Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 177
Stephanie pushed open the master bedroom door. Daddy was still sprawled out on the bed. Mommy had told her what to do. She crept to the foot of the bed and peeked over the wooden circle. "Daddy."
Bruce rolled onto his side and looked at the wall with his eyes closed.
She moved to his head. "Daddy, wake up. I need you to fix it."
"Fix what, Stephanie?" He didn't open his eyes.
"My laptop broke in my room. Fix it, Daddy, please."
"It's a child's laptop." His hazel eyes cracked open. "What did you do to it?"
She shrugged. "It just stopped talking to me."
"Okay, give it here."
"It's in my room." She tugged on his hand. "Get up, Daddy, please." She repeated 'please' until he sat up and swung his pajama-clad legs out of the bed.
"One day that's not going to work." He pulled on his green and orange robe and stuffed his feet in his slippers. "Show me the problem."
Stephanie seized his hand and pulled him across the hall to her bedroom. Mommy held Helena and stood next to the brown-wrapped flat package propped on a chair. Daddy jerked to a stop and she said loudly with Mommy, "Happy Father's Day!"
"Your present, Daddy, open it."
"I thought my present is not having to go to the event at City Hall this afternoon."
"No, you still have to go to that," Selina said.
He snorted lightly as he pulled the string around the brown paper loose and then pulled the paper away.
Stephanie recognized the man and woman: Daddy's mother and father from the burnt and torn picture. But they wore different clothes, fancy ones like the wedding. It was easier to see in this big picture of them that Daddy's mother had her hair color. Their eyes were the same blue too.
Daddy's voice sounded funny. "I thought you were doing this for the Foundation's offices."
"I had her paint two, one of the offices and one for the house," Mommy said.
Stephanie looked up. Daddy's face didn't move while he looked at the picture. "You don't like it?"
He scooped her up for a hug. "I like it very much." He kissed Stephanie's cheek, kissed the back of Helena's short, brown hair, and then kissed Mommy on the lips. "I have no idea where to hang it though."
"We have no shortage of walls to choose from," Mommy said.
Selina double-checked her outfit one last time in a first floor mirror. The black wrap dress from her early pregnancy fit again and was dressy enough for the occasion. Her Mother's Day brooch was pinned to the black bolero jacket she paired with the dress. She tucked her loose hair behind her ear before heading down the hall to the kitchen.
Alfred passed her two red roses with leak proof water vials capping their long stems. "The floral arrangements you requested, Missus Selina."
"A political soiree we need flowers for?" Bruce eyebrows slanted together. "Why do we need flowers?" Neither Selina nor Alfred enlightened him, so he took a different tact. "You just gave birth ten days ago; we absolutely do not have to go to this thing."
"I was invited, so you are taking me," she said. "I'm beginning to think you don't trust my surprise social engagements."
"It is other people's social engagements I don't trust, especially when I'm not shown the invitation."
Selina ignored him as she asked Alfred. "There's enough breast milk stored, right?"
"Twelve ounces in the refrigerator and Miss Helena is not eating that much all at once. Master Blake has already left with Miss Stephanie to visit Miss Tara, and Miss Jen has an outing planned with Detective Montoya."
"Stephanie's not intruding?" Bruce asked. "It is Father's Day."
"Miss Tara asked for Miss Stephanie, so enjoy your outing with a clear conscious."
Bruce didn't ask any more questions about the event as they drove the Lamborghini Downtown. Truthfully, she didn't believe he was as in the dark about what she had been invited to as he was pretending to be. It had been mentioned in the news briefly, even if she had hidden the invitation from him. His sleep habits were still erratic--despite Nigma's incarceration--and he helped feed and change Helena as much as he could. Maybe he was sleeping at the office and missed the mention.
City Hall's rotunda had been redecorated. A towering shrouded figure replaced the stone desk she remembered in the center between the two stairs. A semi-circle of two rows of chairs faced the blue cloth and the metal podium next to it. Two more sections of the chair circle were set under the stairs' banisters and the mayor, city council members, and other elected and appointed officials already sat facing the rest of the audience. Gordon spotted them as they sat in the second row at the end without television cameras behind their backs, but only nodded.
Bruce didn't say anything as he leaned back in the metal chair. They were among the last few to arrive. Mayor Hill went to the podium. "Thank you all for taking time away from your families today for this dedication ceremony. We'll keep this short so everyone can get back to their celebrations as soon as possible. So let me introduce one of the Saviors of Gotham City, Commissioner James Gordon."
Gordon moved to the podium as the audience clapped. "Forgive me if I'm blunt, but I don't deserve to be called a savior for doing my duty to the city. And there wouldn't be a city to dutifully protect and rebuild if it weren't for the Batman."
Selina glanced at Bruce's frozen figure beside her.
"We owe our lives to Batman's sacrifice. We owe our crime-reduced streets to his stepping out of the shadows. I got the credit for the arrests, but I only made them because Batman chased the criminals into my arms. He refused all thanks; content with being our watchful protector, a dark knight who faced down the ugliest demons that terrorized the innocent, and died so millions of others could live. Gotham City should never forget that. I hope this memorial will serve as a reminder to everyone of that sacrifice. The last thing he said to me was anyone can be a hero." Gordon's voice caught and he looked down at the podium. "And we can and we will because the Batman believed in us."
Selina glanced at her husband who was giving the hidden statue a contest in immobility. Damn his ability to lock everything down. If he would just glance her way, she could read his eyes. He knew that so he stared straight ahead.
"In lieu of a religious funeral for the Batman, I chose this passage from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. 'I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.'"
Gordon sat down and a suited aide moved the podium away from the statue. A young man with a bobbing Adam's apple stepped next to the blue cloth and pulled the hidden cord so it pooled around the base of the stature. The audience clapped, except for Bruce and Gordon.
The bronze enlarged Batman to ten feet tall. The cowled head bowed looking down like he must have on the city rooftops. The right hand gathered the cape so the armor was visible underneath, but you could barely make out the bat symbol on his chest. Selina had seen the concept sketches in the artist's grant application, but the final result took her breath away.
Mayor Hill laid a funeral wreath of white lilies at the base of the statue directly under Batman's nose. Selina touched Bruce's arm and he slid out of his seat, offering her his hand after he stood. His face remained blank as he went with her to lay the two roses among the tributes. They stepped back, but Bruce kept staring at the statue.
Gordon decided to take the bull by the horns with how he strode across the marbled-tiled floor to meet them. That shook Bruce free of his paralysis. "Nice speech," he said as he shook the Commissioner's hand. "A fitting eulogy."
"You really think so?" Gordon adjusted his glasses.
"Yes." Bruce planted a small smile on his face.
"I'm covered in goose bumps," Babs said behind them. She rubbed her arms when they turned to her. "It's like I'm ten all over again." She tossed her red hair off her shoulder. "So can I take you out to eat now?"
"You already did," Gordon said.
"Yeah, but you didn't eat anything."
Bruce and Selina made the rounds shaking hands with the politicians and other donors as well as congratulating the artist. Selina waited until they were closed together inside the Lamborghini again. "Okay, what do you really think?"
"I'm reminded of something Ra's al Ghul told me in his recruitment speech. 'If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, then you become a legend.'"
"With speeches like that, no wonder he developed a cult of personality."
Bruce's eye crinkled with his smirk. Her worry eased seeing that. "He didn't approve of how I applied his philosophy. But it worked. I set out to create a symbol to inspire the people of Gotham and now they have embraced it." He glanced at her. "You can take the booby trap off the suit cabinet. Gotham has the Batman it needs."