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: In "Scarecrow: Year One" we are given a glimpse into Jonathan Crane's childhood, well before he became the villainous Scarecrow. I thought that it would be fun to explore a similar background with Nolanverse Crane. I tried before in the past and was unhappy with the results, but now that I've been writing Crane for a couple of years I feel much more comfortable. This story will be multi-chaptered, but I don't believe that this will be particularly long—it will just depend on where my creativity takes me! Regardless, I hope you enjoy and as always I absolutely love hearing your feeback.
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear." – H.P. Lovecraft
"Ichabod! Hey, Ichabod!"
Jonathan Crane closed his eyes as the beginnings of dread began to form knots in his stomach. Please don't be Billy, please don't be Billy. But there was no mistaking that lazy, venom-laced drawl, and when he opened his eyes he found himself in the looming shadow of Billy Lee Walker, a sneer plastered across his bulky face.
Billy bullied a lot of people—as bullies are wont to do—but he really had it out Crane. Throughout his four years of high school, Crane could not recall a single school-day that he had not been the recipient of Billy's cruelty. Although Billy was a poor student (relying on cheating to ensure that he received a passing grade each semester) he was quite knowledgeable regarding different ways to inflict pain, whether it be through humiliation or his fists. Their first interaction had been during the first day of freshman year, when Crane had made the grave mistake of accidentally bumping into Billy's shoulder while walking to class. This apparent transgression had resulted in a punch that broke Crane's glasses and bloodied his nose—the first of many to come during the following years.
"Whatcha reading, Ichabod?"
Crane loathed his English teacher for assigning The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as class time reading material; as amusing at it was to listen to Billy stammer over words longer than five characters when it was his turn to read aloud, he highly doubted that Billy would know who Ichabod Crane was otherwise. Unfortunately for Crane, Billy paid enough attention in class to realize that he shared similar physical characteristics as well as a surname with the story's protagonist.
"You wouldn't be interested," Crane mumbled quietly, burying his face deeper into his book. He had taken to spending lunch hour sitting underneath a rather large tree, hoping that the shade would shield him from Billy's vision and therefore his wrath. Crane would spend the time immersed in a book, glasses askew as his eyes poured over page after page. No one ever approached him to start a conversation and Crane liked it that way—social interaction with his classmates was not something that he was accustomed to nor was it something that he desired. He had long ago accepted that he did not "fit in" with schoolyard societal norms due to a combination of his unique interests and his grandmother's overbearing rules.
"Those who call themselves friends are nothing but trouble," the old crone had said, placing her gnarled hand on top of the Keeny family Bible. "They want to lead you astray and soil you with their filth and their lies."
And so Crane kept to himself, speaking only when spoken to (which was not often) and doing his best to fade into the background as quietly as possible.
But that didn't matter to Billy. Not one bit.
Billy reached down and unceremoniously plucked the book from between Crane's fingers, exposing his face along with his crooked glasses and neatly-combed hair.
Crane sighed. Perhaps if he appealed to Billy's ego the brute would return the book.
"May I please have that back, Billy?"
Billy ignored him and turned his attention towards the book's hard worn cover. "Twice Told Tales," he read aloud, and smiled as if proud of himself for this great accomplishment. Crane reached towards the book but Billy quickly pulled away from his grasp, smirking.
Four years worth of anger boiled inside of Crane and he was unable to stop the words from spilling through his lips. "I'm surprised that you were able to read that," he spat out, and instantly he wished that he could take it back.
Billy's grin faded to a dark frown of rage and his eyes narrowed dangerously; Crane instinctively pressed his back against the tree, feeling the bark roughly scrape against his elbows.
"What did you just say, Crane?"
But it was too late.
Billy reached down and grabbed Crane by his hair, the smaller boy wincing in pain as he was thrown effortlessly from the false safety of the quiet, secluded spot underneath the tree. Crane inhaled dirt and wheezed as he struggled to gain his footing, but the bully was too fast for him; a swift kick to the ribs took Crane's breath away and he gasped in pain as his body crumpled to the ground.
He felt Billy grip the back of his shirt, and Crane was flipped over onto his back, squinting as the harsh sun shone brightly into his eyes. Maybe a teacher will see, he thought numbly. Maybe-
"Stop!" Crane gasped, eyes wide with horror as he watched Billy grab a handful of pages and rip them savagely from the book with gusto.
Crane did not get a chance to finish his plea before Billy crammed the crushed pages into Crane's mouth. Crane gagged as the paper sliced into his gums and tongue, but Billy kept his hand firmly clamped across Crane's lips, a wide, malicious splayed across his face.
Crane had feared Billy from the moment that he felt his fist connect with his glasses for the first time, but this was the first time that the bully had instilled raw, primitive terror in Crane. Humiliated and terrified, Crane was unable to stop the tears from sliding from his eyes and down his cheeks.
Satisfied, Billy released his hold on Crane. He watched with glee as Crane sat in the dirt and wiped his wet face, slick with sweat, tears, and drool, cheeks burning red. "Enjoy your book, Ichabod," Billy hissed, and walked away back into the school building, leaving Crane alone with his shame.
He wouldn't return to class. He couldn't. He didn't care what punishment the teacher would administer—likely the usual several swats across his palms with the often-used yardstick—nothing could possibly be worse than the sheer humiliation and torture that Billy had inflicted onto him. His classmates would see his disheveled hair and his dirt-streaked clothes and his red eyes and they would know. They would know that he had been the recipient of Billy's violence yet again and they would say nothing, but they would pity him.
If there was one thing that Crane loathed more than Billy Lee Walker, it was pity.
Crane wearily rose from the ground, dusted off his clothes, and began the journey towards his home. If he walked slowly, he would get there in close to an hour—by that time he would have conjured some excuse for his early arrival to present to Granny Keeny. As he walked past endless rows of cornfields he thought of Billy, entertaining fantasies where he was suitably punished for the hell he had put Crane through. He'd punch him in the nose over and over again, relishing the crunch of breaking bone underneath his fist, or perhaps he'd make him eat a whole set of encyclopedias.
Or maybe he'd just kill him.
He noticed a distinct shadow reflected on the path before him, different than the repetitive corn stalks, and he turned his head towards the source. A scarecrow draped in the tattered, patched remains of a jacket stood before him, fastened to its post with worn, faded rope, a crude grin stitched across its burlap face. Crane stood in its shadow for a few moments and stared into the burlap smile, picturing Billy's bruised and battered body tied to the post, his mouth warped into a toothless, twisted grimace.
After a time, Crane smiled back.