Tools of the Trade

By: Thought

Disclaimer: Not mine, sadly.

Summary: There were a few facts of life that did not change no matter what reality one found oneself in. Crossover with the Iron Man movieverse.

Notes: Written for Shordy, who requested Riddler/Iron Man and a chipmunk in exchange for her awesome icon-making skills.


The ball room is extravagant in the painfully frivolous way that only the very rich can obtain. His suit itches and the three glasses of Champagne haven't made the conversations of the wealthy and bored any less torturous. He switches from Champaign to brandy when a woman near him starts in on a diatribe regarding the habits of her pet chipmunk. His target has been surrounded by a crowd of admirers the entire night, all of them obsequious and cloying in their blatant bids for his attention.

It had been an easy decision, ripe with a delightful sense of irony that he'd found both bitter and irresistible. There were a few facts of life that did not change, no matter what reality one found oneself in. One of these, Edward Nygma knew, was the simple truth that money was power and rich men were never as well protected as they believed themselves to be. Toney Stark was a big name before the Iron Man reveal, and when Eddie had witnessed the press conference the final brick had been set. Well-educated playboy billionaire with deceased parents and a habit of protecting the innocent in a ridiculous costume? The parallels to Bruce Wayne were glaringly obvious. How could he resist?

The false invitation to Stark's Christmas party had been so easy to get that he'd wasted two days insuring that it wasn't a trap. After that it was merely a matter of creating a small but respectable business portfolio for himself and purchasing clothing that probably cost more than some people made in a year. The money he used for these ventures was the result of a few quiet heists, but he made sure to do all of his shopping legally, and lunched at the restaurants where he was most likely to run in to other wealthy business men and women, leaving a name and perhaps a vague impression on well-respected members of society in order to insure his cover.

The dancing has started in earnest by the time Eddie manages to get close enough to Stark to have a snowball's chance in hell of talking to him. He is engaged with an impeccably dressed redhead whose business-like demeanor sets her apart from the other party-goers. She's shaking her head at something Stark is saying, lips pressed together in a thin line even as Stark's own expression becomes more and more pleading. Eddie moves closer, using the need to get out of the way of a frazzled waiter and his large tray of drinks as an excuse to attempt to overhear the conversation.

"If that will be all, Mr. Stark, I believe quite a few of your guests still wish to speak to you." the woman's voice is a study in icy disdain. The man's shoulders slump, and he tugs angrily at his tie.

"Of course, Miss Potts. Good night."

Eddie hides his gleeful grin in his glass, and lets the crowd draw him the final few feet to the dejected billionaire's side. This is going to be so very easy. Eddie can offer him intelligent conversation and an opportunity to ignore the issue of his argument with the woman. It is an excellent starting point. The build up of a friendship will take a few months, and when Eddie sweeps a good chunk of his fortune out from under him it will be damn satisfying because Stark is not Bruce Wayne and Iron Man is not Batman, but beggars can't be choosers.

There will be riddles, of course, left at police headquarters where there is a fifty-fifty chance that they'll be dismissed as a prank and swept into the trash. Even if they are taken seriously, there is no Batman to decipher the clues. Eddie is quite sure that he can indulge his compulsions without any actual risk of discovery.

"Mr. Stark?"

Stark turns, faux smile firmly in place. It is not the idiotic dopey grin of Wayne, more the brilliantly reassuring smile that Harvey Dent had been able to toss out at the drop of a hat. Hands meet and shake as words that Eddie is sure have been spoken a hundred times already that night fall from the billionaire's lips. "That's me. A pleasure to meet you, Mr. …"

"Nygma," Eddie replies, and then, with a little self-deprecating grin, "Edward Nygma."

Stark's laugh is sudden and short, cut off as if he realizes too late that he is deviating from the script. "Your parents had a flare for the dramatic, I take it?"

Eddie shrugs. "You could say that."

"Well, Mr. Nygma, I hope you are enjoying the party?" And they're back to the script.

Eddie pauses for a few seconds, as if deciding weather to tell the truth or not. "Honestly? I'm not the biggest fan of being caught in conversations that revolve around social gossip or financial figures. I like to consider myself more of an intellectual."

Stark seems to relax a bit, though his smile is still practiced and his eyes still sliding away to follow the retreating form of the redhead as she cuts a swath through the gaggles of socialites. "Well, I like to consider myself an engineer."

"So I've heard," Eddie replies dryly. "But I promised myself before I came over that I wouldn't ask any questions about the Iron Man. I'm sure it's a popular topic of conversation and if I were you I'd be thoroughly sick of talking about it by now."

"You have no idea." The joking tone isn't sincere. The words themselves are.

Twenty minutes later Eddie is having to restrain his absolute delight at how smoothly he is able to draw the real Toney Stark --not the façade he puts up for the cameras-- into conversation. Half an hour after that Stark is on his third glass of scotch and the way his eyes run discretely over Eddie makes him think that a change of strategy may be in order. He's never been the kind of person to sleep with someone in order to make away with their valuables, but Stark is turning out to be witty and charming and smart, and it's not like they're not both grown men completely capable of dealing with a one-night-stand situation with maturity – Stark does it all the time. Mentally, Eddie smirks. It will be easy to leave him asleep and hack into the computer network, transfer funds to various off-shore accounts he has set up. And then, perhaps, find where Stark's got the suit hidden away, have the opportunity to browse the highly classified files of the agency (SHIELD) that he knows he's somehow involved with.

It will be a glorious victory, leaving Stark aware that he has been deceived so completely, that his own stupidity is the only thing to blame. Eddie is very much aware that in this case the money and information are secondary to the knowledge that he will have effectively defeated this world's Bruce Wayne. He ignores the fact that he is actually enjoying their conversation, and ignores the way the crisp white shirt reveals a sliver of skin at the throat and the dark hair falls over his face when he leans forward, intent on making a point.

It is, then, merely the alcohol that makes him hesitate before agreeing to join Stark in his private library to see a first addition copy of a book by an author that, really, he has no particular fondness for. He mentally shakes himself, abandons his glass on a table, and they leave the party.