Christine never questioned Joker. When he came home late with the smell of gasoline heavy on his clothes, she did not inquire as to where he'd been. She knew that if she asked, she would receive and answer that she could do without. Little did she know at that precise moment, this answer would have ruined her. It would've caused her to doubt her feelings for the man, to lose trust in the fact that maybe there was compassion buried somewhere deep below the greasepaint.
But, when she had not heard from Harvey in going on three days, she began to worry. He had contacted her every day since the night at the restaurant, and now he'd gone missing. No matter how hard she fought connecting Joker's odor of gasoline and Harvey's disappearance, she found that she couldn't. He had seemed so pleased with himself when he returned, so smug, like a cat that had caught the canary.
That's when she knew she had to go to Abigail. She would have the answers.
As was expected, she found Abigail in her office on that afternoon, sitting behind piles and piles of samples sent in from every catering business north, south, east, and west of Gotham City. They were all interested in hosting the event. Christine sat down in front of the desk, and Abigail looked up at her from over a small carton of Chinese food. "I honestly don't know why they come to us with this." She lifted the chopsticks into the air. A noodle hung in the air, nearly dripping with sauce. "This is hardly a finger food. It's pretty tasty, though."
"I have to talk to you about Harvey," Christine interjected. Abigail paled noticeably, slurping the end of the noodle into her mouth and sticking the chopsticks back into the carton. "He hasn't called in days. Do you know what's going on?"
Abigail cleared her throat, patting her lip with a napkin. "I suppose I should have spoken to you earlier."
Her tone of voice told Christine that this news was the worst kind. Something terrible had happened. Her stomach churned, and she felt her blood drain from her face. "What? What is it?"
"There was an accident. He's in Gotham General."
At the word "accident," Christine jumped onto her feet. "What happened? Why didn't you tell me this before?"
"No one knows what happened," Abigail replied in a slow, measured tone. She couldn't tell Christine what had really happened. In fact, the Joker had threatened her on this very topic. Tell Christine the truth and Gordon dies. The choice between lying to a friend and saving a loved one was one that she hated to make, but she made it in the end. Gordon's life was more important to her, even if she had given up completely when it came to loving him intimately. "I didn't tell you because I knew it would upset you." And because Harvey told me not to…, Abigail thought, biting her tongue.
She remembered that night with spectacular clarity. As a friend of both Christine's and Bruce Wayne's, he had called her the moment he arrived at the hospital. He was an avid follower of the District Attorney's career and had funded several of his motions from his own pockets. After finding out about the accident from Gordon, Bruce had rung her immediately.
Her knees had nearly given in at the sight of him, and she shielded her eyes on Bruce's shoulder. He wrapped a protective arm around her, smoothing his fingers over her back. The entire left side of Harvey's face had been burned. Some skin was still intact, but it was bloody and discolored. Most of the muscle had been burned through, leaving sinews bare and two rows of white teeth open to the air. She heard the faint rustle of a head turning on a pillow. "Can't stand the sight of me, Abigail?" he said, his voice hoarse from screaming.
She sobbed, covering her eyes and shaking her head. She couldn't. She would have loved more than anything to look him in the face and say that it didn't bother her, but that was impossible, at least for her. Bruce hugged her against him, suddenly regretting calling her there.
"You don't have to look at me," Harvey continued, turning his eyes to the ceiling, his remaining eyelid heavy. "I just wanted to talk to you."
Try as she might, she could not forget the sight of him. With each passing moment, her crying worsened. Who could've done this? What kind of accident was that perfect, that precise? All she could see was a comparison between Harvey Dent and the man that lay in the bed before her - handsome Harvey Dent and this poor man. Bruce nodded to him when she had finally calmed down and was finally able to hear.
"The Joker did it," he murmured, taking a deep, shuddering breath. Smoke had gotten into his lungs, filling them, and he found it difficult to breathe deeply, succumbing to a fit of coughs. The pain that shot over the left side of his face caused him to grip tightly at the bed sheets, clenching his jaw until he was able to ignore the pain. "But… I don't want you to tell Christine. She chose him, and I don't want to take her away from what she wants."
"But you love her," Abigail said fiercely, twisting her hand in the lapel of Bruce's jacket, her forehead pressed against his shoulder.
Harvey rested his head back against the pillows. "I do," he sighed, his breathing a rumble at the back of his throat. "That's why I want you to do this for me. I don't want her to remember me like this." Remember? he asked himself. You're not dying, you fool. The doctors have ruled that out. But, in the end, that was what he meant. To be dead to her was to be rid of the possibility of her remembering him like this and not like how he had been just days before.
Suddenly, Abigail turned from Bruce and fell to her knees beside Harvey's hospital bed. Her eyes were closed, but she sought out his hand, grasping it with both of her own. "I can't make you that promise, Harvey. I'll try because you asked me, but if she comes to me and asks, I'll tell her. I won't tell her who did it, but I'll tell her where you are. She deserves to know that you're alive."
So, Abigail did tell her, and Christine ran out of her office. Her cab was waiting outside, ringing up a toll that she would happily pay, and she ordered him to get her to Gotham General as quickly as he could. When she reached the hospital, she stopped, staring at the automatic doors with a blank expression. What was she doing? Why was she here? She had forced herself into silence at Harvey's proposal. She had slept with J. She had done many more things, yet she was still running to this man? Why?
Taking a deep breath, she walked forward, the doors opening before her.
The nurse at the front desk, seeing the expression on her face after asking for directions to Harvey Dent's room, conducted her there immediately. Before she entered the door to the room, it was opened from the inside and Commissioner Gordon stepped out. "Oh," he excused himself, "I'm sorry." He reached out and patted Christine on the shoulder. "I don't think you should go in."
"Of course I'm going in," Christine said loudly, hurt that he would even say such a thing. Inside the hospital room, Harvey heard her voice clearly and stirred, his heart jumping into his throat. She couldn't come in. She couldn't see him like this. He wanted to call out for her to stop, but he couldn't find the words. He wanted to see her more than anything. He only didn't want her to see him. "Now, move, please."
Gordon acquiesced, taking a step to the side and allowing her to pass by him, watching over his shoulder as she moved into the room.
What she saw knocked the air out of her lungs. She stopped, her eyes wide, a freezing chill coursing through her veins. "Harvey," she choked, tears springing into her eyes. He turned at looked up at her, his blue eyes entreating, concerned. She took a step forward, and then another, moving closer to him slowly. She couldn't believe her eyes. She could have never imagined such a thing on her own. This was otherworldly. "Harvey, what happened?"
"There was an accident -"
Christine shook her head, tears falling from her eyes and coursing down her cheeks. "Don't lie to me. What happened?"
He lifted a weak arm and took her hand in his, encasing it in his firm grip. "It doesn't matter anymore. It's over; nothing can be done." There was a certain element of defeat in his town, and it hurt her. It hurt her more than anything. She knew what he meant; she knew what he spoke of when he spoke of finality. He meant two things - the accident and her being with Joker. "I told Abigail not to tell you about this."
"Why?" Christine asked, "Why would you do that?" She watched as a tear welled in his left eye, the saltiness of it searing the open flesh. His brows furrowed, worsening the pain with the movement of the muscles. He hissed, gripping his free hand around the cool metal bar on the bed.
Christine gasped. "Are you okay? Is there anything I could do?" Had she not been so intent on easing him of his pain, she would have been sobbing herself. "Where is your medication?" She began looking around the bed, inspecting every countertop, every dish, every possible place for a pill that would take away his pain.
"I refused medication," he murmured, his face surprisingly deadpan once more. In order to keep from hurting himself farther, he had to ignore all emotions, all movements of the face, subtle or not. "It's all I have to remind me that I'm still alive. At least, it was." He looked up at her, his hand still curled around hers. "I didn't think you'd come. I didn't think I'd see you again."
"That's what you wanted, wasn't it?" she asked haltingly. "You didn't want me to see you like this." As she spoke, her bottom lip quivered, and her eyes threatened to create more tears.
Harvey gave a shallow sigh, the only kind he was able to manage without coughing. "No, I didn't," he said. There was a sadness in his voice that rang out with honesty. "I never wanted this to happen, but I suppose I did nothing to prevent it. No one wants this stuff to happen to them. But, I had so many hopes for our future." Our future, he thought, mockingly. The only future for her is with that maniac. She's lost to you. Why did you say that?
"So did I," Christine whispered, letting her hand fall against his. He shut his right eye, clutching her hand even tighter. "But, could we even be together? Our hopes are impossible now, our normal life. It can't happen."
"We could make it happen, Christine," he pleaded, his chest shuddering with a strangled sob. He didn't want the Joker to be right. He didn't want to know that Christine was disgusted by him, that she couldn't love him now that he had been rendered hideous. He wanted to prove to him that she was capable of great, insightful love, love that looked past the surface and into the person. He wanted that, but, knowing that she was in love with the Joker, he knew that it may not be in her. It was clear that she wasn't willing to fight for it.
She shook her head. "How? How could we make this work? You can't go back to your job as District Attorney, not like this. My father will not support me for forever, especially not if I'm with you. What could we do?"
"Bruce would help us," Harvey insisted.
"A charity case of Bruce Wayne?" she scoffed, shaking her head again. "That's not like you Harvey."
"Does this look like the regular Harvey Dent, Christine?" he growled, his voice deepening. His fingers closed tightly around hers, threatening to cut off circulation. Before she was able to claim discomfort, he released her, pulling his arm back onto his torso and looking away.
Christine heaved a sigh. "I want this to work just as much as you do, Harvey. I want you to get better, but you won't accept any medication. The pain will drive you insane. Then where will you be? I'm looking out for myself. You have to understand this. If I was not worried for my future, I would be with you in a moment." She also feared the Joker's repercussions for her leaving him for Harvey, but he would never admit such a thing to his face.
Suddenly, he turned to her. "Kiss me."
He took a slow breath, steadying himself. "Please, Christine, kiss me, and then you can go. I don't care where you go or with whom. I just want this. I want this before you leave."
"But won't it hurt?" she asked, her eyes wide.
"It will," he nodded, taking her hand again, "but that's not the kind of pain I'm afraid of any more."
She looked down at him again to find that he was looking up with the eyes that had once charmed her. The other side of his face was unharmed, as handsome as he'd always been. Half of him remained unchanged. He was still half the man that he once was, which made him three times the man that Joker would ever be. Taking the smooth skin of his right cheek into her hand, she bent down over the bed and pressed her lips against his. She shut her eyes and did not take a breath, afraid of what his flesh might smell like. She ignored the feeling of his lips, the heat that emanated from the left side of his face. He brought his lips up against hers, taking in one deep breath so slowly that it did not bother his lungs.
He felt that this was the last moment he would ever see her.
They both knew that this was wrong.
Back at her office, Abigail was interrupted from her taste testing by her secretary. The girl entered the room with a flustered excitement, her cheeks flushed and her eyes bright. It was evident in the way she rushed in that there was news; decidedly good news. "What is it?" Abigail asked, arching a brow.
"Do you have your phone off?" she asked.
Abigail glanced toward the phone perched at the end of her desk. It had been unplugged. "I suppose I do," she drawled, settling the container of Italian food onto the desk. She was quite sick of testing things, but it was work that had to be done.
The fundraising had been going well. Bruce had donated a hearty twenty-five thousand, surprising Abigail into making a phone call to his penthouse apartment to teasingly ask him when he'd finally learned how to appreciate art. So far, they had raised nearly a hundred thousand dollars. She was exceedingly proud of Gotham City's inhabitants for sending in their checks. It showed her that her job was not wasted, that people still enjoyed the finer things.
"So, what is it, girl? Stop staring at me and give me the news!"
Her secretary grinned. "A Mr. Oswald Cobblepot just called. He saw your interviews on the television, and he has pledged one million dollars."
A/N: And there it is! Finished! I hope you all enjoyed the ending! :) Don't worry, though, if you're a fan of Christine, Harvey, and the rest of this lot. I'm already planning a sequel AND a spin-off story about Abigail (with the Penguin, clearly!). So, expect more very, very soon.