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CATverse A/N: The timeline is here: http/ www . freewebs . com / catverse--but if you're too lazy to look there, know that this tale occurs directly after my story 'Hitch' and has been in the works for what feels like for-bloody-ever.
Nathan Samuels was a simple man who liked simple things. Simple truths, the simple life; simple, simple, simple.
Now, sitting here in this run down motel room, staring at a muslin sack filled with small bills, he realized that--much to his chagrin--there was nothing simple about his current situation.
After being dropped off at the Gotham City limits sign and being given the sack of cash, Nathan had proceeded to do the only thing his morals would allow: he went straight to the nearest police station.
The desk sergeant took one look at the little man in his still damp three piece suit and laughed him out of the building. He wouldn't hear anything about the fact hat Nathan had stolen money in his possession, either because the sergeant was aware of the identity of the thieve the whole of Gotham was likely looking for, or because Nathan simply didn't look the type to steal.
While it was true that Samuels had never stolen so much as a pack of gum in his entire life, the circumstances--bizarre though they may have been--still found him with illicit spoils.
Unless, of course, those three nutty women were just putting him on…
That was a possibility.
Maybe they were eccentric dot com millionaires who liked giving away money or something?
Yeah, sure…and maybe Godzilla and an invisible pink unicorn were having a fight in the middle of central district Tokyo right now.
Nathan huffed and glared at the source of his troubles, staring up at him from the little rickety bedside table. What exactly was he supposed to do with all that money? He couldn't spend it in good conscience…he certainly couldn't had onto it--not in Gotham of all places--and the police had literally laughed him out of the station.
He flopped backwards on the worn double mattress and stared at the ceiling, locking his fingers together over his chest.
What did one do with money that one had no desire to spend?
Well…under ordinary conditions (and we've already established that these conditions were anything but ordinary), Nathan would have donated any of his extra not-for-necessities money to charity…but he couldn't do that now. If any charity was found in possession of stolen funds, it would do far more harm than good.
So, again…what was he supposed to do?
He sat up suddenly.
He could put the money in the bank in a new account and just…not touch it! If he did that, maybe--provided anyone came looking for it--it could finally get back to the people who were its rightful owners…and he could explain what happened. The fact that the money wouldn't have been spent would lend credence to his story that he had tried to return it, hadn't been able to, and then just…put it away for safe keeping!
Yes, that sounded like a plan!
Now, to find the nearest bank...
Twenty minutes and a map later found Nathan standing outside the Second National Bank.
And ten minutes after that found him knee deep in the middle of a bank robbery.
Funny how that worked out…
Apparently, Two-Face found the use of the God Janus as the bank's mascot to be the equivalent of a big, flashing neon sign that said "ROB ME!" and Nathan was unlucky enough to be the second man in the second teller's line--giving Two-Face the impression that they were destined to be the best of buddies…
This day just got better and better, didn't It?
But, naturally, that couldn't be the worst of his problems…no, it had to get marginally more cataclysmic. It wouldn't be the worst day of poor old Nathan Samuels' life if it didn't.
Very shortly after Two-Face and his cronies busted in brandishing weapons and threatening to give the place and its occupants new ventilation systems one and all--another set of villains burst into the bank, led by a tall, lanky figure draped in worn sackcloth.
Nathan had read enough newspapers during his time on the road to know the Scarecrow when he saw him.
That was bad enough…but one of the three people guarding the Scarecrow suddenly pinwheeled her arms with excitement and screeched, "NATE!"
It was when she stripped off her mask and the sight of bright, traffic cone orange hair assaulted Nathan's eyes that he knew he was truly doomed.
"Er…hi," was all he could manage, what with Two-Face's arm around his shoulder like a trusted confidant.
"You know them?" Two-Face asked in a low growl, and Nathan found himself unable to reply. Was there a right answer in this scenario? One that wouldn't get him killed?
Two-Face immediately extracted his arm from around Nathan's shoulder and narrowed his eyes at him.
"I don't think I like you anymore," he said, taking a sudden interest in his shiny silver coin, tossing it up and down and drawing his gun.
"WAIT!" Three voices shouted in perfect unison, and before Nathan knew what was happening, all three of the Scarecrow's guardians rushed up to Two-Face as close as they dared--somehow without their masks. "You can't just kill him!"
"How pedestrian!" The one Nathan had come to know as Ops exclaimed.
"Uninspired!" Number One put in.
"Downright humdrum!" The Captain sang.
Two-Face glared at them. "I was going to flip for it…"
The three women glanced at each other, nodded once and looked back at the villain in front of them.
"We have a better idea. Something more interesting!"
"Infinitely more interesting than just letting him live or die!"
"And what's that?" Somehow Nathan got the feeling Two-Face was fast running out of patience, the way his hand was moving along the surface of his gun's grip.
"Well…heads, you shoot him; tails he becomes a test subject for the Scarecrow."
Two-Face eyed the three women warily. "A lose-lose situation?"
They grew thoughtful. "You're right, that's not fair. Heads, he lives, tails he becomes a test subject."
"Why should I let him--" Two-Face jerked his head in the direction of the Scarecrow, "do anything for me?"
"It's not so much doing it for you…it's just mixing up your everyday routine a little. Why should you have to do all the dirty work, anyways?"
The Scarecrow grumbled at the fact he'd just been reduced to the status of 'hired help', but he didn't speak up…either because he didn't want to risk getting shot by Two-Face's larger, heavily armed group of escorts, or because …well, actually that was probably the only reason.
"Pleeeeease, Two-Face?" The Captain had ventured a little closer to the villain and was looking up at him with her eyes big and watery.
Two-Face glanced at the Scarecrow, who inclined his head in approval--although why, Nathan couldn't wrap his head around--and then flipped his coin, catching it deftly.
"Tails! He's ours!"
Nathan couldn't help thinking that, despite her cheerful disposition, his life was going to get substantially worse before the day was out…
A lengthy car ride and half an hour later, the Captain bustled into the Scarecrow's newest lair--an old, condemned police station (the irony was lost on no one) that had stood empty and desolate since the Joker had blown most of it to bits--with the much put-upon Nathan Samuels in her wake.
"Come on, Nate," she chirped, dragging him along by the hand. "We're going to love you and hug you and feed you!"
Jonathan Crane spoke, voice chilled to a degree somewhere below freezing and almost toneless. "You told Two-Face I was going to use this man for a test subject, not give him as a plaything for you, and that is exactly what I intend to do with him."
The Captain stopped tugging on Nathan's arm and looked back at her boss--and her two companions mimicked her action and her gaping fish face look so perfectly that--if they had looked anything alike--they could have been triplets.
Crane's posture was rigid and his face hard. "No. You said he'd be coming as a test subject and that is what he'll be." He leveled his eyes at the brunette. "Or would you rather I let him live and let my going against the coin get me killed?"
The brunette went ashen and for a moment, Nathan thought she was going to faint.
His stance and demeanor didn't change, save for the slight narrowing of his eyes. "Me, or him, Al."
The Captain burst into tears and clung to Nathan, jarring him badly. "But I wanted to keep this one!"
Ops was oddly quiet, but she pried the Captain's arms off of Nathan. "Come on, Captain…Jonathan's right. If Two-Face found out he went against the coin…"
The Captain wailed louder and flung herself at Ops, nearly toppling the other woman.
Crane remained motionless through their theatrics and hysteria, merely raising his voice enough to be heard over the frenzied sobbing, "I would suggest you three leave immediately…this won't be pretty."
The Captain hiccupped. "But Squishy!"
The Captain cried harder, but 'Al' and Ops started dragging her away, the hysterical woman screeching, "I just wanted to feed him! That's all I wanted! Just to feed him!"
Within minutes, Nathan found himself alone with one of Gotham's more fearsome villains.
The other man looked at him dully and motioned toward a rusted out cell that must have--at one point in the distant past--been the drunk tank, and though it went against all of Nathan's instincts, he went over to the small enclosure and stepped inside--allowing himself to be locked in.
He should have been screaming. Should have been panicking. Something other than accepting this as the inevitable conclusion to the worst day of his life.
"I'll retrieve you when I'm ready for you. I've only a single dose on me and I like to double up just in case," Crane said coolly, watching for a reaction.
"Oh…take your time. Or don't." Nathan shrugged with a kind of insane indifference the origin of which was unknown.
"You mean to tell me you want to die?"
"Nothing so dramatic…I'm just…resigned? Yeah. That. I mean, this has been the worst day of my life; I can't really imagine it ending any other way."
The Scarecrow eyed him oddly, intensely studying him. "Is that so?"
"Yeah. I mean, hey, I've had a normal life so far--until today. Fitting that the weirdest day of my life would also be the last one."
"Imagine every day being like this one, Nathan."
"Oh. You mean what with living with them," Nathan looked up at Crane earnestly. "I'm…truly sorry."
"As am I." The Scarecrow moved towards the bars of his cage and Nathan knew that this was going to be the end of the line. Apparently, Crane had decided that a single dose was enough after all and this was just…it. Nothing poetic, nothing grand and deep--just the end of the line, like a train running out of track.
The little salesman squeezed his eyes shut and found his mind parroting scripture at him for some reason as his--in his opinion--far too short life flashed before his eyes in a series of rapid snapshots. The first birthday he could remember; his first day at school; his first job…
The snapshots stopped instantly when he heard the sound of rusty metal on rusty metal and his eyes popped open just in time to see the door to his cell swinging open.
Jonathan Crane, inexplicably, motioned for him to leave his prison and all Nathan could manage was a run of blinks.
"Aren't you going to…?" Nathan couldn't even complete the line of thought.
The Scarecrow waved a hand dismissively. "I believe you've suffered enough for one day."
"But…you're the master of fear."
"Yes, not the master of melancholy. You're no good to me in this condition. You're too downtrodden to be afraid…and spending a dose of toxin on you--while it might prove amusing--would be a waste in the interests of research. I want to intensify fear. You are not afraid. Ipso facto, you are useless as a test subject."
Nathan stared at him, still not comprehending. "What about them?"
Crane shrugged with one shoulder, still holding open the door to the cell. "I'll tell them you died. An unfortunate side effect of my new and untested defective toxin. I realize they're going to be beside themselves with grief, of course, but they'll get over it."
Nathan's eyes grew wide. "G-g-grief? Over me? They don't even know me!"
"You're small, helpless and--" Crane sneered, "cute. They've taken to you like a group of children to a stray kitten; complete with unknowingly tying paper bags on your feet."
"So…you're letting me go?" Nathan asked uncertainly, edging towards the doorway cautiously.
Crane nodded. "Leave Gotham and don't come back."
Nathan seized the other man's hand in gratitude, only realizing that it could be folly after he'd already shaken hands with the villain. The moment he grasped the fact that this was possibly encroaching on Crane's territory, he dropped his hand and stepped out of the cell, a few feet behind the Scarecrow.
"I…uh…thank you," Nathan said quietly, taking several steps backwards towards the exit.
"Don't mention it," Crane muttered before suddenly shouting at the rapidly retreating salesman's back. "Ever!"