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Bringing out the Freaks.

After freshening up after shooting some hoops with Ethan, Bruce was just getting ready to leave the gym and return home, though he was planning on getting to the office and seeing whether he had any messages or if any new developments had come up.

But truthfully Bruce just wanted to go over what Ethan had said, something which had been troubling Bruce for the last half an hour.

"I'm glad freaks like this Penguin, bring out the Batman."

The observation from Ethan still bothered Bruce, and it was his own reply which made his own feelings clear on the matter although he was well used to keeping a lid on his secret identity.

"Hopefully it's not the Batman who brings out the freaks."

After closing the door of his car on his sports bag, Bruce leant against the vehicle and closed his eyes so he could think. He wished he could exorcise the horrifying thought he had in his mind about the idea he was creating his own monsters. He had to admit it was possible; Cobblepot had admitted in his rundown family home he'd heard rumours of 'The Batman' on his travels on the Orient, but Bruce could tell that even though he'd heard rumours of a Batman in the city he was planning on leaving for, it would not have made any difference.

When he had arrived in Gotham Penguin had begun to use his trained birds to commit burglaries, and Bruce had to admit it was actually very clever of Cobblepot to use those skills in that manner even if he disapproved of crime anyway. And Penguin hadn't been worried about the Batman in the first place.

But Bruce couldn't get the idea that his actions as the Batman were attracting more trouble than he had wanted them too.

Three years he had been the Batman now with Alfred's reluctant help and Lucius' technical support which was more than invaluable since he had needed a lot of help to sort out the basic materials for the Batsuit and the armour he needed to survive the night to say nothing of the basic structures of both the Batcave and the Batmobile, but the criminals he had been dealing with since he had first donned his cape and cowl had been ordinary thugs who wielded nothing more than flick knives and simple guns than trick umbrellas or a toxic laughing gas which killed you as you laughed.

And in all that time Bruce had managed to keep the Batman below the radar, making himself appear more as an urban legend instead of something more public than Superman in Metropolis.

Bruce had not wanted anyone to notice the Batman at any moment during his career. For years he had been training in order to become a vigilante, studying martial arts at remote places, and he had done it without anyone knowing barring Alfred and Lucius. But the whole point of the Batman was he would not be known despite a few sightings here and there, and look at everything now.

For three years he had not had anything major to worry himself with the enemies around him, but all that had changed when he had met Joker at Arkham Asylum and stopped him from popping that balloon filled with Joker gas over Gotham, and now with this latest mess with Penguin he was now worried if he would have to face someone else.

Am I really attracting these guys? Bruce asked himself in worry. It was the very opposite of what he wanted to achieve as Batman.

When he had first begun to draw up the original plans for becoming a vigilante, Bruce Wayne had merely wanted to ensure no other eight year old, or any kid - age was irrelevant - for that matter suffered what he had; the loss of his family at the hands of some common mugger with a gun. But when he had returned to Gotham to take over his family's business which he had trained for as well when he had been abroad, adopting a costumed moniker had actually been the least of his ideas.

Just because he had loved 'The Mark of Zorro,' and the 'Shadow' as a kid did not mean he felt a costumed identity could exist in real life, but he had eventually done so because of the disaster of his reconnaissance mission where he had been really lucky to return to Wayne Manor with his life.

Bruce had always felt he had done some good as the Batman, but the one time he had been truly pleased was when he had stopped a group of thugs hounding a couple with two small children, armed with knives though one was armed with a pistol. The incident had brought back too many bad memories so it was impossible for him not to intervene.

On that night Bruce Wayne had felt like he had redeemed himself for not doing anything to truly help his parents, though logically he had never really understood what he could have done seeing as he was just a child at the time.

That night had vindicated the existence of the Batman, but the idea that had been unknowingly voiced by Ethan, who was one of Bruce's oldest friends, that freaks like Joker and Penguin brought the Batman out worried Bruce about what it would mean, but also what he might be turning into.

Was he causing more harm to Gotham by being the Batman, by fighting crime?

Was being out there as the Batman inspiring people to become costumed criminals?

He hoped not. But he knew a couple of years ago he would have said no since when the rumours of the Batman's existence were circulating no-one was adopting bizarre gimmicks as though real-life were like a truly bad comic book plot, that it was only now, three years into the Batman's existence they appeared to be coming out of the woodwork.

But was it really the Batman's fault?

Joker hadn't seemed to have known anything about the Batman when he had appeared. Indeed, he had been fairly mocking about the Batman's suit and armour, much like Ethan had, but the crazy lunatic had seemed sincere, though with Joker it was hard to tell for sure.

Cobblepot, or Penguin, had known about the Batman, and yet he had still returned to Gotham without even being sure even though the thought must have occurred to him that it was possible they'd meet when he began his crime spree.

Cobblepot may have been one of the most obnoxious people Bruce had ever met - indeed, Bruce had been aware more than once over the last few years people had accused him of being obnoxious - but Oswald was far from stupid, and he doubted the rotund little crook would come back to Gotham just to meet him or was Bruce truly trying to justify the Batman's existence by applying all the motives of Joker and Penguin's appearances with something that wasn't even there?

Bruce shifted on his feet before he looked around, noticing that it was getting darker. He opened the door of his car and fastened his seatbelt before he started the engine and began the trip back to Wayne Manor.

He didn't intend to ask Alfred for his opinion on what Ethan had said. He knew that although the butler was faithfully and unceasingly loyal, Alfred had always had misgivings about him becoming a vigilante, particularly a costumed vigilante, and he had never been afraid of showing it to Bruce.

In any case, he was worried about what Alfred would say.

The thought of what Ethan said would remain with Bruce for a long time afterwards. Indeed, as criminals like Riddler, Bane, Ventriloquist & Scarface, and all the others appeared in Gotham, vindicating Chief Rojas' attitude that the Batman was a criminal like the others while others like Jim Gordon mitigated the worst of the protests of working with a vigilante, but while Bruce did his best to ignore that nagging thought since most of them appeared due to outside influences, he couldn't help but wonder if he was making them all so afraid they were willing to adopt gimmicks and find power in them.

As the years passed by from the moment he and Ethan had that conversation about Penguin and the day the Batman stepped down, that thought would never leave his mind.

The thought that he was responsible for so much grief later in the future was almost too much for him.