With a strained heave, I pull myself through the window. Every inch of my body aches. I collapse on the floor with a loud thud. Wincing, I struggle to pull myself to my feet. Tonight wasn't the most productive of nights. My arms and legs are marked with multiple knife wounds, and a bullet is lodged in my side. In short, I took a beating - my first of this campaign. I don't know what hurts more: the pain or the fact that they now know I can be hurt. My thoughts are interrupted by hurried footsteps. I scramble frantically, but my body is too sore to move quickly. I'm kneeling when the door swings open. Alfred is standing in the doorway, frying pan in hand. It would almost be laughable if I wasn't in such a compromising position. "Who the blazes are you?" he asks angrily. His eyes are filled with the same terror I recognize in the eyes of my opponents. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," I growl as I remove my cowl. I drop the reinforced piece of cloth to the carpeted floor as I stand up. Alfred is speechless. I don't blame him. "Tell me," I begin, "How much of your first aid training do you remember?" Alfred lowers the frying pan. "Bruce?" His eyes dart back and forth, searching for an explanation other than the obvious one. Failing to find it, he asks, "You're this Bat character? I...I don't believe it." "I'll explain everything in a minute, Alfred," I promise. I remove my hand from my side to let him see the blood staining my costume. His eyes widen at the sight. "Right now, I could really use some help." My knees begin to buckle. "Of course." Alfred drops the frying pan and dashes off into the hallway. I fall to the floor, groaning in pain. Each time I close my eyes, I picture my parents. I roll over pointedly, and stinging sensations run up and down my torso. A moment later, Alfred reappears holding a small metal box. He kneels by my side and begins cleaning my gunshot wound. As he works, I ask, "Have you ever felt like you had to do something - no matter how crazy it sounded?" Alfred tugs on my costume's seam and rips it open. The blood flows more freely from my wound. I roll my head around, trying my best to remain conscious. "As a matter of fact, I have," Alfred answers honestly. He sticks his finger into the wound, and I groan involuntarily. Alfred continues cleaning it out with a handkerchief. "Joining the war," he explains. "But don't try to tell me this is the same as that." He begins wetting a cotton ball with alcohol. "Can't you see that they are, though, Alfred?" I plead. Regardless of how it may seem at times, no one understands how crazy this "mission" of mine seems more than me. I scream as Alfred presses the cotton ball against the wound. "I'm fighting a war here. It's just as real as the War in Europe. And, like the war, certain tactics must be employed to guarantee victory." Alfred rolls his eyes and searches the first aid kit. My heart drops when I see him examining a pair of tweezers in the light. "So, in order to fight crime, you have to dress up like a giant bat?" he asks skeptically. "Well, it didn't necessarily have to be a bat, but I thought the imagery was fitting." I wince as Alfred digs the tweezers into my wound. Nothing in this world could possibly prepare you for that feeling. "You said it yourself: Gotham is crazy. Sometimes you have to accept that if you can't beat 'em--" I pause as the pain and discomfort makes it impossible to continue. Alfred twists the tweezers a different way, and I stop seeing spots. "--you have to join them." With a grunt, Alfred tugs on the tweezers and yanks them out of my side. He managed to pull out the bullet. He immediately puts pressure on my wound, which had started to bleed more profusely. "Don't you think this is taking it a little far? I mean, look at yourself!" Obeying, I lift my head and examine my battered body. It is a hefty price to pay. "Look, your business is your business," Alfred announces, freeing himself from liability. "But a few more nights like this, and you'll be lying dead in an alley." He points to my bleeding wound. "You're damned lucky that bullet didn't nick your spleen, or you'd be explaining it to a doctor in the emergency room right now." I laugh, and it causes me to wince once more. "Well, Alfred, you did say that you wanted a way to repay me for my hospitality."