Author: Merlinchylde (aka artemisathene)
Warnings: None at all.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Batman Begins or the Batman franchise in general. The only thing I own is Mariana Crane, and she's Jonathan's made-up mom so I'm not sure I entirely own her either.
The Remnants of Love
Mariana watched as Jonathan spooned the last of the mashed potatoes into his mouth. He plucked the napkin from his lap and patted his lips in a gently fastidious manner, then neatly folded the paper square and placed it on top of his empty plate. He placed his long hands on the table, one on top of the other, sighed quietly, and stared out the window with his inscrutable blue eyes.
Like a sated cat, Mariana thought with a smile she couldn't suppress. Or a crane resting in the warmth of a summer morning. He might be a bit gangly for his age, but his clumsiness was transforming into a peculiar kind of grace she knew she wasn't imagining. He would grow up to be just fine, Mariana knew. More than fine.
The wide blue gaze settled on her.
"What?" he asked with a slight twitch of his upper lip.
"Oh, nothing." Mariana pretended to pat at her mouth with her napkin to hide her growing smile. She couldn't help it. There was a warmth inside her that invigorated her tonight.
"Why are you so happy?" His stare was not judging or suspicious, only empty and open as acceptance.
Mariana tossed her napkin into her plate and took some sips of water. His question was innocent, she knew. He was such a perceptive boy, and so direct. She considered the question seriously. Why, after all these years of unhappiness, had life returned to her? She honestly didn't know. Perhaps she had simply decided to push her unhappiness away and start being herself again.
"Your Aunt Beth visited today."
"I know," he said testily. "I was here."
Mariana laughed. "When you went to your room she took my hand and said, 'You're so lucky. Jonathan is becoming such a handsome young man.'"
He looked away. There was puzzlement and wariness in his eyes. A soft pink came to his cheeks and his ears.
"She lied," he concluded.
"But you are! Handsome and bright."
"Not handsome," he said. He looked down at his napkin and tore off a corner of it. He glanced at her with an inscrutable expression.
"Oh, so you admit you're bright, then." Mariana laughed again as his ears reddened some more. "Of course you would. It's so obvious. I received your report card yesterday."
"Oh?" He continued picking at his napkin.
"A-pluses in all your science classes!"
He shrugged and ducked his head, the elegant composure he'd recently developed rapidly fading into the gawkiness she was used to.
"I find science interesting."
"I want you to know, Jonathan," she said, her voice suddenly loud and trembling in her own ears. "That I'm very proud of you. I don't say it enough, but I am."
He looked up at her in a startled manner.
Mariana stood and wiped at her eyes, which she was surprised were wet. She went into the kitchen and breathed deeply until she felt composed again.
"Would you like ice cream or cake?" she called to him. "I just baked the cake today. My first try. It doesn't look too bad."
There was a short silence before he answered, "Ice cream, please."
She scooped a generous amount of vanilla ice cream into a bowl and returned to the dining room with it. Jonathan sat with his back straight, his hands folded on his lap, gaze down on the floral-design tablecloth. He had pushed his plate away.
"Here," she said, setting the bowl down in front of him. She hesitated before she moved back to her own seat.
He spooned small amounts into his mouth, pausing frequently to swallow, gaze still downward. She didn't notice he was crying until he lifted his face slightly, and she could see the wet streaks down his cheeks.
"What's wrong?" she asked. "Did I say something bad?"
He shook his head.
"What's wrong, then?"
He was silent for a while, stirring his melting ice cream, the spoon clinking against the bowl the only sound he made. His narrow chest reminded her of a bird's and she could imagine the rapid beat of his heart inside.
"Sometimes I think there's something wrong with me," he said. His voice was level despite his tears. "Sometimes I get very angry, or I think I don't feel enough..."
"It's natural to feel angry. And I think you feel plenty. Why would you cry if you don't feel enough?"
He wiped at his cheeks and looked at the wetness on his hands in an almost surprised way. He shook his head.
"It's only a physical reaction. My body thinks it's appropriate to cry at this moment, so it does. I still don't feel anything."
"Why is this an appropriate moment to cry?" she asked, almost not wanting to know.
"Because I think you'd be very disappointed in me if you really knew me."
She smiled and reached over to put her hand on his bony shoulder. "I would never be disappointed in you, Jonathan." She paused. It was getting easier for her to say these things. "You're the light of my life. My pride and joy."
A brief smile lighted his features with an almost manic gleam.
"You see? That should touch me, but all I can think about is your overuse of cliches."
Mariana stiffened. She looked at her son's face. What little softness of his childhood years was giving way to the sharp edges of manhood. That was a large part of what made her so happy, she realized, that he was growing into something she had never dreamed she'd succeed in cultivating by herself – a brilliant, ambitious young man with possibilities of the future lined up for him wherever it pleased him to glance. After all those years of hard work, when all the while she'd thought she was failing as a mother as she'd failed as a wife, Jonathan was turning out to be more than she'd dared hope for in a son.
But had she judged too soon and wrongly? She studied the cat-like cold intensity of Jonathan's eyes. He was right. She didn't know him at all. He met her stare with a probing look.
"I'm sorry, Mother. I think I've upset you." He removed her hand from his shoulder with polite gentleness, then stood and gathered the dishes and bowl. He went into the kitchen. The sound of running water filled the silence.
Mariana sat still for some minutes. Then she padded quietly to the kitchen doorway. She watched Jonathan as he dried each dish with calm, mechanic movements.Funny, she thought distantly. Only once before had she wanted so much to see her son cry. Now she desperately wanted again to see a sign, any at all, that he was still alive inside.
Jonathan heard his mother's soft footsteps fade as she walked away. His hands began to shake. He almost fell as his knees buckled. The dish fell from his hand and into the sink, thankfully not breaking.
His damned body was betraying him again, he knew. This had nothing to do with feeling. He'd stopped feeling after he'd realized no one would care how he felt anyway. And now his mother had to foolishly try to dredge something out of him. After all those years of being too blind from choking on her own misery to see what was happening to him, to see how he himself suffered from Father's absence, to see how bullied he was at school.
He breathed deeply and tried to still his shaking body, but he could not help but sense that he stood at the edge of a deep chasm. And he feared that if he looked down, looked inside, hate and resentment would not be the only things he'd find there.
Author's Note: I don't know anything about Jonathan Crane's "real mother," and I can't find any information about her, so I made up a character. Anyway, I'm not sure about this one. I wanted to explore something about Crane's younger years, and the idea of his interacting with his mother appealed to me, because everyone has a mother (whether present or not), even nutty villains.
I'm not sure how interested people are in interpretations of Crane's past. Opinions are deeply appreciated, and I thank everyone who reviewed my other stories. :)