Disclaimer: I do not own The Dark Knight Rises.

Just an idea I had about what an encounter between Bane and John Blake might have looked like.

John Blake found himself alone on the streets again. Though inside the buildings people screamed, laughed, and cried, outside it was perfectly quiet – every footstep muffled by the soft fall of snow.

He turned up the collar of his coat, trying to prevent the snow from landing on his neck. It was a rather hopeless endeavor.

His hand slipped into his pocket and fingered the small piece of chalk he kept there. Maybe he was too much of a romantic, but the chalk gave him a sense of peace as he took it out and paused at the corner of a building to re-do one of his earlier bat markings.

Though he used them mostly as a way to keep track of where he'd been and where the trucks moved, Blake liked to think that maybe other people saw the marks too. Maybe they would be reminded that all was not lost. Maybe they would remember that there are some things worth fighting for.

A soft click sounded next to him and he froze, eyes sliding to the side to see that several of Bane's men had snuck up on him unawares and now held a gun to his head. "Don't move."

One of the men stepped forward and began to pat him down, searching for weapons. Another man grabbed his wrist and wrenched the piece of chalk from his fingers. He watched it fall to the ground and get crushed under the man's boot.

John's heart sunk a little. Was this the end of his endeavors? He'd hoped he would be able to last a bit longer, that he and Gordon would be able to work together to free their people, but perhaps his time was up.

The other man searching him found his gun and badge. "He's a cop."

The leader of the group sneered at him. "So you're the one leaving all the bat markings around town. Did you think we wouldn't notice? Did you think he would come back to save you after your corrupt police force hunted him down?"

John knew he had a reputation as a hothead, but that didn't mean he didn't know the value of silence.

His lack of response angered the man, who quickly shoved him against the wall and began tying his hands together. The zipties he used cut deeply into his wrists.

The thugs were none too gentle as they shoved him out onto the street and forced him to march towards the courthouse.

Looks like I get to test my ability to walk on ice, he thought grimly as they marched him up the steps to where the "court" convened. It's like a modern French Revolution. I wonder which hurts more – the guillotine or ice water? Knowing Bane, probably ice water.

He was shaken out of his morbid thoughts as one of the thugs said, "Where are you going? The court is this way."

"I know that!" The leader snapped as he jerked John down a separate corridor. "I'm taking this one to Bane. He'll want to meet him."

Blake went from feeling slightly queasy to "all-my-insides-are-now-putty." Despite his defiance in the city, he was frightened of Bane – a man who seemed more animal than human. Maybe I won't have to worry about ice or the guillotine. Maybe I'll just get my neck snapped.

They came into a room that must have been an office of some sort, but all the desks and filing cabinets had been removed or shoved to the side. Dim light filtered in through dusty windows and though John scanned the room for any sign of the masked man, he couldn't see him.

The man holding him shoved him down onto his knees in the middle of the room. "Sir, we've found the one responsible for the bat markings in the city."

"Have you indeed?" The deep voice came from behind him and John was glad that he wasn't the only one who jumped. The leader's hand tightened on his shoulder.

Heavy footsteps sounded behind them and one of the other thugs moved over to Bane and handed him the gun and badge. "He's a cop, sir."

"Is he?" The echoing voice seemed vaguely amused. "You may leave us."

The leader hesitated for a moment, but then snapped his fingers and led his men out of the room. The door shut behind them.

John kept his eyes focused on the ground as large boots came into his line of vision. They stopped in front of him and he couldn't quite contain his flinch as thick fingers grabbed his chin and jerked his head up.

That frightening mask hovered in front of his face, but the eyes above it looked shockingly human. He wasn't sure why he felt so surprised at the revelation, but he did.

"You are young, Officer Blake." Bane flicked his badge at him with his free hand. The small piece of metal fell into his lap, taunting him with its glossy color. "Too young, perhaps, to realize the hopelessness of your endeavors."

"I'm not naïve, if that's what you mean." John surprised himself with the strength of his own voice – a strength that he certainly did not feel. "I've just learned not to give up when circumstances look hopeless."

The chuckle that sounded grated on his already frazzled nerves. "You remind me of him, you know. Your hero. Determined to a fault. Idealistic. Risktaker. I always enjoy seeing that spirit dwindle out."

Blake swallowed as the hand tilted his head to the side and then released him. He couldn't keep the question that had pressed on him for so many months inside anymore. "Did you kill him?"

"I've done much worse." Bane crouched and put his hands on his knees so that he came eye to eye with him. "I broke him. I took your incorruptible symbol and I showed him what a fragile, brittle concept hope is."

"Yet you can't seem to keep it from coming back to life." Though he couldn't see the man's mouth, John got the impression that he was smiling.

"Yes, one doesn't have to go far to discover that humans are a rather foolish race."

"I'd rather have a fool's hope any day than a madman's freedom."

There was no doubt that Bane was laughing now – though the mask distorted the sound so much that it almost sounded more like a terrible, rasping cough than laughter. "Then let us make a deal, Officer Blake. Let's see how far your fool's hope takes you."

John yelped as he was yanked to his feet. Bane's hands gripped the zipties around his wrists and crumpled them. The officer warily brought his hands in front of him, rubbing his wrists gingerly. "You're releasing me?"

The man stared down at him. "I am breaking you. I want you to go out there and put your symbols wherever you desire. I want you to keep waiting for your hero to return. I want you to keep your sense of hope. Because when that hope fails you – and it will – it will destroy you far better than walking across a sheet of ice."

John's eyes almost crossed as Bane held up something right in front of his face.

It was a piece of chalk.

He snatched it out of his hand. "And I think that even a symbol scratched out in chalk will prove to be more resilient than you ever gave it credit for. Hope is stronger than fear and one day you will realize that no matter how destructive the fire, something can always rise from the ashes."

Bane waved a hand at him. "Then go, and let us see which of us will be proved right in the end."

John squared his shoulders, gave a sharp nod, and left the room without another word. He came down the steps outside and paused at a corner of the building. His hands shook as he brought out the piece of chalk, but when he walked away, a small white bat stood out against the dark brick of the courthouse.