A/N: I really wanted to post this in time for Halloween, but I guess that day after isn't so bad. I'm sorry it's been so long since my last update. I'll try to post the next chapter sooner.

Disclaimer: If I owned him, you'd be watching it in a theater, not reading it on a webpage.

Chapter 10: Desperation is a Dangerous Game

December 15

11:32 pm. Alfred woke up groggy, wondering how he had fallen asleep so early. He hadn't gone to bed before midnight since Master Bruce had begun his midnight escapades. He looked down at himself, and immediately that he'd listened to Master Bruce when he'd suggested a panic button, just in case someone actually put two and two together. It was unlikely, considering the increasingly idiotic behavior of the "real" Bruce Wayne, but it wasn't impossible. And as Bruce Wayne's antics grew more erratic, the Batman's actions had intensified and become more focused. In just one year, the criminal underworld had shrunk into the shadows, becoming more cautious and more protective than ever before. It was a double-edged sword. The criminals were scared, and that made them careful. They had become more reluctant to pull of crimes, but those crimes were usually well executed when they happened. Of course, there were still plenty of the oblivious ones who roamed the streets at night. And Batman could only do so much.

Alfred shrugged, attempting to adjust his position and wondered why the alarm hadn't been tripped. The man before him certainly didn't seem very clever—in fact, he seemed downright mad. The firelight danced off the purple of his suit and the green of his hair, and the bright, bright red of his lips. He spun on one leg and meandered lazily over to the struggling butler. His grin was downright macabre.

"You know," he said conversationally, "I was under the impression that butlers were very neat and orderly people. So what I can't figure out is," he laid a finger on his temple and grinned ever wider to make his point, "Why someone so responsible would leave the back door open."

"Mmmpph, mph mph," Alfred knew that it was useless to try and speak, but he was wondering what the bloody hell the madman was talking about.

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that," the Joker said, and then proceeded to break into hysterical laughter. The henchman behind him glanced around nervously, obviously wondering when his friends would return. The other two had gone in search of Mater Bruce, but Alfred knew that they wouldn't be finding the billionaire this night.

"Now, I'm going to have Jimmy here take your gag out, and you're going to tell me just what woman your employer has decided to romance tonight. Is that easy enough?" Alfred didn't answer, just watched as the henchman skirted around his boss and carefully removed the tie stuffed into his mouth.

He let out a small sigh of relief at the absence of the cloth, but he still had a lunatic with a gun in front of him, and he needed to find a way to get free and warn Master Bruce, "I am unaware of any plans Master Wayne had tonight," he said, his voice sounding almost calm. He still wasn't sure whether the lunatic knew anything, or if he had another motive for breaking into the Wayne household.

"Well, that's too bad," the Joker held up an incredibly nasty looking knife, its serrated edge coated in rust, "I guess I'll just have to… pick your brain a bit," he laughed again and began to lower the knife when something thumped in the upstairs hallway. He stood, a look of fury trying to bypass the perpetual smile. It was not a pretty picture.

"Uh, hey boss? D'you want I should go check it out?" Jimmy asked.

The Joker didn't answer for a moment, but when another thud sounded down the hall, he nodded. As Jimmy headed off into the darkness, the Joker turned to Alfred again, his brow furrowed, "Huh. I suppose we could delay for a moment," he crossed his arms and began to tap his foot impatiently, "But I wouldn't want to spoil our fun."

Alfred managed to gulp as the madman advanced, his knife aimed downwards.

11:03 pm. Batman skimmed the rooftops, adjusting his night-vision as he entered a slightly darker part of the city. The streets were relatively quiet tonight. He'd subdued three muggers and left a car thief dangling from a lamppost, but so far there was no sign of Catwoman, the Joker, or the mysterious vigilante who'd been walking the streets. It set him on edge that he didn't know where everyone was. He stopped on a rooftop and scanned the sky. The signal hadn't been lit for two days, and he wondered how long that trend would continue. Slowly, he turned to drop back down to the tumbler when a scream of pain sliced through the air. Then it became one of pure animal fury, and he swung away from the rooftop towards the sound.

When he reached the alley, he was met with a strange sight. A figure dressed in black was advancing on a man with a bloody knife in his hand. He was shaking with anger, even thought it was obvious he'd already managed to injure his attacker, who was walking awkwardly. Batman studied the figure. He was limping slightly, and held one arm stiffly at his side while the other was pressed against his collarbone where the other man had slashed him.

In a split second decision, Batman swooped down and subdued the one holding the knife. After easily knocking him unconscious, he rounded on the other, who stood stock-still. It was then that Batman realized that the other wasn't a man. He was girl.

Leah looked at him with dead eyes. Her hands were now thoroughly soaked with blood, but she didn't seem to register the fact. Now that he was closer, he could see that she'd splinted her arm against one of her eskrima sticks, and there were bullet holes in her pants. Her hair was cropped sloppily short, and there was a long cut running the length of her face. But the most startling thing about her was her eyes. They were a cold, steely gray, completely removed from the warm brown that they'd once been. He registered all of this in under a second, before she stumbled forward. She let out a soft moan and hit the ground hard, knees smacking into the concrete as she toppled over.

Batman picked her up and looked at her closely. The blood loss had been enough that she hadn't been able to stay conscious, even in her… altered state. Her face was incredibly pale, and he was afraid that it was already too late to get her to a hospital. He was about to set her back down when she drew a shuddering breath and began to cough violently. There was blood in the cough, but she was still alive. With the dying girl in his arms, he made his way back to the tumbler and sped to the only place her knew she'd get immediate care.

When he entered the cave, however. He knew immediately that something was very wrong.

Dun dun dun… next chapter, we find out if Alfred's okay, get a little surprise visit, and watch a showdown between Bats and the Joker. Whew! That'll be a doozy.