Making Ends Meet
A/N: The last chapter! I hope you've enjoyed it so far. After the psychosis of the last chapter, Jonathan's getting a special gift and giving something else away. Hooray, catharsis!
Of course, the rain started just as soon as I stepped off of the train. I shivered and turned up the collar of my suit coat, ducked my head and steeled myself for the seven blocks of wind and wet to our apartment. Around me, people scurried like ants. Afraid of the storm, the noise, wanting to get home. Ordinarily I'd be fascinated. I kept my eyes on my shoes as they splashed through puddles. I can't believe I left the umbrella. No doubt there would be an I-told-you-so kind of smirk from a certain someone when I got home. The realization brought a smile to my face and I walked a bit faster. It was our anniversary today; well, at least, the anniversary on which we'd first met. Two blocks to go…one…sidewalk, that damn potted plant that never got enough light to become anything but a yellow bucket of waste. Up four flights of stairs, down four doors. Key in the lock, thank God! I was home.
I hung up my drenched coat on one of the pegs in the hall.
"Ah, is somebody a widdle dwenched? Heehee!" I turned to the source of the laughter and gave him a scathing look, which, naturally, made him laugh harder. "Did poor widdle Jonathan forget his umbwella?" Snarling, I tackled my offender. I caught him off balance and we thumped to the floor. He came out swinging and we wrestled halfway across the room. We bumped up against the sofa and he used it to his advantage, pinning me underneath him, his eyes bright with the victory.
"Welcome home," he murmured, brushing his lips over mine. I smiled at him. The peaceful moment was rudely interrupted by the oven's timer.
"Shit," he snarled, and heaved himself off me and into the kitchen. I changed my clothes in the bedroom and scrubbed a towel through my hair. When I came out, he had set the table and was lighting candles, of all things. Such a silly romantic, I thought. But that's what brought me to him, wasn't it? He is the yin to my yang.
We sat down to eat and talked about the little things that you hear at any dinner table; work, friends, gossip about his large and highly dysfunctional family. Though I couldn't really talk about dysfunctional families, considering my own. I realized with a start that he was bouncing his leg up and down, and his pupils were dilated. Years of experience taught me the signals. He was afraid of something. What? I looked around but couldn't see any of his usual phobias (wasps and teakettles).
"Uhm. Jonathan? Er…I –"
Wasn't this interesting. He never stuttered. I leaned down to catch his eyes and smiled at him. "What?"
He steeled himself, his jaw more defined. He got up and came over to me, taking my hands in his. I felt a flutter in my stomach. No way.
"This last year has been the happiest of my life. I've never spent as much time with another person as I have with you, and I have treasured every second. I want to be with you for the rest of my life." He kneeled, took a small box out of his pocket and opened it. "Will you marry me?" I was stunned, but only for one second. With a yelp, I flung myself onto him and wrapped my arms around his neck. All I could think of was, yes! Yes! Yes! I suppose I got these sentiments out of my rebellious mouth because he was laughing and kissing me. He rolled me over onto my back and grabbed the ring box from where it had fallen, rather unceremoniously, onto the floor. It was a beautiful ring, I thought as I admired it from where he had placed it on my finger. Plain gold, engraved with our names on the inside. I spent the next few minutes in a fit of completely un-scientist-like giggles.
That night as we made love, I realized that I would have this man for the rest of my life, and I smiled into his kiss. This would be all that I ever needed, this was my world in this shoddy apartment next to this man. With a start, I realized that I had said that about one other constant in my life…my fear. The mask. The Scarecrow. But thoughts of the mask were always the furthest from my mind when I was with him. Did I truly need to hang on to this monster inside of me? Could I just be Doctor Jonathan Crane, psychiatrist, without the outlet of madness and pain waiting for revenge on the world?
My tormenters had come to me and I had had my revenge, but still I felt so cold. I had gained nothing by hurting them, I felt no less hurt and angry about what had happened so many years ago. I didn't even torture the architects of my despair, I simply tied them up and stared at them and pondered. Was I too much of a coward to hurt them back? When I got home I was nearly mad with the inability to cope with my past, but as I walked through the doors I was enveloped in a gentle hug by my boyfriend. I suddenly felt the shadows receding. He had chased away my loneliness, he had wrestled with my nightmares, held me when I couldn't take it anymore. He was all I needed. I was done with revenge.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, and he went whistling off to work. The fates had aligned themselves to give me the day off. As I showered, I reflected on what I had to do. There was no place I could put the mask that I couldn't get to it again, and easily enough. Though I had recognized that my dream of defeating my fears entirely was fruitless, I would want the mask again when I was challenged or belittled or afraid. There was only one course of action in my mind as I dressed and dropped the mask into a brown grocery bag. Someone I knew would have to keep it for me, in a place that I couldn't get to it until I could be trusted not to want it anymore.
I stood on the corner of West St. Peter's and 9th Avenue and reached into the bag. Out came the mask with its leering grin and its seams. I had sewed it myself, as one could easily guess by looking at it. Behind this mask I had deluded myself into thinking that I had conquered my fears, when all I had been doing was running from them. A certain someone had made that clear to me a long time ago. The mask disappeared into the bag again. The "walk" light glared at me from across the street, and I made my way to the rail station.
Rachel Dawes was seated behind her desk, filling out the drudgery that was her post-trial paperwork. She wished with all her might that something interesting would happen in the next few minutes. She took it back a second later.
"What do you want?" She half-snarled as the skeletal man stood in her doorway. She regarded him for a minute while he struggled internally. As the silence grew, so did her surprise.
"Uh…did you want to sit down?" Maybe if she was polite, he'd get it over with and leave her alone…that is, if he wasn't planning on analyzing her, or spraying her with fear gas.
Jonathan Crane shook his head violently at her question and took a few more steps into the room, up to her desk. It was then that she realized that he had a grocery sack with him. "What's in the bag? You're being even more bizarre than usual, Doctor Crane." A thin smile came to his lips, and he carefully placed the bag on her desk.
Rachel gave Crane the fish eye. "What is in the bag?"
"A gift." He spoke for the first time.
"Uh…thank you." She gingerly took hold of the parcel by the straps at the top and moved it into her lap. She reached in, expecting to come face to face with her worst phobia. OK. It was something soft. It wasn't attacking. She slowly brought it into the light of the office and stared at the specter before her. Crane gave her a hollow grin.
"Do you like it?"
"What is the meaning of this!" She regarded him with one finger braced against the "Call Security" button underneath her desk. He didn't look at her, but rather at the mask. His arms were folded around himself protectively. If he could see himself right now, he'd have a million things to say about body language. Although she had asked what his intentions were, Rachel thought she knew already. Four weeks ago, she had watched Crane come face to face with his childhood tormenters. She had watched his face; it held none of the glee of the conquering champion. This must be a reaction to these men from the past. And sure enough…
"I…don't want the Scarecrow inside me anymore. He's not me, he's not!" He spoke as if to convince himself. "He used to be but I have something else now, something better and I don't want him anymore. I've tasted my revenge…it wasn't what I thought it would be… after all of these years. So you take him where he can't get to me anymore, lock him up, burn him and scatter the ashes!"
Alarmed by this outburst from the inscrutable man, Rachel thought for a few moments and looked at the mask. "You're saying… that you're giving up the Scarecrow. Forever."
"I will keep it for you."
"Thank you." He gave her a faint smile.
"You said you had something else now…?" She called after him as he turned into the hallway. He paused and turned around, raising his left hand as he did so to show her a beautiful gold ring on his ring finger.
Rachel laughed softly. Love could change everything. "Congratulations. Who is it?"
He smiled for real this time. "A very special man."
"He must be. I hope you two will be very happy together."
He smiled again, nodded a farewell, and walked out of her office. The door swished shut behind him.
Rachel sighed and put her face in her hands. After a few minutes, she dialed the phone.
"Hello Alfred, this is Rachel. May I speak to Bruce, please?"
"What's going on?"
"I just had a very interesting conversation with our favorite psychiatrist…"
I walked home. Thirty-seven blocks north, seventeen blocks east. I felt numb as I realized that I had given up a part of me that I had held onto since I was in the fourth grade. What would happen to Jonathan Crane now? I couldn't say. I had a job. I had a fourth story apartment with a view of neon signs. I had a fiancée who had already gone to the ends of the world for me. Now I was like any other Gotham resident, just trying to make ends meet.