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Metathesiophobia

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It was raining outside. No one thought much of it, given the fact that it was always raining in Gotham. After a year of full of chaos, the city seemed to enter a resting phase. The citizens called it the calm before the storm, Arkham and its infamous inmates representing the metaphorical storm. The place was considered less of an asylum and more of a prison for the mentally disturbed by the general public. Every rogue who entered the asylum walls ether escaped or legally got out, only to cause more chaos in the end.

It was a particularly uneventful Monday, and as the harsh autumn rain hit the asylum roof, the guards were getting ready to take said inmates to the rec room.

Some were in therapy beforehand; some were in their cells. The guards took them one by one and left them in the room where the rogues were free to do whatever they pleased as long as it didn’t violate any asylum policy or general law. The guards who were assigned to watch the inmates were never certain of what was going to happen, but over the course of a few weeks, they noticed that a certain pair of rogues sat on the same couch every Monday and Thursday. Today was no different.

“Professah haven’t ya heard?” asked Harley in her chipper voice, sounding almost a tad bit too excited. If one were to try describing her voice, it’d boil down to obnoxious at first, but very charming when you get used to it. She was goofy, yet an incredibly smart woman who could have led a normal life if it weren’t for a certain pale-faced clown. Every rogue could agree with the fact that she was one of the only glimmers of light in the dark, gloomy asylum.

“Heard what?” Jonathan responded his face representing the boredom which he felt. His and Harley's chats used to have some spice to them, there was always juicy gossip to talk about, but the past few weeks didn’t give them any solid material to discuss. He sat, one leg crossed over the other, Harley resting her head on his lap, legs thrown over the side of the couch. With the tone of Harley's voice, he could sense that something at least moderately interesting had come up.

“Ya know that Nygma guy? The green one? The one who’s been kept tied up in solitary confinement for the past 6 months?” Jon recognized the name. Almost everyone in the asylum knew the name. Hell, he was sure that almost everyone in Gotham knew the name too. After all, Nygma was the man who managed to completely take over Gotham about 7 months ago. He would have kept in under his thumb had the Bat not stopped him. He heard the guards mention a while ago that the man needed to be kept all tied and locked up because otherwise, he’d escape. But what could be so interesting that she’d bring up the man with such delight in her voice?

“Yeah, what about him?” He inquired. Harley's eyes shot up to glare at the auburn-haired man who seemed to be twirling one of her pigtails unconsciously. Her bewildered gaze confused Jonathan even more.

“So, yah really haven’t heard? They are lettin him out of solitary sometime this week! Deemed him sane ‘nough from what I heard. Ain’t that exitin!?” Now THAT was interesting. Crane saw it a long shot to call a man who mercilessly slaughtered people half a year ago any kind of sane, especially with the doctors Arkham had. They couldn’t offer help to someone with a simpler mental disorder, let alone to a narcissistic megalomaniac he’d heard that Nygma was. The man claimed he was a genius, with an intellect unmatched by anyone else.

“You don’t think that’s a stretch? Calling him sane?” It was weird. The man was either a good liar or the Arkham doctors were dumber than he thought. Probably both. Harley nodded her head, her face dawning a more serious expression.

“I know, right! He’s a nut! Smart sure, but a nut none the less.” And based on what he had heard, Jon had to agree. You didn’t have to know the man to declare him crazy on some level.

Crane was fortunate enough to have been out of Gotham during the whole ‘Zero Year’ scenario, and although he would have loved to relish in the fear of the citizens, he wasn’t very keen on dying. And even though he admired what Nygma had done to the city, Crane simply didn’t care much for the ginger man. From what Jon had seen of him, the man was basically a peacock, an attention whore if he’d ever witnessed one.

Before they could continue their conversation, however, someone tapped Crane’s shoulder. Both rogues looked up, only to find a green-skinned woman looking down at them. Harley immediately shot up, squealing. Meanwhile, Jon just glared at the woman.

“Crane, mind if I borrow Harley for a while?” Said Ivy, in a tone that was more demanding than anything else. Jon realized that it really wasn’t a question, so he just waved his hand as to say, ‘Go right ahead’. Harley had already jumped off the couch and ran up to Red, pulling her into one of her famous bone-crushing hugs. Ivy was inclined to return the hug, and not because she liked hugs, but because a) This was Harley and b) She was her girlfriend.

“Sorry Professah, but duty calls! We’ll talk more on Thursday.” Harley said, hugging the man from behind before running off with Ivy. The hug only caught Crane a little off guard, as anyone who hung out with Harley had to get used to her sometimes overbearing affection. As for Ivy, Crane didn’t like the plant-loving woman, but he sure as hell respected her. She didn’t take anyone’s shit on the best of days, and she’d make sure that whoever crossed her knew what they did.

“Goodbye, child.” Jon muttered, but Harley had already run off with her girlfriend. The air around him went still, as it always seemed to be when he was alone. He didn’t really talk to the other rogues, and the ones he did enjoy having a conversation with, like Freeze or Hatter, weren’t in the asylum at the moment. And as he wasn’t in the mood for dealing with Two-Face or the Penguin who were currently bickering over something on the TV, he just had to sit in silence until the end of rec time, which was in about 30 minutes.

He leaned his head back and sighed, content with the quiet of the room. Joker was in solitary this week, and probably the week after that, which made the rec room feel more silent than usual. It was nice. Jon missed the silence. The asylum was always so loud, the screams of the insane always filling the halls, their symphony seemingly draining the energy of the staff with each passing day. Crane loved screams, but sometimes, peace and quiet were better.

He had a feeling he wouldn’t be getting any peace or quiet soon.

-

The following days were mostly uneventful, so Thursday came around very quickly for Crane. He went from the useless therapy sessions to gardening time (which was on Tuesdays and Wednesdays), to being in his cell in the blink of an eye, and the two days dividing Monday and Thursday had passed faster than he’d expected them to. Then Thursday rolled around.

The Thursday evening was as peaceful as it could be in an asylum full of criminally and otherwise insane people. That being said, the evening seemed to be the only peaceful time of the day, as just two hours ago two of the inmates got sedated and led back to their cells, and were now probably still tied to their beds either screaming bloody murder or just passed out. It was rec time, and Harley and Jon were yet again seated on their couch, sitting in the same position they’ve been sitting in since this whole ‘Girl Talk’ thing had started. Crane had wanted to voice his complaints about the name Harley gave their little gossip session but didn’t have the heart to do so. Harley was just too adorable to resist sometimes.

“Today’s group therapy was just horrible.” The blond covered her face with her hands out of frustration, sighing into them. “Dunno why the doctors think it’ll do us any good.” Another thing Harley and Jon enjoyed doing was shaming the very existence of the Arkham doctors. Both had earned their Ph.D.s, and even though those Ph.D.s were now invalid because of their criminal records, they still had half a brain with which to tell that the staff here were just in it for the paycheck. Harley had worked at the asylum before, so the paycheck situation made no sense to her as the payment had been just as miserable as the place was.

“Hm, yes, sometimes you truly have to wonder if anything really goes through our doctor's heads.” A grimace spread over the southerner's face. “Altho, you have to admit it was entertaining when one of those idiots whacked the other right across the face.” Crane said smirking down at Harley. She snorted and giggled a bit, hands finally leaving her face. She decided to sit up, startling Jonathan for a moment.

“Yeah it was funny, alright. But I mean, these types of sessions don’t help anyone! You don’t wanna talk about your past with me, for hell's sake, so why would you wanna do it in front of a bigger group of people?” She held her hands in front of her head and then plopped them back down when she had finished talking. “And no offense Professah, I’m just using ya as an example.” She cast her glance back to the older man, and he just rolled his eyes.

“None taken, child, none taken.” As Crane had uttered those words, the rec rooms opened again. Harley's eyes widened with what seemed like a combination of shock and excitement as she almost jumped out of her seat. “Jonny look!” She whispered, and Crane twirled his head towards the doorway far too quickly for his liking.

There stood Edward Nygma, who was currently being uncuffed by two guards. Jon would have called it exaggeration but given the fact that the man had to be kept levitating above the ground just so he could not escape, he really had no right to comment. As the cuffs left his hands, he stretched for what seemed the first time in days. His posture was ideal, and his whole appearance seemed to scream confidence. His hair was mostly slicked back, save for a few lose strands, and oh god his sideburns made Jonathan want to scream. The wounds and bruises had healed, the stitches he had were all taken off, and his skin was back to the perfect porcelain shade it used to be before the Bat took to beating the ginger up. One thing that didn’t click with Harley was the fact that the Riddler had seemingly more freckles than she remembered him having when he took over Gotham, but she figured that he must have worn makeup because the doll-like complexion he had was far too perfect to be real.

Hell, even in the Arkham uniform he still looked too flawless to be human. He was mesmerizing, basically glowing, his ego visible to everyone in the room and he hadn’t even spoken a word yet. Crane would be lying if he said the man wasn’t beautiful, and outstandingly so. It was the genius part he was unsure of.

And now Crane could only hope that this man wasn’t more trouble than he was worth.

Chapter Text

Every gaze turned to the ginger, all eyes plastered on him, and boy was he enjoying the attention he was getting. He sucked it up like a sponge. The guard left some time ago, probably to get some coffee or just sit in peace with the other guards until rec time ended. Edward didn’t dare move from the doorway yet, he almost didn’t breathe. The silence of the room was suffocating, the lack of movement tormenting and the little whispers that occasionally broke through the air were lost to the wind. They looked at him, they stared as though he was some miracle or saint, and he was loving it. Oh, how he craved it, he had craved it for months now, the attention, the admiration.

In return, he eyed them all, brilliant and cunning lime eyes scanning the room. His gaze didn’t linger, didn’t for a moment focus on one rogue in particular, and yet it felt as if his eyes had pierced them all. Crane could swear that he’d never seen a brighter hue of green in a person’s eyes. The curiosity of a child ever so present, yet masked by professionalism and experience, the kind which came with age. And yet he seemed so young, so boyish, so unlike a rogue.

Breathing became easier for everyone in the room when Edward made his first step, yet all eyes were still on him. A smirk dawned his face as he moved across the room, to the couch where Oswald and Harvey were watching TV. Edward found a certain form of comfort in Oswald’s company as they had been on good terms for a while now, and it was always good to see a familiar face in a place like this. And as for Harvey, it was safe to say that there was this mutual hatred between them.

Jon had never been gladder that a person avoided him in his life. This man was his complete polar opposite, and as stunning as he was, Jonathan wanted nothing to do with him. Harley, on the other hand, was freaking out, whispering things like “Professah we gotta talk to him!” or “Jonny he seems interesting! Let’s go up to him!”

Crane, frankly, didn’t see the appeal. And yet he couldn’t take his eyes off the ginger man. There was just something about him, it didn’t click. He was TOO perfect. This man, seemingly flawless, was in an asylum for murdering people. There had to be something more, something hidden beneath that façade. Maybe Harley saw it too, or maybe she just saw the handsome yet deadly man that everyone else saw and wanted to get his attention. Jon wasn’t sure, but he didn’t care much, as whatever she had seen wasn’t important. What was important was that he wanted to avoid any contact with the green-eyed devil.

Too late had Jonathan realized that he fucked up by not looking away. Edward cast him a glance, still talking to Oswald, and as he saw how Crane’s eyes were trying to read him, he locked his gaze with the auburn-haired man. Land met water, the ground met the sky and they stayed like that for a few passing moments before Crane broke off the staring competition, tuning back into whatever Harley was saying. She was still rambling about talking to him.

“Don’t let me stop you child, but I have no desire to talk to that,” he needed a moment to find the right words “that flamboyant pin-up.” As he finished, Harley rolled her eyes, then she sighed sadly, then she rolled her eyes again, which was followed by another sad sigh.

“But Professahhhhh pleaseee.” She whined, and Crane almost wanted to give in. “Don’t make me use the nuclear option.” She said, trying to sound serious. Now, Crane was in no mood for publicly embarrassing himself, but if Harley went trough with her ‘nuclear option’, they’d both be crying messes on the floor, and that wouldn’t be pleasant. It was either that or talking to the rather lavish man. Crane wanted nether, but the decision was made before he could do anything about it, as he realized Nygma was approaching them, his eyes glued on Crane.

As he stopped at their couch, Harley almost squealed. Up close Crane could clearly see the brilliance behind those eyes. His face was relaxed, yet he looked so confident, looking down at Jonathan, analyzing him now that he could see him up close. The blue-eyed man, on the other hand, was eyeing Nygma like he was a mouse. His gaze was piercing, dangerous, and the eerie blues were almost glowing from behind his glasses.

“Scarecrow. Quinn. Pleased to meet you. I am Th-“

“The Riddler, yes, we are aware, now if you would kindly fuck off, it would be much appreciated.” Jonathan cut in coldly, trying to make it clear to the Riddler that he simply did not care and that the man just wasn’t welcome there. Nygma’s face soured, but before he could make a rude remark and start complaining about being rudely interrupted, Harley snapped out of her exited trance and whacked Jonathan across the shoulder.

“Jonathan please! Give Eddie a chance!” She scolded, almost like a disappointed mother, and who could blame her. She wanted the best for her friend, how was he supposed to have friends who weren’t Harley when all he did was shut down people. “You’ll have to excuse him, Eddie, he’s always like this. And please, no formalities, that’s Harley for ya.” She looked at Edward and reached her hand out towards him to shake it. Nygma shook her hand, and Harley had to take a moment to acknowledge how soft his hand was. When they let go, Harley scooted over closer to Jonathan and smacked her hand onto space next to her, motioning Eddie to sit down. He happily obliged, and he and Harley immediately started talking about something. Jon wasn’t completely sure what, as he had tuned out again the moment Harley smacked his shoulder. The only thing he did overhear was Nygma saying “Where’s the southern hospitality, Crane?” which almost made Jon strangle the man.

Something, he didn’t know what, but something made Jon look at Edward's face again. He was closer now, and if anyone asked Jonathan, he’d say Nygma was far too close for his liking. The upside was that now he could see some small details which were hardly visible from a distance.

For instance, how sharp his facial lines were. His jawline was strong, almost as strong as Crane’s own. The sharp cheeks, the pointy, button-like nose, strong freckles. The worst part of it was that Edward made it look so beautiful. The bright ginger hair, the stunning green eyes you could just get lost in, the god damned freckles which some would have found hideous, but they just made him look all the more stunning. He was so gorgeous, but there was something, and yet again Crane couldn’t pin what it was, but there was something wrong. Off in a peculiar kind of way.

His train of thought was broken as Nygma’s eyes met his own again. He was still talking to Harley, fully concentrated on their conversation, yet the way he locked his gaze onto Crane said otherwise.

This man, Jon decided, was a puzzle. And it had been so long since Jonathan had a challenge in this place. So there and then, as he glared straight into Edwards’ eyes, he promised himself he’d break this man.

-

On Friday, the doctors decided to try the group therapy method once again. Harley and Crane were silently judging the staff as they were being led to the room. In a circle were seated the unfortunate doctor under the name of Gilbert Ferber, next to him sat Oswald, then Harvey, afterward came Garfield, then Edward, next to him sat Ivy, then Harley and finally Jonathan.
Dr. Ferber looked beyond nervous, after yesterdays accident he was very unsure that this method would ever actually work. Still, after being pressured by other doctors he decided to give the group therapy another chance, thinking that it might actually do some good.

Boy was he wrong.

-

“Nygma if you don’t shut your mouth, I will blow your face off!” Dent thought it was a good idea to have a shouting contest with Edward after the ginger had pointed out how ridiculous the whole coin-tossing business was. The moment he pointed out that Harvey was basically useless without his coin to make his decisions for him, Harvey lost it.

The doctor was trying to calm them down, pointlessly so. Jonathan just leaned back and waited for chairs to start flying.

“Riddle me this, Jekyll! I am there when you're born, yet I begin to fade away from day one. I will stay until death even if you choose to erase me. Maybe even more, if you pass me to your children. My worst enemy? It once killed, but not a human being. What am I?” Edward said, seemingly unphased by the sudden outburst of the two-faced bandit. His eyes were burning holes into Harvey, and as Crane looked at Nygma, he saw the insanity behind his glare. Those brilliant lime orbs held so much emotion, so much curiosity, so much madness. There was a line between a genius and a madman, and Edward was standing right on that line, leaning to neither side in particular.

“The answer to that, Harvey, is your downfall. It’s the reason you’ll never get better.” His tone was as cold as his gaze. Dent jumped off his chair and furiously stomped over to Edward and grabbed the freckled man by the throat. Edwards glare didn’t falter. No, not at all, in fact, there was something in it that reminded Crane of the way he looked at Nygma yesterday. Like a predator eyeing its prey. There was no fear in his eyes even though Harvey could snap him like a twig. This brought up a question in Jon’ s head. What was a man like Nygma afraid of?

It was safe to say that Edward had successfully piqued Jonathan’s interest.

Edward sat so very still, and the air was perfectly still, and everything in the room was just still, not even the shadows dared to move. That is until the guards rushed in and took Harvey away. Dr. Ferber sighed deeply. This had yet again lead them nowhere. After all of the participants refused to respond to anything the doctor said, he was really close to dismissing the whole session and letting the inmates get back to their cells.

And then Harvey decided to start flipping his coin, which Edward, of course, commented on without any hesitation. That was followed by all hell breaking loose.

He was sick of his job.

Nygma eyed Crane again, and Jon stared right back, amusement visible in his eyes.

Yes, Crane thought, breaking this man will be an experience to remember.

-

“Ignorance?” Asked Crane as he stood in the cafeteria line next to Nygma. He honestly had no idea what suddenly possessed him to talk to the annoying ginger, and he prayed that Edward didn’t hear him. Luck wasn’t on his side, however. The shorter man looked up; the confusion was written all over his face.

“What?” Asked Edward after a few awkward moments of silence had passed between them. He was desperately searching for an answer in Jon’s blank expression, but his attempts were fruitless. Crane would rather be shot in the head than be forced to admit that the baffled expression looked good on Edward. Then, most things did. Crane shook his head; he was losing his train of thought; he was getting distracted.

“The answer to the riddle you asked in group yesterday. Is it ignorance?” Edward’s face immediately lit up as he nodded frantically, and a small smile appeared on his face. Not one of those smiles he gave to anyone who he wanted to charm, not the fake, seductive smile, but a genuine one. And Crane suddenly realized he didn’t really want to break Edward. No, he wanted to know him. And that thought terrified him.

“Riddle me this Jonathan Crane, didn’t you tell me to, and I will paraphrase, “kindly fuck off” yesterday?” Nygma said, his face suddenly returning to its usual expression, which was a mix of cocky and bored. A grimace plastered itself upon Crane’s face. Maybe I do want to break him.

“Riddle me that, indeed.” He said almost bitterly, realizing that this was just Edward messing with his head. Like he always does. He heard the rumors which arose since Thursday. Rumors spread through Arkham faster than they did through his hometown back in Georgia, which was quite impressive, given the fact that in Georgia if someone stole something at 9 AM, by noon of the same day everyone would already know.

Edward was known for messing with people, making them think in a certain way, just so they would do something for him. Crane should want to break him, he should yearn for it, and yet something deep inside begs to differ. This man was dangerous.

A dangerous enemy indeed. But a useful ally.

No, no, no! This train of thought would be the end of him. Nothing good can come from actually being on good terms with this man. Hell, with how flashy Nygma was, Jon was willing to bet the Bat would catch them the moment they stepped out of Arkham.

But he’s so smart, he’s the only one in here who seems to be able to hold intellectually stimulating conversations besides Harley.

Crane was going to need to think this over carefully over the next week, but for now, he might as well try making Harley happy by being friendly.

“You wanna come sit with Harley and me?”

Chapter Text

Jon was slowly coming to regret ever offering Edward to sit with Harley and him. Day after day, Edward came back to sit with them. Day after damned day, this ridiculous, annoyingly clever man was getting further and further under his skin. Jon just couldn’t take it, because it wasn’t the near-constant bickering that bothered him, it wasn’t even how much Edward spoke. It was the very fact that those things, which would have usually made him gas or emotionally traumatize the person, now for some reason didn’t bother him at all. It was how much he enjoyed the gingers company that did the trick.

It also didn’t help that Edward had decided to join their little ‘Girl Talk’, which had been a strictly Jon and Harley thing until Nygma showed up. What was worse, Jonathan actually liked having Edward around. He was full of gossip about everyone and anyone, which was useful because even though Jon wasn’t very keen on blackmailing, it could come in handy.

From the fact that Jonathan was growing fond of Edward arose another problem. Jonathan was an introvert; he was famed for it. So, it was natural that after some time he would lose the energy he needs to socialize and turn plain miserable. It was at times like those he needed some alone time, some time to recharge and think stuff through. Harley recognized when he got like this and gave him space. Edward, however, seemed to lack the phrase ‘personal space’ in his vocabulary, and wouldn’t step off. It was almost as if the lack of Harley’s presence didn’t strike him as odd, even though Harley was always seen by ether Ivy’s or Jonathan’s side. Hell, he probably thought that Harley just wanted to spend more time with her girlfriend, but even when times like that did come, she talked to the ex-professor at least once a day.

Jon could not, for the life of him, find the strength to tell Edward to fuck off for a while, nor could he tell Eddie what was really happening. Usually, he would offend the person and throw gritty insults at them until they left, but he just didn’t have the strength to do it today. However, he would have to something as he was coming far too close to slipping into the Scarecrow persona. That would be unpleasant, for both him and everyone around him, and it would give the doctors just enough of an excuse to give him more pills to drink.

He hated the meds he was on. They made him feel so weak, so easily irritable at times, and the ones they added when Jon fell into the comfort of the Scarecrow made him have constant headaches and his whole body felt so heavy, he could barely move.

Scarecrow was a defense mechanism, one that the Arkham doctors wanted to destroy with drugs and therapy. You can’t destroy things like that, Jon wanted to protest, they are part of a person’s psyche and will never truly leave. But who would listen to an ex-professor with an invalid Ph.D. in psychology? Not the Arkham staff, he could tell you that much.

Jonathan had zoned out a while ago, as he was in no mood to listen to whatever the hell Edward was rambling on about. He was just so tired of talking, of listening others talk, and maybe if he ignored Edward for a while the man would get the hint. Jon could have stood up and left, but he would ultimately be unable to escape Edward as they were in the rec room, and him going anywhere would result in a whole lecture from Edward on how it was impolite to just leave whilst someone is talking to them. So, he just had to sit here for the next 15 minutes and tolerate the endless talking. So be it.

“-nd I mean it’s such a pointless…” Edward stopped talking for a second, turning his head to look at Jon who was currently curled up on the other end of the couch, looking somewhere in the distance. The sudden pause caused Jonathan to snap back to reality, as he turned to look back at Edward. “Jonathan, are you even listening to me?” Questioned the ginger in an annoyed tone. Jon looked at him blankly, his eyes dull.

He couldn’t even hear Edward properly at this point, so he just tried reading his lips. Looking at them, Jon realized how girly Edwards lips were. They were plump, the top lip being a little smaller than the bottom one, his cupid's bow was symmetrical and sharp. And if one looked hard enough, they would see the nasty-looking scar that the stitches left on and above his upper lip. They looked so soft too, he must have used chapstick. God, how perfect could a man get? Jon’s head was spinning at this point. Loud yelling snapped him out of his thoughts. It took a moment to recognize what the voice was saying and who the owner was.

“-athan! Jonathan! Earth to Jonathan! Do you copy?!” Edward was yelling at this point, waving his arms around his head, trying to signal the auburn-haired man in any way. Jon shook his head, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. God, he needed peace. He needed to be alone.

“Alright punks, rec time is over. Get moving.” One of the guards yelled. Jonathan thanked whatever spirit was out there, quickly stood up and rushed off to be taken back to his cell. Edward yelled after him, but Jon couldn’t even hear him. He needed to get out of there, he needed to get away and he needed to be alone. He was going to have a panic attack if everyone didn’t shut up immediately.

He was led back to his cell, and the rough treatment he always received from the guard only making the anxiety in his chest expand. His whole chest area felt so tight, and he felt like throwing up. He was going to snap the guard’s neck; he was going to whisper the most horrific things known to man into the fucker’s ear until he was nothing but a pathetic screaming mess on the floor. He was going to open him up and-

He was left alone in his cell. But the cell was loud too, each breath bouncing off the walls, the shadows beckoning for him to join them. The walls were so thin, he could hear everyone, god he could hear them, and he was going to tear his ears off if the noise didn’t stop. He would tear his eyes out if it meant that he wouldn’t have to see anything but the darkness at that moment.

They were screaming, the damn walls were screaming at him and he couldn’t do anything but curl up in the corner opposite of the bed and sit there praying for it to end.

It was these nights the screaming bothered him. When he wished for nothing but silence, the screams seemed to get louder, when he wanted nothing more than them to stop, they just louder and louder and-

His breathing was heavy, the air was heavy, his whole body was heavy and whether he realized it or not he was shaking. He was shaking hard. He wasn’t cold, he wasn’t warm either, he was just so numb, and his head was ringing, and he couldn’t even lay down on the pathetic excuse for a bed. He just sat on the floor in the corner of his cell, shaking and panting in the darkness of the room.

God, he could hear the crows, the crows, the damn crows. They were so loud; they were always screaming. He was in the chapel again; how was he back there again!? He killed the old woman years ago, yet he could still hear her singing ‘Amazing Grace’ just outside the door. The crows would get him again; they would come again; they would hurt him again. The chapel was so big but there wasn’t anywhere to run; they would smell him, and they would find him, and they would tear him to pieces until they reached his bones, until there wasn’t anything left but bones. Oh, the bones he could feel the bones of her hands on his leg; on his shoulder; on his head. On his throat. He was choking; he couldn’t breathe.

Sinful child, you thought I wouldn’t find you.

He wanted to scream but his throat gave up on him, all sound lost before it could leave him; he couldn’t scream, he couldn’t cry out for help. There was no help, no savior. The tune of ‘Amazing Grace’ was screaming in his ears. His eyes were watering, threatening to spill tears. He just wanted to be alone. He just wanted to be alone. He just wanted for it all to stop and he wanted to be alone.

He tried screaming again, tried to drown out the noise in his head with the one in the air but he couldn’t. He stayed as quiet as a mouse, so quiet that an occasional sniff, a shudder or a particularly deep breath were the only signs that he was even breathing.

Why couldn’t the crows just leave him alone?

God, just let him be alone.

-

He didn’t remember when or how he had passed out, but the only things he was currently aware of were his puffed eyes and wet cheeks. He wished he’d stayed awake. The night terror shook him to the core. His skin felt so itchy, the old scars on his back and arms were burning again, he felt like tearing his hair out.

At least the noise had stopped. There was finally silence. He crawled over to his bed. He passed out again.

-

Edward was confused. Had he said something wrong? He knew that his talking could get annoying, but Jonathan never minded it up until now. Hell, Jon always listened to him, sometimes he made his own comments, but he always listened like there was nothing more important.

Eddie had noticed that Jonathan was distant, more so than usual. In the past month, Jonathan had never looked so lost, never looked so blank. There was always something dancing behind his eyes. Now there was strangely nothing.

Edward slammed his head into the pillow with an exasperated sigh. He couldn’t sleep. He needed to know. He wouldn’t be able to rest until he did. The self-proclaimed ‘Master of Fear’ was really making his anxiety rise. The ginger stood up and made the decision to find out what was happening, and tonight.

-

Slipping out of the cells was easy enough, almost too easy actually. Navigating the halls of Arkham was also child’s play, given the fact that Edward memorized the entire building layout. Avoiding guards wasn’t too hard, because they were all asleep at this point and Edward had learned to sneak at an early age because-

He shook his head. Focus Edward, focus. He reached Crane’s cell, carefully opening the door, only to find the man with his face in the pillow, one leg dangling off. Why did he think this was a good idea again? It was the middle of the god damned night and he expected Jonathan to be awake? Sure, the man was an insomniac, but even this was too much. He was going back to his room.

Before he could turn tail and leave, however, he heard someone make a sound, unlike a whimper. Edward froze, not daring to move. After a few moments passed, he turned around to face Jon again.

That couldn’t have been him, right?

Oh, now he HAD to know. He waited for a few moments, and Edward saw Jon let out something like a pained whine. Crane’s whole body shook as the sound left his throat, and after a few more panicked sounds left the man’s lips, Edward realized exactly what was going on.

He didn’t think this through enough, but here he was, shaking Jonathan Crane, the man who had purposely run away from him a few hours ago, awake from a nightmare. It didn’t take much shaking really; Jon was a light sleeper. The auburn-haired man shot up from the bed with a loud gasp, blinking rapidly. Edward tried to put a hand on Jon’s shoulder as an attempt to comfort the shaking man in front of him, but Jon just jumped and cowered away from the touch.

Jonathan finally raised his head, thinking that he was going through another panic attack when he saw a pair of familiar green eyes. Edward’s whole face was soon visible to Jon, and his first response was to yell. Eddie predicted that Crane would yell, so he put his hand over the trembling man’s mouth, pushing his skeletal frame up against the wall for leverage purposes. He couldn’t afford Jon giving away his presence, he would get tied up and sent back to solitary before he could say ‘Riddle me this’.

Crane struggled against Nygma’s hand, and when he finally got it off his face, he smacked Edward right across the face.

“Nygma what the absolute fuck are ya doin’ in ‘ere!?” Jon whisper-yelled in the most honest southern accent Edward had ever heard. It made Edward’s chest flutter with something, but he was quick to brush it off because he had a feeling that if he didn’t answer Crane’s question now the man would pounce on him and skin him alive. Either that, or he’d force Edward to relive his-

“Looking for answers, and before you point out the obvious, I know that yes, it is currently some ungodly hour of the morning. But I really need to talk to you right now.” Edward spoke calmly. God, Jon was going to brutally murder this man one day, he had no idea. Jon did owe Edward for waking him up.

“As long as it has nothin’ to do with what my nightmare was, go right ahead.” Oh, how Edward wanted to pry into what haunted the ‘Prince of Panic’. But not now. Now he wanted to know what made Jonathan run off like demons were chasing him.

-

“All ya need ta know is that me runnin off was nothin’ personal.” Edward stared at Jon for a good moment or two, before burying his face into Jon’s pillow to stifle his laughter. Jon’s eyes widened, partly out of shock, and partly because Edward’s real laugh was the most angelic sound he had ever heard. His face was buried in the pillow for about a minute, and then he looked at Jon with the most honest and sympathetic smile Jon had ever seen Edward give.

“Oh Jon, you should have told me the moment I started getting too hot for you to handle.” Jonathan had three things racing through his mind at that moment. The first one was the fact that Edward had just referred to him as Jon, which had never happened before; the second was how adorable Edward looked (this one would need to be taken care of in the immediate future); the third was how he was going to put this man down if he didn’t stop his teasing. Crane smirked.

“Oh Eddie, I thought that you just wouldn’t understand.” Jon pouted at the end, blinking innocently a few times (Harley was rubbing off on him) before a genuine smile crossed his face. The nickname, which would have usually irritated Edward to no end, made his pale cheeks turn a bright rosy red. He rolled his eyes out of faux annoyance, before flashing Crane the biggest smile he could muster.

“Oh, shut up.” Eddie said, pushing Jonathan’s shoulder, and Jon couldn’t help but snicker at the childish behavior. “Since when are we on nickname terms, huh?” Asked Edward, almost challengingly, as his smile changed into a smirk. If he wanted a challenge, Jon would give him one. He grabbed Edward by his ginger locks, bringing his own face to Edward’s ear. Edward’s lime eyes shot wide open.

“Since you snuck into my cell.” He said in a low, almost husky voice, and Edward whimpered, his face completely red now. Jon leaned back. “Plus, you started it.”

Edward was frozen for what seemed to be the hundredth time that night. What had just happened? He could blame it on it being around 5 AM, and because he could, he did. If only to ease his mind. He opened his mouth so as to say something, but quickly closed it when he realized he didn’t know what to say. So he just stood up from the bed.

“I, um, I should get going. You do need your alone time, no? So, uh, just start talking to me again when you feel ‘recharged’?” He said very awkwardly, pausing between every word, and making quotation marks with his fingers when he said ‘recharged’. Jon just nodded, and Edward proceeded to leave the room.

“Goodnight, Edward.” Eddie froze at the door.

“G-goodnight, Jonathan.”

He had never run faster in his life.

Chapter Text

When Jon awoke after a few hours, his mind felt almost at ease. That wasn’t to say that he was ready to talk to anyone yet, far from it actually. No, it just meant he could think over what had happened just a few hours ago.

He wanted to slap himself. He really wanted to slap himself. What was wrong with him? Was he THAT out of it? The fact that this probably gave Edward the wrong idea made Jon almost feel sick to his stomach. Granny would have murdered him if she was still alive. Although he couldn’t remember being at such ease around anyone in such a long time, not even with Harley. He was glad Edward came, even though he’d never admit it. He couldn’t even think about it without it making him feel horrified.

God, but why did Edward make Jonathan feel this way? He shouldn’t have made him feel what Jon had felt. Yet every time Edward smiled, Jon felt that sickening feeling in his chest and something stirring in his lower stomach. He hated himself for it. Hell, every time Edward spoke, he felt a strange urge to hold the man close and never let him go. He felt like a hormone crazed teen, but that was the problem wasn’t it. Because that wasn’t him. It couldn’t be.

That wasn’t him. It was wrong. It was so wrong, but how could something so wrong feel so right? It shouldn’t feel right to want him. But Jonathan did want him, oh how he wanted him. He tried to link it to the fact that human usually want what they cannot have. How his stomach had sunk when he realized that these feelings weren’t as unfamiliar to him as he wished they were.

The last time he felt this way was in high school, but it wasn’t the same as this. It was never like this. He and Edward had gotten very close way faster than Jon could have imagined. Edward was his friend, nothing more, nothing less. And it would stay that way. It should stay that way. It MUST stay that way.

How he wanted to curl up and stay in bed for the rest of the day. It was sadly impossible. But one can dream, right?

He covered his face with his hands and realized that Granny had been right about one thing.

He was a sinner and he would burn in hell.

-

Edward got no sleep that night, partly from the fact that his bed was far too uncomfortable that night, but mostly because of the adrenaline that was rushing through his veins. Jon had done THAT out of all things and Edward was still baffled by what had happened. He was at a loss for words, and for the first time in years his mind wasn’t rushing.

No, that was a lie. His thoughts were running around his brain faster than usual, but they weren’t the thoughts he usually had. He called him EDDIE of all things! Edward utterly despised being called that, yet the way it rolled off Jon’s tongue in that accent of his made Edward’s stomach flutter in ways it shouldn’t have. He even smiled at him. Jonathan smiled! He never smiles, not even when he’s around Harley! It all left Edward so very confused.

What did it all mean?

Edward was positive that Jonathan didn’t swing that way. Hell, if someone was to ask Edward, he’d claim that Jon wasn’t even interested in relationships. Why would he care if Jon wanted to engage in relationships or no? And why did the idea of Jon being uninterested sadden him? Oh, that thought was bad, those thoughts had to stop.

He was certain that Jon had not meant it that way, he was absolutely positive that Jonathan had no interest in him, yet he seemed to hope for something he could not explain to himself. Why hadn’t he minded when Jonathan held him by the hair? Why hadn’t he gotten offended when Jonathan ignored him? Why was Jonathan so different? Why were Edward’s reactions different when it came to the lanky man?

From day one Edward’s behavior towards Jonathan was different. But why?

He prided himself on being the man with the answers, yet the answers to these questions were unclear to him. He didn’t even know where to start when answering them. It haunted Edward to no end. This needed to stop. He had to stop before he fucked something up. Did he really want to stop?

He had to talk to Oswald immediately.

-

At breakfast, Edward didn’t sit next to Harley and Jon. He decided to sit next to Oswald and Harvey. Both Harley, Oswald and Harvey noticed. They were all equally confused.

At the ‘high class table’, which was what the table that Oswald and Harvey sat at was named by the inmates, Edward was miserably poking the disgusting mush on his plate, which was supposed to be called breakfast. What snapped Edward out of his trance was Oswald calling his name.

“Edward, my boy, what on Earth has gotten into you?” Edward shook his head at Oswald’s words. Harvey seemed to be ignoring both of them, which didn’t really help Edward open up. He wanted the man to go away, but Oswald rather enjoyed his company so none could do. The ginger sighed and looked up at Oswald.

“Something, or rather someone, has been on my mind lately. In ways I don’t want them to be. In ways I shouldn’t want them to be. And I just don’t know what to do about it.” Edward’s tone was downright sad, and Oswald had not heard him sound like that in all the years he had known the ginger genius. Before he could say anything, however, Harvey decided to speak up.

“I bet you 20 bucks it’s about Crane.” He said in an almost bored tone, and Edward was ready to take his plastic spoon and take Harvey’s eyes out. He would dig them right out of their sockets and keep them as trinkets. And then he’d shove Harvey into one of his Puzzle Rooms and leave him to die. Oswald must have noticed his frustration, as he placed a comforting hand on Edward’s shoulder, sending a disappointed look in Harvey’s direction. Harvey raised his hands in defeat.

“We’re just pointing out the obvious. He’s been staring at our local Scarecrow since we sat down. Gawking at him like a lost puppy.” Oswald squeezed Edward’s shoulder harder, and it was probably the only thing keeping Edward from going feral and tearing the Duke of Duality into two pieces.

“Harvey that is quite enough, thank you.” Said Oswald almost bitterly. He knew that Edward and Harvey had, shall we say, a rough past, but this was downright unnecessary, and he didn’t want either of them to end up in solitary. Who else would he hold knowledgeable conversations with? Now that Oswald thought about it, there were a few people who he would be able to talk to, but no one would be able to replace the two idiots in front of him.

“Now, Edward. What exactly seems to be the problem?” Oswald turned to face Eddie again. The ginger was still glaring daggers into the two-faced man across the table, but his expression changed into the downcast one he wore before Harvey decided to speak up.

“The problem is that I don’t know what to do. How do I make these thoughts stop before I ruin everything with him? I am absolutely positive that he doesn’t even do relationships.” Now, Oswald was no therapist, and he was no expert with feelings of affection, having never truly felt them. He wasn’t the person to help Edward with this, but the least he could do is listen and try to offer some advice.

And try his damn hardest he will.

-

“Professah please talk to me. Somethin’ is on your mind, I can tell.” Harley spoke, but Jon didn’t really pay her too much attention. He was trying to look anywhere but at the green-eyed ginger which only sat a few tables away from him. Least to say, he was failing. Miserably at that.

“I wanted to break him, Harley. I really, really did.” He spoke, mostly to himself, which didn’t mean that Harley didn’t hear him. She was trying to put the pieces together, but her friend wasn’t making much sense, which was usual when they talked about feelings. There were so many options at the moment but only one really seemed to make sense right now.

“So, you like him? You know, like, ‘like’ like him?” She asked, shifting her gaze to the man in question. Jonathan’s cheeks got a reddish hue, and he immediately turned to face Harley. He looked downright offended. Harley could swear on her life that she had never seen him blush, which distracted her from how betrayed Jon looked.

“Are you crazy? Of course I don’t.” Crane said, far too quickly, almost stumbling on his words. Harley met his glare with a disbelieving expression. She was looking at him like he just said the dumbest thing that the human mind could conjure. And to her it absolutely was. She knew that Jon didn’t understand feeling completely, exempt when it came to fear, of course. But how could a man as smart as he be so god damn stupid?

“I don’t mean to be rude, Jonny, but he’s completely smitten with you. You are just blind.” And had she been anyone else but Harley, he would have slapped her right there and then. This was absolute crazy talk. Crane refused to acknowledge it. And he refused to tolerate it. He stood up and headed right of the dining hall.

That sentence may have been a slap to the face for him, but the action of him outright leaving in the middle of a conversation was just a downright kick in the gut for Harley. She would have chased him and given him a piece of her mind, but this was Jonathan. He was raised to believe certain things, and Harley couldn’t do much about it no matter how hard she tried. How she wanted to run up to Edward, to tell him everything Jon felt towards the ginger. But she couldn’t, Jonathan would hate her for it. She had worked so hard to gain his trust; she couldn’t lose it over something like this. So she just sat there, alone, until she finished her breakfast and left for her therapy session.

-

Edward noticed Crane storming out of the dining hall. Of course he did. He had also noticed the occasional stares he got from the brunette man. He had never been more disoriented in his life. Why was this man so mysterious? Edward could of course look into Jon’s files, but that would just ruin the little trust he barely managed to earn. No, he would have to talk to Jon. But he didn’t want to. What would he even say? Edward sighed out of frustration, placing his head in the palms of his hands.

-

“Love him?” Jonathan grumbled to himself in his cell that night. “Preposterous.” He couldn’t be in love with Edward. The mere idea of it was absurd to Jon. But Edward’s laugh haunted him. It tormented his mind. How adorably disgusting that whole exchange had been, and how strange it had made Jonathan feel. How he let it carry on for longer than he should have. Why did he? Harley couldn’t be right, right? Unsure of what to do, he starts humming.

“Everybody knows what's going down, when a murder of crows start hanging around.” Harley had played him this song many times, saying how it completely fit him. She wasn’t exactly wrong.

” Oh no.” His voice isn’t exactly melodic, and it isn’t what someone would usually call a nice voice to listen to. But his singing wasn’t bad. He knew how to sing, from all the days he spent in church as a little boy.

“I gotta keep it on the down low.” He made the song sound more sinful than it was. His tone was calm, steady. Yet it had a certain eerie undertone, one that would send shivers down ones back.

“Cause he's buried in the back near the tracks, by a field of corn rows.” His voice drops. It’s a damn song, not some sacred summoning ritual, yet when he sings anything, the line kind of blurs.

” When the dirty old dog starts sniffing around, uncover my crime there underground. Oh no.” He paused and took a long, deep breath.

“I gotta keep it where the sun don't go.” Memories came back. What he would give to kill that witch again.

“Cause he's buried in the back near the tracks, by a field of corn rows.” He lets out a low chuckle, from deep within his throat.

“Oh God I've done it now, please help this sinner out. Oh no. Have mercy on my soul.” He sang a bit louder, his accent slipping. Who cares if someone heard him, he was enjoying himself.

“Cause he's buried in the back near the tracks, by a field of corn rows.” He finished, his voice dropping even lower, sounding almost gravely. He lets out another low chuckle. How he missed singing. He forgot how much it calmed him.

Enough distractions, he needed to think now. What was he supposed to do, talk to Edward about this? No, absolutely not. What a ridiculous idea. Edward would probably just laugh at him. At how pathetic this whole situation is. Firsthand embarrassment, that is what talking to Edward would result in. It was better for Jon to cut ties now, whilst he still could. He didn’t want to, though. He wanted Edward. That was such a tough pill to swallow, but he wanted the ginger man. Jonathan hated himself for it. He could barely admit it to himself without feeling sick to his stomach.

He doesn’t love Edward. Or at least if he does, he won’t admit it to himself. But he wants him. Why, Jonathan doesn’t know. Perhaps it’s the loneliness finally getting to him, or maybe it’s just because of how smart and interesting Edward is. He needs more time to figure it out.

He also needs to apologize to Harley.

-

“Professor Crane, what do you need?” Oh Ivy was pissed; she was absolutely furious. How dare this asshole treat Harley that way, after all she does for him. Jon just stared at her, almost bored. Harley sat next to Ivy, pouting hard and not even looking at Jon.

“Harley listen-“ Before he could even finish his sentence, Ivy cut him off.

“Leave. Now.” Crane did not have time for this. He would speak to Harley at rec time. There was nothing Ivy could do about it. He just glared at the green-skinned woman before turning tail and leaving. He had therapy to get to. After that, he’d talk to Harley. He would apologize for acting like an utter fool and actually talk to her about what he was feeling.

He would.

-

Long story short, he didn’t. Harley was with Ivy again, and Jon could do absolutely nothing. Harley abandoned their little gossip session. Crane was already regretting so much; he didn’t need another regret to carry. He sat alone on the couch. Just another 45 minutes of being alone. He needed this.

“Ah, Professor Jonathan Crane. Just the man I was looking for.” Jon turned to locate the source of the familiar voice. He saw none other than the Penguin. He had never really spoken to the man, not being interested in the mafia and mob business. From what he had heard, Oswald Cobblepot was a powerful man. But from Jon’s point of view, he was just an unloved child who grew into a greedy man with a Napoleon Complex.

“And how may I help you?” Jon made no attempt to move and offer the other man some space on the couch. Oswald still sat down.

“Well, Edward and Harvey are bickering like children and I am in desperate need of an intellectually stimulating conversation. I thought you could deliver. “ Crane had no will or wish to be someone’s talk buddy right now. Whilst it was flattering to some extent, the fact that Oswald thought Crane would just talk to him if he asked the man just proved that Oswald was at least a tiny bit self-centered. Jon wouldn’t call it straight up narcissism, but it isn’t far from it in his book.

“Do I have a choice?” Jon asks cautiously. He wants to avoid talking, but he also wants to avoid making enemies. Especially if they are Edward’s friends. Jon blinked a few times. He had to stop thinking about Edward. He had to get the crude ideas out of his head.

“Of course you do, my friend. And if you have any idea on how to calm them, it would considerately help.” Jonathan turned his gaze towards the two men. Edward looked completely bitter as he glared daggers at Harvey, who was ready to tear Edward’s tongue out.

“Have you tried changing the topic?” Jon asked, still looking at the bickering pair. They looked ridiculous, and Jonathan just had to wonder what had gotten Edward so wound up. The ginger was usually calm and collected, and now Jon could almost hear his yelling as he argued with Harvey. Oswald just sighed.

“Whichever topic I present they turn into an argy-bargy.” Jon had to snicker at the British expression. He heard Jervis use the phrase a few times, which is why he knew it. He wasn’t surprised at Edward’s ability to start a fight over anything, given the fact that if Edward had an opinion, he would voice it, no matter how crude or blunt it may be.

Jon recalls that a week prior Edward almost got his ass whooped by a rather large inmate who Jon didn’t bother to remember the name of. And all because he couldn’t keep that big mouth of his shut for more than 5 seconds.

“Would you really have it any other way?” Jon asked, cautiously. Oswald laughed his signature laugh, which never failed to sound ridiculous to Jon. Oswald shook his head and sighed.

“I suppose not. It would get dreadfully boring.” He turned his gaze from Jonathan to the two men who appeared like they were going to start punching one another any minute now. He chuckled slightly, before turning back to Crane. “Would you?”

The question caught the southerner completely off guard. He turned his head to look at Oswald, and his surprise must have shown on his face, because Oswald couldn’t help but snort lightly at Crane’s expression. He quickly composed himself, blinking a few times. He sighed.

“Whilst Edward can be extremely annoying, it’s somewhat endearing. So no, I guess not.” Crane turned his head back at the men in question, only to find that Edward was on the floor. Harvey was still sitting on the couch and has pushed Edward off. Edward was fuming, as could be expected. Jon could vaguely hear the ginger shout what might have been an insulting riddle at the Duke of Duality.

“Although I fear that if we don’t intervene now, they might kill each other.” With that, Jon stood up and started walking towards the two men, Oswald nodding and following right behind him. As they approached, Edward noticed Jon and immediately stood up from the floor.

“Good day, gentlemen.” Said Jon in a calm tone. Harvey snapped his head in Crane’s direction, and his rage filled expression immediately changed to a calmer one. It was clear that Harvey was back in control now, as opposed to Two-Face. Edward stood there in front of Jon and Oswald, his lime eyes carefully eyeing Jonathan.

There was such caution in his movements as he sat down on the couch, his eyes still glued on Jonathan. No one spoke for a good minute. Oswald grew sick of the rather awkward silence.

“So have you two reached a conclusion in your argument? Was it educational?” Asked the short man, and Edward shook his head no. He looked dreadfully disappointed. Harvey turned his head away and refused to look at any of the 3 men which were next to him. Oswald just sighed in dissatisfaction. These two men were smart, cunning men. So how could they turn so childish at the drop of a hat?

“Didn’t you have time to be childish when you were children?” Asked Jon, not realizing how much that question stung. He should have, given his own miserable childhood. Harvey let out an almost primal growl, defensive and rough. Edward, on the other hand, seemingly shut down.

Edward stood up and left without a word. Jonathan couldn’t have known. But oh he must have! He must have known that would have hurt. Every person in here knew that Edward hated where he was from. Everyone! Hell, Jonathan was a teacher of psychology for a long time, he should have noticed signs of child abuse! God, the man probably couldn’t see the obvious if someone put it on a stick and waved it in front of his face. To think that Edward was even beginning to think a relationship with this man would be possible.

Wait.

Oh Edward would have slapped himself right there and then had he not been next to a guard. He would have slapped himself hard, so hard that he’d knock that idea right out of his head. But he couldn’t. He had the night to think this over. To think of his next move.

Meanwhile back in the rec room, Jonathan was coming to regret his choice of words.

“So, that worked out nicely.” Harvey said, tone slightly cocky.

“Shut the fuck up, Dent.” Said Jon, before heading towards the guards so that he could be taken back to his cell. Rec time was conveniently over. He could go back to his cell. He could find solutions to his problems in peace.

He remembered feeling he wouldn’t be getting any peace and quiet soon.

He hated when he was right.

Chapter Text

Oh, the self-loathing Jonathan was feeling right now was indescribable. It was drowning him, so much so that the corner of the cell had never been more comfortable. Harley wasn’t right, there was no way she was right, yet the feeling that crushed Jonathan’s very being felt so akin to something he had long forgotten. How he wished it had stayed forgotten. How he wished to not feel again, to be a shell of a man, a walking fear incarnate. To be free and devoid of emotion. To be alone in his numbness. Love. Was this love? It couldn’t be. Love was pain, love was being stripped of your defenses, vulnerable and completely open to the one you called a lover. Love was being weak. Emotions were being weak. He was being weak.

He needed to stop, he needed to stop because this would just result in pain. This was Edward Nygma, the egotistical bastard who could never love anyone but himself. Love. Whoever said anything about love? What we he thinking about, damn it?! He wasn’t in love, he couldn’t love. Love had no place in his life. He needed to stop, it all just needed to stop.

He was going to strangle himself; he was really going to do it. He would take his damn bed sheet and tie it around his neck, and he would pull until his face turned blue. He just wanted to feel numb again, was that too much to ask? Apparently so, yes, it was, because the feeling refused to go away.

He had other things to focus on, like his toxin, like apologizing to Harley. Like getting the hell out of this wretched place because the medicine was starting to get to him. Yes, this was obviously the reason for how he was behaving. The medicine he was prescribed was messing with his mind, nothing more than that. Nothing else made sense, he refused to let anything else make sense. He had to repeat ‘Harley can’t be right’ a few times if only to convince himself. He didn’t love Edward. He never loved anyone.

That wasn’t about to change. And yet a question rang through his mind all the same.

Was this love?

------------------------

Edward was on the verge of screaming. His nails dragged down his cheeks for what seemed to be the millionth time in the last 30 minutes. It hurt; he could feel some blood rolling down his cheeks. He didn’t cry, he physically couldn’t. No tears ever left his eyes. So instead of salty tears, it was the small droplets of blood that wet his cheeks.

God how he wished he could claw them off. His cheeks, his freckles. He just wanted them gone. Too many memories. Too many times he suffered for the way he looked. They made him look horrible and he wanted them gone. So he clawed and clawed, but they never went away. He clawed and he scratched until there was enough blood on his fingers to paint the walls in question marks, and even then he didn’t stop.

Too many memories. Too many times he’d been made a fool because of how he looked. His frame looked so small, he felt so small. He was on the verge of screaming. But if he screamed, people would know something was wrong. They’d know he wasn’t perfect. He needed to be perfect.

He didn’t see it, he didn’t know it, but the blood rolling down his pale skin made him seem all the more angelic. He stilled, hands to his sides, and for a moment he looked like a painting. Of sorrow or of anger, of genius or of madness, it was hard to tell. He walked the line of insanity with such grace. Was it insanity? To crave the attention he so well deserved? To crave respect? To crave power?

He was shaking now. No tears. Just blood. Just how it was back at home. He could feel the cigarette burn into his shoulder all over again. He could feel the bottle break over his head again. He could feel the pain in his ribs as he was mercilessly thrown down the stairs. He could feel it all, yet he was still sitting on his bed, he was still there yet his mind was nowhere to be found.

He felt so numb, so broken. There was no other way to put it, he wasn’t himself, yet this was him. A man laid broken and bare. A little boy who never knew warmth, who never knew kindness or compassion. A child who had never felt a gentle embrace. He walked the line of insanity with such grace.

Was this insanity?

-------------------------

His pillow was bloody when he woke up. His face was burning, a cruel reminder of what happened. The guard sent to wake him up didn’t spare him a glance before he left to wake the other inmates. Good. It gave him time to think of a way to hide the scars. Oh, but there was still blood under his fingernails.

Edward ran the Asylum’s weekly schedule through his mind and thanked whatever spirit was out there because shower time was before breakfast today. The showers could be compared to Chinese water torture, but they would do for now. He’d steal some foundation from a female guard and hide the scars. Hide the freckles too. God the fucking freckles. It took all of his willpower to not scratch his face again.

He was basically dragged out of his room by a guard. He kept his face down, avoiding any gaze that came his way. He could swear he saw Harley out of the corner of his eye, and he could swear she was looking at him wide-eyed. She noticed. Of course, she did. She might have even called his name; he didn’t hear her though. He just kept his head down. He didn’t enjoy the rough treatment he was receiving as he was dragged towards the showers, but he didn’t have it in him to throw a snarky insult at the guard or even complain.

He saw the pair of familiar blues and his heart stopped. Yes, he’d seen Jonathan around shower time before. But fate was a cruel bitch, wasn’t she? Just when he wished to stay as far away from Jonathan as he could, the guards thought it would be humorous to put them next to one another. Just peachy. Jonathan looked slightly more anxious than Edward had ever seen him. Then his eyes locked with Edward’s.

The world froze around both of them. Jon saw the scars, and he had to blink. Once. Twice. The scars were still there. The skin around them was red from irritation. He took in Edward completely in the few moments he had before they parted gazes. God, he looked utterly gorgeous disheveled like that. His hair was messy and uneven and some of it was in Edward’s face and to Jonathan he had never looked more beautiful.

Fate was a cruel fucking bitch, wasn’t she? Jonathan had despised the showers at Arkham, it made him feel so vulnerable. He hated showing any skin in general, as it made him extremely uncomfortable. But this wasn’t even in a private space. It made him feel sick to his stomach. And on top of everything, Edward was here now.

The showers were divided into rooms that held three showers, each divided by a curtain. Each inmate was provided with one towel. Edward didn’t pay any attention to the third inmate who was in there with Jonathan and him. When the guards left, it was a sign that they had 15 minutes to finish whatever business they had. Fights were common in the showers, and Edward was unfortunate enough to witness a few.

Edward began to strip off his uniform, the scars on his pale skin awfully visible. His back was covered in belt marks and bruises, scars both old and new. From stab wounds to smaller scars caused by shards of glass, they littered his back and chest. His shoulders were covered in cigarette burns. His thighs and wrists spoke another story.

Jonathan couldn’t help but glance at the ginger as he took off his own uniform. He saw only Edward’s back, but it was enough to make him blush and turn his head in the other direction. Why did he look in the first place? Was it the desire to know what made the green-eyed bastard tick? Or was it the gut-wrenching want Jonathan felt each time he looked at Edward? He felt sick to his stomach swallowing roughly as he quickly stepped into the shower.

Edward had the guts to turn around slightly, as he caught a glance of Jonathan’s bare form. He could swear he saw a million little scars in the one second he had to look at Jon before the blue-eyed man shoved the curtain shut behind him. There were so many all over his back and upper arms. His legs were also littered with the same scars. There were quite a few nasty big ones over Jon’s shoulders, and for the first time Edward had noticed the raised scars on Jonathan’s palms. But then Jon was out of his view, and Edward too stepped into his shower.

The water was cold, but it was exactly what Edward needed. Showers felt nice, no matter how horrible they were here. The water eased the burning of his skin. He scrubbed at his skin with the soap he was provided far too roughly, in hopes of feeling clean. He never truly felt clean.

For a few minutes, all that could be heard was the water running, but when the third inmate had left the shower room, a low humming broke through the air. Edward stilled. The voice was far so very familiar, yet it sounded oh so sinister. The tune wasn’t one Edward recognized, yet it was one of the most pleasant things he ever heard. It was so low, so soothing, so incredibly calming, yet eerie and chilling all the same.

“What song is that?” When Jonathan heard someone speak from the other side of the curtain, he stopped humming immediately and truth be told he almost slipped on the wet floor and fell right on his ass. Edward didn’t realize he had said the question out loud, and his face went a slight crimson. He didn’t dare move a muscle, he didn’t dare breathe. There was awkward silence for a while, and Jonathan could swear that he’d suffocate if he didn’t say something. But he could just pretend he wasn’t there? No, Edward heard him, it would be useless.

 

“You’re still here?” Came the careful reply. Edward let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding in. He chuckled lightly and was greeted with a slightly annoyed groan from the other side of the curtain. He needed to remind himself that Jon could still technically dive through the curtain and strangle him if he vexed the blue-eyed man too much. He calmed his chuckling, and Jonathan hated how much he immediately missed the sound.

Jonathan contemplated speaking again. He had questions. But would it be wise to ask them now, when they were in the open, just minutes away from getting pulled away from the showers and into whatever daily activities they had. Speaking of which, their time was seemingly over as the guards called their names, signaling that it was time to get the fuck out of the showers.
“We have about a minute before they manhandle us out of here. Who comes out first?” Edward asked, and when Jon didn’t reply, he took it as a sign to get out and get dressed. He was quick, and he literally ran outside. Jon only caught a glimpse of the ginger. He had questions. He got dressed in silence and left the room himself, slamming the door behind him, not fully meaning to.

He sighed as a guard grabbed him by the arm. Breakfast, and the therapy. The god damned therapy. He mentally groaned. There was something he’d have to do at breakfast though.

---------------

“Harleen, Harleen wait!” He basically ran after her as she stormed away from him after grabbing the shitty food. She stopped for a second, hesitating. Oh, if she looked back, she’d have to talk to him! It’s not like she didn’t want to talk to him, but she was still a little bit angry. She let out a loud, defeated sigh. She turned around, and Jonathan had never felt so relieved in his life. He finally got close enough to her to be able to talk to her without yelling and causing a scene, basically looming over her.

“Harley, I’m sorry.” He said, and as emotionless as he was, his eyes showed genuine regret. Harley just smiled at him, mouthing ‘go on’. Jon rolled his eyes slightly, sighing. “Yes, I did act like an idiot, and yes, you have every right to let Pamela cut my dick off, but I really do mean it when I say I’m sorry.” He almost bit his tongue twice. Harley just smiled wider.

“Come sit with me and Pammy, wontcha¬?” Jon wasn’t too thrilled about sitting next to Ivy, but god he would do it to make Harley happy. He just nodded and her squeak of happiness was enough to make his mood better. He followed her along to the table, and the look that Pamela gave him was one of pure surprise. Her flabbergasted expression almost made him laugh. Almost.

He sat down next to Harley, putting his tray down and staring at it with little to no desire to actually eat the so-called food on his plate. Pamela decided to ignore the whole Crane sitting with them situation if only to make Harley happy. The things she’d do for her were unbelievable. Not attacking Crane doesn’t mean she couldn’t have her fun teasing him, she decided, a slight smirk crossing her face. The brunette noticed, grimacing instantly.

“Oh God, what now?” He asked in a very light-hearted tone, no bark to his voice. Pamela just smirked wider. She eyed Crane dead on, almost as if to assert dominance. His gaze was lazy on hers, but Pamela had a feeling that wouldn’t last much longer.

“How’d the riddle boy?” There it was. Those few words were enough to make the southerners eyes shoot wide open. Jon’s face went 50 shades of red. He should have expected it! Of course Pamela would bring it up. Harley snickered beside him. “Aww, does Professah Crane need some love advice?” The blonde added, her snickers turning into full on laughter when Jon’s head turned around to face her, shock evident on his face.

“You two are ridiculous.” He whisper-yelled, both women now trying not to draw too much attention with how much they were laughing. Harley tried to get out a sentence through her laughter, but it came out as incoherent gibberish. Pamela started coughing from the laughter. Jon was displeased. His face was red from embarrassment and the expression of ‘fuck you both right now’ was impossible to hide.

“You’re the one who’s being ridiculous.” Started Pamela, cutting herself off with a snicker. “I mean someone as much as mentions him and a second later I can’t tell if you’re a tomato from my garden or a scarecrow.” She stopped for breath, finally managing to calm her laughter. “You obviously love him.” She finished and the damn smirk was back. Jon, however, wasn’t going down without a fight.

“Believe me when I say it, it isn’t love. Is there some unwanted emotion I feel towards him? Yes. Is it love? Absolutely not.” He managed to fight the blush off, and his face went back to stoic. A sign that he wasn’t saying it to defend his ego or pride, but because it was true. Or at least, to him it was. This managed to pique both Harley’s and Pamela’s attention. To Harley it didn’t quite make sense, but it was better to listen now and analyze later.

“Can you describe the feeling, Jonny?” Harley asked carefully. Jonathan sighed, looking down at his desk, seeming almost ashamed. Harley put an arm on his shoulder, almost as a sign that whatever the feeling is, it’s okay. He hesitated for a few moments.

“Desire.” Both Pamela and Harley had to blink a few times. They shared a confused look, and Jon felt the sudden need to explain himself. “True, it borders on love at times, but rest assured it isn’t love. It’s more of a sick want. A craving.” It felt so sinful to admit it, so wrong. He almost felt disgusted. Harley must have noticed how horrible he felt admitting to that and wrapped her arm around his shoulder.

“Dontcha worry Jonny. Pammy and I are gonna help you get the green bean. He’s already smitten with you, so it’ll be easy peasy!” Jonathan’s face went red again. He looked at Harley, slight confusion evident on his face.

“How can you be so sure?” Harley just burst out laughing again. She buried her face into his shoulder, quickly lifting her head up when she noticed him stiffen up. She took a few deep breaths, before turning to look him in the eyes.

“Professah, he’s staring at you like a lost puppy whenever you’re in his line of view. You can see it in his eyes. He’ll hear your name and instantly light up without even realizing it.” She smiled sweetly at him. “Trust me, he loves you.” Jonathan just sighed. He couldn’t fully return those feelings, could he? It wouldn’t be fair on Edward, would it? Oh, but how he wanted him, it almost hurt.

“Thank you, Harley.” He said, smiling slightly at her, before standing up. “Now, ladies, you’ll have to excuse me, but I’ve got therapy to get to.” His tone was laced with snark, and Harley giggled before waving him bye. Pamela flashed him another smirk, and he decided to leave before he fucked up something again. He just got Harley to accept his apology, he doesn’t need to make her angry again.

He walked out of the cafeteria and got dragged away to therapy.

------------------

It was around 2 AM. He was in his room, and he couldn’t sleep for the life of him. Too many questions he wanted answers to swarmed his head. Jonathan sighed for the 10th time in as many minutes. He smacked his face into his pillow yet again. He rolled around a bit, hell he even contemplated hitting his head against the wall until he passed out but decided against it because he didn’t want to deal with the bruises. Nothing seemed to be easing his mind. And he was dreadfully tired.

“God damn it Nygma.” He said, getting up. He needed answers, and lord help him he needed them now. An idea ran though his mind. He’d give Edward a taste of his own medicine, so to speak. If one could call sneaking into the other's room at an unreasonable time of the nigh for answers which were none of their business medicine, the yes, Nygma would be getting a taste quite soon.

Jonathan picked the lock on his door very carefully, making no noise whatsoever. The lock was already fucked for the most part, so it was quite easy. He snuck out, as quiet as a mouse, and began his journey down the hall. To Edward’s cell. The walk there seemed to take a lot longer than it actually was, but Jon made it unseen and unheard by the mostly sleeping guards.

This was it. He was at the door. Last chance to turn away. No, there was no running now. He’d get what he was looking for. He would. They why did picking Edward’s lock come as such a task? Why was he hesitating the whole time? He slowly pushed the door open and saw the ginger sleeping. He looked so peaceful, so pretty it felt like a sin to wake him up. He looked so doll-like. He would have left him to sleep, but Jon had gotten this far, and he needed to get answers. Closing the door behind him, he let out one single sound. One single word into the darkness of the room.

“...Edward?”