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The Wayne Foundation Gala

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The Wayne Foundation Gala had originally been started in the twenties by Hiram Wayne, the third son with little prospects of being the heir of, even then, one of the biggest fortunes in the world. And so, he had taken the Wayne Foundation, a consolation prize, his eldest brother had called it to the raucous laughter of his new bride, and had managed to turn it into the largest gala of the year, in the country.

Let it never be known that Hiram Wayne didn’t know how to throw a party. He very much did.

Through the generations, the Wayne’s had maintained Hiram’s project child, steadily making more money until it had come to a screeching halt with the deaths of Martha and Thomas Wayne. For the first time in eighty years, the Wayne Foundation Gala was canceled. They had all thought that, maybe, the next year the Foundation would scrape by with something.

After all, how could eighty years of tradition just disappear? It wasn’t just a party that raised money for charity. It had become a staple in the childhoods of the elite, it had become an institution for Gotham’s wealthiest, and, most importantly, it had become the place for great families to intermingle, marrying off various relatives and wishing death on others. Fortunes were made in the Wayne Foundation Gala and fortunes were lost if you believed the rumor about the backroom poker game.

So, it had been with a great sigh of relief that Bruce Wayne had announced that the Wayne Foundation Gala would be starting up again that year. And it was with an even bigger sigh of relief that the upper echelons of Gotham City found out that the twenty-one-year-old Bruce Wayne was still very much single. And clearly in need of a wife.

00000

That first year had been a hodgepodge of single socialites trying desperately to glare Bruce’s date to death. He had managed to find some horribly beautiful woman somewhere and had plucked her down in their midst, in a gorgeous dress, done up blonde hair that draped elegantly down her back and wrapped in what looked suspiciously like Martha Wayne’s diamonds.

Agatha Underwood, the wealthy heiress of an old shipping family, nicknamed Bunny for her early childhood obsession, was observing the whole thing, greatly amused. She had grown up with Bruce Wayne, had known him since they were six-years-old even, and she was quite pleased to be the only unmarried woman in the room who thought him perfectly ridiculous. Honestly, what had he been thinking, bringing an utter stranger to the reopening of the Wayne Foundation Gala?

This was the most important event of the decade and the poor thing was going to get eaten alive. Bunny managed to squeeze her way into the group of women who had expertly extracted her from Bruce's arm in the hopes of trapping her in a thinly veiled interrogation. Bunny had taught Vanessa that move in middle school, so she was confident she could expertly diffuse the situation now.

"Your dress is absolutely beautiful," Bunny told the woman, lightly touching her arm to get her full attention. Her eyes had the barest hint of a trapped animal.

"Oh, uh, thanks," she said, eyes darting around, clearly looking for Bruce in the immense crowd. Bruce had managed to squeeze nearly eight hundred people in the place, a new record for the gala and a testament to the power that his name still held.

"Bruce has run off again, hasn't he?" Bunny said, ignoring as Vanessa opened her mouth to say something to stop the inevitable. "I'll help you find him!"

And with that she had her arm hooked through the strange woman’s arm and had disappeared with her into the crowd. They stopped near one of the silent auction tables.

"Thank you," the woman said. "They were going on and on about me and Bruce. It was very uncomfortable."

"Yes," Bunny replied, amused. The poor thing was just so innocent. "They do that when they think a stranger is about to snatch up one of their own. And Bruce Wayne at that. He's the hottest item for sale tonight."

"I can't imagine why," the woman replied under her breath as if the comment had really been meant to be a thought.

"How do you know Bruce?" Bunny asked. "Since you don't seem interested in snagging him?

"We're friends," she said. "I'm Dinah by the way."

"Bunny."

They shook hands and Bunny had the very real sense that she was going to like this woman.

"You know," she said. "Bruce always has a tendency to disappear to the kitchen during these kinds of things. If you want to find him, I would suggest you start there."

"You seem to know him well," Dinah noted, making no move whatsoever to locate her wayward date. "How do you know Bruce?"

"Our families go back to the sixteen hundreds, darling," Bunny said, flipping her own blond hair over her shoulder. "That's how it is with the boring old money crowd. No new blood for centuries at a time."

"Ah," Dinah said, clearly a loss for words. "So, you're just friends?"

"Unless you count a very ill-fated attempt of spin the bottle in the fifth grade," Bunny replied and Dinah gave a genuine, long laugh.

"Oh my God!" Dinah said. "Why ill-fated?"

"He had a crush on Suzie Hack and I had no desire to be used as a stand-in. He told me outright he didn't want to kiss me and I thought that was just rude. So I ignored him for a year. You know how kids are."

Dinah giggled a little.

"Sometimes I forget he had a childhood," she said, gazing into the crowd, contemplating something in the ether.

"So, how does one become Bruce's date to the grand reopening of the Wayne Gala? It's quite an honor," Bunny told her and was very pleased to see Dinah roll her eyes.

"It was by accident really," she said. "I was at his house this afternoon on business and he just looked at me and said, 'I need a date for a party. I'll buy you a fancy meal and booze.' How could I resist?"

"Indeed," Bunny said, intrigued by the whole story.

"I had no idea what I was walking into," she said.

"Yes, well, that's Bruce for you," Bunny said.

"What's me?" Bruce asked, suddenly appearing with a champagne flute for Dinah and a wine glass for Bunny. She wondered how long ago he had spotted them chatting.

"To leave this poor woman to the clutches of your adoring hordes!" Bunny exclaimed, rounding on him. "It's horribly rude, Bruce."

"I got pulled away for five seconds!" Bruce defended himself. Dinah was watching the exchange, amused.

"But you know how these bitches are," Bunny said, straightening his collar. If it had been any other woman in the ballroom, he would have taken it for flirting. But Bruce knew Bunny well and he knew that when she said she was over a person, she was. Bunny had once declared in the early days of ninth grade that Bruce Wayne was far too dramatic and that they were just friends. Bruce had been hiding from Vanessa and her ilk ever since. So, Bruce just let her fuss.

"Whatever happened to that fiance of yours?" Bruce asked. "The oil tycoon."

"Oh, that's been over and done with for a while. He wanted me to move to Texas. Texas, Bruce! Where everything is covered in some sort of sauce. Can you imagine?" Bruce and Dinah grinned at her scandalized expression. Bunny looked very his shoulder. "And I see a new prize right there. Bye!"

She was gone before he could blink.

00000

Bunny got incredibly bored somewhere in the middle of the live auction and brazenly wandered over to the head table where Bruce had abandoned poor Dinah, yet again. Bunny slipped into his abandoned seat as if she belonged here.

“He’s such a horrible date,” Bunny said and Dinah laughed, looking grateful that she was there.

“I don’t mind,” Dinah said. “After all, we’re just friends.”

“Well then, he’s such a horrible friend,” Bunny said. “And I should know. I’ve been friends with him since we were children.”

“That’s what he told me, too,” Dinah said. “And something about him being too dramatic.”

“Oh yes,” Bunny replied, rolling her eyes. “So, overly dramatic. But I would imagine you know all about that. After all, only a really special woman would be worthy of wearing his mother’s diamonds.”

Dinah froze utterly, clearly uncomfortable.

“His mother’s diamonds?” she asked, grasping at the bracelet on her wrist. She looked like she wanted to tear it off.

“Yes,” Bunny replied, perfectly pleased with herself. “But that’s not necessarily a romantic thing, darling, so no need to look so flustered.”

“What do you mean?” Dinah asked.

“Well, back in the day I had this absolutely atrocious boyfriend. He was abusive, horribly abusive actually, but when I dumped him it caused the scandal of the season. I was almost ousted from my entire social circle until Bruce took pity and let me borrow his arm and his mother’s diamond bracelet for prom night.”

“That’s sweet,” Dinah replied, sounding sincere.

“Yes, he’s very sweet,” Bunny dismissed with a wave of her hand. “The point is, darling, that even though you’re dripping in the Wayne family diamonds, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he wants to bed you. In fact, I would imagine that your presence here tonight means he thinks of you as a dear friend.”

“You think?” Dinah asked, contemplating.

“Bunny,” Bruce greeted pulling up a chair on the other side of Bunny, looking perfectly stern. “Please stop telling Dinah stories.”

“Oh darling,” Bunny said. “Absolutely not.”

Bunny spent the next half hour making Dinah laugh and Bruce cringe as she regaled her with tales from Gotham Academy.

She ended up having a marvelous time. She'd finagled a date with a very wealthy, handsome, man, had thoroughly pissed off Vanessa, and had exchanged numbers with Dinah with promises for lunch the next day. Bruce had stood there very uncomfortably while they said goodbye, clearly wanting to separate the two women and not knowing how without getting in a huge amount of trouble.

Bunny treated Dinah to sushi the next day at one of the best restaurants in the city. Bunny was a consummate chatterer and had extracted quite a bit from the lovely Dinah Lance. She worked at the seediest bar in town where she had met Bruce, what he had been doing there was never fully explained, but the two of them had spent quite the wild weekend doing something vague that Dinah didn't seem to want to fully explain either.

Regardless, they were just friends having shared a slightly drunken kiss exactly once and coming to the mutual decision that it stopped there. They seemed fairly close but hadn't known each other very long.

"The gossip for today," Bunny said, holding up her cell phone. "Is the very real threat of you. Apparently, Bruce is in the clutches of a harlot! The scandal!"

Dinah laughed at her dramatics, entirely uncaring about what people from the gala were whispering about her behind gourmet brunches and bloody marys.

"That'll probably be the last one I ever go to," Dinah said and Bunny clutched her pearls in horror.

"No!" she exclaimed. "Who will entertain me?"

"I imagine Bruce will find someone to date that's perfectly entertaining."

"Not if our entire shared childhood is any indication," Bunny replied with a scowl. "Was it something he said?" Dinah laughed outright.

"No," she said giggling. "It was really the whole experience. One is probably enough."

"I imagine it is," Bunny said. "I'm so happy to have met you, Dinah."

"You too, Bunny," Dinah replied.

Bunny idly wondered what entertainment Bruce Wayne would have for her at the next gala.