Disclaimer: The words are mine, the world they reside in is DC's. More's the pity on both sides.
A/N: I've never played with Two-Face before, not extensively. I feel remiss in my fangirly duties because of it. Long before Aaron Eckhart or Tommy Lee Jones, I knew Harvey Dent, but my love for him has never been of the feverish devotion variety. A fanboy I know has rekindled my passion for the character over the past few months, infecting me with his enthusiasm and brainwashing me with his exuberance. We'll call him Michigan J. Bowler for very secret hush-hush reasons. Thanks, babe. You've done what Hollywood never could.
One other note: Though they are separate storylines and completely unrelated in content, it bears mentioning that this story takes place in the same future as Paper Hearts.
Originally written March, 2009; revised/rewritten January 2012.
The wind is strong. Bitter cold. It whips the branches against the window pane with a steady, almost rhythmic click, clack, clack that the old man can feel reverberating in his bones. A contrast to the insistent clatter at the window, a hanging pendulum clock tick-tock-tick-tocks its way towards the the first minute after midnight, February second.
The year doesn't matter, beyond the fact the number begins and ends with two.
But the time...oh, the time. How quickly the end draws near.
Harvey Dent is dying. Not the parasitic creature characterized by turns as brainless thug or criminal mastermind. Not Two-Face. Harvey Dent is dying. He who once wore the shining armor of a knight, whose fall made that of Icarus look graceful. More myth than man, more ideal than individual, it seems a cosmic joke that such a man can die...and yet, here we are.
The chest pains started an hour ago. Insistent, ignorable, but still unmistakable.
Time is running out.
He moves in the dark with slow, deliberate steps toward his goal. Thirty years have passed since the last time he moved with such purpose—thirty years since he left the dungeon of Arkham Asylum, a terribly poetic twenty-two since these same purposeful strides took him out of his last therapy session.
The voice is almost unfamiliar, it whispers so gently. A rumble that has been silent for two decades and is best left forgotten, it rasps in Harvey's ear, mumbling bitter nothings.
Like a tiger knowing the end is near, Two-Face rattles the bars of his cage, threatening to escape. He mutters in a voice just below the range of human hearing—a sound that is more felt than heard, resonating in places that no doctor can identify—and mumbles plans for his final encore.
The small cedar box sits atop the dresser that the nursing home provides him with, tied with a dusty black velvet ribbon. He can still feel the ghost of its texture as he tied it—sealing it the day he was released from Arkham. Symbolic of his independence, it was the only mourning he did when he finally put Two-Face to bed: simple, dignified, and a hell of a lot more than the bastard actually deserved.
It hasn't been disturbed since.
For the first time since moving into this room, he picks up the box and rolls it thoughtfully between his palms. The rough texture of the wood feels good against the papery thin skin of his hands. Real. Solid. It's a grounding sort of texture, binding him to the physical plane when his mind is in definite danger of floating away.
He has barely touched the box in decades, he muses, at most occasionally fingering the ribbon's edges for a moment or two. Holding it now, he remembers why. Being this close to the coin—having a tactile sensation to connect to all those vivid, vivid memories—awakens a part of him long dormant.
Familiar as an old lover's caress, the voice grinds inside his head afresh, as though it has been there all the time. Perhaps it has. Perhaps Two-Face has just been buried under layers of sanity colored whitewash. Perhaps this isn't the reopening of old wounds, just the paint peeling at last. Harvey resists, at first—a token battle, more to assure himself that he tried to fight the inevitable than anything else. He licks his bottom lip, tongue snaking out over flesh that's scarred and puckered and flesh that's merely dry and old. He is all the more acutely aware of the contrast with this box in hand.
His fingers aren't as sure as they once were, his joints protest as he unties the delicate bow. Such a frail thing to be trusted with holding back a monster, the ribbon uncoils and flutters from his fingertips to the ground.
The box hinge squeaks, the same way the engagement ring box did when he fumblingly proposed to Gilda, now so very long ago.
Everything else is forgotten for a moment as memory wraps him in its welcoming embrace. The sky at twilight, purple as a (blossoming bruise) violet; the arbor's latticework overgrown with honeysuckle and ivy; the damp ground soaking through the knees of his pants. He can almost smell the warm vanilla of the perfume she wore that night—can almost feel her silken skin beneath his fingertips, the sensation so burned into his memory from revisiting it so often that it can never be dislodged.
He still remembers the look on her face, the unshed tears of joy as she whispered, "Oh, Harvey, I—"
Let me out, Harvey!
Gilda's face contorts inside the memory, becomes washed out and faded, like an ancient photograph left in the sun. He tries to hold the picture in his mind, clear and sharp, but she slips away, not forgotten, but not of immediate importance, either. The present is cutting, demanding his attention; the past is soft and hard to hold onto.
He lets it go.
A sliver of moonlight falls across the silver disc inside the box, glinting off the surface of the coin radiantly. This side of the coin is badly damaged, the face nearly indistinguishable from the rest of it.
Reverently, he brushes the pads of his fingers over the face, the roughened metal scraping against his skin. This coin...how long was it a part of him? How long has he been parted from it? It feels wonderful to be reunited. More like having a lost appendage restored than a keepsake.
Come on, Harvey..
His jaw clenches for but a moment—a hint of the marble faced Apollo he once was shining through—and he clutches the coin tightly in his fist. Determination is written clear as day in his eyes.
We have things to do.
The great oak door of Wayne Manor yawns open with a lengthy creak. Harvey expects the familiar proper English accent to greet him-
"Master Dent, do come in. No civilized person should be standing in the rain at this unreasonable hour."
But Alfred Pennyworth is long dead. Twenty years ago, now. Or was it thirty?
Much longer than that, Harvey. Too bad he didn't have the decency to die when we shot him.
On cue, lightning streaks across the sky, harshly lighting the ancient, wrinkled face of Bruce Wayne—once Harvey Dent's greatest friend and Two-Face's worst enemy. Bruce's eyes, though surrounded by crow's feet, are sharp as a hawk's, not the least bit milky or confused like those of another man his age might be. He doesn't look the least bit surprised to see Harvey standing here, as he leans heavily on his cane.
We should have shot him, too. We should have spattered his brains all over the pavement when we figured it out...but you hesitated.
His voice is not the voice of an old man, either. It's still vital and strong. Surely this old face is just another artful disguise. His eyes are alert, his voice still the pillar of strength Harvey remembers. Under all that age, under that crooked back, the heart of a vigilante still beats strongly.
"I had a feeling you'd be coming," Bruce continues.
Of course you did, world's greatest detective.
"We have unfinished business."
Harvey isn't sure if he refers to Bruce and himself, Bruce and Two-Face, or he and Two-Face.
Bruce's face remains impassive. "I had a feeling that'd be why."
The movement of pulling a gun from his pocket is as familiar as the flip of the coin. It flips, end over end, the light catching on its serrated edge. He doesn't even have to look at it in order to catch it. His eyes remain locked with Bruce's.
The sound of metal slapping against his skin is the only thing that makes them break eye contact and even then, but for a moment so that they might learn the fated outcome of this meeting.
Harvey smiles. Two-Face scowls. Bruce's expression is unreadable.
"Your lucky day."
The gun returns to its hiding place.
Bruce turns aside, exposing a slightly hunched back. "The jury's still out on that one, Harvey."
Robinson park is quiet, quiet as the grave. Decades ago, it wasn't safe to walk through it alone during the day, much less at night. Now, though...now it's different. Poison Ivy is mistress of this particular domain. At first, when she took root here, the authorities tried to force her out, but she refused to be pulled from the park. She did not attack the police they sent in, she merely camouflaged herself, created twisting mazes of foliage that sent them in circles and dumped them back outside the park—she didn't hurt a single soul. Not even Batman could make her leave, but she didn't send vines to throttle him or exotic flowers to poison him with their pollen—she just hid.
She's been hiding ever since. A modern day dryad, shifting form and joining with nature to keep herself hidden. She disturbs no one, even keeps the park cleaner than it ever was before she claimed it as her private kingdom, and though at first children were afraid to enter the park's gates, now they know it is the safest sanctuary they could ever hope to find within the city limits.
Harvey Dent enters through the rusting gate—Robinson's upkeep is not a priority on the city's budget plan—and of course, she is at once aware of his presence. She feels his movement through every blade of grass his feet crunch over, every bush he brushes, every tree he rounds. He doesn't call out to her, he knows he doesn't need to. Furthermore, he knows that she would never answer.
He makes his way to the center of the park to wait.
In silence, he stands, inhaling deeply the scent of slightly damp grass. The grass gives way to the smell of rose and gardenia. Suddenly, she stands before him, materializing in the darkness as if by magic.
She looks just as young and vital as she ever did, but her eyes are as cool and calculating as her skin is mossy green. Her face is still the one he loved so long ago, the one he cradled in his hands when they were still full of strength, but there is something off about her. She is so much the same as when he knew her and yet, so very different.
"Hello, Harvey." Her voice is the breeze through a willow's leaves, a melodious, enchanting rustle deep in her chest, spiked with the slightest hint of malice beneath all those layers of seductress.
He says nothing. He doesn't trust his voice. He feels so old standing in front of her, old and frail and not at all the Big Bad Harv he thought he was.
"Did you want something?"
The coin comes out. Unlike Bruce, she looks at it as it makes its journey up, up, up and then down again. Only when he's caught it once more does she look him in the eye. It's just a glance. He opens his fingers.
The scarred face of Lady Liberty shines up at him and Two-Face smiles, triumphant.
"We've got a score to settle, doll."
Twenty minutes later, Robinson park is a towering inferno.
She sleeps with guns. In this neighborhood, it's a necessity. What used to be a perfectly respectable place to live is now a slum. Oh, the city slaps a coat of paint on it and calls it government housing, but that's not what it is. Not really.
A loaded nine millimeter—safety on—under her pillow is to her what a security blanket is to everyone else. The cool, comforting metal under her hand as she drifts off to sleep is her guarantee that she'll get to see the dawn.
Then again, she has never really expected to be burgled by a master criminal. She has trained herself to wake at the slightest sound, this twenty year old police academy cadet nobody's ever heard of, but she doesn't stir when the door opens. She doesn't stir when Harvey Dent trudges into her bedroom and takes a seat in the chair directly across from the foot of her bed.
When he cocks the hammer on his revolver, though, then she wakes. She sits up with a gasp, as though someone has dumped ice water on her, grasping for the gun.
Her eyes have just enough time to adjust to the dark before he pulls the chain on her desk lamp and the room is flooded with soft light. She blinks, blinded momentarily, and when she sees the gun pointing directly at her chest, she brings her hands out from under her pillow slowly. She looks at him, faking confidence, pretending that her heart isn't fluttering inside her ribcage.
She knows his faces. Plural. She knows them both.
The breath he takes in is wheezy, labored. "Not anymore."
"Harvey Dent, then."
He's pleased by her correction, the corners of his mouth turning upward ever so slightly. "You know who I am. I thought I'd be a little before your time."
"I know lots of things that were before my time. My dad was a cop," she says by way of explanation.
His expression hardens, his smile turning sour. "Your grandfather was a mobster."
Forgetting herself, she hugs her knees like she used to as a child. "You mean on my mother's side. I…I don't like to talk about her."
Disgusting. As if we care…
"You know why I'm here." It's not phrased as a question, though it probably should be.
She doesn't look at him. "I'm the last living Moroni."
His silence serves as confirmation.
Her eyes remained fixed on her bedspread as she continues, "My mother—before she left—told me that you might come for me someday."
Still, he says nothing.
"Are you here to kill me?"
"It isn't up to me."
She looks up at him in time to see the coin flash in the lamplight. He flips it, catches it, opens his fingers. She licks her bottom lip, anxious, unable to see the verdict destiny has decreed. From the look on his face, she guesses that the coin has fallen in her favor.
He looks at the coin, then looks back up at her. His smile is cold. "Best two out of three."
He flips the coin again. It sails through the air.
Too late, Two-Face realizes what's happening.
No, Harvey. Don't be an idiot.
She protests before she realizes it could mean her death to interfere. "But that isn't fair!"
We could still be great. We could still rule this city-
A few more turns in the air and then gravity overtakes upward momentum, sending the coin back down.
Look at Lex Luthor. He's had himself cloned three times now. Still going strong, still a pain in the big blue boy scout's behind-
The coin lands. Scarred side up.
It doesn't count. And even if it did, you're too chickenshit to do anything about it.
Harvey shows it to the girl in bed and her eyes go wide with fear.
"This is a death sentence," he says , his voice gravelly, perhaps even a little choked. "But not for you."
The cemetery is on a hill, near the outskirts of town. There are several dozen in Gotham, but this is the only one he wants. The walk to the grave he means to visit is a struggle—he's out of breath and his legs ache when it finally comes into view—but he makes it, with several minutes to spare on his schedule. The heart attack still hasn't come, though the warning twinges in his arm and chest promise that it will be here soon.
The gray monument juts out of the ground, tilting slightly to one side. It's not kept up very well—the man who made certain it remained taken care of died twenty years ago and his children couldn't care less about their stepmother's final resting place—and moss grows over the bottom half of the stone, obscuring the name.
Harvey has been here before, once, many years ago, a few days after he heard the news that she had passed away. The love of his life, his ex-wife Gilda, rests here.
He sits down with a great deal of effort, bracing his back against the stone and fumbles with the gun.
Come on, Harvey...how many times do we have to do this?
For a voice in his head that sounded so terribly panicked half an hour ago, Two-Face sounds relatively calm now.
"We'll do it until it's done," Harvey replies smoothly, running his fingers over the barrel of his pistol.
You'll back out.
The voice is confident now. Maybe even a bit of cockiness creeping into its tone.
"Not this time." He says it with finality. Firm, resolute, he will not be argued with.
You always do.
The confidence has wavered a little. Just a little, but enough.
"I have nothing to lose this time."
Harvey checks his watch, releases a breath. Seven minutes to go.
A little on the sentimental side, isn't it? Two-Face asks nastily. You usually just toss yourself off a building. Why the theatrics, Harvey?
"Anything worth doing is worth doing right."
You think I appreciate the symbolism, don't you, you schmuck?
An undercurrent of distress is creeping into the false bravado, well covered, but still there.
Harvey smirks. "The thought had crossed my mind."
You're nothing without me, Harvey. You never have been. Little goody-two-shoes district attorney, nothing more than a spineless paper pusher scraping scum off the sidewalk and making deals so you could get your mitts on the higher class of scum…until I came along.
Harvey says nothing.
We had some good years, didn't we? Oh, so many good years.
Harvey Dent leans back against the cool granite of Gilda's headstone. He wonders to himself: if he squints, can he see Renee's in the distance?
We owned a piece of Gotham—we could have gone further if you hadn't been such a coward, holding us back…
You'll never go through with it. Two-Face says with conviction, as though by saying the words it will assure their truth. You'll bottle out at the last minute, just like always.
Why now? Why should it matter now?
"Because," Harvey says, cocking the hammer on the pistol, "I won't let you win."
A single, startling shot rings out in the night.
The police arrive, responding to a call of shots fired at the old cemetery. They find Harvey Dent, dead, a twenty-two caliber pistol clutched in his hand. The coroner rules it an apparent suicide, though the late night talk shows hosts will make light of it as a murder/suicide for weeks.
An anonymous benefactor sees to the funeral arrangements, ensuring that he is not laid to rest in the pauper's cemetery and those still able to remember him as he was before the accident that made him Two-Face attend.
He is buried in a solid blue suit.
He is buried in the plot next to Gilda Grace Lamont.
He is buried without his coin.
Harvey Dent is at rest.