Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 21
Reverend Manette picked the hymnal off the pew and slipped it back into the holder. Less people needed the church's solitude as the month of January progressed. He accepted that as a sign the community was healing. Soon he would need to focus his attention on outreach. Maranatha had scaled back during the Occupation, and the Prison Ministry halted altogether once Blackgate was opened. Those poor souls needed the word of God now more than ever.
Footsteps echoed into the nave and Manette looked down the aisle. The shorter blonde woman tugged the taller brunette woman toward him. He recognized the young lady looking for a wedding venue yesterday. The little girl who hid under the pews was taking a young man to the renovation dedication plaque. Manette approached the ladies and overheard the brunette. "This is too much. We don't want to put on a show. Bad enough they're already referring to me as Cinderella."
"Only because somebody snapped a picture of you moving boxes. Most of them are referring to you as Bruce's princess."
"That's not better," the brunette said.
Manette reached them. "Good morning, ladies, welcome to the Liberty Church. You were looking for a wedding venue here because you attended as children?"
"Yep, Jen Kyle and this is my sister, Selina, the bride. This is Reverend Manette."
Selina Kyle shook his hand. "We moved away after our parents died, but this church looked much worse then."
"On its way to being condemned," he chuckled at her tact. "It was a close shave, but the Wayne Foundation came through for us in the end." He waved his hand at the restored nave.
"Told you it was best for both of you," Jen said.
"It's fitting, but we'd have to invite all of Gotham to fill the church," Selina said.
"I covered that. Tell her about the other chapels." Jen turned. "Would you two like to join us?"
The man took the little girl's hand and led her up the aisle. "Sorry, Stephanie wanted to know more about the Foundation."
Manette's jaw dropped. "Bruce Wayne?"
"He's the groom," Jen said.
"We haven't put out an announcement yet." Mr. Wayne grasped the limp hand at the end of the arm Manette raised. "Are we inviting everyone who works for me to fill this place? I'd rather not." His head tilted to look at the ceiling.
Manette shook himself. No matter how famous, every couple wanted a beautiful wedding just like every other couple that had ever booked Liberty Church. "You have a small guest list?"
"We only want to invite people important to us, not everyone who thinks they should be there for their own ego."
Jen smirked at Mr. Wayne. "What is that in a number?"
Her sister counted silently on her fingers. "Even if they each bring a guest, we're still under twenty."
Manette nodded. "I believe we have a space that will do. Follow me." He led the group through the church to a small chapel. The stone walls and the columns surrounding the trio of stained glass windows resembled a much older structure. The alter was a simple wooden table holding unlit votive candles set under a golden cross woven into the tapestry hung on the wall. "This is our Meditation Chapel. No organ, but other wedding parties have hired a harpist in our congregation. It seats twelve."
The little girl slipped from the adults and pulled herself onto her tiptoes to peer over the sill of the window. "Rainbow glass," she said.
"Size-wise, it works," Selina said, "but it's a bit bare."
"You can bring in your own decorations within the rules for them."
She nodded and turned to Mr. Wayne. "Does it work for you?"
"We'll have to let Alfred have the reception at the Manor," Mr. Wayne said.
"The party doesn't matter."
"You say that until it gets crashed." Mr. Wayne turned to Manette. "So what is the earliest date we can get married?"
"Come along to my office and we'll find our wedding coordinator."
Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 31
Selina leaned closer to the bathroom mirror and drew her mascara wand through her eyelashes. Behind her, Bruce buttoned up his shirt. "Do you mind taking Stephanie to the office with you today? Alfred said he's swamped with workers at the Manor and wedding preparations and Jen's actually enrolling today."
"I can. What have you got planned that you can't take her with you?"
She turned from the mirror and looped his dark burgundy tie around his neck. "My own wedding preparations, if you must know. I have an idea about the wedding rings." She tied a Windsor knot and tightened it. "I need your ring for it."
His hazel eyes narrowed in puzzlement but he tugged the ring off his left hand. "I doubt that's enough copper to make rose gold rings if that's what you're planning."
"It isn't." She slipped his ring onto her thumb so she wouldn't lose it. He turned down his shirt collar before absently rubbing his bare ring finger. "Should I buy you a replacement engagement ring?"
He glanced at his hand. "Silly to have gotten used to it so quickly, especially how nobody likes them."
"I like them just fine." She wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Who told you our opinion counts?" he said before kissing her.
Her arms tightened around him and she was tempted to keep them there for the rest of the day, but Stephanie's voice piped from the door. "I'm ready to go to work when you two stop kissing."
Bruce let go of Selina's hips as they broke apart. "Are you? You even got your own bag."
"Alfred helped me pack it." She swung the laptop bag that was bigger than her waist. "So I have plenty to do too."
"Good plan." Bruce turned to Selina and she swiped the lipstick off his lips with her thumb. "Thanks. Do you need a lift? Or would that give the surprise away?"
"You can drop me off at Moench Jewelers."
Bruce didn't ask any questions on the drive, though if he had she would have told him that Mr. Moench didn't just sell jewelry, he designed pieces that suited his fancy. It was an old family business and he had to give up the creation to focus on selling.
The showroom's glass cases were whole, but only half-stocked. She looked over his selection of David Yurman rings and cuff links while Moench finished with his customer. The young woman finally left with her purchase. "How can I help you, miss?" He moved in front of Selina with a nod.
"I need a pair of wedding bands made of white gold."
"I have many white gold bands in stock."
"But I want these copper rings," she paused to tug them off her ring finger and thumb and replace the cat's eye ring, "inlaid into the white gold without melting the two together. Can you do that?"
Mr. Moench stared at her engagement ring before grinning broad enough to touch the curls framing his face with the corners of his mouth. "The girl who says diamonds are traveling money! Yes, I'd be honored to make your wedding bands. He was so worried you wouldn't like that one. Let me get my receipt book."
Selina turned to the necklace displays on the wall that looked about twenty years old. The merchandise inside was newer. She wanted to get something for Stephanie when they formalized the adoption and if she could hide a tracking device panic button in it, even better. There was a cat-shaped pendent on a gold chain in the center of the display. The body and head was made from a lavender tanzanite with gold ears, whiskers, and tail extending from the setting.
Next to it was a smaller pendent of the Batman logo carved in onyx and hung from a silver chain. It was smaller than the cat, and it gave her an idea. She moved back to the David Yurman display. The cuff links would work well for Lucius and Alfred.
Mr. Moench returned and wrote up her work order along with a receipt for the copper rings. "I will take good care of your rings. He made these for you, yes? Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"I'd like a few things for gifts: the tanzanite cat and the onyx Batman logo pendants, the onyx and the black mother-of-pearl sets of David Yurman cuff links, and the single-row sapphire ring in the black titanium."
"The nervous young man did not like giving up his ring." Mr. Moench chuckled. "So when will the happy news go into the papers?"
"Next week, I think. Our wedding planner is in charge of that."
With everything purchased and boxed up in an unmarked shopping bag, Selina decided she should go back to the penthouse first and let Alfred pick out which pair of cuff links he preferred as well as secure Bruce's engagement ring. No sense tempting idiots while she ran her errands. The elevator doors opened to the sound of a power saw.
The young African-American man in safety glasses lifted the miter saw blade and the sound ended. "The butler-dude is gonna be pissed."
"Don't worry; I won't let him take it out on you. Do whatever you're supposed to be doing." She headed up the stairs rather than navigate around the kitchen turned into a construction zone. Bruce had a fireproof wall safe in the library. More people were hammering at the other end of the hall and it echoed down the second floor. She squashed her curiosity long enough to crack the safe's combination and put Bruce's ring inside. Then she moved down the hall.
At the end of the smaller hallway past the doors to the gym and Stephanie's bedroom, Jerry Cruncher hammered two-by-fours into place against the marble walls and plaster ceiling while Alfred watched. It looked like a skeleton wall with a hole in the center. "Aw, he got me a door."
Both men jumped when she spoke. Alfred whirled around. "Miss Kyle! Master Wayne wanted it to be a surprise."
"Then he should've told me to stay out until dark. Hi Jerry!"
"Hi Selina." He picked up a level and held it against the wood. "Don't mind me, we're on the clock."
"I only came home to ask Alfred something, carry on." Alfred followed her back to the library. She set her purse and the shopping bag on the desk and dug out the cuff links. "Pick the pair you will wear." He lofted an eyebrow at her. She matched it right back at him. "Look, I'm cooperating with your introduce everyone to the soon-to-be Mrs. Wayne party, so cooperate with me on the whole wearing a tracking device thing."
She startled him again, but the mask of training held over his features except for his eyes. "Everyone invited to the birthday party has been a friend of the Wayne family or Bruce personally."
"And can make trouble if they don't approve of me. I appreciate the introduction before the wedding craziness."
"Did Master Wayne talk to you about it?"
"Beyond grumbling about social obligations and thanking me for not letting it become a three-ring circus no, he hasn't." She tilted her head. "Or did you think I'm not smart enough to figure out what the party is really for on my own?"
He shook his head. "I did assume on a lack of experience with social obligations, but not a lack of mental acumen. Master Wayne wouldn't be so taken with you if you did not match him in every way."
"Thank you. Now pick one." She shook the cuff link boxes again.
"I have tried everything I could think of to stop his stalking people."
"It's a lost cause now, but hey you get a pretty with it to wear instead of a microchip." Alfred scowled at the cuff links. "He has me covered head-to-toe and I'm not bitchin'."
"What you and Master Wayne agree to--"
"We agreed to go find you," she interrupted, "because he didn't know if you were safe or Bane's prisoner or worse. And I really hate to say it, but Bane proved his point. So please pick a cuff link and wear the tracking device before he decides to screw the jewelry compromise and goes back to the microchip."
Alfred sighed and tapped the black onyx set. "The whole idea is ridiculous."
"Completely," Selina nodded. "But we love Bruce, so what can we do." She packed the jewelry boxes into her purse. "I'm off again. Don't take it out on Jerry's crew that I found out about the surprise. You've terrorized the one on the saw."
"Of course not, Miss Selina."
Selina headed to Wayne Enterprises. Lucius' office was still next to the boardroom. He pulled off his wire-rimmed glasses and smiled broadly. "Hello, Selina, what brings you here?"
"Hi, Lucius, I've got a special project--"
The phone rang and interrupted her. Lucius pressed the speaker button. "Fox."
"Have we branched into wedding dresses, Lucius?" Bruce asked.
She rolled her eyes while Lucius bit his lip. "No speaker," she mouthed.
"Are you on speaker phone?" Lucius asked.
There was a click over the phone. "I'm not now. What's wrong?"
"I'm getting Fox's help on a surprise for Stephanie," Selina answered. "And you're supposed to be working, not monitoring the security feeds."
"I'm multitasking. Are you riding home with us?"
"No, I still have another errand after this one."
"Fine, I'll keep her distracted. Good-bye."
Selina shook her head. "Is that what he does all day when he comes here?"
He chuckled. "No, I usually keep him better occupied than that, but the meeting we had scheduled was altered by the other party. Now what do you need from me?"
She pulled the jewelry boxes from her purse. "Tracking devices. This pair is for Alfred," she opened the onyx cuff links box. "This pair is for you unless you have something you like better." She passed him the black mother-of-pearl cuff links.
"I had hoped Bruce had forgotten about that," he sighed.
"And how often has that happened?"
Lucius shook his head. "What do you have planned for Stephanie?"
"Tracking device and a panic button." She opened the cat pendant box and turned it over to show the metal back with star cutouts to light up the tanzanite. "And I thought this could be the button." She tugged the Batman logo pendant free of its box and set it against the cat's body near the bottom.
He grinned. "Leave everything with me and I'll get it done."
And probably think of three more things to add to each of them, she thought to herself as she left. That took care of the easy part of the day. She went to Gotham First National, withdrew a thousand in different denominations, and then rode the elevated train into Old Town. She and Jen needed to clear out the walk-up, but she headed down a different street today.
Gaspard's Pawn Shop was closed, but that didn't mean business wasn't occurring. She went in the side door that opened to a flight of stairs to the apartments on the second floor of the building. There were multiple units, but the largest on the end was the one she knocked on. The blond-haired man opened it and leaned in the door jamb. "Selina Kyle." He ran his hand over his trim oblique covered by a navy T-shirt until it rested on his jeans' waistband. "You finally cleaned your mark out and need me to move the goods?"
Selina raised her eyebrows. "I don't discuss business in public, Gaspard."
"Please grace my humble abode." He held the door open. Selina stepped past him and into a tasteful Art Deco living room. "Five thousand for the ring you're wearing." He shut the door. "Best deal you'll get in Gotham right now."
"And that's why I never fenced with you. I know what the stuff I take is worth. I'm looking for an item too hot for you to handle."
"That's just about everything right now." He gestured for her to sit on the couch as he sprawled into a red leather chair with circular arms covered in black leather. She eased down onto the black leather cushions on the gilt-framed sofa. "The police don't have an inventory from everyone brought low by Bane's Army," Gaspard continued, "but they have enough of a list to come looking at everyone rumored to relocate questionable items. Now it's a weekly check-in."
"Not that they've gotten anything back."
He brushed his long bangs from his eyes. "Au contraire, I gave them everything I had on their list. I have no desire to find out how long I last in Blackgate."
She smirked at his pretty boy pout, not that she blamed him for the feeling. "I'm looking for an emerald necklace, Victorian, twenty-five teardrop and forty round emeralds with silver attachments."
He nodded with a grimace. "I've seen it. The finder was a bit insulted by my price and refused to part with it."
"A hundred for the finder's address."
"What's your interest in the bauble?"
"My job is to recover the necklace. I'd rather do it in a way that benefits everyone. Two hundred for the address."
"Sold." He rattled it off and she fished two Benjamins out of her purse. "It's none of my business, but are you sure you should still be working?"
"I'm selective with the jobs right now." She stood and headed toward the door.
Gaspard jumped and beat her to it. "Fair enough. Now don't scare the kid. She's not in the business."
"Of course not, that's why she came to you." Still, she was pleased to have a lead on her first stop. There were slimier and shrewder fences in Gotham than Gaspard and Bruce would insist on being around to protect her or some such nonsense. She'd never get any information nor surprise Bruce. Happily, she didn't have to worry about them unless the kid as Gaspard called her went to one of them.
The address was deeper in Old Town than the walk-up, more rundown but the inhabitants not as desperate as they were before the Occupation. Disaster relief meant regular meals. She climbed up to another walk-up on the fifth floor. She waited a bit to catch her breath and to wiggle her toes against the tightness in her shoes before knocking on the apartment door.
A petite woman about Jen's age answered it. "Can I help you?"
"I'm hoping I can help you," Selina answered. "You found an emerald necklace, didn't you?"
Gaspard was right; she wasn't in the business. She wheeled from the door and Selina let herself in. She banged her hip into a sewing table and that jolted her back to reality. "Are you with the police?" Selina shook her head. The young woman collapsed into the chair in front of the sewing machine. "Are you here to rob me?"
"If I were here to rob you, you'd never know it." Her wide eyes got wider. "The owner wants their necklace back, and hired me to find it. Can I see it to make sure it's the right one?" Selina asked.
The woman went to the kitchen area of the main room. She pulled a tinfoil-covered box from the freezer. Selina forced her eyes not to roll. Even if it wasn't Helena Wayne's heirloom, Selina would buy it simply so she could put the money in a bank and stop copying movies.
"I've never took anything before." Her hands trembled as she folded the foil back. "We went to the bank because they took so many people's houses. I found it in a desk and put it on." The green stones slid out of the thin cardboard box onto the scratched wooden tabletop. "I felt like a queen."
Selina picked up the strand ends with both hands and the teardrop emeralds clinked together. It was Helena's necklace, none the worse for wear after its adventures. "It scared you to death to wear it again."
"Nobody wants an emerald necklace to keep your lights and heat on. And I didn't take it from someone's home so why should I let the police lock me away for it?" She slumped into the chair without hitting her sewing machine.
"The owner isn't interested in pressing charges," Selina said. "He just wants a family heirloom back. I'm prepared to pay a finder's fee for it."
"I did try to sell it," she admitted. "The pawnbroker offered me two thousand dollars. I'm not stupid. I know a necklace with just one of those emeralds is worth that much."
Selina nodded. "He's rather notorious for low-balling everyone. What would you consider a fair price?" She wrote out a check for fifty thousand and tucked the necklace into her purse. She went to her and Jen's walk-up for a new box. Nobody had broken in or messed with their belongings. She'd work on hiring movers to get their stuff in one location next week. It wasn't right to make Alfred organize moving out two locations plus the wedding.
Alfred met her at the elevator door. "Master Wayne wishes to see you upstairs, Miss Selina."
"Thanks, Alfred." She handed him the necklace box. "Hide that where he won't look for it; it's a surprise for his birthday."
She ducked into the library to get Bruce's engagement ring before moving down the hall. The new door and wall were made of a polished, dark brown wood that matched the wood accents elsewhere in the penthouse. She turned the knob and stepped inside the master suite. Bruce met her there and shut the door. "You got me a door," she purred at him.
His hazel eyes smoldered. "It's been a month. We need one now."
She never had a chance to respond because his mouth landed on hers and stole her breath away. They didn't need words she decided as she ripped off the tie she had knotted this morning. Bruce snagged her sweater over the divider again; she popped all the buttons off his shirt; skin on sweaty skin was electric. Between his injuries and Stephanie needing parents, they hadn't indulged in raw sex as much as either of them desired. Her fingernails raked across his scarred back as he filled her. He avoided putting any of his weight on the baby bump as he leaned over her.
Black spots dotted her vision as she came and her head spun in response. Bruce's body shook above her on ridged arms. His face swum above her and black covered it. Her body didn't want to move, but she turned onto her side and felt Bruce's hands pushing her. She blinked as his face leaned closer to hers. He pressed a washcloth against her nose. "I'm getting Alfred." But his voice sounded so faint.
She closed her eyes. It had been a while for them, but her orgasm hit her like a concussion. She tugged the sheet over her right shoulder. No flashing Alfred. Bruce had said Alfred. Why would Alfred interrupt them? No flashing Alfred. She kicked her foot. Blanket down there too, good.
"She went as white like major blood loss and her nose started bleeding." Bruce's taunt voice opened her eyes. He saw her as he and Alfred stepped inside the dividers. "Selina," his voice cracked. She blinked at his green and orange robe as he crawled onto the bed behind her. When had he time to put that on?
Alfred--still dressed like he had been all day with his tie under his sweater--picked up her right wrist and wiped the washcloth under her nose. "How do you feel, Miss Selina?" His index and middle finger took her pulse.
"I'm a little bit dizzy, but it's going away. What happened?"
"You passed out or nearly did, and got a nosebleed." Bruce combed her hair back with his fingers.
"Were you on your back, Miss?"
Selina blinked. "I was and the books told me to start sleeping on my side. I usually do, so I didn't think about it."
"Books?" Bruce asked. Alfred let go of her wrist, so she pointed to the stack of pregnancy-how-to manuals on her nightstand.
Alfred nodded. "The weight on your veins--"
"I didn't put my weight on her," Bruce interrupted.
She couldn't see Bruce's face, but Alfred wore a well-practiced, don't-take-that-tone-with-me-young-man expression. "The baby has gained enough weight to interrupt Miss Selina's blood flow, but she'll be all right, and now both of you know better. Supper will be ready in an hour, unless you'd rather eat up here, Miss?"
"Oh no, I'll be fine in an hour. What happened to the ring box I had? Do you two see it?"
Alfred found it among their clothes on the floor. "As for your loose ends, Master Wayne, it would be just as intimate but more beneficial if you applied those skills you learned around the world and gave the mother of your child a massage instead." He handed Selina the velvet ring box and stalked out of the suite.
"I know that expression," Bruce said. "After supper, once everyone is out of earshot, I'm getting the one does not jump on the mother of one's child like a randy teenager lecture."
"Randy?" She rolled her head to look at him. "Alfred uses the word randy?"
He smiled but his eyes didn't crinkle. "Debutante season was the worst. I didn't want to go, but those girls conned me into being their escort and then I had that lecture before every event."
"Oh poor you," she chuckled and reached to him. He leaned so she stroked his cheek. "Well I was equally randy, should I join you for the lecture?"
"No, I'll take this one for the team. Did you get the wedding rings finished already?"
She pulled his left hand in front of her. "No, Moench is still working on them. This is for you." She opened the box and put the sapphire and black titanium ring on his finger.
"Blue and black? Isn't that Nightwing's color scheme?"
"I didn't like red and black, and black diamonds didn't appeal."
"I thought we agreed I was being stupid." Bruce looked at the ring.
She smirked. "I didn't agree to that, and you're missing your ring."
The guilt in his eyes melted. "Do you want a massage?"
"My feet hurt." He kissed her before moving to the foot of the bed.