Disclaimer: I don't own Batman or any of its characters/settings.
AN: Right, this is my first attempt at a fanfic since some sad things written when I was young that I don't care to talk about. I got the idea from the beginning of an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, "Harley's Holiday," where there's a brief scene that shows Harley and Scarecrow are friends. I wondered how they got to know each other, and this is the result. It's set in the Nolanverse. So give me your thoughts on it, please!
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew it was just another nightmare, but that never lessened the terror he felt. Shaking, he gasped as the Batman grabbed hold of him, forcing the mask off his face, making him breathe the toxin. At first all he felt was overwhelming anger—how dare this costumed freak use his own creation against him? But it only seemed to take a second for him to feel the effects; the anger ebbing away to a rush of horror. The room started to shake around him, the Batman's face morphing from the vague dark blur he saw without his glasses to that of a demon. His throat, already tight from the hand around it, seemed to close all the way, making him gasp for breath. His heart pounded in his ears, drowning out every sound but the bat-demon's growl. He was trembling all over, and the darkness that had always lurked in the back of his mind, near the place that told him he was dreaming, seemed to sense his weakness and grow. He tried to fight it back but the bat made it impossible, shaking him while bellowing questions into his face, and the darkness started to overwhelm him-
"Eh?" Jonathan Crane's eyes sprang open, blinking rapidly to clear the fog of sleep. His heart was still pounding, and he could feel the damp patches sweat had made on his clothing. For a moment the sight of his cell was almost comforting—at least, what he could see of it, anything close up was unrecognizable when his glasses were off. Arkham, miserable as it was, was still better than the nightmares he'd been having ever since that night when the Batman had robbed him of his sanity. The drugs they gave him here kept the darkness in check, but they didn't stop the dreams.
The moment of comfort ended abruptly as Crane remembered just what had woken him. The cell was dark, so the voice he'd heard couldn't have been an orderly chiding him for sleeping in late. A visitor wouldn't be permitted in the middle of the night, not that he would have any if the time were reasonable. That left an intruder. A fresh wave of chills went through his body and he bolted up, losing his balance. He felt himself falling backwards off the bed, the ceiling rushing through his view and merging with the wall as arms shot out, grabbing Jonathan in a bear hug and pulling him back on to the bed. "Gotcha!"
"What…who…" he stammered, trying to make out the intruder's face. It was hopeless. The most he could get was a pale figure with longish hair, and in the darkness he couldn't even make out colors. He tried pulling back, but arms around him were wrapped too tightly. His heart hammered against his ribs. He still had scars from that night when the League of Shadows had released his toxin in the Narrows, when he'd run into a few of his old patients who were happy to treat him how they'd been treated. Had an inmate come to return the favor again? And why now, nearly two and a half years later? He tried to keep his voice steady. "What are you doing?"
"Keepin' ya from falling off the bed, scaredy cat. What were you dreaming about, a lit match?" The voice sounded nasal, amused, and Jonathan was sure he'd heard it before, though he couldn't place where.
"What?" Despite his attempts to keep his emotions in check, he could hear the confusion in his reply. Matches? What would be frightening about matches? And where had he heard that voice?
He heard a sigh. "Wizard of Oz? Ya know, for a doctor, you're pretty slow." The speaker relaxed his grip, and Crane pulled back as far as he could. Whoever the intruder was, his breath was less than pleasant. Was this one of his former experiments? That would explain his recognizing the voice, but he couldn't remember any patients sounding like this. Their voices had all been shaking and broken, at least when he'd finished with them, whereas this voice practically secreted confidence. Where had he heard it, then?
"Who are you?"
Another sigh. He could make out a hand coming towards his face, something in it, and flinched again, nearly sliding off the bed a second time. A hand grabbed his shoulder, pulling him back up. "Lighten up, will ya? I'm not gonna hurt ya." The object slid onto his face, and as Crane realized his glasses were being put on him, the face before him snapped into focus.
The Joker grinned at him. Jonathan remembered where he'd heard that voice now; the hostage tapes that had aired on the news last year. He'd watched them in the institution's rec room. Usually the orderlies tried to keep the inmates from watching the more disturbing things on television, worried they might get ideas, but they'd been as transfixed as he was. The orderlies from fear, himself from admiration. He recalled thinking the clown was brilliant, giggling as he terrorized the Batman impersonator into a cowering, shaking mess. He'd been stunned as he watched, hanging onto his every word as imposter dissolved into tears and the Joker turned the camera to his painted, scarred face.
The make up was gone now, but the scars were still there, twisted reminders that the clown could and would cheerfully do the same-or worse-to anyone who annoyed him. Or, depending on his mood, anyone at all. Crane tried to stay calm; tried to ignore the blood pounding in his ears as he stared. This was the first time since that news broadcast that Jonathan had seen him; incompetent as Arkham's doctors were, they knew better than to let the Joker near other patients. "How did you get in here?"
"What, like it's hard?" The Joker smirked. "We've both broken out enough times to know Arkham's a revolving door."
That was true. In the year and a half since the Joker had first been committed, he'd broken out more than a few times. So had most of the new "super-criminals," that had popped up as of late, like Nigma and Isley, and Crane himself. Despite all the money the Wayne Foundation kept donating to fortify the institution's security, breaking out remained little harder than breathing. Crane had never tried breaking into another patient's cell, but it couldn't be very difficult. "What do you want, then?"
Still smiling, the Joker didn't answer. He reached a hand out-Jonathan forced himself not to flinch-and ran it down Crane's face, tracing the burn scars from where Rachel Dawes had zapped him with her tazer in the Narrows. "Where'dya get those scars?"
"I asked you a question." Crane turned his head, but his captor's hand remained in place. What is this clown doing here? From somewhere deep in the back of his head, the darkness woke up from under the haze of drugs that kept it down. Jonathan could almost hear it, muttering for control, wanting to take over and take down this threat.
"Oh, that's nice," the Joker answered, digging his fingernails into Crane's face. Jonathan winced, less from pain than from the thought of the dirt under those nails. "I've gotta be up to something? I can't just say hello to a fellow patient?"
Crane arched a brow. "You left your cell in the middle of the night, snuck past the guards, and broke into my cell to say hello? I'm flattered."
"Fine. I'll level with ya, doc." The Joker's tone was light enough, but his nails were still cutting into Jonathan's face, and his free arm and body pinning the doctor to the bed. Crane tried to keep his face impassive, but he was sure Joker could feel his pounding heartbeat. "See, there's this girl here I've got my eye on. Blonde, curvy, gullible, my kinda woman."
"And what, you want me to play matchmaker?" I'm dead. Crane swallowed hard, the movement of his cheek making the scrapes sting more. Now he's just fucking with me. I'm going to die. The murmurings of the darkness grew louder, and he struggled to keep himself under control. This clown had beaten Batman into submission at least once, if the news was to be believed. He couldn't match that strength, but the desire to try was growing.
"In a manner of speaking, yeah. It's the new shrink, Harleen Quinzel. Know her?"
"Yes, I—what?" His eyes widened. He knew of Harleen Quinzel, who'd started after his incarceration. He'd never actually met her, as the new doctors weren't allowed near the most dangerous patients for at least a year, but he'd seen her. It was customary to lead beginners through this ward on their first day, to scare them out of trying to get in over their heads with one of the famous inmates.
Quinzel had come through months ago. Crane barely remembered her, save for the vague mental image of a blonde twenty-something glancing in his window. And suddenly the Joker had an interest in her? Crane's thoughts raced, trying to figure out what that could mean and where he fit into it.
"I hate to break it to you," he said finally, when he'd regained enough of his wits to speak. "But I'm not the administrator anymore. I don't know this girl, and I certainly can't introduce you."
"Ah, that's where you're wrong, doc." The Joker pulled his fingers back from Crane's face, the cuts burning more fiercely than ever. He felt a wetness on his cheek that could only be blood, and the Joker wiped it away, smirking. "Ya just don't know her yet. I've read your file. You're meetin' her in two days."
That was the first Crane had heard about it, but it wasn't impossible. The psychiatrists here didn't share much information with their patients, even the rather important bits like switching doctors. And what reason would the Joker have to lie about something like that? If it wasn't true, it's not as if he wouldn't find out soon. "And?"
"And you're not gonna to scare her off." His voice was cheerful as always, but his grip tightened. Crane tried not to wince. "You're gonna answer her questions, and give her whatever information she wants. You're gonna be the best patient she's ever had, or I'll wanna know why not. Got it?" He gave a vicious squeeze on the last word, and Crane couldn't help but gasp at the pain sent shooting through his ribs.
"Got it," he muttered, barely able to hear himself over the now screaming need in his head. There was nothing he would have liked more at that moment than to beat this freak to near death, leave him cowering in the corner, crying from terror. But there was no way that would happen.
"Good boy." The Joker relaxed his grip, one hand reaching back up to wipe the blood from Crane's face again.
"Can I ask you a question now?" He knew it was a long shot. That there was no way the Joker would be stupid enough to reveal his plan to him. That sort of thing only happened in cartoons. But still, if Crane got even the slightest hint what the Joker was up to, that could give him an advantage. Certainly it would be better than being this clown's pawn in a game he didn't know the point of.
"Why Quinzel? Or rather, why me? What do my sessions with this doctor mean to you?"
The Joker lifted his hand again. His fingertips were lightly coated in blood, which looked almost black in the dim light. He raised his hand to his mouth for a moment, sucking the blood off the way a child might suck off melted ice cream, then removed his hand, and licked his lips before answering. "Maybe I just want ya to get better, scaredy cat. Ever think of that?"
"No," Crane said, knowing it was dangerous to push it, but unable to resist. "And I'm not stupid enough to think that's why."
"Ah." Joker dipped his fingers in the blood again, this time spreading it across his scars and lips like the lipstick. "But you're stupid enough to question me. And that's gonna cost ya."
Before Crane could react, the Joker was sitting on top of him, Jonathan's left arm held tightly in his grasp. The clown's hands twisted and Crane's skin burned. "Lemme make this perfectly clear, Jonny." Joker smirked, giving Crane a view of his bleeding, probably scurvy-ridden gums. He was barely audible over the darkness. "When I tell ya to do something, ya do it, no questions asked. Got it?"
"Yes," Crane hissed, teeth clenched. He tried not to cry out as pain increased, only partially succeeding. Fight back! Make him scream! That part of his mind urged him, but to try it would be suicide.
"Good." The Joker loosened his grip, and Crane breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, and doc? Just to make sure ya don't forget, here's a reminder!"
Jonathan barely had time to register that the clown's hands were back on him before he felt a sickening crack in the bones of his left forearm. He heard the darkness shouting at him, enraged that he hadn't let it take control, heard himself scream as the Joker laughed and let him go, felt himself falling off the bed, incredible pain shooting up his as went he landed, and then everything went black.
I'll try to get the next chapter up soon. Let me know what you think!