A/N: A short one-shot written for a contest comm on LJ.
The Things That Come After
He has an argument with himself.
It happens quite without his realizing it; one minute he's thinking of how strange it is to be waking up in a hospital, and how grateful he is that there's no clown-faced psychotic nurse hellbent on playing doctor with him, and the next minute he doubts that his memories are memories. He doubts if, in fact, they happened at all.
This is completely ridiculous. He remembers the Joker's bedside manner, he remembers the things that came after. But also what seems the most vivid, the most solid to him is waking up beside Rachel, perhaps yesterday, perhaps a week ago, and realizing that he wanted nothing more than to see her every morning for the rest of his life— or the rest of hers, at least, whichever came first. But Rachel's dead now, he thinks, and the shock rolls through him like he's hearing it for the first time. No. But she has to be. No. But she is.
He wants to sit himself down and have a serious talk about this, but he can't because he's lying down already. He rolls his head around to try to get a feel for his situation. Hospital— institutional green. His wrists are strapped. Deja vu, he thinks, and his other half, full of hidden panic, has an argument for that too. You're Harvey Dent. When have you ever woken up strapped to a hospital bed?
Um, he thinks, almost guiltily and, well— but it's there, the occurrence, secure in his head if a little fuzzy, and somewhere, somehow, it happened. He's very sore, and it takes him a minute to remember— or to make up a reason— why. He had fallen— physically or metaphorically? asks his other half, drily, and he snaps back, probably both. And wasn't he supposed to be dead? He was the bad guy, wasn't he meant to be dead?
He entertains the very, very brief notion that this is Lawyer Hell. There's got to be a special one for them. This probably isn't it.
And if he isn't the bad guy— and his other half isn't sure what to say on this matter— if he isn't the bad guy, what does that make him? Just misunderstood? Had he been misunderstood right into these restriction bandages?
He wants desperately to be free.
He tries to think of how he got loose last time— if there was indeed a last time— and it comes to him at last that someone in a dress had been involved. The nurse that he remembered was the Joker. The dress was the nurse. The Joker had set him free.
But why would he do that?
Because you're Harvey Dent, said the snide voice. Because we're Harvey Dent. And we can do the world so much more good out there in it than in here behind the scenes. Havoc, the world is chaos, and if you can't beat 'em—
He wants Rachel to come and rescue him, just like she always threatened to. And then she's there, and even as he watches her sit next to him he knows that this is a dream, or a nightmare, or a fantasy at any rate. She is not really here. Nevertheless she seats herself neatly, smoothing her suit pants down over her knees.
"Boy," she says, and gives something like a nervous chuckle. "I'm not sure which of you to talk to."
He has to turn his head to see her, and it hurts him. He does it anyway.
"Which of me?"
She lifts a hand towards him, to indicate something, he's not sure what. "You're just lying there in front of me, Harvey, and there's nothing I can do. You were split right down the middle, jagged edges and all. They sewed you back together, but I'm afraid— you don't quite match."
He closes his eyes briefly. "Is that why I'm talking to myself?"
She looks thoughtful. "That could just be the crippling paranoia. But, you never know. Right?" She slaps her knees with both hands. "I should probably tell you, I'm not really here. You know that though, don't you. One of you knows it."
"Rachel," he says, and half of him sobs. "You're dead."
"You're right," she says with facetious gravity. "Kind of liberating, being dead. Not that I don't miss you, I do miss you. But I feel so— above everything now. So— unswayed. Bipartisan. You can't really know what it's like to be truly fair till you've been dead, Harvey. Because you stop caring about everything." She shrugs. Her face is still Rachel's but to his confused pair of minds she sounds more like that clown. "I don't even know what I'm really here for, except you wanted me."
"You're here to set me free," he says, only it's more like he's begging. Pleading with a figment of our imagination? chides his other half. The great Harvey Dent? A man like us? He would love it if Rachel could take this voice away, but he doesn't believe that she can, doesn't believe it for a second.
Rachel looks pensive. "They killed me, you know," she says. "All of them did. Just like they would have killed you, if they had the chance. They tried."
"I thought you didn't care," he asks.
"Except about that," says Rachel, doing an abrupt about-face in opinion. "You care about it, and that's enough. Here's the thing, Harvey. I'm nothing more than you. Talking to yourself. You know how they say only crazy people do that?"
He won't answer.
"They're right," says Rachel.
He still can't bring himself to reply. Rachel stands, and hovers over him, watchful as a guardian angle, vengeful as a queen. Even if she is him, even if this whole charade is nothing but a three-part disharmony, he can't help but love her. And now she is beginning to fade back into nonexistence.
"You want to be free?" she asks. He nods, both his heads, like a hydra. "Will you do something for me?"
"I will." He speaks in tandem now. Both parts— all parts— of Harvey Dent want the same thing.
"Kill them," says Rachel. "Kill them all." She pauses, looks down at his hands. "It's only fair," she says wistfully, and gives him permission to do what he wants to do anyway. It all works out, in the end.
She sets him loose, before she disappears, and as she fades from view Harvey Dent wakes up; he thinks he can feel two, or possibly three, heartbeats in his chest; but his mind is haggard and worn out, and he thinks he'll go back to sleep till things make sense again. Then he shifts, and his arms lift, and he finds that he can move; all it takes is this little encouragement.
What have we here?, he answers himself slowly, I confess— I'm of two minds as to what to do with this situation—
Harvey Dent is free.
And savage, and vengeful, and unhinged, and ferocious, and mad.