Of all the things in the world that the Riddler hated, being chased through the rain by a screaming woman intent on beating him to death with a fire extinguisher had to be among the top five. The two miles to his hideout felt more like thirty as he dashed through the ankle-deep rivers running down the streets.
He was headed for the lair that he'd inhabited with his three henchgirls at the beginning of the week. The girls were notorious packrats and they'd crammed their rooms full of weaponry. He was hoping he could get to one of their numerous guns before Jackie caught up with him. (Not that he particularly wanted to shoot her, but he was betting that the sight of a loaded gun pointed in her direction would make her rethink her plan of making him into the world's first rogue pinata.)
The bright purple door of his lair gleamed welcomingly at him through the veil of rain whipping over his eyes. He risked a glance over his shoulder. Jackie was less than a block away. There was no time to waste with deceleration.
With a look of futile hopelessness on his face, Eddie pointed himself at the door and sped up. Oh, this was going to hurt...Like a motorcycle playing chicken with a steamroller, the Riddler crashed explosively into the doorframe. His feet went out from under him and he sat down hard in a puddle.
No time to rest! He scrambled to his feet and fought with the puzzle lock on the door, clicking the pieces round in their familiar patterns as he heard the determined splashes of Jackie's feet pounding toward him. Come on, come on, he hissed to himself as he wrestled with the slippery plastic.
The lock fell in pieces in his hands. He ripped the door open and darted inside, swinging from the doorknob in a mad half-circle to slam the door shut with his full body weight.
Wham! Jackie collided with the door, sending it rebounding directly into Eddie's forehead. She jammed the thrice-damned fire extinguisher into the crack of the door and started levering it open. "Just hold on a minute!" Eddie yelped as Jackie glowered at him. "This was not my fault!" He glanced down the hallway to the rooms that usually housed his henchgirls. If he was quick, he could make it there before she could snag him. He leaped backward from the door like a crazed jackrabbit. The purple portal slammed open, spilling Jackie, the extinguisher, and a sizeable amount of rain into the room. Eddie skidded down the hallway, desperately grabbing at doorknobs.
And now Jackie had him cornered. She raised the extinguisher triumphantly and took a slow, deliberate step toward him. He sheepishly raised his hands. "Listen," he said as soothingly as possible. "Beating me to death won't solve anything."
Jackie glared at him for a few moments before slowly relaxing her white-knuckled grip on the extinguisher. "It might teach you not to leave riddle parts around," she said grimly.
Okay. He was smooth. He could talk his way out of this. "I'm sorry," he tried, feeling a little more tension drop away as she nodded. "You should have listened when I said-"
Oh, damn, she was raising the extinguisher. "Um," he said intelligently as she swung the extinguisher high over her head, eyes narrowed with fury. Eddie braced himself for the pain that was due to arrive in his immediate future, closing his eyes so he didn't have to see his own question marks as they smashed into his face. There was a seemingly endless moment of cringing anticipation.
The extinguisher clanked noisily as it hit the ground and rolled away. "What's the point?" Jackie sighed. The Riddler slitted an eye open in time to see her turn and walk away, shoulders slumped with dejection. "You're right, it's not going to fix anything."
She slouched out to the living room and shut the door, leaning against it with a sigh as she took in her surroundings for the first time. Everything was green or purple and covered with question marks. It was possibly the most garish room decoration she'd ever seen, and that was something considering that she'd been to Vegas five times in the last three years.
"And you thought unicorns were stupid?" she asked incredulously, pointing at a question-mark chandelier that glimmered gaudily in the light of the sunset.
"It was a gift," he said, still coming to grips with the fact that he was not currently being battered to a pulp.
"Someone must have really hated you to give you that," she snarked back, flicking one green-glass question mark with her fingernail. "And look at the...well, well, Mr. Nygma," she said coyly, drawing a lacy green bra out from under a pillow on the couch. "What have we here!"
"Give me that!" he snapped, snatching it out of her hand.
"Green certainly is your color," she drawled, watching his face go bright red.
He hastily tossed the bra in the pile of laundry next to the refrigerator. "It's not mine!"
"Who else would it belong to?"
"My girls." She blinked at him. "Question, Query and Quiz?" he tried. She still had no idea what he meant. "My henchgirls!"
"Well, where are they?"
"Stonegate, probably," he said. Then he reconsidered, remembering some of Question's less than salutary habits. "Or Arkham. One of the two."
"I'd imagine you would have broken them out by now instead of wasting your time burning down my house."
"Breakthem out? Are you serious? They were useless! I mean, look at this place!" he said, waving an expressive hand at the sink full of moldy dishes, the pile of laundry that was threatening to topple over, and the stacks and stacks of magazines piling up on every available surface. "All they ever did was watch TV!"
"They can't have been that bad," Jackie said, laughing.
"TheyTiVoed the View," he snarled.
"I take it back. They deserve to be in jail," Jackie said, flicking more unmentionables off of the couch before flopping down comfortably on it. "So what's for dinner?"
"Dinner. You know, the third meal of the day?"
He shook his head. "What makes you think I'm giving you dinner?"
She stared incredulously at him. "You burned down my house!"
"First of all, it was my house. Second of all, you burned it down," Eddie said patiently. "Third of all, who said you were staying here?"
"Who said I was leaving?"
"You can't stay here!" Eddie said.
"Why not?" she challenged.
Eddie raised a hand, prepared to tick off the various reasons why she couldn't possibly remain in his lair. Unfortunately, none were coming to mind. "Because...you can't," he said lamely.
"Watch me," she said, neatly crossing her ankles on a question-marked pillow. "Where else am I supposed to go, huh?"
It was then that the Riddler uttered his three least favorite words. "I don't know!" He followed them up hastily with "Don't you have a friend to stay with or something?"
To be perfectly blunt, she didn't. The life of a code monkey did not lend itself to friends, particularly when said code monkey worked from home. (Online friends were a different matter - she had a slew of them, but unfortunately they all lived at least two hundred miles away.) Now that she thought about it, the Riddler was the closest thing she'd had to a local friend since she moved to Gotham. And didn't that make her feel special.
Her uncomfortable silence answered his question. "Fine," he muttered, "you can stay here for a few days."After all, he figured, it wouldn't take that long before she was scared away, either by an invading Bat or by one of the rogues' gallery dropping by for a favor. He wandered into the kitchen to scrounge up some dinner.
Jackie shifted uncomfortably on the couch. Something was poking her neck. She sat up just long enough to ease it out from behind the cushion. It was a purple domino mask, a tag still dangling from the straps. She experimentally settled it on her nose and slid it into place.
Eddie returned to the room, holding a bag of bread in one hand. "All I've got here is..." he trailed off, seeing Jackie behind the mask. He suddenly had a very clear mental image of her in the full henchgirl outfit, racing down the streets with him, money bags clutched tightly in their fists as they left the Batman behind in a cloud of dust...
Don't be ridiculous. "Sandwiches," he said firmly, dismissing the image as Jackie hastily yanked the mask off. "Come on, the kitchen's this way." Jackie tossed the mask onto the back of the couch and followed him. The empty eyeholes watched them knowingly as they disappeared in search of supper.
Author's Note: Hey, look! A fairly happy ending! I never knew I had it in me. Thank you all for reviewing and reading - it makes me positively gleeful when people like what I do.
Just for fun, let's play Reference This! Harley and Eddie robbing Wayne Manor appeared in Harley Quinn #6. Eddie's moment of glory - right, Bruce? - is located in Batman #619. His unfortunate incidents with the Joker and Hush can be found in Batman: Gotham Knights # 50-55, and his ill-advised visit with Ivy is in Detective Comics #797-799. Query, Quiz, and Question are partially based on the Query and Echo who appeared in the Detective Comics 1995 Annual.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper', which is a lovely and twisted little tale of madness, and 'Casey at the Bat' was written by Ernest Thayer. The giant squirrels are from Trigger Happy TV. Guy Montag is from Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451', where they indeed use extinguishers to start fires.
I have three stories in the works right now and I'm not sure which one will be posted next. I was intending to post my Joker/Harley Quinn story (which is not a tale of romance, thanks muchly), but then the Mad Hatter and Two-Face each demanded that I devote time to them and not Mr. Happypants. Whichever story I finish first will show up in a few days. Until then, bonsoir!