Disclaimer: I do not own The Dark Knight Rises, or any of its characters.

A/N: And let the games begin.

Soldier

Chapter One

/

I was upstairs on the second floor, skimming through the archives on the computer, when I heard it echoing along the walls. Screaming.

I looked over my shoulder, snapping to attention, and then it wasn't just screaming. It was voices, harsh and demanding, and then more screaming, more people screaming. I stood up abruptly, feeling for the glock on my hip through my jacket, just in the case, and then I hurried towards the noise, listening intently.

The commotion was coming from the foyer. There were hard, harsh voices shouting incoherent demands, and the screaming had subsided to panicked muttering and short, low cries. I approached the railing that looked down into the foyer and saw the men, counted seven of them, all dressed in dark clothing, holding big machine guns. Several of them were subduing civilians, who pressed themselves back against the walls to get away from the armed men. Two of them went to the grand staircase, ascended a few steps, and stopped to turn around, surveying the foyer.

It wasn't entirely clear what was happening...they had stormed their way in, quieted the civilians who were there, and then they held to attention and quieted.

I frowned, my eyes darting at the armed men, at the two who were standing by the revolving door, quiet, but holding their guns in case they needed to use them. I kept myself far enough away from the rail that I probably wouldn't be seen right away, and could make a quick getaway, if I needed to. The civilians were crying softly, and the armed men were talking lowly between each other, so it was doubly hard to know what they were saying.

And then suddenly what they were saying didn't matter anymore.

He came through the revolving door.

I felt my breath catch in my chest. I'd only ever seen him on TV, from the footage of the football game, when he revealed his weaponized version of Wayne's fusion core, when he killed the nuclear physicist on camera in front of thousands of people without a moment's hesitation, and then again, later, when he stormed Blackgate prison and revealed the truth about Harvey Dent. He was startling on camera, to be sure; the mask in itself gave you pause, gave you a sense of what the hell. His size, compared to his surrounding henchmen, was intimidating enough.

Nothing...nothing could have prepared me for seeing him in person.

He walked steadily into the foyer, his shoulders back, this massive, looming man, his head dropped just a little, like a predator stalking prey, his stature accentuated by his heavy fur-lined coat. The mask was bigger on his face than it had seemed on TV, and it was much more unsettling, almost otherworldly.

I hadn't realized I was looking right down over him until I felt the cool of the marble railing under my palms.

His footsteps were heavy on the marble floor like rolling thunder until he stopped in the middle of the floor, taking in the reactions of the civilians around him. His henchmen stood strong and silent, all eyes on him, awaiting orders.

Bane stood for a moment, simply surveying the room around him, his massive hands moving to grip the neckline of his shirt, almost as if he was very, very pleased.

"This will do nicely," came the voice, the booming, harsh, titanic voice. I could hear it as if he were standing right in front of me.

I sucked in a deep, desperate, mesmerized breath as I watched him slowly pace the room, looking at the Gothamites who stared at him in fear.

"People of Gotham," he addressed the room, and the people cowered under the boom of his voice. "I must commandeer your house of books for the time being...you are welcome to stay and continue your...enrichment-"

A few people close to the doors made a mad dash for the revolving doors. The armed men let them go, and Bane simply looked before turning back to attention.

"...But you must adhere to the supervision of my colleagues." His voice lifted a little as he gestured to the armed men surrounding him.

Panic rushed through the room as many of the remaining civilians ran for the doors without a moment's hesitation. I watched them, their obvious fear betraying them; even librarians behind the main information desk rose from their chairs as if they meant to leave, before two armed henchmen stopped them.

I knew I probably should have stepped back, away from the railing, kept myself out of view. But there didn't really seem to be any point; the only exit that I knew of was the main entrance, I'd have to go past them sooner or later. If he was serious about allowing people to stay, I had to stay. There was work to be done. Though it seemed strange...why would he willingly keep it open to the public? Then again he probably figured there wasn't any harm in allowing the people of Gotham access to books, since the damage in the city was already done and the bomb could go off at any time.

I watched Bane stalk towards the information desk, where the armed men were looking at the security cameras, probably getting a feel of the layout of the library. It didn't surprise me in the least, I had to admit. The Gotham City Public Library was one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the city, and sat practically smack dab in the middle of downtown. If there was anywhere to properly patrol the happenings of "Gotham Island", it was there.

The librarians at the information desk cowered as Bane approached and listened to his henchmen; I leaned forward to hear them better, grasping the rail with my hands.

"Hey!"

I started, straightened up, and looked over my shoulder. One of Bane's henchmen was standing there, glowering at me, holding his gun with both hands. I watched him very carefully, not saying a word, not making a move, though I was confused. Where had he come from?

"What are you doing up here?" he demanded, his voice low and ugly.

I swallowed and willed myself to be calm. I pulled my hands away from the railing and stood up straight, looking at him unflinchingly. "I'm just going through the newspapers."

The henchman narrowed his eyes to me, suspiciously. "What for?"

I froze. I couldn't rightly reveal why I was going through the newspapers, it would draw too much attention. Frantically I tried to think of something, some reason why I needed access to the library's archives, and clearing my throat a little, I looked him right in the eye.

"I'm writing a book," I told him, my voice unwavering even though it was total bullshit.

The henchmen curled his nose a little and scowled at me. "About what?"

I swallowed tightly, keeping my cool, and pulled the first topic I could think of right out of my ass. "It's...about the social and political repercussions in Gotham after the death of Harvey Dent."

He looked at me like I was some sort of idiot, and a nasty little smile teased on his lips, as if he was tempted to laugh right in my face. It sounded stupid to me too, don't get me wrong; writing a book when you could have been blown up at any time seemed like a somewhat useless use of what could be the last days of your life.

Nevertheless, I sighed a little, getting annoyed. "Look, is it true what he said? Can I stay and continue my research?"

The henchman narrowed his eyes to me. To him I must have looked like any other citizen, just another Gotham woman on a visit to the library. It suddenly struck me that appearing a little more frightened might have bode well; I doubted any other woman reacted so calmly to having her library stormed by Bane and his assembly of armed henchmen. Suddenly I wanted to kick myself, but I had to be able to stay in the library.

But after a moment, the henchman shrugged his shoulders, almost as if to say Sure, knock yourself out, and gave me this weird look. "If he said it. But we're watching you."

I frowned at him, watching as he moved away from me and further into the inner sanctum of the library's second floor. Yeah, there was no doubt in my mind that he would be watching every little thing I did in that library from that moment forward.

Sighing heavily, annoyed that I hadn't been a little more careful about giving myself away, I turned and looked back down into the foyer towards the information desk...only to have my heart suddenly stop.

Bane was looking right up at me.

I froze, staring back at him, into his deep dark eyes. His expression was unflinching, but with the mask that covered his face, it was difficult to know what he was thinking. Curiosity? Annoyance? I didn't know what; all I knew was in that moment, under his watchful stare, he frightened me more than I ever remember being.

I pulled away from the railing and out of his line of sight, letting my breath back into my body, willing my heart to calm itself. I don't know what it was, whether his dark steely eyes, or the menacing mask, or the fact that he was looking at me as if he could see right through me, but I walked away from the railing as though afraid he could still see me. I'd never felt more exposed.

Hurrying towards the computer I'd been working at, I sat myself down and wondered if I should grab my purse and calmly walked out, but that seemed way too suspicious, especially considering the conversation I just had with the henchman.

Then again, there was no way I was going to be able to concentrate on the task at hand.

I sighed and rubbed my face with one hand, feeling a headache coming on. The glock in my belt started to dig into my skin and I suddenly became more aware than ever that I still had my badge in my purse.

They couldn't find it. All it would take was for that suspicious henchman to come back and demand to go looking through my purse, for whatever reason. If he found the badge, I'd go up for judgement, like all the others.

Swallowing tightly, trying to keep the panic from wallowing up in my stomach, I calmly logged out of the computer, picked my purse up off the ground, and stood up. I buttoned up my jacket, hoping it wouldn't draw attention to my concealed weapon, and calmly moved between the bookshelves towards the main staircase.

I could hear the voices in the foyer, mostly from the henchmen at the information desk, but as I began my descent of the staircase, I kept my eyes on the two men who were standing at the bottom of the staircase, wondering if I'd be able to walk past them without drawing attention to myself. I looked at the men covering the revolving door, wondering if they'd let me go by without a word.

The booming of Bane's voice pulled my attention back to him as he stood at the information desk, though I couldn't quite hear what he was saying. I kept my eyes trained on him as I continued down the stairway, careful not to quicken my steps. I couldn't get over how big he was standing next to one of his henchmen, standing at least a head taller and about twice the size of any man in that room. I bowed my head as I passed the armed men on the staircase, waiting to hear them snap at me to stop and produce some identification or something. But they didn't say anything.

I rose my eyes to Bane once more, half-expecting him to turn on his heel and see me trying to leave so he could stop me. But he stood with his back right to me, and I could barely see the harness of the mask pulled over his shaven head, concealed mostly from behind by his coat. I bowed my head, avoiding the eye contact of the men at the door as I pressed my hand against the revolving door and hurriedly let myself through.

Once I felt the cool autumn air hit my face, I started to breathe very heavily, almost on the verge of hyperventilation. I walked down the library steps as quickly as I could, keeping my eyes on my feet so I wouldn't stumble or trip, and I made my way down the street without looking back.

/

I could hear the TV blaring and babbling away as I closed the door behind me and locked it securely. Behn liked to listen to the news, more so than ever before. I think it gave him a sense of company. We couldn't go to work anymore; our days were filled with quietness and meaningless meandering.

"Hey," I heard him from call from the kitchen, and I hung up my jacket and my purse and turned the safety on my gun before setting it down on one of the end tables by the couch. I moved into the kitchen, rubbing my face.

Behn stood there leaning against the counter watching the little TV he had sitting next to the bread box, chewing on his thumbnail. He was unshaven and his hair was long and unkept; he was starting to get a real exotic look about him; it would have driven the girls in administration absolutely crazy, if only we were still going to work every day.

I sat down on one of the stools at the island, propping my elbows on the counter-top and watching the TV. There were a couple of reporters out of Washington DC talking about the state of Gotham City, but I couldn't pay attention.

"President just gave his address. Pretty useless, all this 'we have not forgotten you but frankly there's nothing we can do' bullshit," Behn said, sounding unimpressed, and then he looked at me over his shoulder. "We're kinda boned."

I shrugged a little. Story of our lives, it seemed. I hopped off the stool and went to the fridge, pulling out two cokes and returning to my seat at the island. "That's the kind of day its been. Bane took over the library."

Behn looked at me, looking alarmed, as he took the coke I handed him and opened my own. "What?"

I nodded. "Came in with his guys today, decided they were going to set up camp right then and there. Doesn't surprise me, it's right downtown and they've got easy access to pretty much everything city related, if they want it."

Snapping open his coke, Behn held it gingerly as he continued to stare at me. "So...what'd you do?"

"I still had my badge on me, what'd you think I did? I got my stuff and got the hell out of there."

I sipped from my coke slowly, taking in its perfect, sweet taste. I'd never liked coke before this whole mess. Seemed as good a time and any to try new things, see what stuck. Behn just continued to stare at me as though I told him I'd killed someone. "Well...what about the archives? What are you gonna do?"

I shook my head. "It'll be fine, he's keeping it open to the public."

Behn nearly spat out the sip he'd just taken. "Seriously? Why?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe he thinks Gotham will read, now that we don't have anything else to do. Course no one will go in there now that he's made it his headquarters."

"Except you, sounds like," Behn said, raising his eyebrows at me. "Which is gonna seem real weird-"

"I took care of it."

"Oh yeah? What'd you tell him, you're finishing your Masters in library sciences?"

I looked up at Behn, staring into his dark eyes, remembering how Bane had been looking at me with that steely, hard gaze. "I'm not telling him anything. If I have any fortune at all, he'll keep himself busy terrorizing Gotham and not worry about what I'm doing in the archives."

Behn snorted a little in his throat, putting down his coke can and turning towards the dishwasher and opening the door. "Not bloody likely. First we can't control Gotham, then the Batman makes us look like idiots who can't do our job, then Dent dies and the rest of the city's looking at us like clean this place up..."

I shook my head at him, watching as he began to take out some utensils and a couple of plates, and I went to the fridge to retrieve leftover lasagna. He went on these kinds of tangents, more often now that we weren't at work. I couldn't say I didn't agree with him, but thinking about it too much didn't help matters.

"You know how it goes," I said distantly, taking out the casserole dish and unwrapping the plastic wrap, grabbing a knife he'd set down on the counter in order to cut a few pieces. "Seems people in this city aren't happy unless they're unhappy..."

I trailed out as I looked up at Behn as he stood there, silent, staring at the bright pink plastic Disney princess cup that he'd just taken out of the dishwasher, looking as though he was about to burst into tears.

I sighed and shook my head a little. "Behn..."

He shook his head, somberly setting the cup down on the counter. "I'm fine..."

I knew he wasn't. Behn had told me that he'd made peace with the fact he would probably never see his four-year-old daughter Elizabeth again, since she'd been with her mother across the river for the weekend when the bridges had been blown up, but whenever he pulled a stuffed animal out from under the sofa cushions, or found a sparkling fake tiara in the clothes hamper, or even caught a glimpse of the many Disney Princess wickets that he'd bought her over the years, I could see the look on his face, the immense sadness in his eyes. He'd counter it by smiling and saying he was glad she was with her mom and that she'd grow up with her mother and stepdad, and that dying in Gotham City would be bearable so long as she was safe.

But I knew he was hurting more than he let on and that he would have given anything to have her back, if only for an hour.

Behn sighed heavily and picked up the cup once more, and I watched how he deliberated as he stared at it, not knowing what to do with it. Seemed he didn't want to throw it away, but keeping it around only reminded him of his little girl he would never see again.

After a moment, I reached over and took it out of his hand, gently, and Behn didn't grab it back or look at me or anything. He simply stood there, quietly, while I left the kitchen, holding the cup in both hands, and took it down the hall. I opened the bedroom door painted with big purple flowers, let myself in, and placed it on the bookshelf, next to the dolls and colouring books, and then I left, closing the door behind me.

When I returned to the kitchen, Behn was placing huge sloppily cut pieces of lasagna on the plates and then turned to put one plate in the microwave. I lingered in the doorway, watching him. We'd been partners a little less than a year, and it killed me to see him like that, sad and aimless.

After a moment of just loitering there in the doorway, Behn looked up at me, his vacant expression reminding me of the masked man in the library, and he tried to smile. "Really, Irene, I'm fine."

I nodded, and he took the lasagna out of the microwave. We both knew the truth. It wasn't fine; it would never be fine again.

/

A/N: Like it? Hate it? o.O