AN: For horsewhisper3 and bolis86. And everyone else too, I suppose. Special thanks to Toccata No. 9 for being beta.
She was running. From the old theater she'd just left behind, the unique sounds of a Bat-scuffle could be heard.
How had he found them this time?
Although she never fully participated in these big villain co-operation schemes, the meetings were often interesting. If the rogues could keep from attacking each other, that was. She would stay above the group and out of sight, waiting for the perfect moment to swoop down and deliver a snide remark. Tweaking the noses of Gotham's most feared citizens felt immensely satisfying. Then she'd scoff at their plans and leave, her position as a Rogue cemented.
And if the plan had any chance of actually succeeding, she would warn him.
A sound somewhat like a small explosion rang out, then dulled as the noise was prolonged. It was the strange sound that accompanied Mr. Freeze's gun she heard in the distance. The struggle was heating up, apparently.
She slowed down and gazed skywards. Best to take to the rooftops. Running around the depressing streets of the city was no fun. A tattered old poster of the Joker's hideous visage with the words "Wanted Dead or Alive" hung on one drab wall. She crinkled her nose at a fallen trashcan that lay on the street. A piece of litter flew just past her face as she uncoiled her whip. But as she started her ascension a limousine came around the corner and stopped a few feet away from her.
She stared warily as a passenger door popped open, inviting her in. Then she noticed the license plate and her puzzlement vanished. Instead of a row of numbers, there were three question marks.
She walked over to the open door at a leisurely pace and peered inside. There sat her questionable new friend with a champagne bottle in hand. He smiled at her.
"It may not be as fancy as jumping between rooftops, but would you like a ride?"
She raised an eyebrow at him and tilted her head slightly. He scoffed at her distrusting look.
"Don't you trust me?" He put a hand over his heart. "I give you my word, no harm will come to you here. Now tell me, would I lie?"
She got in. If she could fight the Batman to a standstill, she didn't have anything to fear from this guy.
The limousine set off and he poured her a glass. She made sure not to drink before he had.
"I'm hurt, my friend, I really am," he said after his first sip. "What would I gain from poisoning your drink?"
She smiled coyly at him and made herself comfortable.
"You can never be too careful," she purred before sipping her wine. "Especially when dealing with someone who might pass for an overgrown leprechaun."
The smirk didn't quite leave his face, but it diminished.
"Fair enough. But don't think I'm going to take any fashion advice from you. I don't think arousing Batman's repressed sexuality would be a wise move on my part."
She couldn't help but laugh at the mental image.
"So," he started. "Tell me of your adventures since last we met."
She took another tiny sip of her drink as he poured himself another glass.
"You know how it is. Priceless painting here, Batman chase there, industrial espionage here."
She set her eyes on him and gave her most seductive smile. It was a look that often had men either blushing or tripping over themselves to say something interesting or impressive.
"How about you?" she purred.
His face lit up, but not for the correct reason. It looked like she'd found his favorite subject: Him.
"This and that. I did a little job for a friend. Some light arson to collect insurance money. Petty stuff, I know, but I still managed to make it a work of art. A finer piece of vandalism you never did see." His voice took on a sad tone. "It really is too bad it all burned. No one got to admire it. Sending the riddle to the insurance company was a complete waste too. As if those halfwits would even spare it a second glance. But I suppose I'll regain my joy once I start a new game." He sounded pleased now. "Nearly everything is ready."
A short silence followed. The man made Poison Ivy sound humble.
"What did you think of the meeting?" she started after a few moments.
"Most amusing, as usual. Can't see why this Croc fellow thought he could bring everyone together though. I suppose that's a common weakness amongst our kind. Arrogance."
She wondered briefly whether that was a joke at his own expense or if the champagne had gotten to his head and made him blind to his own words.
"How do you think he managed to find us so quickly this time?"
A smile crept its way back onto his face.
"Oh, he has his ways, I'm sure. Our friend is nothing if not mysterious."
She scrutinized his self-satisfied look and pointed an accusatory finger at him.
"It was you wasn't it? You sent him a riddle."
He laughed for a good while, the pent up need to tell someone of his scheme finally being released.
"I confess, I confess. It was me." He cast her an amused glance. "But this is strictly hush-hush of course."
"Don't worry, I don't count our associates among my friends. Just don't let backstabbing me ever cross your mind."
He put on a hurt expression.
"But why did you do it?" she continued. "You know what they'd do if they found out. And you're sure to be their top suspect if they try to figure out how he did it."
"They'll blame it on the newbie. And, judging by his size, that's about as far as it goes. Besides, an anonymous source within the GCPD gave the Gotham Post a wonderful scoop about how our boys in blue knew about this meeting days beforehand. I sincerely doubt Gordon will contradict the version this mysterious source has supplied Gotham's media with. But just in case our colleagues are still suspicious, I'll just have to be sure never to leave myself vulnerable."
He poured himself his fourth glass and took a sip before continuing.
"It's perfectly safe to betray your fellow rogues as long as it doesn't happen too often and as long as Joker isn't among them. He just isn't worth the risk." He leaned his head on his right hand and tapped his forehead with his fingers, a thoughtful expression on his face. "The only way to betray Joker and stay safe would be to kill him. Even if a good chance presented itself, it'd be nigh impossible. He's harder to kill than a cockroach by all accounts."
She didn't really mind what he'd done, but her opinion of him as a shady character had only been strengthened.
"As to why, now that all obstacles are out of they way Batman will be free to deal with my next challenge." His eyes fell to his glass, where his fingers were absent-mindedly tracing the rim, then darted back up to look at her. "Unless you have something planned, of course."
She set down her empty glass and grinned at him.
"Tell you my plans? Dream on."
He laughed again, but it sounded normal now, not like the self-gratulatory laugh from earlier.
"Smart, very smart. But I'm joking. I like you too much to spoil your fun."
"I'm flattered," she smiled at him before peeking out the tinted windows. They had reached downtown now.
"Where are my manners?" He started. "Where do I let you out?"
"Here will be fine."
He tapped the glass barrier between them and the driver drove into an alleyway where it stopped. She opened the door.
"You can call me Edward, if you like."
She looked back at him.
"Lina," she said before stepping out and slamming the door. The driver got out and changed the license plates as she climbed up to the rooftops. She darted away as the limousine started again.
The Riddler smiled as he watched her go and poured himself another glass. A successful night and a charming new friend who didn't quite know whether to trust him. It didn't get much better than this.
AN: There are two references to the comics here: When Croc was new on the scene he had aspirations to be a big time gangster and pretty much the overlord of Gotham's underworld, so he called a Rogues' meeting shortly after being introduced. The other reference is from a Riddler one-shot called Riddle of the Jinxed Sphinx. It wasn't too good overall, but it had some good scenes, including Riddler's absurdly complicated arson of a restaurant.