by Starsky Hutch 76 and Immortalwildcat
The friends and family of Richard Grayson and Karen Starr were all very surprised when the Federal Express envelopes arrived bearing an all-expense paid trip to Valonia for every wedding guest. After all, Valonia had a reputation for glamor and money. In fact, Valonia sported a higher percentage of millionaires than almost anywhere else in the world. Most of these were tax refugees drawn from other nations by Valonia’s lack of a national income tax for its citizens. It was also known as a favorite vacation spot for the rich and famous. Its beaches, casinos, and nightlife were known all over the world. For the Wayne relatives in attendance as well as a few other rich acquaintances, going there wasn’t entirely inconceivable. For many of the guests, such an invitation could be called the shock of a lifetime.
Most of the wedding guests were still feeling slightly dazed as they sat in the main chapel of the Cathedral of St. Dumas. In fact, because of the unusual circumstances of the wedding, there were some guests who looked almost as nervous as Richard Grayson as he and the Bishop approached the altar from stage right. Most were barely aware of the bishop’s words as he began the wedding with an opening prayer in thickly accented English before naming the couple and asking for God’s blessings on their wedding day.
The crowd snapped out of their daze as Alfred Beagle stepped up to the microphone, having been chosen to read a passage from the Bible for the occasion. He cleared his throat and said, “Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for traveling so far to be here for this auspicious occasion. As I look out among you, I know what is on the minds of many of you here today — why on earth is the butler the best man?'”
Surprised laughter erupted, as he had managed to break much of the nervous tension. Some of it was still nervous laughter because that was, in fact, what a few of the Wayne cousins had been thinking.
“There was a time in my life when, in fact, I came close to never even being a butler,” Alfred said, causing a few startled gasps.
“As many of you know, my father Jarvis Beagle had faithfully served Thomas and Martha Wayne for many years before their lives were tragically and prematurely taken. The tragedy greatly shook my father, and he made sure to take care of Master Bruce and provide him with as safe and secure a home as humanly possible, given the fact that he was now an orphan. I first met Master Bruce the first Christmas after his parents died, and looking into those wide eyes, so full of fear and uncertainty, almost made me give up my then-fledgling career as an actor in the music halls to do everything I could to take care of the boy. (*) And indeed, my father did ask me to do just that. But I was still a proud young man at the time and wished to make my own way in life, and it was left to my father to help raise the lad. The poor old gentleman was heartbroken when I forsook the family calling.
“The time came, though, when Master Bruce grew to adulthood, and my father retired to England. Several years later, while on his deathbed, he made me promise to mend my ways and become the Waynes’ new butler. Since this was during the war, when travel across the Atlantic was dangerous, it took two years for me to fulfill my promise to my father. And this was at a time when I was approaching middle age and still had no family of my own. I had postponed anything like that for my acting career first, and now I was to become a gentleman’s gentleman.
“I finally made up my mind that I should become the Wayne butler for no more than a year and then retire. As I’m sure many of you can imagine, the living expenses in my line of work are minimal, which has allowed me to invest most of my income, something I had begun to do during my acting career. While my net worth hardly rivals the Wayne fortune, I did manage to sock away a healthy sum during my days on the stage that could support me quite comfortably in my golden years, and early enough that perhaps I could find someone with whom to share those years.
“Then something happened that changed my plans entirely. I came to America to find that Master Bruce had taken in as his ward a young lad close to the same age he had been when he lost his parents. This boy, too, was an orphan. One look into his eyes–” He brought his handkerchief and dabbed the corners of his eyes. “–and I knew that I wasn’t going anywhere. It is a decision I have never come to regret. I have watched that boy grow and mature, and Richard Grayson is as fine a man as anyone could ever have hoped for in a son. And over these many years, that is exactly how I have come to feel about him.
“Do I deserve to be the best man? I don’t know. But I am both honored and privileged to have been given the honor. Now, enough about me. I know all of you didn’t travel this far to hear me prattle on about myself.” Alfred opened the Bible that sat on the podium and said, “For this occasion, I have chosen a passage that I believe fits our couple perfectly, from Genesis 2:20-24:
“‘And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man. And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.’
“Different theologians have different interpretations of why Eve was made from Adam’s rib and not another part of the body. My favorite of them goes thusly: God did not take Eve from Adam’s head, so that she would not lord above him. She did not take her from Adam’s foot, because he did not want the husband to walk all over the wife. And we all know the bride here today well enough to know how well that would go over.” This drew laughs from everyone in the crowd.
Ted Grant’s voice could be heard over the crowd laughing, “Ain’t that the truth!” before his wife shushed him.
As the laughter died down, Alfred continued, “God chose to create Adam’s bride from his side so that they would walk together through life, side by side, as partners and equals — a team. As I’ve watched Richard and Karen’s relationship grow and blossom, I have come to think of them as just that, and I can think of no couple better suited to join together in partnership to walk together on that great journey we call life.” At that, Alfred stepped away from the podium and left through a side door.
The entire congregation stood as the organ began playing. All eyes turned toward the entranceway as Alfred walked up the aisle, arm in arm with Helena Wayne, the maid of honor. The next bridesmaid was Karen Starr’s assistant, Tracy Owens, who was accompanied by Jason Todd. She blushed as wedding photographer’s snapped her picture. They were followed by C.J. Kent and Jenny Olsen, who were, in turn, followed by Lois Kent and Rex Tyler.
Several “Awwws” punctuated the air as Mary Kent, the flower girl, walked up the aisle with her basket of rose petals, which she scattered along her path. Next to her walked the ring bearer, Alan and Molly Scott’s toddler son, Adam Jason Scott.
There were a few startled gasps as Karen entered. Everyone had known she would make a beautiful bride, but this day, she looked truly breathtaking. Her original wedding dress had been destroyed in the attack on Wayne Manor, so Prince Stefan had flown in the finest designers, hair dressers, and make-up artists to assist her for the occassion. The wedding photographers went into a flurry of activity as she walked down the aisle in her flowing white wedding gown, arm-in-arm with Clark Kent.
Karen took her place by Dick. He whispered to her, “You look beautiful,” before saying aloud, “I, Richard Grayson, take you, Karen Starr, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”
Smiling back at him, tears forming at the edges of her eyes, she said, “I, Karen Starr, take you, Richard Grayson, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”
The Bishop then blessed the couple, joined their hands together, and asked, “Richard Grayson, do you take Karen Starr as your lawful wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish until death do you part?”
“I do,” Dick said.
“Karen Starr, do you take Richard Grayson as your lawful husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish until death do you part?”
“I do,” Karen said, beaming at Dick.
Alfred gave the bride’s ring to the bishop, who blessed it and handed it to Dick. “I take this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” he said, slipping the ring on her finger as he smiled at her.
Helena handed the groom’s ring to the Bishop, who blessed it and handed it to Karen. “I take this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Karen said, looking at Dick lovingly.
The ceremony concluded with nuptial blessings and a final prayer from the priest in the same thick French accent with which he had begun the ceremony. He then told the congregation, “Go in peace with Christ,” to which the wedding audience responded, “Thanks be to God.” Finally, the Bishop gave a nuptial blessing asking for strength and protection for the couple.
Once the Bishop finished his blessing, Karen placed flowers on the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary as musicians played Ave Maria. The bride and groom then proceeded back down the aisle, followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Many of the audience, knowing how far Dick and Karen had come and how much they had struggled to reach this point, were unable to help themselves and burst into applause as they watched the newlyweds exit the large oak doors.
After the ceremony, Helena Wayne frowned as she walked down the aisle behind the couple. Why was Sonia sitting with the Scotts? Damn it, Bat, she thought, why did you have to pick today to go flakey on me? As she exited the Cathedral sanctuary, Bat Lash grabbed her by the arm.
“There you are!” exclaimed Helena. “Why aren’t you in the–?”
“Hush, darlin’, and come with me.” Bat pulled her toward the side of the vestibule, where the crying room was located. This room looked out into the main sanctuary, but was soundproof so parents could take their crying children there and still witness the service. Helena had noticed during the ceremony that the lights were dimmed in the room, and there were several people in there. “When he first suggested it as a wedding present, I thought he was kidding, but he did it! He really up and did it!”
“Did what? Who? What are you talking about?”
“The Mite! He, well, he — oh, just look for yourself.” Bat opened the door, and Helena stepped inside.
Two couples sat together in one corner of the room, talking to each other. A third couple stood in a darkened corner. Helena took one look at their faces and froze in place for an instant. “I don’t believe it! If that’s–” She pointed at the third couple, then looked at Bat as he nodded. “Then they must be–”
“Yeah. I figure it’s best if we get the happy couple in here before they set up the receiving line. Shall I, or–?”
“I’ll get them!” Helena turned and ran out the door. “Dick! Karen!” The couple was just walking out the front door when Helena caught up to them. “We need you in here for a moment.”
“What is it, Hel?” asked Dick. “We’re, uh, kind of busy right now.”
“No, you need to come with me, Dick.” Helena grabbed their wrists. “Now!” She pulled them toward the crying room. “There’s someone here that you have to see.”
“Helena, what’s gotten into you?” asked Karen as Helena released her wrist and opened the door. “Who are you — oh, dear Rao!”
The two couples sitting together rose as one and came toward the door. “Kara!” cried the tall, oddly dressed blonde woman in Kryptonian, although everyone present could nevertheless understand her.
“Dick!” exclaimed the shorter of the two men, his wavy black hair, deep brown eyes and broad shoulders a mirror of Dick’s. “My son, come here!”
“Mother?” said Kara as she rushed over to the woman and the man accompanying her, a taller, dark-haired man with a narrow face and piercing blue eyes. “Father?”
“So much like your mother,” said Zor-L, taking his daughter in his arms. “So beautiful.”
“Poppa? Momma? How did you get here?” asked Dick, embracing both of his parents at once.
“Dick, my boy, your friend tells us this is our future. I’m so happy to see you grown into such a fine young man with such friends who care, and such a beauty for your bride!”
“It’s all so strange, Dick, like the stories your father reads in those magazines.” Mary Grayson, a slender, muscular woman dressed in a plain black dress, smiled at her son.
For the next ten minutes, introductions were made, hugs and kisses were exchanged, and sketchy explanations were offered.
In a darkened corner of the room, the third couple remained by themselves.
“Once again, love, your patience astounds me.”
“He is their son, Selina, not mine. I’m content just to be here, especially after what happened with Rachel.”
“You know, Bruce, while he still looks quite young, I think quite a bit of time has passed. I think it took him quite a while to get over — oh, my!”
Bruce Wayne leaned toward his wife. “Selina, what’s the matter?”
“That woman — is that who I think it is?”
Among the explanations, the most complete was the one Bat Lash gave to Helena Wayne.
“I’m not sure I follow all of it, but the little guy says he brought each of them here from a point in the past. For Dick’s folks, it was just before they got to Gotham for the show when they were murdered. Karen’s folks came from the night before they launched her ship. But I think your folks were taken from sometime shortly after Dick and Rachel split up.” Bat glanced at the chair where a trembling Bat-Mite sat, his round face scrunched up in concentration. “I’m not sure, but I think he’s having trouble keeping them here.”
“Excuse me, Helena?” Helena and Bat turned to find her parents standing beside them. “You are our daughter, aren’t you?”
“I can’t hide from the world’s greatest detective, can I?” replied Helena, smiling with tears in her eyes. “Mom, Dad, I gather you’ve met Bartholemew.”
“We met, darlin’, but I figure you could use a couple minutes alone with your folks.” Bat touched a hand to his forehead and bowed himself out of the conversation.
“You’re every inch your mother, dear,” said Bruce, kissing his daughter on the cheek.
Selina cast an appraising eye on her daughter before taking the younger woman into her arms. “Judging by the muscle tone of your arms and that scrape on your forehead under the makeup, I have a feeling you’ve also taken after your father, haven’t you?”
Helena lowered her eyes, her face reddening a bit. “Yes, I have. For a few years now.” She did not see the look that passed between her parents. “And you must have figured out that Kara is related to Superman. She and Dick met in the JSA.” She stepped back from her mother. Glancing across the room, she saw Dick’s and Kara’s parents step away from their children and vanish. “I don’t think Bat-Mite can keep you here much longer, and you aren’t here to see me. This is Dick and Karen’s day, not mine.”
Helena took her parents’ hands and led them over to Dick and Karen. “Dick, there’s someone else who wants to offer their congratulations.”
“Bruce! Selina! This is too much!” Dick took both of the Waynes into a wide-armed hug before introducing them to Kara. “There are so many things I want to tell you–”
“Not today, Dick. Today is about you and Kara and the start of your life together. May you find the same happiness that I have found with Selina.”
“Kara, I will warn you, if you don’t know already. Both of these men can be stubborn to the point of pigheadedness. They will drive you crazy sometimes, but–” Selina paused and wrapped an arm around her husband. “–I couldn’t bear the idea of marrying anybody else.”
Bruce glanced over at Bat-Mite, who was now floating six inches off the chair, his fists clenched and his body shaking. “I have a feeling our time is running short. There’s one thing I need to do before we go.” Together, Bruce, Selina, Helena, Kara, and Dick walked over to the small figure in his lopsided Batman costume. “Bat-Mite? Can you hear me?”
Through clenched teeth, he answered. “I — I hear you Batman, but I’m having trouble–”
“It’s OK. I just want to say thank you.”
“I did all right?” Bat-Mite’s eyes opened, and he looked up at his hero.
“More than all right. This was wonderful.”
“Eep!” Bat-Mite’s eyes shot open, and his body straightened as Bruce and Selina disappeared with a loud pop. “It was? Did you hear that? Batman said I did wonderful!” Like a balloon, Bat-Mite shot up to the ceiling, bobbing around in excitement. “Wonderful! My hero says I’m wonderful!”
Bat Lash came and laid a hand on Dick’s shoulder. “I got me a feeling it might be a while before he comes down from there. You and your gal better get on outside, afore folks get to wondering what happened to you.”
As she left the room with the wedding couple, Helena glanced back one last time at the excited imp bobbing around the room. “Enjoy yourself, Bat-Mite,” she whispered. “You deserve it.”