Disclaimer: He wants nothing to do with me.

Author's Note: The tense shifts are deliberate, but if they're not effective then please let me know. Likewise with clarity.

Aftereffects

Several months after the Narrows attack, Dr. Crane stands before a mirror. It is dirty but not cracked. Rust creeps unevenly up the bottom to consume left while tainting right. Flecks splatter across his warped reflection. He feels dirty. He feels tired.

A newspaper photograph taped against the pane reveals somebody else entirely. Corrupt official, freshly caught—snapped here in his straightjacket. Terrified and disheveled as once respectable men are terrified and disheveled. He'd wet himself that night. Tormented by devils and hags and boys with cigarettes, he'd wet himself. The Gotham Times neglected to explain what kind of man led a terrorist plot before changing into clean underwear. He wasn't even collected enough to manage that until six days later, and by then had to deal with a resultant illness. Scarecrow walks the streets indeed.

He'd committed his first (or was it second?) murder for shelter. An old woman's home, deep in the slums where brainless panic reigned supreme. He'd been too raw at the time for studying, could not observe properly while fantasy fused with reality like some animal in heat. Maybe she wasn't old. Maybe she wasn't a woman. Maybe she wasn't even alive. But when Jonathan discovered spare keys and made his way in, he found it waiting.

Blood came and later vanished. Bodies moved out of sight, out of memory. Photographs were tossed, clothes burned, and all soul stripped from that lifeless husk he had stolen. The act itself was a blur of strangulation or stabbing or gunshots or fires. Imaginary ravens pecked at his vomit, and Jonathan huddled under Grandmother's quilt for days or hours after. Sweating. Shaking. Starving. He'd expected death.

Instead he found himself rifling through medicine cabinets, taking pills and cleaning injuries. It was the rational thing to do. It was the only thing to do. Proceed through motions, dig up something to eat, wash, sleep. Keep moving. Lock the doors. Fill each moment with routine, reduce brain fever, breathe deep and slow. Remember how to be a psychologist. Remember to reason.

So the Scarecrow returned in late-October, struggling to inject business back into Gotham's dying drug trade. It was an occasion to make up for lost time and live again. Provide a little pot, smatter crack, scatter heroine—but lace it up tight. In a way he was doing good, scaring addicts off their habits. If it got him new subjects then so much the better.

He reaches for his mask. The burlap is rough, layered, heavy. Jonathan feels strangely relieved underneath. As if he's being held together unevenly at the seams, but will never come completely undone. An ugly thing to look at. A monster to behold.

It is time to play.