...Mr. Wayne."

Something familiar. I gasp for air as an icy cold threatens the warmth of me; a surname floats on, cutting its way through sewer air like a plume of fire. It searches for my ears purposefully, as if whispering the tremendous act of injustice I've done here. Wayne – a name I've come to know well enough in my time as a Gotham citizen, the man only more recently. But as a player now to this current betrayal, I've gone silent to the world. My mind screams with words of protest; suddenly there's a pollution from fear where once there was confidence.

I was protecting myself from Bane, at least that's the lie I'd rather believe.

I shiver back a gnawing chill and brace against the cage walls, watching in my quiet cowardice.

Every scent has a palpable texture when you're this far beneath the earth's surface and most are less than savory. Down here, Bruce Wayne's sudden unmasking works to amplify this hellish pit in the ground. Slowly I try to process these grave things; it's as though I'm deeper than what the space truly is...as if I've been buried already. No, not by the guilt, though I'm sure that will come later, but by the impressiveness of the entire scene surrounding. Bane and an army...an army for fucks-sake.

Ohgod.

By a stranger does Bruce earn his reveal — a deranged psychopath whose aims of domination are steps closer to being realized. If the masked villain wins here today, I mean. Should Bane succeed–if Batm–If Wayne fails, I'll have lost the world known. Gotham will become but once a dark memory and the past eight years will have been the calm before an eternal storm.

I don't know what to do or even IF I can do anything at this point.

My thoughts trace back to that name. Seldom am I surprised or caught by news, nor is any type of grand coming out party all that interesting to me. Crime is typical, hurt is routine and the past exists to haunt our futures – those are all ideals we can count on each year. But this–no, that name. He's...Bruce Wayne is Batman?

A part of me (a big part I'll later come to know), rejects that the crippled playboy is indeed Gotham's Dark Knight. But...the tells are there — signs almost painfully obvious to me now. Bruce Wayne disappeared around the same time Batman went on the lamb. And while I would very much enjoy stammering on with more coincidences, it truly is as simple as that. It comes down to a city public whose been all too unaware, or blissfully uncaring. Take your pick.

In real time: I've unknowingly lead Wayne into a lions den, or worse, straight into the canon fire of a madman; now I watch down on him like some forgotten plaything on a perch. I am a coward. I did this–ALL of this without the slightest shred of concern. You see though, here's why: Batman was one thing — a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do to survive, but Bruce? I never stopped to imagine an actual flesh and blood man behind the cowl and now here I find myself full of...well, there's certainly an untold emotion rolling through me. Of that I'm sure of. Yes, it is shameful to say as much but alas, these thoughts cannot be rationally reasoned away.

For the first time in many years I'm feeling a barrage of guilt. As ghostly sensations of sorrow infect my skull, I imagine them – these unfamiliar phantoms – filling holes and forgotten spaces. Funny, I hadn't known there to be vacancies before tonight. I could attempt to analyze the oddness of my predicament but it would be useless. The only thing needed from me is to see – force my eyes to look on as actions join their inevitable reactions. I've made my bed.

Beneath leather-clad fingers I clutch Bane's prison steel and wonder, not for the first time, about Gotham's billionaire: the man, not the legacy of a recluse. Surreal memories of him cane-bound and wobbling, almost feeble-like (though somehow still a marksman) begin to rattle me. Here is living proof of how far a lie can take a person – he's a man now caught in a battle with the destroyer of worlds. His hands – Batman's – have blood on them, but why and who's, I don't yet fully know.

My thoughts return to the unbelievable again ...just how is this even possible? Was Wayne's weakness a ruse all along? A guise to hide away, forgotten and unkempt. Sure everyone knows the Dent-Batman story as though it were taught in Sunday school but I'm beginning to think...well, I'm considering that it might have been grade A bullshit. A way for Bruce to duck out, to leave the game he created in the wake of Joker's imprisonment.

But I've been wrong before. Once. Then again, I don't really know the man all that well.

That's beside the point.

In this underground dogfight I start to hear Batman's grunts and growls and know it in my heart that he's giving Bane his arsenal entire. Bane slyly moves about, arms widened as though dancing to the beat of an exposed hero's breaking heart. It's ugly and my stomach is aching because of it.

I've not made to move, nor has any of the other henchmen playing distant second parts in this waking nightmare. Barely breathing, I watch a wingspan erupt as Batman falls from the overheard walkway. I don't understand his cape technology and bargain with myself that should Bruce survive this, I will make a point to ask him about it.

Would he ever speak to me again, that is.

Bane is quick to follow; he descends using bare hands and brute strength and I find myself swallowing rising fear. It's mounting now; Batman hasn't given up but he has just tried to get away. A break I'd guess, a reprieve to ease whatever demons are chasing him down. Bane is not to be the only haunting devil of the night.

An emotion strikes me then...and I long to speak to Bruce. If only we might return to that pompous, over-the-top gala and dance once more. I'd promise to be closer, to reserve a moment of enjoyment being so near to him; I don't believe the man dislikes me anymore than I dislike him. He's an adventure, a different brand of world I've not let the real side of me enjoy. A way out and a way in. He's a balance unsuspected but not unpleasant.

Listen, I've never been one for love or romance and while strength is an admirable feature of mine, I'm afraid to admit that... I'll miss what I've never had. Should Batman fail.

I want to scream. If I look down and keep my eyes open long enough, I'm able to impose a small part of whatever Bruce may be experiencing onto my own person. I long to feel his pain because it should be my pain. I hope to hurt as he does because this: what I've been left with up here, above him, is ...worse. I can take physical agony, that's no question.

I'm deteriorating. This is all way too above my head.

I study the water as it rushes down onto them. Bruce's failed attempts at fist fighting have ended; he no longer connects and whatever strength he once had is all but diminished. I see minute smoke bombs detonate – I know Bruce threw them but to what purpose, I'm unsure. I realize then that I've lost time by thinking of how evil and regretful my actions here tonight are. Time that I've no doubt was fleeting. But...I–

Bane's speaking now. Of a...League of Shadows? I make a mental note to research any such League that may exist under that name. Well, if I make it out of this place alive and return focus and priorities to what they once were. It strikes me then that nothing, in fact, is keeping me here. I have my free ticket to get the hell out of this scary place and yet here I remain.

'Goddammit Selina.' No, chastising myself won't help but it's better than watching someone die.

ohgod.

It dawns on me for the first time – truly – that Bruce might not survive this. And I am doing zero in the way of helping him.

Frozen, that's what I am. Fear has collected me into its grip, like a blackened tundra surrounding me on all sides. It seems by now that I've resigned myself to accept my shortcomings rather than change them. Or challenge the status quo. Really though – what am I able to do in this such instance?

Rationalizing, while not improving my own situation, has once again taken precious concentration away from Wayne.

He's–Batman is on the ground now, Bane is above him. I close my eyes to listen. No. No longer do I hear sounds of involuntary protestation. No last-act of a desperate man battle cries. What I do hear is a tightened, hardened skin crash down onto an equally indestructible surface. I catch a glimpse and–The left side of Bruce's face appears impacted. Bane ...he's...how..

Stunned, I watch those massive shoulders lift up; walking away from Batman, Bane's movements are confident–sure. Muffled sounds fill the air but I no longer pay mind to the mercenaries words. What I find down below leaves me speechless: an eye surrounded by crushed material. Bruce's left eye is...Bane's somehow broken the head piece with his fists. I hadn't ever believed a thing could happen. After all the things I've read on Batman through the years before his disappearance and then the few times I've been close enough to see for myself, it doesn't make sense. I try to wrap my head around the force needed to do such an act but all I'm left with is worry and a sickness overwhelming.

I hadn't feared for Bruce before like I do now. I might have thought as much but real then is a vastly different from real now. I want to kill Bane and tear his operation to bits and piec-

A blast of white and deafening sound explodes above our heads, a bomb has gone off. Concrete falls, dust blows around us, coating my leather in a fine white and grey mist. My head spins but not from the blast. This is all really happening.

Bruce.

I shift to the left to gain a better view, palms and fingers still fused to the steel as though it were my life laid on the line.

Despite my best efforts, I hear Bane speak to Batm-oh no, Bruce managed to lift himself. I feel myself on the edge of certain madness; I want to scream for Batman to give in and give up. To save himself and flee. But he charges onward until

"Ahh...I was wondering what would break first. Your spirit...or your body–"

Batman is lifted by Bane, though not without effort. But just as quickly as he had been risen–

The resonating sound of Bruce Wayne's spine breaking...will live inside of me, forever. NonoNoNono.

I feel my lips shake and my frame grows weary of standing. As if internally mimicking Bruce's now-quieted figure, I can't move. I want to fall and flail and scream and cry at the wrongness of everything that has taken place, starting with my leading him down here. But I'm unable to coax my mind to believe that there is a way out. And losing it now would cost me more than I've already handed over.

"Hey, what're you still doin' here?"

I look over towards the armed, yet worthless worker who asked me a question I'm unable to answer and know that it's no one of import.

Yet... I see an opportunity to–to do something. "Wanted to watch the show. Think you can get me down there before Bane hauls him out? He has something of mine and I want it back."

I sashay towards the piece of shit hired hand, as though seducing his mind might help an unplanned cause. And lucky me, it does just that.

"Yeah, yeah. Come with me. Gotta move quick though." A pause before, "what does that Bat-freak have of yours?" He turns to me expecting an honest response but I merely bite my ruby-red bottom lip and shrug my shoulders. A quick raise in my eyebrows tells him it none of his business. Surprisingly, it appears to be reason enough because he doesn't stop moving. Fucking idiot.

I willingly follow him through three levels of spiraling cement stairs. The moisture is choking down this low from the overhead falls but I'm so dangerously close now. I just need to know if...if Bruce is alive. Whatever happens from there is as yet undecided. I don't even know if I'm ready to find out. Need to, yes, but ready? Different matter entirely.

We arrive at the base of Bane's spherical hell and I move a little too fast for Mr. Idiot's liking. "Wait, wait a minute. I ...I don't think you should be seen. Stick to the walls and follow me, sweetheart."

Sweetheart?

I swallow down the steam of rage but it boils on. Anything is now preferred to guilt or fear or doubt. So I revel in the anger and use it to keep my legs moving forward.

The man guiding me halts abruptly and sight unseen, places one of his hands on my belly. I grab it and ring his wrist upwards, instinctively protecting myself. Falling to his knees to avoid a bone break, I reposition myself to avoid any unwelcome swings he might attempt. My knee lands at the small of his back and holds him there in place. Like I said, worthless.

He makes no such effort to return me any harm but, "hey, what the HELL? C'mon, let me go!" the Idiot cries, and so I do. I smile and get damn near to curtsying. I can't risk gaining unwanted attention because someone was dumb enough to touch me in a place like this. "Just don't grab at me. Didn't you just see what happened down here? Little on edge, as I'm sure you are too." My recovery speech isn't as smooth as I hoped it would be but again, this goon is simply not the brightest bulb.

As suspected, he buys it. Again.

We continue onward and round the circle until huge remnants of the fallen ceiling block the pathway. He makes to back track but the urgency within me is too great now. I ignore the man's voice and begin to climb the debris. I make it over the haul and onto the top of one of Batman's unpainted Tumblers. I hesitate only for a fraction of a second, taking in the gravity of how everything has changed before continuing on.

Back on stable ground I land feline-like.

I stop. I see him.

He's face down, unmoving and soaking wet. I notice half of Batman's mask lying broken by my left foot. Burning inside, I want nothing more than to– "And what might I do for you, Ms. Kyle?"

Oh.

I turn to face two empty eyes, colder than the arctic. It's Bane. Naturally.

"He-he has something of mine. I want it back. Can't fault a girl, can you?" How ridiculous I must have sounded as each word left my mouth, but I had a story to stick to, right?

Yeah, right.