Disclaimer: Batman and all related characters belong to DC/WB. I don't own DC or WB. You do the maths.
Warning: the story is most definitely not suitable for children, for it deals with both rape and torture. It's not described in detail, but it's heavily implied.
If you're still here: enjoy.
Silence is a luxury you rarely can enjoy in Arkham.
There is just something about the place. Night and day, the air is always filled with scrams, curses, mad laughters, cries, prayers. They seem to chase you, echoing inside your brain until you think that they will never stop, that you will still ear them for the rest of your life. The first days in are almost unbearable: those screams and curses and cries can drive you crazy. Well, even crazier than usual, at least. You cannot be an Arkham inmate and be totally sane after all, can you?
Oh, you get used to it after a while – if you make it through the first week, of course. You learn to just ignore them, to keep them out of your mind.
Still, you begin to yearn silence more than anything else besides freedom. Even more than revenge on the Bat. Just a few minutes of silence would be enough to make you feel like a free man. Almost.
But you can still close your eyes and pretend you are somewhere else. Nothing illegal about that.
That night was one of those nights – when most of the inmates had been sedated after a fight that had happened in the cafeteria that morning. One of the few nights when you can just lie back in your bed, close your eyes and enjoy the silence.
That was exactly what Professor Jonathan Crane, otherwise known as the Scarecrow, was doing right now.
He frowned as silence was broken by the sound of footsteps approaching, but as he recognized those footsteps – the same footsteps that had been plaguing his dreams for a few months now – he bolted upright in the bed, his annoyance quickly replaced by a quite different emotion: fear. Ironically enough the Scarecrow, the Master of Fear himself, was currently scared to death, his bony frame shaking pitifully in the darkness of his cell, his eyes wide with utter terror as he listened the footsteps approaching.
Not him. Not him. Oh please, please, don't let it be him…
He gave a silent sigh of relief as he heard something else – the sound of something being dragged on the floor, and the sound of broken sobs. It seemed that Lyle Bolton, Chief of Security of Arkham Asylum, had already given vent to his sadism for that night. He heard the door of the nearby cell being opened, and the sound of something – someone, in this case – being carelessly thrown on the floor. The door was slammed closed again, and those dreadful steps receded down the hallway. Crane could even hear Bolton humming as he left – that sick bastard.
As Bolton's steps finally faded away, everything was silent again – except for the broken, shaking sobs that came from Jervis Tetch's cell.
Careful to not make a sound – he didn't want to be caught doing anything irregular under Bolton's management, thank you so much – Crane slowly removed a certain loosened brick from the wall between his cell and Tetch's. He put it down on the mattress and turned to the hole communicating with the Mad Hatter's cell.
"Jervis?" he called, keeping his voice barely above a whisper. "Are you alright?"
The only answer he got were a few more sobs and whimpers. Well, it was a stupid question anyway – of course he wasn't alright: nocturnal close encounters with Lyle Bolton were often quite painful and always terribly humiliating. He could tell. He knew more than he'd have ever wished to on the matter.
Squinting in the dim light coming from the small window, high enough to keep him from even looking outside, he could see the trembling form of Jervis Tetch curled up in a fetal position on the cold floor. He wasn't actually crying, for he didn't seem to have tears to cry anymore, but the dry sobs and pitiful whimpers that kept leaving his lips were heart wrenching to hear. Or at least they would have been, had Crane been more of a bleeding heart. Thankfully, he was not.
Bleeding hearts have no business to be in Arkham, or anywhere in this world.
"I… it hurts," Tetch finally whimpered. "He hurt me."
"I know," Crane simply said, already knowing what Tetch was talking about. He wasn't sure he could do anything to soothe the man's pain. Honestly, he wasn't even sure he wanted to – it was none of his business, after all. Still, he shifted to sit more comfortably on the hard mattress, getting ready to listen whatever Tetch may wish to say about his dreadful experience. He was…he had been a professor of psychology, after all. Old habits die hard.
Besides, he couldn't help but feel some small measure of sympathy for him. He knew what it felt like, having been through it several times, and he knew that the first one was always the worst. It was no wonder he was so shaken – the Ventriloquist hadn't recovered yet, and it had been quite some time since his last encounter with Bolton now.
"I guess it was his way to welcome you back in Arkham – he's the new Chief of Security. I suggest you to get used to it. It's most likely going to happen again."
Tetch sobbed louder at his statement. "W…why would he...?" he whimpered.
"Good question. There could be a number of answers; if you want my opinion, he's not much different from most of us. He likes to control everyone within his reach, to cause people suffering for his own amusement, to prove himself as superior…"
As the Mad Hatter let out a keening noise, Crane thought back of how Bolton had laughed while he cried out, unable to bear the searing pain, begging him to stop.
"I'm n… nothing like him," Tetch choked out.
Crane thought for a moment, then he shook his head. No, not Jervis: he had brainwashed people in order to get what he wanted – something involving a girl named Alice, if he recalled correctly – but he didn't seem the kind of man who would purposely hurt anyone for his own amusement.
"No," he said slowly. "You're not like him."
I am, he mentally added. He may have never resorted to such a vile thing, but there was no denying that watching people cower in fear before him made him feel more powerful than anything else in the world.
Tetch sniffled. His sobs were slowly ceasing, but he was still curled on the ground, shivering, blond hair sticking to his sweaty forehead. It was a pitiful sight, indeed.
"J… Jonathan? Are you still there?"
"No, I walked out through the wall," Crane sarcastically. Still a small smirk formed on his lips as he thought back at the ghost tales he used to read as a child, the ones with ghosts walking through the walls to frighten people. His smirk widened at the thought of a frightening ghost floating inside Bolton's office, scaring him out of his wits…
"I though you went down the White Rabbit's hole," Tetch simply said, this time without sobbing.
Crane sighed and rolled his eyes. He should have expected him to say something related to Alice in Wonderland sooner or later. "Jervis, you should get on your bed now. Sleeping on the floor won't do you any good."
"I can't move. It hurts too much," Tetch whimpered, refusing to move. He suddenly looked much like a little boy refusing to go to school.
Crane frowned. "Did he not use lubricant?"
"He… he did, I guess" Jervis sniffled again, his voice shaking. "But it was still painful, it was..." he fell silent, words failing him.
"You've been lucky, then: he isn't always that considerate," Crane said bitterly. "Now get up from the floor and get on your bed. It will be worse if you don't – trust me, I know."
"W…what if he comes back for me again?" Tetch asked, shivering once again.
"He got what he wanted. He won't bother you for the next few weeks. Not this way, at least."
There was a brief silence, then - slowly, despite the fact every inch of his bruised body was likely screaming in agony - Jervis Tetch stood up. He walked to the bed, wincing in pain all the way, and leaned on the mattress with a weary sigh, wrapping the rough blanket around himself. He closed his eyes, his breath slowly growing steadier.
"It's silent tonight," he finally mumbled.
"I know", Crane leaned down on his mattress as well, staring at the ceiling. "It's one of those nights. If you close your eyes you can almost pretend you're somewhere else."
"Oh, yes…" the Mad Hatter said softly, his eyes tightly shut. "I can pretend I'm in Wonderland, and thers's the March Hare… and Alice, too. Do you think she would join the dance now?"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"... If you want her to, she will. Your mind is your own Wonderland – you told this to me, Jervis, remember? You can make anything happen in your mind, and Bolton cannot take this away from you. No one can."
"That's true. My own Wonderland…" Tetch whispered moments before drifting off to sleep. "We're all mad here," he mumbled what was probably his first truly accurate statement in quite a while. "We're all mad…"
Jonathan Crane stayed awake for a while longer, listening to the silence. However, he wasn't pretending to be somewhere else now – he was trying to figure out a way to escape. He wasn't going to just wait his turn to be tortured by that sick bastard. He had to find a way out: Bolton was most likely going to make him pay dearly if he was caught, but he was willing to take the risk at this point.
Still, no matter how hard he tried to concentrate about the necessity to escape: the only thing he could think of was Tetch's words just before drifting off to sleep.
We're all mad here.
Well, maybe the escape plan could wait until tomorrow: Bolton would have waited some time before striking again. Now everything he needed was some worry-free sleep, the kind of sleep he could nobody could get in Arkham – but he could get it now.
Because, he thought as sleep finally swept him away, it was one of those nights.