"When you said that you knew this place," Jackie said uneasily, "how well did you mean?"
"No one ever comes here, particularly these rooms," Eddie answered as he slumped into what could conceivably be called a chair with a little imagination. "And there are no windows, so it's safer than most other hotels."
"Safe. Great," Jackie muttered. "And they don't know about this place?"
Eddie shook his head. "I've only ever been here alone."
Jackie could see why. It wasn't exactly a place that you'd bring anyone, unless you felt like dying of embarrassment later.
This place - the Gotham Civic - was just an ordinary hotel from the outside. And indeed, if you were fortunate enough to get a room on the top few floors, it was certainly livable enough.
Jackie and the Riddler, however, had gotten a room on the ground floor. Now, most ground-floor rooms are unwanted for normal reasons - passersby dragging rattly luggage, elevators dinging, hotel staff chattering merrily to one another at three in the morning. These rooms were...well, the kind word would be different.
Theme rooms. The main hallway boasted at least thirty of the things, each decorated in a different style that was as overblown as a typical rogue's lair. There was a jungle room stuffed with a bamboo tent and a huge fake tiger growling at the bed. There was a polar room with the bed tucked nicely inside a gigantic fiberglass igloo. There was a room called Cupid's Fantasy which both of them flatly refused to discuss after one glimpse inside.
They had finally chosen the Moon Room, if only because it was the one with the most space and the least annoying decorations. (The concrete tree supporting the bed in the Sherwood Forest room was at perfect forehead-whacking height, for one, and Jackie couldn't stop laughing at the glass-slipper-shaped hot tub in the Cinderella room.)
If you were into rough grey stones, the Moon Room was paradise. If, however, you preferred to brush by corners and not get your legs scratched open, you were out of luck. The walls from knee-height down were coated in fake grey rock that jutted out like a miniature shelf. The upper bit was painted black and speckled with 'stars' that glowed in the dark. 'Chairs' made of the same rockstuff as the lower walls were attached to the wall in various spots, mostly around a somewhat anachronistic rabbit-eared TV. A suspiciously sticky hot tub lurked in one darkened corner, and a round bed inside a spaceship crouched opposite it. Jackie poked her head inside to look around. It had a tape deck recessed into it - how futuristic - and a set of speakers were perched on the walls. Jackie followed the wires up to the ceiling, where they disappeared under a dingy mirror the exact size and shape of the bed below it.
She ducked back out of the spaceship. "And you're sure you were here alone?" she asked incredulously.
Eddie's face went bright red. "Look, I know it's..." He waved his hands helplessly, unable to think of a suitable description of the place. "But it's cheap and it's safe."
The room was cheap, and it was safe. Eddie had been absolutely correct.
However, it was also boring. Very boring. Oh, it was fine enough for Eddie - his brain was possibly the best entertainment device he would ever own, and long hours inside Arkham's bare little cells had trained him in the fine art of living inside the boundaries of his mind. In fact, Eddie was actually enjoying himself far more than he had anticipated, since the hotel supplied free notepads for him to scribble ideas onto. He'd filled up at least fifty of them by now, and the thin ink-covered booklets lay in haphazard piles on the tiny table.
Jackie, however, was quickly running out of things to do. The laptop had terminally clicked off halfway through her five thousand and sixty-fifth game of Solitaire. The television picked up one channel - Gotham Public Television - and they only ever showed children's programming. What happened to nature documentaries? What had happened to Nova and the Joy of Painting? She'd liked Bob Ross and his happy little trees. Bob the Builder could go suck a goat, in her opinion, and the entire cast of the "new and improved" Sesame Street was more than welcome to join him. 'Cookies are a sometimes food', indeed!
She was currently edging around the room on the little rock 'shelf' that hugged the walls. It was harder than it looked, particularly since there were no good handholds on the smooth painted wall. The rough stones prickled on the bare skin of her feet as she rounded the corner.
There was a tricky bit coming up where the rock had been bashed and chipped at through the years. It was unstable and tended to pop uneasily as she maneuvered across it. She grimaced at Eddie in his chair right next to the faulty section. It would serve him right if she landed on his head, she thought angrily as she got closer. It was all his fault that they had to be here, anyway.
The rock snapped and gave way under her toes. She yelped and scraped frantically at the walls. Eddie, without looking up from his newest notepad, gently shoved her back into position. "Having fun?" he asked absently.
"No," she growled, stomping down to the ground. There was still nothing to do! With a deep, heartfelt sigh, she started climbing the round spaceship. Ten minutes and several bruises later, she lay atop it, glaring bitterly across the room at Eddie.
"What?" he asked, still not looking up.
"I'm bored," she sighed, unable to keep a rising whine out of her voice. "Why are we still here?"
"Those three lunatics know where all my lairs are," Eddie said, marking something down and underlining it, "and we need to lay low for a few weeks."
"A few weeks?" Jackie rolled her eyes. "You're really that scared of them?"
His pencil tip snapped. "I am not scared of them," he said, glaring up at her.
"Well, you certainly ran away from them fast enough!"
"As I recall, you were running pretty quickly too."
"They tried to shoot me in the head, Edward," Jackie said patiently. "The worst thing they did to you was give you sloppy kisses."
"I'd rather have them shoot me in the head," he grumbled. "Anyway, we're not just hiding from them. The Batman will be looking for us, and now is not the best time to move into a new hideout. We'll wait until he's likely to be distracted and go then."
"Oh, and how are we supposed to know that?"
"There's a rhythm to these things," Eddie explained, ticking off points on his fingers. "Harvey tends to be most active on the second and the twenty-second. Pam - Poison Ivy, that is - generally waits until the springtime to start any major activities that involve growing plants outside of her greenhouses. And there's always the holidays - Crane hasn't missed a Halloween in...hmm, must be ten years at least-"
"Halloween's this Friday!" Jackie interrupted, sitting up. "That would work, right?"
"No. Friday is today, pumpkin, and if we were going lair hunting we should have left five hours ago. We'd never find a place in time."
Jackie sighed exasperatedly and slumped back down onto the roof of the spaceship, picking at a bit of incised graffiti. The sound of scritching graphite told her that Eddie had found another pencil and was having yet another brainstorm. "Can we at least go get dinner somewhere? By the time room service gets up to our room, the food's ice-cold and I'm sick of taco popsicles."
"Fine," Eddie muttered, scribbling away.
Eddie was somewhat surprised at dinnertime when Jackie yanked the notepad away. "I was writing!" he protested.
"Yeah, well, now you're eating. C'mon, let's go."
Jackie frowned at him. "Dinner. You said we could go eat in a restaurant. You did," she sighed when he looked blankly at her. "Remember? The Scarecrow is keeping Batman busy?"
Eddie did not want to leave the room. Jackie, looking mutinous, declared that she was going even if Eddie wasn't. She was halfway out into the hall before he acquiesced.
They compromised by having dinner in the hotel's little poolside restaurant. The architect had splurged on a huge glass pyramid in the roof that let the starlight sparkle down on them as they ate. The starlight had to sparkle through about twelve years of dirt, since the hotel staff had neglected to splurge on a janitor willing to clamber about on the rooftop with a squeegee.
The waitress, pink dress bulging at the seams, squinted myopically down at them. "It's good roast beef, isn't it, sweetums?" Jackie cooed nauseatingly sweetly at Eddie.
He nodded enthusiastically. "Best I've ever had, dear heart," he cooed back.
The waitress rolled her eyes and left them alone again. Eddie and Jackie hadn't left their room for a week. They'd ordered in room service and refused entry by the maid. The Gotham Civic knew all about that kind of guest. It didn't matter that they'd registered under separate pseudonyms - the Gotham Civic knew all about that kind of thing too. Young newlyweds, illicit lovers, star-crossed sweethearts - it didn't matter what you called it, it all added up to an overwhelming dose of lovey-dovey-ness.
Which is why they kept the silly, bemused expression of those in love firmly planted on their faces as they picked at the thoroughly unappetizing roast beef.
"This would be hard enough without having to put on this act," Jackie grumbled. "But it must be harder for you, since you don't actually like me," she added flatly, staring intently down at her plate.
Navigating the waters of relationships has always been difficult. It takes a ridiculous amount of courage to even bring the topic up in some cases - are we together? Are we, you know, together? Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more? Or are we just friends? Or are we friends, wink wink - oh, you know.
These sorts of questions had been bubbling merrily away in the back of both of their minds ever since the morning after Jackie's birthday party. Had she been shocked and appalled to find herself in bed with anyone, or specifically with him? Had he snuggled her because she happened to be a girl sleeping at his place, or had it been specifically because it had been her?
Eddie had backed away from bringing it up in the week that they'd been in the hotel room. If the answer had been "No", it would have been enormously difficult to stay there. (And if the answer had been "Yes"...well, pessimism said that it probably wouldn't, so why ask?) At any rate, going to Jackie and baldfacedly asking if she liked him felt too much like a return to his high school days. He supposed that there were ways that a man could ask That Question of a woman without totally losing his dignity and pride, but Eddie had never learned them. No, he would sit back and wait for her to make a move.
Well, now she had. Unfortunately, she was moving in entirely the wrong direction. "W-what?"
"We've been here for a week and you've barely looked at me. I know I'm not a genius like you, but I didn't think I was that bad."
Eddie flailed internally for something to say. Ever since the heist, Jackie had been...well...moody would be an understatement. She had been angry, or sad, or bitter, or some strange combination of the three that only a girl could pull off successfully. Frankly, he'd left her alone because he'd been tired of getting blamed for something he hadn't done. Again.
He bit the inside of his lip. He was supposed to be a brilliant wordsmith - hell, he spent his entire career playing with words - so why couldn't he think of a single thing to say?
"Ah..." he stammered, looking uncomfortably at the big fake waterfall in the corner. "That is, um..."
Jackie remained silent, watching him cautiously through lowered lashes.
"Look, I...I certainly like you more than those three," he pointed out desperately.
Jackie rolled her eyes. "You like the Mad Hatter more than you like those three," she pointed out.
"True. Okay. Uh, look, darling," he said quickly as a waitress loomed up behind Jackie, "do we want dessert?"
"Sure thing, snugglebunny," she cooed, saccharinely sweet. He winced inwardly.
"Dessert menus, please, Betty," he said as charmingly as possible to the waitress. She snorted derisively at him and waddled back toward the host station to fetch them.
"Darling?" Jackie hissed at him. "What are we, in the 1950's?"
"Well, what am I supposed to call you?" Eddie hissed back. "Snugglebunny?"
"That one's mine," she said. "Get your own sickeningly sweet nickname."
"How about my little question-marked enchantress of the-hnnnngh!" He hadn't been kicked in that particular area in quite some time. Jackie, with a look of fake sympathy plastered on her face, chirruped "Are you okay, snugglebunny? Tummy not feeling well?"
"I'm fine," Eddie wheezed. She had excellent aim. He'd have to remember that for the future.
The waitress, eyeing them suspiciously, passed over the dessert menus. They waited until she was out of earshot to open their mouths again. "I vote that we skip dessert," Eddie grumbled, shifting very carefully backward in his chair.
"I had to shut you up somehow!" Jackie whispered. "Question-marked enchantress. What were you thinking? She almost heard you!"
Rather than answer, he buried his face in the dessert menu. Long minutes ticked past as he examined each dessert in minute detail. Well, so much for any hope of salvaging the situation. Why hadn't he just said...well, he could have said something...oh, the hell with it. He tossed the menu to the table and glared at the waterfall.
The uncomfortable silence lay over the table like a dead hippopotamus. Jackie burrowed in her purse for something and seemed to be taking an awfully long time about it. Finally, as Eddie was about to call it quits and go back to the room, a shadow fell over the table.
"I'll have the..." Eddie trailed off. Instead of a middle-aged fat woman in a pink dress, a rather too muscular young man in a black spandex suit with one blue stripe was glaring down at him. "Query," he hissed across the table.
"Don't call me that," she snapped. He kicked her leg. "Ow!" she yelped, finally looking up from her purse. "Why did you...oh."
Nightwing seized each of them by a wrist and dragged them upright. With a move that somewhat resembled a conductor cutting off a song, he twisted their arms neatly behind their backs and propelled them away from the table. "I thought you said they'd be busy with the Scarecrow!" Jackie yelped at Eddie, dancing along on tiptoe to keep her shoulder from snapping out of its socket.
"They normally are! Don't tell me he actually skipped Halloween!" Eddie said incredulously to Nightwing as he shoved them toward the door. The waitress, leaning on her hostess stand, glared at them as they stumbled by.
"Oh, Batman picked him up two hours ago," Nightwing informed the Riddler with a cheerful smile on his face.
Eddie looked frantically around the lobby. He needed to buy some time. Keep him talking. When he's talking, he doesn't pay as much attention to what you're doing. "So he didn't try to run all over the city this time?"
"It's hard to run with a lungful of fear gas," Nightwing said smugly.
They were almost to the main double doors, which were propped open to let the cool fall breeze in. It was now or never. Eddie kicked up a foot and planted it firmly on the middle of the right-hand door. With a mighty heave, he slammed backward into Nightwing and sent the trio sprawling.
Nightwing reflexively let them go and tumbled backward, smashing hard into a replica suit of armor. It snapped off at the ankles and smacked down on him, spilling armor parts all over the tile floor. Nightwing snarled and started to get to his feet. A dented cuirass clattered to the floor.
He was going to get one of them. It was a certainty. But it was also a certainty that he couldn't get both of them, particularly if someone were to take this moment to run out the door at speeds approaching that of a panicked cheetah.
It was him or her.
Really, the decision was almost too easy
The heavily armored van that served as a transport from the main police station out to Arkham was exceptionally full that night. The narrow benches were barely big enough to hold Batman's catch of the day.
Two-Face had taken the seat farthest into the vehicle so that he could lean against the wall with his left side while cradling his right arm protectively. Demonica, mostly unhurt, took the seat next to him, fussing over his injured shoulder like a mother hen despite his protestations.
The entire right bench belonged to Angelica and a pair of guards. She sat hunched between them, moaning pitifully. A large, nasty swelling on her head peeped from between her fingers. As the car lurched over the cracked asphalt, she groaned and yelped "Gonna throw up!" The guards inched as far away as possible from the wretched girl.
And in the darkness, crammed into the remaining corner of the van, the Riddler sighed as a fear-crazed Scarecrow kicked him again in the shins. "Will you stop it?" he hissed, trying to shove him closer to Demonica.
Well, it had been the obvious choice, hadn't it? He knew how to pick locks, he knew Arkham's layout, he knew when the guards were less attentive...really, if he'd let Jackie go to Arkham, she'd be in there until he managed to break in and get her back out. And breaking into Arkham was even more of a hassle than breaking out. No, this way he could stay just long enough for them to stop watching him and then be out the door.
And if the Bats managed to catch up with Jackie in the meantime, well, then they could break out together. Eddie's half-formed daydreams were rudely interrupted when the Scarecrow's straitjacketed elbow slammed into his ribs. "Get away, get away," Crane mumbled, feet twitching as if he was sprinting down the streets away from his hallucinated horrors.
The Riddler rested the back of his head against the wall and closed his eyes. Well, at any rate, they'd ended that intensely awkward conversation on a high note. After all, what better way to say 'I like you' than with the gift of not going to Arkham?
Author's Note: Oh, yes, the hotel actually does exist, though it's nowhere like Gotham. The slipper-shaped hot tub is a thing of hilarity. And Cupid's Fantasy?...ewwwwwww.
For more information on Jonathan and Harvey's night out, see my story "Grim Grinning Ghosts". (Yaharr! Continuity be a harsh mistress, mateys.)
Regarding these Eddie and Jackie stories - I am having a total blast writing them. I'm glad you're all enjoying them as much as I am. There's one problem, though - this isn't where they started. Dear little Eddiekins (why am I still calling him that?!) and Jackie first appeared in a series that I never posted. (In other words, you've been reading a retcon this whole time!) And frankly, trying to write one story without showing you the other is twisting my brain into little tiny knots.
In short, I'll be posting this new (old) story soon. It's not exactly the same type of silliness as in the stories I've recently posted - it's more like a shell of humor wrapped around an angsty nougat center - but I've been told that it's a lot of fun, nonetheless. And then I can start making all the deliciously silly jokes that I've been dying to make for months!
I have quite a few ideas for the future of Eddie and Jackie, but other rogues are fighting me for their turn in the spotlight, so...Tune in next time for "Time Crisis" in the Cartoons/Batman Animated section of this website. (I'll give you two guesses as to who the main villain in that one is.)