Chapter 21: I guess we're both suckers

Night falls. Selina prepares for another foraging excursion (in the rain – ugh). She is just pulling on her boots when Bane motions to her.

"If I may make a request?"


"A razor."

Selina raises an eyebrow and zips up her boot. "If you wanna off yourself, I can take care of it. All you have to do is ask."

Bane gives her a look of mild exasperation and retreats slowly under the tarp. He still moves like a man in significant pain. Selina observes him critically before turning away and tumbling down the ladder.

A razor. Weird. Bane's appearance is such a constant, unchangeable thing that it never really occurred to her that he shaves. But of course, he must shave his head. And his beard, if there's anything under the mask to shave?

Why does he have to go and be so human sometimes? It's easier to deal with him when he's a monster.

Selina snaps on her goggles and braves the rain to find them more foodstuffs, because now that he is eating again, Bane is eating a lot. And yes, she finds him a razor, because she's a nice person like that. And she steals an old blanket that smells vaguely like a shed, because it was in a shed, but it's better than nothing and its disappearance is unlikely to be noticed.

Having collected her precious supplies from the nearby homes of the innocent, Selina skeeters as quickly as she can back to the relative warmth and dryness of the barn.

Bane is leaning heavily against the barn door when she gets back, as though his descent from the hayloft was a tremendous effort. She almost bumps into him in the dark before his breathing alerts her of his presence.

"Wash," he grunts.

Selina slips him the razor and tosses him the sliver of soap. She watches him walk unsteadily to the pump and remove his clothing and back brace in the rain, slowly, painfully. Even in the darkness and rain, Selina can see that his body is mottled with bruising and smeared with the blackness of dried blood. No wonder he was stinky.

Selina leaves Bane to his rain-assisted ablutions, wondering, slightly guiltily, how many of those injuries she is responsible for. She clambers up the ladder to the hayloft in pensive silence.

Bane isn't a pussy about the rain and wet like Selina is; he is drenched when he returns to the hayloft, and shirtless, and doesn't seem to be feeling the unpleasant coolness of the night. Selina shudders just looking at him and nestles more deeply into her pilfered blanket. Its smell brings to mind lawnmowers and grass seed and sun.

"Saw you've got some nice new decorations," says Selina with a gesture to Bane's bruised torso when he joins her under the tarp.

Through the combined effects of the night, the black rain clouds, the barn roof, and the tarp, it is almost pitch-black, so Selina can only see enough to know that he turned to give her a look, which was probably a very dark look. She hears him lie down, slowly and painfully, on the floor next to her.

Selina does not offer to share her blanket. What is she, Mother Teresa? It's hard enough keeping this beast fed and watered, thank you very much.

"We should move soon," says Selina into the darkness. "Now that you're more mobile."

"And where do you plan on going?" asks Bane.

He's got her there; she doesn't have much of a plan except 'keep moving'.

"Somewhere where the League can track us, but no-one else can. You got a suggestion for me?"

Bane grunts unhelpfully.

"We'll just move, then," says Selina when no solutions are forthcoming from her camp-mate. "I don't like to stay in one place too long."

"Yes," says Bane. "You have rather… nomadic tendencies."

"Tendencies that have kept me safe so far," says Selina. It feels like the defensiveness in her voice is amplified by the darkness around them.

"It does not fatigue you, to be a perpetual vagrant?"

Selina shrugs, then realizes that he can't see her shrug. "I've never really had a place called home. If the alternative is better… I wouldn't know."

The regular pitter-patter of rain fills the long silence that follows.


Selina doesn't feel herself doze off, but knows she must have when a sound awakens her. Her eyes fly open. In the dark, she can make out the blackness of Bane's silhouette kneeling nearby, lifting the water bucket to his face and taking a long drink.

He pauses, probably having heard her breathing patterns change as she awoke.

As for Selina, she can't really hear Bane's breathing since the mask isn't there to filter it to an unnatural volume. It is a strange absence, and it is only now that she realizes to which point she uses his breathing as a barometer for his moods.

"Always so curious," says Bane. "Staring into the dark as though you could will it away..."

Selina blinks and looks down, because she was doing just that. Perhaps he guessed, perhaps he can see better in the dark than even she can...

"There is darkness here that no will in the world could brighten," says Bane.

Selina hears him clamber slowly to his feet.

"Come, then," says Bane. "You have one minute, and no more."

His voice is different without the mask – a little less rough, less inorganic...

Selina advances towards him, drawn by that curiosity which will probably be the end of her.

She can see nothing, of course – Bane has chosen his moment carefully, as he does with everything else. But she can feel, and that is what he is offering her – a rare privilege, she knows, and one which excites and terrifies all at once.

Selina bites her lip and comes in close, stretching tentative fingertips towards his face.

He is tall – she knows this, and yet still misses her mark slightly, and it is the side of his neck that she makes first contact with. His neck is familiar territory to her – the subject of quiet study in idle moments, how her whip would fit around it, if it ever came to that… the familiarity gives her the confidence to drag her fingers upwards towards the unknown places, the jawline usually encased in the mask which is now open to her exploring fingers. The lines of it are as she expected, solid and framing a strong chin.

Her fingers travel up his jaw and she finds an ear – an ear that feels normal, as does its twin on the other side. His nose is another story, definitely broken twice or thrice, and the skin of his face is – marred, somehow, though her fingers cannot translate what it means to her eyes.

For some reason, her heart is racing.

A vertical ridge along Bane's right cheekbone captures the attention of Selina's fingertips and she follows the raised and twisted line down to his lips. These surprise her by their softness, though they are bisected by the scar that tapers out at his chin. His mouth is closed, so Selina draws a finger along his bottom lip, trying to imagine what shape it would take if only she had a little bit of light.

He catches her fingertip lightly between his teeth, and Selina laughs and admits in a whisper that, okay, she believes him, he has teeth.

Her fingers travel to the long line indented into the skin of his cheekbones and across the bridge of his nose where the mask usually rests. She brushes back and forth along this line, this boundary that divides the known from the unknown. She caresses scarred skin that does not know the warmth of sun, or the touch of rain, or the kiss of wind, and it strikes her as a sad thing.

Bane tilts his head down into her hands and Selina feels the whisper of a long sigh feather across her fingers. She wonders when he was last touched in this way. If he was ever touched in this way.

His breath reminds her that he is just a man. Just a man, but in this moment it is almost as though he is a stranger all over again. Selina knows the masked man well. That is Bane. But this one? He is new to her, this man revelling in her touch, bending willingly under her hands, breathing his hot unsteady breath against her palm.

He moves his large hand to cover hers where it rests on his cheek, as though to imprint there a memory of these soft touches. His mouth brushes the white-scarred skin of her inner wrist, accidentally she thinks, until he does it again.

Selina smiles a soft smile and is glad of the darkness that hides it.

She knows that her minute is almost up, that Bane must return to the tyranny of the mask in a moment.

And Selina is a thief. And she likes precious things, rare things.

So she steals a kiss from Bane. She wonders at her own daring as she does it, as she circles her arms around his neck and gets up on her tiptoes and hesitates for a split-second and then, finally, presses her lips to his.

Can you steal something that is willingly given? Selina does not have time to ponder the philosophy of the question – all she knows is that he doesn't let her break away, and all she feels is his hot mouth on hers, and all she can smell is wintergreen… he hoped she would do this, she knows that now, from the fervor with which he kisses her back. He wanted her to do this. He wants her.

He is strong despite his injuries. Selina learns this when his hand slips along the nape of her neck and his other grips her hip, two unyielding forces pressing her closer into him, so hard that she will most definitely bear marks of it come sunrise.

Selina is all giving angles and soft curves; she happily molds herself to him, a knee hooked high on his hip, arms entwined around his neck… and kiss chases kiss, until he decides to explore more of her while he can, and pulls her stolen t-shirt halfway off her shoulder, and presses a fierce trail of love-bites down the side of her neck and along her collarbone.

He has no finesse, no lover's touch; he is all aggression and intensity and want. His vaunted self-restraint is gone – now he is all demanding mouth and possessive hands. Selina brings his face back up to hers and slows him with long, languid kisses as they collapse together onto the floor.

Selina feels Bane's hands on her waist start to tremble, then shake, and then his iron grip fails, and she knows that the stolen moment has come to its end. Bane pushes her away and she hears the mask being dragged toward him along the floor and pulled back on.

He breathes heavily, greedily inhaling the analgesic that makes his life bearable. And Selina understands, really understands, for the first time, quite how sad that is.

Perhaps he lingered too long in her kisses, because it takes a long time for his breathing to normalize. Selina sits next to him in silence as he braces himself on all fours beside her, trying to still his trembling arms. Trembling and Bane are two words that have heretofore never come close to being associated together in Selina's experience. It is pitiful to see this strong, built, beast of a man reduced to this.

He collapses onto his back and Selina follows suit.

For a long time, only Bane's heavy breathing disturbs the stillness of the night.

"You must have known I was going to do that," says Selina eventually.

She hears Bane shift as he looks toward her.

"Perhaps," he says. His voice is familiar again, roughened and partially muffled by the mask. "Your curiosity makes you... predictable. As does your taste for rare things."

"Tasted like mint," says Selina. "I'd do it again."

"You are trying to kill me after all," says Bane.

Selina smirks into the dark. "It was a pretty long minute. Who was supposed to be counting?"

"Witch," says Bane.

"I prefer troublesome creature."

"You are both, and many things besides."

Selina smirks. You know, for a criminal boss raised in a prison, Bane can be pretty damn smooth.

She is startled out of her reflections by Bane pulling her flush against him and grinding up against her. She gasps a small gasp that is equal parts faux outrage and actual surprise.

"Oh my," says Selina, smiling a slow cat-smile. "Are you going to take the mask off again?"

Bane blows a defeated sigh through the mask. "To do so would be to flirt with disaster, I fear."

"But flirting with disaster is fun," says Selina. "I do it all the time, with you."

As though to demonstrate, Selina makes a show of wiggling into a more comfortable position against Bane. She knows exactly what she is doing, and he knows exactly what she is doing, and since neither of them raise an objection, well…

Bane's rough fingers tug impatiently at the front of her stolen jeans.

Selina bites her lip. Tonight, Bane gave her something that she's wanted for a long time. A glimpse – a tactile one, but a glimpse nonetheless – of his face. Perhaps she can give him something that he's wanted for a long time.

She isn't afraid of potential repercussions any more, not really. There is no real reason to keep him at arm's length now, no reason to be so deathly afraid. He cannot hurt her in his current state. He no longer has an army at his beck and call. He no longer owns her city.

And Selina knows that their story together is drawing to its end. Soon, the League will take him away. The path that they have shared together in the past year will bifurcate, and they will go their separate ways.

And they want each other, and, let's admit it, have done so for a long time. The things that kept them from each other – stubbornness and fear on the part of one, and prideful control on the part of the other – are no longer so crucially important, here in this dark hayloft.

Here in this hayloft where, right now, he is just a man, and she is just a woman.

Bane drags a hand down her hip and along her thigh. He is impatient now.

And Selina really can't think of a good reason why not.

So she slips out of her jeans and he almost rips off his trousers. Bane's hands are rough and his grip is possessive, and speaks of a long-held desire that he has curbed for many months out of his obsession with self-control. He flips her onto her stomach and his mask is also rough, and will probably leave marks where he presses it into the back of her neck.

"I don't think so," says Selina.

And they fight about who gets to be on top in the most pleasant ways possible, and Selina wins, of course. She is supple and yielding, but deceptively so, and she coaxes and twists and dances her way out from beneath him and assumes her rightful position, on top and in control. Bane disagrees at first, threatening to lift her bodily off him, but Selina is very well practiced in these matters and soon convinces him that it is in his best interests to let her do her thing.

Selina has done this many times before. Sex is her weapon and drug of choice, it is how she hooks men and keeps them at her service until they are no longer of use to her. But with this man, it is different. With this particular man, it is new and exhilarating to hear quickening breaths, to feel his grip on her hips tighten, to have him move beneath her to match the pace she sets, to know that in this moment she has him. He is hers. And she has won.