Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 40
Bruce rolled onto his back and rested his arm over his eyes. A month adhering to a normal schedule and he still hated morning sunshine. But he felt something was off this morning. Usually Selina curled up against him trying to escape the light. Today she wasn't. He groped the sheets within reach without uncovering his eyes.
"Are you looking for me?" Selina laughed beyond his reach.
"You're up already?"
"Moved Stephanie back to her bed and got breakfast."
He dropped his arm and propped himself up on his elbows. "You have to stop carrying her around, Selina. What if you fall?"
She set her pastry on the breakfast tray before crawling back onto the bed. Her long hair was pulled back into a messy bun above her neck. "Alfred did the heavy lifting, so stop worrying and open your present, birthday boy."
He rubbed his eyes and dragged her to his lap. "Well, that's something worth waking up too." He kissed her as his fingers unknotted the belt on her robe.
Selina laughed as she pulled back. "I'm not your present, lover." She pressed a long box against his chest.
"I told you not to get me anything. I don't want John or Jen thinking they were obligated."
"I didn't get it for just you. Open it."
He reminded himself how much he trusted Selina as he slid the black satin ribbon off the imitation black leather box. It was jewelry box, but why would Selina buy him jewelry requiring a box this big? All he wore was one ring. He opened the lid. The emeralds flashed with green fire in the morning sunlight, and the silver attachments gleamed. "Aunt Helena's necklace?"
"Our kids might want the whole story one day. It makes pretty evidence." She shifted her knees on both sides of his thighs.
"You found Aunt Helena's necklace?"
"Please, you could have if you had thought about looking."
He hadn't wanted to look. It felt churlish to worry about one necklace when others had lost so much more. Selina swooped in and took care of something causing him pain. He lifted the necklace out of the box. "There's only one thought I've had concerning this necklace." He fastened the ends around the back of her neck before untying her robe and pushing it off her shoulders. He drew her nightgown over her head and flung it aside. The emeralds made a collar around her collarbone and down her upper chest. The morning sun highlighted the chloasma on her face and her darker areolas on her larger breasts. The round swell of her belly was obvious pregnant. His hands slid down her arms as she rocked on his lap.
"I don't know if Aunt Helena would approve of your idea." Selina smirked with half-lidded eyes.
"Really? The woman who tried to join the Union Army wouldn't approve of this?" His hands roamed down her sides. "I think that necklace could tell us she did worse."
She pushed the necklace box away as she trailed her hands over his torso. "Was there more to your thought than just seeing me wearing only the necklace?" His muscles fluttered under her fingers.
"Well, it is my birthday," he said as he pulled up her hips. She freed his erection from his pajama pants and he pushed them to his knees before she impaled herself on him. He grabbed her hips with a groan.
"Happy birthday, Bruce," she said and kissed him. They had experimented since he had healed. This position with no pressure on Selina's back and where he stroked her sweaty skin and kissed along her jaw and throat was quickly becoming a favorite. She tossed her head back as his lips closed over her nipple of her swollen breast.
Her hands strummed his back like it was a guitar as she found a rhythm. He delved one hand between them and teased her clit. Both their orgasms were loud enough to justify the doors soundproofing the master suite. They leaned against the headboard and each other as they panted. "And many more," he said when he could form words.
"If we do many more of that, neither one of us will be able to walk at the party tonight." She laughed.
"Fine, let's cancel it." He nuzzled her hair.
She laughed again. "We can do that and still live under the same roof with Alfred?"
"We can't. Pass me the bagel and the newspaper." She took the items from the breakfast tray while he freed her robe and the necklace box from the tangled sheets. The headline above the fold concerned what trouble the national government had in the Middle East. He bit into the bagel, turned the paper over, and the dense bread muffled the sound he made. The headline under the fold read "Bruce Wayne Engaged" with multiple exclamation points. The headline of the smaller inserted article read "Who is the mysterious woman who snared the Prince of Gotham City?"
"Since you don't need the Heimlich, I'll see how the television news media is covering us." Selina closed the necklace box and walked out of the bed area.
He swallowed. "Have you read this?"
"Alfred warned me it would upset you."
The television set clicked on while he pulled up his pajama pants. The weatherperson prattled about the snowstorm forecasted for the end of the week. He shrugged on his robe as he picked up his bagel and joined her in the sitting area. "Alfred warned you."
"Because the interview requests have started pouring in. How do we feel about Gotham Tonight?"
He sat in the armchair that let him watch her and turn his head to the television set. "They're good at poking into every aspect, especially if Mike Engle is back in the producer position."
Selina stretched her now bare neck. "It may be best to give an exclusive scoop to the ones who have that reputation. And they did a good job keeping people informed during the Occupation." He grunted noncommittally. "Eat your breakfast; it'll be a long day," she added.
The camera shifted to the news anchor team and then focused on Summer Gleeson. "If you have been harboring doubts that the Occupation of Gotham has changed billionaire Bruce Wayne, he surprised the city today with his engagement announcement." She grinned into the camera.
It shifted to show her partner at the news desk. "No more dating all the Miss America contestants en masse," he laughed.
"I only did that once," Bruce said at the television.
"I doubt the soon-to-be Mrs. Wayne will let Bruce stunt date after they say 'I do,'" Summer said. "And I can't be the only one in Gotham seething that our most eligible bachelor is off the market and burning with curiosity over the woman who caught him. The announcement published in the Gotham Times gives her name as Selina Kyle. No one by that name has worked as an actress or a model in the city. We haven't confirmed if Miss Kyle is the same woman who has been seen with Bruce Wayne since the Occupation ended."
"It must mean something if you've been with the same woman for over a month," Selina said with a smirk.
Bruce bit into his bagel.
"This is the most recent footage we have of that mysterious woman who we think is Miss Kyle." Summer's voice came over a shot of Selina and Stephanie leaving the building's main door. "Rumor has it that the couple is adopting the little girl who has also been seen with Bruce Wayne since the Occupation ended."
"Are they allowed to bring Stephanie up? Isn't that against her rights?" Selina asked. His mouth was full and he couldn't answer her.
"Is that a baby bump?" The male news caster asked over the zoom-in on Selina's pregnant profile. "No announcement about that from Wayne's people?"
"I swear I used that EMP emitter fob when we went to St. Swithin's."
He swallowed. "Judging by the zoom, the camera was out of range."
"It's obvious how Selina Kyle snagged him," Summer said through a forced grin as the screen returned to the studio.
"Now Summer, don't be catty," her partner said. "According to Dr. Linda Page, Gotham City will have a baby boom thanks to the Occupation."
"Great, now I owe Jen lunch," Selina said. "Serves me right for believing that they wouldn't claim I got pregnant on purpose."
"This is what I wanted to spare us." He set the saucer with the remains of his bagel onto the side table.
"It's just annoying, Bruce. But at least this exposure earns sympathy points for us instead of letting everyone stew on what kind of gold-digging slut you settled on." She pushed out of her chair and stretched.
It was no surprise in phrasing; they had talked about her image. The surprise was the physical pain upon hearing those words referring to Selina when the protocol was in motion. His stomach roiled. "If anyone refers to you as that--"
"You can have them after I'm done with them."
"I'm serious, Selina."
"So am I." She turned the corner to the bathroom.
Her self-assurance did not pacify him. He changed into sweat pants and a T-shirt and stormed into the gym. He cycled through sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups. They weren't enough to make his brain stop dwelling on it. He doubted anyone invited tonight would be rude enough to bring it up at the party, but he wanted to protect Selina, Stephanie, and the baby from anything said outside of his hearing.
The door opened and closed. Bruce didn't shift is gaze from the mat between his hands as he pushed up and down. "Alfred told me to stop you from getting bruises we can't explain to your guests. He didn't tell me what to do if you weren't punching anything," Blake said.
Bruce paused in Plank pose before relaxing into seiza. "I won't ruin his party."
"It's your birthday."
"And I'd rather take Selina and leave the country."
Blake perched in a weight bench. "You tried checking out already. Remember how that worked out?"
He shook his head. There was the brash young man who refused to leave until he told the hard truths he knew. "Try not to be so blunt with the guests."
"You took the truth well."
"Yes, but I'm me." Bruce stood.
"Point." Blake followed him out of the gym. "Get dressed and stay out of the caterers' way. Last orders from Alfred."
Stephanie's door flung open and she barreled into Bruce's legs, pinning them in place with a hug. "Happy birthday, Bruce! Can I wear my princess dress, please, please, please?"
"What did Selina say about the dress?"
"She picked out a different dress." Stephanie pouted at him. "It's not as pretty as the princess dress."
"You look pretty in everything, but I think we're saving the princess dress for the wedding."
Her pout vanished. "I can wear it for the wedding?"
Bruce nodded. "If I have to wear a morning dress suit, you can wear the princess dress."
Stephanie squealed and ran back into her room. Blake snorted. "I hope Alfred or Selina didn't plan for her to wear something else."
"They keep telling me it's my wedding too. Time to see if that's true."
Alfred had to allow one of the catering staff circulate the drinks since he had to greet the guests and take their coats at the elevator door. It was a small enough gathering and the room so open, he still considered himself on hand for any emergency. The guests were arriving promptly, fueled by curiosity over Miss Kyle.
Mrs. Fredericks rushed to Bruce and Selina with a maternal grin. "Bruce, you should have told us weeks ago. When is the wedding?"
"February nineteenth," Bruce answered. "The invitations went out yesterday."
"You aren't giving us much time to get ready for a Wayne celebration. Douglas has his black tie, so don't mind me who wants a new gown." She turned to Selina. The younger woman wore a new black lace cocktail dress with a sapphire blue sleeveless lining underneath. The black sash around the empire waist emphasized her stage of pregnancy rather than hide it away. "I know this isn't an engagement party, but I can't wait to meet your family."
Selina smiled. "My sister Jennifer is over there." She gestured to Jen who sat on the other side of the fireplace sipping her drink. "Our parents died in a car accident when we were children."
"I'm so sorry to hear that."
The elevator brought up the next batch of guests, including Lucius Fox and Mr. and Mrs. Cruncher. Selina smiled as she greeted them. "Lucius, you haven't been scaring the Crunchers with horror stories about the birthday boy, have you?"
He grinned. "Not at all, just assuring them that this is for Stephanie." He held up a box gift-wrapped in silver and black. Blake heard Stephanie's name and brought the little girl whose blue velveteen dress matched Selina's dress and Bruce's tie forward. "There she is! This is for you."
Stephanie frowned at Lucius. "But it's Bruce's birthday."
"But I need you to give me a review of a new prototype, not Bruce."
"Mr. Fox invented a new toy," Bruce said. Stephanie's confusion cleared. "Go ahead and open it."
She climbed into one of the orange benches next to the fireplace and tore into the wrapping paper. Selina caught the lid of the box that flew into the air and Blake seized the tissue paper before it got too close to the fire. She lifted a black figurine about six inches long with a suspiciously familiar cape. "Look, it's Batman!"
"I didn't know Wayne Enterprises had gone into toys literally," Selina said.
"Marketing assures me that demand has never been higher for any action figure," Lucius answered. "If Stephanie approves of the production sample, we can have them on store shelves for Easter."
"Our son loves toys in his Easter basket," Mrs. Cruncher said. "If we gave him nothing but chocolate, we'd have no house left by the time Mass started."
Bruce sat next to Stephanie as she turned the caped figure over in her hands. "A Batman action figure?"
"We can assign the profits to directly support the Wayne Foundation," Lucius added.
"You already have the paperwork ready."
"Awaiting your approval, Mr. Wayne."
"You don't like it?" Stephanie held up the toy with an anxious expression.
Bruce examined it with a serious countenance Alfred wished he could move closer to see if the toy was a danger to the young man's secret. He trusted Lucius and more importantly, Bruce trusted Lucius. But who know what the child would blurt out in her innocence? Stephanie moved the arms and legs for Bruce's perusal. "I like it," he said, "and the Foundation needs a steady revenue stream, but do you like it? Will kids play with it?"
She pulled back the toy. "I like it, but where's Catwoman and Nightwing?"
"We're working on them," Lucius answered. Blake inhaled his drink and coughed.
"I can keep this one?" Stephanie looked at Lucius who nodded. "Thanks, Mr. Fox!"
"Why don't you put it in your room and come back down," Bruce suggested. Stephanie hopped off the bench and ran to the other elevator.
"Don't run," Selina called after the blue blur.
Mr. Fredericks chuckled as the next elevator full of guests arrived. "You seem to be settling into fatherhood well, Bruce."
"Really?" Bruce stood about to add to his comment when Mr. Defarge joined the group.
"So the adoption bit wasn't something the media made up?" Defarge's gaze shifted to Selina. "Better be careful. Don't want to dilute your regained fortune with too many heirs."
Selina glared at him. "Bruce, darling, I don't think I've met this bachelor playmate of yours."
"Selina, this is Ernest Defarge, on the Wayne Enterprises Board of Directors." He rejoined Selina's side. "Ernest, my fiancée Selina Kyle."
"I joined the Board after Bruce gave up socializing. I suppose we have to thank you for pulling him out of the Manor."
"You don't have to thank me if you don't want to."
Bruce reached out for another guest, giving Defarge a subtle nudge that he should move on. "Harriet Allnut, so glad you could come. Selina, Harriet makes the day-to-day decisions for the Wayne Foundation."
That could have gone much worse, Alfred noted to himself and decided to take Ernest Defarge's name off the guest list for all functions except when the whole Board was invited. The elevator opened again.
The red-haired young woman stepped off putting distance between herself and the other occupants. The loudest voice carried over the gathering crowd noise behind Alfred. "Commissioner, this is the perfect opportunity to end the joke that is the war on drugs and get people treatment instead of incarcerating them." Dr. Leslie Thompkins looked regally resolute in her ivory and green pantsuit.
Commissioner Gordon looked like he wanted to dash away like the red-haired young lady had. Alfred ushered them into the penthouse. "Now, now, Leslie, no politics at a birthday party."
She chuckled. "My apologies, Commissioner, for spoiling the party mood. If you'll just get me a meeting with the new mayor after the election, I'll steamroll over their objections without any help." She moved past the smaller groups. "Bruce, Selina!"
"She would do it too, wouldn't she?" Gordon passed his coat to the young man in charge of the coat room.
"Oh yes, Leslie has never been stopped in getting what she wants." Alfred's grin spread over his face uncontrollably. "We're delighted you could make it, Commissioner."
"Glad to come. Let me introduce my daughter to the hosts." Now that Leslie had moved on to speak with the Fredericks, the young lady returned to Gordon's side.
"Commissioner, thank you for coming," Bruce said as he shook his hand.
"Babs said I needed to get out of City Hall more." Gordon patted the young lady forward. "My daughter Barbara, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle."
She blushed as Bruce shook her hand. "Congratulations," she said.
"Did you get enrolled in Hudson University okay?" Selina asked.
"Dad, is there anybody you didn't tell?"
"I guess not," Gordon admitted while Selina and Bruce chuckled. "I'm proud of you."
"Hey Jen?" The blonde younger woman joined Selina. "My sister is starting at Hudson this semester too. You probably won't have any classes in common, but another friendly face--"
"Oh boy yes! I've been having mild panic attacks and Bruce's information is twenty years out of date." Jen pointed at him with her thumb.
"Eighteen," Bruce said.
"And from Princeton."
Barbara laughed. "What are you majoring in?"
Jen led her toward the glass wall. "Accounting. What's yours?"
"There's a science? No wonder they've always intimidated me."
Alfred greeted the last of the Board of Directors who just arrived. These were new faces, ones who inherited the shares of the directors who died in the Occupation or were voted in by the other stockholders. He welcomed them warmly and Bruce and Selina greeted them just as warmly after him. Stephanie had returned from her bedroom and now clung to Bruce and Selina's hands. Their stances invoked memories repressed for over thirty years: Thomas and Martha anchoring tiny Bruce between them at countless parties just like this one. He turned away before his eyes betrayed him and moved on to see about supper.