1. Dawn of the Storm

[January 25, 2015]

Gotham City was a mess.

"DENT FAMILY MURDERED IN BOMBING," the headlines read on December 15. The article explained: "Harvey Dent, 33, and his wife Gilda, 30, were killed when a bomb went off in their home in suburban Gotham. Dent won the election for District Attorney in November, becoming the youngest DA the city has seen in over a decade. While no suspect has been apprehended, many are pointing to Dent's aggressive actions against organized crime as a possible motivation for this brutal action."

On New Year's Day, the papers cried, "ALBERTO FALCONE MURDERED BY HOLIDAY KILLER!"

"BATMAN ON A RAMPAGE?" asked the most recent edition of the Gotham Gazette, claiming, "CAPED CRUSADER JUST WON'T QUIT!"

Robert Halloran's only contact with the headlines was when his shoes crumpled the newspapers on the streets. He was very busy these days, carrying out his father's instructions at HalloTech and overseeing the final stages of the still-unnamed nightclub he and Roman Sionis would soon be opening. He spent his days sober and studious, much to the amazement of HalloTech employees. By night, he wallowed in drugs and alcohol at the unopened club, surrounded by his usual crowd of friends.

Selina Kyle had successfully merged Janus Cosmetics into her own label, Kitty Cosmetology, by this time. She cared little for her growing business empire, however. She was immersed in the Holiday mystery, following it always back to its source: the Falcone family. She was growing less and less fond of robbing Carmine Falcone, for fear of being shot in the back during some robbery by Holiday. Her window for answers and revenge was shrinking. Over coffee one morning, she crushed the front page of a newspaper into a ball after seeing the Holiday killer once again given the front page headline. She threw it to the floor, where her Siamese cat began to bat the wad of paper around blithely.

Edward Nigma (formerly Nashton) was homeless. He traveled the streets as a bum, his vibrant green suit dirty from being worn under layers of raggedy castoffs. He had grown his hair out nearly to his shoulders, and streaked with so much dirt it looked more black than red. He never went anywhere without a hat on to shield his face from the street cameras, some old green bowler he found in a donation bin. Though he walked with his shoulders hunched and his head bowed, he wore a grin on his face. In the basement of one of the many out-of-business storefronts deep in the slums of the city, he had built himself a lair … and a new machine.

Oswald Cobblepot relished reading the morning news. Both the Falcone and Maroni organizations were being cut to shreds by this Holiday killer, and the streets were nearing anarchy. He had slowly started reaching out into the tender wounds, making promises of stitching them back together. Some men had even started coming over from the crumbling old mob families. Before long, he would be ready to strike at the heart of the criminal underworld and stake his claim on his corner of it once and for all. He could not have orchestrated events any better himself.

The winter holidays were over, and a slew of new ones brooded on the horizon of 2015. Gotham City had been whipped into a bloodthirsty, terrified, depressive, sadistic frenzy. Crime rates were steadily rising, despite Batman's efforts: petty instances of violence and crimes of passion had broken out like a rash on the city. This was the storm that Bruce had seen coming, but he knew they were still a ways out from being in the eye of it.


Bruce Wayne was tired of Carmine Falcone. He could not believe that less than a month after losing his only son on New Year's day, 'the Roman' was sitting here at the Bank of Gotham lobbying for a spot on the board. Bruce did not intend to give the man an ounce more leniency, not as Bruce Wayne or as Batman.

"No."

All the men, most much older than he, turned to look at Bruce. He stood, palms rested on the top of the smooth wood of the conference table. Falcone's sharp brown eyes narrowed just a bit, but his face was expressionless.

"This bank was founded for the purpose of benefiting Gotham City," Bruce said. "For generations, it has stood as benefactor to and beneficiary of all the good citizens of the city. I cannot give my vote in favor of this man bringing his blood money in to make a mockery and a sham of this institution."

It was silent enough to hear a pin drop.

"I will not hold your moral grandstanding against you, Mr. Wayne," Falcone said calmly. He stood, smoothing his steel gray suit down with his hands. "You have a tendency towards it due to the horrible tragedy that befell your parents, I understand. As you know, I have also lost family to violence."

Bruce bristled inside at the nerve of Falcone comparing the random murder of his parents to the death of his son. Alberto Falcone's death had been tragic, Bruce allowed that much, but the blame for it was squarely on Falcone's shoulders. Carmine had made his fortune in crime, it was inevitable that violence followed him like metal to a magnet.

"Is any money really clean these days, though?" Falcone went on. "Corporation dollars are tainted with the misery of the factory workers that slave away to manufacture their products. Technology companies sell the secrets of those who use their services to the highest bidder, or to the government, no matter the danger to the client. Law firms make their millions by protecting all of those I mentioned and more. Even diamonds are dripping with blood."

"Your money drips with more than blood." Bruce lifted his briefcase from the floor and set it on the conference table. He opened it and retrieved several folder files, tossing them at the men seated around the table. "Drugs. Prostitution. Illegal gambling and fighting. All these crimes have been connected to the so-called 'Roman Empire'."

The men were looking through the folders with distaste on their faces. Bruce had gotten special permission from Commissioner Gordon to use especially gruesome police reports, complete with crime scene photos. The executives were browsing pictures of hookers beaten within an inch of their life, drug addicts sprawled out dead with needles still stuck in their arms, men who had no way to escape their gambling debts with self-inflicted gunshot wounds, underground fighters who had lost eyes, ears, even limbs.

Falcone was still standing, so he had a view of the pictures as the other men went through them. He met Bruce's eyes over the table, and his dark brown eyes were blazing with suppressed rage. Bruce was gratified to have finally gotten under his skin.

"I hate to be this crass, but the reality of what the Falcone organization brings to Gotham should not be swept under the rug," Bruce said, looking at each man in turn. "Mr. Falcone says that no money is clean, and I agree with him. Business is complicated and cutthroat by nature. But there is dirt, gentlemen … and then there is filth."

Falcone was normally reserved, but now he clenched his fist on the table.

"What if that girl was your daughter, Mr. Barnes?" Bruce asked one man as he began to walk around the table. "George, how would you feel if your son had ended up like this man instead of completing rehab? Mr. Wellington, what if your son's gambling losses had been to Mr. Falcone here instead of to Las Vegas?"

The room belonged to Bruce, and both he and Falcone knew it.

"But enough theatrics," Bruce said, gathering the folders back up from the relieved men. "Shall we put it to a vote?"

Only two men who were ruthlessly greedy voted in favor of giving Falcone a seat on the board of the bank. Bruce shut the explicit files up in his briefcase and shook hands with the others. Falcone stormed out without a word to any of them. He was waiting for Bruce on the steps of the bank, hands in his coat pocket, hat tilted on his head in the old-fashioned way he liked to wear it.

Bruce set his mind into that over-focused mode he used when in combat. He watched Falcone's coat for any sign that he was going to draw a gun. He took his hands out of his pockets, but they were empty. He stomped up to Bruce and pointed into his chest with a heavy tap.

"I have been very courteous to you, out of respect for your father," Falcone said furiously. "I do not forget that your father saved my father's life that night. He was a reasonable man, a man that understood the hierarchy of this city. He had respect. But you!"

"My father was a surgeon," Bruce said simply. "He swore an oath to do no harm."

"You understand nothing, Bruce," Carmine said. He looked away, into the city, and then looked up at Bruce again. "I have never harmed you. You have enjoyed the benefits of my leniency, if not my friendship. All I asked in return was respect. And what do you do?"

Falcone climbed onto a step above Bruce's so that their faces were level. Bruce did not give him the courtesy of looking at him. He watched his car down below, where Alfred was waiting.

"You stand up in front of the most important men in this city, and you disrespect me with that farce," Falcone hissed into Bruce's ear. "That's what you do!"

Bruce squinted his eye at the sudden shout in his ear. Falcone rocked back on his heels, glaring at him. Bruce wondered what it was about Gotham City that made everyone feel they were entitled to unearned respect.

"I will not look out for you anymore, Bruce," Falcone told him. "It pains me to say it, but I cannot tolerate this disrespect any longer. That you would stand there and insult me to my face in front of those men, as if I were nothing more than a common hood. That you would do such a thing to me, and when I am mourning my only son. You are an arrogant upstart, and I will not stand for such treatment. Have a care, Bruce Wayne. Have a care that you do not cross me again in the slightest fashion. A further slight would be tragic for us all. And I for one have had enough of tragedy."

Falcone turned and went down the steps, to his own car and the thugs that awaited him. Bruce sighed, his breath frosting the air, and briskly went down the rest of the concrete stairs. Alfred opened his car door for him.

"I assume the vote went against Mr. Falcone then, sir?" Alfred asked as Bruce stepped into the car.

Bruce smiled at him from inside the car. Alfred nodded in approval and shut him in. He went around the car and got into the driver's seat.

"Where to, sir?"

"The Gotham Police Department," Bruce directed, his smile fading. "I need to see a friend."


Bruce dreaded going to the GCPD lately. When Jim Gordon had shown up on his doorstep back in December, he had been shocked. Gordon was a friend, but he rarely made the long drive out to Wayne manor. The look on the man's face had scared the hell out of Bruce. Given that he had just broken up with Robert Halloran, he had assumed the worst: that Bobby had killed himself with an overdose or by driving too fast while under the influence.

Bobby had not been the one to suffer that night, however. A bomb had gone off at the new home of Harvey and Gilda Dent. The media was already aflame with reports of the horrendous double murder of the District Attorney and his wife. Bruce had only just locked the Joker back up in Arkham to protect Harvey Dent after the clown had severely beaten him. To hear that he had fallen victim yet again shook him badly.

Jim had been quick to tell Bruce that Harvey was not dead. They had spoken in hushed tones in the den, over drinks that even Bruce allowed himself to indulge in. Gordon intended to let the world believe that Harvey was dead, for his own protection. It would allow them to work on their planned take-down of the mob families with more freedom, and without fear of further violence. In fact, Jim had driven out to Wayne Manor for the sake of begging Bruce's help in the plot; Harvey was badly wounded, and Jim did not have the resources to take care of him in secret.

Bruce had been quick to pledge his help. Bruce and Jim had sneaked Harvey Dent into the Gotham City PD. Alfred, a former combat medic for the British Army, tended the unconscious DA's injuries in an unused, derelict prison cell in the basement. The GCPD, like much of Gotham, had many sealed rooms that had been damaged due to flooding, Gotham being on the water. While Harvey was cared for, Bruce had gone into the city and gathered supplies to make the old prison cells habitable. He rarely noticed being rich enough that no one questioned his needs or wants, but he appreciated it that night. Before noon the next day, the cell had been turned into a makeshift hospital room, and Harvey was resting comfortably.

No amount of care or money could buy health, however. Harvey had not been inside the house when it blew up. He had been in the backyard shed fetching a hammer to put up stockings over the mantle when Gilda Dent plugged in the Christmas Tree and triggered the detonation. There was nothing left of Gilda to bury, but Harvey survived. By the time Jim got to the scene, the shed had been on fire. He pulled Harvey from the burning rubble, put him in his car, and drove him out to Wayne Manor. From there they had brought him to the abandoned cells beneath the GCPD, where Alfred treated him as best he could.

The burns were not very severe, the worst being the blackened and cracking flesh on Harvey's left hand. It was when Harvey woke up to the news that his wife was dead that the full extent of the damage became evident. Harvey would not speak or eat for days, forcing Bruce to bring an IV in to keep him alive. When he did begin speaking, he would only talk about their investigations against Falcone and Maroni. He had no rage or sadness, no kind of emotion in him at all. It was as if all of Harvey Dent had gone, leaving behind only a shell.

Jim was not at the station. Bruce was the only other person that had access to the abandoned cells. He waited around the station inconspicuously, and then slipped away. He went down a long metal stairwell, then down the ramp that led down into the ruins of the old prison.

Harvey was in the largest cell. The moss-covered stone walls had been draped with clean white sheets and plastic. A small hospital cot had been put in the back of the cell, and the rest of it was furnished with a chair, bedside table, and a small TV. A portable toilet booth was placed in the back of the cell. It was dismal, but modestly comfortable.

Harvey was sitting up, which was a change from his usual despondent lying on the bed. He was practically naked in the thin white hospital gown, his once-strapping body noticeably thinner from his depression-driven fast. His dark hair was disheveled and unwashed, his eyes stamped by dark circles, and he was deathly pale. The robustness that had driven the media to call him 'Apollo' had faded. Every time he saw him, Bruce's heart twisted for his friend.

"How are you, Harvey?"

"How am I?" Harvey made a derisive sound. "You know, you ask me that every time you see me. Even when I was a zombie, you would sit down in that chair and ask me, how am I? How do you think I am, Bruce?"

"I can't imagine."

"No, you can't," Harvey said. "You lost your parents and that's horrible, but … "

"Go on." Bruce sat on the edge of the bed beside him. "Just say it."

"Parents are the past, Bruce," Harvey said, more gently than Bruce had expected him to be. "Gilda was my wife. She was my future. She was going to be … pregnancy tests and sonograms and a big belly growing life inside it—our life. She was growing old and having coffee on cold winter mornings when both our bones ached and I'd be bored to death of retirement. She was my life, Bruce, and she's just … gone. My future is over, but I'm still here."

Bruce knew there was no way he could convince Harvey of anything else. He knew how it felt to feel one's life shatter, the black hole of despair that consumed all hope. No words could bring a person back from that void.

"And for what?" Harvey asked. "What was it all for? Justice? Ha! What a joke! I could incarcerate every last scumbag in Gotham, or even kill them all, but Gilda would still be dead. She would still have gone without any justice. There is no justice, Bruce. There's just power. That's what protects people, keeps them safe, that's all that matters … and even then, look at you. Look at your parents, most powerful people in the city, gunned down like animals in the street. Will they ever get justice?"

"I think that justice is all we have left, Harvey," Bruce said. "It won't bring our loved ones back. It won't be even. Justice is never equal. But it is all we have to strive for."

"Nah, it's not," Harvey said. He jumped down from the bed. He wobbled on his feet, but stayed standing. "Revenge, Bruce. There's also revenge."

Bruce watched him as he tugged his IV out of his arm.

"Is that what you're living for now, Harvey?"

"Does it matter?" Harvey said plainly. He saw the look on Bruce's face and smirked. "Don't worry there, Bruce. I'm not going to kill anyone. No, I'm going to tear them to the ground and leave them alive to watch it. I'm going to burn them, the way Batman and I burned that warehouse of their cash that night. I'm going to dismantle this city piece by piece. I don't care what happens in the aftermath. I just have to destroy it all."

"You're sure you're not going to do anything reckless?"

"Nah," Harvey said. He opened the suitcase of clothing that Bruce had brought him and whistled. "Man, these are nice. One shirt is worth more than all of my old stuff."

Harvey took off the hospital gown, to Bruce's dismay.

"What?" he said innocently. "It's nothing you haven't seen and felt before. Anyway, Batman would never help me again, if I killed someone. He might have me locked up, never mind all the shit I've been through. Batman's as big a prude as you are. But it doesn't matter. I want those animals in a cage."

Bruce tried not to watch Harvey dress, and failed. He was thinner, a touch softer, but he was still an alluring sight. It was a indecent thing to do, desire a widower, and finally Bruce looked away.

"Besides, Holiday has a body count higher than any I could rack up," Harvey said. "If they blew up my house to kill me because they thought Gi—because they thought I was Holiday, well, the joke is on them. A joke worthy of the goddamn Joker, that right there. Hey, did they ever catch him? The Joker, I mean?"

"Batman caught him the same night that … Well, that night," Bruce said quietly. He was still shamed by the victory he had celebrated over that capture, while his friend was being devastatingly attacked. "He's in Arkham."

"Until he escapes again," Harvey said. "I don't know, Bruce. I understand why you hate murder. I guess Batman has his reasons for it, too. Sometimes, I just—I don't know. It all seems so pointless."

"The point is to rise above the world people like Gordon and Batman and you fight against," Bruce said. "The point is to be better than that. Do you think every psychopath in Arkham Asylum started out trying to be evil? Some of them did, sure, but many had good intentions. It's a finer line between justice and cruelty than people think."

"And there's somethin' wrong with bein' cruel to cruel people?" Harvey asked. The hard edge in his voice was very evident, and the city accent he had lost in college and law school was stronger than ever. Something in him had reverted to his old, unpolished self.

"There's something wrong with cruelty for cruelty's sake," Bruce said. "That lust for violence grows, it consumes until there's nothing else left. Justice tempers the need to hurt, the need for revenge or cruelty. It's purpose isn't only to satisfy the pain of victims, it's to try and change things so that there are less victims."

Harvey was not convinced, but he was in no mood to fight. He did not care about anyone's morals, not even his own. He had a goal, and all he cared about was seeing it through.

Bruce stood and came over to Harvey once he was dressed. He put a hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Harvey, are you sure you're ready to leave?" he asked. "If you are, I'll tell Gordon to spirit you out of this place. But only last week, you wouldn't even get out of bed. Are you sure you don't need more time?"

"Time to do what?" Harvey asked. "Sit around thinkin' about everything I don't have? If I got to sit in here doing that for one more day, Bruce, then Holiday is gonna have a partner in me."

"Don't say things like that," Bruce said. He straightened Harvey's tie, which the man had tied awkwardly due to his burned hand. "You say you're fine now, but when you come to face these people, when this is over and you return to life in the public eye, will you be okay? There is no shame in needing more time, Harvey. There's no shame in taking a break to take care of yourself."

Bruce had not been thinking anything of their closeness, until Harvey closed the short distance between their profiles to kiss him. Stunned, Bruce dropped his tie. It had been months now, but it felt like the Frost Ball was only yesterday. Harvey's lips were smooth as silk, his breath warm and desperate. Bruce's body would have kissed the man back forever, but in his horror he pushed him away.

"Why don't you take care of me, Bruce?" Harvey said, licking his lips. He shrugged. "It's what you always wanted, isn't it? But what was the problem? I was married, right? Well, that's done. So why not?"

"Harvey, you don't want that," Bruce said sharply. "What the hell is the matter with you? Your wife has been buried less than a month—"

"Buried? Oh, she's not buried," Harvey retorted. "You need at least part of a body for burial."

Bruce realized that putting a television in the room had been a mistake.

"Harvey, you're not well," Bruce said gently. "Here, get back in bed. I'll bring you a pill."

"No!" Harvey shouted, pushing Bruce away forcefully. "You think I don't know what those pills you keep givin' me are?"

Harvey retrieved a bottle and flung it at Bruce.

"Jim dropped it," Harvey said, his voice dripping with disgust. "Lithium! Fucking lithium, Bruce? What the hell is the matter with you, givin' me that crap?"

"Harvey, you've always shown signs of Bipolar Disorder," Bruce said. "You can't deny that it was helping with your mood swings. Is that why you're like this now? You stopped taking the pills?"

"Damn straight I stopped takin' 'em!" Harvey said furiously. "I've been goin' through hell since November! And just because I make a few mistakes, have a few mood swings, you think I'm crazy? I'm not crazy, Bruce!"

"There's no shame in having a psychological disorder, Harvey," Bruce tried to sway him. "Come on, you're educated. You know that it isn't a sign of weakness to seek help."

"Yeah, if you're nuts," Harvey said. "But I'm not."

"You're saying that you're in complete control of yourself? Of your emotions?" Bruce asked. "Do you expect me to believe that you care so little about your wife's death that you would kiss me one month after she died?"

"I didn't say I didn't care," Harvey said. "I only said, why not? I mean, I betrayed her when she was alive, didn't I? What's there to betray now? A memory? I wasn't good enough for her, I'm not even good enough for her ghost. I can't honor her memory because honor's a thing I never had. So, I'm sayin', why not?"

"Harvey, this isn't you," Bruce said. He had a lump in his throat and his heart was aching. Did the city have to ruin everything that was good and beautiful? "Don't do this. Please, just go back to bed. Just stop."

"Oh, I know," Harvey said. He reached into his pocket and took out his father's double-sided Liberty Dollar. He turned it back and forth. It had been singed on one side in the fire, permanently marred. "It's got two sides now, see? So how about it, Bruce? Heads, you can have me. Tails, you get to keep your moral high ground. Sound good?"

"Harvey, stop it!" Bruce said harshly. He took him by the shoulders and shook him. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

In truth, Bruce was afraid. This was not an enemy he could fight, some problem of logic to be puzzled out. He did not know how to save his friend as he slipped away into this darkness, and the helplessness terrified him.

Harvey just grinned when Bruce stopped shaking him. He flipped the coin, caught it, turned it over.

"Here we go."

The coin had come up heads. Harvey pulled Bruce into a fierce kiss. Bruce's body ignited with desire, and he cursed the man for putting him through this agony. He tried to pull Harvey off, but he was strong with manic determination.

"Harvey, stop," Bruce commanded, prying Harvey's hands off. "Harvey, stop it. You don't want to do this. Harvey … Harvey! Enough!"

Bruce gave the man a hefty shove. Harvey approached him again, and Bruce took him by the front of his shirt and slammed him against the old, rusted cell bars. Harvey grunted, wincing.

"That's enough, Harvey," Bruce said. "I'm not going to let you become this … this person. No. You're grieving, and I respect that. I'm going to make sure that you respect it. Here."

Bruce took a pill from the bottle he had brought and pushed it at Harvey.

"No, I told you, I don't need that crap!" Harvey protested. "I don't need it!"

"Yes, you do, Harvey," Bruce said, firmly but gently. "You do."

"No, I … I don't." Harvey stopped struggling. He looked confused and troubled. "Do you think I do, Bruce? Do you really think that I need that?"

Bruce was beginning to wonder if Harvey needed something stronger. He had never seen such brief, intense episodes before. Harvey did not go from one mood to the other so much as he was simultaneously in both moods.

"Jesus, Bruce, what the hell am I doing?" Harvey asked. Bruce released him, and he walked in a daze back towards the bed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean …. I don't know what's wrong with me. Oh God. Oh God, oh God … "

Harvey sat on the edge of the bed, holding his head in his hands. Bruce hesitated, but decided that it was safe enough to be near him again. He sat beside him, though he did not touch him.

"I'm scared, Bruce," Harvey whispered, hugging himself now. "Gilda was always the one that held me together. She was the only one that could bring me back from those dark places I go to. What am I going to do without her?"

Bruce offered him the pill. Harvey took it, staring at the little pill in his palm with a guarded look.

"It's a very low dosage," Bruce assured him. "Only enough to keep your mood even."

"If I take this, will you tell Jim that I'm done with this place?" Harvey asked. "I know I can't just walk out, he's planning to keep my survival secret a while longer. He has some plan to sneak me out. Will you tell him to come get me?"

"All right, I will."

Bruce got Harvey a water bottle from the small refrigerator next to the bed. Harvey put the pill in his mouth and swallowed it down with water. Bruce eyed him suspiciously.

"You'll have to take my word for it," Harvey said. "I'm not openin' my mouth for you again. I can't believe I … I'm sorry, Bruce."

"It's all right, Harvey."

"No, nothin' is all right," Harvey said bleakly. He lay back on the bed, his legs still hanging off the edge. "Nothing is ever going to be all right again. This world is wrong, Bruce. It's just wrong."

There was no possible way that Bruce could argue with that, and so he did not try.

"Is there anything I can get you?" Bruce finally asked. "Something to eat?"

"I'd kill for a cheeseburger, but I'll get one when I'm out of here," Harvey said. "This place kills my appetite."

"Do you want me to stay?"

"No." Harvey sat back up. "You'd better go, Bruce. I … I need to be alone right now."

"Okay." Bruce stood. "I'll see you later, Harvey. Try to be strong."

"Yeah," Harvey said despondently. "Sure. Strong. I'll be strong. Can't really be anything else right now, can I?"

"Sometimes it's the only thing left."

"Heh. I hear that."

Bruce left him there, alone and underground. In truth, he was not certain that his resolve to be honorable would have lasted much longer. It was true, he did have a habit of taking care of people, needing to save them. It was simpler to save lives on the streets: fight until he was able to take down the would-be mugger or attacker or rapist. Not for the first time, Bruce was dismayed by the impossibility of saving people from themselves. You could not beat up a psychological condition, could not defeat the pain of a staggering loss.

It took me years, Bruce thought as he climbed down the steps of the GCPD. The very year my parents died, I started fortifying myself against the ugliness of the world. I've never stopped that training, only strengthened it, and even now the wrong word, the wrong memory can almost undo me. I lost my temper at Bobby Halloran just for mentioning that alley, struck him for using my deepest fear against me. All my training, all my restraint, all my discipline, all these years … and still, I'm vulnerable. Not helpless, but vulnerable. How must Harvey feel?

Bruce knew how Harvey felt, but he also knew that it was a different kind of pain than the one he had felt when his parents were murdered. He had been a child at the time, and though he tried to keep his pain private for the sake of pride, Alfred had never made him feel ashamed of his pain; he had not let Bruce forget that he was only a boy, and that sometimes a boy could let himself cry. Harvey was a man grown, and he had already been struggling to maintain his ego before the tragedy. All of the past year, he had been beaten repeatedly, insulted, threatened, made to feel like an insect. Then, he had lost his wife, the wife he had taken it upon himself to protect.

I wish I could hold him, tell him that it's all right to break down, Bruce thought. If we didn't have this attraction between us, I would be able to. But I could never lead him to betray his wife's memory that way. If I had only kept from losing myself on the night of the Frost Ball …

Bruce drew a breath and exhaled as he got into his car. No, I can't look backwards. I can't be romantic. The first year that I was Batman, I made many mistakes. Some of the mistakes were reprehensible. I hurt people. I almost lost my own life. The second year, I underestimated my place in the city. I underachieved, one could say, and that year was wasted on the small-time thugs and punks. Last year was my third year, and when it began, I was doing better than ever. Batman was going after the root of the problems in Gotham City, the big fish like Falcone and Maroni, and the so-called 'freaks' that are now filling Arkham Asylum. I thought that I had hit my stride, but I lost myself at the end of the year. First Floyd Lawton, then a one-night stand with Harvey Dent, and then I even managed to break Bobby's heart. If these were only personal mistakes, they would be bad enough, but all those mistakes have compromised Batman. Bobby knows his identity, Floyd almost figured it out, and Harvey … is a distraction.

I can't waste this year. I have to focus. I need to break habit and spend more than my nights as Batman. It's time to face the dawn.