As he drinks of her lips he remembers her staring down at his. After she taunted him. Besting him at his own game.
"If it isn't there, then say the words."
Her mesh-covered hand trails down his neck . . .
"I won't say it."
He feels the metallic embellishments of the mesh as they run roughly over his skin. She stops at his collar and then brings it back up to his head, pulling him down into her kiss insistently, smearing her dark red lipstick all over him. Marking him. Is she trying to awaken that love that isn't there?
"I love –"
He had choked on the word 'you.' He couldn't love her. He had tried to kill her, even himself to prevent this atrocity. The Riddler and Lee Thompkins, The Doc. The good doc. Yet . . .
"You're playing a dangerous game, Lee." He had warned her, knife to her neck.
But she still wanted him.
And it is unbelievably delicious. He easily lets the knife fall to the ground in and takes her into his embrace, his arms moving over the expanse of her back. He no longer wants to kill her. Not a single part of him does.
". . .You love me. You've loved me all along."
No, that's Ed. It's Ed. Or is it him? Right now, HE'S the one biting into her neck as she rips at his clothes, exposing his chest, running her mesh-covered palm over it. He finds it unbearable as her uncovered fingers naturally follow in its wake and toy with him.
He growls and pulls her to the floor on top of him, too close to the neon question mark. Too close. But he barely notices the danger it poses as she peels off her shirt by the glow of its odd light, straddling him. Green looks good on her. He smiles devilishly and reaches up to her. . .
. . . while she reaches down and with a deft twist of her fingers makes his belt buckle fall apart with a clink, its question mark motif falling by the wayside. Is there even a question about where this is heading now?
He stays her hand.
"I want to take my time," he says softly.
She leans down to kiss him, her black hair caressing his cheeks.
"I want to savor you," he says in a husky voice as she pulls away.
He rolls her, pinning her underneath him. Too close to the question mark. Still too close. He begins a slow trail of kisses down her neck, unclasping her bra, freeing her from her confines. He teases her lovely nipples with his finger tips before his lips move further down to caress her stomach.
She takes in a deep breath as he draws near, removing her belt and tugging insistently on her tight-fitting pants. They must come off, so must her shoes. As he removes them, he kisses the inner arch of her foot tenderly, holding her foot in both of his hands for just a moment longer than is necessary. She sighs with pleasure at his touch. He inspects the shoe in his hand. She'll be shorter now, without the four-inch advantage the heels of her shoes provide. Good.
Time for a riddle. Time to expose HIS advantage.
"Once aroused from its shackles of slumber
it seeks nothing more than to be released.
. . . and then collapses back into its confines of sleep.
What is it?"
She sits up and smiles wryly as she removes his belt all the way – the task she had left unfinished – and reaches for the button at the top of his pants, slipping it loose. And then she reaches inside for her prize . . .
He tosses the shoe carelessly over his shoulder. And before he can even tell her that her instinct is correct, that she has the right answer, the neon sign comes crashing down, almost on top of them. He sweeps her up into his arms and saves them both from the shattering glass of the neon tube as it strikes the ground and the green light of the question mark goes out.
Guess there's no question now.
He carries her to an ancient spiral staircase that leads up to a more private area and ascends it with her naked form in his arms. About two stories up he sets her down, to show her the view of the club beneath them – his club. The one she will now be shutting down. The metal steps sway almost imperceptibly beneath their feet.
"I'm really going to miss this."
"Are you?" she inquires. "Don't you like the trade-off?"
"What is that?"
"Robbing banks with me."
He grins. Yes, he does like that. "You've changed."
She shrugs and the corner of one of her now lipstick-smeared lips quirks up.
"And I love it," he says huskily.
She pulls him into her again, kissing him deeply with those dark red lips, staining his some more. Then she arches both of them back over the railing.
"Careful," he says, breaking the kiss. "You could fall . . ."
Like he has.
"Don't worry. I can handle the danger . . . and I trust that you'll never let me go," she says and proceeds to arch back even further as if testing his resolve.
His hand reaches out to support her back, her neck, and he presses into her . . . making her feel his excitement. A determined look spreads across her face. She's ready. He's ready. They're both ready. She touches his face and says, "I answered your riddle – now give me my prize."
And he does. He lifts one of her legs up and wraps it about his waist. She's so short that as he penetrates her, her other foot lifts from the ground. And he's . . .
He sees the look of surprise on her face.
"Yes," he says with a smug grin. "I'm tall everywhere."
"Oh, God," she moans, her eyes fluttering as she feels his full length inside of her. She wraps her other leg about his waist.
And then they are grasping at each other as he thrusts hard and deep within her, over the railing, almost all the way over the railing.
He holds her back firmly, pulls her to him. Places his head between her breasts. Hears the raging beat of her heart beneath her ribcage as he stokes her fire. He's so lost in her that he misunderstands her when she first utters, "It's going to break."
What? My heart? Not a chance. Not going to let that happen. But yours might. It's beating so fast.
"Stop. Listen. Can you hear that?" she pulls his head up. "It's going to break."
No. Not her heart. Not either of their hearts. The staircase. The sound of the metal creaking, moaning, and tearing as it begins to pull away from its moorings is bone chilling.
"Oh no!" he says frantically, looking up, looking down. Up is closer. He sets her down and takes her hand. "Come with me."
They barely make it to the third floor landing before the staircase breaks away and crashes down onto the stage, crushing the wheel of misfortune - the wheel that is spun as a punishment for those who cannot solve his his riddles.
"Guess you've got no choice but to rob banks with me now, eh?" she says sarcastically.
"And give up my rabid sack of rats? Not a chance."
She chuckles and places her hands on his shoulders. "Well, now that I've awakened you from your slumber . . . isn't it time I put you back to bed?"
"Yes," he growls and fervently takes her lips into his once again. Breaking away from her, he says, "There's a fainting couch up here somewhere. Let's do this right. Get comfortable."
"A fainting couch? Isn't that a bit bourgeoisie for The Narrows?"
"All these old buildings hold many mysteries. This one holds more than just my riddles."
He takes her hand and they find the salmon colored couch. She notices that it is clean. It's not just a piece of old furniture rotting away, forgotten.
"Come here often?" she asks.
"I come up here to contemplate the next slice of torture to add to my wheel of misfortune. Gotta keep it interesting."
"The rabid sack of rats? You came up with that gem right here?"
"Still my favorite." He winks.
"You . . ." She shakes her head.
"Me . . ." he replies and smiles. Despite their interlude on the staircase, his pants are still mostly on. She helps him to remedy that situation and then they fall into each other's embrace on the couch. This time it is not heated or rushed, it is gentle, passionate. He takes all the time he wants . . . and they don't destroy the couch as they did the neon question mark and the staircase.
As she begins to finish, he strokes her hair softly, his fingers slipping through her dark strands. Her eyelids flutter together as her mouth parts in ecstasy. He is so caught up in watching her that his own climax takes him by surprise. Near the very end of it, her eyes fly open and she watches him as he delivers his final thrusts into her, groaning, breaking out into a sweat, and fogging up his glasses.
And when he is finished, he places his forehead on hers and touches her nose with his own. In the voice of The Riddler, he says gruffly, "I love you."
And Ed's soft tones follow that proclamation with, "I do."
"There, you said it." She smiles. There is a slight touch of smugness in her tone.
He lifts his head, suddenly confused. Who loves her? The Riddler? Ed?