Ask the Squishykins
Happy Birthday, Batman! Let’s all read some comics!

askthesquishykins:

We are finally ALMOST done with all the edits of the leftover FFAFFA stories (I think there are seven in all?) but, aside from that very belated update, I am here to take a few minutes and say, HEY, BATMAN IS 75! And DC is having a massive digital comics sale to coincide with that, which is pretty awesome!

To celebrate this big deal in the fandom (woot, we’re seventy-five! Damn kids get off our lawn! *cane shake*), we’ve thrown together a list of FIFTEEN spiffy stories you can buy right now, most for five bucks or less, complete with links. The sale runs until 7/29, so get them while you can! Each issue link is in the [brackets] with the total cost for each story following, to help the budget conscious. They’re also listed in in-universe chronological order to keep confusion to a minimum.

  1. Batman: Year One Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  2. Legends of the Dark Knight: Prey Part [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]: $4.95
  3. Legends of the Dark Knight: Blades Part [1] [2] [3]: $2.97
  4. Batman: Year Two Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  5. Batman #408-411 Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  6. Batman: A Death in the Family Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  7. Batman: The Mud Pack Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $7.96
  8. Batman: Year Three Part [1] [2] [3] [4] :$3.96
  9. Legends of the Dark Knight: Going Sane Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  10. No Man’s Land: Fear of Faith Part  [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  11. No Man’s Land: Bread and Circuses Part [1] [2]: $1.98
  12. No Man’s Land: Mark of Cain Part [1] [2]: $1.98
  13. No Man’s Land: The Code Part [1] [2] : $1.98
  14. No Man’s Land: Fruit of the Earth Part [1] [2] [3]: $2.97
  15. Batman: As the Crow Flies Part[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]: $4.95

We selected these stories not only for their quality (well, not so much with As the Crow Flies, that’s pretty decent but the ending is cracky as hell and Batman Year Two is kind of a mess) but because a lot of them contain important milestones in the Batman Universe—the first post-crisis meeting of Batman and Jason Todd, the ultimate fate of Joe Chill, the introductions of Tim Drake and Cassandra Cain—that are awesome to know about.

If we can find the time before the sale is up, we’ll throw together a quick list of more villain-centric stories like this one. For now: go forth, drop some cash (if you can afford to!) and read comics!

(Oh, and feel free to reblog to spread the Bat-love!)

Happy Birthday, Batman! Let’s all read some comics!

askthesquishykins:

We are finally ALMOST done with all the edits of the leftover FFAFFA stories (I think there are seven in all?) but, aside from that very belated update, I am here to take a few minutes and say, HEY, BATMAN IS 75! And DC is having a massive digital comics sale to coincide with that, which is pretty awesome!

To celebrate this big deal in the fandom (woot, we’re seventy-five! Damn kids get off our lawn! *cane shake*), we’ve thrown together a list of FIFTEEN spiffy stories you can buy right now, most for five bucks or less, complete with links. The sale runs until 7/29, so get them while you can! Each issue link is in the [brackets] with the total cost for each story following, to help the budget conscious. They’re also listed in in-universe chronological order to keep confusion to a minimum.

  1. Batman: Year One Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  2. Legends of the Dark Knight: Prey Part [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]: $4.95
  3. Legends of the Dark Knight: Blades Part [1] [2] [3]: $2.97
  4. Batman: Year Two Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  5. Batman #408-411 Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  6. Batman: A Death in the Family Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  7. Batman: The Mud Pack Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $7.96
  8. Batman: Year Three Part [1] [2] [3] [4] :$3.96
  9. Legends of the Dark Knight: Going Sane Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  10. No Man’s Land: Fear of Faith Part  [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  11. No Man’s Land: Bread and Circuses Part [1] [2]: $1.98
  12. No Man’s Land: Mark of Cain Part [1] [2]: $1.98
  13. No Man’s Land: The Code Part [1] [2] : $1.98
  14. No Man’s Land: Fruit of the Earth Part [1] [2] [3]: $2.97
  15. Batman: As the Crow Flies Part[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]: $4.95

We selected these stories not only for their quality (well, not so much with As the Crow Flies, that’s pretty decent but the ending is cracky as hell and Batman Year Two is kind of a mess) but because a lot of them contain important milestones in the Batman Universe—the first post-crisis meeting of Batman and Jason Todd, the ultimate fate of Joe Chill, the introductions of Tim Drake and Cassandra Cain—that are awesome to know about.

If we can find the time before the sale is up, we’ll throw together a quick list of more villain-centric stories like this one. For now: go forth, drop some cash (if you can afford to!) and read comics!

(Oh, and feel free to reblog to spread the Bat-love!)

Happy Birthday, Batman! Let’s all read some comics!

We are finally ALMOST done with all the edits of the leftover FFAFFA stories (I think there are seven in all?) but, aside from that very belated update, I am here to take a few minutes and say, HEY, BATMAN IS 75! And DC is having a massive digital comics sale to coincide with that, which is pretty awesome!

To celebrate this big deal in the fandom (woot, we’re seventy-five! Damn kids get off our lawn! *cane shake*), we’ve thrown together a list of FIFTEEN spiffy stories you can buy right now, most for five bucks or less, complete with links. The sale runs until 7/29, so get them while you can! Each issue link is in the [brackets] with the total cost for each story following, to help the budget conscious. They’re also listed in in-universe chronological order to keep confusion to a minimum.

  1. Batman: Year One Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  2. Legends of the Dark Knight: Prey Part [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]: $4.95
  3. Legends of the Dark Knight: Blades Part [1] [2] [3]: $2.97
  4. Batman: Year Two Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  5. Batman #408-411 Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  6. Batman: A Death in the Family Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  7. Batman: The Mud Pack Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $7.96
  8. Batman: Year Three Part [1] [2] [3] [4] :$3.96
  9. Legends of the Dark Knight: Going Sane Part [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  10. No Man’s Land: Fear of Faith Part  [1] [2] [3] [4]: $3.96
  11. No Man’s Land: Bread and Circuses Part [1] [2]: $1.98
  12. No Man’s Land: Mark of Cain Part [1] [2]: $1.98
  13. No Man’s Land: The Code Part [1] [2] : $1.98
  14. No Man’s Land: Fruit of the Earth Part [1] [2] [3]: $2.97
  15. Batman: As the Crow Flies Part[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]: $4.95

We selected these stories not only for their quality (well, not so much with As the Crow Flies, that’s pretty decent but the ending is cracky as hell and Batman Year Two is kind of a mess) but because a lot of them contain important milestones in the Batman Universe—the first post-crisis meeting of Batman and Jason Todd, the ultimate fate of Joe Chill, the introductions of Tim Drake and Cassandra Cain—that are awesome to know about.

If we can find the time before the sale is up, we’ll throw together a quick list of more villain-centric stories like this one. For now: go forth, drop some cash (if you can afford to!) and read comics!

(Oh, and feel free to reblog to spread the Bat-love!)

catverse:

missnk:

Here’s a lineless colour commission I did lately of Captain, Al, and Techie from CATverse! 8>

Commence helpless, incoherent squeeing here in the CATverse household. This is one of the best presents we’ve ever gotten. <3

[[OOC: I have five minutes to do things online right now because reasons, but to make up for the lack of posting of fics (which we’re STILL trying to find time to edit before posting) have this fantastic art commissioned for us by about-faces and drawn by the ah-mah-zing missnk.]]

Author:BiteMeTechie Word Count: 3544 Prompts: Batman Returns Penguin meets his parents as an adult; Batman Returns Penguin has a happy childhood memory. Trigger Warnings: mentions of parental neglect, threats of cruelty to animals, ableist language/attitudes, mentions of bestiality, mentions of violence against sex workers, rampant classism; the Cobblepots are generally unpleasant people with unpleasant attitudes toward just about everyone not in their social set. I&#8217;m pretty sure I&#8217;ve covered everything, but please let me know if there&#8217;s triggery material that I&#8217;ve neglected to mention. Notes: I split the difference between the prompts and set this when Oswald is thirteen because I am a smartass: he is technically a child, yet in many circles, a man.
*
The circus came to town once or twice a year, bringing with it the smells of fresh buttered popcorn, damp hay and elephant manure to mingle with the oppressive smog that perpetually cloaked Gotham City. It bustled in by rail, shuddering into the most deserted depot near the county fairgrounds and ousting the hobos from the place they called home while on the lookout for work. Without fail, thirty-six hours later, the tent poles were raised and stretched over with fabric, the rigged carnival games were set up and the barkers were shouting “Right this way! Step right up!” to talk willing rubes out of their hard earned money.[[MORE]]
Sometimes, C.C. Haly and Norton Bros. Circus roared into town with the glitter of its death defying aerialists and tightrope walkers. Always written up in the biggest newspapers with rave reviews, Haly&#8217;s made a considerable profit every time it stopped in Gotham, bringing in crowds from every income bracket and leaving everyone from the socialites to the kids from the East End starry eyed with awe.
Other times, Hill&#8217;s Circus made its home on the outskirts of the metropolis for a few weeks, sending its colorful staff out into the city to beckon people with dazzling magical feats in impossible locations—illusions that were so convincing it was easy to believe they were just part of the fabric of Gotham City that could only be tapped into by the skilled fingers of Hill&#8217;s performers. While considerably smaller than Haly&#8217;s Circus, it was no less respectable, and had its own daring, rakish charm with its human cannonball act and black suited Svengalis flanked by curvy assistants in sequined gowns.
While Haly&#8217;s and Hill&#8217;s both hit Gotham on a regular basis, it was on rare occasion that the ramshackle tents and ghoulish performers of the Red Triangle Circus tempted citizens to the fairgrounds with promises of the last real circus freak show on the east coast. Once every few years, usually in the late fall, posters bleeding smeared ink found themselves plastered to street lights and the sides of buildings, boasting crude, haunting illustrations of the macabre and unsettling.
The Red Triangle drew its fair share of ordinary people, but the majority of patrons were voyeurs and thrill seekers, more interested in staring with horrified, fascinated eyes at what they deemed abnormal, deformed and grotesque than the whimsy of a dozen clowns being able to fit into one tiny car. The scarcity of its visits gave the troupe an air of the mysterious, and its whispered reputation gained a shade of the sinister from the idle playground gossip of children who heard heavily embellished stories about it from their older siblings.
None of that mattered to the Cobblepots, of course, as such common rumors were far beneath their notice. Tucker and Esther Cobblepot were not circus-goers, no matter what sort wound its way into town, and knew as much about its comings and goings as they knew about washing their own socks. In France, where they wintered and the Cirque Medrano was home to true circus artists, perhaps they might have considered it, but certainly not in Gotham City and never would they have patronized so lowly a troupe as the Red Triangle. Not without extreme extenuating circumstances. It was loud, it was dirty and it was crowded. Worst of all, it was poor.
Clutching a dainty lace handkerchief to her nose to block out the distasteful stench of the circus animals in their cages, Esther pulled her albino mink stole around her shoulders and gave a derisive sniff in the direction of an organ grinder. The tattered box in his hands pumped out a tune closer to an off-kilter, tinkling funeral dirge than a cheerful circus calliope, and a trained monkey did tricks on its surface, holding out its hat to her looking for reward. “Mangy little creature, isn&#8217;t it?”
The organ grinder gave her a lazy, drowsy smile that bordered on being terrifying, but the monkey took offense. It screeched and put its hat back on its head, leaped down to the ground at her feet and scooped up a tiny handful of straw to fling at her. It shook its fists and made irritable sounds.
With her eyes narrowed, she looked to the organ grinder and opened her clutch bag with a noisy, pointed snap. “How much do you want for that thing?&#8221; she asked. &#8220;I could use a new handbag.”
It screeched at her again and scrambled up the organ grinder&#8217;s trouser leg, then his torso, until it took its place on his shoulder like a loyal parrot. It wrapped its tail around his neck possessively and threatened her with a hiss.
“Come, dear.” Tucker&#8217;s hand at her elbow led her away. “We mustn&#8217;t draw attention.”
“Tucky, darling,” Esther said, “the fact that we bathe is enough to make us notable amongst this&#8230;” A clown with runny make-up blew a raspberry at her, making her mouth twist into a sour sneer of disgust. “This&#8230;rabble.”
"Be strong, dear," Tucker murmured in his wife&#8217;s ear, giving her arm a supportive squeeze. “We&#8217;ll be gone before you know it.”
A melodramatic sigh with the promise of a sob in its tone rewarded his weak reassurance. “Oh, I hate this awful place, these awful people. Why must it be in Gotham? If anyone sees us here, I&#8217;ll simply die.”
“I have every intention of making it go away, dear.”
With the hand he wasn&#8217;t using to guide her, Tucker rifled in the interior pocket of his coat and drew out the folded sheet of paper within. He opened it with a foreboding rustle. Once upon a time, it had been nothing but a flier advertising the Red Triangle freakshow—the sword swallower, the tattooed contortionist, on and on and on—but someone had since used it to relay a message. Esther glanced at it and gave a little shudder at rereading the words in messy lettering beneath one of the drawings of the performers: Tonight. Under the big top. Or else.
What did the threat mean? What did the person who made it know about them? It didn&#8217;t matter. It could have been any one of a million things. After all, neither she, nor Tucker, were particularly virtuous citizens behind closed doors. The Cobblepot fortune had bred in them a sense of being above the rules of ordinary society, and with good reason. There was nothing enough money couldn&#8217;t erase. Whether this was about his tax evasion and the numerous escorts he&#8217;d thrown in the harbor or her smuggling of stolen antiquities into Gotham and sexual dalliances with her prized doberman pinschers, it made no difference. Tucker would hush it up just as he&#8217;d done in the past and they would continue their decadent lives as they always had, safe behind their masks of elegance and respectability.
The closer they came to the big top, the more forward movement felt like swimming upstream in molasses. The Cobblepots were pushed and shoved and jostled in the hustle and bustle of the people who were leaving the circus grounds; for every ten feet they gained toward their destination, it seemed they lost three from the force of the crowd going in the other direction. The last performance of the evening must have just let out, loosing its audience on the city in an overpowering swirl of clashing cheap perfumes, body odor and cotton candy smells that made for a churning stomach and a dizzy head. It was enough to make Esther feel faint and send her groping for smelling salts.
Tucker muttered to her, useless words meant to bolster her that got lost in the laughter and shouts of the crowd. He continued his pointless attempt at comfort until the press of people began to thin out and her snapping at him to stop could be heard. Not one to argue, he went silent. They forced their way through the clump of stragglers standing around the main circus tent and finally passed through the &#8220;doorway&#8221; of the big top that was nothing more than strategically draped fabric.
The thick canvas blotted out much of the noise from outside. Thought not silent, it remained an eerie contrast to the racket beyond the tent&#8217;s walls, and grew moreso as they passed the rickety-looking risers that served as seating around the circus ring.
Only one person stood beneath the peak of the big top, under the safety net for the acrobats and between two cannons painted in shades that might have been bright and cheery in the distant past. The ringmaster in his crimson coat with gold braid spilling over the shoulders gave them a welcoming grin that was too white, too wide. He swept his arms out, one hand clutching a riding crop, and a sound like thunder shattered the quiet.
“Come one!”
An explosion of light from within the center ring blinded the Cobblepots and forced them to stop dead in their tracks. Esther buried her face in her husband&#8217;s shoulder; Tucker held up his hand in front of his eyes to block the brightness. Indistinct shapes moved around the ringmaster as he revolved slowly where he stood, beckoning to the unseen things at the edges of the center ring. The rustling of fabric and demented giggles echoed from every corner of the tent.
“Come all!”
Another explosion, this time attended by the sound of whistling streamers and confetti fluttering in the still air. Banners of red and yellow unfurled as they sailed overhead, between two acrobats who had not been there moments before. They curled their lithe bodies around their swings as they moved to and fro, bending and stretching in shapes that made little sense. One blew kisses at the Cobblepots from a tarry mouth slicked with grease paint. A downfall of pale sparks flickered and died in the dazzling light. Hands, from somewhere, pushed the Cobblepots forward and into the ring. Esther&#8217;s mink left her shoulders. Tucker&#8217;s coat was torn from his.
“To the greatest show&#8230;” The light began to fade around the ringmaster. Behind him, the forms that had been nothing more than outlines materialized and became solid. A dozen circus performers—tall, squat, beautiful, grotesque—formed a wall between the cannons. They stared with dead, cold eyes at the Cobblepots, even as a fire lit in the depths of the ringmaster&#8217;s. “&#8230;on Earth.”
Esther blinked a dozen times as her eyes burned and watered. Beside her, Tucker did the same.
”You do know how to make an entrance,” the ringmaster said with a flourish of his riding crop and a grin that stretched his face too far to be real. Behind him—behind the Cobblepots, as well, they realized too late—came an answering titter of mocking laughter. They were surrounded. More than that, they were in over their heads.
A slender female clown turned an idle cartwheel on the ground in front of them, Esther&#8217;s mink wrapped around her torso and smudged with dirt and greasepaint. &#8220;Gee,&#8221; her helium light voice squeaked as she landed on her feet and winked at Tucker with a flirty tilt of her head, &#8220;this thing is fantastic.&#8221; She flipped the luxurious fur over her shoulder, letting one end drag in the dirt.
“Please, please,” the ringmaster said as two chairs were placed before them, seemingly pulled from thin air. “Have a seat.”
Tucker&#8217;s hand found its way to Esther&#8217;s shoulder and drew her closer. They did not comply.
“You&#8217;re the guests of honor,” the ringmaster continued, eyes gleaming. A trace of an unspoken threat hovered in the air as he motioned to the offered seats. “Sit. Down.”
Meaty hands clamped down on Esther&#8217;s arms, tearing her from the security of her husband&#8217;s grasp. One of the circus strongmen, his skin covered in a sheen of sweat and his thick, solid body barely contained in a leopard print costume, took hold of Tucker and shoved him toward one of the chairs. Esther shrieked when her feet left the ground and she was carried to the other chair, plunked down on the hard, worn wood with little care for her comfort. Tucker made the mistake of trying to stand after being pushed into the chair; he was swatted down into his seat by a fist so large that it easily could have crushed his throat.
“That&#8217;s better.” The ringmaster gave them a bow and stepped aside to reveal the clump of people behind him more fully. The band of misfits was recognizable from the circus flier that had been sent to the Cobblepot Estate: the fat little sword swallower, cramming a blade right down his throat in front of their eyes; the towering woman stroking her beard; the tattooed contortionist smoking a cigarette that was held between her toes; the short man thoughtfully chewing on a lightbulb&#8230;
“Mister and Missus Cobblepot.” The bearded lady smiled serenely down at them with her hands folded in front of her, every inch the gracious hostess. “How kind of you to accept our invitation. We do hope you&#8217;ll enjoy your time with us.”
Tucker drew himself up as much as he dared, his spine stiffening with resolve. “How much do you want?”
The perfectly sculpted eyebrows on the bearded lady&#8217;s face rose.
“This is a kidnapping, is it not?” Tucker&#8217;s eyes swept from one face to another. “Ransom is your goal, I suppose? So: how much do you want? Let&#8217;s do away with all these theatrics and get down to it.”
Derisive laughter met his steely voice. The bearded lady gave a smiling shake of her head and gestured at the others beside her. The freaks parted enough to allow a glimpse at a small, round body beyond their cluster, just outside the ring, cloaked in shadow.
"Come along, darling." The bearded lady beckoned to the darkness with her hand.
After a moment&#8217;s hesitation, a child stepped into the light. Sullen and ugly, he waddled into the welcoming bunch of sideshow freaks with wary eyes. His roly-poly body bulged from within a striped swimsuit, a relic from a bygone era that stretched from his shoulders to his knees, and his hands clenched into fat little fists. His skin was pale and waxy, yet appeared damp, and his sunken eyes bore holes in them, turning from Tucker&#8217;s face to Esther&#8217;s. His hands opened and closed a few times, revealing fingers fused together into knobby, clawed flippers.
"Sweetheart," the bearded lady crouched next to him and put her hands on his round shoulders in a gentle, maternal gesture, "meet your mummy and daddy."
The boy&#8217;s expression remained blank and emotionless, even as the color drained from Esther&#8217;s face and her eyes rolled in her head. The clown with her purloined mink gave her a slap across the face that kept her from sliding into blissful unconsciousness.
“We have no children.” Tucker&#8217;s face became pinched, his upper lip curling with contempt.
“Well,” the contortionist blew a puff of smoke toward his face and gave a throaty laugh, “not anymore, you don&#8217;t.”
“We have no children,” he insisted, glaring at the child as though daring him to contradict the statement. The boy shrank a little beside the bearded lady, who squeezed his shoulder to comfort him.
The short man stopped chewing his light bulb long enough to wipe his mouth. Blood smeared from one corner to the other as he did so. “Funny&#8230;he looks an awful lot like—”
“We have no children!” Spittle flew from Tucker&#8217;s mouth, his eyes bulging as he screamed at the little man. “You can&#8217;t prove that we do!”
The ringmaster put his face very near to Tucker&#8217;s ear and hissed, “Can&#8217;t we?”
“Impossible.”
“Let me spin you a little scenario,” the ringmaster murmured. “A deformed foundling child, sold to the circus by a less than reputable orphanage. A nurse who kept meticulous records, give or take a detail or two, even when ordered to burn them. And someone smart enough to connect the dots&#8230;”
Tucker blanched and a sweat broke out on his forehead. “How much do you want?”
The ringmaster breathed a chuckle, drawing back and surveying the Cobblepots with scorn.
“How much?!” Tucker stomped his feet and screeched at the top of his lungs. “No price is too high!”
The bearded lady shook her head and gave a &#8216;tsk.&#8217; “Such awful parents.”
At last, Esther found her voice. &#8220;Can you blame us? Look at him! We were in shock! &#8221; She looked from face to face for sympathy and received none. &#8220;He&#8217;s—&#8221;
"A monster?" The strongman&#8217;s deep, honeyed words reverberated through her bones.
"A freak?&#8221; The contortionist put her hands on the ground and twisted her torso until her ankles were next to her ears.
The clown with Esther&#8217;s mink wiped away an imaginary tear and mocked, “Boo hoo for you!”
"You don&#8217;t understand." Tears, not of sadness, but of fear, streaked their way down her cheeks. "He was a beastly child."
“Really?” The bearded lady leaned forward to stare at Esther&#8217;s face. “I can&#8217;t imagine where he might have inherited that from.”
“Now see here—hlk!” Tucker&#8217;s protest was cut off by a greasy, stained rag being stuffed in his mouth.
Esther&#8217;s head snapped around to look at him as the makeshift gag was crammed deep in his throat, surely blocking off his air supply. “Please—“
“Ho hum. You guys sure do yap a lot,” the clown chirped, dropping the mink and bouncing away. Above her the acrobats somersaulted through the air and traded places on their swings, a surreal display that bordered on the comical under the circumstances.
“What do you want from us?” Esther&#8217;s lower lip trembled and shook, tears falling free from her lashes.
“It&#8217;s not what we want,” the bearded lady said, her tone kind and gentle. “It&#8217;s what our little man wants. We do indulge him so. Tell them what you&#8217;d like, darling. It&#8217;s your time to shine.”
The boy—the branch of the Cobblepot family tree that Esther and Tucker had so savagely lopped off years before—turned his eyes from his mother&#8217;s face to his father&#8217;s, then back again. His voice curled from his mouth in a ragged, bitter croak: “I want to know my name.”
Confusion flirted with Esther&#8217;s expression. “I thought—but—“
“As I said,” the ringmaster spoke, “a nurse with meticulous records, give or take a detail or two.”
“We&#8230;” Esther drew a shuddering breath and dropped her eyes from the boy&#8217;s face. “We named our son&#8230;”
The strongman grabbed Tucker by the hair and pulled his head back to expose his throat. In answer, the sword swallower pulled the blade from his gullet and pointed it at the vulnerable flesh. “Your what?”
Esther began again, forcing words past broken sobbing, “Our son—“
“Who?” The contortionist put a hand to her ear, curved to amplify the sound. “Don&#8217;t talk about him as if he isn&#8217;t here.”
“You!” Esther cried, her voice cracking as she looked at the child. “We named you Oswald!”
The tip of the sword withdrew from the place a Tucker&#8217;s throat where his pulse ticked rapidly. His eyes were wide, wild with panic. “That wasn&#8217;t so hard, now was it?”
For a long moment, the only sound under the big top was the creaking of the acrobat&#8217;s swings and Esther&#8217;s sobs as they gradually ebbed and became pathetic, wheezing whimpers.
“Oswald,” the boy said quietly, tasting the name and rolling it around in his mouth. He looked at the bearded lady with a monstrous frown that made him even more hideous. “I don&#8217;t like it.”
The bearded lady stroked his cheek. “You don&#8217;t have to keep it. Now, say thank you. It&#8217;s only polite.”
“Thank you.”
Esther took a deep breath, quivering in her seat and looked at Tucker, then back to the bearded lady. “Is&#8230;is that all you wanted?”
The smile the bearded lady gave her was so soft it neared angelic. It made a hysterical giggle bubble up out of her mouth. Whether it was borne of relief or dread, Esther couldn&#8217;t tell.
“One side!” The clown who&#8217;d wandered off sprang back through the sideshow freaks, her hands behind her back to conceal something, and took a place beside the bearded lady and her charge. With an open, gleeful expression, she drew her hands out and presented their contents to the boy.
The laughter withered into silence. In one hand, there sat a colorful party hat. In the other, bedecked with ribbons&#8230;oh, God.
Suddenly, Esther felt faint.
The clown placed the hat on the boy&#8217;s head and snapped the strap into place. She grinned and chucked him on one of his generous chins, then transferred the gift in her hand to his. &#8220;Go get &#8216;em, slugger.&#8221;
The boy smiled—the first smile she&#8217;d ever seen on his face—and approached his father, as a boisterous chorus of For He&#8217;s a Jolly Good Fellow arose from the circus folk.
The screaming started before Esther could register the fact that she began making sounds. No! Stop! Why?! The words all blurred together into an endless drone of anguished shrieks, swallowed up by the singing. Why Why Why No Why
Oswald Cobblepot raised the baseball bat above his head. &#8220;Happy birthday to me.&#8221;

Author:BiteMeTechie
Word Count: 3544
Prompts: Batman Returns Penguin meets his parents as an adult; Batman Returns Penguin has a happy childhood memory.
Trigger Warnings: mentions of parental neglect, threats of cruelty to animals, ableist language/attitudes, mentions of bestiality, mentions of violence against sex workers, rampant classism; the Cobblepots are generally unpleasant people with unpleasant attitudes toward just about everyone not in their social set. I’m pretty sure I’ve covered everything, but please let me know if there’s triggery material that I’ve neglected to mention.
Notes: I split the difference between the prompts and set this when Oswald is thirteen because I am a smartass: he is technically a child, yet in many circles, a man.

*

The circus came to town once or twice a year, bringing with it the smells of fresh buttered popcorn, damp hay and elephant manure to mingle with the oppressive smog that perpetually cloaked Gotham City. It bustled in by rail, shuddering into the most deserted depot near the county fairgrounds and ousting the hobos from the place they called home while on the lookout for work. Without fail, thirty-six hours later, the tent poles were raised and stretched over with fabric, the rigged carnival games were set up and the barkers were shouting “Right this way! Step right up!” to talk willing rubes out of their hard earned money.

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Author: Twinings Word Count: 2072 (Part 4/5)--I know it was supposed to be four parts originally, but an epilogue has been added Previous Parts: [1][2][3] Prompts: Jonathan Crane and the violent dance (I got your literal genie right here), Jonathan looks in a mirror and tries to make himself feel better, Sherry Squires in CATverse continuity. This does not fill the Jonathan Crane/Velma Dinkley prompt, as I was not aware we had that one until after I made the reference. Trigger warnings: Violence, bullying (physical and emotional), mentioned racism, backbiting high school girls, homophobic slurs. I cannot stress enough how unacceptable it is to use this word or others like it, but I do feel that it is appropriate to the situation. Teenagers are awful. Read with caution.  *
The Keeny farm was twelve miles from the school. Not too far to walk on a good day, but this was not a good day.
 Fortunately, Jonathan had a bicycle. He&#8217;d found it by the side of the road, put out for trash pickup. It was too small for him, and had no brakes, and the chain slipped if he tried to pedal too hard, and he didn&#8217;t ride very well anyway. It was still better than walking.
 He entered the darkened house as quietly as he could, thankful that his granny must have already gone to bed. He didn&#8217;t want to answer any questions.[[MORE]]
 He did, however, want a hot shower. But the gas had run out days ago, and they couldn&#8217;t afford to replace the tanks until the first of the month, so he would have to settle for a lukewarm shower, or else a hot bath if he boiled some water and mixed it with the cool water from the tap. He didn&#8217;t care for baths normally, but he would rather have the hot water if he could. He couldn&#8217;t very well use the gas stove, so he brought up the electric kettle from the kitchen, vowing that one day he would live in an entirely electric house. And that he would have the money to run the air conditioner all summer and the heat all winter, and shower all night if he felt like it. And, most of all, that the house would be as far from Georgia as he could possibly get.
 He filled the kettle and plugged it in, fighting the urge to just crawl into bed and never move again. He would feel better if he was clean, he knew, and he would be too sore for this in the morning. He would be lucky if he had the energy to drag himself out of bed to do his chores. But luck had nothing to do with it. He had to bring in the last of the carrots and tomatoes. He didn&#8217;t have a choice, so he was just going to have to do it.
 Jonathan untied the makeshift belt from around his waist and folded it up, careful not to get any blood on it. He would give it back to the girl on Monday, and after that he would never have to speak to her again. It would be nice to imagine that the two of them would go on to become the best of friends and face the terrors of the world together, but of course it could never happen. She might not be a Pretty Girl, but she had her place, and he had his. At least her place was next to a girl like Sherry.
 The shorts pooled around his feet. He kicked them aside. The shoes followed, then his socks. Then the shirt, with its logo of the new mascot, hybrid of the Arlen Hawk and the Spook Hill Ghost. He was supposed to have one of those for PE, but he didn&#8217;t. If he were only four sizes bigger, he could keep this one.
 He flung it to the floor.
 Clad only in his underwear, he took another shot at cleaning up his bloody leg. The rest of him didn&#8217;t look as bad as he&#8217;d feared. Scraped and bruised quite a bit, but most of that could be covered by his clothes. If Bo and Dylan didn&#8217;t go bragging, and if Megan could keep her mouth shut, then no one else would have to know anything had happened. That was lucky.
 He turned the faucet to start filling the tub, still dabbing dried blood from his leg with a wad of wet toilet paper. Maybe he really was going to be all right.
 Over the sound of running water, he couldn&#8217;t hear the tap-tap of his great-granny&#8217;s cane until she used it to thrust open the door. Jonathan snatched up the shirt from the floor and held it in front of him, as embarrassed by the bruises as he was by his nudity.
 &#8220;Granny!&#8221; Couldn&#8217;t she ever knock?
 &#8220;Boy. You&#8217;re back late. Raising hell with those hooligan friends of yours, weren&#8217;t you?&#8221;
 &#8220;No, ma&#8217;am.&#8221; He was tired of telling her that he didn&#8217;t have any friends, hooligan or otherwise. But he didn&#8217;t let a hint of defiance creep into his voice.
 Her eyes flicked to the mirror, and she gave him a look of utter contempt. Of course she wouldn&#8217;t miss the bruises on his back. He raised his chin. So she&#8217;d noticed. She didn&#8217;t have to know it meant anything.
 With her cane, she knocked the shirt out of his hands. He flinched as her gaze roamed over his bare chest. Her jaw firmed.
 Her words were not the ones he&#8217;d expected.
 &#8220;Was it those Powell boys again?&#8221;
 &#8220;No, ma&#8217;am.&#8221; She knew perfectly well that Bill Powell was in jail for armed robbery, and out of his life. His brother Peter was still living down the road from them, but he didn&#8217;t ride the bus to school anymore, and he was in all remedial classes, so he was easy enough to avoid.
 &#8220;Good,&#8221; said Granny. &#8220;I won&#8217;t have my great-grandson associating with that sort of riffraff. We Keenys have always been better than that.&#8221;
 &#8220;We Keenys?&#8221; Jonathan repeated.
 &#8220;Of course, you foolish boy. You call yourself Crane because I wouldn&#8217;t have it said that my granddaughter didn&#8217;t know the name of her child&#8217;s father, but you&#8217;re a Keeny to the bone.&#8221;
 &#8220;Oh&#8230;thank you?&#8221; He wasn&#8217;t sure, but he thought this was the first time she had ever acknowledged that he was related to her.
 She looked down her aristocratic nose at him, expression hard as ever.
 &#8220;I suppose you&#8217;ll want to sleep the day away tomorrow.&#8221;
 &#8220;No, ma&#8217;am. I&#8217;ll be up in time to get my chores done.&#8221;
 &#8220;Well,&#8221; she said stiffly, &#8220;I&#8217;ve been feeling an urge to work in the garden, and your other chores can wait until the afternoon. You may as well have a rest.&#8221;
 &#8220;Yes, ma&#8217;am. Thank you, Granny.&#8221; He didn&#8217;t know why she would do such a thing, but he wasn&#8217;t going to question the rare kindness.
 &#8220;Don&#8217;t take this as a license for sloth in the future,&#8221; she warned.
 &#8220;No, Granny.&#8221;
 &#8220;Clean yourself up. You&#8217;ll find alcohol in the cabinet.&#8221; She turned to go. &#8220;Rubbing alcohol,&#8221; she called over her shoulder. &#8220;Don&#8217;t think you can go drinking it. You&#8217;ll only poison yourself.&#8221;
 &#8220;I wouldn&#8217;t!&#8221; That wasn&#8217;t fair. He wasn&#8217;t an idiot, and he&#8217;d never had a drop of alcohol in his life, not that she&#8217;d believe him if he said so. Her derisive sniff told him as much.
 &#8220;Just the same, boy. I&#8217;ll be having a cup of hot tea in the kitchen. If you want something to drink, you&#8217;ll come down and join me.&#8221; She held out her hand for the kettle. Jonathan poured the hot water into the bathtub and gave it to her.
 When she was gone, Jonathan eased himself into the bathtub and tried not to ponder the unprecedented conversation. He didn&#8217;t want to think about it. He didn&#8217;t want to think about anything. He didn&#8217;t even want to move. And he didn&#8217;t, not until the water had gone cold and his fingers were like prunes.
 Then, in clean pajamas, with his hands and leg bandaged and still stinging from the disinfectant, Jonathan limped downstairs to the kitchen.
 He&#8217;d hoped his granny would have gone to bad after all that time, but she was still up, sipping cooling tea and listening to the radio. Quietly, Jonathan took the cup she had left out for him. She liked it strong and bitter. If he had to drink hot tea, he would have preferred it with lemon, but they didn&#8217;t have any, and it was not unpleasant as it was.
 &#8220;I suppose you&#8217;re going to to tell me that you didn&#8217;t get drunk at this dance of yours.&#8221;
 &#8220;Of course not, Granny. I told you I don&#8217;t drink.&#8221;
 &#8220;And you didn&#8217;t engage in lewdness with some little slut like your mother.&#8221;
 &#8220;No, Granny.&#8221; Always the same accusations. He shouldn&#8217;t have come downstairs.
 &#8220;How did you get home?&#8221;
 &#8220;I&#8230;&#8221; She didn&#8217;t know about the bicycle. He wasn&#8217;t sure if he should tell her. She might consider it stealing. Or she might say that taking someone else&#8217;s garbage was beneath a Keeny&#8217;s dignity. Or she might applaud his ingenuity. Who knew? &#8220;Why do you ask?&#8221;
 In answer, she turned up the radio&#8217;s volume.
 &#8220;&#8230;driver is believed to have been intoxicated. Michaels and Hockett were admitted to Mercy Hospital; Hockett was pronounced dead at ten-forty-five. Dylan Hockett was the son of Mayor Alan Hockett, a freshman at Arlen High School&#8230;&#8221;
 Jonathan held his cup halfway to his mouth, forgotten. Dylan&#8230;was dead? He&#8217;d been in some terrible accident with a drunk driver, and now he was dead. But he couldn&#8217;t be. He couldn&#8217;t really be gone. Forever.
 There was a peculiar feeling in the pit of his stomach. Laughter, he realized. A hysterical laugh was about to bubble its way out of him. He took a hasty gulp of tea. He couldn&#8217;t laugh about this. That was the wrong reaction. He couldn&#8217;t laugh. Only a monster would feel good about this. Granny would drag him out to the chapel, no matter that he was as big as she was now. She would try to cast out the so-called demons that made him rejoice that a boy was dead. A human being was dead.
 Yes&#8230;but it was Dylan. He barely counted as a human being.
 Correction: It had been Dylan. Now it was a corpse.
 His breathing was coming faster. He was going to giggle. He glanced at his granny, trying to quash his good spirits. But her expression was neutral.
 &#8220;I take it from your distress that you knew this delinquent,&#8221; she said coolly.
 Distress? She thought he was going to cry.
 &#8220;I knew him,&#8221; he admitted. &#8220;But we weren&#8217;t exactly close.&#8221;
 He felt like dancing. Maybe he shouldn&#8217;t give back that scarf, after all. Maybe it was lucky.
 Maybe he was going to hell for his schadenfreude.
 Maybe he didn&#8217;t care.
 The news bulletin was still going. He returned his attention to it, trying to keep all traces of pleasure from his face.
 &#8220;&#8230;occupants of the other car have been identified as Spook Hill resident Ray Fike and his daughter, Megan. Megan Fike is currently in critical condition, and is not expected to regain consciousness&#8230;&#8221;
 Tea sloshed over the rim of his cup as he set it down with a thump. He felt as if he&#8217;d been doused with cold water. The urge to laugh was gone.
 &#8220;Excuse me, Granny,&#8221; he murmured. &#8220;I think I have to go&#8230;pray.&#8221; He didn&#8217;t notice his granny&#8217;s surprise. He hadn&#8217;t shown any interest in voluntary prayer since he was a child. But of course, he wasn&#8217;t really going to pray. He was going to&#8230;..
 He found himself in his room, still with no clear idea what he was supposed to be doing. The scarf was neatly folded, precisely in the center of his bedside table. The shoes were side by side in front of the old mahogany wardrobe that had been his grandmother&#8217;s. The Ghost Hawks gym bag was in the corner where he&#8217;d tossed it, with the shorts and t-shirt balled up inside. Other than that, the room was as it had always been.
 He ran a finger over the scarf. It was just a scarf, of course, and he shouldn&#8217;t ascribe to it attributes it couldn&#8217;t have.
 A powerful blessing of protection&#8230;
 Not expected to regain consciousness&#8230;
 Jonathan Crane believed in science, not magic. But this was his first personal experience with death. And while Megan Fike was not his friend, could never be his friend, if she died, too, it would be&#8230;a loss. She did not deserve to end her life at fourteen, even if others might.
 In later years, when he looked back on that night&#8212;and he would, at odd moments down the line, no matter how far he left Arlen behind him&#8212;he would remember his shock, his youth, and all the turbulent emotions of that night. All that, he later decided, was to blame for the prayer he whispered in the dark. A prayer for Megan&#8217;s safety. A prayer for Dylan to face the justice that he never had on earth.
 Keeny to the bone&#8230;
 He went to sleep.

Author: Twinings
Word Count: 2072 (Part 4/5)--I know it was supposed to be four parts originally, but an epilogue has been added
Previous Parts: [1][2][3]
Prompts: Jonathan Crane and the violent dance (I got your literal genie right here), Jonathan looks in a mirror and tries to make himself feel better, Sherry Squires in CATverse continuity. This does not fill the Jonathan Crane/Velma Dinkley prompt, as I was not aware we had that one until after I made the reference.
Trigger warnings: Violence, bullying (physical and emotional), mentioned racism, backbiting high school girls, homophobic slurs. I cannot stress enough how unacceptable it is to use this word or others like it, but I do feel that it is appropriate to the situation. Teenagers are awful. Read with caution.

*

The Keeny farm was twelve miles from the school. Not too far to walk on a good day, but this was not a good day.

Fortunately, Jonathan had a bicycle. He’d found it by the side of the road, put out for trash pickup. It was too small for him, and had no brakes, and the chain slipped if he tried to pedal too hard, and he didn’t ride very well anyway. It was still better than walking.

He entered the darkened house as quietly as he could, thankful that his granny must have already gone to bed. He didn’t want to answer any questions.

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What's going on? I hope nothing really bad happened (other than poor Captain breaking her leg) to you guys!
Anonymous

Don’t panic! We’re alive and well. Real life has just done that obnoxious thing it does sometimes where it gets in the way of fannish pursuits and everything has been temporarily been put on hold; it feels like I get five minutes to try and compose an update or proof something we want to post before something else demands my attention. It’s actually kind of refreshing for it to be normal everyday stuff getting in the way instead of one of our trademark Farcical Disasters.

I’m doing what I can when I can but it’s going to be at least another day or two before I can sit down and post all the fics that are remaining and then close the Free For All officially. I am so, so sorry about that! On the bright side, a lot of things are finished, they’re just not proofed yet. So yay!

Author: BiteMeTechie Word Count: 1343 Prompt: Something Jervis Tetch/Jonathan Crane Notes: This story is firmly set in The Long Halloween continuity. I did so because I&#8217;ve long wondered if I could write Scarecrow/Hatter using the constraints of their characterizations in that story, namely that Crane speaks in nursery rhymes and Tetch in Lewis Carroll quotes, as a springboard for interaction. It&#8217;s also always bothered me a bit that the pairing obviously got its start in TLH yet I never see those quirks used by anyone in fandom when writing their relationship/friendship. 
It makes sense, of course; it was quite bothersome to construct dialogue that vaguely makes sense using only out of context quotations and nursery rhymes, so I totally get why everyone else shuffles that bit off to the side and ignores it. Still, I had fun with the challenge I set myself. I&#8217;m not sure I&#8217;m totally satisfied with the result, so it may get a teeny rewrite in the future, but with the stack of things I need to finish in the next week, revision is not my highest priority at the moment. Please enjoy. * Lightning cuts a jagged slash across the black night sky. The light it throws leaks through the shattered skylight of an abandoned house, drawing the attention of its sole inhabitant. A crack of thunder above startles the Mad Hatter so much the imaginary teacup in his hand slips from his grasp and makes an imaginary crash on the floor. He lets out a noise of alarmed displeasure and drops the hankie from his jacket pocket next to his feet to sop up the splash of tea that isn&#8217;t there. He rubs it back and forth a few times until he&#8217;s satisfied. When he&#8217;s through clearing up the mess only he can see, he gives a nod and a toothy grin. &#8220;I want a clean cup.&#8221; Humming to himself, he sets about making himself another cup of tea with nothing but the air. &#8220;Now, I&#8217;ll manage better this time.&#8221; There comes a knock at the door, the sound close to drowned out by the storm. The Hatter gives a little sigh. &#8220;There&#8217;s no sort of use in knocking,&#8221; he calls out to the door, sipping at his tea. The door answers with knocking that becomes pounding. Thoughtful, he gives a little shrug and concedes, “There might be some sense in your knocking.”[[MORE]] Without haste, he leaves his chair and ambles to the door. With his free hand, he tugs open the latch and throws it wide. Framed by the entryway, a bone-thin tower of a man in billowing sack cloth is lit from behind by another flash of lightning.  &#8220;Dear, dear!” The Hatter says in surprise, blinking at the wet supervillain on his doorstep. “How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual.” He holds his hand out into the darkness to feel the air. “Do you think it&#8217;s going to rain?&#8221; The Scarecrow grumbles in a voice roughened by what sounds like a nasty cold. &#8220;As the days grow longer, the storms grow stronger. &#8220; With his pinky up in a gesture ever so genteel, the Hatter kindly offers the Scarecrow the cup he can&#8217;t possibly see. “Weak tea with cream in it?” Between gaps in burlap the Scarecrow&#8217;s eyes become wary slits. &#8220;Molly, my sister, and I fell out, and what do you think it was all about? She loved coffee and I loved tea, and that was the reason we couldn&#8217;t agree. &#8220; “Tis a privilege high to have dinner and tea,” says the Hatter with a wave of his hand, “along with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me.” “If all the world were apple pie, and all the sea were ink,” spindly fingers move in impatient, jerking motions and reach for that which is offered but not actually there, “and all the trees were bread and cheese, what should we have for drink?” The Hatter waits for his guest to take a sip from his cup, says, “Thirst quenched, I hope?” then he steps aside and sweeps his arms out grandly to invite the Scarecrow into his lair. &#8220;Come, we shall have some fun now.&#8221; &#8220;Cross patch, draw the latch, sit by the fire and spin,&#8221; the Scarecrow slinks past, a twitchy mass of awkward, over-long limbs. “take a cup and drink it up, then call your neighbors in.” Hatter&#8217;s waterlogged visitor collapses in a threadbare armchair. His boots come off and land on the floor with soggy thumps. His dripping mask flops right after them. &#8220;It wasn&#8217;t very civil of you to sit down without being invited,&#8221; Hatter says pleasantly, picking up the boots and walking them over to the fireplace where they can dry out faster. The fact there is no fire in the hearth fails to trouble him.  The Scarecrow makes a scratchy noise down in his throat and wriggles his toes, the largest on the left foot poking through a hole in his sock. “&#8217;Don&#8217;t grunt,” says the Hatter, wagging a reproachful finger as he slides into the other armchair opposite the one the Scarecrow is soaking into, “that&#8217;s not at all a proper way of expressing yourself.” The Scarecrow gives him a weary look. “There was an old woman, and what do you think? She lived upon nothing but victuals and drink; victuals and drink were the chief of her diet, yet the plaguey old woman would never be quiet.” “I haven&#8217;t the least idea what you&#8217;re talking about.” The Hatter brushes a speck of lint from his coat, handily ignoring the inference that he&#8217;s too chatty for the Scarecrow&#8217;s liking. &#8220;Now you&#8217;ve got your breath, you may tell us what&#8217;s happened in the town. &#8220; “A wise old owl sat in an oak, the more he heard, the less he spoke; the less he spoke, the more he heard; Why aren&#8217;t we all like that wise old bird?” “&#8217;Hold your tongue!&#8217; said the Queen, turning purple,” the Hatter said shrilly. “&#8217;I won&#8217;t!&#8217; said Alice.”  Bleary, bloodshot eyes survey his face; despair slips into their depths at seeing the Hatter&#8217;s determination to converse.  “Come, let&#8217;s hear some of your adventures.” A defeated sigh is his response. Then, a tired rubbing of eyes. &#8220;For every evil under the sun there is a remedy or there is none. If there be one, seek till you find it; if there be none, never mind it.&#8221; &#8220;Twinkle, twinkle, little bat?&#8221; The Hatter gives his guest a knowing wink and taps the side of his nose. The Scarecrow considers this a moment with a scowl, his eyes cloudy with thought. The burlap of his gloves scratches against the stubble on his jaw as he strokes his chin. &#8220;There was a man and he had naught, and robbers came to rob him; He crept up to the chimney pot, and then they thought they had him. But he got down on t&#8217;other side, and then they could not find him; he ran fourteen miles in fifteen days, and never looked behind him.” &#8220;How dreadfully savage,&#8221; the Hatter says with a gasp. “That was a narrow escape “ His guest&#8217;s eyes slip closed, evidence of his exhaustion, and nods wearily.  “I hope you&#8217;re not much tired?” “Cocks crow in the morn to tell us to rise, and he who lies late will never be wise; for early to bed and early to rise, is the way to be healthy and wealthy and wise.” The Scarecrow yawns and opens his eyes again to stare at his face forlornly. “What is the matter?” The Hatter asks with a curious tilt of his head.  “See-saw, Margery Daw, sold her bed and lay upon straw.”  “Oh dear.” The Hatter&#8217;s face crumples in a frown. Of course he has nowhere to sleep. He gets to his feet and shuffles off to find a blanket and a pillow. Neither are in good shape, tattered remnants of an army surplus store a few blocks from the hideout, but they&#8217;re better than nothing. He returns, stuffs the pillow behind the Scarecrow&#8217;s heavy head and throws the blanket over his body. &#8220;Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.&#8221; The Scarecrow seems mistrustful of the blanket. He turns suspicious eyes on the Hatter. “As I walked by myself, and talked to myself, myself said unto me: &#8220;Look to thyself, take care of thyself, for nobody cares for thee. I answered myself, and said to myself in the selfsame repartee: &#8216;Look to thyself, or not look to thyself, the selfsame thing will be.&#8217;” “If you&#8217;ll believe in me,” the Hatter says, tucking the blanket around the slight build of the other man, “I&#8217;ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?” The Scarecrow settles into the imperfect armchair, trying to avoid the poky bits. He yawns again, eyes drifting shut. “Deedle&#8230;deedle&#8230;dumpling, my son John&#8230;” And in spite of the unnatural shape the chair bends his spine into, he&#8217;s asleep. “Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,” the Hatter whispers as he creeps away to his own bed, “&#8217;only, as it&#8217;s asleep, I suppose it doesn&#8217;t mind.&#8217;”

Author: BiteMeTechie
Word Count: 1343
Prompt: Something Jervis Tetch/Jonathan Crane
Notes: This story is firmly set in The Long Halloween continuity. I did so because I’ve long wondered if I could write Scarecrow/Hatter using the constraints of their characterizations in that story, namely that Crane speaks in nursery rhymes and Tetch in Lewis Carroll quotes, as a springboard for interaction. It’s also always bothered me a bit that the pairing obviously got its start in TLH yet I never see those quirks used by anyone in fandom when writing their relationship/friendship.

It makes sense, of course; it was quite bothersome to construct dialogue that vaguely makes sense using only out of context quotations and nursery rhymes, so I totally get why everyone else shuffles that bit off to the side and ignores it. Still, I had fun with the challenge I set myself. I’m not sure I’m totally satisfied with the result, so it may get a teeny rewrite in the future, but with the stack of things I need to finish in the next week, revision is not my highest priority at the moment. Please enjoy.

*

Lightning cuts a jagged slash across the black night sky. The light it throws leaks through the shattered skylight of an abandoned house, drawing the attention of its sole inhabitant. A crack of thunder above startles the Mad Hatter so much the imaginary teacup in his hand slips from his grasp and makes an imaginary crash on the floor. He lets out a noise of alarmed displeasure and drops the hankie from his jacket pocket next to his feet to sop up the splash of tea that isn’t there. He rubs it back and forth a few times until he’s satisfied. When he’s through clearing up the mess only he can see, he gives a nod and a toothy grin.

“I want a clean cup.” Humming to himself, he sets about making himself another cup of tea with nothing but the air. “Now, I’ll manage better this time.”

There comes a knock at the door, the sound close to drowned out by the storm. The Hatter gives a little sigh. “There’s no sort of use in knocking,” he calls out to the door, sipping at his tea. The door answers with knocking that becomes pounding. Thoughtful, he gives a little shrug and concedes, “There might be some sense in your knocking.”

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Let us know how Captain is. Tell her we love her and we hope she gets better soon.
Anonymous

Captain is doing mostly okay, but she’s tired, cranky and sore. She’s also being very stubborn and insisting she doesn’t need x-rays, so we still don’t know if she’s got any fractures or not. Basically, she’s functioning but floundering a bit with the limp and all; she’ll live.

Author: BiteMeTechie Word Count: 1749 (Part 4/12) Previous Parts: [1] [2] [3] Warnings: Ableism *
Becky&#8217;s apartment door wobbled open when she gave it a push. A quick look at the hinges revealed the screws had started to come loose again, something it felt like they did every other month. Becky logged it as one more thing to report to the landlord that he wouldn&#8217;t fix and one more complaint to fill out that wouldn&#8217;t be read. Peeling one of her arms out of her coat, Becky dropped her keys in the yellow ceramic bowl on the end table next to the door where they jangled against some loose change. She tossed her coat over one of her dining chairs. It landed in a messy heap. Van Dorn didn&#8217;t follow her inside right away. She lingered in the hallway, hesitant, like a vampire waiting for a proper invitation to come inside. That made an amusing mental image: a creature of the night with a law degree who required an ironclad, legally binding contract to enter a home. &#8220;Well,&#8221; Becky pulled her camera over her head and put it on the tiny kitchen table, then tugged off her scarf and fluffed her hair where it had been wrapped up by the wool, &#8220;come in if you&#8217;re coming. I&#8217;m not paying to heat the hallway.&#8221;[[MORE]] A crooked smile spread across Van Dorn&#8217;s dour face, softening her sharp features to a small degree. Becky found it a striking contrast: she was attractive when she smiled. Oh, not magazine cover beautiful or anything like that, but her smile was luminous enough to make her pretty while everything around it kept her face interesting. Not that anyone would have known if they hadn&#8217;t seen it firsthand; no indication of beauty could be found in the perpetual scowl she wore, only severity. She would make a good subject, if she ever let anyone capture that on film. As the other woman crossed the threshold into the kitchenette and closed the door behind her, Becky caught herself wondering if she kept her jaw set and her eyes intense to look tough. If so, she did a good job of it. Van Dorn didn&#8217;t look like the sort of woman one wanted to cross in a courtroom or out of one. &#8220;I&#8217;d offer you something to drink like a good host,&#8221; Becky said, turning her back to Van Dorn, &#8220;but I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;ve got anything in the fridge that isn&#8217;t curdled.&#8221; &#8220;Tap water&#8217;s fine.&#8221; Becky moved toward the sink, but Van Dorn&#8217;s hand caught her arm. &#8220;Don&#8217;t trouble yourself, I can get it.&#8221; Becky took a deep, steadying breath and faced her with steely eyes that, after meeting Van Dorn&#8217;s own, gave a pointed glance at the uninvited hand on her arm. &#8220;I can do it, Miss Van Dorn. I&#8217;m not incompetent.&#8221; &#8220;I&#8217;m sorry,&#8221; Van Dorn let her go and took half a step back, &#8220;I didn&#8217;t mean to imply&#8212;&#8221; &#8220;No one ever does.&#8221; While Becky&#8217;s temper remained bridled, her voice came out frosty. Her patience and politeness may have been wearing thin, but she didn&#8217;t need to show it. She went to the cupboard. From the periphery of her vision, she saw Van Dorn looking around the dismal apartment with what may have been feigned interest. She drifted toward the wall beside the bathroom door where several of Becky&#8217;s own photos were pinned with brass thumb tacks. Becky knew it was stupid for her heartbeat to speed up as she scrutinized the pictures, but she couldn&#8217;t help it. So few people ever saw her work, and fewer still cared enough to let their gazes linger, even among the people who supported her pursuit of photography. Most just wanted to congratulate her for doing something with her life other than&#8230;well, whatever they thought she would have been doing otherwise. &#8220;Amateur photographer? I had no idea.&#8221; &#8220;It&#8217;s my major,&#8221; Becky said, filling a glass with water and turning off the faucet. She walked over to Van Dorn and handed her the glass. She accepted it with a distracted, &#8220;Thank you.&#8221; &#8220;These are quite good,&#8221; Van Dorn said, taking a sip of her water. &#8220;Of course, I&#8217;m hardly a patron of the arts, so you&#8217;re welcome to take that compliment with a grain of salt.&#8221; &#8220;Look, I appreciate that you&#8217;re trying to be&#8230;&#8221; Becky made a vague gesture with her hands as she tried to find the right words. &#8220;&#8230;likable or engaging or whatever, but I&#8217;d like to know what you just happened to be doing on my doorstep at the exact time I got home. You&#8217;re having me followed, right?&#8221; &#8220;I wouldn&#8217;t say that.&#8221; Van Dorn took a seat in Becky&#8217;s armchair and settled back, letting her long legs stretch out and crossed them at the ankle. Her hands clasped in her lap, her fingers loose and relaxed. The effect was easygoing, but elegant. &#8220;I&#8217;ve had a few people keeping an eye on your apartment building at certain times of the day to make sure you get where you&#8217;re going and get home safe&#8230;but that&#8217;s all. I&#8217;m not in the business of invading people&#8217;s privacy if I can help it.&#8221; That bordered on being touching; did every DA care that much about potential witnesses who ditched them? &#8220;Why are you here?&#8221; &#8220;Well,&#8221; Van Dorn leaned forward, her elbows braced against her thighs, and threaded her fingers together under her nose. Bright eyes fixed on Becky&#8217;s face. &#8220;A little birdie told me you lived a block from Perrini&#8217;s cafe. I happen to be fond of their fresh mozzarella and sun dried tomato paninis, so I thought I&#8217;d pop in and see if I&#8217;d get lucky enough to catch you at home.&#8221;Yeah, right. &#8220;What do you want, Miss Van Dorn?&#8221; &#8220;To talk.&#8221; &#8220;I&#8217;m sorry, I don&#8217;t have time.&#8221; The lie came out with all the ease the truth would have. &#8220;I have a mountain of homework.&#8221; &#8220;Look, Becky,&#8221; Van Dorn&#8217;s eyes locked with hers as she put her water glass on the small table beside the chair, &#8220;I&#8217;m not here to force you to talk to me. I&#8217;m going to go to the cafe, and I&#8217;m going to get myself a sandwich. I&#8217;ll get a table. If you feel like listening to what I have to say, you can come find me. I hope you will, but I&#8217;ll understand if you don&#8217;t.&#8221; Nothing else was said. She got up, gave Becky a nod as a goodbye and walked right out of the apartment. The door shut behind her, but Becky could still hear the heels of her shoes clicking on the floor in the hallway. She listened hard for the sound of the elevator doors. A ding. A rattle. There. She was on her way down to the lobby. If only she had been pushier. It would have been easier for Becky to say no if she had been pushier, her conscience wouldn&#8217;t have been bothered then&#8230;but she had to be kind and understanding about it and give her a choice in the matter. After a weary sigh and some pointless deliberation wherein she tried to convince herself not to do what she knew she would, Becky pulled on her coat. Perrini&#8217;s sat on the corner less than a block from Becky&#8217;s apartment. It wasn&#8217;t fashionable, or even well known, but the food was good enough to sometimes tempt people to this lousy part of town for a taste of it. The cafe was close to empty when Becky entered. Van Dorn, true to her word, did have a sandwich, centered on one of the red plastic serving trays the cafe provided, as well as a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee. She had another, identical tray of food across from her. It looked&#8230;delicious. A growl rumbled Becky&#8217;s stomach, quiet enough that Van Dorn couldn&#8217;t have heard it when she slid into the chair opposite. &#8220;Doesn&#8217;t this count as bribery?&#8221; &#8220;Not if you take me up on my offer. In fact, not even if you don&#8217;t.&#8221; Van Dorn pulled the foil off a single serving of creamer and poured it in her coffee. A spoon clinked against the ceramic mug, stirring until the liquid went from deep brown to beige. &#8220;Eat up.&#8221; The sandwich looked good, the soup looked amazing&#8212;cheddar and broccoli&#8212;but Becky went for the coffee instead. It would be easier to walk away from if she deemed it necessary. Strong and bitter, it slid down her throat and warmed her insides. &#8220;You said you wanted to talk&#8230;&#8221; &#8220;Never ruin a good meal with business,&#8221; Van Dorn said, taking a bite. &#8220;Why don&#8217;t you tell me about your photography?&#8221; &#8220;Because I don&#8217;t think you actually care?&#8221; Becky&#8217;s coffee cup clattered on the saucer. &#8220;Please just tell me what you want.&#8221; Van Dorn&#8217;s lips pressed together and she put the sandwich back on her plate. &#8220;Jonathan Crane off the streets, for a very, very long time. Something I&#8217;m having a hard time securing.&#8221; She didn&#8217;t like the direction this conversation was headed. &#8220;You don&#8217;t need me. You have a dozen other people&#8212;&#8221; &#8220;Had. Between some &#8216;mysterious&#8217; disappearances and a few dead bodies, my witness list has dwindled to nothing.&#8221; Becky opened her mouth to say something, but Van Dorn held up her hand. &#8220;But that isn&#8217;t the issue. I&#8217;m not here to ask you to get involved. I&#8217;ve got my indictment, and while the evidence is&#8230;not as strong as I&#8217;d like it to be without witness testimony, I can probably swing a conviction anyway so long as the judge isn&#8217;t dirty and doesn&#8217;t throw out what I&#8217;ve got. I&#8217;m here to ask you to let me put you someplace where you&#8217;ll be protected, or at least give you some security until I&#8217;m sure you&#8217;re not next on his list.&#8221; Becky&#8217;s senses reeled and her head felt light, like it might float away. &#8220;Am I in danger?&#8221; The question was redundant, but she couldn&#8217;t keep from asking it. &#8220;Yes.&#8221; There was no hedging, no dancing around the issue; it shocked her how blunt Van Dorn was. &#8220;You&#8217;re not the only witness who decided, &#8216;randomly&#8217;, not to make a statement about Crane&#8217;s crimes. Unless each and every one of them decided to go out of town at the same time, it seems he wasn&#8217;t satisfied with just their word. If I can prove he&#8217;s responsible, I won&#8217;t need witnesses to put him in prison until he rots. I can&#8217;t do that yet, but I want to at least keep you safe until I can. I hope you&#8217;ll let me.&#8221;

Author: BiteMeTechie
Word Count: 1749 (Part 4/12)
Previous Parts: [1] [2] [3]
Warnings: Ableism

*

Becky’s apartment door wobbled open when she gave it a push. A quick look at the hinges revealed the screws had started to come loose again, something it felt like they did every other month. Becky logged it as one more thing to report to the landlord that he wouldn’t fix and one more complaint to fill out that wouldn’t be read. Peeling one of her arms out of her coat, Becky dropped her keys in the yellow ceramic bowl on the end table next to the door where they jangled against some loose change. She tossed her coat over one of her dining chairs. It landed in a messy heap.

Van Dorn didn’t follow her inside right away. She lingered in the hallway, hesitant, like a vampire waiting for a proper invitation to come inside. That made an amusing mental image: a creature of the night with a law degree who required an ironclad, legally binding contract to enter a home.

“Well,” Becky pulled her camera over her head and put it on the tiny kitchen table, then tugged off her scarf and fluffed her hair where it had been wrapped up by the wool, “come in if you’re coming. I’m not paying to heat the hallway.”

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Author: Twinings Word Count: 2654 (Part 3/4) Previous Parts: [1][2] Prompts: Jonathan Crane and the violent dance (I got your literal genie right here), Jonathan looks in a mirror and tries to make himself feel better, Sherry Squires in CATverse continuity. This does not fill the Jonathan Crane/Velma Dinkley prompt, as I was not aware we had that one until after I made the reference. Trigger warnings: Violence, bullying (physical and emotional), mentioned racism, backbiting high school girls, homophobic slurs. I cannot stress enough how unacceptable it is to use this word or others like it, but I do feel that it is appropriate to the situation. Teenagers are awful. Read with caution.  * &#8220;Help me,&#8221; he moaned, and got a banana peel between his teeth for the effort. It didn&#8217;t matter if he called for help. No one was going to hear him, and even if they did hear him, they wouldn&#8217;t care, and&#8212; &#8220;Is somebody in there?&#8221; He was hallucinating, obviously, but that knowledge didn&#8217;t stop his heart from lurching with false hope. He banged his fist against the steel wall, and imagined that he heard a gasp, a grunt, a scrape against the metal, a crash against the ground. Then there was light and air, and maybe he wasn&#8217;t hallucinating after all. He reached for the lip of the thing and dragged himself up, didn&#8217;t care that the rough metal tore the skin off his palms. He meant to swing his leg over and ease himself down, but he lost his grip entirely and pitched over the edge, right into the arms of Megan, the girl from Spook Hill.[[MORE]] &#8220;Holy Toledo!&#8221; she yelped as they crashed to the ground in a tangle of limbs and lace. Jonathan shoved himself away from her, heard a loud rip and her cry of dismay as part of her frilly skirt came away with him. All he could think to do was run away, but he barely made it to his hands and knees before he collapsed. Noisy sobs tore their way out of him. He couldn&#8217;t hold them back, any more than he could force his body to stand up. &#8220;Are you okay?&#8221; Her hand on his shoulder. He tore his arm away. &#8220;Don&#8217;t touch me!&#8221; He was disgusting, she wouldn&#8217;t want to touch him, she wouldn&#8217;t want to have anything to do with him unless it was to somehow make all this even worse. She rocked back on her heels, but she was still there, watching him as he lay on the ground, shaking and crying and hating himself. &#8220;Do you want me to call nine-one-one?&#8221; she asked. &#8220;No!&#8221; He wasn&#8217;t hurt, not really. He was just being a baby, a coward, a weenie, a wimp, everything they had ever said about him, and a doctor was, as his granny had told him many times, an extravagance they could not afford. &#8220;Should I get someone to pick you up?&#8221; &#8220;I can pick myself&#8212;&#8221; Belatedly, he realized she was talking about getting him a ride home. &#8220;I&#8217;m fine.&#8221; To prove it, he pushed himself upright. He didn&#8217;t try to stand, not certain his legs would hold him yet, but kneeling was a good start. He was steadier, now that the reaction was wearing off, and his breathing was coming back under his control. If she would just go away and leave him alone, he could put this whole humiliating incident behind him. &#8220;You haven&#8217;t seen my glasses, have you?&#8221; Megan asked. &#8220;I kind of lost them when we fell.&#8221; Well, that was a tactful way of putting it, but Jonathan didn&#8217;t care to respond in kind. &#8220;I haven&#8217;t seen anything.&#8221; Without his own glasses, he was as blind as a bat. Megan chuckled. Jonathan felt his shoulders tense. &#8220;What?&#8221; &#8220;Oh, was that not a joke? I&#8217;m sorry. I just thought&#8230;because your glasses are&#8230;I&#8217;m sorry.&#8221; Her apology sounded genuine. Jonathan tried to think how he was supposed to respond, but he hadn&#8217;t the faintest idea. He stared at the ground, and&#8212;ah. There was a pair of glasses lying not far from him, in the shadow of the dumpster. He picked them up. The frames were large, plastic, hand-painted to look like the wings of Euploea mulciber. Or maybe it was just an abstract pattern that coincidentally resembled a South Asian butterfly&#8217;s wings. &#8220;Here.&#8221; He thrust them in her general direction, and managed to hit her in the face just as she leaned in toward him. &#8220;Ow. These must be yours, then.&#8221; Face flaming with embarrassment, he slipped his own wire-frame glasses back on, and felt marginally better as the world came back into focus. They were bent, but miraculously unbroken. He looked at the girl, intending to thank her and send her on her way. Her eyes were ringed with black streaks, and the rest of her makeup had rubbed away in places, revealing a freckle here, a pimple there, and red and white splotches all over. She had been crying. &#8220;I&#8217;m&#8212;sorry,&#8221; he said. &#8220;About your dress.&#8221; And about harassing her and her friends, and knocking her down, and covering her with garbage, and having a hysterical episode in front of her, and hitting her in the face with her own glasses. The dress seemed the safest item to mention. She plucked at a soiled ruffle hanging from her skirt by a thread, and sighed. &#8220;Yeah, well. I&#8217;ll make a better one next time.&#8221; &#8220;You made that?&#8221; And she wasn&#8217;t angry that he&#8217;d destroyed it? She mistook his suspicion for admiration. &#8220;I&#8217;m mostly into costume design, but I thought I&#8217;d give fashion a try for the dance. Kind of Pretty in Pink, you know?&#8221; Before he&#8217;d gotten to it, the dress had looked very much like a costume of an upside-down lemon cupcake, but he kept that thought to himself. &#8220;If that&#8217;s your idea of pink, you&#8217;re never going to make it as a fashion designer,&#8221; he said instead. &#8220;Wow, okay,&#8221; she said with a little laugh. &#8220;I&#8217;m going to go to the bathroom and clean up. Want to walk me there?&#8221; &#8220;No,&#8221; he said sharply. So that was her game, was it? She thought she could get him to walk back through the gym so everyone could see what a pathetic loser he was, so all her giggly little friends could point and laugh. So Sherry could think even less of him than she undoubtedly already did. Then again, Megan was looking almost as ragged as he was, and someone had made her cry&#8230; &#8220;I was thinking I&#8217;d use the one by my locker. There won&#8217;t be anybody in there right now.&#8221; &#8220;That&#8217;s because the main building is locked,&#8221; he reminded her. &#8220;Sure, the doors are. There&#8217;s a window in the chem lab with a busted lock. Don&#8217;t tell Mr. Cranston.&#8221; &#8220;How would you know that?&#8221; he asked. &#8220;I&#8217;m the one who broke it. Are you coming?&#8221; She held out her hand to help him up. Jonathan braced himself against the side of the dumpster and got to his feet that way instead. Her motives might be altruistic, as absurd as the notion seemed, but he did not want her hands on him. She walked off toward the chemistry lab, and Jonathan hobbled along behind her. He was hardly trembling at all now, but the lessening of adrenaline meant that he was really starting to feel all the persistent aches that were going to leave him incapacitated by morning. He would have preferred to hide his limp, but keeping his face impassive was already too much strain. He was on the verge of breaking down again. It would have to be enough for his pride that her face was turned away. True to her word, the chemistry lab window opened easily at a touch. Megan clambered inside, then held it open for Jonathan while he did the same. How he made it inside without her help he would never know, but he did. It was eerie to be in the school building at night, in the dark, alone with a girl he hardly knew. The thump-thump of the bass from the music in the gym was a steady sound almost beyond the range of his hearing. Giggling nervously, Megan edged closer to Jonathan as they made their way past the lab tables to the door. He slowed to let her go ahead of him. The hallway was dark, lit only by a small window at each end, casting weird shadows on the lockers from the streetlights outside. Jonathan tried not to think about the escaped lunatic with a hook for a hand who had supposedly stalked and murdered a group of Arlen students in the &#8217;50s. He wondered if Megan knew that story. They parted ways at the boys&#8217; bathroom, and Jonathan couldn&#8217;t say he was sorry to see the last of her. She really hadn&#8217;t done anything wrong&#8212;she had been very nice, in fact&#8212;but he needed to be alone, and he didn&#8217;t know how to handle nice. He turned on the bathroom light and locked the door securely behind him. Then his legs gave out and he crumpled to the floor, arms wrapped tight around his body, knees pressed against his forehead. He didn&#8217;t cry this time, just lay there, breathing hard, riding out the last waves of emotion. It didn&#8217;t matter, he told himself. It didn&#8217;t matter what they did to him. He wouldn&#8217;t be in Arlen forever. Just four more years. Closer to three and a half, now. He could hold on until then. Once high school was over, everything would be okay. He used the sink to pull himself up, and surveyed himself in the mirror. His face, under the filth, was pale, and he looked stricken, but not shattered. Jonathan stared hard into his own eyes, trying to project an air of dignity. It didn&#8217;t quite work, but he was getting there. &#8220;It&#8217;s going to be all right,&#8221; he told himself firmly. &#8220;It&#8217;s. Going. To. Be. All. Right.&#8221; It was. It had to be. He folded his glasses carefully and set them aside, and turned both the hot and cold taps as far as they would go. It took some contorting to get his head under the faucet, but with a lot of scrubbing and a liberal amount of soap from the dispenser, he managed to make his face and hair look almost presentable. He stripped off his torn sport coat and balled it up in the garbage can. It wasn&#8217;t salvageable. His button-down shirt was too badly stained in the back to be worn in public without something over it, but it would be fine to get him home. His pants were the worst, though. They had been torn down one side at some point without his noticing, and now that leg was sticky with blood. He could take his pants off and try to wash them in the sink, but he had no way to dry them. He might as well just wait until he got home. Jonathan wet a few paper towels and pressed them to the bloody scrape on his leg. He was going to have some serious work ahead of him, disinfecting that later. Bent over, he couldn&#8217;t help noticing how frayed the hems were, and how short. He&#8217;d thought he was lucky to find a pair of pants that fit his waist, but of course they couldn&#8217;t accommodate his height, too. Of course not.Did you see what he was wearing? He straightened when he heard a knock at the door, and Megan&#8217;s voice. &#8220;Hey, um, guy? Jonathan, right?&#8221; &#8220;Scarecrow.&#8221; It came out harsher than he&#8217;d intended. She was quiet for a moment. Then: &#8220;Okay, Scarecrow. You might as well call me Bug-Eyes. Everyone else will, by Monday.&#8221; Bug-Eyes. For the size of her glasses, and for the butterfly pattern she&#8217;d painted on them. Clever. But not that clever. He unlocked the door and opened it a crack. &#8220;Butterflies aren&#8217;t bugs.&#8221; &#8220;I know, they&#8217;re lepidopterans. But try telling that to your friend Miranda.&#8221; Jonathan&#8217;s back stiffened. &#8220;That person is no friend of mine.&#8221; &#8220;Lucky you, then.&#8221; She moved toward him. He automatically stepped back, which she took as an invitation to push open the door and enter the bathroom. In the light, he could see that she had pulled her hair back with a yellow scarf, scrubbed her face clean of makeup, and exchanged her yellow dress for the gym clothces she must have been keeping in her locker. She&#8217;d kept her high-heeled shoes on, though. &#8220;Wow,&#8221; she said. &#8220;You&#8217;re a fright.&#8221; &#8220;And you&#8217;re uncommonly blunt.&#8221; Rude, he meant, but she smiled as if he&#8217;d paid her a compliment. &#8220;I&#8217;m just here to help you, weird boy.&#8221; She thrust a blue and white canvas bag at him. He didn&#8217;t take it. &#8220;I didn&#8217;t know which locker was yours, so I broke into Bo&#8217;s.&#8221; He didn&#8217;t have a locker. It was five dollars to rent one for the year, and Jonathan hadn&#8217;t been able to rub five cents together before the deadline. He&#8217;d been carrying everything with him in his backpack all day, which was much more of a strain than it had been in previous years, but maybe it would build muscle. &#8220;If you&#8217;re going to steal from someone on my behalf, I&#8217;d prefer that it was Dylan,&#8221; he said. &#8220;Yeah, well, I know Bo. He used to leave things in my locker. It&#8217;s only fair that I start taking things from his.&#8221; &#8220;&#8216;Things&#8217;?&#8221; Jonathan repeated, envisioning love notes and flowers, a romance gone bad. &#8220;Yeah, you know, the usual things. Death threats, ketchup packets, anti-Catholic religious tracts, fake love notes from a girl to trick me into coming out of the closet. I&#8217;m not even Catholic,&#8221; she muttered. &#8220;Couldn&#8217;t you tell someone?&#8221; It was a trite thing to say, but written threats were better proof than bruises, especially if Briggs was fool enough to sign his name. Megan shook her head. &#8220;To whom should I complain? And who would believe me? He&#8217;s a football player.&#8221; She fixed him with a serious look. &#8220;Couldn&#8217;t you tell someone?&#8221; Since that wasn&#8217;t even worthy of a response, Jonathan took the bag. Inside was an Arlen Ghost Hawks t-shirt&#8212;an extra-extra-large with sweat-stained armpits, but much better than what he was currently wearing&#8212;a pair of gym shorts that would clearly only stay around his waist if he held them up with both hands, and some running shoes that were name brand and nearly new. The shoes, he saw at a glance, were only a little too big for him. With thick socks, he could actually wear them. Those, he would keep. &#8220;Yeah, he&#8217;s been eating his spinach,&#8221; Megan said, which Jonathan presumed was a reference to Bo&#8217;s size. &#8220;You can use all that to scrub your toilet when you&#8217;re done with it. Or, better yet, wait a few days and sneak it back into his locker. Sprinkle some oregano on it so it looks like it&#8217;s been used in a magic ritual. He thinks I&#8217;m a witch, you know.&#8221; &#8220;Dare I ask why?&#8221; &#8220;I told him I was, obviously. I said I&#8217;d put a curse on him if he didn&#8217;t leave me alone. I guess he believes in witchcraft, because he did,&#8221; she added with a shrug. &#8220;At least, he stopped bothering me after he lost a couple of football games.&#8221; Jonathan couldn&#8217;t help but smile at her daring. He wasn&#8217;t about to try the same trick himself, though. Claiming to be a witch seemed like nothing so much as a sure way to subject himself to a trial by ordeal, and he&#8217;d been dunked in the pond too many times already. &#8220;Well, I guess I&#8217;d better get out of here.&#8221; She turned to go. Then she turned herself a full three hundred and sixty degrees to face him again with a frown. &#8220;Wait. Here.&#8221; She unwound the long yellow scarf from around her head. Instead of tumbling about her shoulders in graceful waves like it was supposed to, her hair sprang out to the sides like snakes in a can. &#8220;What&#8217;s this for?&#8221; he asked. &#8220;I put a powerful spell of protection on it,&#8221; she answered dramatically. Already reaching for it, Jonathan hesitated. Megan laughed. &#8220;I&#8217;m not really a witch, weird boy. It&#8217;s just a scarf. A scarf that happens to be long enough to be used as an emergency belt.&#8221; She tossed it at him. He managed to catch it, barely. &#8220;See you around, Scarecrow.&#8221; He was looking at the filmy fabric in his hands when he mumbled, &#8220;So long, Bug-Eyes.&#8221;

Author: Twinings
Word Count: 2654 (Part 3/4)
Previous Parts: [1][2]
Prompts: Jonathan Crane and the violent dance (I got your literal genie right here), Jonathan looks in a mirror and tries to make himself feel better, Sherry Squires in CATverse continuity. This does not fill the Jonathan Crane/Velma Dinkley prompt, as I was not aware we had that one until after I made the reference.
Trigger warnings: Violence, bullying (physical and emotional), mentioned racism, backbiting high school girls, homophobic slurs. I cannot stress enough how unacceptable it is to use this word or others like it, but I do feel that it is appropriate to the situation. Teenagers are awful. Read with caution.

*

“Help me,” he moaned, and got a banana peel between his teeth for the effort. It didn’t matter if he called for help. No one was going to hear him, and even if they did hear him, they wouldn’t care, and—

“Is somebody in there?”

He was hallucinating, obviously, but that knowledge didn’t stop his heart from lurching with false hope. He banged his fist against the steel wall, and imagined that he heard a gasp, a grunt, a scrape against the metal, a crash against the ground. Then there was light and air, and maybe he wasn’t hallucinating after all. He reached for the lip of the thing and dragged himself up, didn’t care that the rough metal tore the skin off his palms. He meant to swing his leg over and ease himself down, but he lost his grip entirely and pitched over the edge, right into the arms of Megan, the girl from Spook Hill.

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Author: Twinings Word Count: 1941 (Part 2/4) Previous Parts: [1] Prompts: Jonathan Crane and the violent dance (I got your literal genie right here), Jonathan looks in a mirror and tries to make himself feel better, Sherry Squires in CATverse continuity. This does not fill the Jonathan Crane/Velma Dinkley prompt, as I was not aware we had that one until after I made the reference. Trigger warnings: Violence, bullying (physical and emotional), mentioned racism, backbiting high school girls, homophobic slurs. I cannot stress enough how unacceptable it is to use this word or others like it, but I do feel that it is appropriate to the situation. Teenagers are awful. Read with caution.  * Bo bumped the door open with his hip, and they hauled him out into the balmy night. Jonathan stayed limp until Dylan turned slightly away to kick the door shut behind him. Then, too suddenly for him to anticipate it, Jonathan stomped on his ankle with all the force he could muster and jerked his arm free. Bo tried to keep his grip on the other side, but all he had a good hold of was Jonathan&#8217;s jacket, and it only took a sharp tug for the whole thing to tear away, leaving him with a ragged strip of tweed flapping against his elbow as he ran.[[MORE]] Dylan had never been particularly fast. Jonathan experienced a moment of fleeting hope as he rounded the corner of the gym and came up on the back of the cafeteria. If he could get away from them early, they would give up and go back inside to play knights in shining armor for their girlfriends. And for Sherry, but there was nothing he could do about that. He comforted himself with the fact that only three of the four girls had been openly mocking him as he&#8217;d been dragged away. Since he&#8217;d recognized Miranda&#8217;s voice, the chances were one in three that Sherry hadn&#8217;t been one of the other two. Maybe she didn&#8217;t condone&#8212; Jonathan found out why Bo Briggs was a varsity linebacker when the other boy&#8217;s massive weight hit him right between the shoulder blades, knocking him flat. Bo&#8217;s arm wrapped around his waist, pinning his arms so he couldn&#8217;t even break his fall. His head clunked against the side of the dumpster, and he fell to the ground, too dazed to struggle. Not that he could, anyway, with Bo sprawled out on top of him. You had to be big to be a linebacker, and Bo was big, with biceps bigger around than Jonathan&#8217;s thighs. Apparently, linebackers also knew how to tackle. Dylan came pounding down the asphalt, cheering on Bo&#8217;s athletic prowess. Jonathan groaned faintly. Bo peeled Jonathan off the ground and held him up, giving him a second to catch his breath. Nice of him, Jonathan thought irrationally. &#8220;You fucking piece of shit,&#8221; Dylan said. He was really laying on the profanity for the new guy&#8217;s benefit, trying to establish his place in the new pecking order. Ridiculous. &#8220;You need to learn to leave decent people alone.&#8221; Bo said nothing. He had been nearly silent the entire time, Jonathan realized. He might just be dumb muscle, the type who would go along with anything a stronger personality told him to do, but Jonathan didn&#8217;t get that impression. More likely, he was confident enough in his role as the football hero that he didn&#8217;t have to verbally and physically assault someone half his size just to feel like a big man. If that was the case, then without any personal stake in the matter, he would be satisfied with a minimum of violence, just enough to drive home the &#8220;lesson.&#8221; Jonathan could deal with that. It was Dylan who would not be satisfied. &#8220;Decent people?&#8221; Jonathan echoed quietly. &#8220;I don&#8217;t see any decent people here. Decent people aren&#8217;t afraid to fight fair. Two against one, Dylan? Do I scare you that much?&#8221; He had expected that dig to provoke Dylan into a flurry of violence, while making them both feel bad enough about themselves to leave him alone after they&#8217;d knocked him down a time or two. But, to his alarm, it was Bo who moved, pinning his arms behind his back and tilting him back slightly so that his torso presented an inviting target. Jonathan tipped his head back to look Bo in the eye. &#8220;What did I ever do to you?&#8221; He sounded pathetic. He was whining, which he despised, and which, moreover, was not going to do him any good. Bo looked down at him, as blandly dispassionate as if they had been discussing the political climate in Armenia. &#8220;You bothered my girlfriend. Fuck you.&#8221; Still looking at Bo, Jonathan didn&#8217;t see Dylan draw back his fist. He knew how to take a punch to minimize the damage, but not if he didn&#8217;t see it coming. Dylan&#8217;s fist slammed into his solar plexus with the force of&#8230;a fist, hell, he couldn&#8217;t think of metaphors, there was nothing comparable. The air rushed out of him and refused to come back in. His legs wouldn&#8217;t support his weight, but that was all right because Bo&#8217;s grip hadn&#8217;t slacked in the least. He wouldn&#8217;t have the comfort of lying on the ground, curled in a ball of misery, until they were good and done with him. With his eyes tightly shut, as if that could squeeze out the pain, he couldn&#8217;t see the next blow coming, either. Dylan hit him again in the same spot, driving a strangled grunt from somewhere deep inside him as tears started streaming from his eyes. He kicked out blindly in front of him and connected with something, but not hard enough to make a difference. With the third blow, Jonathan lost control of his insides and heaved up most of what he&#8217;d eaten for dinner. Bo let him go with a startled laugh. He hit the ground hard on one knee and, disoriented, tipped sideways until his shoulder was pressing into the ground. Dylan snapped a kick at his chest that knocked him onto his back. Jonathan tried to brace himself for the next attack, but it didn&#8217;t come. &#8220;That was your own damn fault.&#8221; Bo&#8217;s voice. Laughing. Jonathan managed to open his eyes and saw that Bo had put himself between the two of them and was holding Dylan back by the shoulders. Dylan was splattered with vomit. There was a part of Jonathan that was pleased with that. There was a much bigger part of him that was terrified of the fury evident on his tormentor&#8217;s face. And there was another part of him that noted Bo&#8217;s reaction to Dylan&#8217;s unbridled rage. He was amused. Not because of the potential ramifications for Jonathan, but because it signaled a shift in the social structure. Dylan was losing face, and if he didn&#8217;t regain control of the situation, he would never again be the leader he had been before the merge with Spook Hill. Everyone from Arlen had already settled into their roles as his followers, but Bo was a leader himself. After this, he could make Dylan his subordinate. It didn&#8217;t matter that there was no one around to witness the incident except the weird kid they were beating up. Bo would know, and Dylan would know. And Dylan was too out of control to recognize the situation, much less try to salvage it. Jonathan was in too much pain to move much, but he did manage a smirk. &#8220;Get off me! He&#8217;s gotta be taught a lesson!&#8221; Dylan shouted. He tried to run at Jonathan. Bo shoved him back. &#8220;He&#8217;s trash!&#8221; &#8220;Sure,&#8221; Bo said calmly. &#8220;A worthless piece of trash!&#8221; &#8220;Yeah. And what do we do with trash?&#8221; What? No! Desperately, Jonathan tried to lever himself off the ground. His arms almost gave out under him. He grasped the side of the dumpster for support, managed to get one foot under him. Then a hand grabbed him by the hair and yanked him back. &#8220;Stop! Hmmp!&#8221; Dylan&#8217;s hand released his hair to clamp down over his mouth instead. His arm tightened around Jonathan&#8217;s shoulders as Bo lifted his feet off the ground. Jonathan flailed and squirmed, beating his fists against whatever flesh he could find, trying to kick at Bo&#8217;s face, for all the good it did him. His glasses slipped off, and the ground became a blur beneath his face. He bucked and slipped and, for a second, actually thought he was free. But then the arm that had been wrapped around his shoulders tightened around his throat instead. Frantic now, Jonathan clawed at Dylan&#8217;s arm, with no effect other than that the hand covering his mouth moved to seize him by the elbow instead. They didn&#8217;t care, they weren&#8217;t paying attention, they were going to kill him&#8212; &#8220;Oops!&#8221; Dylan said, and slammed his head into the dumpster. Then his grip shifted, and Jonathan sucked in one quick breath before they threw him, unceremoniously, face first, in with the garbage. Preoccupied with breathing, Jonathan hadn&#8217;t thought to close his mouth. He scrambled up, spitting coffee grounds and scrubbing frantically at his mouth, but whatever he&#8217;d landed in was all over his hands. They were both laughing, Dylan with a forced note that said he wasn&#8217;t finished yet. Jonathan tried to turn around so he could climb out, but the piles of muck slid under him and he fell into it again. &#8220;That really stinks,&#8221; said Bo. &#8220;People shouldn&#8217;t leave these things open like this.&#8221; &#8220;No, don&#8217;t!&#8221; Jonathan cried as they reached up together to close the lid on him. He put his arms up to stop it, but of course their combined weight was far too much for him to resist. The lid slammed down. Jonathan tried to stifle a sob, but it echoed in the dark. The air was thick with the stench of week-old garbage. His stomach churned and, before he could stop himself, he threw up for the second time that night, down his own front this time. He could hear them laughing out there. He shoved against the dumpster lid, but they must have still been leaning on it. It didn&#8217;t budge. He pounded on it with both hands. Nothing. &#8220;Okay, very funny!&#8221; His voice wobbled pitifully, beyond his control. &#8220;You got me! You win! You can let me out now!&#8221; There was no response. He slammed his fists against the steel lid. &#8220;Let me out!&#8221; &#8220;We should go back inside,&#8221; said Bo. &#8220;Well, you should go change your pants.&#8221; Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Go back inside, go back, go away, go away, go away&#8230; There was a thump that rocked the whole dumpster. The lid bowed in under the weight of whatever they had put up there to hold it shut, a rock or a cinder block, it didn&#8217;t matter, he couldn&#8217;t move it, he was trapped and they were leaving him there&#8212; &#8220;No!&#8221; he screamed. &#8220;No, please, I&#8217;m sorry, please let me out, you have to let me out, please, I&#8217;m sorry, I&#8217;ll never do it again, I swear I won&#8217;t, I swear to God, I&#8217;m sorry, just please, please&#8212;&#8221; He tried to push it open with his shoulder, but his foot slipped, and he fell. His struggle to get back up was worse than useless. An avalanche of filth, dislodged by his aimless thrashing, tumbled down on top of him. He managed to push most of it away, only for another pile to slide down on him from the other side. Banana peel over his mouth, slimy plastic wrap against his ear, chunks of spoiled milk up his nose, a thousand half-eaten lunches burying his legs. He gagged, as much from fear as from the stink and the slime, but there was nothing left to bring up. He couldn&#8217;t breathe, he couldn&#8217;t move, he was dizzy, he was lightheaded, he was trapped, he was going to suffocate, he was going to pass out, no one was going to come looking for him, the garbage collectors were going to have no idea there was an unconscious human being in the dumpster, they were going to dump him into a trash compacter and crush him into a cube and incinerate the remains&#8212; &#8220;Help me,&#8221; he moaned, and got a banana peel between his teeth for the effort.

Author: Twinings
Word Count: 1941 (Part 2/4)
Previous Parts: [1]
Prompts: Jonathan Crane and the violent dance (I got your literal genie right here), Jonathan looks in a mirror and tries to make himself feel better, Sherry Squires in CATverse continuity. This does not fill the Jonathan Crane/Velma Dinkley prompt, as I was not aware we had that one until after I made the reference.
Trigger warnings: Violence, bullying (physical and emotional), mentioned racism, backbiting high school girls, homophobic slurs. I cannot stress enough how unacceptable it is to use this word or others like it, but I do feel that it is appropriate to the situation. Teenagers are awful. Read with caution.

*

Bo bumped the door open with his hip, and they hauled him out into the balmy night. Jonathan stayed limp until Dylan turned slightly away to kick the door shut behind him. Then, too suddenly for him to anticipate it, Jonathan stomped on his ankle with all the force he could muster and jerked his arm free. Bo tried to keep his grip on the other side, but all he had a good hold of was Jonathan’s jacket, and it only took a sharp tug for the whole thing to tear away, leaving him with a ragged strip of tweed flapping against his elbow as he ran.

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Author: Twinings Word Count: 1987 (Part 1/4) Prompts: Jonathan Crane and the violent dance (I got your literal genie right here), Jonathan looks in a mirror and tries to make himself feel better, Sherry Squires in CATverse continuity. This does not fill the Jonathan Crane/Velma Dinkley prompt, as I was not aware we had that one until after I made the reference.Trigger warnings: Violence, bullying (physical and emotional), mentioned racism, backbiting high school girls, homophobic slurs. I cannot stress enough how unacceptable it is to use this word or others like it, but I do feel that it is appropriate to the situation. Teenagers are awful. Read with caution.  * Jonathan Crane first met Sherry Squires at the homecoming dance at the end of September when he was fourteen years old. Sherry, like half of the freshman class at Arlen High, had gone to Spook Hill Elementary and Alexander Stephens Junior High, while Jonathan had been stuck in the hellhole that was Arlen Public School. But there was only one high school serving both towns, so his class size had doubled, which&#8230;honestly, didn&#8217;t really change anything for him. Except that, for the first time in his life, a pretty girl had caught his interest. There were other pretty girls in his class, of course. But they all knew him. They had all insulted him at some time or another, behind his back or, more often, to his face. They had all been there for every humiliating thing that had ever happened to them. Half of them had been involved in one incident or another. But Sherry was different. Sherry was new.[[MORE]] He had been aware of her almost since the beginning of the year. She was on the pep squad, and in the drama club, and even though she was a stranger to half the ninth grade, her election to the homecoming court had been a landslide victory. It was her smile, Jonathan thought, that dazzling, movie-star grin that made you feel so special when she blasted you with it. Sherry had smiled at him once, at the first pep rally of the year. Jonathan had been sitting in the front row of the bleachers, a strategic location because it meant that not only could he be among the first to leave when all the claptrap was concluded, but he also wouldn&#8217;t have too far to fall if someone shoved him on his way out. It also meant that he had a perfect view of the football team, the pep squad, and the cheerleaders, but none of that had crossed his mind at all. He&#8217;d been trying to focus on Algebra, because he hadn&#8217;t yet dared to tell his granny that he&#8217;d made a C on the first test, and he&#8217;d been hoping he could bring his grade up to something more respectable before she found out. But, his concentration shot from Dylan&#8217;s attempts to jab him in the kidneys with a pencil, Jonathan had looked up just in time to see a lovely brunette run out in front of the other girls, a baton spinning in her hand. The baton had slipped through her fingers, and Jonathan had felt a moment of pity for the clumsy girl who had probably only been allowed to perform as part of some cruel joke at her expense. But instead of letting it clatter to the floor, she&#8217;d spun around, bending at the waist and tucking her arms in tight to increase her momentum, and snatched it out of the air just inches from the ground. She&#8217;d tossed it up in the air, spinning around again, and caught it above her head. He&#8217;d stared, fascinated, as she&#8217;d twirled and tossed and spun, the other girls just making a pretty backdrop for the clear star of the show. It had been like magic, even though intellectually he&#8217;d known that the baton was nothing more than a kind of lever, with her fingers as the fulcrum providing angular momentum through carefully applied torque. It still required phenomenal coordination and awareness of her center of gravity. Jonathan never would have been able to do it. At the end of the routine, she&#8217;d flung the baton to the ground, let it bounce back up into her hand, and swept a dramatic bow to her audience. Then, as if sensing his admiration (but no, that was silly, there was no scientific evidence of extrasensory perception) she&#8217;d tipped her head back and looked right at him. And smiled. He&#8217;d loved her ever since. Now she was standing just outside the crush in the school gym, looking ethereal in a white party dress, with a homecoming princess tiara perched, slightly off center, atop the complicated swirls of her hair. Jonathan hadn&#8217;t seen her accept the crown. He had spent the evening working as a parking attendant for the game, which was the only reason he&#8217;d been able to afford a ticket to the dance. But he&#8217;d known she was going to win. Now, standing in the corner in a secondhand suit that he&#8217;d spent hours sprucing up with supplies filched from Granny&#8217;s sewing kit (in the dim light, you could hardly see the patches) he wanted to go over and congratulate her. He could ask her to dance&#8212;he&#8217;d been practicing, alone in the root cellar, with dance steps he&#8217;d learned from a book. She would say yes, of course, because she was not like other girls. They would talk while they danced, and they would find out that they had so much in common that it just made sense for them to be together. She would admire his intellect, and she would be the only one to get his sense of humor, and&#8230; His fantasy extended no farther than that. He couldn&#8217;t imagine what it would be like to have a girlfriend. Sherry wasn&#8217;t dating anyone, as far as he knew. That made things easier. Most of the couples were out on the dance floor together, or else they had sneaked out to the parking lot or behind the bleachers to paw at each other like raccoons in heat. But Sherry was talking to some of the drama girls, two from Spook Hill and one from Arlen. Jenny, Megan, and Miranda. Megan didn&#8217;t seem like the kind of girl who would be friends with someone like Sherry. She was a squat, carrotty-redhead with over sized glasses and a nose more prominent even than Jonathan&#8217;s. He only knew her because she was in his English class, and kept awkwardly trying to shoehorn in discussions of Measure for Measure instead of the assigned play, Romeo and Juliet. Jenny fit in better. She was long-legged and stunning, and supposedly spent five hours a day studying with a professional ballet company in Atlanta. She was going out with Bo or Beau&#8212;there were six guys with that name in their grade alone, and Jonathan could never keep straight who spelled it which way. This Bo was on the football team, and their dating had caused a minor scandal because, apparently, miscegenation was still taboo in Georgia. And then there was Miranda. She was like a human Darci doll, right down to the flip in her perfect golden-blonde hair. She was the kind of girl who could have gotten by on looks alone, but, frustratingly, she was also going to be his closest competition for valedictorian. And she didn&#8217;t deserve that honor. The grades, yes. Even Jonathan couldn&#8217;t deny that she&#8217;d worked hard to maintain her grade point average. But everyone knew it was Miranda&#8217;s fault that Jewish girl had to transfer to private school in seventh grade, and it was Miranda who had started the rumor that Ashley Wyatt was pregnant when they&#8217;d been fighting for the lead in the Christmas pageant. There was nothing Miranda wouldn&#8217;t do to make herself look good, and she did not deserve to be held up as the best Arlen had to offer. Jonathan sincerely hoped that Sherry was just spending time with Miranda because she hadn&#8217;t yet learned what kind of person she really was. Jonathan walked up to the girls during a lull in their conversation, tugging self-consciously on his shirtsleeves, which were just a litle too short. Miranda looked at him the way she always did, as if he were something stuck to the bottom of her shoe and she couldn&#8217;t quite decide what she&#8217;d stepped in. He ignored her. Megan gave him a cordial nod, Jenny a puzzled but not hostile frown, Sherry a look of polite attentiveness. He looked at all three with what he hoped was a pleasant smile. Sherry looked&#8230;disturbed. &#8220;I just wanted to&#8212;congratulate you&#8212;you look&#8212;very&#8212;regal.&#8221; He barely managed to get the words out, his mouth suddenly dry. Sherry&#8217;s eyebrows were slowly creeping toward her hairline. Jenny stifled a laugh. &#8220;Do I know you?&#8221; Sherry asked, with exaggerated slowness, as if she thought he were some kind of halfwit. Jonathan straightened, surreptitiously wiping his damp palms on the sides of his pants. &#8220;I&#8217;m Jonathan. I&#8217;m in your English class. And Algebra. And Social Studies.&#8221; Miranda didn&#8217;t bother to stifle her giggles. Jonathan shot her a glare, which only made her laugh harder. Jenny snickered. Megan coughed the way people did when they were trying to cover their amusement. Sherry smiled. It was not her movie star smile, but his heart rate picked up just the same. &#8220;Jonathan&#8230;did you want something?&#8221; &#8220;I, um&#8230;&#8221; He should say something to her. He had to say something, or she was going to think there was something seriously wrong with him. &#8220;Hey.&#8221; Jonathan flinched at the sound of the familiar male voice. &#8220;What are you doing with my girl?&#8221; Two very large forms flanked Jonathan, to the girls&#8217; obvious pleasure. On his left was Dylan, who had been getting away with stuffing Jonathan into lockers since the third grade. On his right, Bo, who he had never even met before, although of course everyone knew who he was. He was on the varsity football team, which was apparently an impressive accomplishment for a freshman. &#8220;I wasn&#8217;t aware that women were considered personal property,&#8221; Jonathan said, trying not to flinch again as they both pressed in closer. Dylan clenched his hand into a fist, which was his response pretty much any time Jonathan used a word with more than two syllables. &#8220;Is this guy bothering you ladies?&#8221; asked Bo. He had an affable-sounding voice, like a politician or a used car salesman. Sherry seemed to like it. She gave him her special smile, which prompted Jenny to show off her dimples and flutter her long eyelashes. Jonathan glanced at Miranda, but she only had eyes for Dylan. At least she was loyal. &#8220;Get this creep away from us,&#8221; she said sweetly. Dylan&#8217;s hand gripped Jonathan&#8217;s upper arm, hard enough to bruise. If he was lucky, that would be the worst of it. He was never that lucky. &#8220;I told you never to look at my girl,&#8221; Dylan growled. He didn&#8217;t sound nearly as amiable as Bo, but Jonathan knew he could be perfectly charming around authority figures&#8212;it was how he maintained his squeaky-clean reputation&#8212;so there was no use looking for help. &#8220;I wasn&#8217;t looking at your girl,&#8221; said Jonathan, with a derisive glance at Miranda. She looked like she wanted to punch him, or at least have Dylan do it for her. &#8220;Why not? You saying you don&#8217;t like the way she looks? Are you insulting my girlfriend?&#8221; They had been through this before. Jonathan was supposed to backpedal and say that Miranda was gorgeous, thus proving that he had been looking at her. Then Dylan would have an excuse to shove his head in a toilet. He might as well skip to the end. &#8220;What&#8217;s to look at?&#8221; He deliberately looked Miranda up and down, then shrugged as if utterly bored. &#8220;Fucking faggot!&#8221; Dylan nearly yanked his arm out of its socket as he swung him around toward the door. A second later, Bo caught up and grabbed him by the other arm. He was strong, but his grip was indifferent. He was only getting involved to impress the girls. A fresh burst of giggles broke out as Bo and Dylan dragged Jonathan away. &#8220;Did you see what he was wearing? Who would actually leave the house looking like that?&#8221; &#8220;That&#8217;s why we call him the Scarecrow.&#8221; &#8220;Scarecrow? He looks like a serial killer.&#8221; Jonathan stopped trying to resist and simply let his feet slide over the vinyl floor. They didn&#8217;t care if he walked or not, anyway.

Author: Twinings
Word Count: 1987 (Part 1/4)
Prompts: Jonathan Crane and the violent dance (I got your literal genie right here), Jonathan looks in a mirror and tries to make himself feel better, Sherry Squires in CATverse continuity. This does not fill the Jonathan Crane/Velma Dinkley prompt, as I was not aware we had that one until after I made the reference.
Trigger warnings: Violence, bullying (physical and emotional), mentioned racism, backbiting high school girls, homophobic slurs. I cannot stress enough how unacceptable it is to use this word or others like it, but I do feel that it is appropriate to the situation. Teenagers are awful. Read with caution.


*

Jonathan Crane first met Sherry Squires at the homecoming dance at the end of September when he was fourteen years old. Sherry, like half of the freshman class at Arlen High, had gone to Spook Hill Elementary and Alexander Stephens Junior High, while Jonathan had been stuck in the hellhole that was Arlen Public School. But there was only one high school serving both towns, so his class size had doubled, which…honestly, didn’t really change anything for him. Except that, for the first time in his life, a pretty girl had caught his interest.

There were other pretty girls in his class, of course. But they all knew him. They had all insulted him at some time or another, behind his back or, more often, to his face. They had all been there for every humiliating thing that had ever happened to them. Half of them had been involved in one incident or another.

But Sherry was different. Sherry was new.

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Free For All Fic For All: Extension!

As you all might have noticed, posting for the Free For All Fic For All has slowed down considerably over the past few days after a flurry of activity. Captain has fantastic excuses for her lack of posting: she fell off a ladder at work and (possibly, we won’t know until the x-rays are done) broke her foot, and also wound up needing a tetanus shot that’s bruised her up right good. So, she is now hobbling around with her arm clutched tight to her chest, trying to compensate for a pronounced limp and boning up to play the lead in Richard III as she’s in perfect shape for the role.

about-faces is still working diligently on the fics he’s been writing, but he’s always been a bit on the slow side, so he has a great excuse for needing an extension too.

Meanwhile, my excuse is much less compelling: I…slacked off. In my defense…I actually don’t have a defense. DON’T LOOK AT ME, YOU MUST NOT WITNESS MY SHAAAAME!

In any case! We’re going to stretch the FFAFFA until MAY 7th to give us an extra week to finish what we’re currently working on and squeeze in a few more before the deadline is up. There will absolutely NOT be another extension after that, come hell or high water, and Ask The Squishykins will return to in-character status until…whenever the next FFAFFA is held. Hooray.

To address the question I know will be flooding my askbox once I hit “post” on this: You can absolutely still send in prompts!

With that, I’m off to finish some things to post this evening. (No, really, I swear this time, I’ll superglue my fingers to the home keys if I have to just to get this stuff finished, dang it.) Stay tuned and keep prompting! :D

Why weren't the GCPD on PSD during Crane's trial, or before it?
Anonymous

This is going to be extremely long and involve a lot of law stuff. Also, there will be spoilers for the next chapter of the Becky Albright fic. Scroll ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM if you just want the tl;dr without spoilers. BEWARE! BEWAAARE!

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