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It’s dark. Late. Before dawn rather than after midnight.

Bane doesn’t mind. He is used to this, the shadows, the darkness. It is his place, slinking past unseen. He is surprisingly adapt at hiding for a man of his size and bulk.

God at turning just so to hide the truth of the mask on his face, the tanks under his coat.

Talia doesn’t like to see him turn from the light. She takes his chin in hand every time she catches him at it, stares at him. He never meets her gaze.

Tonight, Talia sleeps in her penthouse above the city, Miranda, not Talia. Tate, not alGuhl.

Tonight, Bane walks Gotham city alone, filth under his feet, caught in his gaze, picked up by his ears. Whores and beggars, thieves and lost children. The city lives in squalor, in sin.

They will wipe it clean by wiping it out and Talia will have her revenge. She will have her revenge and he will have daylight, she tells him. A world where he is king, instead of shadow and darkness. Her eyes shine bright with madness when she tells him these things and he smiles behind his mask, lets her.

He is her creature.

Suddenly, there is a flash of something bright ahead, like a coin catching the light. Or a blonde head under a streetlight.

Hair shines golden and someone screams. He slinks toward the commotion, finds a whore cowering against the bricks and another woman, clean and bright and neat, not part of Gotham’s underbelly, fighting a vampire.

He knows the creature. Of course he does. You do not go where he has gone without knowing a monster when you see it.

The blonde kicks it with a viciousness that stuns Bane, and pleases him. She is fierce, that one. She reminds him of his little Talia.

The kick is followed by an uppercut and then a stake to the heart. He watches the blonde watch the dust settle. She looks pleased as she turns to the whore, helps her up, hands her her purse.

“Freaky, huh?” she asks, voice light and airy and pleasant. “That guy?”

The whore jerks back, afraid, and then turns to run away on broken heels. The blonde sighs, shakes her head as she looks after her. “Poor thing,” she murmurs.

Bane waits for her to move, but she doesn’t. Instead she turns her gaze on him, staring straight at him through the shadows he wraps around him. “Lurk much?” she asks.

He doesn’t answer, only cocks his head.

“I mean, not that I mind an audience, except I kind of do and...” she squints. “Did you watch too much Silence of the Lambs?”

Bane chuckles and steps into the light. Lets her see him, mask and muscle, the bald head, the chain he keeps wrapped around his waist as a weapon. He lets her see the brutality of him.

She doesn’t flinch.

Curious, or perhaps impressed, he asks, “Why did you save her?”

He waves a hand in the direction the whore disappeared in.

She shrugs, sticks her hands into her pockets. It’s a foolish move, leaving her open, but he does not think she needs the advantage. The danger in her gaze is as bright as his Talia’s madness.

“Why didn’t you?” she asks, easily. But there is something hard under her words. Solid and unyielding as the rock that kept him trapped once.

“Filth,” he spits. “Waste. It would have been no loss.”

“Hey, just because she’s a little down on her luck and didn’t have the manners to say thank you...”

“Filth,” he repeats, hands spread at his sides. “All of it. This whole city is rotting, maggot infested corpse.”

She shakes her head and he cannot read her face. “She was human. Is human. And so are the rest of the people here.”

“They will not change,” he tells her, with the conviction of a man who knows.

“No,” she agrees, easily, but with a strange intensity about her. “But they’re still human. Her. Me, you. All human.”

Him.

She sees him, sees his mask, his weapons, sees what he is, knows, he can tell, and still calls him human. How strange. How sentimental. How stupid.

“Aaaaanyway,” she suddenly blurts. “Much as I’d love to keep throwing one liners around all night, the world’s not gonna save itself. Also, I have the squirmy feeling that you’re not one of the good guys and I actively try to avoid that. I have rules about humans and the not-killing thereof.”

Again she calls him human.

Again he can’t decide whether to strangle or smile at her.

“So, cheers, Hannibal. Happy lurking.”

With that she waves and turns her back on him, unafraid.

He should definitely strangle her.

Instead he watches her go, her blonde head bobbing in the light of the few intact streetlights until she’s disappeared.

She reminds him of Talia, he decides, but at the same time, she is entirely unlike her. He adjusts his mask, shakes his head and slips back into the deeper shadows, into the darkness, to wait for dawn.

It will be Gotham’s last.

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