Chapter 1: The Plan
The Wayne Foundation employees usually started to see Bruce Wayne frequently during the month leading up to the annual gala. It was generally his job throughout the year to solicit people for tables and tickets before they went up for sale on the website and they mostly just got an email saying who was in. Every year Madeline Carrow, the Events Manager, had to drive with her team to the Wayne Enterprises building and sit in their fancy board room for a whole day while Bruce Wayne himself filled in the seating chart.
As they had one of the largest Galas in the country, they usually worked late on those days.
“The Wayne Hospital wants three tables this year,” Madeline told him.
“Whatever for?” Margie, Bruce's assistant asked. She was usually pretty integral to these meetings as well. “They get a free table already and now they want three?”
“Give them one,” Bruce replied. “The Medical Director is going to get on my last nerve. He doesn’t need three tables. We’re trying to raise money, not give his executive staff a party.”
Madeline made a note and smirked. Nobody liked the new Medical Director.
“Your top tier tables are also looking a little thin for being one month out,” Madeline said and passed him a list. He eyed the names for those who had purchased tables worth $50,000 or more. There were the usual names like the Kanes who had purchased a table at $100,000; the Parks had gone in for $50,000; the Van Hanasons had been in for $50,000 and then increased to $75,000 after Tim Wayne had saved their daughter from a drug overdose.
“Ollie’s not on this list,” Bruce said immediately, as Madeline had known he would.
“He’s been a little fickle in his communications lately,” Margie said when Madeline sort of just looked at her silently asking for help. The relationship between Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne was a fickle one. They’d been friends for years, always running in the same circles, but they always seemed to greatly annoy each other as well.
“Please,” Bruce scoffed. “He’s barely doing anything.”
Madeline didn’t think running Queen Industries was ‘barely doing anything’ but who was she to judge?
Bruce fished out his cell phone and put it on speaker phone.
“Yeah?” Oliver Queen answered.
“You’re on speaker phone with me and the gala people,” Bruce said and before Ollie could speak continued with, “I need $150,000.”
There was a long pause.
“I forgot to send in that check, didn’t I?” Oliver asked, but he sounded amused with himself. Madeline saw her team writing notes, already wondering where they were going to put the Queens. That was always an interesting question. Some years Bruce and Oliver wanted to sit at the same table, letting others sit at the designated Queen Industries table, and other years they wanted to sit on opposite sides of the ballroom and glare at each other instead.
“Do you want one table or two?” Bruce asked.
“Let’s do two this year,” Oliver replied. “One top tier for the family and one at $100,000 for Queen Industries. I’ll ask Dinah to help me with a list.”
“Got it!” Bruce replied and ended the call without saying goodbye to the man who’d just payed an entrance fee of $250,000 to Bruce Wayne’s party of the year. Madeline was sure Oliver was used to it.
“Can you put Ollie and Dinah at my table?” he asked, scrolling through his phone for other people to call. So, they liked each other this year, Madeline noted happily. That was good news for her revenue goal. “And just them. His crazy hooligans can sit at their own table. Last year Mia threw a drink in Jason’s face. Make sure they don’t sit near each other. I heard she’s still mad at him.”
This was Madeline’s favorite part of the planning process. Getting to hear all the best Wayne family gossip.
“You got it,” she said, making a note. Margie was smirking into her coffee cup, trying not to laugh outright at the memory.
“You know what?” Bruce said, clearly having been struck by an idea he thought was brilliant. “I think it’s time these little assholes pitch in.” He pressed call on his phone and Madeline was intensely curious as to who was going to answer.
“Too early for phone calls,” Tim Wayne answered.
“You’re on speaker,” Bruce warned him. “Have you used your charity designation this year?”
All of Bruce’s kids had their own trust funds with a cap on the amount of money available to them each year, Madeline knew. There was also $25,000 in each fund that the kids could designate to charity as they saw fit. The charity designation didn’t count towards their spending cap and couldn’t be used for anything but charity. Madeline had been after those charity designations for years, but the kids were notoriously hard to contact and even more difficult to keep focused.
“Not yet,” he replied.
“Buy a table for the Gala,” Bruce ordered him.
“Cool!” Tim replied, excited. “Can I bring whoever I want?”
Bruce had a torn look on his face like he dearly wanted to say no but didn’t want to start a fight on speaker phone in front of his employees. This was probably what Tim Wayne had been banking on.
“Fine,” he finally said through gritted teeth. “Timothy, if any of your rowdy friends start a fight, so help me.”
“They’ll be their best behavior! Promise!”
And with that he hung up.
They tried calling the others and ended up at voicemail for Dick, Jason, and Cassandra. Bruce texted them instead.
“Damian’s too young for a table, put him with me. And Duke. He can get a table next year if he wants. How many seats are left at mine?”
“You have three left,” Madeline told him.
“Did Clark Kent ever reply to the press inquiry?” he asked.
“The Daily Planet are sending other reporters to cover the event,” Madeline said. “Apparently, Perry White wants Clark focused on his other pieces.” At least, that’s what the email had said.
“Save those last three seats for Clark, Lois, and Jon. Make sure Jon sits by Damian or I’ll never hear the end of it. I think Dami has a crush on that kid.” Bruce looked a little concerned about this but moved on quickly enough. “I imagine Conner will be at Tim’s table. And I’m going to ask Kara personally. I want her at Dick’s table, and I don’t care what he says about it. Kara and Barbara are good friends and they’ll be happy sitting next to each other.”
The conversation went on like that for the next three hours and through their catered lunch, they moved tables and seating assignments around based on Bruce’s personal knowledge. He was particularly interested in micromanaging his children’s tables, something Margie seemed to think incredibly hilarious.
Bruce had told them to make sure Tim’s table wasn’t directly near Jason’s or they were at risk of a food fight. Dick’s table could go anywhere, apparently those people were all relatively mature adults. Cassandra had decided to just donate her money and sit at Jason’s table.
“That’s her favorite brother,” Bruce had informed them. And once Jason had the rules of his trust fund fully explained to him, he officially went in for a table as well. Sometime in the early afternoon, Tim had gotten back to them that he wanted a second table using his Drake family trust fund designations to be filled with Drake Industries employees.
Bruce was still angry at their COO over shoddy financial paperwork from nearly six years ago and moved that table away from the boys. Madeline secretly suspected he just didn’t want anything to do with anyone who could potentially bring up Jack Drake. That situation had been the center stage drama of a few galas back.
When they finally got to the lower end tables, they took a thirty-minute detour as Bruce ranted about Hal Jordan who would be attending the Gala at the Ferris Aircraft table. Jordan was nearly always the pilot to show off their new hardware for Wayne Industries to buy and the two of them had a contentious relationship that Madeline was sure was one-sided. If Hal Jordan noticed Bruce Wayne’s frustration with his existence, he didn’t care in the slightest.
They worked from eight in the morning and finished around ten that night. There were nearly a thousand guests expected to attend and Bruce Wayne had managed to seat most of them himself. He was still fussing with Jason's table when they left, and Madeline was getting emails sometime around two in the morning asking her to seat Roy Harper at Jason's table.
It was worth it though. They were now set up to have one of the most successful Wayne Foundation Galas in their history.
Chapter 2: The Dinner
The annual Wayne Foundation Gala attracted hundreds of celebrities, paparazzi, and celebrity stalkers every year. His socialite guests, who valued their privacy above all else, would enter through a separate, more private entrance. Those who would have to get their photo taken on the red carpet would enter through the front. Bruce and his family were all on the red carpet, greeting guests, answering press inquiries, and letting photographers see them in action.
Cassandra, the only girl of the family, was the crown jewel of the night getting questions thrown left and right about her dress, her jewelry, her hair, who she was dating, what she thought about Bruce’s latest fling, and more. She didn’t bother to acknowledge any of it.
Jason was also getting questions, mostly about his Iceberg Lounge opening, and if he planned to open any other clubs in Gotham. He was mostly sarcastic but in a way that Bruce knew would rankle the journalists and endear him to the public.
The press was used to Dick, Tim, and Damian, making them effectively fun but uninteresting.
Nobody was quite sure who Duke was so he was mostly ignored except for a few awkward questions that mostly went along the lines of, “Who are you, exactly? Are you dating someone in the Wayne family?”
The dinner itself was a four course meal prepared by some French chef Bruce no longer remembered the name of. Madeline had told it to him a few times, but Bruce really wasn’t one to care about such things. He mostly ate to refuel, not to taste anything.
The tables were filled, all one thousand and fifty-three guests had managed to get there on time, looking their best, and the liquor was flowing, hoping to open some wallets. Bruce could see models, actors, socialites, politicians, industry titans, and trust fund kids all scattered around. He knew most of them by sight if not by name, and they all knew him.
Since the meal was the only time of the night he wouldn’t actually have to talk to anyone he didn’t want to, he had always placed people he liked at his own table. Usually that meant his kids were with him. Tonight, it was also his friends. The Kents had been able to come, thankfully, which meant that Bruce had the ability to change conversations easily if Clark or Oliver started to annoy him at any point. Damian had also been ecstatic though he never showed it. And somehow, though he would never really find out how, Hal Jordan had snuck his way to the head table. Bruce suspected Clark, but since the pilot had at least shaved and wore a tie, he let it slide.
Bruce had put Duke next to him. It was the kid’s first charity gala ever and Bruce had learned over the years to always keep the new kid close. This was a ballroom full of sharks and, even with this many allies in the room, it was very dangerous territory. They would be sniffing around this new one, trying to find out if he was just crashing in the Manor or if he had a trust fund yet.
Damian and Jon spent the entire night in deep conversation, really uninterested in anything else, than whatever they were chatting about. Although, they kept showing each other the screens of their phones.
Also, Roy had been smart enough to bring four year old Lian, who had always liked Bruce and insisted on sitting in his lap every time they were in the same room as each other. Bruce rather liked her as well and was more than happy to have her with him the entire night.
He wondered if he would always be so manipulatable.
As he had known, the real risk of the night had been Tim’s table. There was an uncomfortable level of noise coming from Tim, Stephanie, Conner, Bart, Cassie, Jamie, and Mia. Twice he’d already texted Tim to tone it down, since the socialite table next door was clearly getting annoyed and they hadn’t donated anything yet.
It probably would have been fine if those kids had all been part of Bruce’s strata but they weren’t. Other than Tim, only Mia was somewhat known but as an out of towner, her name and face didn’t actually hold much power.
Dick’s table was fine as Bruce had known it would be. He had Donna, Garth, Wally, Raven, Barbara, and Kara with him. They were all drinking and laughing but at least they had the other tables laughing with them. Dick was actually turned around, speaking to the Mayor behind him. Barbara was having a conversation with Natalie St. Thomas at the table behind her, an ancient heiress whose family was sitting at her table hoping she’d die soon so they could land on her fortune like vultures.
Shockingly, it was Jason’s table that was the most reserved and well behaved. He had Roy and Cassie on either side of him and several of his Iceberg Lounge employees in the other seats. Tim had joked it was the Gangsters & Assassins table.
Bruce was highly suspicious of all of them. They were hatching some scheme. He just knew it.
The social media posts were poring in as people took in the lavish decorations, food, and guests. It was beautiful and Bruce was dearly hoping for some huge donations, though he knew his surprise live auction item was bound to be a coup. He hadn’t told anybody what it was or even that he was giving an item, something he was sure he would get an earful about later on.
The live auction proceeded immediately after dinner and, with little Lian still in his lap, Bruce logged into the Wayne Foundation database to watch the donation money as it came in. With the table purchases alone, they were half way to their goal. The silent auction that took place before the dinner had crept the bar up even more.
They went through the usual live auction items that the Foundation secured every year; the dream vacations to Hawaii, Japan, and Italy; the couture whatever; the over priced and kind of ugly jewelry that the old ladies snatched up every year. There were ten items total and finally, they announced, “And the final item of the night, a very special surprise never before donated to any other charity auction in the world, a private tour of the Justice League’s headquarters, the Hall of Justice!”
Oliver chocked on his whiskey and he could feel the kids burning a hole in his neck. Hal had a confused look on his face and Clark was frustratingly unfazed.
The Hall of Justice was basically a museum at this point, long abandoned for the much more secure and secret Watch Tower, but the public still believed it was their primary headquarters. They had never before offered a tour and they had certainly never auctioned it off.
He could hear excited whispering all over the room, which was exactly what he’d wanted.
The bidding began at $10,000 and quickly ran upwards of $75,000 when, suddenly, Oliver bid $80,000, looking very pleased with himself. Dinah rolled her eyes spectacularly, making Lois laugh.
But that was all the provocation that the kids needed and suddenly Dick and Roy were in a bidding war. Roy, who clearly didn’t have the money he was bidding, was frantically being signaled by Oliver to sit down and shut up. Dick policed himself and stopped when he topped out on his budget, leaving Roy in the current place of victory.
Tim, never one to not stir a pot when it was presented to him, shouted, “C’mon, Gotham! Represent!”
Which was all the encouragement Jason needed to start bidding again, joined in by a few of the other locals who heeded Tim’s call. Roy, never one to back down no matter how stupid the fight, bid one last time, followed by Tim, who finally bid his first number of the night. Mia jumped in with her number and Oliver threw up his hands in annoyance, being mistaken for another bid. Dinah and Lois were laughing so hard they had to wipe at the makeup on their eyes to keep it from smudging. Lian was clapping excitedly not understanding what was happening but feeling the energy in the room well enough.
Cassandra held up her bid card, quickly retaliated from Mia, at Roy’s loud encouragement. The entire ballroom was in an uproar of laughter and even the auctioneer could barely contain his smile at all the action. There were shouts and insults were flying through the air. The people who actually knew the bidders were in hysterics and even Damian was laughing, which encouraged Jason on even further.
And finally, ten minutes after the item had been announced, a clearly drunken Jason Todd won the Justice League tour for an outstanding $435,000, a price point that Bruce would definitely have to help him with. He stood on his chair to a near standing ovation and accepted high fives from everyone around him.
“Represent!” he shouted, to cheers and more laughter, even from the stuffy set who were deeply impressed with the amount of money that had just been thrown around the room. Bruce calmly took a sip of his whiskey and watched the number on his phone jump over the goal line with plenty of room to spare. He smirked and Clark, catching it immediately, leaned across the table.
“Did you engineer that entire thing?” he asked, nearly having to shout over the noise.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replied. Oliver rolled his eyes.
“Please,” he scoffed. “There’s no way you didn’t see that coming.”
Bruce didn’t have any reply for him.
If the Wayne Foundation Gala happened to break records that year with the final auction item, there was no way he could have predicted it. Nor could he have predicted that a picture of Jason, standing on that chair in triumph, would be a meme by the next morning that would spread like wildfire across the Internet bringing in even more press and donations from the public.
And he could hardly have predicted that Jason would donate the tour to the students of his old elementary school in Crime Alley, although the Justice League had been far more amiable to giving a tour to underprivileged children than they had been to a contentious Outlaw.
No, he couldn’t have predicted any of that, but it was nice when things worked out.