The ceiling of Arkham Asylum was the same as it ever was as Edward Nygma stared at it, counting the little paint bumps one by one (no ceiling tiles allowed--sharp edges, don't you know), wondering about a great many things, including whether or not this would be what hell was like whenever he got around to joining the ranks down there. He certainly couldn't think of anything worse than being in Arkham; to be a man with things to do and no way to do them was torturous.

But at least it wasn't shock therapy.

On second thought, there probably were worse things than being in Arkham, locked in a cell with nothing to do.

It came as quite a surprise, of course, when late one afternoon (or at least, he thought it was late afternoon--but he couldn't be sure, since he had neither window nor clock with which to chart the passage of time) two orderlies arrived outside his cell and ordered him out.

Even more puzzling was the fact that rather than dragging him to a therapy session or to the 'rec room' for 'group time' the way they usually did, they took him to the property locker facility, where he was given back his suit, in all its shining emerald glory, and ordered to dress.

Stranger still was what they did after he had his suit back on.

They escorted him out of Arkham without so much as a single word of explanation about why he was being released.

Edward wasn't the sort of man who liked having confusing ends to a mystery left dangling in front of his face, like pieces of a puzzle in a disarray, just waiting for someone to pick them up and put them back in their proper order again; and as he started away from the gates of Arkham, completely bewildered by this turn of events, he very nearly stumbled over the answer to his unvoiced questions.

Literally. He nearly tripped over her.

Or her car, rather.

Edward had been glancing behind himself at Arkham, wondering why the guard at the gate was looking at him that way, when his foot connected with something solid and he bumped into a very sturdy piece of steel, which almost sent him sprawling.

He caught himself by grabbing hold of the door handle to the little foreign economy model and he felt his eyes get wide at the realization of who was sitting behind the wheel.

Monica was chewing on the left side of her bottom lip so harshly that it was cherry red and she flicked her eyes up to meet his briefly before she tightened her grip on the steering wheel and returned to staring out the windshield, brow furrowed.

Edward recovered from his shock in an impressively short amount of time and cleared his throat.

She didn't respond. At least, not at first, so he cleared his throat again--a little louder than the last time.

She snapped her head around and glared at him fiercely. "Are you going to get in or are you not-so-subtly asking for a cough drop? 'Cause I warn you now, I don't have one handy."

"You're inviting me in?" He asked, one eyebrow lifting of its own accord.

"Yes," she returned irritably. "Now if you don't get in by the count of three, I'm driving off---"

Slam!

Edward's seatbelt clicked noisily as he secured it around his middle and turned to smile at the woman who'd clearly come to his rescue.

She turned to look at him, narrowing her eyes suspiciously at his far too friendly grin. "Now, look, I didn't do this for you--"

"Conscience get to you, did it?" He smirked knowingly.

"Don't get any ideas, Mister Nyg--"

"Call me Eddie."

"I'd really rather not."

His grin got just a few centimeters wider. "It's alright, honestly, I don't mind."

"Well, I do. Now look, I--"

He cut her off. "Are you still out of a job?"

Monica's knuckles made a crackling noise when she tightened her grip on the steering wheel again, but to her credit, she contained her temper. "As a matter of fact, yes I am. Not that it matters, because I'm not going to--"

"How would you like to work for me?"

"I wouldn't."

"Oh, sure you would." His eyes sparkled with that same disturbingly bright shininess they had on the first night he'd made contact with the enchanting crossword puzzle enthusiast across from him. "It wouldn't be anything too complicated; just…clerical work and suchlike."

"I don't think--"

"Well, it's either that," Edward glanced at his nails with an air of nonchalance as he spoke, "Or you can make good on that payment you owe me."

He made a point of leering at her lecherously as he unbuckled his seat belt and leaned towards her.

Monica's hands shot out and pressed against his chest, holding him back out of smooching reach. "There's no need for that! If…if you need a secretary--an honest to God secretary, without any illegal, prosecutable duties involved--"

"Of course not, my de--"

Her expression grew severe. "If you call me your dear again, I'm going to slug you, super villain or not."

His smile didn't falter. "Very well. A working relationship only."

She eyed him oddly and he could practically see her weighing her options as she continued to nibble on her lip.

"Fine. So long as I'm not involved in anything illegal and there's no attempts at hanky panky on your part, I'll do it."

His face looked like it was going to split apart with the width of his shark-like grin as he leaned back in his seat and clicked his seatbelt back into place once more. "It'll be a pleasure working with you."

He thought he heard her mutter something under her breath along the lines of 'That's what you think', but nothing could dampen his spirits with this little victory. This may have been just the first battle in the war for her undying loyalty, but he'd won it just the same.

He had a new puzzle to work out--one that would take time and effort to complete--and she was sitting right next to him, looking as fetchingly befuddled as ever.

Freedom was going to be sweet.

-

A/n: Th-th-that's all folks! No more Monica, no more Egocentric!Edward. Not from me, anyway. You hereby have my permission to take my dear Monica and write her further adventures with the Riddler if you so choose (just drop me a note and let me know--plus give me credit for her creation in an author's note is all I ask), but as for me? I'm done with her.

Goodnight folks, try the veal, tip your waitress and drive safely!