A/N: So, welcome to another one-shot! It's been a while since I've posted anything Batman related, but I hope this won't disappoint. This time I got to play around with one of my absolute favorite characters, Crane! And, of course, with the Joker, who is hella hard to write. I hope I've done at least an acceptable job at it, because it was hard. Like most thing I write, this turned into something completely different from what I had intended, but I like the finished product, and I hope you will too! Enjoy!
Warnings: Minor slash, but that's about it.
Disclaimer: Nothing about Batman will ever even remotely belong to me, unfortunately.
Methods of Insanity
When the manically laughing freak in a tattered purple suit is thrown into the cell next to his, Dr. Jonathan Crane, the respected psychopharmacologist turned mask-wearing terrorist, knows that the peace and quiet—spoken in relative terms, because Arkham is never quiet—is broken. As he lounges in his cell he examines the newest patient of Arkham Asylum with the keen, calculated gaze of a professional. That gaudy velvet suit that has seen better days, that greasy, vaguely green hair, the smeared face paint—red blurring into white in a grotesque smile; Crane takes all of this in.
And he is intrigued, almost immediately. He knows exactly who this man is, even though he has been out of the loop since he has been locked up. This man is unquestionably the Joker, and he certainly presents a kind of challenge, the kind that Crane longs to get his hands on.
The guards throw the psychotic clown into the cell and slam the door closed. The Joker grips the bars of his cell, sticking his face between the bars and continuing that laughter, smearing white across the iron bars. He reaches out a hand to grab one of the guards and is forced back by the blow of a night-stick. He pulls his arm against his chest and retreats to his bunk, plopping down on it, his laughter receding but that grin still overtaking his face.
His eyes jerk up and Crane almost recoils at the sheer insanity in those eyes. There is something primordial and chaotic in those dark pools, and if Crane weren't more than a little insane himself he would be begging the guards for a cell transfer.
As it is, he is even more intrigued. He wants to know what drives the forces that he finds swirling in that man's eyes.
"I know yooouu," the Joker practically sings, crossing over to the bars between his cell and Crane's. "You're the Scarecrow-man."
Crane smoothly raises an eyebrow, and though he doesn't move towards the psychotic clown he does shift a little, his body facing in that direction, his attention fully on the human version of chaos. "And you're the Joker." He replies, and the man's expression splits into that grotesque grin.
"Famous, am I?"
"You are in a madhouse."
The Joker cackles again, and the sound sends shivers down Crane's spine. He's done terrible things without flinching. In the name of science and experimentation he's turned himself into a monster—or perhaps that monster was always laying in wait beneath his skin—but this man, this demented clown, is different from anything that he's ever seen before.
And Crane is fascinated. But that rational part of his mind, that one that the monster can't quite destroy, that part is scared.
"The whole world is mad," the clown says, "we're just the ones who aren't afraid to show it."
Crane stares at him and retreats to the farthest corner of his cell, laying on his bunk with his back to the man, disquieted by how true that statement rings.
It is in the morning, when Crane awakens to find the Joker awake and staring into his cell, that he decides to make the madman his newest subject. He watches as the guards move hesitantly into the cell, bristling with weapons and syringes, while the Joker just grins and grins and grins. It takes six guards to finally subdue the man, and that is only after one guard is unconscious on the floor, having been stabbed by a syringe, and another is screaming, a needle sticking out of his eye.
It is the fluidity with which the Joker moves that captivates Crane. The sheer violence, the sheer power, the lack of hesitation. Watching him Crane knows that he is witnessing a creature that is not fully human, a man who is somehow, undeniably, more.
Insane, yes. But still somehow beyond mortal.
When they throw the Joker back into his cell it is a new creature that Crane faces. The purple suit is gone, replaced by the same orange jumpsuit that Crane wears and hates. The face paint is gone but that grotesque grin is still there; the scars are unsightly, and though Crane has seen worse they still make him uncomfortable. It is a permanent parody of an expression. The green tint to the Joker's hair is still there, and it makes him look rather like there is mold growing on his head. It would be comical, but it isn't. Nothing about the man is comical, except in the most ironic and horrifying ways.
The Joker finally wakes through the fog of the sedative the guards had pushed into his veins, and when he sits up he looks straight at Crane, his smile huge.
"Know what I did?" He says, his voice filled with pride.
"What?" Crane asks, playing along. He wants to talk to the man, to see if he can get anything substantial out of the insane ramblings.
The Joker's terrible grin widens and he curls his hands around the bars between their cells, pressing his face against the cold metal, distorting his face a little. "See, I pushed ole Harvey over the edge. Got him to crack. Just gave him a little push and he fell right into our little world, see Dr. Scarecrow?" He giggles—giggles, like a school-girl, the sound high-pitched and disturbing. "And now poor little Harvey Dent is dead, and everyone's blaming poor old Batsy."
Crane recoils a little. He doesn't really give a damn about Harvey Dent, but the Batman…now that is interesting.
"'Course, Batsy didn't kill Harvey. He couldn't have. That's one of his rules." He seems absurdly delighted by the notion of rules, clapping his hands together in what appears to be delight. "Oh, but he'll break it, before the end. He's no different from us, Batsy, just as soon as he gets past that stubborn little rule of his. And he will, oh he will."
Crane surveys him, tilting his head a little to the side. "Do you really think that the Batman can be corrupted?"
The Joker's eyes gleam. "Anyone can be corrupted, Dr. Scarecrow-man. All you need is a little push, and gravity does the rest. A'course, we might need to push old Batsy out of a plane…but they all fall eventually. Oh, do they all fall."
"Who are you?"
For once the Joker has been silent, and Crane finally breaks, asking the question that has been hovering over him for days. The other man sits up, tilting his head to the side, his mouth tugging in a grin that never seems to be too far away.
"Who are yooou?" He sings back, and Crane frowns.
"I'm Dr. Jonathan Crane—," he says, but the Joker cuts him off with a sharp shake of the head, interrupting.
"No you're not. You're the Scaarecroow. You can't trick me. I see who you really are."
Crane falls silent for a moment, but then presses on. "Fine. I'm the Scarecrow. But who are you?"
The other man holds up his hands, as though showing off an amazing wonder. "Why, the Joker, of course!"
"I mean, who are you really? What's your real name? You weren't born the Joker, you became him."
The Joker tilts his head to the other side. "Are you so sure, Dr. Scarecrow? Aren't we born to be who we are?"
He hesitates. "Well, one theory suggests that yes, our personalities are predetermined, but…you weren't born a psychotic killer with a penchant for wearing makeup. Something drove you to become that."
The Joker cackles. "Maybe I wasn't born at all. Maybe I just sprang into existence. Maybe…," he trails off, and then his grin takes a nasty edge. He walks to the bars between them, and Crane takes an automatic step backwards. The Joker giggles and then crooks a finger at him, beckoning him forward. Every instinct tells Crane to do anything but move towards the other man, but curiosity drives him forward. He steps, moving within an arm's length of the Joker.
And he immediately knows that it is the wrong move, when those hands lash out and grab him, pulling him firmly against the bars. A cry escapes him, a call for help to the guards. Either they are out of earshot or they just don't give a damn about what happens to him, because everything is silent except for the sound of his own choked breathing and that of the Joker. A hand wraps itself around his throat and holds him, fingers crushing his larynx.
"Did I ever tell you how I got these scars?" The Joker asks, his eyes gleaming, his head turning to show off the horrid markings. "See," he begins, "there was this psychologist I went to 'cause I was real depressed. Nosy fella, always pokin' and proddin' at where he didn't belong. But I was real blue and I would prattle on and on 'bout how I was always so sad, see? Well one day I guess it just got to be too much for him, 'cause he just snapped. Picked up a letter opener on his desk and grabbed a hold of me." The Joker's hand on his throat tightens and Crane's vision goes a little blurry. "And he stuck the sharp end of that letter opener in my mouth, like this," he says, as he forces one thumb into Crane's mouth, holding it at the corner of his lips. "And he says to me why so serious? and then he cuts," the thumb in his mouth pulls, the short nail digging into his lip, and he feels his skin stretch. "He cuts this here smile onto my face," the Joker says, still pulling, and Crane can feel his lips crack, "so that I can't ever frown again."
And with that the hand around his throat loosens and the thumb is pulled from his mouth and Crane drops to the ground, gasping for air, his hands flying to his throat. He scrambles away from the bars, retreating to the safety of his bed, where he sits and stares at the Joker.
"Funny, ain't it?" The Joker says, as though he is talking about the weather rather than a horrendous—and false—story.
And then he sits on his bed and faces the wall and hums, while Crane stares at his back and touches his bleeding lips, shaking the whole time. Finally he gathers himself and spits, trying to rid himself of the salty taste of the other man's skin.
He can still feel the Joker's hands on him, like first-degree burns on his skin.
Jonathan Crane is drawn to madness. He knows it, studies it, worships it even. Insanity and the complete control of the mind over the body is what his entire being centers around. And the Joker is fascinating, more fascinating than any other patient he has ever encountered.
And more frightening as well.
He keeps his distance now, leaving space between himself and the other man, so that there is always an arms-length between them, vowing that he will never let himself be caught in that iron-grip again. But the bars don't keep his eyes away, and his gaze is always, always on the man with the green-tinted hair.
He isn't the only one that watches either. The Joker is like a flame, dancing, glittering, luring the people around him in as though they were petty little moths. Crane resists the lure, but barely. He's still burning from the last time he got too close; now he's wary, but still he watches. The moment he lets his guard drop he knows that he'll be pulled in, sucked right into that vortex of chaos. Others don't have his kind of restraint; he has a front row seat as the pretty new doctor—Dr. Harleen Quinzel—falls prey to him. "Harleen Quinzel, hmm? Har-leen Quin-zel, Har-lee Quinn—get it? Harlequin!" The Joker cackles.
Crane sees the fear in the doctor's eyes when she first sees the Joker; the fear is only more apparent after her first session with him. But the fear fades and changes and shift, because he sucks her in. It's still there, always still there, but it's too far buried for her to listen to it. He twists her, changes her; he's oh-so-good at manipulation, and she's like a little doll in his hands. He doesn't even need to touch her; never lays a single hand on her, but twists her all the same. He has that power, and that scares Jonathan as much as it intrigues him. He makes her into his little plaything, hinging on his every word, captivated by him, half in love with him and mad all the way through.
And Crane wonders—if he could do that to her, what could he do to him? What if he is being twisted, little by little, inch by inch, and he doesn't even realize it? What if the Joker is reeling him in, little by little drawing him towards the flame?
What if he is just another little moth, waiting to be devoured?
In the dead of night, the Joker escapes. Crane wakes as the key rattles in the lock; he sits up, peering through the darkness, and stares at the woman dressed in red and black as she giggles and giggles. She hands the Joker a gaudy velvet suit and a can of white face paint; Crane watches as the Joker is reborn into a terrifying incarnation.
It's fascinating, as he smears the white paint over his face, as he draws that sardonic grin over his scars. And he laughs.
Oh, he laughs.
Before he and Harley Quinn—Har-lee Quinn—get it?—make their escape off into the night the Joker presses his face against the bars of Crane's cell. He crooks his finger at him, summoning, and despite himself Crane presses forward. As he expects the Joker's arm lashes out, grabbing him by the collar and pulling him forward. The Joker's red-stained lips press right against his ear, and the hot breath makes him shiver.
"The world could use a little more madness, Scare-crow." He whispers. Then those red lips press over his for an instant, hot as fire and Crane is the moth burning. Then the Joker is gone with a cackle in the night, leaving a smear of white on the bars of Crane's cell.
Crane stares and stares and sinks into a shaky crouch. Finally he stands, straightening his back, and wipes his lips with the back of his hand, his skin coming away red. With calculating eyes his fingers touch the white smear on the bars; then he retreats and returns to his bed and stares up at the ceiling. He closes his eyes and tries to sleep.
His lips still burn.
When sleep won't come he plots his escape, planning with the cold, logical part of his mind. He doesn't question his motives for escaping; he doesn't want to.
He just wants to burn.
Well, that was fun! What did you think? Reviews are love!