Doctor Crane's Ugly Little Stepping Stones - StripestheBoar - Batman (2024)

Chapter 1: Pre-Show

Chapter Text

"Love."

"Union."

"Friends."

"Acceptance."

"Scarecrow."

"Terror."

Oh you flatter me.

Jonathan momentarily shut his eyes in brief irritation, before signaling for the doctor to continue.

"Doctor."

"Patient."

"Patient."

"Illness."

"Jervis."

Pest.

He paused, glancing away in a manner that would not go unnoticed. "Inane." The doctor paused, taking a moment to pen down unknown details in the shrinking space of the page.

"God."

"Mistakes."

"Grandmother."

"Pain."

"Crows."

"Escape."

"Sister."

Naivety.

He stopped, that stolid mask only breaking for a moment to rub the sleeplessness from his eyes. "Half-sister," he corrected, leaving curt response as his answer. "I'll leave it there for now," the doctor spoke softly, placing her notebook flat on her lap, but still hidden from his gaze. "Your subtlety is lacking, Dr. Barnaby," he could only reply, his gaze one of restless contempt. "I much prefer the straightforward alternative."

"Well you're doing much better, Crane," she told him in a vain attempt to provide sole friendly reassurance. "We've decided to put you back on the normal schedule starting today,

during the exercise period." Crane showed no elation for the sudden leap forward in progress, but it was clear he approved from the way he slowly sat back with professional mannerisms typical of the former psychiatrist. Doctors had learned to pick up on many of their patients' most subtle cues, and as stoic as Jonathan liked to think himself, he knew even he had some indicators that gave him away. Jonathan had his exercise period, but due to his recovery, he had been given a time completely separate from the rest of the asylum, with other recovering patients. He always had been quite the shut-in, but with the passing weeks he had craved for greater conversation than the scripted dialogue from the staff. "That's only a few hours away, Doctor," he noted, eyes flicking to the clock on the wall. "I suppose there are some final inquiries that you would like to bring up before I inevitably get thrown back into the madhouse."

"Only a few," she confirmed, looking back down at her notes to remind herself of what she wanted to pursue. "Scarecrow." You rang? "What about them?" Jonathan questioned, ignoring those intrusive thoughts of his alter ego. "Is he still prominent within your mind?" Barnaby continued. No. "Yes," he answered honestly. Catching her underlying surprise at his truth in the brief moment of speechlessness, he continued. "They've always been prominent, Doctor. My toxin, however, seemed to only amplify their presence in a way I haven't experienced since childhood." Barnaby's glazed-over shock was more that evident, but she supposed it was only a matter of time before answers were spilled. Crane always refused to speak of the contents of his thoughts, but ever since his time trapped in the medical wing due to extreme psychosis brought on by his own chemical, that blanket of exhaustion never seemed to completely lift away. Of course, this information was nothing new to them, but the sudden spout of honesty certainly wasn't expected, but not unappreciated. Crane had been the subject of a tireless effort by the doctors ever since they heard of that meeting with the Mad Hatter, and it seemed their work was not going unrewarded. Over the past month, the former psychiatrist was letting previous unknowns slip through self-made cracks, a more than positive sign for the Arkham staff. She wanted to dig a bit deeper, but with their limited time and knowing Crane would only shut down with more targeted questions, she decided to move on. "How have you and Savannah been getting along?" The mention of his half-sister brought about no visible disgust, a much preferable reaction compared to months before. These subtle changes were what fueled hope among the doctors, especially with the recent development with the sporadic meetings with the young visitor. "The girl is naïve," he told her simply. "She speaks to me as though she believes me to be a close sibling."

"Does that bother you?" Barnaby asked him. Crane canted his head ever so slightly, taking a moment to consider the question. "I know that should she see me outside this asylum, her attitude would be far different."

"How can you be sure of that?" she questioned, to which she received a suspicious gaze. "I know," he responded brusquely. "You wouldn't fear a bear in the zoo but you would quiver upon seeing it near your campsite." Barnaby feared her ink would run out soon. "Are you the bear?" she prodded. "Only if you're comfortable with being the camper," Jonathan retorted shortly. It was clear from his curt responses that he was growing bored of the questions, and so she moved on to another topic. "Let's talk about your past relationships," she suggested. This time his distaste showed, narrowed eyes flickering to the clock that slowly dragged time along and lips forming a brief grimacing arch. "I assume this is because of Tetch?" he stated more matter-of-factly than as a real question. "He isn't the subject of this conversation, Jonathan," she told him, although not denying his claim. Doctors shouldn't lie to their patients after all. "If so, then why bring it up?" was his rebuttal. "After all, we've had this conversation— last year if memory serves. Don't you tell me you've lost the notes."

"I believe you were lying," Barnaby argued, keeping a reserved tone. "How can you be sure of that?" he quoted, his knack for the ironic and symbolic rising up once more. "Are you willing to tell me the truth?" she prodded, prompting a noticeable grimace. "Possibly," he answered, keeping the answer to the train of comments ambiguous, but she was persistent. "Was what you told us before the truth?" That struck the right chord given the lack of an immediate response. Crane seemed to wait the seconds away as his gaze once again turned back to the clock mounted above the doorway. She thought he was going to wait out their session as he was known to do given his unshakable manner, but once his hands folded into his lap, she knew she had something. "Intimate relationships?" he asked, clarifying the question. "Yes," she encouraged, pen at the ready. "Have you ever been in one?" Previously the answer had always been a resounding "no". Subsequent questions about his singlehood and his feelings about it were met with curt answers. However, this time yielded far more fruitful results.

"Of course," was his answer. "Many?" the doctor asked, the pen once again meeting paper. "Only a few," he replied, watching her hand move in tight rhythm. His own hand moved up to his neck, rubbing it slowly as he failed to hear that voice of his inner monster make any comment. He felt a craving he wouldn't dare confess. "Men or women?" she pressed, bringing about a quirk of the brow. "Now, that's more a question of curiosity rather than necessity, dear doctor," he criticized, a polite smile raising his lips at her evident embarrassment. It was best that she moved on like nothing happened. "Would you say that these relationships were healthy?" she instead inquired. Eye contact was broken as he took a moment to once again watch the clock, listening to that silent ticking that only sounded within his mind with each leap of the second hand. "They were always the one to end the relationship," he responded. "I can become too much at times." Barnaby paused, looking up from her notebook with a knitted brow. "I don't believe I understand," she told him, beckoning an elaboration. "I can't help myself sometimes, Doctor," he spoke, his edged tone making it clear that was the end of their interrogation. "I believe our session has timed out, Miss Barnaby."

Edward cleared his throat, recapturing the focus of his acquaintance. Jervis blinked, grimacing at his own resting uncomfortable nature as he gave him an apologetic gesture of the hand. "You aren't off your medication, are you?" Nygma sighed, rolling down gray uniform sleeves after a gust of wind brought a new intolerable chill from the already wintry environment. The recent cold front was not a welcomed visit to the residents of the already frigid atmosphere of the asylum. "Oh no no," Jervis denied softly, lacing his fingers together as nervous habit. He found it unpleasant how there was no longer a barrier where his hands would meet. Something about being able to touch his own chilled skin was oddly upsetting to a mind that wasn't as frayed as it usually was. "Is it Dr. Picard?" Ed guessed next, bringing up Jervis' assigned psychiatrist. The name alone brought about a heavy groan and massaged temples. "Oh he's quite the flea in my coat," Tetch didn't deny. "The man treats me like a child. Our session starts just after the period." Heavy eyes connected with his companion's, who had seemed triumphant in his momentary victory. "However, that as not what I was thinking about." As Ed donned a look of tenuous annoyance, Tetch looked back at the wider area of the courtyard where Gotham's most abhorrent enjoyed their free time. Edward let his gaze rise to the same direction where he noticed the odd scene of Harley and a few other lesser known inmates hiding under a bench. A few seconds would pass before a crow landed nearby. Poor girl made a valiant effort to catch the birds by surprise, leaping out with the grace of a goose defending its territory in a fruitless effort to catch one of the corvids. All she received was a feather the bird had left behind. Being the sweet girl she was, she graciously gave the feather to one of the other men that had tried in vain to catch the crow, offering a praise that went unheard by the criminals watching. "Is it Harley?" Nygma questioned, looking back at Jervis, who donned an uncomfortable expression; while Harley's endeavors were indeed entertaining, his gaze was instead locked on to where the bird had decided to land. It was then that the always cognizant Riddler remembered the murder of crows that had sat themselves onto the slanted roofing of the asylum. "It's the birds," he recognized.

"They've been roosting here lately. Usually we only have pigeons," Tetch noted, looking up at them with an unsure expression. "Well according to the guard, Crane's been getting his own exercise period ever since he recovered from his psychosis," Nygma offered his explanation. "You know they're attracted to him like Joker to crazy or Firefly to fire." A smirk came to his face. "You aren't scared of them, are you?" Jervis seemed unamused by the accusation, opening his mouth to refute him, but only ending with a less than confident "Well, I don't believe they're too fond of me."

"They're crows. They're not fond anyone but Crane," Nygma sighed, taking a seat at the stone table Tetch was currently resting at. The two proceeded to watch a couple of inmates chase around a giggling Mary Dahl, apparently finding it to be a fun little game. At her beckoning, she actually got Harley and Valentin to join in, getting their exercise in by seeing who was the more able criminal. Harley, given her agile physique and years of practice, was unsurprisingly the winner at the end of the game, flaunting her victory after successfully tagging the child-like woman. It was probably for the best that Lazlo didn't win, as most believed it wouldn't have ended too well if he had. It was almost inane, thinking men who were considered masterminds among the media were placed alongside a few of the mentally ill that found joy in such games like tag. Out of everyone, Nygma found himself to be the most out of place among this group of crazies he considered to be his inferiors. The way he scoffed at the very sight of the childish game let his thoughts be more than clear. Jervis found his contempt to only be amusing; everyone did. Edward could be haughty and complain about the insult of him being placed in an asylum all he wanted, for everyone knew the true nature that sprouted up from his relentless obsessions was more than enough to warrant the court's ultimate decision. Even still, Tetch found himself a friend in the narcissist, finding the fact that Nygma endured his presence to be quite endearing.

"Well well, the Scarecrow as I live and breathe," came the smug voice of Edward, who seemed to notice the man's approach far sooner than the pensive Jervis. "Quite bold of you call me that whilst the guards are on watch," Crane stated, stopping before the table with crossed arms. Jervis noticed there was something in his hands, but decided to stay mum whilst the two continued their chat. "Oh please. You believe they have time to actually come after me with all the ruckus in this courtyard?" Nygma scoffed, watching him take a seat at another end of the round table to form a triangle of sorts. "From what I've heard, you've only just gotten out of solitary confinement last week," Jonathan hummed, placing whatever was in his hands onto the table. It was revealed to be a paper plate topped with a pile of various lunch meats, much to the others' curiosity. "I'm surprised you would take the risk, although you've always had that compulsion to taunt." Edward seemed offended by the choice of words. "Compulsion? Hardly," he spat. "Think it more of an act of protest. These imbeciles believe they can stifle my speech. They're only intimidated." Jonathan let a quick exhale escape him, the only indication anyone got that he found something to be amusing. "It's good to be back, Riddler." Said criminal gave a casual smirk at the words of defiance. It was well known throughout the Asylum that the staff held an unsaid anti-alias policy. Names like "Harley Quinn", "Two-Face", and "Mad Hatter" or even one-time headlines like the briefly famous Gotham Station Bomber that bunked with Harvey Dent were not allowed within Arkham, as it was a held belief that actively referring to other inmates as their known alter egos would only perpetuate unwanted behaviors. Jonathan, of course, believed this. It didn't mean he liked it, however.

"Have they placed you back in your usual cell yet?" Nygma questioned casually whilst Jervis inspected the odd plate of meat, silently pondering as to why his mere existence hadn't repelled the lanky man. "Not yet. After the exercise period they will," Crane replied, shoulders slack in contrast to his usual tense manner around other individuals. "Oh good. You must be excited to see Mikey again," Nygma teased. An amused titter erupted from Jervis at Jonathan's following exhausted sigh. "Is he here?" he murmured, looking out at the mingle of prisoners that belonged to the low-risk wing of the asylum. Mikey was Jonathan's assigned cellmate, and while all three found solace in complaining about who they were placed with, it was ultimately Nygma who found himself to be the most miserable what with his cellmate having the mentality of a young boy. "He's currently ranting to anyone who will listen about cameras hidden in odd places," Jervis answered, noticing the visible stiffness that overcame Jonathan at the sound of his voice. As soon as it had come, however, it was gone with some forced relaxation. "If you're going to complain already, just attack a guard," suggested the Riddler, running a hand through neat brown hair. "High security inmates get their cells completely to themselves."

"And little to no freedom. I believe I'll pass," Jonathan muttered with a bored tone to his voice. "Is that why Harvey and Lynns are strangely absent?"

"Zsasz, too," Tetch mentioned, taking eyes off of the plate of meat finally. "Harvey got in a fight with one of the other inmates, Viktor nearly murdered his doctor, and dear Garfield somehow got ahold of one of the guards' matches."

"Quite surprised at Harvey's case," Crane stated, taking another scan around the courtyard. Unlike seconds before, his frame didn't react to another statement from Jervis. "He rather enjoyed his privileges. I suppose that was Two-Face's doing?" Nygma nodded, finally bringing attention to the small pile of meat. "This is one of your privileges?" Before Crane could responded, Harley leaped into the conversation and onto the seat beside him with a boisterous laugh. "And a damn good one at that! The docs give ya free food? Talka 'bout a score!" Jonathan kept his mouth shut as Quinn quickly plucked a piece of meat and ungracefully dropped it into her mouth. Jervis couldn't stop the spilling of giggles when her expression reflexively scrunched up at the powerful taste. "Rancid," Jonathan was finally courteous enough to mention, watching her spit out the meat and a following attempt to spit out the disgusting taste. "Thanks for tellin' me ya wingnut," she complained, giving him a playful smack on the arm. Jonathan tried to recoil out of the way, but the blow landed, thus temporarily breaking that ever shrinking personal bubble of his. He showed no annoyance, but it was only subtly noticeable that he was uncomfortable at the touch. "The meat was a tinge green, my dear," Jervis mention, his giggles subsiding. "Ain't you been to college, bozo?" she chided. "I see free food. I eat. Simple as that." She puffed up her cheeks, looking back down at the meat. "What's it for, anyways? What good is meat that ya can't eat?"

Jonathan looked up at her with feigned disinterest, looking back at the rooftops. On cue, a large crow fluttered down from the sky and landed on the table, their attention turned to the Scarecrow. It was almost big enough to be mistaken for a raven. It let out a light squawk, but the doctor didn't seem to take any offense to the loud greeting. Crane took up a piece of meat, tearing off a piece and offering it. The corvid considered it for only a second before snatching the treat and quickly devouring it. Harley gasped childishly, gesturing wordlessly to plated meat. Jonathan nodded in return, watching her grab a fistful of rancid meat and skip off to go feed some birds. That left him with only half his pile left, but he didn't seem to mind, merely tearing off another piece and feeding it to his feathered friend. Tetch noticed with quiet interest how the bird was missing an eye. "Won't that make him ill?" he questioned, causing the other's gaze to meet his, if only briefly. "Of course not. They're carrion birds," Jonathan explained economically. "Quite like vultures. They've adapted to eating rotting flesh."

With Harley gone, a few more crows seemed to deem it safe to fly down. Jonathan's lips curled ever so slightly as a couple more corvids landed as close as they could on his seat and before him, calling out for his attention. "Yes yes, I'm back," he said softly, as if speaking to an excitable dog that had spent too many hours alone in a house waiting for their owner to return, but he continued to hold that still even tone of voice you would only deliver to someone deserving of contempt. Scraps of meat were eagerly taken up from his hand as the birds seemed to find more interest in eating from his hand than from the plated food. "Is that the meat from the kitchen?" Riddler asked slowly, a grimace clearly expressing his distaste for the messy, non-mechanical company Jonathan liked to keep. "Just the sum that's gone bad," Crane answered, being sure to give the intellectual his attention as he continued feeding the birds. Nygma considered the food, a realization seeming to come to him then. "Have you ever had these sorts of privileges before?" Nygma questioned, bringing a questioning gaze to the table. Jonathan thought for a moment, but it was Tetch that answered for him. "Outside of the standard exercise and recreation room privileges? I don't believe so," he said, surprise sounding off in his own voice. "With all the constant terrorizing you bring to the doctors, you've always been trapped in this space betwixt being too unruly to deserve extra privileges and too tame to be considered high risk like Joker," Nygma brought up. A sneer found its way onto his face, lacing his fingers with derision clearly oncoming. "You aren't going straight on us, are you?" A roll of Crane's eyes seemed to bring out a spark of genuine disdain from the Riddler, although it was nothing to ever worry about. "I'm feeding birds, Nygma. Calm down," Jonathan brushed off, an answer that seemed to sate the enigmatic man for the time being. He still seemed to be the same constantly vexed, incorrigible terror he always prided himself on being— save for the 'terror' bit. He just seemed so subdued, but the others had chalked it up to sedatives.

Jervis silently watched Jonathan move onto the second scrap of meat, tearing off more pieces for the avians to devour. Nygma seemed to want to speak more on his mind, but a couple more crows seemed to have found it safe enough to land uncomfortably close to him in order to eat as well. Some finally decided to rip bits from the plate, not of any displeasure to Jonathan, but the largest crow and two others found more desire in being fed by hand. "I see you've invited more guests to our table," Edward muttered, looking over at Jervis. "Whatever happened to 'no room'?" Tetch bit his lip to fight off that instinctual urge to supply a quote. Fortunately he wasn't in the mood to be taken in by the guards. "It appears I'm not currently running this tea party," he simply replied with a shrug, watching birds eat hungrily. He couldn't help but be reminded of a certain time beside a chapel, sitting on graves with handfuls of peanuts and uncharacteristic jokes. Jokes about accents and annoyance at made up words and the occasional anger sparked from a misunderstanding not yet resolved. Jervis knew his partner in crime could remember the laughs and confessions and humanness of their time together, even if he wouldn't acknowledge it. Nygma would never understand those times, he knew, which is why he was never told of them. Jervis would admit he was sometimes envious of just how informed Edward was on just about everything, such as intricacies and plans and Jonathan himself or perhaps this "Scarecrow" character; from shoes and ships and sealing wax. "Of cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings."

"Ahem." Tetch blinked, his attention brought to the recidivist with a questioning gaze. "You were staring at me maliciously," Riddler stated flatly, bringing an apologetic "oh! Sorry Ed," from the smallest of the group. Jonathan seemed disinterested in the oddity, plucking some more meat off the plate in order to feed another one of his flying companions. Once another crow landed down, Edward finally hit his limit and pushed away from the table. "Wash your hands afterwards before you get everyone sick," he merely stated, shifting with rigid distaste to turn and leave. "I'll see you at the cafeteria tomorrow morning."

"Edward." Nygma paused and looked back with a nicely feigned veil of aloofness. Jonathan watched him for only a moment before letting out a tense sigh. "Thank you." Ed stared, brow furrowed. "For…?" he encouraged. "For helping save my life," Jonathan elaborated, looking somewhat irked he had to near spell it out. There was a moment of speechlessness from the Riddler, having not expected a thanks so soon out of the gate. He had been planning on strategically forcing such gratitude over time in the recreation room. The proud man he was, he quickly regained any lost composure. "Of course!" he grinned as though he had actually taken the steps of that previous plan to earn this gratitude. "I knew it would just be a waste of moderate intellect should you have died then. I was merely doing you a favor."

"A favor that will be paid back in full," Jonathan assured him. "Just say the word and you will be able to count on my skillset to assist you." It was at this point that Nygma looked visibly perturbed by this shift in attitude. "In full," Ed repeated, that smirk growing on his face once more. "Enjoy your birds." With that, left their presence.

"Our dear pig friend could use some gratitude," Jervis mentioned, filling the empty space that threatened to follow the finished conversation. Jonathan's brow raised ever so slightly, his head turning to peer at Lazlo from the corner of his eye. "In another lifetime, perhaps," he decided, shaking his head slowly. The large crow before him cawed loudly in a desire for either food or attention; it would no doubt grate on the nerves of their fellow inmates, but their ill friends were unable to fly, so it was one of those 'deal with it' situations in Arkham, like terrible food, lackadaisical doctors, and rampant abuse.

"I could always use a bit of gratitude," Tetch smiled, resting his smiling chin on a propped palm. Crane looked up at him, silently feeling his bird friend. "Ah, yes. Thank you, Jervis."

Jervis hadn't expected this. He had been anticipating for a near two weeks the spitting hatred and attempts at strangulation he had once believed were destined to come his way. Of course, Jonathan always had a reputation for staying unnervingly calm for purely intimidation, but this didn't seem like that. He felt so oddly subdued in just his act. That brusque intonation was a far cry from that slow pace he intentionally donned every waking moment. For a few seconds, Tetch believed he was reading too deep. The idea was quickly dismissed, however, when he figured it was simply the fact that he had more personal experience with Crane than anyone else— well, except Nygma. That still had to be accounted for.

"There seem to be more birds than usual," Jervis decided to bring up, watching the crows peer down at them from far above. Why was it now of all times that he found difficulty in knowing what to say? He was never a friend of agonizing silences as he always seemed to know how to fill them with chatter. Jonathan looked back at the rooftops of the towering asylum, taking interest in the crows. "Crows will show up for funerals," he replied softly, although whether it could really be considered a reply was debatable with how odd the response was to the statement. "Do they?" Jervis asked, his attention back to the corvids tearing at the meat. Crane nodded slowly. "When another crow dies," he explained, "many will come en masse and gather round, most likely to warn of possible dangers in the area or perhaps to mourn." Jervis frowned, saying nothing and letting him get on with his bird facts. "I see…" he could only reply with.

"Hey Doc!" Jonathan turned his head in slight surprise when he heard Harley reappear with a little leap into view. Jervis, however, nearly jumped out of his seat. "Harley. I'm afraid I'm almost out of meat," Jonathan informed her solemnly, looking down at the few scraps left on the plate. He took one up, generously feeding his bird friend that so kindly asked with a loud caw to his face. "Nah, I don't need anymore;" she smiled, "some bozo ate it all." Jervis visibly cringed. "Oh how I pity their stomach and the nurse that will have to care for him," he murmured. Harley was quickly joined by a rather recognizable figure, what with him being college aged. Lonnie Machin, was undoubtedly the youngest of the asylum to join their ranks. "Mr. Machin," Jonathan greeted slowly. "I doubt you've come to congratulate me on a speedy recovery."

"I'm not heartless," Lonnie sneered, although there was a hint of amusem*nt to his voice. "Glad you're better, Doc." The recovered patient didn't flex in emotion. "Forgive me for believing otherwise," the doctor apologized without much of a hint of remorse, "we just left on a bad note the last time we met within Arkham after our conversation about Halloween." Jervis gave Machin a questioning look, which the boy was quick to explain away. "Look, if you want to celebrate a propagandist holiday filled with consumerist garbage set up by the man for the sole purpose of sating the masses, that's your thing;" he forgave, "I've come to terms with that. I just have to put you down as one of the many that have been lost to the capitalist spin machine." If Jonathan could roll his eyes any harder they would be dice.

"Is it really celebrating if you're terrorizing Gotham as you do it? I'd think you'd like that sort of chaos," Harleen asked him, to which Anarky seemed to brush aside the question with a wave of his hand. "That's chaos for the sake of chaos, Harley," he explained briefly. "I prefer chaos as an act of protest." He gestured a hand to Tetch, as if trying to get him to come behind him in agreement. "Er… Halloween isn't very big back in England," he said softly. "Not like it is here in the States… Never quite celebrated it myself…" Tetch grinned sheepishly as he said with a questioning tone, "I didn't know Halloween was a government plot?" Anarky just scoffed and shook his head, waving a hand as if to dismiss him. Harley finally decided to get into the meat of the business, stopping the pointless debate with, "Alright, sooo, Garfield and Lonnie n' I have been waiting for you to come out so you could show us your…" She grinned widely and paused, pointing to her chest. "Y'know…" Lonnie seemed to get back on track, nodding in agreement with his brow wiggling suggestively. Crane quickly caught on, rolling his eyes to express his annoyance. "Very well." He grabbed the hem of his given uniform shirt with a hand, hiking it up just past his chest to expose that thin frame of his. Along his chest, right where his lungs could be located, was a giant scar from life-saving surgery and a couple bleak months of treatment. "Whoa…" Lonnie whispered, eyes wide, before a grin sprang up to his face. "Wicked." Harley popped that personal bubble once more by reaching forward and tracing a finger along the scar. "Wow! I could lose weight by walking the distance of that thing!" she grinned, her unwanted touching getting Jonathan to finally lower his shirt. "I suppose the aftermath of my near death is fairly interesting," he sighed, a hand to his chest to unconsciously trace the scar through his shirt. "Hey, you're lucky you got help from Lazlo," Lonnie reasoned, quickly gaining Crane's ire. "After all, the alternative would be having to pay tons for a corrupt health care system that whose only goal is to squeeze your life from you in the name of-"

"Lonnie," Jonathan interrupted. "It's bad enough I have to hear this from my cellmate. I beg that you please give me at least a couple days to adjust." Anarchy put his hands up in admitted defeat, shoving them into his pockets and strolling away. "Ah why you gotta be so hard on him, Doc?" Harley smiled, patting him on the back. "He literally threatened to bomb the offices of government officials," Crane deadpanned. "Hey, have you taken one of those political courses?" was Harley's rebuttal. "I had to take one back in uni. I was damn near ready to torch the White House after that." Jonathan gave her a strange look to her reply. "I didn't know you were fond of anarchism," he noted, a hint of interest in his usual flat tone. "I'm not! It was just an insanely boring class!" Harley smiled happily and promptly turned to leave before they would reigned back in. Jonathan looked over at Jervis, his expression back to impassive. "Did you understand any of that?" he asked. Jervis just grinned sheepishly. "I nodded out at 'consumerist', I'm afraid."

That key word at the end seemed to trigger a subtle response in the taller man, who tensed ever so slightly. He grimaced, taking in a deep breath, before letting it slowly leak out as he pet one of his little crow friends. "Did you name them?" Tetch asked, wanting to keep some conversation going. "Yes," Jonathan was willing to admit. "Well, only this one." He lifted his arm a bit higher, showing off the one-eyed large crow that was now perched on his wrist. "I named her Katrina."

Tetch's frown was immediate. "Wait… didn't you name one of the…" He paused, afraid he would be stepping on touchy territory. "One of the crows back my old home? Yes, I named that one Katrina as well," Jonathan answered. Jervis seemed displeased for whatever reason, something Crane picked up on. "Is that a problem?" he sighed with a tone that made it clear there would be no compromise. "Well, I just think it's… wrong to name two pets you have the same name!" the Englishman brought up. "It feels as though they're replaceable and not special little friends… like Dinah! My, if Dinah died, Alice surely wouldn't go about naming her next cat the same name! It just seems cruel."

"Of all the things you have to complain about…" Crane trailed off, looking more tired by the passing seconds. "For one, I've only decided to name her several days ago," he began to explain, too done with this conversation to point out that Arkham hardly seemed the place to discuss pets. "As for the other crow, I'm never going to see that crow again. I'm not going back and I only named her because you threatened to name her Lewis Carroll, so I might as well have never named it at all." Jervis' eyes narrowed at the pettiness of the confession, but let him continue. "Furthermore, humans share the same names all the time! There are tons of men out there named 'Jonathan' or 'Edward' or 'Jerv-'" He stopped, a sudden realization seemingly overtaking him. He looked away, lips tight. "Well… never you mind that last one." He looked back to see Jervis' reaction. "Oh please, don't look at me like that— I didn't even know 'Jervis' was an actual name up until I met you. Can you honestly tell me you've heard of another man named Jervis?" Hatter was always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, much to his detriment. His shifting reaction brought victory to Crane. "I rest my case," he said simply, wincing when the talons of the crow dug in just a tad too deep.

"I must say I'm surprised," Jervis finally admitted, renewing Jonathan's interest in the conversation. The doctor quirked a brow, waving a free hand to beckon him to go on. By this time the meat was all gone and the crows had flown away. Even Katrina had decided to take her leave. For the first time since Jonathan's appearance, Jervis felt as though they were alone and able to speak. "I'm surprised you haven't made an attempt of my life as of yet," Tetch finished, and to his bewilderment, it only drew out a smile from his friend. The very sight was rare in itself, and it was one everyone was right not to trust. However, that subdued tone of his posture and voice seemed was what put Tetch on edge the most. When Jonathan wasn't answering, Jervis leaned forward in his seat. "Jonathan… I know you just got out of the hospital, but… are you feeling alright?"

The look Crane gave the other inmate was one that shook Jervis to the core. Jonathan had always been well known for having a resting expression that caused most to keep away; a mix of innate anger and a little something the media often labeled as "evil". This time, however, there was no spite, anger, maliciousness, or any of that malevolence Crane had always been so good at displaying. It was calm, if not slightly irked, and just seemed to read as tired. Jervis swallowed, feeling a continuously sinking boulder in the pit of his stomach. "Do you feel like… yourself?" he clarified, his voice now tenuous.

Jonathan responded with a growing smile on his face, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his wrist in silent contemplation of the question given. "I feel…" His smile grew, and with that came a small chuckle. "I feel… better than I have in years."

The answer only contributed to far more many questions. Unfortunately, they heard a familiar whistle call out to reign them in. "That would be the end of the period," Jonathan noted, getting up. "Enjoy the rest of your evening."

Jervis sat there, watching him leave until a guard came and helped him back to his cell.

"Alright Crane, welcome back," a guard welcomed, opening the cell door and allowing the former professor to be let inside. "Someone definitely missed you while you were out." Jonathan could only sigh, watching as a familiar Latino male was brought in.

Mikey stopped when he saw Crane, eyes wide as the door closed behind him. Everything was silent during the next few seconds. "Hey," Mikey greeted. "Good evening," Crane returned. "Welcome back," the schizophrenic greeted slowly. "It's nice being back," his cellmate nodded. Mikey's eyes shifted around awkwardly, before suddenly clinging to a topic. "So-!" He was quickly cut off when Jonathan sharply raised a hand to halt him. "Please," his roommate sighed, "give me five minutes." Mikey simply nodded and sat in his own bed, watching Crane get into his own.

Jonathan felt the bedding, fiddled with blanket, hummed as he fluffed his pillow, and quickly laid back. He looked up at the ceiling, getting ready to enjoy looking at a gray sky and chipping paint for the months to come, and slowly let out a sigh. He shifted to lay on one side before going back to the other side, felt along the wall, and listened for that familiar dripping from a pipe that was still leaking even after all these months. "Alright," he said finally, "I believe I'm done." Mikey stared as Jonathan cleared his throat, letting the silence hang as he readied himself once more. After another beat, Jonathan nodded. "Go ahead."

"So! Where were we?" Mikey grinned, resting his head back on his arms as he looked up at the ceiling. "I believe the last time I was here, you had told me about the cameras in our flowers," Crane recalled, staring up at he same ceiling with a small smile flitting across his features. "Oh yeah! Okay okay, so you'll never guess what they're doing with all that video." He looked over with a grin.

"Mmm… what are they doing with all that footage?"

"They're using all the video to pick us out individually. Looking for victims, y'know? They select certain people and then they kidnap 'em. Boom! Never seen again."

"Really?"

"Yeah, and these people get their organs harvested and put on the black market."

"Really?"

"Oh yeah. The government's profiting off of it big time."

"That's something I've never seen on the news before; although, all mainstream news is government owned, right?"

"Obviously. Okay okay, so let me tell you about what they're doing with people in France."

"What are they doing to people in France?"

"Mind control."

"Oh."

"Yeah. Crazy, right?"

"Do go on."

"Is something wrong, Jervis?"

Tetch looked up disinterestedly, a small frown present on his face. "Oh a few things have me all aflutter," he murmured, although it was clear he was in no mood to elaborate. Doctor Picard set down his notepad, tenting his thin, doctor-like fingers together. Tetch hated a doctor's hands sometimes. Their mouth spouted untruths while their hands were the ones to speak volumes. Jervis always preferred to lace fingers; Jonathan was often one to tent. "You won't feel better if you keep those negative thoughts locked in," the doctor advised. "You can tell me anything. Nothing leaves this room."

"That's what you said before they subpoenaed my records," Tetch scoffed, slumped over the table with his chin resting on folded arms. "Now, Jervis, that was a legal requirement. You know that don't you?" Picard reasoned. Tetch just turned his head away, half of his face buried in the crook of his arms. "Now, why don't you tell me what had you so bothered?"

The smaller man's eyes held a very evident glare when reviewing the doctor. "This and that," he murmured. "Of shoes and ships and ceiling wax. You know how it is." The doctor frowned, shaking his head. "Now now, you just can't go around saying things like that," he reminded him. As his assigned doctor spoke, Jervis seemed to only grow in frustration, burying his face into his arms. "We want you to get better. You want that, too, don't you?" There was a pause as Jervis continued to stay hidden. The doctor continued to speak. "I would think you would be happy to see Jonathan." Tetch let his eyes rise just above the valley's of his arms, fixed on the doctor in a silent glare. Dr. Picard remained ignorant of the intentions of that stare, opting to continue to press on. "Did something go wrong? He wasn't mean to you, was he?" Jervis blinked slowly, silent. The psychiatrist had mistook Tetch's sudden reticent for him simply being disquieted by everything. The hat-maker glanced to the door longingly, vainly hoping the doctor would just drop it and they could be done with everything. Of course, the doctor had to keep talking. They always did. It was a habit they always seemed to hold; a pHd always seemed to cause people to believe they had more important opinions. That was something he never quite liked about his dear March Hare; the definitiveness of his statements.

"Jervis, are you paying attention?" came the grating voice of his assigned doctor. "You know it's rude to ignore people."

Tetch felt a rise within him, but it died down thanks to a bit of chemical assistance, curtesy of the asylum. He let out a simple huff, leaning back with lacing fingers. "I just suppose I'm a bit tired is all," he sighed. "Not tired in the usual sense mind you. Just tired… from kittens, cats, sacks, and wives, to cards and crows and all the ugly little stepping stones in between." He slumped onto the table. "Just… tired is all."

Chapter 2: Star of the Show

Summary:

Jonathan and Jervis try to spend their time in the asylum, taking one step at a time. However, it seems that not eveyone is suitable for silence, and so a plot starts brewing.

Notes:

Might as well get this outta the way: Savannah is an OC. Yes, she exists in the comics, but I came up with appearance, personality, name, etc.

Wanted to work on ‘Control’, but couldn’t help but quickly type this up. Like how it turned out. Hopefully it brings out a bit more information as to just what’s going on with Jonathan and such.

So without further adieu, please enjoy.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Red was spilt all over the table. Quite the mess it was, Jervis was rather ashamed to admit. His mind all aflutter with worry and ready apologies, he placed his hands on the almost liquid-like crimson he had unintentionally poured over the table and subsequently the floor. He had to admire it for a moment, the sight bringing his heart to a leap as he took some of it into his hands, a smile spreading across an unsure face. It wasn't long before a guard entered the room, looking down at the spilt colors, before letting out a heavy sigh. "Seriously Tetch?" Aaron Cash muttered, bending down to help roll up the red fabric. Tetch grinned sheepishly, giving the large spool a small tug so he wouldn't completely take it away. "Oh I was just admiring your fabrics," he hummed, feeling his hand over the gentle cloth once more. "Why, I could line a fine hat with this material!" Cash looked up with faint amusem*nt, handing over the large roll for him to take a look at. "We used to use that stuff for the curtains whenever we'd have the other patients do those theatre shows. We just put this stuff away once we got the budget for the thicker kind of curtains. The ones actually used in plays."

Jervis pursed his lips, thinking back to a friend whilst his eyes inspected the flawless material. "Oh I think he would quite like this kind," he told Cash, growing rather excited to show the fabric off. Cash looked up at the only doctor in the room with a quirked brow. "Whaddaya say, doc? Checks out?" he asked, watching Dr. Leland glance over from her laptop with a small smile. "It's fine. I'm sure he'll appreciate it," she nodded with approval, setting her laptop down and strolling over to the cabinet. A whistle was on her lips as she unlocked the door and pulled out a rather large pair of scissors. Jervis gratefully took it in his hand, quickly getting to work in separating a thin section of the material. It had to be perfect; his friend wouldn't have it any other way. As soon as he had his strip, he made quick work of the middle by expertly cutting out two holes. As soon as it was done, he kindly handed the tool back, looking up at Cash with a readied smile. Cash nodded, gesturing for him to follow his lead out the door. Tetch dutifully followed, folding the large strip into his hands with a steady smile.

Ruckus of madmen laughing and entertaining themselves grew louder until they were inside the Rec room. Cash scanned around until he saw the big guy tucked up in a corner. "There he is," Aaron pointed out, gesturing to the man. Jervis followed his hand, grinning ear to ear when he saw him. He quietly thanked Cash before skipping off, trying hard not to wrinkle the fabric he was delivering to his friend.

"Lazlo!" Jervis called out upon arriving, engendering a jolt and a suspicious look from the other. Pyg, with his face hidden in his hands, found it possible to smile once more upon seeing his smaller acquaintance. Tetch presented the cloth, offering to be the one to apply it. Valentin conceded, uncovering his face for a brief moment and crossing his legs on the ground. Biting his tongue, the hatter quickly went about tying the cloth around Pyg's eyes, making sure the holes for the eyes were lined up properly for him to see. Finishing tying up the fabric, he took a step back to see how it had turned out. The pale man had black hair now shrouded by the fabric, the material covering up the top portion if his face while the mouth and chin were left to show, just as the Professor liked it.

Lazlo felt around his face, smiling pleasantly. Jervis was happy he was able to help his companion. "You look simply frabjous, Valentin! Why, I believe you could- eep!" Jervis was heaved up into much larger arms, getting a hug so tight it actually hurt a little. "I love the gift, Tetch," Lazlo grinned, the intense medication he was on subduing his usual flawed speech. "Flawed eyes were never meant to gaze upon the masterful complexion of the artist before they're reborn." He dropped Tetch back onto his feet, watching him teeter a bit. "After that scoundrel— that blasphemer upon the Mother— took my last mask, I was nearly about to have him corrected!" Jervis just tittered softly, looking back at said offender of the Mother Goat's good name. The man in question, a rather imposing figure, had stolen the red mask Lazlo had made in his therapy time. While art therapy wasn't for everyone, it was certainly Lazlo's favored time, as he enjoyed making creative masks to hide the upper section of his face. After it had been stolen, Valentin was ready to lobotomize the man, but Jervis made sure to get a quick substitute before his friend got in some serious trouble.

"A rather kind gesture to a friend, Mr. Tetch," commented a watcher. Jervis looked over as Lazlo went about his own business, spotting the familiar middle-aged figure of Deacon Blackfire. The deacon looked up from his bible (which was heavily marred by scribbled out scriptures and constant notations on the sides), massive locks of graying hair pulled back and tied loosely. He gave a kind, almost parental smile as he placed a bookmark in between the pages. "Good deeds will always be rewarded in full in the afterlife," he went on to comment. Jervis was immediately uncomfortable in the presence of the cult leader, but nonetheless decided to take the respectful route with returning the smile with a "thank you, Father."

"Ugh. 'Father'," Mary Dahl complained, clutching her doll close to her body as she kicked her legs on the seat. Despite her sitting on the other side of the table Blackfire was at, Jervis had almost overlooked her and her even smaller stature. "This big ol' creep ain't my daddy!" Blackfire merely raised a brow in silent annoyance as the woman treated him to a stuck-out tongue. The scene brought a calm smile to Jervis, he pulled up a seat right at their table. "Attitudes like that is what get worldly folk like you sent to hell," the deacon sneered, shutting his bible as his demeanor seemed to do a complete flip. Jervis felt it was his time to intervene before an argument erupted, but the comment seemed to only brighten Baby Doll's mood. She donned that mischievous smirk that had grown synonymous with her villainy. Cupping pudgy hands around her mouth to amplify her voice, she shouted, "Hey Garfield! What's hotter than the flames of hell?"

When Jervis glanced over to the one she was calling to, he only had a split second to push his chair away from the table before Lynns suddenly ran into view, leapt, and landed on the table Rose Bukater style with one leg propped up and the whole nine yards. Then came the punchline. "My burning love for Jesus Christ! Can I get an amen?"

Immediately the two devolved into helpless laughter and giggles. Even Jervis couldn't help the titters that spilled from his mouth as Blackfire brusquely stood up in evident disgust. Firefly and Baby Doll only laughed harder as the zealot was forced to tug his bible out from under Garfield's heavy body. Even after he stormed off in red-faced anger, the two continued to giggle and laugh. "My, it wasn't that funny," Tetch grinned despite the hiccups of laughter bubbling from his chest. He was simply self-conscious of all the looks they were starting to get. "Hah- ah- it was funny to me, man," Garfield snickered as he wiped tears of laughter from his eyes. Mary did the same, those childish giggles unending. "W-we- haha, we've been waiting to use that line for a month," she gasped in hysterics. "I can't believe he finally said it!" Just on time, too. Lynns had been released from solitary confinement only that morning. It was no surprise these two were finding fun in silly jokes; in Arkham, you practically have to make your own fun. Dahl and Lynns were placed directly across from each other when put into their cells, so it only made sense that they tried to get along the best they could.

"Okay, okay, I think I'm done," Garfield grinned, sliding himself onto the edge of the table and getting off. He noticed the doubtful gaze of Jervis and promptly responded. "What can I say? It gets boring on the ground. Guy like me isn't supposed to be grounded like this." He looked out the reinforced window, up at that cloudy sky. Well, whatever he could see between the bars. "I wish I had those wings back, you know? With those babies, I could fly higher than any sky scraper." Jervis let his interest in the conversation be known. "That's quite impressive," he lauded, praising his mechanical prowess. "Not everyone can build such a machine." Garfield's face was uncertain as he looked back at him. "Well, it's not that impressive," he replied. "Because- tch—" He paused as a giggle he tried to hold back in vain slipped through "—b-because skyscrapers can't fly."

Jervis stared, took in a deep breath, and gently asked, "How long have you been waiting to say that?" he asked softly. "Literally three days," Firefly grinned, completely sliding off of the table to properly take a seat and sit next to him. "Okay okay, I swear I'm done." As soon as he had stopped shaking with restrained laughter, he scanned around, noticing Pyg's new getup. "Someone took his mask again?" he guessed, leaning back in his chair. Tetch just nodded, adding on, "I got him the little garb around his head. He's quite content with it, and so am I." Firefly's gaze locked onto several other colorful characters around the recreation room, such as Jonathan. "Hm. What's with some of these freaks and masks?" he muttered, using the term 'freak' loosely since he prided himself in being the most destructive freak of all. "Don't you wear a mask, on your little escapades, Firefly?" Jervis hummed, his gaze shifting to one of subtle judgement. "You mean the one I need to breathe oxygen so I don't suffocate on carbon dioxide?" Lynns snickered in return. "Fair point," Jervis acquiesced, looking around at the group as Mary left to go play with her doll. Pursing his lips, he steadily locked his eyes on Jonathan, who was listening to Nygma rant about this and that. His thoughts went back to that Scarecrow mask of his. "Masks are… quite like another identity," he finally decided on, folding his hands in his lap. "You don't want people to see the real you, and so you disguise your features with something you feel is the representation of the real you."

Hatter.

Can you hear me?

Jervis shivered at the memory, frowning deeply as he was forced to picture leering eyes and a grin too impossible for his face. Jonathan never smiled that widely; it just seemed too unnatural for a man who was always so unhappy. He gazed up at Jonathan once more, and for a split second, their eyes met. Jervis felt that connection he had always known was there, and yet Crane just turned his head back to Ed as if there was nothing. Jonathan knew there was something between them, that much Jervis was sure of, but he only wished the Hare could convince himself of what was right before him. Then again, maybe it wasn't his own pride that reticent nature was trying to protect.

The good doctor was always protective of you.

But he isn't here right now.

Jervis gulped steadily, rubbing the back if his neck. "It… helped you to dissociate. Become who you want to be, and hide who you really are." "Like a kid just barely under the drinking age?" Garfield commented, to which Jervis nodded. "Yes, like a kid barely under— wait." Brow furrowed in confusion, he followed Firefly's gaze until it landed on a certain college-aged youth. "Oh, you're talking about Anarky." Garfield merely shrugged in feigned innocence. "Oh, no specific person. I just don't think you should be going to prison when you're not even old enough to drink." Machin heard the slightly raised voice of the other, tossing a middle finger over to the arsonist with little regard. "Well… in this country, anyways," Tetch tacked on swiftly. He received that familiar curious look. "Yours is at eighteen?" Lynns asked knowingly. "Sixteen or seventeen if you're with an adult," Jervis added. Garfield needed a second to think about that, gleaning what he could for an upcoming comment. "Huh. I guess you can't really put an age cap on a fun ti—"

"WHAT? HOW?"

That boisterous shout could only come from one person in particular who was too proud to out a muffle on his own voice. "Uh oh. Looks like Nygma's about to throw a tantrum," Firefly teased, gesturing for Hatter to go over there and calm him down. Something had Ed riled up, and if he was getting this loud, it certainly wasn't anything small. While Edward certainly loved any sort of attention, he hardly ever wanted it to be while he wasn't composed and sloven in his attitude.

Jervis rushed over to see Jonathan rubbing his temples from one side of the table while Nygma was muttering curses to the entire Gotham population on the other. "I don't suppose this is a matter that can be solved amicably, is it," Jervis huffed, immediately assuming that the two had been in a falling out. "There's nothing to solve," Crane sighed, looking over thinly framed glasses to peer down at Jervis. "We just found out Nygma's safe house has been compromised. It was discovered this morning."

"Plans! Money! Riddles! My computer! All of it gone!" Riddler growled through clenched teeth. "And because of an anonymous tipper of all things! A coward who won't even show his face to claim what he's done to me." He went about glaring at passersby, as if silently blaming them for him momentary misery. "Starting back up from nearly nothing is a nightmare— not a word, Crane!" Crane silently raised a brow at the sudden accusation, despite seemingly not jumping on the last word as he would usually do. Jervis let his thoughts go to sympathy for the Riddler. While all three would consider themselves masterminds, it was Nygma who undoubtedly had the most elaborate setup of the trio. Hardly being an impetuous man, most of his things took eternities to collect or complete. Machinery, loads of information, and complex plans were far more valuable than a simple chemistry table or a box of wires for metal playing cards. "Oh, that sounds dreadful," Jervis empathized. "They didn't get A-SIRA, did they?" Edward thought back to his little disc-shaped vacuum and shook his head. "No, Catwoman is in possession of her at the moment. For her cats and whatnot." He pinched his nose, his frustration only decreasing an iota because at least he had one thing going for him. Tetch pressed forth, however, his soft-spoken voice quickly grating on the nerves of the one he attempted to sooth. "Oh don't worry, dear Ed, I'll get you some tea come lunch hour," Tetch promised. "A bit of that should really help those nerves of—"

"Jervis, I don't want to hear it right now!" Riddler snapped, jaw working tightly as his vexation mounted. Crane opened his mouth to speak, but was once again shut down. "And don't give me any of your pity advice," Nygma sneered, his petulance getting the better of him. "Nothing you could possibly say could ease my problems at the moment.

Jonathan said nothing, looking over at the moping Edward, who was clearly upset at the loss of so much hard work. He was turned away, muttering to himself words of self comfort as he tried to convince himself that not everything was downhill at this moment. Jervis frowned slowly before locking eyes with Crane. Both had the exact same thought at that moment, only Jervis let it show when his expression flipped to one of subtle mischief.

"How about scones?" Tetch mentioned, to which Edward just shot a look his way. Still, he persisted. "Oh I simply adore scones. I make them from time to time, you see. For my tea and such. "I use my mother's recipe for blueberry scones." He let out a pause, noticing Ed's vague bewilderment at the ramble. "Unfortunately, my mother always liked hers a bit too sweet," Jervis sighed. "The recipe calls for one fourth a cup of sugar. Like I said, I don't like mine too sweet on the tongue, so I instead use one-third a cup of sugar. It's perfect for me."

There was an immediate reaction. Ed's head shot up as he opened his mouth to protest. However, he stopped short, shooting Jervis the most dirty look. It was clear he wanted to say something, but refused in worry he may come across as conceding to their game. Jervis looked kindly over to Jonathan, who took his cue and began. "I'm not much for baking," he mentioned, sounding almost in passing. "As you know, I'm quite proficient in chemistry. Unfortunately, none of my experiments ever go my way. Fries tells me it's because I'm not using Kelvin as my unit of temperature, but this is America, so I only use Fahrenheit."

"Both of you. Stop," Ed warned, but it was Jervis' turn to take a shot. "I enjoy my chicken just a tinge pink in the middle. People tell me I'll get salmonella, but they're obviously just a crowd of idiots. I'm eating chicken, not salmon." Jonathan gave him a quiet look as if to say "good one" before cracking his knuckles for his next line. "I hear Arnold Wesker doesn't like drinking the milk here. I believe it's because he's lack toast and tolerant."

Ed visibly jolted from that one, now resorting to covering his ears. "Have I told you my favorite vegetable, Crane?" Tetch asked in mock curiosity. Jonathan feigned the same interest, answering with "I don't believe you have." "It's the tomato," smiled Jervis.

"I'm not listening!" Riddler claimed with a rising voice. "Are you enjoying your year?" Jonathan asked calmly. Jervis was ready with a, "Of course! How about you, Crane?" Jonathan straightened the sleeves to his uniform, responding, "It's going fairly well. I just can't believe the Earth is two thousand eighteen years old ."

"LALALALALA!" Ed shouted over plugged ears, hunched over and away from the two imbeciles. Jervis grinned, dramatically inhaling. "I wouldn't wouldn't be autistic if it wasn't for the measles vaccine my mother gave me."

"Why should the US care about Puerto Rico? It's not like they're a part of the United States," Jonathan shot back.

"Do you think I should spay my male cat?"

"I think very highly of the president of Great Britain."

"I'm not into video games like Ed, but I do adore that little green fellow with the sword and shield. What was his name? Zelda!"

"I've never done marijuana before in life. I don't want to get addicted or overdose."

"I hear Miss Kyle recently went to her OBGYN. I hope she didn't-"

"OB-GYN?" Jonathan interrupted with a furrowed brow. "Isn't that the Star Wars character?" Tetch was taken aback, biting his lip as Jonathan sipped his cup of water with a raised brow that clearly read "beat that." Jervis loved a good challenge, but it was obvious this one would be hard to top. He frowned, looking away as he concentrated on an untruth that could trump Jonathan's intentional stupidity. When it finally came to him, he quickly brightened up with a snap of his fingers. He cleared his throat, lacing his fingers. Jonathan let a flicker of a smile cross his face as he prepared for the what was next.

"I am five feet tall," Jervis said simply. That was it. "Stop! You're all idiots!" Ed quickly snatched up a newspaper, rolling it up and repeatedly smacking it on the defenseless Jervis' head. "Wrong wrong wrong wrong!" Tetch just laughed as he tried to evade the oncoming smacks of the newspaper. "You are four foot eleven and you know it you absolute munchkin!" He repeatedly smacked him until the newspaper was plucked from his hands. "That's enough, Edward," Jonathan sighed, tossing the newspaper onto the table. "Still angry?"

"Of course I'm still angry!" Nygma snapped, arms crossed. "However, with your clear nescience, you admittedly have helped to ease my frustrations. It doesn't stop the fact that you're both absolute morons." He let out a tired sigh, leaning against the backing of his chair. "I'll just… deal with it when I escape. I swear, where do you get these inane fallacies?"

"We live in an insane asylum, Nygma," Jonathan replied, before getting up to get himself some more water. Jervis watched him silently, his giggling having stopped when Ed had ceased his harmless beating. Jonathan was about to head back, when he was stopped by Harley, who obviously had a thing or two to say to him. Realizing that he had several minutes to spare as Crane was preoccupied, he turned his attention back to Edward, who was clearly deep in thought as he tapped his fingers against the table.

"Ed, you're very knowledgable about most things, aren't you?" Jervis asked, a small smile crossing his face. "I'm experienced and knowledgeable enough to know that sounds like the beginning of a sarcastic remark," he told him very matter-of-factly. Tetch held his tongue, glancing away to gather his next line. "Well, I simply ask because, er…" He decided to shift gears, going straight for the point. "How well do you know Jonathan?"

Edward looked over at him with a raised brow and lit interest. "Oh." Jervis felt the spotlight on him, knowing Ed could tell what the topic of discussion would be. "I was wondering when you would bring this up."

"Bring what up?" the hatter asked with feigned confusion. Unlike Jonathan, however, he wasn't so good at disguising his emotions behind a stoic wall. He was a man with a beating heart on his sleeve, and yes, that heart was his. He would never dirty his attire with other people's viscera. "I didn't exactly leave your curiosity sated last time," Riddler continued, not buying his confusion. Dropping the charade, Jervis gave a slight nod. "You always are one for a dramatic exit. Having the last word and such," he agreed.

The first sign that this was going to be a touchy subject was when Ed physically turned to glance at Crane to make sure he wasn't in earshot. "Well… there's a reason for that." The second was when he brung caution by lowering his voice a couple decibels. Rarely did a controversial subject keep Riddler quiet. "You want to know about…"

"Scarecrow," Jervis confirmed, lowering his voice to match his friend's. Edward sucked air through his teeth before taking another look back at Crane, another indicator he was treading on sensitive ground. "Oh please, Ed," Tetch dared to scoff. "Since when have you ever been one to keep secrets? What good is information if it's kept hidden, hmm?" Edward visibly scowled, knowing that Jervis was appealing to that egocentric side of him. If there was a secret he knew, he would be damned if he let some other fool take the glory of revealing it. So Nygma relented, but only in the usual Riddler fashion.

"I end all curiosity, and finish every question," he began. "Some people search for me for years and never find me. Although I may be elusive or never so clear, I will always exist. What am I?"

It took little to no time at all for Jervis to find the answer, which was exactly that. "A solution. Or an answer. However you want to spin it," Jervis replied readily, confused as to what this had to do with Jonathan. "Yes, answers, the one thing I love more than riddles," Riddler sighed, leaning back until his chair was only propped up by two legs. "Now, you should never go around asking questions you already know the answer to. That, Tetch, is a riddle, and we all know that is my forte, not yours." He jabbed a warning finger at the hatter. "So stop. I can't believe I'm saying this, but if you want to know about him, I can't help you."

Jervis couldn't feel the obvious shame Nygma was trying to bring him, as his question had already been answered. "So he exists?" he proceeded to ask, one that caught Ed by surprise. The mastermind found himself taken aback by the true purpose of the question. "I'm a neurologist; albeit, a disgraced one, but I still learned the same way as everyone else," Jervis told him. "I glean what I can and connect the dots just as anyone is able to. I wanted to know if he simply exists."

Nygma did the glance back at Jonathan. Jervis would ask what he was so afraid of, but everyone already knew there was plenty to be afraid if from Crane. Jervis, however, felt a welling of pride within him, knowing that he had been through the very worst Jonathan had to offer. Nothing was worse than the fear toxin, he was certain. Some, like his dear Dormouse, wouldn't be able to understand it like he could, that much Jervis knew was clear. Was he overconfident? Perhaps just a smidge. When you know someone better than anyone else, you tend to underestimate at times.

"Look, I can't talk about it," Riddler finally admitted, planting his chair firm on the ground. His voice was fairly dismissive, acting as though he were a doctor denying a patient confidential information. "If you're so curious, ask Jonathan yourself." He visibly grimaced, arms crossed. "I… he just won't be happy if he find out I told you. It's apparently personal with him, and you know how he likes locking up or killing anything personal about him." He took a moment to once more look back out of healthy paranoia. "If you're really so curious— a simple question should do no harm."

Well, Jervis had thought he'd known Jonathan better than anyone else, but it appears he had been quite mistaken. The thought that after all that time on the road there was still one layer of wall he hadn't chipped through was absolutely absurd to him. What's even more absurd? Riddler absolutely puss*footing around the proper information. "And why can't I just ask you?" Jervis smiled slyly, trying to pry such valuable intel from a privy man who would bring up anything if it got enough attention. However, that previously lackadaisical smile was soon wiped off as Nygma found it appropriate to bring a sudden slam of solemness to the tone of their conversation. "Because I take threats against my life seriously," Ed spoke without any of that vibe of a man dangling a treat above a dog's nose. "If I get threatened, I make an example out of them. When you're threatened by the likes of Crane, however, it's easier to just comply with inane rules. What does it hurt to keep a secret no one knows?"

"It seems to me that you've been frightened," Tetch started to tease. Tight-lipped and with thinning restraint, Ed just made an attempt at a less dramatic route for the first time. "You're decently intelligent man, Jervis," Nygma reaffirmed, although there was no sign that the statement was any sort of praise. Superlatives were never to be trusted from the puzzle-maker, as they were almost never genuine. "I couldn't comment on what you two have been through together, but I can certainly take a few decent extrapolations at the last few hours. Now, if you were intellectually refined as I am, you would be able to figure out right now that you're lucky you're even still alive at this point." This was met with pursed lips and a rather contemptuous glare from the scientist, who took such a tale of hindsight and dared to dismiss it. "You may know Jonathan," he said softly in return, "but I implore you to not underestimate me. That's what got Crane that nasty bullet wound in his shoulder."

"I suppose you would also want to brag about my impalement," Jonathan butt in, expression remaining unimpressed with the two as he appeared without warning. Jervis was quickly taken out of the flippant demeanor while Nygma seemed disappointed with himself at not catching Crane's approach.

"Jonathan!" Riddler suddenly greeted with a burst of energy, leaping to his feet. "Right on time. Tetch was just asking about you." A smug expression was thrown the Hatter's way, metaphorically picking him up and putting him on the spot. Jervis took the toss under the bus in stride, however, knitting his fingers together in a formal form of keeping himself from chucking the table at Edward. "Is that so?" Jonathan asked, gaze dropping down to Jervis in unexpressed curiosity. For a man who used to analyze emotions as a his chosen profession, his general demeanor had the same ability to flex as a log. "Of course," Jervis nodded, "I just wanted to know… if… what…" Tetch was bewildered by his own inability to finish the sentence. Ed's smirk came back in full when Jervis trailed off, leaving Jonathan waiting for a question that could possibly never come. Crane silently took a sip of his water, waving a hand to encourage Jervis to continue. The man in the spotlight swallowed thickly, uncertainty clouding his motives.

"How is a raven like a writing desk?" he finally asked, locking away an ever so curiouser nature for the moment. Edward looked triumphant at the silent victory whilst Jonathan merely frowned and shook his head. "I haven't the slightest idea," he answered rather robotically, this being one of the infinite times he'd had to answer an answerless inquiry. "Ah, you disappoint us, Jerv," Ed grinned, backing away from Jonathan. "Never leave it to Tetch, I'll always advise." He shot a suggestive grin to Crane. "You know I'd never leave you disappointed."

Jervis' jaw was left agape as Edward winked and walked away from the group to commence a conversation with Ivy across the room. Jonathan remained stolid, however, watching Ed approach the plant woman. "Histrionic personality disorder," he said simply, looking down at Tetch. "Remarks like that are fairly common among those with his illness." He grimaced in evident displeasure, taking a sip of his water. "I'm surprised he hasn't tried it before. He must be getting too comfortable. So long as he doesn't teeter onto the edge of lecherous, we should be fine as is." His commentary shifted from Edward to Jervis. "Was that really what you were going to ask?"

The uncomfortable mood that had set upon Tetch still lingered as he was once again the center of attention. "Oh… no," he admitted, feeling it too wrong to lie to Jonathan. As usual, Crane merely showed underlying curiosity. "Are you going to ask me the original question?" he then asked. Jervis' expression sagged in momentary embarrassment. "Well… I don't quite want to know anymore," he confessed softly. Crane took a moment to watch him silently, no doubt taking in his every movement as part of a wider analysis of his character. It ended within seconds, but the stare caused the smaller man to feel as though he had been dragged under a microscope. Jonathan merely nodded and took his water with him as he strolled away.

Tetch unconsciously bit his lip, slowly tapping on the table in silent contemplation. "I don't think I ever want to know," he told himself. "I… think I'll simply stick with Jonathan for now." He didn't quite like the idea of a third party tearing apart what was had between him and Crane. So, for the time being, he would merely pretend that there was no Scarecrow, even if that belief was tenuous at best. "Just a bit of teasing from the Dormouse, that's all it is," he told himself, before slumping into crossed arms. "If only I could convince myself of that."

"Is that a sack of hay I see?"

Jonathan's gaze lifted only slightly to peer at the approaching clown. "Ah, Joker," he greeted slowly. "Whoa there, champ!" Joker exclaimed, taking a step back as if he were about to be bombarded. "Cool it with the excitement! I know you're happy to see me!" Jonathan remained unamused, going back to staring down at a book he had borrowed from the asylum library. Yes, it was drawn on with crayon, but with his glasses he was able to barely make out the words. Joker yanked the seat out from the other side of the table, plopping down and propping his feet up on the table's edge. "I see the baghead lives! Not surprising, seeing as you're probably made up of all straw." He set his feet down for a moment to reach over and jab a finger into his ribs, but his attempts were smacked away by Jonathan's personal bubble defender: his hand. "So! How was your time in the medical ward?" Joker grinned, obviously vying with that book for Jonathan's attention. "How was it? Did you see Jonas there? Or was his name Jimmy? Carrol? Eh, whichever one is missing all his teeth now. Well he never came back so I assume he's dead. You weren't covered in spittle when you returned so that broken arm must've gotten the best of him!"

Jonathan took his gaze off of his book to stare at Joker, blinking slowly to express his infinite contempt. "Ha! Really getting into the conversation, hmm?" Joker grinned, slumping onto the table and drumming his fingers at a rapid pace. "Fine! Since you're so psyched to talk to me, I'll tell you what I came here for. I was going to leave it as a little surprise gift tacked onto our lovely conversation, but I can see that you excitement is boundless!" The Master of Fear paused in his staring to fix the cuffs of his sleeves before lifting his eyes back to the Clown Prince of Crime. "You're a smart man, Crane," Joker complimented, although it was more of a qualifying factor for Joker's attention rather than something he was truly praising. "Chemistry and the like. How long did you have to look at chemical bonds to get that degree, hmm?" He paused to take in Crane's silence. "Well I could really use that head of yours. You see, I'm going to be putting on a little show for the whole of the asylum, but I need a few star actors before we completely set the stage before we make our grand exit." Jonathan's brow lifted slightly to show vague interest and that, yes, he was indeed paying attention. "Ahh, there is is!" the clown laughed, gesturing to his slight change in expression. "I love the energy! Keep it up!" He fell back into his chair, flicking out dirt from under fingernails browned with blood. "I can get a few chemicals for you, a beaker maybe, something to bubble those liquids of yours, a human sacrifice if need be; anything you need I can get. I just need to know you're up to the challenge!"

Jonathan was silent, slowly looking up to the corner of the ceiling to thing it over, before bringing his attention back to Joker. "No thank you," he refused, going back to his book. Clearly not having expected to be denied, focus was once more back on Crane. Gathering up a serious expression, he laid a hand flat on the table. "You know when I say it's 'going to be a challenge', I mean you're just going to do a bit of work. I got Harvey get his boys to supply a few things, you get what I mean?" Jonathan once more took the tine to mindlessly look up to think it over, only to swiftly return to reading. "I'd rather not."

Joker's puzzlement was put on full display here. With a furrowed brow and twisted expression, he had to think about the sudden blockade in his way.

"Ah! I get it. Already have a little plot stewing up, I see?" Joker giggled, tapping his temple. "Well I've been pining to put on this show for several months, but I suppose an easier way out couldn't hurt. I mean, having to choose between two great riot plans? I completely understand." He took this moment to reminisce. "Reminds me back to when I had three bombs, but had to pick between eleven buildings to destroy! How could I choose? I'm only a man!"

"Nothing like that," Jonathan refuted, no longer caring to look up from his book. How one so inherently curt and cold could last a near week with a Hatter so cordial and sporadic was a puzzle all on its own. "I'm just not interested." Joker's newfound silence seemed so unnatural as the man before him tried to end the conversation at every turn. Whatever gears that were spinning inside his head were clearly working their damnedest at that moment, but Crane had no way of telling what he was thinking. Joker was a master of diversion and tricks; any expression of his couldn't be trusted.

"Hmph. I guess that calls for a slight change of plans then," Joker spoke to himself, getting up from his seat. "Well thanks for trying out, but your lack of motivation just won't stick in my little circus. Have a nice day." Crane didn't look up from his book, but was completely cognizant of Joker strolling off and making a complete U-turn back to him. He didn't flinch when he felt the villain stand right behind him, unaffected when that chemical-stained face loomed right above his shoulder, heads almost connecting with how close they were. "You know, bagface," he hummed slowly, garnering no real reaction from the unintimidated man, "there is one more thing I have to tell you." Jonathan's discomfort was finally known when he craned his neck to the side to avoid Joker's foul breath on his ear as he turned to whisper. Letting the silence settle in, a grin split the clown's face wider than ever before. With that, he whispered, "Dimmesdale confesses and dies, Chillingworth doesn't get revenge and dies, and when Hester dies, she's buried next to Dimmesdale with a little funny red A on their tombstone."

A now stunned Crane was left to stare blankly at the pages as Joker gave his shoulder a little pat before walking away. Slowly, he shut the book, slowly pushing the ruined novel away from him until it met the edge, where he kept pushing until the thing toppled over and onto the floor.

"Crane. You have a visitor."

The room grew a bit quiet for a momentary search for the Scarecrow. Jonathan shut his eyes at the bliss of the fleeting silence and looked back at the guard in the doorway with light agitation. It was nothing too hostile. He got up without a word and followed the guard out, the room starting up with noise once more after his departure.

"Pssht. I think Crane's crossing over to the dark side," Joker sneered, watching the door shut and lock tightly. "I thought we were the dark side," Harley mentioned casually, fixing Ivy's hair.

"The side of enlightenment is more like it," Nygma scoffed as he entered their vicinity, pulling up a random seat to integrate into the conversation. "I'll drink to that," Lonnie cheered a few feet away, raising a water cup. "Oh please, you're not even old enough to drink," Lynns chided, already a part of the growing group. "So Crane's out? Can't be too surprised. He just got out of the medical ward and all that."

"Ehh it's something else," Joker was sure, looking back at the locked door. "But it's his loss." He blew a strand of strayed hair from his eyes, leaning back on the table with arms crossed. "Doesn't matter, anyways. We can easily work around that Jonathan-sized hole."

"What exactly we doin' anyhow?" Harley asked, chewing on a lock of her own hair in a bored manner as she finished up with Ivy's hair. Pamela brought a hand back to run her fingers through smooth crimson locks, brow furrowing immediately as she wondered why there was a paper swan strapped to her head with two locks of hair. "As I told you lot before, I want to put on a little show for the whole of Arkham," Joker restated, a grin coming back to his face as he sprang back into his usual demeanor. "However, I need to set the stage, and for that I'm going to need every one of you to chip in and do your part." Nygma and Ivy glanced at one another, seemingly unimpressed by the lack of information that would make such a statement truly viable.

"This must be a rather ambitious plan if you're asking for all of us to take part," Firefly stated, shutting his mouth as soon as a guard moved by. They made sure to keep their voices low in case of prying ears. "Ahh, not just you all," Joker chuckled. "Pyg, Blackfire, Croc, Clayface, every little mouse caught in this big rat cage they call an asylum; we're not talking any old breakout. I'm planning a big bang!"

"Feasible," was all the credit Ed would give him. "If the plan is airtight, I'll be glad to lend my brilliance. I assume you're going to be the star of this little circus?" His guess was quickly met with a smooth chuckle. "Oh ho, Eddie, you have no idea," the clown told him, wrapping an arm around the instantly uncomfortable Edward's shoulder. "I may be the ringleader of this little circus, but the star of the show is just over yonder." All gazes turned to Jervis, who was fixing the makeshift mask he had made for his friend. "Jerv?" Anarky asked for him to aver, more addlepated than feeling any sort of doubt. When on his prescribed medication, the former hatter became more well known for his special brand of geniality than controlling poor souls in the wake of his delusions. "He doesn't seem like the spotlight type. He's cool with it?"

"That, my little chaos maker, is just the twist of it," came the response. Letting go of a relieved Nygma, he planted both palms on the tabletop, grinning madly around at the small group of villains. "No one can tell him."

Edward paused, looking away from the group and over at Jervis. Tetch was picking up the fallen book, dusting it off and going over to a seat to read it himself. He watched for a moment, before looking back at Joker. “So, spit it out. What do you have in mind?”

Naïve.

"All A's."

"All A's?"

"Mmhmm!"

Jonathan folded his hands on the table, the only indicator he was at all suspicious. Seeing this, she turned her head away, fingers beginning to fidget under the table as she hid from his unwavering gaze. "N… n' one B," she finally admitted, her intonation indicating a bout of unease at the question. Crane, however, did not relent. "In what class?" he prodded, canting his head over so slightly as he looked over and down at the much smaller girl. Her eyes refused to meet his, curtained by lengthy locks of chestnut hair. "You're gonna hate me," she excused, nails unconsciously picking on the peeling paint on the table. "I would never," Jonathan insisted in a stable tone. She visibly swallowed, rubbing her neck as a form of self comfort, he recognized. "I, ah… got a B in pre-AP chem."

Pointless.

When all was silent, she finally gathered up the courage to raise big gray eyes up to the other’s unrevealing grays. Jonathan stayed mum, not sure of how to respond as he kept his expressions firm. "Yer disappointed," she mumbled, her face buried into her sleeves. "Savannah, I am not," he refuted, but that didn't stop the moaning into her sleeves as she seemed ready to engulf herself into her sweater. "Why would I be disappointed?" he tried. "'Cause chemistry is, like, your thing!" Savannah groaning, taking her sleeves away from her face to be heard. "Forget about the grade for now," he told her, folding his arms. "Tell me more about Rachel and Tim. Have you been adjusting alright?"

You should have taken Joker up on his offer.

At the mention of her new adoptive parents, she seemed to forget all about previous embarrassments. "Well the new birth certificate finally went through," she explained. "It's official! We went out to eat to celebrate."

Jonathan silently listened, nodding along and brushing aside the occasional rise of that voice within the deep recesses of his mind. He never thought he'd see the day where he would be in this position once again: seated next to and listening to a girl who, by all accounts, was fairly normal. She went to school, now lived in a house, went through normal problems like a B in a science class or possibly a bit of teasing from an adoptive older brother. There was no eavesdropping or subterfuge involved; just a girl who spoke to him as if he were any other mildly distant relative. The girl was young, naïve, maybe even a bit foolish if one dared, but he had ceased asking her to stop returning only a month ago. She was a thin young lady, although not to Jonathan's unhealthy level, and unlike Crane, she truly did look like her mother. He could tell, as every time he spooked her, unintentionally or completely on purpose, she made the same horrified expression their mother did all those years ago. With a sister now beside him, he felt as though he should be ashamed. Instead, he looked back at the memory fondly, finding it to be a keeper for the sake of remembering when his baby sister had still been but an infant. Now here she was, surprising him after a good eleven or twelve years, ready to become that sister he'd never wanted.

The half-sister we don't need.

"Am Ah boring you?" Savannah asked softly, nervously fidgeting with brown locks. "Of course not," he denied. "What makes you say that?"

"You're not saying anything," she noted. "I can't listen when someone else else is talking?" he questioned, brow raised considerably. "No…" she admitted, looking back down at her hands. "Hey, maybe one day I won't have to keep running back to this ol' place n' disrupt your time. Maybe I'll jus be able to walk over and tell you or call you?"

Jonathan once again returned to silence, watching Savannah smile to herself at the thought. "Doesn' that soun' nice?" she asked steadily. He frowned, watching her without answer.

It sounds horrid.

An uplifting curl met his lips, a strange sight for usually blank features. He rested his chin on a hand propped up by the table, letting out a tense, but stressless sigh. Shoulders slumped as all tension left him. For the first time in years, he felt what he could only describe as relaxed. Any of that world-weary demeanor had shed itself just in this one moment where he finally felt it safe to let his guard down. "It sounds lovely…"

Notes:

So, surprised any? Any questions or confusion? Feel free to speak your mind! I’d be happy to clear things up!

So I’ll probably work on finishing up Control next. Eeek. That’s gonna be hell since it’s no doubt gonna be hella lengthy.

See ya next time.

Chapter 3: Volunteers

Summary:

Joker and the gang finally kickstart their plan as Jonathan finally reveals what has him in such a mood.

Notes:

I know I said I wanted to finish up Control but god damn it this called out to me.

This is chapter is going to be a little less humorous, and for good reasons. Jervis is going to appear a lot less, and once again for good reason. This chapter si going to heavily revolve around other villains, and once again, for good reason.

Heads up you guys; time for my first content warning of this story: there's going to be a rather graphic section of this story that involves a rather unfortunate fate of some cops. Nothing completely explicit, but I did try to ramp up the tone of this one, so please read at your own risk.

Enjoy.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

"Ready?"

"As I'll ever be."

"Rock, paper, scissors, shoo-!"

Machin paused, staring at Harley's contorted hands in brief puzzlement. "Harley," he deadpanned, putting his closed fist down. "One, I told you we were playing 'Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot." He stared at the still weirdly positioned hands. "Second, what the hell is that?"

Harley looked down at her hands before delivering a cheerful, if not a bit co*cky grin. "You said we were playing 'Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot', so I am!" She lifted her hands just slightly, sticking out her tongue playfully. "This is my bazooka. What else would you shoot with?"

Lonnie stopped to look down at his hand, frowning and regretting the fact that he had been intending on using paper. "I guess I can't really argue against that." Tucking his hands into the pockets of his jacket, he instinctively balled them to keep them warm. He let out a sigh, grimacing when he finally noticed that tuft of vapor escape from him as his heated exhale greatly combatted against the frigid air. A quick gaze around let the scenery be known: a damp exercise yard from a recent downpour left a rather murky atmosphere about the place. He looked back up at her with another inscrutable expression. "You're just trying to get out of this, aren't you?" he huffed, discarding the simple decision-making process. To this Harley threw up her hands as affirmation of her motive. "Of course I am!" she groaned, slumped against the chair. "I don't wanna do this. You don't wanna do this. This is just a horrible idea!" She took a moment to think back on her choice of words. "Well, I mean, it's a great idea, it's just a bit…" She jerked her head to the side, silently gesturing to the two crazies across the yard. Lonnie made the decision to ignore the internal voice telling him to not reflexively stare at them, but he couldn't help himself, casting a back the two villains in question.

Zsasz had only just gotten out of solitary confinement and yet he was sucked into Joker's scheme already, ready to throw poor Jervis into the meat grinder; whatever that entailed. Being one of the more notorious super-criminals around Gotham, it wasn't a surprise if Joker was keeping a few things under wraps. What they did know, unfortunately, were the bloody details that made up the bulk of the plan. Just the way he could see Viktor rubbing at a missing fifth tally along the heavily scarred area of his neck indicated he was itching to sate that need in his mind. Valentin was nothing if not oblivious to Machin's stare, rambling from in a seat beside Zsasz too distant to hear as he let unsound thoughts be known to a listening serial killer. Zsasz caught the watcher's gaze, flicking a knowing grin his way as he moved to rub a thumb over a self-made gash parallel on his arm. Lonnie instinctively cringed at the mere intensity of the look, twisting his gaze back to Harley. "I don't care if Joker throws me under a bus; I can't do it," he admitted, crossing his arms in self-comfort. "I'll bomb the corrupt. I'll lead a riot. I'll take over the GCPD. But, I'm sorry, I can't do this." He gestured carelessly to her hands. "Even if you have a bazooka." Harley audibly huffed like a child, slumping further down into her seat. "Well I don't either!" she pouted. "Maybe Baby Doll can take it. Or Garfield. Harvey. Someone else!"

"Lynns and I already have a job, so he'll definitely refuse," Anarky pointed out. "You know what to do with Dr. Picard, so technically we just have to find someone without anything to do." Keeping his gaze as casual as possible, he scanned around. "Crane?" he suggested, spotting the thin doctor. "Ooh, no," Harley grimaced, "he ain't part of our little circus, so he's out." Lonnie looked confused at the revelation, but decided it was a matter for a different time. "Okay, so not him," he ruled out, gazing around a bit more. "Ooh, how about Wesker?"

Harley visibly lit up at the suggestion, looking wildly around until she spotted the old man and his dummy. "Arnie? Oh I couldn't do that to him," she pouted, drumming her fingers along the table to ease mild discomfort. "Besides, how would we convince him?" Arnold was completely oblivious of the plot to include him, watching Jonathan feed some birds as he sat with his boss comfortably seated in his lap. "Well we don't exactly need to convince Arnie," Machin replied, feel the same uncertainty as his older friend. "We just need to convince Scarface, and he'll do the rest."

Quinn considered the idea for a brief moment, before smiling and seemingly accepting the plan. "Scarface it is!" she agreed. With a pat on the table and a wink to her younger companion, she rose to her feet and winked at him. Anarky just shifted, shooing her away so they could just get this over with. He was just glad to not have to go with Zsasz or Pyg; he felt himself growing nauseous at the very thought of what they would do. He had killed before, but, well, this was on a whole other level for him. He dared to glance over once more, watching Jervis and Edward speak without fear as an unnerved weight settled in his chest. "Sorry Jervis…" he muttered under his breath, turning away solely so his guilt wouldn't tear him apart. Tetch had no idea what Joker had in store for him.

As Harley walked down the path to Wesker, she was startled as a crow darted pst her to take its perch on a professor's arm. Taking a glance at the seated man, the wheels turned in her head to make a decision on whether to interrogate the Ventriloquist then or to catch up with an old friend. Simple question, really. A grin growing on her face, she spun around to Jonathan, who sat by silently and busying himself with birds until the end of the period. "Heya, Docta Crane!" she greeted cheerily, quickly taking the seat on the table with a rather sudden leap back as he continued to feed his bird friends rotten meat. She received a few angry squawks, the birds seemingly agitated with her presence. Crane took a moment to process her appearance, letting out a short inhale to indicate his similarly short demeanor. Still, he wasn't asking her to leave. "Ah. A good evening, Miss Quin," he greeted back, his reserved tone greatly contrasting to the other doctor's.

"How've you been holding up?" Harley smiled down at him, her legs kicking alternatively off the edge in a child-like idle state. "Fine," he replied, brusque as always. This brought about puffed cheeks and a playfully narrowed gaze. "You ain't come see or talk to me since you got out of the hospital."

"You did eat some of the meat I had for the birds," Crane mentioned, being careful to tiptoe around the wording lest he be misconstrued. Harley, however, didn't buy it. Lying on her side until she was now he one looking up at him once again, she didn't mind the birds looking to peck angrily at her. "They sure are angry today," she made note, catching the professor's roll of his eyes. Crane didn't hesitate to explain with a blunt, "You chased them around the yard. They are quite displeased with you."

Harley watched the birds twist their heads to look at her oddly, wondering if one would take this golden opportunity to pluck her eye out. With pigtails spilt over the table, even she couldn't help but grimace when one corvid gots its claws stuck in her hair. "Somethin' on your mind, Docta?" she observed. Jonathan gazed down at her, eyes silently searching to see if there would be a way to lie his way out of this one. She just giggled, shaking her head so they would be in mutual understanding. "You can't lie to me, Prof."

Crane seemed to admit defeat in the slight frown he gave. His eyes rose to watch Harley's hand lift up to level at his chest. It stayed there for a moment, Harley herself not saying anything. The doctor was tempted to let it hang there or outright deny it, but instead he let it happen with a nod. Immediately he was prodded repeatedly in the chest with a sharp-nailed finger. "What is it what is it what is it?" she demanded in rapid succession, watching his body tense and lean away ever so slightly with each pointed jab. Large blue eyes stared intently into his tired grays, trying to unlock some secret as if her revoked medical license would float down from the sky and grace her with mind-reading abilities. "Is it… because I chased your birds?"

Without waiting for a response, quickly picked a few bits of meat, offering it to the largest of the bunch. "Truce?" Katrina looked at her oddly, her trust for the clown having been broken after being chased around the yard. Crows never forget a face, after all. However, she received a small stroke of her feathers from Crane, and soon all was forgiven as she gobbled down the discarded meat. "Am I upset by it?" Jonathan was soon to reply. "Hardly. Although, I will admit that the, ahem—" he noticeably paused, swallowing thickly "—Master of Fear is not keen on showing an acquaintance such a fondness for birds only to find her chasing them like children."

Harley gave that childish pout up at him, putting on the demeanor of a kid begging for forgiveness. Of course he knew her boredom got the better of her; she practically had the attention span of a child, after all. She already know he held no ill will towards her, however, and so her focus was rather on that pause in his recent statement. "Is it about Scarecrow?"

Crane said nothing to this, not an outright denial. The rather irritated look he gave her upon bringing them up, however, only led her to conclude she was on the wrong path. "Well it's something," she fussed. "I don't like seeing you all mopey. You're better when you're a grump ready to bite my fingers off. Like a goblin!" That excited edge lot its luster as she seemed to come to a slow realization that this wasn't a normal bad day. She sat up, running her fingers through tangled hair to watch him slump slightly, any of that rather stiff grouchiness no longer present. It was almost like watching a child accept the fact that he had been caught and was awaiting a punishment. She stopped kicking her legs, placing her hands in her lap. "Everything alright, Johnny?"

Jonathan stayed quiet for the most part, wiping off his hand as the birds found it appropriate to leave now, supposedly to give them space. Harley was disappointed, but didn't take offense to their sudden leave. "I believe it's best that I relieve my mind; get something off of my chest, if you will," Crane said softly, taking some of the water that had pooled on the ground from last night's drizzle onto his hands and cleaning them off. "I figured that as a psychiatrist, known associate, and former colleague from a professional standpoint, I found it best to tell you."

Harley soaked all of the information in, a grin spreading to her face once more as she was entered into another round of the guessing game. "That's real interesting— oh! Lemme guess! You got a little scheme all on your own." A sly grin came to her face, leering at him prying eyes. Jonathan remained phlegmatic, although silently amused by her excitable nature. "No," he simply replied, causing Harley to venture another guess with, "Okay okay, you've decided to take up knitting?"

"No."

"You're dating again?"

"Eugh, no."

"You got parol?"

"Oh ho, no."

"You're changing your costume to a crowscare!"

"I'm sorry— a what?"

"It's this great graphic novel Garfield showed me in the library about a giant mutant crow that eats people."

"I'm not very keen on graphic novels but noted. But also— no."

Harley rubbed her chin intensely, trying to solve this complex riddle herself. "Okay, you got me," she admitted with a deadpan. "I got nothin'."

Jonathan waited until he had fully fallen silent before letting out a soft sigh. "I'm done," he spoke finally, fingers intertwined and folded as a weight had seemingly been lifted off of his shoulders. Harley's visual response was almost bird-like in nature, staring with wide eyes and a tilted, curious head. "Done?" she parroted back, resting her chin on a propped up hand. "You mean… done with smoking or something?"

"I don't smoke," replied Jonathan flatly. "Well you used to," Harley reminded him. "And like a chimney! Every time you dealt with a patient you needed to inhale some tobacco."

Jonathan was unamused, running a hand through his hair and rubbing his temples. "I'm done… with everything. The crime. The dressing up." He let out a tired sigh. "With Scarecrow and with this life in general." He sunk his face into his hands, letting out a tense exhale. "Before you say anything," he continued, moving a hand to rub at his arm in a way that indicated he had been released from this tight hold, "this isn't something I'm going to change my mind over. I simply… don't want to go through with such… inane escapades anymore. I'm tired of it all, it seems..."

"You don't want to go through with just being Scarecrow? Or the escape plan? Is that why you don't want no part of Joker's plan?" Harley pried. Like Jervis, she couldn't help but wear that heart of hers on her sleeve, although she was always better at keeping her looks more towards neutral when she put on the effort. Even so, he could clearly see a more distraught countenance with her, leaning more on disappointment than nearing devastation.

Hw dwelled on the question for a moment, wondering just how to answer such a question before he felt a rise of energy build up inside of him. "Everything!" Crane exclaimed, the raised voice highly out of character for such a restrained doctor. There was a moment of realization at his own voice. Before he knew it, everything began spilling from his mouth, raising his voice just low enough to not draw the attention of the yard, "I'm tired of Batman and getting bones broken and risking my life in the pursuit of a flawed and impossible form of altruism and a foolish need for fear! I'm tired of Arkham! I'm tired of wondering if each passing police siren is coming for me! I'm tired of going to court and wondering if they'll finally take me out of this pitiful existence and give me the death penalty. That maybe some day Lyle Bolton will find his way into my cell once again and finish what he's done to me!" The last words were spoken with so much venom and malice that he had actually caught himself by surprise, forcing himself into a brief stop in order to keep himself from lamenting over the incident that had practically destroyed him. "I'm just… tired." Harley was silent, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder, only to have him jerk away as he seethed to himself. His anger evaporated rather quickly, his hands leaving his temples to go to his face, letting out an exhausted groan at the revelation he had just thrown out. "That was… unbelievably releasing to say aloud," he whispered, not able to gaze up at Harley's frankly startled expression. His tone had been beaten down as his shoulders slumped heavily. He let out another weighted sigh as he seemed to just be letting all the heavy thoughts crash down from off of his back. Crane rubbed at tired eyes, looking around at the exercise yard with a more lethargic twist of his head. "I've done this for just over a decade now. I'm burnt out, I'm tired of all this, and at this point in time, I feel as though I'm nearing the end of the age spectrum for this line of work. I think it best that I cut off near everyone associated with the Scarecrow persona at this point."

Harley couldn't hold back a chuckle, finding the last accusation against himself rather preposterous, since Wesker, Blackfire, and Fries easily surpassed his age. Even Jervis was a year or so older, and yet during his more intense delusions, he retained the energy of a child. "Oh don't be so hard on yourself," she encouraged. "You're not that old. You're just as young and spry as I am!"

"Harleen, I am close to a decade your senior," he stated bluntly, causing Harleen to giggle. "Standards aren't really that high, bud," she grinned, taking his confession rather lightly. A wave of seriousness washed over him at her rather flippant attitude. "Harley, I need to know that you respect my decision," he demanded rather gravely, finding regret in confiding his thoughts with her. To this, Harley's features took on a far more apologetic and subsequently respectful look about her. A small smile crossed her face as she reached over the table, gesturing to his hand. When he hesitantly nodded, she went about taking his much thinner hand into hers. He visibly tensed, though saying nothing of it and simply letting her continue. He kept his thoughts calm; he trusted Harley more than most. Her smile widening and still keeping a certain tenderness, she squeezed his hand lightly and nodding understandably. "Doc, I won't judge you for nothin'. Whatever you decide in the end, I'm behind you a hundred percent."

Jonathan stared at her blankly for a time. Harley retained that smile for him, and to her reward, it broke him. His lips curled upwards for a split second before engaging into a full on smile. "Thank you," he whispered softly. He just seemed so relieved in that one moment that his previously odd behavior felt completely justified. He nodded to her slowly, before hearing that familiar call from the guards signaling it was time to go back inside. He gently pulled away, straightening out his shirt silently as he got up. He looked up briefly to see Harley gestured coyly at him after she had hopped down from her seat.

Although he had nodded, he was more than surprised when she suddenly pulled him into a tight embrace. She was on her toes just to reach his towering stature, but squeezed lightly enough so as to not snap his spine in half. His discomfort was more than evident in the way he stiffened like a cat, which was why she made sure the hug was brief. She looked up at him afterwards with a beaming smile. "I'm proud of ya Johnny," she grinned, patting his arm. "Not everyone can do it. Just promise you'll at least visit when you're all good and clean."

Jonathan was left wordless as Harley gave him one last smile before leaving to pursue Wesker. The smile had fallen from his expression long before then, but that didn't mean he was upset. Far from it, if he were to be honest with himself. He took a slow look around, checking to see if anyone had seem their little interaction. So far so good, it seemed, up until he realized near everyone was staring at him. Even still, he rolled his eyes, ignoring their gazes. It wasn't as though he ever planned on associating with them ever again once he was considered sane.

As he reentered the building, he went back on that thought. "Well, maybe Harley," he finally admitted to himself.

"You're looking rather well," Jervis mentioned slowly, hand steady on the needle. Jonathan's gaze rose only just to watch the two with an unwavering stare. "And how do I normally look?"

Jonathan asked politely, hand moving around the board at a steady pace. Jervis seemed to face difficulties in answering such a direct question, looking to Nygma for help. "Well…"

"You look like the top Google image search result for the word 'regret'," Riddler summed up, hands steepled and propped up on the table. The look received was, as usual, unamused. "So what happened out there? A tender moment between acquaintances?" Edward suggested, watching Jonathan set the pieces to the chessboard. "Friends, more like it," Crane corrected, knowing full well the implications and ramifications of the word. Jervis looked up from his craft of sewing together a simple coat in order to deliver a rather mousy expression. Uneasiness seemed to settle within him as he nervously fiddled with the needle, something he was only allowed to have whilst in the recreation room. "A friend, is she?" he tittered, voice tenuous as it was clear he had some underlying emotions about the word itself. "Yes, a friend," Jonathan confirmed. To that, Jervis let out a slow huff, fixing his gaze on the chessboard instead of up at Jonathan. "How frabjous," was all the praise he was willing to give. "Certainly different, I must admit."

"I feel different," Crane came to ultimately confess, setting the last piece. Nygma merely scoffed, his eyes turning to watch Jervis sew as he continued to talk to Jonathan. "Different medication, I presume?" he asked, glancing back at Jonathan every now and then to notice him playing around with a rook. "If so, I'll have whatever you're having."

"Oh poppyco*ck," Jervis scolded lightly, a bit of that posh Hatter leaking into his words. The Hatter always insisted on far more grand and ornate dialect, but Jervis found no need to hold it whilst on his medication. "You don't even take medication. You're only prescribed therapy." As the two engaged in another conversation about the legitimacy of medication in the context of Edward's place in the asylum, Jonathan silently listened on, thin fingers wrapped around the thick base of the essential piece, letting his mind wander aimlessly.

Shhh.

Jonathan stopped his fiddling with the rook, a sudden weight entrapping his mind. He swallowed, fingers tensely gripping the chess piece as he could faintly hear the noise in the back of his mind. He hoped it was all merely imagination. "Pardon me, what was that?" he entreated Edward, capturing the mastermind's attention. Ed's brow knitted in obvious puzzlement, trying to figure out if Jonathan had been alarmed by a subject of their talks or of it was merely a case of poor hearing. Jervis' sewing slowed, also showing that hint of curiosity that was innate in the Hatter buried deep under a heavy mound of pills and strict therapy. At Edward's silent beckon for elaboration, Jonathan squeezed the piece in his hand. "Did you say something?" he inquired once more, silently begging Riddler to throw him a bone.

Can you hear it?

"No, I don't believe I mentioned you," Ed replied, thinking back to only moments ago and scanning for any possible slip of the tongue about the doctor.

It's returned.

That's when the noise finally registered in his mind. It had initially been faint, barely noticeable in fact, but now that it finally had his attention, it rung in his ears like a metronome placed directly in his head. That obnoxious, repetitive, terrifying ticking.

"Oh dear dear, as much as you like your names, I'll never get you to call me by proper name, will I?"

"Friends? Is that what you think we were?"

"I know you, Jonathan. You are the Master of Fear, yes, but sometimes you forget that you are still human."

"I'll help you. Just like I was always supposed to."

"You know, Jonathan, you're not as scary as everyone says you are."

How could you be so foolish?

Jonathan's breathing became shallow, forcing himself to a stand on shaky legs. From the startled expressions of the two other villains, Crane must have gone to proper to a wreck in a matter of seconds. Even the brusqueness of his getting up had caused the table to thump just a bit, and in the process, Jervis' needle and thread spool tumbled to the floor.

Jonathan attempted to keep his breathing level and his thoughts collected, but he needed to know where that ticking was coming from. The noise was easily traced back to a lone clock perched up on the wall, one that had replaced the previously cracked, old clock that had been through a hefty amount of damage, but it had been silent. He had half the mind to take the piece off the wall and smash it onto the ground, but his wrist was held back by his own hand. Arms tucked in tightly, he turned away from the clock with a speed he could only show when in a costume. "I need to go," he said hurriedly, leaving no room for explanation as he made his way over to a guard by the door, who was immediately on guard as per usual in case of potential threat.

"I need to see Professor Strange," Crane murmured under laboring breathing, making the noise just low enough for the guard to hear. The guard immediately got the hint, gesturing to his partner across the room to keep a sharp eye out for any trouble before taking Crane out of the room and guiding him down the hall.

Edward stared at the door blankly, taking a small glance at the ground before turning to look at Jervis. "What in the world got into him?"

Tetch blinked turning to stare up at him with a confused countenance and a frown before realizing that Edward's look was implying something. "Well now, don't you blame it on me!" he defended, getting rather huffy when stares turned towards him. "Not all breakdowns are caused by severe neurological manipulation, dear Nygma, and they're certainly not all caused by me if that's what you're implying." His tone quickly calmed as Ed's hands went up in defeat. Frustration and bewilderment morphing into worry, he looked back at the door Crane had left through, wondering if he would be able to see him soon enough. "Oh I do hope they don't keep him for long again. I was just getting used to having him back."

"'Having him back?'" Ed repeated, but merely left it at observation instead of anything else. He pushed back his seat, already coming to a stand. "I'm sure he'll be back soon enough. Whatever the doctors did to cure his symptoms before will no doubt aid him once more." Hoping that statement would ease Jervis' mind, he left it at that and moved over to Baby Doll across the room.

Jervis retained his frown, looking back and up at the wall-mounted clock in slight curiosity. "That trigger must still be in his head," he murmured, a secret he dared not reveal to Nygma lest he face judgement from the other. Moving from his seat, he bent down to search for the lost needle and spool of thread. "I told the Dormouse, I told the doctors, and I told Batman; I'm the only one that can truly fix him." An unintended giggle left his lips as his hand ran over the carpet, finding nothing. "My March Hare still needs me." This time a chuckle escaped him, the Hatter inside leading him into fantasies he hadn't entertained since the first two weeks of their capture.

The titter soon died away, however, when he realized he wasn't finding the sewing supplies he was looking for. He swallowed, eyes widened as a slow welling of anxiety began to consume him. He frantically went about searching for the needle, checking under every chair and table nearby as it dawned on him that the tool was gone. "Ohhh dear," he whispered, eyeing the guards nervously. The needle was a part of his privileges for being a well-mannered patient, but if he was unable to return it, the guards would take it that he had abused his privilege, since if it was missing then it either meant he gave it away or he was hiding it elsewhere. If he was found to be a betrayer of trust, the king's court would surely not be kind to the poor Hatter.

Jervis' frantic search came to an end when a large shadow overwhelmed his short frame. Wide-eyed and a shake coming to his body, he dared to look up at one of the two guards that were left in the room, a edgy smile coming to his face. "Oh… oh my."

"You have it?" Edward was quick to ask Baby Doll, who presented the needle proudly. With such a small figure, hardly anyone saw her creep up and take the spool. "Ahh that's our little rascal!" Joker laughed, coming over and ruffling her tuffs of blonde hair with a feigned proud grin. "Good job on Crane. How'd you manage that?"

To this, Dahl shrugged, not taking credit for Crane's leave. That was one aspect the group had worried about when they noticed Jervis had come to sit with Jonathan whilst he sewed up material. "I dunno," she answered honestly. "Happy coincidence, I guess. It got getting the needle a whole lot easier than that funny little distraction Garfield had cooked up with all those paper swans we got Laz to make."

Valentin audibly pouted in the corner, sounding disappointed he didn't get to show off the origami skills he had learned in art therapy. Zsasz snickered the chair across from him, but let Lazlo have his disappointment. However, his mood was instantly brightened when he was given the needle and spool of thread. "Ahh, my my my! This is perfect!" Lazlo praised, quickly being shushed at his lack of an indoor voice. He huffed, tucking the tool away in the neck of his uniform so no one would be able to see it.

It was then that Lynns came into view, taking a short look back at the guard to make sure he was busy before proudly showing off the box cutter and screwdriver he had acquired through Pamela. "Well, the cold bitch actually did it!" Joker grinned, seeming rather surprised. "Hm. Clever girl that one. How'd she manage that one? Some of that loopy perfume of hers?"

"Can't," Ivy answered before Lynns could get the chance to speak for her. "The saltwater solution they inject into me keeps me from producing pheromones, communicating with plants, the whole shebang." She scoffed, looking at the group with slight disdain. "You think if I still had the ability that I'd be stuck here hanging out with you lot instead of protecting my babies? Please. I had to steal them the old fashioned way. After all— women have far more hiding spots than men." She smirked and gave Joker a wink, before pulling out a chicken nugget from her thick locks of hair and proceeding to eat it. No doubt Harley's more uncouth habits were rubbing off on her partner's usually lady-like disposition. All those nights of Harley being able to sneak food into their cell must have finally gotten to her.

"Dude," Lynns deadpanned, engendering glare at him as she swallowed the snack. "What? I didn't get time to eat all my lunch and women's shower period is coming up in a couple hours so I'll be clean soon enough," she defended herself, despite refusing to look at him. "No, I'm more jealous of the fact that you can use your hair to hide food," Lynns mentioned, rubbing his own bald head, a majority of his scalp marred with scars several shades darker than his already dark skin. "If I hadn't burnt all of it off, I probably would have grown it out just to hide sh*t in there." He just a smirk just thinking about it. "Mm. Maybe an afro. You can hide tons of sh*t in there."

"Ehhh well I suppose you can't get any uglier," Joker chuckled, grabbing the tools from Firefly and handing them to Pyg, who looked at them in slight disdain. Joker quirked a brow, taking a step back. "What? Not good enough for you, Pyggy?"

"I don't quite adore finger painting, as I find it quite crude, but I suppose I can make something from these rather amateur paints you have given me," Valentin sighed, looking over the tools before discretely storing them under his uniform when he saw that one of the guards was heading over.

"Nygma." Edward stiffened when his name was called, giving the others a rather pleading look before turning to look at the Officer Cash. Joker just giggled in the background, finding that it was going to be an interesting experience coming up. Aaron looked Ed up and down, as if surveying the Riddler for the needle that had disappeared. "Can I help you?" Ed sneered, not missing the depressingly pleading look coming from Jervis a ways away as he was kept still by the second guard. If Edward didn't fess up, Tetch was certainly going to pay the price. "Give it to me straight, Nygma," Cash said firmly, "do you know where Jervis' needle is?"

Ed immediately went dry in the mouth, his compulsion suddenly hitting him. "An artist. A sculptor. A visionary. A reshaper of man. I am all of these in the eyes of one. If I come to fix you, no one else can. Who am I?" The room soon went quiet as nearby villains gave him a dangerous look. Ed was forced to watch Aaron light up in slight surprise. While he wasn't aware of what the answer was, another one had just been revealed to him. While it wasn't any secret that the Riddler was a hard enigma to solve in of himself, one fact that was well-known and more than valuable to the authorities of Arkham Asylum was that Edward was unable to lie. He could skip around a subject, avoid it altogether, or muddle the truth with riddles, but a compulsion for truth-telling that had been instilled in him by an abusive father caused him to be unable to tell a straight up lie. This was why he couldn't stand misinformation or kept spouting riddles; enigmas were his only way of avoiding the truth. So when that riddle ended up spilling from his mouth, Aaron immediately knew something was up.

"So… you do know where it is?" Cash assumed, watching Ed attempt keep his cool. Nygma frowned, looking ready to give some snarky remark or biting observations, but the group knew he wouldn't be able to keep it up for long. "Trust me, Ed's not hiding anything," Lynns defended, wrapping an arm around the uncomfortable man's shoulder. "You think he could walk within five feet of us and resist telling us all about it? Pfft, I think not. Right, Mary?" He shot a look down at Dahl, who smiled widely and shrugged. "Mista Eddie knows not to play with needle cuz they're sharp!" she giggled, placing both hands behind her back and rocking back and forth on her feet. If Edward couldn't lie, he had to rely on others to lie for him.

Cash looked unimpressed, looking around at the small group before refocusing on Nygma. "Once again, Ed. Do you know where the needle is?"

"I didn't steal it, if that's what you're asking," Nygma defended, taking any route he could to avoid revealing the location of the needle. "Nor did I give it to one of these nutjobs. You think that I would ever trust them with a sharp object? Please. That's a one way ticket to makeshift lobotomy by the Professor over here."

Lynns' arm became a little tighter around the Riddler's shoulder as he nearly gave away a good chunk of their plan. He was cutting it close, but foreshadowing was almost engrained into his very soul. Cash gave a heavy sigh, now knowing he would need to do this the hard way. "Alright, Ed. Hands on the wall."

A soft groan spilled from Edward, but he acquiesced nonetheless. He yanked himself from Garfield's grasp, moving over to the wall with a muttering over his breath. He placed his hands on the wall, glaring spitefully at the peeling paint as if it was somehow to blame for all this. Cash soon came up behind him, touching around his arms and legs and whatnot, even at one point ruffling through his well-kempt hair. While a needle was relatively small, it had been tied to a spool, which certainly protruded farm more. Luckily no nuggets fell out or else there would be some other questions, not that Ed was that unsanitary. The search was thorough, ending with Cash flashing a light into Nygma's mouth in search of the tool. "Hmm. Nothing. Seems that you're just weird," Cash stated.

"Not going to do a full cavity search?" Edward asked, rightfully feeling violated at the moment. To that, Ivy scoffed. "Trust me. We'd know if he needed to go that deep, Ed," she muttered, face flexing in disgust.

"Don't worry. We'll get a search of the rest of you when you head back to your cells," Cash stated, before heading back to Jervis. The Hatter in question looked absolutely terrified upon realizing that Cash hadn't found anything, knowing that this meant time spent in solitary confinement, every prisoner's worst nightmare. While regular asylums weren't equipped with such an inhumane function, Arkham was specifically meant for the criminally insane, meaning it took a few more liberties with its design, although confinement was shortened to no more than a week at the most. Despite his purposeful involvement in what was to come, Ed couldn't help but feel a building up of guilt inside of him. Everyone stared as Jervis was interrogated at his table, stuttering and babbling out inane words in an attempt to save himself.

"Joker," Lonnie said, strolling over to the group with a hushed voice. "You never said solitary was part of the plan." To this, Joker merely rolled his eyes, as if the kid was complaining about daisies instead of watching another man be threatened with what was essentially mental torture. "Never said it," Joker confirmed, "but it's not like you would have agreed to do it if you'd known." Machin wasn't alone, as the look of lingering guilt was present on almost everyone involved. Even Pyg hid his masked face, turning away slightly so as to not have to face what he was letting happen.

The collective guilt obviously annoyed the Joker, who crossed his arms sauntered over to Ed. "You don't have any problem with this, do you?" he asked casually, rocking on his heels. Edward merely grimaced, taking his attention away from Jervis for once. Seeing his silence, Joker scoffed. "What? You worried for the pipsqueak?"

"After what we're planning tonight? Solitary will break him," he stated, believing every bit of what he spouted. The look of contempt couldn't have been greater from the clown, but he didn't seem to exude any sort of anger or surprise.

"Alright," Joker then shrugged, moving to lean against the table Ivy had seated herself at. "You think you're above this, you smart cookie you? Fine then. We can easily quit this little barrage on the little hat freak. All you need to do is go over there, and tell the guards who has the needle." Silence enveloped the group, the only noise to be heard was Jervis fruitlessly defending himself. All eyes were on Edward, who refused to look back at Jervis getting interrogated. "Nothing?" Joker asked, faking an expression of shock. "Why not? He's your little pal, ain't he? Totally worth giving up freedom and a chance to dish out all those silly riddles of yours. Don't you want that?" When Ed refused to answer, Joker turned to the rest of the group. "Well, how about all of you? I'll call this entire thing off if you just go over there and admit that our Pyggy is holding a little secret under that uniform of his. First one to do so is guaranteed several more months in Arkham Asylum! A luxury vacation with free meals and the finest staff to wait on you." He grinned co*ckily as he jabbed a thumb towards Cash, who was too busy with Jervis and the other guard to notice the toned down speech. Even still, no one spoke up. Glances were exchanged, everyone silently asking the others to do what they couldn't do themselves. The atmosphere was tense and rather uncomfortable as each member was simultaneously called out; well, at least the ones that actually had an iota of care for the little man. Men like Blackfire and Zsasz just listened to the conversation with nothing but amusem*nt. Many others were simply bothered by the fact that they were going after a man who, of the entire rogue's gallery, had the least amount of ill will. Sure he kidnapped women from time to time to live out his delusions, but it wasn't like he ever went out seeking to destroy. He didn't hurt the unintelligent or burn down hospitals or instill fear into school children or try to kill an actor or bomb corrupt city officials. It might have been a little startling to see this twinge of remorse in a few of the villains, but it should have surprised no one when not a single person took Joker up on his offer.

"Sorry, Tetch, it's solitary," Aaron said with a shake of his head, moving the blabbering Jervis along. He paused to look at the other guard, who would soon become another piece of debris in the Asylum's coming storm. "Kieth is still helping with Crane. Just keep watch while I get Tetch to solitary." With that, Jervis was unjustly dragged from the room, his pleadings falling on deaf ears.

Joker smirked, waiting until Cash had completely disappeared before looking at the group once more. "Sure you can care about the little teabag, but in the end, we only look after ourselves." A short laugh escaped him as he moved to Wesker. "We are what we are, after all."

He left the group in silence, each one glancing at another, but most keeping their gazes on Edward. Nygma felt rightfully offended that blame seemed to shift onto him that Jervis was being unjustly punished. "Why are you all looking at me?" he snapped angrily.

"Well, we heard that Jervis convinced Jonathan to save your life," Ivy mentioned casually, arms crossed with a passive expression to express her usual contempt. "We just sort of assumed you were going to pay him back that way." Edward's face heated some, looking away. He shot a glare towards the now empty table and its accompanying chairs and abandoned chessboard, muttering out, "Oh it's not like he's going to die. He'll be thanking me once we're out of here; I'm sure of it." It wasn't a lie if you truly believed it.

Over with Joker, he was glad to see Harley chatting up one of the oldest members of their group, Wesker, who was tugging at his collar skittishly and making sure Scarface was seated neatly on his thigh. Scarface himself turned his head up with a bored expression, donning a matching little patient uniform. The doctors had been quick to realize that Scarface an almost essential part of Arnold, and so it was decided that instead of taking the puppet away and causing near irreparable emotional instability for the Ventriloquist, it was best to reform Scarface before they could ever reform Arnold. It wasn't a problem for the other patients, who found the dummy to be endlessly more entertaining than the wholesome and kind-hearted Wesker.

"Well well, if it isn't the biggest dummy in this madhouse! You're looking well-off," Joker greeted, pulling up a char to sit beside the two. Harley looked over in slight disgust, inching her chair a few centimeters away from the clown. The prince of crime looked down at Scarface. "Not looking too bad yourself, Scar." Scarface's wooden brow shot up, well eyes shifting to express his amusem*nt. He was so well-made even his eyelids were able to half-moon his eyes with just a tilt of his head. It was like those Disney costume heads that were able to blink with a certain movement of the actor involved. "Ha! Whatta card!" he laughed, not minding as Arnold neatly repositioned his tiny hands back onto his lap. "What'd I tells ya, Dummy? Ain't he the funniest damn clown you ever did see?" He turned his head up to look at Arnold, who in turn seemed rather surprised to be called out like this. Wesker forced a small smile and a polite nod with a quiet, "Yes, Mr. Scarface. He's hilarious."

"Ehh, who asked ya?" Scarface muttered, before turning his attention to Joker. "Plannin' on puttin' on a lil' shindig, are ya? The dame here was real intrested in getting' me signed on. You ain't gonna put my dummy in the hole, iz yas?" His accent was completely overdone from a man who had probably never stepped foot in a mob house in his life, but it was considered charming by anyone not readily creeped out by Wesker's love for his puppet. "Oh you have my word," Joker grinned, nudging his tiny arm a little with far bigger chemical-burned fingers. "Between you and me? Reliable hired help is so hard to find these days!" He made an obvious gesture to Harley, who angrily stuck her tongue out at him. "I mean, you let them stay in your hideout only for them to stab you in the back and run off with a flower!"

"Eh. Bitches are bitches," Scarface shrugged, not noticing how Ivy had to sprint over to hold Harley back. "I've been locked up in dis pen for far too long. Tell ol' Vicky to keep his grubby hands off of him, 'lright?" His head tilted back to look at Arnold. Well? What're ya waitin' for, dummy? Dinna? Do it!"

Arnold squeaked at the command, nodding eagerly and bringing himself to a shaking stand. "Y-y-yes Mr. Scarface!" he gasped, approaching Harley with a coy smile. Harley perked up after being released by Ivy, welcoming the puppet with outstretched arms. As soon as the doll was in her arms, she sunk her hand into his back, grinning as she figured out how to make Scarface's mouth to move. Arnold smiled silently, adjusting his glasses and tugging at his collar as the room became overly stuffy.

With a nervous gaze, Wesker turned his attention to Zsasz and Pyg in the corner, the two rambling on about perfection and zombies and the like. Victor looked over to Joker, as if checking on progresses, before his scan met Wesker's eyes. A malicious smile appeared on the serial killer's face, rubbing another mark that had been placed so carefully along his neck. The scratches were fairly deep, lining four in total, but Wesker noted that it was missing that fifth diagonal talley that would have made it a complete set. A shuddering breath left the Ventriloquist, who rubbed at his own neck on reflex, forcing himself to be ready for what was inevitably about to happen to him. He took one last look back at Harley and Scarface. Quinn grinned and amateurishly moved the puppet's mouth as she said in an exaggerated gruff voice, "Hey! Get a move on, Dummy!" Of course, her lips were moving, but it's not like Arnold could really tell the difference. Joker, of course, was tossing insincere adulation to him in the background, but it had been his boss' approval that he had been seeking. The lackey nodded quickly, taking quickened steps over to Zsasz and Pyg, who both fell to silence and looked up at him from their seats.

"Well now, if it isn't our obsequious little zombie," Zsasz greeted, giving a little wave of two fingers from his bound hand. Because of his compulsion for murder, it had been decided that he was consistently a danger, but couldn't be locked in solitary forever, so his hands were always tightly cuffed in his front, making acquiring weapons and killing far more of a challenge. Not impossible, mind you. Wesker felt cold sweat already making trails down his head as his heart pounded, having never really been forced to confront a rogue who wasn't involved in some type of organized crime. Those men almost always followed a certain code or set of principles based on the standards of powerful men. Coming face to face with such an unbound and murderous rogue was frightening when not shielded by the powerful influence of one of the most powerful gangsters in Gotham.

"Oh my my my! The poor vessel is quivering!" Pyg noted worriedly, jumping up to his feet. While he may not have been as tall as Wesker, he made up for it on general size, that alone being intimidating to the lackey. The serial killer got up as well, although with far less vigor. "I adore your glasses," Zsasz mentioned, gesturing a thin pale finger to Arnold's eyewear. "May I have them before we begin?" He unconsciously itched at his chest, but unfortunately he wasn't allowed to remove his shirt in fear that it would alarm other inmates and provoke further dangerous behavior what with his scars.

Arnold swallowed, nodding silently as he shakily removed his glasses and handed them over with a quivering breath. Zsasz took them gratefully the best that he could with chained hands, placing the pair safely into his pocket before bringing his attention, once again, back to Wesker. "Now that all that is settled: give it your best shot. Sinners aren't hard to fool, but do try and make it convincing, yes?"

Wesker nodded dutifully, hands shaking as he raised both of them up, looking between the two criminals. Doubt overwhelmed his mind, unsure if he was really ready to do this sort of work. His breathing shallow, he closed his eyes and shot a hand forward to grab at Pyg's mask.

Pyg audibly squealed and jolted back before Wesker could actually grab the mask, holding the right side of his face in utter pain. "You idiot, you poked him in the eye! Watch where yer grabbin' nex time!" he could hear Scarface call from afar. "Oops! Sorry!" Wesker whispered whilst Zsasz pinched the bridge of his nose with a heavy sigh. Joker could be heard howling with laughter, something that clearly caught the attention of the one and only guard left in the room. He needed to act now.

With little regard for his own safety at this point, he boldly grabbed Lazlo's makeshift mask and yanked it off, revealing what lie underneath. Arnold will admit he'd never actually seen Valentin without his mask on, and so when he finally got to gaze at the angered visage that had been hidden away for so long, he couldn't quite help but drop the fabric in shock. "O-oh! Oh de—" He hardly had time to finish as he was quickly tacked to the ground by the grunting Pyg himself, going at him with the same savageness as a rabid inmate that had lived his life in solitary confinement. Arnold could only shriek in terror, expecting some rather tough blows to his delicate frame. Fortunately, it was Zsasz who came to the rescue then, looping a cuffed arm around Lazlo's throat and forcing the surgeon to bend backwards as his airway was quickly cut off. "I think this little Piggy needs some sleep!" Viktor giggled, eyes wide with that murderous spark while his mind ignored Lazlo clawing at his arm.

"Hey!" the guard snapped, running over and raising his weapon at Viktor's madly grinning face. "Zsasz! Let him go! Now!"

Zsasz eyes the officer with sickening intent, but still complied and let Lazlo go. Valentin gasped for breath, rubbing at his neck as he scrambled for his mask. He muttered unintelligible gibberish, cursing unknowns and glaring at the two that had attacked him. Wesker had barely been touched save for being knocked to the ground and a few fairly soft blows, and yet he was curled up on the ground, groaning in pain.

"The three of you. Get up," the officer commanded. Wesker nodded rapidly, shakily rising to his feet as Zsasz couldn't keep his eyes off of the guard. The officer in question failed to notice how he began to rub at the missing fifth talley on his neck. Lazlo needed a few minuted to retie the fabric, but once done, he was soon on his feet. While the three were calm, several of the less notorious patients were noticeably becoming agitated or distressed; the last thing they needed was chaos. The officer grabbed the radio at his hip, keeping the gun trained on Viktor as he spoke into the device. "Keith? I need you to hurry back from Strange's office. I'm taking Zsasz, Valentin, and Wesker into Solitary and I need someone to look after the patients until rec time is over. Processing these three might take a while."

A moment of pause ensued before Kieth, the other officer, quickly replied. "Sure thing, Gonzales. I'll be right there. Just delivered Crane to Strange." Gonzales sighed in relief, still maintaining fierce eye contact with the man who wouldn't hesitate to slit his throat at a moment's notice. The other inmates were becoming more stressed as the time passed, no thanks in part to a giggling Joker who craved more entertainment, but the wait was short. The other guard soon turned up, quickly going about the procedure of calming some of the more sensitive patients and even calling in others to help get things sorted out.

"Alright, move," the guard commanded, lowering his gun as he gestured for the three to go through the usual door. Since the other inmates needed more attention, he would be doing this alone. It shouldn't be too hard, since he had the gun.

Wesker muttered worriedly to himself, twiddling his fingers and leading the way out. Zsasz, of course, stayed in the back of the line, just in front of Gonzales so he was able to leer back at him if need be. The officer obviously tried to think nothing of the stares from a man who had been so greatly perverted from humanity that he bore marks off all of victims.

The three were guided out to the hallway, moving the usual course and being sure to stay on the right side of the hallway as always. Wesker kept his eyes on the signs that marked each passing doorway, eyesight blurred by Zsasz having taken his glasses earlier. He just hoped they hadn't been cracked or he wouldn't be able to properly escape. However, it was about four hundred feet throughout the facility that his eyes recognized the door they were looking for, and as an indication of that, he stopped dead in his tracks. The hallway was currently empty, unfortunately for the officer.

Gonzales realized the three were no longer moving and took his gun off of its safety once again. "Wesker! Keep going," he commanded, but Arnold wouldn't budge, instead burying his face into his hands to save himself from the terror of what was about to ensue. Gonzales let out a huff, passing by Zsasz in order to confront Arnold himself. "Wesker, what has gotten into—?"

Viktor was quick to attack, launching himself to the side and slamming the officer into the wall. As he had done with Pyg, he wrapped an arm around his mouth, forcing him to stay silent. "Wesker! The gun!" he demanded, keeping his voice relatively low so they weren't heard by nearby rooms. Wesker squeaked and ran over, grabbing the gun and bringing it to his chest with a frightened breath. Without thinking, he took the gun off of safety and pointed it at the officer's head. "I-i-if you kn-know what's g-g-g-good for you, you-you'll stay quie-quiet."

Viktor's triumphant jeering could even be called evil at this point, taking in the officer's wide eyes and terrified breathing. Lazlo knew just what to do as he grabbed the keycard off of the officer and used it to scan himself into the room they had been searching for: the security office. The guard working at the desk let loose a startled gasp when Pyg's large frame blocked the doorway, eyes aflame with the same madness that caused him to tear people apart and sew them back together. Before the guard could even reach for her gun, he was quickly taken to the ground, her cries falling on deaf ears as she was quickly silenced by the hand over her mouth. Wesker hurried in behind him, closing the door and locking it once Zsasz was able to successfully drag the officer in.

"Please please please don't-!" the officer stationed at the cameras begged, tears already pouring from her her eyes as Pyg had finally let the pressure off of her mouth. Her cries went unanswered. "I am in need of an operating table!" Lazlo instead barked out, causing Wesker to grab a nearby desk and drag it to the middle of the room with as much effort as he could muster. Valentin reapplied his hand to the woman's mouth, ignoring her desperate pleas as he brought her to the table and placed her atop of it. Wesker rummaged through the drawers as per Zsasz's command, finding some zip ties. These were standard police zip ties that were used for restraining criminals or unruly patients, meaning they had a metal clip built in that made it near impossible to break through them unless you had the strength of Bane. He was certainly reluctant when he was suddenly asked to do the deed of tying the officers up.

"O-oh, why can't you do it?" Wesker whispered, not wanting to be a part of this heinous crime against humanity more than he already was. "Because if you don't, Scarface will be mighty disappointed, won't he?" Zsasz sneered, not keeping his eyes off of the male guard under him now that he now had a gun placed firmly under his chin. He always loved to see the tears of his victims when they realized they were going to die.

Wesker was forced to admit to himself that he couldn't betray his boss, and so he unfortunately nodded and went about tying the poor woman's limbs to each leg of the desk, allowing Pyg to finally move his weight off of her and listen to her sobs and ignore her struggles. He was forced to stuff her mouth with a rag, unfortunately. Next Wesker forced Gonzales' hand behind his back, tying them together and watching his face contort into a pained expression, only overwhelmed by a sudden realization when he saw Lazlo pull out the screwdriver and scalpel. They weren't going to be killed, but they instead were about to experience a fate far worse than death. It wasn't long before he, too, was begging to be spared with tears making their distinctive trails down his face. Blabbering about his family meant nothing to Zsasz, nor Pyg. Arnold, however? He just had to stick with covering his ears and holding back the nausea while he was forced to silence him with a hand.

Gonzales was discarded in the corner whilst Wesker was in charge of keeping watch over him. Zsasz found greater favor in looking over the terrified face of the officer on the desk. "Oink oink, little piggy," Viktor giggled, giving Lazlo a mad look. "Oh can I please do the honors?" He scratched at his own skin, hand moving up to his neck. "It's been such an awful long time, don't you know?"

Pyg grunted, rather displeased at the idea of having to share his work with others, but he supposed he didn't find much of a problem letting someone else take do the job he loved. Had he not been so medicated, it was needless to say Zsasz wouldn't even get the choice. So he handed him the screwdriver, which would be used in lieu of an ice pick, his preferred method of an old fashioned leukotomy without the use of chemicals. Thankfully it had a rather thin tip, making it crude, but still useful for on-the-go lobotomies. "Now, you're going to want to position the tool right at the tear ducts. That will allow you to get the perfect angle and hit in just the right spot!" As he instructed, he undid the woman's bun in order to get a good position on her head for cutting. He didn't like the idea of such a thick sewing needle, but at this point, beggars can't be choosers. "Oh my, we're definitely going to need a few rags- anyhow anyhow, my my, since we do not have a hammer, we can just use the butt of the gun on her to jam it in!" He noticed the rag escaping the woman's mouth and was forced to slam a hand over it to keep her from screaming out for help or terror. His hand were becoming slick with tears and saliva, but he was perfectly used to bodily fluids coating his arms and digits.

Zsasz looked giddy, itching that spot along his neck as he quickly retrieved the glasses he had taken from Wesker. "I normally don't put a mark unless I strike a kill the old fashioned way," he whispered, placing the glasses on the bridge of her nose so she was now the one wearing them. "But I believe this is close enough." He grinned at himself in the reflection of the glass. "I can't cleanse your sins without the glasses this time," came his mad susurrations, readying the screwdriver at her tear duct as Pyg struggled to keep her still and her head straight. "So I can see my reflection in your artificial gaze, begging me to baptize you anew it the liturgy of my knife and your blood."

Wesker wanted to cover his ears and ignore the horrid muffled screams and begs, but he was forced to keep Gonzales quiet after he had only intensified with his tears and his muffled screams. Wesker just tried to block it all out of his mind, ignoring his own threatening tears when they muffled screams were silenced with a swift hit to the screwdriver.

He victim under him stared in tear-filled horror, before breaking out into violent sobs. Wesker reached his limit at last, sprinting over the the trash bin and vomiting up his dinner.

A shadow enveloped the little light that filtered through the glass doorway. Nygma looked up slowly from his book, relieving his eyes of strain from reading in the dark and turning them to the figure in the door way. The low beam of the lights outside the cell practically shrouded the room in darkness once more, causing Riddler a slight annoying strain of his eyes. "Hello," he greeted dully, "can I help you?" He looked to the side, noting his cellmate was perfect fast asleep, and thankfully so. He didn't think he could take another minute of the layman. The figure didn't respond despite holding the general shape of an officer, what with the cap and rather large belt. Riddler furrowed his brow, sitting up and sliding off of the edge of his bed. "Can I help you? Hello?" he repeated once more, he general tone of annoyance well present in his voice. He scowled when he wasn't answered, approaching the glass wall swiftly and glaring at the man with a look of deep contempt. "Are you deaf? Or just—?"

Edward stopped, looking at the man rather oddly when he was able to get close enough to properly see those dull eyes, lacking in any sort of higher intelligence. It took Edward only a second to process what he was seeing before he ungracefully stumbled back, bile rising to his throat at the sight. He was nearly bent over, trying to save his stomach contents before it spilt into the toilet. He heard a cackle from outside the glass, and so he knew just who was behind the little scare.

"Zsasz," he growled, turning to the pale man with crossed arms. "Oh how very comical. Let me out." Viktor was still giggling after stepping out from behind the man that no longer held any sort of free thinking; or any thinking at all, really. Despite his jests, he complied, pulling out a keycard from his pocket and swiping Edward's cell to let him out. Nygma grimaced at the sight of the lobotomized man, making an effort to inch past him when he wouldn't move from the doorway. "Pyg had his little piggies fixed," Viktor explained, giving the guard a little nudge. Gonzales wavered slightly, but luckily didn't fall. "Because all we had to work with was a scalpel, a screwdriver, and a bit of work on the brain, they aren't… very advanced, but all we really need is for him to follow you along to make it look like he's guiding you somewhere. Just make sure he doesn't wander off."

Nygma was sickened at the thought of having to lug around this brainless sack of mush, but he bore through it, nodding and beckoning the guard to follow along to Zsasz cell, making sure to shut his cell along the way. Of course he noticed the new addition to the serial killer's neck, now slick with fresh blood, but Nygma simply ignored in fear he would lose his dinner. Viktor was placed back in his cell where Pyg was already staying, being Zsasz's cellmate and all. Lazlo grinned and waved, garnering a rather uneasy wave back from the Riddler. With most of the inmates fast asleep and the usual night guards having already made their usual hourly patrol of that night, Riddler made sure to make quick work of the time and had Gonzales follow him to the main office, which was not in use at this time seeing as most of the doctors and staff had gone home at this hour. Occasionally another guard would pass by, but as long as he remained close to the brainless sock that he was given, no one thought otherwise. After all, he was the Riddler; half the time he was in solitary, so was it really that surprising that he would be taken around by a guard all the time?

Riddler noticed the cameras peering down at him as he entered the empty office with a keycard, letting out a small breath as he had to remind himself that the person behind the cameras had less intelligence than a baby koala at the moment. "I haven't even done anything yet and yet I feel as though this is the most abhorrent thing I've ever been a part of," he whispered to himself, shutting the door behind him but not activating the lights. The last thing he needed were curious eyes peering through to see who was messing with the computers.

Wiggling the mouse, he had to narrow his eyes to prevent temporary blindness from the bright flash of he screen in contrast to the surrounding darkness. He noticed the computer required a login. Thankfully, there was a much easier way in the form of a fingerprint scan: a device that would instantly log in a user by pressing his or her finger to the attached scanner.

He gestured for Gonzales to come over, tapping his foot in impatience when as he waited for the officer the stumble over. When he looked back in mild irritation, he was given the rather insufferable sight of a braindead officer playing with the wires of another computer on the floor. He huffed and went over, pinching the officer by the coat in an effort to avoid touching him as much as possible and bringing him over to the computer. He had him press each individual finger to a scanner, watching the computer deny entry until it was the left thumb was found out to be the key. "Finally," Riddler whispered, spotting a clipboard nearby. He snatched it up and handed it to the guard, who slowly took it without thought. "Here, play with that. That should keep you busy." Riddler really only had three tasks for now, and so his fervent exploration of the database began.

First was the guards. He found it taxing that he would need a place to put them, but he needed a shift where they wouldn't be checked up on. He finally decided on keeping one in a guard tower and one in the security room to watch over the cameras, maybe pretend to write some papers despite the fact they probably couldn't process written words anymore. Since the scheduling system was automated by a computer instead of manually done by a person, hardly anyone would notice if he simply made it so they would switch shifts every twelve hours or so to avoid suspicion, despite the fact that they wouldn't really move from their spots at all and could possibly dehydrate and eventually die. The only real annoyance of that was Riddler having to take the extra few minutes to manually clock them in and out for the future so they wouldn't be found either absent or working overtime. It was boring, yes, but it needed to be done for the plan.

The second task came in the form of Poison Ivy and her special brand of treatment. He went to the treatment plans, looking over the vast array of names in silent fascination. He was tempted to stray from the path and just take a gander around; he'd always been curious about what kind of results Harvey has had in his therapy, after all, but he needed to keep on track.

Patients in the asylum were put into two groups essentially when it came to treatment: those who received medication as well as therapy, and those who received no such medication and only dealt with therapy. Edward considered himself lucky to be in the latter category, knowing that any chemical interference with his mind could greatly hinder his abilities. The placement also reaffirmed his belief that he wasn't meant to be inside the asylum, but that was an argument for another day. Easily recalling Pamela's inmate number thanks to an eidetic memory, he was able to find her in the database with relative ease and look over all of her treatment plans. At the moment, she was given routine trips to the gardens for her therapy. While it may seem dangerous, her medication (a saltwater mixture that greatly hindered her abilities) prevented her from properly influencing plants or producing those fumes she was always so proud to use on men and occasionally women. Thankfully, this would all change.

"Ivy, I expect full gratitude when you are out of this rathole," Riddler smirked, going over to her dosage amount and severely lowering the concentration to barely a fifth of what it usually contained. Sure the nurses might find it a bit odd, but who were they to question the doctor's orders?

Once that was set in stone, it was time for the final challenge. Bringing Jervis' inmate number to mind, he was quickly able to locate Tetch's treatment plan. As expected, Tetch was on a seriously heavy amount of medication in order to balance out an extreme case of schizophrenia. He was also given some rather unfortunate amounts of electroshock therapy, but also really seemed to enjoy a form of art therapy. Unsurprising, of course; Jervis always did need a way to express himself. As expected, he was also given regular sessions with his psychiatrist, Dr. Picard, and he and Edward (and now Jonathan) shared the same group therapy time with Dr. Leland. While all of this was interesting to look at, the main target here was the medication. Because Jervis was on the list of inmates to receive medicine, the computer essentially recalled his name each time the patients needed their doses, and so the nurses were always reminded to give him what he needed. If his name was taken off, like Edward's, his name would never come up come time for the distribution of medicine, and so he would stop receiving the drugs needed to stay within the realms of sanity.

Riddler took a deep breath, processing all the information with steady eyes. "Well… sorry, Jervis." With that, he removed Tetch's name from the list completely before logging off.

Notes:

How was it? Sorry if you came here for Hattercrow goodness, only to get Jonathan calling it quits and f*cking lobotomies. Speaking of which— how’d I do on that scene? Good? Bad? Any criticisms?

Glad to give some spotlight to Zsasz, as well as Harley and Jonathan’s relationship since I’ve only shown them together once. The next two chapters are gonna be long as fuuuuuck.

The next chapter will be a lot like this one: focusing on the other villains for a bit, but still maintaining a decent amount of Jon and Jerv.

I also plan to make a small little piece on Zsasz and Pyg based on this chapter, so if you follow my Tumblr, keep a look out for that if you’re interested. I dunno; I really like the chemistry between the two.

Anyways... have a nice day!

Chapter 4: Backstage

Summary:

Jonathan spends time with Savannah. Two-Face proves himself useful to the cause. Harley and Ivy move the pieces even further as they near the end of their plan. Jervis... well, he’s alive.

Notes:

Hooooo boy sorry for the wait. Going through some personal stuff and didn’t have time to write. But I’m here now! Now that my birthday has passed and I’m feeling better from my Happy Birthday f*cking cold that God has gifted upon me as a nice f*ck you, I’m feeling more motivated to write.

This chapter was actually supposed to be twice this length because I was gonna fit so much sh*t in it, but I’ve decided to hold it off for another chapter and stick to the 8000 I have. I’m still amazed at how quickly I fill up those words when I have so much to say.

Okay.... so, heads up.

WARNING.

This chapter is going to be rather light-hearted... until we get to the last quarter. That’s when it gets... heavy. Again. The last quarter is going to contain a pretty uncomfortable look at mental disorders. I want you to remember that my Jervis has both schizophrenia and autism, and I’ve been doing a lot of work to try and reproduce what Jervis is going through. So there you go.

You may have a hard time reading the last chapter due to its jumbled writing.

Enjoy.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

"Shouldn't you be in school?" Crane criticized smoothly, hooking his glasses back into the neck of his patient uniform. Savannah kicked her legs idly in her seat, unconsciously chewing on a lock of her hair in anticipation. "It's Labor Day," she replied, knocking his question out of the way swiftly.

"You wouldn't rather spend this holiday with friends or with that family of yours?" Jonathan asked, knitting his fingers together in an attempt to avoid the previous subject. To this, Savannah pulled her hair out of her mouth, a small shake of her head indicating her true priorities. "Nah," she spoke, "after Dr. Leland informed me that you had a lil' problem yesterday, I woulda come anyways."

"Did she now?" Jonathan grimaced, his gaze turning to a leer directed at one of the mounted security cameras. "And just what else does she inform you of?" He wasn't exactly angry, just more or less irritated that Leland's attempts at reforming this former doctor had leaked into giving out constant updates as though he were the child instead. So much for patient-doctor confidentiality, although he supposed that went out the window when he put away for torture and murder. He knew she was working hard to get him to flex that underused and nearly nonexistent social side of him to aid his mental health, but it was no less annoying to a shut-in like Jonathan.

"Just what she's allowed," Savannah answered him, choosing her words carefully. "She can't tell me about therapy or anythin' like that, but since Ah'm, like, your only existin' family member, she tells me about medical stuff an' whatnot." When she caught his glaring at the camera, she reached and hand over to lightly thump the table and get his attention. Crane gave her an immediate sharp, warning glare, one that caused her to flinch in immediate reaction. He had to commend her on a swift recovery, however, as she soon proclaimed, "Yer stallin'! C'mon, can't you do it one more time? You do it all the time for the cameras!"

Crane's gaze softened to it's usual grouchy stare of contempt as he once again turned his focus to her. "Another time, perhaps, but not today, child."

"Oh you say that every time," Savannah groaned, a childish petulance seeping into her voice. "You do it for crowds of people and for Batman. Why can't you do it for me?"

Jonathan pointed upwards to the cameras recording them. "There are cameras."

"So? They don't record sound!" the younger sibling replied, her determination certainly admirable as well as aggravating to the doctor.

"Just look it up on…" Jonathan snapped his fingers repeatedly, trying to think of what the younger generation used these days. "YouTube. Just look it up on YouTube if you're so curious." Platforms like that were still new to his generation when he was teaching.

Savannah grimaced at the very thought, tapping her toes against the floor in visible impatience. Their time was coming to an end soon enough, and she knew her brother well enough to know he was running the clock down. No doubt he had plenty of practice with his own doctors. "Can't," she finally replied. "Most of yer stuff is age-restricted. I have to be eighteen to view it."

Crane granted her an incredulous look. "Can't you make an account and simply say you're eighteen?" he asked her.

"What if I get caught?"

"Caught? By whom? The police?"

"I dunno! Maybe?"

Crane's brow shot up so high in awed disbelief that it was a surprise they didn't fly off of his face. "And you're sure we're related?"

"We're half siblings!" his sister snapped, clearly exasperated but with no actual angry tone in her voice. "Just do the thing! Do it and I'll promise I'm never ask you about it again."

Jonathan had to once again remind himself that his half-sister was still twelve. Maturity wasn't exactly expected, but it seemed to him that Savannah had gotten far too comfortable with Crane as her sibling. She acted as if he were a brother she'd known for years, and while it gave him mild discomfort, he had to teach himself to stop pushing it away. It was at times like these that he needed to remind himself that he wanted this, even if it was a fact that was hard to swallow. With that, he slowly rolled up his sleeves. "I'm not exactly in my element," he warned, already preparing the monologue within his head as his tone hinted at the prize she so dearly wanted.

Savannah buried her growing grin in her sleeves, legs kicking excitedly. "That's fine! Just… give it a go!"

Jonathan stared blankly at her, internally building himself up. His eyes then narrowed as a mad grin split his lips, hands rubbing together greedily. "Hroo, hraa! Yeeees, enjoy your precious daylight Gotham, for when night falls, you will experience true terror, and you will all know that I, the SCARECROW, am the MASTER OF FEAR!" This line was punctuated by a bout of high-pitched maniacal laughter so iconic to the Scarecrow as Jonathan raised bent arms up and clawed fingers up to the sky in a perfect display of overdramatic villainy.

Savannah had to cover her mouth with both hands, a squeak leaking out as her chest shook and pained from contained laughter. Jonathan's expression relaxed to the usual unrevealing gaze, a far cry from what had been put on show moments ago. "Of course, one will never experience a true chewing of the scenery until in the heat of the moment when you're saying—" he paused to glare furiously up at the ceiling, shaking his fist as an old man would to a boy on his lawn and yelling "— I'LL GET YOU BATMAN!"

That broke Savannah, who slammed her head into her arms on the table to let out muffled laughter into her sleeves. Jonathan watched with a stolid countenance once more, taking note of her shaking with each new breath wasted on laughter. "You laugh now, but I'll have you know it's terrifying when in the costume," he spoke calmly, watching her shake harder, knowing tears were involved this time.

"Ah bet!" she grinned, wiping the leaking from her eyes as she tried to regain her composure and stop the giggles that interrupted her interrupted each attempt. It wasn't a surprise when the guards suddenly burst in, alarmed by the noise heard outside of the room. Savannah tried to assure them that she was fine as they checked her for injuries, all the while Jonathan took the time to contemplate. All his fondest ideas sprouted from simple pondering, and yet as of late he seemed to find himself in the worst of moods when his thoughts strayed.

What are you? A clown?

If it was one thing Crane loathed, it was utter humiliation. Even now Crane felt a rising sense of anger at the girl who laughed at his admittedly silly display, garnering unwanted flashes back to tormenting jeers and laughter that had once brought him to tears every day as a boy.

Pathetic.

It was rambunctious laughter at his expense, and yet somehow this felt off from the torments of his youth. Did he have to degrade his own existence in order to get even a shred of camaraderie from a girl who would tremble before him had there not been the safety of the guards? He let these thoughts stew inside of him, letting his displeasure be known by the twisted glower presented on his face.

Savannah's laughter died at the sight of his expression, leaving a small "thank you" to the guards as they reminded her she had about five minutes remaining before leaving to keep an ear out once more.

Silence enveloped the room as the girl's eyes searched him wordlessly for an indication as to what her wrongdoing may have been. Jonathan was once more back into that ugly frown she knew she was meant to see. She wouldn't know he was upset unless he wanted her to. That's just how her brother was.

"Having fun?" Jonathan sneered, his insecurities putting him on the offensive. Savannah shrank back instinctually, mouth twitching in an attempt to retain a calm smile. "Of… f'course," she replied as honestly as she could, though she wasn't exactly sure what he wanted to hear from her. "Ah like getting to know my big brother." She offered an encouraging smile, as if hoping it would somehow lift his spirits.

"Oh? And what have you learned today?" Crane asked expectantly, that frown lessening back to its usual blank visage. Savannah looked at him oddly, as if now he was the one in need of questioning now. Her brow furrowed, and yet she retained the smile of a girl simply trying her best.

"Does it matter?" she answered, striking something within her brother. "I thought bonding wasn't supposed to be stressful."

Jonathan stayed silent during that moment, his thoughts once again lost in a blank canvas

So then why are you so uncomfortable, Johnny?

"Johnny, I like spending time getting to know you," Savannah emphasized, his silence only bringing her discomfort. Jonathan canted his head, hands tightening their grip on his arms. Still, she persisted on. "Y'know, like our mama always wanted to."

Crane's silence only seemed all the more deafening right then. And yet, he let his expression lift as he offered up a small smile before signaling to the security camera that he was ready to leave.

"I'll see you next week, Savannah," he hummed, before the guards came in to assist in his departure.

"Forty-seven… forty-eight… forty-nine…"

Lonnie had been watching silently for some time, finally breaking the silence when Garfield reached the fiftieth mark. "You have to be the only man in this asylum who comes out in exercise period to actually exercise," he stated, watching Garfield rest himself at the down position to take a few deep breaths in.

"What can I say? I gotta build up my strength for when I get my wings back," Garfield chuckled, before looking over his own shoulder to get a glimpse at the girl sitting criss-cross on his spine. "Whaddaya say, Mary? Fifty more?" Baby Doll pursed her lips, leaning on his back some in contemplation. "Hmmmm…. A hundred! A hundred and I'll give you a cookie!" she promised.

Lynns scoffed. "Yeah, I'm not falling for that one again," he muttered, despite already in motion of doing more push-ups. "Of course, I'm still gonna do it, but if you're lying to me, Dr. Leland's gonna hear all about it in group therapy." He quickly got going again, already getting into the sixties as Mary was bursting with giggles like she was a little girl on the world's safest kiddy ride. "Faster! Faster!" she giggled, rapidly giving his back soft pats that were supposed to be childish hits. Firefly was certainly trying his best, saying to her, "Yeah yeah, I'm getting on it. Remember you're getting off the moment we see— HARVEY!"

Lynns leaped to his feet, immediately throwing the little blonde woman off of his back and sending her crashing onto the ground below, leaving Lonnie to rush over and help her to her feet. Garfield couldn't care more, approaching Dent with the excitement of Baby Doll a few minutes prior. Dressed in the typical Arkham uniform, Harvey had it modified to where one half was dirty and damaged to a state where it was nearly unfixable; the typical two-toned fashion he was always so keen on sporting. Even Jervis would have a hard time stitching that raggedy thing up. Doctors had tried to replace it multiple times, but like his coin, they had to eventually give in and let him have it. Said coin was currently flipping through the air, periodically landing in Harvey's hand before trailing through each crevice of his fingers with skilled turns and once again being flipped through the air with a flick of his thumb. Dent didn't look too pleased, but that was most likely because it wasn't Harvey currently in control. In spite of whatever his current mood was, he pulled out a book. "I got your things."

As Lonnie was lifting up Dahl and getting ready to place her back on her feet, he heard Two-Face's words and immediately dropped her. "Bullsh*t. You did?"

Instead of that gruff, gravelly voice they had gotten prior, Harvey seemed to become the more prominent half as he handed Lynns a cover of Stephen King's It, a rather hefty book that was inconspicuous enough to hide what was needed. "Well, it's not exactly difficult when both watchtower guards are lobotomized," he sighed, watching Firefly gleefully open up the book to reveal a lighter and an adjustable wrench hidden inside two deep holes carved into the pages. "Oh Harvey I'd kiss you if weren't as half as pretty as I am," Lynns laughed, slamming the book shut just in time to see Harvey cringe in response.

Dent's attention was now on Anarky, who stood by with crossed arms as he found it hard to believe he was going to experience his first mass breakout. "Nervous?" the more experienced rogue asked, the the unmarred side of his face portraying a light smile.

"Nervous? Tentative more than anything," Lonnie would only admit. Signs of anxiety weren't favored among rogues, and Anarky had to be one of the newest to the game, leaving him more of the spotlight to make an impression on the others.

"Well its not hard," Harvey told him. "You've started a riot before, haven't you?"

"Have I started riots?" Machin asked incredulously, letting a loud "Ha!" escape him. "Please. Has our unjust police systems mass indicted civil citizens with unfairly prejudice-based biases?" Harvey said nothing, merely raising a brow. At the silence, Anarky cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck. "Yes. The answer is, uh, yes. I have."

"Great!" Lynns continued for Dent, giving the much younger rogue a hard pat on the back, watching him stumble forward a step or two. "This should be easy for you then. Breakouts are simple, Lon. You just do what you do best and we'll be out of here in no time." He grimaced and took a look around. "No time being a couple days, of course. Ivy hasn't gotten out yet and I can only wonder what's taking her so long." Letting out a breathy laugh, he once again brought his attention back to the political activist, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Look, kid, no pressure, but if we put in all this work and you f*ck it up— once again, no pressure— I'm probably going to set your cell on fire with you in it. We good?"

Lonnie blinked, speechless for a moment before letting out a hesitant laugh, forcefully prying off the uncomfortably tight hand that had latched its grip onto his shoulder. "Yeah yeah, we're good," he nodded, awkwardly gesturing back to a small crowd of inmates gathered around Blackfire for one of his cult teachings. "I'll get right on it."

The two more experienced rogues watched him jog off and over to Blackfire, ending with Harvey giving Lynns a look. "You'd seriously kill him? We've all messed up a breakout before," he asked, once again flipping that coin in between his knuckles.

Garfield gazed over at him and back at Machin, thinking for a moment before shaking his head. "Nah. He's a good kid. I'd probably just put a cigarette out in his eye or something." He paused, bringing his gaze back to the other burn victim once more. "You'd hold him down for me, wouldn't you?"

Two-Face gave him an unreadable look as the coin in his hand found its way to his thumb within a second. Lynns watched the coin be launched into the air, that scarred half showings its marred face for mere milliseconds before findings its way back to his palm. The coin was planted on the back of his hand, only to reveal the clean side had won over Dent's constantly warring mind. Coin once more back in his palm, Two-Face shook his head. "Sorry Gar. Looks like I can't."

Lynns stayed silent, watching the coin expertly flip through Harvey's knuckles. "So are you finally gonna let me choose what to watch on TV in the rec room or are you just going to flip a coin at each channel until the coin tells to what to watch?"

Harvey paused, the coin stopping between his forefinger and middle finger. "Eh, hold on," he said, placing the coin on his thumb once more whilst Garfield crossed his fingers in silent hope.

Quinn ran thin fingers through her blonde locks, the hair ties discarded to the side for when she would fashion her hair up into those iconic twin ponytails. Her reflection bit her lip in pointed determination, noticing a knot up near her roots. Long nails struggled to comb it out, trying to keep the user distracted from the green-tinted figure feeling her own hair in the background. Harley paused, a twinge of anger sparking up in her chest at the sight. It had been several days since the dosages for Ivy's medication had been greatly reduced, and with it, Harley's insecurities began to bloom once more.

Her fingers became stuck in that knot, and in a spurt of wound up frustration, she tried to yank it out.

The harlequin's efforts were halted by smooth green hands gently grasping onto her wrists, smiling at her from the reflection of the mirror. A bit of red dusted the clown's cheeks as she grimaced at her own childish actions, letting Ivy gently untangle the knot in her hair. No longer within the public eye, however, she knew she was allowed to be embarrassed.

"Nervous?" Ivy spoke gently, her voice meeting Harley's ears as smoothly as fresh water. Quinn blinked, the sheepish smile saying everything that Ivy needed to know. "I mean, I guess," Harley confessed, avoiding the larger woman's gaze, expecting herself to be reprimanded for acting so childish and letting her worries get to her. It was around this time that Ivy had finished tugging at her tangles, already reaching for one of the hair ties. Her eyes urged for Harley to continue, even if she couldn't see them.

"It's jus'… y'know…" Harley muttered, unsure of how to put her problems into audible words. However, she mustered up a courage within her to show a hopeful, although weak smile. "It's nothin', Red, honest!" She winced in slight pain as Ivy tugged her hair up into those twin ponytails one at a time, making sure not a hair escaped from each tie as she finished Harley's signature hairstyle. As gentle as she tried to be and with plenty of practice under her belt, Harley could still be a little tender-headed.

Reaching up to run her fingers through the captured locks, Harley finally let her eyes lift up to Ivy, a grin naturally coming up to her face. Harleen had seen countless pictures of Poison Ivy back when she had simply been known as Pamela (a luxury she never received with the Joker), so she knew she already had a natural beauty about her. However, call it her odd taste in lovers, but she found Ivy to be absolutely stunning as she was now; a natural goddess among humans she had been raised with. Ivy smiled at Harley through their reflection, leaving over to plant her chin on the smaller woman's shoulder with one arm wrapped snuggly around her petite lover's waist and the other draped over her other shoulder in a comforting hug. Harley marveled at the woman she bunked with; sleeves were rolled up to show off that pear-green skin; smooth and practically flawless with thin, vein-like vines winding their way along her arms paired with crinkly and full locks of thick crimson hair cascading over Harley's shoulders as if cut from the finest silk. Quinn looked up into those green eyes that comforted her in the mirror and promptly turned around to get a direct look at them herself.

"Ah geeze, Red, lookit you!" she giggled, playing with her lover's hair. "You look so good! Just like yourself again." Poison Ivy couldn't help the smile that graced her face, small seeds in her hair that had laid dormant during her time in Arkham finally sprouting and flourishing into large pink flowers that decorated mane. It was a sign she was genuinely contented. Harley played with one of the petals, a bright smile broadening across her face. "Oh I'm gonna miss lookin' at these while your gone!"

Pamela noticed Harley's expression drop at the end of that sentence, filling her with a bout of worry. Her hands took up Quinn's, urging her to speak her mind. The small gesture of comfort was what brought the former doctor to look up with eyes gleaned with the foreshadowing of tears. "You're gonna come back for me, right?" she asked, the weakness of her voice begging for an earnest answer.

Oh, so that was what was wrong. Ivy's thoughts soured when thinking back to Joker, the flowers in her hair retracting to make way for thorny vines and weaved in and out of her hair. Harley was careful not to let her hand be pricked by the sudden onset of hostile vines. Ivy's hand curled around Harley's, her features displaying the look of a serious, but devoted partner. "Harley, I'm not like him," she promised with a firm voice. "I'm not leaving this island without you." Not that she really could without being shot down on the spot, but the sentiment was there. "If I could, I'd only come back for you." She finished with a kiss to Harleen's head, flowers blooming among her thick locks once more.

Harley found herself with watery eyes as Ivy pulled her close, bringing her over to the bed they shared despite there being two available. Ivy sat down so Harley was free to climb up onto her lap facing her. "I know, I know," Harley said, a more uplifted smile gracing her face as she giggled her worries away. "Yous know I just get worried n' all that…" She wiped at her eyes that were threatening her with tears. "Ahh lookit me. You got me all watery in the eyes." Leaning in, she embraced her paramour, squeezing her tight. "Just promise you won't be gone too long, 'kay Red?"

Before Ivy could respond, Harley leaned back, pointing at her in an almost paternal fashion as she scrunched up her face in mock seriousness. "An' don't you go messin' around with nonna those big ol' Blackjack trees Arkham has, ya hear?" She leaned in until their foreheads were touching, giving her that warning look. "If we bust this joint and I see you all smothered up in pollen, someone's gettin' the ax!"

Ivy was wide-eyed in her reaction, before falling into a bout of giggles, burying her face into the happy harlequin's shoulder. "Trust me," she laughed, meeting Harley's eyes once more. "I wouldn't leave you for the biggest redwood there is."

To this, Harley donned a contemplative look. "I dunno, Red. I'd probably leave me for a redwood. Those things are so big I could probably carve a house inta one and live inside of it." Ivy gave her lover a roll of her eyes, pausing her chortles when she heard the familiar sounds of footsteps. Immediately those flowers disappeared and her sleeves were rolled back down to her wrists, but she still held onto her Harley tightly as the guard appeared before their cell.

"Ladies. Time for your therapy session," the officer announced, showing the keycard that would open the door. Harley grinned, grabbed Ivy by either side of her face, and with a loud "MWAH" she gave her a large smooch on the lips. Whether out of politeness for the couple or disgust, guard averted her eyes with the rim of her cap. "Mmm, gotta love that new salad taste," Harley winked, hopping off her lap and cartwheeling over to the wall, where she put her hands. Ivy just shook her head and did the same, just with less flair, and thus the guard let the sliding glass door open and stepped through. The two were quickly patted down by separate officers, and with that Harley was taken away by a male guard while Ivy was taken away by the female officer.

As Harleen moved along with the officer past the rest of the cells, she made sure to go about her daily tasks of greeting each one of her friends ("Hey Zsasz! Hiya Laz! Lookin' great Lynns! Whatchya doin' Doctor Crane? Glad to see you're back, Harv! Heya Jerv- oh yeah. Hiya Mary!") up until she made it to the therapeutic wing, where she would go about talking to her doctor.

Nearing the office, she was greeted by the bright smile of Dr. Leland. "Harleen! Looking upbeat today," she greeted, the three of them pausing in the hallway. Quinn blinked before busting out into a grin. "You betchya!" she giggled. "I hear somethin' special's brewing in Arkham today!"

Dr. Leland arched a brow, suspicion already taking hold, but the doctor decided to give her former patient the benefit of the doubt. "Oh? And what might that be?"

A grin spread across Harley's lips as she leaned in, as if to share some secret with the psychiatrist. "Well, you didn't hear it from me, but…" She paused, eyes shifting around the room and glaring pointedly at the guard with her. "But… I hear they're serving meatloaf for lunch in the cafeteria."

Joan's mouth opened slightly, her brow rising at her answer. Clutching her clipboard tightly to her chest, she looked away, frowning some. "Well, Harley, from what I've heard—" She leaned in even closer, her voice dropping a few decibels, "—there's going to be mashed potatoes, too."

Harley's eyes lit up in surprise. Everyone could already see the buildup of energy rapidly expanding until it detonated into a boisterous "WAAHOOOOO!" and she leaped back into the guard's arms. Leland just chuckled softly, watching her recover from her little explosion within several seconds. She gave a wave of her fingers as Harley swung her arms back and forth in a grand goodbye.

Joan just shook her head, walking back down the hallway a couple steps until her eyes met the rather grave stare of one of the professors.

Professor Strange gave her that obviously judgmental stare from behind thick lenses, a brow arched in silent interrogation. Joan simply waved the larger doctor off. "It's just Harley," she said simply. "You have to enjoy the small improvements in your patients, Doctor."

Strange said nothing, only giving a simple nod as he moved back over to Crane's cell.

Back with Harley, she was practically skipping to get to her doctor's office. "Ooh, can I knock?" she asked the guard, who just smiled and gave her approving nod. Quinn hopped up to the door, before pounding wildly to the tine of what he thought might be "Funky Town", but he couldn't quite be so sure. Within seconds her reply came when Dr. Picard opened the door for her, his expression more annoyed than amused in her opinion.

"Harley, good to see you in such good spirits," Picard noted. He kindly thanked the guard before letting her in, gesturing to her seat as he went to sit behind his desk. "So, let's get started. How's your time been with Pamela?"

This starter allowed Harley to launch into a fluid series of responses, sharing moments about how Ivy always takes all the blankets or funny moments spent together. It was all normal, typical slice of life stories that happened to take place in an asylum. It ended oddly enough, however.

"Do ya think Ivy— I mean— Pam's gonna hibernate?" Harley asked out of the blue, causing Picard to give her a rather questioning look. "I mean, like, is she gonna turn brown and lose all her hair and go to sleep for the entire winter or what's up?" She played with a pen that had been left out on the desk. Along with that, she was happy to see a pair of scissors was placed blade-down in the pencil holder. "I mean, we've been together for almost a year, but we haven't spent winter together. She ain't gonna pass out on me, is she?"

"Well, despite her… abnormalities, she is still human," the doctor explained. "I would think there would instead be a slight downward shift in mood with most of the plants being asleep. However, we have not had a recorded case of Miss Isely sleeping for an entire winter." He took a moment to consider where he could divert the conversation. "Why? How do you think it would affect you should that be the case?"

Harley tried her best to huff it up, puffing her cheeks out as she slumped in her chair. "It would be boring!" she exclaimed, kicking her legs under the chair to express such underlying boredom. "Why would I want a roomie who sleeps all day? It's already bad enough now that Jerv is gone."

At the mention of his other patient, Picard took the opportunity to explore that particular path of exploration. "You're upset by Jervis' stay in Solitary?" he questioned. Harley threw her hands up, an indicator he wasn't exactly throwing her all the hard-hitting million dollar questions.

"Upset?" she grumbled. "Of course! You'd be upset, too, if you got stuck inside a tiny box for a weak." She stuffed her face in the cushion of the chair, her next words muffled. When Picard asked her to repeat that, she popped her head up like a gopher, giving him a stern glare. "Besides! It's not like he's dangerous or anything."

Picard refrained from sighing at this statement, realizing he was going to ho back over a very key important topic that Harley always seemed to miss. "Harleen," he spoke gently. While Harley played with the pen once more, she made a small "mmhmm?" sound, indicating she was listening to him speak. It was evident she was trying to get the pen to work through repeatedly pressing the button, but it seemed like the point was stuck somewhere inside of the cap and thus was unable to write. The doctor watched her play with the small instrument, finding it harmless enough to continue with his chiding. "People like Crane and Tetch and Isely may be your friends, but you must remember that they are no less a menace to the public as well as themselves. They are here for everyone safety, them included."

Harley scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Whateva ya say, bozo. Jervie is fine." She bit her lip as she began to take apart the pen, much to Picard's dismay. "Yeah he gets crazy sometimes, but ya just gotta know what to say to him!" She glanced over at him from the corner of her eye, checking to see if she'd maintained his interest. "Like, he loves all those quotes from that book a' his," she continued. She sat up straight, looking at him with seeming excitability. "Like, ''tis love that makes the world go round!' It a quote from the Hatter in the book, I think. It really calms him down."

Picard seemed to be taking her words with a grain of salt. "Harley, that would only be perpetuating his delusions," he explained to her gently, speaking as if he were explaining psychology to a five year old.

Harley waved a hand at him in retaliation, saying, "You don't think I don't know that?" She huffed at his condescending tone, telling herself she just needed to deal with it for a little while longer. "Well, yeah, but you can't exactly help someone who's a mess. I was a psychiatrist, remember? I worked this job before you ever even set foot in here!" She stuck out her tongue at Picard, who remained unamused by her antics. The pen was now only pieces of a tool that once was. Harley, of course, began to reassemble it, looking up at her doctor with a more serious gaze. "Some people take serious time to change, and as a doctor, I had to accept that. Meds don't fix everything, y'know. You can't just fix them right out the gate. Play along so you can understand them and come to help them. Sometimes you need to take a few steps back to move forward, you know?" She looked down at her pen, watching the final piece snap into place. "It's like what Pam tells me all the time: sometimes you need to prune back in order to make your gardens flourish."

She grabbed a scrap piece of paper on the table and pressed the button of the pen, causing the now fixed instrument to push out its tip and scribble out a few black swirls of ink. Smiling cheerfully, she placed the pen back on the desk in the pencil holder, bringing her gaze back up to her psychiatrist.

Picard was silent, letting her finish with her antics before taking his own writing utensil and scribbling something quickly within a separate notebook. "I believe it's time we move back to you," he began with a clearing of his throat. "Now, I would like to go through some grounding exercises before we begin on the discussion of your parents."

Jervis Tetch wasn't a very religious man, but the thought of God crossed his mind once or twice. When his mind wasn't enraptured by the reverie and fantasy of Alice and her adventures, he found himself occasionally thinking back to days in his youth, spending time in the church pews with his mother and sister and listening to a passionate preacher speak the good word. As much as a hassle as it was as a boy, it at least taught him such good manners. Unfortunately, being a good-mannered gentlemen don't exactly appeal to the judicial eyes of St. Peter when you have as lengthy a record as the Mad Hatter did. It didn't matter how you treated the young lady; kidnapping is still kidnapping, and mind control was still seen as a crime against humanity itself. He doubted there was such thing as an insanity plea in the afterlife, although he wasn't too keen on the idea of an eternal asylum, either.

Jervis dreaded Hell, but not fire and brimstone kind. Whenever he thought of Hell, he was tormented by fear of the concrete slab walls and that the screams of other patients that could still be heard even through the loudness of his own thoughts. Ask any patient in Arkham or what they thought of Hell, and they'd tell you that Hell is a very, very small place.

Tetch had found himself spending much of his time pacing around a fairly limited cell, even smaller than the one he'd shared with his cellmate before he was unfairly taken away by a couple of brutes. It was the only thing he could do, really, as the guards weren't much for conversation when they're practically being paid to ignore you in Solitary. That and sleep, but you can only sleep so much until you're simply left staring at the ceiling listening to your own thoughts, and that was what Jervis attempted to avoid. Sometimes he would pass the hours away by picking at chipping paint, and in others he would find solace in letting his eyes find patterns in the cracks on the walls, imagining each funny shape to be another oddly formed character. This was how he spent his hours; at least, he thought they were hours.

In Solitary it was pointless to try and keep track of the time, but when one runs out of topics to ponder about, one has to waste Time trying to figure him out. He received food and such, but it was hard to tell just when the next day had truly arrived until he had gotten his medication, what with the lack of natural light and the like. Doctors had him on a strict schedule, after all; a couple of pills every morning to continue to suppress those uglier thoughts of his. And yet, Jervis found himself reducing what he'd believed had been days into mere hours, unsure after a certain time if he had just been forgotten or if any days had truly passed at all. Somewhere in the progressively hazy mind of his, he figured the former when he soon found himself suffering from body-quaking tremors and cold sweats. The only comfort he could really bring himself was tucking his body in the corner of the room whilst on his bed, vainly hoping with each stress-induced sleep that he would eventually be rid of the migraines and the horrible shivering. At times like these, he was forced to once again bring himself to his thoughts in order to stave off the pains. So, it wasn't really of any surprise when he found himself talking with them once again.

Those voices. Those bloody voices in his head that landed him in this facility in the first place. Cats and frog men and Hares (not the Hare, mind you) enjoyed their talking and talking about many things, from Hares to Dormice to fallen pawns and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.

"They don't," he had stated rather matter-of-factly. "Had they said wings, I don't believe a certain pig would have left the poor Hatta all alone."

Tetch had found himself being brought to tears many times. The shaking, the fevers, the aching of his head; all that paired with the constant talking talking talking of the voices in his head was just too much for him to bear at certain moments. He'd find himself curled up in the corner of his bed, face buried into his stiff pillow as he begged for them to simply give him a moment of peace. They were usually so easy to simply brush away with the distraction of the Hare or the Dormouse to talk to him and give him peace. However, in such still silence, those voices playing directly into his head were simply deafening. At times, he simply failed to understand his own surroundings. He couldn't tell where Time was at, morning and night blurred into one it seemed— sometimes he would see the sun, but oh it was a trick on the poor hatter— and there were times he found himself talking to those guards, those guards that were trained to ignore him. Of course, the Hatter, being the smart man he was, easily discovered it was another trick of the mind.

"I wonder if I've been changed at night," the Hatter pondered. Cats grinned and snickered and mice chittered in his ears. "Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning?" He reached for his hat to properly swat at a particularly rude gnat, but his headwear was nowhere to be found, nohow. In its stead, he was forced to use a pillow. "I almost think I can feel a little different! But if I'm not the the same then the next question is—"

"SHUT YOUR MOUTH!" he snapped in the middle of streams of tears at the noisy noisy daisies that peaked out of the cracks. "O-Or PETALS OR WHAT HAVE YOU!" He buried his face in the pillow once more to continue his tears.

"'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!"

He'd completely lost Time at this point! He smacked at his head repeatedly, cursing his own unforgiving mind at how he'd lost him. Oh the Queen would have his head for this. Just the very thought made him bite through tea cups instead of buttered bread— silly him. Didn't she know he hadn't a pound to his name? The more her stares leered the more he continued to bite into that tea cup, spilling a red paint from the cup that cards would inevitably use to paint those ugly white roses. Wouldn't that please the court? He didn't wantto think about time but he was forced to think about time because what else was he supposed to think about? The weight of just being unable to tell the difference between night and day had him emotionally upset because he just wouldn't stop thinking thinking THINKING about it!

"You're mad, Tetch," Jonathan sneered, pushing up those thinly framed glasses further up his nose. Hatter swung his legs over the bed, kicking them rhythmically in tune to the seconds in his head. Who said he couldn't find Time? He'd found four thousand three hundred fifty-six seconds of him! "How so?" he hummed, tittering in that way he knew Jonathan liked. Jon, of course, feigned a loathing for the laughter. "Absolutely raving, unapologetically, horrifically mad," he'd instead decided to spit. Oh how the pepper makes people irritable.

The down right uncouthness of some individuals; oh, how he had been dragged— no, not down a rabbit hole, silly —down down down into a room flooded with tears and sorrows. Why, all he was missing was a dodo and a mouse and a few more pesky—

"Mr. Tetch?"

A snap brought his attention back to the kind woman donning such a modest nurse uniform. He blinked away the tiredness of eyes that stung to look down at the hand that was currently being wrapped up in tightly wound bandages, covering the stitching that had undoubtedly taken a while to put in place.

"Mr. Tetch, did you do this to yourself?" she asked, a voice softer than cotton he imagined, with eyes glimmering with concern. Jervis swallowed, confusion clouding his mind as he stopped her winding to take a look at the wound. Stitches had been required; the wounds must have been fairly deep. All round his dominant hand were these small gashes, marring his skin and making his hand a rather unpleasant red from inflammation. He found it disgusting; he'd rather gaze upon the azure of a pretty dress instead of crimson-tinted skin.

He opened his mouth to speak, brow knitted in obvious bewilderment, only for his senses to be shattered by a blaring alarm and the flashes of red light.

"ALERT: CODE RED. PATIENT 7863, PAMELA ISELY, HAS ESCAPED THE FACILITY. ALL PATIENTS MUST BE PUT AWAY AND ALL GUARDS ON THE LOOKOUT."

Gasps and words were exchanged between pawns before Hatter was soon thrown back into the hole they'd dragged him out of.

Time was once again lost to him as he picked at the bandages that the pawns had left on his hand. It hurt, he realized after a small while. What had they done to him? Quite rude of them, should he be quite honest.

"Twinkle twinkle little Bat, how I wonder what you're at," he would hum to himself in the midst of tear-filled shaking. Singing always made him feel better, even if it caused the Queen to screech and holler.

He missed his hat. His hands would reach for a hat that wasn't there. Had he sold it on accident? None of the hats were his, after all. More than that, however, he missed his Alice! Oh, where'd she gone? Stupid girl must have gotten lost; typical.

"Little Alice fell

d

o

w

n

the hOle, bumped her head and bruised her soul," the Hatter would whimper during his sleepless what-have-yous. If one could count the seconds and make his own night and day, could that be considered so? If a man can't see day and claims their sleepless nights as their daylight, would that be fact? To the birds it meant nothing, of course. They have no concept of time; they sung when the daylight came and slept when the moon dominated the sky. Now, if you induced ludicrous amounts of psychoactive control over their minds, you could get them to sing whenever you so commanded it.

"If you knew time as well as I do," he told dear Alice, "you wouldn't talk about wasting it. It's him."

Why was he wasting thoughts on birds when he was missing Alice and his hat? Some hatter he was; he didn't even have a hat of his own anymore! The shaking and jittering would get to him before he would inevitably reach up to touch the rims of an unreal hat, the only items that could ever really bring him comfort in times like these, only to slam his head against the wall with tears as he was reminded everything he was missing.

"She's not imagined!" he scolded. "She's just lost! It all depends a great deal on where she wants to go! She'll get somewhere if she walks around long enou—"

"Jervis…" his mother rasped tiredly, strands of graying blonde hair having escaped from her bun to slip down aged features. A hand rubbed at her temple as she refused to even look at her sun. "How many times have I told you to stop quoting those bloody books? This is why I can't take you anywhere."

Alice Alice Alice. She was all he could think about. Pretty blonde hair and a smile that could light up a room. Oh how she must have been so terribly lost in Wonderland, searching for a Cheshire cat to point her his way so they could once again have tea with the Haigha. Ah, but Alice wasn't here, not yet, and so to keep himself from agonizing over her arrival, he busied himself more and more. He busies himself with the gnats and the daisies instead. Those wretched little things got themselves into his cell at times, crawling in and over the walls in search of food.

"But I was thinking of a plan to dye one's whiskers green, and always use so large a fan that they could not be seen," he sung to the small daisy, watching the thing skitter across the floor in delight at a new little friend. However, as daisies are so good to do, it proved itself unbearable what with its flying and its constant want to crawl over bloodied teacups he had bitten through whilst in the presence of the queen. So after Time had undoubtedly not passed (the wretched man wouldn't move for him since he'd killed him, apparently), he grabbed a shoe, watching it skitter once more. "So, having no reply to give to what the old man said,

I cried 'Come, tell me how you live!'" He then smashed the little daisy until its blood and petals had splattered against the concrete wall. "And thumped him on the head!"

At one point he'd been offered a biscuit. He suspected this as the Red Queen's doing, but it was quite uncivil to say no. They practically stuffed it in his mouth! How dreadfully savage— he'd never felt so choked in his life!

"It wasn't very civil of you to sit down without being invited," Jonathan criticized them. He was one to talk, given his choice of butter.

He reached for his hat to comfort himself, but it seemed he couldn't even move his hands. Quite frustrating it was; he would do some berating of his own, but he was still choked up by a particularly dry biscuit in his mouth.

Jervis seized up uncontrollably at the click of a button, that sharp jolt bringing his senses to a more awake, but hazed state. Jervis tried to mumble something through the mouthful of cotton, but even he didn't know what he was going to say.

"People who don't think shouldn't talk," Jonathan spat at him. Tetch thought he was on his side!

"Delivering another shock in 3… 2… 1."

Another jolt was sent through his body. He whimpered through the gag as soon as it was over, blinking wildly at blinding lights and prodding doctors. He tried to speak once more, but all that came up were muffled nonsense about how it was far too bright and it overwhelmed his senses.

"Alright, one more time before we send him back."

Jervis wanted to give his head a polite shake to indicate he was perfectly fine without another induced seizure. Quite rudely, his head was kept still.

"Delivering another shock in 3… 2… 1."

A rather uncouth squeak left Jervis when his body was once more forced to seize up so painfully.

"Are you sure we shouldn't be using general anesthetic?"

"No need. The man is hardly even lucid enough to understand what's happening. This is just to keep away those self-harming tendencies and to respond better to his medication."

"If you say so, Professor."

Jervis was thankful for the cotton in his mouth that prevented his overbite from sinking any lower than it did; yes it hurt, but it was certainly better than biting through his own tongue or lower lip.

"Delivering one last shock in 3… 2… 1."

"duch*ess, dear, you're always so good with your morals," Hatter chirped upon regaining consciousness. The duch*ess nodded cheerily, the baby in her grasp letting out another cry of agony as he was shook once more for sneezing. The Hatter tittered, feeling hot liquid drip down his face. "Am I bleeding from my eyes? My face feels so hot and I can't explain why."

"I believe it's because you're crying, Hatter" the duch*ess replied haughtily.

"Am I?" he asked, wiping his eyes in light surprise to see the liquid was indeed clear. "Oh, it appears you're right."

"Odd. You must be sad," she hummed, shaking that baby once more until it stopped its fussing altogether. "You're sad when you cry."

"Nonsense," Jervis huffed, wiping more of the streaming tears from his eyes. "I cry when I'm sad, duch*ess. They are not the same thing, I'll have you know."

"Well. Are you sad?" she huffed, clearly displeased by his attitude.

Hatter thought about the question, grasping at his head for a hat that wasn't there (some Hatter he was). "I… miss my Alice…" he murmured, his thoughts turning back to the one in which he gave his undying affections to.

There were times where Jervis experienced brief moments of lucidity. As rare as they might be, they only served to further his lack of understanding. One thing he knew, however, was that Alice could never be replaced. He could imagine March Hares and Dormice and frog footmen all he liked, but Alice was… Alice. Blonde hair that was sometimes a shade of mahogany or natural red, he couldn't get enough of his name on the lips of his Alice. How she laughed and acted as though he didn't enjoy the little bits of doting affection he threw his way. The trust, the bonding they'd endured, the camaraderie. The berating and loathsome attitude were all such trifles compared to the love and affection he had for the dear Hare. Oh he loved him more than anything, he couldn't wait to wrap his hands around his throat for leaving him alone for so long.

"I just… want to see Jonathan again…" he murmured, that hallucination of an ugly woman and her baby disappearing before his eyes as he laid back against the wall. "Do you think he loves me, too?"

To this, he received no answer.

Jervis smiled, wiping away his tears. "Does it matter? He makes me happy." He tittered softly, not at all disturbed by his own realization. He loved his Hare, as he'd always done. "He makes me feel wanted and listened to and important. He knows me better than anyone. Even myself, dare I say." He laughed softly, lying back in bed as he found himself connecting the cracks in the ceiling once more. "If he doesn't feel the same, well…" He shrugged to himself. "Well, they don't call me the Mad Hatter for nothing, I'll have you know. Love under psychoactive control is still love."

He smiled cheerfully, these thoughts filling the spaces and cracks until the pawns dictated he was free to go. He hadn't even finished his tea by the time he'd gotten out. It seemed as though Time had hardly passed.

Notes:

And... there it is.

Okay... so the last quarter. That was... kinda my favorite. Tied between writing Ivy and Harley or Jervis and Angst. My two favorite pairings. I loved writing Harley and Ivy.

As for Jerv... you may be a little confused as to some of the pieces of what was happening. It’s cool, it’s meant to be intentionally bewildering. What a lot of people don’t understand is that schizophrenia is made up of a lot of confusion and the blending of reality and fiction. For someone who has Autism, that can be emotionally taxing and distressing. I tried to nail it the best I could.

Hope you enjoyed! Comments and critiques are always welcome.

Chapter 5: Lights, Cameras, Explosions

Summary:

Everything is put into place as everyone prepares for their inevitable breakout. Jervis gets out of Solitary. Tensions arise between him and Jonathan as it’s clear Jervis is still delusional.

Notes:

Weeeell I’m glad I didn’t upload this and the last chapter as one giant chapter because this one is the longest I’ve ever written, but damn did I love it.

Okay, so I think I need to get this out of the way: the views of the fictional characters do not accurately reflect my own views.

WARNING: A character is going to make an anti-Semitic comment, there’s going to be some vague gore in this, and I’m going to be trying my hand at accurately portraying an autistic meltdown. So... read at your own risk, I suppose.

ALSO. I hope you like Hattercrow.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

It was September and yet it was already cold enough to make Lonnie shiver. Rubbing his hands together, he let stiffening fingers warm up under the resulting friction. He let the crowd of people silence themselves, taking the time to make sure their little corner of the exercise yard wasn't being intruded upon by pesky guards.

Machin looked upon the small crowd of inmates, finding it almost surreal that he was at the helm of what could practically be considered a cult. He looked up tentatively, watching Cash and a couple of other guards give them bitter looks from a little ways away. You had to give America one thing— they guarded that freedom of speech and religion right to the death, which had allowed Deacon Blackfire to continue to hold his outdoor sermons. Now, Anarky hated many organized religions and televangelists with a passion; many were for profit and only sought out to take as much from their followers as they could manage without killing them. He thought it a crime against humanity itself that so many of the most revered people in religious communities were corrupt or hypocritical. Joseph Blackfire himself was one of those many that he detested and would otherwise refuse to work with had they been outside Arkham walls. However, sometimes you have to work with the bad guys in order to get some good out there.

Joseph cleared his throat, lightly touching Lonnie's arm to bring him out of his thoughts as he went to sit on a bench. Machin looked over at him, a grimace crossing his face for a simple moment before he turned his attention to the small crowd.

"In many ways… we're very much like sheep," he began.

"As the lord is our shepherd," the Deacon hummed in agreement, getting a few happy mumbles from the audience.

"Exactly," Lonnie nodded, making it simple and refraining from turning against the other well-spoken man. "And unfortunately, like sheep, we've been kept locked up, forced to sit here in closed conditions while they sheer us of our wool. They keep us here, telling us we're sick and that we need help all the while they profit off of us and bring in everyone society doesn't want to deal with. They look at us with disdain, keeping us here as a justification for their fiscal sins. I'm sure many people here still remember Lyle Bolton. They keep us here meanwhile people like him continue to take advantage of their power and hurt us because they believe it's the best way to shut us up. How can we be helped by a system that doesn't even want to help us? At times, it feels as though we're too powerless to help ourselves." There were more noises of agreement from the small crowd, who seemed transfixed on the speaker. "That, of course, is what they want us to believe."

"To truly be helped, you must surrender to the lord and let him help you," Joseph added on, eliciting more shouts of agreement from his audience.

"And do you think we'll just sit here and do nothing while a corrupt system continues to take advantage of us?" Lonnie continued, his voice growing bolder as several in the crowd shouted out "no!" in their defiance. It was certainly catching attention, but Machin kept his voice low enough to where really only the group could hear him in their corner of the yard. "Our cries for help and justice have fallen upon the deaf ears of a self-indulgent society who believe their lives are worth so much more than ours. That is why we need to fight back to show that we are not weak and that have a voice and that we will be listened to!"

From the crowd rose a few impassioned "yeah!" cries as Lonnie was successfully stirring up the will of the people. Of course one shout came up a little bit louder than the rest. "Hell yeah! That's why we need to get rid of all the Jews!"

"We need to—" Lonnie fumbled mid-sentence, brow shooting up at the sudden outburst. He struggled to get something out, unsure of what he was supposed to say. He threw a glance over at the Deacon, who looked equally as surprised at the anti-Semitic interruption. Machin turned back to the crowd, putting both hands up. "Whoa whoa whoa! No Mikey, we're not killing the Je— what is wrong with— we're keeping other religions out of this one!" Mikey decided to pipe his voice down in the crowd, a flush of embarrassment coming over him as the other members of the crowd looked over at him with wide eyes. Lonnie paused, putting his face in his hands for a moment before collecting himself and looking back at the schizophrenic. "Mikey, you can't blame all of our governmental problems on the—" He let out a tired sigh, looking at Blackfire. "You're better with religion. I'm tapping out." With that, he walked to go take a seat.

Joseph nodded, bringing himself to a proper stand as he gracefully strode to stand in the place of Machin. It was odd how someone of his age, who seemed so impassioned by his own beliefs and held a look of nothing but love towards his followers, could be capable of such heinous crimes as murder and could have broken the Bat himself. Even in the Arkham uniform, just the way in which he carries himself and presented himself cast the look of a servant of God. With his head tilted to the sky, he closed his eyes, letting the silence ring as if he were receiving the word of God himself. As convincing and passionate as Anarky could be, the Deacon had spent countless years honing his own craft. "The Bible speaks of a Son. A Son of Perdition that had turned away from the love and grace of God to further spite the world. He, my children, are why we've gathered for the past few days," he began. He turned his gaze to the crowd. "Brothers. Sisters. We are not a people of hatred. The focus of ire should never be towards those who have yet to see the light and love of the Lord. However, the Lord has granted us an out; a way to break free and further fight against the Son of Perdition. We are not one to refuse a gift from our lord, and so, that is why soon, we are going once again be free of these binds to once more stop this…" he shot a quick gaze to Lonnie "… oppression of our free will."

Recognizing it was close to the end of the period, he quickly decided to close out the sermon. "And so, we remember the plan from yesterday, don't we?" he concluded in far more hushed tone.

"Try not to kill, but remember that these cops will shoot to kill if you don't disarm them in time," Anarky reminded. "It needs to be a quick overtaking; as fast as possible before they even realize what's going on. As soon as the lights go out and the doors open, it's go time. There's no room for hesitation."

"And with that, I bring our session to a close," Joseph hummed, gesturing to dismiss the crowd. Slowly the group dispersed, leaving them silent as they passed the guards so as to not give anything away.

Machin and Blackfire were left to themselves, both of their followers part ways as they received more bitter looks from the guards. The two looked at each other, ready to part ways, but Joseph let go of a few parting words. "You know, you would make a fine preacher," he hummed, catching Lonnie by surprise.

"Preacher?" Machin parroted back, brow quirked. "I mean, thanks but… well, look, I'm not looking to be indoctrinated." He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "Ask me in a couple years maybe we'll see." He paused, deciding to ask him a blunt question. "Besides. Do you even believe half the junk you spew out?"

That knowing smirk that graced the Deacon's face spoke volumes to Machin. "I could ask you the same thing," Blackfire hummed, arms crossed in a condescending fashion.

The two stared at one another silently before parting way, almost unable to wait for their chance to be free of the asylum and each other.

Garfield whistles a cheery tune as he kicked the edge of his bed in barely contained excitement. "C'mon… c'mon… c'mon…" he would repeat without end. It didn't take a clock to know that Ivy was certainly taking her sweet time, but his impatience was certainly unhelpful. He couldn't help himself, in his defense; it took all of his willpower not to flick the lighter just to keep himself busy. "C'mon, Ivy, where you at?" He bit his pillow unconsciously, trying to keep that undeniable itch at bay until it was time.

Over to the side, Firefly heard his cellmate snore rather loudly, able to drown out the pyromaniac's impatience with his own rather obtuse sounds. "Ah, what an angel," Garfield could only chuckle, shaking his head.

He nearly shot up like a rocket when he heard a small tap on some glass. Garfield damn near fell out of bed trying to get to his feet, his excitement almost uncontainable when he saw a guard tapping on the reenforced door of his cell. "Ivy you're a f*cking lifesaver," Garfield sighed, reaching under his pillow to grab the wrench whilst the goon looked either way down the hall before scanning his ID and opening the door so Garfield could quickly make his escape. The pyromaniac made sure to stuff a few pillows under his blankets in case a few curious guards decided to look in. The asylum was hardly a quiet place, even at night, and so they had to move quickly. Leading the fire wielder down the hall as swiftly as possible, both found themselves outside and in the chilly night air as soon as they turned the corner and to the fire exit.

Lynns stood in frigid September air, letting the wind hit whatever his body could feel as for a brief moment he felt like a free man once more. It was a blissful feeling, really, but not one that lasted long.

"How can you enjoy this kind of temperature drop?" Edward scoffed, his arms held tightly to his chest in an attempt to keep himself relatively warm.

"Easy," Garfield snickered, showing off a rather withered hand to the disgusted prince of puzzles. "When you've seared most of your nerve endings away, it's hard to feel anything." He looked over to spot the goddess-like pile of kindling herself watching him in silent disdain. "Ivy! Geeze you're shivering like a leaf! If you want we can go steal a few matches and I can warm you up pretty quickly."

Ivy scoffed as his snarky grin. "Garfield Lynns I can't wait for the day when my spores will be feeding off of your life force as you rot," she threatened, but Firefly hardly seemed deterred by it. "Oh honey, my flamethrower's in the basem*nt," he hummed sweetly, daring to get in her face. "We can settle this now if you'd like. I bet you'd light up like a big. Dead. Christmas tree."

Ivy scowled, ready to bite back, but it was Edward who spared the two the effort by getting in between them, pushing each other away before things got ugly. "Alright, you two. You can kill each other when we get out of here, but right now we need you both alive if we want to get out of here." He pointed North, along the wall. "Let's just go before one of you two idiots implode."

"This would be far easier if I just used my fumes on him to get him to comply," Ivy shot to Edward, although still silently agreeing by following him as they traveled along the perimeter of the asylum.

"Don't even bother," Nygma scoffed. "I'm sure Lynns is only attracted to large walking piles of napalm."

"Large walking piles of napalm that also happen to be dudes," Lynns butt in with a knowing wink to Ivy, who simply groaned with a roll of her eyes.

The three and Ivy's infatuated boy toy made their way around the asylum, Nygma scanning around its walls for something familiar all the while keeping in the bind spots of security cameras. While it was reasonable to assume they could just leave right now, such a task was far harder than it seemed. What with guards patrolling the entire island and ones stationed at kiosks of both the exit and entrance if the bridge to the mainland, the only criminals who could probably get away with the classic "get in a guard uniform and pass through" scheme were some of the lesser known patients and most definitely Clayface. No, in order to minimize the chances of getting caught, they needed to maximize the size of the outbreak.

"This is it," Riddler announced, stopping in his tracks next to a certain spot of wall. Just beside him, not even a foot off the ground was a vent placed securely on the wall, low enough to where none of them would be able to reach. Garfield blinked in surprise, pointing at the vent in vague confusion. "This is it? You sure?" he asked, trying to be absolutely sure they were going in the right direction.

Nygma scoffed, obviously offended Garfield even found the need to ask. "Of course I'm sure," he replied, crossing his arms. "The vent leads down into the basem*nt floor, where I can access the database. You and Ivy will be able to access the boiler room betwixt Croc and Clayface's cells. Understood?"

"Whoa. Betwixt?" Lynns asked, focusing on that one word whilst Ivy commanded her goon to remove the vent cover so they could get in.

"Yes. It's a word," Edward huffed, arms crossed. "Is there a problem?"

"Oh, no, no problem at all," Lynns replied, seemingly earnest in his statement. "I'm just constantly surprised by how much of a nerd you are. Use between like everyone else." Nygma looked absolutely befuddled.

"Excuse me? For someone with the vocabulary of a children's book, you have no right to tell me what diction I should or should not employ!"

"See? There it is again. Nerd."

"I don't see you getting on Jervis for this sort of thing. Half of his vocabulary was made up!"

"Well yeah, but Jervis is British, so he has an excuse to be fancy. Besides, half the sh*t from the UK is weird anyways, like free health care. My medical bills after my accident were probably two-fifths of the reason why I turned to a life of crime."

Nygma's mouth hung open, before wrenching shut. He took in a slow and steady exhale, before calmly walking away so he could get some fresh air away from the idiot polluting his space. The last thing they needed was to catch attention by Riddler ranting about how he was surrounded by neanderthals. Lynns watched him leave, before turning his gaze onto the nearly finished vent. "He does know I'm just f*cking with him, right?" he then mentioned, arms crossed as the last bolt was removed.

"I'm sure he does, and he hates that it's working," Ivy sighed, only looking up at him with malice and annoyance to show it was working on her as well.

Thankfully for all of their sakes, the vent was removed and the guard was the first one to go in, just to make sure it was safe and to remove the vent cover on the basem*nt floor. During this time Nygma finally made his way back over, a resting expression that read he wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone who wouldn't carry on an intelligent conversation with him at that moment.

"So… where is everyone hiding out until this all blows over?" Lynns asked the other two, who looked up at him suspiciously. While Ivy was unsure if Lynns was trying to find out where she was so he could set her on fire, Edward was more concerned about whether or not Garfield was trying to f*ck with him again. Lynns felt the tension and cleared his throat. "I'm staying out with Floyd for a few days until I find a place of my own," he began. "He says just so long as I don't set his sh*t on fire, I can sleep on the couch."

"Deadshot?" Ivy questioned, brow raised. She'd never exactly gotten to know the assassin before, but he supposed everyone had their own little group of associates outside of the Asylum. "Well, Harley and I already have a place that hasn't been compromised as of yet. Somewhere nice with some greenery. The only problem is getting there without having anyone notice the pigment of my skin."

Both villains looked over at Edward, who was now surprised that this had turned into some sort of sharing time. Though, he supposed there was no harm in contributing; while Ivy and Firefly certainly hated each other, Ed had no qualms with either of them (other than the fact that he was both a man and human, a double sin in Ivy's case), so he decided to let a few plans be known. "Well if you must know, I'm still currently hashing that part out," Nygma huffed. "As you both very well know, my hideout has just been compromised the other day, and so I have Query and Echo on the search for a new place to stay. Until then, I'm having them convince Penguin to let me hunker down in his lounge for a few days. Shouldn't take much convincing."

"Hey, I hear Chinatown has a few spots open," Garfield suggested with a knowing look. "You could always go back there."

"Lynns, because of you, I can never go back to Chinatown," Nygma scowled, tearing his gaze away as they heard a small tapping on the metal vent.

"He's done," Ivy announced, before looking at the other two. "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's get started so we can all get off this wretched island."

Edward was the first to make his way down, expertly moving through the vents soundlessly from prior experience and silently dropping down into the dark and empty database room. He had to say he was impressed when Ivy and Garfield didn't come crashing down after him, but he had to remind himself they were all practically raised in the same asylum.

"Garfield and I are going to the boiler room," Ivy informed Edward. "Think you'll have it done by the time we finish?"

"Oh please, don't doubt me," Edward scoffed, finding his way to a computer and pulling out a flash drive that Harvey had generously smuggled in for him. Without any further need to stick around, Ivy and Garfield and the guard quickly made their way out of the door and down the hallway.

Patrolling guards were easy to take care of as long as the villains saw them first. Both would wait for a guard to pass before Ivy would quickly come behind and work her magic with the pink fumes that had men nearly stumbling over to help her out. Cameras were covered by a haze of flowers just long enough for them to quickly pass by as soon be uncovered. It would be suspicious to have a bunch of guards not at their posts, so Ivy had them stay were they were. Ivy could only really do this for a limited amount of people, but they just needed enough to get past the large window that peered into the dusty, clay covered room of Clayface's cell and into the boiler room.

Garfield took a small gander around the room, noticing its large size. As Ed had mentioned when going over their plan, the large fuse box for the entire building was stationed inside the room, next to the boiler itself. With this being a room mostly for maintenance, many pipes were exposed so they could be easily accessed. "Oh… this is perfect," Lynns grinned, looking the room up and down. "I can work with this." Now in the zone, he searched for vents and the like. "Alright, Ivy, I need you to seal up any vents," he ordered, already going over to a gas pipe and pulling out the wrench that had been smuggled to him. Pamela did as suggested, winding vines around the air vents until practically no air could escape, watching patiently as Garfield loosened a valve to a gas pipe and subsequently disconnected the two pieces. The small hissing sound coming from the thin pipe let it be known that the clear natural gas was being slowly leaked into the room. "Welp, that was easy," Lynns finished, before moving to the door, only to be stopped by Pamela.

"So you're positive this isn't going to collapse the building or anything?" Ivy asked, a warning look in her eye as she let it be clear that she didn't completely trust the pyromaniac to be truthful about his explosions.

Lynns scoffed, but understood her concerns. "Arkham's foundation is sturdy, Ivy," he assured her. "The only thing this is going to do is blow one big ass hole in the wall and ensure that the power goes out." He then pointed to the ceiling. "And yeah, the ceiling is going to give out, but Ed says this room is directly below the asylum's kitchen, so it all should be fine."

"Should be?" Ivy questioned, not buying his confidence.

Garfield paused, turning down the attitude for just a moment and letting out a small sigh. "Listen, Harley's going to be just fine. I know my explosions, and this is going to be one f*ck of a detonation all around Arkham, but I blow sh*t up and set buildings in fire for a living. Arkham is old, but he can take one hell of a beating, and this gas explosion isn't going to destroy him, alright?" He paused, allowing her to take his words in. "Hey, if it makes you feel better, if I'm wrong, you can use my corpse as a flower pot for a tree or something."

Ivy couldn't help but crack a smile at his attempt to cheer her up with his own death. "I'll… keep that in mind," she nodded, looking away. "Let's go. Ed's probably done by this time."

Making their way back to the room was only slightly easier than the first trip. The basem*nt was also known as the highest security wing, where only the most dangerous of the inmates were kept. The two main occupants were Clayface and Killer Croc, but it was also where Solitary was held for the inmates who caused the most trouble. Needless to say, there were a few guards wandering the halls, but nothing Ivy couldn't handle with ease.

"You done yet, Ed?" Garfield called into the room, holding back a snicker as the bright computer monitor lit up the annoyed grimace Nygma steered his way in darkness. Ed gestured them over, typing in a few more keys into the program before pressing enter, thus saving the changes into the program. "Just finished," he announced, shutting off the monitor and pulling out the flash drive. "That should get the job done, provided you're actually able to blow that fusebox sky high. Now let's get out of here."

"On it," Ivy confirmed, and before Ed could ask how she planned to do that, he felt something large and thick wrap around his waist. He gave a rather emasculating cry of surprise as he was quickly lifted up and dragged back through the vent by one of Poison Ivy's large vines that jutted out of the ground. He immediately cringed, quickly patting the vine to get it to release him as quickly as possible. The feeling of being manhandled by a plant was one that was not only strange, but also absolutely terrifying.

Ivy was pulled out of the vent just in time to see Nygma be dropped like a sack of rocks onto the cold ground below. That was a image going straight into her mental memory book. Lynns was practically tossed out while the one guard that had been tailing them as safely set down.

"Nice, Ivy," Nygma huffed, getting up and dusting himself off, already heading back to the fire exit they had escaped through so they could sneak back into their cells. "Real nice."

"So that little flash drive you put in there is gonna set us all free, right?" Firefly made sure to ask. Everyone was understandably anxious as the days were passing and the day seemed just about ready to come. Any little mistake could blow up the plan and send them all into Solitary. Even with the risk so high, however, it was undoubtedly exciting for the most part. After all, no one could really be a rogue if they didn't like thrill and the risk of it all.

"Essentially," the Riddler confirmed, smoothing his hair down cooly as they brusquely made their way back to the door. "Query and Echo were able to download a virus I'd created several months before I was recaptured. You see, Arkham's computers are connected to the emergency power system. The moment you blow the power out, the emergency power system is going to come on. The virus is essentially programmed to run once it is connected to the emergency source, overriding the main command console for the building and getting all of the prison doors of the asylum to open."

"So what's stopping us from doing it right now?" Ivy asked, arms crossed as she simply tried to keep herself warm from the nip of the air. She wasn't impatient, just weighing all of their options. For a woman weak to sea water, she didn't have many on this island, so could really only follow along and hope everything goes well.

"For one, Lonnie and Blackfire need a bit more time. As well, Arkham employs the same number of guards at night as they do during the day," Edward replied. "The best time to break out would be during a major break in the schedule and while many of the guards aren't expecting it."

"That's where Jervis comes in," Lynns added.

"Exactly," Edward grinned, turning to them. "As long as everyone does their part, we should all be able to get out of here before the sun rises after tomorrow. Then we can part ways and never have to speak to each other again."

"That sounds fantastic," Ivy sighed, just wishing the night would pass by sooner so she could stop hiding out in the cold. With an expectant hand, she turned to Garfield. "Now. Hand it over."

Lynns blinked, sighing heavily as he reluctantly pulled out his lighter. "You're so lucky."

"Hand it over."

"God I envy you so hard right now."

"We don't have all night."

"Can't I just light… one fire before I have to go?"

"Lynns!"

Garfield sighed and reluctantly forced over the lighter. "Fine. Here. Take it. Just… tell me about how big the explosion is when we blow this joint, alright?"

Jonathan kept his eyes to the TV, listening to Lynns sigh dramatically in the corner as Dent flipped the coin once more. As it had been for the five times prior, the coin happened to find itself on the bad half, ergo the channel was once again changed from the sports channel to some home shopping network only the elderly would be above to recognize right away. Crane let out a small exhale, not missing the head turn Harvey gave in response. "Is there a problem?" Two-Face growled, loading the coin onto his thumb once again.

Jonathan held both hands up innocently. "Oh, please, by all means, do continue. I have no problem whatsoever."

"I do!" Firefly complained, draping himself over the back of the couch dramatically. "Harvey. Two-Face. Buddy. You're killing me here. Just pick a f*cking channel!"

The coin was flipped once again, and it was decided that the channel had to be changed. This time, it was to golf. Lynns looked dismayed at the sight. "Please, Harvey, buddy, for the love of all things flammable and with the tendency to explode, don't pick this one." The coin made its way through the air, and miraculously it seemed that all of the bad karma that had piled onto Lynns' back had finally decided to show itself when the coin landed on the unmarred side.

"Golf it is," Two-Face decided, setting down the remote and looking back in time to see Garfield slide back and onto the floor of the rec room with a loud groan. Jonathan saw this little tell and waited until Garfield had slinked away to ask his question. "Two-Face. You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?" he inquired knowingly.

"Tch. Of course not," Two-Face spat at him. "You ever do anything other than try to wriggle your way into people's heads?"

"Harvey, is he doing this on purpose?" Jonathan then asked.

"Oh absolutely," Harvey was quick to admit with a nod, getting a knowing "hmmm" from the man two cushions down. "But I don't mind golf. I used to play it every now and then with some friends to get away from this city for a few hours. You know, the Commissioner and Bruce Wayne; those types."

"Mmm, how…" Jonathan paused, attempting to find the right word. "… domestic." He wasn't complaining, however, and turned to look back at the TV. A domesticated life, he thought to himself. A wife, a home, a stable job, friends to call his own; yes, it seemed Harvey had been quite the icon of the American Dream before his accident had turned him into the model of the modern Gothamite. How odd it was that Crane pondered over Harvey's life when he himself had been in a similar situation. A professor, a published author, a psychiatrist with a home, a respectable career, and he could fondly remember a girlfriend at times. How odd it was that some of the most respectable men could fall so low, or so they say. Years before Jonathan had found it silly to think he could ever be found among the insane of this asylum, and just month before present day it was almost foolish to believe he would ever turn back to his old life. Crane prioritized his work above all else and would never think to abandon it, and yet, he did miss the quiet nature of a life long gone. Yes, he would never be in the position he once held, but damn, it would be nice not to have to instinctually hide his face when out and about and to simply live in peace without the looming threat of a man dressed as a bat.

Is this what you really want?

Jonathan watched the TV, letting out a slow exhale as he refocused on what the players were doing. Focus had been hard for him for the past months, but he seemed to be steadily regaining more control of himself as the days passed. Thankfully that obnoxious clock had been removed for good. Taking a small look around, he was there to lay witness to Joker slamming a chessboard over an inmates head, laughing as the man crumpled to the ground. Jonathan winced, turning to look at Harvey, who seemed to be idly flipping that coin as he watched the television. Jonathan felt the tension in his own body, finally coming to an answer.

He wanted to feel content with himself again.

He looked over to see an inmate painstakingly putting together a jigsaw puzzle. He recognized the inmate as having a Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, as well as an intense fear of pigs. "You," Jonathan said curtly, watching the inmate perk up in immediate fear at his voice. Lesser known inmates knew to be wary of being singled out by the former professor. The man swallowed, giving a nervous grin as he nodded to let Jonathan know he was listening. Crane stated for a few moments. "Get me a cup of water," he said simply, watching the patient get up and skitter away to get him his cup. Crane let a faux smile show as he was shakily handed a styrofoam cup of water. "Thank you, Mulligan. You may leave." As the man left his presence, he couldn't help but think that while being content with himself would feel refreshing, he could still enjoy the perks of his current status until then.

As he was about to down his water, the couch grew heavy with the weight of a third person taking up the middle space. Bringing fingers through neatly combed dark brown hair, Edward let his exhaustion be known with a rather heavy sigh, an indicator he wanted his thoughts to have an attentive ear at the ready. Jonathan held up a finger to silently have him pause, taking a moment to down the entire cup of cold water so he could at least have his thirst quenched before Nygma would keep him there for another eternity. Setting the cup in a small bin beside the couch, he looked at Edward. "What's wrong?"

Nygma didn't particularly enjoy being picked at by the doctor, but right now he had bigger things to worry about. "Query and Echo," he said curtly, letting the names of his two right-hands speak for themselves.

"Ah. They've been found?" Crane hummed, knowing this was more than just a setback to Nygma. Query and Echo were practically Riddler's right hands; they appeared on TV with him, did a lot of the leg work, and damn did they look good while doing it, not to mention they were just bright enough to be able to do Nygma's bidding and not absolutely mess it up as many henchmen were known to do. As Edward was beginning to answer, he had to pause to yawn, a wave of exhaustion coming over him. Jonathan watched silently, waiting until he was done to inquire, "Had a sleepless night, Nygma?"

Edward grimaced, looking away as he tried to hide his tired features. "More or less;" he replied, "my obnoxious cellmate was snoring loudly all night last night. I don't know how anyone is supposed to get some shut eye through all that snoring." It wasn't a lie. His cellmate could snore loud enough to wake the dead; Ed just wasn't there to listen to most of it.

"It truly is a pity for you then," Jonathan told him, thinking nothing of the explanation and going back to the topic of Edward's assistants. "Well, if we ever do escape, you're always welcome to stay in my lair for a few days until you get yourself settled. From what I've heard, my place of work has miraculously remained untouched."

Edward found himself rather taken aback by the unprompted offer. He wasn't quite sure if this was genuine or a ploy to get him strapped to a chair and needles into his skin. It doesn't matter if he was a known associate of the man for years; backstabbing was a common practice amongst rogues with grudges, and Jonathan wasn't always the most reasonable fellow. However, he didn't seem to have any ill intent in the offer, and it certainly was appealing. "Well… that's quite a generous offer, Jonathan," he finally commented. "I'll keep that in mind for when we escape Arkham."

"If we escape Arkham," Jonathan emphasized, earning an incredulous and critical look from his peer.

"And since when were you such a pessimist?" Edward scoffed, catching Jonathan unflappable stare.

"When was I ever an optimist?" Crane sneered, looking back up at the TV in disinterest.

Nygma paused, thinking over the response as he, too, looked up at the television. "You know what? Disregard that last question," he backtracked, looking over at Harvey. "New one. Why are we watching golf?"

"It was the coin," Harvey answered without a hint of shame.

"Ah. Here. Let me fix that," Ed hummed, snatching the remote out of Harvey's hand and quickly changing the channel to the news. With that, he stuffed the remote back into Harvey's hand. "See? Better." Harvey was silent, the coin silently moving to his thumb, only to be launched through the air in a series of quick somersaults. A tension was left thick in the air, only cut through when the coin landed in his hand and was placed squarely on the back of his other hand to reveal the clean side of the coin. "Yeah. Better," Harvey mumbled, turning up the volume to better hear the newscaster.

The room was fairly calm. Lesser known inmates were playing board games and talking and the like. Garfield and Baby Doll were talking this and that, Pyg was making some origami as he talked nonstop with another inmate, Zsasz was simply reading a book, and Harley was pretending to be upset about the sudden disappearance of Poison Ivy. Jonathan wasn't born yesterday; he knew Ivy's sudden vanishing was apart of some elaborate scheme that Joker brought up to him the week before. Of course, he didn't know how, nor did he care to know; he let Harley put on her little show whilst he simply waited to see where this would lead.

As the period droned on, Jonathan thought he would doze off soon enough (never a good idea with the Joker about; he always seemed able to get his filthy paws on a permanent marker somehow), but his attention was brought back to the waking world when he heard a snort of surprise come from Lazlo. Joker's loud voice rang out across the room, "Jerv! You're back, you little scamp!"

That squeak of surprise from Jervis was unmistakable. Jonathan's disinterest was evident already through the roll of his eyes. Edward seemed to care enough to lift himself up just a bit and shoot a gaze back from over the couch. Whatever he saw must have been quite the surprise, as it quickly brought about a small "well then" from the riddle-loving rogue. Interest now finally piqued, Jonathan shot his own gaze back in an almost lethargically slow manner. Crane's expression changed to one of light shock in a manner of seconds, however. "What in the name of…"

A doctor gently gestured Jervis in. "Come on, Tetch, we're here," he spoke gently, helping Jervis over to a seat. The Hatter looked to be an absolute mess. His usually neat and tidy hair disheveled, clothing all ruffled, and a large set of bandages that were carefully wound around his hand. Jonathan instantly recognized the wide-eyed look and shaking from a number of patients in the past that had decided to go cold turkey on their medication; Jervis was suffering from withdrawal and he more than likely had no idea what was going on at the moment. Something inside Crane clicked into place as he withdrew his glasses from the neck of his uniform, unfolding them and putting them on on the bridge of his nose as he smoothly got up from the couch. Call it the leftover instincts of a former doctor or familiarity from the therapy session in his childhood home, but before he could even recognize what he was doing, he was beside Jervis, taking him by the arm and gently grabbing him by the chin to assess his physical state.

The doctor, of course, was surprised, but when she realized Jervis wasn't struggling or seemed to be in any physical pain from the actions, she figured it was harmless. Deciding her part was done, she moved to leave. However, before she could even reach the door, Jonathan was in front of her, arms crossed. "Has he eaten anything today?" he asked, his voice firm to where she knew he was demanding an answer.

The doctor blinked, surprised by his sudden intrusive nature into Jervis' wellbeing. She was able to make her own firm stance against the man who was obviously trying to intimidate her, responding with, "No, but—"

"And has he taken his medication today?" Jonathan interrupted, whatever insincere politeness he'd once shown now down the drain as he grilled the woman.

The doctor gave a stern look to the patient that was trying to pry information from her. "Mr. Crane, we go by a strict schedule," she replied to him. "I can assure you that Mr. Tetch has been put on a daily medication cycle that—"

"Yes yes, I know how it goes, I worked here long before you even graduated medical school," Jonathan butt in, obviously not having the woman's attempts at dismissing his questions. "He's supposed to take a dose of clozapine every morning at 8:00 AM sharp. I'm asking you if he has taken his medication today." The doctor's eyes flicked up to the clock, as if checking the time. It was a little past noon. "Doctor, I swear, if you tell me it's past 8:00 AM, I might just hurt somebody."

The doctor's stern look became even more incredulous. "Well, I personally have no prior experience with schizophrenics, but—"

"Clearly."

"—but rest assured that patients always receive their medication on time, as I'm sure you know. Now, you have no business inquiring about the health of another patient because, need I remind you, you've had your medical license revoked." The doctor seemed to think she'd ended the conversation there and tried to make a move to go around him and along the wall. To her complete surprise, his hand slammed against the wall before she could cross, his arm blocking her path. Guards were immediately on alert, already approaching the two.

"Well, I have had experience with schizophrenics," Crane shot back, his voice icy yet firm and cutting, "because I was his doctor. And yes, I did get my medical license removed (good on you for doing your research), but it was because I tortured people, not because I was incompetent. Unlike you."

At this point, the entire room had gone silent so everyone could get an earful of what was probably the best entertainment they would get all day. Jervis seemed confused as to just what was going on, but seemed to brighten when he realized it was Jonathan yelling at the doctor in his defense. Harvey and Edward were turned around in their seats to watch, Joker was trying to keep himself from laughing, and when Jonathan punctuated his last word with the icy vitriol usually associated with the Riddler, Harley and Garfield could audibly be heard in the back drumming the table loudly and going "OHHHHHH!"

The woman's eyes grew in size at the sudden attack on her credibility as a professional. "Excuse me?" she drew out, a tone seemingly threatening him, but alas, it almost sounded pathetic in the way she tried to somehow make herself out to be a force greater than Crane.

Break her.

Jonathan's hand twitched, trying to have a little restraint with the woman.

You know you want to. It would be so easy.

Oh how he really did. However, he was a better man than that. He instead held himself a bit straighter as he merely gave the woman one of the more scathing looks in his arsenal, and for a man who didn't show much emotion, it wasn't a pretty sight. "If you're a doctor here and you can't make out the signs that one of the patients is going through withdrawal, then I don't know what to tell you."

The doctor had clearly had enough of Crane, who seemed to think he knew better than the one who currently held the job. Sure, she'd never dealt with schizophrenics or patients with withdrawal symptoms, but it gave him no right to treat her like that. "If there is any problems with Mr. Tetch's medication, his doctor will certainly be able to detect it when he goes in for his therapy session after your exercise period. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to leave." With that, she pushed past him, feeling his glare burn into her the entire time she spent walking out of the room.

Crane said nothing about it, noticing the guards were giving him wide-eyed stares. "Can I help you?" he sneered, moving away from them and over to Jervis, who was sat down in a chair at their usual chess table. With the event now over, many of the inmates were now back to chatting, more than likely discussing what had just unfolded.

Jonathan gestured for Jervis' hand, which he graciously gave over with a wide smile. He silently checked over his hand, grimacing in at the sight of smaller, less serious wounds dotting his fingers and wrists. It would certainly take a bit of time to heal. "How do you feel?" he murmured, bringing his eyes up to meet Tetch's. And there was the look. That look that Jervis held was one of pure… infatuation. Jonathan tried to write it off as simply the joy of seeing a friend again, but oh he knew there was no mistaking that look, even if it was one he almost never received.

"Oh, far pleasanter now that you've come in with that vorpal blade to slay that wicked cur," he hummed, hiding dusting cheeks with a free hand. "Oh you can't think how glad I am to see you again, you dear old thing!" He paused, covering his mouth and closing his eyes as though he were about to throw up. He recovered swiftly, however, giving a little "pardon me" at the little interruption. "Well, I must admit I'm not feeling my best, it seems."

"I can see that," Jonathan murmured, getting up from his seat so he could simply get out of there. "Well, it appears there is not much I can do for you. What you need is to interact with others. Social contact. Why don't you go say hi to Valentin? He's missed you terribly you know."

Jervis looked rather confused at the sudden pushing him onto his friend, but at the mention of the duch*ess, he brightened up. "Oh, you're most definitely right. I'll get right on that," he smiled, quickly humming a tune as he made his way across the room.

Crane watched Jervis leave just long enough to see Lazlo lift him up as though he were a child and giddily squeeze him with a hug, which got a cheerful laugh from the smaller individual. Turning his gaze away, he settled his burning stare at the clown prince of crime himself. Joker grinned at him from his table, waving his fingers at him provokingly in an attempt to see Jonathan's restraint snap like a twig. Crane, however, only gave him a blank stare that receded in its scathing tone. Deciding to wait for lunch, he turned away, going back to sit next to Edward. Removing his glasses, he folded them once more and hooked them over the neck of his shirt.

Harvey and Edward said nothing as Crane grabbed the remote and changed the bloody news of the TV back to golf, something far more peaceful. After a few moments of silence however, Edward cleared his throat. "So… Crane," he began slowly. Crane purposefully turned his head ever so slowly to stare at Nygma, who cleared his throat and looked away. "Er, never you mind."

Joker loaded the overcooked broccoli onto the empty spoon, leaning the utensil over the edge of the tray. He lined up his shot as though he were Deadshot and not instead the man who once loaded Deadshot's gun with blanks that blasted out confetti. That nearly had him assassinated. Ah, what good times. Without hesitation, he slammed his fist onto the propped up handle of the spoon, watching the green food go flying before it would land with a splat in Baby Doll's food. Joker giggled like a child as soon as he heard the little woman go "EEEEEWWWW!" The other lesser inmates at the clown's table laughed and commended him on a good shot.

Joker's giggling failed to cease when Jonathan sat down across from him, plateless. Joker grinned and waved at him, shoveling a piece of broccoli into his mouth as he stared back at the watching man. As soon as Crane scanned around the table, everyone at the table got up and left, and so it was just the two notorious rogues. This continued on until Joker eventually swallowed. "You know, the courteous thing is to offer the person you're staring at your pudding cup if you're just going to stare at them," he snickered sarcastically, a devilish smirk across his face. Make no mistake; every expression this man gave made it very clear he knew he was caught, and that his intentions weren't pure. A mock expression of distraught played out before Crane. "But alas! You haven't even gotten lunch!" He paused to wrestle with the neck of his uniform as if he were straightening his tie. "However, I am a gentleman. You can have mine." He then meticulously picked up the pudding cup off the plate, gently placed it onto the table, and with one finger, pushed it over to Crane.

Jonathan, unsurprising, was completely unamused. So he instead pushed the pudding back. "I'm not hungry," he declined simply.

Joker pouted, as if offended by the man's choice to deny such a generous gift. "Not hungry? Not surprising," he snickered. "I'm sure eating more than two meals a day is difficult for you when you grew up malnourished. Hard habit to break, am I right? It's like how I'm so used to being forced to shower in under five minutes in here that sometimes I forget that I literally have unlimited water when I'm back at home because I killed the guy coming to take the water bill." There was no visible reaction. "Ha! Relatable, am I right? Habits quite a bitch to break. Or is that just a health choice on your part? I'm looking to lose some weight and anorexia is looking pretty appealing right now." Looking back down at the pudding cup, he pushed it back over. "Oh c'mon, it's choocolaaaate~!" Not even that brought out any sort of reaction from the completely stolid man. "Oof. You're good. Do you teach classes on how to be as dead inside as you are?"

Joker was trying to break him, and suffice to say, he was pretty damn effective, but the Scarecrow was good at what he did, and wouldn't lose himself over the clown's antics. "Enough," he announced, placing his preverbal foot down to get the clown to shut his mouth. "I want you to tell me what you plan to do with Jervis."

Joker immediately took to laughing at the demands, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes soon after. Of course, when this was meant with silence, he perked up. "Oh! You're serious!" he replied in what seemed like genuine surprise. "Ha. I should have figured, seeing as I've never heard you tell a joke ever, but I didn't actually think you were serious." He threw a hand up, feigning disinterest. "After all, what's it to you? Why do you care?"

"Jervis is a frequent partner of mine," Jonathan replied without missing a beat. "We have plans constructed that we want to enact once we're out of this asylum. If you plan to kill him, it would certainly be a detriment to my work."

Joker listened with a curious expression, slowly opening his pudding cup and grabbing his cheap metal spoon. "Oh, that's a good one!" he praised, quickly shoving a spoonful of chocolate pudding in his mouth. Without even swallowing, he continued to talk. "I should use that next time I want to convince a guy I won't kill him once he's outlived his usefulness. Everyone loves the old switcharoo!"

Jonathan refrained from scowling, but his displeasure only became more evident as time went on. He could really only find annoyance in the clown, surprised he had ever worked with him in the first place before. How Harley could have dealt with this all day every day before she clung to Ivy was far beyond him.

Joker's laughter died soon enough, his expression lackadaisical, but co*cky, undoubtedly taunting the other man into throwing a swing. "Seriously though. What's your deal with the munchkin? First you're buddy buddy, then you hate him, now you're demanding to know what are plans are? Last I checked, Mr. Haybale, you were the one who declined to partake in our little soiree, so you don't have the right to learn jack!" Another spoonful was shoved into his mouth, but this time, he actually took the time to swallow. Truly a gentleman. "Is he really worth that much to you?" he asked, brow quirked. He let it pause, a sly and malicious look crossing his face. "Is he worth more than Savannah?"

Jonathan's stolid expression cracked for the first time to show the subtle signs of shock. Joker picked it up almost immediately, falling into inane giggles. "Yes, I know about her," he snickered teasingly.

"How?" Jonathan demanded, his voice kept low and under his breath, not in an attempt to be quiet, but it was due to just how much he was holding back.

Joker twirled the spoon between his fingers, his devilish grin only widening as his further demands. "First you want to know about Jervis, and now Savannah? Geeze, dinner and a movie first, bucko." He shoved another spoonful into his mouth, before tossing the empty pudding cup over his shoulder. "Does it matter how I know? The point is that I know, and if you want to keep it at just knowing, I strongly suggest you back off of the Hatter so we can actually have some fun around here." Crossing his arms, he sat back in his stool, his expression taunting once more. "After all, we wouldn't anything funny to happen to the poor girl, would we?"

Jonathan was silent for the most part, but everything about him had changed. Although he was never relaxed in the first place, he had stiffened considerably at Joker's words. His glare had hardened into a scathing, malicious look. Any attempt to mask his underlying emotions had dissipated in that moment. "Are you threatening me?" he growled, the world silent to him as he simply focused on Joker at that moment.

"And? What if I am?" the criminal scoffed, brow co*cked as that obnoxious grin only grew. "I don't think you understand here, staw-for-brains. I'm—"

"No, you don't understand, clown," Jonathan snarled, hands slamming on the table to create a large bang that was muffled throughout the commotion of the asylum cafeteria. Joker jolted a tad, having half expected it to be an physical attack. He even leaned away when Crane abruptly stood, leaning his face in until their words could only be heard by them. "You don't get to threaten me and not expect consequences, Joker."

"Well, strawman, I think you need to—"

"No!" Jonathan snapped, a hand coming up and grasping Joker just at the base of his head, clutching tightly so he wouldn't move. "You're going to shut up and you're going to listen to me, clown. I am not one who takes threats in stride. You may think me weak nowadays, but it seems I must remind you that I am still the Scarecrow. You only understand a fraction of what I'm capable of, so I suggest you choose your next words wisely before I become your undoing."

Joker held his tongue for a moment, before bursting into hysterical laughter, although it didn't seem to be out of any sort of cruelty. When Jonathan's hand tightened on his pressure points, he choked for a minute, quickly stifling his laughter. "Ohhh Johnny Johnny Johnny! I knew you still had some fun left in you! You're like a big hibernating bear sometimes, you know? You just need to walk into its cave, kill its cubs, and wham! You're awake and ready for some fun! For a second you had me worried you'd completely gone to the dark side!" He leaned in closer as well, practically touching foreheads with the man he'd just threatened. "Please, I wouldn't waste the effort when we're so close to freedom. But if you're going to kiss me now, do it. The sexual tension in here can't get any thicker I know you can't wait to beat me until I'm bruised, isn't that right baby?" His expression was taunting and so temptingly punchable. "Either out of revenge for Harley or just because you know you're sick like me."

"Mr. Crane. Is there a problem?" a guard interrupted, coming up behind Jonathan as a warning. Jonathan scowled, but let his expression settle back into it's usual expressionless stare. "No. Not at all," be replied, letting Joker go and stepping away to face them. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have better places to be." Without another word, he walked away from them and Joker.

You should have killed him.

"I should have," Jonathan scoffed, muttering under his breath as he sat alone for the exercise period. "Oh, but it would be too quick for the likes of him, wouldn't it?"

Most definitely. He doesn't have the right to speak to you like that. To threaten you.

Crane scowled under his breath, staring across the yard and where Joker sat, laughing and taunting and the like. Anger was still very much prominent within him, burning with a need to enact some sort of retribution on the clown.

You know you aren't one to sit by and just let the man make threats. He needs to remember that you're still a force to be reckoned with. You're a cruel, heartless man who cannot be bound by the pitiful concept of family and—

"Hiya Dr. Crane!" Harley chirped with a wave, passing by on her way to talk to another female inmate.

Jonathan paused, looking up in vague surprise before giving a kind wave back. "Why good evening, child," he greeted with a smile, watching her turn and dash off. "Now… where were we?"

Oh forget it. I'm not in the mood anymore.

The doctor blinked, brow furrowed, but didn't argue any further as he simply decided it was time to stop brooding.

"Stewing by yourself again, you dirty old Hare?" Jervis hummed pleasantly as he approached, sitting at the table across from Jonathan and folding his hands on the chilled tables. "Oh this weather of yours. It's so cold in Wonderland today! Everywhere in America is rather extreme. Too hot or too cold or has earthquakes or hit by hurricanes. Oh I don't understand how you can stand it!"

"Please, you think I'm used to this? I grew up in the south," Jonathan muttered, turning his eyes to Jervis. He regretted it almost instantly; the man's eyes held a dedication and warmth unlike he'd ever seen, and oh did it make him quite uncomfortable. He swallowed, keeping his mouth shut whilst Jervis looked upon him as though he was… Alice. He was disgusted at the very thought of it. "Like you're one to complain. You're far thicker than I am. The only thing keeping me warm is this uniform."

Jervis looked down at his hands, opening and closing one since the other hurt too much to be used at all. What sick things a man's mind can do when turned against itself. Crane had seen it countless times before. Tetch quickly brightened, looked rather ashamed of himself. "Oh dear, you're quite right! Here I am complaining about myself why you're practically as defenseless as a baby mome rath!" He looked over the larger man, as if assessing his size. "Perhaps I should make you a coat! You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

Jonathan looked at the long sleeves of his uniform, grimacing. "I'm fine," he told him. "Make yourself something. Perhaps a hat to cover that head of yours."

Jervis quickly grasped the top of his head with wide eyes, as if only just then realizing he didn't have a hat. Quickly his expression fell into one of dismay. "Oh what a miserable hatter I am!" he pouted, he face falling into his arms. "I can't even provide myself with a hat!" Like the fluctuating man he was, he was soon back to life with a smile on his face. "That reminds me! I made a hat for you a little while back, if memory serves," he hummed cheerily. "Whatever did you do with the dear thing?"

It was in the trash, if his memory hadn't failed him, but he wouldn't tell the Hatter that. "I'm not quite sure," Crane lied with ease. "The guards must have confiscated it when they realized you weren't on your medication."

Jervis looked distraught, almost angry for a second, a look that Jonathan still found himself unable to get used to. He much preferred the lively, cheerful Jervis as opposed to the unpredictable and unstable hate-filled Hatter. "What scoundrels, the lot of them," Jervis muttered, tossing a glare over to a few of the guards. "Quite uncivil of them to sit down without being invited, don't you think?" Oh he had definitely lost it. If Jonathan was assessing correctly, Jervis had to have been off of his medication for at least a week, that being the full week that Jervis had spent in Solitary confinement. Even still, he continued to remain silent, hoping Jervis would pass him by. Once he was on his medication, he would start acting normal once more. None of this endless infatuation that was suddenly being pushed onto him. There were a lot of things he could handle, but having Jervis Mad-as-a-Hatter Tetch on his tail was something he didn't think he could— nor did he ever want to be able to —handle on his own. Just the thought of Jervis looking and fawning over him as if he were someone meant to be treasured made him physically ill. He had guessed that Jervis might be a little curious with his sexuality what with all the flirty references to the Batman, but he'd never expected him to be as attached to a man as he always had been with an Alice. Then again, Tetch was pretty off his rocker at the moment. It would have just been less weird had Tetch gone after the dead body of Lewis Carroll instead of a man he called a friend.

"Hare."

Jonathan's eyes flicked up, meeting the reverie-filled gaze of the Hatter. If Crane could still feel fear, that would be a look he'd only see again in his nightmares. It felt so out of place, it was almost surreal in a way. A part of him felt as though he were in the midst of some gigantic prank on him in some horrible lifetime movie or terrible piece of fiction only found on the internet. Despite all of this running through his head, he cleared his throat, and responded with a polite "Yes?"

Jervis smiled brightly, as if just having his attention back brought a bit of sunlight back into his Wonderland. The question that came next, however, was quite unexpected. "Why haven't you killed me?"

"Pardon?"

"You were so cross with me back in the visiting room," Jervis reminded him. "You tried to kill me! Strangle me, in fact. And yet, here we are, having a civil conversation. What happened in between then and now?"

This must have been a topic that was on Tetch's mind a lot, or else he wouldn't have brought it up as quickly as he did. However, not one to leave the man without answered, he decided to go ahead and respond. "I… simply don't want to anymore," Jonathan began steadily, choosing words meticulously so he wouldn't end up nudging the Hatter closer to the edge. It was an answer that seemed to please Jervis, who brightened at the idea of Jonathan not wanting to hurt him. However, his tone became far more serious as he continued. "May I… discuss something with you?"

Jonathan quirked a brow, figuring nothing too upsetting could come from this. "By all means. Go ahead," he spoke simply. "I'm all ears. What would you like to discuss?"

Jervis swallowed, appearing bashful as he tried to approach the subject as delicately as possible. "I… want to discuss the road trip."

Ah damn. Jonathan voiced no such protest, gesturing for Jervis continue. "Go on," he spoke, not at all curious as to where this would lead. Tetch could be quite sentimental, what with his easily-attached and even affectionate nature, but Jonathan would have preferred that the smaller man lay them on anyone else but him.

Tetch let their gazes meet once more, hiding a smile as he was suddenly self-conscious of that overbite of his. Oh how everything about you seemed to get significantly uglier when under the judgmental gaze of the one you adore. "I think a lot about our time when it was simply you and I," he continued, a fond tone in his voice that expressed the genuine nature of his words. "More often than I should, if I'm to be completely honest. You fill my thoughts as I know I fill yours." He smiled down at his wounded hand, a thumb gently rubbing over the bandages. "I… want you to know that the experiences I shared with you are unlike any I've shared with another."

Jervis peered up at Jonathan at this point, smiling when he realized the other was still attentively listening to him. Crane said nothing that would interrupt his spiel, allowing him to finish. "Yes, I know, we've had our rather nasty incidents and falling outs, but… if Time could allow me to go back, I wouldn't have stopped us from ever going on that trip." A paused, his smile sheepish. "I know I know, it's quite easy for me to say when I haven't been speared through by my own weapon of choice, but I genuinely mean it. I got to hear you laugh and relax and speak your mind. I got to see you happy for once, and Hare, it means more to me than you could realize." He had to pause there, rethinking his words. "Or… maybe you do. After all, you know me quite better than anyone, don't you?" He closed his eyes and smiled fondly up at his friend. "You listen to me, and you understand me, and you talk to me and even when I've gone absolutely mad, you actually care about me. Maybe not as much as I care about you, but I know you feel something behind that mask of yours."

Jervis let his gaze rest upon the other man once more, and in that moment, the frigid wind finally hit him. He didn't like that face Jonathan was making. It was almost as cold as the wind itself, and a deep, penetrating stare that caused Jervis to squirm slightly in his seat. Even still, he continued on. "I… I feel as though— no, I know there is something between you and I. Something like I once believed Alice and I had. And I know you feel it, too. I know you don't feel this way with anyone else, and I—"

"Jervis."

Tetch stopped mid-sentence, his mouth forced shut at Jonathan's rigid and curt tone. He swallowed as Jonathan slowly leaned forward in his seat, that stiff expression only seeming to get more unpleasant. With a scathing tone that had Jervis shrinking back, he said, "Never tell me what I am

supposed to feel."

He motioned to get up from his seat, and in that moment, the Hatter felt a welling sense of terror within his chest at the thought of ending it like this. With a sudden burst of courage, he suddenly reached forward, taking Jonathan's hand into his two. The look Crane gave him nearly caused him to drop the hand out of fright. He wasn't being strangled, so that was a start. Almost without thinking, the words had left his mouth.

"I love you."

Jonathan stared blankly at Jervis, silent for the longest time as some form of torture to the smaller, infatuated individual.

"Jervis. You don't know what you're talking about."

Jerking his hand away from Jervis, Jonathan turned around and walked away without another word, leaving the poor Hatter alone once more.

"Jervis?"

The Hatter didn't respond. He couldn't, what with all the thoughts running through his head. He felt wound up tighter than a VHS, thoughts racing and heart pounding. This was just like Alice all over again; rejected, thrown away, tossed aside and ignored as if he were nothing. As if his feelings didn't matter and his thoughts weren't valid enough for him. Because he was sick and delusional and everything in between. He left him, as if he didn't even care. To top it all off the Hatter couldn't do anything. He didn't have hats or control cards or a pocket watch at his disposal, nor was he able to have someone strangle the man as he always would have with the girls. Not that he wanted to anyways, but that was simply a knee-jerk response for him. He got angry, he got flustered, and when he didn't know what to do, all that stress would build up inside of him. His mind ran like a clock on high speed, circling and circling the same twelve thoughts over and over again, filling his head with tension and panic.

"Mr. Tetch?"

He felt as though his head had been pressurized with all the thoughts that swam around within it. Voices chattered and spoke and whispered their ugly suggestions, and once more the Hatter found himself biting into bloody teacups just to escape the mental pressure that was his head. Oh it was maddening how his thought would not, could not, escape the man he'd just spilled out his deepest feelings to. Pain, anger, humiliation, sadness; all these emotions stewed inside of him, bubbling in a toxic concoction that would only continue to poison his mind the further he listened to those dangerous thoughts. He was simply frustrated at himself that these emotions just wouldn't dissipate, only further staining the poor thoughts within his head.

Jervis' soul nearly jolted out of his body when he felt a hard smack on his arm, causing him to reel back in shock from the sudden shock to the senses. He stared, eyes wide full of tears as Dr. Picard looked at him with a both stern and worried expression. "Stop that!" he damn near shouted, pointing an accusing finger to Jervis' now damaged hand. Deep bites had been left in his hand, a bit of self-harm caused by the overwhelming pressure in Jervis' head. "Look at what you're doing to yourself!" Tetch couldn't focus on anything the doctor was saying. He needed to get out, and fast. He nearly stumbled out of his own chair, looking around wildly for the door, only to realize he was in such a small office. Heart pounding, that fight or flight response was triggering within his mind as he realized he couldn't escape. Doors were undoubtedly locked and it's not like he had anywhere to go. His heart beating several hundred kilometers per hour, he was near tears.

Dr. Picard must have realized he was having a hard time, as he quickly gestured to the chair. "Jervis, I need you to calm down. I just want to talk," he said softly, voice steady as he sat back down in his chair. "You're having a rough time. I need to understand why."

Jervis was unable to respond, his heart still racing around as all he wanted was to get out of there.

"Jervis, what's wrong?" Picard asked, and it was in that moment that something collapsed within Jervis. Sadness became the dominate emotion, his eyes bricking from tears as sobs threatened to choke him. An answer spiller out in broken whispers, an answer his own mind struggled to even process. "He doesn't love me."

Picard went silent, brow furrowed in obvious confusion. Of course he wouldn't know. How could he know? People who don't think shouldn't talk! And yet, Picard still tried to salvage what little bit of the situation he could manage. "That sounds awful," he sympathized, words that went unheard from under the beating of the Hatter's heart. "You must feel terrible. Why don't you have a seat." Hatter felt anger slowly rising at the man's grating tone; speaking to him as if he were some type of child that needed to be talked to in slowed phrases just so he could understand him. It aggravated the Hatter to no end.

Picard looked to the side, a panicked expression crossing his face as he attempted to think back to the one tip Harley had given him as soon as he realized Jervis wasn't going to calm down. "You must feel feel left out," Picard spoke. "After all, ''tis love that makes the world go round', as the Hatter says."

Hatter stilled at the quote, all emotions vanishing for a moment as listened. It took a moment or two to completely comprehend what had just been said. His stare hardened with a look that Picard thought might just kill. He was nearly shaking with how much anger was building up inside of him, all previous emotions still there and only fueling the internal turmoil he suffered.

"You… absoluteIDIOT!" he shouted at the top pf his lungs, damn near scaring Picard out of his seat. Over the few months of treating him, never had he had Jervis yell at him like that before. "THAT IS A QUOTE FROM THE duch*eSS, NOT THE HATTER!" Tears were streaming down his face as he was screaming at his point, unable to get a grip on his own emotions. Every forced word was like running a cheese grater on his throat with how much his throat wasn't used to the high volume. He came even closer to the desk, eyes blurred with tears and his heart pounding with a need to release the pressure in his head. "DO YOU EVEN CARE TO LEARN AN IOTA ABOUT YOUR PATIENTS BEFORE YOU SPILL WHATEVER POPPYco*ck COMES FROM YOUR MOUTH?!"

Picard stood up, pressing a button under his desk to alert the guards before slowly approaching Jervis. "Tetch, I need you to calm down," he ordered, holding out a steady hand as he came closer.

A switch flipped inside Jervis, his screaming turning to a defensive, trembling stutter as he realized Picard was closing the distance between them. "N-n-no," he begged in a strained voice. "Don't come near me." When this failed to ward off the man, Jervis instinctively grabbed a pen from the pencil holder, backing away into a corner with wide eyes. "No, d-don't touch me!" he demanded, all routes of escape gone as he searched around desperately for any sort of salvation.

"Jervis, I'm just trying to help you," the doctor assured him. His hand came too close. Jervis felt trapped as unintelligible, guttural babbles spilled from him, tears running down his face. When he felt his arm touched, that fight or flight response finally went into full effect.

With a cry of desperation, Tetch jerked the pen upwards, stabbing the man directly in the neck. The doctor grabbed at his throat in shock, but Jervis was unable to be hindered by surprise at this point. He could only really react. He shoved the pen into the taller man's stomach as hard as he could muster, doing it repeatedly as his hands were stained in hot, viscera. Several times turned into dozens and soon over a hundred times as he just kept beating and stabbing him in pure emotional frustration. It wasn't until the pen physically shattered in his hand that he finally realized that they were both on the floor. Confusion swirled in his mind at the ever-growing puddle of blood that was forming beneath him, soaking into the coarse carpet and turning its once beige color into red. Voices swirled in his mind, talking and talking and talking until he let out a frustrated shriek and jammed the pen shards into the man's chest. Confused and barely cognizant of what was going on, he covered his ears, not minding the warm red gunk that got trapped in locks of messy blonde hair as he just tried to get the voices to shut up.

Letting out a startled gasp, he stumbled back when the door burst open and a gun was aimed at his head. At this point Jervis was simply unable to understand what was going on as the shouts of the guards blurred in his ears. He muttered out incoherent babbles of noises as he simply tried to get a grasp on his own mind. His senses were flooded with the blaring alarms from the ceiling, indicating some type of emergency. He was held in place in the line of the gun, covering his face in humiliation and a swell of other toxic emotions as the world blurred around him.

Without warning, the lights suddenly flickered as a rumble shook the entirety of the Asylum. A loud, almost deafening explosion moved through the entire facility, shaking to the point where Jervis and the guard who was holding him up stumbled to the ground. Tetch looked up, confused, and before he could even say anything, all the lights to the Asylum flickered once, before going out completely. More explosions could be heard all throughout the asylum, though not nearly as loud as the initial one. Within seconds after, the emergency backup light came on, bathing everyone in a pool of dim red light.

It was showtime.

Notes:

FOOLS. YOU THOUGHT THERE WOULD BE HATTERCROW? YOU’VE BEEN DENIED.

Chapter 6: Showtime

Summary:

The villains split into groups to try and dive into freedom in any way they can, all the while playing a game of Pass the Jervis.

Notes:

Heya. Yeah, I’m back. Sorry for the wait, you guys. I was dealing with some personal matters, but I’m back once more.

I was considering drawing sketches for a few parts of this chapter, but with exams looming, I figured it would take too much of my time. I still want to get into drawing the characters, however, so if you’re into concept art of the characters or sh*tposts, I have a tumblr: stripesthesupervillain. Take a look if you’re interested.

No severe warnings for this one. Just a bit of blood and the worst jokes you’ll ever hear at the tail end of the chapter.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

As soon as the alarms blared, every inmate in Arkham Asylum was quickly rushed to their cell, as was protocol. The last thing anyone needed was another mass breakout on their hands. Inmates complained and ranted, with some even struggling due to the alarm freaking them out. However, everyone was taken in within five minutes under the threat of harsh punishment, as well as it being after the last exercise period.

Poison Ivy waited for those five minutes to be over, keeping watch a ways away from the Asylum. Watchtower guards failed to see any trace of her due to them being "compromised" by Lazlo. She pointed to the wall, looking over at the guard that was under her control. "I've pulled out a gas pipe near that wall over there," she ordered. "Use Firefly's lighter to light the pipe." The officer nodded, eyes gleaned over with a want and need to serve her while still giving off that blank, trance-induced stare. He pulled out the lighter, about to do the job, when Ivy snapped her fingers. He turned to see her hand held out expectantly. "Give me your phone first," she commanded, watching him pull out his phone and hand it over silently. She turned it on, revealing a lock screen requiring four digits. "Passcode?" she demanded. He was quick to give away the code: "1234." She looked up at him with the most deadpan look she could muster. Somewhere in that hazy mind of his, he would be able to process her infinite contempt for his existence. However, she said nothing and waved him away, typing in the code and going to the camera app. As the enchanted officer moved to the pipe, Ivy, she held the phone sideways and started recording a video.

All it took was one little spark and the gas pipe was alight. Flames shot through the tube, fed by the natural gas that powered it to move through the entire gas system of Arkham. Pipes burst, ovens and stoves in the kitchens practically exploded, gas heaters were blown to pieces, but by far the biggest explosion was sourced in the utilities room, which practically had an entire day's worth of gas leaking within its closed off area. The moment the flame hit, the room detonated in an ear-piercing and earth-shaking explosion. Pillars of smoke erupted into the air not unlike a volcano as the wall gave out and the floor above it gave way. As Firefly had promised, the damage had only been done to most of the basem*nt floor and some of the thick ceiling above it; Arkham was still standing from the contained explosion.

Ivy continued for just a moment longer before tucking the phone away. "Well, this is going to be easy," she chuckled, moving towards the damaged Arkham.

The lights went off for about half a minute before the emergency lights came on, bathing the rooms and halls in a pool of red. As coded by Riddler, each door to the cells slid open automatically. There was beat of silence, just for a moment for the guards to process what had just happened and the inmates to check outside their cells, before Anarky moved out of his door, stuck his index finger and thumb into his mouth, and blew a sharp whistle that pierced the air.

The reaction was immediate. Inmates quickly overtook the guards, not killing them, but instead taking their weapons and such and overpowering them. The riot traveled outward until the entire asylum was lit with the chaos, just as Blackfire and Anarky had planned.

Professor Pyg found no time for the riot. Once those doors were open, he knew his destination, leaving his cellmate in initial confusion. "That's the wrong direction, Piggy!" Zsasz snapped after pulling a pocketknife from a guard, but there was no stopping the professor. Lazlo dipped between and around struggling guards and inmates, quickly grabbing a keycard from a fallen officer that he used to grant himself access to the stairwell, bringing himself down the to basem*nt. The basem*nt itself was a complete and utter disaster. The air was thick with smoke and the smell of burnt natural gas. Debris had found itself scattered even to the door of the stairwell, and the cracks and chunks missing from walls and doors showed just how damaging the explosion had been. He quickly made his way to the storage room, passing over chunks of ceiling from where that section of the first floor had given out. Shattered glass and broken metal that had once blocked off two of the most dangerous inmates in Arkham were scattered around, with said criminals being long gone save for the destruction they had left in their wake.

Quickly finding the storage room, Pyg used his keycard to get himself in. Crates lines the warehouse-like room, each labeled with a code, a warning, and the usage. His eyes scanned the room until they recognized a large crate labeled "Rogue Attire." He nearly squealed in delight, rushing over and tearing open the box to reveal smaller cardboard boxes that held the many alter egos of his fellow inmates. He carelessly tossed aside Harley's costume, brushing away Joker's iconic suit, pulling out and tossing Scarecrow's damaged costume and Anarky's mask, up until he found a small box labeled "Lazlo Valentine AKA Professor Pyg". He opened the tiny box to reveal his lovely ceramic half mask. He tore off the cloth Jervis had given him and placed the mask atop his head, shielding the top portion of his face and once again making Lazlo Valentine the Pyg that he was. He was about to leave to make a dash for the exit, when he noticed one of the boxes he had tossed aside. "Jervis Tetch AKA Mad Hatter" was clearly printed on the side. Something clicked within Pyg as he quickly retrieved the fancy attire from inside and rushed out just as Lonnie and Garfield were making their way in.

Zsasz had been almost near the exit when Lazlo suddenly rushed past him, once again going in the wrong direction with a bundle in his arms. "Pyg! Wrong way!" he shouted after the man, and yet they fell on deaf ears. Anger was not innate to the murderer, and so he simply smirked and followed after. It was surprise a man of Pyg's size could move that quickly, but within moments, he was in the medical ward. Guards were strewn left and right, struggling with the inmates that had started the riot. Pyg searched for a brief moment until he saw Jervis Tetch stumble out of the office, uniform bloody and eyes hazed with clear fear and a lack of lucidity. He fell to the ground in confused terror as a guard followed after, keeping a rather large weapon trained on the man without wavering.

The guard heard a small whistle behind him, and it only took him a quick turn of his head before he was riddled with bullets from a handgun held aloft in Scarface's hands. "Not today, ya pigs!" the gangster laughed, gun swinging around from the movements of his laughter. Arnold Wesker, in turn, took a step back when Pyg looked at the killer im surprise, pointing to Scarface with his free hand to place the blame on the small ventriloquist dummy. Jervis seemed absolutely befuddled when more blood was on him, a mess of confusion and tears and unintelligible babbling. However, this mattered not to Pyg as he was simply thrilled to see his friend alive. "Hatman!" he practically squealed, picking Jervis with up in ease. His time as a surgeon taught him how to treat ill patients well, as he tried to make Tetch comfortable. Jervis, still in his meltdown, instinctually began struggling and attacking his friend, but these petty slaps and hits were too weak to really matter due to wasting most of his energy on Picard. Jervis quickly found his arms full of the costume he'd grown so fond of wearing in his escapades outside of Arkham's walls. Once he saw the hat, he hurriedly put the article atop his head before almost completely shutting down, tuning out to the outside world as he simply touched the rim of his hat for some sense of comfort. Viktor Zsasz had only just run up, slowing to a walk when he noticed that Scarface had taken power over any immediate dander amidst the chaos, much to his envy. Pyg was just about to mention to Zsasz and Scarface that they bail, when they found another gun pointed at them.

"Don't even try it," Cash warned, his weapon trained on the most deadly of the three rogues. Even in his bloodlust-fueled state, Zsasz was able to tell the man would fire before he even got a foot forward. Cash was not a man to be messed with. Fear seized the two schizophrenics, but Zsasz remained eerily calm while Scarface had his finger worryingly close to the trigger. "Drop the knife, psycho," Cash ordered amidst the flurry of a fight around them. As much as the other inmates fighting around them were a threat, it would be hell on Earth should the four/five at gunpoint find their escape that night, and Cash was ready to do his duty. How would he get all of them back in this frenzy? He didn't quite know, but he would damn well try.

That's when Zsasz's eyes widened in slow surprise. Eyes trailing up, he blinked at the sight of something behind Cash. "Oh dear…" he murmured, staring up at this huge something, that obviously could tower over the guard. Cash's thoughts turned to dread when, knowing his luck, he realized only one inmate could be that massive. His amputated wrist stung at the awful memories of sharp teeth tearing through bone and flesh. However, he wasn't afraid of Croc; not anymore. With a quick spin around, he raised his gun to point directly at—

Nothing? He blinked in wild surprise. The space that was supposed to be Killer Croc was vacant. It took only a second to process what had just happened before he shot his head back towards Pyg, Wesker, and Zsasz, who had obviously bolted when he had turned his head around. "Damn it!" he near screamed, running after the three.

Zsasz and Pyg were sprinting down the hall with the older Wesker trailing just behind them and Scarface yelling demands to run faster. "There's a copter on the roof!" Scarface shouted to them. "Once we lose the copper, we're goin' up there!" As surprisingly spry as Pyg could be despite his size, having Tetch in his arms was certainly slowing him down. Cash would catch up to them at this rate and Zsasz and Scarface had no qualms about leaving them in the dust. Valentin made the decision that it was better for one to get caught than both, but he wasn't about to leave his friend unattended. His eyes caught Harley Quinn and Baby Doll just up ahead, and with that he stopped abruptly beside them. "HERE!" he shouted, handing Jervis to a surprised Harleen before bolting after Zsasz and Arnold.

Harley pressed her back to the wall, making way for Cash to burst out of the riot and dash after the two wanted men who were now going much faster given the lesser load. She watched the five disappear behind the corner before looking down at Jervis, who looked too tired to even function save for holding his balled up clothing in his arms. She looked down at Mary, who just shrugged and began skipping her way to the stairwell. Harley just smiled and followed suit, her fit body perfectly able to carry the smaller villain as they moved downstairs. The walls of the stairway were covered in a dusty and mushy coating while both doors had been torn off, no doubt thanks to Croc and Clayface moving upstairs.

Both girls made it to the storage room, with Harley nearly squealing in delight at the sight of green skin and red hair. "Red!"

"Harley!" Ivy sighed in relief upon hearing her voice, meeting her halfway across the room to quickly give her a hug. "Are you alright?" she softly asked, looking over her, before spotting Jervis in her arms. "Why are you holding Tetch?"

Harley just shrugged. "I dunno," she responded. "Lazzy gave him to me! So I'm just carrying him around." Ivy decided to just take that explanation and run with it; there was no point in arguing with the nonsense of Harleen at a time like this.

"How're we gonna get outta here?" Mary suddenly asked from down below. Going over the bridge was practically suicide seeing how hard it would be to actually steal a van and get out of there given their uniforms and every guard having memorized their appearances. Ivy had the answer ready without question, jerking a thumb back to Garfield Lynns digging through a particularly large crate labeled "Firefly Gear". Lynns was too deep in his own box, already fitting on his flame retardant suit, to realize they were referring to him. He was getting on that large metal jetpack, wings folded down for ease of walking, when he heard Baby Doll cry "Kitty!" He looked down to see Mary trotting over with a huge grin on her face. "You're gonna get us outta here!" she piped up once more, engendering a series of laughs from the pyromaniac.

"Says who?" he scoffed, eyeing Ivy from a ways away. "Her? I don't think so." He sat down to fit on the boots and leg braces, grinning up at them. "You think I'm gonna fly all three— no, four of you off this place? Forget it." Of course Firefly was at more of an advantage than most other Rogues. Unlike his peers and even Batman himself, he could fly freely given his equipment and enough fuel. He glanced up to see Poison Ivy's expression scrunched in annoyance. "I mean, Harley? Sure. Baby? She still owes me that cookie, but yeah. I'd even fly Jerv offa this place. But Ivy? Babe, I want some of those plants you've been smoking."

Without so much as waiting a beat, Ivy pulled out the phone she had taken from the guard when she had blown utilities room. She then presented it to Garfield. "I recorded the whole explosion on this phone. Fly us all to the mainland and I'll gladly hand it over."

Lynns stared at the phone for a good few seconds before quickly hopping to his feet. "Alright, everybody," he began, "welcome aboard Flight Firefly! Destination? The f*ck outta here." Harley let her grin show while Baby Doll clapped excitedly, going over to retrieve her doll from one of the many crates. Ivy just rolled her eyes and looked away, just glad so long as they got off the island in one piece.

"First thing's first," Garfield paused, reaching into the crate one last time to pull out his iconic homemade flamethrower that was attached to his jetpack by a fuel tube. "Ohh ho baby, how I've missed you!" he hummed, kissing the nozzle much to Ivy's disgust and Harley's amusem*nt. When Harley frowned at Ivy's distaste, the plant woman merely said, "What? I just think it's weird for a man to like fire that much."

Ignoring the hypocrisy from the plant-loving woman, Garfield gave an offended expression as he hugged the flamethrower close to his body. "Shh, baby," he whispered to the weapon, "she didn't mean it. She doesn't know what she's talking about." He burst into immature laughter at her unamused expression before hooking the flamethrower onto his belt. "Alright, ladies, we need to get to the roof," he ordered, now becoming serious. "That's the best place to take off without interruptions or getting shot."

The three three women nodded and before long they were making their way to the stairs. As much as the elevator would have been nice, it was unfortunately inaccessible due to the emergency power only applying to the lights. Arkham was a big building, best believe, but the adrenaline helped them scale the stairs faster than it was thought possible. Harley, dedicated to holding Jervis, was growing tired, but she still trudged on.

They had finally made it to the top floor in minutes, but soon found themselves at the wrong end of a couple well-aimed guns. Firefly had his weapon raised just as fast, a co*cky smile spread across his marred face, daring them to take the shots. Ivy and Harley were frozen in their tracks, while Baby had been just barely small enough to duck back into the stairwell without notice.

"Look boys," Garfield hummed, "either you can just let us go and keep your lives, or you can take the shots and risk all of you being burnt to death, and believe me, it's far worse than you may think it is."

One officer in particular wasn't having in, responding in a biting tone, "Cut the sh*t, Lynns. There's nothing in that flamethrower. You think we'd actually put your jetpack away with a tank full of fuel?"

Firefly's expression only beamed with confidence as he placed a hand on the fuel latch that would let loose the torrent of flames. "Do you really want to take the chance?"

Harley looked back into the stairwell, face scrunched in worry as she gazed back at Garfield. "Firefly…" she whispered, slowly moving over to him and nudging his arm. Firefly's expression wavered before falling into one that may be considered defeat. Harley moved a hand to take the heavy flamethrower from his hand before he did anything that he may regret.

It seemed as though the villains might actually give in for a change, choosing a more sensible route instead of attempting a deadly escape. This time, their breakout attempt had actually failed, and all three had finally figured out when to call it quits after so many failed attempts.

Well, this was the thought, up until a gunshot rang out and a guard yelled in pain, subsequently falling to the ground due to the bullet embedded into his leg. The other guard was stunned, unsure of where the bullet had come from. "Oops! I didn't mean to!" came a sing song voice from down below, but before anyone could react, Harley had already shoved the groaning Jervis into Garfield's arms and taken the flamethrower, detaching the fuel tube from the jetpack. Like an olympian would with a ball and chain, Harley dropped the flamethrower, held it by the tube, and swung the weapon with enough force until it came crashing into the second guard and knocked him over. With little hesitation, she turned to the three and just said, "Run."

Inmates ducked out of the way as the four rogues sprinted down the hall, with the fifth one bouncing up and down in Garfield's arms. Jervis let out a sick groan, and for a moment, Lynns was a bit scared the older man would blow chunks on him.

"There's an emergency generator on top of the roof," Ivy told Firefly, who was glad he worked out so much because damn Jervis was heavier than he looked, "we should be able to find some fuel up there."

He simply nodded, looking back to notice Baby Doll trailing behind by a considerable amount. He realized that he would have to carry her, too, and before long, he realized he would have to carry all four off the island. While his Jetpack was enough to carry the weight of Batman, he doubted it would be enough to carry the five of them, and so, he made an executive decision.

Deacon Blackfire had only just managed to get on his robes when Ivy and Harley zoomed past. Garfield slid to a halt just before him. "You do charity work, right?" the younger man panted from behind the helmet. "Help a man out." He shoved Jervis into the faux pastor's hands before once more booking it, an officer chasing after a good hundred feet behind. Blackfire raised his brow, looking down at Jervis questioningly as Anarky quickly showed up after retrieving his mask.

"Hey!" Lonnie called, noticing him by the wall. "Come on, I grabbed the keys. Let's—" He paused, looking at the Hatter with a confused gaze under his mask. He gestured to him, but Blackfire only shrugged in response. Anarky just shook his head and gestured for the deacon to follow as they traversed through the halls, ducking through less traveled paths to as to not be seen by anyone.

Getting into the asylum's employee garage was easy, but traveling there was not. With the power shut off, many of the powered doors required to be opened manually with the right keys. That left Joseph to stand back whilst waiting for the other to fumble with a ring of similar looking keys. Everything was either bronze or silver and it was becoming more and more frustrating as the chaos increased around them. Anarky was nearly hit by a tossed inmate had it not been for a quick warning from his current partner. Blackfire looked back at the culprit, soon met with the barrel of a handgun aimed directly at his head.

"Lucky me," the officer breathed, the edges of his lips upturning in a fashion you wouldn't want to see from a cop. "Three of the freaks in one area?"

Anarky stopped his fiddling to spin around step away from the door. The wanted was a reason for the cop to shoot them, and yet it seemed the action was pointless, given the man of authority stepped right up to the priest and his passenger, bringing the barrel of the pistol up to the older man's head. "I should just end all three of you right here. I'd be doing everyone a service."

Jervis sounded visibly distressed at the noise, burying his face into Blackfire's robes to try and block out the invading light. The faux deacon was visibly alarmed, but didn't move away from the gun. Despite death being at his head, he feared no evil. Even when the co*cking of the barrel was heard.

"STOP!" Deacon was pushed out of the way by Anarky who jabbed a finger into the officer's chest and slid up his mask so he could look at the crooked man face to face; the guard in question took a noticeable step back at the audacity. "You," Lonnie spat. "It's people like you that make us who we are. f*cking bacon bitch— you and people like you should be behind bars for the rest of your life for abusing your power."

As the anarchist ranted, the cop looked to the side a bit awkwardly. "Uh, Machin?" But the activist wasn't done yet.

"You people wonder why we don't get better? It's because we have people like you in power! Every cop in this institution should be locked up for their crimes. And—"

"Lonnie."

"—Don't interrupt me! I refuse to be another statistic whilst the general public refuses to prosecute people like you. I—"

"Lonnie. It's me," the guard chuckled, as if humored by the rant as he lowered the arm with his weapon. "I was just f*cking with you guys." Lonnie stared at him blankly, mind in a frazzle trying to understand what that was supposed to mean. And then it clicked.

"Wait. Clayface?" he snapped, brow shooting up in realization. Karlo obviously found this to be hysterical as he began to roar with laughter, the red overhead lights beginning to show the slowly liquidizing texture of the guard's hat. "You. Asshole!" Lonnie groaned, giving the shapeshifter a hard punch in the gut, only for his hand to sink into the other's body with ease. Machin's deadpan look appeared just in time to contrast with the tearful laughter from Karlo.

"Well it's a good thing you're here," Deacon butted in to break the tension, arms growing tired as he strained to keep the neurologist in his arms. "Do you think you'll be able to sneak us out of here? Lonnie already has the keys out of here and to one of the vans. Our only problem is getting in there without drawing suspicion."

Karlo rubbed his chin, visibly interested. "Yeah, I think I can help at least two of you," he reasoned. "However, I don't think I'll be able to help Jervis. He's a bit of dead weight." The other two criminals looked at Jervis before looking at one another, an expression that clearly asked "Well what are we supposed to do with him?" Karlo just smirked, his arms already beginning to stretch unbelievably long. "Don't worry, I saw Ed in the records room when I was walking over. I got this." His long arms grabbed onto Jervis, taking him from the Deacon's arms and starting to move him down the hall, only using his continuously stretching arms to move him.

Guards and inmates alike had to quit fighting for several moments to watch in bewilderment as two arms casually rounded the corner whilst holding a curled up Jervis Tetch. Their heads slowly turned to watch it enter a room, where Edward was digging through some records. He had been searching quite fervently, trying to find what he was looking for. When he finally found it, he could only scan two lines before being tapped on the back. He turned, and soon Jervis was dumped into his arms, forcing him to watch the arms snake back out of the door and back around the corner, while Karlo smiled at the two awkwardly staring criminals in front of him. Once his arms were at the acceptable size, he rubbed his hands together. "So, how long can you two hold you breath?"

Ed looked from Jervis to the door to Jervis again and once more back to the door. "Why are you all so weird?" he whispered, shaking his head as he quickly made his way out through a side door. He had already gotten the information he needed and quickly made his way down to the lower floor with the Hatter in his arms. As much as he loathed working with Joker, he found it honestly to be the best option available. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say.

Upon entering the basem*nt floor, he couldn't help but notice the sheer amount of debris and dead guards scattered around the halls. It made running more difficult, sure, but now he had to be extra careful given his unwanted passenger. Luckily for them, he could already hear arguing voices around the corner.

"Scared of a little ice, oh great and powerful master of fear?"

"Driving on ice just doesn't like the best idea, if you ask me."

"Ha! I plan to just book it."

"Oh, and I don't suppose you have a pair of ice cleats, hmm?"

"I do! Have them on me right now."

"What the— where the hell did you get ice cleats?"

"Wouldn't you like to know? Back off, Harv! I can see that gleam in your eye; these babies are all mine!"

Rounding the corner, Nygma already had a firm look of annoyance clear on his visage before even spotting the trio. "Working with madmen isn't my usual modus operandi, but I suppose I have no choice now do I?" he sighed loudly, successfully reeling the attention of Crane, Joker, and Two-Face. Only Joker was the only one in his full criminal attire, being the showman he was. Crane looked irritated more than anything, but that was just Crane when he was under-informed.

The three were quick to notice Jervis in the Prince of Puzzles' arms, all lighting up in varying ranges of surprise. "Well well! Looks like Eddie here isn't as heartless as I once thought!" Joker teased, pinching Edward's cheek with a snicker.

Riddler opened his mouth to snap back, but had to pause. Did he lie and confirm that he, the Riddler, had gone back to save a man merely considered an known acquaintance at the best of times, or did he tell the truth and make himself look unnecessarily like an asshole for no reason? In the end, he decided not saying anything for once was the better option.

"So, clown," Harvey grunted, "we were talking about Freeze?"

"Ah! Thanks for reminding me big guy," Joker praised, giving the unamused patient a good elbow to the side. "Vickie's stuff is over in the storage room. Either we bring the suit to him or we bring him to the suit."

"If we bring Mr. Fries to the suit," Jonathan mentioned, "we'd approximately four minutes to get him there before he would pass out from heat exhaustion. An even further constraint on our time."

"But the suit is about hundred pounds of metal," Two-Face pointed out. "If I'm carrying something that big and heavy to him, I don't exactly trust you three to protect me from the cops."

"And you think you'll be able to carry Fries faster?" Jonathan asked, a single brow raised in doubt. "He isn't exactly a small man."

"How about we meet in the middle?" Riddler huffed. "Joker and I will help unlock the suit, while Harvey goes to get Freeze." He then heaved Jervis into the unwilling arms of Jonathan, who's twiggy legs nearly folded like an origami swan from the abrupt change in weight. "Jonathan, you can take care of Jervis. You are the psychiatrist after all." Edward ignored the burning look he was getting as he looked to the other two crime bosses for agreement. It was soon settled, Crane was left alone with the curled up Jervis.

He let out the sigh he had been holding, allowing himself to slide down the wall and drop himself into a sitting position. As much as he hated being forced into the position of nanny over a fully grown man, he simply put his anger in the back of his mind as he studied the schizophrenic. Blood had splattered all over the neurologist, some obviously caused by his own actions while other bits of spatter could only be caused by the blowback of a gun. The man was in the middle of a shutdown, that much was obvious; he was actually quite surprised everyone had been willing to use Jervis' fragile mental state as a tool to escape. Harley was usually too empathetic, and while Edward was a selfish man, rarely did his plots rely on such an unpredictable cog in the puzzle. Crane had figured it all out the moment he saw the blood-soaked Hatter, and while he was reluctantly impressed, he couldn't help but glare hatefully into the wall as his mind ran through the possibilities of what Joker would have him do to Tetch had he agreed to the plan.

Jonathan attempted to set Jervis down to give him space, but the other only clung to him like a tired child. It seemed he was the type to want comfort in his shutdown rather than push it away. Crane loathed being touched without his consent, but he figured this was the only real option that didn't involve dumping the crumpet in the hall and going to see if Harleen would lend him a ride.

"Jervis…" he spoke softly, gently touching Tetch on the arm. "Can you hear me?" To that, he got no response, yet he still tried once more. "Hatter, can you hear me?" It was with this second variation that the Hatter moved some, responding positively to the name of his alter ego.

"Mm, Hare?" the smaller man groaned, looking a little worse for ware after being jostled around so much in so little time. A hand left his bundle of clothes to hold his stomach. "I believe I may be sick all over the floor in a few moments…"

"Mmm, there would be some merit in perhaps not doing that while you're in my arms," Jonathan suggested, allowing Jervis to sit up in his lap while he rubbed his back.

Hatter looked around, his hands fiddling with the rim of his hat to bring himself some form of comfort. "Are we in the Red Queen's dungeon?" he mumbled, brow furrowed, staring up at the crimson-tinted emergency lights. "Why is everything so… reddish?" He seemed to lose his own train of thought as he dropped his head down to stare at hands caked with dried blood. He looked disgusted with himself, but only because he was so dirtied. "Clean cup, clean cup, move down," he murmured weakly, trying to untangle his dress shirt from his the ball of clothing. He visibly struggled in his groggy state, adding to his growing frustration until Jonathan came to help him. He pulled the dress shirt and coat from the bottoms and shoes, delicately picking out the bowtie and handing it over while Jervis was tugging off his shirt. The milliner tried his best to get as much grime off of him as he could so he wouldn't soil the fabric, but still tugged it on fast enough for a few spots to show. As Jervis was about to put on his trousers, he paused, a light red dusting his cheeks. Jonathan was quick to catch on.

"I've seen you naked before in the showers," Crane sighed, crossing his arms. "This isn't any different."

"It is," Jervis argued weakly, "because now you can't be distracted by the abhorrent nature of Firefly or Joker's bodies." Jonathan saw that there was no real point in arguing and purposefully looked away for a good minute or so before Hatter was done.

Hatter brung himself closer to Crane, lying back on the wall and letting out an exhausted sigh and rubbing a tired eye with his wrist. "Oh dear," he murmured, seemingly only now noticing all the debris scattered about. "It appears I've woken up in the midst of a great galumphing of Wonderland's beasts, haven't I?" He looked up at Crane, letting a weak smile cross his face. He had only been turned down as delusional hours ago by Jonathan, and yet he smiled softly at him with the same fondness as an old friend. Jonathan knew not to take the calm moment for granted, but he had to turn his head away to avoid the stare. That look; he loathed that look. People weren't supposed to look at him like that, and just the frustration of having to see it was almost enough to make him speak out. He suppressed it, however, instead getting up. "Come along. I know where they keep your control cards and pocket watch. They like to keep it separate from your clothing in case of a riot," he instructed, watching his peer rise to his feet, visibly dizzy, but with enough energy to follow after him at a steady pace.

"So, where are my tools of my trade?" Jervis hummed, carefully stepping over chunks of wall.

"Back when I worked here,"Crane explained, approaching a smaller room off to the side, "they had a safe for important documents in what used to be the Warden's room down here. When Clayface, Croc, and Freeze were moved down here easier containment, they moved the office to an upper floor. According to a safety manual Edward had obtained from Arkham's system, the safe is still is still being used to contain the weapons." He opened the door, revealing a small office for one of the psychiatrists that worked with the more dangerous inmates. With the desk and cabinets about, the room looked pretty unsuspecting, but Jonathan knew better. "Now, if I remember correctly…" He surveyed the room, moving over to a pinned up map of Arkham. "A flimsy covering for sure," he mentioned, grabbing the map from the side and ripping it off the wall to reveal a large safe, "but I suppose those who don't know it exists won't look for it." There was only one problem now: where to find the code. He turned around and took one look behind the desk, a his blank expression not letting anything show. "Hatter, friend, would you mind shutting and locking the door?" he requested, placing his hands on the edge of the desk and quickly flipping it over to reveal a cowering doctor. The doctor shrieked in terror, turning to try and scramble for the door, but Jervis had already slammed the door shut and blocked it with his body.

Crane places his foot on the back of the terrified man to stop him there, hands on his hips and lips lifting to a scowl. "Give me the code and perhaps I won't let my friend here show you how we deal with nuisances in Wonderland. Isn't that right, Hatter?" The scientist made the mistake of looking up at the Hatter to see him making the all too familiar gesture of bringing down an axe. The man swallowed shielding his face as he was quick to give in. "Amadeus! The code is Amadeus!" he confessed, thankfully not being able to the the absolute look of annoyance from Crane. "Really?" he scoffed, moving off of him to type in the code in he safe. "A whole decade and you lot haven't changed the password? I should have guessed, but I suppose my hopes were too high." He threw it open to reveal a crowd of infamous weapons belonging to the rogues. He spotted a deck of control cards and the pocket watch immediately extracting them and handing them over to Jervis. "We should get back to Freeze," he murmured, grabbing the door of the safe to shut it. He had to pause, however, when spotting a familiar sight. Hesitant, he looked back to see Jervis was distracted by his card. A thin hand reached in and with it brought out the tightly-knit burlap of his mask. Grin stitched to the cheeks and wide eyes that haunted many denizens of Gotham many times over. He could still see a few speckles of blood from when he had coughed up nearly a cup of his own life source in that unfortunate crash.

Look, Johnny.

Jonathan found himself clenching the fabric, a familiar feeling welling within his chest.

It's you.

"March Hare?"

Jonathan ignored the voice, closing his eyes to let a thumb run over the stitching and letting a wave of nostalgia run over him. Two months away from the mask almost had him forgetting the only sense of emotion he was able to feel: excitement.

Crane reached in once more to grab a canister of his own toxin, once again remembering that joy of creation. He turned, looking down at the fallen doctor who trembled under his gaze. Approaching in slow purposeful steps, he watched the psychiatrist quickly crawl away in a terror so pure it was almost… delicious. And yet, when he got closer, he found that he felt nothing for the terrified man; none of that sad*stic glee he enjoyed so much in his past. He felt empty; unfazed by the sight, ergo he was unfulfilled.

Tucking the canister and mask away in his pockets, he looked to Jervis. "We should get going," he said simply, ignoring the questioning look of his friend and exiting through the door.

When they got back, they were met with the barrel of an ice gun, before Freeze relaxed. "Oh, it's just you two," Freeze said, lowering his weapon. "My apologies. I am only being cautious." He was outfitted in his metal suit once more, a thin layer of frost already beginning to form along the inside of his helmet and goggles fitted over his eyes. Jonathan merely nodding in understanding, throwing an annoyed look at Joker, who clearly looked disappointed the two weren't killed right then and there.

"Hatter, good to see you're up on your feet again," Riddler spoke, still outfitted in his Arkham attire due to time constraints. "We blew a hole in the wall over in the maintenance room. We'll need to move quickly to avoid as much guard interaction as possible before we get to the end of the island."

"And once we get to the end of the island?" Harvey grunted, picking up the gun from a fallen guard.

"Just leave that part to me," Mr. Freeze said simply.

As they ducked out into the glimpses of freedom outside, up above Ivy was glad to see the sight of a gas canister sitting by a grounded helicopter on its pad. She had only just began to help Baby and Harley fill Firefly's jetpack whilst the pilot in question fitted on his helmet and connected it to his oxygen tank. They only got a bit in before Ivy was faced with the barrel of a gun.

"Hands off the gas, lady," Scarface commanded, causing Harley to leap to her feet with raised hands in defense. Ivy only paused, glaring up at the Arnold and the doll to say, "We need the gas for Firefly's jetpack."

"Well we need it for the helicopter," Zsasz snapped, backing up Scarface as Pyg stood tentatively by said copter. "So I suggest you hand it over before we have to hurt one of you."

Firefly knew Ivy could handle the three, and so he continued to fill his jetpack. Pamela gazed up at Zsasz with an angered look, slowly rising to her feet to be at eye level with the serial killer. "Excuse me?" she snarled, not flinching as Zsasz's hand tightened around his knife. She didn't notice Arnold and Scarface slowly moving slowly towards Harley. "I'm not some sack of meat you can threaten, Zsasz. I'd stay in your lane before I show you what I'm capable of."

"Or we can just take it," Scarface spoke up, now standing by Harley, "NOW DUMMY!" Arnold swallowed forcefully, forcing his eyes shut as he grabbed a shocked Harley by the arm and shoved her off of the roof of the building. Harleen screamed in terror, thrown off her balance and unable to save herself from the sudden shift in force.

The moment she heard Harley's scream, Ivy snapped her head to look at where her other had just been, a look of horror crossing his face. "HARLEY!" she screamed in devastation, allowing Zsasz to grab gas an run.

As soon he heard Harley plummet, Firefly knew he only had seconds to react. Yanking the gas valve from his jetpack, he sprinted for the edge of the roof, not hesitating in his decision to dive straight off. Even through his helmet he could hear Quinn's shrieks below. "C'mon, please start," he whispered, gloved hand fumbling on the side of the jetpack as the underused machine was struggling to ignite the engine. Had anyone been watching from the ground, they would have seen two people hurtling toward the ground at lethal speeds. Luck was on Firefly's side that night it seemed as his large metal wings suddenly unfolded and spread out on either side of him, the jets roaring to life.

Harley saw her life flashing before her eyes as the ground neared, and honestly, she could have done better. All these years under her belt as a villain and she had yet to get ahold of that red and green swirled Ring Pop she had been planning to use to propose. And yet, she found herself being given another chance. Just before she hit the ground, she found herself being swept from her fall, soon hugging onto the giant metal angel that was Firefly. She looked down to see the ground just feet below them. "Wow, fire face, good job on keeping a lady waiting!" she complained, playfully smacking his helmet several times. "Now c'mon! We don't wanna keep Red waitin'!"

Fueled with both gasoline and adrenaline, Firefly only responded by shooting up back to the roof, where a shocked Ivy seemed ready to yank Firefly down to get to Harley herself. As soon as his feet hit the ground, Harley was out of his arms and into Poison Ivy's, who could only stare ahead, still in shock from nearly losing the one she loved. While Harley barely seemed disturbed, Ivy couldn't help when her hand tightened around the loose Arkham uniform Harley donned, as if taking time to process that she was really there.

Firefly watched Scareface command Arnold around, whistling underneath his helmet as he waited for Ivy and Harley to have their moment together. As soon as the plant woman pulled away, he placed the flamethrower in her hands. "Okay so you're gonna want to press the side button here to activate the flame," he instructed, "but you flip the latch when you're ready to release the gas, alright?"

Ivy was admittedly startled to have the fire machine placed in her hands, almost shoving it back for being offered a monstrosity that was used to burn down forests and slash and burn those she loved. But then she realized that Scarface was right there and she had a flamethrower in her hands.

"HEY DUMMY!"

Scarface was just about to enter the copter when he was called out, spinning around in alarm. "Who said that?" he snapped. "Yous betta not be talking about Scarface 'fore I make ya into Swiss cheese!"

Ivy just flipped him off before pulling back the latch, allowing the gas to funnel out and a twenty foot torrent of flames to spew out of the nozzle. Arnold was only barely able to duck out of the way, and even there the napalm infused in the chamber caused the fire to stick onto the dummy's face and latch onto the spinning blades of the copter. He desperately tried to put out his boss, but was forced to stop when Zsasz forced into the copter before anymore damage was done to the vehicle.

Harley clapped in excitement, giving a good "THIRTEEN OUTTA TEN!"rating for Ivy's performance. Alright, I feel better," Ivy huffed, throwing the weapon back to Garfield who clipped it to his weapon back onto his belt. He scooped up Baby Doll and placed her on a wing and telling her to hold tight, all the while he had Ivy secure herself on the other wing and Harley was in his arms.

"Alright ladies, hold on tight. Gotham, here we come!" Within seconds, strong jets lifted them off of the rooftops, and with all the ladies holding on tightly, he laughed and quickly left the rooftop and flying over the waters that surrounded Arkham's secure walls, soon disappearing as a speck of light into the night.

Down below, Jervis was glad to finally be back to his old self once more, cheerily putting control cards on the heads of guards to keep the five of them safe so Freeze wouldn't have to waste his ammo. Getting to the edge of the water was easy when Jervis was practically making his own personal bodyguards with the flick of a wrist.

Upon getting to the shore, Victor motioned for everyone to take a step back at he aimed his weapon at the incoming tides of water that threatened any thoughts of escaping. With one pull of the trigger, a white blast shot out of his weapon, soaring though the air and landing in the water. Instantly the water began go freeze over, creating a quickly forming circular bed of ice so thick it could probably be driven on. Freeze took a few steps forward, planting a boot on the ice and proving it was strong enough to withstand his weight. A few more blasts. A few more blasts and he was slowly beginning to make a path towards Gotham. Joker pumped his fists in the air, nearly hitting Edward in the face in the process.

"And how do we plan to get over the ice, exactly?" Nygma asked, arms crossed as he was forced to move several inches to the side.

"You lot can figure that out for yourselves," Joker winked, before motioning to his shoes. "I'm the one with the ice cleats! See you later boys!" With that he leapt onto the ice to run after Freeze.

"The ice looks thick enough to drive on," Dent said, looking down at the ice after watching Joker and Freeze stand on a concentrated spot. "We can steal a car from the garage and get out of here in no time."

"Driving? Over ice in the ocean? You're out of your mind if you think I'm just going to go through with that," Edward scoffed.

"Edward," Jonathan said with a clearly exasperated sigh, catching said man's attention. He let out a small "hmm?" to which Jonathan replied bluntly, "Shut up and let's just go find a car."

Edward's brow shot up in angry surprise, a little to taken aback by Jonathan's sudden backtalk to react to himself being grabbed by the wrist and tugged back to the Asylum. Jervis and Dent merely looked at each other before following after.

The chaos had spread to the outside, with guards losing the upper hand for how sheerly they were outnumbered. Even still, they had to make a run for it to lessen the chance of being spotted by a guard or a trigger happy inmate with a gun. As soon as they were in the garage, guns of the carded guards were pointed everywhere, only to be met with knocked out men and hardened clay and dust smudged all over the walls and ceiling. The large, droopy form of Clayface was quick to for his arm into a spiked hammer, bringing it down and nearly hitting a guard.

"Karlo, stop! It's us!" Two Face snapped, walking past the monstrosity that was Clayface to get to one of the vacant vans.

Clayface seemed to realize his mistake then, quickly making sure they were in the clear. "Alright, we're good to go, you two," he called out, before his gut thinned and Anarky and Blackfire dropped out of his muck. Edward could really only stare in vague disgust as this happened, watching Anarky come to a stand and cough up a bit of clay. "We were inside you for FIFTEEN MINUTES!" Deacon Blackfire could be heard groaning into the floor, his hair and robes absolutely dirtied.

"Hey hey, I gave you pockets of air. Be more grateful, will you?" Clayface scoffed, shrinking down to make the form of a guard. "You still have those keys on you, Machin?" Lonnie nodded, bringing out the keys he had taken off of the guard, fiddling with the car remote until one of the work trucks meant to transport supplies beeped on the floor above them.

"You wouldn't happen to have an extra spare set, would you?" Jervis asked, lighting up after seeing the keys. Machin unfortunately shook his head, but mentioned that one of the guards they had with them could have a set.

"We also have room for one more," he then mentioned. "One of you can tide with us while you three can find your own ride."

Jonathan, Edward, and Jervis all looked over at Harvey, who in turn looked to them. It was already wordlessly stated that Harvey would be the one to go, and so he did, running after the three. The three experts of their craft were always known to be more familiar and work better with one another, after all; once together, they were unlikely to split apart until they were in a safe location, solely for safety purposes. Crane's weapons, Edward's quick thinking and knowledge of Gotham's layout, and Jervis' expertise in mind control were fairly well fitted when brought together, making them more likely to survive together.

Jervis was already talking to one of his puppets about their ordeal, quickly obtaining a pair of keys. "With a guard up front, we should be able to get through the gates without having to rely on unstable ice. Do you think your rabbit here is going to be able to drive us across the bridge back to Gotham?" Riddler asked, to which Jervis nodded confidently.

"Oh, my dear mouse, you underestimate my work," Jervis tittered despite his exhaustion, motioning for two guards to follow and the rest to stay. Thankfully the car they found was a van, allowing them a place to hide while the guard drove them out. Edward and Jonathan got in the back while Jervis made sure the guards had their cards hidden and told them what to say when they got to the guard at the gates. He had them get in the front while he sat in the back, glad that the van was fitted with a light up above, allowing them to see each other clearly.

All three were silent, stock still as the van slowly moved backed out of its parking spot and slowly out the garage. As they sat, Nygma found it appropriate to whisper "If we crash because he's driving on the left side of the road, I'm never helping you two again."

The van stopped after a while, muffled talking being heard from outside the vehicle walls. All three held their breath, knowing this was the ultimate test of Jervis' abilities. This went on for about a minute, before the van started moving once more and they were allowed to relax once more.

"Wonderland, next stop! Tickets, please!" Hatter giggled, gently grabbing onto Edward's sleeve and giving it a playful little tug. "Now then! Show your ticket, child!" Riddler blinked and searched his pocket until he found the wrapper of a peppermint and handed it over with a "Here you go." Jervis looked down at the wrapper, a little confused, but decided to just tuck it in his pocket for a later time. He looked tuckered out, despite his cheerful demeanor. His eyes sagged and his posture was uncharacteristically slouched to show the extent of his exhaustion. They were all tired, what with the running and avoiding guards, but no one had quite the experience like Jervis.

Edward smiled somewhat, glad he would be free soon enough, but he hesitated to celebrate until he felt Gotham's chilly air run through his hair and was once again back in proper attire, free to plot as he pleased. Still, his good mood was soured just knowing that Crane was glaring at him from the other side of the van. "Is there a problem, Jonathan?" he hummed, crossing his arms and bringing Jervis' attention to him. "I would think you would be grateful you're finally getting out of that rat den and back into Gotham."

"I would be more grateful had I not been the only one oblivious to a sudden breakout," Jonathan replied, not fazed by the passive-aggressiveness Edward constantly exuded; the puzzle-maker was akin to an air freshener continuously pushing out traces of salt, sass, and sarcasm into the air. Eventually your senses just dulled to it.

"Well, Joker gave you the option," Nygma said innocently. "And what did you say? Oh! I remember! You weren't interested. You're lucky Joker and Harvey didn't leave you behind."

Jonathan was unconvinced. "Oh? And did you give our dear Hatter that same option when you decided to use his illnesses as a tool?" he pressed. Jervis' expression quickly fell, confusion now dominant as his attention turned to his Dormouse. Edward had to stop, tight-lipped as he regretted bringing it up. Never go head to head with Jonathan when he had something over you, because he wasn't afraid to drop it at the most inconvenient times. He threw his hands up, letting them fall into his lap. "Not even going to wait until we got out of the van, I see?" he huffed, looking down at the Hatter. He knew it was a mistake, and yet he still did it anyways. Jervis had a way of making you feel things you didn't want to, even without the control cards or the hypnotism. It had to be because of just how child-like he could be sometimes, reflecting the innocence and the naivety one would only seen in a young man. Seeing Jervis look at him with such hurt, hand to his chest and eyes searching Nygma for even a sign that it wasn't true. It broke Riddler.

"Fine! Yes! I used you," Nygma confessed. "So? How many times have you two used used the minds of your victims for your own uses? You would rather be back in the asylum, forced to talk to a doctor whom doesn't understand you and pushing pills that won't fix what's really broken inside? I saved Jonathan's life, and yet I can't have this? Jervis, you're free; what's one shutdown compared to freedom once again?"

He then looked at Jonathan, gesturing to him. "And you. When did you get all high and mighty, looking down on us as of you're somehow above us? You of all people should know what we need and how we function, and yet you berate me like I'm some sort of child during his first time stealing from the candy jar. You think you don't need this, too? That you're suddenly 'fixed'? Fine, go ahead and reform. Become the man you once were in a sea of simpletons who will never understand who you are, but don't you dare look at me so condescendingly when we're in the same escape van heading into Gotham."

Edward let out a dramatic sigh, evidently at the end of his rope and exhausted as well. Jonathan said nothing, looking away. He lost the glare and simply decided to leave it for another day when they were well rested. Jervis seemed to have nothing to say, either, no longer looking hurt like before, but seemingly far more exhausted now. While he looked tired physically, he was no doubt more so emotionally.

The car was silent once more. The only sounds were of passing cars and tires on the road. Jervis seemed close to falling asleep against his green-favoring friend, but all were jolted into alertness upon the van hitting a speed bump and making a sharp turn. Everyone in the back was lurched forward considerably and slid to the right side of the van, some cables and a ladder moving over to bump Edward on the foot. Without warning, he let out a yell of pent up frustration. "I will never understand why they don't put seatbelts in the back of these things! Augh, it just grinds my gears!"

There was a moment of silence from the other two while Edward angrily kicked the ladder and folded his arms. Then came a snrk from Jervis. "Something funny, Tetch?" Edward huffed, twisting his head to glare over at the Hatter.

"Oh! My apologies," Jervis hummed, rubbing his tired eyes. "I didn't mean to laugh. I just haven't heard you use a metaphor quite like that before." He smiled wearily, hoping he would understand. "I would think you would come up with something more creative."

"Creative? Like what?" Edward asked, looking at Jonathan for some sort of explanation.

"I think he means another form of the saying," Jonathan shrugged. "Something like, 'that really salts my apples.'"

Edward stared at Jonathan, and he stared for an uncomfortably long amount of time. "Really?" he said finally. "Salts my apples? Salts my apples? I have known you for over a decade and yet that is the most southern thing I think I've ever heard you say." He saw the doctor roll his eyes, and yet he continued. "No, I would never use that sort of phrase. It doesn't suit a mind such as mine. You also have to take in account that Jervis is British; he wouldn't understand it. You have to tailor it to something that suits his fancy; something that sours his tea."

Jervis was so tired he couldn't help but let out a titter muffled by a hand. "Come now, Dormouse, I've been in this country long enough to adopt your sayings," he reasoned, giggling in between words as he was reaching a punchline. "It takes more than that to wrinkle my American flag."

Edward immediately buried his face into his hands to hide any reactions. "This is all so idiotic," he mumbled, a chuckle evident in his voice nonetheless.

"Indeed," Crane agreed. "They're absolutely grating in my ears. They really… foil my evil plans."

Jervis had to muffle his laughter. "Now that was awful! It really—" he took a moment to breathe in between giggles, "— it really breaks out of my asylum."

Jonathan had to lower his head and stare at his lap while Edward was too exhausted to hide his laughter. "I can't believe I'm laughing at you two idiots," he groaned. "I guess you could say it really—"

"Edward, don't."

"It really—"

"Enough, Dormouse!"

"It really colonizes my preexisting countries."

Hatter let a loud shriek of giggles, giving Edward a shove. "That's too soon to joke about!" he complained.

Edward grabbed the top hat off of the Hatter's head and smacked his arm with it. "Jervis Tetch, it has been three centuries. Get over it!" he grinned, handing the hat back soon after. "Jervis, are you crying?"

"No no, he's right," Jonathan butt in, the corners of his mouth lifting slightly. "You must be more relevant. Something we still talk about. Something that really Brexits my EU."

"HARE."

Jonathan looked away from Jervis, feigning ignorance.

"DID YOU."

Jonathan couldn't help it. He buried his face into crossed arms.

"JUST SAY."

Jonathan's chuckles could be heard despite his attempts to hide it.

"BREXITS MY EU?"

By this time Edward was into full on laughter, giving Hatter a shove on the shoulder. "I will not be caught because of you," he hiccuped, wiping watery eyes. "I believe I speak for all of us when I say that's the peak of where we're getting tonight. Let's just get to Jonathan's hideout so we can sleep and go back to glaring at each other in the morning."

Jonathan couldn't agree more, simply nodding and beginning to tell Jervis the address.

Notes:

I liked writing that ending. It made me smile the whole time I wrote it. I hope you enjoyed it, as well. I’ll try to update more frequently.

Chapter 7: The Tiresome Emotions of Hiding from Police at 6 AM

Summary:

After recently breaking out of Arkham, the trio settle down in Scarecrow’s hideout where for once they are allowed to relax. However, now that they are alone once more, Crane and Tetch are forced to face the elephant in the room.

Notes:

Howdy! Welp, this chapter is shorter than what I usually do. I mostly just wanted a cool down chapter after the long asylum break that was last chapter. And also to address a question many of you have sure to have been asking: When does the Hattercrow start? Well, you’re in luck, because this chapter starts off the rest of the Hattercrow-focused story. From here on out most of the focus will be on either Jonathan or Jervis, but best believe I’m gonna slow burn the f*ck outta this. Enjoy!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

"This is it."

Edward waited until the van had come to a stop before putting his hands on the handles to the double doors. "And you're sure there are no cameras?" Edward asked, looking back with a raised brow. Once he was given confirmation, he opened the doors to see a small two-story building. All lettering had been pried off of the front, but they were still able to read "Lab 2C" from the faint impressions. The place was surrounded by grasses and farther away from the densely packed area that was Gotham.

Edward looked around silently before gesturing for the others to follow after. "Let me guess. Research lab?" he asked, looking back as Crane got out of the van with a very tired Jervis, who held his aching head as he followed along.

"College-funded laboratory, to be exact," the good doctor explained. "Dedicated to studying biodiversity within insect cultures and whatnot, which is why it's placed in a fairly forested area. It hasn't been used in years, so before I came across it it was used as a meth lab."

"Ah. How pleasant…" Hatter murmured, able to show his slight disgust through his exhaustion and pain. Through his headache from his latest episode, he still had the clarity to finish his end of the journey. He turned to move to the driver of the car, quickly telling him that he could go park in a lot somewhere several miles away. When he returned to them, Jonathan was already moving to the front door. "I assume they've all gone on their way?"

"Oh, I've made sure of that," the scientist sighed and nodded, his naturally stolid demeanor fading from having burnt so much energy. He grabbed a key from within a bush, unlocked the door, and stepped inside. He paused before letting them in, pointing to the door he was holding. "I've painted this door and all the windows with a powder finish made of my toxin. If you touch them without gloves, you're going to get the toxin in your system."

Edward fully expected Jonathan to then walk in and close the door behind himself as some sort of cruel joke, but perhaps he had been around Joker for too long. They were let inside a dim and dingy building where dead roaches and rats were abundant, most likely after getting into some toxic chemicals. Crane gestured them to an armchair and wooden chair to sit in while he hurriedly walked upstairs.

"Okay… I know I'm not the cleanest," Edward said slowly, looking around in clear disgust, "but… come on."

Jervis waved away his friend's clear disgust, walking over to a small TV to inspect it and give the couch a little nudge with his foot. "Oh, it isn't so bad," he reasoned, turning just in time to see something fairly large scurry behind Edward. His eyes widened slightly, causing his friend to in turn give a worried look and glance over his shoulder, barely missing the raccoon. "Oh, it was nothing," Jervis laughed nervously, wincing in slight pain from his headache as he was alleviating the other's worries.

Jonathan had come back down, handing both men a gas mask, much to their clear worry. "I'm going upstairs to check to see if all my chemicals are in order and preserved and to find a spare phone. If you hear an explosion, smell fumes, or hear glass breaking, you'll want to put those on." He then left once more, leaving the others downstairs with widened eyes.

"I think working for Scarecrow has a higher mortality rate than working for Joker," Edward said, slowly, kicking the armchair to make sure any roaches and rats were quickly out of there so he would be able to sit. Jervis would take his chances on the wooden chair. Both waited patiently for Jonathan to return, staying silent just so they could hear what was going on upstairs and stay alert for any breaking glass.

Crane soon came back, typing a number into what seemed like an old bulky Nokia phone. Jonathan put the phone to his ear as he heard the ring, noticing Edward staring at him oddly. "What?" he asked, brow raised, before looking at the brick in his hands. "What? These phones can last two years with the power on. Simpler is better at times." There was a pause. "Oh don't give me that look. I don't need a supercomputer to do my work." When the phone clicked on the other end, he put up a finger for everyone in the room to be silent. "Ah, Rockwell! I've recently gotten out of Arkham and I need your assistance to get everything up and running and keeping a lookout for police. I'll—" He stopped, pulling the phone away from his head to look at the phone oddly when he heard a woman's voice on the other end. "Oh! Mrs. Merhi, er, me desculpo. I, ah… yes— I mean, si, si, Matías jefe… um… le das el… teléfono a Matías?"

Jervis audibly snickered a ways away at Crane's inability to communicate in another language and look so awkward whilst doing it.

There was a moment of silence before Crane sighed once more. "Ah, Rocky, finally… yes, I'm back… I need your assistance… just come quickly. Police are about, as you know."

"Get him to bring some food," Edward said from the chair, catching the glare from Jonathan. "What? We just got back from a breakout in Arkham Asylum. I think we should have a period where we can rest and also not starve."

With a roll of his eyes, the Scarecrow covered the receiver of the phone. "Fine. What do you two want? I already know Jervis wants tea and some pain reliever for his headache." Rocky was left waiting on the phone for a little while as the others discussed what they were hungry for. Despite the receiver being covered, the he could still hear what was being said as he walked outside, throwing his shotgun in his trunk and putting the gas mask around his neck. "We're not doing pizza. Anything but," he could hear Nygma say as the henchman diligently put his coffee in the cupholder. Even as he was driving down the road, Jonathan could clearly be heard saying, "On what planet is there takeout ramen at two in the morning?" By the time he had reached the store, the conversation had switched to, "Fine, Chinese it is. With extra fortune cookies for Hatter since he enjoys them." He was already bought the tea packets and pain reliever when Crane was saying, "I'm not getting you extra fortune cookies, Edward. You just want to criticize the fortunes inside like you always do." By the time Rocky had gotten to the 24/7 Chinese place, the tone had shifted once more. "Five? You want five boxes of rice? What on Earth are you going to do with five boxes of white rice, Tetch?"

"What can I get you?" the young cashier asked, as Rocky walked up. The henchman just sighed as he laid out a paper of foods, some scribbled out, rewritten, or had multipliers in front of them.

"You want how many packets of soy sauce? You do realize how much sodium in that?"

Rocky sighed, asking for an extra takeout bag that he began to use solely for holding a good handful of soy sauce packets.

"No Jervis, they have forks. It's fine that you're uncomfortable with using chopsticks."

Rocky went back and pulled out his wallet, deciding to hand over a hundred just to be safe.

"Is that all? Are we sure? We're sure? Alright. Okay, Rockwell, you should perhaps write this down."

"Go ahead," Rocky nodded, already loading the car with Chinese food.

It was a large order, so it was a surprise when there was a knock at the door so soon. Rocky came in with all their food, most of it belonging to the two guests while two boxes were Jonathan's. "Good, you're here," Crane sighed, helping him in. "I need you to assist me in getting the utilities back on, as well as to get rid of some of the bigger pests."

"And a more comfortable chair than this stiff old thing," Jervis suggested, patting the chipped wood of his chair.

Jonathan looked at the man, brow raised. "I believe I still have a dirty wooden chair with straps to tie down your wrists is that suits your fancy," he suggested, quickly walking upstairs. "No? Well there's a bush outside. Rockwell, get things started; I need to get out of this uniform."

As soon as Jervis was alone with Edward, he gave him a worried look, face scrunched as if to ask if he had said something wrong. "Don't take it personally," Nygma assured him, opening a box and already digging his chopsticks in. "Crane is not a man who prioritizes comfort; he parades around in a burlap and straw costume, after all. He'd be perfectly happy with an inch of hay on concrete ground."

Tetch seemed somewhat confused, until he'd remembered that small cathedral outside his friend's old home. Cold and concrete, with the only friends of yours being crows. Crows that hurt you.

Hatter found himself staring up at the room Jonathan had entered into, watching him walk out soon and hook his glasses on the neck of an orange sweater with auburn stripes, donning black trousers and worn shoes. Fall colors, he noted. He had to wonder if it was a conscious decision. Crane always seemed to favor such warmer colors, ironic given the cooler season. Tetch wondered how hard it would be to retrieve some orange thread.

"So you just have one oaf with you to do all your work?" Riddler asked, breaking Jervis from his train of thought. "With your reputation, I would assume you'd have more."

"More guards attract more attention and also pose a greater threat to my own safety," Jonathan replied simply, digging in the grocery bag to hand over a bottle of water and painkillers to Jervis, who happily took a couple without hesitation. "Besides, when you're strapped in terms of funds, one is simply a more appealing option. One still needs to pay for chemicals and the like." Since there were no seats, he just decided to stand while grabbing his food and a fork. "Besides, I have different needs for my henchman. The Hatter likes his because, well, he gets lonely."

"Pardon me?" said villain scoffed, brow raised. After a moment of thinking over it, however, he slumped back in his seat. "Well, yes, I do get very lonely," Jervis admitted, "but you two never call or visit; what else can I do?"

Edward was unable to formulate a response to such a question, instead glancing at Jonathan to see if the Scarecrow was any better at dismissing the rather awkward question. Jonathan, in turned, paused in eating his own food, clearing his throat to properly focus on answering the question. Jervis' sullen expression showed he already knew the answer, but was still appreciative of an answer nonetheless. "We simply have different goals than you do, Tetch," Crane finally responded. "Yes, while we are considered villains all the same, Nygma would rather spend his time scheming to weed out the idiotic fellows of Gotham while all you seek is companionship through an Alice."

"The Alice," Jervis corrected, a soft smile crossing his face as he looked up at Jonathan with a beaming expression that he could only code as a knowing glance. Jonathan grew stiff at the look, setting down his food. "Well, I believe I'm done for the night. I am going to get some rest upstairs. Should any of you need anything reasonable, Rockwell is currently being paid to assist you through your temporary stay." Just as abrupt as the announcement was Jonathan's walk back to the stairs.

Edward watched the taller villain walk back upstairs before taking a glance at his food. "He ate two bites," he noted, not even waiting for Jonathan to be out of the room before making his criticism known, not that Crane would care anyways.

Jervis immediately knew he had done something wrong then, though he was a bit confused as to what. He had begun to learn a few of Jonathan's unconscious quirks over their time working together, and a sudden stiffness was an indicator that he was uncomfortable. Tetch paused, swallowing down a bite of food before going and grabbing Jonathan's food. "I'll be back in a second, Dormouse," he mentioned quickly, heading up the stairs and into the room Jonathan had disappeared into.

Jonathan had only just seated himself in his swivel chair when he heard the door creak open. He already knew who it was from that stiff silence; Edward always had a habit of barging in with a lecture on his lips, but Jervis always fancied himself as a more polite and restrained soul when it came to the people he considered friends. He looked back over thin frames after putting his glasses on, watching Jervis stand there silently with the box of rice for himself and Crane's own food. "I said I was going to get some rest," Jonathan said flatly, but Jervis grimaced as though he knew better.

"People don't wear glasses to get rest," Jervis pointed out, nudging the door slightly closed with his foot so they could at least have some privacy. Jonathan's expression twitched darkly, and yet Tetch had no fear in walking over to hand him the box of food. Digging through his own rice, he hesitated to ask, but soon forced himself to look up at the other's criticizing and loathing eyes. "Did I do something wrong, Hare?" he asked softly.

"You're intruding on my privacy, Hatter," Jonathan only replied, expression not shifting. He always had a way of looking at you in a way that made you feel small; like you were nothing. It was a mix of being unimpressed and subtle loathing that Jervis didn't quite like being on the business end of.

There was a moment of silence.

"Is this because of how I approached you in the Asylum's exercise yard?"

Jonathan expression broke as he quickly spun around in his chair to face away from him, letting out a heavy sigh. "Listen, Tetch, I can't say I understand how you feel," he confessed. "These… emotions you want to bring into our partnership is not something I am interested in or have ever been interested in. Knowing these ulterior motives you carry, as well as what you are capable of, makes me less than comfortable in working with you."

"All because of these feelings I harbor for you?"Jervis asked, sounding bewildered. To Jonathan, however, it was more than obvious that it was exactly how he felt.

"Yes!" the doctor near cried, turning around with an exasperated look. It was almost as if the topic itself was exhausting to him. "Jervis, after our last escapade, I don't feel comfortable with even letting you believe we have such a relationship. I can never willingly give you the emotions you want from me."

"You mean love?" Tetch asked, to which Jonathan put up his hand up quickly to stop him right there.

"Don't you even imply that's what you feel for me," Crane spat. "But if that is what you want from me, I'll cut myself off from you now. You yourself know how dangerous you can get the more you are attached to someone, but for the love of Batman himself, I never even imaginedI would be the subject of your doting."

"But I don't expect love from you," Jervis argued. "I don't want it from you if it makes you act in such a way!"

"Then what do you want from me, Tetch?"

There was a moment of silence as Jervis clamped his mouth shut, head turning away from Jonathan's piercing gaze. It wasn't a question he had anticipated, truthfully, and yet Jonathan pressed on.

"Tell me," Crane repeated. "What do you want from me?"

For a few more moments, Jervis felt like he was back in class as a young man once more. The professor would ask a question to the class, the silence telling him that no one had studied up on the subject, and yet the professor continued to wait for an answer nonetheless. He supposed it was fitting; old habits refused to die for a man who was once a teacher and a psychiatrist. Jervis pressed back to the wall across from the silent man, slowly sliding down until he was sitting and staring blankly at his rice, searching the white grain for some sort of answer.

After a minute, an answer came from a memory.

"Do you… do you remember back when you were my doctor?" Jervis began softly. "We had started a schedule where I was your last patient of every Thursday."

"5:30 PM every week on the dot," Jonathan recalled with ease despite it having been over a decade ago. "We had agreed to meet at a nearby old-fashioned café you enjoyed going to. What about it?"

"Do you remember our first meeting in that café?" Jervis asked then, smiling fondly as he stirred his fork around his rice. "Gotham's weather is always so unexpected. One moment its raining and within the next hour the sun could be bearing down at you with no remorse." He finally looked up at Jonathan, a small smile gracing his lips. "You had forgotten your umbrella."

Jonathan was still visibly unsure of why this was being brought up, but still played along in spite of it. "Yes, I remember. I blame myself for not looking at the forecast earlier that morning believing rain wouldn't touch a cloudless day like that. Needless to say, it was pouring."

"And you got dreadfully soaked from head to toe!" Jervis tittered.

"The shop was on the border of the university with no parking whatsoever," Jonathan scoffed, looking away. "I enjoy my coffee black; do I look like someone who would travel to a café for something two dollars more expensive than what I can make at home?"

"I prefer the atmosphere, Hare," Jervis hummed softly, "and quite the atmosphere it was! Stark silence as you walked in, looking quite like a wet dog as you brushed your matted hair from your eyes."

"And you, being the gracious little Brit that you are, immediately grabbed all the napkins you could carry to try and dry me off," Jonathan added, a small upward twitch coming to the edge of his lips. "Just before the owner forced us out front onto the patio so I wouldn't ruin the carpet."

"And do you remember what I said to you?" Jervis whispered, legs crossed as he was more focused on Jonathan than on eating his food. "Just after you finished your apologizing and got the last wet napkin off of your chest?"

Jonathan was unable to reply this time, furrowed brow clearly showing his fruitlessness in attempting to recall such specific details from such a long time ago. "No, I do not," he answered honestly, noticing how Jervis failed to get upset despite it. "Would you like to remind me?"

Jervis nodded as he ate a bite of rice, taking his time to chew and swallow before answering. "I told you that I wanted you to be comfortable. I don't want you to feel like you have to disregard your own needs for me as if its some sort of chore. That's why I chose the café, so we could be in a place where the atmosphere was nice and comfortble. I hated to see you always look always so professional, and seeing you relaxed was something that made me feel relaxed." He paused, giving a sheepish smile. "Of course, I then learned in subsequent meetings that you never look relaxed, but my feelings are still the same." He brought his gaze to the doctor once more. "I want you to be comfortable around me; I don't want you walking on eggshells around me as if I'm something you would rather not be around. I want what we had back on the road trip."

"We had nothing in the road trip," Jonathan argued.

"Oh yes we did," Jervis scoffed playfully, waving off his argument. "I heard you laugh, I saw you cry, and by the Queen's name, I got you to trust me, and that is far more rewarding than any love that could be given to me. I want that again, Jonathan. I don't want you to ignore what happened between us; and yes, while I will not deny my feelings, I stand by what I say." He gave Jonathan a genuine smile. "All I ask for is your company again, just as you let me become yours when we first started that car ride."

Jonathan was quite for several moments, trying to process all that was told to him as he watched Jervis. "I want you to understand where I'm coming from," he said finally. "I am not used to… this," he explained, gesturing to Jervis. "To this… affection you insist on showing. These feelings that you convey. I can't recall the last time someone was genuinely interested in something other than my ideals or my philosophy or my knowledge because there is nothing to be interested in." He paused, letting out a soft sigh. His shoulders slumped ever so slightly as he grabbed the food left on his desk, swirling chow mien around his plastic fork. "I enjoy solitude. My interests are limited to the human mind and chemistry and not much else. I also happen to be an evil genius who enjoys experimenting on the fearful of Gotham. People don't… talk about me the way you do or look at me the way you do, and even now, I refuse to believe that your feelings are nothing but a result of your clingy delusions for some sort of love interests. Hell, I'll admit, I didn't even know you were interested in men until now. Yes, I know, all the odd comments about Batman should have tipped me off, but pondering another's sexuality isn't exactly something I enjoy spending my free time on." He stopped to take a bite of food, choosing his next words carefully. "After… what happened in the church, I don't believe I will ever be comfortable letting you anywhere near me or my things again."

Jervis frowned, but still had a certain hope in his eyes as he set his rice down and got up to approach Jonathan. He left a couple of feet of space for the doctor's sake. "Would you at least give me a second chance? Not as some sort of interest, but as a friend once more? Would you allow me to try and regain that shard of trust you had in me? It's all I hope for."

They gazed at one another. The doctor's expression always seemed to be unimpressed no matter the circ*mstances, while the hypnotist kept this bright gleam in his visage that always brought a more upbeat spark to his character. Despite Jonathan still silence and loathing-seeming stare, he slowly nodded. "I understand where you are coming from, Tetch." He set his food down and got up to his feet to look down at the smaller man. "I am in a very… odd point in my life, I must admit, and while I have a difficult trusting the words of anyone, I nonetheless hear you, and I will acquiesce. If this is really a goal you insist on pursuing, I will not stop you." His eyes narrowed into a far more serious glare. "But this stays between us, understand? If I hear Edward speak a word of this, I swear on whatever messed up matriarch you believe in, they will never find your body."

Despite the threat, Jervis let out a sigh of relief from a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. "Ah, thank you," he whispered, giving an eager nod. "The Dormouse won't know anything about it, that much I can assure you." He grinned, looking tired and happy all at the same time. "Now can we go back downstairs so Edward can be assured that you're alright?"

"You think he cares?"

"I'd like to believe so, yes," Jervis nodded. "Besides, the Haigha? Tired? I could never believe such a thing from a messenger of the Queen, you silly rabbit!"

Jonathan rolled his eyes, but grabbed his food and followed him down the stairs nonetheless. Edward was already back on his feet by that point, dusting off an old laptop Crane recognized as one he hardly used even on his busiest weeks. "Ugh, has Crane ever heard of getting upgrading?" he complained to the henchman that was working on getting the Wifi up and running again. "I swear this man is living in the dinosaur age with the technology he keeps around."

There was a clearing of someone's throat from up above. Edward looked up disinterestedly to see Jonathan glaring down at him from halfway down the staircase. Edward stared back for a few moments before going back to talking to Rocky. "I can be old fashioned myself at times, I will admit, but a computer this old will haunt my sleep for weeks."

"Thank you for the information," Jonathan sighed, finishing his descent with Jervis as he continued eating.

"Ah yes!" Jervis gasped, playfully shielding Edward from Jonathan. "Cover your fair eyes in the teapot, Dormouse! Lest the Hare haunt your sleep with visions of Commodore 64 or that abhorrently obnoxious AOL start up sound!"

"Ugh, don't remind me," Edward scoffed, a bit of humor in his voice as he nudged the smaller man aside. "Speaking of sleep, I thought you were getting some rest, Crane."

"That was my intention," Jonathan replied, leaving his fork in his food to smoothly remove his glasses and hook them on the neck of his shirt. "Unfortunately this little crumpet insisted I stay up, so I might as well not let this food go to waste."

Edward had finally gotten the laptop to start up, going over to sit on the armchair and allowing Jervis' pink-dusted cheeks to go unnoticed. "Ugh, finally! Now I can email Cobblepot's associate; I'd like to meet with Penguin as soon as I can. As well as look up a few things that have been itching at my brain. Crane, what's your password?" Figuring most of the information in the laptop was either outdated or of no use to Edward, Jonathan obliged, came up behind him, and typed in the password quickly before going back to his food.

Crane noticed a bit of light making its way into the lab, the first signs of an emerging dawn, and to that he let out a ghost of a smile, quickly busying himself with more food. Finished with his first box of rice, Jervis went about grabbing another before going off to seek Rocky. "May I inquire about when the electricity will be working once more?" he asked the henchman, who was fiddling with the power box. "I would like to make myself a cuppa tea soon enough."

"In a bit," Rocky grunted, flipping a few breakers and checking over the wiring. "I'll let Mr. Scarecrow know when it's up and running again." Jervis nodded in appreciation, going back to the main room to see Edward staring at his computer blankly. "Oh my oh my! Is there something wrong, Dormouse?"

Jonathan seemed uninterested in the conversation, merely watching the pink hue begin to paint the ground where it could reach. Edward, however, only looked at the screen. "Jervis, could you remind me what you called me a while back? It was a British slang, I remember. You said it stood for a 'clever and intelligent person' or something to that effect?"

Jervis took a moment to think of what his friend was talking about, before his face lit up at remembrance, before falling back once more. "Oh! I— er… believe it was 'wazzock', Dormouse. Errr, why do you ask?"

Edward just read aloud what he saw on the screen. "Wazzock (plural wazzocks) (Britain, originally Northern England, mildly derogatory, slang) A stupid or annoying person."

Jonathan paused in his eating to slowly look over at Jervis curiously, whose face had become a surprising shade of red in such a short amount of time. Edward looked up with an offended raise of his brow. Before he could even speak a word to the hypnotist, the Hatter put down his food to quickly pull his hat down over his eyes in embarrassment. "I thought you would have forgotten all about that by now!"

"Edward? Please, he doesn't forget anything," Jonathan scoffed. "If he doesn't know something for sure, best believe he'll look it up in the future. But I think Edward is more concerned about whether you think he is the stupid portion or just the annoying one."

Edward quickly stood up in his own defense. "I am neither, thank you very much!" He looked to Jervis, looking almost hurt by the revelation. "Jervis! I would expect someone using foreign diction against me would be Bane or even Cobblepot, but you? I trusted you!" It was obvious he was hamming it up a bit to further Hatter's embarrassment in order to bask in some sweet revenge. He soon sat back down, however, going back to his original plan of emailing Cobblepot. Don't be mistaken; Edward was beyond offended at the very insinuation that he was dumb, but given how tired they all were, to was too much to go on about at 6:00 AM.

"Trusting Jervis not to say anything nasty?" Jonathan scoffed, already heading towards the door to head on outside. "Please. I think not. The man may be as posh as they come, but he'll always find a way to insult you no matter if its in Wonderland speak or just old-fashion British slang."

Jervis quickly caught up with him, giving him a look that was trying to be angry. "Oh shush you!" he huffed, causing Jonathan to stop dead in his tracks.

"I don't suppose I made the little crumpet upset, did I?" Jonathan scoffed, not seeming to care much for Jervis' embarrassed frustration.

"Oh hush you— you—!" Jervis searched his mind for the best insult he could make in a two second time period. "— you nasty strumpet!"

There was a pause. Jervis' expression remained frozen in his own surprise as his mind reeled in horror.

"I'm sorry, what did you call me?"

He had gone too far. What kind of gentleman was he, going around calling people that sort of slang was crossing the line far too much. What was he thinking? It wasn't even true!

"No, honestly, what did you call me? I don't know what a strumpet is," Jonathan repeated, brow high as Jervis blinked away his own surprise.

"It's quite like a crumpet," Jervis lied quickly. "Same batter. Cooked a little differently, but still good." He made a face. "What? You call me a crumpet all the time! I can't do the same for you?"

Jonathan looked ahead, brow up slightly in that sort of "huh" expression one gets upon learning something vaguely interesting. "I've never heard of that before," he shrugged, heading back outside once more. "Then again, when you grow up in the south, knowing anything foreign may as well be a sin."

Tetch let out a silent sigh of relief, quickly following after him with his rice. He had to admit he was a bit curious as to why Jonathan was going outside when it was already so cold, but the answer came in the form of a familiar loud call of a bird.

A smile broke Jonathan's otherwise stolid expression as a crow came down and landed on his shoulder, picking at his hair with their beak as a form of a greeting. Jervis had to take a small step back to allow a few more crows to flock down, settling on the ground and trees close by, including a familiar, large one-eyed bird that tried to make a nest out of the doctor's thatch-like hair.

"Yes yes, you've found me," Jonathan hummed, stretching out his arm to allow a crow to land on his wrist. Jervis watched, observing the way Crane's usually stiff voice seemed to relax just slightly at the appearance of his feathered friends. It reminded him of their time spent back at Jonathan's childhood home, where they fed peanuts to the flock of hungry crows. Jervis had felt as though he saw a part of Jonathan not many were allowed to see, and even now, it felt special seeing the way Jonathan treated the birds as if they were old friends.

"Mmm, you saw me yesterday; no need to get so excited about— Katrina, get off of my hea- Katrina! Off of my head!"

Jervis stifled a laugh, looking around at all the birds and noticing the several odd looks he got from them. It was clear they weren't as familiar with Tetch as they were with Crane, and finding it only appropriate to do so, Jervis let Jonathan have some privacy and went back inside the open doorway to check on the Dormouse.

"Isn't it surprising how fast time flies outside of Wonderland?" Jervis hummed to Edward, sitting back in the wooden chair. "Time never did such tricks for the poor Hatter! No, instead he enjoys making us always drink our tea after I had attempted to murder him!" There was a lack of a response, and so Jervis looked up curiously to see Edward finishing typing. Had he even heard a word of what he'd said?

"And… send," Nygma finished, sending the email. "Given that we just broke out of Arkham, I expect that Penguin will want to wait a few says or so before meeting up." He looked up at Jervis. "Do you think I could convince Crane to buy a mattress in that time?" He quickly got back on the computer to begin typing in something else.

"Looking up mattress prices, are you?" Jervis chuckled, kicking his legs idly. He let out a soft yawn, signaling he was at the end of his rope in terms of energy. As much as he found himself a bit disgusted by the state of Jonathan's lair, growing accustomed to Arkham's dingy setting allowed him to sleep almost anywhere. Almostanywhere, he reminded himself as roach skittered out of view from the emerging sunlight. "A futon perhaps? That seems like a relatively cheap option."

"No. I'm looking up the definition of 'strumpet'," Edward replied, finishing with what he was typing and reading over the screen. Just the way his eyes widened slightly said it all. There was a stillness in the room, only broken when Edward flicked his eyes up to watch Jervis watching him his face plastered with a red hue.

"Dormouse," Hatter said tentatively, "you can't tell him. He will kill me." He had only just made amends the best he could and he would off his own head before Jonathan found out what he'd just called him.

"Oh, I know," Edward said softly, putting up his hand as if to reassure him. Tetch let out a relieved sigh, closing his eyes for a moment. "Oh joys! Because—"

He was interrupted by a certain distinct sound he knew all too well; anyone who had gotten out of their seat too fast would recognize the delayed thump of the chair leg lifting at the force and quickly falling back to the ground. The leg didn't even fully settle onto the ground before Jervis nearly toppled over his own seat trying to tackle Edward before the deranged man could get to Jonathan. Edward collapsed to the ground with the weight of a fully grown hatter on his back.

"TETCH!" Edward snapped once he had been able to regain the wind knocked out of him. "GET OFF OF MY BACK!"

"You're going to tell Jonathan!" Tetch claimed, slapping the back of Edward's head repeatedly to keep him from crawling his way to the back door and to Jonathan. "I need you to promise you won't tell him!"

"Like hell!" Edward scoffed, quickly rolling over to knock Jervis off. "I'm sick and tied of your British but linguistically foreign insults!"

Jonathan let out a soft sigh, a little annoyed when the crows pecked at his food, but he wasn't that hungry anyhow. It was just in their nature, that he knew; you couldn't ask a Hatter to quit his sewing or the Riddler to stop with his questions because it was simply in their nature. Still, unlike his two frequent partners, he preferred the more predictable nature of birds. Once you gained their trust, they would never think to—

"JONATHAN!"

Crane spun around, alarmed to see Edward panting at the doorway, looking disheveled. "What? What happened?" he demanded.

"JERV—"

Edward was cut off by a rather impressive tackle from the Hatter, causing the clattering and breaking of something inside the lab. Jonathan could only stare at the doorway in infinite contempt as the crows quickly flocked away from the noisy interruption. He had to take a moment to properly pinch the bride of his nose to further express his stress. "Children. I've been Shanghaied by children," he muttered just before storming inside to resolve the issue.

Notes:

Man I drew a picture up for this and everything but I can't for the life of me figure out how to put it in the story, so Imma just put it on Tumblr.

Chapter 8: An Apple a Day Keeps the Scarecrow at Bay

Summary:

The gang go to pay Penguin a visit at his lounge.

Notes:

Sorry for the short summary. Saying anything else would spoil what’s coming up.

Also! Shout out to my boi LemonKith for inspiring this chapter. Check them out. Great Hattercrow writer with some Riddlebird in there too. Also got other fandoms on the side. Live large, my dude.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Jervis had to have rounded the lab at least three times, and by the fourth Edward had decided his ears were tired of the clacking of polished black dress shoes on the dirtied lab ground. His eyes peered up over the laptop, watching Jervis look in places he'd already searched, as if whatever white rabbit he was chasing would suddenly be there. "Jervis, what are you looking for?" Nygma finally sighed, closing the device and setting it aside. "It better be more than just a figment of your imagination."

Jervis shot his head up from under the table to look at his companion. "Oh! Am I bothering you? I'm quite sorry, my dear Dormouse, but I was just wanting to look for any type of bottled drink to shrink my growing problem." After a good five seconds of being stared at questioningly, Jervis cleared his throat. "Er, I was looking for first aid for my wound. I would like to redress it so infection doesn't become another one of the king's memorandums."

"Why don't you go ask Jonathan then?" Edward suggested, to which Jervis could only give him a sheepish look.

"Ohhh no no no, I couldn't," Tetch murmured, biting a knuckle of his uninjured hand. "He hasn't come out of his room in hole in two days! One would think he wouldn't be disturbed."

It was day five of their stay at Jonathan's hideout, and while his guest were out and about trying to message contacts, the man himself had holed up in the room he'd claimed for privacy. Jervis knew without having to be told that it was because of the effects of withdraw from his medication, a problem that the unmedicated Edward couldn't relate to. Jervis knew better than to bother a fellow rogue when they were going cold turkey, but a lingering part of his brain couldn't help but fret that he may be rotting up there. He hadn't done anything wrong, had he? After all, he'd kept Edward from speaking about the strumpetincident. Had he looked it up while he was up there? Jervis dreaded all the possibilities, deciding it was better if he hadn't the slightest idea.

"You really are a mystery, Tetch," Nygma sighed, coming to his feet and going over to ascend the stairs. "It's medical aid. I doubt he would mind."

"Oh! Dormouse, you really shouldn't—"

"But I am," Ed interrupted, approaching Jonathan's door. "Look, you're only making things more difficult by beating around the bush. You just need to confront Jonathan, get the aid, and get out. After all, the faster you do so, that happier he'll be happier that you've left quicker." He opened the door and stepped in. "Watch, I'll show you that it's not that—"

"GET OUT OF MY ROOM NYGMA!"

Edward stumbled out, just barely ducking in time for a glass beaker to dart over his head and smash against the railing. "You know what? Never you mind." He slammed the door shut just in time to hear glass shattering against the other side.

"Oh yes, Dormouse, such sound advice indeed," Jervis mocked from the floor below. "Though I do believe you forgot the first aid."

"Oh quit the sass," Riddler snapped, looking over the railing to peer down at him. "I misjudged how civil he would be whilst coming off of his medication. A mind such as mine needs no type of chemical support in order to function properly. I suppose it goes to show just how advanced I am compared to you all."

Jonathan then came through the door, wincing at the bright light that penetrated his shrouded room. "There is no strong correlation between madness and intellectual capability, Nygma," he murmured, carrying a first aid kit down the stairs and to Jervis. Dark circles under his eyes indicated a lack of sleep, and the perpetually bitchy look he donned showed he was letting it get to him.

"Ah, and the Scarecrow rises once again," Riddler scoffed, watching Jonathan sit Jervis on the armchair so he could go about redressing the would on his hand. "You're not going to throw a flask at me again, are you?"

"Now that you've woken me up and continue to keep me awake with your boisterous conversations? No," Jonathan responded dryly, cleaning the wound before grabbing the bandages. "My symptoms are at a dip at the moment, so I'm taking this opportunity to eat and go about while I still have the will to tolerate you both."

There was a huff from the more intellectual of them. "Do you have enough will to go to Penguin's?" questioned Nygma, who made his way down the staircase. Upon getting that silent questioning look for his elaboration, he went on with, "Oswald has gotten back to me and notified me that he and I can work something out in terms of finding a new hideaway for me. He's also willing to talk to Jervis about the same, but along with that, he told me that he wanted to speak to you specifically."

To this, there was a uninterested grunt from the man in question. "I'm not doing commissioned work at the moment," Crane dismissed, finishing up with Tetch's hand and putting the supplies away.

Edward shook his head at that, leaning against the wall with arms crossed. "No no, more like someone wants to get in contact with you," he clarified. "A message of sorts that is too compromising to be put over email."

After the supplies were put up, Jonathan took a moment to think over it. "Fine," he said simply, "I can drive us."

"In your condition? I don't think so," Edward scoffed. "I wouldn't be surprised if you careened us off a cliff if Jervis talked a bit too loudly."

Jonathan opened his mouth to argue, but it was Jervis who interrupted with an opinion of his own. "Oh you silly little strumpet, just let him drive; it will save you the headache and allow you some time to rest." Jonathan was tight-lipped, but quickly relaxed, nodding to the Hatter's logic. "Fine. Let me find something to eat before we head out." He stood up fully and looked down at the Hatter. "Try not to use that hand, you little crumpet," he ended, finding the food name-calling to be a bit more relaxed and appealing. It made him feel normal almost, trading silly little insults with the Brit, and he would be lying if he said he didn't like Hatter calling him something other than 'Hare' for once, even if he didn't know what a strumpet was. As he turned to walk to the kitchen, he couldn't help but notice the giant grin that had spread across Hatter's cheeks at the little name.

Edward was glad he was the one driving, as it allowed him to concentrate on something other than the vomit-worthy back and forth between the passengers. Occasionally Jervis was shout out a little Wonderland reference, and in turn Jonathan would go about acknowledging it as if it were actually something that merit discussion. Every so often Edward would internally wince at that word said: strumpet. Jonathan obviously had no clue what it actually meant, and by this time Edward was just waiting for the right time to tell Jonathan in secret so he could see the man throw a fit. Jervis had adopted the term like some sort of pet name, and with reason. Every time it was said, a small upward twitch would come to the corner of the Scarecrow's mouth, just barely noticeable, and it was gone as soon as it appeared. It made sense; unlike nicknames like 'Hare', Jonathan interpreted 'strumpet' as some sort of playground insult you would throw at a companion; something that meant offense but wasn't to be taken seriously or be intentionally hurtful, quite like what 'crumpet' is to Jonathan. Which, by the way, crumpet isn't, as it turns out after a quick Google search. Even still, such an unprofessional and playful banter between the two was a bit jarring to see, showing Nygma what he'd missed during that road trip he'd been left out on. Had the snippet of their conversation been uploaded online, it could be interpreted as just two grown friends messing with one another. While such an act was common for Jervis, it was a far cry from Jonathan's humorless demeanor, and if he were to be honest, it disturbed Edward somewhat. He'd seen plenty of villains try to go on the mend, but this was the first time he'd seen it up front and actually believed it could be successful.

These were the thoughts that plagued Nygma's always busy mind, harried by the need to make such small observations and code it accordingly. It was a relief when he finally pulled into the Iceberg Lounge, able to step out and away from the conversation, even if he was a bit curious to learn more about Jonathan's changing demeanor.

It was dark and the line for entry was packed, but three were let in without question, allowed to bypass all the other Gothamites vying for a chance to be let into one of the city's most high-class establishments.

The Iceberg Lounge was brimming with guests, all in such fair attire chatting lightly whilst they mingled about, showing that the property was no rowdy nightclub that was growing in popularity within Gotham. Ice was obviously the main theme, the entire room decorated to in soft blues and whites to portray a scenic atmosphere without any of the coats needed. The centerpiece of the beautiful establishment was an iceberg, of course, and a real one too boot, surrounded by a pool of water that was roped off. Along the circular walls of the club were small little secluded rooms small parties could reserve for a truly high-class experience. Only one room could not be bought out, as it was reserved for a special type of guest, and there the owner of the club was, talking to one such guests.

Oswald sat in one of his deep red booths, secluded on nearly all sides from within the cordoned off VIP was an older bird, gray hairs already intruding in on once raven black hair. He was a short-statured man, an inch shy of Jervis' height, really. His teeth unconsciously chewed on the end of his skinny cigarette holder, taking a small inhale after a while to relieve tension. His eyes wandered from the dimmed and darker-toned room and over to his guest, letting out a steady puff of smoke to keep his resolve. "A hundred thousand. No more."

Lawton scoffed at the price, taking another swig of his beer as a subtle show of his contempt. "What are these crumbs, Oswald?" Deadshot tutted, swirling his beer in his glass to gauge how much was left. "You know my price on politicians. Half a million or you can eat it."

Oswald bit the mouthpiece to hold his tongue. "He's not even in office. Just a candidate feeding off of the scraps of those actually doing the job."

"He's a politician all the same," Floyd stood firm, not budging from his original demand.

"And that's absurd,"Cobblepot protested. "I seriously don't consider your services to be worth the price for such an unknown target. I can have a man do the job for one percent of the price."

The assassin took the moment to finish his glass, setting it down as though he owned the table he sat at. "You wouldn't be coming to me if it wasn't worth the price," he pointed out. "You're already on watch with the police, Penguin. You know how I roll: no evidence, no connection to you, and I never miss a shot. You can't get it better than me. The question is how much you want this man dead, short stack."

Oswald started to speak, but cut himself off upon seeing a familiar puzzler walk in with two guests. "Hmm. There is something I must attend to," he told Deadshot. "We will discuss this later. In the meantime, help yourself to the bar; it's all on me." He got up from the booth, going over to greet the newcomers.

"While its vestigial wings prevent this bird from soaring in the skies, he certainly has taken flight over Gotham;" Edward recited proudly, "who am I?" Looking over at the approaching Penguin, he couldn't help the grin. "Ozzie. Good to see you on the outside again." He flicked his gaze up to where Cobblepot had come from to notice the world's greatest assassin. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

Oswald looked back at Deadshot, giving a dismissive wave of his hand. "Eddie. What a pleasure it is to have you here again. Don't you worry about that; Lawton is being a bit difficult, so I'm hoping some alcohol will make him a bit more reasonable. But until then, I am more than happy to speak with you three." He turned to Jonathan extending a hand. "Dr. Crane, how nice if you to join us. Pardon me saying this, but I'd believed you weren't coming."

"I believe you wanted to inform me of something face to face?" Jonathan inquired, ignoring the outstretched hand.

Despite Crane's rather cold demeanor, Oswald hardly seemed bothered. "Of course, of course. We'll get to that first. Before that, however, how could I forget to greet a fellow compatriot?" He turned to shake Jervis' hand. "Tetch! Looking as spiffy as always, my dear fellow. Keeping well, I hope?"

"Of course, my dear caterpillar," Jervis grinned, quickly taking up the chance to shake the man's hand. "I haven't been quite better! How good it is to be back in Wonderland once more."

Penguin merely chuckled and nodded, looking up at Crane. "I'll speak with you first given it's a quick little message. Professor Pyg stopped by three days ago. Needed help in acquiring a refrigerated truck, for a price, of course. Anyhow, he mentioned you, saying that he had something of yours that he wanted you to come pick up whenever you were able."

Riddler jeered at Crane then. "You didn't leave a piece of your ribcage back there, did you?" Jonathan's unamused stare got him to move on. "I'm guessing its some leftover fear gas," Nygma continued, looking at Oswald. "Anyways, shall we talk about finding a new property that will become my lair?"

"Oh of course, of course," Oswald agreed, "come with me to the main room. We'll discuss there. Jervis, you should tag along for this. As for you, Jonathan, you're welcome to help yourself to the bar while you wait for these two to be finished. No doubt you all share the same ride, telling from your tired expression."

"Joys," Jonathan sighed, the only bit of sarcasm he could muster up in that night put into that simple word.

This brought out a laugh from the most jovial of them. "Oh don't be so blue," Hatter tittered. "An old strumpet like you will certainly find plenty of mis—…chief…." Jervis' face fell in that moment, realizing he was in the presence of a fellow Brit. He was right to be horrified, too, as the way Oswald's brow shot up and his cigarette holder dropped from his agape mouth said it all.

Jonathan was quick to catch on, realizing then that he was on the end of some sort of joke. "Oswald, what did he call me?" he requested.

Cobblepot shook his head, turning to go back to Deadshot at the bar. "Oh no, I'm not going to be a part of this."

Jonathan wasn't having it. He grabbed Oswald by his lapels, aggressively bringing him closer. "What did he call me?" he demanded once more.

At this point Edward was nudging Jervis out of the room. "I really think you should start running."

"Nothing!" Penguin replied, struggling to get out of his grip. "It's nothing, hones—"

"TELL ME!" Jonathan snapped, voice raised so loud even those outside could hear him.

"Gah! He called you a very promiscuous woman or prostitute!"

"He said WHAT?!" Jonathan let go of Oswald to snap his gaze towards Jervis, who squeaked in fear and scampered out of the room. Crane wasn't having it, however, and quickly gave chase, running after the smaller man with what probably was intent to kill.

"Sorry! Whoops! Excuse me ma'am," Jervis excised himself politely as he moved through the crowd of bystanders. Crane was a whole other breed as he full on shoved partygoers out of the way just to get at Jervis' throat. Tetch saw this and quickly picked up the pace, running as if he were going to die if he were caught, which was probably the case.

Jonathan had to have followed Tetch a full rotation around the centerpiece of the ballroom when he ducked under the velvet ropes to run along the pool of water that encircled the iceberg. He kept a steady pace, however, so as to not slip on the wet spots of the floor by the pool, and this is where Jonathan failed. Shoving the rope over his head, Crane saw how close Jervis was and didn't hesitate to jerk at the man. He slipped on a puddle of water, however, and Jervis just barely got out of the way for Jonathan to stumble forward, hit the edge of the railing, and dunk his top half of his body is the freezing cold pool of water.

Jervis took a step back, covering his mouth in a loud gasp, but the sound was muffled by the erupting laughter of the crowd. Jonathan pulled himself out of the water, only to be greeted by the boisterous mockery of the people around them. He regretted moving his we hair from his eyes, as he was now able to see it for himself, some covering their mouths in order to stifle their giggles while other pointed and let their laughter be known to the whole crowd. Humiliation immediately filled the villain, whose first instinct was to hide his face in his hands in a fruitless attempt to hide away and disappear. He clenched his teeth, those bouts of laughter becoming even louder at his clear embarrassment. Jonathan Crane, the fearsome Scarecrow, tripping and dunking himself into a pool of water. Perfect fruit for the picking, and pick on the man they did, laughing long after Jonathan had started stumbling away from the scene. He had peeked just enough to see Edward and Oswald watching from the VIP room, with the Penguin placing both hands over his mouth whilst Edward full on buried his face in his hands as he shook with laughter. Jonathan wanted to just disappear. He wanted it to stop, but it seemed never ending. Water poured from the drenched man, so it was no surprise when he slipped once more and fell to the ground, engendering even louder mockery from the crowd. His face was hot. Anger and humiliation was all he could feel. He wanted to leave, but they wouldn't move out of his way. He felt trapped, forced to stay in place and be subjected to the torment like some unwilling clown. Finally he mustered up the courage to push past them and walk to the restroom, unable to escape those haunting giggles even past their walls.

Jervis looked on in horror, immediately going after the man, but he was stopped by Edward. "I really wouldn't," Nygma advised. "I think you're the last person he wants to see right now."

Jervis pulled away, however, guilt eating away at him. "Oh, but it was my fault! The least I could do is help him!"

"Yes, it is your fault," Ed agreed, tugging him back to the room, "but it won't be my fault if he kills you, so I suggest you get back and wait until he cools off before attempting an apology." Jervis hesitated, looking back at the bathroom door, but figured in the end that his friend was right and went back to the cordoned off room.

Penguin was there, speaking with an employee. "And see if you can find any dry spare clothes for him," he was saying. "We want to mitigate the chances of the Scarecrow's brand of revenge happening. Oh! And make sure we comp all who had been accosted in the scuffle. And get me another cigarette while you're at it." As the employee walked off, Penguin turned to his guests, looking tired. "As much as I do enjoy watching a good thrashing, I would prefer it not be someone as vengeful as the Scarecrow," he huffed.

Jervis put a hand to his chest, face showing pure guilt. "Oh my dear friend— I must apologize! This is all my fault," Tetch admitted.

Penguin seemed to already be one step ahead, quickly changing his tune. "Why yes, it is your fault," he snapped, shoving a thick accusing finger into the man's chest. "And if he decides to wreak havoc on this place because of you, it's going to be your head, do you understand me?"

Jervis was taken aback, swallowing his words with a nervous nod. He was surprised by how quickly Penguin could change his tone, but he was always known as a cutthroat man. You can't be forgiving and still have a reputation like Oswald Cobblepot; what he lacked in height he more than made up for in tenacity. Oswald took a moment to collect himself, taking in a steady breath as he closed his eyes. He held out his hand and an employee quickly placed another cigarette holder in between his fingers, which he gladly took a puff from. "Now, I suppose we should get on to the reason you're here, shouldn't we?" he murmured, before gesturing for them to come into the main room as he talked. It was partly so he could walk and talk while being unable to be listener in on due to the chatter from everyone else, and partly so he would be able to see Jonathan coming if such a thing happened. "Come along, we have much to discuss. Nygma, we must speak about a few jobs I need done in exchange for a place, and as for you, Jervis, we can get onto your unique set of skills in a bit."

Jervis took a hesitant look back at where Jonathan had entered, before nodding and following along.

Jonathan was glad he had shorter hair than, say, Jervis, as it allowed him to dry his hair faster than usual.

He let out a sigh, staring at the heavily bagged eyes of himself on the mirror. He looked so tired, and yet he kept a still face, not letting anyone see the humiliation he felt deep inside. One thing he had learned over the years is that those vying for a reaction should never be allowed to see how he felt. He took a steady breath, taking a hand to feel over his now dry clothes. They weren't his usual style, unfortunately, what with the button up dress shirt and slacks he'd usually don as a professor, but it was better than freezing to death in wet clothing. Still looking into the mirror, he let his gaze go back to the man who had assisted him, who was now standing awkwardly in a corner, not saying anything.

"Why are you still here?" Jonathan prodded, turning to look at the man properly. "Is there something else you need? Or is Penguin just trying to make sure I don't gas the entire building?"

The waiter seemed uncomfortable with the question. He was a younger man, probably in college. "Just… just trying to see if you need anything else, sir," he answered, not looking Jonathan directly in the eyes.

Crane stared at the man for a few moments before slowly approaching. "Are you in college?" he asked, and from the closeness of his voice, the man visibly flinched. "S-second year, s-sir," was all he could respond with. That stutter had a small effect on Crane, making him feel a small bit better. So he continued with, "And the old man you work for? Is he fair?"

To that, the young man perked up. "Oh! Mr. Cobblepot? Oh he's completely fair, and- and—" It wad clear he was making up words to try and put himself in a good light with the bird. It went from a pleasant fuzziness from the fear to a quick annoyance. Jonathan shut him up when he handed him a twenty dollar bill. "This is for bringing me properly fitting clothes and a towel," he said bluntly. "I know the Brit isn't as accustomed to tipping as we are, so don't do anything stupid and tell him you have it just to get it taken away." With that he walked out, quickly ducking into the VIP room again so he could get a drink. He didn't intend to come out until Edward was back; he was pretty set on leaving Jervis here without a ride just to make himself feel better about the whole ordeal.

He sat at a stool at the bar counter, and just by looking at the stool beside him, he was able to gauge how long he'd been in the bathroom. Deadshot was somewhat tipsy at this point, obviously taking advantage of the free alcohol Penguin had offered. After a moment, Deadshot looked over at the guest.

"Crane?"

"Lawton."

"Hey, it's been a while," Floyd chuckled, gesturing to the bartender for another glass. "Surprised you've crawled out of your hole so soon after the breakout. What's Penguin trying to get you to do? Gas a factory or something?"

Although Crane looked unamused, he wasn't opposed to talking to the fellow rogue. He looked to the bartender. "I need a drink. A strong one. Doesn't matter what kind." As the man went to get him a drink, he looked to Deadshot. He was about a decade younger or so; older than Harleen, but still old enough to be the father to a growing girl. He had buzzcut short hair and a bit of facial hair, but it was better than Crane could ever do. "Well I did just come out of an Asylum," he replied, "so nothing should ever quite surprise you about me."

Lawton let out a "HA!" before taking a swig of his new drink. "True! True."

Jonathan let out a slow breath, looking over the other man. "How's Zoe?" he asked, which immediately rewarded him with a suspicious stare. "I wouldn't have become a professor if I didn't care for the future generation at least an ounce," he defended himself then. "There are times where it's nice to come back to a sense of normalcy, and you're the only person I can really ask that question to in my situation."

"True," Deadshot agreed as he looked ahead, taking another quick drink. "She's doing fine. Just entered high school. A really smart girl, I'll tell ya… and her mother recently got another boyfriend."

"That has to sting."

"A little," Floyd admitted. "But one misstep and I'll have the pleasure of ending their relationship with a bullet."

"No payment? Surprising." Crane found himself strangely invested. He supposed it was in the normalcy of the conversation that hooked him, other than the assassination part. For a moment, he felt like just a man in a bar, listening to a father talking about his kid as if it was a casual outing.

"Pfft. Killing him is payment in itself." He looked to Crane. "So, tell me, you need someone assassinated?" he joked. "I'll get it done."

"Oh you know I don't play that way," Jonathan countered, now in a considerably less friendly mood now that the subject had changed. To this, Deadshot gave another nod, saying, "Yeah, you're more of the torture type, aren't you?"

Crane finally got a shot of whiskey, quickly knocking it back without hesitation. "Though, I can't say I'm not considering it at the moment," he murmured after catching his breath. He slid the glass away, quickly catching Deadshot's expression change to one of piqued interest.

"And just who is this man?" Deadshot prodded. Jonathan rolled his eyes in annoyance, resting his chin against his knuckles as he drummed his fingers, waiting for Edward to get back. Still, Floyd went on.

“Youalready know my rules by now, I'm sure. If they're under eighteen, they're off limits. Half a million for politicians, and its extra if outside of Gotham." He noticed Jonathan's annoyance and prodded further, nudging Jonathan with his elbow, much to the other's distaste. "C'mon. There has to be someone. I don't even have to kill them. Maybe just wound them a bit. Whatever it is, I can get it done— I never miss a shot." He then went back to his drink

And it was in that moment that Jonathan got an idea. A horrible, evil, nasty idea. A grin split his face, an expression that he almost never let show to the public. It wouldn't go away, and he didn't try to push it down, feeling too gleeful to try. The Scarecrow had thought of something utterly sick in that moment.

"I would hire you," Jonathan sighed, catching the man's attention, "but I mean, only if you were more a reliable hitman." He picked at the dirt under his nails, pretending not to see Lawton's changing expression out of the corner of his eye.

Now, Floyd Lawton was a man who took pride in his work; he didn't go through years of military training and working his way to the top just to be brushed off by a sack of hay that never realized it was too old for Halloween. However, instead of biting back, he simply gave an "Excuse me?" Jonathan recognized it as him giving Crane a chance to correct himself, but instead he doubled down. "You?" he scoffed. "Please. You can't even get a shot on the Batman; the man is so flashy he might as well be wearing a target." He eyed Lawton, sneering at him. "Sure you can take down a still person, but what use are you if you can't hit anything greater?"

He gestured for another drink, noticing Deadshot working his jaw silently on the side. Once he got his shot, he instead slid it over to the assassin. "I'm sure you couldn't land a single hit in your drunken state."

To this, Floyd immediately took the shot and downed it, pulling out his handgun that he kept on him. Without hesitation he put the barrel of the gun to Scarecrow's head, who showed no sign of being intimidated. The bartender gasped and ducked under the counter. "Want to test me, Crane? I could headshot everyone in this place and no one would have time to escape through the front."

Crane gestured for another drink and lifted his gaze to the gun, specially made just for a man like Deadshot to not be hindered by things such as thin walls or barriers. "No, that's far too easy," he reasoned. "I'll tell you what. We're both in Penguin's club, we've both had a bit too drink. How about a little test?" Once he got the shot, he slid it over to Deadshot. "There's a lot of rich folk here. Putting on a little display would certainly pique a few of their interests."

Lawton gave him a hard stare for a moment, before bringing the gun back, but not putting it away. He took the shot and threw one back, sliding it away from him as soon as he was done.

Crane looked around silently before spotting an apple on the counter, no doubt to add to cider for the fall season. Without hesitation, he snatched it off the polished surface before turning to grin slyly at Floyd. "Follow me. I know someone who would be more than happy to help."

Jervis clasped his hands together, listening intently as the other short-statured man spoke. Edward had just been finished speaking his part with Penguin, agreeing to another information-broker deal once more. It was Tetch's turn now, soaking in the information.

"It sounds rather simple, if I must say, Mr. Cobblepot," he couldn't help but note.

"Simplicity is sometimes the best option, my dear friend" Penguin chuckled. "I have a few boys needing to take care of some… business at Gotham City Bank. We're hoping to complete it by the end of the month. All I ask from you is that you work your magic with technology and drugs and whatnot, and see if you're able to make something that can help with a possible bat infestation."

Jervis thought for a moment, trying to narrow down some possibilities for what he could come up with. "Did you have anything specific in mind?" he requested, but the way he began to fiddle with the rim of his hat indicated he was already working the gears in his head something fierce.

Cobblepot waved away the question. "Anything you can think of; we can discuss whatever ideas you have over the phone. But you have quite the talent for keeping the Batman distracted in his own head. Anything they can quickly use in case the Batman shows up as a way to keep him busy and confused for a long time would be most excellent. I would ask Crane for this sort of deal, what with his special toxin, but I fear Batman already has an antidote to whatever he can whip ip, so I'm hoping your expertise can be a bit more effective."

Jervis gave a huge grin, grabbing the other's hand as he was known to do when assuring someone. "I already have an idea. Don't you worry, my dear caterpillar, that Jabberwock will not do you men harm."

Oswald smirked, liking the more certain attitude Jervis displayed. It wasn't a "can" assurance, but a "will." He was more than happy to hear that, knowing he could trust the man to at least do his best, as he was always so genuine it was hard to call him a villain. He paused, however, when he noticed someone approaching.

Tetch let go of him, not noticing the crowd parting behind his back. He let out a loud "GAH!" as he was yanked back.

"Now now, hold still," Crane hummed, shoving the smaller man into a spare chair from one of the dining tables. The crowd had formed a circle around them, making sure to keep a considerable distance away so they wouldn't be affected by whatever Jonathan was planning to do. Edward and Oswald pushed into the eye of the crowd to get a gander at what was happening.

Jervis was befuddled. "Hare? What in the Queen's name are you—" He stopped abruptly when he saw Deadshot enter the area. His eyes widened and his heart sank and crashed through the floor. Jonathan was going to get him killed as revenge.

Crane pulled out the apple he had brought with him. "Floyd, I'm sure you know where this is going," he hummed.

"Oh it's a classic," Lawton agreed, his words slurring slightly, evidence he was a bit beyond tipsy at this point. "Want me ta shoot the apple off 'f his head 'r what's up?"

Crane grinned devilishly down at Jervis. Jervis recognized that look. Jonathan never smiled, and when he did, it usually wasn't good. He'd seen that look flashed at him a number of times, a sign the man was in a rather sad*stic mood at the moment. "Not quite," he replied, sounding quite jovial in his actions as he slowly set the apple on Jervis' lap. Tetch's heart had now made its way through the Earth's crust at this point.

"Hare! Haha, you're being unreasonable, my dear Hare," Jervis tried reasoning, but Jonathan wouldn't listen. Instead Jonathan stepped behind the chair, placing his hands firmly on Tetch's shoulders to keep him on place before looking to Deadshot, saying, "If you can shoot the apple off of our dear Hatter's lap without killing him, I will not only apologize, but I'd be happy to keep in contact with you."

Jervis' nervous laughter was no more as he was filled with dread. "Hare? Please, this is ridiculous— Hare, are you listening to— Jonathan, I'm sorry! Please, don't do this!" He tried to move from his chair, but Jonathan kept him trapped in his seat.

The crowd was aghast, whispers among them, and yet they couldn't pull their eyes away, wanting to bear witness what was about to happen. Edward stepped from the crowd, mouth agape, but stayed back. Lawton looked over Jervis and scoffed. "I though this was gonna be a challenge," he muttered, before aiming the barrel of his gun at the apple centered in Jervis' lap.

"Jonathan! You've proven your point!" Jervis squeaked, terror gripping his heart. "Stop! Stop right now! Please! Would you really have me shot over an accident?!"

Crane thought for a moment before slowly leaning his head down to wear he could whisper something into the Hatter's ear. He hesitated, before whispering, "Yer gonna wanna stay as still 's possible fer this."

Jervis swallowed, realizing then that His pleas were going to fall on deaf ears. His eyes pricked with tears. He closed his eyes, unable to look at Deadshot or anyone else, wishing it was all just another one of his delusions.

Lawton looked over the target, eyeing it up and down. "Alright, if no one gets hurt, I suggest everyone move behind me," he ordered, and like the Red Sea at Moses' command, it was so, leaving only Jervis, Jonathan, and the apple before him. He once again aimed his gun at the apple, a smirk coming to his face. His finger rested on the trigger, and with that Jonathan's grin only widened in anticipation.

Without warning, Deadshot pointed the gun upwards and at an angle, firing without hesitation.

The bullet hit a metal beam along the ceiling, immediately ricocheting downwards and against a steel pillar, bouncing back and downwards before hitting the stainless steel of an Iceberg Lounge sign on the bar counter tilted up at an angle. The bullet bounced off, now almost horizontal and traveling downwards at an angle, its last stops blowing straight through the fabric and wooden backing of a dining chair and going straight through the apple on Jervis' lap before burying itself in the wall.

Deadshot spun his handgun around his finger western style before blowing out the smoke that rose from the barrel. There was silence as Oswald gaped at nearly having seen someone killed in his own lounge while Edward gaped at the impressive nature. And that his friend was alive; that, too. There was a thud as Jervis fell to the floor, having fainted. Or had a heart attack. It wasn't certain, and Jonathan didn't bother to check on him.

Jonathan looked at Jervis' fallen body, not even bothering to feign worry, before approaching Deadshot. "It appears I was wrong," he admitted. "Now, if someone could hand me a pen, we can exchange contact information."

Notes:

I was going to have Jervis and Jonathan confront each other at the end, but soon realized it would make the chapter too long, and god knows I need to quit it with the 8000 plus chapters.

Anywho, tell me what you think!

Chapter 9: If Only They Were Lies

Summary:

Jervis and Jonathan confront each other after the event in Penguin’s Lounge and things get a bit heated, and not in the good way.

Notes:

Well this was shorter than I expected. 5,000 words, but it’s actually pretty short and sweet. I like it. Anywho, enjoy!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Jervis watched the ceiling intently, his kind making the cracks he saw into shapes of lions fighting with unicorns and uneaten bread and chewed up teacups. Ten minutes had to have passed before he was consciously awake, gently tapping his hand against his chest to create that rhythmic ticking he always liked to hear, matching it up with the speed of his own heartbeat. After a while, he soon came to realize just where he was.

The Hatter sat up off of the floor, looking around the repurposed lab area to spot Edward, peering over him over his laptop from his comfy spot on the armchair. Jervis only needed to open his mouth before Nygma pointed up to Jonathan's room. "He's upstairs." Tetch looked up to the room tentatively, a little angry from everything he could recall, but more upset than anything. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, he chewed on his knuckles, consulting a cheshire cat and a friendly gnat about what to do in the situation. They convinced him to be cautious, and so he quickly felt around the left side of his coat to make sure he wasn't defenseless before slowly ascending the stairs.

Jonathan was inside, mindlessly bringing his pencil across pages of notes he kept with him, just rereading over them to refresh his memory after two months. There was a knock, and with that Jonathan called out, "Come in, Hatter."

Tetch came in slowly, swallowing thickly. His arms were kept close to him, a hand feeling the rim of his hat; Jonathan recognized it as an attempt to comfort himself. "How did you know it was the Hatter?" Jervis questioned softly, closing the door behind him. "For all you know it could have been the Dormouse coming to tell one of his stories…"

"The Dormouse does not knock, that much I can assure you," Jonathan scoffed, putting his pencil down to look over at Jervis. "So, did you have a nice rest?"

Tetch's expression immediately twisted into a frown, holding in his breath as he unconsciously clenched his hands. "You scared me, Hare," he huffed, approaching the chair in which Crane sat at. "How awfully confident you were in a drunkard's aim! How did you know Floyd wasn't going to kill me?"

Jonathan, nonplussed as usual, gave no sort of expression that would give away any true feelings or intentions. "I didn't," he replied smoothly, a response that caused a stiffness to the Hatter.

Jervis had to take a moment to look away and take in a breath. "So you were willing to risk my life just because of the whole 'strumpet' squabble? Is that it?"

To this Jonathan visibly grimaced at the question, looking away. "No…"

"Was it because I lied to you?" Jervis prodded. "I know you've hated when I lied to you, but—"

"No, you don't understand."

"Could it be because you were embarrassed from—"

"NO!" Jonathan stood up so abruptly that the chair he sat on toppled over. Jervis blinked in surprise, taking a step back, only to be grabbed by the lapels by the larger man. "You don't get it. I was humiliated in front of everyone! They laughed at me because of you!"

"What does it matter? It's not like you've ever cared what others think of you!" Jervis asked, half in genuine curiosity and half as a defense.

Jonathan clenched his teeth, working his jaw before letting go of Jervis. He needed to take a step back and pace for a moment, running a hand through his hair to relieve his own stress. He stilled and shot a look to the Hatter. "Do you know why I don't love you?" he snapped brusquely. Tetch's expression broke into one of confusion at that, brow scrunched as he took a step back at his words. "It's because you don't understand. You could never understand, and because I can never be what you want." He took a second to seethe to himself. "Tell me, was it funny? How much did you laugh?"

"What?" Jervis asked, jarred by the accusing nature of the question. "No! I didn't—"

"Oh of course you did!" Jonathan scoffed, turning away from him. "Edward was in on it, too, wasn't he? How idiotic I was to think that I was exempt from your own mockery?" His breathing was heavy, clearly in an angrier state than ever seen before. "Have you ever known what it's like to be afraid every day of your life? Afraid to walk outside your own home because of the people looking to torment you for their own entertainment? Chasing you down and humiliating you because you're too weak to fight back?" Jervis blinked rapidly, a prick coming to his eyes as Jonathan approached aggressively. "I will not be the victim again, do you understand me?" He was uncomfortably close, his shouts near deafening as Jervis was backed into a wall. "I will not be afraid again, even if I have to track down every last vermin who laughed at me and kill them myself to do so!"

After a few more seconds of seething, he had to scale himself back and take watch Jervis for a moment, noticing something just then. His expression turned to one of confusion as he took a step away from the smaller man. "Are… are you crying?"

Tetch didn't even try to hide the tears that ran along his face. He was filled with guilt and anguish at Jonathan's sudden lashing. He used his sleeve to wipe his cheeks, a hiccup of a sob breaking through. "I… I didn't know I made you feel that way…" he whispered, trying to muster up the words to form an actual apology. "I… I hurt you. I hurt you and I didn't even think about it while I did it." Some hair that had caught his tears were now clinging to his face, defining the shape of a man in devastation and regret over what he had done. "You trusted me. You gave me your word that you would give me a second chance, and I broke your trust. For that, I am truly devastated…"

Jonathan was stiff, his breathing becoming shaken at Jervis words. He took a step back. His knuckled were white from clenching his fists, ignoring the urge to hurt the man. "Stop crying," he spat. "Stop it."

"But I hurt you!" Jervis cried, unable to stop his tears. "I told you I loved you and yet this is how I treated you! How could you forgive my actions?" He sniffled, taking a step towards the man and gently grabbing his hands. "Jonathan, believe me when I say that I love you dearly. I don't know if I can ever get your trust back but—"

The tears. The raw emotion. It was too much. Crane yanked his hands away, shoving his palm into Jervis' chest to make him stumble back. "Stop! Stop crying! Stop saying that!" he ordered, hoping the rough action would get the other to leave. "You need to go. Now. Take your tear and go!"

Jervis took a few steps back in response to the shove, but his visage didn't show any anger or malice, but just heartbroken confusion. "Stop saying what?" he whispered hoarsely. "'I love you?'"

"STOP!" Jonathan almost screamed, turning away and clutching at his hair. His face was red, his entire body rigid "You're lying you're lying! Stop lying to me!" It was almost like watching a child in denial during a tantrum. "You don't love me! No one could ever love me! And I will not let the likes of you convince me otherwise! Never again!"

Jervis stared, pupils pinpricks as he had to back away in shock. He'd never seen his Hare in such a state. Jonathan could notice Jervis' hand move to clutch the left side of his coat. It was only then that he seemed to break away from his seething, swallowing thickly to think about all that had just occurred. "I…" He stopped, mind aflutter. He couldn't think. He felt trapped He needed some air. If Jervis said another word, he didn't think he would be able to stop himself from hurting him. "I need to go."

With that he moved past Tetch, passing the man who was left to his own tears.

Crane quickly descended the stairs, ignoring Nygma as he shoved the front door open and hurriedly went to the car. He didn't know where he was going, but he just needed to go somewhere to cool off. Somewhere where he could think clearly. Somewhere where he could be alone.

With that in mind, he started the car.

Back in the lab, Jervis sat on the floor, eyes wide as he just stared ahead. It was dark, and from there he could see a bit of sulking moonlight seep in from the cracks of the boarded up window. "It's very rude of him to come and spoil the fun!" he could hear the moon criticize.

"Oh hush," Hatter whispered, trying to tune her out. "I'm the one who ate all of the oysters. It should be me you're made about."

"It seems a shame," the walrus did cry, trying to comfort the Hatter, "to play them such a trick, after we've brought them out so far and made them trot so quick! I weep for you, I deeply sympathize!"

Jervis didn't respond, just closing his eyes and hoping to drown out all the noise.

"The butter's spread too thick," he could hear the carpenter criticize.

There was silence after that. Jervis had to open his eyes, looking around. Usually that was when the March Hare would chime in, convinced that the butter was the best butter, but there was no March Hare.

"Oh where has my Hare gone?" Jervis could only cry. "What is a tea party without my Mare Hare? The table is set and the tea is hot and the butter is buttery and yet he leaves! My March Hare walks without the Hatter but the Hatter cannot walk without the March Hare!"

He felt sick, wretched, and downright abhorrent. "I feel as though I cry when I blink and I blink when I cry," he grumbled, sick to his stomach. After a moment, he quickly got up and went over to Crane's desk, searching around until he found a pair of scissors. "I know what will solve this problem," he smiled through tears, snipping the blades experimentally. "I believe something needs some cutting…"

'You do know we're going to have to dispose of Edward now that he's heard all that, right?'

"Oh don't be so dramatic," Jonathan muttered under his breath, his voice barely audible over the chirp of the crickets that surrounded the park trees. Katrina sat in his lap, getting repeated gentle strokes on her head as she rested peacefully in the darkness. While the rest of her flock preferred the safety of the trees, it was with Jonathan that the one-eyed crow felt most comfortable, feathers fluffed and eye closed. Occasionally between her in and outs of sleep, she would purr to the one petting her to let him know she felt content. "As convenient as it would be to kill Edward to make sure he never speaks a word of this to anyone, we can't just kill Nygma."

'Fine. I see your point.'

There was a moment of silence within the good doctors mind.

'If that little pest saw who you could really be, he would cling to us as much as he does. He would cease with his lies and his crocodile tears.'

Jonathan clothes his eyes, running his fingers along the neck feathers of his favorite bird. "If only it was that easy," he murmured. "But if Jervis was one to let go so easily and move on, he wouldn't be a rogue. If the man wants something, he'll dispose of anyone he needs to just to get it."

'If he wants someone, you mean.'

Crane wanted to vomit at the words. He could only wonder why him of all people. Could it be he was too nice to the little twit? Or was this something deeper, as he was apprehensive of?

Katrina was suddenly awake in his lap, ruffling her feathers and gazing her only eye out to the rest of the park. She called to Jonathan softly, a sign that they weren't alone. She wouldn't have bothered to get up from her relaxed state if it wasn't something important. He stopped to listen, and sure enough, he could hear light footsteps approaching. The steps weren't heavy and noisy, as Edward's usually were, but instead soft and slow, as if whoever was there was doing their best not to disturb him. He let lit a silent sigh, not very thrilled to having to deal with a stranger after what had just happened. "I suggest you walk away if you know what's good for you," he announced, figuring that the warning was sufficient enough regardless of who it was.

"J-Johnny?"

Jonathan recognized the nickname, given only two people in the world still called him that. He stopped petting the bird, twisting his head around to look back at Savannah. The young girl stood a good fifteen feet away, shifting her weight on either foot nervously as he watched her in both bewilderment and caution. She kept her distance, fiddling with sleeves that were too long for her body as she clutched her bag close to her body. Jonathan was quick to come to a stand, watching her wearily, and to this Savannah took a step back. He swiftly brought Katrina up onto his shoulder, who lowered her head and clicked her beak aggressively, ready to defend her territory and property. "What a surprise," he murmured despite his face showing none of said emotion, "how did you find me? No, ignore that. How did you find me at two in the morning in the middle of a half mile-wide park?"

The younger woman watched tentatively, her fingers fiddling with the strap of her handbag. "You… you told me you liked crows a lot," she murmured, barely audible what with their distance apart. "So… I kept note of where a lotta 'em were."

"It's two in the morning," Jonathan reiterated.

Savannah jolted at the harshness of his tone, despite having heard it quite a lot over the months. "Ah couldn' sleep," she defended, her gaze down at the ground as if she was a child caught in the act.

Crane watched, silent, before gesturing for her to come forward. She caught this and hesitantly did so, making sure her steps were quick so she didn't upset him. She gasped when Katrina angrily clicked her beak at her, but Jonathan was quick to quiet the bird. "Oh hush, Katrina, she's just a girl. She couldn't harm a rat if she wanted to," he told the old crow, reaching over his shoulder to give her beak a small pet before he turned his attention to the only other girl he would ever willingly devote attention to. "Give me your bag," he ordered, and while she was obviously shocked, she handed the bag over. He took no time to search it thoroughly, his eyes easily able to see where his fingers tread thanks to having adjusted to the dark. He stopped then, brow raised to look at her. "No knife or mace," he stated rather matter-of-factly, his voice not letting on whether or not its contents were a surprise to him.

Savannah seemed to smile nervously at that, as if it was a point of pride for her. "Wh-why would I?" she replied, taking her bag back. "I-I'm not afraid of you." It was as if she wanted to prove such a thing by coming empty handed, which was just about the dumbest thing he'd heard in several years.

Jonathan scoffed as he handed back the bag. "As much as a lie that is, it's not me you should be afraid of. Do you even know where you are? Anyone walking Gotham's streets at night isn't looking to leave you be, Savannah." He dug in his pocket. "You brung a purse to a city park in the middle of the night; sometimes I refuse to believe we're related, though it shows you've gotten more of your mother's thoughtless tendencies." He then pulled out a pocket knife, something that caused the sibling to take a step back in surprise, much to his irritation. "Oh please, I'm not going to attack you," he huffed, grabbing her hand and placing the closed blade into her hand. "If anyone is going to end your life, it will be me and not some drug-addled transient looking for money."

Savannah looked at him nervously, before experimentally opening it, seemingly intimidated by the size of the blade. Still, she smiled a little, up until she tried to close it again, in which she realized that the blade was locked and she couldn't figure out how to sheathe it again. "Um… how do I close it?"

He took a moment to pinch the bridge of his nose and sigh. "You are going to be the death of me," he muttered, before quickly showing her how to close it with a little switch in the sheath. "I wouldn't be surprised if you cut your finger off. Now store it away before you cut yourself." Savannah nodded, experimentally closing it before putting it in her bag, looking up just in time to see Jonathan finish sitting back down, putting Katrina in his lap once more. "So. Why did you come all this way to find me." He gave her a solid glare. "I don't suppose you're going to try and convince me to turn myself in, hmm?"

She paused and slowly went about sitting down, putting at least a foot between them. "I was gonna…" she admitted, looking down at her thumbs. "But… Ah don't think I'd be able to. So… I jus' wanted to talk as see if you were okay. I was suppose to see ya yesterday, but… yannow." She looked up at him. "You look tired… everything alright?"

Jonathan stayed silent, closing his eyes as he listened to her talk. "I don't know how you keep doing it," he said finally, bringing a hand up to rub at his eye with the heel of his palm. "Nor why. One would think that you would cut me off entirely with how I've treated you. The yelling, the ignoring." He turned his gaze to her. "Why do you continue to pursue me? After all the things I've done?"

Savannah frowned, looking away and over the short-cut grass of the empty park. "Hope, Ah guess," she finally murmured, getting an odd look from the older sibling. She waited for him to say something in return, but after some silence, she began to elaborate. "It sounds cheesy, Ah know… but I'm still holding onto hope that you'll get better."

"But why do you care?" Jonathan asked, sounding genuinely frustrated by the answer. "I'm the Scarecrow. I killed your father. I tried to kill your mother. If people found out who you were, you would be in more danger than you've ever known. Everyone would want you gone."

Savannah grimaced, wiping her eyes to bat off the emergence of tears. "Ah know but…" she hesitantly let go of the strap of her back, gently taking his hand into her smaller ones. He jolted at the touch, but kept silent, just watching her. She had such big gray eyes, always seeming to be near the verge of tears at times, showing her discomfort. As much as she looked like her mother, her eyes were like his, and he detested it. "I love you…" she said finally. "I know you've done bad things, and I'll nevah say it's alright, but… yer still my brother. I feel like you and Ah have this… connection. You aren't completely evil, Ah know that, and I-I want the chance for everyone to see that, too." She stuttered a bit, but got her words across nonetheless. "I wanna see you get better. And be happy. No-no one deserves to suffer as much as you did, and I wan you to be able to have a normal life… yannow?" She swallowed, taking another wipe at her eyes, sniffling a little. "I want you to know yer not alone. And I hold on hoping that you can see that and be happy, too…" She looked up at him, giving a small smile despite watery eyes. "I care about you, don't ya get it? And I always will."

Crane was silent, looking straight ahead before letting out a soft sigh. Thoughts were churning inside him. None of it made sense to him, though, love never did. It was unfamiliar, and thus automatically scary. Though, what was a man who couldn't feel fear supposed to abhor? "Is…" began Crane, "…is there anything I could do better to help your efforts?"

The silence indicated Savannah's shock at such a question, but she was able to rebound with a nod and a little too eager "Yes!" The girl cleared her throat. "I mean— yeah. It would… be nice if you were a bit more vocal whenever I upset you," she began. "Yannow. Like tell me what I'm doing wrong so I don't upset you next time."

"I don't do that?" Crane questioned, sounding perplexed.

"Not really," his sister laughed softly. "You kinda just glare at people in silent contempt whenever they do something wrong." She had to think for a moment. "And… it would help if you could be a bit more… like, show more emotions? I can never tell when you like something or not."

"I see…" he murmured, looking at her once more. Crickets were chirping, but they only contributed more to a silent, peaceful environment where Crane felt, strangely enough, safe. He resumed with petting the bird in his lap then. "You never knew your great grandmother," he told her, steering the subject away, "and thank whomever you believe in that you haven't." He noticed Savannah tilt her head to him in interest, urging him to continue. He rubbed a thumb over Katrina's neck, listening to her purr. "I've spent most of my life trying to stray from the path she attempted to lead me on, and yet… there are still some things I could never shake off. Her sickness still clings to me like mud, staining my clothes and my very soul. One of these said things was how isolated she made me felt. She never laid a hand on me unless it was to punish, and I was never allowed to lay a hand on her and through the years, I grew resentful of contact with other people. I was never allowed to complain, and so I learned to bottle everything up. I couldn't even show any hint of a negative thought towards her, and with time, I learned how to stop expressing emotion altogether." He let out a small breath, a thin puff of white leaving his mouth upon meeting the cold night air. "It's obviously something I never got over, but… if this really is such a problem, I suppose I could try and communicate more. Who knows? I may even break these habits." He stopped petting the bird, looking to his sister. "Tell me…" he said finally, "how is your schooling?"

Savannah blinked in surprise by the sudden change in subject, but smiled as she dug into her bag to find her progress report.

Edward was asleep in the armchair when Jonathan returned, laptop still on and the screen covered in code. It was six in the morning, and the sun had only just started to reveal its rays when Crane pulled in. Although tired, the doctor still took the time to take his coat off and set it aside, taking the laptop off the other's lap and placing it on one of the counters. He paused, looking at Edward for a moment. The air was still, chilly. He took a moment to grab a spare blanket and cover Edward with it before walking upstairs.

He didn't know what he expected when he walked went into his room. A large part of him expected to never see Hatter again, half of that intuition believing everything would be destroyed. And yet, when we walked in, he could only stand in the doorway in silence, looking down Jervis.

Jervis looked up tiredly, eyes still watery and filled with this unfocused, distraught look. In one hand was a pair of scissors, while the other held what seemed to be the beginnings of a hat. Fabric was scattered around him, no doubt taken from old moth-eaten clothes.

They stared at one another for a few moments before Jonathan silently walked over, sitting down on the floor beside Jervis. Hatter looked up at him for a moment, before looking down at the hat. "I… I was going to make you a hat in hopes you would forgive me…" he spoke softly, voice strained. He spoke as though he fully expected the other to throw him out for merely daring to stay there.

Jonathan looked over the hat. It looked alright for the most part, though not exactly his style. He ignored it, however, in favor of speaking to the hat-maker himself.

"How much do you love me?"

Hatter couldn't answer out of the initial shock of the question. He had to examine Jonathan to see if he was truly being serious, but Crane was never one to play around. "Oh so very much," he whispered. He cleared his throat, so that he could speak clearer and get his words across. "I love you, my dear Hare, and I know this for a fact. Call me a fool if you'd like, but I feel as though you and I are meant for one another, whether by God or some other patron of fate, I feel as though you and I…"

"Have a connection…" Jonathan finished for him, expression not changing.

Jervis brightened up at his words, nodding eagerly as he set the hat down, the scissors still in his hand. "Exactly… A connection between you and I." She smiled down at the scissors. "Cards never worked with Alice. It only drove her further away, but… I'm really trying this time, and I hope you see that, because… I'm not losing my Alice again." He looked up at Jonathan with a smile, his eyes wide and unfocused, and yet held the instance and determination of one who was genuine. "And, if I can't have you… I'll just take you." He snipped the scissors in his hands, a grin formed across his face. "And I'll off the head of anyone who gets in my way… because I'm the only one who is allowed to have you, and I'll kill you if I have to just to ensure that."

Crane was mum, listening in. He felt a warmth in his core, it was odd. While the looks he got from the madman and those threats were enough to scare off even the most hardened criminal, Jonathan wasn't exactly in the soundest of mind himself. He found it all so… comforting, if that was the right word. The idea that someone thought so highly, so possessively of him was not only frighteningly foreign, but warmed him in a way he was unfamiliar with.

Silently he reached over Jervis, sliding a hand into the man's left coat pocket, pulling out a control card the man had stored in there. Jervis' expression had relaxed some into a more curious and worried look, but said nothing about the card. Jonathan stared at the card in disdain, not hesitating to snap it in half and toss it aside. Now that it skittered across the floor, Jonathan relaxed some, picking up the hat. "You've done good so far," he critiqued. "Though it could use some improvement. Especially with the stitching."

Jervis sat in silent confusion, before quickly recognizing this as a time JonThan wasn't going to berate him, and so he slid in close to pay attention. "Oh dear, should I have used a darning stitch instead of a slip stitch?"

"Well, you see, I don't know what either of those are," Jonathan replied smoothly, "but I'll show you what I'm talking about. I've noticed you tend to sew it as you sew your clothes: tight with small intervals to hold the fabric together for years. However, I prefer a far less rigid stitch around the rim here and along here, with the fabric tenting up around this side here."

"Oh no oh no," Hatter fussed, "that makes it look so shabby." He looked up to catch Jonathan's glare, quickly bringing his gaze back to the hat. "Though… I suppose I can compromise, if that makes you happy," he murmured, acquiescing to Jonathan's favor. There was a pause before he suddenly gasped, grabbing onto Jonathan's arm in excitement. "Oh oh oh, I have a brilliant idea for that hat of yours! We could—!"

Jonathan put a hand to Jervis' chest and shoved him off without warning. Crane was already streamed, scowling at the Hatter angrily. He dropped the hat, opening his mouth to start another berating, but quickly stopped himself. He had to take a breath to smooth out his nerves. After a moment, as calmly as he could he said, "Jervis. I would prefer that you ask my permission before touching me. Can you do that?"

Tetch blinked, sitting up after having been thrown on his back. Despite it, he didn't seem angry, just more confused than anything. "Oh…" he said softly, before giving his friend a bright smile, "of course I can! My apologies! Now, please, continue on with your lesson, Hare."

Crane was a little taken aback, but nodded, continuing to show him how he preferred stitching his clothes.

Notes:

Yeee, Sav came back AND we got a bit of gay sh*t there at the end! Take that, Mils!

Something about Jonathan screaming at Jerv just waters my crops and heals my gender dysphoria.

Next chapter is going to be a bit more... well, I hope you like Scarecrow, because I sure haven’t written them in a while.

Chapter 10: Jonathan’s Best Friend, Scarecrow

Summary:

Jonathan takes a trip to see Professor Pyg. It’s then that Jervis finds the confidence to ask about a topic that had been on his mind for a while.

Notes:

Mils! You want gay sh*t? I’ll give you gay sh*t!

No sex, tho.

WARNING: I’m not gonna lie... the second half of this chapter isn’t going to be the best. Prepare for dark themes, including mental illness, hints at a non-consensual relationship, and some sad*stic stuff from one party.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

"Does this man keep anything that isn't drab and telling of his age?" Nygma scoffed, searching through a box of old clothes until he found a nice green sweater that appeased his picky nature. "Well, it's not my style," he muttered, "but it's something." He reluctantly pulled it on, noticing it was a bit too big for him, but still leaving it on anyways. After stuffing the rest of the clothes back where they belonged, he brushed off any excess dust that lingered before opening the closet door to exit, only to nearly bump into a Crane standing an inch from outside the doorway.

After stumbling back and clutching his heart, Nygma quickly recovered, standing up fully and giving Crane the evil eye. "Do you have anything better to do than stand outside doors and scare the bejeezus out of your allies? The more I spend time with you the more I feel as though you're trying to give me a heart attack."

"It would be convenient, yes," Jonathan hummed, arms crossed. "What did you hear last night?"

To this, Nygma stilled. His brow shot up, eyes suddenly searching around for an escape route. "Oh, you know," he spoke, trying to sound as casual as he could, attempting to slip past Crane to get out of the closet. "Just typical banter."

Jonathan slammed his hand against the doorway, his arm blocking Edward's path. "'Typical banter', is that right? Could you be more specific?"

Edward was tight lipped, taking several seconds to answer in a way that wouldn't get him on the other end of Scarecrow's wrath. "Can I be more specific? Indeed I can, but there is no need for that. Now, can I please leave?"

"No," the redhead shut down. Although his expression remained stolid, there was an undeniable aggressiveness in his voice. "Your compulsivity to tell the truth keeps you from denying what you heard. Now tell me what you heard from last night?"

Nygma stared at Crane for a solid ten seconds, seemingly lost in what to do. So he resorted to what he did best. "A Hatter convinced the Hare to a scandalous affair. But whom was it that had their secrets laid bare?"

Now it was Jonathan's turn to stare, dead-eyed at Edward who just bit his lip to keep himself from saying anything else. "My apologies," Jonathan sighed, digging in his back pocket. "Clearly I've been doing this all wrong." He then pulled out a handgun, aiming it squarely at Nygma's chest. "Would you like to try again?"

Edward looked at the gun, and then to Crane. Was Jonathan the type to shoot someone for accidentally overhearing a possible love bond between two villains? Yes, he most certainly was. Finally, he broke. "Fine!" he gave in. "Yes! I heard everything! But what does it matter? Listen, Jonathan, I don't know what's been going on between you and Hatter, and I'm genuinely not interested. I know whatever this mess is will only lead to trouble, and I want to stay as far away from it as possible. So please, whatever all this is, leave me out of it. I just want to finish the job for Penguin and get out, alright? Please."

Jonathan watched the other for a few grueling moments, no doubt searching for a hint that the man was lying. However, he soon put his gun away, moving away from the doorway, "Alright, you may leave."

There was angry muttering coming from Nygma as he exited the room, but he stopped as soon as he saw Jervis just casually pouring himself a cup of tea a few feet away. "Jervis!" This call caused the Brit to bounce a bit in surprise, looking up at the exasperated Edward. "You're just going to let Jonathan threaten me with a gun while you sit here drinking tea?!"

Tetch smiled apologetically, offering another cup of tea for Nygma. "Sorry, Dormouse. The Hare doesn't quite like it when I interrupt his interrogation sessions."

Edward just stared, mouth agape, offended, and confused. He looked at Jonathan, who simply shrugged and walked to get a cup.

Over the next few days, Edward was busy at the computer, while Jervis found himself getting scrap from Penguin and old parts to start building his mechanism. While it had once been just an idea, Jervis was more than able to start bringing it to life, though it would be a little bit before it was ready. All the while, he was thankful Jonathan was now more vocal than ever, letting the Hatter know every little irk that bothered him.

And boy there were a lot.

"Jervis, unless you're ready for a two-hundred question test on your chemistry prowess, I would rather you please get away from my chemical closet."

"Jervis, please stop trying to touch my crows."

"Jervis, next time you think about surprising me, don't."

"Keep your volume to a low, Jervis."

"Please keep your staring at me to no longer than five seconds, Jervis."

"Jervis, please have a good reason for waking me up next time or else I will shoot you."

"Please close the door when you enter and leave, Jervis."

"No, Jervis, I don't like discussing the benefits of herbal tea over sweet tea. Stop asking."

"Please stop giggling for no reason, Jervis."

"Tell me when you're talking to those voices inside your head next time, Jervis, as it will allow me time to hide all the sharp objects in the lab."

"If something is wrong, tell me, Jervis. Don't just pace back and forth saying 'oh no' to yourself over and over again. Look, I can actually see the track marks you left on the floor you've been leaving for the past three hours."

"Please, Jervis, I would like discussions of your feelings about me to be restricted to solely at night."

"Jervis, stop chewing on your hand. Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of fabric?"

Jervis Jervis Jervis Jervis Jervis. As annoying as it was for Edward, Tetch himself adored the attention from Jonathan. He made sure to keep a note of everything he was told, and sure enough, within four days, they were able to go several hours without Crane issuing a complaint to the smaller man.

Crane was on the other end of the spectrum when it came to the situation. He wasn't exactly comfortable with Jervis constantly at his side, but it was something he was trying, and failing, to get used to it. Jervis was much like a loyal dog, something Jonathan had never owned. He would follow the doctor around here and there, helping him with any tasks he needed, vying for his attention but staying silent about it, too, as Jonathan had asked. That had to be the most jarring part about it; the rogues gallery had to be the most incorrigible people known to Gotham, the only success stories being the momentary tales of Oswald and Harleen. For Jervis to so easily change his habits just to make Crane a bit more appeased was strange, as the former psychiatrist wouldn't ever do that for someone else ever since he'd stopped practicing as a doctor. Was this evidence of the Hatter's genuineness or was this just Jervis being… well, Jervis? He had to admit it was helpful in some aspects after he'd let the man clean. Tetch was no doubt far more tidy and fussy than his companions, getting rid of pests and helping to do away with a lot of the clutter. Although Crane hated to admit he was wrong about anything, Jervis wasn't as much as an annoyance as he'd originally predicted. That's why Jonathan allowed it when Jervis came along to Professor Pyg's new hideout.

"Oh I'm so excited to be seeing my dear friend again," Jervis chirped excitedly, bouncing in his seat a bit to express his love for the visit. "Do you think he'll be excited to see me? Oh I just want to give that big man a hug!"

Jonathan didn't take his eyes off the road, already disliking the familiarity of being in a car with only Jervis once more. He decided not to say anything about it, instead focusing on the given location he was traveling to. "I'm sure he'll be overjoyed to see you," he murmured. "You and he always did have this odd sort of friendship."

Tetch was sure to titter his agreement. "Oh of course! We do share a similar hobby after all what with mind control! Just… different flavors, you see?"

"You enjoy hypnotism and taking temporary control of people, while he takes favor in lobotomizing his victims and erasing their personality and will as human beings," Jonathan stated then, but he didn't sound too annoyed about the friendship. He couldn't be annoyed about the man who literally saved his life because of his relationship with the Hatter. A very odd and unhealthy friendship, given the two schizophrenics were actively feeding each other's delusions. Jonathan could remember when it happened; many schizophrenic patients usually do well with people who share their condition, as it gives them someone to relate to and understand. Well the two patients' doctors had decided to do the same by introducing Tetch and Lazlo, and, well, it all fell apart from there. They traded secrets, only furthered each other's dangerous delusions and behavior, and whenever Nygma and Crane had yet to be admitted to the hospital, the two were practically inseparable. So yes, thank you, Dr. Picard, for another brilliant idea.

"Oh and he's so good at it!" Jervis grinned, kicking his legs against the underside of his carseat.

If he adores Lazlo so much, why doesn't he pursue him instead? Jonathan had to wonder. Out of everyone, why the Scarecrow?

Crane did away with that last though before stoping at a small shack in a derelict neighborhood. They couldn't all be giant abandoned factories or labs; it would be too obvious, then. "You have your cards, right?" Jonathan questioned, pulling the keys from the ignition. Jervis grinned and brung out three playing cards, freshly made after receiving some parts from Oswald. "Good," Jonathan nodded, taking out a gas canister of his toxin. "Luckily I keep many canisters of this in the lab," he stated. "If I need to detonate this for any reason, just cover your face and don't breathe until we get out of there."

"I'm sure you would like that," Jervis giggled, sliding out of the car and shutting the door. "You enjoyed inhaling that substance back on our journey back to Gotham."

"We all have our vices, Jervis," Crane sighed, doing the same and pulling the coat closer to his body. "You have Alice and I have fear."

"But you don't feel fear," Tetch reasoned, approaching the door and giving it a firm knock. "Why bother inhaling it?"

Jonathan rolled his eyes, not really excited about discussing his obsession with fear for once. "I don't feel fear, but I can still feel the effects," he replied. "I just find them—"

Crane shut his mouth when there was a couple of hurried thuds of a large man walking to the door, and soon the entrance swung open to reveal a (presumably because of the mask) happy Pyg. "Ah! You came! Mother Goat said that you would not dare, but you came you came! How wonderful, how joyous, how perfect!"

Jervis immediately forgot about the conversation in favor of going to give his friend a hug. "You can't think how glad I am to see you again, you dear old thing!" he cheered.

Jonathan let them get their greetings out of the way, waiting until they were done before pushing them apart so he could have Valentin's full attention. "Why did you ask me here, Pyg?" he asked firmly, wanting to the point so he could leave as soon as possible.

"Oh yes! Follow Pyg to his work," Lazlo requested, bringing them inside. The place was as messy and disgusting as one would assume a shack in a rundown neighborhood would be. Thankfully, that wasn't where the main area of focus. Lazo took them down to a hatch that led to the rather roomy workspace. There was already some medical supplies and a metal slab for surgery and an IV.

Jonathan and Jervis looked at one another oddly before following along, watching the larger man hurry over to a pile of junk in the corner, tossing through it and muttering to himself until he finally found what he was looking for with an "aha!" When he came back, he was carrying the large, heavy, wicked blade of Scarecrow's iconic scythe.

'Ah. I was wondering where I'd left that damn thing.'

"In my chest," Jonathan muttered under his breath, catching Jervis' momentary attention.

'Oh you act like it was my fault.'

Jonathan was about to respond in his head, when he realized he was getting a gaze from Jervis, and so he ignored it and went about taking the blade into his hands. It was smooth, still sharp, and he could see bits of splinters from there the snath had broken away. Most noticeable of all, however, was three month old dry blood caked onto the almost the entirety of it.

"Pyg made sure to leave Scarecrow's blood on the weapon," Lazlo told him. "That was Scarecrow would know blade was his."

"Thank you, Pyg" Crane replied slowly, scraping off a bit of his dry blood. He was able to disguise his disgust and bewilderment with his usual stolid look, but he had to admit, he wasn't expecting this. "I'm not sure if I would have know any other way."

For once, Jervis had to be blunt. "That is disgusting," he whispered, covering his mouth. "That will need several chemical baths."

Pyg bounced on his feet once with a hearty chortle. "Of course of course! Do what you will! That blade is far too big for Pyg to continue his perfection." He had to pause, holding up his finger to let them know there was a 'however' in there. "But… Pyg would like a small trifle for the mother goat before you take the scythe away."

Crane took his gaze off of his broken weapon to throw a deadpan look to Lazlo. "If it's toxin you want, I'm not making any for an indeterminate amount of time."

"Oh no no no, not that!"

Jervis played with the rim of his hat, understandably uncomfortable. "Oh, my dear Pyg, I don't think we can afford to kidnap anyone for you at this time!"

Pyg snorted in amusem*nt. "Oh how you both make Pyg laugh," he said. "No no, what Mother Goat needs from the straw man is inside the straw man! The water that allows Pyg's brush to create such beautiful artwork with his paints!"

Jonathan a small step back as he nodded, slowly reaching for his toxin canister. "Yes, I see…" He stopped, taking a look at Jervis. "What is he talking about?"

Tetch was just as confused as his friend, until he remembered the night of the incident. "Your blood!" Jervis recalled, momentarily pushing himself on the tips of his toes for emphasis. "I remember now— you're an O negative, the universal donor. No doubt he needs some of your blood for transfusions. Art is messy after all." Pyg's body language beamed with positivity at that.

Crane's brow shot up slightly, looking at Pyg. "Blood? That's what you need?" He sneered at the man, handling the scythe with one hand now as he went to gesture to Lazlo. "You expect me to give you my blood for a bloody, broken, and useless blade of a scythe that you didn't even bother to wash?"

Pyg could only nod. "Yes."

Jonathan stared at the man before letting out a reluctant sigh, removing his coat. "That needle better be clean. Now where do I sit?"

"Are you sure you're alright?"

Jervis was sitting patiently in the driver's seat, listening to Jonathan groan, halfway out the window as he tried to regain his composure. "I… I just need a minute," was all he could say.

"Take all the time you need," Jervis hummed, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. "The parking lot is empty, anyhow, and Pyg did take a substantial amount of blood. It's not like our dear Dormouse is waiting on us."

Jonathan didn't respond, taking another minute to get fresh air before pulling himself back inside the car.

Jervis waited for a moment, before asking, "Did you eat anything before we were off?" There was no response. "Oh of course you didn't. You're as thin as a walking stick, you are. You really need to eat more."

"If I had known that I was getting blood drawn," Jonathan replied, lifting his head from his hands, "I would have, that was I wouldn't be so nauseous afterwards. I just need to lie down and eat something small."

Tetch let him take some time to get in a few breaths, before he slowly pulled out the keys from the ignition. "I'll wait until you're feeling up to it," he murmured, before slowly bringing his attention to Jonathan. "In the meantime… may I ask about something?"

Jonathan sat back in his seat, not minding a bit of waiting, though he didn't want to imagine what Jervis wanted to ask about. "Sure. Go ahead." What would it be about this time? He was dreading it was once again about Jonathan and his feelings. Despite once being a psychiatrist, his emotions were the last thing he wanted to talk about.

Tetch looked at his hands silently, trying to find a way to word the question politely. He rubbed his thumb on the steering wheel, building up confidence. "Who is Scarecrow?" he asked finally.

Any muttering or heavy breathing Crane had been doing stopped then. There were no crickets outside this time to fill the void of silence, and any cars driving by were muted by the windows. All Jervis was left with was a stark silence, heavy with tension and anticipation as Crane's visage carried a tone of seriousness and withdraw. It obviously wasn't a question Crane had been prepared for, nor did he want to grace it with an answer. Even still, Jervis was someone who was clearly going through a great deal of effort just to please him, and even if Jonathan was unsettled, he knew the man would find out eventually.

"Scarecrow…" he murmured, leaning back in his seat, tilting his head back to rest. "Scarecrow is…" There was a pause, and it then it became known that his hesitance stemmed from a genuine lack of knowing how to define the concept. "I grew up isolated," he then began, starting over. "I never had any friends, and any kind people I did meet were forced to abandon me because of my keeper. So… as I grew up, I made up a person from the scarecrow that was perched in the fields. In my youth she would haunt me in my sleep, but as I grew older, he became something different. Someone I could talk to, who I knew couldn't hurt me; wouldn't hurt me." He let out another strained sigh, not looking to Jervis as he continued. "Whenever I put on that mask, I feel as though I become something different. A person whom I'm not afraid to be, who could do all the things I could never."

Tetch listened in, waiting until he'd come to a pause before piping up. "Is he… dangerous?"

Jonathan scoffed at this, reaching into the glove compartment, where he pulled out a familiar face in burlap. "That's… hard to define. To me? No, they'd never do anything they didn't think was for my own good. They're a part of me; these twisted, dark thoughts that I kept stifled beneath the surface, clawing their way out when need be. But they wouldn't hurt anyone I'm allies with." He looked at Jervis, his expression carrying a more relaxed look, as though talking about Scarecrow was letting a bit of the weight off of his shoulders. "They don't take over me, they help me be the person I've tried so desperately to hide away from others." He ran a thumb over the burlap, shaking his head. "There are times were I can't do what's necessary. Holes in my memory, but I never feel as though I'm lost or out of control. As I said, they do what I can't, and at times, they have to do it themselves." He turned to continue looking straight ahead, sighing as he closed his eyes. "That… is Scarecrow."

There was a momentary silence. Jervis had to sit there, thinking over everything that was said. "So…" he whispered, "what you're saying is…" He suddenly perked up with a smile. "I'm pursuing two paramours?"

Jonathan's eyes shot open. He looked at Jervis, bewildered, his mouth hung open. He just didn't know how to respond.

"Oh frabjous day! Callooh callay!" the Hatter cheered, clapping his hands in excitement. "Oh how I am delighted that I can make the acquaintance of a second Mach Hare— no! A monstrous crow who only does good!"

Jonathan stared for a moment before grabbing at his chest. "I feel a pain in my chest," he said suddenly.

Jervis stopped immediately, looking to Jonathan in immediate worry. "Oh dear. Is something the matter, March Hare?"

Jonathan blinked, brow furrowed. "I don't think so… I've only felt this pain once before, when Katrina was a chick. She had gotten her head stuck in a water bottle and was trying to eat seeds despite not being able to peck through the bottle and eventually came to me to take it off."

Jervis gasped then, putting a hand to his heart. "Oh my dear friend, I believe that is your heart! It pangs because you've just seen something utterly cute and adorable that you want to protect!"

Jonathan thought about this for a moment, before shaking his head. "No, impossible. It's probably just a sign of a heart attack. Let's get back to my lair so I may properly measure my blood pressure."

Jervis quickly nodded, taking his keys and starting the car once more. As he was preparing to leave the space, he had to pause. "May I meet Scarecrow?" he asked then.

There was some silence. Jonathan turned his head to look out the window, out at Gotham's dull sunset. "Not now…" he murmured. "Perhaps whenever I feel ready. But not today…"

'You never will be ready, will you?'

Jonathan paused in shutting the door behind him. He huffed, shaking his head as he sat down in his chair. "Never have you been one to socialize," he muttered, swiveling himself around until he had eyes on his desk. The glassware and and tools he had used to make his chemicals were shrouded in a thick layer of dust, not having been used since he'd started the journey with Jervis. The only new things on it was the newly-made had he and Jervis had made together, along with some bits of fabric and the scissors used to help cut thread and whatnot. "I wouldn't say it's against your nature, but you aren't interested in the thoughts and ideas of other people, as I am."

'A tea-drinking fictional character from some long dead Brit is not of particular interest to me, which has me wondering why you let him stay around.'

"Why not?" Jonathan replied casually, resting his chin on his fist as he grabbed book off of the bookshelf he had. It was one of his own journals— a notebook detailing scientific takeaways. He opened it up, looking through a few pages for a bit of nostalgia.

'Remember Becky Albright?'

Crane took a moment to shut the book, no longer interested in reading. "Even for you, that was a cheap blow," he muttered. "Comparing Jervis to Miss Albright is ridiculous and you know it. He's the one pursuing me, not the other way around."

'And you're falling for it, Johnny. We've been over this many times back before we ever started prancing around Gotham with a scythe. There's no room for that pipsqueak in your heart. Or anyone else you've tried to pursue.'

"Don't remind me," he sighed, looking back at the dirtied blade of his scythe. He'd tossed it aside as soon as he'd entered, with no plans to repair it anytime soon. It was a symbol of a life he wanted to leave behind. "But… I'm not sure," he spoke softly. "To push him away, to try and avoid a feeling of love, would that not only encourage the absence of normalcy in my life? Pull me back into the isolation that started the cycle of my life as the Scarecrow?" He pulled out the canister of toxin, looking over it in consideration. "I… I just want to be able to feel something again. Right now I just feel… numb to everything. Fear, once my obsession, feels like a pointless pursuit."

He slowly pressed a button on top, a hissing noise slowly following as his toxin began to slowly fill the room.

'Don't tell me you wish to feel fear again.'

"Of course not," he replied with a scoff, rolling over to the window to open it up. The last thing he wanted to do was potentially expose Jervis and Nygma to it, hence why he'd closed the door. "But… to have someone to connect to— other than you, of course— wouldn't that be something to strive for?" He brushed his shoulder, trying to knock off the imaginary spiders that prickled his skin.

'He doesn't want you. He wasn't an image of you that doesn't exist. He wants a March Hare, not Jonathan Crane.'

"Perhaps," Jonathan nodded, watching the world flicker around him. His heart was racing, adrenaline pumping through his blood, and yet he looked on with boredom. "But of all the risks I've taken in my life, what's this compared to anything else? I feel as though perhaps it may not all be madness with him."

'We'll see about that…'

Jonathan had to pause, staring up at the figure of a tall, thin woman that used to haunt him as a boy. "What do you mean by that?"

'You're tired. It's been so long since you let me out…'

"Months…" Jonathan agreed, letting out a tired sigh. "It would be nice to just… shut off for the night."

'I promise I won't squash the little pest.'

Crane sat back, considering the offer.

Jervis had woken up from a sudden thump sounding from somewhere else. He sat up from his blanket with a yawn, having slept on a floor cushioned by blankets. Edward was still asleep in his armchair, his rest not bothered by the sound.

Hatter rubbed his eyes tiredly, taking a moment to yawn as he tried to recall where the sound came from. He recognized it, soon enough, as a noise coming from upstairs. It was probably Jonathan, he knew, perhaps dropping something, and yet he got up anyways. He didn't want to just ignore it without checking up on the man; what if he actually did have a heart attack? What a neglectful paramour he would be if he didn't at least check. The doctor had holed himself up in his rooms since the sun had started to set. He couldn't tell how many hours it had been since then, but surely it was long enough for something to go wrong.

Tetch had to wait until his eyes finally adjusted to the darkness before be went about scaling the stairs, not wanting to disrupt his friend's sleep by turning on the lights. It was dark out, after all, with moonlight helping to brighten the way. He left his coat and hat behind, figuring it would only be a short journey.

"Hatter…"

Jervis had to pause, feeling a chill going down his spine. The way his name was said; it sounded like Jonathan, but with a lilt raised a few octaves, and it sounded so inviting. As if urging Tetch to come. Was it his imagination?

Walking up to Jonathan's door, he gave a soft knock. The door, having been left slightly ajar, creaked open at his knock, letting beams moonlight slowly seep in to illuminate the darkened room. Even Jervis' eyes had a hard time picking out details in the barely lit area. But there was Jonathan, sitting on the desk he would use for working with chemicals. He could make out his arms, his long legs dangling from over the edge of the table, but anything shoulders up was too shrouded to make out. Tetch had to swallow at the sight, realizing it must have been a bad time. "Oh! I'm sorry, March Hare," he murmured, playing with his hair nervously given he didn't have his hat on at the moment. "Did I disrupt your sleep? I didn't mean to—"

"Hatter…"

There is was again. That inviting tone, just a few octaves higher than his normal voice. Tetch shut his mouth, feeling an odd sensation in the pit of his stomach. This didn't feel right, and yet he responded to the call. "Yes?"

Silently, Jonathan raised a hand and gestured Jervis to come closer with two fingers. "Can you hear me?" Jervis said nothing in return, instead slowly walking into the blackened room. "It's me." Those words were so familiar, and yet Tetch wasn't in a sensible enough state at the moment to recognize where they were from. And before he knew it, he was grabbed.

Jervis let out a soft "oof!" as he was tossed into Jonathan's swivel chair. His confusion turned to sudden shock when he felt a weight in his lap, a wave of heat enveloping him as he realized what was happening.

"Hatter," Jonathan purred, straddling Tetch's lap, fingers tracing the outline of the Hatter's shoulders. Despite their closeness, Jervis still couldn't make out anything, only able to feel the heat of Crane's body against his, hot air brushing against his neck every time the man spoke. "Tell me again how much you love me…"

Jervis practically melted under the warm touch of the other, his breath shuddering as he swallowed. To have Jonathan there, touching him in such a way, it almost didn't feel real. And yet, when he felt a thumb gently trace his jaw, he knew even he couldn't make up such a thing. "I love you more than anything," he murmured, shuddering when he felt lips trace around his neck. Something inside of him felt that this was wrong, but he ignored it. "All I think about is you at times— my March Hare."

"That's right," there was a whisper. "I'm your March Hare. Your little Hare." Jervis felt a kiss along the underside of his jaw. "I'm yours— tell me about what you'd like to do to me."

Tetch couldn't speak, his voice coming in strangled murmurs as he felt thin hands unbutton his shirt, cool skin soon coming in contact with Jervis' own heated body. "I—" he mumbled, finally able to get some words out when Jonathan had finished talking. "I want to keep you. Forever," he murmured, eyes heavily lidded, a smile coming to his face at the idea. He'd finally gotten his March Hare in his grasp. He could do whatever he wanted to him. But why did it seem so wrong? "Admire you, love you, treat you so nicely… and you would love me back, always."

"Always," Jonathan purred, his hands moving to trace Jervis' collarbone. "I'd tidy up for you. I'd stop being so drab. I'd greet you every morning with a kiss. Whenever you leave, I would wait for hours on end for you to come back just so I can see your face again, because I just love you so much. Don't you want that?"

Jervis had to use his hands to grab onto Jonathan's hips, needing to grab onto something to know this was all real. "Yes," he whimpered, "I want that. I-I want that more than anything."

"And you could do whatever you wanted to me. I'd love you forever. I wouldn't ever leave you. I wouldn't push you away. I wouldn't berate you or hurt you. I wouldn't yell or fight back or ever tell you no because I'd be all yours. Your March Hare."

"My March Hare," Jervis whispered, his breathing wavering. His eyes were able to adjust a bit more to the darkness to where he was able to make out more of Jonathan, but he could only focus on the touch of skin and the unbearable heat he felt in that moment. "I need that… I need my March Hare."

Jonathan pressed his forehead to Tetch's his lips barely brushing the other's to tease at the beginnings of a kiss. "Your little toy…" he giggled.

Whatever had been clawing at the back of the hypnotist's mind had now caught his attention with those words. Confusion swirled; everything Crane had been saying sounded so right, but that final word had given him pause. He had to sit back, looking up at his lover in visible confusion. "What…?"

The doctor's usual stolid expression had been split with a wide grin so uncharacteristic of him. Those eyes were what froze Jervis in his place. So unfamiliar. They were so excited. Wide, glazed with a desire of the sad*stic sort. The fingers tightening around the blonde's neck, cold and rigid, not the relaxed, warm fingers of someone with lust on the brain.

"Tell me, Jervis," Scarecrow hummed, playing with his throat, "would I be your little f*cktoy? Something you can just use whenever you want that can't ever reject you? Or would I be more like a porcelain doll? Something you can just stare at and admire while I give you all the love and attention you can squeeze out of me, no matter how fake it is?"

Tetch was no longer enjoying this. Now sobered up from his delusions, he could only shake his head, horrified by what Jonathan was implying. "No! No, I could never treat you in that sort of way! You're far more than that, my dear March…" He trailed off, wondering if the term "March Hare" could even apply here.

Scarecrow raised a brow, scoffing at Jervis sudden unsure nature. "What's wrong, Jervis?" they whispered, taking their hands off of the other's neck. "Don't you remember me?" They giggled, placing a finger under the other's chin to gently tilt his head up. "It's me… your little March Hare." They snickered, once more leaning their forehead against Jervis' once more. "We've spent so many nights together, you and I— or, well, I and the Hatter. I'm not a huge fan of this… sobered up, sensible version of you." They momentarily grimaced at this. "Though, Jonathan had always preferred that I handle your more delusional state of mind. We went on heists together, planned nasty little ideas together; you know what was most fun? Killing all those guards. Seeing you as the delightful little devil you are and wreaking havoc. No talk of love or devotion; no vying for Jonathan's love and attention. Now you're just… a hazard without any of the fun."

Jervis was speechless, unsure of how to respond to this not-March Hare, whose fingers pricked along his collarbone like spider legs. Fear had now enveloped him, leaving him stiff and unwilling to move. And so Scarecrow continued, grin broadening. "We've talked enough about what gets you off," they sneered at him. "You know what get us going? What really makes Jonathan's knees weak?" Without warning, they pushed their ear to Jervis' chest, listening to the rapid thudding of his heartbeat. In turn, Scarecrow's own pulse quickened, their excitement evident in how their breathing became more haggard. "Oh, you have no idea what that does to us," they whispered, pulling themselves away. "To hear your fear is just delicious. To feel you shake and hear you whimper. I almost want you for myself, listening to your heartbeat until your heart gives out and you rot under my fingers." Their hands slowly went back to Jervis' throat. The Hatter tried to push the beast away, but it had no effect. "To see you so scared. So helpless."

In fright, Tetch's hands searched the desk beside them, hoping to grab ahold of something to help him force the Scarecrow out of him. "Jonathan, this isn't you," he tried to reason, one hand against their chest in attempt to hold them off.

"I'm afraid the doctor has checked out this evening," Scarecrow hummed jauntily, their hands tightening around Jervis' throat. "There is only Scarecrow. And tonight, you're mine."

Before his hands could properly tighten to block Jervis' airways, Tetch swung his arm and there was the distinct sound of slicing metal slicing through the air.

Scarecrow stumbled off of Jervis with a shout, clutching the left side of their face in pain as the Hatter quickly fell out of the chair, scurrying away and to the door, looking back at them with wide eyes. In his hands were the scissors he'd grabbed off of the desk, one blade stained red. Scarecrow stood up fully, taking a hand off of their face to reveal a wicked cut had been slashed across their cheek. Even if it looked bad, it was hardly deep at all. They took a moment to slowly touch the bleeding wound, looking at the glistening red viscera on their fingers. They looked up at the Hatter, as if shocked. "Jervis…" they whispered, "how…" In a split second, the grin returned. "How disappointing…" Jervis scrambled to open the door behind him, trying to keep a distance away between him and Scarecrow. “Jervis,” the beast murmured, his giggles turning to an angered snarl, approaching in a slow saunter as Jervis scrambled. “If you’re going to use a weapon against me, it better damn well kill me.”

Taking this as the signal to run, the blonde stumbled out of the door, sprinting across the hall and down the stairs.

"Oh come on, Jervis!" came a call from above, the Scarecrow gleefully chasing the poor Hatter. "Don't you want me? I thought this was what you wanted!"

Jervis stumbled at the last step, falling to the floor, the scissors skittering away and under an armchair. He was just barely able to crawl away in time to avoid the Scarecrow's grasp, quickly climbing to his feet and running for the door. It was Scarecrow who was faster, however, snatching Jervis by the back of the shirt before he could properly grasp the knob of the door and tanking him back, knocking him to the floor. From there went a struggle, with Scarecrow quickly straddling their victim's waist while said victim fought to keep malicious hands away from his throat and kick the man off.

"Don't fight it, Hatter," Scarecrow giggled, wrapping their hands around Tetch's throat, tight enough to block the airways. "Jonathan would never love you. I'm doing you a favor by helping you realize that.”

Jervis struggled to fight back, having never realized how strong Jonathan was compared to him. He struggled to breath, spots in his vision forming as he grew weaker.

That's when Scarecrow's hands loosened. There was a moment of surprise evident in their expression, before falling into a blank, empty stare. Jervis was able to crawl his way from under Jonathan, taking a gasp of breath as he grasped at his sore neck. He looked back at Jonathan, noticing that there was now a five of spades card tucked behind his ear. He stared blankly ahead, just sitting on his knees. Edward was standing only a few inches away, looking bewildered after having to put the card behind Jonathan's ear in a split second decision.

After realizing that Jonathan was now in a tranquilized state, he sighed in relief, glad he had found the cards in Jervis' coat in time. He walked over to Jervis, kneeling down to help him sit up. "Are you alright?" he whispered. "What the hell just happened?"

Jervis stared at Edward, blinking rapidly as if to test if this was real, before suddenly embracing his savior, bursting into tears on the spot. He was horrified, not just at what had transpired, but at himself as well. He didn't want to believe he what he had admitted to the beast in the heat of the moment. He was disgusted by his own thoughts. Edward was surprised at first, then disgusted at the bout of tears that stained his shirt, but in the end, just gently pat Jervis' back to try and calm him down. He looked back at Jonathan, wondering what he was going to do now, and why it was him that was stuck in the middle of this.

Notes:

It got... sorta gay there...

Like, did I have Scarecrow go a bit too far with the touching? Maybe. But sometimes you have to touch a nipple to get what you want.

Anyways, I loved writing this chapter. Really got me going. If it’s one thing I love writing, it’s Scarecrow and Hatter and dark sh*t. I couldn’t stop writing it. For some reason Scarecrow seducing Jervis is just the best thing ever.

Plus it’s a bit of practice for an upcoming scene.

Chapter 11: Conflict Leads to Progress

Summary:

Jervis and Jonathan are forced to talk with one another about their feelings, and from there, progress is made

Notes:

Welp.... I’m glad that adult content warning is finally being put to use.

There is no explicit scenes, but there are some very suggestive language.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Imagine deciding to go off for a little nap, leaving yourself in the hands of the subconscious extension of yourself that you've trusted for all of your life, only to wake up a moment later in a chair with your wrists tied to its armrests. That's what happened to Jonathan Crane when he woke up, sitting upright upon feeling something move against his head.

Crane slowly looked around, blinking as he silently took in everything around him just to process what was going on. Jervis was sat in the armchair, a blanket wrapped tightly around him as he fiddled with his hat. His eyes were puffy, red; a clear sign he'd been crying for a decent while. Edward came into view soon after, looking over Jonathan, specifically the straps that kept his arms and legs in place. He just looked tired, what with ruffled hair and a slackened posture. From lack of daylight, he could tell it was still late, so whatever had happened must have been pretty off the cuff. Not his style, but then again, he could argue it wasn't him doing it.

Jonathan looked down at the straps that held him, noticing he was in the same chair that he strapped victims to. It was an irony he would have to commend Edward on later, when they were in private, of course. With a sigh, he looked at the two. "What did I do?"

Nygma looked to Jervis, as if to see if he was up for explaining what happened. Given that Jervis was still sniffling here and there, Edward was the one to give out the exposition, unfortunately. "Alright. So, let's get the most unfortunate part out of the way. You seduced Jervis in order to get him to spill out how he feels about you."

Jonathan's reaction was slow at first. He blinked, clearly processing it, before he grimaced in disgust. Then he turned his head and gagged, trying not to throw up. Edward grimaced as if to say "Ouch". He quickly retrieved a trash bin for the former doctor to puke in if need be.

"After that ordeal, you tried to kill Jervis," Edward continued once Jonathan had ceased to be physically sick. At this, Jonathan rolled his eyes.

Tetch was sat in his seat, silently listening as he just let Edward handle everything. Jonathan relaxed as much as he could into the chair, not sparing a glance for the smaller man. "I wouldn't have killed him; there's no need to be so dramatic. I would have merely used him as a test subject."

"That's somehow even worse than trying to kill Jervis," Edward pointed out, looking exasperated at Jonathan's logic. He looked ready to say more, but refrained, instead pulling out several cards Jervis had made previously. "I'm leaving you two alone, and I'm taking these with me, just to be sure. Listen, I don't know what's going on with you two, and nor do I care to know. However, if you want to still employ the company of the likes of me, you need to work this out. As frustrating as you dullards are, you're useful to me nonetheless, and so I will not have you offing one another."

While it was Jervis this time who had no reaction, Jonathan just sneered, testing out the straps of the chair just to see if they would hold. "So you're going to have us talk it out while you wait outside?"

"Precisely, like adults," Edward instructed, "not like the psychotic neanderthals you both act like is the norm, what with you only responding with violence. It appears that I have to be the responsible one here, so I'm having you two just work out whatever you have between you, even if I have to speak to you like children while doing so."

There was an huff from Crane as he gave it one last attempt to wrangle himself out of the situation. "This situation is a bit too complicated for just a simple sit—"

Nygma held up a finger to silence him, not having it. He almost acted like a teacher, no doubt going off of Crane's various methods of silencing people he didn't want to talk to. "Jonathan, you're a former university professor and psychiatrist. Jervis is an inventor and neurologist. You two can reasonably talk it out, or so help me, I will just leave you both to kill each other."

With that, he strutted to the front door. "If either of you starts being attacked, just yell as loud as you can and I'll come rescue you… again," he called without looking back at them. As soon as the door shut, the two were alone once more.

Jervis, whom had stayed silent for the most part up until then, finally spoke up. "Could you imagine how much simpler our situation would be if we had invited Edward along on our journey. Then we wouldn't be in this mess."

Jonathan watched Tetch's expression during that time, noticing that all the tears had dried up even if the man was still wiping at his eyes. "Yes," he reluctantly agreed. "As much as the man does frustrate me at times, I will agree that he does have a way of helping to mitigate the tension between us." He grimaced then. "And you may have fallen in love with him instead."

"Possibly…" Jervis nodded slowly.

There was a silence in the air as both knew what was up and coming in their soon to be lengthy conversation. They both opened their mouths to speak but couldn't seem to find the words, trying to communicate with one another in spite of the inner turmoil of their feelings. Finally, it all came out.

"I'm sorry."

Both took a moment to process this, looking at one another, wondering if they had really just apologized at the exact same time.

"You're sorry?" Jonathan asked, brow furrowed in genuine confusion. "For what? I was the one who tried to strangle you. If anything, you should be berating me or at least taking a hit at me."

Jervis seemed just as equally as confused at Jonathan's own apology, unraveling the blanket from around him so he could sit up properly. "Oh, I would never hit you unless you did something terribly abhorrent, my dear Hare."

"I tried to kill you."

"Oh please, even I failed to kill myself, what makes you think you can?" Hatter muttered, discarding the blanket entirely. "But that is beside the point. The point is that… you were right." He had to stop, wiping away a few more tears as he looked down, seeming ashamed of himself. "I am not well, I will tell you. I think such disgusting things about you. Things I wanted to deny about myself, but I cannot help it. I try to be the gentleman who is deserving of your trust, but I have failed." He looked to Jonathan once more, looking him in the eye and mustering up all the courage he could. "Scarecrow was right in fooling me the way he— ahm, they did. It showed me that even if I try to suppress my dark thoughts, I cannot ever be rid of them. They linger inside me, part of this… obsession I have with keeping you close to me. I fear what will happen if you ever stay away from me, and for that, I'm far too dangerous." He wiped his cheeks with the blanket, not wanting to dirty his sleeve. "I understand if you want to distance yourself from me from this day forward. I am just… repugnant. How dare I call myself a Hatter after Carroll's own design?"

Jonathan studied Jervis, these words bewildering him. First he claims he'll kill Jonathan to keep him, and now he suggests he be let go, like a wounded man who could no longer care for a pet. Never in his lifetime had he seen Jervis pull away from something he wanted so much just to keep it safe.

Crane shifted uncomfortably, swallowing once more. He was feeling it again: that strange pain in his chest which he'd originally believed to be an indication of a failing heart. He realized then that it was… endearment. It was a strange and uncomfortable feeling, and he wished to be rid of it. And yet he used the fact that he was literally strapped in place to genuinely get himself to think about his own emotions for once.

"You really do love me, don't you?" Crane murmured, frowning deeply. He'd originally believed it was just madness— an obsession Jervis had sparked once again from the internal need to no longer be alone; to have someone he could dote over who wouldn't reject him like Alice had. This was genuine heart-felt love that Jervis seemed to be expressing.

"I don't think it was helped by how much I pushed you away," the redhead murmured, catching his opposite's attention once more and distracting him from fiddling with his hat. "Look at you. You're so eager to please. You're willing to do damn near anything for me, and yet all I do is try my damnedest to prove that what you feel is not what you feel. That no one could ever care about me, or love me, or just want to spend time with me." A small smile twitched on his face before disappearing as quickly as it had come. "Of course, I still hold that belief in some respect, but I blame this phenomenon on you being a very, very strange man, Mr. Tetch." The man in question put a hand to his chest, as if flattered by such a generalization. "And as this happens, I feel as though… I'm suppressing my own ability to potentially feel these emotions. I'm not getting better by staying away from you; I'm getting worse by isolating myself and trying to deny what I feel inside because I'm scared of something so new."

Jervis' mouth was agape by this point, stunned into silence by what he was hearing. "Did… pardon me, but did you just say—"

"Yes, savor this moment, Tetch, for you shan't hear it again, but this experience scares me," Jonathan repeated. "I've never opened myself up like this to anyone before. No one has made me feel the way you have. You embraced me when I was at my weakest, you always made sure I was well even when I was in denial about it, you made me feel accepted, and you got me to believe that I can finally trust someone again, and while yes, the incident that hurt me still lingers in my mind, I realize I've been treating you as a normal person, and not the villain I've worked with for years, whom I schemed with and trusted. Are you dangerous? Absolutely, but the fact that I've been letting that hold me back is just outrageous because of the absurd amount of crimes I've committed in my life." He grimaced, relaxing as he let out a sigh. "What is the point of my study of fear if I don't embrace what is sparking it inside of me." This was where he had to be cautious with his words. "I don't feel this same… passion you give to me, but honestly, I wouldn't mind if we continued with this… experiment we've been conducting with one another, as I feel it's overall beneficial, despite our spats. Who knows? Maybe soon enough, I'll be able to say I lov—"

Crane had to stop, turning his head to the bin beside him and audibly gagging. Jervis blinked away watery eyes that were about to spill over at his words, a frown coming to his face as he watched Jonathan dry heave for a few seconds. "Erm, pardon me for breaking such a touching mood you've set for us, but are you trying not to be sick at the idea of loving me?"

Jonathan quickly shook his head in denial, sitting up straight once more to give Jervis another serious look. "Of course not, don't be ridiculous," he spat, his tone no longer soft. "What sort of fool do you take me for? You think something as small as saying 'I love yo—'" He had to break away for a moment to gag into the bin once more. "J-just give me a moment," he murmured, before vomiting into the trash can, his upchucking being echoed off of the bin's metal walls and amplified for Jervis to enjoy. After that ordeal was over, he sat back up. "I apologize, my gag reflex seems to be acting up quite a bit as of late."

Tetch had this expression of disgust mingling with confusion, something he quickly made sure to do away with in a shake of his head. "Never you mind that. I'll take it as a way of you trying to expel all the negative energy built up inside of you."

"Sure, why not?" Jonathan replied, wiping his mouth with the sleeve on his shoulder. "Now that all that has been taken care of, if you truly wish to carry on with pursuing this experiment ours, we should probably lay down a few ground rules."

"You mean like no near death experiences?" Jervis questioned, perking up in unrestrained joy. Finally he wouldn't have to worry about his love actually killing him for messing up, as much as a disappointment that would be.

"No near death experiences," Jonathan confirmed with a nod. "And in return, I want what is said between us to stay between us. I know you're excited in whatnot, but I hold privacy above all else, as you should know. Also, you have to promise to keep all control cards away from me. That also includes hypnotism. I prefer not to be hypnotized again, and I doubt there will be any reason to."

Tetch gave a hesitant nod, but paused, covering his mouth for a few moments to keep himself from piping up. "Well, except for…" he trailed off, but he quickly shut his mouth and shook his head to rid himself of those thoughts. "Oh never you mind. I'll keep that in mind, my March Hare. Here, let me get those straps off of you."

Jonathan's interest was piqued for a moment there, more suspicious at what this unlikely scenario could be. As Jervis undid his a strap on his left arm, he canted his head to get the man's attention. "No, keep going," he told Jervis. "What do you believe could happen that would warrant you needing to take control of me?"

Tetch felt his cheeks heat up a little, biting his lip to internally scold himself for bringing it up. This was such an inappropriate time for his mind to be trailing off like this. "Oh, it's nothing, I assure you," he murmured, finishing undoing the first strap. As soon as it happened, Jonathan gently touched the Englishman's arm in order to get his attention. Jervis felt as though he were under a microscope as Crane studied him, noticing the sudden redness of his cheeks. That was when it dawned on him.

"Jervis," Jonathan said then in a calm but serious tone, apparently finally putting the pieces together. In embarrassment, Jervis sheepishly looked away, his face a bit warm. "Is this… a thing for you?"

Tetch bit his lip a bit harder, trying hard to not be so obvious, but he was a man with his heart on his sleeve. Any emotions he felt were evident to everyone around him. "Oh… I don't know what you could mean by that," he murmured, playing with the rim of his hat once more. He refused to make eye contact with Jonathan in fear of the man figuring out all he had to hide away with just a simple glance.

"Jervis," Jonathan called for Tetch's attention once more, a little more harshness in his tone to get the man's full undivided attention. "Do you have a hypnotism fetish?"

Immediately Tetch brung his hat down far enough to cover his eyes, a strangled sound coming from his throat as he turned away. "Oh my dearest queen's croquet field, why must you say it like that?" he whined, flicking his hands as if to try and get water off of them. He felt dirtied, and he needed to get that dirt off.

"How else am I supposed to say it?" Jonathan question, already undoing the strap on his other arm. He'd already given Jervis the option of being more vague. So he decided to be more blunt with it instead. "You have a hypnotism kink."

Hatter let out an undignified "AH!", quickly pacing in a tight circle to try and relieve his uncomfortable feelings that spread to his limbs. He felt funny just discussing it and was trying to walk out all of his uncomfortable physical reactions. "I'm sorry!" he squeaked, hiding his face in shame. "I'm disgusting, I know, but oh my oh my oh my— I just can't help myself!"

Crane quickly raised his free hand to try and calm him down. "Hatta, calm yourself," he said sternly. "Fetishes are nothing to be ashamed of (unless it's with significantly younger people). You're a grown adult who has needs as we all do, and you just happen to have a very… odd and potentially dangerous liking to a certain act." He stopped to finally get the strap off, taking a moment to look at Tetch once more. He was still hiding his face beneath he hat, but had stopped pacing, now just mumbling under his breath. "Besides," Jonathan continued, "I can imagine after all these years you haven't lain with anyone, so you may be fairly repressed in that aspect." He just went right out and said it, gesturing to his friend. "When's the last time you've been intimate with someone?"

He leaned down to begin undoing the strap on his legs. It took a good thirty seconds given its design, but by the time he'd got one done, he realized that Jervis had failed go answer his question at all. The doctor blinked and slowly looked up at Jervis, who was completely red in the face as he peered at Jonathan from under his hat. Crane had to take a moment to sit up, taking it all in. Everything made a bit more sense now. "Really…" he said slowly, trying to keep his surprise stifled under a professional tone. "Never?"

Jervis whined, sitting back in the armchair with his knees up to his chest. "And you have?!" he asked, seemingly a little astonished at the revelation. "I would never think, given your, er, upbringing, that you'd— ahhhhh." Truth be told, under all that embarrassment, he felt a pang of jealousy deep within him at the thought of Jonathan being with someone else. He hadn't thought Crane had been with, well, anyone ever, given his cold and abrasive attitude.

"I killed my grandmother," Jonathan replied. "You think I give a damn about the restrictions she tried to force unto me? Yes, I've had sex several times, I've just never really been satisfied." The bluntness of his talk had Jervis squirming, but he didn't know what else to call it. "Making love" was a fat lie, and if "getting intimate" is defined as having an emotional closeness, then that was a lie as well. "You're the one actually pursuing love all the time. I'm surprised you've never been intimate with anyone." He then had to pause after removing the last strap. He studied Jervis for a moment, trying to gauge him to see if his intuition was correct. "And… you've never touched yourself either, have you?"

"Is that so wrong?" Jervis shrieked, covering his eyes so he wouldn't have to look at Jonathan in the eye. "I've just— never had a reason to. Not many people have made me feel the way you have, Hare, and to me that is special! Is that wrong of me?"

"No no, of course not," Crane replied, dismissing the man's worry. "It just… explains a lot, honestly." Now completely freed, he sat back in the experiment chair, looking over the other in consideration for a minute or so. Jervis looked so ashamed of himself, as if his own sexual desires were shameful. It also explained why he seemed to melt so quickly into Scarecrow's arms the night before. However, there was something more to it; yes, Jervis was an odd man, but there was certainly a childhood reason to his repression. It was something he'd definitely need to look into at a more appropriate time, but for now, he rubbed his chin to consider the man, deciding on his next course of action.

"Tell me more," Jonathan requested then. "About your hypnotism desire."

At this request, Jervis actually glared at his friend, initially believing him to be poking fun at him. But then he had to remind himself that Jonathan had no sense of humor whatsoever, and that's when he became a little more confused, twiddling his thumbs nervously at the idea of going into more detail. "Why would you want to hear about that?" he murmured bashfully, looking away once more.

"I'm genuinely curious," Jonathan replied honestly. He received a cautious, yet shy look from the neurologist, who seemed to be intimidated by the request. "Let's start off simple," Jonathan then continued. "What would you like to do to me with that pocket watch of yours?"

Jervis was beet red at this point, taking several minutes to formulate an answer as the interviewer waited patiently. Finally, he found the right words to say.

"I think you know by now that I do so enjoy having control," he admitted, looking down at his gloved hands. "And… oh my, to have someone as defiant as you, so crass and strong-willed, to be under my control? Oh that would be a treat." His breathing shuddered then at just thinking about it. "Doing whatever I wanted, no sassing or arguing, just… servicing me has always been a fantasy of mine."

Jonathan admitted, the "servicing" bit had nearly broken the polite and respectful expression he had on display. His face felt strangely warm. He brung his hand to his mouth, covering it up so as to not let anything slip. "Tell me more," he urged, aware his cheeks were dusted with a bit of red at this point. It was a problem he wasn't exactly familiar with.

Jervis looked at Crane, hesitantly, before giving a more confident smile. He was no longer squirming in his seat as he did before, trying to hide away in his own hat. "The best part would be that I would gain your trust beforehand," he murmured, biting his knuckle, "and that would make me feel special, like you really loved me. And when you're under, you can just focus on feeling good instead of whatever goes on in that mind of yours. To have you fully relaxed, allowing me to give you as much love as I want." He smiled softly at the ground, before perking up. "What about you?" he then requested, a question that confused the other.

"What about me?" he asked. "If you're talking in terms of desires, I should let you know now that I am asexual."

"I understand," Jervis replied, sounding a bit more confident now, "but I know you have what makes you weak as well. Scarecrow had told me about your affinity with… my heart."

Crane's expression stiffened, but unlike Jervis, he didn't shy away. "I suppose it's only fair I share my part then," he replied slowly. "As you very well know, I am very invested in subject of fear… even after I stopped being able to feel it, my desire didn't die. Instead, it doubled, I would say." He hid a smile behind his hand, unable to let Jervis see how his own thoughts affected him in such a way. Jervis watched, seeming to not quite understand, but still listening on. "When I lost the ability to feel that terror in my chest, or that rushing of my pulse from something terrifying, I started craving it," he continued on. "But the greatest moments are when I get to observe the effects myself, especially when caused by me. To hear the thudding of your heart whilst in the clutches of fear, it… it gets me excited. It's intoxicating, I'd even say, just to see you afraid of me. So much so that…"

Jonathan forced himself to pause, clearing his throat in an attempt to soothe nerves. "My greatest desire would be to have you all to myself, in more ways than one," he then explained, much to the other's curiosity. "To experiment on you until your amygdala breaks, until you're rid of all fear except for the fear of me." He let out a heavy exhale, the heat of his face indicating to Tetch just what this was doing to him. He removed his hand to reveal a grin he couldn't help, revealing how intoxicated he was by the idea. "To have that power over you, with I the only one who can instill that emotion in you… oh I can't explain how it would make me want you."

Jervis was warm to the core, Jonathan's words already making him heated despite fear being something he himself wasn't too fond of. But the way Crane explained it made it sound so special, like there would be a bond between them that only they could share. He would admit, being attached to his March Hare in such a way sounded frightening, but thrillingly so, just as he was sure his own desires appeared to Jonathan. If the blush was anything to go by, anyhow. It was something he would definitely have to think about. There was still one thing left on his mind, however. "I wanted to ask," he murmured, rubbing at reddened cheeks. "You said earlier that you were, erm, asexual. Does this mean…?"

Jonathan already knew what the question was before he finished. "Yes Tetch," he nodded, a smile coming to his face, "if we ever get to that point, I will have sex with you if you want to."

Jervis was embarrassed with how blunt Jonathan could be, but was glad he got an answer nonetheless. He smiled softly, deciding to make a joke to relieve his own tension. "Oh good! Now all we have to do is find us a cheap mattress."

Crane just raised a suggestive brow. "Why would we need one?" he inquired. "There's a perfectly good work desk upstairs."

Tetch let out a nervous titter, playing with the collar of his coat. "Oh how funny you are," he laughed, treating the reaction as a joke, "of course we couldn't do that! Edward would hear everything!"

Jonathan didn't seem to find the point when Edward already knew everything. "So?"

Jervis just stared at him before falling into slow embarrassed and nervous giggles, covering his face. "Ohh you're so funny, March Hare," he murmured, despite knowing full well that Jonathan couldn't tell a joke. "Ohhh we can't because, well, ah, y-you know how things are and—"

Crane got up out of his seat and dusted himself off. "Of course, I wasn't talking about now," he said then, walking over to his friend. "But you do bring up a good point. Getting a mattress or a couch may be better for my back, given I usually sleep sitting up. I may ask Rockwell to find a couch next time he comes. I should go upstairs and fix whatever was knocked down in our scuffle. You are invited to assist me if you'd like."

He walked to the stairs, about to ascend, when Jervis made another small noise to catch his attention. "Ah, so sorry to stop you, Hare," Tetch hummed, getting up to follow him up the stairs. "But… does this mean… are we…" He clapped his hands together, unsure of how to word it. "Does this mean you and I are… together?"

Jonathan blinked, looking down at Jervis from the middle of the staircase. He slowly descended, approaching Jervis and putting a hand on the other's shoulder. "I may not feel for you as you do for me, and I am still figuring myself and my relationship to you out, but for the meantime… yes. We are together." He gave Tetch's shoulder a little squeeze, before going back upstairs. Jervis was in shock, given that a simple shoulder squeeze might as well have been a full blown kiss from the man who never showed any signs of emotion. Soon, however, a love-drunk smile crossed his face as he quickly followed after him, his stomach filled with butterflies and his heart leaping with joy.

As Jonathan was trying to get a bandaid for his cut, Jervis realized that now was the time where he had to confess. If he didn't say it now, Jonathan would never forgive him in the future.

"Hare, this is something I must confess."

Jonathan stopped as he was getting the first aid, hearing the seriousness within Tetch's voice. He looked back slowly, noticing how the man was shifting his weight between either foot as he played with his hat. It must have been serious. He instantly regretted everything he'd said to Jervis; he was a fool. He'd revealed his feelings too early, and now here the Hatter was, ready to reveal something that would put a halt to all the progress they'd made. He took in a slow inhale to hold in any anger, knowing he would have to let it out only when appropriate. Finally, he turned to Jervis fully, giving him his undivided attention. "What is it, Jervis. What must you confess now?"

Tetch felt intimidated by the sudden change in tone, but he didn't let it keep him from what he needed to say. He couldn't turn back. So he just grabbed the rim of his hat, closed his eyes, and let it out. "All those times you've called me crumpet; in the UK, a crumpet is slang for someone you find to be, ahm, physically pleasing!"

Jonathan stared blankly at Jervis, the blank expression showing hints of devastation in the way his frown deepened. A moment passed, and then he just started gagging out of nowhere.

Tetch gasped and immediately went to retrieve a bin for him to wretch in.

Savannah listened to her caretaker as she slowly stirred her coffee, nodding along to show she was paying attention while actively keeping an eye on the front door. His lecture was simple and routine: don't take anything they give you, don't go anywhere with them; typical things every child hears about strangers. For Savannah, however, she didn't feel like she would need to be so cautious around these strangers.

After getting in contact with them, they'd asked to meet in a coffee shop, somewhere public. Keeney understood that they were nervous, and honestly, she was a bit excited as well, so she had no problem with following their requests.

After her caretaker finished, he told her he'd be in a booth a ways away in case she needed him, and with that, she was alone, left to nervously stare at her coffee.

Every time the bell on the door would sound, she'd bolt her head up, hoping it was them, but to no avail. Savannah kept an eye on the time, starting to have her first initial doubts as the time ticked closer to noon. Five minutes past that and she was left wallowing in her own disappointment about a meeting that would never take place. She didn't even like coffee, and yet she'd come here in hopes of it being a more comfortable environment.

When the door sounded again, she peered up and lurched upright in her seat in surprise. A pale, thin, blonde woman stood there, actively looking around the store as if searching for something. Savannah quickly raised her hand, waving to her, much to the woman's surprise.

"Savannah?" she asked, slowly approaching the girl's booth. "You're Savannah?"

"Yup," the girl confirmed, feeling a little more bashful at the woman's confusion, "that's me. Is, um, she here?"

The blonde soon donned a smile, looking back at the door. "Oh! Yes, of course, she's just a little nervous, sorry about that. It took a bit of effort to drag her out of the house and out of the car, so sorry that we're a bit late." This naturally warm, kind look crossed her. She had these bright blue eyes, showing a naturally bubbly and cheery personality. A blue hairband was used to keep her long locks of yellow in place, and she was dressed in a rather casual but warm outfit, perfect for the chilly day. She stuck her hand out. "Alice. Nice to meet you."

"Savannah," the other grinned, quickly shaking her hand back. Quickly Alice left the scene, exiting out the door, soon only to return tugging an auburn-haired woman, who wore so much clothing that, along with her sunglasses and a scarf over her hair, seemed as though she were trying to disguise herself as much as possible. "Oh c'mon, Becky," Alice urged, dragging her through the door. "She's, like, eleven! She's not gonna do anything."

Albright mumbled her protests, but soon let herself be guided to the table, where she finally saw Savannah. "Whoa," she murmured, pulling off the sunglasses to get a proper look at her. "I… thought you'd be older, honestly." Savannah just smiled sheepishly.

As Alice took her seat, Becky removed the scarf from her hair and her jacket, allowing the image of a grown, beautiful woman to be seen as she also took her seat. "Becky Albright," she introduced herself as. "And you're…"

"Johnny's sister, yeah," Savannah replied, noticing how Becky grimaced at such a casual name given to the criminal. She'd have to forgo the nickname, despite how fond of it she was. "I, ah, didn't know you guys knew each other."

"Oh, us?" Alice asked, gesturing to her friend. "Oh, we've been friends for years. Ever since I met Becky at that one recovery meeting for victims of Gotham's rogues. We got some coffee and we've been friends since."

Becky just gave a wry smile, not exactly wanting to talk casually at a time like this. "I believe we have more important matters to discuss at the moment," Albright mentioned to Alice, quickly looking at the time. "Especially now. I have to meet a client in a couple of hours."

"Oh, yeah yeah yeah, of course," Savannah nodded, taking a sip of her coffee to relieve her nerves. "Let's talk about Crane and Tetch."

"Absolutely," Becky nodded, hanging her purse on her chair. "This especially pertinent given that Halloween is fast approaching."

"Okay, yes," Alice said, interrupting them with a soft smile, "but that's weeks away. How about we get some coffee first, alright girls? I swear you're scaring the entire café." She gave her friend a playful nudge. "Hey. What would you like? I'm going to go get myself an ice coffee and some coffee cake; I'll get you something, too."

Rebecca looked at Alice in initial confusion, as if asking why her friend was so calm in a conversation like this. Alice put a hand on the other's shoulder, sharing a warm, confident smile, which seemed to ease the other's nerves. She relaxed a little, looking back over at the menu. "Umm… just get me a bagel and… ah, doesn't matter what kind of coffee. Anything other than pumpkin spice. I can't stand it. It just reminds me too much of him."

Savannah just nodded in pretend agreement as she quickly tried to chug her pumpkin spice coffee before the smell could reach Albright.

Notes:

Any day now... any day now and I can finally write that scene I’ve always wanted to... I can’t wait.

Hopefully this wasn’t too difficult to read. “f*cktoy” still haunts my nightmares.

Chapter 12: How the Crow Lost His Fear of Flying

Summary:

It’s the beginnings of their relationship and things are already a little rocky, but Jervis believes that if he keeps working at it, he can get closer to Jonathan. This chapter reveals more about Crane and where his actions stem from.

Also, Katrina’s in it.

Notes:

Hello my fellow dudes. Prepare for relationship development and angst.

And a bird caring for her boy.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Edward sat in the armchair across from Jervis and Jonathan, who both shared a recently acquired sofa that couldn’t be traced back to its original owner. His legs were crossed over one another, his fingers tented as he watched the two suspiciously. “So… you’re dating…”

Jonathan gave a hesitant shake of his head. “That implies mutual feelings for one another. It’s more of a one-sided relationship in which I agree to let him dote over me and I use his his affection as leverage to get him to do things for me.”

Jervis didn’t seem bothered by this description at all. “Exactly,” he agreed cheerily, kicking his legs idly. “Given you are staying within the same residence for a time, we’ve decided to let you know about it to clear up any confusion. All we ask is that you keep this under wraps, yes? We do prefer this to be a purely private affair.”

Edward said nothing as he slowly slid down his seat. “Ahhh damn it,” he sighed, closing his eyes, trying to collect himself. However, soon he was sitting back up straight as can be, adjusting his hat. “Setting aside my own grievances about this whole ordeal, I shall acquiesce and allow you both to continue on with this… arrangement you have going on, as uncomfortable as it makes me feel.” He adjusted the tie to his newly acquired suit, soon fixing his hair. “You both are lucky to have me in the same bunking space as you two. Even though I already begrudgingly tolerate your existences, I will do what is required and sacrifice my precious time to make sure that whatever is between you does not end in bloody pieces, for everyone’s sake. Yes, I know, how selfless of me, right? You may thank me now to spare time in the future.”

Jonathan and Jervis had to stare, slowly looking at one another in confusion. “You?” Jervis asked, a little unsure with what Edward was telling them.

Crane continued for him with, “You think you’re going to be the primordial glue that holds us together?”

Edward scoffed, as if the answer was obvious. “Oh of course!” he huffed, standing up and dusting himself off. “You two? I’m willing to bet my entire life savings that neither of you have shared a living space with another human being in your normal lives that wasn’t prison, much less with someone you’re in a relationship with. You need me since I’m the only normal one here and I know both of you well enough.” He gauged their expressions, sneering. “Is that doubt I see? They always doubt.”

Jonathan couldn’t help a quick roll of his eyes. “I think you need to tone the ego down, Nygma.”

This rewarded him with a small touch to the arm, one that Jonathan quickly shrugged off with a glare. “Oh don’t be so harsh, my dear Hare! I’m sure Edward will be perfectly helpful to us!”

“You honestly think the Riddler is going to be the ultimate mediator between us?”

“Of course! Why not?”

“Jervis, how can you be so intelligent and yet so logically deprived?”

Edward just watched the two begin to bicker, letting out a tired sigh.

It had to have been a couple days later when Edward had almost completed his work. He just needed to finish a few more sections of code before he would be done. It had to be impenetrable for Oswald could be assured to be safe in his more secretive dealings. He had to stop, however, when he heard Jervis’ hurried speaking in the other room. He let out a small sigh, stopping his typing on the laptop to get up and go into one of the labs, where Jervis and Jonathan were clearly having an argument.

“There are roaches and rats everywhere,” Jervis complained, stamping his foot in a bit of emphasis. “You seriously cannot live in such conditions! They could get you sick!”

“And you are seriously suggesting I use bug spray to keep them at bay?” Jonathan retorted, arms crossed as he hardly considered the idea. “This lab is filled with chemicals! A single bad reaction could cause extreme outcomes.”

“Well it would not be that way if you were tidy,” Jervis replied in a rare bit of criticism to the other. “You seem to be far too comfortable in mess. It’s simply troubling.”

As Jonathan opened his mouth to reply, Edward moved in between them to get to the window. Silently, he opened the window, and after a moment, Katrina landed on the windowsill. She hopped around for a few moments before darting inside, quickly snatching up a rat with her talons and quickly getting to devour it.

Both Jonathan and Jervis let out an “Oh” at this, one in surprise and one in general embarrassment that the idea had not been thought of before. Edward just said nothing for once and got back to his laptop, trying to get done with work as fast as he could so he could move out already. Writing code was easy, yet tedious work, as he knew from prior experiences, but it was worth it to get a hideout of his own so he could properly scheme in peace without having to worry about the two he currently bunked with. On the table in front of him was a little contraption Jervis had been working on; a little headpiece that would no doubt be used to alter one’s mind. While Tetch was a fast worker, he was unfortunately distracted by someone in the past week.

Speaking of the Englishman, Jervis finally came back from his dispute with Jonathan to sit down on the couch with a cheery smile, grabbing the headpiece once more and taking up a pair of tweezers to continue working. Edward thought nothing of it as he continued as well. That was what the days mostly consisted of: silence until Jervis (it was always Jervis) piped up with something to say or mention, thus starting a conversation. Other than that, it was quiet, allowing all three to continue on with their business. While Edward was at the laptop and Jervis busied himself with his invention, Jonathan enjoyed holing himself up in his work room, reading or the like until Tetch would get particularly lonely and go up to have a small chat. It was nothing of particular substance, just “How are you feeling today?” and maybe a “Is it alright if I work next to you?” to which Jonathan would undoubtedly reply with something along the lines of “Only if you can be quiet.”

Jonathan walked to the back of the lab, no doubt to go outside to feed his birds. As he did this, Jervis looked up to the stairs and smiled, quickly taking a trip to Jonathan’s room. He walked inside, knowing he was allowed as long as Jonathan didn’t explicitly tell him not to. Taking a quick gander, he frowned upon noticing how much of a mess it still was. A roach or two was still lingering around, but with a quick swoop, Katrina eagerly got rid of them, crushing them with her beak with ease and swallowing them. Tetch squeaked at how quickly she appeared, but appreciated her timing nonetheless. “Oh! How efficient you are,” he smiled fondly at her, watching her land on the top of Jonathan’s chair. He went over and raised his hand to pet her, pausing just before to ask for her permission. Given that Crane wasn’t here at the moment, she would give her human’s friend the privilege of petting her feathers, watching him warily with her one eye. He happily stroked the feathers around her neck, glad she had stopped her habit of clicking her beak at him or trying to fend off his hand with vicious pecks. “My, I wonder how you lost that eye of yours, you pretty bird,” Jervis doted, gasping when she fluttered onto his shoulder so she could receive pets as he moved around. He was absolutely in love, petting the dear thing’s neck as he admired her. “Your feathers are beautiful, like that of a Jubjub bird’s, only less colorful… and less scary, too.” Katrina’s feathers ruffled; she smacked his hand away with her wing and squawked loudly in defiance, giving his hat a firm peck as a bit of a scolding. Jervis put the tips of his fingers to his mouth with a loud gasp. “Oh my! Oh my oh my oh my, I’m so sorry, my dear Katrina!” he apologized hurriedly, a genuineness to his voice. “I almost forgot you’re the Hare’s bird— no no, my dear, you are VERY scary. A big, monstrous crow you are, with such terrifying feathers!”

Katrina chirped, letting him get back to petting her as it seemed that her offended period had subsided. He just tittered at her haughty attitude as he figured Crane must have treated her like quite the spoiled bird. Katrina moved to atop his hat, starting to hop up and down on it with no explanation whatsoever. Jervis found it odd, but figured it wasn’t quite against the bird’s odd antics. He decided to do a bit of cleaning while she pecked at his hat incessantly. Taking a look around the room, his expression fell at the considerably less beautiful state of the room. Old schemes and newspapers of various achievements were put up on the wall, with Scarecrow’s mask being hung up among them. Even when just an empty mask they seemed so intimidating, a stitched smile over their visage as they seemed to be laughing at the poor Hatter. Jervis let out a shaky sigh, murmuring under his breath, “I’ll have you, too… one day…”

Looking back at the work desk, he frowned at how messy it was. Open books were scattered around, with papers of equations and tight handwriting were placed here and there. Some seemed to be just notes while others were reminders or just scribbled out words and numbers. Jervis decided to make himself useful for his dear Hare and quickly began organizing everything, putting glassware in a certain safer section with chemistry tools stowed away in the proper drawers. Papers were tucked together into neat separate piles depending on content. It required a bit of a glance over from the Hatter, but he tried not to pry. He grabbed a few books to put them away, noticing that many of them weren’t printed books, but instead handwritten by Crane himself. He was able to tell from the lack of an author name, as well as the handwriting only two kinds: there was this neat, tight penmanship usually associated with the doctor, while some pages were marred with horrific chicken scratch that formed letters, as if the author barely cared about their own handwriting. “I can guess whom that is,” he murmured, and although he was tempted to read some of the wordy bits just to get a glimpse at how Jonathan talked to himself, he didn’t feel comfortable with the leering, empty eyes of the Scarecrow on the wall just watching him. He felt as though as soon as Jonathan came in, Scarecrow would spill to him about all of the Hatter’s snooping. Instead, he put them away as well, the desk completely clean save for an empty glass of water. No food or crumbs, Jervis noted, though only now did it dawn on him that it was more because of Crane’s preference to eat very little, not because of cleanliness, as was evident by the previous state of the desk. He kept reminding himself that he needed to get Jonathan to eat something tonight. It wasn’t that he was trying to fatten him up or anything, but he at least wanted Crane to be taking care of himself.

What also was upsetting was seeing how the papers and materials cluttered everywhere save for a semicircle encompassing the middle of the table, big enough for Jonathan to spread his elbows out and rest his head. What people let themselves fall asleep at their own desks? Jervis could recall doing so once, but only from pure exhaustion. He loathed to think this was how Jonathan put himself to sleep, but it seemed more than likely.

Jervis noted a coat hung near Scarecrow’s mask; dirtied with several holes, the only real mending being scarce. A few buttons had popped off, with no visible attempt to repair them. Tetch had to let out a soft, almost frustrated sigh at this. While yes, it was the general aesthetic of the Scarecrow persona, it was a coat Jonathan wore when he got too cold, and even then he didn’t seem to care much for it.

“Jervis.”

Hatter recognized that tone of voice. It was accompanied by a tired sigh. It signaled he’d done something wrong once more, but nothing worth a berating over. Crane stood in the doorway, looking over the significantly cleaner room in an expression that didn’t quite convey the appreciation Tetch was hoping for. Jonathan let out a more muted exhale this time, extending an arm. Quickly Katrina launched off of Jervis’ hat, scaring the life out of him with its abruptness, just to land on Crane’s arm and swiftly flutter up to his shoulder. There, she got pets from the thinner and more steady and precise hands of the doctor, who knew which feathers to smooth down for her.

Tetch swallowed, clasping his hands together and bringing forth a more apprehensive smile. “Ah, there you are! I was just tidying up for you, my dear Hare,” he explained, his smile fading at the sight of Jonathan grimacing to himself. “Did I… misplace something?”

“No no,” Jonathan sighed, walking further into the room to run a finger over the table, noticing how it lacked the layer of dust it once had. “I just… I’m not used to this sort of benignity towards myself.” He looked to Jervis, having a hard time expressing himself given he had shut everyone out for so long. “I… I would prefer if you would ask before you touch my things, that is all.”

He picked through the glassware, making sure nothing was cracked before leaving them. “I appreciate it, I do, I’m just… this is foreign to me,” he replied, sitting down in his chair while Jervis went to close the door.

“I understand,” Tetch replied, looking back at Jonathan. “I will definitely try to remember to reach out to you before I—“ He stopped there, squeaking a bit in surprise upon seeing Jonathan watch him while Katrina began picking through his hair. “My, I think the dear girl is trying to find bugs in your hair!” he had to mention, stifling a giggle.

Crane didn’t seem to mind as Katrina now stood on his head and rifled through his hair, trying to make sure he was clean. “Don’t mind her,” he said simply, rolling his eyes at the antics of his bird. “Social grooming is a common activity among crows, most commonly around mates or children.” He winced a little when Katrina pecked at a particularly sensitive part of his head, but for the crow, it was for his own good as she continued to groom him. “She’s an old crow,” Jonathan continued, wincing once more as her talons dug in a bit. “Met her several years ago when she had gotten caught in some barbed wire some people had wrapped around the branches of a tree to try and have a bit of fun torturing animals. I rescued her, treated her missing eye, and returned her to her flock. Ever since then I’ve been accepted into the flock, and she in particular treats me like I’m a flightless fledging in need of protecting at all costs.”

Immediately Jervis heart fluttered at the thought, bringing a hand to his chest as he felt that common swelling of endearment. “Ah! How lovely,” he had to coo, “Dear Haigha has no parents of his own, so this big old JubJub has adopted him like her own big lovely chick! How precious!”

Jonathan immediately grimaced at this, trying to motion at Katrina to get her off of his head. Jervis, however, could now only picture it as a teenager trying to smack their mother’s hand away from messing with their hair. “No mom, my hair is fine!” he could imagine him grumbling. The way she hopped on his head and gave him a scolding peck on the scalp was much like a mother getting their child to stay still while she fixed his hair. Tetch’s heart almost couldn’t take it. He wanted to sob at how precious his own imagination was. That’s when he remembered how Katrina was jumping on his hat, and it was then that it dawned on him. Katrina wasn’t haughty, but instead a mother giving her child a tough-love sort of treatment.

Jervis decided to test his theory by gently taking his hat off, catching the crow and the Scarecrow’s attention. Katrina tilted her head, watching the smaller human curiously, before quickly fluttering onto the other’s head, beginning to sift through his hair in an attempt to groom him. He covered his mouth with a gasp, feeling her peck at his head. “Oh my fur and whiskers!” he cried out, breaking out into tears of gratitude, “I’ve been adopted!”

Jonathan watched in silent disbelief as this fully grown man burst into happy sobs at the idea of a crow adopting him, a man who already had parents but somehow found a bird’s motherly grooming to be far more important. He silently looked around, half expecting to be on camera from how over the top Tetch’s reaction was to being pecked at by a crow. If being raised by human parents would have made Jonathan this emotionally fragile to even the most adorable of things, he would have to pass.

“And since when did you become an orphan?” he questioned then, a little surprised by how quickly Jervis bounced back from tears and into his normal jovial state. “Don’t you already have parental figures?”

“Oh! My parents?” Tetch murmured, rubbing the back of his neck, but not looking embarrassed or remorseful of anything. “My parents… Ah… I haven’t seen them in so long, you see… several years ago, in fact, and that was a moment I don’t look back on fondly.” He gave Jonathan a pained smile, still attempting to keep the mood light in spite of the subject matter. “I love them, I still really do, but they thought it best that they distance themselves from me as much as possible. I’ve been disowned, and I doubt I’ll ever be reowned by them again until I recover.”

Jonathan simply nodded, allowing Jervis to drop it there instead of going into detail about certain events. That was the difference between the both of them: while Jonathan let his memories define who he was and shape his personality and motivations, Jervis preferred to distance himself away from his more lucid memories, preferring to be of his own reality. One avoided social contact to preserve himself, while the other actively pursued people it in order to drag them into his fantasy world.

Jonathan considered Jervis for a moment, before looking to his chemicals to silently pick through them. “I’ve been thinking about Halloween,” he then admitted, rather out of the blue. “Every Halloween… I’ve always done something to celebrate the holiday in my own demented way.”

“Don’t you want to do so again?” Jervis queried, rather curious himself about what Jonathan wanted to do on the big day. “You’ve never skipped a Halloween before. Of course— if you do this time, I won’t treat you any different. I know how you’re in such a difficult spot at the moment.”

“Yes…” Jonathan just nodded, hand sifting through the drawer of supplies mindlessly until he hooked onto something familiar, soon pulling out a syringe of familiar orange toxin. Immediately Hatter tensed at the sight, giving the spooky toxin a glare as if to try and will away all the unfavorable connotations associated with its unique, sickening hue. “To think a year has already past since my last holiday terror. This time of year always brings about a sense of nostalgia.”

Tetch brung his focus back to the more important (if not the most important) one in the room. He found it odd how Jonathan now decided to open up, but was thankful for it nonetheless, knowing it must be from Jonathan’s growing comfortability around the hypnotist along with just the need to speak his mind. He stayed quiet out of respect for his friend, gesturing for him to go on with talking. Jonathan, however, seemed to have nothing more to say— simply speaking out loud for the sake of it. His eyes drifted up to the corner, and when Tetch followed it, he found him staring that that bloodied piece of metal Pyg had graced him with several days ago. It was muddied with the gore, caked on like clay left to sit in cool temperatures for far too long. Jonathan was obviously reminiscing; after all, given the approaching holiday, how could he not think of his past escapes? Jervis saw the blade and didn’t quite know what to think of it before he looked back to see Jonathan gliding his index finger over the sharp metal of the needle. It was almost comparable to a glutton tracing over the wrapper of a treat, deciding on whether to indulge in his vices. Despite the negative feeling Jervis had about the drug, he couldn’t help but feel a small rise in excitement within the pit of his stomach. When he saw that color, he couldn’t help but think of one particular person.

It’s me.

Jervis swallowed, memories of that night coming back.

Your little March Hare.

Tetch’s chin lifted a little without realizing it, his breath somewhat hindered. He was stuck watching Jonathan consider his own thin wrist in what looked to be consideration. The Hatter had ugly feelings about that it, but couldn’t quite yet pipe up. Jonathan just seemed to be always more lively when entranced by his own toxin or using in on another human being. Those blown pupils, that grin that split his face underneath the mask, how his muscles tensed in undeniable excitement. To see such passion in his Hare always had his heart thumping. And yet, a part of him wished that passion was directed toward him; something other than fear.

We've spent so many nights together, you and I.

Jonathan had always preferred that I handle your more delusional state of mind.

Scarecrow was the key to getting what he wanted, Jervis knew. Jonathan wasn’t purposefully obtuse in his ignorance, but neither was he discarding all of Tetch’s attempts or habits. No, instead, he had been storing such information down in his subconsciousness, cataloguing them. Jonathan only knows to use his hands for what’s necessary, such as tugging Jervis along or needing to place a well-considered and reluctant touch. His words were blunt and cold, never inviting any warmth or sparing any kindness. Scarecrow, on the other hand, seemed to know just where to touch Jervis; what to whisper to his ear and how to invite him back into a world of delusion and fantasy; information that wouldn’t be known unless Jonathan was either consciously or unconsciously making note of every detail.

Jonathan had been truthful in telling how Scarecrow helped him do what he couldn’t bring himself to, and it was here that Jervis realized that the big monstrous crow was a beast formed in the subconscious; one that knew more about Jonathan that the man knew himself, and it decided to forgo any petty sense of pride to use all that stored information to drag Jervis’ confession out of him. Any passion or glee Jonathan lacked was within Scarecrow, and it was there that Jervis came to a slow realization that the one big obstacle in his way of his unrequited love finally being reciprocated was that monstrous crow.

Jervis’ heart thudded as he swooned over the thought. Yes, the beast had tried to kill him, but when was that ever a deterrent for his undying love? Pursuing his love to the edge of Wonderland was half the fun, after all; to see their resolve crack and give into the desires stored in their hindbrain. While Jonathan had explained that he and the crow were the same person, he couldn’t help but feel as though he truly was pursuing two loves. Sure, Scarecrow was adamantly not interested, clearly influencing Jonathan’s more toned down consistency of rejection, the word “no” wasn’t exactly an important piece the Hatter’s extensive vocabulary.

While all this thinking was going on, Jonathan sat in his chair, staring as Jervis’ expression unconscious became more and more love-drunk. It was as if the mere act of watching the doctor was enough to intoxicate the man. Crane sort of just stared back after five minutes, no longer interested in pricking his skin with a needle after seemingly triggering some type of weird fetish for the man. He waved a hand to try and get his attention, but to no avail. After another minute, he looked back to the door. “Nygma!” he called.

After a minute, Edward arrived at the door, standing in the doorway to observe the odd situation Jonathan had been caught in. He let out a sigh, moving over to the entranced Jervis to give him a bit of a shake on the shoulder. “Come on, Tetch. Snap out of it.”

Jervis jerked at the sudden touch, blinking wildly before a sheepish grin crossed his face, embarrassed he’d lost himself there for a moment. Jonathan silently protested for Edward to not leave him alone with Tetch again, but Edward seemed eager to get back to his work, though he still took the time to talk with his colleague just to make sure everything would stay sane after he left.

“Are you sure you didn’t hypnotize yourself sometime in the past?” Nygma asked, ignoring Jonathan’s getting up from his chair to retrieve a glass of water.

“Oh how funny,” Jervis sighed sarcastically, putting his hat atop his head once more now that Katrina had flown back to Jonathan’s arm. “As if I would ever do such a thing? Could you imagine how dreadful that would be?”

Nygma feigned a thoughtful look. “Would it really be all that negative?”

Tetch gave his friend a disapproving glare, giving him a little smack on the arm. “Please. Hypnotism is such a hard skill to master.” His expression lifted with a smile upon seeing Jonathan return with a glass of water. “Oh good! You’re staying hydrated! At least you’re taking care of yourself in that aspect. When was the last time you’ve eaten, Hare?”

Jonathan watched Edward take his leave, giving a small nod of approval to the door when Nygma closed it behind him. “At least he has some common decency,” he muttered, completely ignoring what Jervis had mentioned. The Hatter let out a small huff of frustration. “Hare, did you even hear what I said?”

Jonathan looked back at the Englishman, his expression nonplussed as usual and giving off a general feeling of disinterest. “Hmm?”

Tetch hummed in disapproval, up until his eyes caught Jonathan’s hands once more, grabbing that syringe in consideration. His anger dimmed then as he forced himself to take a steady breath. It would be so easy to take control. Take out his pocket watch or a card and have the man under his spell. Finally then he would listen to him and do what he says. However, he suppresses the urge. What he needed was to be patient. Show the man that he was worth listening to, and that he wasn’t the psychotic control-freak Scarecrow had shown him to be. Crane was already far out of his own comfort zone, so it was time for Jervis to do the same.

Speaking of comfort zones, the very subject gave Tetch a small idea. One that would likely not pan out, but was still worth trying in spite of it.

“I can tell you’re feeling a bit testy at the moment…” Jervis confessed, catching the man’s glaring, but not hateful gaze. He simply wished his Hare wouldn’t glare so glarefully when he wasn’t feeling so cold; Jervis already had enough of a hard time deciphering the good and bad signals Jonathan gave off. Was it an angry glare or a normal “ah yes, I shall acknowledge your existence” glare? Even people as expressive as Edward were hard to read, but people as stolid as Jonathan were an absolute brick wall. “So, I will leave and get back to working on my invention.” He moved to the door, though soon turning to Jonathan, hands clasped politely in front of him. “However, if you wouldn’t be opposed to the idea, I would like to make some tea for the both of us so we may talk. Past dusk perhaps, when Edward is asleep?” His fingers tightened around themselves, knuckles going white under his gloves. It was a reasonable request, but Crane looked over Tetch suspiciously, as if trying to find the ulterior motive by having his eyes burn through the Hatter’s very soul.

What seemed like an hour was actually a few seconds before Jonathan looked away. “I don’t see why not. There’s an old picnic table nearby we can sit at outside, so Edward isn’t disturbed.” He waved Jervis out with a flick of his hand. “How does 10 PM sound? It will give you time to set up the tea.”

Tetch let out the breath he had been holding, glad his friend had taken the bait. “Of course,” he nodded eagerly. “I’ll be sure to prepare a pot. I’ll see you then.”

With that he left, a bit more hope springing to his chest. He may not be snogging the man just yet, but progress was progress, and Jervis would take any chance he would get to spend time alone with his Hare. He was trying to approach the situation slow and steady; a way that wouldn’t scare the poor Hare off. Although it agonized him to be so boringly slow with it, he had realized love wasn’t something that could be forced. Well, it could, but the whole Alice debacle showed his version of love had a few flaws. For now, however, he was determined to pursue the matter without mind control. He wanted to have his Hare in more ways than just obedience.

Despite his more composed state, he couldn’t not skip down the hall merrily as soon as the door was shut.

What kind of tea would Jonathan like? He’d never before commented on his tea, but he imagined figuring out the Scarecrow’s tastes wasn’t that hard. He liked his coffee black after all, the absolute madman. People who lived such a sugarless life scared Jervis, if he were to be honest. Pushing those thoughts aside, he found a hotplate he used for steeping his tea, getting everything set up before going back to work on his invention.

Jonathan’s hand skimmed over the rotting wood of the picnic table, darkness-adjusted eyes scanning its surface. His other hand was preoccupied with petting the mass of feathers that sat in his lap. Katrina was aware that her giant fledging was nocturnal, but it didn’t stop her from being there to warm his lap with her feathers as she slept.

Crane was aware of the approaching footsteps that crunched the dry grass, but he didn’t bother to throw a gaze back. Jervis had this merry skip to his step that Jonathan had learned to recognize as he was always acutely aware of his surroundings. When a cup was placed before him and tea poured, he thanked Jervis and refused any sugar cubes that where offered to him, drinking the tea as it was.

“I thought you enjoyed sweet tea,” Jervis mentioned as he sat beside Jonathan, a phrase that got him a disapproving glare.

“That’s not how you make sweet tea,” the redhead said curtly, trying to hide the offense in his voice, but Tetch knew better. He took another sip before gently picking up Katrina and placing her on the table, tapping her wing as a sign that he’d like some privacy. Katrina woke up and respected his wishes, disappearing in a few flaps of her wings. “So, tell me what you wanted to talk about.”

Jervis took a sugar cube and placed it in his drink, stirring it to help it dissolve. He took in a tentative breath and slowly sipped the hot drink. When he set the cup down, he gathered up his courage. Looking at his paramour, he smiled softly and asked, “May I… hold your hand?”

Crane was silent, watching Jervis carefully, but he didn’t seem particularly opposed. “I don’t see why not.” He offered his hand. The blonde made sure not to be so rushed in taking up his hand with both of his own. Brushing a thumb over his knuckle, he felt Jonathan tense under his skin, but he didn’t let go. Crane was jarred most my the sensation of touch, Jervis had quickly deduced after he’d been shoved away for a few fingers grazing his arm. Crane was no doubt a touch-starved individual, preferring to keep himself isolated rather than have unknown hands touch his body. Tetch figured that if he wanted to get closer to Jonathan emotionally, he had to work on it physically as well.

“Talk to me…” Jervis requested softly. “I simply just want to talk. Not about us, if that makes you uncomfortable.”

Jonathan watched him hesitantly. “What would you like to know?”

Jervis smiled softly, thinking as he gently stroked Jonathan’s knuckles. “Whatever is on your mind, my dear.”

To this, Crane had to think, his thoughts a bit scattered whenever Tetch would drag a thumb over his knuckles softly. Tetch was so warm compared to himself, his palms countering the chill of the night air. It was like needles on his skin with how new it felt to him. Of course he’d had the occasional grip from an officer or the Batman, but to have someone tenderly touch him in that way was almost too much. He felt vulnerable, and yet cared for. And so he just started talking.

“Have I ever told you about how I lost the ability to feel fear?” he began, voice slow and letting off no sort of emotional inflection. Jervis frowned, a little surprised that this was the conversation starter. He would have picked something more cheerful, like his favorite teas or the absurd prices of good fabrics these days. Though, he had to remind himself that Jonathan was a far different person than him. While Jervis would want to speak of happier things, Crane was more keen on talking about what was relevant and important.

“I don’t believe you have,” the hypnotist murmured, rubbing his fingers over the much thinner hand of his counterpart. “I have heard rumors, however. You deliberately experimented on yourself; took too much of your own toxin to where you became immune.”

Jonathan stared straight ahead, letting out a hesitant sigh. “That’s the story, isn’t it?” he murmured softly, watching a small raccoon climb down from its perch. “That’s what I let everyone believe, anyways.” He looked down to look at his hand, wrapped so gently in thicker, more gentle fingers. “Do you remember… Lyle Bolton?”

Jervis perked up at the name, his reaction understandably nasty. “Lyle Bolton? Oh, how could I forget that hideous cur? He put me in the medical ward for a week while you and Miss Quinn and Mr. Scarface were having that scuffle with him in court.” He took some time to consider Jonathan. “From what I heard, he took a great disliking to you.”

Crane scoffed, a chuckle nearing his lips as he seemed to find amusem*nt in the statement. “Oh he had a great disliking for me. He hated me because I was unafraid of him. I was the most vocal, and because of that, I was the biggest threat.” His expression twisted to one of pain as the memories came back. “But… he was determined, and with access to the storage room that held my costume and my chemicals, he had the tools as well.”

It dawned on Jervis then what had happened. He blinked, stunned and stuttered out, “Is— is that why—?”

“No,” Jonathan shook his head. “He forced my own toxin on me many times, torturing me and threatening to break me if I didn’t behave. He read our files, and he knew just how to get to us, and I was no exception. I was humiliated, thrown around, but all the while forced to go through the daily routines whilst still on my toxin. And heavens, if I told anyone…” He closed his eyes, grimacing painfully. “But no, that period was not the time… it was afterward his incarceration that it happened.”

Jonathan shut his mouth, a bitter look over his face as he recalled all the unfortunate happenings of the past. There was some silence then, so Jervis took the moment to move things a bit forward. He needed to distract himself, something ugly and distasteful beginning to bubble up in his core. “May I hold your arm?” he requested softly, and after a bit of hesitation from the other, he was giving Jonathan’s shoulder a comforting touch. Everyone had a backstory, and he knew Crane had it fairly bad, but hearing him talk about it made Jervis feel things that he shouldn’t; wanting to do things that he prided himself on being above doing.

“I thought once Bolton was incarcerated, that would be the end of my torment. Instead, I was the one tormenting him, and I had a great deal of fun with it as well. He has a fear of maggots, did you know that? It was all quite the game while it lasted. And then…” His breathing became shaky, no doubt coming across a rather ugly memory. “And then, Dr. Strange happened.” He glared at the ground, disgusted. “A sick man, he is. But he’s brilliant; able to understand us in a way no other psychiatrist has, and I truly believe it’s because he is one of us. But it made him invaluable to the asylum, as he had methods that actually worked. In helping treat us.” He swallowed then, looking away as a bout of frustration rose to the surface. “It had to have been him. It couldn’t have been anyone else! Anyone else would have had the common sense to—!”

“To what, Hare?” Tetch asked gently, rubbing the doctor’s arm gingerly to let him feel safe, as well as to ground himself. He was beginning to let his own emotions take control, sensing the distress in the other’s voice and converting it into malice. Something that caused Jonathan to feel emotion on a vocal level was not going to be in Jervis’ favor.

A strangled noise left Jonathan’s throat; a cross between a sigh and an angered scoff. “He’s injured his last cellmate, so someone authorized that he be moved in with me.”

Jervis’ face fell, allowing his devastation to show. That ugly feeling intensified, something he no longer tried to push away, instead letting it stew inside of him. “He… what did he—“

“He got ahold of my toxin…” Crane murmured softly, staring ahead. “Someone gave it to him. They had to. I don’t know how else it could have happened. There’s no way a man as thick-skulled as him could have repeatedly broken into the storage room.”

“Repeated—?”

“I can’t tell you where it began or where it ended.” Jonathan’s pain was evident in his voice, his hands clenching unconsciously as the pit of agony swirled inside of him. “He did whatever he wanted to me. Gave me more of my toxin than I’d ever been given before. Injected me with so much and proceeded to do with me as he wished. My memories blur but the pain— oh I can still remember everything he did to me. And the abuse went on for around forty-six days, I believe. No guards bothered to report it as they just threw me in Solitary as soon as I started acting out. I couldn’t remember a moment where I wasn’t fearing every shadow in the corner. I was a child again, afraid of the very Scarecrow that lived inside my head. I dreaded hearing their voice or even seeing them— they couldn’t help me, and I felt alone for the first time since I was a young child.” By now he was talking without even thinking, just needing to get it all out by now. “Finally the dose they gave me was far too much and my mind just… shattered. I can’t remember anything after that. When I woke up, I felt… right once again. That I had been fixed. My body had gone through autophagy and simply discarded a section of myself that was no longer needed— my ability to feel fear. As for Bolton? Well… I had my revenge… I just wish I was lucid enough to remember every blissful detail.”

As he finished, he felt as though a weight had been lifted a bit off of his shoulders; a burden that someone he knew would understand. When he looked at Jervis, however, there was much more than just understanding. The Englishman’s expression was frozen in a state of deep consideration, brow furrowed as his mouth was twisted into a malicious snarl. His eyes were glazed over with this hatred and a need he would have never imagined would grace Tetch’s usually joyous visage. That was a look he’d only seen in a few vicious criminals such as Zsasz and the Joker— that was genuine bloodlust. This wanting to hurt someone and to make them suffer. Crane felt something spark inside of him at the sight of it.

“So he’s dead…” Jervis murmured under his breath, glaring out into the forest with a burning hatred. “How… unfortunate I can’t have a word with him.” He couldn’t force his expression to fade, instead looking to Jonathan with an anger he was unable to release. “May I touch…” He paused, trying to decide.

“Anywhere…” Jonathan whispered without, and immediately he was met with an embrace around his waist.

“I’m so sorry that happened to you, my dearest beloved Hare,” Jervis whimpered, bringing him in close. Jonathan was soaking in the warmth he was giving off. That combined with the new touch was almost too much overstimulation for him to handle. Tetch pulled away, however, soon lifting a hand to gently cup Crane’s face. “I’m so sorry to open up old wounds, and I apologize to terribly if my words sound crude or ungentlemanly, but I simply wish Bolton were still here so I could watch you torture him myself. The fact that he even dared to touch you makes my blood boil; you don’t know how much it makes me want to—“ He blinked away tears. Tears that he shed for Jonathan. “It makes me want to do uncouth things, Hare. Ugly things that no one should ever think.” His eyes were unfocused but his stare was piercing, a sign that let Jonathan knew that Jervis was crossing into a more unsound state. This cross of bloodlust and madness was triggering something within him. It was almost—

Delicious.

Well that was certainly unexpected.

There was more Tetch had to say, needing his Hare to understand how deep his feelings went. “I would kill anyone who touched you like that, and I mean it,” Jervis continued. “No one, not Bolton nor Strange nor the Queen herself can take you away from me. I can always have another Alice, but I can never have another Hare.”

He was irreplaceable. He wasn’t just some toy that the Hatter could have to hold and do with whatever he want. He felt wanted. Jervis made him feel as though someone truly wanted him. Jervis made him feel safe, and that his feeling were understood.

Hatter brushed a thumb over his cheek to remove a tear, which was how Jonathan realized he had been crying, but he couldn’t care. Jervis made him feel as though he could be vulnerable for once and no one would hurt him. Is this what being loved felt like? Because it was intoxicating.

The bloodlust faded from Jervis’ eyes, returning to that familiar look of adoration. “Would it… would it be alright if I held your hand more?” he asked softly, a hopeful look in his eye.

Jonathan could only crack a smile. “Yes…” he said softly, gently taking Jervis’ hand into his. “That would be just fine…”

The Hatter nearly squealed in delight, quickly embracing him. “Oh how joyous I am to hear you say that! Truly a frabjous day!” There was this beat that passed, Tetch’s voice tapering off into a whisper as he cherished having the doctor in his arms. “Thank you for telling me, Hare. I promise I won’t let anyone touch you like that again, or I willkillthem.”

Crane said nothing in return, simply letting Jervis hug him with all his might. His hand wrapped in Tetch’s, he slowly shifted his thumb to be placed onto one of the veins on the Hatter’s palm, now able to feel Jervis’ pulse. He listened to it beat, feeling both relief and relaxation in its rapid pace.

Notes:

The crow Jonathan has is his bird mom in replacement for his real mom and you will not tell me otherwise.

Chapter 13: Burning Hot Devotion

Summary:

Hatter is a little fed up with Jonathan uncaring attitude towards his own health, and soon realizes that perhaps his expertise may be the answer to the problem. He just needs some tea.

Notes:

This chapter is short compared to my other chapters. This is gonna be the last Jervis/Jonathan only chapter before I finally move the actual plot along. These past few chapters were to help establish their slowly building relationship with one another and plus after TWENTY-ONE CHAPTERS OF ONE STORY AND TEN CHAPTERS OF THIS ONE IT FELT f*ckING GREAT TO FINALLY WRITE SOME BONDING TIME BETWEEN THESE TWO.

Also.

I dedicate this chapter to Mica.

WARNING: This chapter contains hypnotism, and so because of that, there is a nonsexual scene where dubious consent is involved. Also, the abhorrent amount of wasted tea.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Dim rays of sun leaked through the boarded up windows of the room, making things just barely bright enough to wake the tired Hatter. He opened his eyes to the shimmering sun, stirring to the happy calls of a Jubjub bird somewhere in the distance. He was on his back, hat placed neatly to the side and he let out a muted yawn. Glancing over, his brow raised in surprised at the sight of a sleeping Hare, turned away from him and curled ever so slightly.

Sitting up, he quickly rubbed his eyes before taking another look at Jonathan, who was sleeping on the same mattress he was, though at a considerable distance away. Thinking back at the night before, he smiled fondly, remembering Crane receiving that mattress they had talked about shortly after their more personal talk. Jonathan must have been understandably emotionally drained at the time, as he fell asleep shortly after, not minding that Tetch had been sitting beside him and talking idly to him. It wasn’t like he hadn’t talked to unaware people before.

Appreciating the silence, he watched Jonathan breathe in silently. All that tension so natural to him had disappeared in his thin figure, all lost in the peace that was a good night’s rest. The Hatter smiled softly, gently reaching a hand over to graze over Jonathan’s fingers, wanting to comfort him in his sleep. He couldn’t imagine the Scarecrow had good dreams, but could someone who felt no fear have nightmares? He believed so; a nightmare didn’t have to be scary, just uncomfortable. Like that time Jervis had a nightmare where he made a fresh pot of tea but had no sugar and so had to uncomfortably sip at unsweetened tea. The thought still brung shivers to his form.

As soon as his hand grazed Jonathan’s, the doctor’s eyes opened and he was soon sitting up, brushing Jervis off. It was almost robotic in a way, but by now Jervis could only describe it as just Jonathan. Looking to the window, the redhead gauged the time before letting out a silent yawn. “Good morning, Jervis,” he murmured softly, his voice naturally strict once as though he’d been up for hours instead of mere seconds. Jervis couldn’t help but marvel at how teacherish he was.

Tetch watched him get up, a pit of guilt flowering inside of him. “Oh my oh my, did I wake you?” he whispered hurriedly, quickly coming to a stand himself. “My apologies; perhaps you should get some more rest while I make some tea? You had a long night after—!”

“I am fine, Jervis,” Jonathan cut him off as the Hatter’s worries began to turn into a ramble. “I am awake now. No point in going back to sleep.” That’s when he did something that Jervis hadn’t had the chance to see before. Upon standing up fully, Jonathan stretched slightly, arching his spine, and with that a cascading symphony of popping bones washed over the Hatter, whose face scrunched up in reactionary pain, all worries leaving him entirely. Crane seemed to do this as a sort of routine, popping the joints of his fingers and his limbs and oh dear lord the sound of his neck, and once he was done, Jervis gave him the most dead serious look he’d ever seen from the smaller villain.

“Warn me next time, Hare,” he practically demanded, a shiver running through him. “That was horrifying.”

A smirk lifted the edge of Jonathan’s lips, but only just briefly. “Well I suppose that’s the whole point of me, isn’t it? To horrify?”

Jervis pursed his lips, but didn’t feel the need to respond, figuring he had a point. “I can’t quite argue with that,” he huffed, grabbing his hat and fitting it onto his head, glad to be a proper Hatter once again. “I believe we still have some food left over from yesterday morning. I’ll go fetch us some.” As he was leaving, there was a quick “no thank you” response from Jonathan. It wasn’t surprising, but Tetch had hoped his friend would at least treat himself better after last night’s happenings. “But you haven’t eaten since that morning.”

Jonathan was in the closet, now looking through chemical supplies. “And?” he asked simply, dusting off chemicals that he hadn’t used since before the road trip. His chemistry table had gone abandoned save for whenever he needed some sleep.

“And so you haven’t eaten in twenty-four hours!” Hatter exclaimed, flailing his hands in his usual histrionic fashion.

Jonathan found the copper cloth he’d been searching for, looking over its wires while not giving Jervis the slightest bit of attention outside of saying, “So it has. Did they teach you that back in England?”

Jervis placed his hands on his hips, fighting back those urges. It had gotten a lot easier as time went on, trying not to resort to his old habits when people were being difficult. Once he figured out that Jonathan’s walls weren’t indestructible, it was just a matter of finding creative ways to get through each layer. Being obscenely bitchy was just one of Crane’s many ways of pushing people away when he was uncomfortable, which was always. After taking a deep breath, Jervis mellowed himself out. “I wish you would care more for your own wellbeing, Jonathan,” he then spoke, attempting to strike something in his friend.

Jonathan paused as he was moving to the sink, looking over so his eyes could scan over Jervis. After a moment of searching, he continued onto the sink, turning on the faucet and plugging up the drain. “It’s not that I mean to,” he began to explain, going over and quickly picking up the blade of his scythe. “It’s more that… it’s what I’m used to.”

He placed the blade into the sink, watching it slowly be engulfed in hot water. “Even decades after I killed her, the effects of my past on me still show.” Jervis walked up beside Jonathan, looking into the sink as well, but saying nothing and instead listening to his friend. Taking up a copper cloth, Crane scraped at the blade’s caked surface, the blood coming off in chunks. “The isolation, lack of sleep, hunger; I’ve been with it so long I’d rather not be without it. To be alone, finally in control of my own body, it’s… comforting to me. It feels as though I finally have control over something. He took a moment to look down at Jervis in consideration before going back to his cleaning. “This scythe itself I’ve had for years. It was great for cutting through wheat and now in its old age it’s even better for terrorizing people.” He looked back at the mask hanging on the wall for a mere few seconds. “There’s always more important things to do, I believe. I don’t like to waste my time when I could be working. All of yesterday I spent cleaning off Scarecrow’s— er, my mask. The day before was spent gathering new data for the goings on in Gotham. I’ll stop to eat eventually, just when I know I need it.”

As Jonathan worked; Jervis could see that the copper was not only getting rid of he blood and the rust, but the actual stains in the metal as well. He supposed it wouldn’t be long before the blade was completely clean after enough scrubbing, exposing the wicked metal underneath to be used.

“Scrubbing…” Jervis murmured under his breath. To work at something until it was clean and exposed. Yes, the rust and blood would eventually come back in time, but for now, it would be as its baser form. He watched the steam rise from the pool of water, and slowly an idea formed in his mind. “Ah… Hare?” he piped up, watching Jonathan finish up with the outermost later and leave the blade in the sink to soak for a bit.

“Yes?” Crane responded, drying his hands. After shutting the water off, he turned to give Jervis his full attention. “What is it?”

Tetch was working through the process in his head, wondering if it would work on someone on the extreme end of the human spectrum like Jonathan. Still, it was worth a try. “Would you mind participating in a small exercise with me? Just for the morning?”

The redhead’s brow raised some at the inquiry. “‘Exercise?’ Now that can mean a plethora of things, but go on,” he stated, his voice not yet indicating his thoughts on the request. “What did you have in mind?” Just the way Jervis was twiddling his fingers was not a good sign. He always fidgeted with his hands when he was nervous, as Crane had caught onto long ago.

Hatter was hesitant with continuing in fear it would destroy his progress with Jonathan so far, but he soon threw caution to the wind. “Hypnotism, but—“

“No.”

“—BUT it’s simply to help you relax and get you into a better state of mind,” Jervis explained hurriedly, trying to get the idea out there before it could be rejected a second time. “No pocket watch. No control cards. I promise.”

Crane eyed him suspiciously, and understandably so. “You’re talking about the amateur kind?” he inquired. “Just relaxation and whatnot?”

The Mad Hatter looked a bit taken aback by the usage of “amateur”, but still smiled nonetheless. “I would hesitate to call the skill ‘amateur’ in this department, but I suppose, yes,” he nodded, hiding his offended thoughts. “I’ll even let you hide my cards and my pocket watch if it makes you feel safer. Oh— better yet, we can have Edward check up every so often to assure you no nefarious deeds are afoot.”

Jonathan looked at Tetch with a burning stare, eyes piercing right through him with their hate. However, Jervis stood unwavering, refusing buckle under the pressure. He’d spent too long trying to gain Jonathan’s trust, and after losing it once, he wasn’t going to do so again. He felt this was the best way to move forward, genuine with his intentions. It seemed that all that work had paid off, fortunately for him, as Jonathan broke first, looking away. “Fine,” he spoke curtly, going to the door. “Give me all of your cards and your pocket watch. I’ll tell Edward whilst you get them.”

Jervis brightened up, quickly grabbing his things while Jonathan went to inform Nygma about their odd little experiment. He gathered up each one he could remember having, knowing Jonathan would be pissed if he found one just lying around. As he was searching, he noticed a bottle of aloe vera nearby. He was going to need that, he knew, quickly pocketing it. When he finished, he walked up to his friend and offered him the deck of cards and his precious pocket watch. “Hide them well, Hare! I’m quite the champion at a good old game of hide and seek, I’ll have you know.”

Jonathan said nothing, taking them, walking to a cabinet, and placing the items on top of it, the highest point in the lab. Immediately Jervis’ heart dropped as Edward burst into laughter in the background. “Now that’s just mean, you dirty March!” he exclaimed, his voice half a whine as he knew he would have to ask for either peer to grab it for him when the time came.

“Mean, yes,” Crane replied, walking back over, nonplussed as usual, “but effective nonetheless. Since when were we supposed to be above the ‘unfair’? Now, this exercise?”

Brought back to the main task at hand, Jervis was quick to bounce back from his soured mood, soon bouncing on his toes in anticipation. “Oh! Yes yes, of course!” He rubbed his hands together, quickly stepping up to Crane as he repeated the steps in his head. It had been a while since he’d done anything like this. Edward was busy on the laptop, though occasionally raised his gaze out of interest for what they were doing.

“May I hold your hand? Thank you. Think of a word, Hare,” Jervis instructed, gently taking his hand. “Any word at all, just so long as it’s an English word. Always repeat it in your head. Don’t tell me what it is; I’ll try to guess by the end of it.”

Jonathan took only a moment to think. His eyes scanned the room a bit, but didn’t linger. “Done.”

“Good good!” Jervis tittered, going onto the next step as though he’d been through this process before. Thinking about it, Jonathan figured he probably had. Being a hypnotist had to certainly deal with more than just tricks with a watch. “Let us set up some rules. I’m going to ask you a series of questions as we go on with our experiment. You are allowed to ask any questions you like as well. You can lie, but I can’t. You can refuse to answer or participate in anything I ask of you. I will always call you Hare, and in turn I want you to call me Hatter, though if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Understood?”

“Yes. Now what?”

“Now we make tea!”

“What does this have to do with me being hypnotized?”

“Nothing. I’m simply thirsty.”

Jervis began making the pot tea as Jonathan got himself settled down a bit and fed his crows. He used a hot plate to bubble the tea, placing it on its highest temperature so the drink would bubble rapidly. “So, tell me, what is your favorite drink?” he asked as soon as Jonathan got back inside.

Jonathan didn’t take too long to answer, setting Katrina on his shoulder as he put the peanuts away. “Water.”

Hatter nodded in response, taking note. He was gauging where he was at in the moment; it was a lie because Jervis knew Jonathan’s favorite drink was sweet tea, so he was uncomfortable with telling the truth at the moment. Not a problem; like scrubbing at stains, nothing will completely come off on the first try, though hot water would definitely help to speed up the process.

Tetch made himself some tea, as well as pouring a cup for Crane and Edward. Nygma murmured a thanks when getting his drink, while Jonathan was quick to take his own upstairs. Edward felt the base of the tea as he held it, immediately grimacing. “Wow that’s hot. Don’t you usually let it cool first?” He was ignored.

“So, this word you are thinking of,” the Hatter began, following his paramour up the stairs, tea and the pot steadily balanced in either hand, “does it involve a memory?” Katrina flew off of Jonathan’s shoulder to go stand on Edward’s head, watching what he was doing with curiosity.

When the door was closed behind them, Jonathan replied with a curt “No” as he set his tea down on the desk. He took a seat in that favorite chair of his, spinning around to look at Tetch.

Hatter was unfazed by the answer, gently blowing on the searing liquid before soon taking a small sip of his own tea and placing it down on the desk nest to Jonathan’s. He placed the aloe vera down as well, something that got only a passing glance from the doctor. “May I hold your hand, Hare?” he requested then. Crane tensed, as per usual, scanning Tetch as he usually did for some sort of ulterior motive. However, he soon offered his hand, allowing Tetch to move onto the next step.

Jervis removed his white dinner gloves he adored so much, his hands soon taking Jonathan’s and slowly beginning to work at rubbing the tension out of his palm and wrist. The blonde’s hands were so warm in comparison to Crane’s, that warmth only adding more tension due to its unfamiliarity, but it was more effective in rubbing out that cold stiffness. After a minute or so, Jervis continued on. “This word you are thinking of, when was the last time you’ve spoken the word?”

There was a long pause, Jonathan looking to the side, his mind no doubt trying to remember when he’d last used the word. “Yesterday, I believe,” he finally answered, eyes back on Jervis once more. As Tetch took note, Crane decided to ask a question of his own. “If you had to f*ck, marry, or kill one person for each category from Wonderland, who would they be?”

The question obviously caught Tetch off guard, but it was meant to. His face flushed red as he attempted to find some sort of excuse on instinct. However, he swallowed his own embarrassment. “Er… is it possible to do all three with one person?”

Jonathan’s jaw went slack for a few moments, but he quickly recovered. “And who would this person be?”

Tetch was now beet red, avoiding eye contact as he simply tried to get through the truth. “The… Jabberwock?”

Crane stared silently. “Tetch.” The blonde caught his gaze, understandably embarrassed. “So you would f*ck, marry, and kill the Batman?”

Oh that look of absolute fear Jervis had in that moment. “Yes?” he whispered, voice small. This was hurriedly followed up by, “You aren’t jealous, are you?”

This was an inquiry that seemed to genuinely taken aback by the question. It took him a few moments to properly digest what was being asked. “Yes, Jervis, I am astoundingly jealous that you would choose to have sex with, marry, and even kill Batman rather than me. How am I to survive knowing this information?”

Sarcasm. That was a very good sign. Still, Jervis couldn’t help but linger on the question a bit longer as he skimmed Jonathan’s hand, feeling that tension lighten. “If we were… normal, say… would you consider marry me?” He was now at a light blush, looking only at their connected hands. He was right to, as Jonathan’s expression was fairly unreadable at the moment.

“I…” There was a pause in Crane’s answer, bringing regret to Jervis’ heart at having asked the question. “I don’t believe in marriage save for tax purposes.”

Tetch blinked and looked up to meet Jonathan’s blank gaze, confusion interlaced with a bit of hope. “So… is that a yes?”

Crane simply shrugged. “Probably.”

Happy with that answer, Jervis offered his wrist. “Oh my fur and whiskers, Hare, you’ve got my heart all in a flutter,” he breathed. “Would you like to feel?” There was a moment of hesitation before Jonathan took him up on his offer, feeling over the vein in his wrist and listening to the man’s heart beat at a rapid pace. It seemed to relax him considerably, that quick beating. His other hand began to fumble with the glasses around his neck, needing something to hold onto. Something about the genuineness of Jervis’ words translated into his heartbeat calmed him considerably. Tetch took this opportunity to ask another question. “How many languages can you speak?”

“Five.”

Hatter’s mouth quirked up into a smile at the silly answer. Cheeky. A good sign. “This word you’re thinking of. Has the word been associated with you as of recent? If an adjective, has it been used to describe you? If a verb, has it been something you’ve done recent-“

“No.”

Jervis stopped there, the tiniest of smiles coming to cross his face. “I see.” His thumb slid against the other’s boney wrist, tracing the veins. “Do you like my heartbeat, Jonathan? Do you think you could match yours to mine?”

“Yes…” the tone was breathless, almost a bit eager.

“Good,” Jervis whispered, his voice quiet, but firm. Caring and gentle, but full of purpose. “May I touch your arm?” There was a nod, and soon his fingers were skimming over the skin coated in tightly-knit fabric. “I’ve always treasured how hard working you are. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, you’re quite set on your cause. Its one of the things I like about you.” Jonathan said nothing at this time, his mind a bit scattered and yet focused all at the same time. “Now, this word you think of. Does it have to do with your Great Granny?”

Crane’s eyes were heavily lidded at this time, but they still twinged with a bit of pain at the mention. “No…”

“Does it have to do with church?”

“ No…”

Tetch brought up a hand, gently brushing a finger against the other’s cheek as he cupped it. “Have I ever told you just how much I cherish you? I couldn’t imagine you by my side. Such a hard working good person.”

Jonathan’s breathing had slowed considerably at this point. Knowing he was near the threshold, he gently guided Crane’s hand to lay flat on the table. “I want you to keep that hand there. Can you do that?” Once he got a confirming nod, he finally broke his gaze away, placing his hand on the teapot’s base to feel how hot it was. Having just been on a hotplate with its contents only recently boiling and still kept at that fiery temperature, he was forced to quickly pull his hand away lest he get a heat blister. He picked up the pot by its handle, looking back to Jonathan, who hadn’t moved his hand an inch. “Now, this is going to sting a bit,” he confessed. “However, I want you to keep your hand right where it is. If you move it, I may have to start all over again with a new pot.” Crane didn’t quite seem to get what was going on, but nodded nonetheless. With that confirmation, Jervis slowly began pouring the pot’s contents onto Jonathan’s hand.

As soon as the searing hot liquid met the back of his hand, Jonathan lurched back in his seat in pain, though his hand still where it was. Jervis didn’t stop, slowly pouring the tea that had been boiling only minutes ago straight onto his friend’s hand. After a few seconds, Jonathan wretched his hand back, clutching it in pain, though his eyes were filled with regret.

Jervis looked disappointed, but not angry. “Hare, please put your hand back on the table. You said you would keep it there.”

Crane bit his lip to hold back a protest, the pain enough to bring tears to his eyes. He looked at Jervis warily, before quickly placing his hand back. As before, Jervis began pouring the hot liquid in a steady stream. Crane swore, slamming his other fist into the table in pain repeatedly. Tea cascaded off his burning hand and off the desk, messing the floor further, but neither villain cared. Jonathan lasted longer this time, getting by only though digging his nails into the wooden desk and vocalizing his pain through swears and curt cries. His entire body was shaking, jerking wildly until finally he removed his hand once again, forcing Jervis to stop pouring. “I can’t do it anymore,” Crane gasped, holding the reddened skin of his hand that would no doubt blister in the future. “Please, no more.”

Jervis was once again disappointed, but not angry. “Yes you can, Hare.”

“No— no I can’t!”

“We only have half the pot left,” Jervis assured him. “Please, put your hand back.”

“N-no! I-I—!” Crane looked away, but Tetch wasn’t having it, quickly moving in and grabbing the uninjured hand. “March Hare, listen to me.” His voice wasn’t cold or demanding, but instead soft. Crane was forced to look back at the Hatter. “I know it hurts, but you can keep going. I know you can. Please, for me. We can stop right after we’re done. I believe in you.”

Jonathan hesitated. “I—… Alright.” He put his hand back, and quickly Jervis went back to pouring the searing liquid onto him again. He jerked in agony as though he’d just been stabbed through the hand, breathing in deep gulps of air. By now tears had finally fallen, streaming from Crane’s eyes from the sheer amount of pain.

“Granny— please!”

“Shhh, we’re almost there. Just a fourth left.”

“I— Hatter I— can’t—!”

“Yes you can, my lovely Hare. I believe in you. Just don’t move your hand.”

Crane’s words had now melted into pained cries, choked sobs, and incomprehensible babble. It filled the room and echoed off the wall. Tetch looked back to spot that mask on the wall, knowing the Scarecrow would have a thing or two to say to him about this, but right now, he didn’t care.

“Shh. You’re doing so good,” Jervis whispered, keeping at the same steady pace. “Almost there. Thank you for being so strong for me. Don’t pull away just yet! Almost… there!” He pulled the teapot back once the stream had shrunk and broken. “Done!”

Finally Crane pulled his hand back, gasping in pain and delving into pained cries. Jervis put the pot down, pushing it away as he gently grabbed Jonathan’s arms. “We’re done now, Hare, I promise.” He embraced his now broken love. “Thank you so much for doing this for me.”

Jonathan wasn’t even startled by the hug, quickly embracing him back in order to properly feel the genuineness of Tetch’s care. “I’m sorry,” he gasped, tears freely flowing. “I’m sorry I pulled away! I-I—!”

“Shhh…” Jervis whispered, gently rubbing his back to smooth out the tension. He reached out an arm to grab the aloe vera he’d gotten earlier, quickly putting a bit onto the tips of his fingers and soon working it into the redhead’s burned skin. “Don’t you worry about that. I forgive you.”

“B-but you said I we’d start over if I—!”

Jervis shook his head at this. “Poppyco*ck. You did far better than I expected,” he assured him, keeping his voice at a calm and comforting level. “I love, and I forgive you.”

Jonathan murmured with surprise, feeling the cool gel being rubbed into his hand. “You forgive me?” There was this moment to get through his own disbelief. “Really?”

“Of course I do,” Hatter said calmly, his expression soft, caring, even loving. “I told you it would be over and it is. Thank you for being so strong for me. I know it wasn’t easy, and I treasure you for it.” With Jonathan’s chin on his shoulder and his weight against him, he took another moment to rub the other’s back. “No matter your mistakes, I’ll always love you. I’d never abandon you for being who you are.”

Slowly Crane’s pain faded bit by bit, his mind now focused Jervis rather than anything else. “Thank you…” he whispered, his heartbeat beginning to slow. The pain fueled a high within him, making his thinking delirious, but his focus remained on Tetch. He found himself putting all of his trust into Tetch, feeling safe. He trusted Jervis with his own wellbeing, knowing that he wouldn’t lie to him or try to use him or hurt him for making a mistake. Pain mingled with the euphoric sensation of his touch-starved body having such jarring stimulation and the complete and utter trust he had in him began to melt and meld together, becoming a sort of devotion. All worries about Halloween or sisters or Batman or his past slowly faded away. He didn’t want to think at the moment. He just wanted to let go.

After a few minutes, Jervis noticed the change, Jonathan’s silence signaling to him that they had crossed the threshold. “Hare…” he murmured softly, “can you hear me?”

“Yes, Hatter…” the Hare merely murmured, soaking in the other’s warmth.

“Good, good,” Tetch smiled, gently rubbing his arm. “I want you to look at me and smile.”

There was a beat before Jonathan pulled away, his smile small, but genuine and content. His eyes were glazed over with what Jervis could only describe as devotion. This was far better than using his pocket watch or his cards; this felt personal. This felt right. He had to admit, having Jonathan under his control once more did send some heat to his core. Those other thoughts he was always so ashamed of tainted his mind for some moments, but Jervis couldn’t bring himself to take advantage of his Hare like that. Instead, he brung him into an embrace again.

“I’m so overjoyed that you’re finally listening to me…” he murmured softly. “You’re such a mimsy little Hare sometimes… but you’re precious to me. I love you, and I want you to know that. I want you to forget about what that wicked duch*ess forced upon you; you’re worth so much more. You’re smart, you’re cunning, you care somewhere in that dusty heart of yours even if you say you don’t. It would make me happy if you just took care of yourself more.” He leaned back and gently cupped Jonathan’s cheek, their gazes never breaking. “Even if you don’t think you’re worth caring for, I treasure you. I love you and all I want is for you to be safe, yourself, and happy. I want you to know that I care for you, and I always will.” He tilted his head some. “Do you understand?”

“Yes…” Crane whispered, his voice barely audible under his breath. “I understand.” There was a pause. “I’m sorry for making you worry.” There was this genuineness to his voice that nearly broke the Hatter then and there.

“Oh. Don’t you worry about that…” Jervis murmured, pressing his forehead to Crane’s. “I will always forgive you, just as she never did. I would never abuse you for being who you are.” He his smile broadened, the edges tilting up slightly in an almost mischievous fashion. “Now… was the word you were thinking of… ‘pray’?”

Just like that, the trance Jonathan had been trapped in broke, a look of realization crossed his eyes, his jaw going slack after some passing seconds. He slowly closed his eyes, not pulling away from Jervis just yet. This was the closes they’d ever been together, their lips barely several inches apart, but Jervis had enough self control to not act on that impulse. “As someone who literally wrote the book on fear, let me just say that what just happened was absolutely terrifying. For anyone else of course.” Slowly pulled away, expression falling back to that nonplussed state once more. “Quite the out of body experience if I must say. Now get me the first aid. If I get anything more than some light second degree burns, I’ll pour boiling water on your head when you sleep.”

“Oh how frabjous sounding, darling,” Jervis chirped, quickly going to retrieve the first aid. When Jonathan began applying some burn cream to numb the pain, Tetch decided to go make himself useful, getting a towel to soak up all the spilt tea, now cooled after the passing minutes. “Are you hungry, my Hare?”

“Starving,” Jonathan admitted for the first time. “Go get some food.” He then shot his gaze up to meet Jervis’. “Afterwards, you’re going to tell me exactly how you did all that. Sooner or later afterwards, I shall have my revenge.”

The Hatter seemed to have no qualms about that whatsoever. “And a delightful time it will be!” he tittered, now seemingly lost within his own joy. He grabbed the empty pot of tea. “I’ll go make some more—!” He caught Jonathan’s burning stare and slowly decided it best that he place it back down. “Ah, you know, I feel more in a water kind of mood, don’t you, Hare?”

Notes:

f*ck me that was great to write.

Like f*ck that was kinda hot.

Chapter 14: Well Boys We Did It, Fear Is No More

Summary:

Edward finally leaves the nest as he fulfills his deal with Penguin. All the while, Jervis offers Jonathan a chance to get back at him for the hypnotism session.

Notes:

This. This is the most self-indulgent sh*t.

This is the sh*t I write at 5 am in a delirious state whilst on a sh*t ton of medication but never post. This is the sh*t in a completely separate folder that I write when I need to really self-indulge.

There is no smut in this, but even so, I must put a content warning for serious gore and some mental manipulation.

Also, I’d like to give a thank you to my friendo, lonesomevillain on Tumblr for poking me. Without them this chapter would probably have been delayed more. It wasn’t until I realized more than just a couple of friends enjoy this stuff that I began to write again. And Christ did I.

Also, I wanted to mention that Scarecrow is an alter. He’s the protector kind. Finally decided to make that bit official.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Well, it had been a couple of hours. Whatever episode Jervis could have entered would probably be in a more calm state at this point. Edward figured it safe to go back inside, soon closing his laptop and pushing himself off of the bench outside, taking a quick napkin from his pocket to open the door without skin contact before stepping inside and hastily throwing it into the trash. From inside Jonathan and Jervis were seated across from one another, as if nothing had happened upstairs. Of course, something did in fact happen, as was evident from the bandage wrapping around Crane’s hand. Speaking of the man, he was eating some leftover take-out, tossing him a quick scathing glare. “Ah there you are, Nygma. By the way, thank you, my friend, for coming to check up on me.”

Edward lifted his gaze to meet his, unperturbed by the sudden sarcasm that left Jonathan at that moment. He merely went back to the arm chair, picking up the laptop once more without a hint of remorse. “I don’t know what happened up there and I don’t want to know. I have myself to look after, I’ll have you well informed. I heard you crying and knew immediately to leave before whatever Jervis was doing would be used on me, too. I was just about to come to terms with the idea of you never coming back again.”

Jervis lifted his cup of tea to his lips, pausing to frown at the Dormouse. “So soon? Oh, my dearest Dormouse, how you do move on fast.”

The Riddler simply made an “mmm” noise of disinterest, taking a moment to look over Jonathan. “Don’t tell me Jervis somehow put fear into that emotionless husk of yours.” He waited for Crane to twist in his chair to shoot a glare at Edward before the Riddler gave a knowing nod. “Yep, it’s you. Not under any sort of mind control, I see. Fortunate for me, I suppose.” He looked through the contents of his laptop, scanning through the code to make sure everything was in order. “I’ve wanted to ask on the chance that you were alive when I returned, do you have a flash drive? I’ve finally finished up with Penguin’s request and need to deliver the contents to him directly.”

Crane gave a curt nod, getting up to retrieve said item from upstairs before handing it to his peer. “I believe that one should work.” There was this pause of silence as the Riddler took up the tool and plugged it into the laptop. “I suppose this means Penguin will fulfill his end of the deal?”

As Riddler was gliding his fingers over the touch pad, there was a moment of hesitation before he continued as normal. “Yes it does. We’ve already communicated; he has a place down in the narrows that I can use. Not the best area but it’s roomy and he kept the place from being demolished. Plenty of space to continue my work. He’s even got a few thugs willing to work with me for pay so everything seems to be going my way. Soon I will be out of that greasy hair of yours and back on my own.”

The greasy bit was unnecessary.

Jonathan ignored what was in his head to instead focus on Nygma. “I can give you a lift tonight when it’s dark out. If you need somethings to take along, you can have some of my more nonessential tools I may have lying around, given you’ll need them more than I.”

“I was hoping you would offer,” Nygma smirked, soon pulling out the drive and shutting the laptop, tossing it back onto the armchair. “8 pm should be a fitting time if that’s alright with you. I don’t believe Oswald will be meeting with anyone at that time, so this should be a relatively short trip.”

Jonathan made a noise to confirm he heard before going back to his food. He considered it for a moment before deciding to go back upstairs, noting the sound of Jervis hopping off his own chair to follow after him. He’d stopped being bothered by being followed around all the time; in fact he’d only just got out of the habit of accidentally slamming the door in Tetch’s face before he could get in. After seeking solitude for most of his life, it was rather jarring to no longer live alone, but he was slowly becoming accustomed to it. Hatter always had some words to fill the silence, always so curiouser and curiouser. However, the quiet that blanketed the room told him that Jervis was waiting to say something.

“Is something the matter, Tetch?” he sighed, nose twitching at the pungent smell of tea that had been spilled all over the floor. Thankfully they had cleaned up most of it with some towels that were now tossed in the trash, but there was no doubt that odor would be present for the next few days or so. A dream for Tetch, maybe, but given Crane had just had his hand burned in some surreal attempt to get the hypnotist’s message across, he wouldn’t be in the mood for tea for the next month. Though, that was not to say that it hadn’t been effective. Even now Jonathan was unconsciously touching his hand, wondering if he had the medicines to treat it. He did, of course, given he was always prepared, but he found himself caring for his own physical health for the first time in what had to be years. Sure he treated the occasional gunshot and cracked rib, but he was far used to disregarding his need for sleep or food or to treat pain, instead concentrating on his work and the like. He could distinctly recall a time when he was shouldering the pain of a broken finger for a good week before he remembered that painkillers existed and that he didn’t have to wince every time he reached for a container. We live to suffer, some say, and his caretaker had been a firm believer in that. Unfortunately, that had been another thing he’d gotten accustomed to.

“I wanted to thank you,” Jervis spoke up, breaking him Jonathan out of his thoughts. The doctor looked back over his shoulder in mild interest, going over to the sink to finish up scrubbing the scythe clean with the copper sponge. Tetch found this as a sign to continue. He tented his fingers, watching him move to the sink as he himself stayed in the same spot. “I wanted to thank you for allowing me to hypnotize you,” he continued, a smile coming to his face. “To be able to experience that with you was… special for me, in a way even someone as imaginative as Lewis Carroll would have a tough time describing.” Jonathan visibly paused in his cleaning, twisting his head slightly to listen to him. “To have you relax in my arms like that, to feel you put all your trust in me… oh what a dream it was.”

Crane waited for the silence to come before responding. “I won’t say that it was pleasant. That brand of hypnotism was a bit unnecessary,” he replied, keeping his voice firm as he continued cleaning. One side of the blade had been completely cleared off, able to show his reflection in its wicked shine. A fond feeling settled in his stomach, his chest clenching ever so slightly, but he couldn’t figure out why. Oddly enough, he was hoping it was the beginnings of a heart attack. Something about hearing that gratitude in the other’s voice, lilted by clear hints of joy just triggered something within him. He ran his hand over the blade’s flat surface, marveling over how it had kept sharp after all these years. “However… I am somewhat glad I had the experience. I understand I can be stubborn sometimes, but there was something in the… serenity of simply letting go that was oddly appealing.” He turned the blade over to clean off the other side, having said his piece.

The joy within Tetch’s voice only grew as the smaller man bounced on his toes lightly to leak some of that energy out. “Oh how glad I am to hear you say that,” he grinned, clasping his hands together. That’s when the uneasiness began to leak in. He swallowed, his shoulders tensing some. “So, as a thank you, I wanted you to know that if you ever wanted to… well… have me undergo your particular brand of therapy… I would not be opposed.”

Jonathan paused, tensing immediately.

Oh?

He looked back at Jervis, looking for any sign of betrayal. The man was completely serious, however.

Oh yes.

Jervis was offering to give himself to Jonathan as the other had done to him. He would be lying if he said that it hadn’t immediately flipped a switch in his gut. The corner of his mouth flitted upward briefly, suddenly finding it a bit harder to swallow. “Well then… an interesting proposal, Tetch.” He got back to cleaning. “Are you sure you’d want to go through with that?” He noticed Tetch’s expression grimace into one of doubt and hesitation. He was about to refuse right there.

Don’t you dare deny us this right! We’ll be alone, this delightful little test subject to ourselves!

His gaze was forced away from Tetch and back to the scythe blade. “It’s not your decision,” Jonathan muttered without thinking, his hand tensing as he began to scrub harder on the stains.

He’s offering himself to you. Us with him, alone, afraid, and unable to escape. No pesky Nygma to stop me from getting what we want.

“What you want,” Crane spat, eyes narrowing.

Don’t lie to me, Johnny. You know your curious about just how far this trust of his goes.

“But I don’t think we even have any fear toxin left,” Jonathan scowled, clenching the copper in his hands.

Then I’ll break him myself.

A squeak came from behind him at the hissed out words from the Scarecrow, breaking Jonathan out of the conversation with his alter. He looked back to see Tetch nervously playing with the rim of his hat. The Hatter looked to the door in consideration, his feet anxious to start moving. Immediately Jonathan became flooded with disinterest.

I knew it…

Jervis stared down at his feet nervously, swallowing thickly in hesitation. It was clear his offer had the Scarecrow excited more than he’d ever seen. Well, maybe except for the episode in the warehouse, but then again, he didn’t know Scarecrow existed at the time. Now it was Tetch who was getting the beast excited, and quite honestly, it shook him to the core. To be so out of control, unable to stop anything and be at the mercy of the Scarecrow, the thought terrified him. But he refused to turn back. He thought back to the night that monstrous crow had seduced his darkest thoughts out of his mind, and he was determined to prove that he loved Jonathan as more than just a replacement for Alice. He needed to prove this to them, and to a greater extent, himself.

“You’ve got my heartbeat all aflutter,” Jervis whispered, a nervous smile gracing his lips as he moved over to Crane, who watched him in faint disinterest. “May I take your hand?” he asked politely. Crane nodded after some hesitation, dropping the blade to the bottom of the sink and drying his hands. As soon as his fingers laid on the other’s wrist, he heard that rapid thumping. Fear, he could see in the Hatter’s eyes and in the cracking of his voice in hesitation.

“I want you to know that I am afraid,” Jervis swallowed, his breathing a bit labored. “But even so, I trust you. And I trust the Scarecrow to at least not kill me. I promise, I won’t run away this time. I want you to do whatever you want, not because it’s only fair, but because I trust you with my life.”

Jonathan was silent his breathing slowing as he simply stared at Jervis, searching but only finding devotion. He let go of Tetch’s hand, swallowing as he went back to cleaning his scythe. “Tonight, after I drop Edward off,” he said simply, and from there the subject was dropped.

“You know you could have at least warmed the car up for me,” Edward mentioned for what had the be the third time. “October already and it’s almost freezing outside.”

As usual Jonathan didn’t have much of a reaction in terms of expression. “This is Gotham,” he returned, soon slowing the car in front of the brightly lit lounge. The rich were lined up in front of the door, no doubt waiting to be let in should their high class attire be deemed acceptable. “We’re here.” He put the car in park, turning his gaze to look to Edward. “I suppose this is goodbye for now.”

“I suppose it is,” Nygma nodded in agreement, his hand reaching for the handle but not yet getting out of the car. There was this hesitation. “Thank you, Crane,” he then spoke, rather out of the blue. “Thank you for letting me stay in your hideout for these past couple of weeks. You didn’t have to offer your place, but you did. I don’t know whether it’s from some form of proof that you may actually reform, or just more leverage over me, but still, the help is appreciated. I’m not quite sure where I would have gone without you.” There was this silence between the two of them fueled by Jonathan’s surprise and Edward’s moment of embarrassment. Even still, he continued. “If, by the very off chance, you cross over to the other side, I want you to know that I won’t think any less of you. However, I will put you in one of my traps if you decide to rat on me.”

With that, he abruptly got up and left the car. He only stopped for a moment to duck his head underneath the roof. “You didn’t hear that from me.” His gaze rose a couple inches past Jonathan’s shoulder. “Also Harley has her face pressed up against your window.”

“Oh I know,” Jonathan replied, unwilling to admit the tightness he felt at Edward’s confession. “I heard the smooshing sound a few moments ago.” He paused, considering Edward, before extending a hand. “Goodbye, Nygma.”

The hand was received and given a firm shake. “See you later, Crane.” As soon as the Riddler had gone and was making his way past the long line and entering the lounge, Jonathan took a moment to look to his left to see Harley’s heart-shaped face smooshed up against his window. “Boo!” came her muffled shout, to which he rolled his eyes and downed the window. “Good evening, child,” he greeted, watching her lean in with her arms resting on the frame of the window.

“Did I get ya?” Harley grinned, her mouth quirked up in a smug smile at scaring fear itself.

“You’re getting better at that. But no,” Crane replied flatly. “We’ve discussed this before, you will never ‘get me.’ It’s impossible on my part.”

Harleen pouted, visibly slouching in her seat. “Ah. It was worth a try, she shrugged, soon perking back to her spunky self. “So! What’re you doing here, professah? Dropping off Eddie? Don’t tell me you’ve gotten a job as an a Uber!”

Jonathan put a hand to his chest, offended. “Not even in your nightmares, child,” he sneered, a twitch of a smile coming to his lips. “Nygma’s been staying at my hideout for the time being, and only now is he getting a place of his own. I assume you’re here with Miss Isley?”

“Yeah! I convinced Red to come with me on a night on the town. See some of the hotspots where we know we won’t get arrested, yannow?” she smiled before jerking a thumb to a green-tinted woman leaning against the wall. “She’s over there looking at you all evil like.”

Jonathan wasn’t going to even give a glance over, knowing it would be better for the both of them if they just pretended the other didn’t exist. “How charming,” he murmured in a tone that communicated the exact opposite. “So. Did you come here just to try and spook me?”

Quinn pursed her lips at him. “What? I can’t see my friend Johnny?” Despite her disapproval, Jonathan’s inquiry did remind her of why she was there. “But I wanted to talk to ya about what you were planning to do for Halloween!” From the way Jonathan frowned at that, she continued on. “If you weren’t going to do anything this Halloween, I was hoping maybe you could visit me and Red then and we could spend it with you.”

Jonathan was visibly taken aback, opening his mouth to retort but not knowing what to say. Harley just smiled, giving his car horn a small poke to break him out of his thoughts. “Or vice versa. C’mon, Professah, don’t give me that look! Halloween’s your special day! Even bigger than your birthday since you don’t celebrate that.” Her smile melted to something more warm, this genuineness in her blue eyes that even Crane could never doubt. If Harley ever deceived him he didn’t think he could ever become close to someone again, and he kept Harley at an arms length for both their safety.

Jonathan thought it over, brow furrowed in consideration. He’d never had a normal Halloween in his life before. The thought of celebrating a holiday with company was so foreign, and yet. “That… that would be…”

...

“…nice,” he finally said, looking over at Harley to catch her beaming joy. “Though please don’t stock up on tons of candy for my sake. I’m not too fond of pure sugar.”

Harley was too busy grinning to listen very well. “Oh it’s gonna be great! My two best friends, on Halloween! Just you, me, Red, lying around and photosynthesizing together! Tons of fun!”

“Harley I’m not a plant.”

“Ahh you know what I mean, doc!” Harleen giggled, soon digging in her pocket for her phone. “Gimme your number so we can talk ‘bout it later.”

Jonathan did likewise, giving her his phone number before watching her trot back over to Poison Ivy, a bit more of a skip in her step than usual. His gaze followed them as they made their way down the sidewalk and into an alleyway. Halloween with Ivy and Harleen. He had to admit, it sounded interesting. It’s not like he had anything planned anyways. Speaking of Halloween, an odd thought came to mind.

He rolled up the window. “Do you think Savannah dresses up for Halloween?” he asked suddenly, taking in the reply afterwards.

After we tried to murder her mother? I doubt she would have been allowed.

“True,” he agreed, “but now would be a good year to try it.” Before he put the car into drive, he leaned back in his seat, thoughtful. “Do you think she would dress up as something scary?”

If I’m to have an ounce of respect for her, she better. But that’s neither here nor there. I believe we have an appointment, doctor.

Immediately Jonathan lit up. “You’re right,” he replied, focusing back on the earlier topic as he began to drive once more.

Jervis tentatively sipped his tea, trying to keep his nerves calm. He couldn’t help his feelings; while it was natural to fear Crane’s toxin, for Jervis there was an extra layer of fear added onto it. If there was one thing that made him feel any sort of confidence, it was having control. He craved it. Needed it. Especially when it came to other people. While of course his friends were exempt, it was the people he didn’t care for that fulfilled that need. They listened to him, even if they didn’t have a choice. But to let all that go was a frightening thought, to say the least, but when he thought back to Jonathan, he knew in his heart that all would be well. He wasn’t going to enjoy the experience, that much he knew, but seeing how much his offer excited Jonathan made it worth it. If it brought them closer, he wouldn’t mind.

Jervis heard the door open downstairs, and immediately he tensed. It was quite like going to the dentist, except it was the doctor’s benefit instead of his own. And how he hated the dentist; they always found it pertinent to mention his overbite.

Despite these well wishes, part of him feared that he would once again learn something about himself; something ugly and undesirable that still lingered within him that would make Jonathan drop him entirely. And then there was Scarecrow.

“Do you think I’ll meet that fellow again?” he asked aloud, no longer listening to the shuffling going on downstairs. “Do you think if I call his name that he will answer?”

A gnat sat on the desk, about the size of a chicken, letting out a low buzz of denial. ‘What’s the use of their having names if they won’t answer to them?’ the Gnat replied lazily.

“No use to them,” said the Hatter without skipping a beat as he played with the rim of his cup, ‘but it’s useful to the people who name them, I suppose. If not, why do things have names at all?”

‘I can’t say,’ the Gnat buzzed, much to Jervis’ annoyance. He grabbed a hefty book off of the desk. “Then what good are you?” he huffed, tossing it carelessly. The Gnat could only let out a squeak before it was crushed under the weight of the encyclopedia.

“Talking to insects, are you?” Jonathan hummed, entering the through the doorway and locking the exit. In his hand was a canister of his toxin, the sickly orange color of the compressed gas showing through the glass to reveal its lack of impurities. Undiluted and one of Crane’s stronger formulas, no doubt. Tetch supposed he was lucky it was in its gaseous state so it wouldn’t be injected directly into his veins. Needles were simply awful, that much everyone could agree.

The Hatter bit his lip, looking away to concentrate on something else. “Oh, I’m quite glad you’re here. I’m wasn’t in the mood to speak to snap-dragonflies or buttery butterflies, you see.”

Crane approached Jervis and roughly grabbed him by the chin, forcing their gazes to meet so he could take a look at that unfocused gaze glazed with reverie. And fear. All the worrying must be sending Tetch into an episode. “I suppose it’s a good thing you’re like this,” he said simply, setting the canister on the desk. “You’ll remember less of the event when you regain consciousness.” He let go of the Englishman before placing his hand on the nozzle of the canister. A simple twist and the toxin would soon flood the room. “This is your last chance to refuse Tetch.”

Jervis blinked and bit his lower lip, looking to the door in consideration. “Just… do it,” he murmured, twisting at his wrists.

Jonathan watched the fear grow within him. However, it would be nothing compared to what he would become on the toxin. Although the thought exhilarated him, he found himself hesitating. “Jervis, are you sure?”

Tetch blinked. Was that concern he heard? He looked to Jonathan, noticing the other’s brow furrowed in what he believed to be a hint of worry. Without thinking, he grabbed the canister. “I trust you,” he said confidently, before tossing the glass container over his shoulder, listening to it crash against the wall. The gas flooded the room like a light fog in the early morning, tinting everything in orange and giving the room overwhelming smell of pumpkins. Already Tetch could feel his nerves beginning to rise after the first couple of inhales, but he didn’t try to hide it. It was best if he simply let it happen, especially given he was in the Scarecrow’s domain now.

Jonathan blinked in surprise at Jervis taking the initiative, but once the gas hit him, those thoughts left his head. He’d forgotten just how much he adored the adrenaline pumping through his veins, his heartbeat quickening as his nerves shot up. He looked to Jervis watching him tense, pupils constricting as his eyes widened, taking in every detail and etching them into his memory. Oh how he needed this. Craved this. He could feel his control fading, but he wasn’t switching completely. He was going to enjoy every second of this.

Jonathan took a moment to cant his head from side to side, popping those joints and releasing all the tension. Not looking away from Jervis, he moved to the light switch, laying his fingers on it and watching Tetch watch anxiously. “My— wh-what are you doing there, March?” he choked out, unable to stop the tremble of his hands.

Jonathan simply let a grin stretch his lips. “I don’t like to work in the light.

As soon as the lights were off, Tetch let out a shriek before being grabbed, forced into the chair Jonathan constantly used. Before Jervis could even think to get up, shuffling was heard, and before he knew it his wrists were tied to the arms of the chair. “We wouldn’t want you to escape again, now would we?” they cackled.

By this time the toxin had taken ahold of the Hatter’s senses, flooding his nerves and throwing his synapses all out of wack, drawing only from the amygdala to help pump that adrenaline through his veins. He saw these images; horrible images of gore, of bloody Cheshire Cats and slain monarchs. The Hatter found himself in his armchair, a long table stretched out before him with all the settings in place. The guests, all his fondest memories of Wonderland, well, they wouldn’t be enjoying their tea. If they weren’t simply beheaded, they were slumped over the table, several large gashes deep in their bodies to reveal bone and other such carnage. The centerpiece was a large pole axe, embedded into the table by the blade. Hatter immediately recognized it as one he used whenever fighting the Jabberwocky. It was his axe. He swallowed, daring to look down at his lap to see blood soaking through his gloves and all over his front. It was all so real. He could feel the warmth of the blood that had spattered against his face, that icky wetness that of all the viscera staining his clothing, and that smell. He knew what the scent of a dead body was, and it was here that it was most pungent, filling his lungs and etching into his mind. He could see the flies that lingered around, the size of fowls latching onto the decaying bodies. This was real. He did this. Tears streamed down his face at the sight, a sob racking through his body in horror.

“Crying so soon,” a purr came from beside him, wicked fingers like spiders coming up to wipe away his tears. “My you’re so fragile when hit in the right spots.” It was his Hare— no, it was that monstrous crow in the Hare’s body, a smile stretched over their visage and eyes narrowed in evident glee. “Tell me what you see, Hatter,” they hissed, thumb coming up to wipe away his tears, only to come back to their mouth to taste them. “Don’t spare a single detail.”

Surprisingly, the Hatter felt a swell of relief come his way upon seeing them. For a moment, reality tried to crawl back into the forefront of his mind. “Jonathan,” he whispered, tears streaming all the while. “Please stop—“

NO!” they snapped, backhanding him across the face without hesitation. All sense left the Hatter at the moment as he was soon trapped back in the reality of his own Wonderland. They roughly grabbed Jervis by the chin, forcing his chin up so their eyes could connect. “Don’t you try to call out for him. You will not deny me this right, do you understand me?” They let go, moving to sit on the table before the Hatter, a decisive foot placed against the poor Hatter’s thigh. “Now,” they growled, though considerably less aggressive than moments before. “Now tell me what you see.”

The Mad Hatter looked around, his eyes flooded with tears but still able to make out the horror around him. “I’m a monster,” was all he could whisper in that moment. “I’ve done horrible things. Horrible, nasty things that I don’t like to think about. I destroy. I break things.” He closed his eyes, breathing labored. “However I was most scared that I’d offed you, too. I do awful, nasty things, my crow, and I’m afraid that I may lose myself and follow those voices and break you, too.”

The Scarecrow smirked, canting their head to look over the trembling man. “Your such filth,” they sneered. “I should leave now. Never return simply so you won’t—“

“NO!” Jervis screamed at the top of his lungs, lurching forward in terror at the mere suggestion. The tears only came down harder. “PLEASE NO! DON’T LEAVE ME HERE, I’M BEGGING YOU.”

Scarecrow’s sad*stic grin only grew as they lifted themself off of the table, leaning forward so their hands pinned the Hatter’s arms and their knee was pressed against his thigh. “Why shouldn’t I leave?” they whispered, their faces inches away. They could only focus on the Hatter’s eyes and how they were wide in fear and need. It was exhilarating. “You said it yourself; you could hurt me. Kill me like you did with all your other friends.”

The Hatter could only sob, whispering “please” repeatedly under his breath like a prayer to anyone who would listen. “Please, don’t leave,” he cried out, not wanting to blink in fear of his paramour disappearing after that moment of darkness. “I have no one! I’ve offed Alice and all the cats and mice that came my way. I don’t want to be alone, please, I need you! My heart wouldn’t be able to take you being gone! PLEASE!”

The beast soaked in every sob and pleasing cry, pressing two fingers to his throat to listen to that heartbeat once more, thudding away and unable to be deterred. In sent a shiver of pleasure down their spine, their breathing labored at the sound. “You’ll regret that,” they hissed, their nose barely touching the other’s. “I’ll have you begging for mercy.”

“No,” the haberdasher denied outright without a moment of hesitation. “I want no mercy. I’ll adore every choke and hit just so long as your skin never leaves mine. Just please don’t leave me!”

Scarecrow moved their head back a bit, surprised by the claim made by their victim. This was something new. Hatter wasn’t afraid of the Scarecrow; he was afraid of being left without them. To the Hatter, Jonathan was where all his trust lie; his safety from the horrors of his own nightmares. “How… intriguing,” they murmured, reaching over and grabbing a pocket knife from the table. “This will require further testing.”

Hatter squeaked when he felt the blade of a knife against his wrist, the pressure of the twine soon releasing as they were cut from him. He opened his mouth to speak, but froze when Scarecrow began to walk away, heading away from the Hatter and to the door. “NO!” he screamed in horror, nails digging into the arms of the chair. “NO NO NO!” The blood soaked in deeper, the buzzing of the flies becoming deafening over his own screams as that stench overwhelmed his senses. Everything was beginning to close in on him. He was alone. Without warning he shut down, curling up with his knees to his chest and his hands clutching the rim of his hat with his life, trying to block out the horrors outside. And yet, he could see them even in the darkness, the walls slowly beginning to close in, threatening to crush him for every horrid act he’d done.

He jerked his his head up when he felt a touch on his arm. His eyes were wide, his breathing labored as he stared up at the Scarecrow. Immediately he began to calm as they grabbed him by the chin, observing ever feature of him. “There we are…” Scarecrow hummed, their voice suddenly this sickly sweet that Hatter had never heard before, and yet he was already addicted to it. He was entranced to every touch and word. Scarecrow moved their hand to cup his cheek, feeling him melt at the mere touch. “Now… on your knees.”

The Hatter didn’t even hesitate to get off the chair, sinking to his knees and staring up at the beast with wide, trusting eyes. “How curious,” they hummed softly, brushing the hair from Tetch’s eyes and wiping away those tears. “All this time little Johnny was afraid of you controlling him and making him your toy, and yet, here you are, on your knees, needing every touch as though it were a drug.” A teasing grin reached his lips. “My little toy… tell me how much you love your March Hare.”

“I love him more than anything,” he whispered, eyes filled with tears, but also comfort. “I love him and that big scary beast.” Scarecrow frowned, but remained silent. “I’d commit any crime, kill any scoundrel, and defile any morals should anything try to take them away from me. It makes every uncouth, ugly, nasty thought I have justified in my eyes.”

Jervis had been this way before, but only around a specific blonde-haired woman. But now, his obsession turned to Jonathan, and every piece that came with him. “What about Alice?” Scarecrow demanded.

“I’ll always be after Alice,” the Hatter replied simply; “what is Wonderland without Alice, after all? But I can always have another Alice. I can never have another March Hare.”

Scarecrow was silent, searching Jervis’ visage for even the faintest sign of trickery. But fear gas didn’t lie.

Hatter yelped in surprise as he was suddenly grabbed by the arm, tossed over and onto the old mattress both had slept on the night before. “And I’ll never have such a delightful little test subject as you,” they hissed, soon straddling him on the mattress and pinning Tetch’s hands over his head. Jervis yelped in terror, but didn’t fight it, simply looking up at Scarecrow and knowing he was safe no matter what. A grin spread over his own face, glad to be so close to the one he adored so much. His eyes were glazed in terror, reverie, and devotion. It was such a odd and yet delicious sight to see.

“My little experiment. So mad and yet so delightful,” the beast grinned, soon delving down to lay their head against his chest, listening to his rapid heartbeat in delight. They let to of Tetch’s hand to explore over his skin and feel every tense tendon among the muscles and sinew. The goosebumps that lined his skin only brought them more excitement. “You’re still so afraid,” they whispered, moving up to press their mouth against his throat, feeling that heartbeat against his lips. “Are you afraid of me?”

“Very much so,” Hatter willingly confessed, “but I trust you more than anything even sti—.” He yelped in pain when he felt Scarecrow bite where his neck met his collarbone. He whimpered in fear, which was only music to the beast. “That was delightful,” they whispered into his ear, a hitch to their breath. “Let me hear that again.” Another bite and Jervis was a whimpering mess, his breathing growing more ragged by the second. “That’s it,” Scarecrow encouraged, only growing more needy by the second. “I want more.”

They pinned his head down, hand gripping those wavy blonde locks. Their nails trailed along his throat, tracing that jugular as they dreamed of a needle piercing the skin to pump more toxin into him. The Hatter cried out in pain and fear, a wave of ecstasy moving through him as it only brought the two of them closer. He craved every touch because it was the antithesis of the isolation he’d feared for so long.

“What a good boy,” Scarecrow purred, watching Hatter practically melt at that. “Such an obedient, fearful little rat.” They leaned down to his throat once more, their lips trailing his neck but never biting. Instead there would be the occasional lay of a kiss along the sensitive skin to draw out a whimper. Their hand unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt, cold skin feeling over the warmth surface of the other’s chest and placing itself over the heart. These small, affectionate touches seemed to bring Hatter only bliss. Something about getting such verbal treats from this test subject had them giving back small rewards in the form of affection. Every good patient deserves a treat, don’t they?

After this, their excitement had finally begun to die down, soon laying their head against his chest, wanting to rest but still listen to that thudding heartbeat. By now a good half of the toxin had drained out the window, but both could still feel its effects. “You know, I think I’d like to keep you,” they told him, their grip relaxing somewhat, their fingers soon combing through Tetch’s locks rhythmically. “You’ve had such a unique reaction to my toxin. I would be bereft should I not perform more experiments on you in the future.”

Tetch himself seemed to be exhausted from his emotions and adrenaline high. A soft smile crossed his face. He didn’t say anything, but on the inside he knew he would be fine with all future happenings.

There was silence. Jervis still had his heart thudding from potent fear, but with the Scarecrow laying on him, he didn’t have that natural instinct to run and hide. It was a strange mix of terror and yet utter trust.

“And Hatter...”

The Scarecrow lifted their gaze to lock with the other madman. A beat passed.

“I believe you.”

With that being said, they went back to lying on his chest and listening to that rhythmic thump, counting each one for every sixty seconds. A bit of Jonathan leaked through as they found themselves wrapping their arms around the other’s waist, where they stayed for the rest of the night.

Notes:

Hnnnng.

Now you know what I’m into. God when I get to an actual sex scene it’s gonna be so f*ckin’ weird.

Chapter 15: Scars and Aloe Vera

Summary:

Jervis wakes up to find a guest still lingering in their bed, one that likes to get touchy.

Jonathan soon realizes he’s been less that reciprocative in the relationship and decides to rectify that.

Notes:

Welp. This is it. This is the chapter. This is THE chapter where you find out who bottoms.

I know I said when we’d get to the sex scene, it’d be hella weird, but honestly, I couldn’t see it going any other way than how it goes here. However, I’m going to rectify that in the bottom notes.

If you want to skip the intimacy scene, just finish the chapter when you see this:

~~~

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

If one were to travel down to Gotham and over to the University of Gotham, one could make a simple drive down Chesterwood road until you get to the end at a wooded area. A simple left turn and the next right would bring you onto the path of Lab B, one of three labs built specifically for the Biodiversity Stream of a freshman research group in GU. However, after a particularly bad moment with Poison Ivy and the surrounding plant life, it was abandoned in favor of the other two labs. While vines still scaled its walls, it wasn’t completely uninhabited; if one where to go to the back window and peek through the cracks in between the nailed up wooden boards, one could clearly see two well known criminals madmen snuggling up with one another. Jervis Tetch on his back, snoring softly and letting out soft mutterings in his sleep, his chest proving to be a soft pillow for Jonathan Crane, who was haphazardly slumped on him, arms wrapped around the other’s waist like he was hugging an oversized stuffed animal. Or, well, you would assume it was Jonathan Crane.

Rays of sunlight began to show through the cracks between the boards, a particularly thin ray hitting the thinner man directly over the face by a stroke of luck and waking him up instantly.

Scarecrow let go of Jervis and shot up, covering their face. “Blasted daylight—“ They paused, taking a moment to feel over their skin to realize they were in the daylight without a mask. Immediately they got up from the mattress, yanking their mask off of the wall and pulling it on with ease. They relaxed some now that their face was hidden, letting out a small sigh as they observed the room. “Okay… why am I fronting?” They gave an expectant look around as if someone would be there to answer them, soon grumbling in frustration when no one answered. “Still asleep, Johnny?” they sighed, looking back to the mattress where Jervis was still sleeping on. “Fine. I suppose I’ll handle your daily routine.”

First on the list was Jervis, and boy was he a deep sleeper, by the looks of it. While Jonathan was by no means an early riser, he was certainly the lightest sleeper you could know, which was why the windows were boarded up. How Jervis could still snore after all that movement, Scarecrow could never know. So how do you wake up a heavy sleeper?

Scarecrow knew the answer, but it would come in the form of some literature. They scanned the array of books before finding the one they were looking for: ‘The Psychology of Sleep: Exploring the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep’. A rather hefty book, but it would get the job done.

They walked back over to Jervis, book in hand. “Don’t worry, Tetch, I know exactly how to wake someone from a good night’s sleep,” they hummed, skimming through the pages. “A thousand three hundred sixty-two pages. Yes, this will do.” They then shut the book, and without hesitation, hurled it at the ground, creating a loud SLAM that reverberated through the room.

Jervis woke up with a shriek, jumping off the mattress and ducking to hide under the desk. It wasn’t until he heard shrill cackling that from the other side of the room. Scarecrow was belly laughing, having to lean against the wall for support. Tetch looked up at them in shock and confusion, first wondering why Jonathan would ever do such a thing and why he was wearing that Scarecrow mask of his. “Jonathan,” he gasped, huffing in annoyance as he got up and marched over. He gave the other a small smack on the arm. “That was absolutely terrifying and unbelievably rude of you! How could you?”

The beast simply giggled before heading to the door. “Oh please, it was hilarious. Had I anything louder I would not hesitate to to blow your ears out.”

Jervis perked up, taken aback but attitude now changed given that he knew who he was talking to. “Monstrous crow?” he asked, following after them hurriedly. His heart continued to pound, memories of the night before cascading over him in waves. “What are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be off scaring Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum?”

“Contrariwise, my dear Hatter,” Scarecrow recited, turning to face him on the steps. Jervis halted at the abrupt stop and instinctively leaned backwards as the Scarecrow leaned in. “If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t.” They put a finger under Tetch’s chin to lift his gaze ever so slightly. “That’s logic.”

With that, they turned back around to go to the small preserver that acted as a fridge and pulled out some sweet tea to pour into a cup. Tetch was still left confused, however, scrambling for a question. “Is everything okay with Jonathan?” he asked from the staircase, catching a fleeting gaze from Scarecrow.

“Yes, everything is fine,” they replied, lifting the mask to take a sip before pulling it back down over their face. “Johnny simply needs some more rest and trusts me to be around you. I almost never front in the daytime, and especially not around other people who aren’t lackeys.” They set the glass down, moving to make themselves a cup of coffee as well. “It’s complex if you don’t quite understand the systems and alters, and you can have Jonathan explain sometime. He’s the professor, not I.” They jerked thumb over to a PhD hung up on the wall, clearly displaying the name Jonathan Crane instead of Scarecrow, Master of Fear.

Jervis slowly descended the staircase, carefully watching the Scarecrow move about as though it were simply Jonathan in a mask. But even if that was the case, it also wasn’t. While Jonathan was slow and jerky in his movements, there was this energy Scarecrow exhibited; a fluidness to each gesture he hadn’t seen before now. Scarecrow chugged down that cup of sweet tea in a couple of sips, and put cream and sugar in their coffee before chugging that down, too; they were less stiff than Jonathan, they talked with higher lilt to their voice, they spoke loudly and with more bite, and they even whistled “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” while they were completing their tasks.

Jervis tentatively approached one of the lab counters where Scarecrow was checking the windows to make sure they were properly sealed. “Scarecrow?”

The beast tossed Jervis a disinterested look. “What do you want?”

Tetch tented his fingers, swallowing. “Have I told you about that young dame I met on the streets? She was a transient, and I’d offered to take her home!” He paused, noticing Scarecrow grow more curious by the second under that mask. Even still, he continued. “She said yes! Oh how happy she seemed. And yet she became distraught when I picked up the cardboard box she had been living in and walked off.” There was only a beat of silence before the Scarecrow suddenly burst into laughter, slamming their fist onto the counter as they howled.

Oh dear lord they actually laughed at something. Jonathan would simply roll his eyes and ignore you for an hour for such a joke, and yet, here was the Scarecrow, doubled over some with giggles spilling from their mask. Scarecrow wasn’t just frightening, but frighteningly different from the Hare Jervis was used to. To be honest, he hadn’t actually expected to see the big monstrous crow outside of rare occurrences involving toxin. But the Hatter didn’t take this as a problem, but instead an opportunity.

Scarecrow took a step back when Jervis started bouncing on his toes. “Oh frabjous day! I suppose this means you and I are friends now, yes? Able to share in the camaraderie of late nights and the like?” Tetch inquired, sounding hopeful. “Now that Jonathan knows you trust me, I can get to know you more! Tell me, do you like chess? Jonathan and I love to play—“

“I know what he likes to play,” Scarecrow spat, disinterest in their voice as they went about rolling their sleeves up to wash their hands. “I know every detail about your… relationship. I have no interest in whatever games you both play.” Once their hands were dried, they focused on the Hatter. “I am not Johnny, and you are not my little boyfriend, if that’s what you’re implying.”

With that answered for him, Jervis seemed confused, but at least happy. “Good! Now that you’re done trying to give me a fright, I wanted to ask some questions…”

“Is that so?” the Scarecrow asked, leaning back against the counter with their eyes narrowed at Jervis. “Fine then. What are they?”

“What should I call you?” Jervis asked, going to sit down politely, one leg over the other and hand politely resting on his knee. “He? She? Ma’am? Sir?”

“I identify as fear incarnate,” Scarecrow sneered, before thinking about it. “However there isn’t a pronoun for that and ‘it’ is a bit degrading, so both is fine, I suppose.”

Tetch pursed his lips as he thought it over. “Both? So… she-he? He-she? She-male?”

“I’m going to stop you right there,” Scarecrow shut down. “‘They’ is fine. It’s not like it matters, however. The Scarecrow does not go around practicing formalities as you and Jonathan do.”

“Oh what do you mean?” Tetch tittered, twisting at his wrists. He’d begun to relax some and thus didn’t find it necessary to be so cautious.“How can you not be formal? When you go to visit your friend, Edward, you don’t go and knock on the door, give a polite ‘how do you do’, and wait to be let in?”

Scarecrow scoffed at this, sounding dramatically offended. “Me? Ugh, don’t even associate me with that behavior. Now, if it was up to me, I would march up there and kick the door in, scythe in hand, and scare the living daylights out of him.”

Jervis tutted at this, arms crossed. “Now, no one would ever work with you if you always acted like that!”

“Well then they aren’t fit to work with me,” they hissed, turning away in favor of going to the closet. “I never liked how Jonathan always insisted on working with you two and keeping you around, especially given he’d do so even when unnecessary.” They opened the door and began to dig through until they found some worn cloth. “It was him grasping at the idea of being able to live a normal life— to have friends and people he could trust. But he never understood that you can’t have it both ways. Our work and the petty idea of companionship could never go together.”

Jervis frowned at this, walking over, but still keeping his distance as they exited with some burlap and moth-eaten cloth. “What is wrong with companionship? Is this why Jonathan always insisted on being so distant?”

The Scarecrow tossed him an unreadable look through the mask. “He used to date, did you know that?” they said, picking through bits of worn clothing until they found a plaid coat they liked. When they noticed Jervis’ lack of response, they continued. they could already sense the jealousy starting to radiate off of the man. “I never liked any of them, but I didn’t oppose another person in his life. He tried his best, trying to feel some sense of normalcy within his dull life. And yet… they never stuck around. They could never handle more than a few weeks. He was always too shut in. Reluctant. There was one I remember who got him to open up. I believe she got a restraining order after she found out what sick little things he wanted to do to her. To break her open and sift through all the tiny pieces that laid inside. And then when Becky Albright came around and he saw how alike they were— we had a moment of weakness, I’ll admit.” They pulled on the coat, stretching their arms a bit to make sure the coat still fit well. “Whatever he wants, I want, in a way, and long story short, we become… obsessed. We’ve been clinging to the subject of fear for so long given how much it affected our lives. When another factor comes to our attention, something as alluring and fascination, we can’t help but pick it apart piece by piece. Quite like the subject of fear.” There was a pause. A chuckle left their lips. “And after each time, Jonathan is left irreparably damaged. More and more convinced that no matter what he can never truly live a normal life. Everyone he puts his trust into, whether it be his former caretaker or his peers or a date, all come together to prove that he never will be normal. That he always will be that weak, whimpering child begging for some sort of affection to spare him from his waking nightmares.”

Scarecrow paused, about to continue when they noticed the expression on Jervis’ face. Oh, that was disgust. Disgust and jealousy, if they were reading right.

Jervis seethed there, arms crossed in anger and disgust, and part of it seemed to be towards Scarecrow. “My dearest crow, how I adore you, but don’t you dare compare my love for Jonathan to the feelings of those stupid girls you dragged from whatever mimsy tulgey wood you could find. You can pick me apart all you want but I will never leave you as they did! Because I love you, and ‘tis love that makes my world go ‘round.”

Scarecrow was silent as this went on, taking every word that the Hatter declared as though he were on a soap box. When all had been said, they simply sighed. “And what if he wants to reform?”

At this, Jervis froze, mouth open but without words to speak. Brow furrowed, he had to take a moment to even process the question. “Reform?” He blinked, looking down to the ground in realization. A reformed Jonathan. What a… terrifying idea. It was scary to think that his love would be able to have a (relatively) normal life while the Hatter was… well, still the Hatter. They wouldn’t be able to be together, but Jonathan would be happy. His mind became fuzzed with indecision, a frown crossing his face at this. “Oh my dear…” he murmured, gripping the rims of his hat to comfort himself.

Scarecrow watched through the mask, watching the Hatter’s slow evolution to fear and indecision. It was a sight that should have brought them joy, but they couldn’t help but feel pity. The fool was only just getting the love he wanted, after all. “Tetch,” they hissed, snapping Jervis away from his own thoughts. “That will be a long time from now, if it ever happens. But I suggest you and Jonathan talk it over.” They shut the closet door and went back over to the counter in the lab, checking cabinets for something in particular. “But what I think isn’’t all that important. Jt’s his system. I just moved in.”

Jervis frowned, looking at his hands for a moment before a slow smile came to his face. It was one of hope. “You’re right, my big scary bird,” he spoke softly. “I might as well enjoy the now, shouldn’t I?” He twisted at his wrists, a new subject coming to mind. “Speaking of which… I wanted to mention to you about last night.” Scarecrow canted their head in interest, another difference between them and Jonathan: Scarecrow was far more expressive, even with their face covered. Wide, sweeping movements and more defined body language let Jervis know exactly what the other’s mood was.

“Last night was… intense, for lack of a better term…” he smiled coyly, showing it was meant to be a compliment. “But… I enjoyed it. Very much so. I’ve never quite experienced anything like it. I believe it was quite intimate, if I must say.”

“Intimate?” Scarecrow scoffed, head canting to the other side. “I’ve never heard a test subject call describe it as that before… though I’m not opposed.”

Jervis felt around the rim of his hat, smiling widely. “If you wouldn’t mind… I’d be interested in engaging in more experiments with you in the future, my Scarecrow. It was honestly…. Very thrilling and, well, releasing.”

Scarecrow hummed at his words, seemingly thinking it over. “You certainly are an interesting subject of research, I must admit. I’d need to start an entire file just to see how you’ll react to certain stimuli whilst on our toxin.”

Tetch seemed simply happy to be receiving the attention, something he never got from Jonathan. “Oh my dear monstrous crow!” he chirped, “I’d be happy to have you poke and prod at me! If it helps your resear—“

Jervis squeaked as he found himself backed into the counter, his left blocked by the wall and his right blocked by Scarecrow’s arm. Their shadow shrouded Jervis, making him feel small and only able to look up at their stitched visage. “That isn’t to say I don’t find you and your little reactions simply delightful as they are,” they purred, tune changing quickly enough to throw Jervis off guard. “Experimenting on you would be worth it just to hear your whimpers alone. After all, Jonathan and I simply want the same things. And now that I know that you won’t hurt him and you’re his little f*cktoy—“ Jervis winced at that like he had just gotten shot “—I can pick your brain apart all I’d like. To taste your fear.” Jervis opened his mouth to speak, but that in itself was a mistake. Scarecrow grabbed the other’s chin, their thumb hooking the inside of his lower jaw and making it impossible to speak. Those rough fingers didn’t care about his tender skin, digging in as they kept a tight grip of his jaw. “I know there are still traces of the toxin in your veins from last night.” Burlap clad lips were pressed to his throat, feeling his pulse through his flesh. Jervis held in his breath, heart racing as he expected a rough bite from the fearsome Scarecrow. “I see it in your eyes, hear it pumping through your veins, affecting the words you speak with that poisoned tongue of yours. Would you like to give me a taste, my little experiment?”

Jervis felt his heart rate begin to pick up, fear beginning to stew in his stomach. He made a noise, but couldn’t speak, so Scarecrow removed their hand from his jaw to simply grasp his chin. Tetch wasn’t lost in his delusions as the night before; no, Jervis took the moment to close his jaw, thinking it over. Then, with an inhale, he leaned in and quickly gave the Scarecrow a peck on the lips through the mask. It didn’t even last half a second. “There you go! Will that suffice?” he asked earnestly, hoping he had done well.

Scarecrow blinked, astonished at that, especially after what had happened last night between. But then again, they had both been high as a kite on toxin. Soon a chuckle passed their lips, finding it all so funny. “How can someone as delightfully innocent as you be the criminal mastermind that you are? No, that will not suffice, Jervis.”

Before Tetch could ask what would be sufficient, his mouth was captured by the Scarecrow’s. Jervis squeaked in surprise, his cheeks flushing red quickly. The beast was not gentle, their tongue swiping at the other’s lip to demand entrance. Tetch relented, only to be pulled deeper into the intimate kiss. Scarecrow’s domineering nature was evident in the way they moved their tongue and pressed further into the Hatter. Jervis practically melted into him, but squeaked in shock when the monster bit his lower lip. The pain sent a shock through him, his hands desperately clinging onto the monster who swiped their tongue to collect the blood and taste it. Under the toxin, feeling such pain has been blissful, but now, it only served to send a shock of heat straight to the pit of his stomach, warmth enveloping him. It was so foreign it was almost uncomfortable, and yet he wanted more. Needed more. When the Scarecrow finally pulled away, Hatter almost looked distraught at the sudden retraction.

Can you please stop sexually harassing my self-appointed significant other?

“Oh but Johnny,” Scarecrow hummed aloud, looking at Tetch’s flushed face. “How could you look at our little experiment and not want more?” They grabbed Jervis by the chin to hear him squeak. “So unmarred, looking at you with these big trusting eyes, completely at your mercy for you to do whatever sick thing you want. So… corruptible, really.”

Quit it.

“I can imagine your skin being marred with needle marks,” Scarecrow hissed, fingers moving to the Hatter’s neck and feeling along the jugular. “Perhaps I should have bit into you harder just so everyone knows who you belong to.”

Although Jervis smiled, his eyes were wide in terror, scared of the Scarecrow and what they promised. He didn’t want that, and yet he craved the Scarecrow’s touch. Jonathan never touched him in such a way and Jervis found himself needing that physical reciprocation desperately. It had always been him holding the professor’s hand and touching his arm, but never the other way around. To be handled so intensely felt so wrong and yet it was like a drug.

“Wouldn’t you like that, Jervis?” Scarecrow chuckled, cupping his cheek. “For me to break you?”

Scarecrow!

Immediately Scarecrow lifted their hand away. “Fine,” they hissed. “He’s yours now. But…” They leaned in closer, their lips barely hovering over Jervis’. “Hatter…”

The Hatter whimpered in a mix of fear and exhilaration, staring back into those malicious gray eyes in hesitant curiosity. “Yes…?”

There was a moment of silence before Scarecrow suddenly shouted “BOO!” Jervis shrieked in terror as the other stumbled back in cackles. There was a moment of pause, before Jonathan’s hands came up to quickly remove the mask, any laughter having been halted. After getting over his near heart attack, Jervis looked back up at Jonathan, his cheeks a tinge pink. “Oh! My Hare, glad to see you’re back in Wonderland.”

Jonathan would be lying if he’d said that his face wasn’t at least a little heated. Partially in anger and partially because the Scarecrow liked to take things one step above what was necessary. “I apologize for that,” he spoke, voice once again formal and sturdy, none of that more relaxed and unrestrained lilt affecting how he spoke. “I just… er… was more tired than usual this morning. I believe it has to do with the emotional skyrocketing that happened last night.”

Jervis only smiled understandingly, quickly going over to take the other’s hand as a sign of support. “Oh don’t you worry, my dear Hare, nothing is wrong.” This hand holding wasn’t returned. As usual, which caused this well of frustration in the pit of his stomach. That heat was still there, burning him up from the interaction, and he was sad it would no longer continue despite how dangerous Scarecrow was. He couldn’t help but have his expression twinge into a frown, something noticed easily by Jonathan. Hatter decided it was best to be honest, as they’d been doing with one another so far. “If anything… I rather quite enjoyed it, despite all it’s spookiness.” He gave Crane’s hand a gentle squeeze. Again, nothing in return.

Crane was silent, knowing there was something he wasn’t being told. “Were they a bit too touchy with you? I understand if you were uncomfortable.”

Tetch was quick to shake his head in denial. “No no, of course not,” he murmured, as if dispelling a bad rumor. “No, it’s just that… well… I’ve never been handled in such a way before.” Out of coyness, he bit his lip, a little ashamed. “Your friend is very physical. Seems to know all my soft spots.”

“All of you is soft,” Jonathan could only reply, getting a quick annoyed look from the other. “However… do you like the physicality of it all?”

Jervis flitted his gaze up to meet Crane’s, both on the same page as to what he was implying. Tetch looked down at his toes, humming the quadrille under his breath. “Well, I mean, it’s certainly a pleasant experience.” Experimentally, Jonathan gently squeezed Jervis’ hand, something that brought a sudden spark to the Hatter. He was met with a look of surprise and a need that ran a bit deeper than just a want for affection. That’s when Crane knew.

“Jervis,” he spoke softly, putting the mask to the side. “Would you like it if I was more physical with you?”

Tetch couldn’t help the sudden smile that appeared on his face. “Of course, but I’d only want that if you were comfortable with it, luv.”

Jonathan couldn’t help the small upward twitch of his lips. He couldn’t help but find Jervis’ constant walking on eggshells to be rather endearing. “I believe after our activities of the past few days, I can take a bit of touching.” His eyes flicked over upstairs to their room. Odd; when did he start referring to it as their room instead of his own? Even still, he had an inkling of an idea.

“Here, follow me,” he ordered, not letting go of the other’s hand as he gently tugged him along to the stairs. The Hatter was, understandably, stunned by this sudden demand, swallowing and nodding as he followed along without much effort. His cheeks were now dusted red as his mind wandered as to what Crane could want to do in the only room with a mattress where they slept together.

Jonathan slowly shut the door behind them, leading Jervis over to the mattress where he finally let go and slowly sat down, crossing his legs and getting comfortable. He waited for his partner to do the same. “Please remove your coat for me,” he requested, watching how Tetch nervously played with the rim of his hat. “Everything else can stay on.” His eyes stayed focused on Tetch, making sure to make eye-contact whenever possible with him.

Jervis slowly removed his coat, making sure to properly fold it before putting it to the side. What was left was an emerald green vest over a tightly buttoned up dress shirt. He fidgeted with his hands nervously up until Crane gently scooted closer and took up his hand, unbuttoning the cuff links and rolling back the sleeve to expose more of his bare arm. He took the other hand and did the same, his eyes never leaving the other’s gaze as he did so. Jervis’ lips were parted, an evident question on his tongue, but he couldn’t get out any words as of yet. Jonathan didn’t need any response, his fingers gently gliding against the smoothness of Tetch’s skin. The Hatter watched him tentatively, eyes flicking down to those slender fingers that traced along visible white slashes that ran along the inside of his arm. He felt ashamed at this, and yet Jonathan cradled his arm and touched his skin with a gentleness he hadn’t felt since he was a child. Jonathan treated the scars with care, his fingers tracing each one before slowly raising Jervis’ wrist to his lips, pressing them against the inside of his wrist.

Tetch swallowed as he realized what Jonathan was doing, his skin burning with the sensation of the Master of Fear’s gentle touches. Each movement of his lips served to place a soft kiss on his wrist along a scar, every single one serving to bring more and more tears pricking Tetch’s eyes. Any voices commenting in his mind were instantly shut out as he remained focused on Crane and the sensations he was receiving.

Jonathan’s other hand went about gently tracing the scars on Tetch’s other arm, something that finally broke the ocean wall and caused the tears to finally shed. The Hatter’s breathing was labored, and yet he was silent the entire way through. He didn’t know what to say as his paramour paid attention to each detail, making any pain or doubt in his mind fade away into nothingness. He never believed Jonathan would ever be capable of stewing these feelings within him, and yet for the first time he couldn’t help but forget any problems or worries that had been on his mind. As Jonathan gently kissed the length of his arm and rubbed out each tense spot, Jervis broke into quiet sobs. “Jonathan,” he croaked, noticing how the other’s eyes flicked up to meet his. “Oh I should be doing this to you…”

Jonathan was far more damaged than Jervis ever believed himself to be, and yet here was Crane kissing away all of Tetch’s pains and worries. It made Jervis feel less insecure; healed whatever brokenness he had once thought for himself. It made him feel as though there was nothing wrong with him, and that he was something to be loved and cherished. All his efforts hadn’t been in vain, and it finally confirmed to Tetch that his love was returned with such deep and intimate feelings.

Without warning, Jonathan was suddenly embraced by his partner, arms wrapped tightly around his waist as he sobbed into the professor’s plaid coat. Crane didn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around the other, keeping him close and gently running his hand down the other’s back to comfort him. “Shhh…” he murmured, a hand coming up to gently comb through Tetch’ wavy blonde hair. He didn’t seem to mind how the tears bled through his shirt underneath, knowing that this was an emotional moment for his partner. He hadn’t thought about just how much physical contact was an important factor for the Hatter, but now understood that it was something Jervis needed. He’d been neglected of it for so long, and unlike Jonathan, who was the definition of touch-starved, it helped comfort him and made him feel closer to the one that provided such stimulation. Jonathan was fine with this— he could get over a bit of his own discomfort for someone who had worked so hard to try and make him comfortable.

Jervis’ sobs slowly melted into soft whimpering, his face still buried in the other’s thin frame. “I love you,” was whispered out, muffled by fabric.

Crane was silent for a moment, considering his words. They brought a bit of light to a heart covered in dust. They provided connection; a meaning that someone genuinely cared for him, and in that moment, he had to think if he truly felt the same way. But as he thought it over, he looked over how his hands— his hands that tortured so many and hurt countless more— gently held the other, rubbing out tensions and delivering comfort as if on instinct. None of it was deliberate and purposeful, but instead like an automatic reaction to the other. His mind flashed back to everything they’d done together in the past; playing chess to try and get each other to talk, crude and on the spot therapy sessions, eating chinese takeout on motel beds, laughing at bad jokes amongst a flock of crows, annoying Edward with misinformation, giggling in the back of a van, hugs and confessions, hat making, holding hands, hypnotism, fear gas. All of it played back in his mind, and he found himself thinking back to each moment with a fondness he hadn’t known memories to have. Had Jervis’ embrace happened weeks ago, Jonathan would have most likely pushed the man away with disgust. But now, he realized he was unable to even think of denying this man comfort. And that’s when he came to a conclusion.

“I love you, too,” he whispered, leaning his head down to give a small kiss atop the Hatter’s forehead. The reaction was immediate. He was squeezed gently, the sobs starting up once more in a cascade of tears. Jonathan brought a hand to gently hold Jervis’, giving it a gentle squeeze to let him know everything would be alright.

With time the tears subsided, but Jervis was evidently still emotional. He lifted himself off of Jonathan a bit, but not enough to where they would be separated. Always the posh gentleman, he slid out a handkerchief from his vest pocket and gently dabbed at his own eyes, drying his face and quieting his sniffles. He looked up to his friend and trusted loved one, a shaky smile coming to his face. “May I…” His words were lost in his throat, hesitant to even suggest the idea in fear of pushing it too far. But Crane didn’t care anymore. Any boundaries that he had forced up to shield himself were gone now in this moment. So he took the initiative, leaned forward, and gently kissed the Hatter.

Jervis was the one to freeze this time, but quickly melted into the other with ease. He grabbed hold of the sheets on the mattress to stabilize himself, hands soon moving to softly grasp the other’s arms. The kiss was quick as both had been rather unprepared for it, and soon pulled away. Their gazes remained focused on one another, everything else in the world now shut out. Crane’s steady and caring stare was locked onto Tetch’s wide gaze full of reverie and devotion. With little hesitation, they met in the middle, both easily able to move their lips with the other’s, as if they knew their partner inside and out. They separated once more, but only for a second before they met up again, Jervis’ hands starting to wander as he tried to feel for something else to grab onto. When his hands met Jonathan’s chest, the professor folded back onto the mattress, bringing a surprised Englishman along with him. Their kiss broke suddenly, leaving only a string of saliva connecting them through labored breathing. Jervis propped himself up with both arms placed on either side of Jonathan, who looked up at him with renewed trust. A hint of suggestion glazed eyes, his hands only bringing the other closer to him. Without thought, their lips met again, hands now moving without thought to explore one another.

~~~

Jonathan was so thin, making Jervis a bit sad there wasn’t more to explore, and yet he cherished every inch of him. Almost every inch. That heat in the pit of his stomach had grown into a fire at this point, needing more lest it never die down again. Thankfully Jonathan was more than willing to help with that. A knee came up to press against the Hatter’s thigh, something that caused the other to squeak into the kiss. Jervis pulled away for a moment, eyes wide and searching Jonathan to make sure things were a hundred percent good to go. He remembered Crane’s claim of asexuality, so he was a bit worried Jonathan would be expressing disinterest throughout the whole scenario. Sure enough, Crane was on his back, looking up at his expectantly with half a smirk on his face. That suggestive look alone nearly set Jervis on fire. Immediately his inexperience became well known as he sat back in his knees, fumbling with the buttons of his vest that wouldn’t separate for the life of him. Why did he have to wear so many bloody layers of clothing?

Jonathan sat up and watched Jervis take off his vest before fumbling to quickly fold it and place it onto his coat. The Hatter fumbled to take his hat off, letting out a small noise of frustration when he realized how many buttons his shirt had. Damn him for making the buttons so sturdy and hard to move! During this time Jonathan slowly slid off his coat and shirt, tossing them carelessly to the side before grabbing Jervis and bringing him close. Tetch let out a surprised squeak before quickly falling to pieces as Jonathan kissed his neck, hands reaching to slowly unbutton each increment of his love’s shirt. “Just relax,” he murmured softly, letting his hand briefly slip away from the buttons to glide against his warm, soft skin. Jonathan Crane was telling others to relax; how things have changed. The Hatter’s breathing hitched at this, babbles spilling from his mouth with the occasional “I love you” being heard through the mess. Jonathan unbuttoned the last of Jervis’ shirt, and only then did he feel tension.

“Wait!” Tetch squeaked, causing Jonathan to pull away with an expression of concern. “I don’t ahhh, I don’t have a condom,” he said, looking down as his hands twisted at his wrists.

Jonathan was struck with confusion, before that deadpan he was always known for reappeared once more. “Jervis we’re both men. Unless there’s something you really should have told me earlier.”

The Hatter looked back up at him with worry. “No no, nothing like that; what if you don’t like— ahhh…. you know…”

Jonathan raised a brow, quickly deciphering what he was saying. “No, I don’t care if you come inside me.”

A strangled sound of embarrassment came from Jervis, who covered his face with a squeak of shame. Jonathan rolled his eyes at just how much of a posh gentleman Jervis could be. But it was also endearing to know that he cared about the little things when it came to Crane’s comfort. Distracting himself, Jervis thought of something else. “So wait— am I…?”

Crane quickly caught on. “Since this is your first time, yes, I don’t mind if you top.” He himself didn’t really have a preference, though being with another man was new to him.

Tetch’s face was beet red at this, but he broke the silence with yet another reason to co*ckblock himself for another decade. “What about, ahhhh, lubricant?” he asked, which was actually a good point. Jonathan thought about it for a second before reaching up to the table and pulling off the bottle of aloe vera Jervis had used to soothe his burns.

Jervis stared at the bottle. “What?”

“It’s safe for skin and a perfect substitute,” Jonathan shrugged. “I would know. I’m a chemist.”

Jervis stared some more. “Are you sure?”

“Jervis I’m not leaving my hideout to buy lubricant.”

“Oh of course, of course, my apologies. Let us carry on then.”

Jervis leaned in to give another peck on the lips before Jonathan got to helping him remove his dress shirt. Once it was folded and put to the side, Tetch was now the one taking the initiative, going in for the kiss thanks to his newfound boost in confidence. Jonathan kissed back, waiting until Jervis was relaxed once more before his hands went about feeling over the warm skin of Tetch’s chest. They parted for another moment to remove those last bits of clothing.

For a moment, Crane realized just how gaunt he looked and that he was completely rail-thin. Some of that childhood self-consciousness surrounding his physique settled back in. His natural instinct was to feel humiliation; it was a correlation he’d developed long ago. But a single look from Jervis told him that his body type didn’t matter. Nothing physical really mattered to Jervis, as he only cared about Jonathan himself. Even with his lower half shrouded in sheets, Jervis looked at him as if he was the most beautiful creature in the world, giving him all the love and care he’d been deprived of as a child.

Jervis himself was a bit plump, but everyone already knew that, even with the over abundance of clothes he wore. It mattered not to Jonathan, as the man was as warm as the warmth he constantly radiated, soft, and (as he’d found out from the night before) made for a really comfortable pillow. Scarecrow approved.

They met in the middle once more, Jervis being more confident in his movements as he seemed to get a grasp on what he was doing. That need for control was starting to show once more as he found himself taking the initiative more. His hands would move to trace the rigid parts of his love’s body. Jonathan didn’t mind, of course, letting the man explore as he pleased. One thing Tetch continued to find out was just how sensitive Jonathan was. Especially around areas never really touched like the hip or the back. Each one made the other tense slightly, but never enough to stop him. That’s when Jervis got bold.

A choked sound left Jonathan’s throat when Jervis suddenly grasped his most sensitive organ. Tetch was hesitant for a moment before giving his love a slow and steady stroke, watching the touch-starved man fall apart at the action. Jonathan wrapped his arms around the other’s neck, leaning against him to steady himself. Jonathan buried his face into Jervis’ neck, jerking every so often at the blossoming sensations that the other was bringing to him.

Jervis couldn’t help but smile at how his love twitched under him, gripping onto his shoulders and hitching his breath at any new sensation. He could have sworn he heard a few whimpers mixed in with the muffled gasps. Each subtle movement made the sensitive doctor fall apart more and more, until his only way to shut himself up was to bite his knuckles in an attempt to ground himself.

“Does my March Hare like how this feels?” Jervis hummed softly, giving Crane another stroke that made him absolutely melt, biting his knuckles harder to silence himself. To feel someone as stern and rigid as Jonathan fall apart in his arms was more than Jervis could have ever dreamt of. His cheeks were burning, breathing labored and thoughts filled with such uncouth ideas on how he wanted to make his love squirm more. It wasn’t until a particularly bold rub to the sensitive head that Jonathan seemed to have had enough.

“Jervis if you keep teasing me I’m going to kill you,” he threatened, before quickly pulling Jervis until Crane was on his back and the other was once again propped up over him. Tetch opened his mouth to speak until he looked down at Jonathan, who had his eyes set on him with a look that could only be described as love and desire. The hypnotist had always dreamed of someone looking at him with those eyes, but now that it was finally here, he found that he didn’t quite know what to say or think. He had always thought that those eyes would be a sapphire blue full of innocence, but looking upon piercing gray made him forget all about his pursuit of Alice. His movement was automatic, taking up the aloe vera without a second thought. Everything was done purely on instinct as he soon leaned down to have his lips meet the others. He only separated a moment to gasp as a burning heat enveloped him. Jonathan found himself clenching his teeth at the new experience, mostly due to his rather high sensitivity. Despite having a high pain tolerance, any other type of touch made him tense. This feeling was one he didn’t know if he could get used to.

Jervis paused, stopping before he could fully hilt himself. “Do you want me to stop?” he asked softly, brow furrowed in worry.

Jonathan shook his head, letting out a strained breath. “N-no. Keep going,” he rasped, eyes heavily lidded as he clenched the sheets. Jervis nodded hesitantly before moving once more, slowly pushing into the other. Jonathan tilted his head back, mumbling incoherent words, his mouth twitching at such sudden sensations. It wasn’t until Jervis hit a certain spot that he found it necessary to bite down on the sheets to keep himself from gasping. God forbid he show any emotion.

Jervis was watching every detail of his partner closely, though the facial expressions were difficult to decipher. A few moments later and he pushed into the other again, slowly beginning to find a rhythm to things. He found himself rather liking the sensations, despite being put off by the other’s more expressive response. After a few times, however, Jonathan seemed to finally relax, though it was rather forced; he focused on Jervis, finding that looking up at him brought a bit of calm to his high-strung nature. “Keep going,” he repeated, though this time it sounded less strained. Tetch nodded, soon getting into a slow rocking rhythm as they finally seemed comfortable enough to continue without pause. He closed his eyes, letting out a slow exhale of pleasure at the heat that enveloped him. He became more confident with each steady stroke.

On the other end, the startling sensations Crane had been feeling were slowly starting to translate into pleasure at Jervis’ heat moving inside of him. Each thrust seemed to hit him in just the right spot, sending a wave of pleasure through his body that was unlike anything he’d felt before, even with his prior experience. It was overwhelming, for sure, but he found himself quite enjoying the experience. He lifted an arm to cover his eyes, letting out a raspy “hah”, the only vocal indicator to Jervis that it was good for him, too.

Hatter continued with this slow pace, steadily rocking against Jonathan, his knowledge that the pleasure was mutual leading him to feel this sense of intimacy he’d craved for so long. To Crane, however, it was almost too slow. This dragging teasing was messing with him and his innate desire for adrenaline. “More,” passed his lips before he could even realize it, surprising even himself. Cheeks tinted pink, he locked eyes with Jervis, who had his brow raised to his hairline. Jonathan opened his mouth to say something when Jervis suddenly bucked into the touch-starved man, causing him to jerk and let out a strangled noise that almost sounded like a moan. A devious smile crossed the other’s lips at that point.

“Does my March Hare like that?” Jervis purred, bucking into him once more to hear Jonathan voice his pleasure. Crane attempted to murmur something, but couldn’t when Tetch continued with a more confident pace, leaving only broken words and babbles in his wake. Jervis was frankly surprised at how Jonathan’s assertiveness seemed to crumble at feeling such sensations, but he wasn’t complaining. Another particularly confident stroke caused the March Hare to cover his face as he let out another raspy moan. “No no, don’t cover your face,” Jervis protested, gently moving the other’s hands away. “I want to see you.” Their eyes locked once more, and it was Jonathan whose gaze was now unfocused and glazed over. The great Master of Fear was so vulnerable under him, reacting to every touch and kiss laid upon him. And Jervis made sure to do a lot of kissing. Over his chest and along his sharp collarbone, wanting to explore every bit of skin he could. He didn’t let up on his movements, of course, Crane’s melting only bringing him more confidence in what he was doing. “I love you,” he rasped. “You’re lovely. Absolutely lovely. Such a good boy.” Jonathan tilted his head back and muttered some incoherent words, Jervis’ murmurs only bringing him closer to the edge. Tetch had figured out through their little hypnotism session that the professor absolutely melted at praise when he was vulnerable. He also took a few notes from Scarecrow from the night before; he hoped the beast wouldn’t mind. He brought up a hand to cup Jonathan’s face, leaning down to deliver a kiss and running his fingers through straw-like red hair. Crane didn’t hesitate to melt into the kiss, already feeling himself coming close.

Jervis knew he was close as well, unable to help himself from moving desperately against the other for relief. Murmurs of love and praise left his lips, only contributing to the broken smile Jonathan had twitching on his lips, the most expressive he’d been in his life since he was a child. Tetch absolutely loved that smile; he felt as though they were finally sharing the same pleasures and emotions for the first time. They only focused on one another, as they were the only two that mattered at the moment. No Batman or Alice or Arkham could disturb them.

Panting sounded through the air as the two moved against one another, intimacy blossoming between them. Jervis gently grasped Jonathan’s hand as he continued, a gesture that was returned with a light squeeze. His other hand was grasping the doctor’s thigh, stabilizing himself to keep at that even pace. They were chest to chest at his point, Jonathan burying his face within the crook of his partner’s neck, lips moving to mumble silent words and to deliver small kisses. Every so often he’d get hit in just the right spot and bring his head back to let out a soft gasp. Jervis encoded each sound to memory, his thoughts lost in only passion and love.

“Jonathan,” he rasped, coming closer to release. “I’m, ah…!” The other’s whimpering signalled the same thing. Jervis let out a soft whine as he had stilled, whatever coil that was inside him finally releasing. Jonathan jerked on instinct at the warmth that flooded him, soon reaching his own limit in a series of strangled noises and moans.

Jervis blinked a few times after his head cleared, before he pulled out and collapsed next to Jonathan on the mattress. Although their heat was enough to steam a mirror, Jervis found himself being nipped by the colder air of the fall soon after. He grimaced and brought the blanket over him. “May I snuggle up close to you?” he requested, his breathing still labored from their recent exercise. Jonathan was straight-faced once more, rolling his eyes, and grabbing the large lump under the sheets to bring it closer to him. Jervis squeaked at this, but smiled still, snuggling up close to his more boney counterpart.

“How was your first time?” Jonathan asked casually, finally getting Tetch to poke his head out from under the sheets.

“Wonderful! Could we perhaps do this again another time?” Jervis smiled, despite feeling rather tired at the moment. So much spent energy left him ready to crawl under the sheets and sleep with his paramour for the rest of eternity. He noticed a bit of fluid had been left on Jonathan’s stomach and leaned over to grab the handkerchief he had used to wipe his tears with earlier.

“Give me a day to recover and sure,” Jonathan shrugged, taking up the rag. He noticed that, unlike the rest of Jervis’ very blue outfit, the handkerchief was a simple red. While he was never partial to cooler colors, he had grown accustomed to the shade on his partner. “Do you have one that comes in blue?” he asked casually, using the rag to wipe off his stomach.

“No,” Jervis smiled brightly with a rather bold attitude on display, “but once you recover, you sure can!”

Jonathan paused, brow furrowed as in registered, before rolling his eyes and giving Jervis a light smack on the arm. No feelings were hurt, however, as soon both had lain down once more.

Crane was quick to pass out from the exhausting act, his spindly arms wrapped around the other with his head laying on the other’s chest. Jervis decided to stay awake some, running a hand through his love’s locks to soothe him in his sleep and do away with any nightmares.

Notes:

Hey bitches. It’s been a long time coming.

This will probably be the only chapter dedicated to this sort of intimacy. However, if you’re into f*cked up sh*t like I am, I am making two separate chapters that will be put into a separate fic, all about them getting intimate in a less than vanilla way. Hypnotism, pain, lots of weird kinks, and lots of biting. So watch out for that.

Chapter 16: Lovely Little Surprises

Summary:

Jonathan and Jervis spend some time together, and it feels so oddly normal. Jonathan has to wonder if this is the life he wanted now.

Notes:

Burnout is a bitch.

But I’m back. Back to writing. Back to this story. We’re now slowly getting off the romance-focused segments and into the rest of the plot.

Heads up, this chapter does contain two OCs of mine. This is like the only chapter they’ll appear in, and it’s mostly to add to the mood I want to set for Jon and Jerv’s current relationship.

Chapter Text

“We’ve spent $124.”

Alice blinked, looking over at her companion, who didn’t seem amused in the slightest. “Pardon?” she requested, hands on her lap and a faint hint of a smile playing on her lips. “I don’t remember spending any of your fancy lawyer money.”

“On peanuts, I mean,” Becky clarified, pushing her sunglasses to rest atop her head. Her eyes flicked over to the teen tossing peanuts on the ground, watching crows flock over to eagerly snatch up a morsel greedily. “I feel like this is a waste of time. I know she’s his sister, but… honestly, I’m not sure if common sense runs in the family.”

This earned the redhead a sour look. “Well I trust her,” Alice huffed, smoothing out her sweater as the biting chill had once again returned to nip at and rosy her cheeks. “They’re siblings. I bet they have this brother-sister spiritual connection where they know how to reach each other.”

Becky paused from reading the statements on her phone, slowly turning her head to look over at her friend with a playful smile. “I honestly pity Billy right now, you know,” she mentioned with a soft chuckle. “I don’t think I could deal with that level of optimistic nonsense every day.”

A roll of her eyes and a half-smirk was what Becky got in return. “What? I was an only child. When I was little I had somehow convinced myself that siblings had some sort of mind-reading connection. Think I saw it from a movie or something.”

“Ally, that’s ridiculous,” Albright grinned, nudging her friend’s shoulder in retaliation. “We all know it only happens with twins.”

Alice let out a sharp “Ha!” at the joke, her expression bright as she raised her hand to graze her lips with her fingers, attempting to stop any more laughter that may disturb the other park goers. “I see you’ve finally watched that movie I suggested two months back?” she scoffed, having heard the joke already. “About time.”

“Hey! I got busy,” Becky defended, hands in the air.

“Busy with your sixth Friends marathon?” Alice teased.

Fifth, thank you very much,” Becky chortled, nudging her friend on the arm. “It takes me back to my college days. You know, before… him. Where my main worries were whether or not a human body could survive off of instant noodle bowls for three months straight.” Her smile faded some but never disappeared, looking to Alice fondly. “You ever miss those days, Ally?”

Alice pursed her lips as she focused on her best friend. “The before times? Every now and then. Billy doesn’t like when I talk about it; makes him mad at Jervis. He doesn’t understand why I’m not angry as well. I do miss the old Jervis, and would be more than happy to have him back. I want to see him smile contentedly again… as friends, of course.”

“Oh yeah, absolutely.”

“Even still,” she continued, fussing with the hairband in her hair. “The months after the whole incident were some of the closest I’ve ever felt to Billy. He stayed with me despite everything. Loved me, despite my trauma. I realized that he was the man I wanted to be with my entire life, and even now whenever I have my… night terrors or panic attacks, he’s still there to comfort me and hug me.” She smiled wearily, thinking of her husband with the fondness of someone truly in love. “I don’t cry anymore over what Jervis tried to do to me. I smile because of the fond memories we shared. He’s not a bad man; he’s just… unwell. And I just want him to get better, you know?”

Becky didn’t look like she completely agreed, but understood her friend completely, drinking in every word and giving the blonde her full focus. “Mmm… single life is more of my thing, honestly. But… I can’t really say the same about wanting Crane better. I mean, would it be great if he was reformed? Absolutely! Good for him. And for the people of Gotham. Would I cry if he was hit by a truck? Ahh…”

Alice smirked at Becky, casting a quick glance at the girl with the peanuts. “Don’t let Savannah hear that. She loves her big brother.”

The redhead’s expression faded to a more muted tone, giving a rather dulled look to the girl. “Well… she doesn’t know what it’s like now does she?”

Pleasance noticed Albright’s fading enthusiasm and grabbed her by the hand, tone becoming more serious, though she still kept that air of positivity about her. “Hey,” she spoke softly, squeezing her hand. When Becky’s gaze turned to her, Alice could only give a reassuring smile. “We’re doing this to make sure she never experiences that. That no one else experiences what we’ve gone through. They’ll be put away, and hopefully they’ll get the help they need. I know we’re close on this, Becky.”

Albright was mum for a moment, before the comfort brought a smile back to her face, her hand squeezing her best friend’s own. “Yeah… Yeah, you’re right. This is for the people of Gotham. Always the optimist, Alice.”

“Always the pessimist, Rebecca,” Alice giggled knowingly.

While they teased one another, someone else was already making progress.

“Guys! I found her!”

Jervis wanted to move, but how could he when there was a delightful hare resting on him so peacefully?

This was the most tranquil he’d ever seen Jonathan. Long and thin arms were wrapped haphazardly around Jervis, head resting on the softer man’s chest. It was as if the man never wanted to let the Tetch go, even in sleep, a sentiment that Jervis did not mind in the slightest. A soft snore passed by his lips, no sign of wake hinted in his restful slumber. Yes, you read right, Jonathan Crane snores. The Hatter didn’t know how to feel, not because he minded it (of course he found it absolutely precious) but instead because this felt like forbidden knowledge he was never meant to attain, and he didn’t know what to do with it. All he knew was that this would be a moment he would cherish forever.

This was an odd feeling. He had finally done it. Gotten his Alice. As the thought passed his head, he grimaced. “No. Not Alice,” he murmured under his breath, silently berating himself with gentle reminders. Even now he had retained the subconscious habit of fitting Jonathan into this idealized version of what he wanted him to be. But Jervis had learned much from their time together. Alice would never shove him away when touched without permission. Alice didn’t find glee in his terror and pain. Alice didn’t threaten his life or try or nearly get him killed in grand displays of revenge. Alice wasn’t inherently a cold and callous sad*st. No, Jervis had been blind to see that his love had been at the table the entire time, having tea with him and arguing over butter and time. Not to mention, his hare was a two-in-one package.

Jervis took a moment to ponder that last thought. If one dated a man with two alters, did that count as polygamy? Scarecrow seemed keen on touching him in inappropriate ways. He would think so. Jervis had never pictured himself being in a three way love before. Did he mind? Not really. A part of him was keen to the idea of being shared between the two. Though was it really sharing if it was the same body? Even his Wonderlandian style of thinking was having a hard time wrapping around this concept. But this was all besides the point.

Time and time again, he had been told to stop chasing such high hopes and fantastical dreams of love and adoration based in his Wonderland fantasies; that even if he got what he wanted, it would never live up to his expectations or fulfill his life the way he thought it would. And if Jervis were to be quite honest, (and may the Red Queen have mercy on him for such crude language) those people take their words and eat it, because this was everything he had wanted and more. He felt as though a hole inside of him was fulfilled and he could finally be content, knowing things could only get better from here. He had Jonathan in his grasp and didn’t plan to let him go, even if it meant following alongside the Hare to wherever he chose to go, dragging Wonderland through the entire time.

He didn’t notice when the snoring had stopped whilst he pondered. Jonathan lay awake, having his own contemplative thoughts over how to describe his current state. It was… uncomfortably strange, this feeling of tiredness that still settled over him, paired with his own refusal to leave the bed for once. Usually he would get up and start his day, but this time, he couldn’t bring himself to even move away. He wanted to stay here and lay against the warmth Tetch provided. Jervis had his hand on the professor’s bare back, idly rubbing circles along his skin, and it could be said that the feeling brought a peace to his soul in that moment.

“Oh god…” Crane muttered in slow realization, quickly drawing the other’s attention. “Am I going domestic?”

Jervis took a moment to process the question before letting out a soft chuckle. “I’m not quite sure, my darling. Is that a bad thing?”

Was it a bad thing? This was a question Jonathan hadn’t considered in years. He never saw himself as the type to snuggle up with a significant other and find blissful relaxation in another’s company. And yet, he was enjoying the experience; even still, however, there was still that nagging of thoughts and instincts that always stuck in his head in times like these. He was being unproductive, wasting daylight hours snuggling with a glorified hug dispenser. He needed to make his rounds along the hideout to make sure everything was in order. He needed to feed the crows. And yet, he felt content to simply lay there. In that moment, all he needed was Tetch, that warmth consuming him and comforting him like a heated blanket in the middle of winter.

Jervis felt with some sadness the weight of Jonathan lifting off of him. He stared up at the ceiling, only blocked by Jonathan hovering over him with both hands on either side to support himself.

“I’ve seen you again and again for a decade now,” Jonathan murmured, studying Jervis as though he were a new specimen. “Why is it only now that you suddenly look stunning; I feel as though I can’t look away until I commit every detail into memory.” He let out an exhale, the sound shaky as he attempted to reason with his own desires with little success. “Is this what love feels like?”

Tetch’s cheeks were dusted in a coat of red, bashful under his love’s gaze, but heart fluttering at being appraised like a gem. “Possibly,” he whispered, reaching up to gently graze Jonathan’s cheek. “Perhaps it’s the feeling of knowing that you are loved. Or maybe I snuck out when you were asleep and put on makeup and crawled back in bed.”

“Unlikely,” Jonathan replied, shaking his head. “All the makeup I own is far darker than your shade of skin. For now I will chalk it up to after effects of having sex with you.”

“Further testing required?” Jervis grinned slyly, something that actually brought out a smirk on the nonplussed Jonathan.

“Further testing required,” he agreed softly. “Thankfully I always have a willing test subject now.” With that, he pulled away, starting to pull on his clothes. It was only now that Tetch was fully aware of the fact that he was naked, and despite having just made love the night before, he was instinctively shy under Jonathan’s gaze, quickly going about retrieving his clothing. Jonathan was fully dressed in a third of the time it took Jervis to pull on all his layers of clothes, and by then he was outside the room and downstairs.

Tetch retrieved his hat and placed it snug on his head, soon trotting down the stairs and radiating joy. He noticed Jonathan at one of the lab counters, a large bowl of peanuts in front of him and pouring a vial of green liquid onto the morsels. Jervis had seen him do this before, but had never really asked, mostly because he initially thought it to be poison for rats and the like. He knew now that his Jonathan wasn’t one for killing rats; “they add to the aesthetic”, as he says.

Jonathan stirred the peanuts until the chemical was distributed evenly among each before walking outside, where his crows were waiting. “If I may ask,” Jervis piped up as he followed, watching him set down the bowl. “What are you feeding them?”

“It’s a modified version of the antidote to my toxin,” he explained, watching the crows come over to feed from the bowl. He took a small gander around, noticing Katrina wasn’t among them, but he didn’t fret. The tough old bird always came around eventually. “I have some left over. It’s for the crows only, therefore the only stock of antidote I keep in my lab. I feed it to them every week or so in case there is an accident in the lab. Don’t get any ideas; I hide the antidote where no one could find it.”

Jervis understood, but was quite surprised that Jonathan was so thoughtful over a flock of crows. He had no idea there was even an antidote in the lab; that would have been especially good to have known early on, despite the other’s refusal to share it. “I mean no offense, but it seems like a waste of chemicals, Hare,” he noted, watching the crows eat fondly. It really was a more relaxing sight, especially given how Jervis had expected them to be more ravenous for their food. But this seemed to be a routine for them. One crow strayed from the bowl and hopped before Jonathan, tilting their head curiously up at him. Jonathan just nodded to the bird and outstretched his arm, allowing the corvid to flutter up and sit on his arm for pets.

Jonathan simply pet the bird on the head with gentle strokes, listening to the corvid purr. “I know they would do the same for me.”

Jervis had a hand to his heart, unable to comprehend just how precious that response was. While it was true that the murder was awfully protective of their flightless fledging, hearing such a phrase from Jonathan almost seemed out of character. He had expected a more analyzing, detailed explanation, but the answer had instead been a fact of their bond. He smiled, grateful to see his Hare inch out of his burrow. He couldn’t help but add onto this. “Ohh, how lovely! I would do the same for you, too!”

This garnered an inquisitive look, and so he elaborated. “If you were the crow and I was the scientist and the crows were… me? I believe? I would give you the antidote in peanuts and…” He paused, already confusing himself in his own logic. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Well, the moral is that I love you.”

Jonathan gave that hum that Jervis recognized was one of amusem*nt. Crane gave emotions, Jervis realized, but they were so muted that one would really have to study his Hare to truly catch them.

“I love you, too,” Crane could be heard murmuring under his breath. He wasn’t quite comfortable with the love confessions yet, the phrase still foreign on his lips. But it was said, and that was all that mattered. Jervis visibly gushed at this.

Soon after Jonathan was done with feeding the crows and drew the bowl away to get back inside, Jervis inquired, “So, what is my lovely Hare planning to do today? A book perhaps? Oh I’ve been wanting to share this lovely story I’ve discovered.”

“Was it written by Lewis Carroll?”

“It may have been written by Lewis Carroll.”

Jonathan rolled his eyes, but it was clear it wasn’t from annoyance. He just seemed disinterested by the idea, however, having had something else in mind. “As much as it would be nice to sit with you for a book I’ve read a hundred times, I had something else in mind.” He put the bowl in the lab sink, washing it out with the heavily filtered water. “Do you want to go get some food?”

Tetch blinked, watching Jonathan as if the man had gone mad (madder than usual, that is). “As nice as that would be… I believe I must remind you that you and I are wanted criminals. And not the type of ‘wanted’ I would prefer.”

The redhead hardly seemed deterred by the prospect. “No, I was talking about getting some supplies to stir something up.” His brow arched in that quizzical yet uninterested manner. “You don’t think I survive off of whatever I can scrounge up around Gotham, do you? Take-out is relatively difficult and canned goods are fine and all, but I do occasionally make things that last me some time, especially since I don’t eat that much.”

Tetch blinked. “You cook?”

“I cook,” Jonathan nodded, as if it wasn’t a big deal, and yet he’d hit it for this long. Their connection the night before really boosted Jon’s comfort level; if he was willing to admit he loves a man and share a bed with him, then there really were no bigger secrets to keep.

As much of a life-changing revelation as this was, Jervis was quick to get back to the original concern. “Even still, Jon, my original point still stands. Even if we go to a farmer’s market, we are bound to be recognized.”

As usual, worry was absent from Crane. “I know a place. But I won’t go if you feel uncomfortable with the idea.”

Tetch frowned at the confidence Crane carried, simply waving off his concerns as if it was something he had done countless times before. Such gall to leave the safety of their hideout and into the public eye was never something that Hatter was fond of, unless, of course, it was for one of his Wonderlandian ventures. But there was something comforting about the paranoid Crane being so sure about his plants, and yet willing to throw them away for the sake of his love’s comfort. Was this what it was like to be cared for? Needless to say, he liked it.

With a smile, he grabbed Jonathan’s hand after a brief pause for permission, giving it a gentle squeeze. “I’d be delighted to accompany you on your venture. I’ll grab a scarf.”

An hour away from Gotham led their ride to the more rural areas of their state. How curious it was to see Jonathan navigate so easily without aid. The Hare knew the burrows well, it seemed, and it brought Hatter small bouts of excitement to this new place they were going. It felt like a road trip without all the near death experiences and trying to kill one another and the Batman tagging along to stop them.

The end of the trip brought them to a small crop farm, clearly not for high-scale commercial purposes. It all seemed manageable by a few people, perhaps even operable by one person should they be dedicated enough. While crops were clearly the main source of income, he could see a few livestock; a couple of cows for dairy, a chicken coop, and a little pen for pigs. Jervis found it all quite peaceful, but wondered how Jonathan could know a place such as this.

At the far end of the farm was a quaint little house, meant for only a couple of residents. From there they could see a rather plump older woman hanging up sheets, speaking to the more thin and frail man that could be assumed to be her husband.

Tetch got out of the car nervously, looking over at the beat up pickup truck that they had parked beside. He had seen rotting fruit that had aged more gracefully than this tired old thing. Ignoring that, he gave a glance to Jonathan, silently asking for an answer as they walked down the path that split the fields.

“Stu and Edna McCullen,” Jonathan explained smoothly. “I met them a good decade back at the farmers market when I was still a professor. They moved from Texas for less competition when selling fresh goods.”

“And… they don’t know who you are?” Jervis inquired, the doubt still thick in his mind and nearly weighing him to the spot as he was nervous to approach two normal citizens.

Jonathan shook his head as they neared the house. “If they do, they haven’t said anything about it,” he answered, hands shoved into the pockets of his baggy coat. “They aren’t very technologically advanced. They hardly ever pay attention to the news. If it doesn’t concern them, they don’t care. If they know the Scarecrow, they don’t know who is under the mask, ergo, they would have no idea who you are.”

Jervis struggled to try to feel offended, but he couldn’t argue with not being recognized while they were hiding out. Another question popped into his head, but before he could voice it, a boisterous voice had him nearly leap out of his skin.

“Is that my darling pumpkin pie I see?” came the squeal of Edna, meeting them halfway with arms spread in a welcoming manner. She paused before Crane, who gave a nod, and he was soon brought into a tight hug. “Oh Jonny, now where’ve you been?” she asked, soon letting the now dented beanpole go. “D’you know how long it’s been. Stu actually thought you forgot about us!”

“Never, Edna,” Crane replied, the ghost of a smile and a chuckle gracing his lips. These emotions were faked, of course, but they were so well practiced that Tetch almost thought they were genuine. Edna huffed, hands on her hips as she observed him with eyes hidden behind half-moon glasses.

“Look at you. You get skinnier every time I see you. Ain’t you ever heard of three meals a day?” It was around this time that she noticed Jervis, head canting some as that loose gray bun bobbed slightly. “And who is this sweet pea?” she inquired, gaze initially scrutinizing, yet still soft and kind.

“Edna, this is…” Jonathan paused to gaze over Jervis with consideration over his title, before placing a hand on his shoulder. “This is my boyfriend, Jervis.”

Jervis was, to say the least, shocked to hear those words come from that mouth. His ears must have failed him at some point, but it turns out that Jonathan had a specific reason for referring to him as such. With a squeal from the older woman, he was easily hoisted up into a tight hug. The title had given him immediate favorability from his love’s friends, wiping away any fears that Jervis might fall out of their good graces. “Well isn’t that the most lovely thing—!” She quickly dropped Jervis, gesturing for them to follow along. “Come on. Stu won’t believe his ears.”

She continued to talk as they walked, not noticing how Jervis’ face was flushed pink and his eyes constantly flicked up to the nonplussed Jonathan. “So, whaddaya wanna get? Just planted the fall crops last month, so sorry if you were looking for corn n’ or the like.” Jervis did not miss how Jonathan’s lips twitched downwards a bit at the lack of corn. He must have liked corn

Crane just gave a smooth shrug as they got to the house. “Just some simple vegetables. Collared greens, carrots. Eggs and some meat, if you have them.”

Edna gave a peppy nod, turning her attention to her husband. “Honeybun! Jonny came to visit! And look: he found himself a little gentleman: Jervis!”

Stu hopped up from his chair despite his frail figure, having quite more energy than one would think at first glance. Despite the chill of the weather, he had on a wife beater, a grin splitting his face to show off the missing teeth that pockmarked his smile. Hands shoved into his trouser pockets, he strolled down the porch steps and to the blonde. “Well nice to meet ya, sir! Lookin’ mighty fancy, gotta say.”

Jervis found his face flushed, bashful under all the positive attention he was getting. First being named as his love’s boyfriend, and now he was being doted over by two of the sweetest country bumpkins he ever did know. “Oh, you really are too kind,” he tittered, the warmth of his cheeks being enough to act as a space heater.

Stu put a hand to his chest, brow launching up in surprise. “And a Brit? Didn’t take Jonny for the type to have a taste for fancy.” He glanced up to Jonathan. “Ya’ll didn’t get married yet, did ya? Better not have. We’re catering.”

Jervis choked, feeling like he had been placed under a heat lamp. How Jonathan could keep his composure as he spoke was beyond him. “Hmm, well if it comes to be, you’ll be the first to get the invitations,” Crane hummed, having no plans for such an event. “Anyhow, we just came for some food supplies. Carrots, collared greens, perhaps some eggs. Anything you can give for a fifty.”

“Pork suit your fancy?” Edna asked. “Our hog Wilbur dropped dead the other night.” She quickly paused to close her eyes and gesture the sign of the cross over her body, soon looking back up at the two. “God rest his soul, even if he does make for good bacon.”

The cognitive dissonance was so stark for Jervis that felt as though he needed to lie down.

“Sure, I’ll take some off your hands,” Jonathan nodded, giving them both a kind smile as they went to retrieve some of the supplies asked for. A moment of silence passed before Jonathan looked to Jervis’ shocked state. “Something wrong, Hatter?”

Hatter could only sputter in confused shock, looking between Jonathan and the farmhouse. “Hare!” he cried finally, gripping the rim of his hat as he scolded his love. “I had no idea you kept such lovely company! Why haven’t I had the slightest idea of them? Could we not have met earlier?”

Jonathan didn’t seem bothered by the light berating, having expected this. “Not only are they a good source of food and the like,” he explained, “but I don’t tell anyone about them. They were two of the few adults who I grew… fond of before my turn to the Scarecrow. They’re harmless; just a couple of country bumpkins. I may be biased given our backgrounds are similar, but to be honest, they’ve been nothing but kind. Is it so absurd that I would have one or two people I would like to keep safe?”

Hatter pursed his lips, looking sheepishly to the side. “Would I come off as a bad paramour if I said ‘yes’?” he inquired, something Jonathan couldn’t help but smile softly at. It was unknown if this was to keep up the act or if it was truly genuine. “It’s just jarring to hear about this now, of all times. I had no idea my Hare had more company at the other end of his burrow!”

Jonathan arched one brow, hands stuffed into coat pockets so casually that it was hard to believe it was the same person he’d known the day before. Then again, both of their perspectives had been drastically changed the night before. “I can see the subject bothers you quite a bit,” he noted, though his voice had no hint of concern. “Perhaps you’d rather we leave as soon as we get what we need t—“

Hatter held up a hand quickly, bringing Crane’s words to amused silence. “Don’t you put such horrid words into my mouth, my darling. We are going to stay here and socialize with these lovely folk, or so help me, Queen Alice—!”

Crane didn’t protest, knowing Tetch couldn’t resist being in the presence of such kind-hearted people. To see Jervis excited was a pleasing sight, even if the cause wasn’t his own. His silent consideration, however, was broken upon seeing Stu approach with a pumpkin. “Pumpkin?” he heard his boyfriend ask, confused and concerned.

“Oh of course!” Steve laughed, setting the heavy thing down. “Jonny always comes every Halloween to buy a bunch of pumpkins! Very Halloweeny type. No idea what he does with ‘em all but we got plenty in the patch! Thought you’d like one or two before the holiday!”

Jervis’ expression turned to one of mock confusion mixed with smug amusem*nt as he turned to stare at Jonathan. “How odd. I wonder what you do with all these pumpkins, love. Evil satanic escapades? Dressing up and tormenting people with pumpkins?”

“If only my life was that interesting,” Jon chuckled, waiting until Stu had turned to look for Edna that he elbowed Jervis on the shoulder so hard that it made the man squeak like a dog toy. Even still, he considered the pumpkin in silence, a frown gracing his visage. “Though… could you remind me of the date? I’m afraid I haven’t been keeping track.”

“October 25th,” Edna called as she stepped up with a grocery bag of fresh greens. “At least that’s what the calendar says. Now, before you crazy kids run off—“

“Edna I’m forty-five.”

“—would you like to come in for some tea? Pumpkin bread maybe? Just made a batch.”

Jervis felt like he would melt in place from the warmth he felt inside. “Oh would we! Lead the way, Miss McCullen,” he gushed enthusiastically. Edna placed a hand to her bosom, looking as though she had seen a kitten sneeze. “‘Miss McCullen!’ How quaint! Now you both just follow along. Got this new fancy tea my grandon introduced to me last month.”

Jonathan watched them leave, giving them a “I’ll join you in a moment,” before glancing down at the pumpkin. Six days. Six days until Halloween. No doubt the entire city would be on watch for the Scarecrow, a beast who had haunted Gotham for over a decade. A beast they wouldn’t see. It wasn’t like he would be able to make something up at this point in time, and even if he could, his motivation was stagnant. He couldn’t help but feel his chest tighten at the prospect of this being his first Halloween in years where the Scarecrow wouldn’t prowl the streets with devious plans to ruin Gotham. Should all go normally, of course. The most Batman would have to deal with was Calender Man popping in to do some odd seasonal shenanigans. To say he felt sorrow at the idea wouldn’t be entirely true; he didn’t know how to feel about it all, honestly. To give up such a tradition was strange, and yet he felt a weight off of his shoulders. As much as he enjoyed frightening Jervis, he didn’t feel that same spark of joy at the thought of terrorizing the citizens of Gotham. As odd as the thought of going to spend it with Harley was, he strangely found himself looking forward to it.

We’ve never spent Halloween with anyone before.

Jonathan was silent.

I thought this would hurt more than it does.

“Perhaps,” Jonathan murmured, looking back up at the house, stepping over the pumpkin to follow inside. “Though I suppose it comes with the territory of losing the ability to fear. Lack of surprise certainly lessens the blow.”

“What a lovely time that was!” Jervis smiled giddily, placing meat and vegetables in a fridge where chemicals were usually stored. He hadn’t stopped talking during the entire ride home with Jonathan not saying a word the entire time. It wasn’t that he was disinterested; he just had less to say than Jervis, and the Hatter knew that. By now, Tetch had learned to read when his love was unhappy, occasionally asking questions to make sure Crane wasn’t uncomfortable. “Why, I’d say it almost felt…” He couldn’t seem to find the words.

“Normal…” Jonathan finished, his back up against a wall as he watched Jervis tiredly. He was looking at the pumpkin he had bought, now sitting on a lab counter. He couldn’t help it; he bought the pumpkin and brought it back to the hideout. The only question now was what to do with it. He didn’t know why he even bought it in the first place; for tradition’s sake, he supposed. He could carve it and fill it with fear gas, dropping it outside to ward off unsuspecting souls who just happened to be in that very specific part of the woods.

I say we fill it with roaches and get the pipsqueak to open it.

Some things never changed, it seemed.

Or… or they could just carve it like a normal human being, place a candle in it, and let it sit outside; it seemed logical, but the idea felt so odd; never had he actually carved a pumpkin just for the holiday itself. If he were to do such a thing, however, it would be best to do so days before he would go to see Harley and Ivy. Oh the things Ivy would do to him for taking a fruit and carving into it, throwing away the seeds and leaving the pumpkin outside to rot away. Of course, he could always simply plant the seeds to get her off his back— convince her he was starting a garden.

“A garden…” he murmured, clinging onto that last thought. What a startlingly domestic thought. It didn’t come from nowhere, of course; he knew how to care for plants from his days working in fields, and it was work that would keep him busy. Of course, he would need to get the crows to not eat the seeds, and he can’t exactly put a scarecrow outside to warn them off with how much they were fond of him. That would be a problem in itself to solve, another problem being figuring out why he was now legitimately considering ways to grow a flourishing garden. His plight did not end there, as he came across the idea that he didn’t need to actually carve a pumpkin; he could just use it for pumpkin bread, something he hadn’t made in a decade but still knew every ingredient from memory. He was only confusing himself. Why did he want to start baking again? It wasn’t like it would save any useful purpose. Although, baked treats would go nicely with Tetch’s tea. He believed he could still recall how to make scones.

Oh no. What was happening to him?

Jonny? Jonny are you okay? Do you smell burnt toast?

Jervis was silent as he let Jonathan stare blankly at a pumpkin for five minutes. He couldn’t exactly judge, as the Hatter loved to speak to the gnats and frogs and the moon and the daisies, as annoying as they could be. That reminded him that he needed to take a shovel and have a go at the ground outside until the soil was soft enough where all the flowers could go to sleep. Or at least until the daisies shut up.

Tap tap tap.

Jonathan could recognize that sound anywhere, turning his gaze to see Katrina sitting patiently on the windowsill, something clutched in her beak. “There you are,” he sighed, walking over and lifting open the window to see his found bird mom. He gave his corvid a nice stroke of the feathers, before realizing what Katrina held in her mouth.

Katrina did not resist as the note was removed from her mouth, allowing Jonathan to open one of the two sheets of paper up and smooth it out against a wall. “So you’re a carrier pigeon now, are you?” Crane asked, taking a gaze to his bird, who merely called out and fluttered inside to go sit on his shoulder.

“A letter from another friend you’ve kept from me?” Jervis huffed, a playful edge to what was actually a serious concern.

“In a way…” Jonathan replied honestly, letting his gaze fall over the words of the note. “It’s from Savannah, my sis— ahm, half-sister.”

It was a good thing that Crane wasn’t looking over at his boyfriend, as he no doubt would have seen how his expression dropped and crashed like a fallen anvil. He knew so little about the girl that Jonathan claimed as a younger sibling, and yet the lack of annoyance or anger in the brother’s voice had Tetch’s heart plummeting. She would visit him during their time in Arkham, that much he knew, and that she was part of the reason Jonathan was so indecisive of his life onward from here.

He had never met her; he was sure she was a lovely young lady, but just the mention of her sparked those dark, ugly feelings within him. This subtle loathing the girl inspired within him was ridiculous, he knew this, but after finally acquiring the love he had sought so desperately for years literally just the day before, his more undesirable traits were starting to surface tenfold. Vying for his love was one thing, but having him was something else entirely. Stu and Edna were simply a lovely old couple Crane could visit, but Savannah could actually take his Hare away; get him to reform and cause the Hatter’s heart to break entirely.

When Jonathan glanced up to Jervis, the Hatter forced a smile just in time. Yes, it looked very unnatural, but Crane wasn’t looking too long anyhow. “Oh how lovely! Very thoughtful,” he hummed, head canted in an inquisitive manner. “So, what did your dear daughter of a duch*ess write to you?”

Crane didn’t think much of the comment, already smoothing out the second part of the letter. “Let me see…” He grabbed at the neck of his shirt, only to realize his glasses were absent. “Jervis, can you hand me my reading glasses?” he requested from his boyfriend, who glowed with a smile and nodded. Was it awful that Jervis wanted to snap those glasses in half so Jonathan wouldn’t be able to read the letter? Most definitely, and Jonathan would no doubt have him read the letter himself in retaliation. So he simply took them up and handed them over. His dinner gloves prevented the lenses from being smudged, much to Jonathan’s benefit.

Crane placed the glasses on the bridge of his nose and began reading aloud. “‘Hey, Jonny, this is Savannah. I finally found your—“

“You have to do the accent.”

Jonathan paused, peering over his glasses to stare at Jervis. “Excuse me?”

Tetch seemed completely serious with his request. “She has a southern accent, right? Play the part! Let those acting chops flow through you! Take this time to express your feelings through your reading!”

Jonathan stared, and he stared hard. A full minute of blank-faced watching passed before Jervis finally squirmed in discomfort. Only then did the redhead go back to reading.

“‘I finally found Katrina! It took a lot of time and a lot of peanuts, but I found her, and I hope she got this message to you. I miss talking to you and hope you are alright. Can we please meet tomorrow at 1 am at 4500 Vision Street? It has a little park that no one goes to and is close to my house so I won’t get in trouble for wandering off. I hope you come! Thank you!’”

Taking a look at the second page, he noticed it was just a printed image of said location on Google Maps. “How thoughtful,” he murmured under his breath, folding the letter. “Well, that is a trap if I’ve ever heard one.”

Jervis let out the breath he didn’t know he had been holding, sighing in relief. “Oh thank the merciful Queen of Hearts! I’m quite glad your senses are still clear of any filth! Here, I’ll throw those papers away for you and we can get back to discussing the lovely day we’ve had.” He reached for the pages, only to have them pulled further away from him.

Crane folded the printed direction around the letter and placed them in his pocket. “No, I’m still going.”

Jervis was shocked silent for a moment, a confused and nervous titter coming from his mouth. If Jonathan hadn’t been the most humorless bastard he’d ever met in his life (other than the Batman), he would have immediately brushed it off as a joke. “I, ahh… I don’t quite understand what you mean, Hare. You only just said that the tale spoke of a trap!”

“I did,” Jonathan replied, pulling off his coat and letting it hang on one of the stools, “but I don’t know if I believe it myself. I won’t go unarmed, of course, but I’m still going.”

The Hatter was struggling to find things to say, his mind scrambling to get at reasons to toss out. He decided to try and appeal to Crane’s reasonable side. “You can’t just take that in good faith! Who knows what devious things that young lady is capable of! You may be walking into a brilliant trap, the works unlike anything you’ve ever seen!”

Jonathan’s stolid visage did not waver. “Jervis, she’s twelve.”

The Hatter’s cheeks were no doubt a tinge pink from frustration and embarrassment. All he wanted to do was shout “I don’t want you to go!”, but knew that Jonathan wouldn’t be keen to follow his orders strictly based on emotions. “But why?” was all he could think to ask. “Why risk it? Why risk going back to Arkham?”

“Because I don’t care if I end up going back to Arkham.”

There was stark silence in the room. Jervis stared with eyes the size of dinner plates at the admission. Something sank within him, those deep, ugly feelings starting to bubble in the pit of his stomach. Desperation. Need. Sorrow. Jealousy. Such toxicity formed a boiling hot brew in his stomach. And yet, Jonathan watched him with that emptiness that revealed nothing. That love he had felt before now seemed so hollow: would he really leave Jervis just like that? Without a second thought. Jervis wanted to shout; yell at him or dissuade him or simply voice a complaint. He wanted to keep Jonathan, whether he wanted it or not, but having gotten this far, he knew that doing such a thing would only seal their splitting apart. When he spoke, he didn’t expect it to be so choked up.

“I—“ He swallowed, having trouble getting the words out as his eyes burned. “Hare— I’ve finally found you. After years and years of endless tea parties, I’ve finally found my dearest, and I haven’t felt this wondrous in my life. I… I love you. I-I can’t lose you; please—!”

What did he mean by that? Lose him to what? To Arkham? To reformation? He didn’t know, but the feelings were raw and burning. He raised the ball of his wrist to wipe away frustrated tears that had yet to fall. “Look at me,” he muttered, anger directed towards himself. “I must seem so pathetic, not being able to last a day into our love before breaking down like this.”

“Jervis.”

The Hatter was surprised to find Jonathan before him, hands gently wrapped around the other’s wrists. His expression, while still tight and stern as usual, had softened in a way that Jervis had learned to detect long ago. “Jervis, hon,” he murmured, looking the other in the eye. “I understand how you feel. I realize I may have been insensitive with my comment, and I apologize.”

“Hon?” Hatter parroted, heart fluttering.

Jonathan continued as if nothing was said. “If it helps, you may come with me if you would like,” he offered. “That way you may help if things don’t turn out quite like we expect. And… I suppose you’ll get to meet my half-sister, but do try to keep your interactions tame. She isn’t quite familiar with you isms yet.”

Hatter blinked, stunned for a moment at Jonathan’s trust in him. He could really only say one thing. “M-my my, you want me to meet your family already? Moving quite fast, aren’t we?” he chortled through the tears.

Crane let go of his hands and rolled his eyes as he walked back to the counter. “You know what I meant,” he sighed. “Are you coming or not?”

“Oh of course I am!” Jervis chirped, practically bouncing on his toes in excitement despite having just had a bout of crying. That was Tetch for you. “You and I, a walk in the dark. Going into a potential trap laid out for us with an inevitable escape from a law that wants to place us back in the asylum! Simply romantic, isn’t it?”

“Mmm, don’t write romance novels,” Jonathan said flatly, ignoring Jervis’ expression of genuine confusion. “In a change of topic, do you cook?”

Jervis paused at the sudden change, but quickly adjusted with the same enthusiasm he’d had just moments before. “Oh, of course! Not often anymore, however. I can’t possibly, what with the mimsy environments I stay in.”

Jonathan took a moment to look over at the sample fridge. “Ever made collard greens?”

Tetch considered the name. “I’m afraid I haven’t heard of the dish before. Why do you ask?”

Crane didn’t answer the question as he started up the hotplate on the lab table. “I used to make them all the time.” He gestured his partner over. “Would you like me to show you?”

Jervis’ eyes were alight with excitement and joy, trotting over quickly to be at his love’s side. “Oh, my dearest darling, I would be delighted!”

Chapter 17: Rustic Charm and Posh Mannerisms

Summary:

Jonathan and Jervis go to see what Savannah wants, and as expected, things don’t turn out well.

Jonathan has an encounter with the Batman, Jervis’ worries come to the surface, and it seems like this private affair is about to have another player popping in.

Notes:

Welp... it’s been awhile. Geeze I’m sorry ‘bout that. Writing just sorta got away from me once the semesters hit and I’ve been working on my mental health and all that. But I’ve been working things out. Hopefully I’ll get onto making these faster.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Jonathan was slipping his coat on when Jervis slid in from around the corner, messing with his bowtie anxiously. “Do I look presentable, love?” he inquired for his paramour’s opinion.

Jonathan threw his disinterested gaze over, raking an indifferent scan over his partner. “You look as you always do.”

“Does that mean I look nice?” Tetch pressed.

Jonathan thought for half a second before giving a “no, you look hideous” and turning back around to grab some leftover toxin.

At this, the Hatter squawked, trying to fix lapels (that needed no handling) in the warped reflection of a transparent fume hood. A good five minutes of perfecting perfection went by as Jonathan watched, wanting to see how long it would take for Jervis to realize that Crane was just giving him a bit of a fright. It came slow, but when he did, he looked at Jonathan with a cross expression and a huff, along with a small stamp of his foot to show his disapproval of Jonathan’s tomfoolery.

“I was under the impression that you didn’t like her,” Jonathan commented as they walked out of the hideout and ducked into the car. “What with our conversation earlier.”

Jervis gave a pout as he buckled himself up, fingers playing with the rim of his hat. He had hoped that Jonathan wouldn’t have been able to tell his internal disliking of his sister, but the man was perceptive given his time as a practicing doctor. Not to mention, Jervis’ emotions were always at the forefront of his being; his driving motivation, some may say. “Perhaps,” he confessed, “but I am a gentleman, and gentlemen do not pick fights with their sister-in-law.”

Jonathan arched a sharp brow. “So we’re married now, is that it?” he questioned, starting the car and pulling out and onto the road. “Was that before or after you bedded me?”

Jervis Tetch, infamous Hatter with a body count and evil mastermind, had his cheeks redden at that inquiry, looking away with a puff of his cheeks. “Oh you know what I mean. My sister-in-not-law. Sister-in-extraneous-relations, perhaps. Sister-in-familial-bonds-to-paramour, even. Sister-in-disconnected-bond-related-association-because-we-cannot-get-legally-married. Do any of those sound fitting?”

Jonathan remained unfazed as usual. “I think ‘Savannah’ will do just fine, Jervis.”

From there, they sat in the car in silence until they were nearing their destination: an old park that was dense in trees, making it perfect for both hiking and meeting in secret, since any innocent civilian in Gotham knew it wouldn’t be wise to venture out at night. The Hatter was mum as he watched Jonathan pull into a secluded spot away from prying eyes. He could feel an anxiety begin to rise up in his chest. It was as though he were willingly approaching an end to everything he worked so hard for. Swallowing thickly, he spoke. “Jon?”

Crane looked over, noticing that Jervis’ hand was lifted towards him in a hesitant manner, asking for permission to touch him. When given, Jervis steadily took up his love’s hand in his, giving it a soft squeeze. “I love you.”

There was a pause.

“I love you, too,” Jonathan nodded, giving Jervis that wave of reassurance that he needed. “Now, let’s get down to business.”

The two left the car and headed towards the park, scanning the area carefully out of habit more than anything. The crows were around, some sleeping while others kept watch over them like little raven-winged angels. It was when they passed the tree line that Jervis saw Savannah for the second time in his life, and now in seeing her with proper context, his suspicion lessened. She was just a girl from Georgia, after all. Thin, draping hair parted just enough to show one of her eyes. She was fiddling with her thumbs nervously, eyes low. It was so easy to get caught up in thinking that everyone in Gotham was a mastermind and a pro deceiver. She was but a girl.

“Jonny!” Savannah smiled with an enthusiasm that rivaled Jervis’ own, handbag clutched close to her with her fingers messing idly with the straps. It was when her eyes met Tetch’s that she had to blink in momentary confusion, soon followed with worry. Even still, she offered a smile, patting a picnic table for them to sit at. “You, ah, brought a friend. Jarvis, right?”

“Jervis Tetch, miss,” he corrected without much fuss. It was a common mistake, unsurprisingly, so he wouldn’t count it against her. “Oh how grand it is to meet you! Sorry for the plus one, dear.”

If Savannah was bothered, she was quick to recover and hide it. Rubbing the back of her neck, she simply gave an understanding smile. “It’s cool. You’re the one who wen’ on the road trip with Jonny, righ’?”

“Right as the rain,” Jervis hummed, going to sit down with Jonathan and his sister. “I’m ever so honored I’ve been invited to such an outing. Tell me, do you like tea?”

Savannah smiled, clasping her hands together emphatically. She was taken by Jervis’ friendly and enthusiastic demeanor, something that made her ease up a tad. “Yeah, I love sweet tea.”

Jervis’ expression and positive outlook sank immediately. “Oh… I see.”

A fair distance away, hidden away from the searchlights of the moon, was Becky Albright, eyes widened in momentary panic as she watched both Jonathan Crane and Jervis Tetch take a seat across from the young girl. Jervis wasn’t supposed to be there. The plan was that perhaps Batman would be able to wring out Jervis’ location after Jonathan was captured, given the two had left together with the Riddler, but he wasn’t supposed to actually show up alongside the Scarecrow. Of course, that led to the speculation of why they were even together in the first place, but such interests were snuffed under the looming threat of yet another one of Gotham’s most notorious criminals.

Becky let out a steady exhale from her nose, attempting to not make a sound when pulling out her phone and shooting a quick message to Alice.

He’s here. He brought Jervis with him.

She didn’t wait for a response, keeping a hand on her pistol and waiting for when help would come. Her finger itched to be at the trigger; she wasn’t ashamed to admit that pointing a gun at Crane and taking a shot was one of her most aching desires. She couldn’t kill him; no, she wasn’t like him. To at least scar him physically just as he had scarred her mentally, however, would be cathartic, to say the very least.

The three were speaking, but from this distance she couldn’t make out what they were saying. She watched carefully and kept her gun down at the moment, but she wouldn’t hesitate to pull it out if need be. At the slightest wrong move, she would put a stop to all of it. Becky wasn’t scared of the Scarecrow anymore.

All introductory chatter had finished between the three at this point, and it was quite clear to Jonathan that Savannah wasn’t very comfortable at the moment.

“I suppose I should explain why I brought Jervis with me this time around,” he finally spoke, bringing back the attention of the other two. His fingers came up to toy with the glasses that hung from his neck, his focus taking the occasional detour around the clearing out of paranoid habit. A healthy dose of paranoia was what saved him many times in the past, after all.

Tetch looked over at him with eyes wide in wild devotion, silently encouraging his Hare to speak the truth from the rooftops. He offered up a hand, one which Crane took with only a moment of hesitation. The professor was still painfully new to all of this, but he was learning, and what he was learning was that he was nearly completely at ease. He was not afraid.

“Tetch and I are partners,” he told his half-sister then and there. “He is here out of his own worry.”

The mentioned paramour squeezed his hand softly in reassurance, a leap of possessive joy swelling in his heart. He wanted to scoop his love up and spit at the girl about how his Hare had admitted it and that now she could finally leave them alone because there would be no taking his light away from him.

Savannah was, to say the least, surprised by this development, brushing back a few strands of her curtains of hair to get a proper look at the two of them. An air of confusion had settled over her, still struggling to understand what was clearly a surprise.

“Oh!” She blinked, finally fitting the pieces together. “Yeah, partners in crime. Ah get you. I saw that on the news a lot, y’know, along with Riddler. It makes sense why you brought him.”

Jonathan and Jervis exchanged a glance, initially unsure of just how to respond to that. It was Jervis who decided to attempt a correction. “Oh, no no, dear, Jonathan is my paramour, you see. A special type of partner.”

Savannah took another moment to process the word she did not know, before it clicked in her head. “I see. You mean like business partners? That kind of partner?”

Jonathan decided to say nothing, watching his befuddled boyfriend try to get a grasp on their miscommunications. It would be so simple to say “we’re dating” and be done with it, but Tetch seemed to always insist on his roundabouts.

“No no,” Tetch corrected once more, “we are together, you see. He is my intensely terrifying inamorato.”

“Oh, like a roommate?” was the conclusion the twelve-year old girl without a dictionary came to.

Tetch huffed in his raving confusion and frustration. “Hardly! Jonathan is my malevolent mylimasis, dear.”

Jonathan peered over at him. “That’s a new one,” he gave as an aside. Even if his expression hadn’t changed, Jervis had learned to recognize the slight shift in his brow as signaling subtle fondness for the term of endearment.

Out of habit, however, Jervis was quickly pulled away from the conversation, fretting as he looked to his love. “Oh! Ah, do you not like it?”

“No, I didn’t say that.”

“I, ahm, didn’t bring a dictionary,” Savannah murmured apologetically. “Does… does that mean you are friends or somethin’?”

Jonathan nodded to her, his next words hesitating on his lips. “More than friends, actually.” He let Jervis take up his hand, the corner of his mouth twitching upward in the vague beginnings of a smile. It felt so strange, but he was oddly comfortable for him to admit it. Perhaps this is a lesser version of what Jervis had always felt: an instinctual desire to claim that which is his. He gave Tetch’s hand a little squeeze, watching how his new beloved seemed to melt at it. “It goes deeper than that.”

Finally, Savannah seemed to understand, the realization making itself known in the way her eyes widened. “Oh! So like best friends. That’s real nice, Jonny.”

The odd looks she got from both parties signaled that it was not the right answer. With a tired sigh, Crane had to run a hand through his hair, going back to staring at her oddly. “Good lord, you truly are from the deep south, aren’t you?”

Alice pursed her lips, worry climbing up her chest as she read the message over the phone once more. Jervis was there as well. She knew that Tetch was relatively harmless when unprovoked, but that familiar dread began to creep up on her, reminiscent of those sleepless nights when her dreams were haunted by that thing that tried to snatch her away for good. She hadn’t faced her former boss in years, and yet the thought of him being anywhere near her was enough to get her hands shaking.

Swallowing her fear, she tucked her phone away, pulling out a lighter as planned. A small trail of firecrackers was brought along with it. She wasn’t too fond of fireworks; they were always so loud and at times would sound like gunshots, the one thing you didn’t want to hear in the middle of the night. It certainly would attract attention, just what she was hoping for.

Not without effort on her part, the lighter wouldn’t start. She’d never been a smoker and so never found the need to own one. As her thumb wrestled with the metal wheel, however, she couldn’t help but feel a tad bit embarrassed.

She swore she would have had it soon enough had it not been for a large black glove that covered the top of the tool, stopping her from lighting the fireworks. Eyes wide as tea plates, her head snapped up to see none other than the Dark Knight there, looking down on her with a stoic gaze under the mask.

“Batman…” she breathed, unable to believe her luck in finding the one person she was trying to attract. “How did you…?”

Batman took his hand away, allowing her to tuck the lighter into her handbag. “A young woman in the middle of a park at night, holding a lighter and a bundle of fireworks. If you were trying to catch my attention, you didn’t even have to light the wick.” He watched her gingerly store the fireworks away in her purse. “What are you doing out here, Alice? In Gotham? This isn’t a good place to be in at night. Is Billy alright?”

Alice would have felt flattered that Batman had remembered both her and her husband's names among the hundreds of other people he had saved, but there were more pressing matters at the moment. “I, ah—“ She stumbled over her words for a minute, caught up in the gravity of the situation with the Batman in front of her and Jervis Tetch being only a hundred feet from her best friend. “I know where Jervis Tetch and Jonathan Crane are. Right now.”

Even from under the mask, his shock was evident. “Where?”

The three were silent at the park table. Jervis glanced around distractedly and drummed his fingers along Jonathan’s arm, who only continued to stare at Savannah.

After about a full minute, the girl’s voice seemed to finally reawaken. “You’re…. you’re datin’?”

The two men looked at each other and then back at her, both giving a reaffirming nod. Jervis piped up first. “Essentially, yes. He was a little tough to reel in, the dirty hare.” He threw the unamused Crane a teasing smile. “But! He is the impossible riddle I was finally able to solve.”

Savannah pursed her lips, looking to the treeline as if something would burst out to save her from this odd situation she had found herself in. “I, ah, didn’t know that you two were… into men.”

Tetch answered once more for the two. “Well! I’ve discovered that love is quite like tea. There are many varieties out there, and each one is just as delectable when made right.” A calmer, fonder smile was tossed Jonathan’s way, and this time, a sense of approval was returned.

Savannah seemed to understand some, though clearly still had questions. “I always thought you two were into girls.”

It was Jonathan’s turn to speak this time. “Why would you think that? Besides Southern heteronormativity?”

His half-sister didn’t know what that meant, but tried to keep going anyhow. She swallowed, twisting at her wrists. “Umm…. Alice and Becky Albright?”

Jervis had never seen a man as nonplussed as Jonathan cringe before, but it was like he was hit with a bullet just then. He, too, pursed his lips before sucking the air between his teeth. That was a lot of emotion in a matter of three seconds, and Jervis could see a great deal of it was a mix of humiliation and regret. “Ah. You know about that,” the good doctor said at last. “That was, ah, an odd point in my criminal career. I suppose I just…” He squeezed Tetch’s hand a tad tight. “... was seeking affection I’d never gotten before.” He straightened his tone out, once more back to stilted and disengaged. “I may have tortured a young girl during that time, yes, but what matters is that I found it in the end and she is far, far away. In fact, I hear she’s a lawyer up in New York, doing well for herself, unafraid of any challenges that come her way. A win for her, I’d say.”

Savannah decided not to respond to that, instead looking at Tetch. “And… Alice?”

The hypnotist merely shrugged. “I don’t love her anymore but if she wants to come to the tea party, she’s very welcome!” He seemed to ignore the fact that her pained expression signaled that it wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

She changed the subject, much to Jonathan’s relief and subsequent displeasure when the topic revealed itself. “So you’re… you’re helping Jonny, right?” The curious gaze she got let her know that the Hatter wasn’t catching on. “With, reforming, righ’?” Her gaze flicked over to her brother, just in time to miss how the smile melted from Jervis’ face. “You look so much betta, after all! And no crimes I heard yet. You must be really helping each other, huh?”

Jonathan could see Jervis biting his tongue to keep silent, but it was fruitless. The man always had to put a word in. “Ah. Well, we haven’t discussed it. As it stands, we are happy right where we are!” He didn’t miss how Jon’s lip twitched downward into a frown. He could still hear the man’s words the day he was initially rejected.

Never tell me how I’m supposed to feel.

He was treading on thinning ice, but he kept his composure.

Savannah, bless her heart, thought she could put in her argument. “But… you’re both happy, righ’?” she reasoned, this time noticing the discontent written with a scowl. “So… why continue crime?”

Jonathan butt in before Jervis could bite back. “Not that simple, unfortunately.”

Even still, she continued. “Isn’t being happy all that matters? You can get better and have each other.”

Jervis’ expression could only be described as irritated contempt. “Is this why you asked my big Hare here? To clip his wings?”

“I… I don’t understan’,” the girl mustered out with hesitation. “Why hol’ yourself back from—“

“If you are about to say ‘being happy’, I will kindly stop you right there,” Tetch interrupted. “I, for one, am perfectly happy. Completely happy. As a friend had once said, I have the guide to happiness!” He paused then, becoming distracted for a moment as his gaze veered off to the side and to some daisies. Crane had no doubt he was beckoned by their call. “Hm. Maybe I should publish it. First I have to write it of course…” He tapped his chin, now having almost completely forgotten the conversation. “I wouldn’t want to make it too long. Twenty-one chapters perhaps? If not, I can always make a sequ—“

Jonathan cleared his throat, an action that actually caused Jervis to jump a bit as he was startled from his own thoughts. He looked between the two, piecing together what he had just been doing, before his stern face was back on. “I can’t quite remember what it is we were discussing, but— oh yes! If we were to ever to reform, we will do it on our own terms and without your little manipulative nudges!”

Jonathan removed his hand from Tetch’s, a move that quickly upset the smaller man, but it was soon moved to his shoulder. The doctor leaned in close and said in a hushed tone, “What happened to not picking fights with your sister-in-disconnected-bond-related-association-because-we-cannot-get-legally-married?”

Jervis blinked in puzzled delight. “You remembered that entire title?”

“Not important, Tetch,” Jonathan bit. “She’s in middle school. I hardly think she’s the mastermind type. I want you to calm down.”

Jervis let out a petulant huff. “But…”

Jonathan wasn’t having it. “Not a request, Jervis.”

Tetch caught the tone and realized that his partner wasn’t giving any room for his usual skirts around logic. He nodded. “I will try.”

Jonathan seemed content with that. “Thank you. Now—“

He stopped, suddenly, when he realized he could hear the cawing of crows. The doctor stood up, ramrod straight as he looked around, watching how the birds grew even more restless. The other two fell silent, noticing how the corvids darted in wild patterns unlike anything they’d seen before, letting out a discordant mass of calls for the Scarecrow’s attention. His attention they got, as he soon looked to Jervis with grim realization and pure certainty. “The Batman is here.”

Jervis darted from his seat, eyes shifting wildly to search for the Jabberwock. “What?! How in Wonderland could he have f—“ His eyes landed on Savannah. Only a beat had passed before all his gentlemanly mannerisms went out the window.

“I KNEW IT!”

The loud shout actually caused her to scream and stumble out of her seat. “W-wait! I—!”

“I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I KNEW IT!” Jervis’ screaming was shrill, a kind that tore his throat enough to unrest the birds even further. “YOU LIAR! YOU CHEAT! YOU FIEND!” He stalked closer to the girl who tried desperately to crawl away. “I DEMAND THE QUEEN OFFS YOUR—“

Jervis!” Jonathan slid between the two without hesitation, grasping his arm in an attempt to stop an oncoming rampage. “Get a hold of yourself! We need to get out of here, now!”

Tetch, still seething, tried his best to push past the thin man, but it was quite apparent that the other was quite stronger than him. “Fine! Just once I let this daughter of a duch*ess know just who she’s dealing w—“

“STOP!”

It took only a second for Jonathan to recognize the voice, and when he looked at the gun pointing directly at them, his jaw nearly hit the floor. “Rebecca Albright?” he murmured, taken aback.

Becky flinched at his use of her full name. “You always were the professional,” she scowled. “Get away from her. Now.”

Jonathan did as asked, but just so he could take a step closer to the woman currently pointing a gun at him. “Alright, but what are you doing here?”

Before a response could be given, Alice Pleasance slid into the scene, eyes wide and so full of worry. “Is everyone alright?”

Tetch nearly forgot all that happened. His eyes widened, glazing with something that never spelled good. There was a smile that stretched far past his eyes. “Alice?” he whispered in a breathy tone that forced the girl to still. “Is that my sweet, adorable, troublesome Alice?”

“Enough of this!” Jonathan shut down, grabbing his partner’s arm to tug him out, in spite of the gun pointed directly at him. “We need to go, the Batman could be here any mo— oh of course he was right behind us this entire time.”

He dropped Tetch’s arm in exasperation, throwing his own up in exasperation.

“Tetch. Crane,” the Dark Knight scowled. “You are both unarmed. I will give you this one chance to turn yourselves in peacefully.”

Jonathan, a hand running through his hair, simply ignored the threat to look over at Jervis. “I’ll deal with Batman. You…” His eyes flitted over to the girls for a brief moment where Becky and Alice were helping Savannah up. “Make sure we can find out how they found us—“ He moved back just in time to avoid Batman’s fist. Grabbing his arm, he used it as leverage to pull him closer and give him a good kick to the stomach, enough of a distraction to have Tetch get away in time.

With the knight doubled over, he let go of the vigilante and jerked a syringe of toxin from his belt, yanked the cap off with his teeth, and brought it down on Batman with as much force as he could. His wrist caught by Batman, the criminal barely had time to pull himself away to avoid a quick knee to the stomach. The plunger of the syringe held between two fingers, he put space between himself and the hero.

Batman took this opportunity to look at the three civilians. “Go and hide. Now!”

As the three scampered to hide, Jonathan merely craned his neck to either side, listening to the popping as he prepared for a bit of exercise. “I don’t have my scythe with me,” he announced. “Sorry to disappoint, but it’s good to know I can see if I’m out of practice.”

“I don’t want to fight you, Crane,” Batman made clear, posture remaining defensive.

The Scarecrow could only jeer. “I didn’t want to fight you, either. A shame that this is the way things must be. Now, shall we?”

To this, Batman did not take the offensive. Instead, he stood there, moving as Jonathan did to keep equal distance between them. “I’m not going to fight you.”

“Making it easy for me, then?”

Batman did not waver. “I heard about your progress in Arkham. You’re reforming, and all I want to do is help you.”

To this, Jonathan didn’t know what to say.

Becky slid to a stop beside the car, quickly fishing her keys from her pocket. “Come on, come on— found it!” Keeping her gun in one hand, she fumbled to align the key with the lock as Alice tried to calm Savannah down. She had only just yanked open the car door when the gun was snatched from her hand.

Alice jerked the gun to aim over to the side. “Stay back!” she warned, a desperation tearing her way through what was usually a calm and polite tone.

At the end of her sights stood Jervis, not even teen feet away. Hair askew from running after the girls and hands neatly behind his back, a grin stretched his lips impossibly wide.

“Alice!” he gasped, eyes filled with that dangerous reverie that the woman knew all too well. “It is you! Come to join the tea party, have you? Got lost along the way, didn’t you, stupid girl?”

“Stay back Jervis!” Alice snapped, finger officially on the trigger but trembling as it did. She could barely keep it straight in her hand.

Tetch was unfazed, taking another step as Becky quickly hid Savannah in the car. “You’ve never held a gun before, have you? Quite a fright, isn’t it, you little miscreant?” His hand slid to his coat pocket, where a small chain hung loosely at his side.

“Jervis I said stop!” Alice shouted, tears beginning to blur her vision. “I’ll shoot you! I swear!” Becky was at her side. “Give me the gun,” she insisted.

“I’m not afraid of you anymore!” Alice screamed.

“My, your heart must be all aflutter!” the Hatter gasped, and with a snap, his pocket watch was out with the cover flipped open. “Do you think you could match it in time with my watch, my dear? You were always so good at it.”

The ticking of the watch was so far away, and yet it blared like sirens in Alice’s ears. Memories of being under the monster’s spell was brought back to the forefront of her mind, and with that, the tears began to flow freely.

“So familiar, isn’t it?” the Hatter hummed, slowly pacing himself forward, step by step, towards his former assistant. “Don’t you just want to lose yourself in its song, my dear?” His smile was one of sympathy fueled by his madness.

Her finger squeezed the trigger, it never gave. It was as though some force was keeping her from pressing it down to its base. She could hear Becky yelling at her, but it was all muffled. Her best friend tried to pry the gun away, but Alice was determined. She wasn’t scared of the Hatter anymore; that was what she tried to convince herself, even if it would be her undoing.

Jervis was mere feet away. How had he become so close? “Hand over the gun, love,” he beckoned, offering a hand. “You don’t want to shoot me.”

The ticking became louder. Her grip became weaker. There were more tears. No matter what she did, she was losing more and more control. Jervis was only feet away. And now he was mere inches from her, hand on the barrel of the gun to gently pry it away.

“I said. Hand over the gun.”

She wanted to so badly do as he asked. It hurt to resist.

“GIVE. ME. THE. G—“

Alice pulled the trigger.

“You’re healing, Jonathan,” Batman insisted, his form no longer defensive as he faced the villain as if he were simply another civilian. In some sense, that was just what it was. “I can see it. You want to be free of being a criminal.”

Jonathan barked out a humorless chuckle. “You don’t know anything about me. Not in the slightest,” he spat. He kept his distance, ready to spring at the slightest hint of an opening. “Shouldn’t you be trying to make an arrest, detective? I’m right here.”

“I won’t hurt you,” the hero repeated. “Because I know you want to hand yourself over.” Jonathan swallowed thickly, not having a response to that, and so Batman continued. “You’ve become sloppy, Crane. Meeting civilians, hardly armed. You didn’t care if I came or not.”

“You make me out to be a sick dog,” Crane growled, “waiting to be put down.” There came that dry laugh. “Ironic. You’re the one doing the analyzing now, it seems. Have you been studying up or have we really been doing this dance for that long?”

Batman let out a tense exhale, coming closer as Jonathan continued stepping farther back. “I look forward to the day when you finally get out,” he told his adversary. “The day when you leave those gates, free, no longer being hunted down.” Jonathan’s steps slowed, allowing Batman to gradually gain ground. “You won’t have to hide anymore. You can live a normal life. You can see your sister.”

Go back? We can NEVER go back!

Crane looked bitterly at the syringe in his hand, teeth clenched in a fury he hadn’t felt in a long, long while. What was odd, however, was that it wasn’t towards Batman. “As if I could ever go back to a normal life. As if I could ever truly be… be free. Be the man I once was.”

Batman shook his head. “It’s not about being who you were. It’s about moving forward. You don’t have to run anymore.” He held his breath, unwavered by the hateful stare that was given to him. “You don’t have to be afraid anymore.”

Jonathan was about to hiss something out, when his last step back found him caught against a tree root. He stumbled back, losing his balance and falling to the forest floor. What he expected to come next was a right fist to the face to knock the lights out. Perhaps a swift kick to the stomach to make sure he wouldn’t be getting up for a while even after he would awaken. Batman was no stranger to going above and beyond, after all.

Instead, he found the Dark Knight standing over him, hand outstretched in an offer to help him up. Crane stared at the hand, disbelieving and confused. “I…” His chest tightened, unable to muster out anything through his clenched teeth other than, “Why do you care?”

“Because I have hope,” was the simple explanation. “What keeps me fighting is the idea that you and your peers are not monsters. That I am fighting people who just need help. Let me help you.”

What are you doing? Run!

Crane swallowed, breathing uneven and heart pounding in his ears. Was this fear? It had been so long since he’d felt it’s sweet, torturous embrace. Oh how he had missed it dearly. It was the fear that allowed him the will to reach up and take the hand. For the first time in his life, he saw a smile form across Batman's face.

“Seeing you heal gives me hope,” Batman told him, his voice firm, but not in the authoritative, intimidating way he always used against the other criminals. This one assured Crane, as he was being hoisted to his feet, that his enemy believed in what he was saying, down to his very core. “One day, I hope to be able to meet you as a free man and simply shake your hand.”

Crane didn’t quite know what to say, fear stilling him in his place. He wanted so badly to run, but he stayed, watching as Batman offered another hand, but this time he gestured for the syringe in the doctor’s other hand, something that had been completely forgotten up until now.

Jonny. Is this what you really want?

“I don’t know…” Jonathan found himself answering. Despite that, his hand found itself slowly bringing it to Batman’s open palm. He didn’t want to let go of it. His eyes flicked to Batman’s, confused and unsure and afraid, but he realized now that Batman was right. He was tired. He didn’t know if he could keep being hunted and hiding the way he has been for a full decade. He wanted to be free of the prison that was his own indecision and confusion. All he needed to do was let go of the syringe.

BANG!

The gunshot rang out clear between the crickets and the cawing of distressed crows. Both of their gazes snapped to where the noise was, and it was only more seconds before things clicked into place.

Jervis.

Batman had hardly processed what had happened before the needle was thrust up and into his throat, the plungers sunk down by eager fingers and injected him with toxin. As he sunk to the ground, yanking the needle out of his throat, he could hear a hysterical laugh from the man now towering over him.

“You almost had us there, detective!” Crane grinned, one that split his face so unnaturally wide. “So close and yet so far! So much for hope, hmm?” He snickered, turning away. “Enjoy the rush, Batman. You learn to miss it when it’s been ripped from you for so long.”

“Crane—!”

By the time Batman was able to muster out anything, Jonathan had sprinted off towards the sound of the gunshot.

That little twit better not be dead. You did not fall in love with him after so much trouble just for him to die on us.

Becky had brought a gun with her. Of course she did; how could he have forgotten it? To be fair, he had a lot of guns pointed at him throughout his career. Even still, Tetch had run after someone with a gun, and if he was right about Becky, she wasn’t afraid to use one anymore.

He broke through the tree line and into the park, hair a mess and scanning wildly for his partner. “Jervis?”

“Over here, love!”

The relief Jonathan felt when he laid eyes on Jervis was immeasurable. There the Hatter was, beside a car, gun in hand, and a smile wide on his face. Crane ran over, grabbing the other criminal by the arm and searching him quickly but thoroughly. “Are you alright? I heard a gunshot. Were you injured?”

Jervis gently took hold of the man’s arms and took them off. “I’m perfectly fine, my dearest,” he assured his worried paramour. “It seems that Alice didn’t have it in her to spill the tea. She couldn’t shoot me so she missed.”

“I never thought I’d say this,” Crane sighed, already circling the car to get to the driver’s seat, “but thank God you’re well. Now get in. We haven’t much time.”

Once inside, he paused in starting the car upon hearing sobbing in the back seat. Taking a gander back, he realized that, from left to right, Becky, Savannah, and Alice had been forced to sit in the back of the car. Alice was apologizing through her tears, Savannah could hardly look at anything besides her tensely twiddling thumbs, and if looks could kill, Becky would have incinerated Jon. “How did you get them in the back?” Jon asked Tetch once they were both in, starting the car.

“When you have a gun, you can force people to do many things,” Jervis hummed as they pulled away and shot down the road, away from the park. “Do not worry. I checked to make sure that your former apple of your eye didn’t have any weapons on her.”

A sound of disgust and regret triggered from Crane and Albright at the exact same time. “Let’s not call her that— how have they not managed to escape while we were getting in?”

Tetch pursed his lips, glancing back at the girls oddly. “Well, for some reason, the child locks were already activated. They couldn’t unlock the back doors if they wanted to.”

Crane was, understandably, confused. “What? You had a child, Rebecca?”

A tone of shame mixed with hatred was present in the subject’s voice. “No! But we had a kid with us! I was worried, just in case!”

Savannah finally looked up to shoot a bewildered look at Becky. “Becky, I’m twelve.”

“I’m so sorry,” Alice whimpered from her side of the car, wiping her tears with the heel of her palm. “I couldn’t do it— I tried. I tried really really hard—“

Becky was there to put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s alright,” she insisted, her eyes trained on Jervis with a scowl. “It’s not your fault.” Slipping her hand away, she directed her words to Jervis. “What the hell were you doing there? You weren’t supposed to come! It was just supposed to be Scarecrow!”

The Hatter actually took offense to this. “Bold of you to question the one with the gun, Miss Albright. If you must know, I was invited. What were you doing there? Both of you?”

Savannah spoke up before the other two could, guilt evident in her voice. “I asked them to come! To help me put you both away! I— I trusted them and—“

“I KNEW IT!” was the hysterical laugh that came from Jervis. He shot a glare at his partner. “Now, as a gentleman, I don’t believe in saying ‘I told you so’, however, I think this is a very appropriate exception!”

“Not in the mood, Tetch,” Jonathan scowled. “We need to get to the Iceberg Lounge before Batman identifies the car we stole. I doubt Penguin will be happy with us taking a car, but he knows I’ll repay him back.”

“Well you wouldn’t have to pay him back had you simply listened to me, I—“

Jonathan cut him off with his voice raised. “I knew what I was risking when I came here. You didn’t have to come, Jervis! You could have stayed at our hideout!”

Jervis gawked, his own anger fueling his argument. “And let those fiends take you away from me? Never! Not again!”

“Take me away from you?” the Scarecrow scoffed. “I am not your property, Tetch! I am nobody’s to take away!”

“Balderdash! I spent so much time trying to pursue you and you were stupid and stubborn enough to simply run into danger like that? Do you even care about yourself? Do you even care about me?”

“THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!”

“I NEVER SAID IT WAS!”

“OH PLEASE! YOU TALK ALL ABOUT HOW YOU FOUND ME AND DON’T WANT ME TAKEN AWAY— DID YOU EVEN CONSIDER WHAT I WANTED?”

“HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME OF BEING NEGLECTFUL OF SUCH FEELINGS? I ONLY WANT WHAT BEST FOR YOU!”

“WELL WHAT YOU WANT ISN’T ALWAYS THE BEST, NOW IS IT, JERVIS?”

The three girls sat in the back, silent and sort of just taking in the yelling match that was happening in front of them. Alice cleared her throat. “Are—?”

Both villains looked back at her to yell in unison, “THIS DOESN’T CONCERN YOU!” Alice’s jaw snapped shut from there. Hatter and Scarecrow went back to their argument.

“Jon, I can’t lose you! Not again!” Jervis cried, his voice no longer filled with that rage he’d felt moments ago. “I just want you to be okay! Am I being selfish? Yes! But that’s because I love you!”

Alice blinked. “What.”

Jonathan sighed and shook his head, stopping at a red light. “Listen, hon, I love you, too, but right now is not the time. Let’s just get somewhere safe.”

Becky’s brow flew to her hairline. “Uhhhhhhh…”

Jonathan and Jervis seemed to finally realize that other people didn’t know about their relationship. “Here we go,” the lankier of the two muttered. “Three… two…”

“Wait— hold the phone.” Becky threaded her finger through her hair, rubbing at her temples with her thumbs. “You’ve been into men this entire time, and yet you still tried to get me to wear some skimpy—“

“Thaaaat’s enough!” Jervis cut her off, not wanting her to finish that sentence. “If you think that’s surprising, my dear, then wait until you hear about bisexuals! Very charming people, I can assure you, attracting partners from both sides.”

Alice decided to jump in on the interrogation then. “Okay okay, so what happened to getting an ‘Alice’? Not me in particular but— you know what I mean!”

Jonathan answered this time. “Mmm, he hasn’t given up his quest, but it’s not in the romantic sense anymore. Isn’t that right, Jervis?” He then threw a steely glare at the shorter man. “Right?” he pressed through clenched teeth.

“Completely monogamous, Hare,” the other chirped, as he wasn’t being given the most threatening gaze. “A Hatter quite like myself can’t wear more than one hat! Simply impractical.” Jonathan only hummed, satisfied by that answer, even if he already knew what it would be. Of course Jervis wouldn’t pursue another romance, as he was a smart man, and smart men know that cheating on the Scarecrow is a really, really, really bad idea.

That was the end of the romance conversation. For now, at least. There was silence for some time as they neared the lounge, until Becky spoke up as they pulled in. “Are you going to kill us?” she asked, rather blunt about it all.

A scoff came from Jonathan. “Of course not. First, we need a safe place to hide. You, Alice, will help us.” His gaze flicked to the rearview mirror, where he could see her look of confusion. “Well you’re married, Mrs…. Reynolds, is that right?” She swallowed, realizing what he was getting at. “Obviously you came to Gotham to help find me, and possibly Tetch through me, and that is a very, very brave thing to do. As well as very hard,” he explained, one hand messing with the glasses hooked in his shirt as he waited for the stoplight to turn green. “It only makes sense that he would come with you to support you. Though, the fact that he hasn’t come here to help you catch us shows that you haven’t revealed to him the real reason you’re here.”

He took a moment to look back at her, their eyes locking so he could take in her fear. “Tell me. What excuse did you use to bring him with you here? Victim support group, I’m guessing.” He watched her stiffen, trying to avoid his gaze to hide her terror, but their sights always seemed to meet soon afterwards. “Of course you couldn’t tell him the truth, lest he foolishly come find us as well. You had to keep him safe. After all, the anguish you would feel if he was hurt is simply frigh—“

Jonathan let out a shout of surprise when the jab of a fist struck him straight in the nose. He turned back around and held his face in pain, muffled swears being heard from his palms. Jervis looked back this time at Becky, a mix of surprise and anger present on his face. “Miss Albright! Very uncouth of you!”

Becky ignored him, huffing as she brought her arm back to her side. “You will not scare my best friend like that,” she commanded, gaining a look of gratitude from said companion.

Jonathan groaned, only getting out of his hand when a horn honked behind him, signaling that the light had turned green. “Not pleasant in the slightest, but I suppose that I deserve it.” Back to his smooth driving he rubbed just under his nose to confirm that he wasn’t having a nosebleed before he went about telling the rest of the plan. “Well, since your husband is here, you’re going to tell us where he’s staying so you can hide us there,” he explained, ignoring the “mmmmm, no” that came from Alice directly after. “He can answer the door and tell the police that he hasn’t seen us. After all, his wife’s life is on the line. It’s a better option than some abandoned hole, as they’re too insecure and the like. They’ll be searching every single one in Gotham, and given that Croc was recently freed, I do not want to take my chances with hiding in the sewers.”

Becky seemed unconvinced, hoping any hole in his logic could allow the men to realize that kidnapping wasn’t worth it and simply drop the women off on the side of the road. “Well, we could escape,” she reasoned.

Jervis looked back to answer, well-versed in the art of kidnapping innocent people. “All of you at once? I hesitate to consider it a possibility? Not if you care about one of you getting hurt.”

“And if we just call the police?”

“Four hostages, Miss Albright.”

Rebecca grimaced at being referred to so formally. Both the Scarecrow and Hatter committed horrible crimes against humanity itself, and yet still had the audacity to speak to their victims so properly that no one would be able to mistake it for anything other than condescension. For now, Becky said nothing, as soon they were pulling into the Iceberg Lounge.

Once parked, Jonathan turned in his seat to address the three. “You’re coming with us. Remember that Hatter has a gun, and I have my toxin. Believe me when I say that asking one of the patrons for help is pointless, as no one would dare cross the Penguin by bringing enforcement here. In essence, things will go smoothly should you keep quiet and comply while we do all the talking, understood?”

The scathing looks they got were promptly ignored and the girls were forced out and to the Lounge, skipping the long line of well-dressed Gothamites hoping for a grand night at a crime boss’ club.

When they arrived at the doors, they were stopped by a bouncer. “Whoa whoa, fellas. You and your dates have to wait at the back of the line like everyone else. No kids, either.”

“Dates?” Becky and Alice sputtered.

“Kid?” Savannah complained.

Jonathan and Jervis looked at each other in annoyance before Tetch sighed. “Let us through. We don’t have time for you to murder Time the way you are.”

The young bouncer seemed unimpressed. “Uh huh. Well I don’t have time to deal with you idiots. Now get in the back of the—“

“WHOA WHOA!” Another bouncer drifted in, slapping a hand over the other’s mouth. He grinned nervously at the men. “Hey, don’t mind him! He’s new here. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about— Daniel what the f*ck were you thinking— so just come in! Drinks on the boss!”

Jervis watched them with narrowed eyes. “Don’t let it happen again,” he warned. “Or else.”

When they walked in, his serious demeanor broke, unable to stop his giggling over how terrified the bouncer looked at his words. He nudged Jonathan as they ushered the girls inside. “Spreading fear is rather fun now that I’ve given it a ponder. No wonder you’re so fascinated by it— did you see his face!” He didn’t miss how Becky pretended to gag to her friend, but he failed to find any reason to bother.

Jonathan, on the other hand, found that he didn’t quite care for the fear that had shrouded the man’s countenance. “I suppose you did well— for a novice.” Yes, that was a tease, and yes, Jervis was offended by the title.

There was no doubt that many of the gentlefolk there could spot the distress on the three women that trailed the two criminals. Their eyes, however, remained purposefully astray, finding that if they didn’t see it, they couldn’t be held accountable for the guilt they may feel later on. The Iceberg Lounge was a tough place to get into, after all, so to risk being thrown out of the most popular club in town for saving a few young women would no doubt put a blemish on their social lives.

Jonathan found his target by the VIP lounge. Their gazes connected instantly, and the look of merriment on the bird’s face shifted to one of seriousness and discontent. “Hostages?” he squawked at them, adjusting his monocle some to get a good look at the three girls. Being the well connected man that he is, he recognized two with a twinge of anger. “Alice Pleasance and Becky Albright?”

Reynolds,” Alice corrected firmly. The comment seemed to bounce off of Oswald.

“I thought you were done chasing these tails,” Cobblepot sneered, letting his displeasure be known. His focus snapped onto Savannah, who took a step back from the sharpness of the Penguin’s gaze. “And a child? Gentlemen, you know my policy on children—“

Crane was quick to interject before the conversation went south. “You don’t have to worry about that— we’re taking them with me.” The reassurance seemed to take a bit of weight off of Oswald’s shoulders. “We just need a different car. The Batman has gotten a read on ours and we need to trade.”

The mention of the Dark Knight brought an immediate scowl over the Penguin’s visage. “You know there is a price to pay for that, don’t you?”

Crane searched himself to see if he had any more toxin left on him. “Of course. I believe I have some chemicals on me—“

“I mean money,” Cobblepot cut the professor off, a sneer present. Any courtesy would fail him when brought with such an unpleasant surprise. “A hundred thousand will do.”

Jonathan blinked in surprise, realizing only then that some people expected money instead of fear-inducing chemicals made in what could very well be mistaken as a meth lab. “Oh! Umm…” He and Tetch looked at each other silently, as if asking who would pay the tab on a rather expensive meal.

Jervis mustered up a less genuine smile to his colleague of equal height. “Of course! I have a bit of money left in my account from a robbery— would you perhaps have a phone in which I could send you your due?”

Penguin gave a roll of his eyes and motioned for him to follow the crime boss into another room to complete the transaction. But first, he pointed a demanding finger at Crane. “You four. Into the VIP lounge to keep away from public eyes. I don’t need you scaring my patrons.”

As soon as the two left, a couple of guards stopped by to gently usher the four into the lounge reserved specifically for the “unique” crowd, as Penguin called it. Tetch had handed over the gun to Crane, so the girls weren’t allowed to have any dangerous thoughts of escaping.

The ex-professor gestured for them to sit at the bar, where both him and the guards standing by at the exit would have a clear eye on them. Tapping on the smooth granite of the bar counter, he took up the attention of the tender away from a rather tipsy Calendar Man, whom Jonathan avoided eye contact at all times. “Whiskey for me. Give whatever the girls ask as long as it can’t be used as a weapon. And the child… a water.”

As Savannah was passed the water, she felt as though she knew what was coming. She sat back in her stool, looking up at her big brother. He, however, didn’t meet her gaze. He looked away, his expression nonplussed as usual. Under it all, she recognized a tiredness and exhaustion that had settled deep into his spirit that consumed him the moment they sped away in that car. Was it all her fault?

“Did Batman hurt you?” she spoke up. Crane said nothing, but from the microsecond his scathing gaze met hers, she knew she wasn’t to bring it up again until he had cooled off internally. From there, she silently sipped her water, hoping that in the end, he would at least still talk to her.

“So…” Becky turned a scathing eye to her former stalker. “You’re gay.”

Jonathan paused as he was sipping his next drink, slowly closing his eyes in a silent sigh to the conversation he knew that was coming. “Asexual, but I am not opposed to men.”

Alice nodded slowly in contemplation. “And… you two couldn’t figure that out before, well, us?”

Crane hummed into his drink, slowly dying inside from the humiliation of even having this conversation. “Trust me. It’s a rather complicated ordeal.” He could already see Becky opening her mouth to offer another question, but he was determined to change the subject. “You both. Why are you here? I would think you would want to stay as far away from us as possible.”

“We do,” Albright was quick to answer, taking the offer of a different topic. “Trust me, we really do. But… then your sister called us.”

There was a downward twitch of Crane’s lips had he buried himself in a more tame drink given by the bartender. “Half-sister,” he corrected firmly. “So?”

“So…” Albright finally decided on a drink and got vodka with a raspberry mixer. “I heard you were getting better. She led us to believe that we could get you back into Arkham and rehabilitated. Of course… we didn’t expect Jervis to be there, but what can we do?”

Jonathan remained unfazed, safe for a quirk of the brow. “You? Interested in helping me?”

Becky spun in her chair to face him. “Let’s make one thing unmistakably clear, Crane. I hate you. If you were run over by a truck tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed a tear.”

“Mmm. Likewise.”

Her gaze would cremate Jonathan right there if it could

. “Yeah…” Rebecca muttered. “Well, despite what you are, I believe there’s something under that husk of a soul. It’s like you said when we met. You and I are alike.” Her shrug was met with the turned-away gaze of a man who wanted to hear no more. Her tone grew softer. “We just… went down different paths.” There was a pause as she considered her next words. “You… helped me in a way. Helped me get over a lot of my fears. I mean, therapy also helped, but I learned from you that there are far, far worse things to fear in the world than a few bullies and deadlines. Now I’m one of the best lawyers in the state, and I fear no opposition.”

If Jonathan had anything to say about it, he didn’t voice it, instead keeping his mouth busy with the lip of his glass. Savannah, in the same hand, was also mum, hoping that within time, her big brother would speak to her again. For now, she only cleared her throat to catch the man’s attention just so she could gesture to the restroom area. Crane simply nodded. “Fine. Don't get any ideas; there are no windows in there.”

Even if that was Savannah’s plan, she didn’t think she would get very far. Where would she even go? As Crane watched her walk off, a voice from across the bar quickly made his hair stand on end.

“Jonathan!” Calendar Man cried out, sauntering over from his seat at the bar.

While the girls were bewildered, Jonathan could only pinch the bridge of his nose. “Ah Christ— hello, Julian,” he grumbled, only side-eyeing the tispy “villain”. “What do you want?”

Calendar Man paid no attention to the two civilians, his cheeks tinted faint red to signal just how much he had indulged in this evening. “Well, a little bird told me that you had no plans for Halloween,” Day brought up, trying to sound casual but instead coming off as creepily excited. Crane immediately knew what this was about, but gestured for him to continue. “Soooooo…. does this mean you won’t mind if I… you know…”

The professor could no longer stand tiptoeing around the subject, eager to get this oaf away from him. “Yes yes fine, go ahead. Halloween is all yours.” As he watched the man pump his fist in the air, he could only hope that Deacon Blackfire would use the “Devil’s birthday” to do something productive like sacrifice Julian to some twisted version of God. “What are you even doing here, Day? I thought you didn’t drink.”

To this, Julian scoffed, readying himself to flaunt his knowledge of the calendar. “Do you not know what day it is? October 27th is National Navy Day! National Black Cat Day. And most importantly, National American Beer Day! And what better way to celebrate than to enjoy an American beer just after running over a black cat in a navy-colored Volkswagen?”

Incredulous, Jonathan brought his reading glasses to his eyes as he watched Day swig a green bottle of alcohol. “Julian,” he spoke up, eyes narrowed at the label. “You’re drinking a Heineken.”

“So?”

“So those are imported from the Netherlands.”

Day blinked, yanking the bottle away from his lips to stare at the label in utter horror.

Savannah finished washing her hands, taking but a moment to admire how pristine the restroom was. It even had those fancy hand dryers you stick your arms in. That was pretty neat to her. Despite what she had seen with her brother, it seemed that some villains truly did have taste. Although, she always did have quite a liking for Jonathan’s odd rustic charm when decorating his lair.

Running a hand through her curtained hair, she found herself nearly falling backwards as soon as she exited the door. This purple wall before her seemed to have been waiting for her to emerge, and as she stumbled back in surprise, a white gloved hand shot out to quickly catch her.

“Whoa there, bucko!” the clown laughed at her wide eyes. “Not too good on your feet now are you kiddo?” A firm poke to the chest sent an alarm through Savannah as she realized whom she had bumped into. “Legs made of straw like your brother, eh? Ha ha!”

The young girl blinked in both surprise and fear, wanting to look for a way to skirt around the Joker but being unable to take her eyes off of him. She was rather tall for her age, but seeing the clown on TV never prepared her for just how big and intimidating he was, hands behind his back and leaning forward and over her with a grin that didn’t bother to hide his manic demeanor.

“Um…” She searched her brain for what to say. Surely he wouldn’t harm her when her brother was the Scarecrow. She just needed to get back over to her sibling and into that bubble of safety. “Ahh…”

“Joker,” he giggled, giving her a rough and uncomfortable smack on the arm. “I know, I know, very common name; easy to forget, so I’ll forgive you this time!”

Following his laugh, Savannah could only force an unsure, nervous grin.

“You seem like a nice kid,” claimed the clown prince. “May I buy you a drink? You seem like a gin and tonic kinda gal.”

“Ah’m too young ta drink,” the girl mumbled, unsure if even saying anything was the right decision. Her mind was screaming for her to make a break for it but God only knows what the criminal would do to her.

The Joker could only let out a shrill laugh. “Ha ha! Never too late to start!” He then placed a hand on her back as he ushered her away from the restroom area. His touch felt like a hot coal of unrefined discomfort as he leaned into her ear as if to share a secret. “After all, I hear your big bro did some wild stuff when he was young.” Savannah jolted in surprise when he let out a gasp and slapped her on the back, as if having just remembered something very important. “You know what? I just realized! Now that he’s going soft, I can’t work with him any longer! I mean, don’t get me wrong— he hates me with every fiber of his being— except that one little fiber he sticks into Jervis —but even still, the old coot wouldn’t even help in the Arkham escape!”

Savannah’s brow jumped in surprise. “He didn’?” she whispered, feeling a bit of guilt overtake her. Had she overreacted by sending the Batman after him when her brother hadn’t even been trying to escape in the first place?

Joker stuck out his tongue in distaste, looking over at the Scarecrow around the corner. “Pah! Stuck up thinks he’s somehow better than us with his ‘not doing violent crimes’ and his ‘murder isn’t really me thing’ attitude. Really killing the vibe we have going on with our little dysfunctional family!” Leading her out of the hall and to the bar, Joker could only snicker. “Makes me wonder if he’d brighten up if you were out of the picture. It would make him a bit more lively, wouldn’t it?”

The girl was stunned, finally finding the strength to pull herself away for the first time in that whole encounter. “J-Jonny!” she cried out for her big brother, and within a few seconds, the clown was faced with the penetrating glare of the Scarecrow.

Joker could only scoff. “Snitch,” he muttered under his breath.

“I highly suggest you stay in your lane, clown.” He looked to his half-sister. “What did he say to you?”

Without hesitation, the girl replied, “He threatened to kill me.”

Joker gasped, seeming legitimately offended. “Learn the name of the game, girlie!,” he huffed, quite like a petulant child would. “That’s now how it goes! See, what you’re supposed to do is let the mix of fear and guilt well up inside of you and stop yourself from telling ol’ Jonny about me threatening you, thus convoluting the situation and sowing mistrust between you both, building up until I make my grand reappearance and that could have been avoided if you’d told your brother the truth, but your fear of angering him and being hurt by me kept you silent thus putting both your lives in jeopardy— That. Is. How. It. Goes! Get with the system!”

Savannah was beyond confused to the point where it almost surpassed her fear. “What? But that doesn’t make any sense!”

“I know!” Joker exclaimed, hands in the air. “Which is why it’s such a great trope in shows! Absolutely stupid but it gets ya every time!”

Crane could hardly care more about the clown’s mad ravings. “Enough. Stay out of our way if you value your life, Joker,” came the growl from Jonathan. Without further hesitation, he grabbed the girl by the wrist and dragged her out. The Joker could only stand by, watching with a grin and a faint but incredibly nasty idea.

When Jonathan got back to the girls, he motioned for them to abandon the bar. “Come on. We needn’t be here any longer,” he muttered, counting himself lucky when Tetch came in right around then.

Jervis seemed thrilled to have closed a deal. “We’ve got a ride! I—“ He paused with a rather exaggerated frown upon noticing his love’s agitation. “My dear? Is everything alright?”

The redhead could only shake his head, gesturing for all of them to move along so they could leave the bar as soon as possible. “I’ll tell you later. Just… let’s go.” He shot a quick and commanding glare to Alice, who visibly flinched at the sudden attention. “You. Tell us where to go, and I believe you know what happens if you lead us astray.”

Alice could only nod as they found the parking lot and got into the car they were bestowed with by Penguin. Jonathan got in with a silent exhale, a bad feeling brewing in his stomach.

Notes:

Jonathan:...

Becky:...

Jonathan:...

Becky: So about that “Mistress of Fear” thing—

Jonathan: *head in his hands* Oh god not this again.

Chapter 18: A Clown and a Hard Place

Summary:

Jonathan and Jervis are trying to figure out how to get back to the hideout and how to dispose of their hostages, but get an unexpected, and very unwelcome, surprise when an old associate pokes his head in.

Notes:

Aight. No more yearly updates. I’m already working on the next chapter and finally have a system going down. Lets get this bread. I’m gonna finish this story even if it kills me.

Chapter Text

“You haven’t seen your wife anywhere?” the officer asked Billy Reynolds, who was able to keep a surprisingly calm demeanor despite his wife being held hostage in the other room and the Scarecrow listening to his every word from behind a corner. “No sir,” he replied, while at the same time giving a firm nod. His jaw was tight, forcing himself to keep his eyes steady and to not let his breath shake.

The officers looked at each other, but somehow decided that the silent hint Billy had given was nothing but the odd movement made by a bereaved man. “Well if you find anything out, you know our number.

With the door now closed, Billy swallowed his unrecognized despair and turned to face the Scarecrow, who was sitting on one of the beds, bringing the gagged and bound Becky Albright up onto the bed after being hidden from view. “Thank you for steeling your nerves,” was all he said. “Not easy, but with dying as the alternative, I don’t believe you had much of a choice.”

He ungagged Becky, who resisted the urge to spit in his face. While her fear of him had waned over her years in therapy, she wasn’t suicidal. Hatter was far more graceful with helping Alice up, though he was stopped midway by Billy insisting he could do it himself. “So what do you plan to do with us?” he asked. “Kill us once we’ve outlived our usefulness?”

“Mmm, no,” Jonathan admitted after only a second of consideration. The fact that he’d still considered it was still a scary thing. “It doesn’t mean I won’t do it if you become too much of a nuisance, but if you would truly like to know, your wife is the reason you’re being spared.” He tapped Jervis on the arm as he passed his boyfriend, who smiled cheerily up at him. “He doesn’t take well to the idea of killing Alice.” It was hard for the group to feel comforted by that. He helped Savannah onto the bed beside Rebecca. “I’ll unbind you when we find it safe to leave. Of course, if you get too rowdy, Jervis would be happy to use his hypnotism this time around, but we would prefer you to act relatively normal in case someone such as the Batman comes around.”

Jervis didn’t miss how Alice winced at the thought of being hypnotized, and if he were a more sensible man, perhaps he would have felt guilty, but we all know what the Cheshire Cat says about being mad. Opening the curtains, he peeked out and noticed the sun bright and cheery face making its way over the mountain. “Here I am!” he heard her say. “Fret not for the Jabberwock shall bother you no more!” “Oh thank you, noble sun,” he chirped in response, “I appreciate you ever so.” He looked at Jonathan with a chipper smile. “That dirty beast has to sleep sometime. I’ve never heard of a Batman in the daytime. Simply a mad idea!”

Of course, the two villains needed to sleep sometime as well, but it was left ignored, even when Tetch let out a stifled yawn. Jonathan was used to going multiple days without sleep when focused on his experiments. Jervis, on the other hand, was the type to make himself some chamomile tea and snuggle under a duvet for a full night’s rest.

“That gives us time to figure out a game plan,” the professor hummed, turning to the casually dressed male comforting his wife. “You.” Billy jolted in a mix of surprise and fear, but Jonathan had no plans to relish in it. “There’s a Halloween display in the lobby. It’s a quaint little thing with pumpkins on top of small hay bales. I want you to go down there and grab a hay bale for me.”

Billy blinked as he processed the question, obviously confused. “I… what? Why?” As if he had the right to ask questions.

“Because I told you to,” Crane growled, using that weight on his voice that made many men turn their heads in anxiety.

Billy swallowed and nodded, leaving his wife with great hesitation. “And what if I get caught? I don’t think the lady’s gonna let me just take it back to my room.”

Jonathan gave him a deadpan look, clearly unhappy with the man’s lack of imagination. “There should only be the one girl in there. You can’t think of an excuse?”

“No…”

“Well then,” Crane hummed, “Allow me to give you a suggestion.” He gestured for Billy to sit on the bed while the doctor sat on the adjacent one beside Becky and Savannah. “You’re going to go downstairs and take it,” he then said simply. “And when she tells you to stop, you’re going to tell her to go f*ck herself.”

“Excuse me?” Despite the outburst, silence ensued, and Billy was only left with Crane watching him silently, the dark circles that framed his gaze only bringing further attention to the stare of piercing gray eyes. After a moment, the husband forced out a nervous chuckle to relieve his tension, trying to look away, but Crane wasn’t having it. “Look at me,” he commanded with a monotone yet firm voice. When Billy hesitated, he pressed further. “Billy, look at me or else.”

Alice squirmed in her bindings. “Leave him alone!” she snapped at him, but it brought her no attention from the Scarecrow.

Billy heard his wife’s voice and seemed ready to turn and look to her for comfort, but was stopped by Jonathan clearing his voice. “If you look at her before you look at me, I’m going to inject this into you.” He held up one of the two remaining fear syringes he had.

“And I’m going to inject it into your eye.” Billy snapped his gaze to meet Crane’s, feeding the beast his fear. “It’s simple,” he continued. “I’ve seen the girl through the window. She’s a timid one. So when she stops you, you’re going to tell her to go f*ck herself, and you’re going to do so no matter what she tries to say. Don’t say a word after, and when she finally looks away, you may leave. What is a hardly-paid front desk worker going to do? Evict you from your room? For stealing a small hay bale? While you’ve paid money for a stay?I don’t think so.”

Billy tried to protest and call out Jonathan’s idea as being a foolish one, but he lost his voice as the man continued to stare at him with large, unwavering eyes that threatened to crawl into Reynolds and tear up his soul from the inside. This gaze would easily break the woman in the front lobby. He sputtered, trying to say something, but Crane refused to look away, a full two minutes had to have passed before the Scarecrow finally blinked, and it was in this briefly broken connection that Billy finally found his words. “You know, I can’t just, uh, tell her I need to borrow it for, um, pictures. Cute Halloween pictures for Instagram and all that.”

Crane finally allowed himself to relax, ergo taking the pressure off of Mr. Reynolds and giving him the privilege of looking away. “Now was that so hard? It’s a good idea. Tell her that. Now, why don’t you go down there and get a hay bale for me? I’m sure you know what will happen if you stray and tell anyone about us.” He ushered Billy to a stand. “And, Mr. Reynolds. Don’t take too long. We wouldn’t want anyone to make any assumptions and rash actions, would we?”

Billy swallowed his anxiety and walked out of the hotel room, the sounds of his heavy footsteps on the steel staircase easily heard through the closed door. He heard a small “may I?” from behind him, and after a hesitant nod, he had the breath knocked out of him when Jervis fell on him from behind with a loving embrace.

“Oh you truly are ravishing when you do that,” Jervis praised, turning his head to give Jonathan a peck on the cheek. Albright’s disgusted scoff was ignored. “To think I never appreciated it before! Oh how foolish I was back then.” Jonathan seemed somewhat annoyed with Jervis’ very physical show of love, but he didn’t push him off, instead bringing a thin hand up to gently comb through a few of Tetch’s wavy locks in appreciation. The Hatter practically purred in delight, but in a flash, his jovial nature was replaced with worry. “Is everything alright? I haven’t seen you do that as of late. The scaring, I mean. And to such a degree and someone other than me!”

Jon closed his eyes with a knowing nod, turning his head some to speak in a low murmur so their privacy wouldn’t be broken by the girls. “I suppose I’m a bit on edge,” he confessed, and while he would never speak about this to any other person, Jervis had shown himself worthy of confiding in. “After the Joker encounter, I mean.”

“The Queen of Hearts?” Jervis gasped, his voice also at a low murmur. “My my. Don’t tell me that foul beast has gotten into your head. Only I have the privilege of doing so!”

Jonathan flitted his gaze to briefly focus on Savannah. “He’s up to something, I know it. I just needed to regain a feeling of control, to be quite honest. Even if it’s over someone as milquetoast as Mr. Reynolds.”

“And there is nothing wrong with that, my love,” the Hatter hummed with a smile, giving his lovely Hare a kiss on the shoulder before retracting himself. “I will always support you, especially since you’re so light!”

Jonathan lifted a brow. “And if my problems become too heavy to support?”

Jervis could only grin. “Then I shall become equally as heavy and you and I will roll in the grass together.”

Jonathan was fearless enough to admit that this endearing sentiment made him smile. Jervis could be so irritatingly adorable at times. He didn’t let it affect his outward demeanor, however, especially not in front of others. He loved his boyfriend, but he had a reputation to uphold. Even still, he had learned it was okay to let himself smile every so often.

Thinking back to Jervis’ worries, Jonathan himself had his concerns. While he did glean some glee from watching Billy suffer, it wasn’t as fulfilling as it had been before the accident. The only time he’d gotten the high he once did from all that fear was in his dealings with Jervis.

Let’s get all this over with so that I may get back to torturing our lab rat.

Jonathan didn’t indulge the thought, not wanting the situation to get away from him.

It was a minute later that Billy backed into the room with a log-sized hay bale. “She didn’t even notice,” he told them with a humorless laugh. “Didn’t need to do anything.” He turned to the Scarecrow and prepared to gently toss it over, as was a force of habit, but seemed to realize that was a bad idea before it could leave his hands. “Ah… here you go.”

Jonathan grabbed the bale, a little irritated, but he let the act pass. “Thank you. You may sit by your wife now.”

The fact that Billy needed permission to sit by his wife was infuriating, and the young man looked ready to spit a swear, but he smartly held his tongue and said nothing else. It was all about control with these villains, and no matter how much of a twig Crane was, he would most definitely break several bones in trying to throw a punch at the monster. He simply tightened his lips and went to sit by his wife and hold onto a bound hand.

Jonathan grabbed the bundled hay and searched his pockets, soon realizing that he hadn’t brought a pocket knife with him. Looking around, he spotted Savannah’s handbag beside the four phones that had been confiscated from the victims. After a quick search, he found the pocketknife he had given his half-sister inside the bag. “You kept it. That’s at least something.” Without waiting for a reply, he severed the twine holding the hay and began tearing out fistfuls of the material.

Savannah was just as confused as her other bound hostages, deciding to lean towards Jervis and whisper “What’s he doin’?”

Tetch was so entranced with how his boyfriend ripped hay out of a small block that he needed a moment to process the girl’s question. “Hmm? Oh! Oh, I haven’t the slightest idea, but I know it’s something smart.”

Crane rolled his eyes. “I’m making sure my crows can find me,” he expounded. “They’ve grown to associate me with hay given I, well, tend to leave a bit behind as the Scarecrow. If they don’t know where I am, they like to have a look around until they figure it out.” He quickly stuck himself out the door to fling hay off of the balcony and litter it over the doorstep, finishing with a small pile on the windowsill. While the hay would be an odd sight to come across on a random motel window, it wasn’t something that one would see and immediately suspect a supervillain was living here, so Jonathan had no worries about it.

“That…” Becky began, eyeing him oddly. “That is…” It seemed like she was about to berate him, but she held her breath, knowing it wouldn’t do her any good. “Why are you telling us that? It doesn’t work in your favor.

Crane failed to bring his eyes to meet hers, hand reaching up to fiddle with his glasses before realizing he had left them back at home.

The hideout.

The hideout. Yes, of course. A dingy abandoned lab a home does not make. “I’m not sure,” he murmured to his captives. “Call it a lack of self-preservation. Madness, maybe.” Gray eyes flicked to watch the scowling attorney. “Care to analyze me in this case? I would certainly love to see what else you’ve learned from me, Miss Albright.” He suspected that if he had been standing any closer, he would have been spat at in the face. It would have been fair, yes, but unpleasant. It was such an odd feeling he had gotten used to, knowing he deserved everything people threw at him, and yet still having the inability to grovel and accept punishment. A sociopath indeed, as he’d been diagnosed years before. It was a thought he had to consider after having been so close to being captured again.

Alice cleared her throat then, wanting to thin the tension just a bit. “So what will you do with us until then?” she had to question. “It’ll take a long time for your crows to find us. Why—“

Tap tap tap tap

Billy’s brow shot to his hairline. “You’re sh*tting me,” he scoffed, noticing a vague movement behind one of the curtains as a few more impatient taps were heard.

Indeed, the crows were not sh*tting him, as when Jonathan peeled back the drapes, there sat a total of three birds, all of them shifting nervously until they got confirmation that their fledgling was alive. “That was fast,” he commented fondly, holding his hand out as Katrina herself flew in and landed on his arm gracefully. She butt her head and beak against him, fluttering up to his head to quickly groom his hair in an attempt to provide comfort she thought he needed. “There you are, my one-eyed terror.”

Katrina clicked her beak and purred, only squawking when grabbed by a thin hand and placed onto the windowsill. “As much as I would love to sit and play, I need a favor.” He pulled out a burner flip-phone, scrolling over to images and bringing one up of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, both posing in a rather relaxed state on a bench next to a flowerbed. He brought the picture to the crow’s eye level, making sure to bring it to the side of her head that Katrina could actually see with. “You remember them, don’t you? Harleen and Miss Ivy?” Katrina canted her head, soon giving the likeness of Harley a couple taps with her beak in fond remembrance. Ivy did not get the same treatment, but he doubted the humanoid weed would shed any tears over it. “Yes yes, them. I’m sure they remember you as well.” With that, he brought out a piece of paper that had been folded multiple times. It was a note that he’d written beforehand, knowing they’d need someone else’s help in the matter. He presented it to her. “This.” He pressed the paper to the picture of Harley. “Harleen.” He repeated the same words and movement a couple more times just to make sure she got the gist before handing it over. Katrina eagerly snapped up the letter with her beak, hopping once, then twice, before taking off to find Harleen and Ivy. While it was easy to hide your location from your fellow criminals, it was less so when you factor in dozens of eyes from the sky, always curious and watching and memorizing— if the crows didn’t already know where she was, she’d be found rather quickly.

Becky Albright was the first to speak up. “You people truly have too much freetime.”

Jervis let out a chortle. “Patience and dedication always pays off, my dear. Even if it’s training a murder of birds.”

Jonathan gave each bird a gentle stroke on the head and waved them away, shutting the window soon after. “Funny of you to criticize,” he scoffed at Rebecca. “I would think you would be thankful Jervis and I are a step closer to getting the assistance we need. We’ll be able to escape undetected, while you all will be left to go home and sulk over how big an error in judgement this was.” He paused, his gaze falling onto Savannah, who instinctively shrunk at his stare. “Except you, of course.”

This was a surprise to everyone, who looked over with evident shock at the young girl. Savannah’s mouth parted but remained speechless, her eyes as wide as dinner plates. “I—!”

Jonathan held up a hand, a gesture that quickly silenced her. His expression was nonplussed, as per usual, but a downward twitch of his lips was seen, and it was a dangerous sight. Alice flinched when a sharp gesture was thrown her and Becky’s way, but his focus remained on his half-sibling. “These two… mean nothing to me. They’re civilians way over their heads, thinking they can ‘help’ us in some misguided way. But you?” Savannah let out an audible squeak when a thin and accusatory finger was pointed her way.

“Leave her alone!” Becky snapped, her nerves straining with rage as she was forced to watch a young girl placed in the very same position she was in all those years ago. “She’s a child.”

The lawyer was ignored by both the victim and the instigator, with Savannah unable to look away from the piercing gaze and Jonathan holding his stare to keep his control over her. If he were to look away or acknowledge someone else, it would lessen the pressure on the girl, and he didn’t want that.

You…” A low growl could be heard from the good doctor, the first sign he’d shown that he was actually enraged with her. “I made the critical mistake of putting my trust in you, just as you made the mistake of abusing said trust, and such an action will not go unpunished.”

Jervis watched from the sidelines, seeing that dark spark in his mylimasis’ eyes and falling in love all over again. Oh how he wanted to be back in the hideout with him so that they may ravish each other once more.

Rebecca scowled, opening her mouth to let out a scathing warning, but Tetch got to her first. “No room! No room!” he screeched, teeth bared and his eyes narrowed with a distinct hatred towards the woman that had once held his love’s affections.

Savannah could only mutter out what sounded like broken apologies, but they went unheard as Jonathan took a step closer, watching as though she were some roach on the floor. Finally, he was close enough to where they were mere inches apart, with Crane getting close to an uncomfortable degree as Savannah tried her best to shy away. “You think you’re so entitled, don’t you? Because we shared the same wretched beast you call a mother? Entitled to my affections? You were foolish to even consider it a possibility, and I am going to help you get that through your head, one way or another. Do you understand?”

The young girl was hesitant, and while there were tears in her eyes, she had yet to cry, which could be considered an accomplishment for one her age. She swallowed down whatever fear had locked itself up in her throat and, to her credit, sat up a bit straighter, keeping eye contact with her older sibling. “I’m not ‘fraid of you.”

Jonathan paused, his jaw locking in utter disdain. One could actually hear an audible growl rumble in the base of his throat as nimble fingers curled into a fist. It almost seemed as though he was going to strike her, but he did no such thing. Instead, Savannah found herself pinned to the bed, hands wrapped around her throat but never tight enough to actually do any harm to her larynx or cause her to lose oxygen. Still, it was enough to get Alice to scream in terror and Billy to (almost) take action, but Jonathan couldn’t be deterred from his task. “How dare you?” he scowled through clenched teeth as the young woman desperately yanked at his hands. “You think you have the right to disrespect me, you little rat?” Savannah’s tears finally began to fall, but he didn’t let up. “Not afraid of me, just because you think I’ve grown fond of you? Because you think you can save me?” He scoffed, genuinely disgusted with the thought. “Well, understand this, sister, even if you are telling the truth, and you truly aren’t afraid of me, know this…” His voice suddenly came out harsher, his words creeping like foul vines choking the life out of another plant and coming out in nothing if not a snarl. “You will be.” He was so uncomfortably close to the young girl that she could see how much his eyes lacked any form of light in those dull gray eyes. Her tears were finally cascading down her temples and onto the bed sheets, unable to breath despite the Scarecrow’s hands not being anywhere close to choking. She was afraid, so very afraid, and so Jonathan finished with a slow and simple, “I repeat: do you understand?

Savannah’s sobs were silent, but unmistakable. “Yes,” she rasped, just barely audible as she tried to cave in on herself and hide away from the monster that was her brother. “Yes, Jonny!”

Slowly, every so slowly, Jonathan’s expression relaxed and he pulled away. There were red marks on her throat from where those careful hands had placed themselves. “Good.” He came away from the small event feeling a bit more whole in a way. Even if the sight of Savannah twisting onto her side and sobbing openly somehow made his stomach churn in a way he couldn’t explain, he felt as though the experience was cathartic as a whole. Even still, something didn’t feel right about what he’d just done.

Turning to the other, he saw a variety of expressions, the main consensus being rage and anger. Billy was actually on his feet now, glaring at the professor with a hardened gaze that actually surprised Jonathan. First the man was cowering, and now he was at a stand, his fists clenched as though he were really about to attempt fighting the Scarecrow. Jonathan blinked at the sight and sneered. “Can I help you?” he hissed, daring the other male to do something. Billy swallowed, his left arm tensing as if preparing to take a swing. Jonathan almost wanted him to, just to see how he himself would react. In the end, Billy knew better, and he swallowed his rage and took a seat.

Jonathan observed the angry stares he was receiving from his captives, feeling nothing to all of them. He, too, sat down, the bed sinking under his weight, and dipping even further as Hatter quickly scooted his way beside him. “That was very terrifying of you, my love.”

Jonathan wasn’t quite sure how he was supposed to respond to that— he wasn’t quite used to being in a relationship, much less something of this oddity. Was there a “thank you” in order? He supposed so, and so uttered his gratitude in a low mutter, and Hatter seemed happy enough. In truth, Jonathan wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do with Savannah. His threats were not empty— far from it. He was never one to not follow through with his words. He has a reputation to uphold, and what sort of paragon of terror would he be if he couldn’t enact a simple threat? He wasn’t quite sure what he was going to do, but even he doubted it would end in someone’s demise. The girl was just trying to help him, after all. Even still, the betrayal was like a whip to his flesh, its pain potent and its scars forever evident.

She’s crying.

“So she is,” Jonathan sighed under his breath.

She won’t stop sobbing.

“And?” Jon grunted, unable to keep his frustration hidden from his alter.

Why is it hurting you?

Crane hated how much his alter was aware of Jonathan even more than he himself was. Indeed, there was a pain in his chest when the tears went on and on. Jervis had begun to chat about something merrily, unable to realize that his love wasn’t listening in the slightest, and it only added more white noise to fuel Jonathan’s growing frustration.

Jervis noted that his love was no longer paying attention, only then coming to realize that the harsh treatment of Savannah had more of an impact on Crane than previously thought. “I… did you almost lose yourself there, my Hare?”

Crane scoffed, looking away. “I almost lost myself to Batman,” he murmured, too quiet for anyone but Tetch to hear thoughts swung back to when he’d nearly cracked and given Batman complete control. Jervis gave him a questioning look, not quite understanding, but Jonathan didn’t bother to elaborate. “I… I just want to feel like… me again.” He rubbed at exhausted eyes. His next words were in such a low whisper that even his partner had to lean in close to hear. “Whatever that even means anymore.”

Jervis’s merriment was now gone, and he looked upon his love with a strangeness. “My love… how are you feeling?”

Jonathan stared at the ground, unmoving. Unfeeling. “I don’t know,” he confessed. He looked over at Jervis, a tiredness to his gaze that wasn’t from lack of sleep. “I truly don’t know…” He smirked, a chuckle on his lips. “Isn’t that scary?”

It would take about half an hour for Katrina to return. By then, a stark silence had fallen over the group. The girls had taken their time to rest after a lack of sleep, while Jonathan and Jervis focused on keeping an eye on everyone. They had quite a bit experience with sleep management, after all, and as the Riddler once said, Jonathan had such a bad relationship with sleep that he would sooner die than let himself unwillingly slip into unconsciousness. Jervis spent his time as a form of comfort for his love, holding his hand and allowing Crane to listen to his heartbeat through the pulse of his wrist. He still didn’t quite understand what had happened between Crane and the Dark Knight, but he was used to not understanding. Jonathan would eventually explain when they were in private, but for now, Jervis allowed himself to be his love’s little stress ball.

Tap tap tap

Crane looked back at the window expectantly, finding his darling crow there, a piece of paper in her beak. “Katrina,” he hummed, walking over to the window to open it and greet her. He stopped, however, when he noticed the broken wing. Her left appendage was missing quite a few feathers, bent at an awkward angle with a clear break visible under the skin at the base of the arm. Her beak held a small paper as previously seen, but it was tied tightly around her scraped snout, making her mute. As soon as it was removed, she squawked in pain, ruffling her feathers in obvious discomfort. It would be here that the girls would notice a flash of worry and hurt in Jonathan’s eyes as he cautiously picked up his crow. “Jervis, read the note. I’ll take care of Katrina.”

Tetch took up the piece of paper, watching the avian with surprise and concern. “Was she attacked? By a hawk, perhaps? Do hawks eat crows?” He gasped, a bit dramatic. “You don’t think it was that blasted Jabberwock, do you? What—“

“Hatta, the note.”

“Oop. My apologies, love.” He opened the piece of paper to reveal a phone number. He took out Jonathan’s phone and began to type in the number. He misclicked and had to start over, however, when Jonathan snapped Katrina’s bone back into place and filled the room with the cries of an injured bird. He waited until the sounds died down and Jonathan began wrapping up the injury before actually calling the number. It rang once, twice, and then someone picked up on the other end. “Miss Quinzel?” Hatter chirped, watching Crane turn the phone on speaker and hoping the voice of his friend would cheer things up. “Oh how frabjous it is to hear from you, my dear girl! How is the Tiger Lily doing? I do hope-“

That’s how you greet a woman? Oof! I would hate to see how you flirt!”

The entire room went dead silent at the words of a speaker who was definitely not Harley. That raspy, jovial laugh everyone had grown to fear let itself be known through the speaker.

I know! Why don’t you ask Alice? I’m sure she’s had to endure enough of your awful pick-up lines to fill a lifetime of therapy.

“Joker.” Jonathan gave the girls and Billy a look of warning, though this time, he wasn’t the threat. The civilians kept their mouths sealed, sitting by tentatively and on edge. The man plucked the phone from a nervous Tetch’s hand. “How did you get ahold of my bird? Where is Miss Quinzel?”

Everyone wants a piece of my ex, eh? Why have her when you could have the original, haybale? As for the bird? It took five different rocks, but I finally nailed her. A shame I didn’t play baseball back in highschool— I would have been a star pitcher, I’m telling you!

Jonathan’s patience was always nonexistent when it came to the clown. “Yes yes, I’m sure on some planet that must be very funny. A stellar prank. Are you done?”

Aren’t you psychiatrists supposed to dig deep? Don’t you want to know why I did it?

Jervis finally found his voice and spoke up, though his voice was racked with a nervousness rarely seen. “I-if I may interject, your highness,” he stuttered, his hand to his mouth as he nibbled on an invisible teacup. Joker was his Queen of Hearts, and if there was one thing a Hatter felt about the Queen of Hearts, it was fear. “Might I ask why you’re calling? We’ve done nothing to you!” He glanced up at Jonathan, mouthing “right?” Jonathan gave a curt nod and the Hatter went back to speaking. “If you’re looking for some type of help with a little execution of yours, I’m afraid we will be of little help.”

Bah, I don't need any of your charity! I can help myself fine— besides, if I needed any, you two wouldn’t exactly be the first I’d call.

“I’m heartbroken,” Jonathan sneered. He’d finally finished wrapping Katrina’s wing up and placed her on the bed among some soft blankets. “I suppose I’ll just hang up if you don’t need me.”

Alright alright, I’ll get to the point, ya softie. So, here’s the deal. You’re trapped in that tiny apartment with your little boy toy and four people that hate your guts, all the while police and Batman are searching all of Gotham for you two.”

Jonathan glanced at his significant other, noticing how afraid the Hatter was compared to the Scarecrow’s rather stoic nature. Jervis chewed on his knuckle, not minding the sting of pain just so long as it calmed his nerves. “Why yes, that is our predicament. Must you rub it in, your highness?”

Joker chuckled. “Not this time, Jeeves. I’m just making sure we’re all in agreement you’re screwed, right?” No one said anything, not wanting to egg the Joker into an attack by denying his claim. “Great! We all agree. So Uncle Joker’s gonna help you two out, okay? No tricks. No gaffs. No surprise murder sprees.”

The two villains shared an unsure, but pessimistic glance. The instinct was to say ‘no’. However, they were indeed in a rather difficult spot. Even if Joker was more trouble than he was ever worth, there were times where he could genuinely be beneficial should he get his own way. The problem, however, was what they would owe him. “And what would you get in return?” Jon snipped, not yet turning down the offer. The hostages seemed relieved, far more optimistic to the idea that they would survive.

Ahhh, just a small token of our friendship is all I need,” the clown assured them. “All I want is Savannah.

As silence permeated throughout the room, Joker’s words were followed by a couple giggles. Jonathan’s thumb twitched towards the key to end the call. Jervis’ eyes flicked up to meet his paramour’s, mouth open and ready to confirm Joker’s offer, but there was obvious hesitation to it, stemming all from noticing Jonathan’s own unwillingness to give an answer. He trailed into thought, reemerging seconds later with a question. “Savannah? What could you possibly want with such a daft girl?”

Does it matter? Just toss her over the fence and in my yard and I’ll get the cops off your back. What does it matter?

Crane knew the madman all too well to assume the best in Joker’s words. “You’re going to kill her.” It wasn’t a question, but the truth, and both knew it. A squeak of terror came from one of the beds behind him, the sound of a young girl finding out her life was on the line.

I mean, yeah. Of course I’m gonna kill her! How else am I going to distract the cops without a few balloon animals made of her intestines being passed out to all the boys and girls? What kind of psychopathic clown do you take me for?

The sound from Savannah was now a squeal of terror, one that rang loud enough for the beast in entertainer’s clothing to hear.

Wait wait, is that her? Hey, Sav!

“P-please don’t call me that,” Savannah whispered in a voice so withdrawn even the women beside her couldn’t hear her.

Savannah, you little tyke— do you think you can give me your blood type? You know, for murder purposes, of course.

Savannah’s breath caught in her throat as her eyes were blown wide. Her fear was undeniable and was on display for all to see as she began to hyperventilate. No one could blame her now that she was the subject of Joker’s eye. In no world was that a good position to be in.The girls and Billy tried to calm her down, but it couldn’t be helped. This was where the begging started “Please, I’m sorry,” she wheezed to the doctor. “I’m so, so, so sorry! Ah didn’t mean anything by it— please don’t let him kill me— I’m sorry! Please please please don’t—“

The sudden onslaught of tears and pleading was a bit overwhelming for Crane, who silenced her with a quick raise of his hand. “Oh hush now,” he scoffed, bringing his attention back to the clown. “I’m not playing your idiotic games, Joker. Keep your ‘help’ to yourself— we’ll be just fine.”

One could hear Joker shrug on the other end. “Well alright then.

Savannah began her sigh of relief, but Jon held up a finger once again, giving her pause. He was a paranoid man at heart, and he knew far better than to believe this was all Joker had planned.

In that case, I’ll just take a couple of the boys and I’ll go over and take her myself.

Jonathan would be lying if he said he hadn’t expected that to happen, though it didn’t make his sister’s cry any less warranted. “I figured. And I’m assuming you’d want to harm Miss Albright and Miss Pleasence, is that right?”

Bingo, old chap!

The thought of his lovely Alice dying was too much for Jervis, who exclaimed, “But why? It’s senseless!”

You’re one to talk— listen, Doc, you can’t just refuse to help escape Arkham and then enjoy the fruits of other people’s schemes they slaved over! Just not fair, you see! There’s gotta be some penance!”

“So you’re going to kill my sister for it, whether I agree to hand her over or not. Sounds petty, Joker,” Jonathan scowled.

Oh, it’s pretty petty. But it’s also really funny.

Becky decided to speak up. “So this is all just some joke to you?” The two villains gave her a warning glance, but Joker answered her anyway.

Yup! And a good one if I may say so— besides, you lot are working oh so hard to reform your little buddy here. At least, that’s what’s being passed through the grapevine. So, technically, if he isn’t one of us, he’s fair game for a few pranks from old Uncle J!

Jon audibly scowled, not happy with being on the receiving end of a colleague’s ire. “You should know how unwise it is to mess with me, clown.”

See! This is what I’m talking about! All bark, no bite— the old bag of hay I knew would have hung up and stormed over to chop me in half and give me a good pick-me-up! So, tell you what. If you’re still that heartless sociopath you always tout, then it should be no problem just handing the brat over! And I’ll leave you alone! How about it, sport? For old times sake?

It would be easy. It would be so easy, and Jonathan didn’t keep this a secret. After putting the phone on mute, he eyed Savannah shamelessly, knowing full well he could easily avoid a world of trouble and then some by just… handing her over. After all, it wasn’t like he wanted her presence in the first place. All he needed to do was just say “yes” and he could go back to his hideout with Jervis, patch up Katrina, and get back to…

Get back to what, Jonny?

Savannah saw how her brother looked at her with consideration, and soon tears were in her eyes as she began to blubber her apologies once more in a desperate attempt to be spared.

Realizing that the Scarecrow was actually considering the clown’s offer, Becky and Alice immediately put on their brave faces and slid in front of the young girl. “Don’t even think about it, Crane!” Becky snapped, no doubt willing to hurt someone should they go for the youngest of the bunch. “That’s low, even for you!”

“Don’t doubt me, Rebecca,” Jonathan scowled, but it was clear the intention behind it was more out of protecting his ego instead of an actual threat. He needed to just get on with it and toss them all out so they could go their separate ways. It wasn’t like Jon hadn’t hurt a child before.

You’ve never killed one.

Jonathan tried to hold back a grimace.

And never one you’ve been fond of.

Bastard.

“I’m not ‘fond’ of anyone,” Jonathan scowled under his breath, knowing it was a straight up lie. He was fond of Edward. He wouldn’t jump in front of a bullet for the man, but should the Riddler die, Jon had enough dignity to know that he would mourn his frequent partner. He was fond of Harley, too. He was fond of Jervis. To his dismay, Jon realized he was fond of Savannah, too.

Many months ago, he wouldn’t have had a second thought about sacrificing the girl for his own wellbeing. What happened since then?

You changed, Jonny.

Jonathan knew his alter was right, but it didn’t make his feelings over the matter any less complicated.

Still there, bucko? Your silence says you're considering it!

With no one else to turn to, Crane looked at the one person who understood him the most. Jervis saw the gleam of conflict in his love’s eyes and frowned, knowing Jon was looking to him for advice. He could only shake his head. “You already know how I feel, love,” he murmured, not sparing the girl a glance. “But… you were right. In the car. I love you, but… not everything is about what I feel; not everything is about what I want.” He grabbed Jonathan’s other hand, not getting any resistance in Jon’s time of indecision and worry. “I realize that I need to trust you as much as you trust me.” He squeezed the other’s thinner hand, offering a reassuring smile. “No matter what you decide, I will always be right behind you. I promise.”

Jonathan found himself at a loss. He looked at the phone, still feeling the daggers of the girl at his back and Savannah’s labored breathing as she held back her tears. He could still hear her whispers of “I’m sorry” under her breath.

Like a magnet, Jon’s gaze was pulled back to Jervis. The blonde always looked so in love— it was bringing an ache to Crane’s chest. “If I’m to be quite honest,” he sighed, rubbing at his eye with the heel of his wrist, “I just want this to end so I can go to bed.”

Unable to really comprehend the humanity of his last statement, he handed the phone over to Jervis. “I trust you, too.”

Tetch took the phone in his hand, looking back at his love in shock. Jon could only offer a weak smile.

Jervis smiled softly and took the phone off of mute. “We’ll take our chances, Joker. Thank you for your kind offer, though!”

Jonathan’s lips were parted in surprise, not wavering either way between positive and negative. “Alright then,” he murmured, sounding indifferent to it, but the little twitch of his lips upwards spoke otherwise. “I guess we’re doing this.”

I suppose you are!’ Joker called from the phone. ‘I guess I’ll be swinging by to snatch up your little girl there.

“You’re welcome to go ahead and try,” Jonathan replied, finding his voice again. “I told you that I don’t accept threats lightly, clown. What I keep in my presence has no bearing on you, and you should keep your nose out of it. Come near me or what I own and I will make you regret it.”

Joker’s high-pitched laugh sounded from the other end. ‘I sure hope you do, lover-boy!’ he cackled. ‘With Jervis hogging all that violence and mommy-issues to himself, how are schmucks like me supposed to get any?

“Come near me, and I will kill you,” Jonathan warned again, voice low and dangerous in what could almost be called a snarl.

Yeah yeah, tell you what— I’ll round up some boys and we’ll come over tonight for a slumber party! And since you won’t give over the little brat as a sign of our everlasting friendship, then I’m sad to say we’ll have to end our ‘will they/won’t they kill each other’ plot line. And I’ll have to kill you. After all, you’re a regular, boring old sap! It’s only a matter of time before you tell the cops all the little secrets of our so-called ‘Rogues Gallery’, bucko.’ Jonathan opened his mouth to speak, but Joker cut him off, suddenly remembering an important tidbit. “Oh oh! And I want your half of the friendship bracelet I sent you! That cost me good money!

Said friendship bracelet was five dollars at most, with Jonathan’s half deep in a landfill somewhere. “I’m sure it did. Are we done, Joker?”

Yes, buzzkill, we are. Maybe killing Savannah will be a mercy with how much fun you suck out of the situation.

Jonathan hung up without hesitation, his teeth clenched with a newfound anger. “He threatened me,” he growled, swallowing down the curses he wanted to spit. “He had the gall to threaten me and what’s mine.”

“What a scoundrel!” Jervis spit, arms crossed in an over-exaggerated display of anger. “What nonsense! What attitude! He threatened what is yours!”

Rebecca cut in. “Whoa whoa, we are not ‘yours’, Crane,” she barked, unflinching at Jon’s withering stare.

“You were begging me to spare the girl’s life,” Jon scoffed, “and I did. You all have no right to speak to me with that fearlessness you possess.”

Jervis spared her life,” Becky corrected, “because you were too scared to choose, Cr—“

Becky finally did flinch this time when Jon raised a hand to strike her across the face for her disrespect. He halted, however, unable to go through with it in the end. He bit the inside of his cheek, trying to calm himself down. It was terrifying how easily he was able to do so— he would have thrown a lowly henchman off a building for saying this not even a year ago. What was wrong with him?

I don’t know, but I don’t like it.

Neither did Jonathan, but he knew better than to take his anger out right now when there was an actual threat on the horizon. The police were one thing; Joker was a whole other storm. He lowered his hand, his following exhale rough and exhausted. “I’m… I know when to admit I’m wrong,” he grunted, his voice lowering.

Alice finally interjected. “Well… thank you anyhow,” she spoke up, a frown permanently gracing her lips in spite of her gratitude. “The fact that you didn’t throw her to the wolves immediately is… is actually a little comforting.” Her chuckle was humorless. “Seems like you two actually have hearts.”

Jervis pursed his lips at this, nose in the air in an overly posh manner. “I didn’t know that having a heart was a valid form of ID— our heart-ownership status is no business of yours, Alice!”

Jonathan cleared his throat to keep everyone on track before Jervis derailed it with his nonsense. “Heart or no heart, this isn’t about Savannah,” he explained, telling the truth this time around. “Once we’re all done, you’re all going to be thrown out of our lives, and hopefully with some sense knocked into you. No, this is about that clown threatening me.” He looked around at everyone in the room. “Whether or not I’ve ‘changed’ doesn’t matter. That clown is going to learn to leave well enough alone.”

“So this is about ego,” Billy piped up after wallowing in his ashamed silence. He shriveled instinctively at the harsh stare he was given.

“Perhaps it is,” Jonathan replied. “I feel as though people need to be reminded that I’m still the Scarecrow, and I will not have some brat covered in facepaint try to prove otherwise in his silly little game. I am not weak and afraid. I will show him fear, I will crush anyone who thinks otherwise.”

The Mad Hatter let out a sudden cackle and clapped excitedly. “Yes, love! My dear Hare is not without his spark— oh how I love you my dearest.” He popped up quickly to give Jonathan a small kiss along the jaw. “Oh you know how I adore you when you’re so vicious!” He bounced on the bed, visibly excited. “And I will be here as you take what is yours and slay this horrible Jabberwock! Only then will we have the space to think about such troubling matters as your sister.” He gasped, just now remembering a key detail. “He said he would be coming for the young girl at night! That means we have time!”

Jonathan didn’t dwell on his partner’s excitable nature, instead giving a nod in agreement. “We’ll simply hide her.”

It was here that Becky Albright cleared her throat. “Um, no. No you won’t. Not without us going with her.”

The Scarecrow scowled at the younger woman. “You’re lucky we didn’t offer you three as payment instead,” he huffed, though his words tapered off into a softer tone. “Though, I doubt he’d take it. When he wants something, he doesn’t take substitutions. Even if he’d killed me, he’d still slaughter Savannah just for fun.” He ignored how the girl in question whined at the statement. He didn’t even want to look at what was an obvious weakness. Instead, he kept his gaze locked on Becky. “You are not the main targets, and if I were to leave you with her, no doubt you would complicate things by bringing in police.”

Jervus piped up. “Rule one of dealing with Joker: the more people you involve, the more people who die!” He stopped, his brow scrunched as he thought hard. “Or was that rule sixteen?” The Hatter threw his hands up. “Oh I can never tell.”

“Rule sixty-nine, maybe?” Billy muttered, evoking a snort and giggle from his wife. Jervis was visibly confused, but huffed nonetheless, knowing it was somehow a jab at him.

Crane stepped away from the bed, walking over to the window to stare out at the empty parking lot. With the pressure of both Batman and Joker being on his back, he knew he’d have to fight his way out just to remain free. Sure, he might not be unscathed, but he was ready for it. If anything, the wave of inevitable danger was actually exciting. In a rare moment, he let himself smile, anticipating when he would escape the Batman and show the Joker what true fear felt like. He would admit, it almost made him giddy.

That’s more like it.

Turning on his heel, he placed his gaze on the three adult civilians. “We’ll be taking you to a secure location. An abandoned building, perhaps— I’ll figure it out. I’ll rig it so you can’t escape, of course, but we’ll make sure you can’t cause any trouble until we finish with Joker. Then we shall figure out what to do with you, because if you think you’re getting out of this untouched, you have another thing coming. Even if we do decide to let you three live in the end, it will be in an ambulance.”

“A-a-and what about me?” This question came from none other than Savannah. Poor girl was a mess, with tear tracks still fresh on her face. She was shrunken in on herself, looking up at her brother timidly, though she averted her eyes once his gaze landed on her.

Jonathan considered her, arms crossed and his expression revealing nothing. As much as he wanted to deny it, everyone knew that Savannah’s survival was assured should things go well with Joker. Jonathan wasn’t going to fight to keep Savannah alive just to kill her later. What to do with her now, however, was the question of the day. “I… give me a moment to think.” He turned to glance at Jervis, who looked just as conflicted as he did.

Alice cleared her throat. “You were trying to reach Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Why not them?” she suggested.

Jervis shook his head. “Oh heavens, they would never. We don’t unload our problems on allies. They wouldn’t have it.”

“He’s right,” Jonathan agreed, running a hand through her hair. “We look out for ourselves in the end. Generosity is retracted once we make our problems theirs. And we can’t leave her where people can find her, as Joker could find her first, and leaving her in police custody will only result in a bloodbath on Joker’s part.” Unsure of what to do, he moved to fiddle with the glasses hooked on the neck of his shirt, only to realize he lost them quite a while ago. Disgruntled, he shoved a hand in his pocket to find something else he could mess around with, discovering only keys to the lent car and a folded piece of paper. He pulled the scrap of paper out, unsure of where it had come from. He unfolded it, and on its surface was shaky handwriting that was most certainly not his own. It was only a phone number, but that’s all Crane needed to remember where it had come from. With that, an idea formed. A very, very bad idea.

Hatter noticed his love was silent and glanced over. His Hare was transfixed on a piece of paper in his boney hands, one that Tetch didn’t recognize. “Dearest? Is everything okay?”

Crane help up the slip of paper, lips parted in awe over the idea forming in his head. “This… this is Floyd’s phone number.”

Hatter canted his head, confused, before it came back to him. The apple trick with Deadshot. They must have traded information afterwards. “You know Deadshot won’t go after Joker. Joker provides him with regular business!”

“Perhaps,” Crane nodded, “but…” He thought back to his and Floyd’s conversations, and how Jonathan had asked about his young daughter, Zoe, a bright young girl Deadshot would raze Gotham to the ground for should she even get a papercut. Even Joker wasn’t crazy enough to try anything. If Savannah had that sort of protection…

The trucebbetween him and Floyd was about to be obliterated, but thankfully, there was a benefit to not having any fear. “I think… I think I know where to hide Savannah.”

Jervis’ brow shot up as it registered what he was implying. “You’re bluffing.” When Jonathan’s expression didn’t falter, Tetch leapt to his feet. “You’re bluffing! Floyd will kill you if you even suggest it! And even if he will, remember rule sixty-nine!”

Billy snorted in the background.

“Which is why,” Crane said slowly, “we’re not going to tell him.”

Jervis was speechless. “That is so mad… it’s brilliant.” A grin back on his face, he grabbed the phone. “I’ll call the Dormouse for the address!”

As Crane sauntered back to the window to formulate a plan, Savannah sat on the bed in between Becky and Alice, feeling a sense of dread simmering in her core. “I’m going to die, aren’t I?”

Becky inhaled slowly, thinking over everything that had just transpired in the last ten minutes. “Your brother is a horrid, evil man,” she sighed, glancing down at her with a comforting, almost confident look, “but I don’t think he’s going to let you go that easily.” She chuckled. “Trust me, I would know.”

After a moment, despite the tears in her eyes and the exhaustion that racked her body, a bit of hope bloomed within her. Thoughts of her own survival began to face, realizing that even if she was the cause of this mess, the monster that had originally aimed to kill her in her crib was now risking his own safety for the well-being of others. She watched him pick up his injured bird, soothing her with soft whispers and pets. No matter what, she’d always look up to him as her big brother, and she trusted him.

Doctor Crane's Ugly Little Stepping Stones - StripestheBoar - Batman (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Last Updated:

Views: 6039

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Birthday: 1993-03-26

Address: 917 Hyun Views, Rogahnmouth, KY 91013-8827

Phone: +5938540192553

Job: Administration Developer

Hobby: Embroidery, Horseback riding, Juggling, Urban exploration, Skiing, Cycling, Handball

Introduction: My name is Fr. Dewey Fisher, I am a powerful, open, faithful, combative, spotless, faithful, fair person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.