Chapter 1

Inside the Fire

"Take your place inside the fire with her." - Disturbed

What was Hell really like? How would the demons torture you as you screamed for mercy? How hot was the fire? How badly would you be burned? What face would the Devil be wearing?

He was in Hell. He knew it. A Hell far worse than the cursed pit, far worse than they could ever imagine in silly movies or books. The fire was unimaginable. The voices around him laughed and cursed him to more torture. The pokes and the prods felt like lava under his skin. The light destroyed him, glaring and unforgiving.

And the pain…

Oddly enough, he could remember no worse pain. The pain from before, before his medicine, before his mask, was almost nothing. In this moment in time, that pain in his memory was starting to fade and curl at the edges. He was afraid that if he waited much longer, endured this much longer, he'd lose that memory altogether. He'd rather hold on to that pain instead of this. It would disappear into the black void with his other thoughts, his thoughts on what exactly happened after everything turned to fire, and he'd be left sitting at the edges again, waiting for something, anything, to float to the top.

Where was Talia?

His eyes snapped open, and he was horribly greeted with more light. Closing them again, he tried to make himself fade into nothingness. Maybe if he ignored this Hell, he could get through it.

Goodbye, my friend.

His body convulsed and jumped, his eyes took the light this time. And several pairs of hands held him back down.

"What's going on?"

"He's conscious!"

"Hold him down and get me some anesthetic!"

He was shaking. He couldn't breathe. The pain was unbearable.

Bane blinked repeatedly to moist his severely dry eyes and kept them on the light. He forced himself, commanded himself to breathe. And when he did, taking a very loud gasp, the pain intensified. A scream built up in his throat, not from the pain this time, but from realization.

He was breathing fresh air.

Where was his mask? His medicine? He desperately needed his medicine.

He looked down at his body, and saw ruin.

Taking more loud and unfamiliar deep breaths, Bane gazed at his ruin, and realized he was not in Hell at all. He was still alive.

He looked back up, at the many faces of paramedics and cops and firemen as they did whatever they were doing to him. The pain consumed him once again, the agony of it choking him completely. He was alive.

And Gotham City had not been reduced to ashes.