Disclaimer: I do not own the Riddler, I do own the CATverse, find the timeline at www. freewebs. com/ catverseand know that this is Arc 2, following "Strays" and preceding BiteMeTechie's "Meow Mix." Please enjoy.
Someone was having a nightmare. Al knew that before she woke up.
"It's okay. You're okay." The sound of her own voice startled her out of her dreams. She sat up, blinking in the dark. "Techie? Captain?" The only response was a soft sigh from the other side of the room.
They hadn't been with the Riddler long enough to set things up the way they would have wanted. The silly man wasn't prepared to leave the one bedroom apartment that had proved a safe haven thus far, and scavenging furniture wasn't always the easiest thing to do. Al had a mattress, but no frame to put it on; the Captain and Techie had to make do with some little girl's Barbie bunk beds, which, in addition to being bright pink, was extremely noisy, rattling around whenever either of them so much as breathed.
So if one of Al's friends had been thrashing around in her sleep, she would have heard it.
But what had woken her up?
"Eddie," she whispered. A small, frightened moan from not very far away confirmed her guess.
Damn. Was she never going to make a single friend who didn't need soothing in the middle of the night?
Al felt her way to the door, cursing as she stumbled over a half-assembled model of the Batmobile. Certain people were going to have to learn to put away their toys.
(All right, to be fair, the Batmobile was actually Al's project. She was calling it research, though what she was supposed to be learning, even she wasn't quite sure.)
A bit of light from outside managed to stream into Eddie's room through his makeshift curtains (formerly a set of banners expressing support for the Republic of Ireland in the upcoming World Cup, the greenest thing they could find on short notice.) She could see that he was asleep, but tossing restlessly, the covers tangled around his feet. And she didn't like the sounds he was making in the back of his throat, like a soft, strangled scream.
"Eddie? Hey," she whispered. He whimpered and flopped over, turning his back to her. "Oh Eddums…"
She had to go to him, though she knew he wasn't likely to react well to being shaken out of his nightmare. After all, most people who woke up the Riddler in the middle of the night wore masks and wanted to hurt him. Chances were he went to bed armed, and she wouldn't be at all surprised if he shanked her first and asked questions later.
"No," he moaned. Al decided it was worth the risk.
"Eddie…sweetums…it's time to wake up." She let her hand cover his clenched fist, a feather light touch that couldn't possibly register as a threat. He shook her off, but not before she could feel the tension running through him. "I mean it, Edward," she said a bit more sharply. Eddie jerked his head to the side, gasped a couple of times, and then settled.
"No…please…" he mumbled. Al put her hand on his shoulder and shook him gently. He didn't wake up. "Pl…" He gasped and shook his head again. "I'll do…whatever you want…" He rolled over onto his side, pressing both hands against his face. "Please…a-an'thing you…want…just….stop!" The last word came out as an anguished wail. Al couldn't take it anymore.
She pounced on him.
"Eddie! Wake up!"
He jerked away from her, panting desperately and struggling against her embrace until he realized who she was.
"A-al?" he stammered. She clung to him. "What's…what's the matter?"
"I…had a bad dream," she lied. He put his arms around her for a moment.
Al was surprised to find him moving back to make room for her, and pulling the blanket up to cover them both. She had just been hoping to ask him to join her for a cup of tea. This was…unexpected.
"Eddie, are you…" She reached out to touch him, wondering exactly what he expected her to do.
"It's okay. You can stay with me as long as you want."
"I'm not going to make you stay up alone if you're scared." He yawned, exhausted in spite of himself.
Oh, right. She had almost forgotten her excuse for waking him up.
"You're the best, Eddie."
She could feel him relaxing next to her, though he was still tense. After a minute or two, keeping her eyes closed and her breathing even and deep, Al rolled over and snuggled up against his chest. Surprised, Eddie pulled away. Then he came back and let her cuddle. Al smiled. It had been a long, long time since she had crawled into someone else's bed to escape the terrors of the dark, but she still knew how much it could help to have someone else there. Nothing was ever quite so bad when you knew you weren't alone.
Especially if the person by your side had a penchant for knocking anyone silly who so much as looked at you wrong.
Maybe now his dreams would be more sweet.
"Eddums!" The door nearly flew off its hinges, banging into the wall hard enough to rattle the windowpanes. "Al's gone, we can't f—"
Techie and the Captain stopped short in the Riddler's doorway, doing their best impressions of dying fish. Al and Eddie blinked back at them, disoriented and half asleep. Then they glanced at each other. Al went red in the face and burrowed down under the covers until only her eyes were visible.
"Um…" Eddie sat up slowly. "Oh, look…I…found her. How did that get there?" His eyes darted back and forth between the girl in his bed and her friends in the doorway.
The Captain recovered enough to put her hands on her hips and glare at her first mate.
Techie struck the same pose and said, just as sharply, "Edward!"
Al put the blanket over her head. Eddie looked very much as if he'd like to do the same.
"This…isn't what it looks like…"
"It better not be, Number One," the Captain snapped. "You know there are rules about this kind of thing. Try to jump ship, and we could have you keelhauled."
"If you didn't want your ship boarded, you should have used the cannon," came Al's muffled, grumpy voice.
Eddie just stared at them all in absolute perplexity. He considered drawing their attention with a remark about cannonballs, but decided against it...which was probably for the best.