Disclaimer: Batman doesn't belong to me. ^..^
Screams. Glorious, wonderful screams. Pleas for help and cries for mercy erupted all around me, with every step I took. All I had to do was look at a flailing doctor and they collapsed in a fit of terror. A laugh escaped from the stitches in the mouth of my mask. It was so twisted and warped, I knew it couldn't possibly be my own. But it was.
"Sounds like you've been practicing," commented the Scarecrow as we strolled through the gas-filled corridors of Arkham Asylum.
"There's no need to," I told him, staring at each terrified individual that we passed. Occasionally, the Scarecrow would pretend to raise his scythe and strike at a nurse or a security guard, then laugh as they cowered and begged for God to help them.
"He won't save you," he would snarl.
My cane tapped against the dirty linoleum underfoot. I wondered if it sounded like the beat of a war drum to the gassed people, or perhaps the grating of nails on a chalkboard. Anything that put them on edge.
The cloud of sparkling green gas nearly blinded me, but the lights were still bright inside the complex, causing the curtain to become translucent. The whole facility was flooded with the stuff and even the inmates were crying for their mothers to come and save them. As I walked beside the Scarecrow, I felt the sweat bead on my upper lip. My throat was growing dry and it was becoming ever so tempting to remove my hessian mask and breathe it in. Just one breath.
Distracting me from my thoughts, a blonde nurse ran at me, fingers like talons as she tried to attack. I felt the Scarecrow move beside me, ready to defend, but my cane struck out and offset her balance. She was sent into a nearby trolley laden with supplies.
The Scarecrow and I were making our way towards the doctors' offices, in the hopes of encountering the psychiatrist who had treated him while at the asylum.
Poison Ivy was also somewhere nearby, with the intention of releasing Harley Quinn and 'dropping in' on her nightshift guards, as she put it.
The chorus of screams followed us wherever we went in the facility, so much so that it soon drifted from my hearing like background noise. We crossed through the records room. Along one wall, we found a door with a familiar name embossed on its sign. Kicking it open, more green gas tumbled out to meet the existing haze.
"Does it get easier to see through this stuff?" I asked.
"It does," the Scarecrow assured me, before storming into the office.
He dragged out what I assumed was Dr. Kellerman from under his desk and held the psychiatrist up by his collar. Tilting his head, he made the stitches on his mask stretch into that strange leer. I knew he was grinning for real underneath. I didn't need to be close to know the way his eyes were shining in glee. Nothing made him happier than seeing his tormentors cower before him, and nothing made me happier than to see him so ecstatic.
"Hello, Steven," said the Scarecrow, laughing snidely. "Are we well this evening? Ready for our next session?" With this final word, he threw the shrink across his own desk, scattering papers and smashing a glass paperweight. Kellerman whimpered and tried to get up, to flee, but I kicked him down with my boot.
Stepping onto the desk, the Scarecrow crossed it in two strides and crouched above the shrink who was sprawled on the floor. His scythe was in his hand.
"Tell me, Steven, what do you see?" his voice came out with its usual rasp, a rasp I now knew came from smoking a cigarette beforehand.
"Stay away from me!" Kellerman shrieked, clawing at something that wasn't there.
"Oh? But you used to love our little chats!" the Scarecrow cackled. I couldn't help but chuckle myself as he raised the scythe and swung the blade so close to the shrink's face, it actually nicked skin and drew blood. "Laugh away, my dear," he then said to me. "This is a pathetic excuse of a man we have before us."
Kellerman appeared to reach his breaking point then. He launched himself up and attempted to harm the Scarecrow, who stood on the desk and leaned back so far I thought the shrink had forced him over backwards. But then he swung an arm round and caught Kellerman in the gut, sending him into a wall. Several papers that were tacked up fluttered down. I saw they were news articles and suchlike, all on Poison Ivy.
"My my, got a little crush have we?" I taunted him, waving a crumpled clipping before his petrified eyes. Sweat ran in fine rivulets from his forehead. "Well, Red's running around this place if you want a call from her."
"No, please no!" begged the shrink. I kicked him over and struck him with my cane.
"What's wrong? Is she too intimidating for you? She's definitely out of your league…" I leaned in close to him, twisting my head the way I had seen the Scarecrow do it.
"Don't! Don't bring her here!" sobbed Kellerman.
"I bet you weren't very nice to her. I bet you thought you could control her, behind your little glass cells and under your little red lights. Well, if she came down here for a visit, I think you'd get everything you deserved," I sneered. The shrink shook visibly under my gaze. "Does the thought of her revenge scare you, doctor?"
The Scarecrow continued to torture him, right up until the moment he passed out. By that time, my insides hurt from laughing. As I turned my head to look out of the window, I noticed a familiar symbol scouring the murky, night time clouds.
"Jonathan," I said to get his attention. If we hadn't been alone, I might not have addressed him as such. He came over to the window and looked up into the night sky.
"Excellent," I heard him breathe. "It's time to head onto the roof."
"Conquering your fears?" I asked as we left the office.
"Absolutely not," the Scarecrow chuckled. "I just want to experience them."
After frightening a maintenance worker in blue overalls, we made our way up a set of twisting stairwells, until we reached the fire escape on the roof. Its flat surface was rimmed with a concrete wall half a metre high, and was dotted with large fans and skylights. It was nice to be up in the cold night, as opposed to surrounded by noxious green fog. Briefly, I took off my mask and let the air cool my face. The Scarecrow removed his mask too.
"Want some?" he offered me a hipflask, no doubt full of whisky. I stared at it for a moment.
"No thanks," I said, retying my mask.
He took a mouthful. He always drank on a successful night's work. With his fingers twitching on the scythe's long handle, the Scarecrow continued to stare up into the sky, his face now covered once again.
The Batsignal carried on roaming across the clouds.
I strolled up to the edge of the roof, peering into the courtyard below. Red was down there, surrounded by a group of five squealing guards and making the most of it. Strange, flesh-eating plants had erupted from the soil, as well as vines to hold down her attackers. I wondered how long she could keep them alive, before she wore herself out.
"If things should get out of hand," said the Scarecrow as I returned to his side. "I want you to leave. I'm staying until I get what I came for."
"I won't be going anywhere," I told him.
"You can't risk your identity being discovered, Nightmare," I heard the steely edge to his voice. Shivers ran up my spine and I knew it would be a mistake to argue with him. "If I say go, you go."
I didn't reply at first, but then he said my name with such a loaded warning, I had to comply.
"Fine," I bit out.
I wasn't sure if the good was because of me, or because of the two dark shapes that now flitted towards us in the night. With their outstretched capes, one looked like an enormous bat, the other an agile and nimble bird. The two of them dived low and then, with the whirr of an automated grapple, soared up onto the rooftop.
It wasn't my first encounter with the Batman, not by a long shot, but he seemed twice as foreboding now that I was facing him. I felt a grin slice my lips in two. Did he recognize me at all? I wasn't sure I would recognize myself, but he was smart, he would figure it out eventually.
"Trick or treat, Batman?" asked the Scarecrow.
"Trick," he growled, before sending a batarang sailing through the air. It skimmed past the Scarecrow's shoulder.
"As you wish," the masked man snarled, drawing a straw from his boot. He snapped it and threw the remains at the Batman as the Dark Knight launched himself at his adversary. His cape rippled in the air.
While this occurred in the corner of my eye, the Batman's sidekick had begun circling me, sizing me up. I turned to face him, fingers drumming on my cane. I too had some straws of fear gas tucked in my boot, but I doubted an attack with them would be a surprise now.
Robin came at me, a blur of garish yellows and reds and greens. I ducked his first strike, jamming my cane between his legs and sending him sprawling to the ground. After that, I wasn't so lucky. I had no idea how to fight, or how to defend myself when he bounced right back up.
As it turned out, I needn't have been so worried.
A green tendril slapped Robin away from me. I turned to see Red stepping daintily onto the roof, from the monstrous tentacle of the plant crawling up behind her.
"Looks like you could use a hand," said Red, a smirk curling her perfect, cupid lips.
"Thanks," I muttered. I stepped back as she moved forward. Peering over the lip of the roof, I caught sight of the guards' bodies after the plants had withered and died around them. Ivy was now concentrating all her energy on attacking Robin.
Although I entered the fight once more, there was little I could do against the Batman's sidekick. Ivy was the only thing between me and my arrest. As those two fought, my attention flickered briefly back to the Scarecrow and the Batman. I noticed the former's obscure way of fighting, only later discovering that it was drunken boxing. Sometimes it looked as though he were about to fall, before finding a purchase from nowhere and striking back with quick viciousness. I was almost mesmerized by this, until someone's foot kicked me in the face.
I was sent sprawling, nearly to the other side of the roof. All the while, I kept the cane fiercely in my grip. As Robin flew through the air towards me, I rolled over and sprung up, ready to block his strikes. I only just managed to, by trying to change my direction and stumbling backwards, nearer to Ivy. She appeared to be weakening, breathlessly clutching her side. Behind her, the monstrous plant was turning brown and losing its limbs.
One tentacle still managed to dart out across the width of the roof, seizing Robin and drawing him back. He hung, struggling and flailing above a thirty foot drop.
"Oh, Batman, look what I have here?" taunted Ivy. She grinned even though her face glowed with fine perspiration.
A batarang was thrown in the direction of the tentacle, slicing through its green skin. The gash was deeper than I expected and it didn't heal. Red must've really been at the end of her tether. After her weeks of meticulous preparation for this night, it shouldn't have been a surprise.
In a sudden rush, the Batman slammed the Scarecrow into the ground, before leaving him stunned and then approaching Ivy cautiously.
"Put him back on the roof, Poison Ivy," I heard him say in his obscure, gravelly voice. I darted over to where the Scarecrow lay, near the ladder that descended to the ground level. The Batman didn't pay much attention to me and I didn't fool myself into thinking I was a threat.
Kneeling down beside the Scarecrow, I realized how laboured his breath had become. A stream of dark red blood trickled down onto his neck. I wanted nothing more than to take the mask off his face, but I restrained myself. He wouldn't have appreciated it.
In the distance, I could hear the shriek of sirens and see the glimmer of red and blue lights flashing. With a slow, sinking feeling of dread, I realized this night had come to its end.
"It's time for you to go, my dear," the words I least wanted to hear came from the shadows behind the Scarecrow's mask. I looked up to see a swarm of black-clad cops racing towards the building we stood on. We had mere minutes before they would be climbing the ladder. I could see my hands shaking.
"I'd rather be captured," I told him. It came out as a whisper.
"I'm not giving you a choice," he hissed, but then a bitter laugh escaped from between the stitches of his mask. "I already persuaded Ivy to help you get out of here."
"Then she can get you out as well," I said, glancing over to where the Batman was still trying to negotiate Robin's release. He was telling Ivy to return to her cell. Like that would work. Maybe he was stalling for time, until the cops hit the roof.
"She would never help me," said the Scarecrow. "Besides, I can't remember the last time I felt fear like this. When you lose something, Becky, you start to crave it."
In that moment, I realized I could never fight against his strangest inclination. He seemed adamant to stay, just to feel afraid of something. It occurred to me that this had been his intention all along, to be captured and thrown back into Arkham. Just for the sake of feeling fear.
"Do you remember when I told you I only had one fear?" he then asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Well, now I seem to have two," he told me. "The first is the Batman, the second…is losing you."
It was hard to describe the way my pulse raced when I heard those words, the way warmth spread from inside me. The sound of ringing metal invaded my ears, as boots started climbing the ladder to my left. The moment shattered around me.
"Ivy!" called the Scarecrow, summoning my only means of escape. I would never have asked her to pull me from the Scarecrow's side, but at the same time, I couldn't disobey him.
I looked up to see Robin being flung through the air. The Batclaw was propelled after him, in an attempt to catch him before he fell uncontrollably. With the Batman temporarily distracted, Ivy came over and hauled me up. The first cop appeared over the side of the building, raising his firearm and clicking the safety. I was pulled back over the adjacent edge of the roof.
Air rushed by my ears and that awful weightless sensation tore my stomach to shreds. We had only been falling for a few seconds, but then Red summoned a thick stalk from the courtyard below to catch us. The cry that escaped her lips told me she was using the last of her strength.
We rose once again, on the head of the growing stalk, and we could see the rooftop where the Batman stood with Robin. Batarangs and bullets were sprayed in our direction, but Ivy forced me flat. When I glanced up again, a bulb was growing around us. I recognized the plant from when she had broken out of her cell. She was going to use it to take us into the soil, take us away from Arkham.
Just before the bulb closed around us completely, the scene below etched itself onto my memory. The dark figures of the cops pulled the Scarecrow upright, ripping the mask from his head and roughly cuffing his wrists behind his back. His blue eyes appeared radiant in the night. Déjà vu flashed before me, as I remembered the time when he had first been unmasked back in Greenvale. I hadn't feared him then, but what I felt now wasn't sympathy either.
I think his blue gaze found mine, even over the distance that separated us, and my heart clenched because of something much, much deeper than sympathy.
Then the bud closed around me, and all I had was the memory of his face.
A/N: So this is it, the grand finale! Please review. :D I'd like to say an impossibly big THANK YOU to everyone who has read, followed, reviewed and favourited this fic. I could never have expected this much support for my first story on here, so thank you so much! Until next time, maybe...
This story is dedicated to Char, a good friend of mine, and it was written for her birthday.