Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 60
Her mother had predicted everything dire about her baby moving back to Gotham, but ex-Mrs. Gordon's focus on the crazies murdering on television and the raping they didn't show hadn't prepared Babs for where she found herself now. She twisted in her seat next to the stained glass window. The Meditation Chapel was built like a castle's private chapel, only with modern furniture and draped in tulle and floral swags. Two tall candelabras stood on the edges of the dais at the front of the room and the altar was covered with red roses and white lilies. Extremely low key but elegant and more restrained than she expected from one of the richest men in America. Her father was invited to Bruce Wayne's wedding and had brought her along.
That reminder made her observe the other guests again. Jen Kyle sat on the first row left of the aisle, wearing a russet evening gown. Lucius Fox sat next to the wall so the aisle seat was open. The Cruncher family was seated ahead of the Gordons. They had been at the dinner party too without their ten-year-old son. Mr. Cruncher, Jerry, was the vice-president of Bruce's construction company that wasn't connected to Wayne Enterprises. John Blake sat alone on the right-side front row. He wore the fancy tuxedo with a light grey vest as well as he wore the dark suit at the dinner party. No date, but he wasn't one of the wedding attendants either.
Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who nearly gave Dad a conniption fit going to the party, went to the first row and whispered something to Blake. He smiled as he answered. She nodded, waved hello at Mr. and Mrs. Fredericks sitting on the second row, and joined a middle-aged man with dark hair back on the third row. He hadn't been at the dinner party. Babs was grateful that she had pumped other guests for information at that party. Otherwise, she wouldn't know that both Dr. Thompkins and the Fredericks were old friends of Bruce Wayne's parents.
She turned her head as she frowned. Most of the guests had a personal connection to Bruce Wayne, except Jen who was the bride's sister and the Gordons. She had asked her father how he had scored an invite to the wedding ceremony, when the rest of the politicians had only been invited to the reception. "After the Occupation was a very strange time. And Bruce always has been a bit eccentric."
That answer explained little and satisfied even less now. Alfred Pennyworth entered the chapel with a middle-aged woman on his arm. Gordon's eyebrows rose. "That's Judge Maria Vargas, Family Court," he told her quietly as Pennyworth sat the Judge between him and Blake on the first row.
She squelched her questions as the minister and Bruce Wayne stepped out of a side room and moved before the altar. He wore the same fancy tuxedo that Blake and Pennyworth did. It had been hard enough to get her father into a regular tux for this event. The harp music changed to Wagner's "Bridal Chorus" and the audience stood on cue.
Stephanie walked down the red carpet with a bouquet of lilies. The blonde little girl wore a lavender dress with a skirt of frothy tulle and a serious expression as she counted the steps. She looked at Bruce when she reached the end of the carpet.
He smiled and gestured toward Jen. Stephanie stepped over to the older woman and stood in front of the empty seat. Then his gaze lifted to the rear of the chapel and froze. All heads turned.
The dinner party introduction to Selina Kyle hadn't been what Babs had expected. Selina was pretty, but an ordinary pretty. Bruce Wayne had been often photographed with stunning women. Why had he settled on her out of all of them?
The Selina Kyle at the rear of the chapel was a stunning princess. She glowed in the white gown that floated around her pregnant body. Her veil flowed down from the loose chignon her brown hair was tied up in to the train of her dress. The gemstones in her hair and covering the bodice of the gown glittered.
Bruce's serious face paled as Selina reached the dais. One of her hands released the bouquet of red roses and reached for him. She said something to him alone while Jen draped the train of her gown. His face melted into a large grin. He hadn't smiled like that during the party.
The minister--no Revered Manette according to the program--murmured at the pair before beaming at the audience. "Please be seated. We are gathered her today to celebrate one of life's greatest moments, the joining of two hearts, the joining Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle in marriage. If there is anyone present who has just cause why this couple should not be united, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."
The audience held their breaths as Reverend Manette scanned them.
He nodded before continuing. "You have come together so that you may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of God and this community. Christ abundantly blesses your love; he strengthens you so that you may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity. Today, we have come together to witness the joining of these two lives. Out of the horror and terror of the Occupation, the extraordinary happened for them. They met each other, fell in love, and are finalizing it with their wedding today. Romance is fun, but true love is something far more and it is their desire to love each other for life and that is what we are celebrating today."
That was in poor taste. Babs looked at her father when the Occupation was mentioned. His proud smile watered as he blinked away tears from under his glasses. Across the aisle, Dr. Thompkins and her escort choked back something.
Reverend Manette continued. "A good marriage must be created. In marriage, the little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say 'I love you' at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is standing together and facing the world. It is speaking words of appreciation, and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is not only marrying the right person; it is being the right partner. As the Bible explains in First Corinthians, 'Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud. Love is never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable or touchy. Love does not hold grudges and will hardly notice when other do it wrong. Love is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to them no matter what the costs. You will always believe in them, always expect the best in them, and will always stand your ground in defending them.' Now take both hands." Jen darted forward and took Selina's bouquet. "And repeat after me."
Bruce went first after the reverend. His gaze never left Selina's face. "I, Bruce, take you, Selina, to be my wife, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our friendship and love you today, tomorrow, and forever. I will trust and honor you. I will laugh with you and cry with you. I will love you faithfully through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easy. Whatever may come, I will always be there. As I have given you my hand to hold so I give you my life to keep."
Selina wasn't wearing heels to decrease their height difference and her neck craned to look at Bruce as she repeated the vows. "I, Selina, take you, Bruce, to be my husband, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our friendship and love you today, tomorrow, and forever. I will trust and honor you. I will laugh with you and cry with you. I will love you faithfully through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easy. Whatever may come, I will always be there. As I have given you my hand to hold so I give you my life to keep."
Reverend Manette looked at the audience. "The response to the Prayers for the Faithful is "Lord, hear our prayers. Let us pray for peace, happiness and joy in everyone's life, both here at home and around the world."
"Lord, hear our prayer."
"Let us pray for the new additions to our families, that God looks over them, and that they are always surrounded by love and caring."
"Lord, hear our prayer."
"Let us pray for those in our lives who are sick and healing, may their road to recovery be blessed."
"Lord, hear our prayer."
"Let us pray for those who have traveled this road with us, but could not join us here today. We know that those people are close to us in spirit."
"Lord, hear our prayer."
"Let us pause for a moment to add our own special intentions."
"Lord, hear our prayer."
When the audience finished, Reverend Manette looked at the couple before him again. This time they managed to look at him instead of each other. "Bruce and Selina, I would ask that you always treat yourself and each other with respect and remind yourselves often of what brought you together today. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness, and kindness that your marriage deserves. When frustration and difficulty assail your marriage--as they do to every relationship at one time or another--focus on what still seems right between you, not only the part that seems wrong. This way, when clouds of trouble hide the sun in your loves and you lose sight of it for a moment, you can remember that the sun is still there. And if each of you will take responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and happiness. Bruce, do you take Selina to be your wife?"
Bruce turned back to Selina. "I do."
"Do you promise to love, honor, cherish and protect here, forsaking all others and holding only unto her forevermore?"
"I do." His voice grew huskier.
"Selina, do you take Bruce to be your husband?"
Selina's voice rang out clearly. "I do."
"Do you promise to love, honor, cherish and protect him, forsaking all others and holding only to him forevermore?"
Babs wasn't sure with the angle she saw them at, but it looked like Bruce mouthed 'you have' at Selina. Reverend Manette paid them no attention and continued. "The fourth chapter in the First Epistle of John explains love. 'Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God--for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love has been brought to full expression through us.' Now, who has the rings?"
Blake stood and passed something to both Bruce and Selina before sitting down again. Babs wondered why he and Jen didn't stand up there with the bride and groom if they were acting as best man and the maid of honor.
Bruce shifted his hands to put the wedding ring on Selina's finger when Reverend Manette spoke. "The ring is a symbol of the unbroken circle of love. Love freely given has no beginning and no end, no giver and no receiver for each is the giver and each is the receiver. May these rings always remind you of the vows you have taken."
Bruce slid on the ring. "I, Bruce, take thee, Selina, to be my wife. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in joy and sorrow, and I promise my love to you. Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
They shifted hands and the green stone on Selina's right hand flashed in the light as she slid Bruce's ring onto his hand. "I, Selina, take thee, Bruce, to be my husband. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in joy and sorrow, and I promise my love to you. Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
"Lord, bless and consecrate this groom and bride in their love for each other. May these rings be a symbol of their true faith in each other, and always remind them of their love through the Christ to God." Babs jerked her head down when she realized the Reverend had segued into a prayer. "Bless their marriage, O God, as they begin their journey down the road of life together. We don't know what lies ahead for the road turns and bends. But help them to make the best of whatever comes their way. Help them to continue to enjoy each other as they did when they first met. Help them to realize that nothing nor no one is perfect and to look for the good in all things and all people including themselves. Help them to respect each other's likes and dislikes, opinions and beliefs, hopes and dreams and fears even though they may not always understand them. Help them to learn from each other and to help each other grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Help them to realize that no matter what happens to them they will hold onto each other and know that things have a way of working out for the good. Help them to create for their children a peaceful, stable home of love as a foundation on which they can build their lives. But most of all, dear God, help them to keep lit the torch of love that they now share so that by their loving example they may pass on the light of love to their children and to their children's children forever. Amen."
The audience echoed amen at the end. Reverend Manette beamed at Bruce and Selina again. "To make your relationship work will take love. This is the core of your marriage and why you are here today. It will take trust, to know that in your hearts you truly want what is best for each other. It will take dedication, to stay open to one another and to learn and grow together. It will take faith, to go forward together without knowing exactly what the future brings. And it will take commitment, to hold true to the journey you both have pledged to today. Judge Vargas?" He stepped aside for the woman with dark auburn hair near his own age.
Judge Vargas smiled at the audience, Bruce, and Selina. "As I'm sure you are aware, Bruce and Selina made the decision to adopt Stephanie Brown. Can you come forward Stephanie?"
The little girl passed her bouquet to Jen and slid off her chair. She stood between Bruce and Selina. "I am pleased to finalize the adoption now, and introduce Stephanie Wayne to her new mother and father." Judge Vargas opened her leather portfolio and set her paperwork on the altar next to other papers. There was a flurry of signings by everyone up there.
Selina gestured to Jen, but Bruce took the jewelry box from his sister-in-law bogged down with the bouquets. Selina lifted out a cat-shaped pendent and put it around Stephanie's neck. "You're Stephanie Wayne now."
Judge Vargas sat again, and Reverend Manette reassembled the couple at the altar only Stephanie grabbed both their hands and stared up at the minister. "My dear friends let us turn to the Lord and pray that he will bless Bruce and Selina united in true marriage today. Father, you have made the union of husband and wife holy as it symbolizes the marriage of humans through Christ to God. Before you now are Bruce and Selina with their daughter Stephanie, whose addition they acknowledge as a gift and whose presence they welcome with gratitude and humility. In a world where powerful forces seek to divide and tear the human family apart, it is significant that the powerlessness of a child is that which brings us together. Father, look with love upon Bruce, Selina, and Stephanie. Fill them with love for each other, both honoring and respecting each other and always seeing their love as a gift to be treasured. May the commitment which they are making be sacred not only for today but for the rest of their lives. We ask this blessing for them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. By the power vested in me, I now pronounced you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."
Bruce reached for Selina and she curled her arms around his shoulders as they kissed. He released his new wife and lifted Stephanie to his hip. Selina whispered to the wide-eyed girl, coaxing a smile to her face.
"I would like to introduce the happy family, the Wayne family," Reverend Manette gestured to the trio.
"Thank you all for sharing this day with us," Bruce said, "and please join us at the reception at Wayne Manor."
The harpist strummed Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" and the family headed down the aisle. The audience waited for the front row to go out first with Reverend Manette since they had to reach the Manor on a schedule.
Mrs. Cruncher sniffed. "It was beautiful, the way they included Stephanie, just beautiful." She turned to Babs and the Commissioner. "Wasn't it beautiful?"
Gordon smiled. "Yes, it was exactly what they deserve. I hope their future has nothing but happiness."
Babs wasn't sure what goaded the words out of her mouth, maybe seeing someone getting a fairy tale happy ending. "You can't guarantee happiness, but all that money and your own personal castle is bound to help."
Mr. Cruncher shook his head. "They don't care about stuff, and they both know that too much stuff attracts evil people like Bane."
Gordon followed the Crunchers down the aisle. "Gotham City has seen enough of that kind of evil, and Bruce Wayne doesn't need to see any more." Babs didn't respond as they left the church and headed to her father's car. He was oddly invested in the happiness of an equipment supplier, no matter how crazy the Occupation had been. Gordon unlocked the car. "Making your own wedding plans?"
"Wondering about you actually." She buckled her seatbelt. "Both you and Mr. Pennyworth have split the proud papa attitude between you."
He nodded as he joined the line of cars behind the Waynes' Rolls Royce. "We... we haven't talked about what you saw... when you were ten." Babs' blue eyes widened. Neither of her parents talked about that night in the burnt warehouse with Two-Face and Batman. "That... that was bad, but we all lived through it."
"Thanks to Batman."
"Thanks to Batman," her father's voice caught as he echoed her. "Bruce Wayne was about your age then when he saw his parents gunned down. I was just a beat cop then; he was all eyes, flinching at everything, shivering from shock. Everybody else on duty had to make a ring around the offices to keep the press out."
She swallowed hard. "I didn't think." Everybody in her Gotham childhood had acted like Bruce Wayne was the city's Richie Rich, and nobody asked where Mr. and Mrs. Rich were. Everyone knew Thomas and Martha Wayne had been murdered, but to have seen it happen like Bruce did. Her stomach churned at the thought if Two-Face had shot Mom or Dad.
"It's all right, honey. Happened before you were born. But I am proud that scared boy didn't give up on humanity."