The bright fluorescent lighting was the first thing Ed noticed as he walked in the door to Batburger. This revelation was swiftly followed by the scent of grease and salt stinging his nose. Frantic beeping and the sound of burgers frying on the grill could be heard from behind the check-out counter.
“Ah, cheap fast-food,” he murmured to himself, adjusting his glasses, “a true luxury.”
“Ya got that right,” Harley responded from beside him, accent in full swing.
Ed smiled slightly and held open the restaurant door a bit wider for her, “Hello, Harley. Right on time as usual.”
She smiled back and the two headed to the counter. Though they both certainly tried, Harley more than Ed, it was hard to ignore the nervous glances and sharp glares from both the cashiers and from their fellow patrons. Even though it had been several months since Harley reformed and upwards of a year for himself, civilians were still understandably weary of their public appearances.
Ed cleared his throat, “Ah, a number three without mayonnaise. Just the sandwich, if you would. And a medium coffee, plain black.”
The cashier at the counter, a younger girl with stringy blonde hair and acne, blinked a few times and, with shaking fingers, punched in his order.
“Will that be all…?” she asked hesitantly.
“Ooh, I'll get a caramel frappé and a large order o’ fries,” Harley interjected, adjusting her hair bun.
The girl gave her a tight-lipped smile and sent in the final order, “That’ll be $6.52.”
As Harley reached for the purse resting against her hip, Ed tapped her shoulder a bit harder than one might normally would have and shook his head, handing the cashier the ten dollar bill he'd retrieved from his wallet a few seconds prior. Seeing Harley’s confused expression, he explained, “A gentleman always pays for the lady’s food. It's simply proper etiquette, you know.”
When the cashier practically flung the change at him and dashed off like a madman into the kitchen, Harley giggled, “She's in a bit of a rush, ain't she?”
Her smile suddenly dropped, “Eddie,” she practically whispered, “you think we’ll ever be able to go anywhere without people bein’ scared of us?”
Ed sighed wearily, “I…don't know, Harley. But those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, so I suppose the reminder of our…past actions won't necessarily do us any harm. Though I believe it would be quite nice to be able to order a meal from a local fast-food restaurant without being treated as though we’re going to shoot up the place.”
They stood in uncomfortable silence, the faint chatter through the room being the only thing filling the void between them. Just before either had a chance to break it, their order was announced over to their left and Harley scurried over to grab the tray off the counter.
“Coffee smells pretty good, Eddie!”
“I bet it does, I bet it does.” he agreed, happy to let the tension fade away and be replaced by the scent of freshly brewed coffee and cheap food.
Wandering with the tray over to their usual table, Harley placed down their food and took a seat. Ed grabbed napkins and a handful of small pink sugar packets, swerving quickly around a large, muscular fellow that snarled at him and darted over to his seat. Harley snickered at his obviously frightened expression.
Ed shook his head and began tearing open sugar packets, haphazardly pouring them one by one into his coffee cup.
“Gee, you want some coffee with ya sugar there, Eddie?”
He scoffed, “It's not much! Besides, black coffee is more for those who want a sharp morning wake-up call than anyone wanting a casual drink at twelve in the afternoon.”
“You're just missing your goons’ good hot chocolate,” Harley joked.
“It was really good…” Ed murmured, taking a bite of his burger.
“But anyways, how's the detective business going?”
“Well,” he started, “about as well as a detective agency trying to exist in the same town where a grown man in a bat costume fights crime can be. Meaning, not very well. But I enjoy it. I assume you're still working to gain back your credentials?”
“Mhmm. I forgot how hard some o’ those classes ‘n’ stuff are!” she smiled and elbowed him in the ribs lightly, “I'm sure you'd pass ‘em with flyin’ colors though, Eddie.”
They sat quiet for a few minutes as they absentmindedly nibbled at their food. Ed finished his burger and continued to down his coffee, while Harley munched on her overly large container of fries.
“Heya, Eddie?” Harley blurted with a poke of his arm, “What's green and red and an unhealthy coping mechanism all over?”
Just as he was going to take a sip of coffee, Ed gasped, putting a hand to his face in mock surprise, “My word! Could it be a certain Dr. Quinzel gorging herself on jokerized fries?”
She let out a snort and grinned, playfully waving a hand at the other, “Got it in one! Eddie, you must be a genius or somethin’.”
Ed just chuckled and poured yet another sugar packet into his coffee.
Reformation wasn't easy, but it was good.