Chapter Three

Endothermic

What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, 'This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!' Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 'Never have I heard anything more divine'?

Friedrich Nietzsche


She leaves him- she just leaves him… I'll protect you… and she leaves him. With socialites, so maybe- according to some people- he doesn't exactly need protecting per se. Harvey however likes to contend that those people have never seen a charity auction.

Liquid courage… That's what Alfred calls it, something quite different comes to Harvey's mind though, 'drink this as quickly as possible and things won't seem quite so strange too you,' amen and usually he would never anaesthetize himself with alcohol, that was his father's bag. Since he has yet to see one 'usual' thing in this menagerie Bruce Wayne dubs a party though, he figures a little alcohol can't hurt- as quickly as he possibly can- and he'll stop just as soon as he spots one normal, average everyday thing; or when he starts to get dizzy.

He doesn't even manage a sip. The grating sound of a helicopter distracts him, Bruce Wayne of course and Harvey wonders briefly if maybe he should've started drinking in the elevator.

He just doesn't like the man, because he flirts with Rachael and assumes everyone's time is his own and… actually, he's not really sure what his problem is with dear old Bruce. Yes the man has a plethora of annoying qualities he could easily pin his discomfort on but truth be told, he's real problem is that there's just something not on the level about Bruce. Harvey can't put a finger on it but he sure as hell can feel it and it needles him. Rachael's reaction to his theory needles him too, she'd laughed, not derisively or cruelly, just light and teasing and it frustrates him because it makes him wonder if she doesn't know what he's talking about. What it is.

"Sorry, I'm late- glad to see you all got started without me." The man wonders in with a model or a movie star on each arm, all sweet words and smiles and Harvey still wants to dig him with some sharp, or something else as equally painfully and petty. It doesn't help that everyone… everyone else in the room seems to love him, seems to be hanging, waiting on his words with baited breathed.

"Now where is Harvey… where… Harvey Dent- man of the hour." He smiles politely while Bruce performs for the rest of the crowd and wonders all the while if the third model or movie star is just in case one of the other two miraculously develops a few brain cells in the next few hours.

"And where's Rachel Dawes- she is my oldest friend. When she first told me she was dating Harvey Dent, I had one thing to say... the guy from those god-awful campaign commercials? 'I Believe in Harvey Dent.' Nice slogan, Harvey." Bruce fast sends him from angry to embarrassed with those few choice words. Anger, when Bruce brings up his friendship with Rachael, again and Harvey isn't a jealous person, he's not, but Bruce's tone always seems to imply something more, something Rachael won't talk about.

Then Bruce teases him, a cheap shot about his election campaign and he's heard it before, he really has, all the jokes, so many times that he'd thought they'd really lost all meaning to him, but some how Bruce's tone, his smile… Rachael's pained expression, he flushes, bows his head for a moment to hide it.

"But he caught Rachel's attention and then I started to pay attention to Harvey, and all he's been doing as our new D.A., and you know what? I believe in Harvey Dent." Just as quick, he's confused again and it's that thing that he can't quite define. Bruce seems so honest suddenly, so earnest- no barely veiled flirting towards Rachael, no cheap taunts too him… Harvey doesn't get it.

"On his watch, Gotham can feel a little safer, a little more optimistic. Look at this face; this is the face of Gotham's bright future. To Harvey Dent let's hear it for him." He can't reconcile this Bruce with the one that stole the Russian ballet only a few weeks ago, with the one who teased him about his ad campaign commercials only a few minutes ago.

Rachael takes his arm then, rubs his back and is so not forgiven for leaving him. She smiles when he looks at her and kisses his cheek and yeah… he forgives her.

Not for long though, she introduces him to senator what's-his-name and disappears again. Damn her.

He finds her later (after a very short conversation with Senator what's-his-names wife) out on the veranda with Bruce, things between them seem awkward and tense, Harvey's decides right then that he doesn't wanna know. What they've had or could have it's not his business. Besides he can hardly hold Rachael's possible 'what if' fantasy life with Bruce Wayne against her when he's got one of his own going with The Batman.

"You can throw a party, Wayne, I'll give you that. Thanks again. Mind if I borrow Rachel?" Neither answers- Rachael just moves off inside with him.

He leads her away from the party- away from the glitter and glitz. They tease each other some more and he sort of proposes. He's thought of a thousand different ways he could do it- funny, serious, sappy… This he didn't plan though- he doesn't even have the ring with him- and it comes out raw and honest. He really couldn't stand too loose her. She makes him laugh, she gets him. Knows markedly more about him than anyone else anywhere and she loves him, she does. Traces gentle fingers over his scars whenever he wakes in a cold sweat from a nightmare.

Her answer or lack thereof, rips his heart out, or at least a part of him reasons that it should, same part that murmurs about weak knees and a fluttering stomach. He doesn't believe that stuff though- aching heart, gazing longingly out the window, can't eat- can't sleep… that's the stuff for kid's books. The numbing, nerve-wracking, sickening fear he'd felt when the fake Batman had crashed into Garcia's window comes suddenly to mind. Oh that's helpful, he thinks derisively.

"I suppose no answer's not 'no'. It's someone else, isn't it?" He says reasonably.

"Harvey-" Her tone says 'no stop being silly' but her expression's another story entirely.

"Just tell me it's not Wayne." That, amusingly enough would actually annoy him. It's sensible though, reasonable, that he wouldn't mind being left for a better man. Right?

"The guy's a complete-" Bubble-head, maybe, part of him is starting to doubt it, regardless he doesn't get to finish anyhow, someone grabs him from behind.

Later- if he tells the story- maybe he'll swear that he at least managed to get a decent punch in. In reality though he vaguely catches Rachael's scandalised 'what're you doing?' and then it's lights out.

888

"Hey- Harvey?" Someone's bugging him- pressing something cold and wet against his face.

"Piss-off." Undignified for sure, but his head's pounding, throbbing- just like the good old days of his youth.

"Mr. Harvey Dent-" The tone, the words are very reminiscent of Rachael, but the voice is distinctly male.

"Too heavy a dose?" Another voice offers and Harvey's brain finally kicks in then and he wonders what the hell's going on. Actually frankly, he's more focused on the searing pain.

"He's fine. Sit up Harvey, drink this." He's on someone's couch, has downed half the glass of water pushed into his hands before he realises that the guy standing in front of him is Bruce Wayne.

Bruce Wayne's couch.

Party.

What the hell happened too him?

Bruce takes the empty glass and Harvey presses his palms against his eyes.

"My teeth hurt." He whines. Overall, his head hurts worse.

"Yes, takes these-" Pills, more water and Harvey leans his head back against the couch with a sigh.

A while after that, when his heads stopped drumming in time with his heartbeat, he sits back up.

"What happened?" He mumbles when he opens his eyes and finds Bruce right there again… or was he simply sitting there the whole time.

"Alfred found you locked in one of my closets. Any ideas?"

"He did?" He remembers that- remembers talking to Rachael and being grabbed- kind of, sort of.

"The Joker gatecrashed; maybe one of his men locked you up." Bruce's voice is soft, soothing, his headache's duller now, grating still, but he doesn't quite feel so much like dying.

"Joker… is everyone okay?"

"Rachael's shook up, but she's fine, she's with Gordon shorting paperwork out." Rachael is exactly what he meant when he said everyone.

"Teeth still hurt?"

"No- they're all better… my head is still a little..." Wonky. Harvey presses himself back against the corner of the lounge, watches Bruce laugh softly before standing, moving to a small side table where he filled a pair of tumblers.

"Here drink this and it won't seem so bad." Bruce said, Harvey watching his progress back around the lounge. He takes the glass, smells scotch, really good, really expensive scotch.

"What did you give me before?" He asks, looking down at the amber liquid, already feels a little fuzzy from the pills. Bruce grins, takes the free lounge corner next to Harvey, wide white cushion between them.

"Don't worry Harvey I won't try'en take advantage of you." He taunts, Harvey snorts.

"Jesus-" He mumbles before taking a sip.

"You're a… something Wayne you know that." Okay not exactly the most scathing or coherent thing that's ever left his mouth. Bruce laughs.

"A bastard… a charming bastard?"

"The first one." He says and Bruce frowns, sets his glass aside.

"You don't like me much, do you?" Maybe it's the alcohol and pills talking, but it doesn't sound like much of a question to Harvey.

"I don't like you at all." Rachael's not there- no reason to be polite, except for maybe decorum and stuff- but that's more Bruce's department right? At any rate Bruce doesn't much seem worried.

"Why not?" Bruce asks, staring in a way that would probably normally make him self-conscious… reminds him of something, something… he couldn't quite get, the alcohol's hit; hard.

"Because you're a-" Just shut up Harvey, please!

"A snob and a flirt and-" He sets an almost empty tumbler heavily onto the coffee table and when did he have more than a sip?

"You make me really uncomfortable." He does- why does he- it's not fair that he does.

"I do?" Bruce's tone is light- curious, Harvey doesn't appreciate it.

"Yes. You stare at me when you think I'm not paying attention and, you and Rachael talk to each other like you know something I don't and I notice and… what did you do too Rachael?" He's never been comfortable drunk. He's one of those people who's knows when they are, feels like every second he's making a complete fool of himself.

"I never did anything to Rachael." Bruce just sounds bemused.

"Yes you did- she loves you and would clearly be with you if you hadn't done something to her." Clearly… and does he really believe that? Apparently yes he does, if his babbling is anything to go by and typically it is, he's one those annoying people who gets honest when they're drunk.

Bruce shakes his head, half smiles- half frowns, as if he doesn't know what to say.

"Wait let me guess you have supermodels reserved till 2012." He laughs and for two seconds it seems so funny and then…

"I'm sorry- that was- really rude." Why was it ever funny?

"No- that's fair, I have a very… shallow lifestyle. But Rachael and I… it's much more complicated than that Harvey."

"I'll bet." He mumbles. His head doesn't hurt anymore and his lips are tingling.

"What is it with you anyway?" Harvey asks, picks his discarded cup up and drains it, which probably isn't a good idea but he's not really sober enough to make those kinds of judgement calls anyhow.

"What do you mean?" Bruce asks, sets his own glass aside, is still all cool and collected, prefect hair, perfect suit, not a single crease. Harvey doesn't even want to contemplate how he looks after the night he's had. God he hates Bruce Wayne.

"Come on you play at being this-" The sentence stalls; Harvey knows the word but just can't quite get on his tongue.

"Sorry I can't help I've been called a lot of things- alcohol soaked, playboy, socialite, bastard most recently…" Bruce still has that airy, playful demeanour in place, like everything's all a joke, which annoys Harvey and that annoys him too, perfect strangers shouldn't know how to press his buttons.

"Perfect ditz." He snaps finally.

"You act like you have no clue what's going on and no interest in anything outside of your next glass of champagne."

"That's a crime?"

"It's bullshit. You're not stupid and you're not clueless. I've seen you're school transcripts, the non-profit research your company does… all the funding you front for city improvements… the makeover Gotham's Library got last year… all you." God, where is Rachael when he really needs to be shut-up. It's been nagging at him for ages now though and it's ironic since he loves, absolutely loves classing Bruce as a waste of space, but the more he digs the less that fluffy public image meshes with the man.

"Checking up on me Mr. Dent?"

"You're very close to Rachael."

"Well the thing is… good publicities priceless." Bruce leans close and whispers it like some kind of conspiracy theory. Smiling and teasing- Harvey's not buying it anymore.

"You don't get any publicity from a lot of the stuff you do. In fact you seem to go to pains to hide some of it." Harvey leans in as well- copy's Bruce's tone. The man just grins.

"Okay, you got me… I hate good publicity."

"Where did you disappear too?" Harvey finally asks- bluntly- he's tired of the messing about, finds it hard enough keeping his head straight without Bruce's sidestepping.

"Excuse me?"

"You disappeared for years, one of Wayne Enterprises CEO's had you legally declared dead, you almost lost everything… where the hell did you go?" Bruce is still smiling but seems a little uncertain as well.

"Asia." He says softly, after a long pause, it gives Harvey more questions than answers though.

"In Asia… touring brothels or… what?" He snaps, irritated by the answer, he's decided.

Bruce bites his bottom lip, considers Harvey at length.

"You first Mr. Dent, why law, why here?"

"What?"

"Come on Harvey you're not the only one who can invade someone's privacy. You had other options. You choose law, you worked for it- it's not something you fell into. You choose Gotham too, why?" Bruce says, tone light and encouraging.

Harvey drums his fingers on the couch's arm, the fabric's soft under his fingertips.

"How far did you dig?" He asks, supposes he can't really get snippy about it, considering.

"Pretty far." Bruce says tone unapologetic.

Harvey feels his face heat slightly, runs his tongue over his teeth and takes a breath to calm himself.

"So you know about my father… about how I spent most of my teen years with my aunt, my mother's sister." He says, voice kept perfectly calm. Bruce nods.

"Well there's not much more too it then that- I owe those cops and the court advocate who handled my case my life. That's it- I wanted to help other people the way they did me." Easy, simple… all behind him now.

"Why Asia?"

"I was in prison." Bruce says simply and again the lack of information drives Harvey crazy.

"For what?"

"Stealing." Bruce says, after beat and still more questions. In occurs to Harvey then- very faintly- that Bruce is probably lying to him, taunting him, seeing how far he can push it.

"Stealing what?"

"You would never believe it."

"I can believe a lot."

Bruce stares at him again, considers… something… for a long time.

"No- that's going to cost you again." Bruce says finally and Harvey huffs, chews on his tongue.

"What do you want to know?" He's pretty good at spotting lies, can't see anything lurking behind the placid honesty of Bruce's face. He also can't even hazard a guess as to why Bruce Wayne would be stealing anything. Curiosity piqued.

"Anything. Something that's not in any file."

Harvey curls his toes, wishes he didn't have shoes on, since digging his feet into carpet has always soothed him.

"My father- after he'd drunk and before he'd beat me- would take his lucky coin out-" Harvey pulls it from his pocket and tosses it to Bruce. Surely, a therapist would have a lot of colourful things to say about him carrying something like that around, but screw them, it too saved his life. What an irony, really.

"And he would tell me that if he flipped it and it came up tails, then I could go to bed, but if it was heads… well clearly I'd done something bad and needed to be punished. Because that was how it worked, god- my father was a little religious when he drank- but god he didn't let things happen to good little boys." Bruce turns the coin over in his hand, realises the ugly truth of it. Harvey watches him frown. Doesn't know why he's telling Bruce this of all things. Except that maybe he wants too shock the man, appal him. Rumple that perfect exterior if even just for a second.

"For years I sat in the corner of my room crying wondering what I'd done that was so horrible. Until I got sick of it, waited until he passed out and went and stole the damn thing and then I knew. It's all shit, there's no rhyme or reason, just what we make for ourselves." Easy, simple… doesn't matter anymore.

Bruce- to his credit- doesn't look shocked or appalled. He looks, well there's something there in his eyes, anger maybe, though Harvey's not sure why he would be.

"I stole from Wayne Enterprises." Bruce says, without acknowledging anything Harvey's just said.

Harvey snorts, rolls his eyes. Bruce is lying too him, nothing makes sense otherwise.

"I told you, you wouldn't believe it." Bruce says while handing back his coin.

"You went all the way to Asia, just to steal from your own company and then rotted in an Asian prison for half a decade or so… no it all makes perfect believable sense." Harvey sulks, half wants to punch Bruce when he gives a lazy smile.

Then the man unbuttons his shirt.

Harvey overall has a lot more scars, the bulk mostly on his back- simple math there, he use to curl into a ball- but Bruce has more than few of his own. More than a few really interesting looking ones. Harvey leans further forward, touches the nasty looking one on Bruce's hip. Doesn't much consider that technically he's groping the man. Probably shouldn't… or if he must, should at least ask first.

"Prison?" He asks. Bruce nods. Harvey still doesn't really believe it, a car accident or something maybe, but then what about the rest. It's an odd collection.

"What happened?" He wants the story, even if it's a lie.

Bruce has that look on his face. Harvey sighs.

"What do you want?"

Bruce doesn't say anything, just leans in- slightly, because there's not all that much room between them now- and it's one of those slow… things, that Harvey could stop if he wanted to. If he'd thought too… but he doesn't think too. Bruce kisses him and Harvey lets him.

Soft and warm.