It was early morning when Alfred's torment was finally brought to an end as Master Bruce limped his way out of the Batmobile.

"Morning, Alfred."

He ignored the Master's non-chalance, along with the horrendous smell, and gave his son a fierce hug.

"I was going to ask you to never do that to me again, Master Bruce, but then I remembered who I was talking to."

Bruce gave a sheepish smile.

"What happened to your leg?"

"Run of the mill sewer avalanche. You know how it is."

Alfred's response to this attempt at humor was a raised eyebrow.

"Are you going to tell me what happened, Sir, or will I have to put on my Bat-suit and beat it out of you?"

'Gotham's Third Best Smile' spread across Bruce's face.

"A deathtrap. An honest-to-god deathtrap. Almost makes me look forward to fighting the mob again."

"And this trap involved burying you in a sewer?"

"No, it involved blowing me up. But I knew something he didn't. The Chicago Piano wasn't always there, but the mob was. There's a tunnel there, from the old days when the Prohibition was still in effect. The mob used the sewers and various underground tunnels for bootlegging. The tunnel had been built over, but not very securely, so I was able to blow a hole in the ground and jump down, escaping by the skin of my teeth. It wasn't a perfect escape, I got knocked out and woke up with parts of the sewers' wall on my leg, but it did the job."

The bats residing in the cave screeched their approval.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Two weeks later.

Riddler trudged slowly forward, flanked by two burly guards. He peered at the front page of a newspaper that one of the guards they passed was reading.

New D.A. makes deal, Riddler sent to Arkham.

Victim's families devastated.

The guards shoved him forward but it did nothing to diminish his amusement. He hadn't really won, but he hadn't really lost either. This was just a temporary setback.

He stopped smiling as they reached the shower stalls. The guards stayed at the entry, chatting to their colleagues. He saw no one he recognized as he made his way to a vacant shower, no murderers or thugs that could ruin his mood. He turned the faucet.

The water cascaded down his shoulders and he smirked. With a little money and possibly extortion or threatening, he could make this a home away from home. A bit of manipulation and he could become king of his own corner of this asylum. Someone cleared his throat loudly behind him.

"The lost son returns. I was, uh, startin' ta worry, Eddie."

He spun around, eyes wide, and was pushed against the wall. A chill went up his spine. He was paralyzed with fear as fingers encircled his neck and slowly started squeezing.

"Welcome home, Eddie. Did ya miss Daddy?"

His eyes darted around the room. No one was coming to help him. Even the guards had decided to look the other way.

"I hear you almost broke the bat. Of course you'll never do it, but if you ever get lucky...let's just say I, uh , won't be happy."

For the first time during this encounter, Joker smiled.

"You think you're smart, but I know what you are. You're just a schemer. Right now, you're thinking you can escape. Hahah, ahehe, Eddie, Eddie. Escape from meeeeee?! Ya really must be insane!"

Joker barked with laughter, his putrid breath hitting Riddler squarely in the face.

"When in here, you belong to me."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

AN: Joker's intimidation scene happening in the showers isn't a sign of eroticism, I just wanted that extra sense of ick.

In case you've forgotten, the new D.A. is the one Riddler has in his pocket, he appeared in some earlier chapter. He's elected shortly after the showdown. Riddler's other stooge, the cop, will appear in the sequel.

This story is pretty far from perfect, but I'm still happy with it. I did go a little overboard with cramming characters into it, but I just couldn't resist trying my hand at writing them all. It didn't do wonders for the overarching storyline but it was still fun. I haven't quite gotten Joker and Poison Ivy down, Scarecrow and Mad Hatter are passable, but I'm content with my Riddler and Harley Quinn portrayals. For a first try I think this came out alright. Got an opinion? I'd love to hear it.

The sequel will probably be called something along the lines of Natural Balance, you can wrack your brains over who that alludes to. I think I'll have some horror elements in it, so Scarecrow is definitely going to appear. Riddler's progress in Arkham will also be a side story, possibly even an escape. I'll try to work harder on the riddles if I ever have him on another spree.

Most of the riddles are from this wonderful little site: http:// riddler. batbad. com/ lair/

And as an ending note:

Kings and Queens

may cling to power

and the jester's got his call.

But as you may discover,

the common one

outranks them all.

What is it?