A/N: So...this is a sequel to Methods of Insanity. (Though, for the record, you can read this one as a stand-alone. I do allude to the previous one, but you'd be just fine without reading it.) One that I never expected to write, first of all, as at the conclusion of that first fic I had no ideas for a continuation or a sequel of any kind. Especially as Methods turned slashy on me and I had no idea as to how that relationship would turn out beyond the walls of Arkham. Still, I did leave it open, with Crane making plans to escape. But I never actually thought that I would write anything more with that particular story. And then, of course, things change. You can blame slantedwonders for that. Because she bought Mad Love, and I, naturally, stole it in order to read it. Which threw me right back into the Batman fandom. And after a few conversations with her all the ideas started coming up out of nowhere. Thus, this was born. Observations is different from Methods in the fact that it is longer (it's a two-shot), the style has changed a bit, the relationships are more complicated, etc. This first part is exposition and Crane's thoughts, while the second part is set more in the style of Methods with the interactions between Crane and others. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I really wish that I owned Batman, but alas, I do not.
Pairings: Crane/Joker, Crane/Batman, Crane/Harley, Harley/Joker, Joker/Batman (could I add any more? Haha. In case you haven't noticed, there are elements of slash to this, but they're subtle. Nothing more than a kiss, and it's more about attraction and obsession.)
Observations of the Clinically Insane
Dr. Jonathan Crane is surprised by how simple it actually is to escape from Arkham. He manages it less than a week after he decides on his course of action, and during the actual operation he is out and walking the streets in less than twenty minutes. No wonder Gotham is overrun by criminal activity, if it is that simple to break out of what is supposed to be a secure, maximum security insane asylum.
Of course, he is a genius, so perhaps it is not such an ordinary feat for the reams of lesser inmates. He's on a different level.
As is the person he seeks.
In the week that Crane has had to plan his escape he has also had time to examine his motivations for escape. At first he was reluctant to examine said motivations, perhaps fearing that they were founded on personal feelings. Now though, after he has taken the time, he has determined the true reasoning behind his sudden desires to escape. The motivation is simple and speaks to his core, and it is this: as an objective psychologist he cannot simply sit back and allow the most fascinating subject in probably the last century to remain unobserved. It is against all scientific principles.
He has already borne witness to the Joker's psychological abnormality, and he craves to further study the madman. No. It is a feeling beyond mere personal desire. It is his scientific duty. He can place himself in a position no other respectable psychologist would dare venture. He—Dr. Jonathan Scarecrow Crane—can peer into the mind of the Joker and, perhaps, remain unscathed.
Well, at least partially unscathed.
He prefers not to think of the consequences of what might happen if he draws too close to his subject, if he allows himself to become too involved. This is science, after all, even if the subject in question is a personal fascination of his.
He remembers the thrill of fear that being in the presence of the psychotic clown gives, and shoves it to the back of his mind. This is science, all science, and nothing more. Strictly observation, strictly in order to better understand a man who presents as a force of nature and chaos rather than a mortal terrorist.
Or, so he keeps telling himself. For a person so deep into the examination of the human psyche, Crane is mortal in his own personal denials.
On the outside, free of the constraints of Arkham, Crane finds himself wandering. Much of his life has been spent within the confines of that dark place, first as a doctor in control, then as a prisoner. This is, perhaps, the reason he has not attempted to escape since his return. He has no place to go. Crane lives a solitary life, wrapped in his work, in his madness, in the depths of the human mind. He exists in a place where the mind has control, where he twists the mind into a weapon more potent than any other.
And outside of Arkham, he has nowhere.
Yet the lure of his subject is enough to draw him out. He returns to his former apartment, just long enough to break in and remove the loose floor board and retrieve his stash of fear toxin and his extra mask, just long enough to leave the new owner of the apartment writhing and screaming on the floor. Then he's gone. Crane recedes, and Scarecrow lives.
Crane doesn't remember much of that time. He wakes on the cold floor of an unfamiliar, empty apartment, his muscles kinked and knotted, one hand clutching his mask. His stores of toxin are lower, and the news reports tell of attacks, of people screaming in fear of the unseen, of people whose hearts cease and falter from the overload of the mind. He knows he is responsible for these attacks, but this does not bother him. He accepts what he is, and his only regret is that he does not recall these moments; he regrets that the Scarecrow takes over and does allow his rational mind to raise enough to document and observe these experimentations in fear.
It is a passing regret, and soon he regains control. Scarecrow is part of himself, and he controls it, not the other way around.
Now, prepared, he goes in search of his subject.
The streets are rife with rumors about the Joker. Crane is interested—and pleased—with the response of common criminals to his presence. The minute they realize who, exactly, they are speaking to he sees that little light of fear strike up in their eyes. When he questions them as to their knowledge of the Joker the fear sparks higher. Interesting. Even the hint of the clown has an intriguing impact.
People tell him many things. According to rumor the Joker and his little pet Harley Quinn are taking Gotham by storm. According to rumor the Batman is beside himself, obsessed and bent to the task of capturing the Joker. The rumors say many things, and as they are coerced by fear, Crane knows that they are as true as possible. Still, none of these rumor mention where the clown is hiding. The madman seems to shift through the city like shadow, never remaining in the same place.
But Crane is a genius, and more than a little mad himself. If anyone can find the Joker, it is him.
He succeeds in his task. It takes time and patience and discipline. He is stalking a creature of pure flame, a mythological beast hiding within a human-shaped shell. Fortunately, those who enter into servitude are breakable, and they lead him straight to their master.
Now that he has found his subject he must play another game. Now he must watch, observe carefully and keenly, without revealing his presence, without becoming involved. He remembers clearly the Joker's touch—like fire on his skin—and he remembers the magnetism. It is simple to be drawn in, to allow himself to be sucked into the Joker's games. But he is a scientist. He will sit on the sidelines and observe. He will not go near enough to be burned.
He positions himself to observe without being seen. He is a ghost, haunting fire, lurking near chaos. And he watches.
The first time he actually sees the Joker, all the breath goes rushing out of him. That gaudy purple velvet suit, that greasy, greenish hair; that cracked white paint and bright, lurid, absurd smile. These elements themselves are ludicrous, comical even. There is no reason why, when combined together, they should form something so terrifying. One has but to glance at the Joker and feel that rush of horror, because this man, though wrapped in these absurd casings, is an incarnation of some ancient deity of darkness. Seeing him brings back the memories, brings back the instinctive rush of fear.
There aren't many things that frighten Crane, but the Joker's sheer presence does things to him that he doesn't even comprehend. And he is fascinated by that.
When he hears the Joker's voice he shivers. The cadence of the voice, the sing-song quality, the hysterical bought of laughter, and then that guttural growl of anger, of fury. He's not sure which the real voice is. One voice is the demon beneath the skin; the other is the clown, and he's not sure which voice is more disturbing. There's a duality to the clown's psyche, as though he is two persons and neither is any saner than the other.
Almost more fascinating—almost—than the Joker himself is what he does to the people around him. His henchmen live in fear of him. Their loyalty is ensured not by greed or from actual devotion, but rather from a basic survival instinct. Once in the service of the Joker there is no escape, except for death. And that death often comes at the hand of their master, so it is no wonder that most of the servants are insane beyond the point of rationality.
Harley Quinn—Har-lee Quinn—get it?—is another matter. Crane himself watched her descent. He watched her melt like putty, falling like a deer before a rabid wolf. He recognizes some of himself in Dr. Harleen Quinzel—a talented young psychologist, drawn to the madness. But there's a difference between them. Scarecrow is a manifestation of something within him, of his own deep-seeded madness, his own obsessions with fear and power and control. But Harley Quinn, the woman dressed in red and black with her face painted white and her lips painted redder than blood, she is a twisted creation of the Joker. Some of the madness is her own, yes, some of it is, but it would not have surfaced without the push. She is a creation; Crane is a manifestation.
He thinks that this is the reason why the Joker so quickly grows bored of her. Crane winces every time her high voice screeches out "Puddin'!" and he sees the Joker's wince and clenched jaw and suppressed growl. He's not surprised when the madman's irritation exhibits in physical violence. He backhands Miss Harley Quinn and sends her sprawling to the ground. He screams at her, abuses her. Hell, he pushes her off of a landing. It's a short drop, but it has to hurt all the same.
But Harley remains. Sometimes she runs off, tears in her eyes; sometimes she tries to leave. Always she returns. Because the Joker can be charming. He'll smile at her or caress her cheek gently, moments after he's hit her. He'll kiss her softly or say a kind word, or leave a rose on her bedside table, with a little note just for her. Crane sees the light in Harley's eyes when these things happen. It's faith, belief that he really does love her, foolish hope of a foolish little girl. Equally he sees the glimmer in the Joker's eyes, one that is familiar from his days of staring into the man's cell. It's all a game to the clown. Every soft word is a lie, a manipulation.
Crane is almost surprised by how damn good the madman is at manipulating. He shouldn't be surprised; he's felt those subtle manipulations himself. But it still surprises him at moments, to see the rational, logical, cold mind beneath the heat. It reminds him of how multi-faceted the man can be. Not that he needs reminding.
And then…then there is the Batman.
From the moment that the Joker was thrown back into his cell that first day Crane has knownof his obsession with the Bat. Granted, the Batman is a whole other psychological enigma, one that Crane would love to get his hands on. He would love to delve into the depths of a mind that drives someone to dress up like a bat and dive off of roofs. And the Joker seems to have the same kind of fascination. Batman is to the Joker what the Joker is to Crane; that puzzle that just needs to be solved.
Of course, the Joker doesn't want to solve the Batman. He seems to have an instinctive understanding of the Batman and instead wants to twist. He doesn't want to destroy the Bat. To the contrary, Crane detects a certain perverse adoration. The Joker wants to pull the Batman down, to deconstruct him to a point of depravity. "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."
When the Joker sits in his headquarters of the moment, pouring over sheets of paper, ignoring Harley, Crane sees his mouth move in an endless repetition. He can just barely making out the shape of the word that the red, grinning mouth makes over and over again: Batman.
The clown's dark eyes—Crane isn't sure what color they are, and makes a mental note to check at their next face to face meeting—lift and land on the window outside of which the good doctor lurks. Crane freezes, feeling the intensity of the gaze even through the glass and the space between them. There's a challenge in those eyes and the clown's perpetual grin sharpens. He feels like a butterfly pinned to a wall, unable to move, the fear coursing through him.
And then Crane moves backwards, away, and slips into the darkness. His heart pounds for blocks, and all the while he still feels that gaze, burning into him. He thinks that, perhaps, he should desist in his observations, lest he find himself in a dangerous position, lest he find himself the observee rather than the observer. It's a passing thought, and he doesn't give it heed.
He will return in the morning. He will always return.
On the second part of this: It's almost done. I've been stuck on it for a little while, but now I've started writing it again and I have only a few scenes left. With any hope it will be up tonight, but I'm not making any promises (since I always break them).
Remember that reviews are love! And they might just make the second part come faster (if you're lucky)! (And thank you to all of those who reviewed Methods. I can promise that you'll get a response this time around, should you review again!)