Here goes my first real stab at this category... don't own Bane, or Barsad, or Blake (there are a lot of 'B' names in this movie...), or, you know, anyone else mentioned. Not sure who does, but they're sure as heck not me. Hope someone likes this.



This was not the intended result of the plan. Things had been going so swimmingly that Bane had trouble understanding just where it had all gone wrong.

Had he, in his haste to punish Wayne for his insolence, brought about Gotham's resurrection? He contemplated this in a sewer junction not so different from the one he had made his base in months earlier. He couldn't return there, of course, because they were sure to expect it. Most thought him dead, but not all of them were so mindless. The police commissioner would wonder, and he would have the sewer checked. The young upstart his men had caught repeatedly scratching out the chalk bats on the sides of buildings would probably check himself. Just to be sure. Just in case.

They were right to fear his survival; it would take more than the Batman, more than a thief on a borrowed motorbike, more than a cannon, to bring down Bane. The same could not be said of Talia al Ghul.

She lay on the floor beside him, her head cradled in his lap, her face wet with his tears. A drop of blood had rolled down from the corner of her mouth, but otherwise she might only have been asleep. He carefully, reverently reached out and pushed her eyelids closed, and then wiped off the blood. His guiding light had been extinguished, his angel broken like a careless child's china doll, and he could not help but feel that the fault lay with him. After all, it was he who insisted on playing the long, round-about game; it was he who desired to bring Gotham to it's knees and relish in the thoughtless rush of humanity. Talia had sought to destroy Bruce Wayne, but Bane had wanted more. He had wanted to annihilate the Batman, body, mind and soul. He wanted to show Gotham's guardian that he was no better than the next man. He wanted to ensure he died full of guilt and despair. The long game had cost them everything, in the end; in the end, Bane discovered that he was as insolent as Wayne; and he paid for his folly with the life of the only person he had ever loved.

Bane had always enjoyed the cyclical lessons to be learned from myths and history, but not until now had he experienced the backlash himself. He had wanted to open Pandora's box; to bring all of the worst of humanity down on this cesspool, whose citizens had forgotten what they really were. He had wanted to remind them of their baser natures, and watch from a tower as all they had ever built crumbled to ruin. But in his hubris, he had forgotten the most important part of the story.

That upstart detective had reminded him, though it had taken Bane a long time to admit it, and Officer Blake had never realized it. It wasn't likely that he ever would. But Bane could still almost see the grimy junction, with its banks of computers and sparse furnishings, could almost imagine Barsad and his men dragging in the man who was still very much a boy, though he had been handed a badge and a gun and thought himself one of Gotham's guardians. He could see Barsad shoving Blake to his knees, could see the blood the young man spat from his bruised, bloody mouth as it splattered onto the concrete. Just one more stain on top of a thousand other stains, all of it melding together to one homogenous filth… he was surrounded by filth, by the filth of the sewer, by the filth that clung like a second skin to the men surrounding him, by the beating of corrupted hearts that pounded in his ears like the sound of so many drums.

Barsad had told Bane of the officer's crimes, chief among them the fact that he refused to throw away his badge and pretend he no longer had responsibilities to the people of Gotham. In some strange way, Bane respected Blake and his fellows; he respected that they could believe in something so whole-heartedly that they were willing to die for it. That sort of fanaticism was powerful; he should well know. The men who milled around him were of the same breed.

It was not the boy's status as a member of Gotham's crippled police force that concerned Bane, however; it was the other charge, the reason he had been brought here and not to the Stock Exchange for Crane to sentence and execute.

"Bats, eh?" he asked, an amused sort of derision in his tone.

"Yes, sir," Barsad glanced sideways to their prisoner, who looked Bane square in the eye. Defiant to the last, it seemed; he reminded the mercenary of Wayne.

"Well, boy?" he stood up and took a few steps forward, "Were you drawing bats in the hope that he will return and save your drowning city from its inevitable fate?"

Bane leaned down so he could look Blake in the eye himself. He expected the boy's courage to falter; it always did. Such was the nature of the condition. In the face of fear, they were all consumed.

"I'm not a boy," Blake spat finally, "But yes, I was drawing the bats. Since you're asking."

"But you are a boy, full of a boy's hope and a boy's foolishness," Bane stood, and dragged a chair closer to the detective, "He will not return for you and your city. He cannot. He will watch as Gotham burns, and then he will die. As will you."

"Yeah? Says you."

"And what do you say?" Bane replied conversationally, sitting back in the chair, "By all means, boy, tell me what you believe will happen."

"You're gonna lose," Blake answered after a moment, his shoulders rising and then falling again in a shrug that was likely meant to be careless, "It doesn't matter if he comes back or not. Batman isn't this city's only guardian, and not all of us are falling for your propaganda. It doesn't matter how much fear and pain and war you bring to this city to crush it. Kill me, and someone else will take my place. Someone else will draw the bats. Someone else will refuse to stop believing. There's always someone else."

Barsad stepped closer and poked Blake with the barrel of his rifle. Bane saw the question in his eyes; he understood that his second was concerned that such talk of hope was dangerous. The likelihood of Blake actually inspiring anyone to action was slim, but why take the chance? If it had been Barsad's call, Bane imagined he would have killed the boy and strung him up for all the world to see, an example to any who would dare to follow his foolish footsteps. But it was not Barsad's decision.

"You remind me of your hero," Bane answered finally, "He once thought as you do. He was willing to sacrifice everything for his false justice. But he was a liar. And I will make you a liar with him."

He had let Blake go that day; ordered that he be taken above and released. Barsad had nearly questioned the decision out loud, but he held his tongue. For that Bane had been grateful; good lieutenants were difficult to come by, but he could not have his orders questioned in front of the others by any who considered him their superior if he wished to remain their superior.

Perhaps he should have listened to Barsad that day. Perhaps if he had not fallen victim to pride, to vanity, to the very insolence he, and Ras al Ghul before him, had accused Wayne of, he would never have had to come to the bitter realization that Blake was right; he had tried to destroy hope with fear, but the two were such close counterparts that all he had managed to do was breed hope. He had plunged Gotham into the darkness, only to hand it the rope by which it would drag itself back out into the light once more.

It was an undeniable law of the universe that all things eventually fell victim to entropy. Chaos was the natural conclusion of Order. But then, given enough time, given the right variables and the impetus... given all of that, Order would rise like the phoenix from the fire to reign in the Chaos once more. Until next the cycle came; until next the world crumbled.

Too late he had realized all of that, because he had already failed. He had failed Talia, and he had failed her father, and he had failed his own imagination. He had made the mistakes he had accused Wayne, and Blake, and Gordon and all of the others of making. He had underestimated his enemies and allowed his pride to direct his plans. And perhaps the worst offense of them all, he had forgotten the end of the story. Until now. Until it was too late.

"And at the bottom of the box…" he mused to himself, wheezing through the mask, though he had only the rats to preach to, "All that remained… was hope."

Thoughts? Reviews are nice if you feel like it.