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Chapter 6: What the…

 

That hurt.

Head-back-wall.  Fist-stomach.  That just hurt.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been hit in the stomach.  It wasn’t even the first time I’d been hit in the stomach by a friend.  Whether that desensitized me or made the moment that much worse wasn’t really something I could stop and ponder. 

“We don’t know why you would want to involve yourself in something like this, Catwoman.”

There was a more pressing issue.

“What possible difference could it make to you if this miserable mamma’s boy lives or dies?”

After Batman, and maybe Croc, Two-Face has the best right cross in town.

“Normally, we wouldn't say no to having company on a job.”

He’d gone to Vernon Fields’s bedside, satisfied that I was down and staying there.

“In addition to the ‘2’ principle, there is your very tight ass, which we can never get enough of looking at.”

There isn’t much to work with in a coma room.  No crash cart or paddles.

“But not on this one.  This is personal.  We wish to send aAAAARGH!”

But there was one of those tables on wheels.

“AURNNGHHH!”

With the tabletop just about crotch-height.

“oooounngh”

Then I kicked him.

“ooph”

Unfortunately, he caught the leg and came down hard on my thigh.

“aorlg”

Then backhanded me onto the floor.

He turned back to Vernon like the whole tussle was nothing but a commercial break in the middle of his favorite TV show.  I wanted to stall him somehow, but another attack didn’t seem viable.  He was playing it casual and oblivious, but he knew I wasn’t finished and he was on hyper alert.  He’d know the moment I started to move...  so I tried words instead. 

“That’s twice I’ve been smacked into something hard, Harvard.  I don’t remember any damn coin being flipped.”

This couldn’t really be happening, could it? 

Harvey? 

It was supposed to be Doctor Two-rants.  It was decided.  It was Dr. Crazy.  He had a thing about the number two.  Who has a hissyfit about the number two?! 

He didn’t have any scars, but somehow he was the answer.  Somehow he was the new Two-Face… not Harvey. 

It couldn’t be Harvey.

“It was,” he snarled without looking my way.  “It was flipped for Vernon, our personal Judas.  Your appearance here is, regrettably, covered by that flip.  So do stay out of our way, Pussy Puss.  We would not wish to see that delectable ass bruised from further collisions with that very hard-looking floor.”

“Covered by the Vernon flip?  You’re making this shit up as you go along, Harvey.  Don’t think it doesn’t show.”

“Two-shay.  But as we were saying, much as we would normally welcome a second on any job worth doing, the extermination of this Vernon excrescence is a private matter we will carry out ourselves.  If you’d like to stick around, we would be happy to bring you along for Part 2 of tonight’s festivities.”  He turned and displayed a slow, lascivious leer before adding “We know how you enjoy a Bat run-in.”

It was him.

It was really him.

I couldn’t make my brain believe what my eyes were seeing, but it was really fucking HIM!

Throughout his history as Two-Face, no one has ever been able to accurately depict the division on Harvey's face.  Police sketches, “artist renditions” in the newspapers, and even shape-shifters like Hagen and Martian Manhunter, no one has ever got it quite right.  Contrary to what most people assume and even what eye-witnesses perceive, the division that separates one side of his face from the other is not a perfectly straight line down the center. There are little variances that only someone who has looked at that face for extended periods of time can pick up on.  When you're looking at the face behind the double-barrel of a shotgun, I’m sure all you see is TWO-FACE: right-side normal/left-side scarred.  But when you've sat across the table for hours during a poker game, you start to see the nuances—particularly when he has three of a kind or a full house, and theme starts vying with greed.  Anyway, the dividing line is a bit jagged all the way down, shifting with the contours of his face.  It jogs a bit down the bridge of his nose, the result of a few too many ‘Berg fights (speaking of Croc’s right cross) and improper medical care (read: Crane or Hugo) attempting to fix the nose-breaks.  Then the line curves a bit under the nose, leaving Harvey's original philtrum intact before curving back across the top lip.  It doesn't slice straight through the cleft in his chin either, but slants a bit about halfway through.

That’s the face I was looking into.  Every detail. 

It was really him.

“And do we flip for that?” I asked, just for something to say to keep his attention on me and off Vernon for a few extra seconds.

“You can be the bait, and we'll swing the sledge hammer,” he said (which apparently meant no coin flip for Batman).  “But for now, we’ve got some unfinished business with the vegetable.”

He held up a vicious-looking dagger.

“Two-pronged, double edge, double blade,” he declared unnecessarily. 

“Bullwhip,” I said, matching obvious for obvious. 

I aimed for his forearm and snared it neatly before getting to my feet.  I tugged hard, forcing his weapon from his hand.  It landed on the floor, but too far away for me to pick up or kick out of his reach.

“Bad move, Kitty,” he said, flicking something at me with his free hand.  I felt a dull poke in my upper left arm, and the realization hit a split second before I saw the blade sticking out of it—he had a second knife. 

“That one’s only double-bladed,” he said apologetically, yanking the whip free from my other hand and throwing it out the window. 

“We didn’t want to do it this way,” he said, picking up the original two-pronged weapon and pointing it at me.  “And we won’t tell you a second time to stay out of things that don’t concern you.  We would get no pleasure stabbing you twice.”

He looked at the handle of the blade sticking out of my arm, and then at me.  The silent threat was as clear as the spoken one, and I took a step away, keeping the arm out of his reach.  We locked eyes.  There was no question that it was Harvey’s face, but there was no trace of “Harvey” in those eyes—and there was no doubt he was ready to make good his threat.

My arm was really starting to hurt.  There wasn’t much blood yet, but there would be if I didn’t get it seen to.  There would be if the blade wedged in there was yanked out violently.  And there would be if another exchange of blows started my heart pounding faster and harder.

Without warning, Two-Face lunged for my arm, but this time, when I moved away, he was ready.  He countered mid-lunge, ramming his head into my chest and forcing us both back against the wall. Then he put his hand on the blade handle, and as he started pulling it out, he was ever so slowly giving it a twist.

It hurt.

A lot.

I was starting to see white, when I heard a cry of pain that wasn’t mine.  I fought down a sick breathlessness, trying to focus.  At first I couldn’t feel anything but a pulsing nausea that rose and fell with my heartbeat and the excruciating throbbing in my arm.  Then I realized it was a man’s cry that I’d heard, Two-Face’s cry, and that he was holding his right forearm in his left hand, cursing a blue streak and stamping his foot to blot out some serious pain of his own.  Now the details came in a flood as I saw there were three batarangs protruding from his arm, a batline dangling outside the window, and flashes of movement whirring in front of me.  Batman’s fist was pounding Two-Face step by step across the room… until the rhythmic smacking sounds stopped when they reached the far wall, the exact point farthest from both Vernon and me.

Then came the menacing gravel, soft and ominous.

“Stop now, Two-Face.  Or you’ll regret it.” 

I could barely make out the words.  Batman knows that quiet and menacing is infinitely more effective than the angriest shouts.  But even the calm, insistent menace of the Psychobat was a bit off.  I’m sure no one else would notice, even to Two-Face he must seem like the Bat in full Bat-mode.  But I knew it was Bruce under that mask, and I knew he was seeing the same irrefutable details that I had.  I knew that’s why his jaw was clenched exactly as it did when he found me at Cartier’s.  I knew that’s why he had to shift his weight after the final punch, because his recoil left him slightly off balance.

To the world, that was just Batman being Batman.   But to me, it was the man inside reeling from a recognition nut-kick.

Two-Face only laughed at the threat:

“We've had your best, Batman.  No beating you can dish out is too high a price to pay, not for this.  Not for sweet vengeance, not for ending Vernon Fields once and for all.”

“I’m not talking about physical retribution,” Batman said darkly.  “I mean your worst nightmare—worse than your nightmares, Two-Face.  A fate so terrible, for you, that the possibility has never even occurred to you, not in your blackest imagined hell…  You’ve become Harvey Dent’s patsy.”

“NO!”

“Yes.  I’ve been to the Harvard Club.  I’ve been to the North Gainsly Parking Garage.  I’ve been to the apartment on 23rd Street.”

“NOOOOmph!”

“Shut up.”

Batman silenced the outburst with a gut punch, and then continued as casually as Two-Face had earlier. 

“You have no reason to hate Vernon Fields, Two-Face.  He made you.  That’s why you never tried to kill him before, isn’t it?  You propose the crimes and Harvey opposes.  But why would you propose going after Fields?  If it wasn’t for him, you never would have seen the light of day.  This is Harvey’s vendetta.  He’s the one that hates Fields.”

The silence held for frozen, breathless seconds before Batman said:

“He’s the one that tried to murder Vernon Fields once already.”

“What?” I gasped.

“Catwoman, you’re in a hospital.  Go get your arm patched up,” Batman spat. 

“Fuck that.  What’s this about Harvey killing people?”

Two-Face cleared his throat and looked… embarrassed.

“Ah, Cat, maybe you should go,” he agreed meekly.

I took a step closer to both of them, despite having lost enough blood by now that I was a bit wobbly.

“Why?  Something you don’t want a fellow rogue to hear, Darth?”

 

Poison Ivy did not like detective work.

Her objections were more philosophical than Catwoman’s.  Roaming around like this was an attribute of the animal kingdom.  Plants, by their superior nature, took root where their needs could be met.  They drew what nutrients they required from their surroundings and gave oxygen, beauty, and calm serenity in return.

Animals hunted.  Male animals especially, when it came to humans.  They were the hunter-gatherers, forever roaming and seeking like beggars.  The vagabonds of nature, that’s what they were, hoping to get lucky and stumble upon something they could consume.  It was so undignified.  When plants were predators, they kept their dignity, drawing in their prey with a pleasant lure.  That is the kind of hunting she was suited to: presenting her beauty to the helpless male in all its leafy glory, until he came close enough to inhale her scent and know the irresistible craving for the green.  Not this degrading walking all over town: walking over concrete, walking through the least organic parts of the city, walking in shoes that got caught in the subway gratings. 

It wasn’t the first time Ivy had to find someone or find out about someone.  When a publisher or a manufacturer went too far, strip mining a beautiful meadow or raping an ancient forest, she found them.  Deed transfers, articles of incorporation, annual reports, and then reverse directories, Who’s Who in American Business, or sometimes, the social register.  She found who, she found where they were and how to get at them, and she seldom had to go farther than the Internet café across from Riverside Park to do it.  Occasionally, she had to venture out to a public library, but then she only had to find a receptive librarian.  Her newly devoted slave would conduct all the dreary research on his own and bring the results to her in her lair (often with some little trinket or love token, such as the contents of his savings account or his wife’s jewelry). 

Finding executives had never entailed this kind of legwork.  Compared to the John Forbes and Bruce Waynes of the world, Harvey was proving ridiculously hard to track down.

 

If I hadn’t been busy trying to keep Vernon Fields alive, stay alive myself, and figure out what the hell Batman was talking about, it might have occurred to me before then that we’d all been making a fair amount of noise and no one from the hospital had come to investigate.  I realized now.  Either Two-Face had found a way to harness dumb luck, or he’d arranged a diversion to keep the staff occupied on the far side of the building. 

He’d arranged a diversion to cover what he expected to be a simple, two-minute murder, not a protracted confrontation with Catwoman and then Batman.  His time ran out, the door swung open, and that doctor, who had a two-fixation to start with, came running in before he saw what he was getting into.

When he saw a room full of Batman, Two-Face, and Catwoman, he froze.  Two-Face seized the moment, punched Batman, and lunged at the doctor, swinging him into a choke hold.  The batarangs still wedged in his arm pressed against the doctor’s throat, and Batman’s manner shifted instantly from Dark Avenger to hostage negotiator.

“Two-Face, don’t do anything rash,” he said, stretching out his fingers so we could see he wasn’t palming a batarang.  “You’re only here in this hospital because of Harvey.  Don’t let his agenda force you into anything.”

Rather than go out the door (the non-Rogue, ordinary criminal’s move that brings a SWAT team and a camera crew from Channel 6), Two-Face simply walked Dr. Yarling across the room and then threw him into me.  Before any of us could react, he’d gone out the window on the batline Batman left hanging there.

It’s a good trick.  I’ve done it myself. 

Naturally, I never had the chance to see the look on Batman’s face on those occasions.

I saw it now.  Not a pretty sight.

He took a second he really didn’t have to look over Yarling, my bleeding arm, and Vernon’s bed, before he followed Two-Face out the window.

 

The Gotham Intercontinental Hotel.  It wasn’t a park, but Ivy found it something of an oasis in the midst of all the concrete and car exhaust.  How often had she and Harvey actually stayed there, four times?  Five?  Not enough to be sentimental about.  It was just a quiet place to stop for a few minutes and rest her feet, that was all.

She didn’t even like the hotel at the time.  “Fresh flowers flown in daily from Holland,” the sick bastards.  “Toiletries from the finest cologne makers in France,” as if grinding up the rarest blossoms nature could produce was something to brag about. 

She’d held her tongue, of course.  She had a cover to maintain.  Harvey had picked the hotel because it was near the courthouse, handy for a matinee or to meet for a quick drink in the Scampi Lounge (where the wholesale massacre of fruits and berries really got out of hand).  They’d meet for a drink as if they were about to set off for a night on the town, and once or twice they actually did go out instead of slipping upstairs to the room she’d booked as Daisy Chloris of Persephone Pines, Montana.

If anything, the associations from those days were negative.  She certainly wasn’t stopping back at the Scampi Lounge for sentimental reasons.  She certainly didn’t want to remember that first fling with Harvey.  He was nothing but a useful convenience back then, a city official to be enslaved, used, and then disposed of.  She had no affection for him. 

And the only reason she’d taken up with him later when he became Two-Face was for the novelty, not because of any lingering attachments or fond memories of the man he had been.

She and Two-Face had no special places.  It wasn’t that kind of a relationship.  So there was absolutely no reason to be sitting here now, other than resting her feet.

 

If one has to be stabbed, I’d have to say doing it in the middle of a hospital is the way to go.  If you also have the chance to help a surgeon to his feet when he’s just been in the middle of a hostage standoff, so much the better.  Alfred couldn’t have been more solicitous stitching up my arm than this Dr. Yarling.  He was a brain surgeon, literally, but he wouldn’t hear of sending me down to the emergency room to be treated by lesser mortals—not when I’d been wounded by that thrice-damned two-headed monstrosity.  He had to do it himself. 

Naturally, I was expected to join in his wholesale condemnation of the “thrice-damned two-headed monstrosity.”  The beast had thrust a knife into my arm and then twisted it for fun.   I knew what I was supposed to say, I knew how I was supposed to behave… but I couldn’t really get into the spirit of it.  Harvey was Two-Face again.  And Two-Face was toting a mad-on that would make Genghis Khan suggest an anger management program might be in order.  The question of HOW THE HELL IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED screamed in my head, shouting down a chorus of quieter but more practical questions like What now?  What did this mean?  What was the backlash going to be after all those months of a fully healed Harvey?  Was the new Darth-dominant Two-Face a permanent thing or would he eventually get back to the half-psycho/half-lovable-ol’-Harvey that everyone knew? 

I had too many questions to join in with the righteous indignation Dr. Yarling expected.  He chalked it up to trauma and blood loss.  Tactfully changed the subject to something I would find easier.  He asked about my claws: the way the gloves were made, the slit in the top where the points came through.  It was pretty amazing really, the way he faked an interest.  I guess a brain surgeon doesn’t get a chance to do the whole “bedside manner” bit very often. 

When I was stitched up, he called a dermatologist up from the third floor to consult on the best ointment to prevent scarring.  While we waited for that prescription to be filled, he brought me a cup of coffee from the doctors’ lounge instead of letting me drink the cheap swill from the vending machine.  I think if I’d asked, he’d have peeled me a grape.

Of course, the downside of having a very attentive surgeon patch you up and then escort you through the hospital is that it virtually requires you to leave by the front door.  I only barely managed to escape the wheelchair treatment, and I suspect that was only because he’d seen my claws up close and knew they were too sharp to argue with.  But I was in still costume and it was still daylight, yet there I was strolling out the front door into midday traffic.  The best I could manage was to do the thank you-and-goodbye bit with Dr. Yarling, pretend to hail a cab, and then sprint around to the back of the building and go back inside through the emergency room. 

The emergency receiving area is filled with TVs, and that’s when I saw the Batman/Two-Face pursuit was all over the news.  GCN was looping footage of the Batmobile chasing a stolen ambulance up 5th Avenue (and omitting the part where their own helicopter caused the traffic snarl that enabled the ambulance to get away).

It took me ten minutes to get up to the roof, and only then could I check for messages.  There were two.  One from Bruce saying we’d be at the penthouse tonight.  One from Batman saying the ambulance was found abandoned at the corner of Fleeting and 2nd.  If that was a joke, it was Harvey’s and not Batman’s, that’s for sure.

I took a rooftop route to the penthouse and was surprised to see Bruce had beaten me.

“I brought sesame noodles,” he said dryly.

 

Really, when you stopped to think about it, it was perfectly natural that Ivy was thinking more of that first, brief affair with Harvey than the longer, tumultuous relationship with Two-Face.  She was visiting their old places: Bistro SoHo, Fusion, New Paradise, and even Scampi at the Intercontinental (although just to rest her feet). 

She was going back to all their old places, and she was wracking her brains trying to remember more.  Not just the spots they visited together, but places he had mentioned.  So, of course, she was thinking more of the milquetoast D.A. than the volatile rogue.  It made perfect sense.  There were two Harvey Dents, after all, and the one she was seeking bore a greater resemblance to the first one.  Now that he was “Fullface,” he was going back to his old habits and avoiding the Two-Face crowd.  He wouldn’t be at the Iceberg (or Catty’s ridiculous substitute, whatever it was called), he would go back to Bistro SoHo and the Scampi Lounge. 

There was nothing sentimental about it.  This was the proper way to look for him. 

 

The meal was somber.  It began in near silence, apart from a request to pass the soy sauce and a cough.  Then Bruce wiped the corner of his mouth with a napkin and took a sip of water.  In those few seconds, the density shift occurred and Selina knew the next words she heard would be spoken by Batman.

“Well, it could have gone better,” he graveled.

“Ya think?” she replied.

Silence returned for another few bites.  Then Selina sighed. 

“I can’t believe it.  Harvey…”

“That wasn’t Harvey,” Bruce said quickly.  “It was Two-Face and only Two-Face.  It’s Harvey’s body but that’s it.  That’s why he’s not flipping the coin.  There’s no dissenting opinion in his head, no opposition that has to be satisfied.”

“Okay, wait, reality check.  Two-Face is a part of Harvey.  I mean, I know we all talk about him like some freeloading Neanderthal cousin who’s been staying on Harvey’s couch for too long, but he is part of Harvey Dent.”

“Not in Harvey’s mind.  For years, he separated himself from his own worst instincts.  You remember the Leonard Berlander mess.  He’d been thinking ‘Harvey-good; Two-Face-evil’ for so long, he’d forgotten that, pre-acid, he had flaws like everyone else.”

“Yes, I remember… It was memorable.”

A stiff silence followed as they both replayed a fight they’d had in the course of that episode, the first since they’d become a couple, and the worst.  After a moment, Bruce reached out and took Selina’s hand.

“I’m sorry but we do need to focus on this.”

“Yeah,” she nodded.  “‘For years, separated himself from his own worst instincts,’ continue.”

“And once Jason ‘healed’ him, once in his mind Two-Face was gone because the scars were gone, he went back to living as Harvey Dent, but not the Harvey he had been before the acid.  The Harvey he’d become.”

“Two-Face’s opposite,” Selina whispered.

“Yes.  He’s been suppressing every negative thought and impulse without realizing it.  It was a psychological powder keg.  When he saw Vernon Fields again after all those years, it went off.”

“That’s what you meant when you were talking to Two-Face, about Harvey trying to—”

“To murder Vernon Fields, yes.  I spent the day going around to Harvey’s favorite haunts.  I had to go back to the Harvard Club to talk to the dinner shift, and I hit rush hour traffic.  There’s a human tidal wave of commuters coming out of the 23rd Street station heading for the East City Park hub, and they all pass right in front of the Harvard Club window.  It reminded me of a notation on the Vernon Fields paperwork at Gotham General, a handwritten notation because his insurance hadn’t processed a change of address.  Six weeks ago, Vernon Fields moved to a new apartment on 23rd Street.”

Selina moistened her lips thoughtfully.

“So he could have walked right past the window while Harvey was sitting there,” she murmured.

“And Harvey snapped,” Bruce said darkly.  “I went to the apartment.  The clean up was good but… rushed.  It was obviously the true scene of the crime. I didn’t take the time to harvest evidence, but I sealed it.  I’ll send Robin tomorrow for that.  It’s good experience for him.”

“If you’re farming it out to the sidekicks for experience, that means you already know what it will turn up.”

Bruce swallowed hard before answering; he stared darkly into space, his mind’s eye locked on the one crime he hated more than any other.

“It will reveal all the forensic markings of a homicide.  Blunt force trauma to the head, and when the victim was prostrate, kicking.  Fields’s injuries were always ambiguous.  There was no reason to doubt the hit-and-run at the time because there was a police report.  But the police never spoke to a witness who actually saw a vehicle hit Fields.  All they had was a 9-1-1 call that reported a hit-and-run, and a body in the middle of a newsstand that had obviously been totaled by a mini van.  There was plenty of transfer paint on the remnants of the newsstand, but none that I’m aware of on Fields himself.”

“And you found the van at this parking garage?”

“No, that was a guess.  Two-Face would have no trouble stealing any car he wanted, but he wouldn’t take something off the street.  Moving a body, he’d want the cover of a garage.  And he wouldn’t want to go far from the apartment.  So…”

“‘You say ‘the garage in North Gainsly’ and he assumes you’ve been to wherever he got the van.”

“Correct.”

“You said Two-Face would have no trouble stealing a car.  What happened to ‘Harvey’ as your would-be killer?”

“I believe Harvey found himself in Vernon Fields’s apartment, looking down on what he thought was a dead body.  He’s never been able to accept the realities of his dark side.  He couldn’t face the truth of what he’d done: he himself, the ‘good guy,’ not ‘Darth Duality,’ had killed a man.  So he took refuge in Two-Face.  He flipped a coin.  His scars returned…”

“And everyone would assume Two-Face had done it.  Two-Face, the patsy.”

She let out a low whistle.

“To his way of thinking, it is the perfect alibi,” Bruce added.  “But I believe the ‘alibi’ was the secondary goal.  His primary purpose was to hide from the truth of what happened.  To hide it from himself, not the rest of us.”

 

The Scampi Lounge mimosa.  As if it wasn’t enough to take an orange, so unique and fragrant and perfect in its natural state, and grind its poor defenseless body until it was pulverized, eking out the last drop of its precious nectar to satisfy decadent human cravings.  As if that wasn’t enough savagery for one day, that beast of a bartender must then pour in the essence of champagne grapes, just as rare and perfect in their natural state and just as cruelly ripped from the mother vines that gave them life, just as cruelly pressed and processed until there was nothing left but liquid…  Then, finally, adding insult to injury, they dropped in the lifeless corpse of a red raspberry for no reason whatsoever.  Just to be mean.  Their “special touch.”  May the bastards rot in hell for eternity.

How many of those wretched beverages had she consumed when she was with Harvey?  Just because the Lounge made it a specialty and just because their breakfasts were a bliss without which no overnight stay at the Intercontinental was complete.  “You have to try the Belgian waffle” (with more raspberry corpses, oh joy)… or the pancakes (lingonberry bodies this time, for variety).  Even their afternoon quickies, they’d order room service and more champagne and strawber… 

This was pointless. 

Goddesses were not suited to nostalgic reminiscence any more than plants were suited to hunting. 

Why did she even care what became of Harvey Dent?  He certainly never cared what became of her.  He only came to see her that one time after his face healed, and that was only to end things his way instead of Two-Face’s.  As if it mattered.  Her relationship with him pre-Two-Face was nothing but a lie and a con so she could use him and then kill him.  If anybody was going to leave it at “fuck you, bitch,” it should have been him.  Of the three of them, he was the one most entitled to be nasty, but rather than leave it where they…

Oh dear. 

Harvey was quite a wonderful man.

 

“So we’ve really lost him,” Selina said softly.

“No,” came the instant reply, and Selina was surprised to hear it spoken in the Bat-gravel.  “Harvey might have tried to vanish completely into Two-Face, but he’s still in there.”

“Not based on anything I saw,” she said, touching the bandage over her stitches.

“Selina, you said you were in Gotham when he ran for D.A.  Do you remember his campaign slogan?  ‘I believe in Harvey Dent.’  All the corruption back then, the mobs running the unions, the dirty cops, the dirty D.A.s… And he stepped into the middle of it, without a mask.  ‘I believe Harvey Dent can look Evil in face and win.’”

“He didn’t.  Bruce, he looked Evil in the face and Evil took a bottle of acid out of its pocket and scarred up everything Harvey Dent was and dreamed of being.  You dropped out of the picture.  You didn’t really know who he was after the acid.  You’re in no position to judge what he—”

“And you dropped him after the healing, Selina.  When we first got together, Harvey was your best friend among the rogues.  After his face was healed and Two-Face was out of the picture, you started spending more and more time with Nigma.”

“That’s not true, I just…  shit, I guess it is true.”

“I think I understand why, but it doesn’t change the fact that if I ‘don’t know who he became after the acid,’ you don’t know who he’s become in these months since he got his life back.  I’ve seen a lot more of him, I’ve talked to him as Bruce and as Batman, and I am in a position to judge.  It was true then and it’s true now: I believe Harvey Dent can look evil in the face and win.  He didn’t then, you’re right.  But he can.  He has the courage to beat this.” 

“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be difficult here, but I just don’t see where you’re getting this.”

“A punctured lung.  One of the complications when Fields reached the hospital.  Someone had performed CPR hard enough that they drove a piece of his ribcage into his lung.  Someone was fighting like hell to save that man’s life, and it certainly wasn’t Two-Face.  It wasn’t anyone at the scene of the staged hit-and-run, I checked.  It had to be Harvey.  When he realized Fields wasn’t dead, he fought his way through Two-Face—through a Two-Face he himself released only minutes before, a Two-Face that was a hundred times stronger than he’d ever been after being pent up all that time—Harvey fought his way back to keep Vernon Fields alive.  He’s still in there, and there’s still good in him.”

“Why am I not convinced?” Selina sighed.

Bruce suppressed a lip twitch as a line from the past suggested itself.

“Because one of us has to be the brooding vortex of despair.”

“Ah.  No wonder you scowl so much.  This sucks.”

“A naughty grin suits you better,” Bruce admitted, kissing her cheek lightly.

She forced a smile, then said “I don’t make a habit of this, but I’m going to get drunk tonight.”

Bruce froze for a second, a chain of thoughts falling like dominos. 

“Oh my god,” he graveled as the final thought fell into place.  “Two-Face’s last hideout… Vault!”

To be continued...

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