((Well, we're finally at the end. Enjoy, you guys.))


Gotham City is almost alive tonight.

Recent times have been...eventful. For one, there was a major break at Arkham, Gotham's great cardboard prison. The blame lands squarely on the shoulders of a criminal calling herself Schwarzwald, though an up-and-coming new criminal, the Riddler, was given most of the actual credit in masterminding the plot. Predictably, the Joker is gone again, as is his girlfriend of sorts, Harley Quinn. The Batman is seen around the city constantly, mainly to foil small bank robberies or jobs by the small-time criminals dreaming to be as big as the huge names in the city's criminal element. The aptly-monikered 'supervillains'.

Right now, there's a supervillain meeting going on, as cliche as that sounds. By 'meeting', meaning 'everybody who feels like it gets together and decides if they want to try and work together to make Batman their bitch'. The Iceberg Lounge is bustling with either criminals, really bad criminals, or people either daredevils, terrified, or piss drunk.

"If you were to ask me," The Riddler begins exuberantly, in a tone that practically drips with superiority, "Then I say we don't need to even consider working together. One, I doubt you would be able to comprehend the more intricate details of my plot, and two, you've never really wanted him dead anyway." He's wearing his trademark suit, green with question marks all over it, basically as gaudy as possible. Along with the cane and the hat, he basically looks like some dandy gentleman that wandered into the wrong city. He sits at a table, one leg crossed over the other, a scotch on the rocks sitting by his left hand, on the table.

"There's a problem with your logic, Riddles," the man sitting on the other side of the table pops off, nonchalantly. Nashton's expression darkens considerably at the nickname, as the Joker leans back in his seat as far as possible, his head, his neck craning over the back of the chair. He looks at Harley, who isn't wearing her harlequin costume and is instead wearing a tube top, a skirt, heels, and a black jacket over it, her blonde hair pulled back into pigtails that betray her innate girlish nature, and says, "Brown liquor. I'm in the mood for brown liquor." She walks away, clicking with every step, and comes back with a bottle, handing it to Joker. Fiddling with the bottle, he takes his time in seeing exactly how long he can make Riddler wait before the fellow criminal snaps and finally says something. He'll have to wait anyway, as the Joker's attention is fully focused on the bottle of liquor that refuses to be opened. After about a minute of fussing with it, he just smashes the neck of the bottle on the edge of the table and drinks from that, unperturbed by the sharp edges. "The problem is, I never asked you for help. I just noticed that you're doing pretty well on your own. Don't be so..." He trails off, hunting for the correct word with an overdone, almost comical thinking expression, before he smiles and gently waves the broken neck of the bottle in the Riddler's direction. "self-assured. Sure, you think you're the smartest thing since Luthor, but even he's got a guy in spandex knocking him back down to size."

"Your comparative skills are simply superb," Riddler comments, tersely, while he watches Joker completely ignore Harley as she sits on his leg, circling her arms around his neck, "But our hero in spandex is merely a different shade of insane." The words than you go unsaid, but the message he communicates is loud and clear. "He's a man dressing up in theatric fashion and jumping from rooftop to rooftop, swearing he can change the city. He's mad. Anyone with moderate intelligence can outwit a madman." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a cigar, putting the end in between his lips and tipping his head back. Schwarzwald, ever silent, wordlessly lights it for him. She notices that Joker's staring at her, as if mirthful and amused at seeing her serving Nashton like a doting wife. She looks at him blankly, and he can't tell if the thing behind her eyes is disinterest or pure, cold, controlled rage. She moves back a step as Riddler puffs on his cigar, an apathetic expression on his face, as tendrils of smoke curl and disappear into the low haze, not enough to be sickening but enough to set the atmosphere, hanging over their heads. "The 'World's Greatest Detective' is nothing but a child unto someone like myself."

Schwarzwald nurses a Stolichnaya (flavor Blakberi) and watches the Lounge's patrons apathetically; with every sip, her fire-blackened teeth are visible, due to a lack of lips. She doesn't wear bandages anymore; that's Hush's gig. Instead, she's wearing a leather helmet with an orange-tinted glass window to see out of. Her face is still hidden, and she can see clearly. The helmet is tipped back enough for her to take her Stoli easily. Riddler and Joker sit at the table in front of her, Harley Quinn having left by now due to a lack of interest in her presence, while a new up-and-coming environmental terrorist by the name of Isley sits alone in back. Soon, she is joined by Harley, and the two begin to chat amicably. Pamela Isley, apparently in possession of a certain strain of genetically-engineered plants that release deadly toxic spores. She's been discreetly planting them around Gotham and is planning to try and destroy the city and all its inhabitants when all the plants mature and she can cause them to release their spores with a particular pheromone she'll release during a planned breezy day.

Everyone in the Lounge, Joker included, knows that she's going to do this. But nobody here will do a thing except try to plan in a way that will leave them out of the firing range. Because it's not their problem.

Jonathan Crane, sprung from Arkham at the same point as Joker, is in back and all alone. His plans are unrevealed, if he has any at all, but it's quite assured that he's going to need help and isn't going to be using the Joker's assistance this time. After more quiet talking, the Riddler gets up and walks to sit with Crane, probably to match wits. Crane looks unamused at Nashton's arrival, but tolerant enough. Schwarzwald hasn't spoken with him since she was Angelface, and has decided that it's for the better this way; her self-esteem is gone, and she's accepted that she's not beautiful enough anymore, that she's no longer the pretty...ish...girl with little more effectiveness than as a human shield, if the situation were to call for such a use of her. Over the time since her disfigurement, she's been bulking up, getting more muscle; now she's able to handle herself in a good bit of dirty twenty-to-one, which is really needed if you're going to be a hired thug-slash-bodyguard-slash-worker. She's been working with the Riddler as all three of those things, and mainly does the physical work while Riddler does the planning. This is rather dangerous, mainly since all the 'riddles' are deathtraps, but she's been able to handle herself so far. He thinks up the riddles/deathtraps, she does the physical work of putting them all together, plus acting as a working bodyguard.

She's not worshiping him, like she did with the Joker and with Crane. He's the employer and she's the hired hand, though the employer is an insufferable genius with a complex and the worker is a mainly silent disfigured freak with the patience of a saint and the rare ability to spend five minutes in his presence without trying to strangle him. They've slept together only once, and that was mainly out of curiosity to see if they wanted to have that sort of relationship: a boss/worker compatibility with the occasional encounter to relieve frustration on both parts. His superiority complex and need to control everything he can matched with her disfigurement, which is rather grotesque, and sensitivity about the subject aren't worth the frustration, however, and they've decided that it's not worth it to keep trying.

There's a low whistle that gets her attention, and she looks over at the table in front of her. Joker is waving her over, with what looks like a genuine smile on his face.

Schwarzwald doesn't trust him.

She does, however, sit down with an offhand glance to the Riddler, who's apparently bantering with Crane over something intense, before Joker gets her attention again.

"So, No-Face," He starts with a cruel nickname that Schwarzwald is praying to God doesn't stick among her criminal colleagues, "you've gotta tell me this, because I'm just dying to know: how do you deal with him twenty-four seven?" He gestures to Nashton with a small wave of his broken bottle, Schwarzwald setting aside her empty glass and waving over at a passing patron. They ask her what she wants, mainly because she's a little famous for being the Riddler's muscle, and they come back with a bottle of Smirnoff. Giving an appreciative nod as she takes it, opening the bottle and drinking straight from it (with difficulty, due to the helmet).

"Easy. Keep my mouth shut and nod whenever he talks." Her answer is brusque, more of a gravelly grunt than anything else, and she takes another swig while Joker laughs, and though it's slightly quieter than his worst laughs, it's still loud enough to garner at the very least the passing attentions of every patron in the bar.

"Oh, is it that easy? Wow, I never would've guessed." There is a moment of silence between them, and it's not completely unpleasant, either; mainly because silence with the Joker is a rare thing, and because Schwarzwald is so silent nowadays that it's not awkward on her part. He leans forward, a smile playing at his lips, and it looks either mischievous or malicious, it's impossible to tell which. "No hard feelings about..." He loses the smile, looks almost like he's being serious as he gestures one purple-gloved finger at her head, "You know." He definitely doesn't care about whether she has hard feeling about it or not, and Schwarzwald knows this very well. She shrugs, looks away, and grunts an "Unimportant."

"Oh, don't be like that." He's not drunk, and neither is she. "Would it make you feel better if I said I was sorry?" He looks almost earnest, and she finally smiles, showing blackened teeth as she pulls off her helmet and stares at the Joker with her singular eye, smiling with her lips gone and her skin the tone of cooked hamburger meat and a few wisps of blond hair hanging raggedly off of her scalp.

"Do you think?" She rasps, with the very slightest hint of malice in her tone. He smiles still, shrugs, takes another drink of his nondescript liquor. She pulls the helmet back down over her head and sits in silence, as the Riddler comes back to the table and tells her that they're leaving. He snaps at her like a dog and says, "Schwarzwald, we're leaving." Crane is standing behind him, watching the helmeted Schwarzwald with apathy in his stare. She grunts, gives a nod, and stands, heading to the counter to pay for their tab before standing behind Riddler and Crane, silent. "Evening, Joker," Riddler states, flippantly, and walks to the door, as Crane follows him with a look of pure boredom etched into his features. He speaks under his breath with Nashton as they walk out the door, and Schwarzwald catches a few words, mainly a half of a sentence: "...will need to have my own workspace for development..." Apparently, Scarecrow and the Riddler have formed a partnership. Schwarzwald inwardly sighs at the stress this close proximity to Crane is going to cause, on top of the stress Edward causes on a regular basis, but shrugs it off. Stress is nothing new to her, and she'll just deal with it.

When Schwarzwald walks to the door after the two, she glances back into the Iceberg Lounge. Harley and Isley are laughing together, like old friends, and Joker is watching them. After a moment, he glances back at the door, sees Schwarzwald staring at him, and gives a slight wave, a mad 'I regret nothing' smile, and what is either a giggle or a clearing of his throat. She's become exactly what he knew she would turn into: a criminal, controlled and successful; one of the lunatics. Sure, there was...sacrifice, but hey, he sacrificed too, just like everyone else in this bar did at one point or another. Schwarzwald follows Riddler and Scarecrow out into the Gotham night, as a siren wails in the distance, as if the city were screaming at their arrival. She closes her eyes, though only one needs to be closed, and sighs into her helmet, before getting into and starting the nondescript black car, Crane and Nashton already sitting in back and continuing their conversation in hushed tones. The car rumbles to life and, after Riddler directs her to drive them back to the temporary base, she looks out the window at the city lights. She stares at the faraway lights, and inwardly, Schwarzwald wonders if the Batman is up there, watching them too. There's a slight tug on the rug, it almost feels like, because she knows that no matter where he is, where she is, he's always there and he's always going to be watching her. A moment later, she looks back ahead of her and drives away.

It doesn't slip past Schwarzwald that Joker never actually apologized.


((Fin.))