Ghost Love Score
"My fall will be for you. My love will be in you. If you be the one to cut me, I'll bleed forever." – Nightwish
They say it's hard to light a candle, easier to curse the dark instead. They say light travels faster than anything else, but what they don't tell you is that darkness was there first and is waiting so very patiently.
And it never leaves.
The sun burned all day long, suffocating, smothering, so very hot and bright. And yet, even with the scorching rays of that great sun, the darkness within the pit destroyed it each and every time. No amount of light could tear the dark apart, no amount of hope could cure crippling despair. The wails of men would not rejoice from the sun, but cower away from the light because the dark was all they knew, all they could know. The dark was home, and home was hell.
Peña Dura had barely changed. Bane had heard rumors of a man who had escaped the pit long ago, tossing down a rope that would give the others that faraway reality of freedom. Of course Bruce Wayne would do something like that, he'd thought at the time. Of course he would be the savior for the abyss of pitiful men. But some men had been too old or injured to make the climb. Some men had regrettably had to stay behind when the first rush of the frantic had severed the rope, and left the others to rot. But even if Bruce Wayne's rope had not given freedom to all the men imprisoned within the dark hole, his presence there had most certainly left inspiration.
A few more men had successfully escaped, finding the strength and the courage to make the jump, and feel the light upon their face. Some had returned to rescue certain others, and some had tried letting down another rope for the rest. It had worked for a while.
Until the lords of the land got smart. Until they decided to take away the prisoner's one chance at freedom completely.
The rope was taken away. The ledges were destroyed. And more men were tossed in without ever having to feel that terrible hope.
The pit had barely changed. And Bane felt he was losing his sanity.
On the outskirts of Gotham shortly after he'd left, Bane's men had been ambushed by the police during a deal that had been dirty. No one was able to come for him because they were frantically trying to keep their own freedom. Many were arrested and locked up, others were hiding within the masses, and a few had been killed by the badge. It was terribly hard to escape to another country for your leader when the present country was out for your head. And the police definitely wanted all of the mercenaries head's on a platter. To make executive decisions was something his men had always done well. And how were they supposed to know the truth? How could they have known what had happened?
Six weeks in the pit felt like another lifetime gone to waste. There was never enough food, barely enough water. The other prisoners left him alone, his size and the mask his shield against another attack he found himself always bracing for because this place was just one enormous bad memory. But Bane could live through all of that. Bane could endure those kinds of trivialities.
What he couldn't endure was feeling like the man he'd been before the League of Shadows had come for him.
Trapped here now against his will, Bane found himself looking around for the little girl who had stolen his life. Remembering how things used to be, Bane would feel for the small body along his cot at night that would never be there. And only when he righted himself, only when he would stare at his reflection and see the evidence of different times along his face, would he fear the grip of insanity.
This was not the past, he would tell himself when he would search for water. Talia had not been a little girl for a very long time. Talia was dead.
He was a different man now. It was the only anchor he could give himself. He was stronger now, smarter, more powerful than any of the other prisoners. He had no little girl to take care of. He had no sudden injuries to suffer from. He endured each day like he had before Talia had come into his life. He had survived and he would survive again. The pit would not destroy him for a second time. Bane would take his own life before he allowed that to happen. But after the first couple of weeks trapped within his hell, Bane had wondered if that very act was in his near future when he began feeling the consuming choke of his medicine running low.
When Selina Kyle had used the piercing dart as a dagger, she had stabbed his mask. Bane had been thankful to discover that it hadn't received any excessive damage. It had been more annoying to stitch up the small incision on his side where she had jabbed the tiny knife between his ribs. But even if the Catwoman had been unsuccessful in damaging his mask, the simple fact that it was running low on medicine steadily became more concerning. He had nothing with him. He had no drugs, no doctor. Bane felt at one point that he really would die here again.
Until he searched within the deep pockets of his armored vest, and discovered that Camille had left him with two full canisters.
After he'd found them, he could only stare at them. After he'd popped them into the back of his mask, breathing in the new medicine that would last him a little bit longer here in hell, he could only remember.
Don't forget about me.
Camille hadn't wanted him to forget. But how could he forget, now that her odd maternal action towards him was the only thing keeping him alive? How could he forget his time with her, when the very air he constantly breathed was laced with the drugs she'd made for him? When he needed a grip to reality, Bane would think of her. When he needed to remind himself, Bane would imagine her face, her voice, the very way about her that had made her the woman she was. Talia had been that anchor for him after he'd lifted her to freedom. But Talia could never be anything more to him now other than his past.
He could not sink back into the claws of her ghost.
And now, six weeks later, still trapped, still tortured, Bane wondered how much longer he had before his medicine ran low again, wondered how long it would be until the soft hiss of the gas would stop within his mask. Then his pain would take him. Then, he would submit to it completely. It had been six weeks.
Another wasted lifetime.
Bane sat on the floor of his cell, tried to ignore the sting in his side from the infected wound he'd stitched together with filthy tools, dirty string from the cot because it was all he had. He hunched over in his armored vest, looked off into the distance as he ran calculations inside his head. A few more days, he decided, agreeing with those calculations. Just a few more days until his mask would have nothing to sustain him with. After that, he didn't know how long he'd last. He had lived without his analgesics for over a year when the people of Gotham had allowed him to live after the revolution, believing that suffering within the system was more torturous than simple termination. But his body had been put in a flux after he returned the drugs to his insides. Now, he didn't think he could last very long without them.
At this point, he knew what the future held for him. It was only the timing that was questionable.
Bane took a deep breath, closed his eyes against the sharp burn from the cut along his ribs that the mask couldn't hold back as a few of the other prisoners started to shout in their many foreign languages, most of which he knew but couldn't find the interest to translate. There was more yelling around him, more rushing within the cells and outside in the light. And after a while, his curiosity piqued. Looking over his shoulder at the shouting men, Bane listened to what they were saying. Their words made him lift a brow. Slowly, he stood and entered the rush.
Most of them gathered in the middle of the pit, pointing up to the light and speaking to those who knew their language. If it had been just another prisoner being lowered into hell, it wouldn't have gathered this much attention. If it had just been more of the officers of the land, or the lords they worked for, many of them would have stayed in their cells. Bane listened to them as he made his way into the thick of the crowd, most of the smaller men moving away and trying to keep from touching him in fear that the masked loner might lash out, something he had done before and would do again if he felt the need to. Bane looked up into the light, the distance straining his eyes, the sun causing him to squint against the rays that had burned his skin. And when the light began to soften, when his eyes began to adjust, the reason for the rush within the pit was visible to see.
A body stood at the edge of the pit, looking down from so far away at the broken forms of forgotten men. Bane narrowed his eyes, felt the odd flutters of familiarity. Something twisted inside his chest, something cracked and spread. Something lifted inside him when he realized that he knew that curly black hair, that shape, that body. The one who was always leaving him, and the one who was always coming back. He was in hell, and there she was. He knew her.
His rope to the sky.
Camille stared down into the dark mouth of the pit that seemed to vomit the cries of men, passed the broken walls, passed the gloomy cells, passed the other prisoner's weary faces. And way down deep, a lone figure stood in the middle of the suffering, staring back up at her with that face she knew so well. Everything else blurred, save for the eyes that had drawn her since the very beginning, the eyes that wouldn't leave her alone because she was ruined for everyone else. The sun bit at her back, heating the black tank top she wore, but she couldn't look away just yet. She had to know that he was alright. She had to see him alive.
And there he was, she thought with relief. So far away, but closer than before.
And for a moment, one simple moment as she stared down into a world she'd never known but had left everything else for, she wondered what exactly she was doing.
The comforts of the life she'd once had meant nothing anymore. Because of her decisions to come here, she could never go back, never return to where she had used to be. She was giving up her calm, secluded life for the life of the dangerous, for the life in the slums. For a man who had done nothing but kill and destroy and conquer. Bane was death himself, the personification of all pain. Death would come to her sooner rather than later if she returned to him. With him, she had seen death. With him, she had been thrust into a world she could never have imagined.
But to be with him was to finally be alive.
And knowing that, accepting that, Camille looked up to the sky and closed her eyes.
When had the sun become so blinding?
Shuddering, she looked back into the pit, met his eyes again. And felt alive once more.
Camille reached into the pack at her feet, the large bag that a few of the locals had tossed to the ground for her after she'd given them all the money she had left for a ride from the airport. After much research and asking around, she had finally been given the location of the prison during her travel from North America. It could have been extremely dangerous, but a few desperate and hungry men had taken her to where she needed to go in exchange for the rest of her savings, leaving her and her many things she'd brought with her and driving away. Pushing more supplies off to the side inside the pack, she lifted and pulled, held her prize up for him to see from so very far away down in the depths of Peña Dura.
Bane lifted a hand to shield more of the sun from his eyes so he could see what she was showing him.
A little stunned, he smiled underneath his metal mask. And as the familiar chants of the other men began to sound throughout the pit, he lowered his hand to the mouthpiece and blew her a gentlemanly kiss.
The ache in her chest continued to pulsate, continued to annoy her as she heaved her prize into the dark mouth. The chants became louder, happier, almost relieving as the long, hard rope fell at his feet with a thud. No one made a grab for it. No one was foolish enough to take from him what would lead him to freedom. Bane grabbed the rope, made sure it was secure, and began his climb out of hell.
How ironic it was, Bane thought as the sun felt hotter with every foot he climbed. How ironic it was that the woman he had loved more than life had climbed away from him to the light in this very spot, climbed to freedom as he was beaten and scarred for her. And now this woman, this aggressive little woman who had begun as such an annoyance, such a pain, was the one to set him free. Talia had left him to die, and she had once been so very important. Camille had once again returned even after he had made her leave him. So what did that make her? What was Camille now?
Camille was his, because they were the same.
His rope to the sky.
Bane felt the stitch in his side break and begin to bleed, but still he climbed on. He gripped the rope within his large, calloused hands and made his way to the light that would never have him. Once he made it to the top, he reached for Camille's outstretched hand, allowed her to help pull him out of the hell that would not get a second chance to destroy him. The chants rang in his ears, the sand billowed around him, the pain in his side stung at his ribs.
And he was free.
In the blinding light, at the edge of hell, Bane and Camille stared at each other, keeping away for just a few moments more. Weeks had passed and it felt like years. He raked his eyes along her body, took in her shorts and her shirt, her familiar painted red mouth. He stared at her hair, and the soft red hue it gave off in the light. He stared into her eyes, the eyes that became the color of whiskey in the sun. He had never seen her in the sun before. She seemed to light up, seemed to glitter before his eyes. She had once told him that she would never have asked him to die for her the way he had for his last woman. She would have never left him to rot.
And she hadn't.
After so much effort, so much time and so much money, Camille finally had him back. He was a mess right now, but here he was. Every time she thought of him, her mind was of two conflicting parts. One told her she didn't belong here. The other told her she belonged nowhere else. She had to risk her life to feel this way. She had to go right to the edge of death to be saved. And finally, the ache disappeared in her chest.
"I thought I told you not to follow," he muttered.
She smiled at him, finally able to breathe, finally able to function. "And yet I keep coming back." She kept her eyes on his, sobered her face and said to him softly, "Please don't make me leave again."
It had been six weeks, and they had been separated. It had been six weeks, and nothing could have been helped. Camille couldn't stand the distance, didn't want to feel it ever again. So she lifted her hands out to him, much like she'd done when he had rushed her in his grief over Talia al Ghul on their last night together, and waited for him to step into them.
Please don't make me leave.
Bane stared down at her with his great height, felt his eyes lowering as she placed her hands on either side of his neck. He looked at her pouty mouth, at those whiskey colored eyes in the sun, and placed his forehead onto hers. His eyes closed completely when she took his masked cheeks into her hands and repeatedly kissed the mouthpiece, kissed him that way because it was the only way she could. He was a mess, she thought again, a mess because of his many weeks locked away in the prison he'd once been lost to long ago. But she didn't care. She held him close, gave him that comfort she found she could give him, and gripped hard as he buried his face in her neck and breathed her in.
Camille didn't want to say the words to Bane that had tied her to the wrong man before him. She didn't think she needed to tell him, didn't think Bane would want to hear them. They didn't need it between them, because it had once been their undoing. They didn't want to think about it, because it was something they might be too crippled for. Love was something far too distant, far too risky. Far too painful.
Bane gripped Camille's waist, and Camille no longer felt lost.
The chants from the pit were growing louder, and the rope was slithering along the sand. Bane glanced behind him, held onto her waist as they both looked down into the dark. Other men were climbing the rope, other men were inching to freedom. The boulder Camille had fastened it to sat still and solid, the rope tightening around it as more and more grabbed ahold and lifted themselves from hell, climbing to the sun. Climbing away from the dark. Chanting, wishing, wanting what was taken from them.
Camille ran her hands down his shoulders, tried to ignore the burning of her pale skin from the harsh light. "What are they saying?" she asked him.
They peered down into the dark, and Bane knew that freedom for them would not be as easy. The world wasn't kind, and neither was he.
"Rise," he answered.
And together, they slid the rope from the boulder and watched the men fall back into hell with a hundred screams.
After gathering her packs, they walked away from the pit, leaving behind the cries of the fallen. Leaving behind despair. The sun burned them as they continued on in the desert of India, the sand bothering them as it blew in the faint wind. He would leave the sun, take Camille with him, and return to the darkness. Softly, Bane felt her hand brush his at his side. With both their gazes set out in front of them, she laced their fingers together.
It had been so long since Gotham City's day of reckoning. It had been so long since they'd had to face terrible truths about the people they had loved, and about life itself. Acceptance was cruel. Heartbreak was death. Happiness was an illusion. And the world… Bane gripped Camille's hand, tugged her along at his side.
Somehow, after so very long, the world felt oddly… balanced.
A/N: Follow me for Amaranthine, the sequel to Mercenary coming soon.