Disclaimer: I do not own Batman or any of its characters/settings, and I make no profit from this.
AN: I suppose an explanation is in order, i.e., this is the part where I justify writing smut. As my last story Mad Friends (this is a sequel, it's not necessary to have read the first one but you might want to) was an exploration of Jonathan Crane in a platonic relationship, I wanted to explore him in a romantic one. I chose the Joker because hey, I like the pairing, and also I thought it would be challenging to bring Crane into a relationship with someone he can't stand.
And now, let's get this show on the road.
God, how he hated straitjackets.
Jonathan Crane gave one last fruitless tug against the fabric, quitting as he failed to gain any leeway whatsoever, and leaning back against the wall with a sigh. If only he could just pull it over his head, but no, Arkham had to invest in the jackets with crotch straps. Restraint appeared to be the one area of psychiatry this hellhole was competent in, and that was currently frustrating him to no end.
He supposed there was a lesson to be learned here, not that it made things any less irritating. "Keep your temper," Tetch had warned him, about ten seconds before he begun the fight that had led to this predicament. Good advice, but not something Scarecrow had been in the mood to hear at the time. It was hard to keep his temper when one of his former patients had taken to following him around, threatening him with death at every opportunity. It wasn't as if he was intimidated; one well time glare was enough to send the idiot running off, but it had gone on for so long that his patience had run thin and well, here he was.
He sat, glaring down at his restraints, disgusted. Mostly with the asylum's security, which had left him bound this way for nearly five hours now, to the point where he was passing through discomfort and into actual pain. But also repulsed with himself, for his lack of control. Why couldn't he have listened to Tetch? Or at least to himself, to that annoying little voice in the back of his head that had said maybe this wasn't such a good idea. What was it Alice said? 'I give myself such very good advice, but I very seldom follow it'? Something like that, anyway. It fit. When Scarecrow got angry, nothing could reason with him, and now here he was, paying the penalty for it.
He closed his eyes, hoping he could at least sleep if he couldn't be comfortable. It didn't take. Drifting off was harder than usual, considering that his arms had fallen asleep hours ago and were still stinging painfully. Falling asleep was never easy for him, anyway. The screams coming from the next room over didn't help in the slightest. He had no idea who his neighbor was; he'd never gotten a chance to look through the cell's window when he was escorted down the hall, and anyway, it appeared to be covered with duct tape, for reasons he'd never bothered to puzzle out. Whoever it was, Crane would like nothing more than to get his hands on him and cut out his vocal cords, a just revenge for the past six months of irritation. He'd sell his soul for some peace and quiet.
There was a particularly loud sob from the next room. Crane opened his eyes, sighed, and was just beginning to debate whether there was any point in trying to get the jacket off again when the door to his cell flew open, slamming into the wall beside it.
"Hey Jonny! How've ya been?"
Oh dear God. Crane glared at the figure darkening his doorway, closed his eyes, opened them again. No, he was still there. The Joker leaned against the doorframe, dressed in his usual suit, make-up newly applied. His hair was still blond, though. Crane supposed he hadn't had the dye on hand the last time he was apprehended. Most people would have put their costumes on after they'd finished breaking out, not in the middle of the process. Obviously, the Joker was not most people.
"What do you want?" he asked, annoyed. The answer was very likely to be something akin to 'to gloat about the fact that I'm getting out when you're not,' and Crane didn't think he had the patience to stand it right now. Not that he'd have a choice in the matter; the Joker did what he wanted whenever he wanted, but just because he had to listen to it didn't mean he had to take it well.
Joker pouted. "Rude much?" He shrugged it off, twirling one of his many knives between his gloved fingers as he went on. "See, I'm breaking out tonight—"
"I hadn't noticed." Was there a point to this?
He scowled. "Patience is a virtue, scaredy cat. I was gonna ask if ya wanted to come with, but if that's how you're gonna be about it, maybe I'll withdraw my invitation."
"You what?" Crane stared, the Joker's words racing through his mind. Breaking out…well, on one hand, of course he wanted out of here. He'd kill just to get away from the screaming, never mind the drugs, therapists, and straitjackets. No one, not even the people too far gone to know their own names, really wanted to stay at Arkham.
But if the Joker wanted to break him out, that meant he wanted to use him for something. Crane could vividly remember his last experience working with the man, and had the scars to remind him should he ever block it out. The last thing he wanted was to spend another month in traction because the Joker appointed him 'Bat-shield' again.
Well, the last thing besides staying here…
"I'll go with you," he said, a little too quickly.
Joker smirked, not moving from his place in the doorway, knife still flashing in his hand. "Well, I dunno anymore, Jonny. I mean, ya weren't all that nice to me a minute ago. Maybe I don't want your company." He licked his lips, considering. "Why don'tcha try asking nicely?"
Crane glared, gathering all the dignity he had. Given the straitjacket, that wasn't much, but it was the principle of the thing. "I'm not going to beg, if that's what you're asking."
"Really?" The Joker arched a brow, still grinning. "'Cause I kinda doubt that. I think you'll do whatever I want, if ya really want out."
They stared at each other for a moment, a silent battle of wills waging that Crane knew he was going to lose, but still went through out of pride. It lasted for a minute or so, before the Joker shrugged and turned away. "Well, if ya don't want my help—"
"Please," Crane forced himself to say. It was the mental equivalent of dislocating his arms, about. Certainly Scarecrow wasn't pleased.
The clown spun around to face him, coat flaring out, smile wider than ever. "I'm sorry?"
"Please take me with you," he muttered, face on fire.
"'Kay." The Joker was on him before he could glance up again, undoing the straps binding his arms. "See how much easier things are when you're polite?"
Crane didn't respond. The Joker carried on, pulling the straps away and then slicing through the fabric at the top of each sleeve, to allow his hands through. He rolled back the excess fabric, taking hold of Crane's hands and scrutinizing them afterward. For a moment Crane thought he was observing the scar tissue there—another by-product of spending time with the clown—until he shook his head, disgusted. "Ya still bite your nails, scaredy cat?"
Christ. What, was he going to leave him behind for having ragged cuticles? "Your point?"
"Well, it's unhygienic," Joker said, grabbing him by the back strap of the jacket and hauling him to his feet, as though he couldn't stand on his own.
"You're one to talk," Crane muttered, against his better judgment, shaking his arms in an attempt to regain feeling.
The Joker frowned, looking almost hurt. "You're not a people person, are ya?"
"Not at all."
"It shows. C'mon, let's get outta here."
They stepped into the hall, Crane taking note of a guard collapsed on the floor. He didn't see any blood, but then, just because Joker preferred to make his kills bloody didn't mean he couldn't do things neatly. The body was too far off for Crane to tell if it was breathing or not, and really, it didn't concern him too much.
He turned his attention to the cell beside his own, the one with the taped-over window, finding himself strangely drawn to it. It wasn't as if he couldn't hunt down this patient again, and come back with weapons to pay whoever it was back for the sleepless nights, but he wanted a face to put with the screaming. With the Joker watching impatiently, he crossed over to the door, pulling a corner of the tape away and lifting it back.
For a moment, his eyes scanned over nothing but a blank wall, until he caught sight of the figure in the corner and stiffened. He was not looking at a person so much as a mass of scar tissue in human form, huddled in profile, facing the opposite wall. Crane wasn't frightened so much as disgustedly intrigued; he didn't see how someone could be so horribly injured yet still living. He watched a lidless eye flick back and forth, both fascinated and repulsed, and started as the thing in the room seemed to note his presence and turn to face him. He was even more startled to find that the half of the face slowly turning into his line of view seemed to be unmarred, and found himself unable to look away.
That was remedied by the Joker, who grabbed hold of Crane's hand and pulled him back toward the center of the hall. "Ya about done with being a peeping tom? Good," he said, without waiting for an answer. "Let's go." Still holding hands, he took off. His pace was leisure, as if he were strolling through the park rather than breaking out of an asylum.
"I can walk on my own," Crane protested, the clown dragging him like the abusive older brother he'd never had.
"Don't trust ya not to get lost." Joker licked his lips. "Besides, ya don't know which way we're headed."
Crane gritted his teeth and tried to remind himself that this would be worth it if it meant getting out. At least he'd get to see Harley again, for the first real time in six months. Well, that wasn't exactly true, they'd seen each other in the rec room and at meals and things, but it didn't count as real interaction when there were time limits and guards breathing down their necks. Crane knew Harley would be ecstatic about escaping, though she didn't seem to dislike Arkham that much. She didn't hate anything, really, not even the Batman.
Sure, she'd celebrate by making love to the Joker for several hours, or days, maybe, but after that, he'd enjoy her company. She was his best friend after all, crushes on homicidal sideshow acts aside. Nigma, Isley, and Tetch might not be too happy about being left behind, but they couldn't be too upset about it. Crane knew they'd break out if given the chance, others with them or not.
His thoughts were broken by the sudden realization that they were not heading in the direction of Harley's cell, nor anywhere near it. Actually, Joker was taking them the opposite way. "Where are we going?"
"Out. Don'tcha remember?" Joker asked, pulling him through a side door. It was marked 'Emergency Exit Only: Alarm Will Sound' in red warning letters, but no alert went off. He wasn't surprised, just a little disgusted that the security system could be brought down by one psychopath so easily.
"What about Harley?"
The Joker shrugged. "What about her?" Off Crane's incredulous look, he added, "Oh, come off it. I won't be requiring her services for this particular plan, okay?"
"Services? But Har—she's your—she loves you," he stammered. He knew the Joker was willing to use, abuse, and discard anyone and everyone stupid enough to get involved with him, but he'd thought the clown must have some feeling for Harley. He had sex with her often enough, anyway. Clearly, he was wrong.
"So? Her mistake." They were heading off across the parking lot, the Joker's eyes looking blacker than ever in the night, almost like gaping sockets. "Besides, she'll forgive me in five seconds. All I gotta do is distract her with something sparkly."
Crane shook his head, disgusted. Not so much at the Joker's behavior; after the initial shock, he had to admit that was typical of him. Rather, it was revulsion that he was absolutely right about Harley. It depressed him to think that his friend was a hopeless, codependent doormat, but it was true. Fighting back a sigh, and wondering how he let himself be talked into this madness, he slid into the passenger's seat of a car the Joker was hotwiring.
The clown took the driver's seat a few minutes later, his gloves smeared with grease from messing around under the hood. As they careened through the parking lot and onto the streets, Crane's curiosity got the best of him and he had to ask. "What do you need me for anyway?"
"You're always all business, ya know that?" Joker sighed. "I'll tell ya one thing, it wasn't for your conversation."
Crane closed his eyes and counted backwards from ten. And then did it again, in Latin. "So what was it for?"
"I'll tell ya later." Managing to sense the glare he was being given without turning his head, he added, "I don't like laying all my cards on the table at once, sorry."
The sleeves on the straitjacket were starting to slip down over his hands again. Crane pushed them back, giving the scars on his hands a brief glance. "In that case, what incentive do I have to stay with you? If you've nothing to offer me, what's to keep me from leaving as soon as you're distracted?"
"I gotta bribe ya?" He smirked. "In that case, how about this?" He took one hand from the wheel, reaching into his pocket, and pulling out what Crane took for a second to be a burlap sack, before recognizing it.
"My mask?" He bit his lips to keep from smiling. Crane wasn't like the Joker, who screamed bloody murder every time his make up was removed, but he did feel more at ease with the mask. He didn't even have to wear it; just the feel of the fabric in his hand was enough to remind him of the power he could hold over others. Still, it was easily replaceable. "You expect me to do whatever you want because of that?"
"Not just that." The Joker shook the mask, an odd rattling coming from inside. "I brought something else." He dropped the mask on the armrest between them, reaching inside and pulling out a prescription bottle of multi-colored pills. "Figured ya might want these. A lot."
Well, there went the idea of running away. The antipsychotics, unlike the mask, were not replaceable, and certainly could not be abandoned unless he wanted to go back to the state of paralyzing fear his brain had been wired to ever since he overdosed on his own toxin, years ago. Damn it. Knowing he was defeated but not wanted to admit it, he retorted, "I could always break into Arkham and get more of those."
"Ya could," the Joker conceded, driving in such a way that the car was on the sidewalk for a moment, "but I don't think ya will. No offense, scaredy cat, but you've never been as good at breaking and entering as I have, and after this little, uh, incident, they'll tighten security. Again. Besides," he added, shaking the bottle in his hand, "You're a reactive force, Jonny."
He blinked. "What?"
"A reactive force. See, me, I'm active. I go out and blow things up for the fun of it. You, on the other hand, do things in response to others. Someone pisses ya off, so you poison 'em and record the results. Or attack the Batman because he interfered with your operation. But ya don't seek him out just because ya can. You're reactive, so ya wouldn't want to break into Arkham unless ya absolutely had to. It's not your style."
Crane frowned. "I'm sorry, are you trying to psychoanalyze me?"
"If by trying ya mean succeeding, then yeah. I guess I am. Anyway, I'm hanging onto these—" he rattled the pills again "—to insure that ya don't do anything stupid. And I'll explain what you're here for when I'm in the mood to do so. Got it, kitten?"
"I said, got it?"
"I know that." Crane stared, still stunned. "I meant the bit after that."
"What, kitten?" Joker repocketed the pills, but left the mask between them. Crane picked it up, resisting the urge to hug it to his chest as if clinging to the last shred of normalcy in his world. "It's a new nickname I made up for ya. I, uh, tend to do that a lot, ya know."
"Yes, but why kitten?" He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer, but couldn't help but ask. Crane supposed he was a masochist at heart.
"It's from scaredy cat. Cat, kitten, see?"
"You're giving me nicknames for nicknames now?"
They rode in silence for a minute, before the Joker began whistling. Oh, this is going to be all sorts of fun, Crane thought, sighing inwardly, as the car sped through the night.
So, what did you think? Love it, hate it, didn't care? Fine, just please review and let me know!
Oh, and "Kitten" is an homage to Cillian Murphy's character in the lovely film Breakfast on Pluto. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's great and Cillian is absolutely fantastic in it.