Sometimes Bane thinks that his life is defined by pain.
Pain brings everything into focus. It is something he has learned to deliver precisely, because pain brings both hope and despair: hope that it will stop hurting, hope that death will come, despair because in this moment it hurts too much to go on.
Bane first learned of pain when his mother pointed to the opening of the Pit and said, “darling, never attempt that. You will fail.”
He had asked why with the petulance only a small child could master and she had said, “no one survives. Everyone dies here. It’s just a matter of waiting for death or jumping too it.”
In the end, Bane’s mother hadn’t waited, nor had she jumped. She had been attacked and he had been too small to protect her. That was the second time he knew pain. That was the first time he embraced it.
They had killed Bane’s mother because she had been weak. Bane watched them and learned he could not afford to be weak. He took his pain and he made it a tool, and weapon.
When he killed his mother’s attackers, they left him with a black eye and a bloody face. This pain he welcomed, because he felt that it was just, that it was right. He did not bother to clean the blood from his face, from his hands. It was his birthright. But there was another women in prison, another women with a son, and she had sponged his face off with dainty hands and smiled at him, and he had smiled back.
The child watched him, and he wondered if the child knew that soon he would become Bane, that soon his mother would be taken from him.
Later, the child sleeps and Bane watches him.
“He sleeps so deeply,” Bane says, voice thick from pain. “Like he’s safe.”
“As long as I am here, he will be safe,” The woman replies, and then she moves closer and says, “but there will be a time when I am not.”
“Yes,” Bane replies.
“Protect her,” the woman says, and Bane’s eyes fly to the sleeping child and the curve of the child’s lips and he sees, all too clearly, the truth.
She’s like the sister he never had. He shares bread with her, teaches her everything his mother had taught him. He passes on the most crucial piece of information: do not attempt that, you will fail. She rejects it.
“I will not,” she tells him. “I will get out of here.”
He does not have the heart to tell her that no one makes it. No one survives.
The child and her mother are kept in a cell, away from the rest of the prison, for their safety. The cell is always locked, unless the woman invites someone in.
One day, the man with the keys forgets to lock it.
Bane only knows because he hears the screams and then he sees the child dash to freedom, sees the mob seize her.
He is sixteen and he is afraid, and he thinks about the pain of losing her and decides that he cannot bear it.
When he throws her onto the ledge, he whispers rise and she nods and then she’s scrambling up and he watches for the barest instant before he is pulled down, before they crush his face.
He was foolish to think that he had ever understood pain before then. He was foolish to think he ever understood despair.
When he had told The Batman that the Pit taught him that without hope there is no despair, he was not talking about the circle of light at the top. He was talking about when his face had been so ruined that breathing hurt, that swallowing hurt.
He cannot even ask if the child made it.
The doctor makes it worse. Bane thinks about what his mother said and waits to die.
He doesn’t die, because fate is cruel and time is long. Instead he watches a hundred men descend into the pit and focuses, barely, on the small shape that sticks close to one of them, the small shape that finds him and holds his hand with her tiny ones.
He had never even known her name, had never asked, knowing it was unsafe. But she says his in a clear, sad voice.
“Bane,” she says. “Bane. I’m here.”
Why, he wants to ask, why would you ever come back?
When he is twenty-two and the mask is a part of him, he learns her name.
“Hi,” she says, and he glances at her and wonders when she grew up.
“Hi,” he says, and he remembers what it was like before his face was ruined, when she was just a child and things were simpler. “Why are you here?”
“To see you,” she says. “My friend.”
“I don’t even know your name,” he admits, and tries not to notice that she’s a woman now. He fails when she smiles, cheeks dimpling.
“My name is Talia,” she says.
“Talia,” he repeats, and her smile widens.
After that he tries to avoid her and fails, because she is something that changed his life and he senses that she’s not done yet. Her father notices and Bane notes the displeased curl of his lip and waits for the storm to come.
“Stay away from her,” her father tells him, “or I will kill you.”
Bane says nothing. He knows he’s not good enough for her. He wants to be content with only being her friend.
When she is nineteen and he is twenty-five, she kisses him for the first time. She kisses his cheek, and then kisses his mask, and he blinks hard and turns away.
“Do you not want me?” She asks, and he shakes his head because she doesn’t understand.
“I can never kiss you back,” he tells her instead, and she lays her hand on his arm and he turns to look at her.
“I know,” she says. “I don’t mind.”
He does mind, minds that he can’t taste her. He minds that he can’t bury his face in her hair. He minds that he’s an idiot and a virgin and that his fingers shake when he takes off her robe.
“Bane,” she whispers when he cups her breast and he shakes because he can’t whisper, so he doesn’t say anything at all.
“Bane,” she whispers again when he’s fingering her, and she guides his hand to something and presses down, and when he does, she mewls against her and he can’t breathe.
“Talia,” he says as quietly as he can, knowing his voice is already muffled by the mask, and she’s wet and he’s fingering her open and she’s clutching his shoulders and whimpering.
“I want…” she whispers, and he wants to ask her if she’s sure, but her eyes are blazing and she looks so fierce, so he nods again and rubs his finger against her neck, smoothing it over the skin there, wishes he could use his lips instead.
When he finally thrusts into her, she wraps her legs around his waist and he trembles uncontrollably, because she’s hot and wet and tight and it feels so good, so good and he can’t control himself.
“Bane,” she moans when he presses a finger to the place she taught him too, and he feels her spasm around him and he loses control and comes.
Her father throws him out a few days later. “You’re a monster,” he tells Bane. “It was a mistake to rescue you. I should have left you to die.”
Bane secretly agrees, but Talia is sobbing and he wishes that Rhaz hadn’t said that in front of her.
He half wishes Talia agreed, half wishes Talia knew that Bane is a monster, that he is a freak. But somehow she doesn’t, and she sees past the mask and he wonders when he fell in love with her, and how he could stop.
Instead he leaves. She doesn’t follow.
She finds him when she is a woman and wearing the guise of Miranda Tate. She finds him and takes him a hotel room and fucks him in thigh high stockings and a smile, and then asks him if he’ll do her a favor.
“Of course,” he says, which is better than saying anything.
“Batman killed my father,” she says, and her eyes are hard. “I want to kill him. I want to watch Gotham City burn.”
“How?” he asks, and she snuggles up to him, resting her head on his chest.
“I will need your help, my friend,” she murmurs, and he cups her back with one massive hand and repeats, “of course.”
Her plan is brilliant, of course, and he still can’t quite believe it when she makes him the lord of the League of Shadows. The plan is hers; she is the mastermind. He is her dog.
He doesn’t mind.
He minds when she returns to their lair and smells of Bruce Wayne, and she knows that he minds because she presses herself to his chest and says, “I don’t want to smell him on me anymore,” so he fucks her roughly, bending her over a table and thrusting in and making her cry out.
Sometimes he hates her, because he loves her and he can never have her, but when she gives herself to him it’s because she needs something.
He hates her because he gives her everything and at the same time he doesn’t mind, because he loves her and when she whispers, “oh, my friend,” and caresses his cheek he thinks that maybe she loves him too.
When he presses the trigger into her hand, she smiles up at him and says, “Bane,” and then kisses his mask and he drags a finger over her lips.
“I want you,” she says bluntly, and he stands behind her, dragging his fingers down the line of her neck and cupping her breasts, her ass.
“I want to see you,” she interrupts and he pauses because he doesn’t understand, but she turns to him and smiles. “I want to see your face.”
“My face is ruined,” he says without emotion, and her face darkens and she shakes her head.
“No,” she insists. “You have the most beautiful eyes.”
He presses a finger against her clit and two fingers inside of her cunt and she writhes against him. He tears open her dress and she arches against him, proud to be on display. She is thirty now but still beautiful, and he twists her left nipple and is rewarded with a small gasp.
“Fuck me,” she orders, pulling down his pants and wrapping one dainty hand around his cock, jerking him off in long, sure strokes.
He fingers her open in the way she likes, thrusting his fingers deep and curving up, tweaking her clit, pressing down on it until she gasps and comes, kissing his neck.
“Now,” she orders when she can talk again and he goes to tear open the condom, only to have it thrown away.
“No,” she orders. “Just you.”
He wonders if it’s because she loves him or if it’s because they’ll be dead in five months, and then decides that he doesn’t care. He slides in and she gasps and pulls him closer, and he fits his palms on her back, trying not to think that these are the small hands he had used to twist Dr. Pavol’s neck just hours earlier.
“Fuck me,” she orders again and he fucks her in earnest, slamming in and out and twisting her nipples, wishing he could kiss her, could suck a bruise onto her lovely throat.
She bites where his shoulder meets his neck and he grunts and snaps his hips against her, and she whines and claws at his back.
She is so small beneath him; he is like a boulder and she is so delicate but she likes it rough so he fucks her roughly and is rewarded by the trembling moan she makes she comes.
He doesn’t see her for months after that, because she’s undercover and she’s Miranda Tate, a name he hates. Talia is so much better.
When he seizes her from the top of Wayne Tower, she pretends to look afraid and he almost has to stop, because this is how she should look. She should be afraid of him. That fear should be real. He wants to show her, shake her by her throat and yell, don’t you see who I really am?
But he knows that she will lay a palm on his cheek, half on his mask, and smile at him without fear and say, of course I do. You’re my friend.
It has to be enough.
He thinks about how they have a few days left and wonders why he’s still waiting for death when he’s out of the Pit.
When Bruce Wayne returns as Batman, which should be impossible, and slams Bane to the floor and says, you do not have my permission to die and Bane curses his mask because he wants to spit in Bruce’s face.
But Bruce smashes his mask and then everything is pain, and maybe this is what death is, he can’t even see, can’t even move, he is dead now, this is it, and it is so cruel because he had been so sure that death meant no pain.
But then Talia is there and she’s fixing his mask, smoothing gentle hands over his face and he shuts his eyes, trembling, because he knows he’ll be dead soon anyway, they have just minutes left.
“He was not the child that escaped,” Talia tells Batman even as she stabs him in the ribs. “I was.”
When she reveals that she left her father when he excommunicated Bane, Bane wonders what he did to deserve her, wonders what his life would be like if he hadn’t saved her.
She looks at him with such tenderness in her eyes and says, “Goodbye, my friend,” and he feels tears leaking from his own eyes, because she will be dead and he will have never kissed her lips, never told her that he loves her.
She’s looking at him with the same blazing look she used when they first made love, and he doesn’t look away, remembers you have such beautiful eyes and tries to communicate everything he thinks, everything he knows.
He thinks she understands.
She still leaves.
He dies with her name on his lips.