Bruce set the box he carried next to the chairs surrounding the television. Selina set hers on top of his while Blake maneuvered the dolly out from under his stack. "One more load of boxes?" Bruce asked.
"I can get it." Blake pulled the dolly back to the elevator.
Alfred joined them. "What's all this?"
Stephanie climbed onto an arm chair. "Bruce bought a mess to fix his buildings."
"I bought Daggett Industries," Bruce explained.
The old man grinned. "Well done, sir."
"Couldn't happen to a nastier man," Selina added. "Come on, Stephanie; let's wash our hands for supper."
Everyone ended up at the dining bar for Alfred's lamb stew and homemade bread. Bruce watched him while he put the last touches on the mousse cups. "Alfred, what are the plans for January thirtieth?"
"What's on January thirtieth?" Blake asked.
"Master Wayne's fortieth birthday," Alfred answered. "I'm so glad you are taking an interest in that. Shall I continue compiling a guest list for the celebration?"
Bruce shook his head. "No party."
"You don't want a birthday party?" Stephanie asked.
"No, because every time we entertain, it's a disaster."
"Not every time," Alfred scoffed.
Bruce raised his eyebrows. "My thirtieth birthday ended with the Manor burnt to the ground."
"The League of Shadows was not on the guest list."
Blake swallowed his water before asking, "They burnt your mansion before starting the Narrows Riot?"
"They were trying to kill me," Bruce added. "The Wayne Foundation dedication reception, remember that?"
"Who could have predicted that Bill Earle Junior would attempt to out playboy Bruce Wayne?"
Selina glanced at Bruce and Alfred. "What did he do?"
"I did bring multiple dates to events, but all their clothes stayed on. Then the Joker attacked the fundraiser we gave for Harvey Dent."
"Like that wasn't your plan to lure him out," Alfred said.
"I planned for Rachel to be dropped out the window?" Bruce demanded.
Selina leaned back and caught Blake's eye. "I'm sensing a pattern here," she said. Blake nodded.
Bruce ignored their comments. "Then the last Dent Day celebration."
"What happened then?"
"I broke in." Selina grinned at Alfred.
"And you're complaining about that outcome, Master Wayne?"
"No, I'm saying we're tempting fate enough with a wedding. No birthday party."
Alfred frowned. "And what about the people who actually care that you reached your fortieth year?"
Stephanie pushed her bowl away. "Another wedding fight," she said.
Selina's second glance at Alfred and Bruce was thoughtful. "Gotham isn't ready for a blow-out bash that Bruce Wayne used to give. Can you two compromise on a formal dinner? We have to get a table."
Alfred looked at Bruce. "A small dinner, just family and friends," Bruce said.
"Very well, Master Wayne."
"And birthday cake?" Stephanie asked.
"Of course, little miss." Alfred exchanged her stew bowl for a mousse cup. "I assume those boxes are records from Daggett Industries?"
"Personnel records from all the subsidiaries too. I need to find someone who can lead me to the rest of the company assets."
Blake smirked, "Gee, I'm so sorry I'm too busy with surveillance tonight to help you shift the haystack for the needle."
"We may still be at it by the time you come home." Selina glanced down the penthouse at the boxes.
"Who exactly do you wish to contact?" Alfred exchanged their dishes for the mousse cups. "A vice-president of operations?"
Bruce shook his head as he picked up his dessert spoon. "A supervisor, foreman, somebody between management and the workers. I can buy equipment, but I need someone to tell me who's worth rehiring to get started as soon as possible. I don't plan on keeping any of Daggett's management team. They should be investigated for involvement with Bane."
"If you can find any that survived the Occupation," Blake said. "Stryver didn't."
"Good riddance." Selina licked her dessert spoon. "What? He was guilty of working with Bane and he tried to kill me."
"I can take you to the cement plants," Blake said. "I toured almost all of them right before Gotham blew up. See you tomorrow."
"Have a good night, John," Bruce said.
Stephanie turned to Selina as John left. "Did you hit that Stryver man with the whip?"
"No, I punched him, knocked the lightweight out in one blow."
"Teach me how to punch people like that!" Stephanie twisted to Bruce.
"Little girls shouldn't hit," Alfred said.
"Why? Grown-up hit all the time."
She said it so matter-of-factly, Bruce swallowed down his ire at the injustice of her former life and what she knew of their lives. He slipped off his stool and knelt in front of hers, ignoring the creaking in his knees as he looked up at the little girl. "Why do you want to learn how to fight?"
"So nobody hurts me again." Her blue eyes were so serious.
"I can't teach you that part of self-defense yet. Your parents might not want me to."
Stephanie pouted. "They don't care."
"And we don't want Child Protection Services to say you can't live here because I'm teaching you self-defense."
"So after they say I can stay forever?"
"I promise to teach you what you want to know."
Stephanie heaved a sigh and he wondered who she picked that up from. "Okay, but you better not forget."
Selina stood. "Come on, it's bath time."
Alfred waited until they heard the second elevator moving. "Don't pass on your demons, Master Wayne."
"It's a dangerous world. All I want to do is give my children the tools to defeat it." He grabbed a banker's box and started sorting the files in it. After Alfred finished the dishes, he put on his glasses and began another box.
Selina didn't take long to join them. "Got any more file rooms to clean out? She nearly fell asleep brushing her teeth." She brought a box to the couch. "Found anybody yet?"
"I found out I'm going to pay the ones who stay a decent wage," Bruce said. "No wonder they trashed the office and took everything not bolted down."
"Told you he was a cheapskate."
Bruce smiled at her comment. She had recovered her good humor. Finding her in tears in Gordon's office had shook him so much he still hadn't mentioned what he had bought today. He didn't want to start the tears again. And wedding talk was bound to start them.
They continued to work in silence. His mind churned on the wedding question as he moved the upper management files to their own box. Rebuilding Gotham came first and his wedding could wait until the city was at least treated normally by the federal government again. That couldn't take as long as Selina's pregnancy. Either Alfred expected it to take longer than that or suspected that Bruce and Selina never planned to actually go through with the wedding, so the sooner he got them to march down the aisle the better.
He could focus on the wedding after this week was over.
Alfred straightened his glasses. "This looks like a promising candidate, sir. Jerry Cruncher lives in Randall on Uptown Island. He worked as a supervisor for Daggett Industries and started under Broucer Cement Company before it was purchased by Daggett." He passed Bruce the folder.
He looked over Cruncher's record. No complaints on how he handled his subordinates, all his projects came in on time and at or under budget, and his trade licenses were all up to date. "Have to see how he interviews tomorrow. If he works out," he glanced at the stack of boxes they hadn't opened yet, "I'll hire some office help next. In the meantime, we better move those to my office."
"I'll take care of that tomorrow, sir." Alfred stood with a stretch. "It is late and I don't nap as well as Miss Selina."
Bruce turned and saw her stretched out on the couch with one hand tucked in between the folders of her box parked under the couch. He smiled before leaning down and kissing her exposed cheek. She muttered under her breath. He grabbed her hand before it swatted him. "We have beds."
"I wanted to help," she said as she sat up.
"Alfred found somebody to interview tomorrow. You can help with that." He steered her through the kitchen to the second elevator.
Her confused stare was sleepy too. "Why do you need my help with that?"
"I don't need it, but I'd like it."
"It'll be me and Stephanie. She won't stay with Alfred."
The elevator opened on the second floor. "Do you know why?" he asked. Selina shook her head with a yawn that shifted to a grimace when Stephanie's cry reached them in the hallway. "I'll get her," he said.
Stephanie was opening her bedroom door when he reached it. She clutched her doll to her chest and kicked. Her bare foot missed his leg. "It's Bruce, Stephanie. You had a nightmare?"
Her tear-filled eyes recognized him and she held up her arms. He scooped her up. "Want 'Lina," she said.
"She's getting ready for bed." He carried her back to the master suite. Selina was heading out of the bathroom in her nightgown. He passed the pajama-clad girl to her before Stephanie kicked her way out of his arms. "Now I need to get ready for bed."
"We gotta stop meeting like this, kid," Selina muttered as Stephanie wrapped her arms and legs around her. She moved toward the bed and started singing a lullaby.
Bruce shook his head to break his observation of them and headed to change into his own pajamas. Tomorrow was a busy day and they all needed sleep.