Disclaimer: I do not own the rights "Batman" or any of its characters, including Scarecrow, nor do I own any rights to the comics or the films. I own nothing save for any original characters I have created.
A/N: This is a fic that I wrote for the Mistress of Fear Halloween contest over on deviantART. The contest's theme was "nursery tales". Those of you familiar with the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale version of Scarecrow know that he enjoyed nursery rhyme verses, and I thought it would be fun to write Nolanverse Scarecrow in a similar way. I hope you enjoy!
The Crooked Man
Granny Keeny had been a cruel woman, frail in body and hard in heart. Her temper was volatile and explosive, and Jonathan Crane had learned early in life that her anger was something to be avoided at all costs. The best way to do that was to remain out of her sight as much as possible, and so he spent his time outside of school hiding out in his room inside of Keeny Mansion, hunched over a book. He was content enough with this arrangement, accompanied by the likes of Poe, Kipling, and Shelley. His past time had to be kept secret, of course—Granny Keeny did not approve of such unholy vices as fiction and creative writing.
The exemption to this rule was nursery tales. Crane suspected that this was because so many stories featured misbehaving individuals gaining their comeuppance, often in a rather unpleasant manner. From the ages of two to ten, Granny Keeny would perform a nightly ritual of reading to Crane a story from a large, leather-bound book titled Nursery Tales. Their story time sessions were meant to frighten Crane rather than entertain him, with Granny Keeny delivering the character's demise with much gusto.
Perhaps it was this ritual that inspired Crane's early fascination with fear, although he presumed that his punishment of being locked inside of the Keeny Atrium at the mercy of the crows played a larger role. Nevertheless, when he left Keeny Mansion at the age of eighteen to attend Gotham University one of the few possessions he took with him was the cracked, worn book.
He was a grown man when he returned to Keeny Mansion, and more experienced with creating fear than Granny Keeny could ever hope to be. He found her sitting in her favorite rocking chair, bony and wispy among the dusty, faded objects in her room; he half-wondered if she had been sitting there ever since he left.
Nursery Tales gripped tightly in his hand, Crane stepped towards her.
"Granny Keeny?" Despite himself, his voice shook slightly when addressing her; for a fleeting moment, he was a small boy again.
She regarded him with dull eyes, and when she spoke her voice was raspy, as if she had not spoken a word in quite some time.
"What are you doing here?"
No greeting, no formality. Just a simple, matter-of-fact inquiry. She never had been one for emotion.
Crane knelt before her, taking one of her claw-like hands in his own. He noticed her shudder visibly at his touch and he smiled.
"I've come to tell you a story, Granny Keeny."
She made a small noise of discomfort when the needle pierced her skin, but made no effort to struggle. Perhaps she was beyond caring, accepting of her fate.
Perhaps she had been expecting this for a while.
"Shhh, shhh," Crane said, stroking her hand gently. "Would you like to hear the story now?"
Granny Keeny said nothing as her gray eyes began to widen.
"Once upon a time, there was a boy who left home to attend school in a nearby city. While he was there he learned all sorts of interesting things about the human mind, particularly an emotion called fear. I believe that's something you can appreciate, Granny Keeny."
Her lips curled back in a terrified grimace, exposing yellowing dentures.
"The boy spent his days and night studying, and one day he decided to create something that would scare people. And he did!" Crane leaned closer, watching as the woman's feeble body tremors, cracked lips mouthing silent, wordless screams. "You see, although the boy had a great number of teachers at the school, the one who taught him the most about fear was his dear, sweet grandmother. He had her to thank for all of his success. And so he thought it would be only fair to pay her a visit and reward her for all of her hard work."
When Crane slid the burlap over his head Granny Keeny's eyes bulged, her fingernails scraping against the wooden arms of her rocking chair.
"There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile, he found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile," Scarecrow chanted, his burlap face now inches away from the elderly woman's.
"He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse-"
Granny Keeny let out a final creaking gasp before collapsing against the chair, her eyes eternally open wide in horror.
"-and they all lived together in a little crooked house."
Crane removed the mask, his hair disheveled and cheeks flushed. The room was silent save for his low, heavy breaths. Eventually he rises and carefully places Nursery Tales in Granny Keeny's lap, laying her hands on top of its cracked leather face.
He felt nothing. No joy, no relief, no anger. It was a task that needed to be done and now it was completed. Like Granny Keeny, Crane was never one for emotion.
"Goodbye, Granny Keeny," Crane said quietly, and he left her to gather dust and decay alongside what remained of Keeny Mansion.