Disclaimer: The characters and concepts in this story are the property of DC Comics, Christopher Nolan, and their related affiliates. This is an amateur writing effort meant for entertainment purposes only.

Summary: After Hugo Strange uses him as a test subject for an experiment in the Narrows, John Blake ends up owing his life to Bane and relying on him to survive. Several years post-TDKR. AU.

Rating: Probably around T for violence, gore, and some language.

Warnings: Spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises.

Author's Notes: The plot bunny started hopping late last night and demanded that I get writing this ASAP. Let's pretend, for the sake of the story, that Bane survives the end of The Dark Knight Rises; I'll explore how later. Please, enjoy!


Pain

Prologue

"I can help you."

Bane didn't hear him over the sounds of the explosions and kept walking, so Blake forced himself to rise off the table - fighting the restraints, the nausea, the pain – and said, louder this time, "I can help you!"

Now he at least had Bane's attention. The former mercenary turned and fixed a long, hard stare on Blake, trying to discern the validity of the claim based on the other man's current state. The prognosis wasn't good: Blake was strapped to an examination table, blood trailing out of his nose, mouth and ears; right leg paralyzed, left leg in agony; arms cuffed. Even if he could help Bane – which he can – Blake would only be a hindrance and neither of them had any time to waste. The whole lab was about to explode.

Blake wasn't surprised then when Bane turned and walked away, but his anger overwhelmed him. "YOU OWE ME!" he shouted to the hulking figure disappearing into the smoke and flames. "YOU CAN'T JUST LEAVE ME HERE, BANE!"

He could though. That was the problem.

A falling stack of shelves blocked Bane's fading silhouette from view, and Blake got back to fighting to escape. He grit his teeth against the hundreds of agonies crying out for attention from the pounding in his head, the trembling of his muscles, the white hot pain in his lower back , chest, and hips. He just pulled as hard as he could against the leather straps around his wrists, praying that the sweat and blood coating his arms will make his hands slick enough to slide out.

The pain got to him first though. It crested like a wave inside him from every direction, causing the edges of his visions to go as black as the smoke spilling across the ceiling. Blake fell back against the table in its wake and cried out as loudly as he could in defence. The sound of his voice was swallowed up by the impact of the ceiling hitting the floor not far from where he was trapped.

This can't be it, he thought, giving his arms and good leg another desperate tug. Growing up orphaned, a job with the GCPD, No Man's Land, Nightwing...Blake's life was nothing but a collection of tough scrapes and brushes with tragedy. He couldn't die here, now, strapped to a table in a burning laboratory after fighting to survive every step of the way. At the very least, he should be on his feet, or at least the only one that works, facing down whatever other catastrophes could possibly come his way with his last few moments on the planet.

He leaned up, ignoring the white hot throb in his lower back, and, fixing his hands into points, pulled with all his might against the bonds.

A bloody hand slammed down on his.

Blake tried to twist out of the way, but the good doctor that brought him here, Strange, had a grip that belied his injured appearance, one that could break Blake's hand if he didn't get away soon. "And where do you think you're going?" Strange asked menacingly, rising from the floor like Lazarus from the dead. The fire made his broken spectacles beam, giving him an even more demonic appearance. He forced Blake back down on the table, wrapping his hands around the detective's throat. "I don't think I'm quite finished with you, ex-Detective Blake."

"I beg to differ, Doctor."

The fire drained from Strange's face as he turned to look over his shoulder. There, looming over the table, was Bane, who wasted no time in grabbing the doctor by the back of the neck and throwing him over a countertop into a pile of glassware. "DON'T!" Blake ordered the mercenary pre-emptively, begged him was more like it, but Bane had already marched around to where the doctor was lying. The thunder of the ceiling crumbling drowned out the sound of bones snapping.

Bane returned to the table a moment later, calm and cool as ever even though the world was crumbling around them and he had just committed murder. Blake's vision was swimming, and the noxious fumes of something were making it difficult to concentrate, so when his right hand was finally free, it took him a moment to reach for Bane.

The mercenary was stronger. He pushed Blake's wrist back into the leather cuff where it came from. "I could leave you here," he warned, "but that wouldn't do either of us any good."
"Why'd you kill him?" Blake demanded.

"Aside for what the good doctor has done to me," Bane replied as another section of ceiling peals away, taking more glassware with it. The smell of burning chemicals almost made Blake cross-eyed, and he wished he had whatever breathing apparatus Bane was wearing for protection. "He has served his purpose. You claimed you could help me."

Blake nodded. "I can."

"Then I will help you," Bane loosened the strap around Blake's left wrist. An act of God saw him sitting upright on the table, head spinning every which way except the right one. He was almost glad that the hulking mercenary was still standing at the edge of the table when he goes to get off. Bane was big enough for Blake to orient himself around.

Heaving his right leg off first with both hands, Blake followed with his left, balancing precariously. The pain from his back coils so tightly around his left thigh muscle that he almost couldn't walk, but Blake managed a hop or two, right leg dead weight alongside him. He heard Bane hiss – in annoyance, in impatience, in just exhaling – before threading an arm under Blake's and pulling the smaller man along by the shoulders.

His lower back engulfed his whole chest in brutal agony in response to the action. In an instant, Blake couldn't breathe, couldn't think, couldn't see, couldn't feel anything but the old wound tearing him up from the inside out. He had no choice but to pull away, stumbling as he did so, biting back a scream that could shatter the rest of the glass in the lab.

"We do not have time for this," Bane declared.

Blake agreed in silence, blinking hard to clear the darkness from his vision. The smoke clouds had only gotten thicker though. Even Bane seemed to be feeling the burn despite his composure, though it was hard to tell with the way the whole world wobbled in front of Blake's eyes. He reached for the mercenary's hand when it was offered to him...

...just as the ceiling crumbled overhead.

Well, Blake thinks, at least I died on my feet.

Impact.


...happy reading? I guess it depends on how much you like seeing Blake suffer.