There are some people who can go out at night, consume prodigious amounts of alcohol, and rise before dawn the next day, clear-eyed and cheerful.
Jackie and the Riddler were not nearly so fortunate. It could be said that Eddie was slightly luckier than Jackie - he hadn't had half the rogues' gallery buying him drinks - but his head still felt like a bass drum full of cotton wool. He grumbled, only barely skimming along the edge of consciousness, clutched Jackie closer to him and fell back asleep.
Jackie slowly surfaced from sleep a few minutes later. The couch felt so soft...oh, it was so nice to lay here on the nice warm soft couch...
Warm? A bit more of Jackie's brain sat up alertly. The couch was soft, yes, but it wasn't warm. There was a draft from the front door that blew right into her face. Where had it gone? And the couch was too wide - where was the edge at the front that should have been digging into her leg? Why couldn't she hear the tin sign across the street creaking in the wind?
And why the hell was she being cuddled like an oversized teddy bear?
With instincts that owed nothing to logic and everything to blind panic, she executed a full-body thrash that would have done a frightened housecat proud. Eddie tumbled off of the bed to the right with a tremendous crash while she thudded hard on the floorboards to the left. She looked around with wild eyes. She was in a bedroom, a bedroom painted green, there were question marks everywhere and oh god what had she done while she was drunk? She'd woken up in bed with the Riddler and oh god what had she done?
And now, with the timing that always seemed to accompany these things, the hangover whacked her solidly between the eyes. She slumped into a miserable ball on the floor.
Eddie had stayed flat on the ground where he had landed, clutching his head with one hand and muttering something about never drinking again. Sunlight shone merrily down on him from a crack in the blinds. He grumbled wordlessly and tipped his head sideways to avoid it.
From his vantage point, a pair of dust bunnies framed Jackie's greenish face on the other side of the bed. Oh. Oh! He whipped his head around to examine himself. Pants? Yes. Shirt? Yes. Okay, so that meant that they hadn't...no, he didn't think they had...no, they couldn't have. Besides, she was still in her clothes from last night, so they didn't...not that he wouldn't have wanted to...er...maybe...well, he didn't remember doing anything...then again, he didn't remember anything past the Penguin calling them a cab.
There was only one thing in this world that would make him feel human again. Gingerly, as if his head would fall off if he made too sudden a movement, the Riddler got to his feet and stumbled into the kitchen. He filled two large glasses with water, stuffed the bottle of Excedrin in his jacket pocket, and headed back toward Jackie.
He caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror as he passed and grimaced. Most corpses probably looked better than him at the moment. Well, he'd worry about looking like a human after he started to feel like one again.
Eddie slithered down to the ground next to Jackie, wincing as the impact jarred his tender head. "Morning."
"I hate everything," was the feeble reply somewhere from ground level.
"Drink some water. You'll feel better," he advised. There was no answer from the floorboards. "I have Excedrin..." he said invitingly.
Jackie slowly dragged herself into a sitting position and accepted the water and the medication. They sat in silence for a few minutes, waiting for it to kick in.
"Eddie?" Jackie finally asked, shifting uncomfortably against the bedpost.
"Why is my bra full of pretzels?"
Evolution does not always weed out every design flaw in an organism. In this particular circumstance, the lack of a separately evolved airway meant that the mouthful of water in Eddie's throat dropped into his lungs when he inhaled in shock. After he'd finished spluttering and choking, he managed to cough out "What?"
"Pretzels," Jackie said, fishing one out and examining it. "And my hands are green."
"Do you remember much of last night?"
Well, that was probably for the best. The six-way pretzel battle between the girls had gotten everyone involved banned from the Iceberg for a few weeks, including the Riddler and Two-Face as well as Hugo Strange (who was surreptitiously taking pictures from the corner). Eddie considered his ban a little unfair. Okay, so he and Harvey had each been cheering their girls on, but that didn't mean they were responsible for any of the damage. It hadn't been their girls that had screamed "Death from above!" and tried to climb the chandelier, after all. And it certainly hadn't been them that had winged a flaming pretzel bowl into the liquor display behind the bar.
Though, come to think of it, it had been Jackie who had first decided that margaritas might make excellent snowballs. Harley had taken a double fistful of limey slush directly to the face and had retaliated by...oh, that was it...emptying the few bowls of pretzels that were left down the collar of Jackie's shirt.
"You don't remember the pretzel war, then?"
"Pretzel war?" Jackie gave him a suspicious look.
"Well, you certainly enjoyed it at the time," Eddie smirked, leaning back against the mattress and closing his eyes. "I believe you mentioned something along the lines of having a rematch next year." And then the Penguin had kwak-kwaked them out the door, waving an umbrella furiously at them as they staggered into the street. (It was always wise to obey Oswald when he had an umbrella around. You could never tell what nasty little surprises might be lurking inside it.)
The Excedrin was definitely starting to kick in. "Breakfast?" he offered, standing up.
"Sadist," Jackie muttered, flicking a pretzel into the corner.
The topic of what exactly had placed them in bed together that morning never came up during the rest of that day. They obviously hadn't done anything other than sleep together (sleep being the operative word here) and each of them had privately decided not to mention it unless the other brought it up first.
And so, after the hangovers had ebbed, it turned into a fairly normal day. Well, at least it started to. Eddie went out to buy a paper after lunch and came home fairly dancing in the street.
"Good news?" Jackie asked, clicking away on the laptop from her belly-down spot on the floor.
"The Impossibottles are coming to Gotham!" he beamed, swinging himself onto the couch.
Jackie frowned. "I didn't know you were into music."
"Not a band," he dismissed, flipping open the paper to the relevant article. "It's a display of antique bottles with impossible contents!" He showed her a picture of a very small bottle containing a very large wooden arrow. "It's a perfect target!"
"Um...sure," Jackie agreed uncomfortably. A target. Um. She'd sort of forgotten that Eddie stole things. She'd heard that he could get kind of...well, crazy about it. Well, at least he was being fairly lucid...
"The real showpiece is the Mining Bottle," he went on enthusiastically. "It was built three hundred years ago by a two-foot-tall man with no hands or feet!"
"...Right," Jackie said. So much for sanity.
"And it would be...it..." Eddie's eyes widened in astonished delight as a Great Idea struck him. He dug frantically into a handy pocket at the side of the couch and pulled out a little green notebook. He flipped to an empty page in the middle, snatched a pen out of his pocket, and began scribbling ideas.
"Eddie?" Jackie said tentatively. There was no answer. He was totally absorbed in his work. She bit her lip and returned to her game of Freecell, clicking cards automatically as she thought.
He was going to steal something. Could she talk him out of it?...no, that would be a stupid idea. Other people had obviously already tried that and it hadn't worked. She could point out that he was only going to get hurt if he tried this...no. He had to know that, and if having both his legs broken wasn't enough to dissuade him, nothing she could say would do it either.
This was the problem with having friends. Sooner or later, they always did something that she wanted no part of, and then she had to decide whether it was worth the trouble to stay with them. Of course, this was slightly more serious than the time that little Marcy Pratchett down the street had convinced her that it would be okay to paint the cat black for Halloween...the tongue-lashing she'd gotten for that would be nothing compared to what would happen to her if she kept hanging around with a...well...a supervillain.
She peeked over the top of her laptop's screen at Eddie. He was curled into a tight ball of thought, notebook resting on his knees, pen moving at slightly under the speed of sound as he filled page after page with anagrams and riddle ideas. A little pink dab of tongue stuck out at the corner of his mouth.
Hell. He looked more like a little kid writing a Christmas list to Santa than a psychotic criminal. She couldn't just leave him. It wouldn't be right.
She popped up her Firefox window. The Internet could help. The Internet knew everything.
The Internet knew nothing. Jackie clicked the laptop closed in disgust. In four hours of research she'd managed to come up with only two ways to potentially get through this, and she wasn't quite sure about the legality of either of them.
Eddie was still curled in the same position, even though his muscles must have been screaming with the need to move. The pen had slowed down, and he was gazing off into space with a look that clearly read "Eddie's not here. Please leave a message," stamped on his face.
His lips were blue. Jackie got up and quietly tucked a blanket over his legs. That draft from the front door was going to make someone sick someday.
She decided to make some nice, hot soup for dinner. Maybe the smell of food would snap him out of it. Unlikely, but you never knew...She headed off to the kitchen.
Eddie did notice the smells and sounds of dinner being prepared coming from the kitchen, but only as a set of distractions. He'd come up with some brilliant stuff - fantastic stuff - and now he was playing with anagrams just in case one of them turned out to be even more fantastic. This heist was going to be excellent.
"Impossibottle...Impossibottle...Tipsiest bloom. Emboss it, pilot. Lest I spit - " Boom. The door burst wide to reveal a very cross Batman accompanied by a swirling gust of icy fall wind.
Eddie yelped, tried to jump to his feet, got tangled in the blanket and fell off of the couch.
"Well?" Batman graveled, arms folded, as Eddie scrambled to unwind himself from the blanket that he knew he hadn't put there.
"Well, what?" he snapped.
"What's the game this time, Nygma?" Batman sighed, eyeing the living room for traps.
Eddie blinked, puzzled. "What game?"
Without saying a word, Batman pulled a green envelope out of his pocket and tossed it to Eddie. "This was found tied to the Batsignal two hours ago."
Eddie popped it open and scanned the badly-written text. The author had tried to combine anagrams, rhymes, and presumably a clue. What they'd come up with read more like Mother Goose on magic mushrooms. "No...no, this is stupid," he muttered. "Who sent this?"
"It wasn't you?"
Eddie looked disbelievingly down at the crude riddle in his hand before glaring at the Dark Knight. "No, it wasn't me," he mocked. "In case you didn't remember, I'm the Riddler, not the Stupid-puns-and-lame-jokes...er," he finished lamely.
"Oh? Why is an orange like a bell?" Batman asked with a hint of humor in his voice.
"Shut up," Eddie snapped. "That was a long time ago."
"Not long enough, apparently." In one swift motion, Batman swept into the room, snatched Eddie by the collar, and slammed him up against the wall. "I'll ask you one more time," he growled. "What's going on?"
"That's what I'd like to know," a furious female voice said from the vicinity of the kitchen. Eddie craned his eyes over to see Jackie, a spoon still in her hand, giving the Batman a death glare.
"Uh, now's not the best time," he croaked as Batman's fists tightened around his neck.
"Why don't you pick on someone your own size, you jerk?" Jackie snapped, stalking up to Batman and shoving him. It had just about as much effect as shoving a bag of wet cement. "He didn't do anything!"
He glared down at her. "He's the Riddler," he explained in a tone somewhere between gruff outrage and condescending arrogance.
"That doesn't mean he did anything recently."
"He robbed Gotham Downs almost a month ago and he assaulted a cab driver last night," Batman growled, turning his focus back to Eddie, who was trying to figure out a way to get back to the ground before his neck began to resemble a giraffe's.
There were some very interesting conclusions being drawn inside the head of Jackie. Okay, so the Riddler was a thief and a criminal and possibly a raving lunatic. But at the moment, that wasn't what she saw. Instead, she saw a nice guy, somewhat on the scrawny side, a guy that had taken her out for her birthday and who had been more consistently, well, nice than most people she'd encountered in her whole life...and this charming guy was being half-strangled by a huge man wrapped in a bat costume.
But if he was a raving lunatic (and he probably was, given that he needed riddles like other men needed air) then didn't he have some kind of protection against things like this? It seemed to her that if he really couldn't help himself, then hitting him wouldn't stop him any more than just telling him "No". Shouldn't Batman take it a little easier on him since he was sick? Given that Eddie was now turning purple from oxygen deprivation, she had the feeling that that wasn't how it worked.
Visions of all those shredded suits danced through her mind. She had to do something. But what? She was armed with only a spoon, hardly enough to make a scratch on that very tough-looking body armor. But no, he was a hero, wasn't he? Oh, yes, and there were rules about being a hero.
She thought furiously for a few moments as Batman leaned a little harder on Eddie's trachea. He was growling something about those new riddles, and Eddie was wheezing out that he didn't write them, he didn't have anything to do with them...
Time for Plan A. Jackie cleared her throat. The two men swiveled their eyes to look at her. "Listen, I know he's the Riddler, but he's such a dear rotten guy," she said, blinking innocently during the anagram. Batman glared malevolently at her - does he do anything other than glare? she asked herself wildly - and Eddie gaped at her, taken aback by her calling him 'dear'. She cleared her throat again. "And this dear rotten guy shouldn't go back to Arkham, y'know?"
"You're as delusional as he is," Batman growled, looking back to Eddie. When his gaze had left her, Jackie winked furiously at the dangling Riddler.
Eddie blinked for a moment. Did she...did she just anagram something? Dear rotten guy...what did that unscramble into...
Jackie sighed and dropped the spoon, letting it clatter noisily across the floor. "Then I guess I'll leave you boys to it," she said, stomping off toward the storage room. Batman glared after her for a moment, obviously torn between making sure she wasn't fetching a weapon and securing the Riddler. He opted for the Batcuffs.
Eddie was thinking furiously as the cold metal snicked around his wrists.Attend roguery? Got dreary tune? Untreated or-oh, goodness, no, she wouldn't have said that. Get ready...get ready to...
There was a tremendous crash from the storage room, followed by a piercing squeal. "Ouch!" Jackie howled. "Your stupid time bomb fell on my leg!" There was a further clanking noise. "Oh, god, it's gonna blow!" she howled.
With a true hero's sense of a damsel in distress, Batman dropped the Riddler. "Don't move," he growled before thudding off into the storage room.
Eddie waited until he'd turned the corner, then ran as fast as he could out of the building. Get ready to run, she'd said, and he'd be damned if he disappointed her.
"That's not a time bomb," said Batman icily. "It's a clock radio."
"Is it?" Jackie said innocently as Batman pulled a heavy crate off of her leg. "I couldn't tell. It is green, after all."
Batman glared at her. "Everything's green in here." He grabbed her hands and jerked her to her feet. "And by now, the Riddler's long gone, isn't he?"
"He shouldn't be. You did tell him to stay, right?" she blinked. If she were any sweeter, sugar would start crystallizing in her pores.
He glared at her, the anagram finally clicking into place in his head. "And you told him to run."
"Prove it," she said.
He scowled at her. "You had better watch yourself. Henchgirls in this town don't last very long."
"I have no intention of being anyone's henchgirl," Jackie said loftily.
Batman's scowl drew a little deeper. Harleen Quinzell hadn't intended to be a henchgirl, either. He snatched up Eddie's discarded notebook and stalked back into the night.
And out in the streets, the Riddler ran. He still had a copycat to deal with, he had Batman on his tail, and he kept losing his balance because his arms were firmly cuffed behind his back. But for once, it seemed like someone was on his side, and that balanced everything out quite nicely.
Author's Note: Men? Clock radio-I mean retreat, oh, the horror...ahem. Sorry. I quote a lot. Speaking of quoting, "Why is an orange like a bell?" is the very first riddle that appeared on the 1960's Batman show. A long time ago, indeed!
The Mining Bottle was built by Matthias Buchinger, who was a fascinatingly talented person with, indeed, no hands or feet - and yet he was a calligrapher, a musician, an artist and a magician.
You didn't think I was going to end it there, did you? Tune in next time for "Home Sweet Home", the third installment of the Jackie-and-Eddie saga.