Fearful Symmetry

by 'rith

Archive: Ask first, please.
Fandom: DC comicsverse. AU.
Notations: M/M slash, nonexplicit.
Disclaimer: These characters, property of DC Comics. These words, mine.
Many thanks to Domenika for nitpicking and an extremely helpful kick in the transition, and also to the usual suspects Smitty, Chicago, and Carmen for kibitzing.

A friend is a second self.
-- Aristotle

Fifteen years.

The thin sliver of open window at the DA's office beckons an invitation, but the overhead light is still on and even this late, Dent might have visitors. Batman perches on one of the ubiquitous gargoyles and waits. And reflects.

Fifteen years tonight since the courtroom where he stopped Sal Maroni from throwing acid in Harvey's face. And Harvey's subsequent gratitude.

Batman's hand flexes within the leather-Kevlar of his glove, deliberately stretching the puckered swath of skin where liquid from Maroni's bottle had spilled over, marking him. He's not, actually, oblivious to all the potential readings of that mark. In the most pragmatic terms, it's simply one of the many reasons why Batman never goes ungloved.

It's also a tangible reminder, if he ever needed one, of the split-second reaction that had led to so much else. Years ago, hubris and little more brought him to the courtroom in civilian guise to watch Harvey finally prosecute the case that brought Batman, District Attorney Dent, and then-Captain Gordon together in their quest to root out the mob from their city. Of course he would find a seat waiting in the front row, Gotham's Richest Son accorded the honor by virtue of his wealth and college acquaintance with the new and already-influential DA. He remembers that Harvey had *winked* at him before turning to face Sal Maroni, already squirming on the stand.

Fidgeting too much, in fact, and eventually progressing to a series of wholly unconvincing coughs that gave Maroni a pretext to reach into his jacket. There hadn't been time to consider. Leaping over the railing, expecting to hear a gunshot's report, he'd tackled Harvey in full view of the overcrowded room. Had landed, sprawled out on Dent full-length, too busy searching for a bullet wound that wasn't there to notice the burning of his own skin.

"Why, Bruce," Harvey had quipped, grinning up at him, "I didn't know you cared." And then had taken charge, shouting for the medics, wrapping Bruce's hand in his own tie, making order out of chaos. Dent's especial talent, and one Batman swiftly came to rely on in the weeks and months that followed. Still relies on now.

Fifteen years of the truest partnership he's ever known.

Others have applied for the position. The girl who'd ridiculously mimicked his costume for herself, warned off by a pointed reminder of the DA's aggressive prosecution of all other costumes in Gotham. The boy he'd caught stealing tires off the car who'd cheekily offered himself as a sidekick, delivered to Social Services instead. The Kryptonian and his vaunted League, so far removed in their lunar Watchtower. None of them, *none* of them can begin to understand what it takes to keep a city safe. How could they? An Amazon, a Martian--half of the current League isn't even human. Batman had turned down their invitation years ago and banned them from his city.

He has no need of any partner, save one.

His other half, to use the puerile phrase, despite Harvey's most obvious flaws: the cold parallel streaks of callousness and manipulativeness that define the limits of his compassion. But compassion was never a quality necessary for Gotham's District Attorney, and Harvey's pragmatic ruthlessness has transformed Gotham from one of America's most dangerous cities into one of its safest. With the Batman's help, of course, but it's not the Batman who keeps criminals in jail with longer sentences and (via political favors of various sorts) substantially upgraded prison security.

Now the overhead light in the office goes out, leaving only the faint pale glow from a single desk lamp. On another night he might ignore the implied summons, delaying to preclude instant compliance to Harvey's command.

But fifteen years earns them both the right and the necessity, very occasionally, to bypass the usual games.

"How was patrol?" Harvey inquires casually as he enters, without looking up from the papers stacked in two precise piles on his desk: To Do and Done. They're the only classifications he needs.

"Quiet," Batman says, which is the state of things more often than not these days. More and more, it's become obvious that only visiting miscreants cause trouble in Gotham. The local elements know better. Even the freaks at Arkham have settled down for the most part, resentfully secured behind mechanical and technological wards reinforced with Wayne's money and Dent's authority. The metas often prove remarkably pliable once their powers have been disabled--humanely, if possible, though some must be neutralized by harsher means--and the worst of the purely human monsters rests in an unmarked grave in one of the many Gotham cemeteries.

Dent still swears he had nothing to do with the Joker's fatal shooting by another inmate. Given that all investigation failed to uncover anything to the contrary, Batman has chosen to believe him.

Half of Harvey's face is hidden in shadow as he nods and stretches. "Good," he says without emphasis, and then with satisfaction: "You set 'em up, I lock 'em up. World's finest team."

"Are we?" Batman murmurs before he can stop himself, and Harvey's eyes narrow in piercing scrutiny. It's his DA's weapon, the one that makes witnesses cower on the stand, but Batman has chewed over the question too thoroughly of late to confess in haste.

Because they *are* a team, have worked together toward the same goals almost from the moment they met--both professionally and personally. Dent's cleanup of the corrupt Gotham courts, in conjunction with Gordon's corresponding restructuring of the GCPD, has made Batman's job infinitely easier. Commissioner Gordon may not approve of all of Batman's methods, but he can't argue with their effectiveness. Results, as Harvey likes to say, matter more.

Gotham today represents so much more than Batman ever dreamed he might be able to accomplish when he first drew on the cowl, and there is no question that his partnership with Harvey Dent made it possible.

The fact that their partnership extends to the personal...had first been a shock, and then something like inevitable, and now so ingrained it is impossible to imagine its absence.

Fifteen years ago, Batman made his choice. Since then, Bruce Wayne has indulged in a constant stream of flighty girlfriends, all beautiful, all willing to endure his arrogance for a shot at the theoretical diamond ring, and all either too stupid or too dazzled by his wealth to realize their parts in the charade. "Bruce" is nothing more than a useful mask, the tool that built Wayne Enterprises as a means of funding the Batman. Bruce embodies the worst kind of cold, unpleasant, elitist snobbery and has no friends, nor needs any, save one.

No one fully understands why the suave and charismatic Harvey Dent remains friendly with such a disagreeable man, but the usual speculation runs to one of two factors: either remnant gratitude on Dent's part for the furrowed splash of a scar Bruce still wears on his right hand, or (more likely) a mutually beneficial alliance of wealth and political favor. Nothing more personal than that.

Nothing more personal *specifically* because Harvey took it one step further, marrying a local girl with blueblood connections, infiltrating Gotham society in a way his political connections would never permit. Bruce knows he should feel more guilty about an ongoing affair with a married man but Gilda always smiles at him so sweetly during his frequent dinner visits to the Dents' home, and, according to Harvey, never questions the bruises and...other marks...Bruce leaves on her husband. "She knew what she signed up for," Harvey says, dismissively, each time Bruce raises the question. And then with concern: "You can't be jealous, Bruce, really. All she wants is to take care of the twins, and yeah, we still sleep in the same bed but that's just--that's just *fucking.* It doesn't have anything to do with *us.*"

It doesn't. Harvey's truest affections have never been in doubt: his own power and prestige and authority to enforce the law above all, and neither of them have any illusions on this score. But following those, *Bruce* above all others. He has no doubt of that, either.

And yet this miraculous partnership that has grown and persisted through four presidents, two mayors, and one instance of near-exposure so close that they did not see each other in public for a month following...may no longer be enough for him.

Fifteen, ten, even five years ago it had been enough to simply assure each other through words and deeds--a good, hard fuck against a wall had ended many such bouts of doubt on both sides. But each passing year brings that much more to the happy public life of Harvey Dent. Bruce Wayne is a cipher, deliberately so, but the growing peace and prosperity of Gotham--*his* truest goal, above all--has given rise to a kind of gnawing dissatisfaction in his own heart.

He dreams of a day Batman will no longer be needed. He's beginning to fear a day Batman will no longer be needed.

"Bruce?" Harvey prompts gently, because he knows better than to push. Knowing each other as they do, he must almost certainly suspect the cause of the silence. With equal certainty, Bruce now realizes how the rest of this will play. There's only one answer Harvey can give, and the sooner done, the sooner they can go on as before.

"Leave Gilda," Batman says in his roughest voice. "You don't need her anymore."

As expected, Harvey looks at him as if he's grown a second head. "We're both too public, you know that, Bruce. Gotham DA's got to be a good upstanding family man. Roots in the community, loving wife and kiddies, all that jazz. We *agreed* to this, remember? Both of us."

Below the flip tone the stark words are layered with a depth of understanding and...fondness...that makes the rest easy. "Yes," Bruce accedes without argument, because of course Harvey is right. Bruce Wayne can't afford the scandal any more than Harvey Dent can. And Batman--ridiculous. "I remember."

"Then stop brooding and pay attention. Honestly, Bruce, I don't know what's gotten into you. Or maybe," Harvey leers, "you haven't been gotten *into* enough lately. Being bent over my desk is all very well but that goes both ways, ya know. If you--"

This, too, feels familiar. It's an old dance between them, Harvey cajoling Bruce out of his latest fit of bad temper with irreverent humor. Just enough true concern beneath the amusement to prove the tactic more than simply a conciliatory scheme.

...and Harvey is still talking, the persuasive tones that sways juries and wins the public's trust. But Bruce was won years ago. "Harv," the Bat growls, "shut up."

"Yessir," Harvey says, tilting his neck in invitation. And Bruce can't refuse, leans in for a taste, for a *bite,* because the salt-sweet of Harvey's skin has always been a drug he can't resist.

After fifteen years, he doesn't want to.


There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it.
-- George Bernard Shaw

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