Hey, I actually got this done in time, holy fuck–
Long story short, I wanted to actually write something for the holidays this year, I seem to gravitate towards writing things related to Jon the most, and I’m always a slut for Batman treating his rogues like actual people.
The song, which is what originally gave me my idea, is Wrong Black Mare - Brown Bird.
Crawling through the open window to land on his back inside, Jonathan Crane would be wondering how the hell he’s still alive if it wasn’t for the literal stabbing pain in his ribs. The knife is still sticking out of his side, feeling like it’s digging itself deeper with every breath. What else did he expect, walking around Crime Alley, especially during the holidays. Cursing himself, the time of year, and the entire city, Jonathan pulls himself up by the window ledge and shuffles into what he assumes to be a kitchen. It’s a beautiful house, really; decent sized, wide doors to different rooms, the walls a pleasant light blue. Unfortunate it’s here on the edge of arguably the worst part of Gotham. Of course, Jonathan has no time to mope about, imagining what it would be like to actually own a house like this. Stumbling back into a wall and pressing himself against it, Jonathan pulls off the burlap and bites down on the sleeve as he grips the handle of the knife. It’s small with a short blade, thank Christ, but it still hurts when he pulls it from his side. Black spots dance around in his vision as he drops the knife and grips the nearby counter, refusing to let himself fall to the floor. Moving his hand to grip around his side, he searches with the other for the needle and thread he always keeps with him. They’re not necessarily meant for stitches, but they’ve done well as just that more times than Jonathan can count. Sitting at the table near by, he sets to the grisly task of stitching up yet another wound himself.
After a short, messy series of stitches which he’ll no doubt have to redo at a later time, Jonathan leans back in the chair with an exhausted sigh. It takes a moment, but he slowly starts to take note of his surroundings. Consciously, at least. The room he came in through looks to be a living room, the only lights on in the house so far being the sizeable tree in a corner behind a couch. Obviously a family that doesn’t belong in this part of the city. Already there are brightly packaged boxes great and small under the branches, momentarily arousing an almost childish envy in the back of Jonathan’s mind. The only Christmas he’d ever experienced was out in the cold, looking in at Great Granny and her “friends” laughing and drinking. He never liked that time of year.
As he pushes himself up out of the chair to look through the cabinets for food, the inkling of something being amiss troubles Jonathan. Surely, after all the commotion of falling in through the window and slamming into the wall, someone would have heard him. Yet he hears nothing. Not a single sound. Either the occupants are waiting for him, or– Suddenly, the crying of an infant rings out through the night, causing Jonathan to practically jump out of his skin, dropping the can of beans he’d retrieved from the cabinets. Grabbing the very knife he’d been stabbed with, Jonathan creeps out from the kitchen and towards the stairs, up towards the source of the noise.
Knife gripped tight and hand resting on the doorknob, Jonathan steels himself for whatever he might have to do to keep himself safe. However, nothing could have prepared him for what’s behind that door; the carpet glistening crimson, splatter marks over the crib and even the mobile hanging from the ceiling, two bodies lying on the floor, an infant in bloodstained clothes between them. Staring at the scene for a moment, he tries to piece together what happened. He’s no detective, after all, but he can make a guess. Jarring him from his thoughts, the infant cries out again, directing his attention. Despite his abundant common sense, Jonathan impulsively avoids the blood as best as possible to pick up the infant, not paying any attention to the red staining his bare arms. The small child almost immediately curls up in his arms, much to the notoriously terrifying and disquieting man’s confusion. Looking at the whimpering bundle in his arm, Jonathan shakes his head solemnly as he exits the room.
Entering the kitchen once again, Jonathan gently sets the child on the counter to search for something to wash the blood off their face and body. Settling on the washcloth hanging on the faucet of the sink, he wets it with warm water before carefully wiping at the child’s cheek. Responding to the unexpected sensation, the babe cries out, to which Jonathan finds himself gently hushing them. Washing their arms next, Jonathan finds himself at a loss of what to do next. He never took care of an infant, or of children any younger than 18, and he only taught them in university at that point. Picking the child up again, Jonathan walks through the rest of the house, searching for something to change into as his costume is in a state of disrepair. Finding what must be the parents’ room, he sets the babe on the large bed to rifle through the dressers. The only things he could find to fit him is an almost hilariously oversized hooded jacket and jeans. He takes a shirt as well, wrapping the infant in it to keep them warm. Carrying the child out into the living room, he sits on the couch to try and devise a plan of action. However, he is once again interrupted by the child’s cries. Rocking the child in his arms as he’d once seen a mother do in a hostage situation, he’s reminded of a song. Lullabies are supposed to help soothe a restless infant, right? While it might not be traditional, it’s worth a try, he supposes.
With a resigned sigh, having always had a strong dislike for singing, Jonathan whispers, “mama’s little baby won’t hush down. She’s spookin’ all the hens and the old milk cow. Rest your head in the cradle now, ain’t nobody gonna hear a sound.
“Daddy laid it all on the wrong black mare, hopped the next train to God knows where. But God don’t go where your daddy’s gone, where the cowards and the fools belong.”
Able to reach a decision as the babe quiets down again, Jonathan carefully shifts them so as to hold them safely with only one arm, standing up as he continues, “mama waited up on the porch all night, waited up ‘till the morning light. She fed those hens and she milked that cow, then she got behind the old man’s plow.”
Retrieving the top of his costume and the knife, wrapping it in the already stained burlap to stuff into the graciously large pockets of the jacket, he carefully climbs back out of the open window so as not to disturb the surroundings. Heading straight for the fire escape hanging from an old building, Jonathan begins his quest, gently whispering the rest of the song just loud enough for the infant to hear.
He can see them, all of them, up there on the ledge. Is Jonathan really willing to do this, just for some insignificant incomplete human? What would he gain? More importantly, how much would he lose? What made him think marching up to the Dark Knight on his own was a good idea? Looking down at the babe he’d tucked into his jacket, he tries his best to get control of his breathing. He’d traveled so far already, managing to push himself all the way to the Narrows. But here he is, frozen in place and questioning whether or not he should just let himself cower under the last steps of the fire escape until they leave and figure out what to do then.
Making his decision for him, Jonathan hears a voice whisper, “someone’s over there.”
Cursing under his breath, Jonathan steels himself before climbing the final staircase, unable to keep himself from flinching. He reflexively puts an arm up in the air, the other still cradling the child, when a harsh voice snaps at him.
“What the hell are you doing?” Red Hood asks, aiming a gun at Jonathan.
Pushing the gun away, the Bat himself says, “whatever you’re going to do, don’t.”
Now shaking uncontrollably with fear, Jonathan tries to say something, but finds himself mute. Struggling to take a deep breath, he cautiously unzips his jacket all while being ordered to stop. As soon as the child whimpers at being back in the cold, even Batman hesitates to say anything.
Lowering his voice, Batman holds out an open hand and cautiously steps towards Jonathan, saying, “let me take the baby.”
Jonathan instinctively pulls the child away when Batman reaches for them, mumbling something before holding them out towards the vigilante again, this time allowing him to take them from his arms.
“I found it… In Crime Alley,” Jonathan mutters hesitantly, taking a cautious step away from Batman. “Mother and what I assumed to be brother dead. Carpet stained red, open window downstairs. Fatal gunshots, if I had to guess.”
Not quite looking where he’s going, Jonathan stumbles slightly as his heel hits the slightly raised cornice of the building, falling backwards before throwing himself forward. Much to his dismay, Jonathan finds his shoulder caught by the Bat’s gloved hand, keeping him from stumbling anymore. His breath catching and cold blue eyes widening in shock, he freezes once again, staring at Batman.
“I need you to calm down enough to make sense,” he says calmly, somewhat forcefully guiding the criminal away from the edge.
All of his skillful words and phrases disappearing from his mind, Jonathan blurts out, “it just started crying and I heard it from the kitchen and when I went up there everything was dead except the child–”
Nodding in contemplation, Batman passes the babe to Red Robin, who tries taking the smallest Robin’s cape to wrap it up. In no time at all, a skirmish breaks out, Nightwing managing to take the child out of the conflict, readjusting the shirt wrapped around its little body.
Sighing and shaking his head, Batman blatantly asks, “why did you come to me, Crane? Of all people, why me?”
Unable to answer the question, Jonathan dodges the question and asks, “what’s going to happen?”
“I’ll hand the baby over to Gordon at the GCPD, along with the address of the home,” Batman says. “Which I still need you to tell me.”
“Just outside Crime Alley, an unusually well kept house for the area,” Jonathan answers. “And me..?”
“You did, apparently, enter someone’s house and steal clothes,” Batman reminds him, “and you’re not the most trustworthy witness.” Pausing to think, he finally states, “I’ll leave it up to the police.”
As relieved as he can possibly be while still in the Bat’s presence, Jonathan exhales and holds a hand to his forehead, looking at the stone at his feet. Batman manages to suppress the smile threatening to creep across his face, very amused by the surreal nature of this exchange. Not to mention glad to have avoided something that could have gone very wrong very quickly.
Looking up again, Jonathan tentatively implores, “if I could be so bold… Might I ask you one last thing?” With a nod from Batman, he ventures, “could you possibly inform me of the convict’s identity once he or she’s found?”
“You know I can’t tell you that,” Batman says, calm but firm.
“Then I expect you to give whoever did this hell, or I’ll find them and do so myself,” Jonathan replies bitterly, his expression hardening as he turns to leave.
Not making any move to stop him, Batman makes one final statement, saying, “don’t get yourself into any more trouble, Crane. I can’t give my word for someone who abuses it.”
Watching the gaunt criminal disappear out of view down the fire escape, Nightwing comments, “y’know, out of all people, Johnny Crane is the last I’d expect to rescue a baby.”
“Somewhere, some part of him is still human, Dick, no matter how much he denies it,” Batman says, knowing full well Jonathan was still listening to them.
Early Christmas morning, Karen Keeny takes a drink of her coffee as she retrieve her mail from the small P.O. box at the top of the staircase. Entering her apartment again, she shifts through the usual bills and other miscellaneous mail. It all seems to be the usual stuff until she comes to a blank envelope. Feeling all the color rush from her face, Karen lets herself fall into an old armchair, staring at the sinister object. While this particular method hadn’t been used prior, she couldn’t help but get the sinking feeling this is yet another message from him, blaming her for his life and condemning her to a life of torture by his hand for something she couldn’t control.
For a good 10 minutes, she sits staring at the envelope in her hands, debating whether or not to open it. At last, a morbid curiosity wins over and she opens the probable vessel of her torment. Expecting to find something horrible like a scribbled note proclaiming his responsibility on the corner of a missing persons list, what she finds instead brings tears to her eyes nonetheless; a small note accompanying a newspaper clipping with a picture of a smiling baby girl and a mugshot. The clipping read;
“CROW’S CHRISTMAS: Renowned Villain Rescues Child?“
Gotham’s Dark Knight stopped by Commissioner Jim Gordon’s rooftop last night with a surprise little bundle of joy in his arms. When questioned about the baby girl’s origin, Batman shocked Commissioner Gordon not by the answer of a suspected murder in a home near Crime Alley, but the terrible Scarecrow AKA Jonathan Crane being the child’s savior. He even went as far as to vouch for the serial killer, Gordon says, strongly advising him not to arrest Crane is a manner that “made it clear he didn’t have a choice.”
Investigating the possible locations of the self proclaimed ‘God of Fear’ given by Batman, Gordon lead a small squad of officers to find Crane while a larger team was dispatched to investigate the crime scene, the address of which also being supplied by the Caped Crusader. In a warehouse just outside of the Docks, Commissioner Gordon managed to get the ambassador of agitation to sit long enough for a talk. Crane, obviously shaken and fortunately armed only with a knife that he gave up willingly, told the Commissioner how he had stumbled into the child’s home, crawling in through an already opened window, to seek somewhere safe enough to attend to a knife wound in his side. Taking care of his injury, Crane decided to search for food in the silent house, until the sound of a crying baby startled him. Entering the baby room upstairs, he found the mother and older brother dead on the floor with the child still cradled in the mother’s arms. For some unexplainable reason, “completely unorthodox and against every instinct I had to just forget I saw any of this,” Crane picked up the child and cleaned the blood from her face and arms. He made up his mind shortly after taking a jacket and pair of jeans from the parents’ bedroom, leaving the house to confront Batman and his associates on a rooftop. He asked for him to take the child to Commissioner Gordon, leaving shortly after with barely any information on what had transpired. When offered protection for handing over information, especially with such willingness, Crane fled from the warehouse. The Commissioner elected not to follow him, and arrived at the crime scene shortly after.
The man behind the murder of Laurel and David Ackerman was caught early this morning. A nearly homeless man and long time “drinking buddy” of the victims’ husband and father Philip, Carl Wallace Langston confessed he had drunkenly shot and killed Laurel and David over a dispute with Philip. Ackerman had been gambling with Langston at a bar a week prior and lost, owing Langston several thousand dollars. Ackerman disappeared soon after, where still being investigated, and Langston grew furious. Finally, around 8 o’clock last night, Langston murdered Laurel and David in a drunken rage. Crane’s blood was found on the open windowsill and on one of the kitchen counters, but nothing else was found to link him to the crime.
Tears running down her cheeks as she read and reread the clipping, Karen is so overcome with emotion that she almost forgot about the very short note attached. Carefully removing it from the clipping, she placed both objects on her dresser, repeating the note’s words over in her head;
“Dear Mother, I’m sorry for the atrocities I’ve committed and for the one that I’ve become. I will never ask for your forgiveness. I do not deserve it. Please refrain from wasting it on me. - J.C.”