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The Art of Breaking

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The camera lights go out all at once, the men shutting them down in unison without a word. John can hear nothing but the sound of his own breathing, desperate and sobbing, and the crackling hiss of Bane's breath in his ear. The hand on his thigh squeezes one last time, eliciting a groan of pain that John can't hold back.

“Sir.” John looks past Bane's shoulder to the man standing there. The man stares back, dark eyes unflinching in a lean, scarred face. He's holding a gun. John flinches, fear and resignation sending a chill up his spine.

“Leave us.” Bane leans back, rises until he is standing over John, big enough to block out the sun. John is left staring at Bane's massive, limp sex as he sets himself to rights. The man with the gun steps around Bane, holds the pistol out to him like an offering. Bane barely even looks at the weapon, dismissal in every line of his body.

The room clears quickly, in near silence. There are no comments, no jeers or taunts. Nothing but the orderly, hurried movements of people with other duties to be seen to. The bright lights are turned down low. The faint chill brought by the shadows settles against John's skin as the sweat and piss covering him begins to dry. Once they're alone, Bane runs the back of his fingers across John's cheek. The gesture is out of place; it belongs between lovers, between family. John's heart skips a beat and he waits for the touch to turn hard, for that hand to grasp his neck and twist.

Instead John finds himself unchained, the heavy links pulled from around his waist to be looped over one of Bane's shoulders. Bane takes hold of John's hands, crushing the bracelets of the cuffs into his wrists until John feels the skin split and begin to bleed. He kicks, the motion uncoordinated and slow. His legs feel like hollow pipes that are only poorly attached to the rest of his body. Bane doesn't bother to even pretend to doge, simply taking the faint impact against his legs before twisting John's arms higher.

Bane half drags, half carries him through a maze of hallways until John is completely lost. He struggles to get his feet under him but the feeling is coming back and he's grateful for that even as the pain makes it impossible for him to stand. They meet no one. Even the faint sounds of voices have grown distant and silent by the time Bane stops at an open doorway with only a sheet of plastic covering it.

It's a locker room style shower, tile and low walls and gleaming steel everywhere John looks. Bane drags him over to the nearest stall and shoves him forward. John turns so that his shoulder takes the impact rather than his head, the pain of the blow a new, dull note added to the symphony already within his body.

Hands pull at his hair, yank him up and back until he's staring at the ceiling. Bane loops the chain around John's throat, drawing it tight enough to nearly lift John off his feet as he reaches up to tie the other end off to the shower head. Panic chokes John more than the metal at his throat, the rubber soles of his shoes squealing across the tile as he squirms and twists.

“Stop that.” Bane's fingers dig into John's hips, forcing him to stillness. John takes deep, whooping breaths, convinced that each one of them will be his last. But the air keeps coming, cold and musty but filling his lungs just the same. “If all I wanted was your death, you would be dead already. Keep calm. Do not move and you will not hurt yourself.”

Bane releases him and John vibrates with the need to move, the certainty that Bane had been holding him up blooming in the back of his mind. The chain rattles but does not tighten and John finds that he can feel the floor solidly beneath his feet. If he doesn't move, he should be fine. John breathes and his heart starts to slow, dizziness and panic fading.

“Very good.” Bane's broad fingers brush the back of John's head and loosen the straps of the gag. The leather flops gently against his neck as Bane pries his mouth open a little more and pulls the ring from between John's teeth. John groans softly in relief and works his jaw. It feels strange, almost dislocated, but he can move it even as he can taste blood from where the corners of his mouth have torn.

Bane tears the uniform from John, the fabric ripping at the seams with weighty groans. John winces at each sound. Even soiled and ruined as it is, this is just one more insult to the uniform, to what it stands for. The scraps are tossed over the wall in front of John, landing with wet thwaps until there is nothing left but his shoes. When Bane takes one of John's calves in hand and lifts, John has to fight to keep from jerking to one side and hanging himself. The tile is uncomfortably cold beneath the naked soles of his feet, the cold air making him shiver unstoppably.

The water, when it comes, is freezing. Bane's hands are welcome points of warmth where they touch him, scrubbing soap through his hair, over sticky, stained skin until John feels raw. Bane leaves him there, steps into the next stall and John can see the steam from the shower even if he can't feel the heat.

“Bastard.” John growls it out through chattering teeth. The water, still spilling over him, is painfully cold.

“Almost certainly.” The water cuts off and Bane returns to him, shutting down John's water and unwrapping the chain from around his throat.

He's shivering too hard to do anything but imagine fighting back as Bane pushes him down to his knees, the edges of the tile digging into his skin in sharp lines of pain. Bane is finally, horrifically hard, just as large as John had feared he would be and he knows what's going to happen. There's no other way this can end, no other reason for him to still be breathing.

John lets Bane bend him forward until his head rests on the tile, a supplicant before an angry and uncaring god. Fingers breach him and John bites through his bottom lip, blood spilling down over his chin. Bane's found something to use as lube, or John would be screaming, but he's not moving slowly. There's no chance to adjust, just the rough thrust and spread of massive fingers inside of him; first two then three, tearing him open.

At least it's not in front of the cameras, he thinks. At least no one will know, which is small comfort when Bane is grabbing his hips and forcing them up higher, his legs wider until John's muscles are threatening to cramp again. The pain, when Bane drives into him, is endless. John screams until he runs out of breath, until all he can do is whimper with each thrust.

He tries to hold his breath, tries to ride each crushing thrust into oblivion, but he can't even manage that. Bane batters John until he feels like he's being destroyed from the inside out, until there's nothing left but a hollow, echoing space. Bane's animal growl of pleasure vibrates through John a second before the monster comes, flooding his abused body.

John waits on his knees, waits for the dizziness of blood loss or the quicker pain of Bane crushing his skull. Nothing comes but the steady, bruised pain that stretches through his body. He feels liquid drooling out of his ass. Bane's too large fingers slide in with ease now and he drags more and more of his come out to smear over John's thighs, his back.

He wants to curse, wants to tell Bane to just kill him already, to get it over with. He can't find the strength to do either.

Bane lifts him, hands under his arms pulling him to his feet. Something inside shifts; the pain John had thought the worst he could ever feel flares and erupts into something beyond comprehension, as if his spine is wrapped in barbed wire.

John finally, far too late for it to be any kind of mercy, passes out.

The room he wakes in is small and dark. For a brief minute, the space between when he wakes and when he opens his eyes, John feels relief. The nightmare is over. He will get up, get dressed and smile at Gordon over their breakfast of dry cereal. John will never, ever tell anyone about the horrors he has dreamed.

John shifts on the bed and the pain comes back. Dulled from the crippling agony of before, it is still enough to make his throat clamp tight. He opens his eyes to look at his prison. The bed is a thin mattress on the floor, the only other thing in the room is a wooden chair that looks like it will disintegrate if he breathes on it too hard. John is alone, the handcuffs gone. It's a small bit of consolation.

It takes him hours to work himself up to getting out of the bed. As long as he moves slowly, the pain is bearable. John tests the door, finds it locked from the outside as he expected. The chair is sturdier than it looks, sound enough to risk dragging it over to the small window he can see high up in the wall and climbing onto the seat.

The effort is wasted. The window is barred, covered on the outside with storm shutters that block out everything but the tiniest sliver of light at the very bottom.

John stares at the light as long as he can, until the pain in his back forces him down. He crawls back to the mattress and stretches out until he can breathe again.

Bane comes later, water and food in hand. John eats and drinks in silence. He knows he should be worried about poison, maybe, or some sort of drug but part of him laughs at the thought. It's only when Bane moves the bowl to the side, his hands finding John's bare thighs unerringly in the dim light that John feels a spike of fear.

“No.” He tries to scramble backwards, to escape somewhere if only for a second, but Bane's hands are hard and there's nowhere to go. John finds himself pinned down, hands held above his head in one massive fist as Bane pushes his pants down below his hips.

It's slower this time, but no less brutal. John struggles for breath, his body bent nearly double. Bane's fingers dig into his thighs, nails scratching and drawing blood. When it ends John lays still, unable to move, and listens to Bane cleaning himself up quickly.

“Why don't you just kill me?” Blood and come dripping from his body, every joint aching and muscle burning, John finds that he would welcome death at this moment.

“I am killing you.”

Time is an artificial construct in John's cell, but he marks it as best he can. He can't tell if the light that seeps in beneath the shutters is the sun or one of the millions of spotlights in Gotham, but he marks 'days' by it anyway. Men come in the 'morning', bring him two buckets. One to wash off with, a barely adequate sponging to get the worst of the grime off. The other to relieve himself in. They never speak, never look away. He shies from them at first, tries to find some way to hide the marks from Bane's hands, the bruises that never get the chance to heal. Still, they never make a move towards him, though he can feel them cataloging each visible mark. In spite of himself he begins to grow used to their silent presence around the third 'day'.

Hunger and thirst plague him until Bane comes in the 'afternoon', bringing cold water and something filling if not exactly tasty. He knows that the anticipation he feels for Bane's visits is driven by his fear that if the man doesn't come no one will remember John and he will be left alone to starve to death. The pain doesn't get better, doesn't ever end. John lives with it. What other choice does he have?

John is cold all the time. Not cold enough to hurt, but enough that he notices how warm Bane is. He tells himself he doesn't mind the cold, ignores the bursts of warmth that come when he manages to land a couple of punches before Bane beats him. John doesn't think about how, on the edges of the pain as Bane ruts into him, there's a part of him that wants to hold onto the warmth of Bane's body.

Bane removes the chair on day four, after he catches John testing the bars over the window.

Time becomes a little harder to track after that. He judges it by the men with the buckets and Bane himself. John suspects them of drugging him, of coming twice in one real day or not at all just to fuck with him. He suspects them of acting suspicious just to make him doubt reality. He suspects he might be losing his fucking mind a day at a time.

He doesn't know what to do about any of it.

It's either day eight or nine when Bane follows the bucket men into his cell. John hurries through his morning routine, the feel of Bane's eyes on him as he pisses and then washes up uncomfortable. He can't forget the hot wash of piss over his back, his face. Or the pleasure that Bane had taken in it.

The men leave and John wedges himself into the corner farthest from Bane and the bed, ready to keep fighting his hopeless fight.

Bane laughs and tosses down a bundle of clothing. “Get dressed.”

“Why?” John means to say 'no', just as he has to every request Bane has made over the past days. He has no idea why something else comes out of his mouth.

“Because if you do not, I will break your right hand. I will crush every bone in it until it is nothing but a mangled lump of useless flesh. And then I will make you dress yourself.” Bane bows his head a bit in John's direction, knocking once to have the door opened.

He dresses quickly, unsure of when Bane will return. The clothes are obviously Bane's, the fabric carries his scent, and too large for John. He feels like he's a kid again, dressed in cast offs and shamed by the fact. But the sweatshirt is soft and warm, even if the sleeves cover his hands unless he pushes them up to his elbows, and the pants hide the smudged bruises on his hips and thighs so that John can pretend they're not there for a little while.

There's no belt, no shoes. John hooks the fingers of one hand through the belt loops in order to cross to the small window. Without the chair it's too high for him to look out of easily and the storm shutters block out the light, but the sounds in the street reach him. Shouts and the steady thrum of powerful engines. The lock thuds open and John jumps, guilty, his fingers slipping from the tiny inner sill where he's stretched up, trying to feel a little warmth from the thin line of sun that has to be there.

"Come here." Bane closes the door and waits, a bundle of cloth dwarfed in his hands. John presses his back to the wall and shakes his head no.

The fight, such as it is, is over quickly. John is pinned on his back, his knuckles torn and bleeding sluggishly almost before he can feel the surge of adrenaline. Bane is sitting on him, holding him down, and John can feel the too familiar weight of his cock every time he takes a breath. Bane sighs, disappointed with him, and John lets himself be cuffed without any further resistance. The metal digs into the wide bands of bruises around his wrists as Bane ratchets them as tight as they will go. John doesn't let the flinch show. Bane knows John is weak, has seen enough to be sure of it, dragged enough screams from John to know his weakness is a deep running fault. There's no reason to just hand Bane more fuel.

Bane rises and draws John up with him, bunching the pants together and guiding John's hands to the tangle of fabric. He strokes his fingers along John's cheek, seemingly unconcerned by the rough drag of stubble there.

"What's happening?" John turns his head away from the touch, trying to look over his shoulder at the window. Bane catches him by the back of the neck and forces him to stillness.

"We're leaving." Bane pulls the hood of the sweat shirt up until it obscures John's vision, leaving him to peer out at legs and boots as Bane guides him out through the halls and into the street. The pavement is cold, the chill of winter clinging in the dark caverns of Gotham's alleys and John can hear gunshots and screaming somewhere to the south. He stumbles, trying to slow Bane down, to get his bearings. To maybe have a chance at rescue. John throws himself to the ground, makes himself dead weight.

Help!” The activity around him pauses, a ripple of shock going through the men. John kicks out at feet he can see running towards him, the hood flopping into his eyes and giving him only fractured chunks of his surroundings. He shouts again. A boot catches him in the side, driving the air from his lungs.

Bane crouches on top of him, knees to either side of John's head. “If someone did come, what do you think would happen?” He grabs John's jaw and yanks the hood back, letting him see. They are surrounded by Bane's men. Not the conscripts from Blackgate, but the hard cases that had been with Bane from the beginning. Bane pries John's mouth open, fingers grabbing hard at John's tongue. He gags as Bane pulls, nails biting into the slick muscle. “I should rip your tongue from your head.” Bane pulls harder and John screams, the noise garbled. “No? No.”

He gags John with a dirty strip of cloth he pulls from a pocket. Every time John breathes he tastes sweat and Bane. Bane lifts John from the ground, tosses him against something that looks like a tank. He's pulled and pushed until he slides down into the machine, catches a glimpse of Bane's right hand psycho at the wheel and Bane himself clinging to the side of the vehicle as they drive off. They meet no resistance that he can see, and when Bane pulls him from the hatch he can hear the whine of a planes engine drowning out everything else. Bane slings him over one shoulder, each step jarring John's stomach against the ridge of his shoulder. The world passes by as glimpses of grass and asphalt, Bane's boots and long metal boxes out of the corner of his eye.

It's a relief to be sat down on a hard bench, straps wrapped around him, buckling him in until he feels like a fly trapped in a web. Bane starts to move away. John bites at the gag, resisting the urge to try and speak. He wants to ask Bane what's going on again, or to pull the hood back so John can at least see.

"And who is this? Someone new for your prison?" The voice is soft, familiar. It takes John a second to place it, so unexpected is her presence. He shakes his head, trying to move the hood from over his eyes enough to see. It can't be. It can't.

"What are you doing?" Delicate hands fling the hood back from his eyes and there she is, Miranda Tate. Her long brown hair is tied back severely from her face. She's lost the dresses and jewelry, clothed now in more utilitarian garb that matches Bane and the other men. Her eyes are on him, flicking quickly over his face and body, but her attention is on Bane who stands beside her.

Anger chokes him and he growls at her, teeth grinding at the gag. He knows now, too late, who was betraying them, who killed the Special Forces men and so many others. John lunges forward against the straps, kicks out at her and catches her in one knee. She snarls and John sees the blow coming, but before it can land something the size and speed of a train slams into his face, drives his head into the rib of the plane in a precise, excruciating snap of pain. He sees stars, can hear himself grunt and whine. John slumps, what has to be blood running down his face.

"Never touch her." Bane's fingers touch the blood, smear it over his cheek and down his throat. His eyes refuse to focus, so John closes them. Bane and Miranda speak, the language slick and flowing around him. He's never heard anything like it before, his head spinning so fast that he couldn't follow it if he had.

"Are you certain, my brother?" The return to English is jarring, her voice now carrying a trace of the other tongue. Small, cool hands cup his chin, lift his head. He forces his eyes open and glares at the traitor.

"Yes." Bane touches her arm, tender.

They land after a few hours, switch to a large cargo plane. John feels like cargo; carried around, trussed up and put someplace out of the way. No one speaks to him, most of the men won't even look at him. He sits beside Bane but might as well be invisible. John sleeps, or passes out, they're the same thing these past few days and when he wakes they're no longer on the plane but jouncing over land at break neck speeds. John's mouth is dry, the gag soaking up every last bit of moisture.

He's sweating in spite of the air conditioning he can feel blasting against his face, the sweat shirt that had been comforting in Gotham now heavy and strangling. John's head is leaning against the window, Bane to one side pinning him against the door. He moves slowly, his hands still cuffed together, to find the lock and the handle. It's all sand, beyond the glass, with quick glimpses of buildings and trees here and there. John holds his breath, fingers curling around the lock and pulling. It clicks open and he freezes. Bane shifts, but doesn't seem to notice the quiet sound.

One breath, two, another town coming up on his side and John yanks on the handle. The door flies open, spilling John onto the sand. He tucks into a ball as best as he can but John feels his shoulder hit wrong, pain star-bursting out and then that side goes numb. John rolls, crashes into a ditch beside the road and scrambles to his feet. The sand slides from beneath his feet, trips him and spills him back into the bottom of the ditch. He digs in with his hands, can feel the pants start to slide down his legs but doesn't stop, kicking and crawling out of them until he reaches solid ground.

John runs for the houses he can see in the distance. He hears brakes scream behind him, angry shouting and doors slamming open. He doesn't look back, doesn't dare think about the thudding pace behind him growing closer. There are people there, between the houses, small figures that grow larger and resolve into men and women as he gets closer. Some of the men have guns, long rifles leaning against the sides of their houses.

He wants to scream for help but all that comes out is a wheezing, muffled groan. John is gasping for each breath, his lungs feeling as though they're slicing themselves to ribbons on each inhale. He reaches the closest house, clipping the corner with his numb shoulder and staggering to a stop. His legs threaten to collapse out from under him and he clings to the rough side of the building in desperation. The man standing near the door looks at him, then back toward the road. John can feel Bane's approach, the earth shaking with each pounding step. He meets the silent man's dark eyes and begs for help in his own rough pantomime. John sees understanding in the man's face. And rejection.

John tries to pull the gag from his mouth, he needs to be able breathe better, but it's tied too tightly. He reaches up, trying to find the knot as the rasp of Bane's breathing reaches his ears. The local shakes his head in a slow, exaggerated movement. John pushes off the building, aiming for the alley between the houses. The man says something, reaches out as John staggers past him and catches the collar of the sweatshirt. He pulls hard, drags John off his feet and pushes him to the sand.

John screams in frustration, sand slipping behind the gag and making him choke. He's twisting on the ground like a landed fish when Bane arrives. A boot pins him to the earth, sand scratching his bare legs, the sun beating down on him ruthlessly as the men around him speak. The language is quick and fluid, but even John can hear the anger in Bane's voice; can feel it in the way the boot heel grinds down into his spine with precise pressure.

“Foolish.” Bane pulls John to his feet, tears the sweat shirt from his shoulders in a single pull. John glances around. The people of the town have disappeared, leaving only Bane's men. John tries to cover himself, hands curling into loose fists to hide the most vulnerable part of his nakedness. “These are our people! We protect them! There is nowhere you can run from me.” Bane runs his thumb along the corner of John's mouth, pulling at the skin. “It is another hundred miles to base. Perhaps you would prefer to walk?” Bane forces his head up, tears the gag from his mouth. There is nothing but sand in front of him. No trees, no buildings. John imagines dying on the dunes, dry and burnt. Vultures and whatever else lives out there tearing him to pieces until there's nothing left.

“Yeah, sure.” Even John can hear the fear in his thin voice, the truth that no, he does not want to die like that.

Bane's fingers curl across his cheek, the gentle gesture making John freeze. “A child's answer. Full of bravado and ignorance.” The blow knocks him to the ground, leaves him spitting blood.

They haul him to his feet, wrap him in a loose robe that the man from the village brings out. It's thin, but John can feel the difference immediately as the sun stops burning the skin from his body quite so quickly. They have to take the handcuffs off and John's desperate enough to try fighting back. Bane leans against the small house and watches as his men beat John down to the earth again and again until he finally just stays down. The men tie his wrists together with rough rope, hand the long line of it to Bane.

The sand burns his feet on the way back to the jeep. He expects to be tossed into the back, maybe hogtied, and ignored for the rest of the drive. Instead, Bane climbs in and rolls down the window, feeding the rope through, leaving John standing outside.

“Wait, wait-” But the truck is already moving, slower than before, slow enough that John can keep from being pulled off his feet and dragged along by jogging quickly. It hurts, his mouth is dry, his body weak. There hadn't been much food back in Gotham, not that last week especially, and no activity but Bane's abuse and the incredibly one sided fights that lead up to it.

He doesn't know how far he makes it before his legs stop responding, before he's running one second and in the sand the next. The truck keeps going, yanking his arms up and nearly out of their sockets. Sand tears at his face and back through the robes. He tries to get back up, fingers knotting around the rope to pull himself to his knees, anything to get up off the burning sand. He can't. He tucks his head between his arms to gain a little protection and doesn't know whether to hope he dies or lives.

The truck stops, leaving John curled on his side, trying to convince himself to move. To stand back up. His body won't respond, overtaken with tremors that seem like they'll never end. Bane kneels in front of him, a canteen dangling from his fingers.

“Two miles.” He lifts John's head and pours a mouthful of water past his cracked and bleeding lips. John swallows, lets a little spill over to cool his skin. “Do you still want to walk?”

“No.” God no. John grabs at Bane's boots, his pants, fingers scrabbling for purchase.

“And the child learns.” Bane carries him into the truck, curls him into the space between the seats. John spends the rest of the drive with his head leaning against Bane's knee, being fed slow swallows of water.