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Into The Fire - Bane fic/Part 3 of Trilogy

Posts: 2046
Location: The Wasteland
batmanbane wrote:Oh sob! I can't bear the ending! :cry: :cry: :cry:


Well, it's been a long time coming, BmB. :lol: :lol: I'm hoping to have the final chapter up this weekend.
Posts: 228
Location: Toronto, Canada
:P - for the new chapter...

:( - for what I don't yet know...
Posts: 2046
Location: The Wasteland
batmanbane wrote::P - for the new chapter...

:( - for what I don't yet know...


:D Hang in there. ;)
Posts: 2046
Location: The Wasteland
Sixty

At first Bane thought the man’s voice belonged to Rā’s al Ghūl, the hand upon his arm reminiscent of Rā’s’ in the pit when his rescuer had arrived. Had they been reunited in death? Yet, if he were dead, why was there still so much physical pain, much more than even when the Batman had been manhandling him, and why was the mask still gripping his face?

“Bane,” the voice came again, faint and barely penetrating the ringing, muffled quality of Bane’s hearing. “Brother, can you hear me?”

Cold fingers against Bane’s carotid artery.

“I’ve got a pulse.”

Barsad.

Bane did not open his eyes, fearful that the bright light of the explosion would still be there to torment him.

“Find something to use as a stretcher!” Barsad shouted at someone. “Hurry before we’re discovered, dammit!”

Chilled, slimy fingers gripped Bane’s even colder hand. Not Talia’s fingers as he wished. No, he would never feel her touch again. Yet…if Barsad was alive, if he was alive, that meant the bomb had not gone off. And if the bomb had not gone off, perhaps Talia was also still alive. Was she near? Had she come back for him as Barsad had?

“Hang on, brother,” Barsad beseeched.

Bane felt strong pressure against his chest. Barsad trying to staunch the bleeding. Blood. That explained the sticky moistness of his lieutenant’s fingers. Bane sensed someone with his friend. Not Talia. No, another man, one of the mercs perhaps, or one of his brothers.

“Move your hand,” Barsad ordered the man. “I need to replenish the mask.”

Both Barsad and Bane always carried a small supply of crystals for the mask in case of emergencies or separation from their base of supplies. He could feel Barsad opening one of the canisters. Soon a fresh, strong flow of the drug greeted Bane, giving him the strength to finally crack his eyes open.

He stared upward to a distant ceiling, tried to remember where he had last been. Then Barsad’s drawn face hovered close, blood smeared amidst the stubble on his chin. Relief brought life back into Barsad’s blue eyes.

“Stay with me, Bane. We’re gonna get you outta here. Hang on.”

It seemed an age before Bane could command his voice to say, “Talia?”

“We’re looking for her. Don’t worry about her right now; we’ll find her. Just lie still. God dammit, where’s that stretcher?”

Rushing boots drew near. Something was set on the floor beside Bane. He could not look, could not hold his eyes open any longer.

“’Eth Alth’eban,” Bane rasped, barely audible.

“No,” Barsad said with conviction and authority. “I’m taking you to Maysam.”

###

Sometimes Bane heard voices. Mainly men, but sometimes women. Various languages: English, Urdu, Arabic. They never spoke to him, always around him, over him. He could neither look for them nor respond, though he tried many, many times, but the blackness had an unbreakable hold upon him, inescapable, like the pit. Unconscious, not dead; he was quite certain. But how had he survived the bomb blast? Or had the blast that had struck him been from something else?

A couple of times he thought he heard his mother, but after all these years would he truly be able to recognize her voice? Other times he heard a woman who sounded very much like Melisande. Strange how he could remember her voice so well. Always he listened for Talia among the disembodied but never detected her, and he despaired.

There was one consistent voice, a stalwart presence that never seemed to leave him during those times when he was aware of sound. Barsad. Few of his lieutenant’s words were decipherable, for they were often jumbled in with the other voices, but Bane was confident that it was Barsad. A variety of emotional tones colored his friend’s speech: anger, insistence, stubbornness, and now and then—when the other voices were not present—a quiet, despondent desperation; the fear of losing a second brother.

Another sensation besides sound populated Bane’s shadow world: pain. His age-old companion. But this pain was different from that which the mask held at bay. It inhabited his entire being, weighed upon him, drained him to utter helplessness and a desire for death. But he would not allow himself to give up, not when he was unsure of Talia’s safety, of whether or not she lived. If he were to succumb, he would not do so until he had the answers to his questions.

###

Rhythmical beeps, mechanical ones, reminding Bane of the countdown clock on the bomb. No. That was from another time, long ago. He tried to comprehend. This sound was different, yet somehow familiar. He could hear it clearly, close, the first such distinctness he had experienced since plunging into the blackness. Even the blackness was different now, lighter, gray, dissolving like the mist over Lake Geneva in one of the photos Talia had sent to him from her school days at Le Rosey. The beeping… He had heard it before, ages ago. Where had he been? Bane tried to relax his mind, allow his memories to flow. The persistent pain in his body helped him remember, helped him map out the memory. A medical clinic beyond the pit. He had been taken there after breaking his back. It was there that he had first heard those mechanical beeps.

Beyond the cadence of the blips came a secondary sound, raspy, decidedly not clinical, but Bane could not place it right away.

The fog blanketing his brain, his vision, continued to lift, to thin, infusing him with vague excitement. Soon he would have the answers to so many questions that had battered him in the darkness.

This time when Bane tried to open his eyes, his heavy lids responded, though painstakingly slow. The natural light in the room was dim. Muted sunlight, as if all that separated him from it were curtains or blinds behind where he lay. He was thankful for this muteness, for it made the transition to consciousness bearable after so long deprived of light. Sunlight. He was not underground; he was not at ’Eth Alth’eban.

On his back, he lay in a hospital bed, but judging from the lavish, vaguely familiar décor he was not in a hospital. The obstruction of the mask’s profile caused him to crane his neck in order to fully view his body. The heaviness and discomfort in his chest was explained by a swath of bandages. An IV ran into his arm. Both arms bore bandages, but nothing of any substance. He could feel the healing lacerations beneath them. If healing had already begun, then he had been here some time. Curious and hopeful, he wiggled his toes. Seemingly little damage to his lower extremities. And judging from the feel of a catheter, the other mechanics of nature were still attached.

Then he realized what covered the lower half of his body—Melisande’s blanket. Lovingly, gratefully his fingers traveled over the fabric.

When he turned his head to look at the monitors to which he was tethered, he realized from where the other, unidentified noise originated. A tiny smile struggled to manifest behind the mask. How had he not recognized that sound?

Barsad slept in a chair just beyond the right-hand monitor, head inclined, mouth drooping, snoring. The stubble Bane had last seen shadowing his friend’s face had grown into a beard, his hair longer and untrimmed, but not unkempt. He no longer wore his military garb but instead a simple loose-fitting shirt and khaki cargo pants. The sight was so incongruous to Bane and his muddled mind that he simply studied his friend, listening to him snore.

They were alone, and peacefulness swept over Bane, regardless of his physical distress. No ringing phones, no couriers coming and going, no staff bustling about. Just the two of them and the benign machines.

Though Bane knew he should let his obviously-exhausted friend sleep, his own pressing questions demanded answers. He tried to speak, but at first nothing came out of his dry mouth. His throat was raw, no doubt from being intubated for a length of time. How long? Swallowing gingerly, he tried again.

“Barsad.”

His friend snored on.

Unsuccessfully Bane tried to raise his voice. “Barsad.”

Nothing.

Bane lifted his hand—a surprisingly laborious endeavor—and rested it on the bed rail. Using the pulse oximeter on his index finger, he tapped stridently upon the rail until his lieutenant stirred. With a choking snort, Barsad awoke, his heavy-lidded eyes bleary, but they quickly cleared when he saw Bane staring at him. A broad smile of relief spread Barsad’s well-defined lips as he stood and drew closer to the bed.

“Welcome back, brother.”

“Talia?” Bane hoarsely asked.

“She’s here. I’ll let her know you’re awake.”

Relieved, Bane momentarily closed his eyes, breathed easier. “Where am I?”

“The palace in Rajasthan.”

Bane tried to scowl, but it was too much effort. “We are putting Maysam in undue peril.”

“She understands the risks. But she instructed me long ago to bring you here should anything…unfortunate happen in Gotham.”

“The bomb?”

Barsad frowned. “Batman flew it out of the city. It detonated over the bay, taking him with it. Gotham was unscathed.” His frown deepened. “I’m sorry, brother.”

Surprisingly the news did not move Bane. He gestured to himself. “Then how did all this happen? I remember nothing.”

“Our old friend Selina Kyle, I’m afraid. I saw her riding the Bat Pod down the steps of City Hall shortly after I left you. Judging from your wounds when I found you, she let you have it with a blast from the Pod.” He shook his head in amazement. “It’s a fucking miracle you survived. If not for your vest, you sure as shit wouldn’t be here talking to me right now.”

“So you came back to City Hall? You should have left me, brother. You had your duty to Talia—”

“Well, I got a bit sidetracked by a bullet. Like you, only my vest stood between me and eternity that day.” He produced his familiar nonchalant grin.

A cold sensation trailed down Bane’s spine. “Was Talia wounded?”

Now Barsad’s grin died, instantly fueling Bane’s concern. “She was, but she’s here, recovering like you.”

Bane’s fingers curled around the rail, and the machine monitoring his heartrate emitted faster beeps. “How bad was she injured?”

Barsad avoided his eyes. “The doctor’s hopeful that she’ll make a full recovery. It’ll just take some time.”

“What happened?”

“She was driving the truck that carried the bomb. Batman was in pursuit in the Bat, and Catwoman was helping him from the Bat Pod. They took out the Tumblers, but Talia kept going. Batman blasted the shit out of the truck. She ended up plunging down one of the accesses onto the lower street.”

“And?” Bane demanded impatiently, knowing Barsad was trying to protect him.

Barsad sighed in capitulation. “She suffered severe trauma to her cervical spine.”

Agitation drew Bane to an upright sitting position. “Where is she?” His forceful words were like glass down his sore throat. “I must go to her.”

Barsad took a hold of his arm. “God dammit, Bane. You’re not getting outta this bed. You’ve had two major surgeries, and you’ve been in a coma for weeks.”

Bane glared at him, ignoring the lightheadedness swirling the room as he struggled to swing his legs over the side of the bed. Carefully Barsad held him back, amazingly strong, or was he himself really that weak?

“I’m telling you,” Barsad continued angrily, “you try to stand you’re gonna fall flat on your face.”

“The wheelchair.” Bane pointed to a large wheelchair folded against the wall.

“Hell, no. You’re staying put, you damn maniac, or I’ll tell ’em to put you back into a coma.”

Futilely Bane tried to shove away Barsad’s hands. He would have head-butted his lieutenant out of the way if he had had the strength.

“Unhand me, Barsad. I will see her. Either now or when you leave this room.”

Barsad glared in frustration, his jaw clenched. “I’m telling you, she’s fine. She wouldn’t want you out of bed. If you won’t listen to me, then at least respect her wishes.”

“The wheelchair,” Bane gritted out the order.

“God dammit, Bane—”

“Now, or I’ll pull out this IV and rip open my stitches.”

“Jesus Christ, they should have sedated you into next year.”

“The chair.”

“Fine. Then when you fall on your face, what’re you gonna do? Crawl to her? I’m not gonna pick you up. You don’t even know where she is.”

“I will find her.”

Muttering to himself, Barsad retrieved the chair and unfolded it, snugged it against the bed and locked the brake. After pulling the IV pole close and removing the heart monitor’s electrodes from Bane’s chest, Barsad helped his trembling friend slide awkwardly down into the wheelchair. Bane could not stifle a groan. Breathing was difficult, and it felt as if a fire burned within his chest. His head swam, and sound grew distant for a moment as his vision darkened.

“This is insanity,” Barsad grumbled as Bane used Melisande’s blanket to conceal his catheter bag, spreading the blanket across his lap and the ridiculous cotton gown. “Talia and Maysam are gonna have my balls for allowing this.”

Struggling to regain clarity, Bane assured, “They know me well enough to know I gave you no choice. Now push, brother.”

He would not admit to Barsad that he had not the strength to propel the wheelchair with his own hands. Instead he gripped the IV pole the best he could so it would accompany him.

“Why am I in the palace and not in the guesthouse?”

“Maysam’s orders. She runs the show here, brother. You’re out of your depth.”

As Barsad pushed him down the hallway—not an easy task, considering Bane’s substantial weight and the carpet beneath the wheels—Bane looked forward to seeing Maysam, yet at the same time he dreaded the reunion. He was the world’s most wanted criminal, and if that infamy brought harm or ruin to her, he would never forgive himself. As soon as possible, he would put as much distance between them as he could.

“I’m assuming you have safety measures in place,” Bane said, desperately wishing he could remove the mask and quench his raging thirst by guzzling a gallon of water.

“Of course. Our brothers are working in conjunction with Amir’s security forces. They’ve set up a strong perimeter and both infrared and satellite monitoring.”

“I’m not comfortable utilizing Amir’s men.”

“Neither am I, but like I said Maysam is in charge.” He gave a small laugh. “You think you’re a slave driver…”

Bane growled, “Barsad—”

“She has a point about Amir the Snake—he knows he would be implicated if he dared notify the authorities about us. After all, there are few men in this region of the world with more to hide from law enforcement than Amir. And few with more to lose. So the birds of a feather must flock together, as they say.”

“I don’t like it.”

“I didn’t expect you would, brother. But remember who my boss was before you.” He chuckled with a slight tone of licentiousness and uncharacteristically patted Bane’s shoulder. “But don’t worry. Once you’re able to travel, we’ll be leaving. Just don’t mention it to Maysam, though. Let her believe we’ll be her guests for a while.”

“At the very least, you must leave immediately, Barsad. As de facto commander of the League now, it’s imperative you remain safe.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Finn’s at the helm for now, so things are in good hands.”

Bane growled. “We will discuss this further after I see Talia and you debrief me.”

Barsad patted him again. “Only if you’re a good boy and promise to take a nap.”

“Barsad,” Bane threatened.

“Too early for humor? Well, forgive me, brother, but these past few weeks haven’t exactly been filled with a shitload of things to laugh about, so you’ll just have to indulge me this one time.”

Bane frowned at himself. “I’m sorry for being churlish, brother. I owe you my life.”

“Well, what I did was nothing less than what you’ve done for me more than once over the years, so consider us even.”

Bane allowed Barsad’s good nature to rub off on him enough to draw a smile to his dry lips.

“Here we are,” Barsad said, stopping the wheelchair in front of a door guarded by two armed men, one of them quite familiar.

“It’s good to see you out of bed, sir.”

“I’m pleased to see you as well, Yemi, and to see that you still serve our sister.”

“Is she awake?” Barsad softly asked Yemi. “He wants to see her.”

“Whether she sleeps or not,” Bane said, “I will see her.”

Yemi looked to Barsad for confirmation.

“He won’t be long,” Barsad assured. “Will you, Bane?”

“I will not tax her.”

“She’s not the one I’m worried about,” Barsad said.

“Open the door,” Bane ordered.

Trying to stifle an amused smile, Yemi opened the door and held it thus until Barsad had wheeled Bane inside.

The bedroom, like Bane’s, was spacious and richly furnished and decorated, reflecting the culture and heritage of Maysam’s family. A single window took up most of one wall, but the drapes were drawn except for where the side sash was open. A wonderful, warm breeze that stretched all the way to the door moved the edge of the curtains back and forth like a breathing thing, and bright sunlight fell across the rich, colorful rugs, making the Gotham winter seem like a long ago dream. There was a king-sized bed in the room as well as a hospital bed. The latter was angled away from the door, facing the window and a television—currently turned off—that sat upon a dresser in the corner. One end of the bed was partially raised so the patient was reclining, denying Bane’s view. Beside the bed, standing from her chair, was Maysam, her lined face opening with surprise.

“Haris,” she spoke as if her breath had been stolen from her. “How good it is to see you awake.” She crossed quickly over to him, causing Barsad to halt. Then, ignoring all religious convention, she bent to kiss Bane’s cheek and touch his shoulder. Her brown gaze shifted to Barsad, darkening a bit with rebuke. “But you should not be out of bed.”

“Save your breath, Maysam,” Barsad said. “But don’t worry, he promises he won’t stay long. Right, brother?”

It took all of Bane’s self-restraint to keep from demanding that Barsad shut up and push him to Talia’s bed.

“Bane?” a small, sleepy voice called out.

Automatically his body tried to go to Talia, but both Maysam and Barsad gently kept him in the chair. Maysam stepped back so Barsad could wheel Bane over to the bed.

When Talia saw him, tears filled her eyes, and she reached out, whispering his name, choked by emotion. With tears of his own making his vision swim, he took her hand in his, struck dumb by the shocking sight of his beloved. She wore a halo vest and brace—a dark metal band encircled her shaved head, and at intervals four evil-looking bolt-like pins went through the band and pierced her flesh, butting up against her skull to stabilize her head; also attached to the halo were four steel rods, two anterior, two posterior, that were anchored upon the vest, further ensuring the stability of her healing spine. The absence of her lustrous hair reminded him of her childhood in the pit when he and Melisande had kept her head shaved to help hide her gender. He knew the halo did not require hair to be removed except near the pin sites, so he wondered why she had gone to the extreme. Yet already it had begun to grow back, and he remembered how quickly it had done so once she had been freed from prison.

Bane gently squeezed her hand, his IV tugging at his flesh. “How are you, habibati?”

“Better, now that you’re here; we’ve all been so worried.” Concern drew lines at the corners of her mouth. “But like Jiddah said, you should not be out of bed.”

“I have been in bed long enough. I had to see you. Barsad told me what happened.”

“Barsad,” Maysam softly said, touching his elbow. “Let us leave these two alone for a few minutes. I can have some tea brought out to the veranda for us.”

Barsad hesitated with a glance at Bane.

“Go, brother. No doubt you are overdue in serving your vile tobacco master,” Bane teased.

Barsad scoffed at him. “Well, don’t get comfortable here. I’ll be dragging you back to your room as soon as I return.”

Maysam smiled at their banter and crooked a finger to encourage Barsad to follow her out.

Once the door had been closed behind them, Bane turned back to Talia. They smiled melancholy smiles, their hands still joined. Then Talia’s gaze dropped.

“I have failed my father,” she murmured.

“You have nothing to be ashamed of, habibati. The responsibility for failure lies with me. I should have killed the Batman.”

“But I told you not to. You were following orders.”

“No.” He shook his head and freed her hand. “I defied your orders. I was about to kill him when Selena Kyle intervened. But I should have killed him long before. I should have killed him in the sewer the first time we crossed paths. My pride is to blame.”

“No, you were thinking of me, as always. You knew I wanted Wayne alive to have my moment of vengeance. I wanted him to see his utter and complete failure. You must not blame yourself for any of this. I won’t hear it. Besides, he’s dead now. So, although Gotham still stands, at least my father’s murderer has been eliminated.”

Bane smiled a bit at her wisdom and her effort to comfort him. “Of course you are right, as usual, my dear. And truth be told, because of Temujin, Wayne’s death holds more importance to me than Gotham’s destruction, selfish as that may sound. Justice was served at last.”

“Yes,” she returned his smile, but he could see sadness behind it, her feelings of having let her father down. “So it looks like you got your wish—Barsad got me out of Gotham in one piece after all. And I can’t tell you how pleased I am that he did the same for you.”

“He should not have brought us here, though,” Bane grumbled.

“It’s what Jiddah wanted, what she begged of him long ago. He concealed his promise from us, of course. She says we will recuperate better here, in the house of someone who loves us. Trust me, Bane, I’ve tried to dissuade her, and I know you will, too, but she’s unmovable.” Talia paused, stared at her unpolished, short fingernails, absently rubbed them. “Though I don’t like the danger it puts her in—and you can imagine how Amir feels about us being here—I have to say that I’m glad we’re here, with her, I mean. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her after first being brought here.”

“Tell me of your injuries, habibati, and how we came to be here.”

“Barsad didn’t tell you?”

“I gave him no time to expound beyond telling me the basic nature of your injuries. I came here as soon as I awoke.”

Her long lashes raised, unveiling her eyes to him once again as she began to tell him of her cervical surgery, of the initial swelling that had caused temporary paralysis. As she spoke of this helplessness, Bane could see her reliving the terror of those days, and he bitterly regretted not being there for her. She told him of Barsad’s heroic efforts to safeguard them out of Gotham and across the river, to a safe location where one of the League’s surgeons performed the first operation on Bane, which saved his life. Once stabilized, they were both flown to Jaipur where an orthopedic surgeon, also on the League’s payroll, operated on Talia.

“Barsad told me your prognosis is good,” Bane said hopefully. “It would appear he was telling me the truth and not just protecting me. You look well, all things considered.”

“I’ll improve even more now that I know you’re on the road to recovery. I’ve been out of bed for some time now. I’ve sat at your bedside many times. Were you aware at all? We took turns—me, Jiddah, and Barsad.”

“No doubt it was your presence that kept me alive, habibati. My mind might not have been aware, but my heart was.”

“I would read to you, like I did in the pit after your back surgery. Remember?”

“Of course. And look,” he raised one corner of the blanket on his lap, “your mother’s blanket. However did it survive?”

“Barsad said Yemi retrieved it. He didn’t know until the flight over when Yemi laid it over you.”

“I must thank him on my way out.”

They fell silent for a moment, simply looking at one another, and he wondered if she was thinking about their last moment together in Gotham, as was he. Bane placed his hand over hers.

“What now for us, habibati?”

“I’ve made no decisions. How could I without your counsel?”

“You must not stress yourself. Barsad said Finn is running operations, and I know he will gladly continue in that role for as long as you wish it so. In fact, once you are recovered enough, I think you should take some time away from your responsibilities with the League. No one deserves downtime more than you. You have been Miranda Tate for so long. It’s time you allow Talia to return and live a little.”

Her small laugh was cynical. “You speak as if no one is looking for me, for us. But as I told you, Selina Kyle and James Gordon were there after the crash of my vehicle. They know my true identity, and they have neither my body nor yours to assure them that we are indeed dead and no longer a threat.”

“I don’t fear their newfound knowledge, and neither should you. You will be protected always.”

“But what about you? It won’t be as easy for the Masked Man to conceal himself, and I don’t want to see you holed up in ’Eth Alth’eban like some caged tiger either.”

“I will do whatever is necessary for our survival.”

Talia hesitated, wet her lips in almost a nervous gesture. “There is a potential way to disguise you, something Jiddah and I discussed, to help ensure that you won’t be recognized.”

“As I said, Talia, I’m not concerned—”

“But I am, and so is Jiddah. Just listen, Bane, please.”

Keen not to argue with her, he indulged her with a nod of acquiescence and allowed her to continue.

“There is a plastic surgeon in New Dehli. World-renown. I’ve been researching him—”

“No, Talia.”

“Bane, listen—”

“I have no desire to cosmetically reinvent myself, especially under the hands of yet another doctor. If you recall, there is a certain doctor who contributed to this,” he gestured to his masked face. “I care little for the medical community. An undertaking such as that of which you speak would take multiple surgeries over a long period of time, and even then there is no guarantee of success. I have no desire to subject myself to such torment.”

“But, Bane, you told me yourself that you require more and more of the drugs to sustain you. What happens when they no longer help you?”

“We will engineer something else.”

“And if we can’t?”

“I will find a way to endure. I always have.”

She sighed in frustration and covered his hand with hers. “Barsad told me you would refuse me. But promise me this,” she smiled sadly, “Haris. Promise me you will at least think about it. If they caught both of us, you are the one who would suffer the worst fate between us; you are the face of Gotham’s occupation, not me. It will be much easier for them to revile you than me. You know how the world works in such matters.” She trailed a gentle finger over the back of his hand, a tiny sensation that had immense power. “I couldn’t bear to see you in their hands; I couldn’t bear to continue on without you. So I’m asking you to promise that you will at least consider my suggestion.”

The door to the room unceremoniously opened, and Barsad marched back in, Maysam in his wake.

“All right, time’s up,” Barsad announced, looking much improved after his cigarette. Or was it his time spent with Maysam on the veranda that had renewed him?

Bane scowled at him. “You should knock before barging into her room, brother.”

“What, so you can tell me to get lost?” He tossed a grin over his shoulder at Maysam before stepping behind Bane’s wheelchair and taking hold of the handles. “If you’re done with him, Talia, I’ll take our wayward brother back to his bed and strap him down so he’s not in here pestering you anymore today.”

Talia smiled at his teasing. “No need for that, Barsad. If he promises to stay where he belongs for now, I will be the one who visits him. Agreed, Bane?”

Their companionable repartee warmed Bane, and he had no desire to dampen their spirits by arguing, so he grumbled, “Very well.”

“But before you take him from me,” Talia said, “there is one more thing he must promise me.” She raised a leading eyebrow at Bane. “You will think of what we discussed?”

Bane glanced at Maysam who was listening curiously, trying to keep her hands from rubbing nervously together in front of her. It was obvious she knew what Talia had asked of him and equally obvious that she was as eager as her granddaughter to hear his agreement. Bane wondered if Barsad knew as well. Perhaps so, for he could feel the unspoken pressure from all sides.

At last he leaned forward and drew Talia’s hand gently to the mask as if to kiss it. When he freed her, she sweetly touched the grating as she had in City Hall.

“You know I can deny you nothing, habibati,” he said, earning another smile. “You have my word—I will consider your idea.”

Talia lifted her gaze to Maysam, and both women smiled in relief before Talia said, “You must get some sleep now, habibi. And when you awake, I will be there.”

Though he did not want to leave her, the knowledge that he would indeed see her soon, that he had not lost her forever, made their parting bearable. And with one final, private smile exchanged with the woman he loved, he allowed Barsad to wheel him from the room.

********************************************************

We have finally reached the end of my Child of Darkness trilogy. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would love to hear from those of you who did. A special thanks to those here on Nolan Fans who encouraged me to write Bane's story. This wouldn't have happened without you.

If you would like to read more of my work, I hope you check out my published novels: The Prodigal, The Alliance, and The Fortune (by S.K. Keogh), available at Amazon and other online booksellers.
Posts: 228
Location: Toronto, Canada
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Posts: 2046
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Thank you, BmB. *bows*
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