Author: Harlequin Sequins PM
He had no name. She had only ever called him savior. Sequel to Likeness to God. Talia/Bane.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Words: 2,735 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 32 - Follows: 13 - Published: 07-23-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8352232
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
He had no name. She had only ever called him Salvador – savior. Names seemed so permanent, so fragile, in a world built on transience and decay. He was hope to her, her hope caked in flesh. He needed no roots in the earth to fill her until she brimmed with light. She only ever had to look up into his face, those eyes that reflected the one trace of softness she knew in him, and it would be there.
He was proof for her. A reminder that there was life and beauty beyond this hole in the earth, where all semblances of humanity and living were forgotten. And if she ever found a way out, if she could ever find the strength to climb the thick crumbling walls of that hell, she would take him with her. That had been her dream. They would be reborn out of the ashes of purgatory together – or she would remain with him and let the fire take her.
Now, her heart aches for a name. For an anchor to wrap around his arms and chain him to this earth, like she used to. Days and weeks and months passed. He slipped further away, though she called for him, let her tears catch on the steel of his hands. Such a simple request – she could have whispered it into the gloom, made it like a wish that she could give up to the stars, and he would have told her. So easily she could have asked for it and it would have been hers to keep. Like her own name. A secret in her heart.
He still breathes. There's the taut, rhythmic pounding of his pulse in her ear, when she molds the shape of his palm around her head. Her father tells her he may never recognize her again, let alone give her his name.
"Humans are so fragile, Talia. Never put your hope in man. Never build yourself up on his promises, on the promises you make for him. He will always let you fall in the end."
She folds her fingers around his, weaving them until she cannot tell where her flesh ends and his begins. Tears gather in the corners of her eyes. She won't let her father see her cry. Not after all those years of strength she built for herself in the belly of the pit. "I believed in him because he saved me. I never promised him anything."
"You promised him your love and your life. Now you must suffer the consequences of your weakness."
A surge of anger pushes through her veins like fire. "I am not weak!"
"Prove it to me, Talia!" His words are as hard and unbending as steel, like the arms of her protector. He rises up against her. "Prove to me that you are not weak and let go of him."
The words of the prisoners have not failed him. They built for him a towering mythology. A name so strong, so unyielding, that the passing of the ages could never make them hollow. Man will fall. Great civilizations will be torn down, new cities erected on their graves, and become nothing more than whispers of dust. But he will never be forgotten. Time may take his body, but it can never take his name.
He emerges fully from the shadows. The moon touches the burning in his eyes and turns them to cold, pale embers. "Let him go."
Let him go.
Life returns to him in the deadness of night.
In sleep, she feels him shift under her. The rustling of his fingers in her hard grip. The brush of new breath in his stale lungs. He's alive. Slowly, she can feel it moving in him. The sweetness of her dream sharpens as she wakes and finds his eyes roving in the gloom, searching for her.
His voice is no longer the darkness of spoken thunder. So whittled down, so thin, that there is barely a sound left above the raw whisper it's become. Talia, he begs the shadows.
A smile struggles to surface, a broken crescent perching on his torn mouth. "My dear friend." He gathers her hand into his.
The joy in her is so new, so alive that it feels like pain. "You remember me." The words break in her throat. "You remember me."
She can barely hear him, hiding behind his oxygen mask. "I never forgot you, little dove."
In the pit, need was her master. It guided the blade into her hand until it found flesh. It drove the fire, pushed it, kneaded it, until it tangled with her blood and threaded through her bones. Hunger never hurt like the fire. It sometimes woke her in the night, so hot, so cruel, that not even the cool steel of her protector's arms could calm the heat of it.
Her father calls the fire anger. He tells her, with a wisdom that shows in the lines in his face, that anger is a powerful force. It can be used to destroy everything in its path – or to fuel the creation of new life.
"All you need to do, Talia, is learn to control your anger. Harness its energy – and use its power for the good of the world."
Her father has the softness of her mother. There are pieces of him that mask it. His power. His fire. His presence. He has risen above the faintness of human life. Immortality and greatness cradle him in their shadow. He is no longer a man. He is a god. And yet he still carries her. Like a mark on his soul. A faint breath of her life still caged in his body like a memory. He was her protector, her lover, her friend. She was everything. And now she's gone.
Her mother is nothing but a ghost to her now. She thrums in the scars of her life like a pulse, but she doesn't live in her, thrive in her like she does in her father. Her Salvador was everything in the pit. Life, hope, strength. It was his voice, his encouragement, that lifted her up out of the earth as if she had grown wings. She wears him now, the soul of him, like a brand.
She watches her father stare out at the swollen white sky and she wonders – what would become of her if she lost everything?
In time, her father fashions a machine for her protector, so that he could rise again. He shows it to her. Holds it up in the light – a mask.
"It will make him strong."
They lift her friend out of his bed, throw his limbs about their shoulders like ropes. She tries to hold onto him, the way he was. The way the light caught and held his eyes when he looked up out of the pit. The way his breath sounded it as it moved in him, pure, a balm on her skin. Her hope burgeoning in him like a newborn sun. How it had made him so alive to her - her giant amongst angels. Her haven carved from breathing stone.
They watch from the shadows as the mask is fitted over the tattered remains of his face. His eyes lock with hers. They are still grey with pain, but there is recognition in them. Hands and fingers swarm him. She remembers the pit. When he was pulled under the waves of hands. She remembers the fingers drenched in his blood. The pieces of flesh torn from his body. He had called out to her and the echoes of his chant still haunt her in sleep. Deshi basara. She had climbed toward heaven. He was dragged further down into hell.
The hands fall away.
His breath filters through the air – mechanical, hollow. It will never be pure again.
And he turns his head, his eyes searching for her. They are only part of him left visible underneath the cruel teeth of his mask.
There is a shade of pride in her father's voice. "He rises."
The years are not kind to them. They take the child of legend and her unsung hero, mold them into shapes they weren't meant for. Their time in the pit is forgotten. Everything they learned, everything they kept for themselves, turns to ash in the hands of their anger.
The sun of her hope burns out. The softness she saw in his eyes dwindles like a dying star. Under the tutelage of Ra's Al Ghul, they learn to forget humanity, bury it in the snows of the mountains. He invites the cold into them, lets it wrap around their skin. It's safer that way. It's easier to view the dying world through a veil of ice.
In the pit, she once drove a blade into a man's side for bread. Nothing personal. Nothing against him. It was only that life and death lived so closely in the prison gloom. Sometimes, it was so easy to blur the line between them. So easy to stumble upon one and lose the other. If you didn't look carefully, watch your step, you could lose life – and stumble on death in the form of a knife in your back.
Here, it's different. She twists the knife even deeper, reaches for the heart of man instead. There is no prize of bread, of dulling the hunger. Instead of sustaining life, she sustains the purity of justice. This is what she learns. This is the sacrifice of joining the League of Shadows.
He teaches them that to live in the shadows, they must adopt its ways.
But they do not forget the way his arms fit around her.
How she murmured to him in the darkness. Salvador.
And his lips moved in her hair. Pequeñita.
The first time he kills, she sees it. A glimpse of the monster that was born out of his walk with death. Before the mask, before his rise, she could never imagine her gentle friend killing without reason. Though he was hard like steel, there was no cruelty in him. Only the desperation to keep her alive.
Now he carries it out with fanfare.
She is no longer a child. The fairytales of hopes like the sun have lost their charm. She no longer looks up at the sky, stretches out her arms and prays to the light to give her wings. Her protector is not an angel made of stone, but a man weighed down with demons. Though she promised to remember him the way he was in the pit, she has forgotten. The world has made her vessel of hope hollow.
They stand at the edge of the world, where there is nothing but snow. Hills are buried in it. The heavens are pale and heavy with the frost. She looks out at their new haven – how cold it is against her skin.
"Remember when I used to call you my Salvador?"
There is no thunder in him anymore. It died out with the voice she once heard calling up to her from the swarm – deshi basara.
Now, he has become fully stone.
Their eyes lock. There is no more clarity of unending blue. Only grey, a cold, colorless veil. It never left, not even when he took his first breath in that mask.
"I called you pequeñita. My little one."
"Yes." She looks out over the snow-dusted mountain tops. "I was a child. I loved you for the hope you gave me. For the bread you stole so that I wouldn't go hungry. I held on to you so that I wouldn't fall."
She closes her eyes. "Now we are equals, my dear friend. Now I cannot fall."
They are both given names when their training is done, when they are at last elected into the League of Shadows.
He is called Bane. Mercenary. Killer. Man made of stone.
She is given her father's name. Talia Al Ghul. The one who crawled from the pit.
Child of the god of shadows.
She dreams of him the way he was. Young. The beautiful colossal. The thunder in his voice. How, when she walked in his shadow, they feared to go near her. She'd felt invincible in his snare.
The currents of his old life ripple through her when she turns her back on the world and sinks down into herself. They rush with the blood in her veins. He is with her, always. She has become her own strength, her own hope. But he is still everything. She still wears him like a brand.
Her father told her, long ago, that it was weakness to rely on the strength of men to sustain her. You make your own way, Talia. You build your own strength.
How could it be a weakness to love someone whose life has been woven into the tapestry of her soul? Every step he takes clothes her in his shadow. His every breath is her breath. They live as one. They will always ever live as one.
Long before morning, when the bruised black of the sky will fade into grey, she climbs out of her bed. She follows the pace of his hollow breathing. So carefully she has learned its song that she always hear it, even after death has stolen it from him.
He lies on his back. His skin glints, pale and fluid like pooling silver, in the moonlight. Only the mask seems black in this darkness. It gapes at her, like a void, and tries to swallow all of him into obscurity.
For a moment, she remembers child who hid behind his robes. It surfaces in her, emerging from the depths of history, a past she had tried to forget.
She can hear the smile in his voice. "I thought you had forgotten me, my little dove."
Softly, she curls into his side. It is a different fit, but still familiar, still warm and numbing. "I have never forgotten. Only learned to live without you."
"Yes. It is safer that way. If I lose you, I could still stand on my own. It would be hard. I would ache without you. But I would survive."
"Dear one, I will never be far."
"Death is an awfully long way."
She presses her ear against his ribs. There, drowned out by the sound of the mask, she can hear it – the thunder.
"Then I must find a way to live forever."
Her father is dead. News of it travels from the far side of the world – where she will soon be. There, an adversary has risen from the filth of Gotham. The one who killed her father. Who saved Gotham from what will soon come to it in time, as it descends further into darkness and decay – death.
We must prolong the life of justice, Talia – or it will die out altogether.
She has inherited his name, his mantle, his cause. She is the immortal one now.
There is no pain in her when the reality of her father's fate sinks in. She feels only a bare, hollow sting as she realizes that she has lost a mentor, a master, her guide. Father was never a name he wore well. He thrived as a master – but there was never a need in him to be her father, her friend. It was a role he knew belonged to another. Her friend from the pit. The one who was everything.
An old need emerges from the shadows. One that she remembers when, once, she lost someone close to her – her mother.
"We will avenge him, Talia."
For a moment, she fumbles for a memory, trying to remember that knife in her hand. How she stood before her mother's killer – and drove it through his heart. I want to do it.
"No, my dear friend."
author's notes: be kind now...this probably won't be as good as part one. but i think it turned out pretty well considering i hadn't planned to write a part two! thanks for reading guys :)
disclaimer - i don't own talia, ra's al ghul, or bane. they belong to DC comics.