Part of growing up is being embarrassed by your parents. It's only natural. Adolescents try so hard to break out of their parents' shadows and be their own person that they automatically dislike whatever their parents might enjoy. Children of painters shy away from paintings, children of dancers reject the ballet, and children of musicians cringe and change the station when their parents show up on the radio.
Eventually, this phase passes when adolescents realize that they can be their own person without competing with their parents' interests. That is, of course, unless their parents' interests and behavior are themselves embarrassing.
As a special treat, Jackie had surprised her mother with front-row tickets to Wicked. (Normally, such tickets would be almost impossible to acquire. Then again, normally, it wasn't the Riddler asking, and the ticket-holder they'd approached was very agreeable to giving up his tickets in exchange for not showing up in police files as Riddler Victim #2716-B.) The day of the show had been filled with sightseeing, tourism, and - regrettably - music.
Violet was just a little excited about seeing the show, in much the same way as Harley Quinn was just a little excited about hugging the Joker. And so, in between her constant digressions into Wicked trivia, she sang the score to the show. It started off quietly, as a simple chirpy humming, but as it grew closer and closer to curtain time, the lyrics started slipping out. By five o'clock, all pretense of being quiet had been abandoned for sheer exhilaration and loud vocals.
It had been bad enough for Jackie when her father had almost given Eddie a heart attack with his terrible driving. It had been worse when her mother had dropped artful little hints about wedding dates. She'd thought that nothing could top her mother dragging the Riddler out of bed by his heels and dumping him on the floor as riddles flew in a shower around them. But this was definitely taking top prize as Most Embarrassing Day of Her Life, Ever.
She'd hoped that the singing would stop after the show. She'd prayed that the singing would stop after the show. Unfortunately, whatever gods were out there were clearly not listening to her - either that, or they were clustered around with the popcorn and laughing themselves silly as Violet proceeded to sing along with the cast throughout the whole show.
The house lights rose as the mad applause died down. "No one mourns the wicked..." Violet singsonged.
"Mom. Please," Jackie snapped. "Please stop singing."
But Violet, caught in the throes of post-show giddiness, didn't listen. She sang as they gathered their coats, she sang as they fought their way through the press of audience members in the lobby, and she sang as they strolled down the sidewalk away from the theater.
"Loa-thing," Violet belted out, fairly dancing down the street, one arm looped around her husband. "Un-a-dul-terated loathing!"
"Does she ever stop?" Eddie asked under his breath as they trailed Jackie's parents.
"No. Mom," Jackie called, "we're in public."
"There's such strange exhilaration, in such total detestation," Violet continued, ignoring Jackie as she hid her face with utter shame behind a fleece-gloved hand.
The visit had been anything but peaceful. Jackie's nerves had slowly tightened through the week, and now her patience had thinned to near breaking point. Her mother was singing in downtown Gotham, surrounded by upper-class snobs and people who clearly thought that she had lost her mind. She was singing in front of Eddie, who Jackie was still horribly confused about and who was keeping his face tucked firmly under the hood of his coat so that passersby wouldn't notice him. He couldn't have attention drawn to himself, not downtown, not at night.
"Mom!" Jackie growled, darting up next to her and pulling violently on her sleeve. "Stop. Singing."
"...with someone so disgusticified...what's wrong?" Violet asked, somewhat surprised to see Jackie glaring at her. "Don't you like Wicked?"
The tiny thread of her patience gave way, unleashing the flood of resentful shame that had swelled up like an overinflated balloon inside her. "No!" Jackie shrieked. "I can't stand it!"
"What?" Violet asked, appalled. "How can you not like Wicked? It's...it's Wicked!"
"Exactly!" Jackie shouted. "The book destroyed any hint of staying true to the original books and the musical couldn't even bother to stay somewhat along the lines of the remake!"
"Ladies, please," Eddie said uneasily, noting the stares they were drawing.
"But you love the Wizard of Oz-"
"And that's why I hate Wicked! The Wizard of Oz is not a villain!" Jackie shrieked at the top of her lungs. "And Nick Chopper is not Boq-"
"Jackie," Eddie hissed, trying to steer them away from all those eyes. He spread his arms and herded the trio away from the crowds, shooing them into the nearest dark alley.
She ignored him, focusing fully on her argument. "And Fiyero is not the goddamned Scarecrow!"
"Jackie," Eddie repeated urgently. Phrases like "the goddamned Scarecrow" had been known to get people killed in the past.
"And if you thought for one minute that I -" Jackie snapped, cutting off abruptly as she bounced off of the nearest wall. She yanked her clothes back into order and made ready to step around the wall...the big, black...oddly human-shaped wall...with two whitely glaring eyes aimed directly at her from underneath the pointy cowl.
It had been a quiet night for the vigilantes of Gotham. November generally was quiet - street crime went indoors when the cold winds started to shriek down the alleyways.
Batman had given Robin the night off from patrol. (Of course, a night off from being Robin wasn't exactly the kind of night off that most teenagers got. Tim was back in the cave, running obstacle courses and refreshing his memory about Gotham's gang lords - and if he was properly following instructions, he was doing both at the same time.)
The lights of Gotham's theater district glowed hotly below him, the thousands of tiny light bulbs lighting up the rooftops and making the fall air burn with the scent of hot glass and frying dust. Huge colored banners for upcoming productions were obscured by the snakes of people fighting their way down the sidewalks.
Thanksgiving was coming soon. Holidays were always busy days for him - a paradox that thankfully kept him from thinking about days past. Rumors had flown in the underworld that Two-Face's henchgirls were planning another blowout Thanksgiving, only this time, they were inviting the entire rogues' gallery.
Some of them wouldn't deign to show up. Others, Batman mused with a flex of a gloved fist, would be unavoidably detained - and, indeed, in the past few days he'd managed to lock away Killer Croc and -
"...the goddamned Scarecrow!" a female voice shrieked on the sidewalk below, echoing his thoughts. He retuned the distance mic tucked in his cowl and leaned over the rooftop's edge.
"Jackie!" Oh, he knew that voice very well. He wasn't aware of any pressing business that the Riddler would have had in the theater district, but it was undeniably him. Check one more guest off of Harvey's list...
He lowered himself to the ground, silent as a shadow, and placed himself right in the girl's path as she stomped angrily toward him. Thud.
He'd become a Bat to scare cowardly, superstitious criminals. And as she stumbled backward with fear widening her eyes, he had to admit that he'd done an excellent job of it.
"This...isn't what it looks like," she said lamely, backing toward her boss and two middle-aged civilians.
With the Riddler, it never was. Likewise, a straight inquiry for information would just prompt him to go off on some puzzle tangent that may or may not have anything to do with the situation at hand. So, instead, Batman chose the path that most often got clear answers out of the Riddler: irritating him by intentionally misinterpreting his actions.
"Mugging's a new trick for you, isn't it?" he asked, glaring over the heads of the other three.
The Riddler, dressed for some reason in a red ski jacket, puffed up indignantly. "I do not mug people," he said haughtily.
"Why else would you be in a dark alley with them?"
"We were on our way home from the theater, as it happens," the Riddler snapped.
The civilians had pulled the henchgirl to the side. "Do you have something you forgot to tell us?" the man asked her with a slight frown of disapproval.
The girl wilted. "I..." She swallowed uncomfortably, darting sidelong glances at the Batman. "I didn't want to tell you. I haven't been working on software for a while...I've been working for...Eddie. And Eddie's, um..."
The woman smiled. "He's the Riddler. We know."
"What?" the Riddler and his lackey bellowed, gaping at the woman.
"You couldn't tell a lie to save your life," the woman informed the henchgirl. "We knew from day one that you were hiding something. We didn't expect...this...but we knew something was up. And when I found all those riddles in his bedroom when I pulled him out of bed yesterday..."
"And no man would live in a frilly pink place like that unless he was hiding something," the man continued.
"And he knew that those men were going to rob the museum," the woman finished.
The Riddler had turned scarlet. Whether it was from embarrassment or fury, it was hard to tell, but it was marvelously entertaining either way. "A heath-hung twit-troll for nothing!" he howled, slamming the side of his fist into the nearest building as the anagram echoed off of the tall brick walls. "You barbell eve junkies...heckling flu!"
Well, as fun as it was to watch the Riddler self-destruct, he had more business to attend to. With a blurring arm, he snatched the Riddler by the collar of his red coat and jerked him down the alleyway, smoothly ratcheting a pair of cuffs onto his wrists as the furious rogue did a kicking dance of frustration. He settled him down with a quick fist to the head. Then, with the now-dazed Riddler secured, he turned to the henchgirl -
But she was hidden behind the civilians. "Step aside," he ordered.
"You're not hurting our daughter," the man said firmly.
Daughter? Daughter? Batman's mind lurched backward in shock. Rogues didn't have parents - or rather, they did, but they tended to ignore them. They didn't hang around with them and introduce them to their boss! They didn't take them to the...the theater...
A small, private corner of Batman's mind collapsed as he realized that he was threatening a couple and their child in a dark alleyway just outside a theater. The man had stepped forward, obviously ready to fight for his offspring, as the mother held her trembling daughter.
He frantically repressed the memories that were exploding in his mind's eye. "Your daughter's a criminal," he growled.
"I don't care. You're not taking her," the man said firmly.
Well, parents sticking up for their children was all fine and good in normal circumstances, but there should really be a point where that goal became secondary to making sure that their daughter wasn't on the fast track to being another one of the Riddler's castoffs. Batman gritted his teeth. This, if anything, was definitive proof that insanity ran in families.
Family. Family. He could feel the memories pulsing in his head, trying desperately to break through the solid focus of Batman. He had to get out of here before he lost control, and he didn't want to deal with this anymore -
And then it hit him. He didn't have to. Henchgirls alone rarely made trouble. They generally only misbehaved when their bosses were around to goad them into action. Even Harley Quinn didn't get up to anything worse than criminal mischief when the Joker was in Arkham. This one most likely wouldn't cause any trouble - she hadn't in the few weeks that Arkham had managed to keep the Riddler last time - and if she did cause trouble, he could always pick her up then.
The important thing was to get the Riddler to Arkham. Anything else could and would wait for him to get to it.
All of this reasoning took place in less than five seconds. The only hint that he was thinking was the short scowl that crossed over his features. Then, quick as a hunting spider, he grabbed the Riddler around the waist and grapneled them up to the rooftops.
"AAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" the Riddler squealed as his feet suddenly left the ground.
"Shut up," Batman ordered, hauling him like a wriggling sack of kittens across the rooftops toward Arkham.
Thanksgiving Day in Gotham ticked along as usual for most Gothamites. They gathered together, eating, talking, and laughing, watching football and clinking their glasses in a toast as an emergency news report revealed that the Batman and his associates had managed to round up no less than five rogues at an undisclosed gathering spot.
Jackie and her parents had retreated to the safest place that Jackie knew of - the showplace lair. Oh, certainly Batman could find her there - that was almost guaranteed - but the lair had several advantages over the apartment. The apartment had been carefully decorated without using any weaponry or traps, leaving Jackie totally defenseless in case of a Bat-attack, whereas the lair had been constructed of nothing but hiding spots, traps, weaponry and secret exits. If the Batman had tracked her back to the apartment - well, now she wouldn't be there. But perhaps the most pressing reason to go to the lair was that her parents wanted to see it.
Her father had gruffly approved of the layout of the place, particularly the reinforced doors and the tiny hidden alarms built into the windowframes. Her mother had fallen in love with the theme and had cooed compliments over the solid jade question mark bookends.
She wasn't quite certain why they had sided with her. They'd never appeared to care much for criminals - in fact, her father had been part of a Neighborhood Watch scheme for years - so why had they faced down the Batman for her? Familial loyalty surely couldn't stretch that far.
Every time she'd brought it up, though, they'd brushed her questions aside. The closest thing to an answer that she'd gotten out of either of them was that no matter what she'd done, she was still their daughter and they loved her.
She nudged her turkey across her plate and gazed thoughtfully at the door. It was a day to give thanks, after all, so maybe she should just be thankful that her parents weren't chasing her down the road toward the nearest cop. She was definitely thankful that she'd somehow managed to weasel her way out of being captured, though she had a sinking feeling that she wouldn't be so lucky next time.
And deep within Arkham, seated once again in the company of his fellow rogues, Edward Nygma toyed with a forkful of disturbingly crunchy potatoes and gave thanks that Batman had only seen fit to give him a minor concussion this time.
Author's Note: I dislike most re-imaginings, and my poor beloved Oz has been the victim of some truly horrific remakes. If you want to make a cyberpunk epic about a girl lost in an unforgiving world of terror and darkness, that's fine - just don't drag Dorothy Gale into it. Likewise, I probably would have enjoyed Wicked a lot more had it been set in a world of the author's own imagination.
Special thanks to my dad for providing theme music on family outings. (Truth is funnier than fiction any day.)
Be sure to look for the sequel to this story, "Home is Where the Heart Is" - but also be sure not to start looking for it until a few weeks have passed by. On a related topic, if you're not currently reading my Sorrow series, you may want to start soon. Sorrow's next adventure, "Shattered", will go up (hopefully) on Monday, and I've got an Elseworlds Riddler story brewing as well. Thanks for reading!