Author's Note: If you thought the Henchgirl Diaries were unauthorized, buddy, you ain't seen nothin' yet! Everyone and everything is taken completely without anyone's permission or knowledge. (Hey, Captain and Techie - surprise!) If you want the real thing, buy some comics and go to catverse dot com.
The Scarecrow wheezed for breath as he skidded around the corner. His feet hit a drift of wet leaves and kept going without his consent, sending him careening right past the old, rotted brick building he'd been trying to escape around. Wham! Well, at least the pile of garbage spilling over from the opposite alley wall hadn't been filled with too much noxious waste. Next time, he vowed as he scrambled up from his impromptu landing pad, thematic or not, I'm wearing running shoes.
This whole mess had started when his girls - rather, the three nitwits who had firmly attached themselves to him like feathers to tar - had announced all too cheerfully that they were going out that evening. He'd barely glanced up from his medical journal. They were leaving, and they were taking the Captain's spawn with them. Finally, he was going to get a night of peace and quiet. He ignored their stream of chatter until his ears picked up on one horrible phrase:
" - and Squishy, don't forget to warm up the bottles before you feed Kitten!"
That got his attention as little else could. "Why would I be feeding her?" he inquired, finally raising his head enough to notice that the three henchgirls were not carrying any kind of baby gear. More importantly, they weren't carrying the baby, who was seated happily in a purloined exersaucer, making various little plastic things go chirp and squawk.
Techie rolled her eyes. "You're babysitting."
"You promised," Captain added. "We asked you earlier."
They had done no such thing! They'd asked him what he wanted for supper, and if they could buy a pony, and if they could steal a pony, and if they could move to a lair that would be able to house a pony, and maybe one that could house a private theater, too, and if they could knock over Best Buy next time they were out, and they'd continued asking him pointless questions until he'd just given a noncommital grunt to everything without really listening -
Well, that didn't matter. "Find someone else. I'm busy."
The girls exchanged a look. "Well, if you're sure you can't do it," Al drawled, "maybe I'll just have to stay with you. Alone." She flopped down on the couch and snuggled adoringly up to his side, laying her head on his papers and blinking with exaggerated doe eyes. One lock of purple-streaked hair draped itself irritatingly around his kneecap. "Think of the fun we could have..."
If glares could be icy, the Scarecrow would have manifested Mr. Freeze in the living room by sheer force of will. "Get out of here," he snapped. "And take those two ninnies with you."
"Thanks, Squishy! We'll be back by...we'll be back!"
"And don't worry! Eddums said he'd come get her at midnight!" Slam.
Midnight. That...that was unexpectedly providential. Kitten opened her mouth wide in a gummy baby grin that was guaranteed to melt the hardest of hearts. The Scarecrow smiled back - to keep the child happy, he automatically excused it - and settled his papers into a neat pile on the rickety end table. Surely the rest of his night could be spent in a much more...profitable manner than merely reading papers.
Kitten imperiously smacked the whale-on-a-spring and made entreating noises in his direction. With a stifled sigh, he folded himself into a tailor's seat in front of the infant and raised a slender hand to the array of toys in front of her. As he made the little lion spin around, Kitten's eyes crossed.
He glared at her through spit-up smeared glasses. "You are a wretch," he informed her gravely. She giggled happily and bounced in place, sending the disgusting warm milky liquid pattering in droplets all over the floor and, incidentally, the bits of him she hadn't hit the first time.
Oh, yes, the two hours until Nygma showed up were just going to fly by...
The Riddler's evening was going remarkably badly.
It was bad enough to have writer's block when one was merely writing a paper for school. It was slightly more worrisome when one was a professional writer who depended on words for a living. To have writer's block when one was supposed to be traipsing about the city having fun, stealing things and getting under Batman's skin was unforgivable.
And so the Riddler sat in his lair, stony-faced, with a blank notebook in his lap. His henchgirls, bored with waiting, did each other's nails and swooned over whatever mindless romance was blaring on the TV screen. He was supposed to be a villain! An arch-criminal, proving his intellect to Gotham City and the rest of the world! He wasn't supposed to -
"Are you sure we can't paint your nails?"
...to be turning down pedicures, manicures, and the occasional offer to perm his hair.
BAM. BAM. The door shook in its frame under two very heavy, deliberate impacts. The girls leaped to their feet, ignoring the bright green nail polish as it puddled on the carpet, and reached for their weaponry.
Eddie, on the other hand, bolted for the back room. Sure, it was cowardly, but the girls had been hired as bodyguards - and the best way to guard a body was to keep it in a secret place. He closed the door as quietly as possible and hunkered down behind a handy crate.
He heard Quiz's voice. "Hello? What's wr-oof!" There was a thump, as if someone had been brushed out of the way with enough force to send her halfway across the room.
"Edward," a grim voice intoned. "I know you're here." A splatty, humming, somehow shimmery sound confirmed the intruder's identity. Freeze? What would Freeze be doing here - oh, god. Eddie, appropriately enough, froze in place as memory flitted across his forebrain.
"Stop hiding," Freeze said flatly, "or it will only be worse for you."
Eddie crept to the door and swung it open. "Hi...Victor," he said as casually as possible to the crazed cyborg in his living room. The girls, disarmed, struggled to get out of a block of ice that had quite successfully nailed them to the wall. Freeze slowly turned to face him, holding his freeze gun quite menacingly in his robotic hand. He was standing in the puddle of nail polish, but this probably wasn't the right moment to mention it. "How are things?"
"Very bad, as you are about to discover." Eddie slammed the door just in time to block the stream of ice that was headed his way. The door was instantly buried two feet deep in ice. Shit.
Aside from his usual activities - thieving, riddling, and generally getting into trouble - Eddie had quite a lucrative side business cracking codes for his fellow rogues. Knowing that the military brass had ordered transport of something that could become your new favorite toy did you no good unless you were able to find out where and when as well. Eddie could find such things out with only a few hours' work. When Freeze had approached him to delete one crate from a truckload's manifest, he hadn't thought twice about saying yes. It was always a good idea to have Freeze on your good side, and it would only take a few minutes to digitally break in and censor out the required information. But then he'd had that idea for his last (failed) heist, and there had been that incident with the Scarecrow's girls and the truckload of Nixie Tubes, not to mention the fact that he was still coming to grips with being a father...between all of that and an unexpected trip to Arkham in the middle of the night (well, who expected Batman to arrest him when he was merely stepping out to get his dry cleaning?) it had been a busy couple of weeks. The whole Freeze-favor had completely slipped his mind.
Metal hands crunched the ice as Freeze dug his way toward the Riddler. "You didn't alter the manifest, Edward."
"Look, I'm sorry," Eddie babbled, trying to clear crates away from the only window. Wood splintered as he clawed desperately at the enormous pile of neatly boxed deathtrap components. "I was a little busy! I was in Arkham!" For a few hours, anyway.
"You should have taken care of my business before your own," Freeze continued. Eddie scrambled onto the pile of crates and threw himself at the window, scrabbling desperately at the sash. The window refused to move. Come on, come on...
"Look, whatever it was, I'll buy you a new one!" he shouted, pulling on the window with all of his might. His sweaty fingers slipped loose and his hand, newly freed, repaid him for the effort by smacking into his eye. He scowled at the window, swearing under his breath, and noticed a tiny metal catch that was firmly set into the locked position. Click.
The window slid open effortlessly as Freeze crashed through the door behind him. Eddie spun to face him, feeling a cold fall wind whip around him as he put his back toward the open window.
"That cargo was unique," Freeze explained, stalking forward with his freeze gun at the ready.
"So I'll steal it for you!" Eddie edged backward, feeling the windowsill pressing into the backs of his thighs.
"It was destroyed shortly after its delivery," Freeze scowled.
"I'll...build you a new one?" Eddie said hopefully.
The scowl lines on Freeze's face deepened. "You cannot build me an experimental cloning chamber with DNA-altering abilities," he spat. "If I could not do it, why could you?"
Because I'm the smartest man in Gotham, Eddie thought automatically. Then again, would the smartest man in Gotham really be facing down a zero-degree lunatic in a bitterly cold storeroom with no coat on? "I'm sorry," he said, raising his hands as the barrel of the freeze gun trained itself on his face. "I said I'm sorry."
"Sorry isn't good enough." A metallic finger curled around the trigger and squeezed.
Fortunately, by then the Riddler had shoved himself out of the window and had hit the ground running. The street behind him glistened with a thick crust of ice. He stumbled onto the sidewalk and sped up, racing in socked feet down the icy cold cement.
There was a terrific crash behind him as Mr. Freeze left the storeroom by simply walking through the wall. "Get back here, Nygma," he growled. Heavy, clanking footsteps reverberated in the cold alley as the furious rogue pushed his robotic body to its top speed.
The Riddler's top speed was roughly that of a starving cheetah who had just scented a herd of freshly lamed gazelles. He bolted around the corner and, wheezing as the cold air battered his lungs, skidded off down the street.
Midnight came and went with no sign of the Riddler. Twelve-thirty passed just as uneventfully, as did one, one-thirty, one-forty-five, and one-forty-six.
The Scarecrow drummed impatient fingers on the arm of the couch and glared at the door. This was ridiculous. He was supposed to have been out on the street hours ago. How long had it been since he'd been out without the girls? It seemed like they'd always been there, procuring his subjects, doing his laundry, forcing him to eat and being cheerful about it...
And how long had the rumors been floating around Gotham's underworld? Now there was a more vexing question. Not only had people dared to assume that he could no longer do business alone, but they had dared to insinuate that he liked things better this way. As if having a trio of hyperactive, destructive women tagging along after him and treating him like their personal huggy-pet was what he wanted!
He could handle those rumors. What he couldn't handle was the new bit of gossip about needing the girls. He didn't need them! He didn't need anyone! It was easier not to need anyone. People were fickle, and people left you, or they remained in your life only to hurt you. Why on earth would he grow to rely on anyone when being alone made the world a safer place? Of course, it was nice not to have to worry about meals, or laundry, or any of the other trifling household duties that took time away from his work...but it wasn't as if he depended on the girls to make them happen.
Not that he bothered telling anyone that, when an introduction to his latest toxin made them forget any and all rumors regarding his personal life. Still...well, it had been a while since he'd gone out alone. Surely a judicious hold-up or two would put those irritating rumors to rest. He could go out, commit some murder and mayhem, and be back home before the girls ever knew that he was gone.
Provided, of course, that someone ever came to watch the baby. He scowled at the clock. Well, if the Riddler had forgotten his paternal duties, he'd just go and remind him. He tucked the half-asleep baby into her pink snowsuit with the glittery skulls and scooped her up, yanking his mask down with his free hand. She cooed happily and snuggled into the burlap, falling fast asleep on his shoulder as he made his way into the frosty night.
Leaving the lair with the baby had been a bad idea. Leaving the lair in full costume had been a bad idea. Leaving the lair without the girls had been a bad idea. But leaving the lair in full costume, with the baby, without the girls had been an idea so bad that the God of Bad Ideas was probably hailing it as his latest miracle.
He had discovered just how terrible an idea he'd had when he'd been a mere twelve blocks from the Riddler's latest hideout. There were no shouts of "Stop!" or "You there! Hands up!" No, with Batman life was never that simple, which is why Crane was currently trying to ignore the dull throbbing of a bat-shaped contusion on his forehead as he pounded down the abandoned sidewalks.
At least there was one miniscule silver lining in this storm cloud of an evening. After that first bat-shaped projectile, the Caped Crusader had realized that he'd been carrying a baby - and of course, he wouldn't risk throwing anything at a man who was a) liable to drop the baby down the sewer or b) covered in fear toxin tubes that might flood tiny lungs with toxin if they were bumped the wrong way.
And so the capture had turned into a foot-race. He was fairly certain he could outrun the Batman. Those long, lanky legs of his could definitely send him farther with every stride, and it wasn't as if he was carrying fifty pounds of armor and another twenty of various bat-shaped items crammed into a belt. No, all he had was a baby...a very heavy baby.
In theory, she only weighed twenty pounds. After a brisk run over half the city, though, it felt as if she weighed more like fifty - and she wasn't helping matters by wriggling like a landed fish every time his feet touched the pavement. He hoisted her onto his opposite shoulder and ran onward, clinging tightly to her as she tried to arch herself backward.
His world narrowed to the strip of sidewalk in front of him. Surely he could duck down an alleyway, or cling to a passing car...
A bright green blur of salvation was lurking in the alley not ten steps away. He didn't know how the Riddler had gotten there. He didn't know why he was huddled behind a dumpster with no shoes on. Frankly, at this point, he didn't much care.
He skidded to a halt in front of the crouching rogue and thrust the baby at him. "Here," he snapped, dumping her in his lap.
Nygma automatically cradled her as he fought to stand up. "Take her back!" he hissed. "Don't-"
The Scarecrow ignored him as he hurtled down the alleyway. Batman would be more interested in the rogue with the baby, and he'd be able to slip out of the chase and go have an emergency lung transplant somewhere nearby. Everything was going to work out -
He skidded on the suddenly-appearing snowdrift and faceplanted into a sheet of solid ice. "Crane," Freeze said hollowly, raising his gun.
This looked like a job for...someone else. The Scarecrow, bruised and gasping for breath, crawled backward off of the frozen ground and threw himself back down the alley that he'd just come out of. Within seconds, he'd caught up with Nygma.
"Take her back!" the Riddler panted, stumbling on a cracked square of cement. "He's after me!"
"Yes?" Scarecrow said coldly, wincing as he heard the relentless thudding of Bat-boots on concrete. "Well, he's after me."
A spray of ice shot past the Scarecrow's right elbow as a batarang whizzed harmlessly past the Riddler. "They're after us," Nygma corrected, cringing as the baby let out an ear-piercing shriek. "I'm holding a baby, you jackass!" he screamed over his shoulder.
The thudding of boots got a little closer. "Can't you ever keep your mouth shut?" Crane grumbled as they sped past an overturned coffee cart.
"There!" Nygma gasped. "Go left at that light!"
"Why should I?"
"The girls are eating dinner down there!"
"Dinner? At two in the morning?" Then again, with those three, anything was possible.
"They told me where they'd be," Nygma panted. "Just in case -"
The baby threw herself to the left. Nygma clutched her frantically, almost tripping over his own two feet as the baby kicked him with resentful fluffy pink toes. Then, finally realizing that she wasn't being held by her favorite Uncle Squish, she planted her face up to the Riddler's ear and let out a wail like a cat being drawn and quartered.
"Make her stop!" he pleaded.
"You're her father," Crane hissed spitefully. "You make her stop."
"Shhh. Shhhhh. Shhhhh," Nygma tried, sounding more like a train impersonation than a parent. "It's okay. It's okay. It's-"
Zzzzzzzap! The intersection ahead was suddenly filled with the cheery twinkle of headlights on snow as Freeze iced a Mack truck into the ground. As one, the Scarecrow and the Riddler veered left.
Well, okay, so maybe he just happened to be running by the girls. It wasn't like he needed them. It wasn't like he wanted them to hop out and take Batman down, preferably with as many tire irons to the head as possible. He was an adult and he could take care of himself.
A stray ice-bolt whizzed over his head, turning the fire escape above him into a crystalline paradise of icy death. Oh, yes, he was doing fine.
(to be continued)