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Red Ring of Death

A Room of Bad Habits [Jonathan Crane.Scarecrow] - [7/?]

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Red Ring of Death   
Red Ring of Death

So a few things beforehand, one of which being that I've actually been working on this for a couple of months now but I haven't uploaded any of it yet because until recently, I was concerned that it'd be something that I start but never really get around to finishing so I made sure to have an endgame before I uploaded any of it. I admit I'm a fan of when sections of stories that I write are similar in length so I wanted to make sure there was that consistency, as well.
Another note is that I was hesitant about uploading this altogether because I struggled with the concept of uploading something that I like purely because *I* like it; I was almost obsessed with the ideas concerning "what if's" - what if no one likes it? What if I spent a lot of time and effort into something only for it to not be acknowledged? What if it's well-meaning but executed poorly to the point of being borderline unreadable? Eventually, the questions devolved into "so what?" So that being said, and I say this from a perspective of self-satisfaction without the intention of sounding pretentious, I'm writing this fic because, as many have said, *I* like it and I hope that others might enjoy it as well. I'll admit while I'm at it that I prefer stories that emphasize the "story" part; yes, it's for the Forum BUT I like having character and plot. "A slow burn", I've heard some call it.
[Also apologies in advance if there's not really a consistent tone - I often have ideas that fall apart halfway through and it causes a tonal shift... or a rubber-band phenomenon].

"...WOW you sound like one of those teenagers that tries way too hard to sound smart." YEAH WELL I like to sound smart, sue me xD

OH I have one other thing to add: While this is sufficiently a Batman fanfic (specifically one that involves his Rogue's Gallery), these iterations of the characters are ones I've thought of, and I don't mean that in the "these are MY ideas and they're COMPLETELY ORIGINAL" way. What I DO mean is that this is not "Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow" or "The Penguin from Gotham" or "Arkhamverse Ivy". While I do have specific models and ideas envisioned, I also sort of hope that doesn't turn anyone away BUT if it does, then it does.

I'll upload the "chapters" once a week with the parts I got then just upload the rest of 'em as I finish them.

Okay, I think that's everything. -clears throat- This fic is rated PG-13 with mentions of a little bit of everything that might make some more sensitive types uncomfortable.
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The air was biting, twisting around the dark spires and cracking foundations of the gothic architecture that dotted the scenery here and there between cramped skyscrapers and dilapidated, abandoned warehouses. There weren’t snowflakes in the air so much as snow clumps, as if the snowflakes themselves huddled together for warmth as they were whipped through the air before finally settling onto broken shingles or the cracked pavement. The sounds of blaring horns and yelling crowds was all but drowned in the whistling wind that burrowed through the channels of the streets, like worms with sharpened noses.

How redundant. However, no matter how angry the wind bit or the weather threatened to drown the area in a flurry of white and garbage, people were still adapting, managing their way to where they needed to go only to be yelled at by their superiors for being late. “Yuck, glad I’m not out there.” With a close of the curtain(not that it helped as the pane was busted out some odd years ago), the pale-faced figure with the twisted grimace waved the weather off nonchalantly as he sauntered back over to the roaring fire, its warmth welcoming on his skin despite only being in front of the window for a few brief moments. He held out an arm and his… “lover”(she liked to call herself that) approached him with just a hint of timidity though it melted soon enough as she melted into his arm in a snuggle. The duo sat down in a worn red armchair that sat a little too conveniently in front of the fire and his green eyes appeared almost acidic as they absorbed the light from the fire, absently swinging Harley’s legs up onto his lap – she was warm, he couldn’t deny that.

“Yeahhh we are, too,” Came a drawl not bothering to hide its sarcasm from the far side of the fireplace. Joker’s attention was snapped from the fire and almost rolled into the back of his head with a groan that wasn’t audible to anyone but himself and maybe Harley. “Can’t imagine you being anywhere else instead of here.” Though the sarcasm was still prevalent, the voice itself changed from reasonable and, dare say, normal, to guttural and with an undertone of snarling, the vitriol gurgling in the back of his throat. Joker’s eyes found Harvey’s and the two stared each other down for a brief moment, Harley glancing between them with a raise of her eyebrows and a bite of the lower lip; all that was missing was the accusatory ‘ooooh, you’re in trouuuuble’ comment.

There was a sigh followed by a brief sticking out of the tongue indicating almost a jeering nature. “We can argue until you’re red in the other half of your face but first of all, we already have and second of all, if you don’t like it, get outta my abandoned building,” Joker pointed towards the barricaded door dismissively, leaning back in his chair once more and turned his gaze back to the fire, free hand messing with one of Harley’s blond curls. “Or will your coin chicken out again and you’ll have to stay though you don’t wanna?” He added with a scoff. After a long pause, Harvey relinquished and draw back into himself, crossing his arms and also deciding to the look at the fire at such an angle that it appeared to light half his face ablaze itself, red and yellow dancing on a watered, melted canvas that once held so much promise.

“I do hate to interrupt your lovers quarrel,” Oswald, who had remained silent for the better portion of the group’s interaction, at least for now, and stood in front of another of the grimy windows to gaze almost longingly at the snow, finally spoke up himself as he turned to regard the others. “But aren’t we supposed to be laying low to avoid the police?”

“What? We’re being plenty quiet!” Joker snorted. “I don’t suppose anyone else here thinks this is just a… big coincidence? Like it was luck that brought us here?” He asked rhetorically. There was a long pause and his hand, which had been raised to show his vote, lowered slowly to wrap around Harley’s shoulders again. “Sheesh, tough crowd.” This incited a small giggle from Harley, almost out of obligation but still sounding genuine.

“Well, ya know at least one’a ‘em don’t believe in no luck,” She nodded in Harvey’s direction before resting her head on Joker’s chest once more. Instinctually, as if simply hearing the word ‘luck’ triggered a reaction, Harvey pulled the scarred coin from his pocket and started fiddling with it in his hand, making it dance on his fingers with practised movement. “And chances are bird-beak don’t believe in it, neither.” She cackled. “Wait…" There was a pause from the blond ?”  She sat up and looked around the dimmed room expectantly, as if Jonathan Crane were to burst through any of the doors or even the floor at any given moment and exclaim ‘here I am!’

“If I know Johnny boy – and I have no idea - he’s probably up top. Nothing like a Crane in a crow’s nest,” He joked with a chuckle. “Speaking of the skinny scientist, go check on him; make sure he isn’t plotting something that could ruin our good time,” he added, giving Harley a sharp, unexpected smack on the back of her head. She flinched with a small grimace and untangled her legs from his, standing up shakily after sitting still for so long. However, instead of immediately complying, she turned and tucked her knees together slightly, hugging her torso and resting her hands on her elbows.

“I don’t wanna go up there by myself!” She whimpered. “Crane gives me the creepy crawlies!” She gave a mock pout, wasted on Joker who simply replied with a blank stare.

“Go beg from one of these guys, then,” He waved boredly. Harley turned on her heel, hair bobbing behind her until her bright blue eyes found Harvey, who almost shrank back as if trying to disappear. Sensing his innate refusal, Harley batted her long eyelashes and sidled up to Harvey rather fearlessly, the latter scooting away from her until he almost slid off the hearth. He was compelled to flip to see whether he’d slap her or not but with Joker RIGHT in front of them, he opted not to bother and simply growled as some sort of warning for her not to touch him. She either didn’t notice or didn’t care and kept advancing, leaning sideways until her face was inches from his.

“Soooo Harvey,” She started with the fakest smile she could muster. “How’s about you come with me?” She stared at him expectantly, watching a snarl unfurl on his half-torn face. He drew the coin close to his chest.

“’How’s about’ we throw you into the fire?” He growled in a half-baked retort. Both of them knew better, though.

“Better flip for it, then,” She taunted lightly, starting to reach forward as if to take the coin from him, to which he drew back quickly.

“DON’T touch it.” The low rumble that was usually in half of his speech was gone, replaced with a sense of fear and almost uncertainty. He glanced down at the shining piece of metal in his palm and he sighed, setting it up but not before shooting Joker a venomous glare. The clown shrugged.

“She’s your problem now,” He replied casually. “Though you’re laying it on a bit thick there, dearie,” He added to Harley, who gave him a sheepish grin. Harvey flared his nostril and brandished the coin for her to see clearly, though positioned to turn quickly if she decided to reach for it. “Heads, I go with you,” He explained, flipping it over. “Tails, you find someone else and don’t talk to me the rest of this… engagement.” Wondering to himself why she didn’t ask Oswald, he got to his feet and flipped the coin with enough power that the sound of the flip rang through the room. He caught it expertly, slapping it on a fleshy, burned, charred arm and lifted just enough of his hand to see for himself before Harley even had a chance to try to catch a peek. The snarl that rested on his face turned into an open grunt of exasperation followed by a bodily sigh.

Harley clapped her hands with a small jump and Harvey wordlessly lowered his head, pointing to the stairs as he put the coin back in his pocket. “Don’t worry, Harv; you’n me will have fun on the way up!” She bubbled, latching herself onto one of his arms. “Lead the way, half-handsome,” She soothed, gravitating towards him though he kept trying to pull away. With one last, quick glare to everyone else in the room, he started muttering to himself under his breath and let himself get dragged away by Harley while Joker loosed a humorless, mocking laugh in the background.

*             *             *

The building itself was a mix between a hotel and an apartment, with narrow halls and old doors that blended with the dingy wallpaper, peeling from rotting wood and rusted steel. The floors groaned with age, each step almost feeling like it was ready to give way under the weight of anyone who passed over. Only a couple people would know how high the building reached into the dark grey sky but it didn’t occur to the duo that now made their way up the stairs slowly.

As soon as they left the room, free from Joker’s scrutiny, Harvey pulled his arm out from Harley’s grip, shoving his hand into one of his suit pockets in a skulk and taking a few generous steps ahead of her to the point that she almost had to jog to keep up with him. “You don’t hafta go SO fast, Harv!” She called.

“The sooner we get to the top, the sooner I can not have to be around you anymore.” He replied. What he lacked in proper sentencing and word structure, he made up for with his voice, which had taken a rather melancholy tone to it; sad and lonely, like wondering if there had ever been light after weeks in pitch black darkness. Suffice to say, the tone did strike a chord somewhere within Harley and she softened ever-so-slightly for a brief moment, remaining silent for a moment despite being sure she could come up with some witty comeback at Harvey’s insistence that he didn’t want to be around her.

The two were silent from then on as they ascended the old building that smelled like musty, powdered concrete with hints of stale blood and years of wasted effort, surprisingly humid for how cold it was outside, but then, that might’ve been some snow that had since melted through the cracks and settled into stagnant pools beneath the peeling paper. It didn’t bother either of them, separate thoughts going through their minds. Harley was thinking about how they all got there together in the first place.

It started with a car crash in the snow, if she recalled correctly, which was a toss-up at this point. It was just her and her Puddin’, screeching down the road at illegal speeds because that’s what she loved to do most with her Puddin’, throwing rusted nails behind them as the open air from their makeshift convertible whipped through her blond hair, snowflakes glistening in the strands. They weren’t even eluding anyone at the time, just out for a drive since the roads were sure to be mostly dead… or so they thought, as they veered around a corner and promptly broadsided the expensive-looking (and probably also stolen) limousine of one Oswald Cobblepot. Metal flew into the air as did snow, the car Joker and Harley were in all but doing a neat little flip right over the limo sans the entire front of the car that was smashed into the body.

Smoke mixed with the snow in the air as four figures clambered out of their respective ruined cars, Joker and Harley from the roofless, now frontless convertible and Oswald and Harvey from the halved limousine. Amazingly enough, there were very few physical injuries (at least ones that were new from the crash), but yelling was plentiful as Joker and Oswald immediately started shouting at each other about which one’s fault the crash was, all the while Harvey was cursing under his breath at Oswald for being a terrible driver and Harley just trying to steady herself after being rattled.

The three of them quickly reached an agreement, however, when they realized that Oswald and Harvey were in the middle of a heist and that SOMEONE had to have heard that crash; the police would be there shortly and with no back-up vehicle to evacuate them, they had unanimously agreed to hide out in one of the nearby abandoned apartments. Joker took up the lead, pulling Harley behind him; sure, they COULD’VE had a firefight with the police but it was cold outside and the four of them weren’t in the mood to go to Arkham Asylum or Blackgate that day. Oswald limped after them at a pretty quick pace for a guy with a leg disfigurement. Harvey was hesitant at first – there was a lot of money in the limo – but after standing in the snow, compulsively letting his coin do the deciding for him, it told him to follow the other three in where he brushed the snow from one shoulder.

“Whoo! How exhilerating!” Joker said with a sigh and a wild smile, pulling Harley in close as she giggled coyly. His bright green eyes looked into her own piercing blue ones, so close to her that their noses were almost touching. It was all very exciting, racing through her mind as their car did down the street. They were out of the snow, she was in the arms of the man of her dreams, it was the perfect set-up for something she yearned for. She exhaled softly and started to close her eyes, felt cold metal on her temple and an admitted, venomous whisper of “I lied” from the man she loved followed by a click and a deafening bang.

Edited by Red Ring of Death

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striderlicious   
striderlicious

This is super good so far??? I really love this!!! I hope to see more soon, possibly more than this story too! (maybe with my fave riddling rogue :D) Anyways, your writing is incredibly good and you write these characters very well! Thank you and have a great day!

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lunarcat42   
lunarcat42

Omg this is sooo cute! I cant wait to see when scarecrow (and possibly others??? :) ) get sneezy. So glad someone is working on a story for the batman fandom. Reading this makes me want to keep trying at my snz fic.

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Red Ring of Death   
Red Ring of Death

First off, eyyyy two replies! Two more than I was expecting, you guys rock! Secondly, I did mention this was gonna be a slow boil, right? Sorryyyy sorry sorry I know, I know but I'm really trying to establish character interaction here [on some off-chance I write for different characters in the future]. HahahahaaaaI'm really bad at this.

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He wasn’t able to do much of anything to get her to stop screaming and crying. Suffice to say, she was in hysterics and Harvey had no clue how it happened; one moment, they were walking in bitter silence, and then she suddenly crumpled to the ground, hands over her ears as she broke down like a porcelain vase being thrown down onto a tile floor. He turned , initially alarmed if only because he thought the noise wasn’t her, but someone else, someone from a distant memory that he forced himself to forget about. It wasn’t the same and his expression went from a mild, nostalgic concern to annoyance.

“Hey…” He grunted, going over to her and tapping her leg with one of his shoes. No reaction. “We should just leave her and go back downstairs,” He growled to himself, his voice dropping back to the guttural snarl, turning his head sharply. “N… no, we can’t.” He replied in the normal, melancholy voice, Harvey Dent’s voice. “The coin said we would go with her.” “Then let’s drag her back downstairs.” Two-face suggested unhelpfully. The man paused for a moment, temporarily drowning out Harley’s breakdown in introspection. With a shaking hand, he pulled his familiar coin out of its resting pocket. He wasn’t sure but there was a doubt tugging on his mind, almost as if the coin wouldn’t answer his question, decide what he should do, what THEY should do—no, it was just him. “Hurry it UP,” Two-Face growled and Harvey flipped the coin, odd-eyes watching it spin through the air meticulously before catching it. Heads. Two-Face growled but relinquished and Harvey knelt next to the crying woman, carefully maneuvering around her until one arm was in the crook of her knees and the other holding up her back. Harley quieted up slightly though her body still shook with sobbing, whimpering “why, Mister J” now and then.

And with that, Harvey carried Harley back down the stairs, back the way they came, back down the moldy hallways and nipping air and creaking floorboards, taking care not to bang any part of her on any part of the environment, though he wasn’t entirely sure whether that was out of respect for her or more that he didn’t want to deal with any abuse Joker could hurl his way for “daring” to lay a hand on her in one of his misplaced moments of compassion for her. He wasn’t surprised to find that Joker had since slung a leg over one of the arms of the chair, lazily looking over as Harvey entered the room once more with Harley in his arms, having since stopped crying and was now sniffling pathetically. “Well, that was quick. I was wondering both how long that would take and who was doing the screaming,” He raised an eyebrow mischievously.

“…How long what would take?” Oswald asked as Harvey gritted his teeth and set Harley down on the floor in front of the hearth. She sat up and pulled her legs to her chest, hugging them and resting her face in her knees. Joker scoffed and pointed straight up.

“It’s Scarecrow, what do you think?” He asked, a giggle lacing his question. “The guy reeks of ‘fear toxin’. Do you know what that does to people’s complexions?” He whispered loudly, looking at Oswald as he pointed obviously to Harley and Harvey. “No way I’m goin’ up there.”

“Then what was the point of US going up there?” Two-Face growled, crossing his arms as he glared Joker down. Joker shrugged.

“I thought it’d be funny.” He replied simply. “Well, that AND the fact that she’s a wreck means that whatever he’s working on up there will eventually come down HERE then we’ll ALL be in trouble,” He added, gesturing with his hands as he talked. “Sooo we still need to get someone up there to nix that. I don’t wanna; this chair’s comfy.”

Harvey’s hands clenched into fists and he sniffed absently. “That’s your… ONLY reason?”  The question was asked through the spaces in his teeth and he felt for a moment as though the enamel would crack from the pressure he was forcing. The clown regarded him for a moment before shrugging again.

“Pretty much.”

Harvey started to make a lunge for Joker to beat the scarred smile off his smug face; he hated him, he hated everything about him from his stupid green hair to the permanent sneer on his face to the garish purple suit to his blasé attitude about everything. Suffice to say, as they stood, he was probably one of the people Harvey wanted to kill most aside from Batman or Bruce or—well, the list was long. However, he stopped himself suddenly as if someone pressed a pause button. Joker, who hadn’t even flinched, raised an eyebrow as he looked over at Harvey, an almost daring look on his thin face. “Don’t forget to flip for it.” Harvey felt a growl from deep inside his chest… and a twinge of an itch on his face. He took a step back, swiping at his nose and glancing down at his familiar pocket, pulling the coin out a fourth time.

“Don’t bother.” This voice was new, unheard until the words were spoken right before Harvey was going to flip on whether or not he should strangle Joker. He complied, to as much of his surprise as anyone else who knew him. The three men glanced over at the only doorway, in the direction the voice had slithered its way into the room and through everyone’s heads like water on a stone. Harvey’s shoulders drooped and he glanced down, Joker tilted his head slightly in what could’ve been interpreted as surprise and it was Oswald’s turn to scoff.

“Wasn’t expecting to see you here, Miss Ivy.” Despite his dry tone, he bowed his head slightly as she crept into the room, sticking to the far wall. She kept her unnaturally green eyes on the present company though her attention briefly flitted to Harley’s curled figure on the ground, partially illuminated by the ever-present fire, which she was also keenly aware of. However, she masked whatever uncertainty she held for whatever reason behind her air of aloof superiority and she reached up absently to twist one of her fingers around a vine that hung from her vibrant red hair, the vine licking at her skin and coiling like a spring.

“And I wasn’t expecting to see a bunch of…” She paused before flipping her hair carefully. “Anyway, I heard screaming.” She continued, leaving Oswald to get a look on his face, clearly wondering what she was intending on calling them. “I was told that there’s a little birdy up on the top floor conducting experiments.” She explained. “I don’t care how he got there or why you all are here or how I got here but I can assume that someone—“ She motioned to Harley. “—was sent upstairs but didn’t get too far.” She paused, leaning against the wall casually. “Why do you want him gone?”

They were all quiet for a moment. Oswald, his mind still burning with curiosity at how she got there, didn’t say anything and instead tried to see if he could map out where they were spatially and if there was a place nearby that grew plants. Harvey had since actually gone around Harley to the other side of the hearth, now standing much closer to Oswald than Ivy and still avoiding her gaze though he started to glance up once and she responded with a brief, playful kissing motion. He thrust his hands into his pockets and looked back down at Oswald’s ornate black cane rather nervously… or was it irritation? So Joker decided to answer since now that the question was asked, only he was sure about what the answer was.

“I’m not a big fan of sharing an abandoned building with him,” Joker replied. Ivy raised her own eyebrow this time.

“So leave the building. Problem solved.” Joker laughed.

“Have you seen the weather? I’m not going out in that without a car, nor do I wanna lug her ass around,” He added, lazily pointing to Harley. That reminded Ivy… She approached the other woman and knelt next to her, touching her shoulder lightly. Harley sniffed and her bloodshot eyes found Ivy’s.

“H-hey, Red,” her voice cracked, thick with mucous from crying and raw from her screaming earlier. Ivy reached into her hair and pulled out a small orange flower bud, offering it to Harley.

“I’d say ‘I don’t care’ and leave you all to it,” She addressed Joker as Harley took the orange bud delicately, looking at it and gasping softly when the petals opened up at her touch and a warm, sweet feeling seemed to wash the stitches of anxiety and dread away. Ivy gave her a rather supportive pat on the back in exchange for a teary smile from Harley as the former kept her eyes on Joker. “But if there’s one thing I hate more than… everyone, it’s everyone panicking and losing their minds and burning things down because that’s what humans do when they’re scared.” It was a little bit of a stretch but she had to think ahead with a little bit of a paranoid edge, especially given that the three guys in the room didn’t seem to care either way and that it was a minour inconvenience at most for Joker, not to mention she was irritated at all of them, especially Crane, that no one bothered to make sure Harley was okay; she considered herself on a higher plane, a more advanced individual part of a delicate ecosystem of plants and flourishing life but she couldn’t bring herself to fully hate a woman as broken as Harley.

Joker adjusted his position with an underlying eagerness. “Ooh, so you WILL go talk to him? Good, that works out in my favour!” He cackled. “You’re immune to his whatever-that-is anyway, right?” He asked rhetorically. “It’s perfect!” Ivy rolled her eyes and got to her feet again and Harvey took another step towards Oswald, who finally noticed that Harvey was getting a little close and he, in turn, took a step away from him. Ivy ignored him.

“…Fine, I’ll go talk to him.” Ivy sighed, rubbing one of her temples and getting a feeling similar to talking to small children who had no concept of common sense. “And Harvey? You can’t avoid me forever.” With those things said, she turned and sauntered out of the room, the vines that had since wormed their way into the doorway retracting to follow her, leaving dead leaves behind. Joker and Oswald’s gazes followed her before Oswald’s went back and he bit his lower lip, looking over at Harvey.

“You can’t avoid her forever.” He repeated, nudging Harvey in the side with a pointy elbow. In a fluid motion, Harvey pulled his coin out, flipped it, checked the result and gave Oswald a solid slug in the shoulder, the entire action taking less than five seconds. Oswald squawked and recoiled so sharply he almost fell over, rubbing his shoulder. “You bloody sunova—“ He cursed, his accent suddenly dipping from refined to informal and loose. He glared at Harvey. “You got a history with ‘er then, ey?” He asked dryly. Harvey rubbed his nose again, looking down at his coin in mock-examination.

“…We don’t wanna talk about it.” He murmured rather thickly. Joker glanced over his shoulder at the two of them, then down at Harley who was still looking the orange flower over gently.

“You guys are the best company,” He said sarcastically, lifting his leg over the arm of the chair again and he sulked down, resting his head on a hand as he looked back at the fire.

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Leafeon78   
Leafeon78

Nicely written enjoyed reading this. :) 

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Red Ring of Death   
Red Ring of Death

Ivy made her way up the stairs this time; she could’ve simply rode up on a vine but she was already questioning the structural integrity of the building and while she couldn’t care less if the three men down below her perished, she considered it inconvenient that Harley was also down there as Harley sparked some faraway human feeling in Ivy’s otherwise autonomous, single-minded goal and it took her to before, when she was just as naïve and stupid. The continuous thought that Harley was still in love with Joker made Ivy’s metaphorical blood boil sometimes but she had a more resolute purpose today: get the wannabe psychological scientist out of the attic and hopefully dissuade him from his compulsive need to terrorize people, at least for the time being.

She could feel the air change as she climbed the staircases, going from an unpleasant, musty cold to a muggy thickness, unnatural, manufactured like smog belching out of a factory and covering everything in choking clouds. The toxin didn’t scare Ivy but she did feel herself tensing slightly. Eventually, more orange flowers bloomed from her rich red hair, puffing chemicals into the air around her in a natural response to the fear toxin, cleaning the pollution out of the hallway. She knew her power would wane the higher she got if her assumptions about the toxin growing more concentrated as she drew closer to him – he was similar to her in that sense, with a tendency to surround himself with something that he was immune to that affected everyone else negatively.

Around the time she was wondering when she would reach the top, she had and she stopped at the top of the stairs to look down the narrow hallway.  The wallpaper and carpet on this floor was less worn and the walls had fewer signs of wear and tear though it still looked far from hospitable. The muggy feeling was as prevalent as ever and her sixth sense was pointing her toward the last door on the right, cliché as that might’ve felt. Slightly unnerved by the lack of sound or movement on the floor, she made her way to the door and her mind wandered to her memories of Jonathan Crane, the man she hadn’t seen in years but remembered like it was yesterday.

She knew him before all the accidents, before her true calling, before his third suicide attempt. They were similar-minded, focused on science and rational reasoning. At first, she wondered why he wanted to be a psychologist given his disdain for people but she never pressured him to give an answer; he was quiet, kept to himself, had a passion for what he was interested in and while that wasn’t “humans”, it WAS “human psychology”. Despite her interest, he turned her down a couple times though even as she now stood in front of the door carefully, she never quite hated him. As she thought though, it was a while back and most of her empathy had since drained from her body; the feelings were the toxin and the chemicals that seeped into her skin that day were the antidote.

“Jonathan?” She called authoritatively, rapping on the door with a sturdy hand. “Open up, it’s Ivy. We have to talk about your… problem.” She held her ear up to the door and she could hear the rustling of papers and something knocked over, landing on the floor with a ‘thud’. Deciding that she wasn’t in the mood to play games (it was too cold and her joints AND plants were stiff), she reached for the knob and—it was locked. “Jonathan, you have twenty seconds to open this door or I’ll force it open without asking,” She announced impatiently; she could expect this neurotic behaviour from Riddler but in this case, it just felt foolish… well, MORE foolish, if that was possible. There was another pause, then a small ‘click’ that came from the knob. Ivy rolled her eyes and opened the door, pushing on it and it swung open lazily with a loud creak.

She was expecting a rush of hot air to greet her but instead it was like a wall of ice smacked her entire front. She blinked back the small shock she got as the vines that followed her like loyal snakes twisted around her ankles and up her legs, warming her up slightly (she was running around ALMOST naked). Once she adjusted, which never took that long, she glanced around the room before stepping in. The furniture was all gone; not torn apart or pushed against the walls, just gone. True to what she heard, there were papers all over the ground, scattered thin like a coat of paint, some stacked against the walls, every single one of which was covered in writing or diagrams of some sort. There were two holes in the wall where windows used to be, long since smashed in, leaving plenty of space for the harsh winter wind and clumps of snow to get in and settle into the room though there wasn’t snow so much as two squishy indentions in the ground where the wood beneath the carpet had rotted away. Hanging from the walls were pictures though it looked like they were there for many years, the subjects of said pictures long since wiped away by time.

One thing she remembered about Jonathan was his almost uncanny ability to turn any space into a space where he could work. He was also notoriously messy when impassioned about something specific, and SOMETHING was on his mind if the room looked like this. The back of her mind wondered how many times this room had been his hideout, going by the amount of stuff that was here. “It’s been awhile.” She turned to look behind her; normally, she’d recognise his voice from anywhere but it sounded particularly different this time; thick and strained like the toxin that crept around the upper floors of the apartment though she realised now that it wasn’t coming from this room, not that that mattered; her spores were countering the toxin in the air as they spoke and soon, it’d all have melted away. Her eyes danced until they found Jonathan’s frame, pressed against the wall right behind the door as if he was trying to remain unseen.

Her remembrance of him was all but shattered; he was always thin but now he’d look almost skeletal if he didn’t have… was that a six-pack? His hair, dark brown and thick as ever, was now long and disheveled with a white streak trailing up on the left side, probably caused by stress. His eyes were still piercing blue though they had both sadness and emotional death in them, having endured several nights with very little or no sleep. The most telling part of him, despite all this, was what he was wearing, or NOT wearing; a normal pair of pants and calf-length boots but he wasn’t wearing a shirt. At all. She only noticed an old, frayed noose and a very large blue scarf that hung around his neck and thin shoulders.

This would’ve all been very sympathetic if she cared; she was more bothered by how cold it was in the room than how he looked. She reached up to play with her hair again as she stared him down. Years ago, he would’ve submissively avoided her eyes; now, he kept his watery gaze on her, moving only enough for his body to heave with a heavy sniff now and then and she just noticed how much paler he was than usual, or at least what she remembered of him, the most colour on his face being a pink pointed nose and dark, muddy reddish rings under his sleep-deprived eyes. She didn’t know what to expect from a human in the middle of winter running around with nothing but a scarf for upper body protection and warmth.

“…I didn’t know you were here.” He remarked quietly, again interrupting the thoughts she wasn’t aware she was having. She shrugged.

“No one did, apparently. Not that it matters.” She replied in a businesslike manner, deciding to skip the small talk and go straight to the point. “Go find a basement somewhere and keep releasing fear toxin or whatever this stuff in the air is there.” Her demand was simple; she could’ve tried to turn on the charm and seduce him into giving into what she wanted from him first but they both knew better – growing over time was Ivy’s knowledge on which of the Batman’s Rogues she could get away with and Jonathan was one of the higher-tier difficulty targets. She had to wear him down first. Again, similarly to Crane, she wasn’t above petty experimentation to see where the line was; humans were so malleable and easy to manipulate. Crane reached up and made a small motion around his eyes that suggested he was trying to adjust a pair of glasses on the bridge of his narrow nose but he wasn’t wearing glasses. He used to; she supposed after getting them broken by being punched in the face so many times, one would just forgo the glasses.

He shook his head, his hand going from his eyes down to cover a couple rough-sounding coughs. “I can’t.” He replied, turning and pointing towards the gaping holes in the wall. “Outside, there’s a car wreck that was very loud and very obvious. If anyone has to go, it’s them.” He replied and she figured he was talking about the three and a half unsavoury individuals several floors below. “I was here first, then they came and brought their noise and distractions and… police.” He sniffed and wiped his nose with the back of a bony hand. “I had a supply, I set it up and released it to keep them from coming up here and bothering me, dragging me into their mess.” He paused in his pseudo-rant to cough once more, leaning back and spitting excess out of the window. Ivy put one of her slender hands on the vine that had come to rest on her shoulder and she glanced down at it for a moment as if exchanging looks before going back to Crane.

She had him figured out, a trait she had kept even after the change that she hated but if she had it, she might as well use it. He stood before her, essentially trapped in more ways than one; he couldn’t escape the building unless he had secret tunnels, he couldn’t escape the room as Ivy barred his exit. He was never at his physical peak from as long as she’d known him and now he was pale, (more) sleep-deprived, physically and mentally exhausted… unwell. Also a little more than slightly paranoid; ripe for the manipulation. “So.. what’ll it take you convince you to stop with the whole “fear toxin” thing?” She asked, her voice becoming smooth and silky, dropping to a sultry, warm and welcoming in the frigid room. He turned and looked her in the eye again as she slowly approached him, using that familiar swagger. He followed her movements and took a small step back, his pose going from jittery and like a trapped animal to dead on his feet, swaying slightly, running a hand through his stringy hair.

“Look, you and I both know that this doesn’t work on me. And I’m really not in the-hh… huh’CZCHHhuh!” Ah, there it was; the lingering in his tone that made it sound like he was about to cry. She noticed it ever since she walked into the room, only affirmed by his appearance though if she had any doubt, that painful, scraping, forceful sneeze definitely confirmed it. “I’m really not in the mood. Don’t even bother, Pamela.” He warned with another sniff though it was tired and empty, more exasperated than actually afraid. The vines on her arms whipped sharply at the mention of her name and one could’ve sworn that her eyes sparkled with fire.

“That’s not my name anymore.” She hissed venomously. Pamela Isley was dead, she died in a chemical explosion over a year ago. That woman cared about people, about how humanity and the environment could co-exist and help each other. Now the only things that mattered to her were her precious plants, the trees, vines, flowers, roots, leaves, all of it. Humans, damned humans, all they did was ruin everything they touched. She was no longer attached to that stigma of existence.

“Then why do you talk to me like it still is?” The question was surprisingly more poignant than she thought and she was taken aback for a moment before recovering her collected, controlled mask.

“I don’t.” She replied rather lamely, defensively, not liking what direction this conversation suddenly turned in. It was always a mental battle with Jonathan Crane, but in a less obvious way than it was with someone like Edward Nigma – this was meticulous, careful, passing over blatant knowledge-spewing in favour of outlasting your opponent on the mental front. Despite how he may have carried himself or what he said, she had temporarily forgotten that he was highly educated and not nearly as stupid as she liked to believe all humans were, even though she could almost feel the heat from fever from across the room and the subsequent pressure in his sinuses. He didn’t say anything in response but pressed the knuckle of his thumb up to his septum, eyebrows twitching faintly, icy blue eyes still staring right into her. “…I’m not. I couldn’t care less what you’re doing up here,” She added haughtily. “You creating and releasing fear toxin means more work for me and my babies and while I CAN put that amount of effort forward undoing all your “good” work, the weather isn’t my friend right now and that’s a LOT of effort.” She explained matter-of-factly, crossing her arms as if that was the ultimate defence.

Crane watched her body movements carefully through half-lidded eyes, only removing them after her excuses were done. They shut as his eyebrows furrowed, turning and cupping his nose and mouth in his hands as he sneezed once, twice, both of them bending him at the waist, tearing through his nose and mouth simultaneously and leaving him slightly dazed. “That’s –snf- a nice counter-argument,” He said slowly, reaching to lean against the wall to steady himself. “But I don’t buy it.”

The tendrils of vines stiffened again as Ivy’s irritation pulsed through them. “That’s not my problem.” She retorted, replies growing shorter as she was grew more frustrated; it was these points of humanity that she was still striving to fully let go of. “Bottom line, don’t do it.” He lowered his head, watery blue eyes looking at her once more. A thin, discoloured tongue slid out from between yellowed teeth and licked his lower lip.

“Or you’ll what… Pamela?”

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Sophie83540   
Sophie83540

I'm really enjoying this story so far. I was intrigued from the first part and it's gotten even better since then. I'm interested in the story and your take on the characters. You're doing a wonderful job. I can't wait to read more. :) 

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striderlicious   
striderlicious

This is absolutely incredible!! Your characterization is spot on, your writing is beautiful, and not to mention the wonderful descriptions ;). I also love the allusions to Riddler. This is amazing and I can't wait for more!!!! 

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lunarcat42   
lunarcat42

Two words : too. Adorable. Omg.

Scarecrow is so cutteeee! I detect some Jared Leto in the Joke you're writing but that might just be me. Anyway, this is cute! More adorable scarecrow sneezes! :thumbs_up:

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Red Ring of Death   
Red Ring of Death

Firstly, thank you so much for the comments altogether! I really do appreciate 'em~ Secondly, Iiiiii haven't actually seen Suicide Squad [[ okay that's not ENTIRELY true; I've seen about ten minutes in clips ]] so I dunno how his character is portrayed in full BUT I'll take that as a compliment -thumbs up- Also it just occurred to me that these sections are a little on the short side... I'll keep that in mind for future stories.
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The next few moments were a blur for both of them. Ivy, fed up enough at this point, brandished an open palm in Crane’s direction. On cue, vines shot forward, bursting through the grimy floor and ruined walls, creaking and slithering and snapping as one wrapped itself around Crane’s ankle and propelled through one of the open windows that turned more into a big hole as the vines crumbled the foundation of the wall surrounded it. Crane was yanked upside down as he was dragged out of the room, now dangling from one leg, being held high above the rest of the buildings. He had caught the thick blue scarf that slid off his slender frame as well as the noose and they billowed in the harsh frozen wind, the same wind that bit his sallow skin and irritated his face further.

“Well this isn’t conspicuous,” He remarked mildly, half-lidded gaze now facing down (or up in his case) at the blurry figured and vague shapes on the ground. There was the car crash, there were the police lights, there went some of the papers that he was working on.

Ivy narrowed her glare and walked forward until she was standing on the edge of the floor. Crane, now the perfect visual image of the Hanged Man tarot card, tilted his head rather boredly at her. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t drop you right now.” A shiver was now working its way through his sinewy body and he exhaled very visible puffs of steam with every breath but aside from a thick sniff, he made no counterargument. Again, the two exchanged stares until she instructed the vine to loosen its grip. He lurched down slightly and she heard his breath catch in his phlegmy throat. “I don’t have all day. I’ll say this once more: give me one reason why—“

“Red?” Harley’s high voice punctured her sentence and Ivy turned sharply to see Harley Quinn in the broken doorway, face cleaned up and orange flower sticking out from one of her ears cutely. “Am I, ah… interruptin’ something?” She leaned forward and tilted her head slightly.

“What do you want?” Ivy asked, the vitriol less evident though not dissipated from her sour tone. Harley played with her blond hair coyly.

“I wanted to thank you for the flower,” She started with a small smile. “And everything was good then suddenly there were vines everywhere and they broke, like, ALL of downstairs so Mister J sent me to ask since we’re friends’r something.” She explained. “Is that Scarecrow?” She asked, pointing to the man still hanging upside down ten feet away from any remotely solid ground. Ivy also glanced back over at Crane, her own eye twitching.

“We were just taking care of some business.” She said vaguely. Harley made an ‘o’ with her mouth.

“What kinda business that leaves him hangin’?” She asked with a giggle.

“I’ve got a-a bomb.” Crane answered her question to everyone’s surprise, the strain to be heard in his gurgled chords giving his voice a scratchy quality. However, neither woman reacted particularly strongly; Ivy quirked an eyebrow and Harley simply scoffed.

“Yeah, okay. I got lotsa those. What’s your point, creep?” Harley asked dismissively with a half-shrug.

“I don’t know, Harley, what a g-good question.” Crane replied in a dry monotone before that familiar look crept onto his face and he covered his red nose and mouth, shoulders convulsing with another pair of sneezes. “Hhz’EKSHuh! –snf— hk’KCSHNn!” They could’ve been described as half-coughs, half-sneezes, coming straight from both his trachea and deep within his nasal cavity simultaneously. He grunted with a wince and wiped his hand on one of the legs of his pants where he left a smear of mucous and blood.

“Whoa jeez, are you sick? …er?” Harley asked while Ivy simply crossed her arms again, still contemplating on whether to drop him or not. While the threat of ‘having a bomb’ was wasted on someone like Ivy, she still couldn’t help but think that it had to affect her somehow or else he wouldn’t have mentioned it at the last second like that, and so casually, too.

“Ding ding ding, we hav-ve a winner. Any other c-contestants wanna try their luck?” Crane coughed, putting a hand on his stomach as a shivering stutter worked its way into his speech patterns at this point. “Any with more brain cells, maybe?” He was jostled in place by the vine as Ivy uncrossed her arms and pointed accusingly at Crane.

“You aren’t in a position to be as smug as you’re being,” She growled. Honestly, Jonathan had some nerve sometimes and it probably didn’t help her situation that he didn’t seem to be afraid of her threats on dropping him; on the contrary, that’s probably what he wanted at the end of this conversation. “What ‘bomb’ are you talking about?”

“Ah-ah. I have a couple of… v-very easy demands since today turned into a “let’s all bully Jonathan Crane around t-today” day,” Crane replied, changing the hand that held onto his scarf and noose as he moved his fingers. “For the record, it is… v-very cold out here.” Ivy scoffed and looked over at Harley, who exchanged glances with her. Ivy looked back at the man and nodded curtly. “Okay, f-for one, bring me back inside. It’s r-really hard coughing and sneezing upside down, in-in this kind of weather.” He paused for a moment, reaching up to dab some of the blood that was welling in his nose on his wrist before it had a chance to flow onto his face. “Second, I n-need to find Victor Fries; his—“

“Mister Freeze? What do you need him for?” Harley interjected, growing impatient with how long it was taking Crane to talk.

“…My reasons are my own. If you could take me to him, I-I-I’d really appreciate it.” He licked his dry lips. “And n-neither of you can tell anyone else downs-s-stairs.”

“What?” Harley exclaimed. “You gotta lotta nerve tellin’ me this then sayin’ that I can’t tell Mister J. I tell him everything, he’s the one guy I can spill my soul to, the only one I—“

Hh’KSCHhuh!” Crane’s sneezes were already rather distracting and stood out but this one more so than the ones preceding it. It was accompanied with another thick sniff and Harley stomped her foot on the ground rather childishly. “S-sorry, do continue. Whatever you were saying w-was riveting.”

“A LOT of nerve interrupting me, too!” She crossed her arms and turned on a heel, sticking her nose into the air. “I say you drop ‘em.” Ivy thought about it for a moment then shrugged lazily, starting to loosen the vine’s grip on his ankle; she heard his demands and wasn’t entirely that impressed by them, nor did she have a particular desire to seek out Freeze for whatever mundane reason Crane could think of. The vine eventually uncoiled around him to the point that he was dropping inch by inch until it eventually let go altogether. Crane’s breath shuddered as it seemed to happen in slow-motion; one moment, he was dangling and now he was free, free falling, baby.

Or so he thought. “WAIT WAIT I’ll take him!” In a deft maneuver, the vine that had dropped Crane snaked around his torso, catching him but knocking the breath out of him and he grunted with pain, coughing  heavily with the feeling that he might’ve thrown up if he had eaten anything in the past couple days. Ivy turned yet again, growing tired of this last-second charade; she wanted to either drop him or not.

Oswald, out of breath himself from limping up the broken stairs, shouldered past Harley(who responded with an offended-sounding ‘hey!’) and now leaned against one of his knees and cane as he gasped for air. “I’ll… take him to see Freeze.” Oswald offered once the oxygen came back to him. Ivy put her hands on her hips and glared down at the shorter man.

“Why?” She asked; she didn’t care how much he heard or how long it took for him to get up there but it seemed really suspicious of the Penguin to automatically offer without seemingly hearing the rest of the details. Oswald motioned for Ivy to bring Crane back into the room while shaking his head in a noncommittal fashion.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll get him out of your hair and both of you can forget about this.” He assured, doing his best to sound calm and rational despite the supernatural circumstances. Ivy slowly pulled Crane back into the building and unceremoniously dropped him onto the floor. Oswald limped over to the man and removed his thick, fur-lined outer coat, draping it over Crane’s skeletal shoulder and spine. “Thank you. I’ll take it from here.” He straightened up as best he could and adjusted his suit in a businesslike fashion.

Ivy seemed to be satisfied (enough) with this conclusion, feeling like if she talked to Crane anymore, she’d do something even more humanlike and irrational. This was good, this would be a learning experience in her quest for forgetting those pesky “human” emotions. She gave the crumpled Crane one last glare that she knew he couldn’t see before motioning for Harley to follow her back down the stairs. Harley caught the motion but stood there dumbly for a moment.

“Can I tell Joker about THIS?” She asked, pointing to Oswald and Crane.

“I’d rather you not but then again, everyone else has very little control over what actually comes out of your mouth,” Oswald replied simply, smartly, like the answer was ready and he was just waiting for the question.

“Hmph, whatever.” Harley frowned, the last thing she bothered saying before following Ivy out of the room in a stompy, tantrum-y fashion, off back down the stairs, around the giant, prehistoric vines, to tattle on Oswald for stopping her and Ivy’s fun with Crane and how the latter insulted her intelligence. Once both of them left, Oswald rubbed his temple and glanced down at Crane, who had since gripped the fringes of the coat with white-knuckled hands and was now curled into as tight a ball as he could be to fit under the coat, which was hard considering he was maybe a foot and a half taller than Oswald. Nonetheless, though he didn’t say anything at the time, he was thankful. It took a few seconds of Oswald looking Crane over before he noticed the steams of crimson steadily oozing out of Crane’s pointed, red nose.

“Good lord, boy.” Oswald tsk’d and pulled a handkerchief from his vest pocket, offering it to Crane, who cast his watery, blue-eyed gaze up to Oswald briefly, his eyes a mixture of timidity and exhaustion. The blood that had rushed to his head during his trial started to drain once more, returning his face to the ghostly pale it was previously. “Go on, then. I’m not your nanny, clean your face up.” With a little hesitance, Crane finally took the handkerchief and started cleaning his face off delicately. “Atta boy.”

The two were silent for a moment until Crane broke it with another string of coughs that sounded like dragging a pane of glass across rough concrete. “Bloody hell, you sound as bad as you look. And mind, you look pretty bad.” Crane glared up at the older man this time.

“What do you want?” He asked quietly. Oswald looked out of the large hole that Ivy created for a long moment before taking a few steps until he was level with Crane where he crouched, wincing ever-so-slightly as he did so. He made sure eye contact was established between himself and the doctor.

“I want that bomb.”

Edited by Red Ring of Death

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striderlicious   
striderlicious

This fic is still incredibly amazing?? You characterize everyone so well. The interactions and writing are both beautifully done! And of course Oz would want the bomb. Poor Crane though...not that I'm complaining ;)

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Red Ring of Death   
Red Ring of Death

Gah, Forum changes! It's so bright! Also thanks for the nice things you guys, makes me feel so fuzzy~
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Crane would’ve laughed in Oswald’s face had he not been feeling so sick. Instead, all Oswald got was a humourless, scratching chuckle. “No sell.” Without waiting for Oswald to reply, he carefully started to remove the coat from around his shoulders though he wished he didn’t have to but he was interrupted by Oswald’s clammy hand firmly on his jaw to fixate his head back into place, lengthened, pointed fingernails biting into his skin slightly.

“Don’t be stupid, lad,” Oswald said in a dark, dangerous tone, the formality slipping from his accent once more. Crane stopped what he was doing and had to look Oswald in the eye again, narrowing his gaze at Oswald’s blurry face but opting not to reply yet. “I saved your life just now and I wasn’t lying about takin’ you to see your mate Fries. I’d think you could repay some of the favour.” He spoke through his teeth, inching closer until his face was just inches away from Crane’s to the point where their pointed noses could almost touch.

“How do you know I wasn’t just making up the ‘bomb’ thing just to keep from getting killed?” Crane grunted, nostrils flaring slightly. It was Oswald’s turn to give a harsh laugh, a birdlike caw instead of an actual laugh.

“I know you, I’ve heard the stories about you, about—“ He used his other hand to yank one of Crane’s arms to the light, turning it over, revealing scars upon scars up and down his arm of varying lengths and severities. “These. About these, too,” He pointed to the noose that was on the floor next to his balled up scarf as Crane quickly withdrew his arm and held it close to his bare chest. “So yeah, I know you aren’t the type to simply talk to get out of dying.” Crane’s breath stuttered from his mouth and Oswald tsk’d again. “Now, now, don’t start crying on me. Believe it or not, I don’t WANT to hurt you, I’m just asking for—“ He was cut off as Crane suddenly thrust his arm out to push Oswald away as he wrenched his head out of Oswald’s grip, turning sharply and dipping his face into the crook of his arm.

Hh’HECHNn!” Oswald raised his eyebrows and leaned back slightly, not expecting a sound so aggressive to come from an unassuming-looking man like Crane. As soon as the first one ripped through Crane’s sinuses, the second one was hitching up, eyebrows knitting in the center, faltering breaths coming and going, pausing. “H’ZHCHhuh! Hh—Hk’KSHCNn!” They were followed by a shattering cough, convulsive shivers, raspy breathing, another nosebleed that was ignored for a moment as his hand reached up to adjust a missing pair of glasses again before remembering that he didn’t have a pair. Oswald sighed and leaned back on his good leg, shaking his head to the sky for a moment, asking a vague entity for patience.

“Christ, you’re falling apart. Okay, as an added bonus, how’s about we get this nasty cold taken care of, aye?” He offered. “You can stay at my place.” Crane, nursing his bloody nose again, looked sideways at Oswald.

“I’m not into guys.” He replied dryly. Oswald scoffed.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Johnny boy.” Oswald said just as coolly. For the first time that day, perhaps even in several days, Crane cracked the smallest smile.

“Touche. Also, what do you think I’m going to Freeze for, anyway?” Crane asked rhetorically. “It’s not as… I mean, I wish it were but it’s not that simple.” He tried to explain though he faltered and his breathing got caught in his throat again, falling silent as only the whistling wind could be heard gnawing at the two men. Oswald slowly got to his feet and encouraged Crane to his feet as well. The latter stood shakily, gathering his scarf and noose as he did, almost falling back over two or three times though Oswald’s surprisingly steady hand firmly planted on his back helped more than he thought it would. He winced; he was already sore but coupled with the strain, lack of sleep and being thrown out a window and left hanging in the wind, he felt as though he bruised a bone or five.

“Well, we’ll discuss details on route,” Oswald said quietly, patting Crane on the back as his awkward gait led the way while Crane’s half-shuffle, half walk followed him out of the room into the admittedly-warmer hallway. They started to work past the giant plant in the middle of the hallway but Crane paused next to it and glanced up at it briefly. Oswald noticed and glanced behind him. “…What?” Crane reached into one of the pockets on his pants and pulled out a small phial as well as a… scalpel. Crane scrutinized the thick veins of the vine and made a small incision in one of them, just enough for a small stream of sappy chlorophyll to filter into the phial. Crane sniffed and put the stopper in the phial, stowing the sample back into his pocket.

“Sorry, lead the way,” He motioned as if nothing happened.

“The hell was that about?”

“I’m accepting your temporary agreement, but we aren’t friends.” Crane replied with a half-shrug. Oswald, in turn, shrugged it off himself and continued their descent. “So, uh… I dunno about you but I’m not really wanting to create a –cough- fiasco with… everyone else.”

“Right, I was thinking about that. That room of yours upstairs, you’ve had it for a while, yeah?”  Oswald asked. “You know a different way out?” Behind him, Crane was silent for a few moments aside from ragged breathing through his mouth.

“…yes.” The answer was quiet, somewhat nervous, as if saying it aloud would reveal all Crane’s secrets, which is one thing he valued more than almost anything else: secrets. Jonathan Crane was a very private person, and always had been throughout his life, always feeling the need to hide something from someone and without his private details, he would be reduced to nothing but fears both rational and irrational, paranoia, self-loathing. Having secrets made you desirable, people wanted to know you if only to get through you to find out what supposed information you had that was worth hiding. It might’ve made him a hypocrite, then, with his obsessive nature to find out what other people were afraid of, to exploit them, expose their secrets to manipulate them in his favour.

“Just tell me when to turn,” Oswald replied just as quietly; after all, he knew they were drawing closer to the bottom where the other four might’ve presumably been waiting and he also wanted to avoid confrontation; he only liked confrontation when he knew he had the upper hand and he wouldn’t exactly call being armed with a sick psychologist and a hidden gun against Joker, his insane dame, a woman who could control plants and an unstable half-melted ex-DA with proficiency in gunplay a ‘fair fight’. He got a tap on the shoulder from Crane soon enough and his dark-blue eyes followed the blurry mass as it pointed a certain direction. He turned rather obediently, trying to tread lighter and not bang his cane so noisily against the ground (which was easier said than done when it helped him walk). Behind him, he noticed that Crane had followed suit to the best of his abilities, covering his nose and mouth with his scarf.

It started with a door, carefully, quietly opened. It was pitch black inside, the humidity in the air hitting them both like mallets. The air was thick with cobwebby dust and rusted metal, rot, dead wood, stagnant water. Oswald felt a nudge on his shoulder and heard the shaking of a small match box. He reached over his shoulder and took it, striking the red head against the box and holding up the flame, which helped if only barely. There wasn’t really anything of note in the room; abandoned furniture that had sat there for an indeterminate amount of time, holes in the walls, floor, liquids discharging from black patches in the dark ceiling.

Crane, who had wrapped his scarf back around his neck and shoulders loosely, making sure his nose and mouth were still covered, made his way past Oswald and held his long, thin arms in front of him as he felt around the soggy environment. Oswald followed him with the match, wondering how Crane could know what he was looking for and where it would be but before his curiosity got the better of him, he heard talking, murmurs coming from the other side of the wall and tried to wave to Crane. Of course he couldn’t see him, facing the opposite direction and hunched over. Oswald tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the wall before leaning in and adjusting a hearing aid that was previously unseen until just then. He reached into his pocket and pulled a very small microphone out, putting it to the wall about a foot away. Crane peered over Oswald’s shoulder, squinting at the wall.

“…and then…” Oswald moved the microphone around a little until the sound became slightly clearer through his aid. “…Red stormed off and I came back down here to… tell you.” Harley concluded. There was a pause.

“So let me get this straight.” Joker said slowly. “Ivy was upstairs hanging Scarecrow by a thread, then you come up and agree, then friggin’ COBBLEPOT comes in and dismisses everyone?” He sounded simultaneously irritated and impressed. “And you lose track of Ivy and come back down here.” There was another pause followed by the sound of something heavy hitting and breaking against the wall Crane and Oswald were standing next to. Both recoiled, Oswald blinking with a grimace at the noise and Crane jumping and falling backwards, landing on his backside with a grunt. Another pause and Oswald looked over his shoulder, giving Crane a look on his face that said ‘I swear if you just gave us away…’ “Okay—okay. I’m not mad, I’m just… next time, don’t let them get away.” Joker explained with a huff. “If Johnny boy has a bomb, then that could create trouble without me being aware of it. It’s no fun if someone goes against my plans, you know?”

“I’m sorry, puddin’.” Harley apologized with a tearful tone. There was a quiet sigh.

“It doesn’t matter; you said he sounded bad, right?”

“Yep, like crap.”

“Welllll okay. I can let it go just this once. C’mere, you crazy kid.” Oswald pulled away before hearing anything else and motioned for Crane to keep leading the way.

*             *             *

Crane’s “secret exit” wasn’t a secret so much as just a door that no one bothered using most of the time. The duo remained quiet the remainder of the way until they were in a back alley – well, as quiet as Crane could be save the occasional hacking, unsatisfying cough or the muffled sneeze that did nothing to satiate the buildup in his sinuses.

Oswald stretched his arms once they were out of the building, popping his neck as he faced upwards towards the grey sky. The wind had settled though snow still fell in gathered clumps of snowflakes; it was still cold but at least the air wasn’t as biting anymore. Oswald closed his dark blue eyes and just breathed in the cold air for a moment, almost temporarily forgetting what he was doing – he wasn’t as fond of it as, say, Mister Freeze, but he had to admit that there was something pure about a still snowfall, though he felt as though he’d be enjoying it more had he not lent his fur-lined coat to Crane.

Speaking of, he had exited the building a little ways behind Oswald, thin body much less welcoming of the weather than the other man. The cold nipped at the parts of his face not obscured by his messy brown hair – which never really settled after the incident with Ivy earlier – and he knuckled his septum unhelpfully, crossing his arms under the coat that still hung on his shoulders, now partially buried under his big blue scarf. He had also placed the noose back around his neck and it hung lazily to his collarbones.

“So…” Crane’s rasped voice broke the silence and Oswald glanced over to regard him. “I, uh… I don’t know how to find Fries.” He sounded finished, as if he was ready to curl up there and die in the snow; usually, he was in top form once the superficial paranoia melted away, mentally ready in an instant to challenge someone while maintaining a dry, monotonous tone and expression but now he was a battery almost drained of life – it was the only way he figured he would’ve even remotely considered anything Oswald had to say. The two weren’t usually friends, more often than not at a conflict of interests that went something similar to “I wanna kill Batman” “No way I called dibs” only with more explosions and gunfire and lots of name-calling.

The older man scoffed. “I have an idea who might know.” He looked back at the sky. “It won’t be easy talking to him, though.” Crane quirked an eyebrow.

“Who?”

“Who’s the biggest smart-arse in Gotham?”

“…Joker?”

“Cheeky, but no. Try even more conceited.” Crane forced his tired brain to think, running through any names that corresponded with that brief, rather vague description – the umbrella was broad in that case and several people seemed to apply. However, he narrowed it down and a bodily sigh came over him, regressing back to a teenage state for a brief moment.

“Do we… HAVE to?” 

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Womp   
Womp

I have been loving this story so much! To the point where it convinced me to start playing Batman Arkham City again. You do such a great job of making the characters believable, but without being overly cheesy. Can't wait for the next update! ❤️

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striderlicious   
striderlicious

MY HERO holy heck ty for updating! This fic is so good and now they're visiting Gotham's biggest smartass. Thank you!! I love this so much. Your writing is absolutely stupendous. I love your characterizations and storytelling and all the descriptions. I'm always excited to see more. And those sneezes are A+++. Thank you so much!

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Red Ring of Death   
Red Ring of Death

So I think I accidentally skipped a week but I'm sure all, like, five of you are patient enough lol
THIS part... was fun to write. I need to finish this though so maybe I'll skip every other week now - work's been kickin' my ass anyway. Life, what's it even good for?
As always, I appreciate the replies and the time anyone takes to read my drivel~
_____________________________________________________________
 

Hz’RKCTuh!”

“Oh, calm down. We’re almost there, I swear.” Oswald replied dryly, as if this were routine by now – which it was. Their trek was slow and arduous; they had to stop periodically for Crane’s body to revolt against him whether it was a coughing fit or a paroxysm or even just pausing to catch his breath. Despite how vulnerable he was, every time Oswald would turn to feign empathy for the boy, Crane would grow prickly and deflect whatever was said to him. Oswald wasn’t sure why he bothered but at least both of them knew the end-game here—wait, no, they didn’t. Crane just knew that Oswald wanted whatever bomb Crane talked about but they had never discussed where it would go from there, if anywhere. He made a mental note to mention that once they were done with this Victor Fries business; this was a tentative affair, and Oswald knew that despite how much they both irritated each other now and in general, they both had something to gain – or lose – from this.

They took back alleys to get to their destination, carefully weaving around garbage cans full to the brim with refuse and waste, long since abandoned by whatever garbage crew used to come by routinely to collect the junk. The sky darkened as the sun set, still hidden by the thick grey clouds, the snowfall lightening to a gentle sprinkle at this point though the temperature dropped as the sun did. Oswald, now feeling his nose and fingers numbing from the cold, had tucked one of his hands under his armpit nonchalantly while the other helped him keep pace with his cane while Crane followed behind, dancing on that fine line between being jumpy and nervous that something might come out from around any corner or any trashcan to attack them and too tired to function properly. The handkerchief Oswald had lent out to him was disused at this point as he figured it wouldn’t do anything to stave off the side effects of this illness… a mix of mucous and dried blood clung to his upper lip as well as dotted his scarf when he neglected to stop up the flow. He wished it was the random nosebleeds that hurt instead of every other aspect of his body; every step they took, every crunch in the snow, every snowflake that touched his bare skin felt like a nail in his head and a barbed feather in his sinuses, buzzing between his eyes, catching in the back of his throat with his breath as the ever-present need to sneeze lingered dangerously close to the forefront of his mind.

Of course, he kept the whirlwind of negative feelings and drastic inadequacies of his own functionality to himself. He was irritated for a number of reasons, the least of which being that he was sick. He wasn’t a fan of Oswald Cobblepot, nor was he a fan of the Joker or Poison Ivy or even Mister Freeze. He was an isolationist at heart, other people were distracting at best and, at worst, directly responsible for his misery. Unlike these other “criminals”, he had no intention to take over Gotham; he simply had aspirations to return to the masses what they had given him for years: the fear of existing, of not knowing when the next person you meet would stab you in the stomach, watching the despair in your eyes as you fell, knowing that you trusted that person. He was obsessed with figuring out what other people were afraid of, what kept them up at night, thinking they were gonna die and what they had missed out on. So, though he followed begrudgingly and his vision was doubly impaired, he kept his piercing blue eyes on Oswald’s slightly-crooked back, simultaneously wondering how quickly this could be over and done with and what the man would want with a “Scarecrow-style bomb”. “We’re here,” Oswald announced, finally stopping after what felt like hours of walking – in reality, it was only 45 minutes at most, delayed only by Crane’s periodic stopping because apparently he couldn’t walk and cough at the same time.

With a grunt, Oswald opened the hatch they stood in front of, made of heavy metal with two-inch rivets lining the edges but otherwise uninteresting, though it was a little conspicuous when compared to the brick-and-mortar building it protruded from slightly. Leading the way in, the duo were immediately bathed in rich green light that shone through smoke that hung in the air, undisturbed and almost serene until Oswald and Crane arrived. Aside from the green lights, the first thing they noticed was how much warmer it was in that small room than anywhere else they had been that day, even considering Oswald’s previous car ride. The sudden warmth sent a shiver through Crane and he tried to exhale with relief only for a loose string of coughs to interrupt him. Oswald shook his head faintly and limped over to a PA box with a glowing red light atop it that sat on the wall next to a large, square door that was slid shut, pressing one of the two buttons.

“Hello? Can you hear me?” He asked clearly to the system. “It’s Oswald Cobblepot.” He let go of the button and waited a few moments as Crane squinted slightly to see the box; it was already hard for him to see anything but the green lights and smoke in the room made things even less discernable.

Then the red light went to green and feedback could be heard through the system. “…What do you want?” The voice didn’t ask so much as spit and every negative thing Crane could remember about Edward Nigma came flooding back to him; narcissistic, selfish, rude, insufferable, no doubt a genius with a wealth of information but no social tact or respect for others.

Oswald was patient in tone though even Crane could tell that this was more of his fake politeness; if nothing else, Oswald was skilled in the ways of buttering up to people to get what he wanted, no doubt a skill he picked up overseas and employed generously to achieve where he was today, which was almost a shame considering what he wasted his time with. “I’m here with Jonathan Crane. We respectfully request an audience with you so you can assist us in locating the whereabouts of Victor Fries.” It was almost strange hearing Oswald Cobblepot, the PENGUIN, sounding so formal and humble; it wasn’t something expected to come out of someone who looked and moved as oddly as Oswald.

“Why should I help either of you?” Edward’s tone was accusatory, dismissive and more than a little haughty. Crane gritted his teeth; he was already annoyed and they just got there. There were reasons why it was rare to see Edward and Crane in one room together; true, if one combined Edward’s know-it-all walking-dictionary and Crane’s mental manipulation know-how, they could be something close to unstoppable but as it stood, neither one of them could stand the stuck-up personality of the other.

“Unless I’m mistaken, I do believe you still owed me a favour from—“

“FINE. Fine, just… don’t bring that up. You said you’d never bring that up.” Oswald cocked his head slightly, looking rather satisfied with himself. “I’m opening the elevator. And… keep an eye on that one; I take pride in my environment being pestilence-free.” Crane frowned, coughing unhelpfully into his scarf as Edward pointed him out. Sure enough, even as he finished his sentence, the big iron door slowly slid open with a loud creak, revealing a small, rather clean elevator, also drenched in green light. The duo stepped into the elevator, Oswald standing as tall and straight as he could while Crane immediately clung to the walls; tired as he was, he’d rather have taken the stairs than an elevator any day of the week… elevators were small, cramped and made him feel trapped and sick.

“I’ll do the talking,” Oswald mentioned quietly. Crane didn’t reply but his congested breathing could be heard even over the hum of the elevator. “Just… try to stay inconspicuous.”

“I’m the most inconspicuous guy eve… ever—‘SZHhhh!

Oswald quirked an eyebrow, not convinced. “Right. Okay, just try to keep that—“ He gestured to all of Crane, who had doubled over to sneeze twice more, sounding just as strained and painful like hearing the roots of your teeth snapping out of your gums. “—to a minimum, yeah? You know how he gets.” Crane gave a noncommittal shrug and checked his nose for bleeding, sniffing heavily. Fortunately, it wasn’t and he took this opportunity to wipe his face off to be a little more presentable.

After what seemed like several minutes, they finally hit the bottom floor of wherever they were and the door slid open again. The room before them, aside from the obviously green lights that rested everywhere, bathing the room in a dim mood, was spacious and full of technology. Screens were placed all over the walls over desks that had piles of paperwork, dismantled keyboards and other parts of projects that may never have been completed. In one of the corners was a work area, definitely the most disorganized area in the room with green paint splattered on the desks and walls, glowing green question marks overwhelming every surface that was reachable without the assistance of a ladder. Despite the desks being covered in tech, the floors were immaculately clean, with a very clear path for them to follow as an illuminated strip of metal with rubber edges. There were different branches of the walkway that led to specific workstations, each one labelled on the ground in big black lettering.

“Well? Hurry this up; I don’t have all day unlike some people, apparently.” Edward called from one of the corners of the room on the far side, glaring at the duo from over a pair of narrow glasses and a monitor that cast a dark shadow on his thin face. Oswald gripped the end of his cane a little tighter but remained quiet, leading the way along the metallic walkway with Crane following behind, unable to see the details of the room but finding himself not particularly caring other than the initial jealousy of having this much room to himself, a luxury Crane never really had after quitting the job he had.

Edward’s eyes followed the duo as they made their way to him carefully, making sure not to tread off the designated path. He did, however, stay quiet until they were sufficiently within earshot. The sound of a small motor could be heard and Edward backed out from behind his desk to greet the duo at the edge of the walkway where he leaned his head on one of the arms of his chair with an air of boredom.

It had been years since Crane and Edward had interacted on a face-to-face but it was uncanny how one could tell how much care Edward had put into maintaining the same appearance he had for several years – dumbly-styled hair, a permanently quirked eyebrow, a sarcastic smile tugging at the corner of his thin mouth(notably on the same side as the quirked eyebrow, giving his facial structure an asymmetrical tilt), an obnoxiously popped collar of a green jacket with a black tank top underneath, cargo pants lazily tucked into boots; the epitome of a man trying to remain as though he hadn’t aged a day over 24. “So riddle me this: Why do you need to find Victor Fries?” Edward asked, sectoral heterochromic eyes drifting past Oswald to involuntarily focus on Crane, who stared back mildly.

“It’s of medical concern,” Oswald replied simply.

“Of course it is.” Edward snapped, eyebrows furrowing as he shot the older man a glare. “That’s obvious; no one ever looks for Victor Fries because they don’t think Gotham gets enough snow. Let me ask again, a little simpler this time.” He cleared his throat obnoxiously. “Why do the two of you need Fries’ medical expertise?” He asked slowly, condescendingly. Crane felt his hand clench into a fist but he didn’t say anything, instead turning to stifle a cough into one of the folds of his scarf. Edward noticed and held up a finger to stop anything Oswald might’ve been about to say. “Wait, let me see if I can guess using our friend’s incredibly subtle movement: he needs to find Fries because he has some sort of supernatural virus that he probably gave himself because he’s an idiot and he doesn’t know how to manufacture an antidote. I dunno why you’re here but I suppose that’s irrelevant considering, unless he brought you along just to get me to tell you his whereabouts.”

Oswald’s own eyebrows raised slightly, surprised by the guess. “Honestly, that’s probably closer than my assumption.” At first, Crane was angry; how low did the PENGUIN have to stoop to suck up to the Riddler? However, the anger subsided once Crane realised that telling Edward what he wanted to hear would probably get them further than whatever Crane would’ve done to press for information.

“Of course it’s closer,” Edward retorted hotly, crossing his arms briefly before rolling up one of his sleeves, revealing rows upon rows upon scribbles of words crammed onto his arm, trailing onto his fingers and continuing up past his elbow and even further. The fingers on his other hand danced on his arm briefly and he examined the scribbles and tiny letters, turning his arm before seemingly finding what he was looking for. “Victor Fries,” He murmured. “Mister Freeze.” He used the control of his chair to turn it until he was looking at one of the monitors that rested on the desk in front of him and he pulled the keyboard into his lap, typing at a speed faster than Oswald could keep up with. “Before I tell you though…” He looked sideways at the duo. “I have a riddle for you.”

Crane rolled his eyes with a sigh but Oswald complied. “Very well, we’ll answer your riddle. But only the one; we’re on something of a time limit, here.” Edward leaned back in his chair and put the tips of his fingers together.

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Oswald took this time to glance back at Crane expectantly. Edward looked over at the clock on the bottom of his monitor. “This shouldn’t take that long but I’ll give you all the time you need since I don’t expect the right answer anyway.” Crane gritted his teeth and would’ve snorted if he could even pretend to breathe out of his red nose.

“Poe wrote on both.” The answer was obvious, that was one of the most popular riddles that was passed around. He avoided looking smug but he did lick his lips and waited for Edward to concede. There was a pause and Edward scoffed.

“Wrong.”

“…What do you mean ‘wrong’? That’s the answer. Well… it’s an answer that’s acceptable to a riddle that doesn’t actually have an answer.” Crane replied, trying to stay calm though he felt like Edward was doing to him now what he was guilty of doing to Poison Ivy earlier. To be fair to himself, he had the excuse of an everything-ache and even then, as he grew more irritated, the itch in his nasal cavity seemed to flare up.

“It’s wrong because you’re stupid,” Edward drawled, the smugness practically dripping from his voice. “The answer is ‘both can be used in murder’ but I guess that was too advanced for you so I suppose I’ll let it slide this time. But now you two technically owe ME one.” He explained, reaching for a pen on his desk to scribble something new on his arm as Crane stood there practically fuming at the ‘actual’ answer. He wanted to turn and stalk out without giving Edward so much as another look but instead of actually turning to leave, he dipped his head into his scarf sharply to sneeze again. And again. And a third time, all the while with Edward watching him with a dismissive, apathetic expression on his angled face, lifting a hand to rest a thumb under his chin like an undeserved king on a throne. “You know, Cobblepot.” He said after Crane retreated back, falling silent and sniffing. “This self-inflicted experiment COULD kill him and no one would even care.”

Oswald was quiet for a moment and all three of them knew that this was true; Crane was well aware of his status in regards to the rest of the population, especially the undesirables around him in the cesspool city that was Gotham. Even as they stood there, he was still adjusting to the fact that the Penguin, renowned gun-runner, bar-owner entrepreneur Oswald Cobblepot, had his life spared in exchange for something only Crane could develop with his skill and speed. “Alas, I’m afraid it cannot come to that yet,” Oswald replied after a lengthy pause. “I have some agreements with him that would be remiss of me to fail to see through. Your input is duly noted, Edward.”

“Save me the gratuitous, excessive wording, Penguin,” Edward growled. Oswald tensed and for the first time since leaving the abandoned building, Crane could feel something that skipped over irritation; this was malice, an aggression that usually resulted in punching someone in the face. “I don’t care what you actually do with him; I was just making sure you were aware that abandonment is a viable option.”

“Just tell us where Fries is.” Oswald said curtly. Edward sniffed in a haughty fashion and manually turned his chair this time to glance at the screen again.

“I have informants all over the city.” He remarked. “One of them tells me that Mister Freeze is at these coordinates—are you ready to write them down or do I need to do everything for you?” He asked, peering at them over his thin, rectangular frames. Oswald patted himself down briefly before glancing over at Crane again, who gave him a small shrug. Edward rolled his eyes and reached into a drawer impatiently. “You two aren’t very prepared for needing to find someone.”

“And you sure are smug for someone confined to a whe--” Crane didn’t even manage to get the full insult out before Oswald turned on a heel and smacked Crane across the face so hard the latter almost passed out. He didn’t pass out but DID fall over onto the cold walkway, gasping from the impact of Oswald’s palm on his hot face and running a tongue over his rapidly-swelling lip where he unintentionally bit it, tasting blood.

Fortunately for them, Edward either hadn’t heard what Crane said or he was electing to ignore it(which never happened) and he turned his chair around, offering out a small sticky note with messy numbers on it. “This is where they saw him last.” Edward looked up at Oswald, who had turned back around as if nothing happened. Oswald took the note gently while Edward took this opportunity to scoff again. “And get off my floor. In fact, both of you can go, now. Consider us even for the favour I owed you. I’ll be expecting you to come crawling when I need something back, in turn for missing that riddle.” Edward dismissed them with a wave of a thin hand, the other pressing the reverse button on his chair. “The elevator’s ready for you.” He pointed to Crane briefly. “You better not be contagious or I’ll show you the true meaning of fear, Scarecrow.” He added venomously.

Oswald turned and offered a hand to help Crane up and the younger man hesitated for a moment before grunting and taking his hand, shakily getting to his feet. Wordlessly, Oswald motioned for Crane to head back to the elevator before giving Edward some words of parting. “Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Nigma.” Instead of responding verbally, Edward simply flapped his hand childishly as if trying to get a fly away from buzzing in his ear.

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striderlicious   
striderlicious

You are such a brilliant writer??? You write Edward so well. Haughty and extra as heck, like always. Not to mention a pompous jerk. I love your idea of his design too? Especially the scribbled on arms. I love this story so much and I enjoy reading it every time you update. Thank you once more. 

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Red Ring of Death   
Red Ring of Death

“I swear, am I the only one in this bloody city with an ounce of social grace??” Oswald had to wait until they were back outside in the darkened alley before stating his frustrations, his accent once again taking a loose, much less refined tone to it; Crane had started to initiate conversation in the elevator ride but Oswald had silenced him prematurely and pointed to the security camera in the corner, indicating that they were still being monitored. “I told you to let me do the talking so as soon as he says somethin’ you don’t like, you try to insult him as he’s giving us what we’re looking for? Are you COMPLETELY stupid?”

Crane, rubbing his arms to generate heat, sniffed and gave Oswald a look. “He insulted you, too.”

“He insults EVERYONE.” Oswald insisted with exasperation lacing his tone, making a broad movement with his arm to indicate the whole world. “You’d think you would remember that; you’re the one that studied psychology for years. Use your brain now and then, boy.” Irritated, he pulled an expensive-looking phone from his pocket and started punching in the coordinates, leaning against one of the buildings as he did so. Crane wanted to ask, if a little sarcastically, if Oswald had to smack him so hard but he felt like the question would be a waste of time; despite his crooked gait and bones, between Oswald, the very physically unwell Crane and the wheelchair-bound Edward, Oswald could’ve easily come out on top of whatever altercation might’ve happened between the three; the man was an expert on hand-to-hand combat, after all.

“Looks like we’ll have to take a cab for this one,” Oswald grumbled, the formality returning to his voice. He looked at the screen again and started to punch in some numbers absently as Crane’s breath caught in his throat, coughing before sneezing again, leaning forward and spitting some phlegm into the snow. The older man ignored it for a moment and held the phone up slightly as he messed with his hearing aid again. “Hey,darlin’,” He said softly. “Can you get Reg to come pick me up? I need a ride and my limo was… it’s a long story. …Yeah. …Yeah, of course, I can wait. Oh, and tell him to bring one of the small, inconspicuous cars with a window that blocks the back seat from the front. … Thanks, love.” With the press of a button, the call was complete and he looked at Crane’s waning figure, sighing. “So how long have you had this, er… illness?” He found himself asking though he couldn’t tell anyone why other than idle curiosity. “Was Nigma right? Did you give it to yourself?”

Crane groaned and put the heels of his hands to his eyes. “If I answer that, will you tell me what you did with Nigma where he owed you a favour?” He offered the exchange of information this time, choosing to be compliant instead of closed off as he normally favoured; he was too sick and tired to be enigmatic towards Oswald anymore. The older man motioned for Crane to follow him and he started to lead the way out of the time-torn alley to the snow-covered street, still and dark with the exception of the lone streetlamp that illuminated a large circle of the ground, turning the snow a garish orangey yellow. Crane immediately drifted to the wall of one of the buildings lining the blanketed sidewalk, dropping to a crouch as he once again tried to fit his entire spindly body under Oswald’s coat, resting a wrist under his nose. Oswald looked both ways up and down the dead street but stood there resolutely.

“There’s not much of a story to it,” he finally replied. “I don’t know if you were there but do you remember the time Arkham Asylum had that blackout and around forty percent of the inmates there escaped a few months ago?” Crane nodded slowly; he was part of it. He remembered that day vividly almost as if it was only a few days ago. Sitting in a cell, staring at the wall and suddenly being thrust into inky black darkness as a loud ‘gashunk’ could be heard ringing through the hallways as hundreds of cells were opened simultaneously as somewhere, a failsafe locking mechanism was undone, not doing the one job it had. Torn between timidity and desperation, he crawled out of his cell that night, finding his old ventilation shafts that he would use for quick transportation, on his hands and knees until he was outside of the building. Then he ran straight to the water, fell head-first, and swam, not daring to stop until he was on the other side.

“Well, I had my boys help me out – that was my doing.” Oswald explained with a small shrug and nod. “But ol’ Eddie figured out that it’s really hard escaping when you have no functional lower legs. So I promised to help bail him out if he owed me a favour.” He concluded rather simply.

Crane quirked an eyebrow. “Why use your f-favour on me?” He asked, not able to figure out how it made sense; “earning” an owed favour from someone like Edward Nigma already seemed hard but to just spend it to help Crane out seemed… suspicious. Maybe the answer was obvious to someone who’s brain wasn’t addled with numbness and fever.

“Well, now it’s almost like you owe me a favour, isn’t it?” Oswald asked cleverly, glancing down at the younger doctor. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten that you owe me a bomb that’s evidently pretty important.”

“…I haven’t.” Crane replied as he turned to smother another series of scraping coughs into his scarf.

“Ah, that reminds me. Spit it out; what is this?” Oswald motioned to Crane as the latter seemed to turn even more pale if that was possible, looking as if he were about to throw up. Crane leaned on the wall of the building he was crouched against, briefly closing his eyes and breathing in the cold air through his teeth. He wanted to just… fall asleep. The soreness wasn’t leaving his body but rather the cold was seeping in, numbing him, making him feel stiff and artificial in movement, like a porcelain doll with airbrushed rosy cheeks and nose.

“A failed experiment.” Crane replied with a smack of his dry lips, the settled saliva pulling skin apart faintly but painfully; he needed water, he had to admit. Water, sleep, more sleep, Mister Freeze. He forced himself to stay conscious enough, if only to finish his explanation as he could almost see Oswald quirking his eyebrow down at him as if to say ‘…and?’ He rolled his eyes tiredly. “I was working on a new batch of fear toxin,” He continued. “And when I do THAT, I try not to leave my house because it has a tendency to, er… “ He waved a hand in a circular motion as the intelligent words escaped him; he should’ve explained this just a little sooner… or perhaps not at all, almost wishing at this point that Ivy dropped him out of that building. “Compromise my immune system for a couple days.” He cleared his throat. “Longer story short, I didn’t stay indoors.”

Oswald scoffed. “Not sure I entirely believe that that’s the end of it but I’ll let it slide for now.” He decided to let it go. “’S long as you aren’t lying to me about this whole ‘bomb’ business.” He added quietly, but clearly enough for Crane to hear, tone dripping with venom. Crane would’ve looked back up at Oswald but his head lolled to the side instead, closing his eyes with a pained exhale for only a moment before a hand picked him up by the scarf, lazily and effortlessly pulling him to his feet much to his dismay. He opened his eyes and jumped to find that Oswald now had him pinned against the wall, glaring into his blue eyes once more.

“…You still think I’m lying?”

“I’m just clarifying that there IS a bomb… you haven’t really mentioned it. And I’m sure you know this by now but I’m reeeeally not a fan of being lied to.” Though he seriously contemplated telling the man that there was no bomb just to see how he would react, Crane sniffed and leaned back lazily, feeling the soreness in his legs starting to creep up to his midsection.

“It’s a little… unconventional.” Crane replied, emotionless in tone. “It’s not the type that blows up so much as it has to be used with water.” He paused, reaching up slowly, feeling Penguin tense up as if expecting Crane to pull away but instead, he simply rubbed his septum before putting the heel of his hand in an eye socket. “I mean… I GUESS you can turn it into a bomb but I don’t really think it would react well to heat.” He concluded. Oswald’s eye twitched and he promptly released Crane, the latter almost crumpling back into the snow – he hadn’t realised that Oswald almost lifted him off the ground altogether.

Oswald put a hand on his hip, the other leaning against his cane. “You were planning on putting it in the sewer system?” He asked. Crane shrugged.

“Sewer system, hydro-electric power plant, water purification system… any of the above applies.” Honestly, he hadn’t really thought that far ahead, yet – he wanted to wait until a more opportune time to use it. He was in a period he described as “dormant”; nothing particularly terrible had happened to him lately that he felt was warranting of a mass-hysteria panic attack.

Oswald was quiet for a moment, breathing in the cold air through his pointed nose before shrugging. “I can work with that. I was hoping for something more disruptive but as long as it works.” He looked sideways at Crane. “You got an antidote for that, right?” Crane’s shoulders drooped visibly, in a motion that suggested a mixture of incredulity and a ‘you can’t be serious’ vibe.

“…No.” He finally said dryly. “No, I don’t.” His brow knitted and he fell silent before turning to smother two more sneezes into his scarf, passing the threshold of sounding tired and entering the realm of ‘exhausted’. He coughed, shook his head briefly as if trying to get snow out of his hair, and turned one of his arms around, exposing the underside of his arm to Oswald once more. “M-most of them go through here,” He pointed to the medial elbow, the crook of his arm. “Some of them go in at the base of my spine,” he motioned. “And sometimes I take them through a face orifice.” He explained.

Oswald quirked an eyebrow. “So you really are a drug addict.” He said. “How do you not have a fix for your own drugs?”

Crane pointed to his temple. “The antidote is up here.” He replied. “The trick is to not be afraid.” He realised how badly he probably sounded like some radical young adult, teetering on the edge about to take a swan dive into a topic about emotions and pseudo-philosophical rhetoric but he didn’t really have a more succinct way to explain it. “That’s the only ‘cure’ I can give you. Your second best bet is to wear a mask.” His hand dropped back to his side for a moment before it went back up and pinched the bridge of his nose and he grunted, sinus pressure finally irritating him again.

“Poison Ivy didn’t seem affected.”

“Poison Ivy isn’t human anymore.”

“Neither is Mister Freeze.” Oswald’s reply was fluid, without missing a beat. He stared Crane down rather cleverly. “What makes you think he’ll help you?”

That question almost seemed to stagger the thin man who, too weary to overact or even get that mad, simply looked down at the snow-covered ground that glowed with artificial yellow light, fading into dark blue. “Do you want the easy answer or the philosophical answer?” He asked quietly, thickly. Oswald kept his eyes on Crane, narrowing his eyes slightly; he had the feeling that this was a play on emotions, something Oswald and the Penguin were good at picking up on and subsequently not acting in favour of.

“I want whichever answer decides whether or not the both of us are getting in the same car.” His reply was none-too-subtle and completely loaded, of course; as it stood, either way, bomb or no, Oswald had zero incentive to keep the charade of helping Crane going if they were just to get turned down by Fries at the door. He felt a tad bit foolish for having waited this long to actually ask but things had been going pretty smoothly before so he supposed the thought simply hadn’t crossed his mind.

Crane was silent for a long moment and Oswald could tell that he was choosing his words carefully. With a raspy exhale, he finally spoke up. “Fries is an intellectually gifted man.” He started and Oswald almost groaned, wanting to stop this explanation before it got started and just leave the man in the snow, drive off, sit in front of the fire and have a glass of red wine and just pretend like he and Harvey hadn’t totaled one of his limousines. “You and I both know what he does and why but he can’t do everything himself.” He continued then sighed. “I can’t tell you what relationship I have with him but I can say with… relative c-certainty that regardless of his human state, he’ll help me.” He concluded much faster than Oswald thought but the latter wasn’t sold.

“’Relative certainty’?” He repeated in a mocking tone. “Which can basically be said as “I just think he will”. His tone dropped and he looked at his watch. “Try again, boy. Here, I’ll even simplify the question: Will Mister Freeze help you?”

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Womp   
Womp

I'm obsessed with this story! Your writing is so unpredictable, which makes it so intriguing. Can't wait for your next update ❤️

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