I don't own Batman in any manner.

Please let me know what you think.

The First Freak.

As he watched the news report of Joker being led away, Bruce had no idea whether or not to shudder as he remembered the encounter with the insane psychopath. When he had first met Joker as the Batman, and he had realised he was dealing with a different class of criminal, Bruce had wondered just what Joker had in mind.

The insane clown had been like nothing that the Batman had fought against in the past. In actual fact, it was like fighting a monkey who had their own version of kung-fu and had some knowledge of some of the fighting arts. At least that was what Bruce had assumed, but he realised Joker didn't know anything about the martial arts at all but it was impossible to tell.

It was as if the clown was just using his agility to overwhelm the Batman's defences by instinct or more likely he had the intellect needed to use his agility to strike a few blows.

The Batman would never know for sure.

But he did know that Joker was lethal and vicious; from what he had been able to determine from the laughing gas poison it was lethal, and he was lucky to find a cure for it after popping the hot air balloon filled with the gas, which Joker planned to pop by flying it into the sword of the Lady Gotham statue.

When that had happened, millions would have died of laughter. The Batman had already determined the poisonous quantities of the laughing gas were extremely high, and he had already calculated with the wind currents of the exact time Joker had been directing the balloon towards the statue's sword, the laughing gas would have been distributed over a large portion of the city.

Exactly as Joker wanted.

But at the same time, Bruce wondered what Arkham played in the whole incident. Yes, Joker had claimed Arkham as a hideout, but while he was sure there was some truth to it, he doubted the place had anything to do with his current plan. Arkham had been slightly further away from the statue's sword, Bruce was willing to bet the clown had broken into the Asylum for the fun of it as well as to find a more long-term base.

Now Bruce was left wondering some of the bigger questions.

Who was Joker?

Where had he come from?

What had happened to him so he would have his skin bleached white and his mouth rictus widened into that sick, gruesome grin?

But at the same time, Bruce was also thinking about something else. The last visit Ethan had taken to Wayne Manor. It was good to see his old friend, like always, but he couldn't help but take seriously the way Ethan had chuckled about the Batman's suit.

Yeah, he knew he shouldn't take it too seriously but at the same time, he didn't want people to see him as a joke. He had designed the bodysuit to contain his body armour while allowing him complete freedom of movement with the scalloped cape providing an additional shield and to act as an aerofoil, but he didn't have any immediate plans to change his appearance just like that. Suddenly his senses were on full alert, and he heard something in the background of the Bat-cave. He turned and he found Alfred walking towards him.

"Hello, Alfred."

"Master Bruce. Were you thinking of going out on patrol?"

Bruce checked the time. "Maybe not tonight. The fight against Joker really took it out of me."

He was telling the truth. While Bruce tried to get out on patrol every single night, believing every moment of the night he was making a difference, he and Alfred both knew that Bruce only went out at night to prevent children from losing their loved ones much as he had when he was eight and leaving that cinema.

Thomas and Martha Wayne had both been murdered. All for a pearl necklace. To this day, Bruce had no idea what had happened to the mugger who'd pulled out a gun on them and shot his parents down. Bruce had no idea if the mugger was even alive, never mind what he looked like; his face had been in the shadows of the alley, he couldn't make out the man's features.

A moment of pleasure crossed Alfred's face. Bruce knew the English butler who was as much a member of the Wayne family in his mind and in the mind of his parents hated it when he went out on patrol, and he was only supporting his time as the Batman reluctantly. Bruce didn't say anything to stop Alfred from making his opinions known. He knew how much the man cared about him, and he felt the same way.

"Very good, sir."

"Alfred. I was just thinking about the fight with Joker, and I can't help but wonder…," Bruce trailed off as the sudden thought which had sprung to his mind filled him.

Alfred paused. "If others will do the same? Master Bruce, I am afraid you might have to accept that possibility."

"Why do you say that?" Bruce turned to study his old friend and father figure.

Alfred wasn't sure how to say this without offending Master Bruce, but he decided to go ahead. "Master Bruce, when Joker the crazy crime clown appeared, he likely didn't even know about you; you have only been appearing in vague news reports, police sightings, there have only been articles and rumours about you in the newspapers that were spread by eyewitnesses who only caught a brief glimpse. But now they know about your existence, and Joker has been arrested, would you be surprised if some other criminals adopt gimmicks and find some kind of power in them?"

Bruce looked down at his hands. "No, I wouldn't be surprised," he whispered, but the cave was so quiet both men had no trouble hearing the echo of his reply. "I didn't want this, Alfred. I wanted to prevent what happened to mum and dad from happening to another kid, I didn't want to fight a bunch of weirdos wearing masks and weird costumes like they're out of a bad comic book. All I wanted to do was solve murders, deal with small-time muggers, that sort of thing, not criminals like Joker."

"You might not have any choice, Master Bruce," Alfred gently rested a consoling hand on Bruce's shoulder. They both knew the Mission, to defend everyone and fight anyone who was a threat to innocents. It didn't matter who - from muggers, corrupt officials, terrorists, and now it seemed weirdos.

Bruce had made no exception.