I was dropping by to put up chapter 7 of A Change in plans (my Gotham co-written fic with <lj user="cat2000">!) and I realized I never posted chapter six, so this will be a twofer :P
I'll post again later to share pics of the boys as we went to get their yearly pics for their birthday and the photo place was having a special :)
Anyways, chapter updates behind the cut! ;)
The next morning found Oswald feeling considerably brighter as he enjoyed the comforts of lounging in the cozy sheets and down comforter the queen-sized bed sported. Barbara certainly had good tastes, expensive tastes, he had noted looking around at the product brands she used in the time he’d been staying at the flat.
His mother had practically scraped by, still had up until recently when Oswald had started working for and moving up in the mob and slowly began treating her to small trinkets here and there through the past year so as not to rouse her suspicions to what he was really doing. He knew the clutches of poverty well, and from this, Oswald had learned to manage his money meticulously as he had deigned long ago to rise above that given station in life. He made a point though to invest in finer things such as well tailored suits and other amenities as he could afford them to bolster his feelings of success in life. He prided himself that he knew well what to splurge on and what to save for.
These thoughts turned his mind to the day at hand and how he would use it to gain some ground over time lost. Maroni would require quite a bit of smoothing over he was sure, and he really didn’t have anywhere to hide out after he made things right with the Don. He considered taking the money he had holed away at his mother’s and getting a hotel room, but at the moment he didn’t have a fake ID, and Jim being a detective would surely trace any such trails directly back to him. No, that wasn’t going to work.
He supposed he could rent out an apartment, but the idea of hiding out in an empty apartment was very unflattering. He hated to admit it, but he didn’t relish the idea of living alone and preferred living with his mother for this reason. Of course he told himself it was for her benefit, so that she wasn’t all alone. He worried for her of course, but he was also selfish in the fact that he wanted her company, her well cooked meals, and her tendency to want to please him by waiting on him hand and foot.
The more he thought on the matter an idea sprang to mind. He knew what he needed to do. This whole mess would be cleared up by tomorrow he assured himself as he finally climbed out of bed.
Oswald was showered and had arrived at the kitchen to be overcome with the delicious smells of a variety of foods. It seemed Jim was a bit of a cook himself; on the table there were two plates each had a stack of two pancakes, a few strips of bacon on them, and Jim was currently working on the eggs. Oswald blinked, “Wow. This looks delicious Jim! You’ve really outdone yourself this morning.”
Jim gave Oswald a smile as he finished up frying the eggs and placed half on each plate. "Despite what you might think from Barbara cooking most of the time since you've been here, I do cook." But he knew that Barbara enjoyed cooking, so when she wanted to, he didn't try to stop her.
Waving Oswald over to have a seat, Jim asked, "How did you sleep?"
Oswald smiled brightly as he slid into the gestured seat, “I feel quite rested thank you.” Looking at the clock and seeing it was almost ten he added, “I appreciate you letting me sleep in, it was a welcome reprieve.”
"Well, there wasn't anywhere either of us needed to be this morning. And we did have another late night." Jim put the pans in the sink, ready to wash once they'd finished, and moved over to join Oswald at the table.
Oswald nodded at the logic, "We did, didn't we. I've always kind of been a night owl. What time do you have to go to work tomorrow?" He posed the question innocently so as to make it seem related to the hour of sleeping in, but Oswald really just wanted to know the kind of time table he had to work with to bypass the man easily.
"I'll go in quite early," Jim answered. "There'll be plenty of food for you to help yourself to, since I'm sure you won't want to get up as early." He began eating.
Oswald countered, “Well, I thought I might make breakfast for you and Barbara since you’ve been so kind to cook for me the past two days. I may not be the best cook, but I also may surprise you with a flavorful dish.” He actually did like to cook on occasion for his mother to give her a break, and she always appreciated his efforts although he was never really sure whether she was being honest by the way she would rave about how delicious it was.
Getting Barbara up may also get her moving a little earlier as he was going to need her out of the house as well before he would dare to disappear for any period of time in fear that she may call Jim to let him know Oswald was missing. She had to be preoccupied, and even though he hadn’t asked her if she planned to go to the art gallery on Monday or not, she had mentioned there was supposed to be a new shipment coming in in the morning with a few new pieces she’d been excited to see. From her previous enthusiasm, he didn’t have to ask if she wanted to be there when it arrived assuming she likely would wish to.
Jim nodded. "All right," he said. "That's a nice offer. We'd both appreciate it." Although he was sure Oswald was perfectly capable of drugging any dish he made, Jim felt it was important to trust Oswald in the same way he expected the other man to trust him.
Oswald beamed, “Excellent! I’ll pick up a few items after we have lunch to make some of my mother’s famous strawberry shortcake French toast. It’s absolutely to die for take it from me.” He was pleased that he could show some form of appreciation to the couple especially since he was feeling guilty for what he was about to do, but he had to establish some boundaries in their relationship, and not being told how to live or getting a spanking for not adhering to Jim’s unjust laws was one of them.
"That sounds good," Jim replied with a smile. It was hard not to respond to Oswald's enthusiasm the same way he'd respond to a child who was eager to please. He found himself believing even more in that potential for goodness he was sure existed inside Oswald.
Oswald was feeling rather chipper as they ate and shared small talk about Gotham and their plans to take Barbara to lunch. Jim had discussed Oswald taking his mother to Barbara’s event opening before she’d left that morning, and she had been delighted to hear Oswald had wanted to attend as well as share the experience with his mother.
Jim had been careful not to ruin the surprise lunch date by casually asking when she’d be finished up. As projected, she only expected the set up to take a few hours and promised to give him a ring once she was finished. Oswald and Jim worked out to be in the vicinity of the art gallery leisurely browsing the shops until she’d called.
One of the places the two stopped was an antique store as Oswald was always fascinated by classic relics pointing at a paperweight pendulum made in the 18th century, “I’ve always been a fan of simple vestiges of the past that somehow still remain well enough intact to serve their purpose.”
Jim nodded, following the direction Oswald was pointing. "Do you have a collection at all? Or do you just prefer to admire them from afar?" He glanced at the price tag, wondering if it would be appropriate to purchase the paperweight pendulum for the other man as a gesture of goodwill.
Oswald's face registered surprise when he saw Jim looking the item over with obvious intent to buy, and once more he was filled with shame at the thought of betraying the man's trust in the near future. He shook his head, "It's a bit too pricey to collect, but they are very nice to admire."
Jim acknowledged Oswald's reply, but he'd already made the decision to purchase it for the other man, who he realized he already considered a friend. It was within his budget to buy, so he picked it up to take it to the counter.
Stuttering Oswald waved his hands in a gesture that denoted a bashful reluctance, "Oh ah no, that's quite alright. You really don't have to." Oswald did secretly want the bobble, but the thought of taking the gift from Jim as an obvious show of friendship made that guilty feeling surge even more and Oswald had to avert his gaze a smile waning on his flushed face.
"I'm not purchasing this for you so that you'll owe me anything," Jim said. "It's a gift." He walked over to the counter so that he could buy it.
Oswald didn’t argue any further as Jim approached the counter only murmuring a soft, “Thank you,” when Jim handed him the pendulum dipping his head shyly. Oswald was appreciative, but he didn’t feel he really deserved this gift. This of course didn’t stop him from accepting it with bright shining eyes as he held the object fondly looking it over a long moment before his eyes traveled back up to Jim reflecting a radiating warmth, “I won’t forget that you bestowed such kindness on me for no other reason than to be a good friend.” Oswald said this two fold as genuine gratitude for the act and a premeditated apology.
"You've become a part of my life now," Jim said, entirely truthfully, if a little awkward because he wasn't all that sure how to respond. Instead of trying to talk and potentially saying the wrong thing, he reached out to place his hand on Oswald's shoulder, squeezing gently in a show of friendship. "Is there anywhere else you'd like to visit?"
Oswald shook his head, “Nowhere in particular.” Smiling and feeling doubtful now about his plans not out of fear but out of hesitancy to ruin whatever seemed to be developing between the two, Oswald momentarily wondered if he should just wait a little longer to set his strategy in motion. No, there was no going back at this juncture not without deciding with all certainty to follow down the path Jim wanted Oswald to stick to; time was his enemy in that regard. He wasn’t ready to give up on the vast opportunity he knew would be afforded him if he just stuck to his original design. Given enough time, Oswald told himself he could get Jim to see he had more to offer him on the inside, together they could take down Maroni, Fish, and Falcone leaving Penguin as the sole heir to the underground throne. This of course was an indulgent fantasy Oswald knew, but he was a planner, and he assumed by the time they had accomplished such feats the two’s relationship would have become more cemented through actions to where he could have what he wanted and still keep the other man’s friendship intact.
The two spent the next hour before Barbara called wandering around the shops to finally just sitting quietly on the park bench across from the gallery sharing small talk and watching the pigeons flutter about in search of food.
Barbara was delighted to hear they were waiting for her, and the trio made their way down the road towards Levant’s Mediterranean restaurant. The owner recognized Oswald immediately as he personally grabbed a stack of menus addressing the group nervously, “Uh Mr. Cobblepot! So good to see you again! Please, let me show you to a seat.”
There were two other groups still awaiting seats Barbara noted as they were led to the back of the restaurant to a corner booth that could have easily sat eight.
Oswald was quite pleased with the deference of course holding his head high with a broad grin plastered on his face, “Why Thank you Levant, this is perfect.”
Levant stammered, “Of course sir! Nothing but the finest for you and your friends.”
Jim couldn't help but notice the owner's attitude towards Oswald and while it didn't surprise him, it was a source of concern. At the same time, he chose not to draw attention to it right now, instead glancing at Barbara to make sure she was happy with the situation.
Barbara was visibly uncomfortable noting Jim’s concern as well, but she sat moving into the booth to give Jim room to also sit watching him to see how he reacted.
For his part, Oswald practically glowed as he slid into his side of the booth readily sweeping up a menu, “You two are going to love the food here! Levant my good man, these are two of my very best friends, please start off with a glass of your finest wine.”
Levant did not wait rushing off to grab the wine snapping his fingers for one of the waiters and telling them to bring glasses of ice water and fresh bread, so that Oswald’s guests were not left waiting.
Jim didn't speak until after the waiters had left, watching Oswald almost casually. "The owner seems... eager to please," he commented. He was sure he knew why that was... and was almost as sure that Oswald enjoyed having that kind of hold over someone.
Oswald’s smile faltered gathering the subtle insinuations Jim was making, and perhaps because he had assumed correctly it served to sour Oswald’s mood slightly as he clipped, “Levant is an old associate of Fish it’s true, but I assure you that I’m not forcing the man to do anything he doesn’t see fit to do on his own accord.”
Why did Jim have to spoil this? Oswald wanted to give the two a nice outing where they could enjoy lunch through the clout he’d worked so hard to attain in this town. He didn’t have many perks he could use anymore from his former ties to Fish, but this was one he knew there would be no questions asked as Fish rarely ventured to this part of town, and he was the last to come for a payoff, so Levant was sure not to question his appearance.
Barbara cleared her throat taking a small sip on her water as she looked about the restaurant. The small place was definitely of the upper tier variety she could tell by looking at the ambience and the prices on the menu, “Oswald, this place is really expensive. Are…”
Before she could say more, Oswald cut her off shaking his head, “Not to worry; I’ve got this bill. Really, it’s my treat; you two just please, enjoy.” He hoped that would be the end of scrutiny to his chosen excursion. As he said this, a waiter came forward popping a bottle of wine and poured a glass for each setting the bottle in a pail of ice in the middle of the table before departing as quickly as he had come.
Jim wanted to push Oswald for further details, but he was also aware of the fact that the other man was trying to do something nice. He might not particularly like the reason why Oswald was able to get them here, but he did appreciate the sentiment behind it.
Working with Oswald to bring out the good in him would take more than just a couple of days.
For now, Jim merely contented himself with one comment. "I do appreciate the thought behind this, Oswald."
Brightening considerably Oswald raised his glass, “To good friends.” They clinked glasses as the waiter came back by to take their orders. Oswald encouraged the two to order whatever they desired, but Barbara still feeling it to be too much picked one of the lower priced items on the menu where Jim chose something in between. Oswald of course knowing that he wasn’t going to really be paying for the meal ordered the lobster and steak combo much to the owner’s dismay not that the man said anything other than to grimace from afar as he moved about nervously being sure that the trio’s glasses never went empty and that their food was served promptly and correctly.
The meal went well as Barbara told the two how everything at the gallery came together and the exhibit was set to open on schedule without any hiccups. She was looking forward to the show and seeing what the two men and Oswald’s mother thought of it.
Oswald was enjoying the meal immensely as even Jim had seemed to loosen up since their arrival, and it wasn’t until the end of the meal that Oswald got another surprise when the owner brought out a to-go bag placing it at Oswald’s side nodding to the man, “I hope you enjoyed your lunch; you should find everything to be in order sir.” Levant didn’t linger quickly giving the group a slight bow and dashing back in to the kitchen.
None of the three had asked for a to-go box, and as Oswald peered in to the bag he noted an empty to–go container on top as well as a small well wrapped paper bag underneath it to which Oswald understood immediately was Fish’s payoff for the month. Of course it was, he had been out of action right at about a month, so it made sense that Levant must have assumed he’d come to pick up the payoff a couple days later than normal hence why he seemed so nervous since Fish hadn’t already gotten around to redistributing his previous routes.
Oswald had to hold back a chortle of glee as he gingerly pulled out the to-go box and quickly placed the remainder of his meal in it even though he had planned to finish it. He didn’t want to give Jim any reason to question the action. Oswald, however couldn’t hide the ear to ear grin he now wore, “My, my, this meal has really hit the spot! Are you two about ready to go? It’s getting late, and I want to make sure to get ahold of mother, so I can take her to get a nice dress for Barbara’s event.”
Jim frowned, noticing that none of them had asked for a to-go box. Considering how nervous the owner had been when seeing Oswald, he wouldn't be surprised if Oswald had received something... extra. Without any proof about it, though, he didn't say anything... deciding to figure out how to deal with it later.
Once again, he had to remind himself that this was going to be a long road.
Jim stood up, automatically putting some money down to cover at least part of the meal... because even if it was 'taken care of', he was certain the owner was going to have a loss. He then nodded to Oswald. "We can leave now."
Oswald seemed disappointed that Jim felt the need to drop money on the table, and only remarked sullenly, “That’s quite a generous tip, but the service was exemplar I suppose.” He knew why he’d left the money, but he refused to acknowledge it instead opting to call it a tip. Either way, Oswald wanted to put distance from the restaurant knowing that collecting this payment would likely create friction for Levant and certainly make Fish more than aware that he was still a player on the board which she would be none too pleased to discover.
Barbara seemed unsure as to what was going on, but the tension was obvious, and she remained quiet as she slid out of the booth following Jim towards the front of the building.
Oswald for his part wrapped his package tightly to him looking around once more to make sure he was still safe and hurriedly made his way out of the restaurant. He was surer than ever he needed to act sooner than later regarding Maroni. It would seem he was going to need friends in high places before long.
Jim didn't comment on the money he'd left, or on Oswald's response to him having left the money. Instead, as they moved outside, he changed the subject to an entirely different matter, asking Oswald, "Did you want to use my phone to call your mother?" Although he was sure neither of them owned a cell phone, he wasn't as sure that there hadn't been a phone somewhere in the apartment.
Oswald's mother had an old fashioned, considered by today's standards, land line; "Thanks, I'll give her a call now to let her know I'm on my way," the change of topic seemed to please Oswald thinking once more of taking his mother out to buy her something nice for the art show. He added as Jim handed him the phone, "She'll likely take a few hours, so you can just drop me off, and we can meet you at the event."
Oswald hoped that the prospect of clothes shopping for hours would be a deterrent to Jim wanting to come along. If Jim agreed to leave and his mother to shop, it would give Oswald plenty of time to set other plans in motion.
"I can come with you," Jim answered. He looked at Barbara, not wanting to make her come along with him, since he was almost certain that, left to his own devices, Oswald would do something he shouldn't. "Unless you'd prefer me to stay with you... or if you'd like to come as well," he said, aware they didn't have that much time to themselves.
Barbara smiled at the prospect of going shopping, "I wouldn't mind getting a new dress."
For his part Oswald stammered, "Great... we'll be one big happy family..." a small nervous laugh escaped his lips as he groaned inwardly. Of course Jim and Barbara wanted to come along.
Oswald's mother was thrilled to hear the news. Oswald frowned thinking it was going to be so much more difficult to get any alone time now, and grasping at straws, he added once he’d hung up the phone, "Mother may need to eat before we go, if you want to run Barbara's car home first, you could drop me off while you two do so since we won't need two cars will we?"
"I'm sure we could join you and your mother," Jim said mildly. He wasn't sure if Oswald was being evasive on purpose... but it wouldn't surprise him if that was what the other man was doing. And he didn't think letting Oswald out of his sight was such a good idea right now, especially given the interactions he'd observed with the owner of the restaurant they'd just visited.
Barbara thought on the matter briefly stating, “You know, I can just leave my car here and take it home when we leave the event tonight since we’ll be right back here anyway.” She smiled thinking that she’d solved the problem in the best fashion as they moved to all load in to Jim’s car.
This wasn’t going anywhere Oswald realized quickly as he shrugged another nervous laugh escaping in his frustration as he said through gritted teeth, “I’m sure she’ll love the company…”
Following begrudgingly behind the couple, Oswald frowned as they made their way back to the car deciding that he would have to bide his time once more.
Gertrude was delighted when the three arrived opening her door to them in a dramatic show of her obvious pleasure as she welcomed them in. Oswald motioned to the couple, “You’ve already met detective Gordon mother, the young lady is Barbara. They felt like coming to join us to get you that dress I spoke of.”
Mrs. Cobblepot slapped her hands together positively beaming, “Oh how nice! We will have a marvelous time with your new friends Oswald!”
Oswald did want to get to the package under the food he was currently carrying, and he wanted to do so discreetly, so he added hurriedly, “You two go on ahead and take a seat; I’m going to go heat up these leftovers for mother to enjoy,” that said, Oswald darted into the kitchen with the bag clutched tightly to his side.
If Jim wasn't sure that Oswald was hiding something before, he certainly was now, since it was quite clear that Oswald wanted to get something out of the bag he was carrying... something that wasn't food.
"I'll go and see if he needs help." Jim headed through to the kitchen.
No sooner than Oswald had pulled the food out putting it to the side and dug his hand into the bag to pull out the hidden bag containing the money at the bottom did he hear the door creaking open behind him. Panic thrilled down his spine at the thought of being caught red handed like this and having to explain away the money. He quickly shoved the bag down his pants and picked up the to-go box to fumble it into the microwave next to him. He then turned his head towards Jim with a wide grin, “Oh Jim? Can I get you anything?”
"I saw you hide something, Oswald." Jim didn't raise his voice, but there was a note in his tone that suggested he was going to push this.
Oswald looked surprised at the accusation smiling guiltily, “Hide something? You must be mistaken… I …I merely was startled by your arrival. I wasn’t expecting anyone coming up behind me like that is all.” He opened the cabinet above his head pulling down a plate with a jittery hand as he attempted to hide his growing apprehension that Jim would likely continue to pry.
"Oswald... I know you're an intelligent man," Jim said. "And I'm sure you know the same about me. I know you hid something. I know you were given something in the restaurant, even if I don't know what it was."
“I… I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Oswald sputtered nervously as he moved to put distance between the two, “You are clearly seeing things because you are suspicious. Levant knows I often take my food to go, and so he was merely preempting my normal request for a to-go container.” Oswald made ready to bolt if Jim made any sudden action as he had no intention of giving up his newfound fortune.
"If I am suspicious, it's with good reason. I know you took something from him. If he's making you a payment, you know it's going to end up causing trouble," Jim pointed out. "Unless you're planning to pass the payment on to whoever it was supposed to go to of course."
“Payment? For what? We’ve been having such a nice time together, but all these accusations are ruining the atmosphere. Hypothetically, if I did receive such a payment returning it would be absurd not to mention deadly.” The microwave dinged, and Oswald eyed Jim carefully before moving towards the microwave to pull the food out.
"Hypothetically, if you received a payment, you could pass it on anonymously to whoever it was supposed to go to," Jim replied evenly. "I'm just suggesting you not put yourself in danger. That's the last thing I would suggest."
Oswald sighed as he grabbed utensils from a drawer and moved the food from the container over to the plate he’d brought down from the cabinet, “If I had this money, giving it back wouldn’t put me in any less danger and would in fact likely put me in more danger for just having had it in the first place. There’d be no way to give it back anonymously because Levant knows me and would undoubtedly report who he had last saw had the money. But this is a lot of hypothetical, and mother’s food is going to get cold. Would you mind taking it to her while I poor her a glass of ice water?” Oswald held the plate across the table for Jim to take now a broad smile grew across his face knowing that the delivery of the food would take Jim more than long enough for Oswald to remove and get rid of the incriminating evidence before Jim returned.
"I'm sure I can wait until you've poured out a glass of ice water," Jim replied. "But just to say... if you have this money and don't give it back? Levant would still report who he gave the money to. You won't be safe if you keep the money."
Oswald's lip twitched as he laid the plate down and responded, "You know, maybe you're right, but enough talk on imaginary scenarios, I was just thinking that taking the women to 5th and Canal might be a good place to get them new dresses. What do you think?" As he spoke, Oswald poured a glass of water for his mother and grabbing the plate headed towards the living room.
"That sounds like a good idea." Jim followed Oswald through to the living room, deciding to drop the subject for now... but that he would keep a careful eye on the other man, since he knew the scenario was far from imaginary.
Seemingly happy that Jim was willing to move past the conversation, the two exited in to the living room to hear Gertrude gushing on about her son to Barbara showing her baby pictures of all things to which Barbara seemed quite amused and Oswald a bit mortified, “Mother Please! I don’t think Barbara is interested in looking at some archaic pictures!”
Barbara giggled at Oswald’s obvious embarrassment, “It’s alright Oswald; you were a really adorable baby.”
Oswald sighed bringing the food hurriedly over to the table and ushering his mother to come eat, “Come now mother, there’s so much we have to do today, let’s not keep Barbara and Jim waiting.”
“Not to worry my boy,” Gertrude sashayed to the table giving Oswald a loving pat on the arm as he pulled out her chair for her. “Such a good boy to his mother! This looks delicious!” She tittered as she sat beaming up at Oswald while he smiled back at her, “Enjoy your lunch mother.”
Oswald gave her a kiss on top of her head before moving back to where Barbara was still holding the album perusing its contents, “Perhaps I can interest you in something less trivial,” Oswald snorted as he reached onto the bookshelf to grab a book of art history that he was quite sure would spark interest in Barbara.
Barbara smiled at his shyness taking the book, and setting the album aside on the coffee table to seeing Oswald visibly relax.
Jim sat down next to Barbara, drawing the small group into conversation that seemed to imply that he'd forgotten about the money Oswald had been given... though he was still aware of its presence and how much danger Oswald would be in simply by holding onto it.
Putting Plans in Motion
It wasn't long after that the four ventured out to the suggested dress shop, and three excruciating hours later the two women had tried on a multitude of outfits finally deciding what to buy. In their time out, Oswald had used a trip to the restroom as a way to move the cash from the bag in his pants to his inside suit pocket. Counting it showed to be ten grand, and this of course made Oswald quite happy. There was a lot a man could do with ten grand. The two men used the time between when the ladies weren’t showing off their wears to make small talk about nothing in particular choosing to avoid any topics that might cause friction.
After shopping, they dropped Gertrude off, so they could run by the store for Oswald's breakfast supplies promising to pick her up at 8pm for the show. That gave two hours for a quick bite to eat and time to get ready. Gertrude had pressed a suit for Oswald before they had arrived that afternoon to pick her up, so all that was left for Oswald was to get ready once they'd arrived back at the flat.
Jim let Barbara go and get dressed after the three of them had eaten and then he turned to Oswald with a more serious look on his face. "We're not talking about hypothetical situations now, Oswald. I have a fairly good idea that you were paid off in that restaurant. I also have a good idea of what will happen if your possession of the money comes to the attention of the wrong people. And whether you keep it or not, we both know that will happen."
Oswald frowned in obvious annoyance, “This again? I thought we had moved past this conversation.” Moving across the living room to sit on the couch, he sighed sensing the man was never going to let the matter drop, “As you stated, if I did happen to collect a payment from Levant, it wouldn’t matter if I returned it or not. It’d be much too late to make a difference, and you and I both know this, so what’s the point of deliberating any further on the subject?”
"The point is that I don't think you thought through taking the money," Jim said, taking a seat next to Oswald on the couch. "Tell me realistically... what's likely to happen once the taken money comes to light?"
Becoming instantly on guard from previous ‘talks’ on this very couch, Oswald scooted over to the edge of the cushion turning his body to face Jim fully and attentively. He sat rigidly now his hands pulled in to his lap and fiddling nervously, “Well… nothing that wouldn’t have happened either way honestly. I mean what could be done really?” He let out a nervous titter, “But to answer your question, I suppose the ‘would’ be owners might be upset that they hadn’t gotten the money and wish to obtain it.” Why was he so nervous? Oswald hated this feeling as a lump wedged in his throat and his heart began to race as an overwhelming dread started to surface from the way Jim was scrutinizing him.
Jim didn't actually reach for Oswald, since he still hadn't decided what the appropriate response to this was. "It's going to put you in danger... more danger," he corrected. "In case it hasn't been obvious, I don't want anything to happen to you."
Jim addressing that he didn't want anything to happen to him caused Oswald to drop his gaze to his hands as he nodded, "I know you don't. I don't mean to cause you and Barbara any distress from my past associations. We can dine elsewhere from now on." Oswald was careful not to admit he actually had received anything from Levant since giving it back or actually admitting he had the money was not on his agenda.
Jim shook his head and reached out to place a hand on Oswald's shoulder. "Where we dine isn't the problem, Oswald. The problem is that you don't seem to accept the danger you've now put yourself in."
Jim's hand being placed on his shoulder caused Oswald to jump nervously and seeing that Jim wasn't going to let it go, Oswald decided a different tactic was in order. It would be a mistake to have Jim discover the money, so Oswald decided to nod his head reluctantly reaching into his inside suit pocket to pull out the money, "You're right Jim, I need to return this money to Levant. I will go there tomorrow after they open." Of course Oswald had no real intentions of returning the money, but admitting to having it and offering to return it he hoped would be good enough for Jim.
"I think I should go with you." Even though Jim suspected that left to his own devices, Oswald wouldn't actually return the money, that wasn't the main reason he was insisting on going along. He also wanted to make sure nothing happened to Oswald. Knowing how dangerous people like Fish and Maroni could be; he didn't want to risk Oswald getting into trouble without someone being there to watch his back.
Oswald smiled nervously at Jim the hair on the back of his neck prickled at the thought of Jim actually making him return the money in front of him. He blushed slightly at the embarrassment it would cause to have to actually go through with the humiliating task, “No need! I can handle it. Besides, I can just catch a ride into town with Barbara in the morning since the gallery is right around the corner. I don’t want you missing any work on my account!” As he said this, Oswald stuffed the money back into the inside pocket of his jacket. He certainly didn’t want Jim coming along, and he hoped if he agreed to go with Barbara, Jim would relax enough to feel he could manage the task on his own without supervision.
Jim had no intention of drawing Barbara into this situation, whether by putting it on her to be responsible for making sure Oswald did return the money, or by forcing her to be there for Oswald's protection. "I'm not negotiating with you, Oswald," he said, his voice firm and serious. "I will be going with you. Because if I'm there, I can watch your back in a way I know Barbara wouldn't be able to."
Oswald frowned momentarily as his aggravation grew, but he decided it would be best to just agree with Jim for now and figure out a way to circumvent the situation later. He smiled tightly giving Jim a stiff nod, "Certainly Jim; whatever you say." He glanced at the clock, "Well, since we're finished here, I'd better get a shower and change... it's getting late." Oswald rose to leave his frown returning as he turned away from Jim; there was no way he was going through with this!
"We'll continue our conversation later." And now that Jim thought about it, he realized that they were going to have to have a conversation about expectations and consequences. Oswald needed to know what to expect now that he was living here.
Swiping his pressed suit off the back of the recliner, Oswald hurriedly hobbled down the hallway his mind was now cluttered with moving his plans forward, and he had a good idea how to go about it.
It wasn’t long before everyone had showered and readied themselves in formal wear. Oswald was sure to lavish Barbara with compliments and even gave a few to Jim. The three headed out to pick up Gertrude who seemed more than thrilled as Oswald opened her door for her and helped her inside.
The car ride was pleasant enough as Barbara talked a little about the event and the newest pieces the program would be showcasing. The 1st hour they were there, all four attended together and Barbara showed them the line of new art on display while they sipped on complimentary champagne offered for the presentation.
Oswald had led his mother by the arm, and the older woman seemed as enthralled as he had been on his first visit. Turning to Barbara and Jim, he asked casually, “Barbara, do you mind if I take my mother down to see the wing with your Picasso and Monet?”
Gertrude gasped her smile broadening, “Oh I love Monet!”
Barbara smiled at her obvious delight looking to Jim, “I don’t see why not,” Barbara was looking forward to a little bit of alone time with Jim since their weekend had been rather busy comparatively to most.
Jim nodded his agreement. Although he suspected that Oswald had his own motives for wanting to be alone with his mother, he couldn't prove anything... and if he wanted the other man to trust him, he needed to extend that trust in return. He smiled at Barbara, then glanced at Oswald. "I think that's a good idea." He wrapped his arm around Barbara, not wanting her to feel left out or neglected.
Barbara leaned in to Jim’s embrace giving his arm a firm squeeze before glancing to Gertrude and adding, “Oswald and I spent quite a while perusing what the gallery has to offer, so I’m sure he should be able to find his way around well enough. If you have trouble finding any particular artists, near the front entrance there is a catalog listing for the artists we have in the gallery and what wing to find them in.”
Nodding with a wide smile, Oswald answered, “Yes, we had quite the time; didn’t we? Not to worry, I think I can find my way around well enough.”
Gertrude swiped another drink off of a passing waiter’s tray, “Oh I am having such a lovely time Barbara! Thank you so much for showing my boy and I the cultures at your lovely establishment! I’ve always told Oswald how much beauty there is to be seen in the history of painting.”
Before Gertrude could continue talking, Oswald patted her arm as he interjected, “Yes mother, Barbara knows quite well the value of fine art. It is her gallery after all.” As he said this, he began to lead her off towards the Monet paintings in the far west wing.
Watching them go Barbara gave a soft chuckle as she remarked, “They are too cute aren’t they? It’s nice to see how much Oswald cares for his mother.”
Resisting the urge to try and follow Oswald (or discuss his suspicions with Barbara), Jim turned to her, giving her his full attention. "She seems very over-protective of him... which, I believe, is why she didn't argue him staying with us for a while." He smiled, wrapping an arm around Barbara's waist and hugging her against his side. "But we shouldn't talk about that. Let's enjoy the gallery." And spending the time together... though Jim didn't feel the need to add that.
It was nice to have Jim to herself, and the two enjoyed each other’s company as they continued to walk about the gallery just talking as they often did about the things they were partial to.
As Oswald had promised, he took his mother to the paintings she had wanted to see. Walking about Oswald was sure to place a grimace of mock worry on his face knowing his mother would be sure to notice as she always had.
Taking in the sights and sipping on her drink Gertrude had been talking up a storm when she realized her son seemed lost in thought, “What’s the matter my dear boy, you look upset?”
Oswald sighed, “It’s nothing mother...” he said this somewhat dramatically knowing his mother would not give up so easily.
She stopped putting a hand on his cheek, “Don’t tell me it’s nothing! Your mother knows when something is bothering you; now you tell me.”
Nodding his concession Oswald took in a deep breath, “I fear for Jim and Barbara’s safety mother. I know he wants to help me, but he just doesn’t know what he’s up against.”
Instantly worried Gertrude’s expression grew distraught, “What do you mean?”
Oswald was sure to peer around ensuring the two were alone as he lead his mother further down the hall talking in hushed whispers, “The detective is a good man, but he is a bit naïve. I’ve recently become privy to several unscrupulous individuals working under the guise of the GCPD, and I fear that my association with Jim may end up causing he and Barbara harm if it came to light he was protecting me.”
Gertrude clutched her hand to her chest, “Oh no, they are such a nice couple. Have you told him your concerns?”
Looking back over his shoulder to make sure Jim was nowhere in sight, Oswald continued, “I think it’s best if I leave their company and keep it between you and I. If Jim knows where I am, I’m putting him at risk. Besides, knowing you are home all alone has me so worried; I was thinking it would be best for all involved if I just stay with you.”
Gertrude was obviously troubled, “I don’t know Oswald; do you really think this is best?”
Oswald placed an arm around her shoulders giving her a warm squeeze, “Of course mother. If I’m with you than those dirty cops will have no reason to go after Jim or Barbara, and I’ll be careful in my comings and goings to ensure I stay well out of detection.”
Gertrude didn’t look fully convinced, but she trusted her son implicitly, “I do not know how you have gotten yourself in such trouble, but if you think this is best than I will support you.”
Oswald stopped making sure to have her full attention as he placed a hand lovingly on each shoulder, “Just remember, you can’t let them know that I’m going back to reside with you as Jim will surely think staying with him is in my best interest, but you and I know differently. Can I trust you to keep this our little secret?”
Wanting her son to be safe and believing he knew best she nodded, “Yes, yes, of course. Oh Oswald, I am so worried for you!” She wrapped her arms around him drawing him into a hard hug.
Oswald frowned to look at her; he could tell she was on the verge of tears as he pulled her away, and he kissed each cheek touching her nose, “It’s going to be okay mother, you’ll see. Now in order to make this work, you need to wait at least twenty minutes before you venture back to Jim and Barbara. I’ll come home later tonight. Everything is going to be all right I promise.”
He gave her his surest smile, and she smiled back at him nodding her head in agreement and patting his arm, “Okay, you go now, and I will see you tonight.”
Oswald gave her one last kiss on the cheek before making his way to the side entrance peeking around one last time to ensure he wasn’t being followed before disappearing out the side door.