A/N: On the "Ask the Squishykins" tumblr, Twinings and I are currently offering ourselves up for two full weeks of filling fic prompts for our readers, varying in length from a hundred to a thousand-plus words. The project has been dubbed the Free For All Fic For All—or FFAFFA for short. This is one of those stories—and this is the boilerplate author's note you'll see on all of 'em.
Prompt: Some Harvey Dent/Gilda Dent
Author's Notes: I started writing this story back in January, intending it to be a surprise birthday present for a certain someone in March; it stalled and stalled and stalled, so thanks for forcing me to get up off my butt to finish it with this prompt! Continuity Notes: The depictions of Harvey and Gilda/Grace Dent in this story are greatly influenced by their relationship as seen in Secret Origins Special #1, as well as the Batman: The Animated Series episode Two-Face: Part I and II; beware, thar be no Long Halloween characterization here, ya-harr.
Harvey comes to her at night, the way he always has. He smells of gunpowder, and his gloves are spattered with blood so old it's dried, but little else has changed.
(Little else besides the obvious, Harv?)
His back bowed with weariness, his eyes bloodshot from exhaustion, he wants nothing more than to lie down next to her and sleep the sleep of the dead.
Cloaked by shadow, he watches the gentle rise and fall of her chest with every breath she takes in slumber. He briefly thinks about laying his head there, thinks about the sound of her heartbeat and the silk of her pajama top under his fingers and the inviting embrace of sleep.
The legal definitions of his actions flit through his mind, stalking, breaking and entering, but they mean less than nothing to him. This is important, more important than even the law.
(Nothing is more important than the law, Harvey.)
Gilda lies curled on her side, the moon yellow glow from the streetlight outside her bedroom window throwing her silhouette into stark relief. The tangled sheets do nothing to hide the soft, rolling curves of her figure, the blue spaghetti strap of her nightgown that has fallen from her shoulder, the single foot in its sock and the other that lies bare…
The light plays in the sprawl of her chestnut hair, highlighting an errant champagne colored strand here, the occasional auburn strand there. He remembers how it feels, thick and silken twined around his fingers, heavy with her perfume.
She's beautiful, and untouchable now. On some level, he's honestly surprised he ever got to touch her at all in the first place.
Gilda's brow furrows in her sleep, the way it does when she's having a nightmare. She mumbles and turns her head away.
Unthinkingly, Harvey takes a foolish, bold step forward, the hand at his side moving against his will. He's drawn to touch her, to comfort her, even all these years of separation later. He remembers what it was like to place a gentle hand between her shoulder blades and feel her trembling still; how good it was to chase away the monsters, rather than be one.
She gradually quiets. Shifts a little. Turns. Clumsily throws an arm over her eyes in her sleep.
Something catches his eye.
An engagement ring glitters on her left hand, a platinum band beset with diamonds—far larger than those that a simple civil servant could ever afford.
(Though just as many as a criminal could, right, Harv?)
He wonders who the lucky man is.
Decides it doesn't matter.
As silent as a shadow, he approaches her bedside, ignoring his every impulse to sweep her into his arms and kiss her awake the way he used to on those nights when he would work straight through until dawn, spending a precious few minutes with her before leaving for the office.
His hand slinks into his inside jacket pocket, pulling the envelope free with the slightest of crinkling sounds. He moves to place it beside her bedside lamp and drops it next to a half drunk glass of water, hoping that he's said everything he wanted to say, since he won't get the chance to say it again.
This is goodbye.
Harvey turns to leave, takes three steps, each heavier and more reluctant than the last.
The lamp clicks on.
He freezes in his tracks, fighting the immediate, desperate urge to bolt.
He doesn't turn.
"Turn it off," he rasps.
"Turn it off!"
Harvey hears the shifting of sheets behind him, all papery and static, the sound of feet on the carpet, and though he knows he should run, he stays anchored in place.
The hand on his shoulder is enough of a surprise that he flinches away from the touch.
"Harvey, what are you doing here?"
"Leaving," he growls.
"Turn around," she says firmly.
His laugh is acrid, but deep and genuine. He turns to her, and watches with bitter satisfaction as she, clutching the sheet to her chest, takes the predicted step back. Harvey knows the streetlight highlights his scarring, the handsome side of his face hidden by shadow. He would expect nothing less.
She takes a breath and whispers, "You look—"
(Wait for it.)
"—terrible. Who did this?"
His eyes narrow. "You know who did. Moroni—"
"Not that," she says shortly, as though he's the biggest idiot she's ever met. She reaches for him, left hand outstretched, seeking to tenderly cup his cheek. "Who gave you the black eye?"
It takes a moment for his brain to catch up—he'd forgotten he even had a black eye—but it's a moment too long. Her skin touches his and all is lost.
The pad of her thumb slides over his bottom lip, from right to left, caressing scarred and unmarred tissue alike.
"I have to go—"
"Don't." The word is thick with meaning, speaking more volumes than there are in an encyclopedia. The sheet drops, her other hand finds its way to the scarred side of his face—the first gentle touch he's felt there in a long, long time.
"Gilda," he begins, pulling away from her, pulling her hands from his face.
"I miss you."
The whisper silences his rising protest. The words cut him like a white-hot knife, splitting old scars open with more precision than a surgeon could. He closes his eyes, tightens his grip on her wrists and tries not to drown in a million conflicting emotions rising up as one. Love, longing, lust, sorrow, anger, fear—it's all too much.
He pushes her away, firmly but gently. "I know."
Her plea is so tender that he's almost able to ignore the knowledge that another man's engagement ring sits on one of her fingers.
"No." He shoves her away, all traces of gentleness in his touch gone. She stumbles and the back of her knees hit the edge of the mattress. Gilda loses her balance and collapses in a heap, the sheet a tangled mess around her ankles.
"You don't get to do this, Harvey." Her voice cracks—if he doesn't leave soon, she's going to cry and it will all be over. "Not again. Not this time!"
"I have to."
"Why?" she asks stubbornly, her tone half sorrow, half frustration. "Why come all the way here and break in just to…just to leave?"
"I had to." He regrets shoving her. He hurts inside, thinking that she'll have bruises later. But it doesn't matter. He has to get out of here.
The door slams behind him.
In the hallway, he takes a breath. He ignores the cry of his name from inside the apartment. Two breaths. Glares at the old biddy who pokes her head out of her apartment for the moment that she puts her nose where it doesn't belong. Three.
And then he's gone.
The left side of the bed is all made up.
She still hasn't grown accustomed to sleeping alone, even after all this time. She could easily spread out in the middle of the mattress—stretch and roll and lose her socks in the night amidst the tangle of thick blankets—but somehow, she never winds up there, not even when she's asleep.
Gilda sighs and fluffs her pillow, doing her level best to ignore the dozen red roses on her bedside table. Her new beau, Paul, is nothing if not persistent. She's told him time and again that she doesn't want anything serious, but that hasn't stopped him from looking for more than she's willing to give.
She slides between the covers and quietly contemplates her own reaction to the flowers when they arrived: the way her breath caught, the hope, the disappointment upon seeing a dozen red roses instead of…
Gilda shakes her head and with it, the thought she should not be thinking. It's ridiculous and foolish and…
She reaches for one of the books on her nightstand. Half a dozen sit there, each with a bookmark stuffed between its pages about halfway through. She can't seem to focus on much these days; there's always something to do. An art show to attend, an interview to give, a date to get ready for—
(A husband to mourn)
—just too much go-go-go all the time. And all of it a coping mechanism; a means of forgetting.
She sinks into the mattress and looks at the book cover. Gilda does not enjoy trashy romance novels, but this one called to her from the lurid grocery store book display. The Siren Song of the Sea the raised golden lettering reads. She runs her finger over it and remembers the first time she ever saw a book like this, back when cover gimicks of this type were new. Back when she was a teenager, this was the closest she ever got to rebellion; romance novels with unlikely paint-by-numbers plots and chaste yet still somehow filthy sex scenes.
Her eyes trail over the bosomy heroine, swooning in the arms of a dashing sea captain whose muscles really shouldn't fit in his coat. Her gaze sweeps over his face and then…stops.
"Oh God damn it," she mutters, a self deprecating giggle bubbling from her lips. She runs her finger over the profile of the hero and traces the familiar angles of Harvey Dent's face. She flips the cover open and reads the copyright notice: Torrid Publishing Ltd, Gotham City, Cover Art by L. Greg.
Gilda closes her eyes The cover artist must have used one of his photos as reference material, she thinks, stifling her giggles. God, her life. This is always the way of it. Just as she remembers that she should forget, something reminds her of what she doesn't want to be reminded of.
When she can be serious again—at least, as serious as she can be with this book in hand—she opens the cover again and begins to read.
She gets just far enough to learn that the English heroine has been disgraced, lost her fortune and needs to marry a boorish American to retain the lifestyle she has been accustomed to. Then, the phone rings.
With apologies to the tragic and impossibly beautiful Miss Elizabeth Smythe, Gilda sets the book down and picks up the phone.
Static on the other end of the line.
Gilda clears her throat a little bit. "Hello?"
A raspy sound filters through the receiver. A breath? A word? She can't be sure.
"Who is this?"
The silence is palpable. Gilda has had heavy breathers call before, but this…this is different. There is something familiar here.
"G—" the voice stops, leaving the rest of her name unsaid.
Slowly, and slightly shell shocked, Gilda puts the phone back on its cradle.
She blazes through Siren Song of the Sea, waiting until dawn for him to call back.
The Year Before That
Gilda smiles brightly, not letting any of her weariness show. It feels as though she's shaken at least a hundred hands since she walked through the gallery door, and graciously accepted a hundred congratulations, and brushed off a hundred invitations to dinner, and cheesy pick-up lines and compliments on her three-seasons-out-of-date little black dress.
Her first gallery show. Sketches on every wall, sculptures on a dozen pedestals, offers from all sides. It's dizzying. Yesterday, she was a little nobody who liked to play with clay; today, she's the toast of Gotham's art scene.
(How much of that is due to the infamy of her husband versus how much of it is due to Bruce Wayne's kindness is unclear; it's probably fifty-fifty.)
She's passed between art critics like a baseball before she finally comes to a stop next to her benefactor. He stands in front of one of her sculptures, a pistol with its barrel melted, stretched and bent into a broken heart. Bruce looks like he is very far away.
"Do…do you like it?"
He turns to face her and for a moment, he is unrecognizable, but then, Bruce Wayne, Playboy Billionaire is back.
"Gilda," he says pleasantly, tipping his champagne glass toward her in a tiny toast. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't. Having fun?"
"I'm an artist in a room full of art critics, Bruce, I wouldn't call it fun, necessarily," she says a little nervously. Only after the words are out does she realize what she's said. "I mean…uh…I don't mean that it's bad, I'm quite enjoying myself actually! And I am incredibly grateful that you organized this whole thing and—"
He puts a hand on her forearm and smiles at her. "Don't worry about it. You're doing great."
She is about to say something hopefully less stupid when someone taps on her shoulder. "Gilda Dent?"
"Yes?" Gilda turns to find a delivery man with a bouquet of tulips. She takes them from him and Bruce makes a point of tipping him before sending him on his way.
"You shouldn't have, Bruce," she says, giving them a sniff.
He shrugs charmingly—good lord, even his shrugs are charming—and gives her a bemused smile. "I didn't."
"But you tipped him—"
"I'm just that kind of guy," he says. "Is there a card?"
She looks, but finds nothing and shakes her head. "Now who could have…"
"You must have a secret admirer."
Gilda considers the tulips carefully, brow furrowing. Or maybe not so secret.
Later that night, she calls the florist and demands to know who sent them. They refuse to tell her.
And the Year Before That
Gilda sits in her studio, staring at the lump of clay in front of her. She turns her head this way, then that, then another way, then strides across the room to look at it from a distance.
She huffs irritably, sweeping the kerchief that has been keeping her hair out of her eyes off her head and throwing it down on the workbench.
"Why won't you talk to me," she says to the clay, frustration evident in her voice. "I'm listening!"
The clay, unsurprisingly, says nothing.
Plopping down on a nearby stool, she rests her chin in her hand and frowns.
Oh, she knows full well why the clay won't reveal its nature to her; Harvey has been missing from the hospital for eight weeks now. Eight weeks of men who counted themselves his enemies started dropping like flies; eight weeks since his favorite charities started getting more donations; eight weeks since the last time she saw him, bandaged and depressed and…
She pushes on the mass of clay, suddenly angry. Why? She pushes again, taking satisfaction in the way it yields to her hand, something that she can control and effect when so little else is that. Why, why, why, whywhywhywhywhywhy
Gilda stops when she realizes that she's just beating on it now, taking her frustration out on something that can't feel it.
"I need some fresh air," she says to the battered lump, covered with finger and knuckle prints. She pushes away from the workbench, grabs her coat, slips it on and crosses the studio to open the door. She'll escape out into the yard, where there's a wintery blue sky and trees and…
On the doormat outside, there is a box. Plain brown with no markings on it except the letters of her name. Gilda Grace Dent
Gilda bends down to pick it up. It's lighter than she expected for something the size of a shoebox, and rattles. She can't be sure, but the handwriting…
No, it's wishful thinking. Some of the letters look like they were written by familiar hands, but others are spiky and cramped—completely alien to her.
If Harvey were here now, she thinks, he would insist that she call the police department to check for a bomb. But Harvey isn't here now, so she has no qualms about opening it. If it's a bomb, it's a bomb, and may it do something interesting to her unformed clay when the studio goes up in smoke, god willing.
Setting aside her coat, she pulls open the top of the box, only half expecting an explosion.
Inside, there are numerous receipts. Some crumpled, other so crisp they look like they've been pressed. At first she thinks that they're just packing material but as she rifles through them, her hands blacken with ink.
The back of each receipt is scribbled with a note. Sometimes a poem. Sometimes just a word. All of them in the odd familiar-yet-not script from the box. Gilda turns them over, searching for their place of origin.
Gotham General Hospital Cafeteria
She feels cold all over, skimming down to the signature next to the credit card verification. She finds her own handwriting there.
Gilda sits down, hard, her legs suddenly unable to support her weight anymore.
Every day in the hospital, she bought lunch in that cafeteria. Three months, day in, day out, always leaving the receipts in the waste bin of his hospital room so they wouldn't clutter up her purse.
She doesn't make a sound, but tears start streaming from her eyes, burning trails down her cheeks. Desperately, she searches through the receipts, catching glimpses of messages here and there. Those with the earliest dates are the longest and the most coherent, the handwriting the most recognizable. As time wears on, they grow shorter, a little more uneven, the writing becoming more cramped and messy. Some of them alternate—one letter clear, one letter spidery, one letter clear—until she reaches the last one, dated December 20th—exactly eight weeks ago.
Gilda clutches it to her chest and, though she knows he won't be there, struggles to her feet. She bursts through the door and into the yard, ignoring the fact she doesn't have a coat and it's the middle of winter.
"Harvey?" She stands there, shivering in the snow, scanning the suburb. "Harvey!"
Five Years Ago
He comes to her at night, the way he always has. Smelling of ink and dusty law books and weary with exhaustion, he stumbles in the dark rather than disturbing her sleep with the bedside lamp. Harvey is far from graceful, but he manages near silence as he slips out of his clothes. His belt buckle comes undone in his hands and he breathes a sigh of relief (Gained a few pounds, there, Harv?) and his shirt buttons pop through their buttonholes one by one in a neat little line, giving not the least bit of resistance.
He absently registers that the room smells faintly of the black currant candles Gilda likes, but his mind is too occupied with other things for him to smile the way he might under other circumstances.
As he undresses, he checks off a list in his head: got the subpoena for the DeSalvo case, the Peretti hearing is tomorrow at nine—got all the files together, got my opening statement prepared for the Moroni case, signed those papers for Mayor Hill, called Bruce's secretary, memorized the speech for that press conference at four, charity policeman's banquet at eight…what am I forgetting?
He rubs his eyes tiredly, realizing that he's so exhausted they've started to water a little, and pulls back the blankets. Holding his breath, hoping not to wake his wife, he slides into bed beside her and rests his head on the pillow. Harvey sighs with contentment, leaning back into the satin trimmed pillow, thrilled to find it fluffed just the way he likes it. The other sheets must be in the wash, he muses silently, this is the good set. He smiles a little in the dark, but it morphs into a wide yawn.
Gilda stirs, the slow and even breathing of slumber disturbed.
She rolls over and snuggles up next to him, her head somehow finding its way to his chest. He slides an arm around her shoulders. "Mmm…"
"Shh," he whispers, though he know this particular battle is already lost. "Go back to sleep."
"Did you eat?" She mumbles.
"I had a bagel. Cream cheese and lox."
She shifts and raises her head to look at him sleepily. "When?"
He thinks about it, and cringes. "Breakfast."
Her head flops back down on his chest, but he can't tell if it's from sleepiness or frustration with the only district attorney in history who can't feed himself. "There's pot roast in the fridge."
"You made dinner? I thought you had to work—"
"Took a day off," she says from around a drowsy yawn. "'s Valentine's Day."
His eyes squeeze shut and he grits his teeth, angry with himself. God damn it.
That's what he forgot.
"I'm so sorry, Gilda. It slipped my mind completely."
"I promise I'll never miss another one."
"Mhm," she mumbles into his chest, rubbing her cheek against him sleepily as she tries to nod. "…heard that one before…"
He pulls her a little closer, holds her a little tighter. "I mean it."
And he does