Title: A thousand masks
Fandom: Batman (Comics)
Pairing/Characters: Harvey Dent/Bruce Wayne, Gilda Chen, Silver St. Cloud
Rating: Mature/Low R
Length: 7600 words
After eight years abroad, Bruce Wayne comes back into Gotham just in time to celebrate the new year.
Apparently, being Gotham City’s hard-partying prodigal son is hard work, and Bruce seems to have no time for a lowly ADA. Even if said ADA is probably the only real friend that Bruce even has left in this godforsaken city.
Four weeks to the day after his arrival back in Gotham, Bruce waltzes into Harvey’s office on the third floor of the District Attorney’s office as though it hasn’t been a month of Harvey playing phone tag and dealing out assorted excuses.
Contains: Unhealthy relationship, mild sexual content, angst
Beta Credit: My friends Meeya and Fleet who are amazing, patient, and insightful beta readers. Without them, I couldn’t have gotten this story to its full potential.
Notes: Originally written and posted for Birthmonth 2014, this is probably the one piece of fiction that I’m eternally proud of and super pissed over how fandom never quite registered my talents or the ship’s strength. Since it’s Birthmonth 2015 now, I decided to put it up here on my blog so that other people could read it because I think it’s just fabulous!
This story draws a bit heavily from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and is technically canon compliant. It also makes subtle nods to numerous parts of canon aside from B:YO including a few bits I got from the Batman Files.
There’s also a bit of lowkey racebending going on. As always, my Harvey Dent is biracial and in this incarnation, is played by a young Mark Taylor. On top of that, I decided to play a bit with my Gilda headcanons since she’s so underused by canon and slipped some of that into the story as well. In my head, she’s played by Guo Xue Fu (thanks in part to a recent marathon session of one of her dramas).
Harvey’s assistant knocks on his door at about half past one, a few minutes before Harvey usually heads out for lunch at one of the little bistros down the street from the DA’s office. Looking up from the papers spread out across his desk, Harvey frowns.
“What is it, Angela? You know how I feel about interruptions right before lunch.” Gentle doesn’t come easily to Harvey, but he tries for his secretary’s sake. “This better be important.”
“It is,” Angela says, her voice coming out muffled in a way that makes Harvey think that the excitable prelaw student has her mouth all but pressed to the side of his office door. “You have a visitor. A really important one too!”
Harvey utters a soft sigh, gaze flicking up at the clock hung over the office door.
“Fine,” Harvey mutters before speaking up so that Angela can hear him through the door. “Send them in. I’ll take my lunch afterwards.”
Harvey sighs again before making a perfunctory attempt at straightening up his desk before scowling and sweeping all of the papers off the top into one of the emptier drawers in his desk. They’re all for the same case – the state versus the owner of a girls’ home that had been used as a front for smuggling stolen goods – and with the defendant now too poor to bribe any of her contacts, Harvey doesn’t have to take the same precautions that he would have to take if the defendant in this case was someone like The Roman, someone with limitless connections.
Glancing once more at the clock, Harvey rolls his eyes. So close. He was so close to getting out for an hour and pretending that the people around him weren’t up to their eyeballs in corruption. And now –
Harvey gets up when the door to his office swings open, tugging his tie into place as he moves back from his desk. He’s expecting one of the other attorneys in the DA’s office to walk in, maybe one of the Commissioner Loeb’s pet lackeys if he’s truly unlucky. Either way, it’s probably no one that he wants to look weak in front of.
“Come in,” Harvey starts to say, “I’m –”
And then he pauses because Bruce Wayne of all the possible people in the world is standing in his office with his coat slung over the bend of one arm. Taken aback by the sight of his former friend and lover standing in front of him for the first time in close to a decade, Harvey actually finds himself at a loss for words.
“Bruce, I – What –”
Bruce turns a blindingly bright smile at Angela while Harvey stutters and sputters.
Predictably, Harvey’s assistant flushes brilliantly behind the freckles spattered across her cheekbones and the bridge of her nose. If she’d been holding something in that moment, Harvey is sure that she’d have dropped it in an instant.
“Why don’t you go take your lunch from now, miss? I’ll make sure your boss eats while you’re gone.” The lascivious note that enters Bruce’s deep voice with his last sentence goes unnoticed by Angela, but Harvey has always been an expert at picking up on Bruce’s tells.
And that voice coupled with the way that his deep, dark gaze lingers on Harvey’s throat is as big a tell as Harvey has ever seen. Harvey licks his lips, already remembering his time with Bruce before the big oaf took it into his head to drop everything to travel around the world.
“Can I really go, Mr. Dent?”
Harvey waves Angela away without really realizing that he’s doing it, too focused on Bruce to even do more than vaguely notice his assistant backing out of his office. When the door clicks shut, Harvey wastes no time walking over and locking it with a flick of his fingers, effectively sealing him in with Bruce.
Aside from (somehow) getting even taller, Bruce still looks almost exactly the way that Harvey remembers. Broad shouldered with thick thighs and biceps that bunch with muscle even while hidden underneath the lines of a well-tailored suit, Bruce looks every inch the playboy while still managing to remind him squarely of the reticent young man that took up space in Harvey’s brain for most of his time in boarding school.
Eventually, Harvey manages to pull himself together long enough to stop staring at Bruce with his mouth hanging open.
“It’s been a long time, big guy,” Harvey says, rocking back on his heels and giving Bruce a lingering onceover. “How the hell did you manage to go eight years without getting a tan, Bruce? You’re still pale as hell.”
Bruce dips his head and smiles in a faint “aw-shucks” gesture that makes Harvey grin.
“You wound me, Harv,” Bruce says, voice dropping low enough to almost register as a purr to his ears. “You know I always burn in the sun. I can’t help it.”
Smiling despite the part of his mind that wants to hold on to the faintest stirrings of anger, Harvey glances at the door to his office.
“How long a lunch does your assistant usually have?” Bruce asks, almost as though he’s plucked the thought from right out of Harvey’s head. He licks his lips, gaze focused on Harvey’s mouth of all the things. “I wanted to take you out someplace nice, but before that…”
When Bruce trails off, Harvey’s brain helpfully fills in the rest.
Harvey feels his smile widen and he knows, just knows that it isn’t a very nice smile.
“I can’t believe that you came all the way across town to have a quickie,” Harvey says, his tone just shy of mocking. “I thought you had supermodels for that sort of thing now. It’s been a month since I left that message with Pennyworth so forgive me for thinking that you forgot I even existed.”
Alright so Harvey’s idea of teasing has more than a bit of a bite to it than it probably should. He crosses his arms over his chest, staring at Bruce as the other man gives him a heavy expression that doesn’t quite hold eight years’ worth of unacted upon feelings.
“Harv, I –” Bruce cuts himself off with a smile that Harvey reads as rueful. When he tries again, his voice is stronger, clearer. “I could never forget you.”
Harvey’s first instinct feels is to fling the words back at Bruce. He even opens his mouth to do so, but something about the way that Bruce is looking at him stops the words dead on his tongue.
“Eight years, Bruce,” Harvey says quietly, “I haven’t heard from you in eight years. Not a letter. Not a phone call. Not even a goddamn postcard. Just the occasional photograph in the Gazette when you’re out on the town.” The words feel bitter in Harvey’s mouth, heavy in a way that he can’t stand. “I refuse to let you come back into my life like things aren’t different now.”
Bruce falters, mouth hanging half-open in his shock.
Harvey can see the moment when his words hit Bruce, when his words cut the other man deeply. Pain flashes across Bruce’s face for a split second before it’s replaced by a blank expression that makes Bruce look as though he’s untouchable.
Despite his own hurt feelings, Harvey can’t help his own pang of pain at steamrolling Bruce without even letting the guy get a word in edgewise.
“Geez, Bruce,” Harvey says, one hand coming up to scratch at the nape of his neck as Bruce just stands there looking like a statue. “That didn’t come out how I meant it to. It’s just – fuck.” Harvey barely stops himself from raking his hands through his hair and ruining his style altogether as frustration dogs him. “God, this is a mess. Bruce, I don’t hate you. I can’t hate you, but you just… left.”
What the hell was Harvey supposed to think?
One minute, he and Bruce had been making all sorts of plans together for what their lives would be like after graduation. They were going to go to college. They were going to travel. They were going to change the world, but they were going to do it together.
Bruce up and leaving halfway through their first semester at Yale wasn’t in the cards.
Harvey is so damn wrapped up in the past and the grim specter of what he and Bruce have – used to have – that he very nearly misses Bruce speaking up.
“I had to leave,” Bruce is saying, voice low and rough. “I’m not like you, Harv. Never have been. You saw what boarding school was like for me, how everyone expected me to be a certain way. I just – I needed to get away and do something that I wanted for a change.”
“And you couldn’t keep in touch?” Or say goodbye?
The conversation might be verging on the overdramatic, but at least Harvey doesn’t simply blurt out everything that he wants to say with Bruce standing here and just – god, reminding him of how much it hurt to realize that Bruce was simply gone.
Bruce shakes his head.
“I couldn’t,” Bruce says and for a second, Harvey can’t tell if he’s answering the question that Harvey asked aloud or the unasked one. “I wanted to. I still have the letters I wrote you before I talked myself out of sending them. But I couldn’t make myself send any of them because I knew I couldn’t fix things like that.”
Harvey wants to flip out. He wants to throw things a little, just… just not at Bruce. But he’s had his fair share of Bruce-induced temper tantrums over the past eight years. More than his fair share if he’s being absolutely honest with himself. So instead of shouting and giving the secretarial pool something juicy to gossip about, Harvey forces his temper back until he can look at Bruce without wanting to dive headfirst into a realfight.
“I want to see those letters,” Harvey says.
“Of course,” Bruce says, looking at Harvey almost eagerly. “They’re yours.”
At the easy acquiescence, Harvey’s eyes narrow. “And I want an explanation, Bruce. For all of it. Why the hell did I have to find out from our RA that you were dropping out? What the hell was so important that you had to drop everything – that you had to drop me?”
Bruce’s gaze shutters, dark blue eyes sliding away from Harvey’s face. “I don’t know if I can give you that right now, Harvey.”
Harvey doesn’t blink, doesn’t flinch. “Then get the hell out of my office until you can.”
The next time that Harvey sees Bruce, it’s two weeks later in the middle of February and they’re at one of those boring high society parties disguised as a benefit for some worthy cause or another.
Bruce is there – with one of Gotham’s up and coming actresses on his arm, no less – because Gotham City high society can’t get enough of the man. Harvey on the other hand is at this excuse for excess with Gilda Chen because if he doesn’t go to parties like these and socialize, he can expect a shrinking budget next term.
So Harvey dances with Gilda and her fellow assistants in the medical examiner’s office, pretends that he wants to drop money on a pretentious work of art that looks like a pile of garbage, and of course, he keeps looking at where Bruce has been surrounded by adoring fans since the moment that he showed up at the event a good half hour late.
Part of it, is because Harvey has got to be a masochist. Here he is with friends, good company that doesn’t let him get too maudlin, and the only thing he wants to focus on is the guy that’s too busy to give him time of day. But the rest of it, the reason that makes Harvey shift in his seat and eye Bruce over the rim of his glass of sparkling cider, is because the man smiling and schmoozing on the far side of the room doesn’t look or act a thing like the man that Harvey remembers.
To Harvey, the man on the far side of the party isn’t Bruce.
Certainly, he looks enough like Bruce with his black hair slicked back from a face that can stop traffic, but Harvey knows better. The man making debutants fan themselves and swoon while wearing the fucking cufflinks that Harvey bought Bruce as a graduation present way back when they were together may look like Bruce, but no, that isn’t the Bruce that Harvey remembers.
Hell, this doesn’t even seem like the same guy that had been in Harvey’s office only two weeks before.
Oh, he looks like Bruce. That stunning profile and the familiar quirk of his lips when he smiles is all Bruce. But the rest of it, from the way that he seems to enjoy the presence of his new fanclub to the braying bursts of laughter loud enough to be heard across the room –
That’s not Bruce. At least, that’s not Harvey’s Bruce.
Gilda, sharp as a tack, misses absolutely none of Harvey’s staring even if she doesn’t understand the reason behind it. As close as he and Gilda are, there are some things that Harvey doesn’t feel comfortable sharing with anyone.
“Why don’t you just go talk to him?” Gilda says, a voice of reason even as she grins at Harvey with a knowing glint to her dark eyes. “It’s getting sad watching you pine over him. Honestly, I don’t know why you won’t just go over there and talk to him.”
Harvey rolls his eyes.
“Oh shut up, Gil,” he says, feeling a smile reach his lips. “I’m not pining over him.”
Gilda wrinkles her nose as she frowns. “Are you sure about that? You haven’t smiled once since he came in with Julie Madison.” Perceptive as Gilda is, she doesn’t miss the change in Harvey’s behavior and when his eyes widen, she rewards him with a wide smile. “But, if you’re not going to talk to him, then at least go do your job and charm people out of checks or whatever it is the DA wants you to do. He keeps giving me dirty looks whenever he sees us dancing.”
Smirking, Harvey says, “Maybe he’s pining over me.”
“Hah,” Gilda says, deadpan. “Now quit stalling and go schmooze.”
Of course, Harvey doesn’t mind the schmoozing as much as he pretends to. Really, he minds the people he has to schmooze more than anything.
The stink of greed and corruption is heavy in the room. For an imagined scent, Harvey feels that it reeks more than the mix of perfumes worn by the dozens of women milling around the ballroom. But Harvey does his duty by the DA, making his rounds around the room with Gilda’s tiny body tucked against his side and a smile pasted on both of their faces.
If he never gets close to where Bruce and his date are holding court before they return to their seats, at least Gilda doesn’t call him on it.
As the evening starts to wind down, Commissioner Loeb finally comes up to where Harvey and Gilda are sitting. He has one of his burly lackeys straining at the seams of his pale green suit and a frown settled firmly on his round face.
At first glance, the commissioner doesn’t seem threatening. He’s got at least twenty years on Harvey and those years have not been kind to him. But then, looks can be deceiving. After all, it’s not like Loeb looks like the kind of man that would be willing to rot the GCPD from the inside out with corruption on a wide scale.
“It’s good to see you outside of your office, Dent.” Loeb says, lying with a wide smile that doesn’t come close to reaching his beady black eyes. “You should leave it more often.”
Harvey feels his lip curl just from being in the commissioner’s presence. He turns to Gilda, one hand cupping the bend of her elbow as gently as possible as he leans in towards where a pale brown ear peeks out from a space in the sleek black bob of her hair.
“Why don’t you go see if your friend Kate’s still out by the gallery? I’ll come find you when I’m finished here.” Harvey speaks low and fast, knowing that the commissioner and his henchman can hear every word that he’s saying to the young woman sitting beside him.
Gilda nods and then gets up fast enough to make the hem of her dark purple dress swing around bare legs that are several shades lighter than Harvey’s deep brown skin. Harvey doesn’t watch her walk away, but Loeb and his lackey do. Bastards.
‘That’s a mighty fine girlfriend you’ve got there,“ Loeb says with an appreciative note in his voice. The way he’s looking at Gilda’s slim figure as she slips through the crowd on her way back to the art gallery just outside makes Harvey want to punch him square in his face.
Clenching his fingers into fists, Harvey forces himself to focus on the biting pain that comes from digging his manicured nails into the palms of his hands until he can speak calmly and without cursing.
“Gilda isn’t my girlfriend,” Harvey says shortly, a sneer firmly fixed on his lips. “I thought that with the amount of eyes you have on me that you’d be able to tell who I’m actually going out with.”
Harvey doesn’t bother hiding the distaste in his voice though. It’s not as though Loeb doesn’t know how Harvey feels about the blatant corruption in the GCPD or about how he feels about having every single aspect of his public and private life under surveillance.
“Why are you even talking to me, Loeb? Don’t you have a few more bribes to collect before the party ends?”
The esteemed commissioner (and Harvey uses the word with a heavy dose of sarcasm) sputters and steps forward, eyeing Harvey like he wants to pop him one right then and there. His blond-haired flunky moves forward as well, a rage-filled look on his face that makes Harvey instinctively glance down for a weapon amidst the silverware scattered across the table in front of him.
“That’s right, Dent,” Loeb says eventually, doing a fair amount of sneering in Harvey’s direction. “I’d heard that you didn’t date. Women, that is.”
Harvey shakes his head instead of snorting with laughter the way that he wants to.
“Is that supposed to be a threat?” Harvey asks, smiling just because he can’t help himself.
Harvey’s been out of the closet since boarding school, openly and happily bisexual to everyone that knew him between then and now. Landing this job in the DA’s office hasn’t changed that. If there’s anyone left in the DA’s building or the GCPD’s that didn’t know that Harvey was as queer as a three dollar bill, he’ll eat his damn tie. Harvey’s sexuality has never been a secret.
Harvey’s smile widens at the way that the flush on Loeb’s face darkens with his anger. “Or are you planning to set me up with your chew toy over there? Sad to say, but he’s not my type.”
The barb does its job and Harvey gets to watch while Loeb has to dress down his officer for the way that the man attempts to lunge at him.
“Not now, Flass,” Loeb hisses, fingers fisting in the material of the other man’s suit. “You know you can’t do anything here.”
Harvey grins despite definitely knowing better.
“Yeah, Flass,” he says, not even bothering to hide the mocking note in his voice. “You should probably save that for when we’re alone.”
Flass twitches, moving towards Harvey with the intent to kill (or at least, seriously hurt Harvey) plain on his face.
Harvey’s hand moves at once to the sharp-pronged dessert fork still lying on his napkin. Just in case he has to defend himself. Before Flass can get close enough that Harvey might actually have to use the fork to maim him, the last person that Harvey expects to see comes to his rescue.
“W-Wayne,” Loeb stammers, eyes wide as he stares at the man standing behind Harvey’s chair.
“Sorry to interrupt your conversation,” Bruce says, looking anything but sorry when Harvey glances up at him, “But I need to borrow Harvey for a few minutes. You don’t mind, do you?” And then, before Loeb or Flass can say anything, Bruce has one heavy hand curled around one of Harvey’s biceps and he pulls Harvey out of the chair as if he weighs nothing at all.
They’re halfway across the ballroom before Harvey looks back. The look of rage and frustration on Loeb’s florid face nearly makes up for the fact that every eye in the place is now fixed firmly on where Bruce’s hand is holding his arm.
“You realize, Bruce that by tomorrow morning there’ll be rumors of our relationship in every single newspaper on the East Coast right?” Harvey points out. “Bet you someone’ll use the phrase ‘lovers’ quarrel’ and tie it into whatever movie Miss Madison is in this month.”
Despite the tone of his running commentary, Harvey doesn’t shrug off Bruce’s hand. His feelings on Bruce being here and being with him aside, the longer that Loeb and his cronies think that they’d have to go through Gotham’s current media darling to do him any harm, the better for Harvey.
“They can print whatever they want,” Bruce says, almost snarling as he leads Harvey away from the throng of nosy people eyeing their every move. Bruce manages to find an unlocked balcony door on the first try and they slip outside, trading the noise and the watchful eyes for the near-silence of Gotham City at night. “I don’t care. If I hadn’t come over, that thug would have attacked you. As long as you’re safe, I couldn’t care less what they think of me.”
Harvey feels his face warm with what is most likely a blush. Thankful both for the night around them and the darkness of his complexion, Harvey shakes his head to clear it.
“You didn’t have to come running in to save me, big guy,” Harvey says, helpless to stop fondness from softening his voice. “I could’ve handled those two chumps.”
It’s dark, but Harvey can still tell when Bruce directs a bright smile his way.
“Yeah you could’ve,” Bruce drawls, his accent exaggerated enough to make Harvey bite back a grin of his own. “But stabbing a cop with a fork probably wouldn’t make you look as good in the news as being whisked off by me will.”
Harvey utters a bark of laughter. “Well, you’re not wrong.”
They stand there for a moment in the dark, smiling at each other as though they have nothing better to do. But all good things must come to an end.
Bruce steps back first. “I should go.”
Harvey, against every bit of sense in his head, takes a step forward. He loops Bruce’s tie around his fingers and uses his hold to pull the other man close. After eight years, Harvey shouldn’t remember the sort of things that Bruce liked – still likes apparently, as evident in the way that his eyes fill with heat at Harvey’s first, rough tug at his tie. But apparently, muscle memory is a good thing in this case.
“Wait,” Harvey says, already leaning in with his lips parted. “I still haven’t given you your reward.”
The words are a bit of a cliché.
The kiss that comes a moment after is not.
Bruce still kisses the same. He’s a little tentative at first, content to let Harvey take the lead for the first set of lazily traded kisses that they share. The longer that they kiss, the bolder that Bruce gets until he’s the one in control of the kiss and he has one hand settled firmly on Harvey’s hip underneath the fall of his tailored jacket.
Ever predictable, Bruce’s mouth moves from Harvey’s mouth to his throat. He mouths at Harvey’s skin as though he’s starving for it (and after eight years, maybe he is), the hand on his hip moving to fumble with the front of Harvey’s pants.
It’s that touch, the familiar press of Bruce’s thick fingers against his dick, that jolts Harvey back into awareness. He pushes Bruce back gently but firmly, staying resolute even against the look of need shining naked on the other man’s handsome face.
“I think that’s enough of a reward, don’t you?”
“Harvey!” Bruce calls Harvey’s name almost desperately.
The need in his voice, the longing, nearly derails all of Harvey’s attempts at staying firm in his decision.
Harvey shakes his head again. “This was just a reward, Bruce. I’m still waiting for my explanation.”
Bruce grits his teeth and at first, Harvey thinks that he’s about to have his best friend walk out on him for the second time in his life. But what happens, is that Bruce licks his kiss-bruised lips and passes one huge hand down over the front of his suit.
“Soon,” Bruce says. “I’ll tell you everything as soon as I can, Harv. I promise.”
Harvey scowls. “How soon?”
Bruce shrugs those unfairly broad shoulders. “By the end of the week, maybe. I don’t know. Things have been… busy.”
“We’ll have lunch on Saturday,” Harvey says. “At least try and come up with something by then, Bruce. I want to get back to how things were, but you’re not making it easy.” He crosses his arms over his chest and sighs. “I can’t remember you being this big a pain in the ass when we were in high school, you know.”
Bruce smiles. Smug is a good look on his face, but then, it’s hard to find an emotion that wouldn’t look good plastered across Bruce’s face. “You’re the one who’d know.”
It takes Harvey a moment to get the innuendo, but when he gets it –
“You’re killin’ me, Bruce,” he says with a shake of his head. “Killing me. Now come on, let’s get you back inside before someone decides that I’m out here seducing you.”
Instead of moving, Bruce stalls, eyes darting towards Harvey’s mouth.
“Don’t tell me: you want a kiss for the road,” Harvey says, already reaching up to wind one arm around Bruce’s thick neck and pull him in for one last kiss before they have to separate and go back to their mostly separate lives.
The way that Bruce smiles into the kiss nearly destroys Harvey’s resolve to keep from hauling the other man into the nearest patch of shadows and going to town on him, but he holds the thought in his head that this time next week, that he and Bruce will be a little bit closer to how things used to be between them.
Harvey does not see Bruce on Saturday.
Nor does he see him on the following Monday, the very day that Bruce himself suggested when calling to reschedule their lunch date.
There’s a maddening circle of excuses from Bruce and his butler, each more outlandish than the other until Harvey comes to dread Angela’s little notes about missing one of Bruce’s calls. Week after week, time passes without Harvey seeing Bruce outside of the society pages in the Gazette and the occasional, rushed visit. It gets to the point where, thanks to Lieutenant Gordon and his new taskforce, Harvey sees more of the vigilante Batman than he does Bruce.
Maybe Harvey should just try dating the Batman instead.
The amusement from that thought lasts Harvey a day or two, through another round of excuses on Bruce’s end about why they can’t meet in person even though he lives barely an hour away from Harvey’s apartment when they factor in traffic.
But it all comes to a head near the end of the month.
This time, the date is Bruce’s idea.
It’s a Wayne Enterprises shindig held at Wayne Tower on a Saturday night, the sort of thing that even hotshot ADAs like Harvey usually only dream of getting invites to. But not Harvey, not this time. This time, Harvey has an invitation on heavy cardstock with his name printed on the front of it in Bruce’s blocky penmanship and the promise of at least one dance with the man himself.
By the time that Harvey arrives at the tower, the party is in full swing. Everyone that’s anyone on the east coast is at the party. Everyone except for the guest of honor. Wayne Tower has 91 floors – 92 if one counts the massive observation deck where the party is being held – and Bruce isn’t on any of them.
Instead of getting to dance with Bruce and finally hear the reasoning behind his former lover’s constant habit of disappearing on him, Harvey winds up sitting off to the side of the party at a tiny table that seems as though a stiff breeze might tip it over. He has a great view of Gotham, all of the tiny appetizers that he can eat, and plenty of conversation partners from the great Gotham families that don’t have Loeb firmly in their pockets. But none of that really matters, not when Bruce is nowhere to be found.
Time drags on. Boredom turns to annoyance. Annoyance turns to slowly simmering anger.
And throughout it all, Bruce remains unreachable.
After an hour of trying to keep his cool, Harvey switches from cider to champagne and starts to cut down on the canapés. Harvey is well on his way to getting a good buzz going when the observation doors open with a clatter and Bruce swaggers into the observation deck with a smile settled firmly on his handsome face.
Harvey only scowls harder when Bruce makes a beeline for him, refusing to be charmed by the fact that Bruce is being openly rude in his haste to get to Harvey’s side.
“You’re late,” Harvey says without looking up from his fourth or fifth glass of champagne. He feels his lip curl with a sneer. “You’re an hour late. What’s your excuse this time, huh? Or are you going to cut and run like you do every single time I ask for an explanation for your behavior?”
For once, Bruce attempts to offer Harvey an explanation.
“I had car trouble, Harv,” Bruce says, earnestness practically bleeding from his voice. “I swear, I didn’t mean to make you wait on me like this.”
Harvey sucks his teeth at that, the rude gesture fitting his mood to a T. “Really, Bruce,” he hisses harshly, lifting his head so that he can pin Bruce with a sharp glare. “Really? You had car trouble tonight of all nights and you couldn’t even answer your phone so that I could get you?” Harvey rolls his eyes. “You’ve always been a terrible liar.”
Bruce blinks. He looks stunned for a moment before the anger hits.
“Excuse me?” Bruce spits out the words with anger lacing every syllable. He reaches for Harvey who jerks away and sits back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. “I’m not lying. I didn’t have my phone on me then and –”
Harvey shrugs, turning his face away from Bruce. “Whatever.”
“Harvey!” Bruce’s fingers press into the meat of Harvey’s bicep. His grip is light enough that it probably won’t bruise Harvey’s brown skin, but strong enough that Harvey struggling would surely mean that there’ll be bruising.
“I’m not doing this here,” Harvey hisses through his clenched teeth. “You don’t get to embarrass me in public, Bruce.”
Harvey jerks away from Bruce, rising to his feet with a noticeable lack of his usual grace. When he turns to walk away from Bruce, he stumbles on thin air and has to catch himself on the back of an empty chair. He quickly collects himself and storms out of the observation deck without a backwards glance at Bruce or any of the other people probably watching him walk away.
Bruce catches up with Harvey at the elevator.
“What do you want?” Harvey snaps unkindly.
“To talk,” Bruce says.
With his hands on his hips, Harvey gives Bruce an expectant look. “Well…”
“Not here,” Bruce says with a meaningful glance around at the still very populated elevator bank. “We can talk in the penthouse.” When Harvey gives Bruce a begrudging nod in response, Bruce manages a thin smile as he punches his code into the elevator. Moments later, the elevator doors open up to take them down to the three floors to the penthouse that overlooks the city proper.
Harvey is expecting retro décor from back when Bruce’s parents were still alive. He isn’t expecting a sleekly modern apartment with all the luxury a billionaire could want. Even with how fast Bruce gets him out of the entryway and into a living room large enough to hold Harvey’s entire apartment and his car, Harvey still gets a good enough look at the apartment to make him gape.
“Why aren’t you living here?” Harvey asks instead of every single thing he probably should be asking of the man in front of him.
Bruce blinks at the change of subject. “The manor was where I grew up. I only stayed here when my father wanted to take my mother out to the theater. I wanted – I wanted to return to my home.”
It’s a nice sentiment and Harvey says as much as he moves to sit down on the massive leather couch taking up half of the living room. When Bruce moves to sit beside him, Harvey frowns.
“You’re never going to tell me the truth are you?” Harvey asks as he stares at Bruce with all of the focus that being three sheets to the wind can provide. “All of these canceled dates. All of these damn excuses. If you don’t want to see me, Bruce, just say the word. I can handle a little rejection.”
Well… that’s not entirely a lie. Harvey can handle rejection. He just can’t handle it particularly well and from the way that Bruce gives him a knowing look, the other man remembers that particular detail very clearly.
Harvey frowns even harder at that. “Why the hell can’t you just tell me what’s going on with you?”
“I can’t –” Bruce says, but Harvey cuts him off.
“I’ve known you since we were twelve, man,” Harvey says softly. “We were freaking dating and you obviously don’t trust me enough to tell me why you keep cutting me out of your life. Or why you’re never home when I call or – mmph!”
Bruce cuts Harvey off with a hard kiss, pressing him down against the couch’s armrest until Harvey groans into the kiss and one of his hands flies up to clench in the back of Bruce’s black suit jacket. This kiss isn’t like any of their other recent ones, where Harvey took the lead and Bruce followed. No, this kiss is powerful and rough, full of enough hunger to make Harvey feel like simply tilting his head back and giving Bruce permission to suck marks into the skin of his throat.
When Bruce pulls away, Harvey hears himself utter the kind of broken, needy noise that is utterly embarrassing to hear. Bruce sits up and Harvey follows him, straddling his lap despite the fact that they’re of a height with one another and Harvey isn’t exactly a lightweight. But Bruce takes Harvey’s weight gracefully, hands sliding underneath his jacket to hold his hips and tease him with that heated touch.
“I thought you wanted to talk,” Bruce says, the goad good-natured.
Harvey scowls down at Bruce’s smug fucking face. “I did. I mean, I do, but –” He lifts one hand and cups the back of Bruce’s scalp, fingers pressing into closely shorn hair and petting it. “I’m mad at you but I also want to kiss you.”
Bruce’s answering smile makes Harvey lean in to press a kiss to that wide mouth. One kiss becomes two, then three. Harvey kisses Bruce carefully, moving slowly as if a too rough touch would break the moment between them and shudders when he feels the prominent press of Bruce’s erection nudging against his inner thigh.
“You’re drunk,” Bruce says the second that Harvey moves away from his mouth and starts trailing kisses along his jaw.
Harvey laughs at the absurdity of it all. “So? It’s not like we’re not having fun.”
He turns his attention – as well as his fingers – towards Bruce’s collar, fumbling with the tiny shirt buttons until they come undone and he can ease the shirt open. Lust is the initial response, followed quickly by a sudden mix of shock and anger when Harvey notices a small bruise that had been hidden just underneath the collar of Bruce’s shirt.
“Wh – what?” Harvey’s fingers skitter over the bruise that stands out almost purple against Bruce’s pale skin and he frowns. “Is that – is that a lovebite?”
Bruce shakes his head, fingers moving to his throat. “Hardly.”
Harvey jerks back, almost sliding right out of Bruce’s lap as he stares at the other man. “Then what the hell is it?”
Harvey swears he can tell the very moment that Bruce makes up his mind to lie to him. When Bruce opens his mouth, Harvey shakes his head. “If you’re not going to tell me, don’t bother making excuses. Just let me go.”
Bruce watches wide-eyed as Harvey gets to his feet and fixes his clothes. “Harvey, I swear it’s not what it looks like.”
“It’s a goddamn bruise on your collar, Bruce,” Harvey snarls. “Unless you’ve been running around getting into fights in your spare time, then I don’t know what the hell else it could be besides a lovebite.”
Rather than listen to Bruce and his excuses, Harvey leaves Bruce alone in the penthouse suite.
They can’t keep doing this –
Days later, when Harvey finally comes to terms with what he has to do, he takes the morning off so that he can make the drive to stately Wayne Manor.
Bruce’s butler Alfred lets him in despite the look that must be on Harvey’s face, telling him that “Master Bruce has broken his leg and will see him in the bedroom,” before disappearing to do whatever it is elderly butlers do in a great old home like the manor.
Harvey doesn’t need an escort to find Bruce’s bedroom in the manor. He could probably find it in his sleep if he had the need.
Bruce’s bedroom in the manor’s west wing is a study in shadows.
Dimly lit and crowded by furniture older than the two of their ages put together, it’s a wonder that Bruce hasn’t broken a leg in here before. It’s so dark, that all that Harvey can see of Bruce are blurry glimpses of his broken leg in its cast and the pale blue stripes of his pajama top.
Harvey glances at the chair placed beside the four-poster bed and dismisses the thought of sitting so close to Bruce’s side. He doesn’t date get comfortable, not with the weighty words that he needs to say to Bruce.
“I’m done,” Harvey says into the silence that has lingered since his entrance.
When Bruce shifts on the bed, the mattress creaks.
“Done?” Bruce asks in a hoarse little murmur.
“Yeah, big guy,” Harvey says, feeling hollowed out and raw with every word. “I can’t – no, I won’t – keep chasing after you like this. If you want to try and be friends after this, fine, but we need to stop trying to get back to how we used to be. It’s obvious that we’re not those people anymore and that you –” Here, Harvey pauses when his throat tightens up from worry. “You can’t be what I need and you haven’t trusted me to be what you need in a long time.”
When Bruce speaks next, there’s no hiding the pain in his voice. “Harvey, I’m sorry.”
Harvey shakes his head, a rueful smile settling on his face. “I know you are, big guy, but that’s just not good enough. A guy likes to feel like he’s wanted in a relationship and chasing your big ass all over Gotham just so you’ll talk to me makes me feel like shit.”
Bruce’s shoulders slump.
“I don’t think I can stop loving you, Harvey,” Bruce says roughly.
Harvey squeezes his eyes shut against the pain he feels in his chest. “You’re going to have to try, Bruce. We both are.”
Several months later…
It’s not every day that someone like Harvey is invited to something as swank as a nightclub opening. But then, Harvey isn’t just one of the ADAs that scurried around on Grange’s orders back when the man was in office. Not anymore. Not since the old man went out in a hail of corruption charges thanks in part to former-Commissioner Loeb’s lackeys turning state’s evidence.
The change in position means a much-welcome change in status and Harvey smiles as he lets himself relax in the club’s VIP area.
Gilda slides into the seat across from Harvey, a smile on her face.
“Do you know who’s here,” she whisper-shouts across the table, leaning in until she’s almost laying across the table in her slinky blue dress. When Harvey shakes his head at her and frowns, Gilda wags a finger at him before leaning over to press a quick kiss to his mouth. “And to think, you were staring at him so hard the last time you were in the same room together. Geez, Harvey, it’s Bruce Wayne. He’s here with Silver St. Cloud and he’s looking for you.”
Harvey blinks. “He’s what?”
Gilda snorts with laughter loud enough to be heard above the thudding bass of the music pumped out from the overhead speakers.
“I thought you’d be happy to hear from him,” Gilda says with a guileless smile. She perks up then, sitting up so fast that she nearly knocks her head against the back of their booth. “Oh look, they’re here.”
When Gilda stands up, Harvey does as well, coming face to face with Bruce for the first time since ending things with him several months before. Seeing Bruce smiling with Silver St. Cloud cuddled up against his body should hurt more than it does. Instead of being a gut-wrenching pain however, Harvey actually manages a real smile for the happy couple.
“It’s good to see you, big guy,” Harvey says, reaching out to clasp Bruce’s hand in one of his. He doesn’t let the handshake linger and he slips his hand free of Bruce so that he can grasp at one of Gilda’s small hands. “Have you met Gilda Chen?”
One of Bruce’s thick eyebrows lifts up. “Your girlfriend?”
Harvey shakes his head, inwardly steeling himself for what he has to say next. “No,” he replies, lifting Gilda’s left hand so that Bruce and Silver can see the engraved platinum band tucked securely onto her ring finger. “My wife.”
Gilda grins and wiggles her fingers against Harvey’s hold, showing off her ring as best as she can. “We got married the day after Harvey won the District Attorney position, threw our plans for a long engagement right out the window.”
Bruce’s mouth thins out for a flickering instant before he offers Harvey and Gilda a small but seemingly genuine smile. “Oh,” he says, followed by a belated and hastily murmured, “congratulations”
Silver chimes in with congratulations of her own, making a friend for life in Gilda who absolutely thrives on compliments. The two women sit down in the booth behind them, leaving Harvey and Bruce to talk.
“I can’t believe you’re married,” Bruce says after a second.
Harvey shrugs. “I can’t believe it either sometimes.” Glancing over at Silver, Harvey allows himself to ask the one question that he probably shouldn’t. “Are you two –”
Bruce is quick to shake his head. “No,” he blurts out. “Not yet. Not ever, maybe. I mean, I’m trying to figure out what I want.”
“Good for you,” Harvey says in a light tone that betrays none of the turmoil going on inside of his head, “That’s a good idea. Take things slow.”
“Says the man who got married out of the blue,” Bruce points out. “I didn’t even know that you were engaged.”
Harvey laughs. “No one did. It was Gotham’s best kept secret, right after the Batman’s secret identity.”
Out of the blue, Bruce changes the tone of their conversation entirely.
“It’s good to see you, Harv,” Bruce says, leaning in until his mouth is practically brushing Harvey’s ear. “I’ve missed you.”
Harvey doesn’t let himself hope, doesn’t let himself slide. He thinks of his lovely and understanding Gilda and the life that they have planned out for the future and forces himself to push down the part of his mind that’s insistent on chasing after Bruce.
“I’ve missed you too, big guy,” Harvey says with a smile that feels false. “You should come over one night for dinner. Gil makes a mean meatloaf.”
Bruce smiles and nods, but they both know that he probably won’t take Harvey up on the offer (and that Harvey didn’t really mean the offer in the first place). Their time, such as it was, has mostly passed.
There’s no point torturing themselves with reminders of what they wanted but couldn’t have.