You might want to go back and review a little, since it's been, um... *clears throat guiltily* QUITE a while.

...Please don't kill me... HERE ACCEPT THIS VERY LONG CHAPTER AS A PEACE OFFERING!

~Ani

~()~

In the back seat of a taxicab swerving its way through late-night Gotham City traffic, Alaina sat with her arms crossed, fuming. She couldn't believe the way Bruce was treating her; like some child that couldn't go anywhere without adult supervision. Who did he think he was, her father?

Her anger swelled even more. If he thought he could replace her father, he was dead wrong. And if he expected her to just fall in line, he had another thing coming.

"Hey kid," rang a voice. She was snapped out of her thoughts as the taxi pulled to a stop. "We're here." She slapped the money into the drivers open hand and stepped out of the cab. The car sped away and she looked up at the structures before her. The building was long and glowing. Neon signs lit the night sky with flashing colors, spelling out the name of the club. Cold and suddenly feeling alone, she closed her jacket tightly around her and walked through the parking lot.

"Ally!"

She looked up and saw Madison waving at her. Alaina managed a small smile as her friend hugged her. "Hey."

"I'm so glad you made it! I want you to come meet some people." Madison linked arms with her and led the way to a group of people gathered near the entrance. Alaina was troubled by her mere casual greeting after so long, but forced herself to pay attention as Madison began introducing the group, pointing with her finger at each one as she said their name. "This is Mark, Jordan, Mandy, Aaron, and Derek."

The boys waved and the girl gave her a small smile. The last one, Derek, nodded at her. But they didn't seem to notice her after that, except, she uncomfortably noticed, Derek's occasional prying eye. But she stayed near Madison and followed them into the building as the attendant outside the door nodded.

Her head instantly pounded with the booming music and flashing strobe lights. The floor was packed with people dancing and drinking. The base from the drums vibrated off the walls.

Alaina was a bit taken aback. After everything that she'd been through, Madison had only given her a casual greeting, like nothing was wrong. Like the conversation they'd had earlier that afternoon had never happened. But as Madison continued to pull her through the crowd and finally to an empty table, she tried to dismiss the thoughts from her mind. Madison set her things down to reserve the table and then looked mischievously at Alaina.

"What?" Alaina asked, annoyed by the ear-drumming noise around her.

"Want to get a drink?" Madison asked.

"What like a soda?"

Madison shook her head. "The bar's over there." She pointed and Alaina's gaze went across the room at a mass of people crowded around a long table. She turned back to Madison.

"You told me this was a teen club."

"Honestly Ally; I had to say something to get you to come out of that house! You wouldn't have come otherwise."

"Gee, thanks for the concern." Alaina sardonically replied.

"Oh come on!" Madison said, waving her hand in dismissal of any guilt. "You needed to get out. Besides, it doesn't hurt to have a little fun. Want Derek to get you something?" She pointed to the guy already at the bar counter.

Alaina shook her head in anger. "No."

Madison rolled her eyes. "Would you relax? It's not like we're going to get caught. Come on." She grabbed her friends' hand and led her to an empty stool next to Derek. "Wait here, I'll be right back."

Alaina opened her mouth to protest but Madison had turned before she could say anything. Great, she thought. She already didn't like Derek and the way he kept staring at her. There was something about him that gave her a bad feeling, and being this close to him didn't help. Aware of his eyes on her, she finally looked at him and gave him a fake smile.

He noticed it and smirked. "Oh come on," he said as the bartender handed him a full beer bottle. "I'm not that bad."

"Is that right?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

He scooted closer to her. "Well… not usually." Despite her dislike of him, this made her chuckle. He smirked again. "So… you want a drink or something?"

"No, not really."

"Really?" He asked, incredulous of her answer. "Is that how it's going to be?"

"What?"

He rolled his eyes. "The 'Good Girl' act, right? Let me guess: you don't drink, don't smoke, oh and uh, no…" -he raised his eyebrows suggestively- "mischievous conduct." As he spoke he moved closer to her. Feeling uneasy, she noticed it and looked down.

"Preferably not," She replied in a lower tone. She lifted her eyes and scanned the crowd, searching for Madison. Derek took a swig of his beer.

"We'll have to fix that, won't we?" He was close now, far too close for her comfort. When their eyes locked, there was a glint of something in his that she didn't like. She suddenly realized that she was letting this guy intimidate her. She narrowed her eyes at him, sending him a glare. He moved back a bit at that and she shouldered her bag, standing. "Wait!" He called before she took more than a few steps. She turned back to him. "Look, I'm kind of drunk and I'm a jerk. I'm sorry."

"Whatever." She replied and continued through the crowd, trying to guess where the door had been. As she pushed her way past the crowd and tried to blot out the pounding music that was growing louder with each step, she spotted Madison among a group of girls. Madison saw her coming and excused herself from the circle.

"What's up?" She asked, clearly confused at the look on her friend's face and shouting to be heard over the music.

"I'm out of here." She told her. The reaction Madison had was not what Alaina would have expected.

"Okay. See you later! Call me!"

With that, the red-head turned back to the social circle. Alaina shook her head in disbelief. Some loyal friend she was. As she fumbled through the crowd and passed the bar, a hand grabbed her arm. She instinctively pulled but her arm didn't move and she looked, only to find that Derek had been the one to grab her. He looked even more drunk than he did before.

"Let go!" She yelled.

"Come on, baby. Why don't you and I get out of here? I know a place-"

"Get off me!" She didn't let him finish his sentence before she used both her hands and slid out of his grip. Without another glance at him, she sauntered toward the exit that was finally in her sight.

~()~

Outside, the air was thin and silent, a complete contrast to the environment inside. Her pounding head welcomed the quiet and she took a deep breath. That was definitely not the experience she wanted it to be. Her first outing after the accident did not help her feel better as she'd hoped. All she felt was that she wasted her time. And she felt a little freaked from that encounter with Derek. He was definitely one to watch out for…

The night was cold and her breath came out in little puffs. She looked around for a taxi but noticed for the first time that the streets were empty. She suddenly realized how dark it was; heard unwelcoming noises in the distance. The street lights flickered and somewhere a few cats were having quite the argument. There were no cars lighting the roadway and the people she'd spotted walking earlier had disappeared into the darkness. The sinking feeling in her gut made her realize that Bruce knew what he'd been talking about. She recalled the words she'd tried to ignore before.

There are a lot of criminals and gangs down town, all people who wouldn't hesitate to hurt you.

Great, she thought. She zipped up her jacket, trying to cover as much of herself as possible, and began hesitantly walking. She made up her mind to take the first taxi she saw. She tried to think about something other than what could be lurking in the darkness ahead of her. Her thoughts drifted the Derek. To start with, he was a rude, arrogant jerk. He'd tried to intimidate her into doing something tonight, and deep down, she knew what it was. It was the same thing she'd seen in his eyes. His entrancing dark brown eyes… when she'd looked into them when they were so close, she'd froze for the slightest moment. His eyes had almost made her want to give in to his plea. She shook the thought from her mind.

His eyes may be attractive, but the rest of him certainly was not.

She focused back on the street and nearly jumped when she saw two men walking toward her on the opposite side of the street. Taking a deep breath, she told herself not to panic. They were probably just walking home like she was. She tried to look like she hadn't noticed them. As they drew nearer, she saw one elbowing the other out of the corner of her eye.

~()~

Batman stood high on the rooftops of Gotham, crouching in the shadows as he watched a girl below. It had taken a bit longer than usual to find her; there were many night clubs in Gotham that she could easily get into as a teen. Not legally, but it happened more often than not. It took some time for him to figure out which one she was headed to, but he found it and arrived at the same time as her taxicab. They didn't call him "The World's Greatest Detective" for nothing.

He didn't bother stopping her when she went in. He admitted that he didn't know the girl that well, but he'd known her parents. If she'd paid any attention to the way they raised her, the night club scene wouldn't suit her well. She'd be out of there soon enough, and then he could make sure she safely made it home. He hadn't waited long at all when he saw her emerge from the building. She paused to look around and he smirked with satisfaction, watching her realize he was right. His expression turned serious again when he saw she decided to walk. Stupid girl…

He sighed and rose to his feet. He began walking along the shadows of the roof tops, following her. This was ridiculous. He was the Batman for crying out loud! He had better things to do than follow a rebellious teenager on her quest to ruin his life. He paused and took a deep breath to calm his temper. She wasn't really rebellious, she'd shown that the second she walked out of the club. And she wasn't really trying to ruin his life. She was just angry, and the only thing she was able to use as an outlet was he himself. It was something he'd realized the second she spoke to him at her parents' funeral. She didn't have another outlet, and Bruce wanted it to be him rather than some dreadful act of self-harm that wouldn't help anyway. He knew it would be too easy to turn to that, he'd done so himself when his parents had died. But it didn't last long- it was once before Alfred found out, and his reaction had not been pleasant. Needless to say, the boy never did it again. He realized she was braver than he gave her credit for – she didn't take the easy way out.

He suddenly shook the thoughts out of his head. Bruce Wayne could contemplate the subjects of his personal life later. Right now, Batman would do his job; he was protecting another citizen of Gotham City. He was snapped out of the last of his musings when he heard her scream.

~()~

Alaina hardly knew what happened. One moment she was walking, minding her own business, lost in her thoughts as she trudged along the road; the next she was running from two passersby who decided to come after her. It was the two men she'd kept an eye on before, but lost sight of them when they passed her without stopping. She figured the danger was over and let herself relax a little when a hand grabbed her wrist. It startled her and she gave a scream of surprise before the man put a hand over her mouth. He started to pull her backwards, to where, she didn't know. Panic surged through her and she tried to think quickly. It was hard to move with the way they were dragging her, but she forced her elbows into the man's ribs with as much strength she could muster. The adrenaline helped and he let go, letting out a yelp. She turned and ran as fast as she could. She wasn't exactly sure where she was going but when she heard the footsteps behind her, she knew she couldn't stop. She turned a corner in the street but was forced to a halt.

"Oh no!" She cried. She'd turned into a dead-end alleyway. She gasped when she looked behind her. The men had followed her and both of them seemed to snicker at her mistake.

"Oh yeah, turn down the alley, that'll work." The second one said, amused. They were close now, and the first man thrust out his hand and pulled her bag off of her. He busied himself shuffling through it while the second man continued to step toward her.

"Nothing in here," he said to his companion, soundly oddly disappointed.

"Well then…" The other stated, drawing even closer. "Let's see what else we can get from her." She backed up until she hit the wall and screamed again. Panic was beginning to cloud her thinking. She wanted to strike out, to resist, but with her injuries and the strength of these men… there wasn't much she could do. If there was only one, maybe; but not two. She attempted to run around them, but they both caught her and threw her back into the wall. A shriek of pain escaped her mouth and she threw her arms up in an effort to protect herself as one pinned her to the concrete bricks.

The man's grip was suddenly ripped off of her and she was jerked to the right so hard that she fell onto the ground. She lifted her head to see the two men fighting with a dark figure. She couldn't see very well through the shadows and the tears in her eyes, but by the looks of it, the new man was winning. She watched as each blow they tried to inflict on him only ended up back in their faces. In a minute they were both on the ground, unconscious. The silence was strange to her ears as she hesitantly stood, and the figure turned to her.

"Are you alright?"

The deep, unfriendly voice made her cringe. As he took a few steps toward her, all she saw was a dark disfigured shadow stalking in her direction and let out a scream of terror as she shuffled to get away, falling against the wall again.

The head of the figure turned when sirens were heard and red lights started to flash. Batman made quick use of his grappling hook and launched into the air, disappearing into the darkening night. When the police entered the alley, they discovered a shaking, panting, terrified girl sitting at the back with two unmoving men slumped on the ground in front of her.

~()~

Okie dokie so... I'M SORRY! Please don't kill me! But you can yell if you want. In fact, that might actually help, lol! I swear that it took me this entire time to get over my writer's block. But it's over now, and I can move on with this story and never leave you hanging for so long ever again! Please don't give up on this story, it's my favorite one and all of your support means so much to me! Needless to say, that means you should REVIEW! Tell me what you thought of this chapter. Or just yell at me. Either way, press the button and have at it! Thanks!

~Ani