log: eddie/muerte at the funeral home Who: Eddie & Muerte When: recently Where: Muerte's old funeral home What: helping along a lost soul~ Warnings: sads. talk of death. cute stuff too.
Eddie could see the souls floating up and out of Gotham. Sheets of light shimmering from rubble, from turned over buses, from blood stains on the street. Hundreds of them? Thousands. Silver and blue glimmers all across his beloved city. It made him think of balloons and he wondered if this was what Joker saw when he made the city burn? All the beauty without the terrible pit in the riddle man’s stomach.
There was a time when he could be distant and pragmatic about these kinds of things. Most people (probably including Selina) thought this was still true. That because he wasn’t crippled by grief, that because he could think and plan and organize while standing in the middle of a pile of dead bodies, he wasn’t all that different from the worst of the rogue’s gallery. Eddie liked to think that wasn’t true. That he cared through the eventual dullness he felt watching spirits come and go. He liked to think there was an ounce of-
Below him, the soft curl of static fingers latched onto his thumb. He was in full Riddler regalia, green with a bowler hat and even that funny little Domino mask. Eddie looked like something in a children’s cartoon; which would explain the little ghostie holding onto him. The riddled man looked down and smiled at a dirty looking street rat in a battered striped shirt. Dark hair over his (her?) eyes and a sad little frown. Transparent. Dead. Ghostie.
“Hi.” Eddie whispered and blinked. All those dreams he used to have about becoming a father, someone who wasn’t anything like his own old man had long since been forgotten. The ghostly little hand brought it all back in a rush. Like a skeleton popping open his coffin. Spiderwebs and dust. The kid smiled at him like he heard something and Eddie shook his head. “Nope. None of that, kid. Any kind of paternal stuff doesn’t even get mentioned to the lady about to meet up with us. Deal?”
The kid nodded with a flop of dark hair and squeezed Eddie’s thumb tighter. The man in green looked up and remembered where he was: outside of Muerte’s old funeral home. He hadn’t been there for a long time, maybe not even since Jason sliced her throat open and he wondered why he had so many good memories attached to awful ones when it came to Muerte. It kind of made him smile and he reached down to pick up the ghosty boy (it felt like carrying staticky blankets) and brought him inside.
The place was covered in dust (no surprise there) and Eddie couldn’t help but think it was being underutilized. He looked around, thinking of how he could find ways to-
The ghostie kid went tap tap tap through the living room, reaching to hug one of the pillows on the couch and just barely phased through it. Eddie smiled and then turned off the Riddler part of his brain before opening the hotel door for Muerte.
She'd been lingering in the hallway outside the door (one of Eddie's dark green button-up shirts over black tanktop, black jeans and heavy boots, hair a mess and sunglasses pushed up on her head to hold back the octopus strands, as much herself as she'd ever been), waiting for it to open and staring at the wood with a flat expression. She'd been on the journals, checked in with Selina, even had brief, blunt words with Damian. And the impression they'd given her was even worse than that first message from Eddie. She knew that there was going to be a ruined city on the other side of the door, a wash of heavy numbers when she stepped through, and it wasn't something she'd had to deal with for a very long time.
But she'd gotten softer. Time being human and time interacting with people, connections made and emotions forged, and she couldn't be as objective as she once was. It would be a little easier once she was through the door again - that ability to step back into her old role - but she'd changed. And while causing people to suffer was never actually part of what she'd been, she found it even more difficult now. There was mercy threaded through her along with that vulnerable humanity. It was why she'd agreed to do this "favor" - to step through into a world that wouldn't let her go, even when she did her best to cut her ties to it.
The door eventually opened, familiar in that moment as the polished wood of the place that was somehow both setting and self, and she allowed her fingers (still human in the hallway of the hotel - and someday she'd figure out how exactly it was determining where and when she made the switch) to trail over the warm but dusty edge. Eddie stood on the other side, and it was good to see him again, good to know that he was as whole and as safe as Gotham could keep him for the moment. It didn't surprise her that he was dressed to the nines in Riddle, knowing that image was just as important a part of things as it ever was in Gotham. She smiled just a bit that he'd ended up in the funeral home though, a place that was familiar to both of them. She supposed that it seemed fitting. Beyond his shoulder, she could see his new friend by the couch, and that smile went softer on her face, a little sad, and stayed that way when she looked back at Eddie.
Eddie inhaled and then after a short, sudden exhale. “Hi.”
The little kid from the couch waved at Muerte. Spirits lost like this little one didn’t really comprehend they were dead. Something sudden or traumatic tore reality away for the sake of ghostly sanity. The price was wandering the world without growing old, without any friends (besides a brightly colored necromancer) and with a mind that would slowly deteriorate into nothing more than a shadow. A black stain that stretched up and down hallways. It was good to help the child now. It was even better that the kid came to him instead of making him search.
“Ah, yes. Here-” Eddie held his hand out for her with a turn of his wrist that was very gentlemanly. He knew once she stepped through he’d static into nothing, but Eddie wanted any chance he could to touch her before helping this kid. He wanted a chance to hold her hand and be comforted by her. “Hey, kid.” Eddie turned once Muerte took his hand. “This is a friend of mine. You want to come over and say hello?”
The little kid tapped his/her hands on the couch pat pat pat and then hopped off the couch to greet her. There wasn’t a smile at first, but with a little effort the kid managed one. Still, the ghostly child didn’t seem to want to talk. Or maybe couldn’t? Ah, why not both?
Muerte turned her smile again to the child, warmer and reaching her eyes. And she waved in return, a waggle of her fingers, wrinkle of nose, and a squint of her eyes at the edges of the smile. It was almost a silly face, one she'd perfected over time to be just weird enough to put kids at ease. She knew that the kid lingered, was a little afraid, could see how they'd found Eddie and latched on as someone that could help. She hoped that it wouldn't frighten the kid too much to see him fade into similar ghostliness.
But when she stepped through the doorway and reached out for Eddie's hand, his fingers were solid, an electric tingle where they touched. She tightened her fingers around his, waiting for that slip of his presence into absence, hung on while the tidal wave of herself and the damaged, lingering souls of Gotham washed over her. Her awareness spread in an expanding ring from where her boots weighed heavy on the floor, the rooms around them warming and clearing of dust as she "settled in" again. She felt it all, from the corners of the building around them to the far reaches of the universe, but Gotham was a wound, one close and open and bleeding. It made her close her eyes and sigh, still clinging to Eddie's hand - one that remained in hers.
Eddie stabilized himself, both feet firm on the ground and ready to be turned transparent and shimmery. He hadn’t experienced it as an adult yet and somehow the memories of being a teenager felt distant even if it was only a couple weeks ago. There was fear bubbling up in him even if he knew it was going to be okay and that showing fear was only going to make things harder for Muerte and the kid. So, he held onto her hand a little harder and closed his eyes, waiting for the shoe to drop.
He heard her step into the house with a creak of old floorboards below, but didn’t feel her hand fall through his. Eddie’s heart started to beat faster, he started to worry and the kid made a soft whining noise behind him. “I’m okay.” He strained and opened his eyes, looking down at his hand still holding hers and then up at Muerte. “Am I solid?” His grip tightened and he reached to touch his hat, to feel the soft felt rim.
There was the scent of dead roses and burning candles floating through the air. He could feel the vastness of space; like he was walking through a boomtube or looking off a roof. But, nothing ghostly. No static.
Her eyes were wide and curious when she stepped through and nothing happened to Eddie. She stared at his hand holding hers like she'd never seen anything like it, and at his question, she nodded. "You're solid." It was soft, still marveling at it, and then her face split into a smile - not wide, not a grin, but a smile. One that she angled over at the kid for a second. "He's solid." Eyebrows inched up along with that smile on her face, pleased for just a moment before she turned her hand and slid her thumb along the inside of his wrist, pressing against his pulse for a moment as she did. Confirming it was still there and strong and steady.
Attention back to Eddie, she stepped closer and paused. Then closer again. Her borrowed shirt brushed against his suitcoat, and while she had no breath in the door, she sighed softly. "I'm going to kiss him now. You can cover your eyes if you want…" Her words were meant for the kid, but she didn't take her gaze from Eddie.
And then she was doing just that, pressing forward for a kiss that was a little too hard a little too suddenly, and accompanied by a hungry sound in her throat. Poor timing, but he was different here. She was different here. She felt the universe at her back, but in front of her was a man tied to all those souls in the city that couldn't make the journey beyond the lives they'd once known but no longer could claim. She opened her mouth to the kiss, and could taste grave dirt on his soul and the acrid shiver of wandering ghosts. There was something else there, an after-taste of recent thoughts - of small children and riddled men and-- She broke away with an unneeded gasp before that thought reached its end, not wanting the confirmation of too much knowledge that should remain someone's secrets.
With another whisper: "Very solid."
He remembered how it felt standing on the observation deck of the Justice Tower. There was a large, unnecessary window that was a half mile long and ten stories high that showed the stars, the moon, the sun, the earth. He remembered standing there, looking at the vastness of space, the unnerving endlessness of it. How the stars twinkled from so far away as if taunting him with knowledge he’d never obtain. That was what it felt like to kiss Death. And he thought he could feel Muerte lingering there, too and he felt something uncertain towards the end of their embrace.
When he looked at her, Eddie knew she felt what he was trying to keep hidden. Of course she did. “Never very good with keeping secrets.” He mumbled and considered hiding that feeling away with more locks and bolts than had been on there before. But, that was selfish. And, that kid? That kid needed someone who could love them even if it was for a couple minutes before there was a bright light to step through. He offered Muerte a smile and then turned towards the kid.
“Come here and say hello.” Eddie knelt and outstretched his green gloved hand out and the little kid took ahold of his thumb. The two smiled at each other and Eddie turned to look up at Muerte. “Let’s- can you make it a game?” He asked her, dark eyes a little wider. The kid wouldn’t understand life and death all that easily. They couldn’t sit the kid down and have a chat about birds gone mad and explosions under the city. So a game? A game could make it easier for all of them.
The secrets were sharp on her tongue, tight in the angle behind her jaw like something too sour, but also laced through with sweetness - lemondrops of thoughts. "You don't have to." Standing close to him, it was easy to see that ache in his life, the one that had become distant but still clung to him - a puzzle piece that wasn't able to be filled. "I'm sorry…" It was an apology that came hard from her throat, for so many things that he had to feel - but in the moment, specifically for being unable to help him with that one thing - helping him find an answer to those old dreams of his. She pulled back just enough to look at him, infinite eyes tender as she did.
And the moment hung.
Until the kid came over, and then her attention was angled down with a smile. She didn't reach out to shake hands, not yet, but she crouched down and wrinkled her nose again. "Hello." Her smile went wider when the kid responded with a smile that was a little shy, and then she was standing again, slapping her palm to the lapel of Eddie's coat with a grin. "Tag." And with another smile down at the kid. "We should run now." And then she did. Actually moving, not just appearing somewhere else.
Eddie knew that with Muerte in her Deathly form, she could sense practically anything. Maybe not read his mind in that comic booky way telepaths were supposed to, but she knew things. And, so him hiding from her didn’t make sense. Still, the want for a family wasn’t something he wanted to talk about and not even something he wanted to think about. He had something good with Muerte and he had gotten so skilled at not rushing. Why screw that up now? Why screw up the best thing he had going for him?
So, he focused on the kid. On the fact the kid wasn’t going to be here much longer and so making those last moments in Gotham the best he could was more important than any grown-up problem. Eddie grinned when Muerte slapped his back and then gave the kid a wild, wide-eyed look with fingers curled like claws. “Raawrrr!!” The riddled man gave his best monster roar and the kid giggled and shot off after Muerte.
Rising to his feet, he took loud, slow steps after them before slightly picking up the pace so that he could, you know, actually win at tag. Of course, whether or not he was supposed to succeed was a little lost at him at the moment, but if there was one thing he was driven to do, it was win. Even if it was a simple game of tag with his girlfriend and a ghostly little kid.
There was a giggle from one of the rooms nearby and he stomped into the room after it, seeing the kid trying to hold in a laugh as they hid behind a lamp. “Where could that kid be!! It’s monster lunch time!” Another round of stifled giggles and Eddie slowly made his way around the room, checking everything except for the lamp. “Are you under....HERE?!!” He tried the couch. “Ah, no dice. I see, I see. Well, what about HERREE??!!??”” He tried the curtain and then gave a huge sigh when there was no kid to be found.
The ghostly little kid giggled so badly that they nearly knocked the lamp over. Eddie turned, pointed a clawed hand at the kid and shouted nefariously, “YOU THERE!” The kid squeaked and then shot off, going straight through the wall into the other room. Eddie dropped the monster act long enough to holler, “Hey! That’s not fair at all! You’re cheating!” Said with that geeky slant The Riddler was famous for.
Muerte had run away when the kid went to hide behind the lamp, peeking through the door to watch monster-Eddie's stomping around. She grinned as she did, palm braced on the door frame and lips pressed to the back of her hand. Her eyes were dark but bright, and something about the monster show revived that very human part of her that lived low behind her ribcage. She stifled her own laugh at Eddie's declaration about cheating, and then slipped back around the corner when she realized that the sound would attract his attention.
The kid was lingering right behind her, and she nearly tripped over trying to avoid running into them. Their hands were both pressed against mouth, keeping in all the giggles that wanted to escape, and without touching, Muerte pointed toward the room's windows and the thick curtains there. "I don't think he'll find you there!" It was a stage whisper that could likely be heard from the other room. With a little wave of her hand, she gestured toward the new hiding spot and then went to linger in the corner near the door, shadows somehow a little thicker there.
Eddie gave ample time for the kid to go hide and then came stomping around the corner, fingers still angled like claws and face screwed up funnily like he was playing a villain on stage. He wondered how many people thought The Riddler looked like that, especially back in the day when he was a little more roguish. He looked around the room, seeing Muerte blending with shadows and he winked at her before surveying the rest of the room a little more closely.
He did more of the dramatic unveiling to places where there certainly couldn’t be a little child hiding behind. In truth, he could have picked up where the kid was even if the little ghost had been completely invisible. It was this strange thread he had to the underworld, like a dog who had picked up the scent of a lost kid in the woods. After looking behind a picture (for the sake of comedy, obviously) he turned to Muerte as if to ask if he should find the kid. He gave a little shrug and looked sweetly lost in a way a super genius such as himself rarely did.
Eddie's wink earned a wider smile in return, even as she pushed back farther into the shadows and nearly blended with them for a moment, never more obvious that she was part of the house, and it part of her. She was able to stay in her corner, but also linger just over Eddie's shoulder, more a feeling than an actual presence - both there and not. But then when he looked to be on the edge of "giving up" on the chase, a whisper, a breeze against the curve of his ear. Chase toward me…
There had been enough fun, she figured, a few minutes of chase and of giggles, but the kid didn't belong in Gotham - not any longer. There was a place for them to move on to, and as she was already doing for souls across the city, she could be the one to help ease the way. It was a different thing than she sometimes did - not the one that was there for their deaths, but the one to usher them along. A different focus, but one that was just as important if the city wasn't going to crumble again under the weight of souls taken too quickly, too traumatically.
The shadows eased from the corner for a moment, and she was more there again, standing with a smile and a light to her eyes, crouching down so that she would be ready to open her arms if the kid ran towards her - if that didn't work, Eddie would need to tag her, and the chase would be different.
Eddie wondered if he was supposed to be disturbed that the feeling of Muerte lingering so close even if she wasn’t physically there wasn't a bad thing. He liked it (which might have been a cause for concern a long time ago) and in some ways even missed it. There was no doubt that having the real thing was better, that having her in his arms with the warmth of her body against his trumped all of this mystical stuff. Still, he liked it. Eddie was a weird guy like that. And, he was in strange company.
A really awful voice in the back of his head suggested that he, her and this cute kid could form some kind of weirdo family together, but he knocked that out of the park as soon as it was pitched. That kind of thinking was selfish and all he had to do was remind himself of trying to make a family with Stephanie when she wasn’t even close to being fit for motherhood. Selfish. Despite all of his intentions to never be like his father. Here was his chance to do what was right for this kid, not for himself.
He smiled as she formed behind him, crouching with her arms outstretched. If he ever died, this was always the way he wanted to go. Ever since he first met Muerte. A big hug before departing for the great unknown. Eddie turned and put on his Riddler persona with ease. “Ahah! There is but one place I haven’t checked. A certain, secret, terribly clever place that only a true mastermind would choose!” His voice was getting a little Shakespearean, as one does when being a supervillain. The curtain trembled with giggles and Eddie pulled the thick fabric back with gusto as if he were revealing a magic trick.
The little kid screamed in delight, crawled between Eddie’s legs and bolted towards Muerte in a big, happy laughing hug. The ghostly kid held onto her tightly, securely as if there was nowhere safer to be. “Aaah! My greatest weakness! Hugs!” The great Riddler lamented over by the curtain.
She could feel (when she allowed herself to turn her thoughts in that direction) the empty place in Eddie's life that still pained him, an ache like a starving stomach. And though she knew (with everything else) that it was impossible for her to be the one to help fill it, she still wanted to. Her mind twisted around those impossible things, and though there was never any thought in her mind about being a mother (impossible, impossible), she wanted to want it for him. And she didn't know how or why she could feel that way, so it was a thing that got pushed aside in her mind.
It was easy enough to ignore once Eddie resumed his Great Riddler act, the overdramatic supervillain making her grin. Trembling curtains and high giggles made her laugh too, and she opened her arms when the kid ducked between Eddie's legs to head toward her. She opened her arms wide and scooped them close, closing her eyes at the feeling of little arms around her. The rush of feathers filled the air, along with a breeze that smelled of someplace cleaner than a destroyed city, and she turned her face toward the kid, mouth moving in a nearly silent whisper. It was too soft for Eddie to hear, meant only for the child in her arms. And between one blink and the next, the rush of sound went silent again, and the child was gone, Death standing again, nearer to Eddie than she was to the corner she'd been in. And she gave him a smile - a little on the small side, a little bittersweet, but warm.
Eddie brought the heel of his palm to his cheek and pushed away some tears. For the kid, for himself, he didn’t know. He knew he was happy for the kid, though and that fresh air was a good indicator that things were going to be okay. He closed his eyes at the sound of wings and then opened them to see her standing and smiling. Eddie reached for her, fingers lightly snagging on fabric and he pulled her closer for a hug and a gentle kiss to the side of her face. “I hate it here.” He murmured and wondered if that was the first time he had ever said that. Other people had and Eddie defended his city until the end. But, the color was gone. Bruce was gone. And the only thing he saw here was loss. What was the point, anymore?
“And, I don’t get why I’m not ghostal.” He added, leaning back so he could look at her. A sigh and then, apologetically: “I’m sorry, I’m glad you’re here. Thanks for taking care of that kid. Cute, right?” Eddie kind of wished he had something to remember the kid by, but how could you take a souvenir from a ghost?
She was there even as he was reaching up, her own fingers gentle to brush away some of those tears. She felt it too, just in a different way. The kid hadn't had a very good time while they were alive in Gotham, but a death so young was still hard to handle. She hadn't always thought that way - at one point, every death came exactly when it was supposed to, and there was nothing sad about it. But she'd changed. She was too human to be doing her job any longer, but she was too Endless to escape it.
Stepping into his arms, she slipped her own around him to return the hug, blinking slowly at the kiss. His confession was met with a nod, though no words to explain whether she meant that she already knew that, or that she shared his sentiment. Either way, she wanted to be gone - to return to Marvel and curl up in their bed together and kiss him until she lost her breath. it wasn't just about what she wanted though, so she kept that thought to herself. At least for the moment.
"I'm glad I could help. Even a little." She gave him a smile when he leaned back, one with eyebrows that inched up just a bit. And then she was shifting just a bit, slipping her touch along his arm so that she could hold his hand with palm cupped, and dropped two things into it, curling his fingers around them - but careful not to squeeze as they were metal and sharpish. When her touch fell away and he could open his fingers again, two jacks sat in his palm. The paint they'd once had was only present at the very center, the rest of it rubbed away by time and small fingers. He hadn't asked for anything out loud, and she couldn't read his mind, but she knew him enough to know how he marked things and people, kept reminders for himself. And so she provided.
"We'll figure it out. Something. We'll make it work." They were strange promises, ones she didn't even entirely know why she was making. But the need was there to say something, to address those aches she could feel inside of him.
Kissing, touching here was so different than it was in Marvel. There was a taste that lingered in his mouth, that buzzed on his fingertips that made him feel woozy. As if the universe was busy trying to assert itself that he did not belong with her and that was just the way things were. He was no stranger to being told he couldn’t do or have something, but this felt like he was breaking the periodic table over his knee. And Eddie? Was never a big fan of chemistry. Still, he missed her, so he fought through the strange feeling and focused on her, on how he knew she felt outside of this damned city. It was more proof that he shouldn’t even be there anymore.
“More than a little.” He whispered back and let her puppet his hand until the two jacks fell into his palm. He pushed his fingers and thumb against the metal lightly to feel what they were before looking. “Huh, I didn’t know kids still played with these.” He took a look at the jacks and remembered the kind he had as a kid. It was a poor kid’s toy. Dollar store stuff. Only someone raised with nothing would understand and that explained why the ghostly kid took his hand in the first place. They understood each other. And wasn’t that hard to come by in Gotham?
He got lost a little thinking about being a kid and then looked up suddenly when she started talking about somethings and making it work. Eddie knew there were a lot of things buzzing in his head, so he decided to generalize it. He smiled softly and shook his head. “I don’t- maybe I don’t want to make things work anymore. Maybe I should just let them be.” He looked up at her and then out the window towards Gotham. “Once I’m sure my gang is settled for the winter, I want to go back to Marvel with you. I want to go back so we can figure out...this. Ah, us. And, I never want to come back here.” It was bold. Bolder than he had ever been about Gotham.
"Kids will play with what they can get." Her words were very soft, especially as she finally took a step back. She could feel the strangeness between them, the way the world itself didn't quite know what to do every time they touched. She was everywhere, helping those souls onto The Next, but her heart stayed in the house, in the room, drawn toward Eddie like gravity. She was stretched across the universe in a way that was uncomfortable, like she didn't quite fit any more, like there were corners that she wasn't quite able to cover, a blanket that was a little too small. It made her antsy, made her shift her weight and frown, made her want to leave.
But then Eddie was talking about letting things happen. And about leaving Gotham. And that sounded right. It sounded like it fit, and like something that every part of her wanted. "I think I'd be okay with that." She said it casually, like it wasn't any big deal, but that didn't stop her from smiling - not a grin, but content, nodding. She didn't say anything else for a moment, not until she reached out again to slip her hand into Eddie's and squeeze carefully. "Can we go take care of that now? The sooner we do, the sooner we can go home." And home sounded exactly right.