Oh wow, yeah man, it's been a minute and I can't apologize enough about that! I received everyone's comments and messages and every single time I get a new one they make me feel like I'm on top of the world. The story isn't dead. I've just been super busy. I can't promise that I'll post regularly, but I'll do my best!

Enjoy!


7. A Dark Lightbulb

Israel's vision blurred as she woke. She blinked hard, lifted her heavy hand to rub at her eyes. She was in the same room she had been in when she went to sleep, but as the shades had been pulled and the room was dimly lit, she had no way to tell what time of day or night it was. Somehow in her sleep she had curled on to side, coiled tight into a ball with her back against the wall. She'd also buried herself under the comforter and pillows, only one of her eyeballs could see the room, and even that view was limited by the bulge of one of the more fluffy pillows. What she could tell was that she was still hooked up to an IV and, with a careful flex of her legs, that her calves were still sore and slightly inflamed.

Before she moved, she made a mental checklist of the events that had passed, reminded herself that she had indeed been kidnapped by Bane and that she had also received medical attention. She also reminded herself that Gotham had been kidnapped as well. Atop of all that, her legs were injured which would make escaping harder than it was already going to be. That made her huff.

So many negatives, she thought.

But the bright side was that she was alive and feeling much better. Also, as far as she could tell, she was alone the bedroom. She peeked her head up, noted that she was indeed by herself, and also that the table on the far wall was covered in beakers and boiling substances, one of which was green. It was a confusing sight. Had someone started a meth lab while she'd been out? And if they had, how long had she been out for?

Carefully she pulled herself upright, winced at the ache that ran through her. The bathroom door opened, startled her, but she marginally relaxed when Mara stepped through with a small smile. "You're awake." The words came out as a sigh.

Israel's eyes flattened. "I can go back to sleep if you want…"

"No, it's good that you're up. I can check your stitches." She wondered if the girl could see the heavy weight that she carried on her shoulders, or the sympathy that clouded her eyes. "Lie on your stomach for me."

Israel did as she was told, listened as Mara shuffled around to put on gloves. She had slept without pants so it was easy access to the stitches, but still felt anxious as she flipped over and the covers were stripped from her. Mara's hands were gentle as she unwrapped both legs. The fluids had helped, and so had the first dose of antibiotics. The stitches had held up well throughout the night, and the skin around it was less inflamed. Mara gently pressed on it and asked if it was painful. Israel was quick to say that it did hurt, but it wasn't as bad as it was.

"Can I shower?" She asked, glancing over her shoulder at the bespectacled doctor that was inspecting her.

"Yes, that should be fine. Just be careful as your soaping up, and let me know when you finish. I'll need to sterilize and bandage you up again." The doctor pulled the gloves from her hands and set them on the nightstand. "There are still a few towels in the linen closet." As Israel sat up, Mara pulled the IV from her wrist, massaged where the needle had been before moving the drip to the side so that her patient could stand.

Flexing her calves had been one thing, but to put her full weight on them, to force her muscles to support her was something entirely different. She could feel the slight stretch in the stitches, and her wounds burned as she wobbled into the bathroom. Israel was about to close the door behind when she suddenly froze and turned around. "Uhm, no one else will come here but you…? When I get out of the shower…"

"No comes into this bedroom but me." Mara confirmed.

Israel hovered in the doorway, glanced at the bedroom door that still hung loose on its hinges. But the doctor had protected her before, and it was very possible that she could do it again. She closed the door behind herself, turned around and was immediately confronted with the image of a sick, frail girl staring back at her in the mirror. She had never looked less like herself in her life. Ashen, with dark circles under eyes, her hair was piled atop her head in a tangled mess, some of her baby hairs were still stuck to her face from where she had sweated in her sleep.

She reached forward and opened the medicine cabinet wide until it hit the wall. She didn't want to see what she looked like. Instead she undressed cautiously, her ears burning with the strain of trying to hear if someone was coming. She peeled back the shower curtain, pleased to find that the previous occupants had left soaps and a loofa behind in their haste to escape. She turned on the hot water first and made use of the toilet while the bathroom steamed to the point of not being able to see too far in front of her face. She turned on the cold water then, balanced the temperature to a manageable scalding that made her wince as she stepped under the spray.

She had been so anxious to get in the shower that she hadn't even bothered to take her hair down, and the water drenched the bunch of her hair, gathered at the hair tie and then dribbled pleasantly onto her scalp and down her face and shoulders. Her aches eased under the water, but her wounds sung, vibrated in annoyance and pain. Israel leaned against the tiled wall, lifted one foot and then another to ease the stress on her calves. Her hand came up then, freed her mane of her hair and as it fell around her, weighed with wet warmth, she contemplated her position and went over her options in her head.

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Mara checked her beakers, lowered the flame under one while watching the result of her concocting, a bright green liquid, drip into yet another cylindrical container. She went over her notes, made sure that she had done everything right. She had no idea how much medication Bane needed her to make. So far she had made 2 dozen canisters for his mask, and if he needed anymore than that, someone would have to make a supply run as she was running low on cocaine and morphine. She ran her hand tiredly over face, glanced at the red file that wavered in her peripheral.

Israel…

The girl's file had been interesting, though not in a positive way. In Mara's opinion, Israel was a miracle of sorts. For someone to have gone through so much at such a young age, and to still be…well…sane…functioning….

Her thoughts were interrupted when a knock sounded at the door. She glanced at it before going over, opening the door awkwardly to peer outside. It was Bane, and a smaller man stood behind him, a toolbox in hand. But the sight of him made her stand taller. "I can't let you in. She's in the shower."

The amusement in Bane's eyes caused them to shine, and he easily pushed the door open and pushed past her. "He is here to fix the door." He gave the smaller man one glance, and he immediately went to work. Bane on the other hand wondered around the room, and Mara didn't miss the way his eyes repeatedly fell on the bathroom door.

"What do you want, Bane?" She sighed.

He went to her work station, his eyes inspecting each beaker as he would have done with his hands. He saw her box of canisters and lifted one, still warm to the touch. "You must have worked all night." He was quick to pull one of his nearly empty canisters from his mask and replaced it with a new one. It clicked in place and he breathed deep, let his eyes fall over his good doctor. Adrenaline and renewed strength rushed through him, made him blink rapidly. "And you have done well, Mara." Her name on his lips sounded like a slur. "However, I will need more. I will need two more boxes…and once you are through…" His eyes found Israel's file and he went to it. "Once you are through you can return home to your husband and child. And no more will you have to think of Gotham and the shadow that presides over it."

Mara took him in, shoulders broad and straight, but his head was angled downward. He was reading her file, and she felt as though now was her chance. "What are your plans for her?" Her annoyance rose when he neither turned nor answered her. "Bane…this girl…"

"This girl…belongs to me."

She was pushing her luck and she knew it but… "She's been through enough as it is. I know you read her file before I did, and whatever you have planned for her…" She swallowed hard. "Whatever it is you want her to be to you…spare her."

He did turn then, his eyes cold and grey as they found Mara standing between him and the bathroom door. No doubt that she had put herself there on purpose. The corners of his lips twitched as she squared her shoulders back and took a more defensive stance. "Spare her…"
He rolled the words around in his mouth as though he were tasting them. "From what, exactly?" His hands grasped the V of this vest as he surveyed her.

"From you." The air in the room was palpable. Even the repair man had begun working faster, made haste to get out of the room. Bane watched him go and then let his eyes slowly trail back to Mara.

"From me…" The tone of his voice was low, and he lifted his feet, strolled over to his doctor, watched as each of his footfalls made her shake. "Mara…" He peered down at her.

She flinched. The way he'd said her name took her back, far back to the days when her name from his mouth was a caress, was home…safety.

"If I let this girl go free…" He glanced at the bathroom door, listening to the shower that provided them with background noise. "…will you replace her?"

Her eyes widened, didn't miss the amusement and intrigue that welled in Bane's eyes. "Replace her? You want me to replace her?"

He stood tall, watched the array of emotions that moved rapidly across her face. "I will not go without, Mara."

The tone of his voice made her cringe, and she set her jaw, lifted her head. "There is a sea of women in this town and you have your pick of all of them!" She was pushing her luck yet again, raising her voice. And she knew it was dangerous but he'd always made her that way, he'd always been so quick to make her temper flare. "Besides…you already have…her."

His eyes narrowed, hardened, and his fists clenched tightly. "So you will not be taking her place?" It had been a jest from the beginning. He didn't want Maura. He'd had her, and she was only so complex. He had divested all her layers in a single year, and what had been left was steady, unimaginative repetition. She was a creature of habit, almost OCD in her ways. And while Bane practiced structure and discipline, his assertion and surveillance of the doctor bored him, bored him to the point of anger. It was a feeling towards her that he had not, and still could not explain, even to himself. He had wanted more from her than she could have given him, and to take her back under his care now would only result in her death.

In the bathroom, Israel had washed her hair thoroughly and finger combed it before wrapping it in a bun atop her head. She stood under the spray one last time before turning off the water and reluctantly stepping on the bath mat. The towel she wrapped around herself was impossible large, but it was soft and warm. She glanced at her clothing on the floor; a shirt and a pair of panties…that was all she had left…a dirty white shirt…and a pair of underwear. Panic rose in her throat, constricted her chest. She tried to remind herself that she'd once had even less than that, but that time seemed so far away, so long ago. And she had come a long way, had been doing so much better for such a long amount of time, that it was baffling to her, unconceivable really, that all her progress and hard work could be wiped away in a single day.

She reached down for them, held the worn materials in her hand as the image of her car going over the edge of the bridge flashed in her head. Everything she'd owned was in that car. All her money, clothes…her pride…all of it had been swallowed up by the water. She was shaking as she moved, putting one leg in front of the other to get out of the bathroom. She was beginning to panic, felt herself start to drown in it and it seemed like each step she took to the bathroom door caused another tidal wave of anxiety to sweep over head… Something was wrong…

The shower stopped then, and both Bane and Mara looked to the bathroom door, listened as the shower curtain was pulled back. Mara's face was panicked, but Bane disregarded her, headed for the door. He had more important work to busy himself with. "Finish your work, Mara. The sooner you finish, the sooner you can leave."

His timing was perfect. As soon as he shut the bedroom door, Israel opened the bathroom door. She stepped out timidly with an overly large towel wrapped around her. In her hands she carried the clothes she had been wearing, and she frowned down at them. "I don't have any extra clothes." Her voice cracked, and she began to shake as her eyes watered. "All my things were left in my car…my car…" She looked up then, her hands fisting and tearing at the worn and bloodied materials in them, angry that she was allowing herself to cry. The tears streamed down her face and she shut her eyes in the hopes of stopping them. "And my c-car….is at the bottom…of a lake…with that boy…" She had breakdowns before, but it had been so long since she felt anything so overwhelming, since she'd felt so out of control. Her legs gave out and she sunk to her knees, barely noticed with Mara grabbed the sheet from the bed and draped it over her shoulders. "I told him I would get him out…and then he fell…and I just watched. I couldn't do anything but watch!" Israel shook, convulsed, cried so hard that she thought she would vomit, and Mara sat beside her, held her tightly as though she were her own child, shushed her.

"Hush. Hush! There was nothing you could do. We'll get you new clothes. Everything is going to be alright."

"But it won't… He's got me, he's got me and my legs are busted and I don't have a way out. I don't have a backup plan! I've got nothing! I'm stuck!"

Mara made the girl look at her, made sure her eyes were on her. "Israel, listen to me. I need you to listen to me!" She wiped the tears that poured from her eyes and framed her face with her hands. "It's okay, it's going to be okay, because I am going to get you out of here." The words had formed in her head as a way of comfort, but as she voiced them, Mara realized that she meant them. She didn't care what she had to do. She would kill Bane herself if she had to! But she would get Israel out of Gotham.

Mara helped Israel to the bed and went through the closets and the drawers until she found an overly large shirt and a pair of boxers. She handed them to Israel, helped her get into them before giving her a mild sedative and another antibiotic. She then sterilized her stitches and bandaged them back up, but all the while the wheels in her head were turning. She would get this girl out. She would get her out and to safety, and she would make damn sure she was happy. Her mind went into overdrive as she watched Israel drift off and then went to survey her beakers. She'd been to Gotham before and if she was lucky she would still have some contacts in the city who weren't dead. But she'd need to get out. She'd need to get away from Bane's prying eyes and ears.

She looked over her workstation. He'd said he would need more, and in order to do that she'd need more supplies. Emboldened by her new objective she marched from the bedroom right to where Bane sat on the couch with a few of his men, going over paperwork. He didn't look up at her.

"I need more supplies." She said it coldly and with force.

"You will have them. Be patient." There was an amused lilt to her voice that made the muscle in her jaw clench.

"The sooner you finish, the sooner you can leave. Isn't that what you said?"

His eyes found her then, the corners of which were wrinkled. "It is."

"Then I need supplies, and I need them now." Bane's men were now looking rapidly between their leader and the doctor.

"And now you're suddenly in such haste to leave?" His eyes looked past her to the hallway. "What about your patient?"

"You've made me angry, and now I've remembered why I left your band of rejects the first time. You do nothing but annoy me and make me angry. You criticize and belittle. So forgive me I don't want to spend any more time around you than necessary." Her fists were clenched, and she fought hard to keep them at her side.

Bane merely surveyed her. "You always did have quite the temper, doctor." He stood then, watched as she moved back a few feet. "You will have your tools tomorrow—"

"I want them today."

The air in the room fell dead, and even Bane's men, Barsad included, cringed. Bane's hand found their way to the V of his vest, and despite the rage in his eyes, he stood relaxed, calm. "We don't always get what we want."

Mara stood her ground, planted her feet firmly beneath her and met Bane's intense eyes with little trepidation.

"You're trying my patience on purpose." He said the words lowly, as though he were talking only to himself, but then his eyes sharpened. "Would you like me to remind you of how I tamed that quick temper of yours?"

She smirked then, a bluff as she was shaking on the inside. "Are you going to break my nose again? Or this time will it be my legs? My arms? If you break my hands then I can't do any work for you." He was nearing her, and it was causing her to have to back up so quickly that when she collided with the shelf behind her it caused an ache to run down her back. He was towering over her now, his eyes ablaze with fury and anger, all of which he directed solely at her. For a moment, Mara realized that she could be living the very last moments of her life. She'd seen Bane kill people for much less, and it would have been easy for him to outstretch his hand and squeeze the life out of her.

"And if I refuse your demand, what then?" Bane's hands gripped the V of his vest tighter.

"I will go and get then myself." She lifted her chin defiantly.

"Assuming that I would let you go so easily, you would brave the unprotected dark of Gotham in an effort to hasten your release from my grasp?" He repeated her own demands back to her on purpose, watched as her resolve faltered. She was being unreasonable and rash, but such was her way when she was blinded by anger.

"Yes." She finally said. "Yes."

The corners of his eyes wrinkled, and he straightened his spine. "You will take one of my men to accompany you to the hospital for supplies." Bane went to the soldier nearest him and simple tapped his shoulder. The man stood, gun in hand and faced Mara, awaited further instructions. He took the parcel of money his leader gave him and tucked it into his shirt. "I would advise you to go straight there and come straight back." Bane turned back to his doctor. "There is no where in this city where I cannot find you, but it would be good for to you to keep in mind that the longer you are away, the longer I will be alone with your patient." His eyes narrowed. "And I can become very creative the longer I am kept waiting."

Mara's eyes widened. She'd forgotten that she would have to leave Israel alone with Bane, and that definitely put a damper in her plans. She's have to be quick, efficient. She eyed her guard hesitantly. "You won't harm her while I'm gone?" Her question was directed at Bane.

He turned to her fully. "Will I?"

She nodded and headed for the door, mindful that she did indeed have an armed tail. She gave Bane once last glance before leaving the apartment, listened as the door closed behind her guard and then made her way to the elevator.

Bane watched her go and then resumed his seat, continued going over the papers in front of him. Barsad was still standing, and though he wasn't fidgeting or moving, his silence was loud. "You have something you'd like to say?" Bane asked, never letting his eyes leave the paper he was holding.

"Are you sure she'll come back?"

"I have given her incentive, brother." He looked up at Barsad then. "You and Mara were not with us at the same time. She has a loyalty that will be the end of her. She will not leave the girl unattended for too long. Not when she fears that I have…devious intentions in mind."

The ride down was silent and awkward, and Mara couldn't believe that peaceful elevator music was still being piped into the small compartment. It seemed rude just to listen to it. Ground level of the apartment building was scattered with various members of the League of Shadows, all of which eyed her as she left the building.

Once outside, the large breath of fresh air she took compelled her to run, to get as far away from the building and from Bane as fast as her legs would carry her. But she knew better than that, she knew that if she tried to make a run for it her guard would stop her or gun her down. And she also knew that if she didn't come back that would leave Israel in Bane's hands. Don't forget the mission, she chided herself. She led the way for a block or so and then stopped abruptly. "Did you hear that?" She asked.

Her guard came to stand next to her, looked around while clutching his gun. "I didn't hear anything."

She took a cautious step back. "Then you're deaf. I know I heard something." She held her hand out then, panic written all over her face. "Give me your extra gun."

The guard scoffed. "You're crazy if you think I'm giving you a weapon."

"It's a long walk to the hospital and I'm not trekking the whole way there unarmed! If you get gunned down just how long do you think I'll last?" She shook her hand, insistent to have a gun placed in it.

The guard cursed, spouted off in a different language, no doubt complaining about the entire situation. Nevertheless, he pulled his pistol from its holster and offered it to the doctor. Mara clutched the gun tightly, removed the safety as her footsteps turned to silence. She was on the guard before he knew what was happening, and her gun pressed into his spine tightly. The trigger was pulled and then a body slumped to the ground. He stared up at the doctor wide eyes, mouth gaping as he gasped and tried to form words.

Mara's eyes were sharp, but sad. She stuffed the gun in the back of her pants and pried the larger one from the guard's hands. "I'm sorry," she whispered. She pulled the parcel of money from his shirt and tucked into her back pocket. "You're new. No way you're old enough to know who I was when I was at Bane's side." She took the time to look at his face. He was young with green eyes and brown hair. "He shouldn't have sent someone so young…" She pulled the pistol from her back and aimed it at his head. "I can end it right here if you want… Or you can bleed out…"

The two stared at one another and then finally the guard lifted his hand, pulled at the end of the gun.

"You're a smart kid…" She didn't hesitate. Her finger eased the trigger back, and with a loud bang the boy was gone. She stuffed the gun back in her pants, checked the corpse for any remaining ammo or anything else she would need. She had to be quick. She couldn't leave Israel alone with Bane for too long, and yet…she had so much to do. She'd seek out her contacts first. They wouldn't be too hard to find as they hardly gravitated to any other areas. After that she'd put a plan in motion, one that would ensure her and her patient's survival, and with any luck, one that would put Bane down as well. After that she'd make a quick trip to the hospital for supplies and then back to the apartment. As she walked away, she glanced back at the body on the sidewalk. For a moment she thought it might have been hard to come up with an excuse as to why she'd return without a chaperone when she'd left with one…but then she realized that Gotham was lawless.

That was enough of an excuse.


Alrighty, so now we're heading towards some Bane and Israel alone time. I feel like it's about time for them to confront one another without anymore interference, right? Well, at least for now. Mara's going to be out of the picture soon and things are going to get a bit more interesting. Feel free to leave me some love and suggestions...thoughts...angry feelings and what have you. And once again, my social networking bullcrap is below! Until next time! :D

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