A/N: This story is part of the CATverse. You can find the story listing at catverse. com. For those who've been following the universe, be aware that this story takes place in arc five after 'A Better Mousetrap'.
This is for my Captain, whose Kleenex I shall always gladly be.
For the first time in a long time, Jonathan Crane was having a good night's sleep. He wasn't bruised or suffering from any broken bones, so he didn't wake every few minutes in blistering agony, his bed was comfortable and his dreams were pleasant.
And so, of course, as the universe dictated, it couldn't possibly be allowed to last.
He squeezed his eyes shut tighter in the hope that if he pretended to be asleep, whichever of the girls it was would get the hint and go away. For God's sake, it was still dark out. Not even five in the morning yet. Honestly, some people had no decency whatsoever.
He rolled over, his back to the source of the sound. I. Am. Not. Getting. Up. No. No. No. He pulled the blanket up a little higher over his shoulder only to have it torn away and a hand squeezed his arm to shake him.
It was Techie. He could tell. She always said his name a bit differently than the other two twits; that strange Midwest non-accent a contrast to Captain's high pitched tones and Al's slight southern twang. He grunted low in his throat, an angry, rusty sound and he made to speak. A hand clamped down over his mouth and he was forced onto his back.
He glared through bleary eyes at the woman who had him partially pinned and seriously considered gassing her on principle. She was kneeling at his bedside and all he had to do was give a flick of the wrist--bam, fear toxin tsunami to the face.
"Shh," she whispered urgently. "No shouting, please."
She removed her hand from over his lips and he glowered at her. "You'd better have an arm off or something equally gory."
"I need a favor," she said, her eyes pleading and her tone the same.
"I don't do favors," he spat, yanking the blanket back from her and covering his head with it. "Go ask one of your horrific cohorts for help. Let me sleep."
He stared at the blanket's weave for a moment before he pushed it down again and fixed her with a steely glare. "What sort of favor?"
She glanced around nervously. "I…I can't tell you here."
One of his eyebrows lifted in question. She had something to talk about that she didn't want the other henchgirls to know? In spite of himself, Jonathan was intrigued.
"Look, I know you have a chemical pick-up this afternoon," she said, dancing around the question she wanted to ask, "all I'm asking is that you let me come with you. Just me. I…need to do something."
"And they'll get suspicious if you go out all by your lonesome, is that it?"
"And you think they won't get suspicious if I order them to stay behind and take just you with me? Hmm? Have you met those two?"
"You can come up with something plausible, I know you can. I just…I need this favor. Please." She clasped her hands together, fingers intertwined. She was also gracing him with her version of The Eyes and it was no less disturbing after several years of living with her than it was the first time.
"You're sickening when you beg," he said dully.
"Sickening enough that you'll help me just to get me to stop?" she asked hopefully.
He considered her. Whatever it was she was in need of, she didn't want the other girls to know…that could conceivably mean there was potential blackmail material involved, and he'd never been one to turn down access to any advantage he could possibly find. Still, he couldn't give it to her easily…
"I'll bake cookies," she said hurriedly, seeing that he was waiting for something to make it worth his while. "The oatmeal cranberry ones you like."
There was a slight narrowing of eyes and his stomach grumbled a bit too loudly at the mere thought of the promised baked goods. She wasn't good at much when it came to cooking, but if her cookies were served at the UN, world peace would spontaneously break out, much like the Captain's pancakes 'o world peace.
"Fine," he said, his tone a bit whiney. "Now, let me go back to sleep."
Techie's face lit up and she dove to kiss him on the cheek gratefully.
He pulled the blanket back up just in time.
He smirked to himself and let his eyes drift closed as he heard her leave.
When next he woke a few hours later, he was in a much better mood. The entire lair smelled of freshly baked cookies and when he left his room, he found a platter piled high with four dozen waiting for him. Techie was standing by the stove with a sponge in hand, wiping the flour and dough off it. Al and the Captain were nowhere to be seen.
That was easily explained by the sound of dry heaves coming from the bathroom.
"Morning sickness," Techie said unnecessarily, as if he weren't bright enough to figure it out himself. He couldn't help but notice that she looked a little green around the gills herself when she said it.
"Getting out of here without their protest isn't going to be a problem, then," he replied. "You can go run your little errand all on your own."
She let out a bitter little chuckle. "You don't know her very well, do you? Captain doesn't skip work. I'm pretty sure that only losing a body part would get her to skip…and even then, she's more likely to slap a paper towel on the bloody stump, wrap it in duct tape and call it good. There's no way she's going to skiv off today."
He plopped down at the kitchen table and picked up a cookie as he flipped open the newspaper. With a groan and a stumble, Captain staggered out of the bathroom, Al close at her heels.
Jonathan looked at Techie pointedly, then at the Captain. He took a huge bite out of the cookie, chewing with his mouth open and watched as her eyes went wide and her face blanched.
She lurched back toward the bathroom and another disgusting series of heaves followed.
He finished chewing and swallowed, smacking his lips in an exaggerated manner. "You were saying?"
Techie grimaced at the noises the Captain was making. "I'll get my coat."
The weather was relatively pleasant, but not spectacularly so. Spring hadn't sprung just yet and there was still a slight bite to the air in Gotham. Techie traveled to Jonathan's left, her trusty aluminum pipe slid up inside her puffy coat's sleeve, one end in her hand. She moved a little awkwardly, but unless one were looking very closely, it wasn't obvious that she was carrying a weapon. The coat was massive and the hood kept her face pretty well obscured to outside observers, which made it perfect for these sorts of heists.
They'd been walking for a while, having left the Frohike in a parking garage a few blocks away and he noted with interest that she got jumpier and jumpier with every subsequent step towards their destination. Jonathan had managed to find an ally in a pharmacist with a habit. He would supply the Scarecrow with any prescription drug he needed so long as he was provided with an ounce of smack every now and again.
The kid was a whiz at making things disappear without anyone getting wise, but it'd been three months since the two men first decided on this mutually beneficial relationship and Jonathan knew that it wouldn't last much longer. As a matter of fact, he planned on terminating their business alliance this very afternoon by drugging the youth into oblivion and taking whatever he needed in bulk. It was better to do it this way than wait until something went wrong.
Bright-Drug was in a slightly run down part of town, the sort of run down where no one bothered to call the cops if they happened to spot a super villain in plain clothes strolling along, so he had no worries in that regard. Still, he wore a scarf over the bottom half of his face (a rather ridiculously long, striped thing that the girls had given him for Christmas after they'd disappeared on him--for some reason they took perverse delight in calling him 'Four' whenever he wore it) and Techie stuck close to his side but tried to avoid obviously hovering like a bodyguard.
The bell on the door to Bright-Drug jingled merrily and one of the overhead lighting fixtures flickered worryingly as the two criminals entered. The place was completely empty with the exception of a bubble-cut blonde standing behind the only register in the place, popping away at a bright blue piece of gum. Her red and white nametag read 'Tiffany' in huge looping letters--Jonathan noted with disgust that the 'i' in her name was dotted with a heart.
Techie and Jonathan traded a meaningful look. She jerked her head toward the security camera and he inclined his toward the clerk. He sneakily reached behind himself and flicked the lock on the door.
They split off from each other at the same time, she making a beeline for, he had to assume, wherever she thought the security system's HQ would be and he walked to the clerk, tugging his scarf down just enough to reveal his lips, smiling as pleasantly as he could manage. It was a skill that the Captain had instructed him extensively in--looking pleasant and harmless--but he still didn't have a knack for it.
Tiffany narrowed her eyes at him and recognition passed over her face. "Hey, aren't you--"
He whipped out a capsule of toxin and it exploded on the counter, the puff of chemicals passing through the barcode scanner and the red lasers were visible for a split second as the chemicals released into the air. Tiffany hit the ground groaning, shiny green fingernails speared through peroxide blonde hair as she rocked back and forth.
Jonathan was careful not to open his mouth until he counted to twenty slowly. This new variation of his fear toxin was quick acting and short lived when outside a body. Its effects only lasted outside a capsule for ten seconds, but if, in those ten seconds, it made its way into your lungs, you were completely lost. It was terrible in an emergency when he needed to take down a group, but great for quick, single victim jobs like this one.
"Security's down," Techie called, stripping out of her coat as she walked back down the vitamin aisle toward him. "Security guard's takin' a nap too."
The massive white coat was equipped with thirty something inside pockets and she turned it inside out, unzipping each of the pockets quickly as they started toward the back of the store where the pharmacy itself was located.
The kid, Dan, his name was, was on duty, naturally, and obviously hadn't heard the commotion at the front of the store.
Oh, how Jonathan loved idiots who worked with headphones on.
He approached the pharmacy counter and rang the little bell three times. Dan looked up in surprise. "But…we were supposed to meet in back--"
Jonathan took great satisfaction in smashing a capsule of toxin directly into the youth's face. He heard Techie gasp and hold her breath with a mere second to spare before the venom was released into the air and he looked back at her to see her cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk. It was quite comical when combined with her heated glare.
When the count to twenty was up and Dan had hit the floor screaming like a little girl, Techie blew out the breath she'd been holding. "I think you do that on purpose."
"Would I do a thing like that?" he asked, hoisting himself up and over the counter with a grunt.
"You're right." He turned toward one of the shelves of pill bottles and held a hand out behind himself. "Hand me the coat."
She dropped it into his hand but she didn't join him. He glanced over his shoulder and found her walking away. "And where do you think you're going?"
Techie froze in place and looked back at him. "Uh…my errand. I'll be back in five? I just have to go to...uh…a different aisle to get what I need."
He shrugged and went back to work, grabbing the narcotics first and then moving on towards more…interesting drugs. The fun ones that were still considered high risk by the FDA.
The pockets were nearly all full by the time Techie returned and he handed the coat back to her when he was through. He noticed she looked a little bit shaky as he swung himself clumsily back over the counter, but he didn't bother to ask what it was about. There wasn't time. They'd already been in the store for fifteen minutes and even though the place was empty--well, except for the screaming staff--it wouldn't be too long before grandma came looking for her nitroglycerin and called the cops because it looked like something fishy was going inside the Bright-Drug.
They left as nonchalantly as they had entered, Techie looking about thirty pounds heavier with her overstuffed coat and they made relatively good time back to the parking garage. The moment the doors to the Frohike were slammed shut, she took the coat off and tossed it in the back. She held something in her hand tightly but Jonathan's eyes only slid over it without really seeing it as he slammed the keys into the ignition and revved the engine. "Okay, let's--"
Then, he came to a sudden halt as his brain caught up with his eyes. His head snapped back and he looked in shock at the small plastic item that Techie grasped.
He let out a little squeak of sheer horror. "Is that a pregnancy test?"
She looked up at him, chewing her bottom lip with such ferocity that the flesh was cherry red. "Yes?"
He groaned and leaned forward, his head resting on his hands as they gripped the steering wheel. "Not you too."
She let out a nervous laugh. "I'm hoping not…but maybe?"
"The usual way," she spat angrily before she took a breath and muttered, "Sorry."
He could tell she wasn't sorry in the least. "Whose?"
"Probably?" he lifted his head and looked at her. "Just how many men did you sleep with in the course of your little break-up with your friends?"
Techie hesitated. "I…two."
"Just tell me there's no chance it's the Joker's."
She sputtered and choked. "Oh, God. Oh, no. No chance. Not a chance in hell. Unless he's so virile he can impregnate through murder attempts, no."
He let out a sigh or relief. "Thank God for small favors."
"You ain't but kiddin'," she replied, turning back to the plastic tube. "Harley would kill me."
Jonathan remained silent for a moment, running over the possibilities in his head and coming up empty. "Who else?"
"Um…I…may have…wait, why should I tell you?" she turned on him and glared. "It's bad enough you know that I might be…in a family way."
He stared at her for a second and then burst into hysterical and wholly inappropriate laughter. The delicacy of her language was absurd given the situation.
"Shut up!" she shouted at him. "I'm scared!"
His laughter ceased immediately and she averted her eyes, fixing her gaze firmly on the test.
"You're scared? And you're admitting it? With me within earshot? How stupid are you?"
"I'm not just scared, Jonathan, I'm terrified. Blame my stupidity on that," she said. "I never prepared for this."
He scoffed. "You're a sexually active woman of child bearing age, only an idiot wouldn't be--"
"So help me, if you try and give me a lecture, I'm going to shove your keys down your throat. I'm not supposed to be able to get pregnant."
She huffed and glared at him again. "When I was thirteen, I was told the chances of me ever being able to conceive would be astronomical, okay? I've resigned myself to not having kids and now…now…" she waved the little stick around. "Now this."
"Oh." He turned to stare out the windshield, feeling a little bit strange. She'd been with him for almost a decade. How did this sort of information never get mentioned in all that time? What else didn't he know about his--the girls. The girls. What other secrets did they have that he never got to hear about?
He stayed quiet for a few minutes, mulling it over and then asked, "What are you going to do?"
Techie's voice came out lilting and sarcastic. "I'm going to find a nice guy, settle down in the suburbs and live behind a white picket fence. The soccer mom association won't mind the felony record, I'm sure. What the hell do you think?"
"I don't know what to think!" he exclaimed, "You seem to be under the impression this only affects you. I'm your boss and now I might have two pregnant employees to deal with."
"Well excuse me for defying the odds," she retorted. "How I pity you, ice cream runs at four in the morning while Captain and I waddle around like the Penguin, trying to wield Tommy Guns to keep your ass alive. Poor baby."
"If you're pregnant, you should go home, both you and Captain," he said angrily, immediately regretting the words once they were out but too proud to take them back.
"This is my home, you twat," she returned viciously, "I'm not leaving it or you or the girls, even if I have to have my baby in the middle of a heist! In broad daylight! In front of the entire Justice League!"
She looked so determined that he almost smiled. Then he remembered he was mad at her. "You don't even know whose child it might be! How can you possibly be a good parent?"
"I do know, I'm just not telling you!" she shouted in his face, "And besides, I might not even be pregnant! And I'll have you know, I would be a terrif--a decent mother!"
"Oh, yes, I'm sure, teaching it to hotwire cars and rig electroshock collars, what a fine example you'll set!"
"I'd be a heap and a half better than yours ever was!" She was red in the face now and he was glad of it. For some reason, seeing her scared wasn't as enticing as it once was. Anger was infinitely more comfortable. Anger he could deal with. "So fuck you, Jonathan! Fuck you sideways with a rusty chainsaw! I--"
A tiny, insistent beeping interrupted her shouting. It was her watch.
The blood drained from her face in an instant and she went white as a ghost. She slammed her eyes shut and shoved the test at him. "You look, I can't."
"One minute you're screaming at me, the next you want another favor," he growled.
"Oh, just shut up and tell me what it says!"
"Fine!" She drew in a couple of breaths, sounding like an angry, huffy child and looked at the test strip.
As a student of psychology, reading her face was easy. There was hope and dread in her expression when she first opened her eyes, followed by confusion, then relief.
"I'm not," she said finally, the hand holding the test lowering to her lap and the other moving to her forehead. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and blew out a breath. "I'm not pregnant."
He didn't say anything. He was relieved as well, if only because he worried she would take him up on his insistence that she leave if she were pregnant. It was bad enough that the Captain might do that of her own volition…if it were just he and Al, he probably would've committed suicide. Well, no, but he'd have been a little bereft without the other two.
Jonathan heard a sharp intake of air and then another, and another…
He groaned internally and hated himself for asking, but did so anyway. "Are you crying?"
"Shut up," she ground out.
He looked up in alarm. She was! This had never happened before. Captain, when she was drinking sure, Techie, never. "Don't…with the…no crying!"
"Stop telling me not to and I won't!" she sobbed. "Stop looking at me!"
He turned his attention to the windshield. "You…you don't have to…"
Oh, he was absolutely terrible with this sort of thing. What would Captain and Al do?
"Do…do you need," he cringed, "do you need a hug and a sandwich?"
The sobbing got louder.
He stuttered in confusion. "I mean, not a hug and a sandwich! A cookie? Do you want a cookie? Ice cream? Explosives? TNT? The head of Willy the mail boy? Stop crying!"
He looked back at her and found the sobs weren't sobs at all. She was laughing at him between hiccups. She dropped the pregnancy test out the passenger side window and dove at him, pinning him to his seat with her arms around his neck.
"You emotionally stunted dope," she half giggled, half sobbed, soaking his scarf with tears and snot. "Don't ever change."