AN: Sorry for how long this story's been delayed! My first week back from college was insanely hectic—two college graduations in two days, helping shelve books at a new library, and readjusting to my summer job with a ten hour shift—and whenever I sat down to write, some sort of delay was always there to prevent itself. I started writing this five days ago, with the intent of publishing it that very day. Yeah, that happened.
This is the next installment in my now-seven fic long series, and if you haven't read at least the story before this one, Shadow Selves, it probably won't make that much sense to you. For those who have read the previous fics, this one takes place about two years after the end of Shadow Selves.
As always, reviews are appreciated!
The radio switched from classic rock to static.
In the corner of his eye, Bruce registered Jonathan's hand on the dial. His partner's wrist turned slightly, and the static became pop. Another turn, and back to static. Bruce returned his focus to the highway, following Jonathan's progress through the bursts of white noise and song. "Looking for something?"
"Weather report," Jonathan muttered.
The rain was drizzling. It had been for the past hour, and from the look of the clouds in the distance, it was going to continue that way, just barely strong enough to require the windshield wipers. Even that was due more to the speed of the car than the force of the rain. True, there was always the possibly that they were driving into a storm and even after two years of therapy, Jonathan was nothing if not neurotic, but Bruce doubted his fiddling with the radio was out of genuine fear at the weather.
The fear of returning to Georgia was more than enough.
He fell silent as Jonathan continued to search the stations. They were hours from Gotham and by extension the stations Bruce was familiar with, but he would have stayed silent even if he did know where to dial for a weather broadcast. If shuffling through static and music fragments provided Jonathan with any release of tension, Bruce was willing to block out the sound. He glanced at the passenger side again, eyes falling on the map resting on the dashboard. "Are we close to the exit?"
"We're barely in Kentucky, Bruce."
They could have flown. It had been Bruce's original plan when Joan had approved of the excursion and had they done it, they would have been in Atlanta by now. But Jonathan had protested, shaking and begging and practically in tears. He hated planes, he said, and he'd rather not go at all than go by flight. Given the flights he'd taken to conferences as a doctor—which, according to Joan, he'd never complained about—Bruce was inclined to think that the problem wasn't the plane at all, but the speed at which it traveled. Jonathan wanted to delay arriving in Georgia as long as possible, like a child who knew a shot was waiting in the exam room making a trip to the restroom three times as long as it needed to be.
Not that he could fault Jonathan for that, considering the memories that Georgia held.
Jonathan had given up on the radio, it seemed. He'd leaned back, feet on the edge of his seat while his knees rested against the dashboard. His arms were crossed tightly around himself and, even for someone who'd spent over a year locked up, he was pale. "I—are you hungry?" Jonathan didn't look hungry. Actually, he looked as if introducing food into his system would make him sick all over the floor.
"Not particularly. Are you?" Bruce hoped he hadn't mistaken hunger for debilitating fear, given that all the restaurant signs for the upcoming exit had been advertising fast food. Granted, he'd never gotten the opportunity to take Jonathan on a dinner date, but considering how thin the man was even before the added stress of being committed, Bruce doubted he was the type to enjoy a double quarter pounder with cheese.
"No." Jonathan shifted his legs away from the dashboard, drawing them closer to his body. Definitely not hungry. Between his chalky white complexion and pained expression, Bruce would have guessed carsickness in anyone else.
"I don't want to eat there." Bruce knew what he meant without asking, but Jonathan clarified anyway. "In Arlen."
"We'll stop before that." They were still a good nine hours away. They'd have to. "And the hotel's in Plains, remember?"
"They're two small towns right next to each other." Jonathan brought his hand to his mouth and, having already chewed off as much nail as he could without drawing blood, bit at his knuckles. "I'd rather not be stuck in a diner with a bunch of curious locals who might remember Mary Keeny's illegitimate great-grandson." He pulled his hand away. "Or anyone I went to high school with."
"We'll have to eat at some point while we're there."
Jonathan's expression indicated that he thought otherwise. True, both of them had gone long stretches without food at one point or another in their lives, but it wasn't an experience Bruce was about to repeat. "If someone recognizes you, you can always tell them they're mistaken."
"I don't lie well. Especially not when I'm nervous."
Scarecrow did, though Bruce didn't mention that. He'd stopped bringing Scarecrow up in conversation months ago, unless Jonathan was the one to introduce it or Scarecrow himself surfaced. It wasn't that they were merging—for all that had been accomplished in two years, Joan hadn't even attempted that—only that Scarecrow, while not actively fighting the therapy, was the one who carried the most doubt and fear about it. The one who, as he'd once confessed to Bruce, was terrified at the thought of disappearing and would be just as happy hiding in Wayne Mansion forever as he would be with legitimate release. And besides that, as the therapy progressed Scarecrow's appearances had become less frequent, and Bruce didn't want to alter what appeared to be their natural dynamic. "You were convincing when you told your friends how we met, weren't you?"
Jonathan leaned to the right, resting his head against the passenger window. "I still don't know how anyone fell for that."
The official story of how they met, which they had related to Joan, his friends, and the rest of the Arkham staff, and which would be told to the press whenever the story leaked, didn't mention Batman or imprisonment or the Joker's involvement. There was must less emotional torment and much more "Bruce Wayne, Idiot Playboy," though much of Bruce's part of the story involved far more compassion than one would expect an idiot playboy to have. Jonathan was never sure how it had fooled anyone.
The official story, as Bruce had instructed him when they snapped out their mutual bliss at being reunited, realized they were surrounded by Jonathan's very curious friends, and all but ran for the privacy of the visitor's room, was that they had met on the night Bruce disappeared from Veronica Vreeland's fundraiser. Apparently Jonathan had been living on the streets since his escape and by that night was out of his medications and out of his mind. Apparently Bruce had consumed more than his fair share of alcohol at Veronica's and as such had decided that parking his car at the start of South Loomis and looking for the twins' apartment on foot to properly thank them for assisting Vicki Vale was a perfectly fine idea. Apparently they had met when a disoriented Jonathan, scarred from self-inflicted wounds, ran directly into the Prince of Gotham, and rather than walking away quickly, said prince decided to engage him in conversation.
"I mean, he didn't look dangerous or anything," Bruce had explained to a dumbstruck Joan Leland. "He said—well, he said a lot of stuff, but most of it made no sense—he said his name was Crane, but I didn't think it was that Crane, you know? I figured someone who specialized in poisoning people would be hiding in a lab somewhere, not out on the street talking to himself."
Bruce, in direct contrast to his usually narcissistic public façade—again, Jonathan had no idea how this story had held up under scrutiny—had tried to call an ambulance, but Jonathan had panicked so badly at the thought of returning to a hospital that Bruce gave up trying to call 911 for fear of giving him a heart attack. Instead, he went with the next best solution: bringing the madman to his house.
Joan had stared at him for a good five minutes after that statement before she could muster up the words to reply. "And you…that…that struck you as a good idea?"
"Better than letting him run around by himself, yeah. At least there he had his wounds disinfected. And my butler kept all the sharp stuff locked up."
"You weren't at all worried about letting a delusional stranger into your house?" There had been a part of Joan's stare that suggested she thought Bruce Wayne would make a fascinating case study, but for the most part it was buried under the rest of her expression, which questioned how someone so stupid wasn't dead several times over.
Bruce had only shrugged. "He seemed more dangerous to himself than anyone else."
So Jonathan had ended up in Wayne Manor where, upon attempting to wash his clothes, Alfred had found the empty prescription bottles in his coat pocket. Between the "Arkham Asylum" emblazoned at the top of the label and the "Crane, J" at the bottom, the butler had put two and two together and determined that their houseguest was that Jonathan Crane.
"He wanted me to call the police then and there," Bruce had recounted. "Which was the smart thing to do, I guess. But Crane just seemed so…I don't know, sad. He was completely out of it, and he wasn't at all like I expected this guy who'd poisoned the city to be. And I thought about all the times he'd broken out, and decided that I wanted to convince him to go back and stay back."
With that decision, Bruce had used some not-so-legal methods to get Jonathan's antipsychotics and, once he was somewhat lucid, persuaded him to return.
"And you managed that how?" Joan had asked. For the first time, her tone had suggested utter disbelief, not just shock.
"I offered him a job once he was released."
Bruce hadn't known it was possible for someone's jaw to drop that low while it was still in the socket.
"What? He's a genius, isn't he? I mean, I wouldn't ask him to create weaponized hallucinogens. It's just that he doesn't have a lot of other job prospects."
So with that offer dangling over his head, and hours more of persuasion, Bruce Wayne had finally talked him into returning, provided they stopped at his latest apartment for his books on the way back. It was the version he'd recounted to Joan, and it was the version Jonathan recounted to his friends. It was somewhat easier for Jonathan to tell, because the story from his perspective involved being out of touch with reality to a far larger degree. And even then, they still stared as though he'd explained the entire thing in French and backwards.
"Bruce Wayne took you to his mansion," Nigma had said. Jonathan couldn't tell whether or not it was a question. He'd nodded without further comment, hoping they'd take his silence now—and in the days prior—as a sign that he was still adjusting to the medications which, according to Bruce's story, he'd only had for about two weeks.
"And he cared enough to get you illegal meds?" Isley had asked. Of all his friends, she was the most protective and the most suspicious, and a nod wouldn't work to dissuade her.
He had nodded, however, though he amended it with an answer. "He's not as self-absorbed as the press makes him out to be. He was nice."
Isley didn't look convinced, but she did look as though she was entertaining the opportunity. Everyone expected socialites to be drug users anyway, so perhaps it wasn't too far out of the question to assume that Bruce would be used to obtaining illegal prescriptions.
Harley had returned to the rec room once the visit with Bruce was over, as the Joker had become so incensed—presumably at the knowledge that the Batman was in the building, though it had gone over Harley's head—that he'd been removed from the wheelchair and placed back into his cell. The others had filled her in during that time, and she'd listened to Jonathan's story in silence, with the look of calm concentration he'd seen so long ago in their sessions. "So this billionaire playboy brought you back to his house when you were too out of it to spell your own name, got you drugs after he found out you almost destroyed the city, offered you a job, and then hugged you when he came to visit?"
Damn it. She chose the worst times to become analytical. Jonathan had only nodded, too frozen with fear to come up with any plausible excuses.
He'd been sitting at the time, and she'd reached down to ruffle his hair. "Good for you, Jonathan. Why don't you see if you can persuade him to use some of that fortune to get this place a new paint job?"
Watching Harley's mind snap had been one of the worst moments in his life, but Jonathan had to admit that sometimes her insanity had its advantages.
There were no hotels in Arlen, or even bed and breakfasts, not that Jonathan would have stayed in one even if there had been. Bruce couldn't imagine that a place as small as Plains would have need for any either, if not for the fact that the town was home to a former president. The Plains Inn itself was only half inn, half antique mall, but it was large enough to have seven suites, each furnished in accordance with a different decade, ranging from the twenties to the eighties.
"Why the forties?" Jonathan asked.
Bruce shut the door behind them, examining their surroundings. The inn's webpage had said each suit was "authentically furnished," and from what he'd seen so far, that was true. He wouldn't have minded a closer look at commons area, but Jonathan's fear of conversation hadn't lessened in the slightest over the course of the drive, and he'd all but cut off the circulation to Bruce's hand trying to drag him away from the reception desk. Maybe he could slip downstairs tonight, when Jonathan was sleeping. "Zorro."
Jonathan turned away from the framed newspaper he'd been studying. "What?"
"The Mark of Zorro. 1940. It was always my favorite Zorro movie."
Judging by Jonathan's look, he'd either never seen or never appreciated the masked crusader. "I'll introduce you to films when we get back. Is there something wrong with the forties?"
"No." Jonathan laid his jacket at the foot of one of the beds and frowned at the Bible sitting on the bedspread. "I like the forties. Just curious."
Bruce sat on the opposite bed and gave the room a long glance that ended at the nightstand. "They've even got a rotary phone."
"We used to have one of those." Jonathan had been halfway through the act of relocating the Bible to the nightstand drawer, but he paused long enough to run his fingers over the dial. "We didn't have a touch-tone until I was in junior high, and that was only because the numbers wore off of the rotary." His faint smile faded almost as soon as it had appeared; his hand all but slammed the drawer shut. "She didn't buy things unless she absolutely had to."
He didn't need to ask who "she" was. Bruce only nodded, leaving it up to Jonathan to continue the conversation if he wanted.
He didn't. Jonathan straightened and moved around the room, giving every object a scrutinizing glance until it met his approval and he moved on. Bruce stood, tried to ignore his stiffness from the thirteen-hour car trip, and followed after. "I don't suppose you want to mingle in the lounge?"
Jonathan looked as though Bruce had just suggested slaughtering and cooking his pet horse though to his credit, his verbal reaction only consisted of a tightly spoken, "I think we're the only ones here."
"There's always the staff."
"I'd rather not."
"Okay." He titled his head to the side and winced at the crack that reverberated down his neck. Even the cramped space of the Tumbler didn't make him this rigid. Though he didn't want to imagine what thirteen hours inside of that would feel like. Upon recovery, he took his cell phone from his pocket and handed it to Jonathan. "You should call Joan and let her know we're here."
"I'll be in the shower."
The bathroom was furnished in the same style, complete with an antique bathtub and toilet. Bruce was almost tempted to stealth his way into one of the earlier decade suites, just to see if their toilets had the elevation cistern and pull-chain of the time period. Easier said than done, considering that his lock picks were in the car—not that he planned to pick anything, but it never hurt to be prepared—and that, at the moment, he had all the flexibility of a I-beam. Bruce opted for a bath over a shower. The tub was nowhere near the size of his own—which could double as a kiddie pool, if he was ever so inclined or needed to entertain children—but it was large enough, and being submerged in warm water was his current idea of paradise.
Around five minutes later, when the water was drawn and he'd slid into it, Jonathan knocked on the door.
The door opened and his partner stepped inside, toothbrush and toothpaste in hand. "Joan wants us to call when we're—"
That was as far as he got, because that was the moment when he saw Bruce in bath and at that point the English language seemed to fail him and he could only stare, paler than ever and just this side of gaping.
"Jonathan?" Bruce hadn't forgotten the man's violent reaction to baths—he couldn't, just as the dry cleaners couldn't remove the vomit stain from his pants—but they'd hadn't discussed it in two years' time and he hadn't realized that the sight of a bath alone could incite fear. And given that jumping up, naked and drenched, wouldn't help matters in the least, he could only hope that Jonathan wouldn't react as adversely as he did when it was his own body in the water. "Are you all right?"
Jonathan stepped back as though the bath would draw him in if he didn't distance himself from it. "I thought you were taking a shower."
"Decided against it."
Bruce had expected a smart remark about stating the obvious; for all the strides Jonathan had made in communicating openly, his sarcasm was biting as ever. But Jonathan only nodded and remained in place, his purpose in entering the bathroom forgotten.
"What did Joan want?"
"For us to call her. Tomorrow. Before and after we…go places." He turned even whiter at the mention of the next day's activities. Between that and the water, it was a wonder that he hadn't fainted. "I'm—I'll just brush my teeth once you're done." He raised his hand—Bruce couldn't tell if he was brushing his hair back or blocking his view of the bathtub—and turned for the door.
He stopped. His hand lowered, though he didn't look at Bruce. There was no shaking or hyperventilating. He had once said that Joan had taught him methods to better handle fear, and sometimes they worked. "Yes?"
"It's only water." As if that would reassure him after his traumatic experiences. Way to go, Bruce. Why don't you buy him a crow next and tell him "it's only a bird"? "I mean, she's not—it can't hurt you. Not now."
Jonathan cleared his throat. He opened his mouth and Bruce watched his lips move in profile, as if to speak, but he closed it again without a word and was out the door before Bruce could amend his words.
Great. We're off to a fantastic start. Bruce was at a loss for what had been going on in Joan's mind when she approved this.
"You want to what?"
Joan had been wearing her turquoise blouse with the pleated sleeves. Something about the fabric sparkled when the light caught it and it was, in Jonathan's opinion, the nicest shirt he'd ever seen her in. It would seem Joan had agreed, because she'd spoken to the board about transferring Jonathan to outpatient services that morning, and that was what she'd chosen to wear as she addressed them. She'd been sitting behind her desk with his file in hand, expecting him to be overjoyed that they were willing to hold a hearing in support of his release. She hadn't been expecting his request, obviously.
"I want to go back to Georgia," he'd repeated, struggling to keep eye contact. Joan was usually skilled at keeping her expression neutral. True, he'd always felt she was condescending toward him, but after sessions upon sessions regarding defense mechanisms and reaction formation, Jonathan was at least ninety percent certain that had been paranoia on his part, due to traumatic past experiences. Probably. But the look on her face was anything but ambiguous, and it clearly said Are you insane? "Not to stay there. Just…I think I need to. Before I can let it go."
She'd still look shocked, but at least she wasn't staring as though he'd just declared himself to be Napoleon Bonaparte. "Jonathan, I don't know if—"
"I wouldn't go alone, Joan." He'd tried not to bite his nails or pull at his hair. Nothing that would seem neurotic. Such minor neuroses paled in comparison to the behaviors that had landed him here, of course, but when a mental patient who, at current, was legally confined to an institution was asking permission for anything, it helped to look as sane as possible.
You think birds are tearing your skin off when you go without medication and you put poison in the water mains, Scarecrow had pointed out. I think biting your nails is the least of our problems.
It all adds up. "You could go with me," he'd added. "Or another doctor, if you don't have the time. I wouldn't go without supervision. I—I just need to see that place again. I need—closure, I guess. I don't know. I just need it to put it behind me."
She had softened at that. They'd talked about Arlen in his sessions, of course. Much as he hated it, discussing just how he'd conceived the theories of fear and its applications was as important as making him understand why such applications were illegal and unethical, and dredging up his past, his great-grandmother's power through fear, and that of his classmates, was a necessary evil. But recounting his experiences in the aviary and trying not to be sick in the telling was different than seeing that place and knowing—witnessing—that the crows were gone and they wouldn't be back. He had to adjust to those fears before he could hope to really give up the obsession. Talking could only do so much. "Jonathan, I understand, but you know better than any patient how full our schedules are—"
"What about Bruce?" He'd recognized that as a mistake a split second after he'd asked it, as that was just his luck.
Joan had frowned. She knew—everyone knew, after two years of steady visits—that there was more to his relationship with Bruce Wayne than that of a billionaire playboy and a prospective employee, and it would be a discredit to her intelligence to assume that she didn't know what. She'd never outright asked what it was, or tried to limit Bruce's visits, but she'd never seemed fond of him. Presumably, she decided that having someone on Jonathan's side, with the money and devotion to argue for his rights, was better than nothing. "I don't think that's appropriate, Jona—"
"Nothing would happen. I promise." Nothing of that nature had happened in the past two years he'd been committed. It couldn't be that hard to abstain for a few days out of state, as long as Scarecrow didn't give Bruce's hands any long, loving glances. Absence made the heart grow fonder, not the libido. Not in his case. "I'd call you every hour if you wanted. We could stay in separate rooms, or fly down and just spend a day there. I'd do anything that makes you feel comfortable with it."
"Please, Joan." In two years, they'd discussed etiquette more than a few times. A recurring lesson was that no matter how superior, intellectually or otherwise, he felt—or was, he'd insisted—to someone else, he had to be civil. He went along with it, albeit grudgingly, as he had in his youth, because it made life that much less hectic, but that was far from the case here. This wasn't an attempt to stay on her good side. It wasn't politeness. This was begging, and if losing his dignity got him to Georgia, then so be it. To think there was a time when he'd have sooner died than said please to his psychiatrist. "I need this. I'll do whatever it takes to make it work. Please."
She'd been on the verge of cutting him off, offering him some condolence before closing the subject altogether, but something in his voice or expression must have stalled her. There was a long pause—somehow, that was worse than an outright no—before Joan had cleared her throat. "Jonathan, I really don't think that the board will allow this—"
"—but I'll see what I can do."
It wasn't the first time he'd hugged her—relating past traumas in their sessions tended to lead to panic attacks, which meant Jonathan grabbing anyone or anything within his immediate arm span for security—but it was the first time he'd had to maneuver himself over a desk to do it. Joan had that shocked look again, but this time, he took it as pleasant surprise.
"These had better not knock me out." It wasn't until Bruce had popped the antihistamines into his mouth that he realized he'd left the water bottle in the car. Oh well. He could dry swallow even if he preferred not to, and the sooner he regained his ability to breathe through his nose, the better.
"It'd serve you right if they did." There was a smile on Jonathan's face, but judging from his tone, Bruce doubted it reached his eyes. He couldn't confirm or deny the suspicion thanks to Jonathan's sunglasses. Or rather, his sunglasses that Jonathan had borrowed, partially because he didn't have a pair of his own—easily breakable plastic wasn't allowed in Arkham Asylum—and mostly because they were too large for him and hid most of his face, rendering him less recognizable to any locals they might encounter. Bruce didn't have the heart to tell him that they drew more attention than they detracted. "Most people take their seasonal allergies into account before they go to Georgia."
"I didn't know I had them until I got here," he protested. It wasn't as if Gotham had anything approaching seasons. The city had smog and little else. It was colder in some months than others, and sometimes the rain broke up the smog and allowed a little sunshine, but Gotham hardly had seasonal allergens because, outside of parks or Pamela Isley's experiments, there was no plant life. Even most of his time abroad had been in cities, and it when he had been in the wilderness, it had been atop a freezing mountain.
Jonathan muttered something about city folk. Bruce hadn't told him that his accent had faintly returned either. It would piss him off unnecessarily and besides, he sounded cute. Not that Jonathan would appreciate that. Especially not now that they were in front of the remains of the Keeny Manor, and his boyfriend meant to confront the nightmares of his past. A little levity might lessen the sense of overwhelming foreboding, but Bruce refrained for fear of seeming callous. "This is it?"
It was a massive house, and from what remained of the windows and wooden framework, now warped and rotted, Bruce could imagine how it must have stood and how it was once impressive. Now it looked as though it ought to have been commended as hazardous ages ago. From what little Jonathan had told him of the house, it had been habitable in his youth, but those days were long gone. "They never sold the property?"
"In a town like this? No one has the money." He couldn't read Jonathan's expression, but every step the man took toward the manor was slow and tense. "And anyone who has the money doesn't come to a town like this."
"I don't think it's safe to go inside, Jonathan."
"It doesn't matter." He stepped past Bruce and moved toward the backyard without a second glance. "My mother sold the bath with the rest of the furniture before we moved away."
The backyard was a field, as it turned out. Or had been once upon a time. Now it was a swath of overgrown grasses and weeds, stretched out before them like an American savannah.
"I tilled that. And planted. And harvested. And everything, really. She sat under that." Jonathan indicated the forlorn tree in the yard. His voice was completely devoid of emotion. Bruce was reminded of distilled water; when it boiled, it didn't bubble, but that didn't mean it wouldn't burn. "She used to drink lemonade when she did."
"I'm sorry." He wanted to hug him but lingered back, unsure of how Jonathan would respond. It wasn't that he hadn't dealt with breakdowns before. And even if he hadn't, Joan had given him extensive instruction on how to deal with potential outbursts several dozen times before they'd left, and at least ten more times over the phone since they'd started the drive here. He dealt with Jonathan screaming, sobbing, fighting, and vomiting before, but that had been in Gotham City. This was the town where the majority of his life's traumas had been inflicted, and in surroundings with such great emotional significance, who knew how much more visceral the reaction could be? If a touch would trigger an unpleasant memory, then it was better to avoid all contact.
"It's not your fault, Bruce."
"I'm still sorry it happened."
Jonathan shrugged. "The scarecrow pole's still here."
There was a pole sticking up out of the grass in the distance, as splinted and rotted as the house itself. The scarecrow had long since fallen away, without even a scrap of cloth or piece of straw to signify its presence. Jonathan's hand was in his then, without warning. Scarecrow. Jonathan's other half had left the field long before the physical form had rotted away, but it looked as though he didn't like seeing that a part of him had faded. Bruce couldn't say that he blamed him. "Did you want to walk through here?"
"And contract Lyme disease? No." Bruce couldn't tell if the sarcasm was a sign that the contact had relaxed him or if it was a defense mechanism. "Besides, the field wasn't…it was bad, but it wasn't that."
Bruce didn't have to ask to know what "that" referred to. He couldn't follow Jonathan's gaze with the sunglasses blocking it, but he saw another building on the far end of the field, as massive and dilapidated as the manor. A chapel.
"It's not a real chapel." Jonathan's voice was flat as ever, though his hand tightened around Bruce's. "My great-great-grandmother wanted it to be, but my great-great-grandfather wanted an aviary. She still held services here. Every night, no matter what the weather." More than flat; it sounded memorized. It must have been a story he'd heard time and time again. "With all the birds. They used to have real birds. But then the stock market crashed. He shot himself. She hanged herself. Everything that made this family powerful or respected disappeared. I don't what happened to the birds. My great-grandmother only had c-crows."
Bruce couldn't feel his fingers anymore. He didn't mention that, pulling Jonathan in and wrapping his free arm tightly around him. "Do you know how long a crow lives, Jonathan?"
Jonathan shivered. It was the most outward emotion he'd shown since the incident with the bath the night prior. "Thirty years."
"In captivity, maybe." He ran his hand up and down his boyfriend's back. "But in the wild? About eight years, if they're lucky. Those crows are gone, Jonathan."
"Maybe." Jonathan shoved Bruce's arm away, though his grip on the other hand had tightened again. "I need to see."
The walk to the aviary was silent. Jonathan's terror was obvious now, breathing heavily, shaking, and moving as slowly as he could without dragging his feet. Bruce was torn between searching for the words to comfort him and wondering how long his hand could go without circulation before it became damaged beyond repair. The windows of the aviary were shattered, with jagged shards of glass sticking up in the frames, and there was a gaping hole in its metalwork roof. The door was a rotten as the rest of the wood on the property though by some miracle it was still hanging on its hinges.
"She'd lock me in," Jonathan muttered. "She'd kill me if I broke a window, and once the crows were there I couldn't get to one anyway. I couldn't do anything but lie there and cry and hope it was over—"
"She's not here." Bruce hugged him again, kissed his forehead. He'd promised himself that he wouldn't go past a hug as long as Jonathan was an Arkham inpatient—it was as far as he could go without feeling that he was taking advantage—but if it brought him any comfort or reminded him that there was someone with him who cared, who would do something other than ignore or injure him, then the promise fell to the wayside. "And neither are the crows. None of them are going to hurt you again."
Jonathan twisted out of his grip without a word and bolted inside.
"Jonathan?" Shit. For all he knew Scarecrow could have taken control and decided to lay waste to the aviary, rushing into a crumbling, dangerous building potentially full of tetanus and wildlife without a second thought. Or worse, Jonathan could have suffered a flashback and run in fearing retribution from his great-grandmother. He could be huddled a corner now, sobbing and imagining the assault of the crows. Shit. Bruce ran in after him with no regard for his own safety. "Jonathan!"
Jonathan stood in the center of the aviary. The interior wasn't as bad as Bruce had feared; the metalwork roof let the sunlight stream through, and while the walls and floor were coated with dust—and probably insects, but he didn't want to take a closer look—there weren't any wild animals to be disturbed by their presence. Jonathan was unmoving, apart from the shake of his shoulders and the ragged breaths that indicated tears.
He whirled to face Bruce, sending up a cloud of dust and cobwebs, and all but losing his footing in the process. He'd removed the sunglasses and his eyes were reddened and glistening. "Bruce?"
"Are you all right?"
"Don't do that." He wiped at his eyes and took another shuddering breath. "For a second, I thought…" What he thought, he didn't say. He didn't need to.
"I'm not a crow." It was only after that idiotic statement that he realized Jonathan had almost certainly meant his grandmother. Nice one, Bruce. While you're at it, why don't you mention the schoolyard bullies? "They're all gone now, you see? Are you all right?" He put his arm around Jonathan's shoulders and tried not to gag on the dust circling around them. The aviary was empty, save for old perches on the walls and the coating of filth over everything.
Jonathan nodded, as though he wasn't still sniffling. "It's—I've got a lot of bad memories here."
"I know." Jonathan was holding his hand again. He imagined it would be bruised at the end of the day from all the force, but he couldn't bring himself to care. "But the crows are gone. They can't get you again."
"She wanted to bury me here." It was barely more than a whisper, and muttered into Bruce's shirt, but it made his blood run cold nonetheless.
He shook his head, hair sliding back and forth over Bruce's shoulder. "My grandmother. Because I was illegitimate. A disgrace to whatever remained of the family name. She said they should bury me here, after I was born. But my great-grandmother wouldn't. She saw the value in a dependent slave, at least. She used to tell me that story when she felt I was ungrateful. She said that I should thank her. She was the one who named me, you know."
Jonathan wasn't the only child in the world to be let down by everyone who should be protecting him. He wasn't the first, and he wouldn't be the last. Every child put into a foster home had been failed by those who ought to serve as caretakers and protectors, and at least half the thugs in Gotham City had been the product of broken homes. It didn't excuse it—though it did explain it—and it wasn't news to anyone, least of all the Batman, but to hear one of those stories first hand never failed to sink his heart and to bring the night of his parents' murder back much too close for comfort. He was hugging Jonathan again, then kissing, but on the mouth this time, and Jonathan kissed back, promises be damned.
"Everybody knows about Brucey, you know."
Had Jonathan been drinking anything, this would have been one of those humorous moments where he spat it out all over the rec room and by extension all over Harley, who was seated beside him. But he hadn't been drinking, so all that had happened was a gasp that he tried to muffle by biting down on his tongue, which turned out to be a painful and not at all effective solution. "What?"
"Brucey. Bruce Wayne." Harley's smile had faded a bit at Jonathan's own expression, though there was still humor in her tone. "We know what's really going on."
It was as though someone had flipped Jonathan's mind to the spin cycle and he couldn't switch it back to something more manageable, mind racing with thoughts and each more horrible than the last. Bruce got caught—Bruce got killed—the Joker told everyone else—But the Joker couldn't have told everyone else, because the Joker's new therapist wouldn't allow contact with other patients thanks to the clown's manipulative tendencies, but locked doors had never stopped the Joker and despite his strange lust for Batman, there was no telling what the Joker would do when he was pissed—oh God, and they all hate Batman, and they'll—
"It's not what you think!" He grabbed her hands, unnoticing and uncaring if the orderlies had seen. "Harley, don't—you can't—Bruce is—he's not—"
With the speed and strength that only a gymnast could muster, she freed her hand and covered his mouth before he could begin the word "Batman." "If the next words out of your mouth are "madly in love with me," then don't bother, Jonathan. You're not fooling anyone."
Her hand had lowered then. He could only gape.
Harley had giggled. "C'mon, Jonathan. A billionaire finds you wandering around talking to yourself, so he takes you home, buys you stuff, and then visits you for three months straight? That's a little much for a prospective employer, don't you think? No, the Prince of Gotham's got a crush. And a thing for damsels in distress, from the look of it."
"Bruce isn't like that!" Numbly, he'd registered how lucky he was that his automatic response in conversations about his boyfriend was to jump to Bruce's defense. At present, he was still too off kilter from the sudden fear and subsequent realization that Bruce secret identity hadn'tbeen discovered to form a convincing lie. Had he not had such a reflex, he'd only have been able to sit there staring for a few more minutes, until Harley realized something was amiss. "I'm not a damsel—he's not taking advantage—he's not that kind of—"
And the hand was back over his mouth. "Jonathan. Breathe." Harley had seemed to realize the contradiction in her order and actions, and lowered her hand. She'd raised it again, however, when he opened his mouth to speak. "I'm not calling your boyfriend a pervert, all right? Not that I don't think it's weird—ah, ah, lemme finish—but no matter how much money he's got, I know Joan and she wouldn't let him within ten feet of you if she thought he was doing anything untoward. Besides, there are worse reasons to fall for someone than a Florence Nightingale effect."
You would know, Scarecrow had said, and Jonathan was inclined to agree. "He doesn't—"
"I'm not saying it's a bad thing, Jonathan. I mean, if he was just some guy with a fetish for mental patients, he wouldn't come here as often as he does for as long as he has. Not without, you know, gratification."
She was so much more rational and like her old self when she wasn't in contact with the Joker. At least, once she got over whining about being separated. "He doesn't have a fetish."
"I know." Harley had brushed his hair away from his face and smiled. "I don't have a problem with Bruce Wayne, okay? I just wanted you to know that you don't have to hide it."
Jonathan had decided not to point out that Bruce had been the one to introduce the asylum board to the newly hired, highly-recommended-for-difficult-patients psychiatrist who had decided the Joker needed to be isolated. He'd had the distinct feeling that Harley wouldn't be fine with his boyfriend had she know that. "What about everyone else?"
"Eddie worked it out before the rest of it. I guess I'd be disappointed in him if he hadn't, you know?" She'd lowered her hand, finally, and leaned back on the couch. "He hasn't said how he feels about it. I think he's a little weirded out, but it makes you happy, so I think he's okay. Pam is…uh, you remember that time she bred the roses with the really big thorns?"
"Well, I think she'd like to throw your boyfriend into those—but not because she thinks he's a creep," Harley had added hastily, before Jonathan could start a tirade in Bruce's defense. "It's just—you know how protective she is. I don't think she really feels one way or the other about Bruce Wayne. She just hates him because he's with you, but we've pointed out to her how much he means to you, and she isn't about to tamper with anything."
The woman who could engineer plants venomous enough to send anyone who brushed against them into a coma now hated both of his boyfriend's identities. What a way to start the morning. "Tetch?"
Harley had shrugged. "It's all Carroll to me."
He'd never expected the others to work out the nature of the relationship, blindingly obvious though it was. Even a city like Gotham could only take so many absurdities, and the idea that a stupid, rich party-boy who, judging by his exploits, had all the IQ of a cotton ball, had fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with a mental patient who experimented on humans was about as absurd as it got. And considering that Gotham found vigilantes and criminals dressing up in costumes, complete with code names, to be perfectly ordinary, that was saying something. "But…it really doesn't bother you?"
"Have you met the man I'm with?" She'd patted him on the head. In ordinary circumstances, it would have been condescending, but he was too stunned by the extraordinary circumstances to care. "No one in Arkham has a normal relationship, Jonathan. You just lucked out and got a billionaire."
Growing up in unpopular the Deep South with big blue eyes and what a patient had once referred to as "blowjob lips," Jonathan had become accustomed to taunts like "fag" and "queer" long before he fully understood what the words meant, and over a decade before he met the clown who would stir his first homoerotic feelings. And while both Harley and the Joker were bisexual, and she was the last person he'd expect a homophobic response from, childhood fears of being mocked ran as deep as childhood fears of crows and abuse. And she hadn't taken his last relationship well, though that was due more to his involvement with her boyfriend than the fact that said involvement was with another man. Truth be told, he didn't know what he'd been fearing if the relationship was discovered, but he had been afraid, and to have his best friend validate that relationship lifted a weight from his shoulders than he hadn't known was even there.
He'd hugged her then and Harley, surprised, had hugged back after a moment, and they'd remained that way until their time in the rec room was up.
The cemetery was abandoned.
A few of the gravestones had been knocked over and others were chipped and eroded, though Bruce couldn't say if that was due to nature, vandalism, or simply the passing of time. The ground was choked with weeds in contrast to the grass, which was thin and sparse, leaving patches of dirt over the graveyard. A few of the stones looked as though some effort had been made to clean them, and a vase of faded silk flowers sat beside one, but beyond that, the cemetery lay in disarray. "It doesn't look full."
"Maybe they didn't have enough bodies to stay in business." Jonathan gave a small, wry smile before he went back to looking apprehensive. "There aren't a lot of Presbyterians in Arlen."
"Your great-grandmother was Presbyterian?"
Jonathan was moving down the rows of gravestones now, and Bruce followed quickly after. He wasn't sure what the sight of the grave would do—some dead grass and a headstone couldn't be worse than the aviary—but if there was an adverse reaction, Bruce had to be nearby. "She wasn't anything. Just insane. But we had to bury her somewhere, and this is the one my mother picked. I don't know why. I think it was cheapest. This is it."
Jonathan stopped walking abruptly; Bruce nearly collided into him. He followed Jonathan's eyes to the gravestone directly before them. The other headstones in the cemetery—at least, the ones that were still legible—were decorated with pictures and epitaphs, or oddly shaped to personalize them. Mary Keeny's gravestone bore only her name and the dates of her birth and death, as well as a simple cross carved at the top. The granite had held well over the years, but it was as neglected as any other grave here, and much less ornate. Bruce wondered if that had also been due to cost, or if it was Jonathan's mother's subtle way of showing how little she cared for her grandmother.
"It's not very clean."
There was nothing but confusion in Jonathan's expression, as though the idea that an abandoned cemetery wouldn't have someone taking care of the graves was totally beyond him. Bruce had expected tears again, or anger. Jonathan had never expressed, either to Bruce or to Joan, exactly what he intended to do when he returned to these traumatic places, only that he needed to go there before he could move on. For all Bruce knew, Jonathan might want to deface his great-grandmother's gravestone or scream himself hoarse at her or use necromancy to revive her body just to murder her again. Which was patently absurd, but Bruce had no idea what Jonathan wanted to accomplish in coming here, which made it all the more worrying when, without warning, Jonathan dropped down onto his knees.
Jonathan leaned forward and, before Bruce had time to worry about fainting spells or flashbacks or vomiting fits, began pulling the weeds from the ground in front of the grave. "You don't let a graveyard fall into disrepair like this. You just don't."
He didn't know if he was being addressed or if Jonathan was venting aloud. Out of everything Bruce had hypothesized Jonathan might do when they arrive here, cemetery maintenance wasn't on the list. They do say etiquette's more important in the South. "Do you want help?"
"No." Apparently, that etiquette didn't extend to the rest of the dead, because Jonathan was throwing weeds aside without a glance as to where they landed. "Actually, Bruce?"
"Could I be alone? Just for a little bit?"
It wasn't safe. He'd made a remarkable amount of progress in two years, no one would deny that, but he was still far from stable. Especially here. Bruce had to be there to intervene in case of flashbacks, breakdowns, or outbursts. He had to provide support and Joan would have his head if he left Jonathan's side for even a second. Not that he needed Joan to remind him of that responsibility.
But Jonathan's eyes were boring into his, wide open and pleading and above all, desperate. Bruce didn't know what was happening inside his head—he wasn't sure he wanted to—but his eyes said that he needed this more than he'd ever needed anything. And responsibilities, safety, and promises to Joan aside, Bruce couldn't refuse that request.
"I'll be at the end of the cemetery."
"Thank you." There was no trace of tears in Jonathan's eyes, but his voice sounded ragged with relief. He went back to pulling the weeds and didn't raise his head as Bruce backed away, eyes never leaving Jonathan as he did.
She doesn't deserve this.
Of course she didn't, and he didn't need Scarecrow to tell him that. What she deserved was to have the grave left dirty, urinated on, and then abandoned again, this time forever. Honestly, what she deserved was to have Bruce's car drive over the gravestone until there was nothing left of it but gravel. She certainly didn't deserve to have the weeds pulled away and the dirt and bird droppings—Scarecrow had snorted at that, and Jonathan couldn't help but smile at the irony—wiped off of the stone.
But what she deserved was irrelevant. He'd had moral lessons drilled into his head from the time he could understand English until the moment he left Georgia, be it by his great-grandmother, his teachers, or any other adult in the state, and "respect the dead" was one of those lessons. It was right up there with "wipe your feet when you come in," "address adults as sir or ma'am," and "hold the door open for people behind you." Try as he might, Jonathan couldn't respect her, so respecting her resting place was as close as he got and much as he'd tried to put Georgia behind him, he found himself as tightly under its sway as he had been as that small child who thought the devil sent the crows after bad children.
It was clean now, clean as it would get without proper supplies. Jonathan sat back and observed his work.
Something was missing.
He glanced over his shoulder. Bruce was at the end of the cemetery as he'd said, near his car. He gave Jonathan a questioning look, shifted his weight as if to walk forward, but Jonathan shook his head and he stopped. Cleaning the grave hadn't help to put the abuse—or her death—behind him. He needed to say something, have some sort of closing that didn't involve his sitting at the kitchen table and trying to pretend that he didn't see his great-grandmother collapsed on the floor.
He cleared his throat.
"That was Bruce Wayne." What a stupid thing to say. She had no idea who Bruce Wayne was and in her lifetime, he hadn't been anyone special to Jonathan. Just a rich child with dead parents who lived hundreds of miles away. "And he's my boyfriend." He imagined her face at that. Sometimes—when he'd grown and she could no longer drag him into the aviary or shove him underwater—he'd said things that he knew would outrage her even if it meant dodging her cane because it was the only way he had to get back at her. "We've had sex." There was a pause, then Scarecrow added, "And you know what? It was great."
Silence. Enraging his great-grandmother had never been satisfying, because once the initial spark of vindication had faded, nothing had changed. She was still in charge, and he was still miserable. Talking back to her now couldn't change anything, and it didn't even provide a moment's respite. "Sorry." He wasn't, just numb, but he had to say something. "He's a billionaire. I think you would have liked that, at least."
This wasn't helping. He'd come all this way for nothing. Here he was after all these years, able to say anything to the woman who had made his life hell on Earth, and he couldn't find the words. Something was still wrong.
The gravestone was bare.
He glanced to his side. The cemetery had a fence, or what had once been one. Now it was covered in kudzu and ivy and probably a few wasps' nest. But there were also wildflowers.
She doesn't deserve those, either.
It's the principle of the thing. And also the only way he could think of to make amends with a dead woman after bringing up his gay lover. Jonathan stood and brushed off his knees, reflecting only after he did so that it was an exercise in futility, because his hands were as dirty as his pants. He started toward the fence.
Halfway there, he remembered that Bruce was watching, and turned.
Bruce was halfway across the cemetery, moving at a run, though he skidded to a halt when he realized Jonathan had stopped moving. His body was tense, ready to break back into a sprint if need be. It was a stance that was more Batman than Bruce. In retrospect, walking off when he'd told Bruce he just needed a minute alone in a situation such as this had not been his brightest idea. Jonathan raised his hands out as if to say "it's all right," and gestured to the fence. "I'm getting flowers."
He wasn't sure if Bruce had heard, but he didn't follow when Jonathan resumed his walk toward the fence.
There was honeysuckle amidst the leaves, but that wouldn't work at all. It was a parasite, and a farmer—even if he'd been the one to do all the actual farming—would view it as an insult. But on the ground, nearly buried under the kudzu, there were Black-Eyed Susans.
If the world ran according to the principles of poetic justice, that would have been her favorite flower. It wasn't. She'd liked marigolds on the rare occasions she brought flowers into the manor, but they were both yellow, and they were better than nothing.
He took a handful and returned, setting them at the base of the gravestone. "I'll start again."
The gravestone waited.
"I know your life was hard. I never gave that much thought as a kid—I guess I was too concerned with my own miserable existence—but I appreciate that it couldn't have been easy, having parents who killed themselves, and losing a fortune overnight. I suppose you must have struggled to survive before you had me to do the work for you, and the fact that you became a religious fanatic somewhere along the line makes sense. You needed something."
Jonathan cleared his throat. Even when she was dead, it was a struggle to get the words out. "But that doesn't excuse how you treated me. I was a child. Did that mean anything to you? No child, no matter how lazy or ungrateful or sinful or whatever else you think he is deserves to be put through hard labor every day without help, or to be beaten, or screamed at, or burned, or drowned, or locked in the cellar or attacked by birds, or anything else that you did!" He'd raised his voice, and he had to force himself to lower it for fear that Bruce would come over and put an end to this. The words were spilling out now with reckless abandon; he could only control the volume.
"Thanks to you, I grew up believing that I was worthless. That I was an abomination. That fear and control were the only ways to get what I wanted from others. I'm not saying that it's your fault I became a criminal—I've got no one to blame for deciding to poison people but myself—but you helped. There's no denying that, and I honestly think that if I'd been raised somewhere else, I wouldn't be committed in an institution. Hell, maybe I would have been respected. Maybe I really would have helped people. I don't know. All I know is that I grew up hating myself and hating everything around me, and you're the one who put the idea of fear as power into my head, because you were never loving or compassionate, just horrific.
"And you know what else? I wasn't lazy. I did more around here than you ever did, unless you want to count child abuse. And I wasn't ungrateful; respect has to be earned, and you did nothing to earn it. I wasn't a bad child. You were unfit to raise children—you were unfit to raise a goldfish—and that fact that you didn't throw me away when I was an infant didn't make it all right for you to treat me the way you did."
He wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. He didn't know when he'd started crying, but he couldn't bring himself to care. She would have called him weak for it, but she wasn't here. "But...even if you were a terrible guardian—and you were, so don't think I'm giving you a pass—you didn't deserve to die that way. I should have called an ambulance. I should have been better than you were. What you did to me was wrong, but what I did wasn't any better. I'm sorry that I didn't help you. I really am."
Jonathan stood for a second time and rubbed his eyes again. He couldn't think of anything else to say, but this time it didn't matter. He felt something. He wasn't sure what it was but if he had to guess, he would say closure. He'd said what needed to be said, and now it was just a matter of parting ways.
"I'm sorry. I…I came here to put all of this behind me. To move on with my life. And I guess this wouldn't matter to you one way or the other, but before I go, I wanted to say that if I had the choice again, I would have called 911."
With that said, he turned away from her gravestone and walked back to Bruce.
The ice machine in the Plains Inn rattled with enough force to send reverberations through the floor, and enough sound to make Bruce worry that the whole thing would fly to pieces, but the sodas from the inn's vending machine were lukewarm and it was a risk he was willing to take. He waited until the bucket was suitably filled—more accurately, he let the machine run as long as he felt was safe—and started back to the room, hoping the clanking hadn't disturbed anyone.
They were heading back tomorrow morning. Joan hadn't been thrilled when he'd admitted to leaving Jonathan alone—anything over two feet away counted as alone—but she hadn't shouted or threatened to stop his visits, and she'd calmed down entirely when he'd brought up the cleaning of the grave, apparently as bewildered by the whole thing as she was. He didn't know why Jonathan had put flowers on the grave of the woman who abused him any more than he knew what had gone on in those moments alone, but Jonathan had gotten something out of it, and he could only hope that something would be for the best.
The suite was empty when he opened the door.
Oh God. He'd only been gone for a minute—he'd barely walked down the hall—Jonathan had been fine—he couldn't have gotten far—why did he leave—he'd seemed better after the visits—Joan was going to—Stop.
It was the Batman side of him, and he welcomed the clarity it brought. He can't have left. He would have had to walk right past you, and no matter how loud the ice machine runs, you would have seen him. He has to be in here somewhere.
Where? Under the beds? The closet? He started for that one—it was the nearest to the door—and stopped. The light in the bathroom was on, and the door ajar.
No answer. The shower wasn't running and the panic took control again. Was there anything sharp in the room? Or poisonous? He was fine! He was fine when I left. Quiet, but—
Whatever he's doing in there, it won't help if you barge in and startle him. Be careful.
Barely daring to move, he reached out and pushed the door. It slid silently on the hinges without a response from within. Holding his breath, Bruce stepped inside.
Jonathan was standing in front of the bathtub.
His pants were rolled up to his shins, and his socks gone. Judging from the faint reflections of light on the far side of the tub, there was water inside, though it couldn't have been more than a few inches. Shaking, Jonathan lifted one foot, moved it over the water, and jerked it back the second he made contact. That was why he hadn't heard. Bruce remembered his own panic when he'd first gone into the cave and let the bats fly around him. To face a fear that strong required complete concentration.
He didn't announce his presence. It would only terrify Jonathan and break his resolve.
Jonathan inhaled deeply and tried again. He let his foot hover over the water for a full minute before he lowered it, but he didn't jerk it back out. He only stood, shaking and breathing heavily, and after a moment he braced his hands against the wall and the shower curtain, and stepped in with the other foot.
Bruce backed out of the room as quietly as he'd entered.
He'd just placed the ice bucket on the coffee table and sat down, remote in hand, when Jonathan walked out of the bathroom, pant legs unrolled. Bruce decided not to compliment him on his bravery. Not yet. He needed the moment to unwind. "Bruce?"
"I…" Jonathan ran a hand through his hair. He was still trembling. "Did you—you wanted to see the lounge while we were here, right?"
He lowered the remote. "I thought you didn't want to interact with anyone."
Jonathan sat and slid on his shoes. "I don't, but you did, and it wouldn't be that terrible. Probably."
He was still tying his shoes when Bruce crossed the room and hugged him tightly enough to make him catch his breath. "I'd love that. Come on."
Bruce held out his hand and Jonathan took it, and together they walked out the door.
AN: The Plains Inn is a real place, and there really is a 1940s suite, which you can see here: www. plainsinn. net/ rooms_40. html No idea if they have an ice machine or a vending machine, though. Incidentally, Arlen, Georgia is not a real town, at least according to Google. It comes from the Scarecrow Year One comic, as does all of Jonathan's back story, save for the baths, his great-grandmother's death and burial, and his mom being with them, as usual.
The former president from Plains is Jimmy Carter.
Whenever Bruce's parents are killed outside of a movie theater, you can bet they were watching a Zorro movie. Of course, there's another reason for Jonathan and Bruce to like the forties: it's the decade their characters were invented. Well, Batman existed in 1939, but 1940 was the year the "Batman" comic series started (before that, he'd been in Detective Comics), and 1941 was the year of the Scarecrow's first appearance.
Regarding Harley as a bisexual: since her creator pretty much outright said that once the animated series was over, I've always thought of Harley as bisexual, though deep down, she only has eyes for the Joker. I don't ship her with Ivy in these stories, though, and I tend to think their relationship is mostly friends, maybe friends with benefits on occasion anyway.
I hope to have my next fic started within the week. As a parting gift until then, here's a scan from the same comic with the Scarecrow backstory, which shows Jonathan's bedroom and that teddy bear I'm always going on about: i158. photobucket. com/ albums/ t92/ Lauralot/ jonathanbear. jpg
I love that his bear is as big as Robin, and that his room seems to have been decorated for a little girl.