's yours. Come back here tomorrow and I'll have him ready to work.”