Where Fear Blooms
Where Fear Blooms
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, just borrowing ‘em and I’ll put ‘em back when I’m done.
Mild spoilers if you didn’t see Season 7 of Buffy, Season 5 of Angel and Batman Begins.
Time to play…..
“You have to understand that this is highly irregular.”
“I do,” the petite young blonde woman assured him. The younger, but taller girl next to her nodded in agreement.
Keating softened his tone as he put their purses into a locker. “We don’t get too many visitors here at Arkham, Miss Summers, and the patient you’ve asked to see, well, she’s in the maximum security ward –“
“Which requires a completely different level of protocol.”
Cursing himself for starting at the newcomer’s voice, Keating straightened and forced a smile. “Hello, Doctor Crane. This is Buffy Summers.”
“And my sister, Dawn,” Buffy put in.
The doctor’s icy blue gaze fixed itself on Buffy Summers’ slight form as if taking her measure. Most of the staff had been subjected to that gaze at one time or another and Keating felt a flash of sympathy for her.
Instead of wilting under Crane’s attention, as most of the staff and the occasional visitors did, Buffy Summers drew herself up and flashed Crane a bright smile. “Thank you for making the arrangements on such short notice, Doctor.”
“Yes, well, I was somewhat curious about the urgency,” Crane said, turning on his heel, giving no other indication that the girl was to follow. “I’ll take them from here, Mr. Keating.”
She nodded her thanks to Keating and they trotted after Crane, leaving the Chief of Security to wonder what would bring two young women to visit one of Arkham’s most dangerous inmates.
A long bloodcurdling shriek broke the silence.
Crane turned to Buffy, still ignoring Dawn, gauging her reaction. Finding none, he stopped at an elevator. “I really shouldn’t be allowing this visit. Dana’s become increasingly agitated during the past two weeks and we’re still adjusting her medications.”
“Two weeks?” Dawn shot Buffy a meaningful look. “Like around the ninth?”
“I would have to check my files,” Crane said, ushering them into the elevator, his lack of reaction not telling Dawn anything. He was a cold one, this Doctor Crane, and Dawn was immediately suspicious of people she couldn’t read. “But I believe you might be correct. I don’t recall any specific significance to the date. Perhaps you could enlighten me, Miss Summers?”
Dawn felt herself flinch under the intensity of his gaze, the Doctor turning the tables on her. It was easier when he ignored her, she decided. Okay, so he was kind of a hottie, but there was something scary about him. And if she told him about the portal opening under Gotham City, he’d probably give her a room next to Dana. “Oh, uh, it’s nothing. Really. Just, uh, you know, my birthday.”
Lame. And if Buffy could have rolled her eyes in that confined space without proving the lie, Dawn was sure she would have.
The doors of the elevator opened and Dawn hurried out ahead of the Doctor and Buffy. “Wow, it’s all Silence of the Lambs down here. Without the Hannibal Lecter.”
“This,” Crane said, icily, “is the maximum security ward.”
Buffy shot Dawn a look, warning her silently to think before she said anything else. “Remember what I said.”
Before Dawn could retort, one of the inmates threw himself against the Plexiglas barrier, getting their attention. He pointed at Dawn, eyes wide in horror.
“You’re not real,” he shouted. “Not real, glowing green death.”
“The Key,” cried the inmate in the cell next to him. “So pretty. Kill it.”
Suddenly, the corridor filled with chanting. The Key. Pretty. Green. Glowing. Die.
Dawn wished she could drop right through the floor – but not out loud, because that would only make things worse – just to get away.
Crane peered up and down the corridor. “That’s very unusual.”
“Well, you do have the keys,” Dawn reminded him, quickly, ignoring the daggers that Buffy was staring at her. “And you know, you are kind of pretty, but I don’t think you glow or anything.”
He didn’t say anything, just stared at her. Finally, he heaved a small sigh and brought them to the last cell, ignoring the sudden burst of activity in the maximum security ward as they passed each screaming, agitated inmate.
Buffy looked at Dana, the Slayer who never had a chance, lying on the narrow bed of her cell, her hair a matted mess, and found herself thinking of the hallucination she’d had nearly three years before. Thanks to that demon, she’d been torn between this reality and believing she was in an institution and that her life as Slayer was a delusion. She shook off the memory and focused on Dana.
“I’m sorry.” The words escaped in a soft whisper.
It was enough and Dana jumped to her feet, with a snarl, stopping short when she saw Buffy. It was a look of instant recognition, even though they’d never met. Oh, she’d known about Dana, but Giles insisted on taking care of it. In retrospect, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea, Buffy mused.
The recognition came from one place. Dreams of past Slayers.
Dana’s aggressive pose relaxed and her lips tried several times before she formed the word. “Buffy.”
“It’s coming. He’s coming. Blood and death and balance –“ Dana broke off abruptly, staring beyond Buffy.
Remembering Crane, Buffy turned. “Any chance we can have a little private family time, Doc?”
“I’m afraid not,” he said, peering past her at the Slayer in the cell. “This is the most vocal she’s been in months. I’d be interested in speaking further about your connection.”
“Maybe another time,” Buffy dismissed him.
Before she could say anything further, Dana spoke again. “You think you know. Who you are. What’s to come. You haven’t even begun.”
Suddenly snapping her gaze to Dawn, Dana’s expression darkened. Hissing between clenched teeth, Dana spat, “She died because of you! Not real! Evil!!”
“The hardest thing in this world,” Dawn said, stepping closer to the Plexiglas. “Is to live in it.”
Dana stepped back and lowered her head. When she looked up again, she took both hands and ran them down her face, mimicking Buffy’s vision of the Primitive smearing mud as warpaint. Her eyes narrowed and she began chanting – or ranting, if you didn’t realize it was several different languages at once – faster and faster.
Buffy turned a questioning gaze to Dawn. “You get any of that?”
Dawn nodded. “Some of it. My Phoenician’s not so great, but since she repeated herself in Egyptian and Sumerian, I think she’s just repeating the same thing over and over.”
“Which is?” The question from the Doctor startled Buffy. She’d nearly forgotten he was there. Very unlike her. And if she wasn’t sure he was human, she would have had an urge to stake him.
“Head and heart!” Dana pounded at the Plexiglas. “Head and heart. Head and heart. Head and heart. Headandheartheadandheartheadandheart –“
“I think we need to end this visit. Now. You’ve agitated my patient,” Crane paused and nodded meaningfully back down the corridor, where soft chanting about The Key could be heard, “all of my patients quite enough for one day.”
“Guess somebody’s gonna be slipping extra Thorazine into the chocolate pudding today,” Dawn commented, drawing another annoyed glance from the Doctor. “What? Thorazine’s the most commonly used –“
They all stopped and stared at Dana.
“He wants balance. Balance of evil,” Dana’s words came so quickly they practically melted together. “He’s here! He’s here! Ra’s Al Ghul. Shadow men. Death. I can hear the screams! Head and heart. Stake the vampire! Behead the demon! Spirits of the Interregnum I call! The wolf. The ram. The hart. The balance can’t be restored.”
“Oh, it can,” Buffy told her. “I promise you.”
Jonathan Crane stopped the tape and waited for Al Ghul to say more. There was a long silence, as Al Ghul studied the image of Dana and her two visitors.
“I want you to find out what she’s afraid of, Doctor.”
“She’s too dangerous.”
Ra’s Al Ghul nodded and slid a small case across the desk. “This should make her easier to handle. I will expect a report in three days.”
Crane peered at the yellow liquid in the vial. “What is this?”
“It won’t interfere with those other drugs you feed her, Doctor,” his master said, in a tone that warned him not to ask further questions. “Nor will it interfere with the toxin.”
As he got up to leave, he didn’t tear his gaze from the vial. Another miracle drug. A new patient to test. The possibilities….
“You’re not real!”
The shout floated up to the rooftop where the Batman was perched. He peered down into the alley, taking measure of the scene below. Two girls and what looked like another Arkham escapee were down there. The girls had the man cornered. Not exactly what he was expecting, but then, this was Gotham City. He decided to take a closer look and figure out who, if anyone, needed to be rescued.
“Every time,” Dawn complained. “I’m starting to get a complex.”
“Can I help it if you’re like the Pied Piper for these guys,” Buffy countered. “So far, you’ve found every one of them except Dana.”
“Four. We’ve found four. I heard there were like a hundred of these guys running around.” Dawn folded her arms across her chest. “How come we’re looking for her? Kennedy or Rhona –“
“Giles thinks she’ll respond to me. Better than she would any of the others.”
“And maybe you feel responsible.”
“And maybe I do.”
Dawn rested both palms on her sister’s shoulders. “Buffy, you couldn’t know –“
“I could’ve thought –“
“You had bigger problems. You know, like the end of the world?”
Buffy sighed and then shoved Dawn out of the way, grabbing the Arkham patient and throwing him into the brick wall of the alley. With a crash, he collapsed in a filthy heap. “It’s always the end of the world.”
“How many apocalypses does this make,” Dawn asked, with a grin.
“I’ve lost count. And this Al Goop guy doesn’t really sound like much.”
“Al Ghul,” Dawn corrected. “He’s already made his first move. Look what he did to this city. Trying to kill them with fear. And he’s supposed to have an army.”
Buffy waved her hand, dismissively. “Not an army. A league. Big deal. I’ve got an army of Slayers, a badass Wicca, a one-eyed carpenter and my little sister. Who’s gonna win this throwdown?”
In the shadows, Batman listened. Who were these women? He was going to find out. Suddenly, the small blonde’s head swung in his direction.
“I know you’re there. Come out and don’t make me come after you. Trust me, you don’t want to piss me off tonight.”
More amused than afraid, Batman dropped to the pavement in front of the girls, staring down at the one called Buffy.
The other girl let loose with half a shriek before she converted it into a delighted squeal. “Batman. Oh my god! He’s real! Buffy! Look!”
Batman said nothing, just continued to focus his attention on the obvious leader.
Still wearing a grin, the younger one circled him. “Angel? Is that you?”
Rolling her eyes in a ‘what can you do expression,’ Buffy sighed. “Of course he’s not Angel.”
“Oh, come on. You were thinking it, too. Look at him. Tall. Dark. Broody. Who else could it be?”
“No leather.” Buffy smiled at the other girl. “Besides, he’s got a pulse. Sorry, Dawnie, our friend here is someone else altogether.”
“Who are you,” Batman asked, finally breaking his silence, his voice low and menacing, though it seemed to have no effect on these two, whoever they were.
“I’m Buffy. This is my sister, Dawn.”
Without launching into any preamble, he simply said, “Ra’s Al Ghul is dead.”
Buffy’s expression remained light, but her eyes were sharp as they didn’t leave him for an instant. “How did he die?”
“The train crash last month during the riots.”
“It might have slowed him down, but it wouldn’t kill him,” she shot back.
“It would kill anyone.” Or maybe not. This Buffy knew something she wasn’t sharing.
“Anyone human. He’s not human.”
“I’ve heard the stories and they’re just that. Stories.” the Batman commented. Ridiculous stories of Al Ghul or Ducard being immortal. “Ra’s Al Ghul is dead.”
“Then why didn’t they find a body? Or body parts?”
“We think he’s a Balance Demon or maybe part Balance Demon,” the girl, Dawn put in, ignoring the murderous look Buffy shot her. She beamed up at Batman. “That would explain the sixteen generations of stories about him, at least the ones we found in Chinese. We’re still looking researching and there might be more. I think we should work together.”
“I work alone,” Batman found himself saying in unison with Buffy.
“If we don’t work together,” Dawn said, this time more firmly, “it could mean the end of the world.”
“Fear is a drug.”
“Yes it is,” Jonathan Crane agreed, not looking up from the equation he was working on. Ra’s Al Ghul was gone, possibly dead, probably dead and that meant no more of those amazing blue flowers. Synthesizing the extract was proving dreadfully difficult. Weeks of failure were starting to wear at him.
“I like fear. It tastes like the clotted cream my mummy used to make.”
Crane set his pencil down and looked up at the woman again. She’d rescued him that night, helped him recover from the effects of his own drug and Rachel Dawes’ taser. Brought him here, to this sanctuary beneath the city. The irony of hiding in the sewers was not lost on him, either. In their nearly three months together, she’d asked nothing of him. She would vanish, sometimes for a day or two, and bring back food for him, or the materials he requested. He never saw her eat and rarely saw her sleep. She didn’t touch him or ask him to touch her. It was an odd situation, but it was fine. For now.
The woman he knew only as Drusilla danced over to his desk and looked at the equation he’d been working on. “My pretty, pretty Scarecrow wants the numbers and letters to behave and bring the screaming back.”
“That’s one way of looking at it,” he allowed. If he weren’t so obsessed with recreating the fear toxin, he was certain he’d be endlessly entertained with analyzing Drusilla.
“They won’t behave. Bad numbers!” Drusilla crumpled up the paper and tossed it into the corner. “If you put the letters in the right order, you might find the spell you’re looking for.”
“I’m not looking for a spell.”
“Then you’re looking in the wrong place and there won’t be any more delicious fear.” Raising a hand, she licked at her fingertips and then looked at him with a predatory stare that he’d never seen her wear before. “No fear and I might become very cross. Very cross indeed.”
He got to his feet, not sure if he was going to take a step back or fight when she wailed loudly, throwing her head back.
“Something borrowed. Something blue. Something that blooms in the night.” Her gaze focused again on him again, the predator back in the shadows again. “You need flowers for your magic, my pet.”
An exciting subject to study indeed. She could truly have some psychic abilities or he could simply have been ranting about the flowers when he’d been suffering the effects of his own toxin. Pushing those thoughts aside, he focused on the important thing. “Can you get them?”
“Don’t worry, lamb,” Drusilla smiled at him. “We’ll bring the screaming back.”