And All the King's Men
December 18, 2003
Disclaimers: Nowhere near mine. I'm just enthralled.
Spoilers: Batman: Hush, issues #608-619. Vague references to "Half a Life," issues #6-10. Also drags in the cartoon episode "Sins of the Father."
Summary: Harvey used to be a friend. Bruce's friend.
Ratings Note: NC-17.
Author's Note: Jack told me about what was going on in the books, and provided a few issues, too. We love Jack.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: When the world gives me massive amounts of conflicting -- and downright wildly inconsistent -- canon, my general reaction is to mix and match, and use as much of all of it as I possibly can.
What this boils down to in this story is the attempt to fuse the cartoons with the comics, because neither canon, to me, is less valid than the other.
Please bear this in mind and refer to the spoilers before reading.
Acknowledgments: To Livia and Weirdness Magnet for audiencing. Jack did, too, and also provided many helpful suggestions and a title.
Feedback: Absolutely. email@example.com
The phone call was not a surprise, nor his own reaction to it.
Alfred has been a silent, steady presence, blank of expression to anyone but those who know him as more than Bruce Wayne's manservant.
There's a question in the set of the man's eyebrows, a sympathy waiting in the way that his gnarled, spotted hands rest at his sides, as opposed to behind his back.
Batman shakes his head in negation of everything unsaid, and plays the message again.
"Bruce," he says, and pauses. "It's me. Harvey."
As if he wouldn't know.
"Look, I know you probably don't want to hear from me. I know..."
A sigh, and Batman uses the time to breathe, to listen to the music in the background. Debussy. The music of sedation for people of a certain set, a certain age. Harvey has always been careful about the messages he sends, the way he presents himself to the world.
"I just. I know they would've told you. All the money you spent on my defense -- I knew it was you. I know I never thanked you. I know... I know a lot of things, now."
The regret is old, and had been scarred over. It's not, anymore.
"I miss you."
Batman closes his eyes.
"If you don't want to see me, I understand. I... God, do I understand. But if you do --"
Batman hits 'stop.'
"It would, perhaps, not be an entirely bad idea, Master Bruce."
"As you say."
Batman hits rewind.
Batman crouches on the roof opposite Two-Face's -- Harvey's -- new apartment.
It's not the penthouse. He can't afford that, anymore.
The new place is small, but obviously neat, obviously clean from what he can see through the binoculars.
There's not a good enough view, from here, of the bedroom, and the shades are closed on that side of the apartment.
The door is open, though.
All of the doors are.
When Harvey comes out of his room in his robe, he leaves the light on, and Batman can see... cleanliness.
The robe itself is black, and looks to be some sort of synthetic material.
Harvey comes to the window and looks out, one hand pressed to the glass.
He says something, but the directional mike doesn't pick it up.
Batman hasn't turned it on.
Batman is back at the Cave before dawn, having stopped two muggings and a vicious looking bit of animal abuse.
Psych Services hasn't received as many calls from the Batman as other agencies, but they're never surprised to hear from him.
The child in question will be visited, and soon.
He pushes the cowl back, moderately irritated by the pull against his throat, the whiff of sweaty plastic.
The material won't give him a rash, probably, but sometimes he wishes... No.
There's a part of him that will always wish for things he can't have. He lets it exist as a reminder of everything beyond the world of himself.
He's fighting for a world where no child will ever stand in a spreading pool of their parents' blood.
There are times when that image almost fades.
He adjusts the cowl around his neck somewhat viciously, and enters the reports on the night's activities.
Tenses at the sound of the door opening, the one at the top of the stairs.
Alfred's footsteps are quiet, though they make some of the bats flutter and screech.
"Master Bruce, I've been giving the matter of Mr. Dent some thought."
"Has there been another phone call?"
"No. However --"
"I know you don't wish to discuss this, but consider the matter of Master Tim."
"All the more reason to let this drop."
The smallest, sharpest sniff. "As I'm sure the rooftops of the buildings adjacent to Mr. Dent's would be grateful to hear. You were never very good at wiping your boots before --"
Alfred clears his throat, and Batman can hear him shift, just beside and behind the chair. Changing his stance into something that, were Batman to look, would be nothing but dryly combative.
"I just need time."
"Indeed, Master Bruce. But some matters are more urgent than others, and if you'd take a moment to think --"
"Both of them. He knows, Master Bruce. And has always done. Two-Face never chose to use that against you."
"I. Knew he wouldn't."
"Harvey -- this new, apparently sane Harvey... what, precisely, do you know about him?"
He lives alone. He has trouble sleeping. He has been re-admitted to the bar. He's looking for me. "Not enough."
Alfred sets a tray beside him with the slightest clatter and a whispered curse.
Neither of them will say a word about the weakness in the man's hands. The tiny proofs of encroaching age.
It's just another inescapable fact of existence, another voice to acknowledge and ignore.
"The phone number is on the tray. I took the liberty of memorizing it one or another of the forty-seven times you've played the message thus far."
Batman smiles, mostly to himself, and more rueful than not. "What would I do without you, Alfred?"
"I shudder to think." Footsteps, moving away.
"You have nothing to lose, Master Bruce -- nothing you would allow yourself to count, in any event. There is, I believe, much that could be gained. Good day."
Batman holds the slip of paper between his fingers, and tries to remember how to be Bruce.
In the end, he doesn't trust himself to make the phone call.
There's no logical reason why doing this in person would be any easier, and any number of reasons why it will be infinitely less safe, and yet.
Bruce Wayne is standing in the hallway outside of Harvey's new apartment. There is nothing special about the decor -- it's of the sort of mild, aging grandeur common to Gotham architecture of a certain age.
There is no sign of... anything in particular.
Batman takes a deep breath. Pushes the pieces of himself into place.
Footsteps beyond the closed door, not particularly fast or slow.
"Just a sec..."
Harvey's voice. Harvey's. A little older, a little rougher from the cigarettes he'd been smoking off and on since prep school. No hint of Two-Face's rasp, not yet, and -- the door opens.
Harvey's smile stretches easily, symmetrically across his face. Batman has seen it before, any number of times since the surgery, and in any number of places.
Bruce can't stop staring.
"I..." he tries, and Harvey's smile turns rueful. It's an expression that's all too familiar, though not from seeing it on Harvey's face.
"I know. Believe me, I know." He scrubs a hand over his bald head, and stares at his hand in a moment of obvious consternation. "I keep forgetting about the hair, too. Or. The lack of hair." Harvey's expression has shifted into something open and youthful. Desperately familiar.
"They... it was because of the surgery?"
Harvey nods. "They could've just shaved that half, but... I'm glad they didn't."
Bruce nods back, dumbly. Swallows.
"Would you... please, come in. Please."
They brush close enough that Bruce can smell his cologne. It's nothing he's used before, but pleasant. Masculine with an edge of softness.
He stops in the middle of the room, and looks around.
"What do you think?"
"It's nice," he says, and thinks seriously about kicking himself.
Harvey chuckles. "Yeah, I know it isn't what you're used to, but... it's mine. I'm paying for it with... you know I'm working in the DA's office again, right?"
Batman nods, and has to struggle to drag Bruce far enough back to answer, to look at the man.
Harvey is nothing but hopeful.
"I... I heard. Are you..."
"Bruce. Can I... can I take you to lunch, or something?"
"I already ate." It comes out in Batman's voice, and Bruce bites his lip. Shakes his head. "Harvey --"
"I know. I know. This is... this is crazy enough for me. I feel sick every time I pay for my bus fare with coins. I... I can't imagine what this must be like for you."
He tries a smile. "It's a little crazy, yeah."
"You were always my best friend, Bruce. I just. I just wanted you to know that."
I would've told you everything, is what Batman doesn't say. The smile on his face feels plastic and false. He feels like a monster trapped inside a mannequin, seconds from breaking free.
Harvey just smiles at him, one hand reaching.
And he only means to take it, shake it in some easily deniable moment of sympathy, of old friendship, but he winds up pulling Harvey in. Holding him close, holding him hard. "I missed you," he whispers into the man's shoulder, and Harvey squeezes him so hard he can't breathe.
There are a lot of reasons why he can't breathe.
Lunch is in a surprisingly quiet upscale deli a few blocks away from Harvey's new apartment. Lightly inoffensive jazz plays in the background, and the loudest noises come from silverware hitting and scraping plates.
They aren't the only two people here, but it's after two, and the deli has settled into that post-lunch/pre-dinner quiet.
The salmon was excellent.
Harvey eats his sandwich almost precisely the way he always did. Just a little faster.
A little more focused.
If you hadn't known how long the man had spent in prison, you might not notice.
Bruce tries not to.
Harvey finishes his sandwich and dabs at his mouth with the napkin, takes a sip of his iced tea, and frowns at his plate.
Bruce knows exactly how quiet, how watchful he has been, and wonders how much longer he can keep it up before Harvey... notices any more than he already does.
"So. I'm curious, Bruce."
"You were never all that much for small talk, but..." A pained look. "Is it me?"
"I..." And he has to think about that for much, much too long. On the one hand, Batman had allowed Bruce to mature considerably over the years. The reputation as flighty, perpetually eligible bachelor had been well-established, after all.
On the other hand...
"I'm not sure." So much more honest than he wants it to be.
Harvey nods at him. "Do you... do you have any questions? I... I'll tell you anything, you know. I just want..."
"I just want to make it easier. I want you back in my life."
I'm afraid, is what Batman doesn't say.
He isn't sure if Bruce would.
He isn't sure, at all.
He watches Harvey's hand move slowly across the table, and doesn't flinch when it covers his own, warm and callused and large. "I missed you, Bruce," he says again. "More than I know how to say."
Bruce swallows, and turns his hand palm-upward, clasping Harvey's.
Holds it tight.
When they met, Bruce was young.
Young enough that he hadn't trained his memory, trained himself to remember every little thing that might turn out to be important. The Cave and the cowl had been a vague sense of something for the future.
Batman had been, for the most part, a comforting dream.
Bruce had been Bruce.
And Harvey had been...
Batman forces himself to look back, to sift through every available memory. He considers putting himself under hypnosis, but rejects the idea.
He's been over this ground a hundred times if he's been over it a dozen, and Harvey had been...
Tall for his age, and handsome enough. The adolescent awkwardness mostly showed up in the crudity of his jokes, and the way his hands and feet had outpaced the rest of him, in terms of growth.
"You're really kind of a quiet kid," he'd said on a day that may or may not have been the first.
Batman remembers watching Harvey through Bruce's eyes, and seeing nothing but Just Another Child, perhaps softer around the eyes than most. "Yes," he'd said. "I am."
And Harvey had grinned, lop-sided in a way that fails to feel ominous even now. "It's okay. Sometimes we all need a little quiet."
"Your dinner is waiting, Master Bruce."
Batman startles, just a little. He'd learned the vast majority of what he needed to know about stealth solely from living with this man. "Oh, Alfred. I meant to tell you --"
"Your lunch with Master Dent was nine hours ago."
"I..." Batman grins to himself. Right. "Dinner's in the kitchen?"
Alfred leaves, not shutting the door behind him.
The memories will be there when he's done eating.
Patrol is light enough.
When he swings over to Gotham Central, there's someone waiting, idly. Shape and body language fixes her as Detective Montoya before he's close enough to see her.
The signal is off, and there are no secretaries or civilian aid personnel visible.
He lands on the roof, and wonders why he came.
Jim has been retired...
It's already been too long.
He waits for Montoya to sense his presence, watches her do so with something like a sudden, universal tension that bleeds out into the night. She doesn't look at him. "What can we do for you tonight, Batman?"
Which is an excellent question. "I've been looking into Dent."
A raised eyebrow is all the average person would see, but there's a snarl behind her face. "Oh?"
"Understood. Do you..." She doesn't relax so much as slump. She's thinner than she was when last he was this close. "It can't possibly be over." It isn't, quite, a question.
There's a sickness within him. Two-Face has hurt so many, many people. "Nothing ever ends."
A sharp laugh, and she pulls a pack of cigarettes from her shirt pocket.
He hadn't realized she'd started smoking.
"You have to wonder," she says, smoke wreathing her features. "Maybe those docs could try their hand on Ivy, or Joker. We could all be out of a job in a few weeks."
"This is Gotham, not Metropolis."
She smirks at him and blows smoke with something like playfulness. "You wouldn't have it any other way."
He lets himself smile, a little, and starts to turn.
"He misses you too, you know."
It takes a moment to settle in. Jim, not Harvey.
"I know you know where he lives. Drop in some night. Give the old man that coronary he's been waiting for."
He doesn't bother to respond, just shoots off a grapple.
He can see her mocking little wave from out of the corner of his eye.
Nothing ever changes. Not really.
He wishes he could find it comforting.
Morning finds him staring at the phone in the study.
He's wiped his own fingerprints away three times.
Bruce was seventeen when he realized what it meant that he couldn't stop watching Harvey. Stop looking at him.
On the football field, at the combined dances with the Chesterbrook School for Ladies.
He'd already had other things to think about.
Many, many other things.
It wasn't just another secret to hold within himself, it was a different secret. A special one, to change the shape of his smile when Harvey threw an arm over his shoulders.
When Harvey slumped against his bed, drunk on cheap wine and spinning dreams of the future.
"I think... Bruce, all of these guys are useless, you know?"
"Useless, how?" he'd asked, and carefully not stroked Harvey's thick, dark hair.
"I just can't see any of these guys doing anything when they get out of here. They'll go to the right schools, and they'll join the right fraternities, and when they graduate? They'll all go work for Daddy or disappear into some mindless money-making factory of a law firm."
"The best and brightest," he'd said, and been pleased that just the right note of sarcasm had made it into his voice. Batman was so much closer than a dream.
Harvey had snorted and aimed a clumsy blow at him from over his shoulder.
It would've been easy to avoid.
"You know I'll be taking over my father's company," Bruce had decided to remind him.
"Yeah, they've been grooming you for that pretty much since birth, haven't they?"
"You're not going to be one of them," Harvey had said, and there hadn't been anything like doubt in his voice. Anything like a question.
"Nah. You talk a good game when Luthor's being a prick, but I know you, Bruce."
Warmth in his belly.
"You're going to do something with WayneTech. Something big. Something... something that means more than just money for your stockholders."
The truth was, he hadn't even considered it. It was just going to be part of the cover he used, the mask he used to be Bruce Wayne. But... "I hope so."
Loose, easy smile over Harvey's broad, broad shoulder. "I know so, man."
Batman remembers wanting to kiss him, wanting it so badly that he could taste the wine on his tongue, that he could feel his mouth as something almost separate from the rest of his body, tingling and ready, so ready.
And then Harvey had stood on shaky legs and stretched, and before he could want other things, things that had haunted his dreams...
Harvey had yawned.
"Right. Bedtime for me. That history final's gonna be a bitch, isn't it."
"Yeah, but not like you did, I bet." He shook his head. "I'm gone."
And he was.
And Batman never kissed him.
Usually, there was reason enough for Bruce not to do so. Girlfriends, real enough for Harvey, necessary for Bruce.
His secret, held close.
Batman stares at the phone, and has no idea what to do.
"I find myself curious, Master Bruce."
He blinks himself back to awareness. "About what?"
"While it is true that I haven't any definite idea about how your luncheon with Master Dent went, I find myself quite sure that he'll be hesitant to contact you again, without some word."
"It didn't go that badly."
A twitch of a smile. "Of course not. Terrible of me to imply otherwise. Still, if you do wish to speak to him..."
"Alfred... I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to play this."
"There was a time when you didn't, really, have to play, at all."
"A lot of things have happened since then."
"Oddly enough, I've noticed."
"You're doing yourself no good here, Master Bruce."
"You're stating the obvious."
"And you, Master Bruce, are casting a pall over the manor the likes of which haven't been seen since at least last month."
Sharp nod, and Alfred departs without another word.
Harvey, assuming nothing happens, will be home by six-thirty, six-forty-five at the latest.
Batman drags himself into something close enough to Bruce for public consumption. It wouldn't hurt to tour the research facilities.
It's five-thirty-seven and he's been sitting here for half an hour. Lucius had chased him out of the engineering facility. It had been... more difficult than usual to only ask the most vague, basic questions of the scientists and technicians.
He doesn't think he succeeded.
Dr. Baylor, in particular, had been looking rather hunted when Lucius had finally pushed him out the door.
A pall, right.
He isn't surprised by the depths of his own obsession, or its effects.
Surprise would be gentler.
Harvey steps off the bus with a smile for the driver, and begins to walk down the street.
It occurs to Batman that he hasn't planned this as well as he could have.
Alfred clears his throat from the front seat.
"I see him."
"I could --"
They both see Harvey notice the car. Recognize the car.
The smile hangs off his face for a moment, ill-fitting as prison garb and unsure. Batman opens his door, and lets Bruce lean out just a little too far into passing traffic. Lets him smile exactly the way he wishes to.
Harvey waits for a break in the traffic and jogs across the street, leaning in. "Bruce?"
"Would you... are you busy, tonight?"
The smile spreads, deepens, fits. "Not at all."
At dinner, Harvey is entirely himself. Something in the surroundings, perhaps -- he has only been in this house as Harvey -- or just a function of the man growing used to freedom.
Batman has no idea what he, himself, has consumed.
Alfred has long since disappeared, perhaps to brew coffee, perhaps to wait for the next time he'll need to beat Batman over the head with his own overweening angst.
The wine might as well be warm, unsatisfying water.
He may be drinking too much of it.
"Harvey," he says, long before he understands that he wants to speak, or has any idea what he wants to say.
There are no words for this. He gropes across the table, and Harvey meets him half-way, holding his hand and squeezing, not letting go.
"Me, too," Harvey says, and Batman doesn't.
There's a boy in him living, merely living in this moment, too lost to even want more.
There are men warring for dominance, for reality, and neither of them have any idea what they want.
It hurts so much he can't breathe.
"Harvey," he says again, and the man shudders once, all over.
Pulls their hands a little closer to himself, and laughs breathily. The table is too wide for more.
Harvey leans in and exhales, hot and damp, over where they're entwined.
The kiss makes Bruce reach down within himself and push everything, everyone else away, makes Bruce close his eyes and bite his lip.
And groan when Harvey's tongue touches his thumb.
And then it's gone, mouth and hand, and Bruce's eyes fly open to find Harvey looking at him, looking just as wild as he feels.
"I've wanted this."
"I didn't... I was never sure."
"You... wanted it that way?"
"I thought I did."
Shaky laugh, and Harvey scrubs his hand over his head. Freshly shaven. Bruce wants to taste him there. "Bruce..."
"We don't --"
Harvey has his hand again, thumb rubbing over Bruce's knuckles, fast and firm. "Part of me." He winces. "I'm never going to be able to get used to that, I don't think. It's not... I don't feel that other part of myself anymore. He feels... he feels like a bad dream, but God, I'm so afraid that whenever I say something like 'part of me,' or 'on the other hand....'
Harvey stares at their hands. "I'm afraid of what you'll think."
"I trust you," Bruce says, and his heart hammers against his chest in nothing like protest.
Bleak look. "I don't."
"Yeah, there's nothing... there isn't really anything I can do about that, yet. Maybe if it had been more gradual, maybe if..." He squeezes Bruce's hand. "Can I tell you this? I don't have to. I don't want to --"
"Tell me," and if there's something else, someone else, creeping into Bruce's voice... it doesn't matter.
Harvey either doesn't notice or doesn't care, nodding mostly to himself. "I've been telling myself that it has nothing to do with seeing myself in the mirror. That I woke up as myself, that the only reason the... the other didn't come back while I was under the bandages is that he was already gone."
"Sometimes I think. Sometimes, I think that's the worst part of all of this. That maybe there was nothing really wrong with me. That I really am... just that shallow." Rueful smile. "Or that I always was that crazy. Or both."
There's nothing to say to that.
Harvey looks up, then, and his eyes are wide and bright and hollow. "And then I remember. And my face isn't the worst part at all, is it?"
Bruce shakes his head numbly.
"You have secrets, Bruce. You always have. I used to... when I was a kid. I remember I used to watch you watching everyone else from the edges of things. Even when you were right there in the middle of the basketball game, or whatever. I wanted to know what was in your head."
Bruce closes his eyes. He can't let go.
"And then we were friends, and... it took me forever to figure out you were my friend."
"I didn't make it easy, did I."
Another thumb-stroke over his knuckles. "Easy enough. You never pushed me away." The slightest squeeze. "But you never let me in, either. Or... not in any way I knew what to do with."
"And then... and then it was over. Except it wasn't, because there was a boy named Tim Drake. Your other ward. After. After I --"
"I knew, Bruce. And you knew I did."
His hand is going numb.
"That other part of me... did you ever wonder why I never did anything?"
"I thought I knew."
"Maybe. Maybe you did. Because I hated you then, Bruce, hated everything about you. Hated that you tried to help me and hated that you stopped."
"I didn't think --"
"And that other part of me? Had so many plans. I can't even remember all of them. I can't decide if that's a blessing or just another thing to hate about myself."
Harvey scrabbles for his wine glass with his free hand and drains it. Bruce can only watch.
"You know why I never did anything?"
Harvey's hand flexes in his own. "Because it was fitting. You showed your two halves with a mask, I had mine written all over... written all over my fucking face. And I would ask myself, at night, after I'd done one horrible thing or another, after Batman had swooped in to drag me back to Arkham...
"I'd ask myself, 'so who's the crazy one, really?'
"And I'd laugh so hard Ivy would start cursing at me, and Joker would laugh with me even though he didn't know the joke, and in the morning there'd be a little extra Thorazine in the little white cups."
"I. I gave up hope. A long time ago."
"You were right to do so. Montoya..." Harvey's face twists. "Bruce. Please tell me... is. Is Tim..."
"He's done his grieving. He's... better. Please don't talk about him."
"No, I... I know."
They stay like that for a while, long enough that Bruce can't not think about Tim any longer. The best of them, and the most loving.
And the one who would take one look at this, at them, and.
They would deserve anything he said or did.
But Bruce can't let go. Not now.
And Tim isn't here. He has his team, he has his life. And he's not here.
"Bruce... I have to know. We were... we were friends. Would you --"
Shaky smile. "You didn't let me finish."
"I would've told you. I sometimes thought... I wondered if you should have always known."
"I wish I could tell you that I should have."
"One day, maybe."
"I want... Bruce, I want so much."
"Come with me."
Harvey nods, and lets go. Shakes out his hand and smiles ruefully.
Bruce flexes his own.
And heads for the stairs.
The last time Harvey was in here...
No. It doesn't matter.
The last time Harvey was here, they were both different people.
If there's a point, if there's any meaning to be found, it's there.
Harvey's hands are on his shoulders, not squeezing so much as touching. Rubbing.
There's a kind of free-fall in having the man at his back, in... it's not trust. He doesn't think he'll ever manage that.
It's just the need, all through him now.
Harvey leans in, breathes against the back of his neck.
Bruce clenches his fists and forces himself to stay still.
And the kiss is wet, and soft, and hungry.
Broken for Harvey to pant against his skin, and push close. Bruce reaches up for his hand and drags it down over his own chest, over his erection --
And Harvey thrusts against him and squeezes.
"You feel. You taste..."
Bruce turns out of Harvey's grasp, not bothering to be gentle. Kisses his jaw, his cheek, and then Harvey takes his mouth, wrapping his arms around him and humming into the kiss. Not soft at all.
Bruce strokes his cheeks and tilts him in for a better angle, and now it's almost angry, hard and hot and Harvey's teeth are on his lip and Harvey's eyes are open. So are his.
He pulls back just long enough to strip off his jacket and loosen his tie and Harvey's hands are on him, unbuttoning the shirt and... pausing.
Sharp bark of laughter. "I should have known."
It takes a moment for him to figure it out, another to try and fail to decide how he feels about it.
His shirt is half-unbuttoned, and the bat on his chest is glaring at Harvey, framed by his shaking hands.
"Do you --"
"I think..." Harvey shakes his head. "I don't know what I think. It's one thing to know, but..."
"I'm not wearing any masks tonight."
Hand on his face, stroking over his mouth. "No. No, you really aren't, are you?"
And he knows what voice he's been using. "Harvey --"
Thumb pressed hard to his lower lip. "I know. God, believe me -- Bruce."
Groaned out when Bruce catches that thumb between his teeth.
When he deliberately half-closes his eyes and sucks.
And Harvey is rigid, frozen in place for a moment, another, before he gasps. Pushes his thumb in deeper and pets Bruce's tongue.
Cups Bruce's face and starts thrusting, pushing, staring at his mouth with nothing but intent.
"God, you --"
Leaning in again, and the kiss is messy, messier when Harvey stretches Bruce's mouth open with his thumb and licks at his tongue, tearing at his own clothes with his free hand.
Finally slipping his thumb all the way out and dragging it down the center of Bruce's chest.
And that... he wants to feel it on his skin.
He wants all of this.
Bruce pulls back and toes off his shoes and strips down as quickly as possible, watching Harvey do the same. The urge to study, to memorize is powerful, and he doesn't deny it. The angles of his collar bones, the flush on his chest and the way it doesn't spill evenly over the scars.
He knows exactly how many of them are his own fault.
The loose set of the man's mouth, and the way it tightens into a somewhat cracked smile.
"I'm dying to know how many times you were wearing trouser socks under those boots."
His own smile is rueful. "There wasn't always time for a more practical option."
"Tell me you at least took the sock garters off."
"Most of the time."
Harvey laughs, and steps out of his pants. Catches him by the face, in a gesture he's used a hundred times before. Except that they were never this close. This... he doesn't have words. "God, Bruce. I always knew there was something about you..."
"Even before there was?"
"We both know that time never existed."
Bruce turns his face into Harvey's palm, and something in him remembers this, too, even though it never happened. "I always wondered what you saw. Why you kept coming back."
Bruce licks Harvey's palm, slowly.
"God, I never thought..." Free hand on his chest, and Bruce almost can't feel it through the suit. "I'm not even gonna try to get this thing off. I'll probably get electrocuted if I make a wrong move."
"You're not far from the truth."
"Always," and it comes out flat and serious and honest.
"I was... I was talking about the suit."
"I wasn't." Bruce bites the brief webbing between thumb and forefinger.
It only takes a moment to get the suit off, and it takes much too long, and it barely matters with Harvey walking them back to the bed, kissing him hard and pushing him down with absent strength.
Sliding down to his knees to tug off Bruce's socks and lick his calves and stroke up under his knees and spread them.
"Wait, just --" Harvey cuts himself off with kisses to the insides of Bruce's thighs, and then leans back to pull off his own shorts and socks, kneeling between his legs just as Bruce sits up.
He strokes the man's scalp, but he must have shaved with a razor. Possibly this morning. There isn't even a hint of stubble.
"That feels..." Harvey sighs, and rubs against his hand like an animal. Sighs. "It comes in white, you know. On that side."
"I can't. I can't let it grow in. I can't take the chance."
"You could dye it," he says, and wants to bite his own tongue.
Harvey just smiles, and shakes his head. "What happens when I stop wanting to?"
"It does look good."
"The first person to compare me to our illustrious president --"
"Sue them. You are a lawyer, again."
Low, easy chuckle. "Can't Batman just pummel them for me? I'll get the cops to light up the signal and everything."
Harvey winces before Bruce has to.
"God. Can we... just don't let me talk."
"Yeah, I..." And Harvey kneels up and in and takes the head of Bruce's cock in his mouth, sucking easily and shamelessly, and Bruce's body doesn't know what to do with the feeling.
Bruce's mind doesn't know, because it's just exactly --
Wet heat and suction, and his hand curves around the back of Harvey's skull and he can't stop himself from pulling, just a little.
It makes Harvey hum around him, and Bruce can't hold in a gasp, can't stop himself from thrusting in.
And Harvey swallows him down, holding him by the hips and urging him on, deeper, faster --
Eyes open and watching him with something like bleak hunger. There's a 'please' in his gaze, and Bruce can't do anything but acquiesce, bracing himself on his hands and thrusting in. Again. Again.
So tight, and Harvey's eyes flutter closed, and his thumbs press into the hollows of Bruce's hips, and control is something elsewhere, lost in an entirely different direction from his trust.
"Harvey. Harvey I need you --"
And Harvey responds by bobbing his head against the rhythm of his thrusts, making it faster, inescapable, and orgasm knocks the breath out of him in a gasp that sounds more weak than desperate.
It seems, more than anything else, unconscionable.
He drags Harvey off his cock, watching his own come ribbon down Harvey's chin before hauling him up on the bed and licking it off, licking his way into his mouth, and Harvey thrusts up hard against his hip, groaning and rubbing himself off until Bruce pulls out of the kiss and straddles him.
Holds him down.
"Bruce... Bruce, please. I'm so --"
Lost in a moan when Bruce takes his cock in hand, and just the feeling.
Soft skin and hard muscle. Just a man.
Just Harvey, and it's something like terror.
He can't possibly get enough of this.
"I want you," he says, and it doesn't even come close to being right enough, true enough, but Harvey bucks and rolls beneath him, grabbing at the sheets and pumping into his fist.
"You. God, Bruce, don't stop --"
"I want to taste you. Everywhere --"
"I want to be inside you. I've wanted it."
Pre-come spilling over his fist, and Harvey is panting, moaning like it hurts, but Bruce knows exactly what pain sounds like from Harvey. He'll always know.
"You... you in me --"
The gasp makes his own cock twitch, needy and wanting so soon.
"Harvey. Harvey, look at me."
And his eyes are wide and clear and just as open as they always were. As they used to be.
"I want you."
And Harvey spasms, arches off the bed. Comes all over Bruce's fist, a little spattering his stomach. Bruce wills himself to let go, but can't until Harvey shivers and whimpers high in his throat.
And then he has to touch him, rub come all over Harvey's chest and follow it with his tongue, his teeth. Press him down against the sheets and --
He's not done.
He trusts his instincts.
He doesn't need to know why his mind wants him to be awake, he just needs to know that it does.
He opens his eyes to find... Harvey.
Staring at him, hand hovering an inch from his face.
"I'm not even surprised. I remember... you always woke up. Just like that. As soon as I got into your room. Usually before." There's something between wonder and confusion in the man's voice. "I used to wonder if you had nightmares."
"All the time."
"I used to wonder if you'd ever tell me about them."
"I... they aren't. They aren't deep."
"Nightmares don't have to be entertaining unless you're making a movie, Bruce."
Stroke against the grain of his stubble. "I have to work tomorrow. Today." But the kiss is slow and lazy and ends with Harvey's thigh between Bruce's own, and his body has never been more awake.
He rolls them over and rocks against Harvey's hip, sucking the groan into his mouth and giving Harvey his own.
And Harvey wraps his arms around him and strokes his back, not pausing at the scars. Even the ones he's responsible for.
They're beyond that, now.
Abruptly, Harvey pulls out of the kiss and laughs. "Work, Bruce."
"I'm not the boss, anymore. I'm not even elected. They'll think I've had... an apocalyptic change of heart."
Batman nips his way back into Harvey's mouth. "Batman will reassure them."
"You have no idea how long I've wanted you, Harvey."
And Harvey searches his eyes for a long, silent moment.
Bruce makes himself still, halts the motion of his hips with an act of will.
"Show me," Harvey says. "Just... don't stop."
He watches Harvey sleep, brow smooth and mouth soft.
Swollen and bitten.
I love you, he says in his mind, trying it on for its size and shape.
I always have.
Bruce has never said it, not like this, not for this.
Bruce has been waiting to say it for many, many years.
Bruce also knows that now is not the time.
And Batman knows it can't last.
Whether or not the universe lets Harvey run with his second chance, something will happen.
A bullet, a betrayal.
Gotham being Gotham.
It would be easier if Batman had no place here, but he does.
It was almost inevitable that he would.
Bruce hopes that they'll have enough time for it to feel as right and natural as it could.
As it, perhaps, should.
Batman kisses Harvey's forehead and dresses for patrol.
And doesn't hope for anything, at all.
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