Author's Note: First bit of Batfic. Experimenting with Crane. Immediately post-Batman Begins. Won third at Batfic Contest (LiveJournal).
Disclaimer: I do not own Batman. Please enjoy!
He could feel the antitoxin in his blood. Like water chasing fire, it made the charred insides of his veins slick. Out came his breath, a white wisp – there was a pause in his lucidity, where his eyes rattled and his breath was steam, and when it passed (with the vision of a horseman), Jonathan Crane sucked it back in and swallowed it.
People were screaming. Their footsteps shook the pavement until pebbles danced. Hysteria frothed over the Narrows, into the river, down storm drains. It dripped from the bricks and rusted fire escapes, until rain began to fall and the mist dissipated. Still, the chaos spun on like a broken record.
A droplet of water fell from the overpass, onto Jonathan's cheek. He started; his hands balled in his hair involuntarily tugged, and he grimaced. From an office in Arkham Asylum to a cell to the dingy haven of a highway. He closed his eyes and listened to the rain, waiting for the paranoia to pass. Another twenty minutes and the antitoxin would have his system clean. Another twenty minutes and he could speak without hearing the Scarecrow's voice.
He thought of careful things, safe things. His favorite briefcase, the lunch menu at a little diner down from the courthouse, the satisfaction of his reflection after firing another round into Rachel Dawes's bullet-riddled morale.
Rachel Dawes. Her face had been summoned in the flicker of a memory. It stuttered like a faulty film reel, a crudely stitched burlap sack flashing over it.
Jonathan's eyes snapped open. His breath came heavy and hard. A shattered laugh escaped him, not of his own lips and lungs but of the Scarecrow's. The vision rolled on in a puddle near Jonathan's feet. He slashed at it, sending ripples through Rachel, but continued to laugh.
"How nice it would have been, to take her apart like a toy." The words came from Jonathan's mouth, but he heard them through straw and string. The mask was still clutched to his chest. It frightened him – his own creation frightened him – but he couldn't let it go. There was something comfortable in the grain. The ally in an old enemy.
Jonathan took his tongue between his teeth and bit hard. A coppery tang filled his mouth; the laughing stopped. He smiled, teeth painted red.
But the Scarecrow continued, undistorted. "You wanted it. We wanted it."
God damn it.
What made the Scarecrow frightening was the reality woven into him, like the loops of thread in his eyes. He showed people what they were really afraid of, what every attenuated fear was based on: truth, concentrated. Too hard and too brash and too damn scary.
And Jonathan he knew better than anyone. Jonathan's head was his head, all the thoughts he wouldn't admit even to himself were his thoughts. Every single brutal honesty, a perfectly sharpened knife.
"Science," Jonathan said.
"Work," the Scarecrow replied. "And play. They're the same for you, Doctor."
The blood in his mouth had dulled and he hadn't blinked for a minute. His eyes stayed open, painfully pried by willpower. How long since he'd injected the antitoxin? How long until he could control the Scarecrow again?
"And how does that make you feel?" asked the Scarecrow mockingly. "To know the Bat Man flew off with your favorite little test subject."
"She wasn't mine."
"She was going to be," he said. "All those ideals, all those sensible fears. Corruption, moral decay, the fall of an empire. Generic, average, boring."
Jonathan had wondered. Rachel Dawes was a romantic among criminals. All her actions were driven by logical fears, the same basic set found in every human being. Even in Jonathan, somewhere, or else there would be no need for the Scarecrow. But he wanted to know what she was really afraid of, what she saw when she closed her eyes in a dark room and crossed her fingers wasn't there. What made her jump and scream and cry – what Jonathan would have to become to make her do all those things.
He'd had plans for her, after this. Before the Dark Nuisance came and stole her and forcibly drew the Scarecrow into power. He wanted to mentally dissect her once her psyche had broken down to a malleable state. He wanted to manipulate her, crush those petty dreams, and make her a bit like him.
Falcone had it right in only one respect: the way to cripple Gotham was through fear. But not physical – moral. You don't kill the white knights, you tarnish their armor and make them your soldiers. You don't stop at police officers, who are almost always corrupt in one way or another – you go higher. To the ones with angel wings hollow enough to snap.
No, that last thought had been the Scarecrow. Jonathan had never been that ambitious. He was too selfish: he wanted Rachel, and the Scarecrow wanted Gotham.
"Don't you hate him?" asked the Scarecrow. "Don't you want to see him burn, just one more time?"
He did. He wanted to kill the Bat Man, and more than that he wanted to make her watch. And to admit it hurt less than he thought it would. "Yes."
"And that," he said, "is why you're gonna keep me around." Another harsh chuckle split the air in high, maniacal tones.
Jonathan's eyes ached. He closed them tightly, sharp creases cut across his face. He didn't open them, even as the laughter faded and the downpour filled his ears again with sweet white noise.