Disclaimer: Blah blah blah, blah blah blah, we don't own the Batverse or the characters therein.
CATverse A/N: This story is part of the CATverse, the timeline for which can be found at www. freewebs. com/ catverse. (For ease, I would suggest looking at the Story Arc Listing rather than the muddled timeline table, I'm just sayin'), and follows Bright Nova's story 'Listening In'.
A/N: After months of pestering the Captain to finish this fic (literally, months, you have no idea how annoying I was on your behalf), she finally threw up her hands and said "YOU finish it!"
So I did.
Let it be noted that NINTY NINE percent of this was already written. I just came in and filled the one percent that wasn't there. In other words, the second you see the quality drop a couple of points? That's my doing.
It wasn't the first time he had heard the words, accompanied by the cocking of a gun, and it wouldn't be the last. Crane's left hand moved stealthily toward the inside of his jacket while the rest of his body went still, frozen in the act of reaching through the hole he had created in the security system to pluck the priceless gems from their velvet-lined museum case. (Not his usual type of heist, but a man had to eat.)
"Good evening," he said smoothly, his courteous tone a perfect counter to the cop's harsh bravado.
"Hands where I can see them."
Crane grimaced and raised his hands slowly into the air. He could feel the weight of his reserve supply of toxin in his pocket, but there was no point going for it if the cop had an itchy trigger finger. Jonathan was not overly fond of gunshot wounds; they were messy and painful, and tended to impede his escapes more than almost any other injuries he had ever sustained.
And he thought he recognized the voice of this cop, which was a mixture of good news and bad. Good news, because he'd had enough contact with the man that he should be able to predict him, and to manipulate him, given half a chance. Bad news, because this was one of the cops the other Arkham inmates referred to as "Bolton's Boys," the ones who could have been studying under Lock-Up's gentle tutelage, or following the very worst examples set by the Bat. If there was one thing Crane didn't want to deal with, it was a brawny dimwit with anger issues. But some things just couldn't be avoided.
"Is there something I can help you with, Officer Rodriguez?" he asked calmly, betraying not the slightest hint of nervousness in spite of his very clear mental image of the gun pointed at the back of his head. The more faith this asshole put in his toys, the more rattled he could become if his enemy remained unimpressed. (And Jonathan fully intended to remain unimpressed, no matter what.)
"Shut up, Scarecrow," Rodriguez snapped (betraying by a subtle change of inflection that Jonathan had correctly guessed his identity.) Obligingly, he remained silent, but let his body language convey the mockery that didn't escape his lips. Of course, chances were very slim that the pig could even comprehend any unspoken signals that came short of literally beating him over the head, but it couldn't hurt his cause to play the part. The more he confused his dimwitted opponent, the longer he could delay the moment of arrest. And the longer he could put that off, the more likely it became that his minions would come along to get him out of it.
Jonathan wasn't used to looking to others for help, and he doubted he would ever be able to rely on them. But after a few months living in close quarters with Al, Techie, and the Captain, he was confident that he knew them well enough to predict exactly what they would do if they returned to find their beloved Master being menaced by a stranger with a gun. He was actually beginning to derive a bizarre kind of pleasure from the almost artistic way they systematically destroyed anything they viewed as a threat.
Other aspects of living with three fanatically devoted madwomen were barely tolerable at best, but they were handy in a fight. He still hadn't figured out exactly why they were all so bound and determined to protect him, but he wasn't going to argue with results.
And what results. Since the day he had given in to their demands (phrased as heartfelt pleas) that he let them come and work for him (and love him forever-dee-ever) he had suffered nothing worse than a sprained ankle and a severe but mercifully brief bout with pneumonia that had been cured by more chicken soup than he cared to think about. And he knew without a doubt that the moment they finished the jobs he had sent them on to keep them out from underfoot, and wandered back into this room, they would somehow manage to turn this situation to their advantage.
He hoped they wouldn't beat Officer Rodriguez into too bloody a pulp. It would be nice if they could keep the man fit enough for use as a test subject. A cop would be much better quality, and last a lot longer than the homeless people he had been using lately.
Unfortunately, there was one aspect of the situation that he hadn't taken into account. He should have. He knew better than most that the true measure of a man was revealed by his behavior, not in the presence of witnesses, but in their absence.
So the blow to the back of the head came as something of a surprise.
The butt of the pistol hit him hard enough that he blacked out for a split second, and just barely caught himself when he fell to his knees.
Maybe this wasn't going to be his greatest heist ever, he thought, as blinding pain exploded through his head.
Focus. Don't think about being rescued. Get yourself out of this.
He couldn't quite find his balance; the room seemed to be moving. Just an illusion, and something he should be able to overcome, given time. Unfortunately, time was not something he had in abundance.
When had the cops started wearing steel-toed boots? Not a totally irrelevant question, as one was applied to his side with enough force to knock him flat on the floor.
Now he reached for the toxin. This already bore very little resemblance to a fair fight, and he was never going to get out of this unscathed if he tried to play it by the rules.
The sound of the hammer cocking back froze him with his hand just outside his jacket.
"Shoot me," he replied with a hint of a smirk. "I've never been involved in a lengthy court battle before. It could make for an interesting diversion."
"Shut the hell up."
The gun slammed down against the back of his head again, and this time he fully lost consciousness.
How long he was lying there, he had no way of knowing, but when he finally managed to struggle out of the darkness for the second time, it was obvious that it had been at least long enough for the bastard to work out some of his excess aggression.
An annoyance, but not much more. He pushed the pain away to a place where it didn't quite matter (a temporary solution, but good enough for now) and focused on dealing with the disorientation.
The cop was busy cuffing his hands behind his back. He tried not to struggle, feigning more weakness than he felt. But it wasn't the easiest thing he had ever done. Something told him good old Officer Rodriguez would take more than a little pleasure in breaking his arm, and it wouldn't take much more force than he was applying now.
"You're going away, Scarecrow," said that harsh voice in his ear. "I'm putting you away for a long, long time." Well, there was no point in pretending he was still unconscious if the pig was observant enough to see that he was awake.
"What—" The rest of what he was going to say was cut off by a sharp gasp of pain as Rodriguez gave his wrist a savage twist. He struggled now, as best he could under the weight of the knee in his back, but they both knew he was the next best thing to helpless.
"That means I won't be seeing your pretty face on my streets any time soon. Will you miss me, Scary?"
Not likely. There were plenty of people like him in Arkham, both patients and guards.
"Stop," he gasped, hating the note of fear and desperation that crept into his voice, even as he played it up in hopes that giving the man what he wanted—that feeling of power—would be enough to satisfy him.
"Stop what?" He pulled up on Jonathan's arm, and—he couldn't help it—he cried out in pain.
"Stop!" He gritted his teeth, bracing himself for the impending snap of the bones.
"Please," he whispered. Please give me a chance to take my time with you.
"Say it loud, say it proud," the cop said in what was almost a purr. "Scream it out." He clenched his teeth, feeling his arm bend in a way that bones were never meant to do.
But when he looked up, he saw exactly what he had been waiting for.
"Please stop!" His voice broke; that much was real, and beyond his control. But everything that happened after that was exactly according to the plan.
"Officer!" cried a female voice. The pressure on his arm mercifully released as Rodriquez, startled, actually let go of him with one hand, though still keeping him pinned with his right arm behind his back and his left trapped under him.
"You captured the Scarecrow," added a second voice as the girls bounded into the room.
"My hero," said the third. Crane could hear the venom behind their words as plainly as he saw the pattern in the floor tiles underneath his face. But the cop heard nothing but their outward admiration.
Still, he wasn't a total idiot. He pulled his gun on them before they had a chance to bowl him over.
"And just what are you ladies doing here?"
They all went rather still, but remained cheerful, on the whole showing an admirable lack of fear. He could almost bring himself to dredge up a completely unfamiliar feeling of pride, almost as if they really were "his" girls, and as if he had been responsible for the creation of the abnormal pathways in their minds that allowed them to laugh at situations that should have made them wet themselves. It wasn't bravery, not as most people would have counted it; closer to simple insanity. But it was the kind of insanity he could get behind. It was insanity that served him.
"This is a little embarrassing," the Captain said, with the most charming smile she could muster—which was considerable. She had the uncanny ability to make herself seem innocent and trustworthy, even when every piece of evidence pointed to the contrary. (As she was rather fond of saying, "That's not blood. It's tomato sauce. With extra chunky bits.")
Rodriguez was unimpressed.
"Well, you see…we're trying to join up with Batman."
Rodriguez said nothing, but Crane could just imagine the expression on his face. If he had dared speak up just then, he would have told the girl just how idiotic he thought her plan was.
Then again, it was so stupid it just might work.
"We're going to strike it big as superheroes," Techie said. "But first, we have to get approval. Freelancers don't last too long around here."
"And we thought we could catch the Bat's attention by bringing in the Scarecrow…but I guess you beat us to the punch, officer," the Captain finished, sounding as if she were just barely restraining herself from ripping the pig's clothes off right then and there.
"I want to kick him," said Al. "Can I kick him?"
That relaxed him enough to let his guard down, just enough. Crane smiled behind his mask. This was going remarkably well, all things considered.
"You can't kick him," said Techie. "I want to kick him." They all converged, arguing loudly about who had the right to the first kick.
"Stay where you are," Rodriguez demanded. The girls ignored him.
"I was here first!"
"But I did all the work!"
"I never get to have any fun."
"Oh stop whining, you got to pick the lock and get us inside, the least you can do is let me be the first to kick him!"
"But I want to kick him!"
Even with his face pressed into the cold tile of the museum floor facing away from them, Jonathan could tell that the girls were getting closer, even as they bickered, and despite Rodriguez' protests at their ever increasing closeness, he didn't shoot them.
When they were close enough for Jonathan to catch a whiff of the residue from their combined perfumes, shampoos and soaps (a scent that had become uncomfortably familiar within a very short space of time), he felt a ruthless grin spread wide across his face.
The ensuing scuffle above him as they disarmed Rodriguez and slammed him into the floor, level with Jonathan's face, was made that much sweeter by the sudden, startling 'Pop!' of the gun that the idiot cop had been brandishing.
After the echo of the shot died away, the girls were oddly silent as Jonathan scrambled as gracefully as possible off the floor.
"He didn't have the safety on?"
Sirens pierced the air and the gun was dropped next to Rodriguez' still form.
"The big blue wall is gonna be furious. Let's get out of here!"
And despite the need for haste, Jonathan still managed to get one good kick to Rodriguez' ribs before they fled.
Later that night, with an ice pack pressed to his head where he'd been unceremoniously whacked with the butt of the now-in-intensive-care Officer Rodriguez's gun and his legs stretched out on the thrift store sofa in the common area of the lair, Jonathan was enjoying the media spectacle that had been created by the local news stations. He felt strangely proud to know that his minions had managed to get some press, even if the reporters didn't strictly know who was behind the attempted murder, nor the circumstances involved.
The words 'public enemy' and 'threat to society' were used repeatedly and it made a tiny part of him glow, knowing that it had been on his behalf that they'd managed to make the big time.
Of course, the second the Captain, Al and Techie entered the common room, chattering and adjusting their jackets, he changed the channel, changed his relaxed posture and tossed the ice pack aside, lest they abandon whatever plans they had and get the idea that he desperately needed some patented Henchgirl Tender Loving Care™.
"And what are you all dressed up for?"
"Didn't you know? We're going out."
"What do you mean, out?"
"Out, Squishykins. The opposite of in."
He glared at her.
"I know what out means, Captain. I'm asking why you're doing it when you never have before."
"We're watching a movie with a friend," said Techie. "Is that so hard to believe?"
When she put it like that…yes, it was.
"You have friends?" They nodded. "In Gotham?"
"No, we figured we'd go back to visit Hugh tonight. We should be back by Tuesday," the Captain snarked. He gave up on searching for things that made sense.
"Don't bother coming back," he said. They smiled sweetly.
"You know you wouldn't last five minutes without us. Speaking of which, are you going to be okay without us tonight?"
"Get out," he grumbled. They all looked concerned.
"I don't think we should leave him alone," Al said. He glared at them all. Ignore him, would she?
"I said I don't need you. Now go away." Al went over to sit beside him on the couch. He inched away from her.
"Y'all go on. I'll stay here."
"How many ways can I say this? Leave me alone."
"You sure, Number One?" asked the Captain. "You'll miss the movie."
"You heard her; you'll miss the movie. Go." Al snorted.
"They're going to see a girl we met at the convention. She's just going to want to watch a Trek movie. And not even one of the good ones."
"Define good," Techie said dangerously. Al smirked.
"Good: being without the properties of William Shatner."
The Captain grabbed Techie's arm and pulled her toward the door before a fight could break out.
"Wait—" They weren't going to leave him alone with her, were they?
They were. He moved farther away from Al.
"Oh, Squishykins, you're so cute when you're wishing I was dead." She waved at her friends. "Toodles!"
"I am not cute," he said lamely.
Crane grimaced. Enough was enough—he was going to bed and barricading the door. He got to his feet, only to find that sudden movement still made the room spin. Damn head injury. It hardly took any effort for Al to pull him back down next to her. He glared at her.
This was not going to be a good night.
"Want some more popcorn, Squishy?" Al asked. Crane glared at the television screen and pretended not to hear her. The movie she was forcing him to watch had caught his attention just enough that he could almost pretend she hadn't spent the whole night laying on him like an oversized lapdog. She wasn't making things too difficult, but he was very much looking forward to the time when she would decide to leave him the hell alone. And not just temporarily.
He ignored her as she scampered off to the kitchen to microwave another bag of popcorn. With any luck, she would manage to blow herself up in there.
He continued to ignore her when he heard the bathroom door slam. If he had been paying any attention, he would have been glad to know she would be staying away from him that much longer.
Then her cell phone rang. She had left it on the table in easy reach, as if she had been expecting a call. He glanced behind him and saw no sign that she was about to come running back into the room.
Feeling mischievous, he answered the phone. This could be his chance to get her back for a little of what she had put him through…
"Number One?" said a choked up female voice. He blinked slowly. Which one was this, and why was she crying?
"She's making popcorn. What happened to you? Don't tell me one of you fell off a building." Tell me you both did…
"I just…I want to talk to Al." She sniffled.
"Squishy, Spock died!"
He listened to her shaky breathing for a few seconds.
"Spock! He's dead! And I need Al now!"
"Who died?" he asked again.
"Spock! You know, the logical one!"
"You mean that pointy-eared character in your television show? You're this upset over something fictional?"
"Don't you dare laugh at me! Put Al on the phone!"
Pointedly, he laughed.