So, this story (co-written by @wildvine and myself) was supposed to be in Irishlad's contest. But, since he is totally gone, we're just gonna post it here. It's an unaffiliated one-shot set in Gotham, so I hope you all enjoy.
"So glad to see you had no trouble finding the place again." Edward Nigma said stiffly, stepping aside from the doorway. His hat was tipped rakishly forward, and cast a slight shadow over his already-moody eyes.
"How could I forget? This was the best apartment I never paid for." Ivy smirked. "No hard feelings, of course?" She didn't really care if he was still angry or not, but these types of meetings required a fine touch. There was no need to start a fire where one wasn't already burning.
"Love what you've done with the place Eddie. The dirty socks in the corner really say 'guy pad' without oversellin' it." Harley added, as she sprung from behind Ivy like an insane, life-sized jack-in-the-box toy. "Seriously, I can dig it."
"Grudges are for petty, and simpler minds." The cerebral villain's lips curled upward, but halted just short of a smile, never reaching his eyes. Something on his mind. "And where's Miss Kyle this evening?" Again, he didn't really care, he was just doing his part of the dance. The apartment reeked of a single man, the smells of unwashed laundry mingled with old food containers creating a maelstrom of stale funk. He could dream up the most convoluted death traps, out-riddle the Bat himself, but buying a can of Febreze was beneath him. Men.
"And yet we nevah get invited over for tea." Harley tsked absently, her eyes still scanning the bachelor pad and her statement inadvertently directing the topic away from Catwoman's absence. It didn't matter. Edward didn't truly care.
"I believe the Mad Hatter is in town, if it's tea you want. You would fit in particularly well at one of his famous tea parties."
"Aww, thanks Eddie! I think."
"Harl, there's a Loony Tunes marathon on the cartoon channel. You don't mind, do you Ed?"
"By all means, someone should get some use from the TV." He gestured to the living room, with a sweep of his cane. Harley cartwheeled excitedly into the room, followed by a loud crashing sound.
"Sorry! I'll pay for that! As long as it ain't as expensive as I think it is...." Harley squeaked from the other room.
Riddler shook his head to himself. How Harley Quinn survived in Gotham City was a riddle he had yet to unravel. Sometime in the future, he would endeavor to make it a priority.
"Let's not waste each others' time here, Ed. You said you had a business proposition?" She raised her voice a little, to be heard over the sounds of cartoon violence, and Harley's giggles.
"A wager, actually. I bet that you, and your, ahem, 'teammates', cannot capture Batman."
"You're joking, right?" She tossed her hair with a shake of her head, and crossed her arms. "Harley's had the Bat dead to rights on her own, and I've beat him a few times myself. I'm sure we could handle him. The question is, why should we? What's your game here, Ed?"
"I don't joke. I believe that particular gimmick belongs to a certain psychotic clown. The game is the bet. If you win, you will receive this--" He handed her a scrip of paper, "--amount of money. If it's as easy to corral Batman as you make it sound, then this should be easy money for you."
"We'll need a few days to prepare."
"You have one week to win the bet. If you somehow succeed, call me with this." He tossed her a cheap, 'pay as you go' cell-phone. "My current number is on speed dial two. Good luck."
Ivy was halfway down the hall when Riddler called her back. "Second thoughts, Ed?" She asked.
"You left something in the living room." He replied dryly.
"A hundred tons! How in the world does a duck survive that?!"
* * *
Museum security was an oxymoron, in Catwoman's opinion. For a place filled with priceless artifacts, the alarm system was laughable. She was surprised it didn't get robbed every week. She had bypassed the alarm with ease, without even thinking or breaking pace, before remembering she was supposed to set it off.
Now it was just a matter of time before he showed up. He would know it was her, due to the cat's eye gem exhibit opening recently. It was almost too obvious, really -- the alarm being set off would make him suspicious. Well, more suspicious. That was also part of the plan. He had to know it was her. And he had to know he was being lured. And he would come himself. He'll never let one of those upstart teenagers come after me, she smiled to herself. He'll come for me himself. He knows a meeting arrangement when he sees one. He was predictable, really, in the way he dealt with things. The art to out-preparing Bruce Wayne came in knowing how he thought, how he worked. And Selina Kyle understood him in a way no other soul could.
"I'm here. Lets make this quick," came a sudden, rumbling voice, as the dark knight appeared from the shadows.
"Oh, but our foreplay is my favorite part." Selina purred, taking a step forward and running a finger down his chest.
"I don't have time for games." He caught her wrist at his stomach, but his grip was weak. Weaker than usual. He didn't want to do this, not today. Who knew what else the Batman was dealing with that week. Rumors of Two-Face attempting to artificially force siamese twins had been circulating -- who knew what toll it took on him.
"An' that's ya problem Batsy. Ya never have any fun. Least that's what Mistah J always said, but he ain't all that reliable anyway." Batman shoved Catwoman away as a smiley bomb rolled between them, its short fuse absurdly short.
"Quinn." He growled, just before it exploded with a thunderous boom. Catwoman had already rolled into a crouch a safe distance away, flicking sharp, diamond-tipped claws out of her gloves.
"Harley! We're not trying to kill him!"
"Relax Kitty, that was a small bomb. He's survived way wor-- wait, where'd he go?"
A beat passed. Imperceptibly short, but allowing for multiple different trains of thought to come to a sudden, curious halt.
"Up here." The Batman dropped from a high tree branch, and landed silently on the ground in front of Harley.
"Course. Grapplin' hook. Nevah leave home without it. Shame ya didn't have one as a kid, huh? Maybe then ya parents would still be alive... or would they? Heeheehee." Catwoman's jaw dropped as Harley dodged under a fast punch, a smile curling her painted lips. "Funny how trauma affects different people, ain't it?" She ducked another punch, lashing out with a kick of her own that managed to connect with the Bat's chin. "Not funny, like 'ha-ha' funny; like interestin'. Like why did you go all, borin' goody-two-tights, 'stead of bad? Or... hee, maybe ya just haven't snapped yet." The clown whistled quietly as she slipped down off of the museum's rooftop, slithering into the canopy of Gotham's withered trees.
How did she know? What did she know? Bruce narrowed his eyes and turned back to where Selina had been crouching, only to find her gone. Had Selina told Harley his secret? Who he was?
...Or was she smarter than he had thought?
"I'm nothing like you, Quinn. Or the Joker." He followed through where she had vanished, slipping down on a surreptitious zipline and watching his step for traps.
"Not in my, formerly, professional opinion." The soft echo of Harley's voice took on a more pensive, thoughtful tone. A little less manic. A little more... serious. "Kinda surprised you ain't had an Arkham sleep over yet, as a matter'a' fact." Then he found her, hiding behind a tree, mallet raised to smash.
"Hide and seek is over." He said, pivoting and snatching the weapon from her arms with a quick move and a throw-like motion, disarming her before she could react and eliciting a small squeak. What was happening? Why were they doing this? The Sirens were generally peaceful, they hadn't brought him trouble....
"Nuh uh. You didn't find Red yet." She pouted. Vines suddenly burst from the ground, gripping around Gotham's Guardian with a vice-like squeeze. Batman quickly drew a batarang while his hands were still free, moving to free himself before being rocked utterly by a right cross from Harley. "Looks like ya ain't gonna, either."
"...C-cute... Quinn...." Batman hissed, struggling against ever-tightening bindings. "Simple, but effective... surely it was all your plan, hm?"
"Well not entirely I'll admit. We all played our part -- Kitty was the one who figured out how to get ya where we want ya, and she did a darn good job, huh?" Harley smirked, shifting her weight and setting both fists on her hips. "Havin' fun yet?"
"Oodles." Batman ducked his head down and chomped onto the side of his cape, yanking at a zipcord with his teeth suddenly and strongly. As it was ripped loose, several thin gas-pores began to stream forth with a bluish gas, blasting the jester girl's face directly.
"Oho, oohoo, kaff kaff Batsy," the clown wiped her lips awkwardly, releasing only a small cough. "Naughty, but ya picked the wrong lady to use your tricks on. Stuff don't work on me no more. Say g'night Baaaats."
"Don't worry, sweetheart," came a second soft voice, this one less grating than Quinn's. The voice of the one woman that could always get under his skin. Selina. Delicate, clawed hands pawed at the back of his head, one arm caressing his shoulder comfortingly. "You'll wake up safe at home when it's all over."
A third voice, now. This one huskier, more mature, more domineering. Poison Ivy.
"Just remember, Batman, that this is the day that the Gotham City Sirens proved themselves your better." Soft red lips smiled, and a puff of pink smoke escaped her lips, drowning the dark knight in their gaseous embrace as the spores permeated every sense. "Take a few days off. You'll need the rest."
Oblivion. How could this have happened? Was this his fault? Was he off his game? Or had he simply been played... brought off his game... entangled... defeated? Had the Sirens won, and won simply for fun?
* * *
"Y-yes... Alfred...?" Bruce Wayne coughed lightly from his bed, struggling to remain conscious. He felt so... tired... had to figure out an antidote, but didn't have the... energy... had to call Barbara when he got the strength....
"I'm afraid I have troubling news sir."
"What is it?"
"It seems that there was a robbery last night while you were... detained. Several robberies, actually. Banks, jewelry stores, labs, a few more locations. Around twenty million in capital stolen."
Alfred inhaled deeply, twisting his lips into a displeased expression. "They left a note for you, sir. I thought you may wish to see it. I'll leave it beside your bed... get some rest, master Bruce."
As the butler, and grandfather of the bat-family, casually left his room, Bruce Wayne's eyes turned to the note. He had to see. He extended one quivering hand to grasp the note, his chest feeling weak with the small gesture. Small note, crisp white construction paper. Tiny, mismatched letters.
Riddle me this,
Riddle me that,
Who got the Sirens
To take out the Bat?