A/N: Yeah I don't own Dark Knight- right now I'm not sure I even own passable writing. Gag

January Thaw

Chapter One

Reactants

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Niccolo Machiavelli


"So how're your nerves now Mr. Dent." Rachael teased, as they made their way into La Vie En Rose.

"Making a full recovery Miss. Dawes." He kids right back, following Rachael inside.

"Well Batman would be so proud of them." She grins.

"How many times a day do you have to torment me about the Batman?" Actually, her constant friendly haranguing over how he idolizes Batman is one of the reasons he loves spending time with Rachael. Everything is so easy and fun.

"What's the count today?" She asked, as they were shown to their table. Harvey seats Rachael before moving around to his own chair.

"Took me three weeks to get this reservation. And I had to tell them that I work for the government." He says conversationally, they change topics frequently that way- with absolutely no segues.

"Really?" Rachael half-laughs.

"The city health inspector isn't afraid to pull strings." Harvey- you idiot… She doesn't say it, but he can tell she's thinking just that, by the way she grins and shakes her head. He loves that about her too. It's shaping up to a nice night already.

"Rachael- fancy that." Or not… Ironic that Harvey knows Bruce Wayne's voice anywhere considering he's never actually met him before now. Has only ever seen him once, on some news thing and has disliked him since.

Rachael knows how he feels and it's something they discuss often, Rachael playing Bruce's advocate very well. Not well enough to shift his opinion, even though he's quite willing to admit that it is not entirely fair, because to him Bruce Wayne will always be exactly what's wrong with Gotham. Wealth and power- gone to waste in the hands of morally retarded cretins.

"Yeah, Bruce… fancy that." There's something in her tone that suggests it's anything but a coincidence, but Harvey's always kind of figured they have history, so it's not so shocking really. Something in the way Rachael talks about the him- gives the impression that butter wouldn't melt in Bruce's smug mouth. Which is so different from the man Harvey sees that he knows history is clouding her judgment. He's mostly okay with it.

Mostly… usually… the man did irritate him long before Rachael was ever added to the mix.

Harvey tunes out the introductions- not intentionally; he just kind of drifts off for a second somehow… drifts and snaps back when Bruce's attention suddenly shifts to him. Hopes to god that he hasn't just been asked a question.

"Bruce…" No, he's just been insulted, he can tell by Rachael's tone, Bruce's expression, apologetic- but not really.

"This is Harvey Dent." Harvey wonders briefly if the bubble-headed bimbo, playboy even knows who he is. Probably not.

"The famous Bruce Wayne." Harvey offers his hand and fights the urge to twist Bruce's thumb or anything else just as childish.

"Rachael's told me everything about you." He says, because he has to say something.

"Well I certainly hope not." The way he says it- all smooth tone and slick grin and Harvey has the overwhelming urge to inform Bruce that he isn't some ample breasted, addled brained heiress that he's trying to get into the pants of and- that in mind- Bruce doesn't come off as charming to him, just cheesy.

"So, let's put a couple of tables together." Oh god no.

"I'm not sure that they'll let us–"

"Oh, they should, I own the place." Harvey wonders vaguely if jumping across the table and strangling dear old 'Bruce' would ruin their evening anyhow. Probably, and he might stain the new tie Rachael just gave him. Damn shoddy wardrobe choices.

-.-.-

Bruce and Rachael have history- a lot of it and Bruce apparently is anxious to ram as much of it down his and Natalia's… no Natasha's throats as possible. Though Harvey gets the distinct impression that Natasha, he's about 80 sure that that's her name, is merely unfortunate collateral. She doesn't seem too bothered by it though, actually, if she notices anything a miss at all then she's a better actress than most and certainly a lot smarter than Harvey's given her credit for. She smiles, big and wide and perfectly genuine-looking every time Bruce pulls out another of his 'when we were kids' stories, perfectly attentive, even throwing in an 'oh, how adorable' and 'Bruce you are so sweet' occasionally. Harvey mostly just stares at him and wonders if it would really feel 'that good' to dig sweet 'Brucie' with something sharp.

Dessert comes and goes, they're all nursing drinks by the time the conversation turns to something even remotely interesting… Harvey doesn't care how captivating and endearing everyone else may find Bruce's stories- they're boring and even if they hadn't been at the start, two hours would radically have changed that anyhow.

"How could you want to raise children in a city like this?" Natasha asks in response to one of Bruce's charming anecdotes.

"Well, I was raised here, and I turned out okay." Matter of opinion… Harvey bites his tongue to keep from accidently saying it.

"Is Wayne Manor in the city limits?" It's a relatively innocuous question, so, since she glares at him across the table, he must be using that 'screw you' tone Rachael is always telling him he has. He laughs… no one else does and now- he's really starting to hate dear Brucie. Since, god, someone has too.

"Uh, the Palisades? Sure. You know as our knew DA, you might wanna figure out… where your jurisdiction ends." Okay, so he's a little impressed by that. Apparently, Bruce Wayne has a much subtler 'screw you' voice.

Harvey's beginning to understand why Rachael took the seat across from Natasha- too easy for he and Bruce to choke each other if they were sitting side by side.

"I'm talking about the kind of city that idolizes a masked vigilante."

"Gotham City is proud of an ordinary citizen standing up for what's right." He says and hopes he doesn't sound like some starry-eyed schoolboy.

"Gotham needs heroes like you, and elected officials, not a man who thinks he's above the law–" In his more optimistic moments, Harvey actually believes just that and maybe one day that'll be the case. But not right now, right now Batman is more important than he'll ever be.

"Exactly. Who appointed The Batman?" Shallow and blasé… Spoken like a true socialite Mr. Wayne bravo. It makes Harvey wonder when exactly it was that Bruce even glanced down from the champagne-lined clouds at all the normal people in Gotham. The ones who actually suffered.

"We did, all of us who stood by and let scum take control of our City." Typically, he doesn't care enough to seriously defend Batman. People will believe what they want to anyway and Batman's actions defend him better than Harvey ever could. But a blatant waste of space like Bruce doing the questioning… it pisses him off.

"But this is a democracy, Harvey." And the titanic wasn't sinkable.

"When their enemies where at the gates, the Romans would suspend the democracy and appoint one man to protect the City. It wasn't considered an honor; it was considered a public service." It sounds good- and he believes some of it, but honestly, he doesn't really understand what would prompt anyone to try to do what Batman did.

This city a year ago… he couldn't have taken on something like that. He isn't strong enough. Not alone. He couldn't even do what he's doing now alone, he needs Rachael, needs the office full of people he works with… he needs Batman…

"Harvey, the last man that they appointed to protect the republic was named Caesar, and he never gave up his power." Oh god, he is starting to sound starry-eyed he can tell by her tone.

"Okay, fine. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Bruce is staring at him now, like he's a moron, which is in keeping with the theme of the evening, irritating. As if he should care, what a man like Bruce thinks of him.

-.-.-

"Look, whoever The Batman is, he doesn't want to do this the rest of his life, how could he? Batman is looking for someone to take up his mantel." He crashed Rachael's date to see if Harvey Dent really is wholesome as he looks and Bruce guesses he has his answer. Gotham's White Knight… and his own.

"Someone like you, Mr. Dent?" Natasha questions casually and Harvey might actually be blushing. Who still blushes when they're in their 30's?

"Maybe. If I'm up to it." He sounds so endearingly unsure and Bruce can certainly understand Rachael's attraction, which isn't necessarily a good thing. He understands by sharing in it, which is potentially disastrous, not to mention completely ridiculous. That Dent should accomplish in seconds what took Rachael years, or maybe he'd loved her at first sight too and just prefers to remember it being otherwise.

"What if Harvey Dent is the caped-crusader?" Definitely blushing. Dent shook his head.

"If I was sneaking out every night…" His hand slides into Rachael's and Bruce should hate him for being able to do that.

"Someone would've notice by now." But he doesn't, he likes the man, for some reason or another.

Bruce wonders fancifully if someone upstairs, (if there really is an upstairs) is laughing at him right now. Since honestly, who actually suffers 'love at first sight'.

It isn't exactly first sight though, he'd started studying Dent the moment he'd taken the job as Gotham's new DA. It's something about the man's eyes, real, bright, actually looking at him, which is just as big a cliché really.

It doesn't matter… and it doesn't. Hero-worship; love, an impending metal breakdown. Whatever it is that causes the same ache in him whenever Harvey looks at him, as when Rachael does. Doesn't matter, because it isn't part of his plans.