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The cycle of pain

Chapter Text

Today was the day. Or rather the night. Gotham would finally be filled with the screams of its terrified citizens living through their worst nightmares again. Once again Scarecrow would do justice to his title of being The Master of Fear and make thousands upon thousands of civillians quiver in terror and the thought of him. These words sounded so sweet on his tongue he almost feared to get caries.

But it was not simple as that. He wouldn’t have bothered to spend weeks on planning and perfecting everything, if his idea was to merely gas the city. No, no, no. Instead he thought of something a tad more… complex. If he stuck to such an easy plan, he would basically play right into the Dark Knights hands and fists. He had something better up his sleeve.

Despite his perfectionated organizing and considering of every possibility, he was prepared for some bruises, cuts and at least one or two broken ribs. But it was part of the plan, hell, the whole point of it was getting the attention, the rush, the adrenaline he craved and that would hardly work without his favorite foe.

It seemed like an eternity had passed since his last big attack on the city and he felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Sheer anticipation flooded through his veins all day as he ran mentally his check list down. Nobody knew about his plan, safe for goons and henchmen, and he only made sure that Bane and Two-face would be safe as soon as the fun began.

But it would be one hell of a boring and stressed time until then. He would doublecheck on everything, pace the floor back and forth and chew on his lip impatiently. Exactly on 9 p.m. would the show begin, when the streets were crowded enough and the protecting darkness engulfed him and his men into the shadows.

He was outside of his layer, watching his goons chat with one another, waiting by their trucks filled with fear toxin. Alongside the casks of his precious toxin inside of the vehicles was a bomb in each of them. The trucks would drive to marked spots all over town and when the timer hits zero they will explode. Upon the explosion his toxin would evaporate and spread throughout the city and make hundreds of people victims of its effect.

That was only to get the bats attention and to already have a head start in the game. The best part would wait. He checked his watch only to see he still had about two hours left. Gothams traffic was a bitch at 7 p.m. People working extra hours or starting their night shift filled the roads and he needed his henchmen to get going.

Scarecrow clapped his hands a few times, immediately catching all of his mens attention, as they quickly gathered in a half circle around him. For this big scheme he had chosen the most respectable of his goons, those who actually had a brain and the will to work for him, for the sake of bringing terror and destruction in a smart way. He liked this kind of henchmen.

„Okay, boys. You all know the plan and the part you play, right?“

„Yes!“ They said in unison.

Scarecrow nodded satisfied, letting his gaze wander over them. They all stood in groups, organized by their respective tasks. He pointed towards the group of men, dressed in different uniforms, those who would drive the trucks. The trucks themselves were pretty plain and held no resemblance to each other, they all had the name and logo of some company on them and their drivers were dressed as workers of said company.

„You will go now. Do each of you know where they have to drive and where the meeting point is?“

„Yes!“

„Good, then go.“

And with that they went to their trucks, started them and drove off into two directions of the road, careful never to stay too close to one another and have some of them take the long route to a different spot the same way. Wouldn’t want to raise suspicion after all.

Some of his men had quite a way to drive to get to their spots, but Scarecrow trusted them enough not to get caught and follow the plan. He had marked several places all over the city, City Hall District, East End, Bristol, Old Gotham and more. Hell, he had even highlighted not so important parts like Grand Avenue, Park Row and Fashion District. Most of them just because Crane knew there would be a lot of people. Only two trucks had their spots in Chinatown, since Scarecrow wasn’t very keen on catching the wrath of the Lucky Hands Triad. He was 100% they’d never try to mess with him, but he did it anyway just in case he ever needed a favor.

He turned his head towards the next group, a whole bunch of henchmen dressed with makeshift signature Scarecrow masks and armed with guns and fear toxin. They all wore a determined expression as they straightened their posture upon meeting Scarecrows gaze. Their villainous boss just smiled cunningly at them.

Scarecrow had also made sure bruises and broken rips wouldn’t be the only thing he would gain from all this. Several vans would seperately take the route towards the Financial District of Gotham, the district with the most banks in the whole city. When all hell breaks loose, his men will have an easy time robbing bank after bank, since Batman won’t bother with them, he’ll focus on finding the Master of Fear.

„You all will get going too. You know the plan?“

„Yes!“ There was obvious enthusiasm in their voices, much to Scarecrows delight.

„Very well, now go!“

Wordlessly they made their way to their vans, six in each of them all with the same equipment and one – chosen by the Scarecrow - of them took the lead, so nothing could go wrong. Good planning was the key to successful crime after all. Crane was almost sure if he wasn’t so keen on encountering the big bad Bat, he could go without even seeing him even once and vice versa. The thought let a short low chuckle escape his lips.

Next up were his own personal chemists, still wearing their protective gear and gas masks. They were useful, the only people who knew how to make many gallons of fear toxin aside from him. Scarecrow half trusted them, but only because he knew, none of them had the capacity to make it on their own, they were henchmen, but also huge pushovers and cowards.

He folded his hands behind his back, a posture signaling people the plain simple phrase „Do not touch me“ while also putting automatically confidence and conviction in his words and movements.

„You have done well, but there’s nothing to do for you anymore. You can either go home or stay in the hideout.“

There was no choice and Scarecrow knew it, if they went home, they would be exposed to his fear toxin knowing Crane had no mercy for them and the hideout on the other hand was safe. Predictably they chose to stay in the layer and quickly went inside.

Last and probably least were the typical average goons. They weren’t qualified in any way, excluding the fact they had the muscle to put at least somewhat a fight up to the Batman. He had even borrowed some from the Legion of Doom. They had no job, other than to tire the Bat out before Scarecrow had to face him. Admittedly, if the Batman would square off against Scarecrow, without being tired out from fighting the goons, it would be a much quicker fight for the caped crusader.
Jonathan was in no shape to even slightly do some damage to Gothams hero without his Toxin, though he didn’t like to admit it.

Scarecrow turned towards the henchmen, watching as some of them straightened their posture upon being so subtly addressed, while others didn’t notice his gaze at all. He would have lied, if he said that it surprised him. He surpressed the urge to sigh in frustration and decided to get it over with already. He didn’t ask if they knew the plan and instead explained it again, knowing that at least one of them had forgotten it.

„Alright, boys, we’ll now get to the base. Everything there is already prepared, so you only have to guard the place and watch out for the Bat. If any of you see him, call alarm and fight him. Whatever you do, don’t let him get to the roof top. Understood?“

„Understood!“

„Good.“

And with that the rest of the henchmen and Scarecrow went into the two left over trucks and drove off. He sat in the front seat, going once again over his mental checklist. Thankfully the driver kept his mouth shut and didn’t try to ask any stupid questions, so Crane had some peace and quiet before it was showtime.

The don’t-let-Batman-reach-the-roof-thing wasn’t meant serious. He only said it to put some more extra pressure onto his goons. He wanted them to give their best and not go down like flies. Unfortunately his men always tended to loose their strength and courage when it came down to actually fighting Batman.

He rubbed his eyes, as he felt a wave of exhaustion pass over him. He hadn’t slept in several days and passing out did apparently not count, if one believed Harvey Dent. The tiredness was slowly catching up to him, but he ignored it. The adrenaline would do its job once the fun began and hopefully he could manage to stay awake until then.

„Are you okay, boss?“

The drivers voice broke him out of his thoughts. There was slight concern behind his words and he passed a quick glance at Crane, before he focused back onto the road.

„Hm?“

„Is everything alright with you, Boss?“

To say Scarecrow was surprised was an understatement, he was rather… startled by one of his henchmen showing almost real worry for him.

„Yeah, yeah. I’m just having a hard time thinking straight.“ He replied shortly, not wanting to carry this conversation any longer. The perplexed look on the goons face didn’t fail to catch Cranes attention and he briefly wondered if the man was worried about him or the plan, but decided to keep his focus elsewhere.

„Oh, okay then.“

The ride continued in blissful silence until they arrived at the base. The base was a relatively new Clock Tower, Scarecrow had debated on using this one or the one in old Gotham, but decided to take this one, because it was closer to the city center and gave the best view over the chaos that was about to ensue.

The streets were still full of people, not necessarily crowded, but they’d give a nice scream chorus anyway. The trucks drove one into an alleyway and stopped right next to the side entrance to the tower. Thankfully, but unsurprisingly nobody seemed to notice them, not even as all the henchmen stepped out oft he vehicle and made their way inside the building. Gothamites almost never noticed what was happening right in front of their eyes and Scarecrow sometimes asked himself if they were really that oblivious or just chose to ignore it. It was hard to tell.

The Clock Tower was built about 5 - 10 years ago, as far as Scarecrow knew, had a flat roof, multiple floors with glass windows and was mostly made out of metal with a few brick built walls. Not very tasteful, you could tell the architect tried to create a mixture between the gothic old buildings and the new skyscrapers in Gotham but failed miserably. But it fulfilled its purpose and the roof gave the perfect scene for a fight, while not being unsafe. Scarecrow had six different escape routes and only one required jumping from leg-breaking height. The buildings surrounding the tower thankfully weren’t high enough for Batman to jump from roof to roof, meaning he had no other choice than to fight off the goons first.

Scarecrow entered the building last, after going over his plan one last time. There were two options to get to the rooftop. One, take the elevator, or two, take the stairs. Now, despite Cranes dislike for anything that required physical activity, he took the stairs. He only did it, to keep himself occupied as he felt sleepiness slowly creeping up to him. The walking would surely tire him a bit, but he didn’t care.

After he reached the rooftop, he took a moment to see if everything was ready. There were canisters full of Fear toxin for later use and a headset so he could communicate with his henchmen, lying on a table next to a chair. He was alone, all his henchmen were scattered around the place and no one seemed very keen on guarding the roof for some reason. Maybe the building pressure and fear from hearing your colleagues getting beaten up by a man in a Bat costume.

Sitting down at the table, Scarecrow took the headset into his hands. It was one of his own design and though he didn’t like to admit it, it was hard to build it. He was a chemist and not a technician for gods sake. He spared a quick glance at his watch only to see he still had about half an hour left until it was showtime.

In a swift motion he pulled his mask off his head, revealing brown-gingerish mob of hair and tired icy blue eyes, before he quickly put on the headset, switching the device on in the progress, and pulled the bag over his head again. Scarecrows tiredness was shoved aside, as nervousness took him over and he bounced his feet impatiently. Everything was in place, only waiting for his signal to begin.

He always hated these moments. The sheer anticipation when he was about to commit a crime. His heart pounding harder, without the sweet adrenaline giving him the rush he needs. It was torturous, there was no other way to describe it. He didn’t know if all rogues felt like him when it came to that, and it seemed stupid if he took the time to think about it. But in that moment, only succeeding mattered to him, regardless of how silly he acted.

Jokers crimes always went flawless, without the Clown unintentionally making a fool of himself. There was a certain irony behind it, but when it came down his schemes, Jack was collected and knew what he was doing. It was admirable to Scarecrow, how he could pull that off, but still keep his image as an unpredictable crazy Clown and nothing more. Sometimes he wondered, if that was Jokers intention, to be underestimated and labeled as less of a threat. Yet Gotham sure as hell didn’t underestimate him, they respected him and feared him, but other villains were conflicted. A lot hated him. A lot admired him. A few had unwanted feelings for him. God, what a mess.

If only Scarecrow understood how he did it, how he got everyones love and hate, but made them ultimately respect him. People always said respect had to be earned, a stupid concept for society, but a useful one for villains and rogues. Nobody will look twice at you, much less respect you, if you have no reputation, if they can put nothing to your name, as if you were non-existent, just a nameless plain figure without purpose and too unimportant to care about. But if you have done something to earn yourself a title, things get a little more interesting. Nobody cared about Jonathan Crane, only Scarecrow, the Master of Fear, mattered. A title, a symbol, a reputation. Game, set and match.

Just what was it that made Joker so respected? More than half of the Legion of Doom members could kill him in one blow, yet the Clown seemed invincible. More than human, less than a god, but nothing inbetween. He was a symbol. Just like the Batman. Nothing more, nothing less.

Scarecrow didn’t notice how deep he was into his thoughts, until his watch started beeping, pulling him back into reality. He had set himself an early alarm, letting him know, that he had five minutes left until it was time. He stood up from the table and walked towards the railing of the roof to let his gaze wander over the city. He didn’t notice the sinister grin spreading on his features.

 

***

Scarecrow had no taste in any kind of art. He could go into a museum and spit onto each painting. He could call paintings like the Mona Lisa or Starry Night a waste of good resources and thought Picassos obsession with shapes and forms was ridiculous. But seeing one after one truck exploding and sending clouds of dust and fear toxin off into the sky had something cinematographic. It was no matter of seconds, before the sound of screams filled the air, making this just better.

But the cherry on top was probably now alerted. Scarecrows grin only widened, as he recklessly bend over the railing to get a better look at the people on the streets. One of the trucks had only exploded a block away and the Fear Gas had long clouded the sky and engulfed innocent and less innocent bystanders. Those were now squirming on the streets, shouting things like „Get them off me!“ or „Go away!“. Sadly none of them were all too interesting, just people screaming about bugs, but that didn’t take his good mood away.

Suddenly the Batsignal popped up on the sky, letting Crane and the citizens know Gothams hero was on his way through the still crowded streets. The Bat probably knew exactly where Scarecrow was, somehow he always did, but must’ve been slowed down thanks to the sea of cars blocking the road. That gave Crane some time to prepare, not physically but mentally. It had been so long and the adrenaline was making his skin tickle and brought his senses to high alert. Anticipation was killing him and he could barely stand still.

Leaning his torso on the railing, he let his feet bounce impatiently. The chaos around him was delightful, but he couldn’t help but wonder how his friends were doing, if they were safe. Most likely, they wouldn’t dare to ignore his warnings, he knew that for sure. At least for Bane and Harvey, Joker was another league.

Another explosion ripped him from his thoughts, catching Scarecrows attention in a heartbeat as he hurriedly fixed his gaze toward the street. The big bad Bat must’ve gotten tired of cars blocking his way and decided to just blow them apart. Wonderful. Batman seemed to be on edge as he exited his infamous Batmobile – without the company of his newest boy wonder – and fought off a few on his henchmen, attempting to attack him.

For a few seconds their eyes connected, his yellow-black ones with Batman white slits. Yet he could feel how much anger they concealed. Scarecrows grin was met with a frown, as he waved at the Bat in a cocky and daring movement.

Let the fun begin.

***

„Did you know about this?“

„No, he didn’t tell me about this.“

Lex Luthors finger was pointing accusingly at Bane, who held his hands up in an innocent gesture, careful not to drop his coffee filled mug, he was holding in his right hand. They argued in the kitchenette, less to Banes delight. Around them sat a few other LOD-members, some watching their fight, others looking disinterested, while others were just chatting. Scarecrows attack being their topic by choice.

„I swear, he told me nothing.“

„Oh really? So he did this on his own?“

Lex’s voice was dripping with disbelief as he frowned at the much taller and broader man in front of him.

„Yeah, he did. What’s the big deal? It’s not like this has happened for the first time?“

A frustrated growl escaped Luthors lips, as he turned his frown away from Bane and instead stared out of the transparent walls of the Legion of Doom, thankful the building had air filters keeping out any of Cranes wicked chemicals.

„You know how much I hate Scarecrows schemes. Bastard doesn’t even bother to warn us, talking about comradery.“

„There’s no honor among thiefs, y’know.“

Two pairs of eyes were fixated on the two-faced man, who decided to chime into their conversation.

„Harvey, good to see you, and good to see your other half as well. You were exactly who I wanted to see right now.“

Two-face narrowed his eyes at the friendly tone the man took, there was no sarcasm behind his voice, yet there was obvious mockery. In a seemingly nice gesture, Lex walked towards the man with outstretched arms, attempting to tower over him despite being only mere inches taller than him.

„Bane didn’t know Scarecrow planned something, quit being a dick towards him.“

„Ah, good pals stick together. Fine, fine, have it your way, but let it be known, we only had a nice chat.“

„Uh-hu.“

Luthors left eye twitched for a brief moment, blink and you’d have missed it. But Two-face did not miss it.

„And you? Did you know anything about this?“

In a vague movement, Lex gestured towards the window, showing dark green clouds of Fear Toxin and screaming people surrounding the area. Harvey almost looked bored, as he looked back to Luthor, who wore an expecting look on his face.

„No, I did not. You do know Jon prefers to keep his plans secret, right? He cannot risk any of his schemes leaking, now can he?“

„That does not justify in him, not warning us. I mean he doesn’t have to give me the details of his plan, just a warning. Is it too much to ask for?“

„But he did.“

Bane chimed into the argument, successfully gathering both participants attention, as they turned their heads towards him. Speechless, it seemed as their gazes bore right through the man, Lex’s undescribable and Harveys angered.

„He what?“

Luthor finally managed. Bane seemed to notice he said something wrong, but continued non the less, fiddling nervously with his thumbs.

„Well, he told me to stay in my Legion of Doom today. He didn’t tell me why, but I knew he was serious about this.“

Lex took a few steps towards the man, disbelief still present on his face.

„So what you’re telling me, that Scarecrow, one of Gothams most powerful and fearsome villains, who is especially known for his fear inducing toxin, told you to stay in the building with air filters on this specific evening, without giving you any reason and you weren’t at least one bit suspicious?“

There was a deafening silence in the room, every LOD member seemed to be watching the fight now, waiting for Bane to answer.

„If you put it that way, it sounds kinda obvious…“ he finally quietly admited, avoiding Lex’s eyes.

Before Luthor could retort anything, Two-face spoke up.

„God, you’re pathetic. Will you calm down and stop being bitch about it? Scarecrow didn’t have to tell anyone, don’t act like you’re entitled to know everything he does. What are you? His mom?“

Laughter echoed through the room, as Lex turned bright red. Either from anger or embarrassment was anyones guess.

„I bet he told it Joker.“ Riddlers shrill voice screamed as the laughter was near dying down, only to evoke again. Harvey made a point glaring at each of them, but it did very little.

„Do we even know its Scarecrow who’s doin‘ this?“ Solomon Grundys voice. „I mean for all we know he would Joker have his toxin for schemes.“

„Nah, Scarecrow’d rather die, than give his toxin away.“ Killer Croc protested.

„Where the hell is that Clown even?“ Sinestro threw in. He seemed bored by the debate, despite his liking for picking on Crane, much to Harveys surprise.

„Who cares?“ Penguin spat, „that Bastard could be out there squirming while witnessing his worst nightmare and I’d still worry more about the ants he’s squashing.“

„He’s in the meeting room. I saw him watching the chaos outside while muttering something about Scarecrow. It was beyond creepy.“ Black Manta finally spoke up, sounding a bit hesitant.

„What did he say about Crane?“ Two-face immediately asked, suspicion clearly in his voice.

„Uh, I don’t know. Couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying, just heard his name.“

„Oh.“

After that the room went back to normal. Lex went off, probably to question the Clown next, as the Legion of Doom members went back to their usal chatter. Harvey and Bane sat down at one unoccupied table, none of them daring to talk as Two-face couldn’t shake off the concern he was having for his friend.

„You don’t think Joker knew about this, right?“

Bane finally broke the silence. There was a long pause on Harveys side, as if he was thinking of something to say or just wanted to skip the question.

„Do you?“

That took the man a bit aback, but he recovered quickly.

„I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me. Now that they live together and all that.“

Two-face nodded understandingly, taking in each word and forming his own opinion. It would make sense, it wasn’t easy to hide something like that from someone like the Joker. Then again, if the Clown had something to do with it, he would be right there where the action and Batman is. Harvey was torn.

„Maybe Joker found it out without Jon telling him about it.“ he suggested, getting a short hum in response.

„Yeah, maybe.“

***

 

Many people thought Crane was a sick twisted psycho without empathy or any sanity. And that even without ever meeting him in person. It was impressive, but a shame really. If they had the chance to encounter him in person and got to know him, they would see he was 10x more twisted and sinister than they ever dreamed him to be.

Moments like these were simple proof. Right then and there, where he stood in front of the door leading to the inside oft he building, awaiting for his knight in black armour to arrive. He could hear a variety of painful and almost inhumane noises arising from the other side. Punches, cracks, clangs, screams and even gurgling. Every normal sane human being would feel a giant amount of fear, if they ever were to face such a situation. And Scarecrow? No fear in sight, but an unhealthy mixture of anticipation and sheer glee. No therapy in Arkham could ever cure him.

He didn’t even need to press his ear to the metal door to know the Dark Knight was getting closer by each passing second. When the Bat finally beat the last man standing black and blue, and his heavy panting was in earshot, Scarecrow made a quick retreat from the door. Lucky him, then not even seconds after he was somewhat safe, the door was blown right out its hinges, a small cloud of dust settling in ist place as a dark figure came into view.

With how fast Scarecrows heart was pounding and how close he was to just squeal of pure happiness, he could as well have been a school girl getting asked out by its crush. Instead of shrieking and loosing all his dignity, he settled for a admittedly high-pitched giggle.

„Look who it is! Gothams one and only hero, the man of mystery, the villains worst nightmare, the lurking shadow on the streets, the Batman!“

Their eyes met once again. Scarecrows full of unleashed insanity and malicious happiness. Batmans somewhat tired, but still ablaze with anger.

„Scarecrow.“ Was all he responded, letting a small huff escape Cranes lips.

He already sounded unenthusiastic and Jonathan hadn’t even started to crush his spirit. Not much of a great start, certainly. It almost took the fun out of it. But just almost.
Without wasting any more time, Batman charged at him, swinging a fist directly at his face. Scarecrow barely managed to duck before it connected with him.

It went on like that, Batman attacking and Crane dodging it. Fighting was tiring and never his expertise, he only needed to parry every hit, which, thanks to his lanky frame, was often successful. Only after a whole minute of this dangerous dance, the Bat managed to hit Crane right between the rips, not wasting any time to wait for recovery as he immediately went for another punch to his ripcage. A sickly satisfying crack was heard, alongside Scarecrow grunting, as imense pain shot through his whole body.

There were the broken rips he suspected, he would gain from this. Agony made his whole body feel like living hell, but he was far from giving up. The adrenaline pumping through him, let him manage to ignore the stinging sensation, and dodge another close punch, which would have landed right in his gut.

Using one of his spindly long legs to entangle it with the Batmans broad strong ones, he tripped Gothams hero, bringing him to the ground with a painful grunt. Scarecrow needed to act fast or else he would be on his feet in no time again. Using all his weight, to keep the caped crusader down, he got on top of him and pressed his hand to his throat. The immediate reaction he got, was to get his wrist grabbed in a crushing grip.

Scarecrow yelped, giving the Dark Knight a chance to turn the tables. Quite literally at that too. He took ahold of Cranes wrists once again, who struggled but couldn’t loosen the chain like hands, before the world was suddenly spining. Batman had rolled them around and now it was his turn to be pinned to the ground, much to his dismay.

He struggled and struggled, trying to escape, without any success. It would have taken Jonathan a while to accept his defeat and stop fighting, but Batman obviously hadn’t got any patience left.

„You’ve lost, Crane. Can’t you see?“

„I prefer ignoring my defeat.“ He retorted playfully.

Batmans annoyance was so sweet to him, he could see it, even right through the white patches of the mask.

„You’re-“

„-going back to Arkham, where I belong?“

He did not reply, he just grabbed both of Cranes wrists into one iron grip, before pulling them both up. Scarecrows feet dangled helplessly in the air for about three seconds, before he was roughly set to the ground again. As Batman escorted Scarecrow towards the door, Jonathan spoke up, a sinister grin on his face.

„You really think I don’t have one last Ace up my sleeve, huh?“

He was met by Batmans confused glare, before he smashed his head against his, dazzling Gothams hero, but letting a violent headache arise in his head. But now was not the time for selfcare. Swiftly he pulled a syringe out of his sleeve and lunged at the Bat, bringing the needle down forcefully to his neck and injecting him the substance.

The effects were immediate, no time for pain, no time for anything, just nasty hallucinations right away. Sadly he had no time to watch the misery unfolding in front of his eyes, since the toxin didn’t last very long, and he needed a quick escape.

„And that my friend,“ Scarecrow brought out somewhat breathless, „was Plan C. Have fun with your fears, I’ll be off.“

As he walked towards the exit, he spared one last glance at the Dark Knight, who was screaming at the top of his lungs.

„See you very soon.“