Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 7
Bruce stared out the boardroom's window and wished he was shopping with Selina and Stephanie instead. He didn't reckon on what associations the Wayne Enterprises building had when he and Fox planned this day.
It wasn't just the damage to Wayne Tower that necessitated moving the offices into a new building. He had wanted a clean break from William Earle's profiteering and the history of his father's better stewardship. And that had lasted just a few years before he decided he couldn't ever match his parents' legacy. The failure of the reactor and how Talia fooled him pressed on his shoulders and strangled his breathing.
Footsteps paused at the boardroom's main door. Bruce whirled around on guard. Jessica Hooks, Fox's administrative assistant, froze with her fist raised to knock on the open door. He relaxed, "Jessica, I'm glad to see you again."
"I'mů I'm sorry if I disturbed you, Mr. Wayne, but Mr. Fox said you needed the list of current projects for the meeting." She stepped inside and held out a sheet of paper.
He crossed the room to meet her. "It's all right. I was too deep in my own head. How are you and your family?"
"My mother found my son and took him to her home in Bludhaven. He ended up with the group of orphans the National Guard sent back into the city."
Bruce nodded. He had found out about that when he discovered Blake had draped one of the punching bags with camouflage. The children were in less danger now, but it was still irritating that they were sent back where food supplies were still not normalized yet.
"I don't have to worry about him at least, but I still can't sleep through the night. Two a.m., I'm up checking the locks."
He nodded again. "Stephanie has nightmares and moves to an armchair, so I'm up putting her in bed with us." Jessica raised her eyebrows and he realized that sounded worse than it actually was. "Stephanie is a child who Selina and I are taking care of until her parents turn up."
"Turning into Daddy Warbucks on us, Mr. Wayne?" She smiled as she left. He touched his hair before turning his attention to this list of projects.
He had a strategy on how to approach each department worked out when four Board members followed Fox into the boardroom. Lucy Darnay came in first and her hollow eyes darted to take in the whole room. She rounded the other end of the table and sat. Douglas Fredericks entered next and clasped Bruce's hand. He squeezed it while Ernest Defarge and Henry Aquista found their seats. "I'm glad you lived through this, Bruce."
"I'm glad to see you to, Mr. Fredericks."
"Can we get this started? We all have businesses beside Wayne Enterprises to deal with." Defarge drummed his fingers on the table while Fredericks sat close to Bruce.
"Certainly," Fox smiled. "First order of business: Miranda Tate was a part of Bane's organization and died attempting to blow up the city."
Darnay's face paled, creating a geisha-look with her make-up. "What?"
Fredericks looked at Bruce. "Did you have any idea?"
"When she first invested in the reactor? No, her background check came back cleaner than Lau's. I've asked Commissioner Gordon to share any details he is able to from his investigation."
"Why is Mr. Wayne even here?" Defarge curled his finger into his fist rather than point down the table.
"Since Mr. Defarge wants to skip ahead, maybe I should just read all the items for today's meeting." Fox adjusted his glasses as he looked at the sheet of paper in his hand. "Second, the SEC restored the Wayne Enterprises shares that were fraudulently sold, so Bruce Wayne is the majority shareholder once again and has a seat on the Board of Directors. Third, we need to establish the CEO so we can give the employees, stockholders, and the rest of the city some stability."
Aquista glanced down the table at Bruce before turning back to Fox. "And you want to return Bruce Wayne to the position?"
"Oh come on!" Defarge slapped the table. "Granted Wayne isn't a terrorist, but his previous neglect was damn near criminal."
Fredericks bristled, but Bruce spoke first. "Yes, it was." Defarge's eyes gleamed at the admission, but Bruce didn't pause for him to interrupt. "I didn't handle how the reactor could be turned into a weapon or personal issues well at all; I take full responsibilities for my mistakes. All I'm asking for now is a chance to make things right for my family's company and Gotham City. Starting with the deal to provide electroshock bullets to the police department."
"That was a mothballed project, wasn't it?" Fredericks asked. "Have we run any production numbers yet?"
"I have it slated for after the New Year," Fox said. "We need to settle the issues on the agenda, announce them, and let everyone come back to work when it's 2013."
Aquista frowned under his mustache. "There is an issue the meeting's agenda neglected to mention, Mr. Fox. Wayne Enterprise built the reactor. Is it liable for the damages Bane's Army caused to the city?"
"Wayne Enterprises is not responsible for the actions of a terrorist group, even if our CEO was a member of it," Fox said.
"But public perception?" Darnay asked.
"We have a unique partnership with the city's Department of Public Works," Bruce said. "Our contractors can start rebuilding subway tunnels, sewer pipes, roads, and the elevated rail system next week."
"And I suppose you reminded the Commissioner of that?" Defarge sneered.
"He was happy to concentrate on repairing the precinct and Police Headquarters buildings. My plan is to address the citizens in a news conference and tell them the truth about the reactor as well as the work restoring Gotham City."
"Lawyers will swarm all over us if we do that."
Bruce glared at Defarge. "A wise man told me once we all should stop trying to outsmart the truth and just let it have its day. The police and federal investigations will be public knowledge. What do you think will happen if we let the Press frame the story?"
"They'll have Wayne Enterprises as Bane's partner in the Occupation," Fredericks said. "Your plan is sound, Bruce. Shall we have the vote on CEO?"
"I second the motion," Aquista said.
"Show of hands, all in favor of renaming Bruce Wayne as Chief Executive Officer." Fox lifted his. Fredericks pulled his up. Aquista splayed his fingers as his forearm pivoted up from the table. Darnay jerked, but raised her hand even with her chin. Defarge folded his arms so no one would mistakenly assign him an in-favor vote. "The majority stands. Congratulations, Mr. Wayne."
"Thank you for the opportunity to put things right."
"If you manage to do that," Defarge looked at Fox. "Are we finished here?"
"That covers everything as far as the Board of Directors is concerned," Fox said. Defarge strode to the boardroom's door. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Defarge."
Darnay murmured something about her children as she scurried out. Aquista said good-bye before he left. Fredericks lingered. "Defarge voted for Daggett."
Fox frowned. "We have to fill the rest of the Board's seats as soon as possible."
Bruce folded the projects list and slipped it inside his jacket. "Gentlemen, I'll leave the politics to you and go meet with my undoubtedly worried employees."
Fredericks shook his hand again. "Defarge is an idiot. I believe in you, Bruce. Even when you were trying your damndest to prove me wrong."
"Thank you, Mr. Fredericks. I hope to make your proud." Bruce went to every department on every floor, sat with the staff, and talked. Not one of the meetings deviated from the pattern set out by the first: politely accepting the news that Bruce Wayne was in charge again, disbelief that Bruce Wayne knew what they did and cared how they did it, shock over the time off, and the numb cocoon left from the Occupation tearing open. He took notes on what the Wayne Foundation could do and comforted people best he could.
Blake picked him up in a new silver Lexus SUV. "Rough day?" he asked as Bruce sagged in the passenger seat.
"If I never hear 'you're actually a nice man" ever again it will be too soon."
"Because you don't want to be known as nice?"
Bruce stared out the window without seeing the buildings. "Bane hurt them so much. All I can do is listen and throw money around."
"Sometimes all people need is someone to listen. What did they want you to throw money at?"
"That was me trying to fix things. What's going to happen to the bodies in West Chelsea Park? Many were worried about how to find their loved ones if they ended up there."
"Some forensic students from Louisiana have volunteered to excavate and identify the bodies. Gordon and Hudson U have been working out the details."
"One less thing to worry about then." Bruce closed his eyes.
Blake didn't say anything as they parked and headed up to the penthouse. Stephanie ran from the television. "Bruce! Uncle John! Look, look, look!" Bruce let the enthusiastic girl seize his hand and drag him to the bookcase beside the elevator. A frothy mass of lavender satin and tulle cut into a dress hung in adult reach before them. "My Cinderella dress," Stephanie said.
"It's beautiful," Bruce smiled, "but why isn't it in your room?"
"I wanted you to see it."
Bruce lifted it off the bookshelves while Blake ruffled her hair. "Fancy party clothes. Hey, I don't have any."
"So we're going shopping for you tomorrow?" Stephanie asked.
"Don't think so. I'll be in the gym if you need me."
"Come on, let's put this up in your room before it gets damaged." Stephanie and Bruce rode up the elevator and went to her room. They found Alfred and Selina hanging clothes in the wardrobes. "Do I need to get out my black tie?"
Selina took the dress and kissed him. "Only if you're planning something fancy for New Year's Eve. Me, I'd be happy to go watch the ball drop."
He needed to find Mr. Strauss and see what the plans were for Wayne Square then.
"It's beautiful," Stephanie said as she headed to the attached bathroom.
"Miss Stephanie was too excited by it to leave it in the store," Alfred said.
"Did you leave anything in the store?" Bruce looked over the bags still on the bed. A large dollhouse, a child-sized kitchen, and a fake workbench stood against the glass wall.
"We made the boutique owner's year end and quarter. Another Gotham business saved." Selina folded underwear into a drawer inside the wardrobe closest to the door.
Alfred hung a fleecy sweater on the closet rod in the middle wardrobe. "I have to check on supper, Miss Selina."
"Go on. Bruce knows how to wield a hanger." Bruce stepped into Alfred's place and put a knit dress on a tiny hanger. "How was your day?" Selina asked.
"Rough. I wish you had been with me. Your empathy is greater than mine."
"No, it isn't, but it's nice that you think so. Are you back in charge?"
"That part went just like Fox predicted. Then I went to all the departments. They all suffered so much and there's so little I can do." His hand curled into a fist.
She closed the drawer and cupped his cheek. "Pace yourself, okay? You're doing plenty and you'll be able to do more later."
He nodded. Stephanie walked out of the bathroom wrapped in a yellow robe with a hood shaped like a duck's head. "I'm a duck, quack, quack."
Bruce laughed. "Selina, what happened to Stephanie? I thought we had a little girl, not a little duck."
"I guess we better take the toys back."
Stephanie dropped the hood with a laugh. "Fooled you." She skipped to the bed and tugged on the bag closest to the edge. "See what else we bought."
He followed her while Selina grinned at them both. This was new to his life, but it tugged on the lid he kept on memories from before. It felt right, and he pushed his worry to the back of his mind.
Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 8
Blake lowered his corner of the casket onto the graveside platform. Commissioner Gordon had given a speech at the memorial service for Deputy Commissioner Foley and the other officers killed in the War for Gotham. Then the departments broke off to bury their own.
He stood with the other pallbearers while the minister from the Ross' church proclaimed Tyler was getting his heavenly reward and how his sacrifice made Gotham safer for everyone. Tyler had been a great partner; everyone in the squad room had taken Blake aside during his first two weeks on the force and told him so. The first day, after they had clocked out and Tyler had learned Blake didn't have anyone waiting on him at home, he had dragged Blake home to meet his wife. Tyler had been more proud of Blake's promotion to detective than Blake had been. "Real bad guys won't stand a chance with you on the case," he had said before clinking his beer bottle against Blake's.
Yolanda bowed her head and her eyelashes glistened. Tara looked confused at the officers surrounding the gravesite. She waved at Blake. He twitched his gloved hand at her. The collar of his dress blues constricted his throat.
The bugler played "Taps," the Chief of Patrol Services Bureau presented Yolanda with a plaque, the rest of the officers and their families offered their condolences one last time before going to the next funeral, and Blake waited them out. His resignation was effective now that the funeral of his former partner was over. Once the crowd was gone, he stepped forward. "I'm so sorry, Yolanda. It's my fault."
"Robin John Blake, don't you dare."
"It was my plan that got Tyler shot."
The plaque hit the chair as she stood and wrapped her arms around him. "The only one responsible is the one who pulled the trigger. Don't you dare wallow in guilt for what you aren't responsible for."
Blake's eyes burned as he squeezed her and Tara's arms latched onto his legs. "No one else will die on my watch."
She eased back and searched his face. "Remember you got people who care about you, John."
"Yeah, Uncle John," echoed under them and Tara let him go.
"I will," he said. They moved away from the casket so the cemetery workers could bury it, and Blake walked beside Yolanda. "You're staying at St. Swithin's?"
"Father Reilly needs a woman for all the girls he's taking care of now. The other families weren't forced back into the city or they've gone to their own homes. My childhood education degree is finally useful. How's your new job with the rich and famous?"
"More normal than you'd think. Bruce Wayne isn't like the image he let the tabloids build up for him." Tara dashed ahead of them on the path. "Maybe we could set up a play date with Stephanie and Tara, and you could see for yourself."
Yolanda raised her eyebrows. "Surely, there are tons of people who want their kids to play with Bruce Wayne's."
"I don't want to see his or Selina's reactions to people using kids to suck up to them." He loosened his black tie and unbuttoned the white shirt's top button underneath it. "Stephanie needs to play with other kids. I don't think she had any around before us either. Maybe we should bring her to the orphanage, see how it goes."
"Why don't you find a nice girl and make your own kids, John?"
Just like that, and he felt the fury and helplessness wash over him when the nice lady for Child Protection Services told him his father was dead and he needed to stay with his cousin, followed by these nice foster parents after they realized his cousin didn't want him. The same fury and helplessness he felt when the string of nice foster parents ran out of patience and left him with Father Reilly. How it boiled for days until he swore he would never leave a child of his to suffer from it. "It has never been safe to want that," he said.
She nodded as they reached the sidewalk outside the cemetery. "Tyler and I had long talks about the risk before we got married and another one before we had Tara. With the right person, it's worth the risk and the regrets don't hurt as much." Her brown eyes watered. "Always remember that."