I do not own Batman, or any DC character used in this parody for my own amusement.

The Bat: Eternal Night

By LJ58

He staggered, one hand clamped to his side, as the other slid across a slimy wall that refused to support him as he tried to stand.

He gasped as he felt the pain, trying to shrug it off, and only managing to slide down the slippery wall of the sewer as he coughed up blood, and realized the bullet may have struck a lung.

He had been careless.

No, he had been slow. Sloppy. He was getting old. But the criminals were younger and stronger. More of them every day, too. For every thug he hammered back, for every crime boss he defeated, it seemed five more rose to take their place. Ten more!

For every Joker he finally put down, or every Penguin he forced into retirement, there was a Kondor, a new Bane, or someone with some gimmick, and a desire to prove he was better. The new face of Gotham's criminal elite. The man that would finally destroy the mantle of the Bat.

Destroy him!

Year after year, they came out of the dark, and he had beaten them all back. Yet the years were catching up to him. And the darkness was rising once more. Growing confident as the mantle weighed more and more heavily upon his once proud shoulders. Even Robin, Nightwing, and the others couldn't stop this surge of dark despair that was rising to shroud his city once again.

It was as if Gotham knew the Bat was sagging. Waning, and weary. Close to his end. It was if the Dark knew, and was rejoicing as it flexed its shadowy hands, and prepared to claw and tear at everything he had worked to protect. To preserve.

He coughed, and felt a surge of white-hot irony fill his gut as another pain warred for attention just then alongside his searing wound.

Irony.

It began with a bullet. It might well end with one. Just a common thug's common bullet. No super villain with diabolical plans. No doomsday scenario that required wit and preparation to defeat. Just….a….damn…..bullet.

He felt more than he heard the approach of soft steps. Not the gunman. He had left him behind. Battered senseless. Cuffed. Harmless. But he still wasn't going to make it. Just four blocks away, and above his head, the Batmobile waited in cloaked shadows for him. If he reached it, he could have the auto-drive take him home. To his cave. To his darkness, where faithful Alfred still waited for him.

Alfred.

Not this time, old friend, he thought grimly as he moved, and fell on his face, slowly rolling onto his side as he clutched not at his bloody wound, but the raw, new pain that suddenly filled the left side of his chest opposite that sucking wound.

Too many years.

Too much stress.

Too….much….

But he thought of Gotham rather than himself in those final moments.

He thought of the darkness waiting to rejoice, and plunge his beloved city back into an abyss of corruption and decay from which it might never arise again.

He cried out in vain as clumsy fingers fumbled with his utility belt.

Did he dare?

Did he dare use…..that?

The cost…..

The risks….

Yet, he was dead without it.

He could not end here. Left to rats, or predators to find. A body for the media to display to the world.

Unmasked.

His friends exposed.

Endangered.

His city…..lost.

He fumbled briefly after he coughed again, feeling a chilling grasp now as he realized death was stalking ever closer.

He could feel it.

He had been too close too many times not to know its steady gait.

He lifted a small, black capsule, staring at it in hope. In disgust.

Then a shadow fell over him that wasn't some gray specter, or fevered phantasm.

A gleam of moonlight filtering in from the skyline overhead reflected off cold steel, and he looked up to see the gun pointed down at him.

"Well, well, well. Looks like I'll be the big man in Gotham tomorrow," the battered thug sneered as he cocked the hammer of his weapon aimed unerringly at his cowl. The thug ignored the small, black capsule he pushed between thin, pale lips.

"Ain't no stim gonna help you, Bats," the man laughed mocking as the sound of manmade thunder filled the subway tunnels even as he bit down on the capsule that was both salvation and damnation as one.

He barely felt the heated lead tear into his brain, and explode out of his skull as the man laughed manically.

***

"My word," Alfred gasped as the Batmobile slid to a halt on the platform in the usual place, and a bloody, battered figure all but crawled out of the cockpit as he turned to see his charge drop to all fours before him.

"Master Bruce….."

"Stay back," a rough growl warned him, one hand raised as if to ward him off, or to strike out. "Stay back, Al….Alfred," the Batman's voice emanated from those torn, red lips.

Dark, gravelly, and filled with danger, that voice made more than one criminal shudder in his time.

Never had Alfred expected to hear it turned against him.

"Master Bruce," he asked uneasily. "What….?"

"Had to…..use…it," he rasped, and managed to push to his knees. "Had to…… Alfred," the Batman looked up with a torn, bloody cowl exposing half his face, and his glittering red eyes. "I need……blood."

"Dear God," Alfred gasped, and turned to run as fast as his ancient limbs would allow toward the medical center in the cave.

"How bad was it," Alfred asked him twenty minutes later as a naked Bruce Wayne sat with a towel around his hips, sipping a straw pushed into a sealed blood packet.

"Bad," Bruce murmured. "I was ambushed in the subway by Croc. I barely managed to get away," he admitted. "Fractured ribs, and a possible concussion. That devil seems to just get stronger with age. Like a real crocodile. I got away. Then I ran into some of his enforcers. I put down three, but missed one. I missed one, and he shot me," he admitted, looking down at his smooth, muscular torso that no longer had a mark on it.

He paused to drain the last of the blood from the fifth packet he had emptied since he managed to make it back to the cave. Back to safety.

"He hit the lung. I took him out, but…..it was bad. I was dying, Alfred."

Alfred said nothing as he took the empty plastic packets, and disposed of them in the medical waste.

"I thought I could get back. I still didn't think it was that bad. I was wrong."

"So you…..used it?"

"Not then. I was close….to the car….when another thug came after me. I was sloppy. He got loose, and tracked me. Me. I….used it just as he shot me a second time. In the head," he said, touching his still handsome features just below his temple. Just about where the torn cowl had been ripped apart.

Alfred said nothing.

Bruce looked up with dark blue eyes more like his own now, and growled. "All I could think of was…..they would win. And the city would die. My crusade…..it's all I've ever known since…..since that night. I couldn't let them win, Alfred. I couldn't let our friends be endangered by ending there. Like that. I'd have been….a trophy. The Dark's trophy," he growled, showing very sharp incisors yet to fully retract.

"I understand, sir," Alfred said quietly.

"I know…. I like to prepare for anything. But….even I never really thought I would use it. Still…."

"I do understand, Master Bruce. But you understand there are going to be….complications now. For one, will you be able to go out in daylight any longer? And what about….your needs? We'll need to arrange a great deal of blood. More than usual. Unless you intend……?"

"No," Bruce rose, his fists clenched. "Never! Even when I felt the venom fill me, and my mind and body clear and focus on that….vermin. I did not kill him. Did not drain him. I rose, and I beat him. And left him for the police. He will give Gotham's black heart another dose of fear," he smiled darkly. "The story of a Bat that does not die. Does not yield. And tomorrow night…..I will drag Killer Croc back to his cell. If I have to rip out all his teeth first," he growled.

"Very good, sir. Then I had best prepare your spare costume, and clean up the car. Also, I'll see about arranging more blood for the week, at least."

"I'll talk to Lucius," Bruce said, calming as he stood before his old friend. "Now would be a very good time to test the efficacy of that synthetic blood replacement Wayne-Tech has been developing for field use in emergencies."

"I concur, sir. I take it you will be….resting here below until you are certain your formula has bested the UV weakness in its donor's system?"

"Yes," he agreed. "For now, tell everyone Bruce Wayne decided to take a sudden anonymous vacation abroad until we know if my UV solution did work. Send one of my jets someplace, and tell the pilot to keep his mouth shut."

"At once, sir. I'll just get to work, and leave you to rest," he said as he walked out of the very advanced and well stocked medical clinic in the Batcave.

"Alfred."

The old man looked back at him.

"Thank you, Alfred. For being here."

"Always, Master Bruce," he nodded formally as ever, and closed the door after him.

Bruce dozed off soon after, and knew nothing but dark, dreamless sleep for most of the day. He woke abruptly an hour before nightfall. Despite being in a cave deep underground, his sense of awareness was such that he knew the exact time, the location of the sun, and the presence of every bat in his vast, underground maze of tunnels.

He was also hungry.

Nine years ago, he had faced his most deadly opponent ever to challenge him.

Even Bane could not compare to the legendary vampire master Dracul that came to call Gotham his new home if only for a short time. Faced with a growing army of the undead, and a zombie plague, Batman used all his wits and cunning to find and face the vampire lord that had survived centuries, and managed to bring him down.

Before his death, or apparent death, he managed to get a quantity of his pure, rarified blood. Unlike the viral contagion spread to create that ghouls that served him, Dracul's blood had something else in it. Something that bordered on true magic. While Batman was a logical man, and believed in science and reason, he had seen too much to doubt the existence of the supernatural. He realized that Dracul's blood was a potential panacea, or even a weapon did he ever need either.

He worked on it for years, and finally came up with a diluted, re-engineered sample that should give him the healing ability and strength of the master vampire without the all-consuming hunger, or raw evil of that creature. Or it's elemental weaknesses. Or so he hoped. Still, that sample remained untested. Pulled out over the years only for more testing. More development. More scrutiny as needed.

A failsafe that he hoped never to need, or use, but always carried.

Just in case.

Last night, he had been faced with his very real death.

Not a broken back, or shattered body or mind. Not mere defeat. He had faced death.

He had died.

And incredibly, woke stillborn from that moment of oblivion to roar his defiance in the face of the darkness personified in that thug with a gun.

It had taken all his will not to tear out his throat, and drink of his life's blood, but he had done it. He had made it back home to find Alfred, and help. Now, he was awake. Fully healed. Fully prepared for a new night.

He drew a deep breath, smelling odors and placing things even he had never noticed before now. He heard everything, from the squeaks of the bats overhead in the darkness, to the faint drone of the air ventilation units. He heard furtive movements, and realized he had mice in his cave as well as bats. That explained a few shorts in his electronics of late.

He walked over the medical fridge, and opened it to find it packed with new blood packets.

And four small vials marked XP-403. The experimental synthetic plasma.

He stared at the dark fluid with distaste. His mouth watered all the same as he felt his incisors stretching, growing, and his eyes went to the true blood in those vinyl packages. Even cold and packaged, he sensed that there was life. His life.

Bruce Wayne might play the indulgent playboy, but the Bat was a creature of iron will.

He ignored the packets for a moment, and lifted the first vial of synthetic plasma.

Four full ounces.

He pulled out the stopper, and drank it down.

He felt residual revulsion and grimaced at the copper-iron aftertaste, but a part of him analyzed the liquid, and its aftereffects, and realized that he could not distinguish between it and the blood he had so greedily gulped down the night before. He gulped another tube, then took two packets of genuine blood just in case as he walked out of the clinic and into the cavern itself. He didn't see Alfred, but the night had yet to fall, and he might not be expecting him to be up as yet.

He walked over to the computer that was hooked into the world's most sophisticated communications network without anyone realizing it, and began to scan for reports of his actions on the night before. Croc had robbed another bank late last night. His lackey had been found, arrested, and transported to Arkham. Initial diagnosis appeared to be manic hysteria.

He smirked at that.

He then ran a hand over his smooth torso, and frowned thoughtfully.

He walked over to a lab table, and took a few blood samples, setting them aside for more study as he also took a few tissue, hair, and nail clippings for testing as well.

"Up already, sir," Alfred drawled as he appeared just then, stepping out of the elevator.

"Alfred," he nodded.

"I'm taking a few samples for testing. I want to see just what results we find."

"I left your…ah, refreshments in the clinic storage unit," Alfred told him. "But perhaps you might wish to try to eat something, too? I seem to recall….."

Bruce's eyes met Alfred's.

Dracul had been able to eat like anyone else, too. Another advantage that helped mask his identity as his ghouls could only drink blood. A distinction that made them stand out, and helped hide the master from his enemies for countless generations.

"Later. I drank some of the XP. So far, it seems to be working."

"I trust it will solve that dilemma then, sir. And your other concerns?"

"I've not yet tested my….limits.

"We need to do that before I go out. I cannot risk being caught off guard. Not when the stakes are higher than ever."

"Of course, sir," Alfred nodded. "How should we begin?"

"Garlic? Crosses? Mirrors?"

"Alfred, I didn't know you had a sense of humor," Bruce smiled, feeling more himself.

"I was unaware I did, sir," Alfred assured him.

***

An hour after sunset, Batman was racing toward Gotham after the report of a jewel robbery in the downtown district by a giant lizard.

Killer Croc.

He had stared at himself in a mirror, or two. Felt not the slightest twinge from facing a cross, or even holding it. He even nibbled on a bit of garlic just to test it. His empty belly didn't care for it, but other than that, there was no supernatural reaction.

He then carefully exposed a few of his blood and tissue samples to UV light. There was no reaction.

He then carefully exposed the tip of a single finger to the same bright light that made him instinctively glance away, but only because it was so very, very bright. His skin tingled as if suddenly stabbed by a dozen or so needles, but he felt nothing else beyond that mild discomfort.

"Promising, Alfred," he had told his friend.

"Perhaps the anti-venom base you employed has canceled out the negative affects, sir," Alfred had suggested. "Perhaps a second dose of the pure anti-venom might even….cure you of your other needs?"

"We'll try it if it come to that. For now, I need to get to work. I need Gotham to know the Batman still lives."

He intended to try a workout, to test himself after his miraculous regeneration, but he never got the chance. The report of Croc's rampage came in, and he was on his way. Alfred watched him go, once more clad in his dark costume, several vials of the synthetic blood replacement in his belt, and then he was gone. He knew Alfred was still worried. Probably more worried than usual considering. Still, he felt great. The pain in his chest was gone. The stiffness in his limbs not even a memory. Even his throbbing spine, long a souvenir since that incident with Bane was gone.

He felt…..reborn.

He entered the city and powered down the rockets as he slid through shadows, and back alleys, taking ways he knew best. Croc would have robbed his targets by now, and would be headed back to his lair. Being Croc, he'd stick to tried and true methods. Familiar grounds.

He turned hard and stopped the armored vehicle peopled called his Batmobile just shy of the docks. Right on schedule, four of Croc's lackeys were disappearing down a manhole. Two of them looked up, eyes round with shock as he leapt out of the car.

Croc had already gone.

Too bad. He would not be getting away today.

"You gentlemen picked a bad night to break the law," he growled, and lunged forward, moving faster than he had ever moved even in his prime.

Before their guns were even raised, he was on them, chopping those weapons from their hands, and tearing bags of valuable jewels from their grasp. The men below shouted up at them in confusion as their comrades screamed in pain and fear, and then fell silent as perfectly placed blows drove them into unconsciousness with an ease he had not known in years. He stepped forward, and simply dropped down into the sewer, his eyes adjusting instantly as his heightened senses swept and fleshed out the underground world in a single heartbeat as he put down a third lackey. Then a fourth. He turned to face a fifth. One he remembered from the night before.

He smiled.

Coldly.

"Do you think that will really help you," he asked in a growling voice as faced the man with a machine pistol.

"You're….. You're supposed to be d-dead," the man hissed, squeezing the trigger.

Even as lead hail ricocheted down the sewer tunnel, Batman was moving, leaping up and over the deadly storm as he landed easily behind the henchman, and simply dropped a hard fist atop his head. He went down instantly without even a whimper.

He looked around the three bodies, eyed the bags of loot. The fallen weapons. But no Croc. The mutated enforcer had once more used his men as a distraction to escape. Not this time. He pulled the men back to the street, and placed an anonymous call after he used his remote to send his car back to the usual hiding place in the usual shadows where it wouldn't easily be found. He then left the men tied securely with their ill-gotten gains laying around them, and their now useless weapons left at their feet. Only then did he drop back into the sewer, and go after the real threat.

The sliver of darkness personified still determined to make Gotham a cesspool after all these years. He found him less than thirty minutes later, and watched from concealment as the glorified thug injected himself with some of the black-market venom left over from Bane's earlier rampages. No wonder the man had been harder to beat than usual. Age aside, anyone dosed on Bane's venom became an unstoppable juggernaut that didn't even feel pain. For someone already as tough as he was, Croc must think he was as close to invincible as a genetic mutant could get. Time to prove him wrong.

He dropped down into the water, and stared at Croc who dropped the now emptied needle to gape at him.

"You!"

"Just another junkie, aren't you, Croc," he asked coldly.

"I don't know how you're even walking after last night, but I can finish the job tonight," the mutant smiled mockingly, flashing his sharp, white teeth.

Croc was, Batman knew, a known cannibal. Why they bothered to send him to Arkham was beyond him. He wasn't insane. He just didn't care. He was a stone-cold sociopath. A killer from the womb.

"It's over, Croc. I stopped your men. Now, I'm going to stop you."

"Big words, old man. I made you run away like a scared kid last night. You probably wet your tights," the venom-dozed killer sneered. "I don't know why you risked coming back tonight, but this is it. You're going to die, old man. And I'm going to parade your body all over Gotham. Right before I sell you to the papers. I'll be rich, and famous. The man that killed…."

The soft grunt was torn from him as Batman's fist was planted deep into a gut that was as hard as stone.

Only Batman's hand now had the capacity to shatter stone.

Both men felt bone snap, and tissue yield, and Croc coughed up blood as he staggered back from that single blow, unable to believe how fast, or how hard he had been hit.

"Im….possible," he rasped, staring at the man whose cloak slowly settled back around him as he remained standing where he had stopped.

He slowly sucked air, thick lips pulling back from his sharp teeth, and he lunged at his tormentor with a speed that would have caught any normal man flatfooted. Croc's hands wound around the dark figure who seemed to just suddenly vanished, and he plowed headlong into a brick wall before staggering back again to stare around him at the dark shadows that were everywhere.

"Where are you," he shrieked.

There was no answer.

"Just another junkie," the cold, mocking voice floated overhead.

"I'll tear you apart. Eat you alive," Croc screamed.

"Big words for a little man."

"I'll make you scream," he raged, shaking his fists at the shadows.

Then fell forward into the murky water as a hard blow suddenly slammed into his left kidney from behind, shattering another rib, and sending him to his knees to cough up blood. Croc railed impotently as he pushed back to his feet, looking around wildly.

"I'm not screaming, freak."

"Not the…..the freak, you…..costumed lunatic," Croc rasped, feeling oddly weak as the surge of venom left him. It had come and gone too fast. The adrenalin was gone, and only fear and weakness remained. Just as the Bat knew it would.

"I think it's time," the mocking voice said.

"Time for what," Killer Croc demanded, still defiant despite the glazed expression of genuine fear in his too bright eyes.

The shadows moved at his left, and a demon stepped out of hell with blazing red eyes, and long sharp talons.

"Time to end it," the Bat snarled, and now Croc screamed as the billowing shadows swallowed him whole.

***

"Jeez," Bullock rasped, panting from the effort of just running to where they saw the dark shape move at the end of the block.

He and Montoya were just mopping up the rest of the goons they found gift-wrapped for them as usual when they spotted the shadow that rose out of the sewer like a mist. Formless, and yet too real not to be something more than fog. They saw a heavier, darker shape fall from the mist, and ran over to find Croc laying bound at their feet, his mouth torn and bloody. Every tooth in his misshapen maw torn out.

"Good God," Harvey cried, and turned to look for the obvious perpetrator. "There," he pointed, and ran for the end of the block.

By the time they reached the brownstone, the shadow was gone, lost in the dark alleys where it could have gone anywhere.

"Damn…..freak," Harvey panted. "Thought….he was…..slowing down."

Elizabeth Montoya stared around grimly, and frowned.

Bullock didn't say anything, but the last time she had seen mist like that, the Batman had been fighting off an army of vampiric ghouls under the command of a centuries old demon. She remembered, because the demon had raped her. Mentally and physically, and she had almost been one of those ghouls. Until Batman had given her the antidote to the supernatural blight that had almost damned her to a very real hell.

For a moment, she thought she sensed him. Her former master. Then he was gone, and she felt nothing. Unless you counted the feeling of abandonment that tormented her for a second time in her life. Even her husband walking out on her had not hurt like the first time she was torn away from the shadows, and lost her dark lord. Her lover. Her master.

That was something she couldn't even tell the department shrinks. How could they understand? Even the old commissioner probably couldn't have understood her. And he had been as much a part of the shadow world as the Bat for more years than she had been alive. She knew the new commissioner couldn't understand. A fresh face out of Central City, all spit and polish. He had been downplaying the Bat's ebbing shadow for weeks now. Pressuring the media to ignore him.

"Didn't know old Bats could still play that rough these days," Bullock drawled as they walked back over to look down at the unconscious mutant. "Guess we better call for another wagon. Big as he is, he won't fit in with the others."

Montoya leaned down, making a show of checking a pulse as her partner spoke. In fact, she was checking his throat.

No bite marks. She was imaging things. Again. Had to be. Because she had been standing there the night the Bat came out of the darkness to strike down her master. To…..

She looked up at a nagging sense of awareness, and just for a second, she saw the fluttering cape of her dark lord as he looked down over the city with an imperious expression.

She blinked, and he was gone.

"Hey, Montoya? You okay, gal," Harvey asked as he lowered his radio. "Not getting spooked again, are you?"

"No. No. Just….shocked that someone could handle Croc like this. I heard he had gotten really strong. Stronger than ever."

"It's that venom crap Bane's handlers let loose on the streets a while back. Seems every kid and his pet monkey is using the stuff lately. Figured Bats would cut if off, but the supply keeps coming back. Guess he's not what he used to be. Guess even the freaks get old," he chuckled softly, his ample belly shaking as he tried not to think of the four days he had left until mandatory retirement.

Four days on the job. Then….nothing.

Even Gordon kept campaigning. Going into private security until he got himself killed cleaning out the last of the Penguin's birdie buddies. Rumors claimed he had been working with the Bat all along on that one, though no one saw a cape during that particular time. Harvey wondered just what he would do, as he didn't have a lot of options in front of him.

"Wonder if vigilantes have to retire same as cops," he muttered as another wagon appeared with reinforcements in case Croc revived while they were loading him up.

"I suppose they must, or all those guys from before our time would still be running around."

"Yeah," Bullock muttered. "I didn't think of that. I remember hearing about some fruit that used to dress up like a ghost. Can you believe that?"

"The Gray Ghost?"

"No, no. Not the movie guy. The detective. Spectre, I think he called himself. Never did hear what happened to him. He just disappeared one day."

They watched as the night shift took their prisoners, and they returned to their car. "Say, how about a pizza before we head back to report how we had Gotham's most wanted dumped in our laps again? Kind of like our own private party before I have to face the pocket-watch parade," he grinned.

Montoya looked at her partner, and shook her head.

"You just finished two subs on our way over here."

"Yeah, well, I'm hungry again."

"You're incredible, Harvey," she smiled as the Hispanic detective climbed behind the wheel.

He was still officially a city detective, but he had lost the right to drive over a month ago after the new commissioner came down on him for wrecking his fifth car in as many weeks. The new commissioner was more accountant than cop. Not many liked him. Even the Batsignal was gone. Commissioner Thomas Clarke was a real wonder boy out to bring progress, law and order to the city the old fashioned way. Without vigilantes.

She had to wonder if he had hated the Flash, too, when he was still a cop back in his own city.

Waiting for Bullock to climb into the car, she started the engine, and cleared with dispatch before heading toward their shift break. Everything by the clock for Clarke. He didn't even want them chasing bad guys on their days off, saying it was bad for the city's insurance coverage. He actually slammed two uniforms for chasing down a known rapist they spotted while technically on a logged break.

What a moron.

***

He stared down at the car as it drove away.

Mystified.

For a moment, he felt something…..different. He had felt a presence beyond himself.

He had actually pulled Croc, big and heavy as he was, up out of the sewer like dragging a puppy after him. He had spotted the detectives, and wanted to slip away before they spotted him in case his fangs had yet to fully recede, and just that easily he had become an insubstantial mist that floated off into darker shadows, leaving his captive behind.

He heard their hard steps, and heavy breathing as he rematerialized in the alley, and leapt upwards instinctively, rising almost twenty feet before his hands gripped a window ledge, and effortlessly propelled himself up another thirty feet to clear the roof in seconds. Without ever using a grapple or zip line. He shrank back into the shadows on the roof, still feeling another presence, and realized it was Montoya.

Somehow, her conscious mind was touching his. Somehow, she knew exactly where he was just then. He looked down, and found her staring right up at him. He felt the strength of the connection. The sheer animal hunger of her own need, and was momentarily shocked at the dark passion locked inside the dedicated officer.

Not simple desire. Or even the murderous bloodlust of the vampire bride she had almost become. It was….more. A need to belong.

A willingness to belong.

A….hunger.

He pulled back into the darker shadows, turning to bury himself in the deeper darkness of night that now fell over the city, and watched as the police came for Croc. He heard their surprised murmurs. Their shocked exclamations. He watched them leave, feeling their relief that nothing leapt out to confront them while they were in such an obviously dangerous part of town that even the police rarely came here unless in force.

Then Montoya was driving off, her mind separate from his own again, but he still felt that brief, urgent touch. The brushing of….essences. And he realized belatedly that part of that hunger had been his own.

He watched the car drive off, and realized that he had wanted her, too.

Craved her.

Turning to stare out over the city from the rooftop, he ruthlessly shook aside such carnal concerns, and touched his equipment he had yet to even require. He began to jog, running faster, and faster, and then leapt out over a yawning hole between the two brownstones. He easily cleared the gap, and kept going.

His thin lips stretched into a feral smile as his honed mind and body returned to the job he knew best.

Patrolling his city.

But Bullock was right. He had to stop the flow of venom. It was time to find the pipeline……and crush it.

"Alfred, Croc's in custody. I'm going to patrol the west side."

"Very good, sir," the dry voice crackled in his left ear in the receiver there. "I've continued to test your samples, and it seems they remain resistant to UV and the other….traditional irritants of your unwitting benefactor. Shall I continue to process more of the synthetic blood, or do you think you still require….?"

"So far, it seems just a matter of taste, Alfred," he told him quietly, breathing evenly as if he weren't racing over rooftops, and spreading his cloak to glide even farther than his newly strengthened limbs could leap. Which was quite a ways. He landed near the top of a gleaming, steel and glass tower on the edge of the downtown district where pimps and pushers ruled the streets at night, and looked down to study his prey.

"All the same, let's keep up some backups," he added. "If I do….lose control, it occurs to me I'm going to be harder to stop than our last supernatural guest with this apparent immunity to boost my defenses."

"Just so, sir. Should I arrnage for help from your….friends?"

"Not yet, Alfred. Let's see how far we can go on our own first. I'd rather not involve them until I have to do so."

"Understood, sir.

"Have a nice night, sir."

"You, too, Alfred. Don't wait up," he replied, knowing he would.

He didn't say anything about the incident with Montoya. It was just a surprise. Something unexpected that he could, and would deal with. He'd face it, and go on. Like he always did.

A scream caught his attention. A good place to start his search, he decided, and leapt from the top of the tower without even thinking of his grapple.

To Be Continued…………