Bruce had never felt alone while raising Dick. Although, officially a single parent, he had a good support network. Alfred, for one, acting as a grandfather to the boy (as he had acted as a father for Bruce). Diana and Clark, being the perfect aunt and uncle for the kid - as well as being Bruce's closest friends (both in and out of capes). And Harvey Dent, who's relationship to the family was a little more... Complicated.
He and Bruce had attended Gotham University together, before both going their separate ways. Harvey, to law school. Bruce, dropping out to travel. They'd met in early September, when they found themselves as each other's new roommate; Alfred having wanted the boy to move out the manor to learn some level of independence (not that he didn't come home near enough every weekend). And from that day onwards, they got on like a house on fire, practically inseparable; one never seen without the other. Although, the two of them weren't alone; a psych student by the name of Harleen Quinzel often tagging along on their chaotic little adventures. In fact, the three of them together made the perfect team. Harleen would get them into trouble, and Harvey would talk them out of it. Bruce was just along for the ride.
Of course, this was long before Brucie Wayne; Bruce's well cultivated playboy persona. Actually, at this point in his life, it had been Harvey who had all the charm and charisma, drawing people in with his sharp tongue, and million dollar smile. In fact, Harvey maybe have been the one he learnt it from. At this time in his life, he'd still blush and get all flustered every time the law student threw a wink in his direction. How times had changed...
In that all too short time together, they got close. Real close. Cooking meals for each other in their student kitchen. Picking each other up off the floor after long nights of drinking (although, surprisingly, it was usually Harvey doing the heavy lifting - Bruce having no tolerance as a teen). Spending late night study sessions together in the local diner. Something so domestic, and pure. Something Bruce hadn't been close to, not for a long time. Not since Tommy Elliot...
But nothing quite came of it. Of bumping hips in the kitchen, and eating off each others forks. Of lingering drunken touches, and soothing words whispered when one of them (Bruce) inevitably threw up. Of sharing hot drinks on cold nights, eyes holding contact for just a few moments too long. They both loved each other. It was so painfully obvious, Harleen just about spending that entire year trying to finally get them together. But it wasn't until the night that Bruce admitted to Harvey that he was leaving that things finally reached a climax.
They were sat together on the roof of the building they lived in, Bruce somehow always knowing secret ways up to places like this. Hidden gems. One of Harvey's favourite talents of his. Together, they looked out over the glittering lights of the campus, and the city just beyond that. It was cold, even for Bruce, who had managed to pilfer his friend's letterman jacket off him. There had been a few choice words people had to say about that, too, in the corridors; inappropriate comparisons between football players and their cheerleader girlfriend. Harvey, as usual, took it in his stride. He'd slung an arm round Bruce's shoulder, and planted a kiss on his cheek, smiling like the sun.
"B could definitely pull of the cheer uniform better than your girlfriend." He'd proclaimed brightly, even as Bruce had blushed fiercely under his arm - both from embarrassment at the situation, and at how giddy a stupid little kiss on the cheek had made him feel.
Pulling the jacket around him tighter now, he shuffled into a more comfortable position on the rooftop. It didn't make anything easier; make him more comfortable in the conversation. He was always bad at talking about anything emotional. It was a skill, even in later years, when he'd become Batman, he'd never quite learn to master. He mentally kicked himself; knowing this would be the first in many stunted relationships as a result.
"Have you told Harley?" Dent broke the silence finally, sounding so different from his usual self.
"Uh-huh." Bruce nodded, not knowing what else to say than that.
"And how did she take it?"
Harleen had given him a sad smile, and hugged him so, so tight. She'd been understanding, telling him everything that he wanted to hear. That he was making the right choice for him. She'd be an incredible psychiatrist one day.
"Well... I think." He didn't elaborate further.
Harvey grunted, as though he'd been betrayed, though Bruce could only fathom as to why. Because he'd told her first? Or because she'd been in support of his choice? In part, he knew how she'd take it, and that's why he'd gone to her. But Harvey... He was sure to be the hardest to leave behind.
"When do you leave?" His friend asked another question.
"Tomorrow." Bruce sighed, focusing on a light in the distance which might have been Wayne Manor.
He could imagine Alfred pottering about the place. Really, he'd been the first one Bruce had told. He needed the support of his father figure, and Alfred have given it freely, assisting with all the paperwork and organisation to make dropping out and moving on as painless as possible. Although, Bruce could tell he wasn't truly happy. His son was finally leaving the nest, properly this time. And it had been Alfred's sad eyes which had prevented him from telling his friends until the eleventh hour; the day before he left. Or night now, really. He didn't want them looking at him in that same way, as Harvey was looking at him now. If his friend had known as long as Alfred, with all that time to talk him out of it, Bruce wasn't sure he would have been able to leave.
"How long, Bruce?" Harvey asked, using his real name - not his little pet name, B - for the first time in a long time. "How long have you been thinking about this for?"
Here came the guilt...
"A couple months." He admitted, feeling as though he could cry.
Something he hadn't done for a while. Not since visiting his parents last, to tell them the news. He'd done a good job at holding it together in front of Alfred, not wanting to worry him. Harleen, either, who looked ready to break down herself at the news, excusing herself quickly after their moment was over. But Harvey saw into his soul in ways others didn't, and he felt as though he was baring it to him now.
Harvey let out a long whistle then, making Bruce flinch. Little did he know, but he'd have those reactions beaten out of him soon enough.
"Wow. Two months." Harvey shook his head, staring out at the skyline as well, though likely not at Bruce's old home. "You've been dealing with this on your own for two months."
That hadn't been a statement he was expecting, pulling the jacket tighter round himself again as the wind picked up a little.
"I wish you'd told me sooner." Harvey continued, when it seemed that Bruce wasn't going to add anything the the conversation. "I could have helped you."
"I'm sorry." Bruce muttered dumbly, before suddenly feeling the warmth of a hand settling over his own.
He looked down at their hands, there, together, before looking up to Harvey's eyes, the other boy looking at him now too. Dark blue, seeming to glow under the hazy campus street lights. Harvey's hand tightened on his then, squeezing. Just a little too far on the size of painful, before releasing again. Probably meant to be a comforting gesture, although managing to highlight his badly concealed anger. But for the first time since they'd met, Bruce didn't look away.
"Last night before the end of the world, right?" Harvey tried for humour, but his eyes were still far too hard.
Bruce tutted, sounding so much like his son who wouldn't be born for the next ten or so years. He recognised a line, when he heard one. Although, usually, he wasn't on the receiving end - not from someone like Harvey Dent, anyway. Harvey, who he'd heard use every line in the book on all the pretty girls who looked his way (which, with his jawline, smile, and eyes, was a lot), and Bruce had felt a swell of jealousy in his chest every time. Not that he hadn't been hit on by his own fair share of pretty girls - he just wasn't looking for anything casual, which was what they all seemed to want from him.
"You're not going to try to kiss me again, are you?" Bruce still didn't break the eye contact.
"Again?" Harvey frowned, before the memory dawned. "Ahh, you're still thinking about that then... That wasn't a proper kiss. You'd know if it was."
"Oh yeah?" Bruce breathed, all too aware of the way they were beginning to gravitate closer to each other, the smirk on Harvey's face, his breath so close to his lips. "Would it be something like this?"
"Something like this." Harvey agreed, finally deciding to close that gap, trying not to think about how long it had taken for them to get here, and how soon they would be leaving each other again.
He felt at war with himself. One part regretted even letting the conversation drift into this territory, to reach a point where Bruce Wayne was kissing him so gently, as if afraid that he'd hurt him - more than he already had with his news. Another part wanted to push this further, and keep going until the boy was marked up, and knew who he belonged to - unable to forget who he was leaving behind. But for once, as he felt the sudden damp of Bruce's tears on his face, the softer part of him won out...
Bruce's return to Gotham was shrouded in mystery. In fact, Harvey only knew he was back when he sat down to read the morning news; one of the stories suggesting that 'the prince of Gotham, Bruce Wayne, has returned'. Their evidence? A grainy black and white photo of a man stepping off a private jet. The evidence for Bigfoot had been clearer. And after all these years, Harvey was ashamed to admit that he wasn't sure whether or not he recognised the man in the photo. If it was Bruce, he was no longer the scrawny kid, with the chapped lips, and the dishevelled hair. This man, from what he could make out, was well over six foot, with slick back hair, and a suit with a price tag that could have ended world hunger. And if it was Bruce Wayne, he was angry that this was how he'd found out he was home - that he hadn't found out from the man himself.
It then took a further week for them to meet, Harvey receiving an all too strange letter to his law firm, inviting him to dinner at Wayne manor. And there, at the bottom, was a signature he surely recognised. Although, he was used to reading the handwriting upside down, across from him at a diner table, as Bruce scribbled out his homework; ready to follow in his father's footsteps as a doctor. Of course, that dream had crashed and burnt - if it had even been a dream of his at all. Harvey always had a feeling it was his way of trying to please the dead. Moving away from Gotham, and travelling, may have been the first thing Bruce Wayne ever did for himself. Other than kissing Harvey Dent, of course...
And so he sent his RSVP, knowing it would be received by Alfred, more than likely, and wasn't shocked to find that that was exactly who opened the door to him not a handful of days later; dressed exactly as he always had on the few occasions Harvey had the pleasure to meet him. A suit so formal, he looked as though he was attending a funeral. Harvey liked Alfred (not that anyone didn't), and always enjoyed the boxes of cookies Bruce would bring back from his visits home. In fact, he'd made sure it was known that he'd baked them especially for Bruce's 'charming roommate'. A small thank you for constantly getting his kinda-sorta son out of trouble.
"Master Bruce is in the dining room." Alfred informed him warmly, leading the way through the old house. "I hope the last few years have treated you well, Mr. Dent? It's been far too long."
"It sure has..." He'd agreed vaguely, so consumed by his surroundings as he took them all in.
The manor hadn't changed at all since his sparse visits with Bruce, either. It still looked like a tomb. A giant memorial to the generations of Wayne's who'd passed through. Bruce had clearly never made the place his own, after the death of Thomas and Martha. Harvey knew his friend - who was overwhelmingly sentimental, and not in the slightest materialistic, as the décor here would portray. This wasn't him at all.
"The case we're handling at the moment is certainly an interesting one." Harvey carefully slipped back into his more endearing persona after realising he'd let the silence linger too long. "I could talk your ear off - if I was allowed. Sometimes it's hard, having to keep everything so hush hush - especially from the Mrs. But I can promise the papers won't be short of interesting material when the word breaks."
"I'll be sure to keep an eye out." Alfred promised, in that grandfatherly way of his.
"And how have you been?" Harvey asked, so animated in his actions, like he was playing a role - and playing it well.
Well enough to know not to finish that sentence. 'How have you been' - since Bruce left us both. But even if he didn't finish the sentence, Alfred was far too wise not to pick up on what had gone unsaid.
"Since finding myself without Master Bruce to clean up after, I suddenly had lots of time for misadventures of my own - which I'm sure would bore the life out of a hot shot lawyer, such as yourself."
Harvey doubted that. There was something about the elderly butler that told him that Alfred was the polar opposite of boring. The sort to have done something utterly wild, and unsuspecting in his youth. He couldn't imagine anything more he'd want to hear than The Misadventures of Alfred Pennyworth. But it would seemed it would have to wait, as they suddenly arrived at the manor's main dining room, deep within the heart of the house. If a house so cold and lifeless could have a heart.
Harvey couldn't help but let his persona drop again completely then, utterly floored by the sight of his best friend sat alone at the head of the dining table. No longer a teenager, who'd looked like he'd never grow into his too long limbs. Who lacked coordination, and style, and everything that came to Harvey as easily as breathing. Now, Bruce absolutely dwarfed him, seemingly completely made up of toned muscle beneath his expensive black turtleneck. He'd managed to gain control over his hair, slicked back without so much as a strand out of place. And he moved with a grace he never had in his year at Gotham U, all movements so precise and thought out. There was an elegance about him.
It made Harvey's breath catch in his throat a moment, so consumed by the sight. That was, until Bruce broke the moment; standing up too quickly from the table in equal amounts of shock, only to bump his hip painfully on the edge, hiss through his teeth, scrape his chair back, and dislodge a single strand of hair, letting it fall in front of his eyes. This put Harvey at ease again instantly. There was the Bruce Wayne he knew, and soon their combined laugher filled the house at the display. Something which hadn't been heard in Wayne manor in such a long time.
"I'll leave you two boys alone." Alfred announced like an all too knowing parent, committing to memory the way both men had both broken out smiling a moment after their shared initial shock.
Other than Tommy Elliot, Harvey seemed to be the only person who'd been able to draw such a reaction from the usually stoic man.
After that, it was less awkward. Harvey pulled up a chair next to his old pal, clustered together at the head of the table like co-conspirators, as they had during their time studying together. Laughing together, and telling stories of their years apart - everything going back to normal in an instant; neither of them aware of how much the other was omitting from their tale. Harvey didn't need to know about the training, or Batman. Bruce didn't need to know about the bodies.
Occasionally, they'd bump knees, or hold each others gaze for just a fraction too long. But all the while, both were all too aware of the subjects they were avoiding. Of Harley, and what her last patient had done to her. Of Harvey's fiancé, who he had met in their years apart. And the kiss they'd shared on their last night together, on the rooftop of Gotham University.
After that, things felt as though they were back to normal again; to how it had been before that night on the rooftop. Bruce and Harvey would regularly go out on what they affectionately called 'lunch dates', catching up (as much as they could) on the week's events. For the first few, they'd attempted to stick to little hole in the wall diners, as they had in their teens. But Bruce was too much of a public figure now for them to get away with that for all too long, paps filling the neighbouring tables before they could even get their orders taken. This forced them to change tactics, and eat in the more intimate setting of their own offices - not that either of them complained about that.
Harvey always hid the photo he kept on his desk of Gilda whenever he knew it was his turn to host. Of course, Brucie Wayne was nowhere near as subtle. Harvey liked to believe he was the only one who could see through the part his friend was playing, of the ditzy playboy, who threw all his parents' money away on grand parties and expensive cars. It was like he was making an attempt to play the Harvey Dent he'd known during his University year, though the lawyer could never work out why. But he never asked, either.
One regular topic of conversation between them, instead however, was the Batman.
"I can't make a complaint about the guy." Harvey smiled as he leant back in his chair precariously, one mid August lunchtime when their schedules had once again aligned. "He's sure been making my life a hellofa lot easier."
Bruce smiled, a small, private smile - as if he'd been the one the compliment had been paid to.
"He seems to be doing a good job helping you on that Falcone case." He agreed, keeping his own chair firmly on the ground. "Although it's Catwoman I'm more interested in."
"Shh!" Harvey stage whispered, directly ignoring the last comment. "You're not meant to know about the Falcone case."
"Best friend privileges." Bruce smirked quietly, suddenly looking 18 again in that moment, before taking a sip of his steaming tea.
Today, they were both in suits. Harvey in a dark blue number, which seemed to have a sheen to it which caught the light, and brought out his eyes. He'd never been one to wear anything boring; avoiding subtlety at all costs. Bruce wore all black, as usual. Although, with how flattering it looked on him, Harvey wasn't about to make any complaints.
"On the line of friendship perks, I think we're over due a night off. Somewhere with expensive wine, somewhere in the $1000 range - your treat." Harvey grinned, popping another sushi roll into his mouth from the box they were sharing on desk between them.
Bruce grimaced suddenly, hand half way to the box himself. "Sorry, Harv. I've already got plans."
"Oh yeah? Another hot date?" He raised an eyebrow, clearly joking, but unable to keep the slight edge to his voice, and the sudden hardness away from his eyes.
"Not quite. A public appearance, actually... Although I wouldn't be adverse to some company?" He tried, despite knowing what his friend's answer would be already.
"And where, pray tell, would I be expected to appear?" Harvey spoke with his mouth full, nothing subtracted from his looks despite it.
"The circus. On a recommendation from a friend at the Planet-"
"The circus?" Harvey cut him off, distaste palatable. "With clowns, and such?"
"No clowns." Bruce shook in head. "You know that wouldn't fly here. Not in Gotham. But apparently, the acrobats are world famous-"
"I'll let you go this one alone." Harvey cut him off again, rocking forward so all four legs of his chair were on the ground again. "I can't think of a more tragic way to spend an evening."
Bruce tried not too look too disheartened, returning his attention back to the food, no idea that Harvey had probably made the right call.
"Maybe next week." Harvey posed instead, a faraway look in his eye, as if bitter at not getting his own way.
But, of course, there would not be a next week...
The kid was tiny, and seemed to never be able to sit still. One second he was sat on the floor with his legs crossed, the next he was being chastised by Alfred for using Bruce as a climbing frame (not that the man seemed to mind). It was much preferable to the way he'd treated the furniture - especially after the incident with the chandelier, which Harvey was still not tired of hearing about. He felt far too much affection for Bruce when he told the story, in the way he'd grumble like an old man, hiding the concern he truly felt behind it. It was the same way he used to complain whenever Harley got him into trouble. God, they both missed her.
"I think this calls for a celebratory meal." Bruce decided, arms crossed, thoroughly pretending a 10 year old Dick Grayson hadn't just taken residence on his shoulders.
"I seem to recall long ago talks of a bottle of wine you owed me." Harvey smiled warmly at the sight before him, feeling like a proud parent as he watched the pair from one of the manor sofas.
And why shouldn't he? He'd been the one who had connected Bruce with the best children's lawyer he knew, assuring him custody of the tiny acrobat. More than that, his involvement with the case had only brought him and Bruce even closer together - if that was even possible. Alfred had made more than one comment about him being 'one of the family'. And Harvey couldn't deny the joy that swelled in his chest every time.
"I think you were the one who decided I owed you that." Bruce pointed out. "But I'm not sure wine is really age appropriate."
"I was allowed to drink when the circus was in Europe!" Dick protested, knowing that the comment was directed at him. "They teach you to do it properly - in moderation."
Bruce already knows that statements like this were a trap. More than once, he'd said the wrong thing. He'd learnt quickly not to reply with comparisons to Dick's old life, with his parents. 'Well, we're not in Europe' was definitely the worst answer he could give; just another reminder that he was in a strange country, far away from his family at the circus. His home.
And the problem was, he knew he wasn't wrong, either. He remembered his trips to vineyards in France, on summer holidays with his parents. There was a level of class which was so far away from the culture of binge drinking back home; a culture both he and Harvey were far too familiar in partaking in during their time as students. But as a supposedly responsible adult, he knew it was best not to bring any of that up either...
So instead, he replied, "I thought you'd prefer milkshakes? Harvey's been talking my ear off about a new diner downtown. Some place with a sports theme."
It was true; Harvey seemed to have a skill for learning about interesting places to eat - all of them, without fail, sure to be close to the best thing you've ever tried. He liked to think it was a skill he'd picked up from Bruce, and his own ability to find the most interesting places. The university rooftop, for example...
"Baseball theme, actually." Harvey decided to chime in then. "And they've got these mint choc chip shakes I've been wanting to try-"
That was another thing they'd both learnt early on. Dick loved mint choc chip.
"Can we go?" The kid practically vibrated at the news. "Pleasepleaseplease?"
Bruce had to grab hold of his ankles, for fear of him shaking himself off his shoulders. Although, he knew Dick's balance was far too ingrained to let himself slip. But he couldn't fight the paternal instincts which had been taking over more and more as of late.
"Sure, I think we've earnt it." He looked up at the kid with a smile that reached his eyes.
The court proceedings hadn't been easy - especially dealing with the fallout of dick being 'accidentally' sent to one of Gotham's juvenile detention centres. And yet, despite all that had happened to him, the kid always seemed so high spirited. A ray of sunshine, who had brighten the hearts of everyone he met. It was hard to ignore the effect he'd had on the manor. The place had lost the blue filter which lingered over the rooms, and swapped it for gold. It was in the homework strewn about random surfaces. The rubbish he left littered around, seemingly unable to pick it up. The photos which had began to fill the walls (along with a few circus posters). And most notable, the little stuffed toy elephant which seemed to follow him through the house, always occupying the same room as him.
But then, Bruce seen the contrast, too. Dick's sudden low moods. The nightmares. The panic attacks. And it suddenly made him realised how ill equipped he'd been to take care of a child - despite how much he'd seen himself in the boy. But at least he wasn't alone in his journey as a new parent. He had Alfred, and he had Clark, and Diana, and he had Harvey. Always his saviour, Harvey Dent.
"Will I be carrying you the whole way there?" Bruce asked.
"Uh-huh." Dick nodded, playing with his hair, completely messing it up and making Bruce look so much younger again. "I think I deserve it."
Bruce couldn't argue with that. In his very expert opinion, he thought Dick Grayson deserved the world. But he knew he couldn't give the kid back what he really needed - so piggybacks and mint choc chip milkshakes would have to do.
"Hey, are you into baseball, kid?" Harvey asked, standing up now.
"I dunno." He shrugged, resting his chin on the top of Bruce's head. "We used to play cricket at the circus - me and the other kids. Is it anything like that?"
"How about I teach you, and we can find out?" Harvey offered, getting to the age where he was starting to think about having kids of his own, to play baseball in the back yard with, ever the jock.
"Be careful, kiddo." Bruce warned, as though speaking from experience. "He's got a mean swing."
It was an accident. A complete accident. The second it happened, Bruce wanted to kick himself. He knew Harvey was with Gilda - who he'd met more than once, and got along surprisingly well with, all things considered. He knew he shouldn't have done it. But it had been a heat of the moment, kind of thing.
Harvey was about to play prosecutor in the trial of the century. After years of hard work - collaborations between the GCPD, and Batman and Robin - they'd finally got Carmine Falcone. Well, 'got' may have been too strong a word. But they'd built up enough of a case for it to actually be taken to court, and they had a strong case. The people of Gotham VS Carmine Falcone. Harvey had been practicing his opening statement with Bruce through half the night, staying up until the early hours of the morning. The billionaire had even take the following day off from Wayne Enterprises to sit in on the trial, to support his friend. Despite his own personal interests as Batman (not that Harvey knew about that, of course), he also needed to be there as Bruce Wayne. After all, he'd been helping fund Harvey's law firm almost as long as the two had been lunching together.
Dick had protested something fierce when Bruce had refused to let him sit in, adamant in the fact that he was Harvey's friend too! It was one of their first big fights - the pair butting heads more and more often over the last six years. Alfred had put it down to normal teenage angst, which of course Bruce was ill equipped to deal with. But in this instance, it was a little more than that. After all, Tony Zucco had once worked under Falcone. Dick had a personal connection to this case. And to his guardian, this was just further reason that he shouldn't see it. He'd been traumatised enough by the man for one lifetime. And so he'd been forced to stay at home, impatiently awaiting their return.
On top of this, as the time of the trial loomed, Harvey had been becoming more and more out of character. He'd snap at people, temper far shorter than Bruce had ever seen it in their years of friendship. And he looked genuinely frightened, too; an emotion so foreign on his face. Harvey Dent was usually so easy going; the epitome of calm and collected. Overwhelmed, where he'd usually be whelmed - if they were to start using a favourite colloquialism of Dick's. It was like someone had began pulling at the threads of his sanity, and now the jumper was slowly unravelling.
At the sight of his friend in such a state, Bruce had dragged him into the nearest courthouse bathroom, locking the door behind them, to talk.
"Harvey, you need to pull it together." He'd began, throwing a reckless amount of Batman into his voice.
"God, B." Harvey had wandered over to one of the sinks, looking lost. "That's goddamn Carmine Falcone."
"I know who it is, Harv. And that's exactly why you can't be doing this." He aimed for a pep talk, but was all too aware of how harsh he was coming off. "You're more than capable, come on!"
Harvey didn't seem to be listening to him all too well, splashing water into his suddenly pale face, droplets landing on his expensive suit. He'd gone flamboyant again - almost as a fuck you to the defendant. But it did look damn good on him; half black, half white, split down the middle. Another expense funded by Bruce Wayne's money - although Harvey had been the one to pick it out.
"What if I don't, B? What if I fuck this up, and that asshole walks?" He sounded more angry than scared now, as if he'd already lost - despite it only being the first day.
Chances were, a trial like this would go on for a while.
Bruce approached him carefully then, worried his friend may suddenly lash out at him. Though it had never once happened in their fourteen years of friendship, he recognised the body language - or at least, Batman did. Tense. Ready to attack.
Putting a hand over Harvey's where it rested on the sink, he lowered his voice then, promising, "You're not going to fuck this up, Harvey. You're going to put that scumbag where he belongs. And I'm going to be right behind, every step of the way. As I've always been."
Always - other than those long, long years apart. But Harvey didn't vocalise that.
"What's that?" He asked instead, eyes falling to the object Bruce held aloft in his free hand - the one which wasn't resting on his own - between his finger and thumb.
"Dick asked me to give it to you. Said it would bring you luck."
Harvey reached out for it with his free hand, letting Bruce drop the small little silver object into his palm. Only then did he realise what the boy had given him.
"A lucky penny?" He smirked a little, overwhelmed with affection for the kid all over again, letting that feeling override his anger.
Some days it felt like Dick was just as much his, as he was Bruce's.
"A lucky penny." Bruce echoed, nerves calming now - as Harvey's seemed to, as if on the flip of a coin.
A coin that Dick had kept from his time at the circus; a little Haly's token, with his profile printed on both sides. His Dad had given it to him, after his Mum had won Zitka for him - no longer needing that second token to play the fair game now they had their prize.
It took Bruce a moment to realise that he still hadn't released his friend. But even once he noticed, he still didn't pull his hand away. And it suddenly felt like they were on the rooftop all over again.
"B?" Harvey caught his attention, voice suddenly very soft, seeming to have taken note of the same thing.
"The end of the world, right?" Bruce breathed, nearly a whisper, anxiety building in his own chest now.
"The end of the world." Harvey agreed, transfixed by the warmth of Bruce's hand on his, and the blue of his eyes, and the way that this time, it was him moving in instead.
Harvey didn't respond straight away, but once he did, he pushed back into the kiss so hard, Bruce had to grab the edge of the sink for support. If they didn't have a trial to get to, the lawyer might have gone through with his plans for his friend the first time they'd kissed. But instead, he broke it off just as Bruce stifled a small moan, his usual charisma returning. That famous, Harvey Dent mega watt grin on his face. As if he hadn't been on the verge of a meltdown only moments before under the bright tungsten lights of the bathroom; two halves at war with himself.
He threw the coin in the air. Caught it. Gave Bruce a final peck on the lips for good measure. And then he took his leave, leaving Bruce lost and dishevelled, leaving a final line between them.
After the trial, Bruce had spent nearly every waking hour at the hospital. He often fell asleep at his bedside, too, clutching the hand which wasn't wrapped in scars and bandages for dear life. He didn't dare touch the hand he had held on the rooftop, or the courtroom, for fear of hurting his friend. Things were always stiff and tense when Gilda visited, as if she were the odd one out in the room.
He didn't let Dick visit until Harvey told him he was ready. But even then, he was adverse to the idea. Harvey wasn't the same man he'd once been. Since the attack in the courtroom, he was bitter, and angry. Where the old Harvey would have flirted with the nurses, and been the exact definition of a model patient, this one threw food, and snarled; like a wild animal. And although Bruce couldn't blame him, after everything he'd lost, he wasn't sure he wanted to expose his kid to this sudden viciousness. But he'd been adamant, and Bruce found it very hard to say no to Dick Grayson.
He arrived in his Gotham Academy uniform, with a box of Alfred's cookies in hand; so freshly baked, that the inside of the plastic container was completely fogged with condensation. Despite aging 6 years, since the first time Bruce had met him, he couldn't help but see him as that small little kid again as he met him in the hospital foyer. Usually owning every room he walked into, with his too big personality, this Dick looked small, and shy, and 9 years old again.
Bruce had to admit, he probably didn't look much better. Hair so dishevelled. Face unshaven. Huge bags under his eyes. He was lucky that Alfred had delivered several changes of clothes to the hospital for him, otherwise he would still probably be wearing the suit he'd worn to court. He wasn't sure he could wear it again, with the bad memories now associated with it. The specks of blood on the cuff of his expensive white shirt didn't help, either.
"Hey, kiddo." Bruce greeted Dick tiredly, although was more than happy to see him.
He'd missed him terribly; his little ray of sunshine - even if the kid was in a less than sunshine-y mood now.
"Hey, Da- B." Dick caught himself quickly.
That had also been happening more often than not lately. It made Bruce's heart ache more and more every time. He'd always wanted to be that for Dick; his Dad. But he'd made a promise, when he'd first taken him in, that he wouldn't try to replace John Grayson. And the subject had never really been broached since. It was part of the reason he'd never formally adopted Dick, and as much as he wished he could - or had, in the beginning - it felt far too late to offer now; like he'd missed his chance.
"Come here." Bruce beckoned, slinging an arm round his shoulder in a half hug, tucking him into his side.
He'd never been good at this stuff in the early days - and wasn't so sure he was much better at it now. Bruce Wayne wasn't exactly a huggy person. But he'd learnt quickly that Dick was about as talkative about his feelings as he was, and would much rather physical support over emotional. Which probably wasn't entirely healthy, all things considered. But they were both improving - albeit slowly.
Together, they walked through the hospital in near silence. No one questioned their presence as they traversed the halls; not when Bruce had put so much money into funding the hospital. Not that they went anywhere they weren't supposed to. Bruce had committed the route to Harvey's room to memory by now. They did pause, however, before entering.
"Are you ready?" Bruce asked, voice very gentle.
Dick nodded, still not speaking a word. His hands gripped the box of cookies tighter as he steeled himself.
"Okay." Bruce gave him a small smile, before guiding him forward, keeping a supportive hand on his shoulder all the while.
The door was open, for the different hospital staff to pop in and out, but a screen had been pulled across for privacy. Dick was terrified of what he'd see on the other side, no idea what the victim of an acid attack would look like. But the thought of seeing someone he was so close to hurt - someone he saw as family - brought back bad memories of his parents; flashbacks of the fall - or more specifically, what they'd looked like after. That was an image which would be burned into his mind for the rest of his life.
But when they stepped round the curtain, he didn't see blood and gore. Just his friend, Harvey, with the hospital blanket pulled up to his chest. The skin on the right side of his body wasn't at all visible, completely wrapped in sterile white bandages, and he was fast asleep. A result of the pain meds, which kept him drifting in an out of consciousness in a near constant delirium. A much preferred alternative to the wild fire rage which overtook him in the moments he seemed more together.
Dick's bottom lip began to tremble at the sight, eyes brimming with tears he fought to hold back. Bruce noticed, of course. He always did; so surprisingly perceptive. But that was Batman for you - self proclaimed Word's Greatest Detective.
When they finally took their leave, he held his kid so tightly, he worried he might otherwise fall apart.
Harvey Dent ran away from the hospital a week later, killing one of his nurses, and disappearing into Gotham's sewers in his hospital scrubs. Not long after, his apartment had been searched by the GCPD, and the photos had been found; pictures of all of Harvey's victims. Criminals he believed had gotten off far too lightly as a result of a failed system. Tony Zucco. Willis Todd. And so many others. Their Polaroids were his trophies. When Bruce had found out, it had broke him; doubly as shocked as Gilda had been. After all, he had known the man far longer.
First Tommy Elliot. Then Talia Al Ghul. Now Harvey Dent. He seemed to have a type - for people who could hurt him. He'd never experienced a love which was gentle, and sweet. Or at least, he thought he had - until the truth would inevitably come out.
But he would have to find a way to separate himself from that pain. This wasn't a job for Bruce Wayne, anymore; it was a job for Batman.
And so he'd pulled on the cape, and the cowl, and endured another screaming match with his young ward. Dick had demanded to be involved in this, Harvey being his friend too. But Bruce was prepared to keep him at arms length, in order to protect him. How close they'd all been (like a family) was just the reason he should be kept as far away from Harvey as possible. Except he wasn't Harvey Dent anymore. Now, he was making moves under a new name, Dick's two-faced silver token still in hand.
Tracking his old friend down hadn't been hard. They'd always found a way to gravitate towards each other. They also seemed to have an affinity for rooftops; exactly where the man waited for the bat now, on the roof of the lawcourt.
"My guest of honour." Two-Face grinned, pulling at the scars which stretched over his handsome features.
"Dent." Batman had growled, trying to harden his heart.
"Not anymore." His unfamiliar voice replied.
It made him feel nauseous, the new gravel to Harvey's words, which hadn't been there before.
He dug his hands into his pockets. "So where's the brat?"
"I didn't want Robin here for this." He answered a little too honestly, a growl edging into his voice at the insult to his son.
"You do have a heart." He noted, tone all too calculating. "Is this the part where we fight?"
"I wanted to try to talk to you first - make you see reason."
"And if that doesn't work?" Two-Face raised an eyebrow - the one on the half of his face which was still intact.
"Then I'll do what I must." Batman promised solemnly.
"Fine." He gestured widely. "You have the floor. Talk."
He fixed the vigilante before him with his penetrating blue eyes. They didn't sparkly anymore; far too dark. The skin on the right side of his face was mottled, and grey in the low light, along with the hand in which he began to flip his precious coin; waiting for Batman to start his defence. It spun silver in the moonlight. He didn't expect what he did next...
Bruce removed the cowl slowly, fingers shaking. His hair was a mess, sweat drenched and stuck up in awkward tufts, and the paint he'd blacked his eyes with was smudged to hell. He was still working on the white out lenses.
"Bruce." Two-Face lips twisted into a teeth bared snarl, taking half a step forward, as if ready to attack.
"Harv, please..." His tone was too vulnerable to be Batman anymore. "This isn't you-"
"This has always been me!" He bit back. "And I'm not Harvey Dent - it's Two-Face."
"No, Harv," He persisted. "This isn't. You believe in truth, and justice. You're better than this."
"Hardly original. Barely convincing." He criticised.
"You're not this heartless. This feels like the end of the world-" Bruce wished he hadn't said it the second the words left his lips.
Suddenly, Two-face was filling his vision, crowding over him, and making him feel like a tiny, cowering teenager again.
"The end of the world?" His old friend laughed at him, the sound so malicious. "That was your thing, wasn't it? You think he loved you, you fucking faggot? He enjoyed owning you. Like a possession."
Bruce's blood went cold, and he found he had no words to return. The announcement was like a slap in the face. Harvey had routed around his insides, and pulled out his heart. And the worst part was, he knew it was likely to be true. Harvey Dent is, and had always been, a psychopath.
He was so caught up in the moment, he hadn't even noticed Robin arrive until a flutter of yellow caught his eye; having followed him here at a distance. Defiant to the end.
"Harvey!" The boy had cried with his arrival, so unsure of himself suddenly as he landed on the courthouse ledge.
It was the last thing Bruce saw, catching him so entirely off guard, before something hit him over the back of the head, knocking him down to the rooftop and into unconsciousness. Harvey's baseball bat. He'd said it himself; the man had a mean swing.
"Lets see how you deal with this. That fate of your big scary buddy. It's a gallows. The real deal. Of course it's custom. It's built for twofers. Two necks stretch at once. And there's twelve steps instead of thirteen... I hate odd numbers. And I get to kill two birds with one pull. Batman and Carmine 'The Roman' Falcone. Their fates are sealed. Double Death penalties. Of course, there are a few side bets open..."
When Bruce came to, his cowl was back on. Thank god for small mercies. It was all that could be said to be in his favour. It seemed that Harvey Dent was keen to keep this new knowledge of Batman's identity - and by association, Robin's - to himself. For whatever reason, he didn't know yet. Although, despite this new revelation, it hadn't stopped Harvey from taking his baseball bat to the kid, next, black and white shirt rolled up to his elbows. The same boy he'd began to see as his own son.
But if his previous announcement had been true, then maybe Dick Grayson was just another possession to him; and his to break.
After Carmine Falcone had fallen to his death in the hangman's trap, Harvey had turned on him. It had then taken Bruce all too long to escape his own bonds, shouting and screaming for his son. Harvey Dent didn't matter anymore. Only his Robin; so tiny and fragile. Especially compared to Harvey, who had once upon a time towered over Bruce.
"I wanted you to understand that. Before it's all over, I wanted you to know. It wasn't me that killed you. It was the Bat."
There was a certain irony, in Bruce using the same acid which had destroyed Harvey's face with which to escape; burning through the ropes pulled tight around his wrists. But despite his freedom, he didn't have time to give Harvey the beating he deserved; instead delivering a single knock out blow, and leaving him to Gordon and his men. His priorities lay somewhere else.
Scooping the bloody form of his tiny partner into his arms, he spoke to him softly, whispering a constant stream of reassurances - all falling on deaf ears. He hurried them quickly into the Batmobile, making a urgent call to Alfred first and foremost. He dreaded bringing him home like this, knowing the sight would break the old man's heart - as it was breaking his own now. Especially after how vocal he'd been about disallowing Dick from getting involved in his crusade. One which he was sure would eventually get them killed. And he was close to being right...
"It wasn't me that killed you. It was the Bat."
"It wasn't me that killed you. It was the Bat."
Dick wouldn't wake from a long time. Not until Harvey Dent was in Arkham psychiatric hospital, and he had missed his own 16th birthday, and Bruce had made a decision on the fate of Robin.
A year to the day he'd lost his son, Bruce finally built up the nerve to visit Harvey in Arkham. He tried not to draw parallels to Silence of the Lambs; feeling like Jodie Foster in her first meeting with Hannibal Lecter. The glass screen between them did very little to dispel this image. Although Arkham's uniform was black and white - not orange, or blue. Harvey would have looked good in blue.
"Who am I speaking to," Bruce asked, hands clasped behind his back. "Two-Face, or Harvey Dent?"
"Would you believe me if I told you I'm sorry?" Harvey asked, sat on the edge of his bunk.
Bruce had to admit, he looked rough; the image of remorse. Such a contrast to himself, in his thousand dollar suit, long grey scarf, and equally expensive long black jacket. But by now, he'd learnt that it could easily be all a part of his act. Harvey Dent had always been the mask.
"I wouldn't." Bruce replied eventually. "And even if I did, it wouldn't matter. What matters is that you failed - Dick is still alive."
"I know, I heard." Relief flooded his features - at least on the half of his face which still possessed the muscles required to emote. "Thank God-"
"Thank Alfred." Bruce corrected, still so blunt. "And Doctor Thompkins. It's a miracle he didn't die."
The words hurt to say, but he knows he had to get them out. He needed the closure, if he was to heal and move on. He'd been encouraged to do so, in a therapy session with Dinah. After failing his first son so terribly, he thought that therapy was at least a step in the right direction. It was long overdue. Especially if he wanted to rebuild their relationship - if Dick ever wanted to speak to him again, that was. Although, after taking away Robin from him, he wasn't sure if that day would ever come - and he couldn't (and wouldn't) blame him, either.
He'd fucked up bad, and hoped to never make the same mistakes again. Especially after making the decision to take in Jason Todd. He needed to be a better father, and a better man.
"I know it doesn't mean anything, but I won't tell anyone. You know, your little secret." Harvey told him, his attempts at worming his way back into Bruce's heart all to obvious now that the veneer had been lifted. "Being here. I think it's helping. I'm trying to get better control of him."
"If that's the case, why do you still have the coin?"
Harvey caught it in his palm, going completely still then. He it seemed he hadn't even realised he'd been flipping it for their entire conversation. For Bruce, it was all he could focus on. The noise it made. The way it caught the dim corridor light.
Pocketing the penny, Dent looked him in the eyes then, sparkle restored. "Is it the end of the world yet?"
Bruce took a deep breath before replying, suspecting that Harvey would attempt to use that line; their line. One final attempt at earning his friend's forgiveness.
"The world has already ended." He replied finally, deciding he'd had enough of closure.
"Goodbye, Harv." Bruce left again, as he always did - making a choice for himself.
He stopped by to see another old friend on the way out, before heading home. He had a family to get back to - leaving his old one behind.