Chapter 1: The Chef isn't ready for this shit
Alexandera thought herself a smart but unlucky person. She pushed herself to earn a scholarship through culinary school, unlucky because she flunked out. Double shifts to pay rent and full time schooling causes a person to pass out one too many times and miss out on one too many classes. Smart because she was able to finagle a deal to buy an old restaurant on the cheap. Unlucky because it was a broken down diner on the border between the Narrows and Gotham City. Smart to at least live in a safeish part of the city, though it ate through a decent portion of her profits. Unlucky to be the only person to work in her run down little restaurant. Yes she was smart. But today she's unlucky. Very unlucky indeed.
Alexandera hated mopping. It always made her back ache for at least a few hours. And since she had no tub at home to bathe and relax in, she had to make do every night. Business was slow today. A breakout occurred at the Asylum last night. Not many details were released save for the fact the Rogue Gallery were the main escapees... again. Police advised all residents to stay home if possible. That, unluckily for her, was not an option, running a restaurant meant working six to seven days a week, and usually sixteen hour days. And Now it was almost time to wrap up, deposit some earnings, and head on home as safely as possible. Huffing, she dragged the mop and bucket to the back to don't down the rusted drain.
"I'm sorry we're closed!" Alexandera called out, hanging the mop to dry.
Alexandera flipped the bucket upside down over the drain.
"Come back tomorrow morning for breakfast!" Things were silent for a few minutes. With a sigh she began to make her way to the tiny office where her safe was.
DING! DING! DING! DING! DING!
Whoever this jackass was they showed no signs of leaving.
"Alright! ALRIGHT!" Alexandera shouted making her way back to the front of her store. "STOP RINGING THA-"
Oh she was very unlucky indeed. He was still in the bright orange Arkham suit, but his face was painted, and his green hair was slicked back from sweat and small amounts of greasepaint. He was also squatting behind her counter ringing her order bell, with a giddy childlike grin on his face.
Well as childlike a psychopathic murderer could be, which surprising was quite a bit. He looked up at her, grinned an even wider smile,
"I love these things." The joker rang the bell again while Alexandria just stood in shock.
"What are you doing here?" Alexandera eyes flicked to the door, hoping to see flashing red and blue lights. The Joker looked at her like she was stupid.
"I'm ringing a bell, Toots. What are you doing?"
"I'm closing shop. Been a slow day because you broke out and I'm not wasting any more of my time." Alexandera cocked her hip, and crossed her arms, getting irritated at the reason her business lost money who now sat cross legged on the freshly mopped floor.
"Ooooooh I'm sorry, how about I make it up to ya." He pulled out what looked to be a comically large revolver and pointed it to her head. "I'll just make sure you won't have to explain to your boss-"
"I AM the boss."
"Well then you won't have to worry about paying your-"
"I'm the only worker."
"Then you wont have to dust all your knick knacks-"
"It's a restaurant." The Joker lowered the gun an inch and cocked his head and gave her a quizzical look.
"Then why the hell is it called Hodge-Podge?"
"I make whatever I feel like cooking that day." Alexandera shrugged.
"That's bad for business you know, not giving people options." The Joker lowered the gun further.
"They have the decision to walk out of the restaurant and pick something else." Alexandera glared at the confused painting of a face "And who are you to tell me how to run a business?"
"Wellll, I do run a gang, you know bossing underlings, making deals, killing people, sharing a laugh. I know what people want."
"I don't think people want to die."
"At least people work for me."
"Touche." They stared at each other for a few quiet tense moments, the Jokers gun no longer pointed at her head, but still in his hand. She was trying to think of some plea to keep her alive or gain his sympathy when suddenly...
"I want eggs." Joker stated decidedly.
"What?" Alexandera's tense body relaxed in confusion.
"And toast. You know? Where the egg is in the middle of the toast." Joker licked his lips and stared at her.
"No!" she gasped. "I'm not going to cook for someone who's going to kill me after the egg hits the pan."
"Awww, come on! I won't kill yeah I'm just starving!" Joker gave her what could be considered a puppy pout. "All the food is mushy and plain, no texture and unseasoned, and you know it's drugged. And not even the good kind!" then he did something surprising. He placed the gun down, slid it over to her feet, then put his hands together in a pleading gesture.
"Pleeeease?" Alexandera blinked in shock. Her eyes flicked back to the door, no lights, and no passerbys.
"I'll leave the gun out here..."
Unappetizing smacks and borderline sexual moans where spilling out from the lanky man sitting on her counter. Plate in hand and not bothering to use the fork she set out, the Joker demolished the 4 "Bulls-eye toast" she made. Plus three thick cuts ham steaks, a dozen scrambled eggs with cheese (pepper jack), onions (slightly caramelized), garlic (diced and added raw at the end), and 3 bottles of orange juice. Alexandera looked on in awe. He continued to ask for more food the minute she finished one plate.
Sighing in what seemed to content, he leaned back into a stretch his overstuffed stomach bulging as he did so.
"Damn Dollface, if I had known you could cook I would of escaped sooner." Joker looked over to her and gave her a wink. "Best damn food I've had in a while." Alexandera tightened the grip the spatula she was holding. She opened her mouth to ask him to leave and never come back (while hoping she would keep her life in the process) when...
"Hello? This is the police! Is anyone here?" Alexandera stiffened as the Joker lulled his head in the direction of the voice. He whispered,
"I didn't order bacon." he leered at her, but despite the situation, and despite the fact she looked ready to kill, she snickered. He cocked a brow and watched as she covered her mouth and brushed past him. He kept staring at her while grabbing the knife she used to chop onions earlier from behind him. She didn't seem to notice as she walked out the swinging door.
"Hello officer, I'm sorry but we're closed for the night." She kept a calm face, while hidden not even two feet away the Joker cocked a brow.
"I'm afraid this innit a lunch break, The Joker was seen in this area about an hour ago and we seemed to have lost him." Alexandera rolled her eyes.
"I'm not surprised." The cop bristled at he condescending tone.
"Ma'am we're questioning those in the area. Have you seen the Joker?" Alexandera closed her eyes for a moment.
"Can't say that I have. I've been cooking for the past hour and Didn't see anyone come in." She gestured to the door leading into the kitchen. "And with a place this small nothing can really get past me." The officer eyed her.
"Has a loud ass alarm that can only but shut off in my office or if someone cuts the wire from the inside." Alexandera held up her spatula.
"I've got a catering order I need to deliver in twenty. You can flip the sign to closed when you leave." She walked off leaving an irritated officer in her wake.
"Thank you for your cooperation, Ma'am." the officer sneered as he walked out. And he did as he was told, though he did slam the door. Alexandera walked into the kitchen, she didn't see the Joker but, didn't move for a few minutes, waiting to make sure no other cops would walk in. She walked back out and locked the door, looking to make sure no one suspicious was lurking about. She rushed back to her kitchen.
"Hey!" she half whispered, "I cooked you dinner and covered your ass from being arrested! Can I go?" she carefully made her way further back looking for any sign from her 'customer'. Her back door was wide open and so was her office door.
"Shit!" Fearful he found and robbed her safe, but releved she was alive she rushed in. the safe was intact. Looking to the back door, she noticed indeed the alarm system was cut. Alexandera moaned to herself, she spoon fed him that one. She closed the door and made sure it was locked. Walking to her tiny office she sat in the rickety chair and cradled her head in her hands. She survived the Joker! But he could always be back. She closed her office door with her foot in an effort to feel even a fraction safer when she noticed her knife sticking out of the door. A piece of paper pinned to eat.
Thanks for the grub, Dollface. Sorry to eat and run, but I got a business to run!
Don't worry though I have a brilliant business plan for you, to pay for that meal.
And I don't always pay.
Keep an eye out and don't fix that alarm.
Alexandera was smart and unlucky. She managed to save her life, even though she did technically break the law. Unluckily in the process she got herself into a whole mess of
trouble with one of Gothams Most Wanted. And unbeknownst to her, it was only beginning. Gothams most wanted was a Hodge podge of strange and insane criminals.
And people gotta eat.
Joker made his way back to base. Stepping in his henchmen got to work, passing him a freshly pressed suit, updating him on all the deals that went well and those that went south. He changed as he walked to his office, sighing as her realized the belt felt a tad snugger than normal.
He leaned into his oversized plush chair thinking of his new friend. Thinking of his new friend got him thinking about his old friends. They, too, had to eat the same gruel as him in the looney bin. And like him they, too, escaped. But they didn't get the delicious meal he did. He didn't pay for a lot of thing but he did like paying visits to his friends. And friends like to eat food
And he knew just the place.
Alexandera thought herself to be quite good at planning ahead, she had to be when she ran a kitchen with no employees. That, however, did not extend outside of the kitchen. She never seemed to clear the plates off the tables in time for the snootier people, or take the orders quick enough for those on their lunch breaks, or the inevitable "I have 'ALLERGIES'" excuse. So to hopefully circumvent this particular problem she came up with the idea of a set daily menu. So here she was at 7am, standing in her rickety walk-in, with its leaking cooler, (a line of frozen water was steadily making its way down the wall), deciding what todays' menu would be.
Chicken noodle soup.
(The broth was homemade and should defrost quickly. Delivery for produce should arrive shortly.)
(Always a good paring with soup.)
Strawberry walnut salad.
(Again produce should show up soon.)
Salami/pastrami/mortadella sandwich. Hot or cold. With the fixin's.
A fairly simple menu, but easy to fix up in differently to accommodate (in some degree) a persons taste, and help with the lack of planning ability outside of the kitchen. However, today she was going to be tested. And today she was going to fail.
But not in the way you'd expect...
"That's the last o' it, Boss."
"It's all put away where it should be. Right?"
"Yeah. yeah. Last time they fucked up was last week. Ain't gonna happen again."
"And ALL of it is accounted for?"
"Triple checked it an' all."
"See you next week, Andre" Alexandera shook the giant of a mans hand, grinning as his hand completely enveloped her own. "its good to have you back." Andre beamed back at her, his blacked and missing teeth making for a near ghastly sight, yet the wrinkles around his eyes and the light in them seemed to balance it out.
"Last time I go on vacation, I tell ya." He dropped her hand and made it to the back door in three strides, all the while rumbling on and on, on how his son just can't seem to run a damn business. Alexandera shook her head and began prepping the fruit and veggies for the day.
"This salad has too much dressing!" Dump salad, weigh lettuce, half the dressi-
"I need my soup to go, I'm running late." Push bowl aside, grab togo cups, top shel-
"Can I get another refill on my coffee!" Grab togo cup, drizzle dressing, stack on forearm, grab coffee pot, flip second pots switch.
"Your salad, half dressing. Extra on side in case" Slide bowl.
"Here's the to go cup." Drop cup and lid next to right hand. "Careful the lids are finicky this batch."
"I got another pot brewing if you need more." Fill two inches below lip. They like creamer.
Alexandera went about clearing the last customers table, pocketing the two dollar tip, wiping down the booth and table with a sanitized rag, balancing the wobbling tray in left hand.
"Excuse me I've been waiting to order for 10 minutes now!" A rather crotchety looking man said huffing in the next booth. Alexandria turned to him and grinned.
"The sign on the door says to ring the bell on the counter. That's where you order."
"Well you're here now, waitress! I want sunny side eggs with bacon and toa-" Alexandera cut the man off.
"We have a set menu on the wall written in very large letters in chalk. You pick from those and modify them if you want." She walked away picking up a cup a child dropped along the way. As she walked by the register she caught sight of a burly looking man wearing a green sweater about to ring the bell.
"I'll be right there." She slid through the door and dumped the dishes on a plastic flat before sliding them into the automated dish washer. (it was really the only thing that worked well here), slid her way to the stove and flipped three grilled cheeses before sliding the toast out from under the salamander with long tongs. She walked back out the sliding door to the Burly Man, just catching sight of the crotchety guy leaving.
"Hi! Menus up top." She pointed to the chalk board. "And I'll add or take away anything you want from the items but that's whats up for today." The burly man glanced up before shifting his gaze down.
"The salad and a pot of coffee."
"A pot? As in 12 cups?" At this the man nodded.
"Gonna need to give me 8 minutes on that one."
"Miss! My son dropped his grilled cheese. May we get another?" A family unit of three beckoned from a table near the left wall. Alexandera forced a smile.
"Yes, Ma'am give me one minute." she turned back to Mr. Burly. "$7.20" at this the man cocked a brow.
"The first two coffee refills are free, outside of that I'm losing money." The man pulled a $10 out of his pocket.
"Shrewd business lady." He said it matter-of-factly, a slight smirk on his face.
"Gotta make money somehow." She passed his change and all put ran through the door, getting to the grilled cheese just before it burnt.
The last table cleared out, and Alexandera rushed the door, flipping the sign to closed before anyone else walked in. Today was busier than planned, but she handled it better then she ever dared thought. Rubbing her face in her hands she blindly made her back into the kitchen to do some cleaning. She only hit one chair along the way. She didn't however notice the burly man from earlier in the furthest booth pulling out a cell phone.
"Party is on boss." Laughter could be heard as he hung up, and began to draw the blinds to the restaurant closed. Alexandera was too busy with the noisy dishwasher to hear the backdoor open, and luck nor timing was on her side as she turned just in time for several people to sneak by her unnoticed. Just as she was stacking the last of the plates she heard it.
"Oh dear lord..." Alexandera hung her head.
Ding! Ding! DING!
Alexandera walked towards the dining room about to tell whoever it was to come back in in one hour when she was ready for the dinner rush. But the people sitting in her booths stopped her in her tracks. And the gentleman ringing her bell once again grinned at her.
"Hey Dollface! I'm starving." Joker grinned and rang her bell again "I brought some of my best buds along!" he gestured a gloved hand to the group of Gothams worst. Poison Ivy was sitting next to Harley Quinn, who was giving Alexandera the stink eye. Riddler was sitting across from Mad Hatter, who was also seated next to a one Jonathan Crane, the latter two having their back to her. Mr. Burly was standing next to Joker with a nonchalant expression on his face.
"May I have you're attention PLEASE!" Joker turned on his heel while Alexandria began to step slowly backwards. "Friends, this is... uh." Joker twisted his hand in Alexandria direction silent. Mr. Burly whispered lowly to her to state her name.
"Alexandera Fox." She muttered, hand nursing her head trying to stave off an impending headache. Joker beamed.
"Yeah this is Alex" Alexandera flinched at the nickname slightly. "She's gonna be cooking for our party."
"What party?" the chef looked to Joker.
"Our Freedom party! Normally we go to a fancier place owned by an old friend, buuuut you... Impressed me last night." Joker began to make his was over to Harley and Ivy. He took the bell with him.
"Oh joy, I feel so damn special." Alexandera rolled her eyes. "Get the hell out of my store." Joker seemed to have ignored her.
"Bob! Come here and sit! You're a friend, too. You get to eat!" Mr. Burly, now Mr. Bob went and sat at the table next to Joker, bypassing the seat next to Ivy. "Alex! I want more of those bull eye toast!" Harley stopped her glaring and looked at Joker happily.
"I'll get some, too, Puddin'"
"I'll have a fried liver." Riddler said not bother to make eye contact wither her.
"Time for tea!" Mad Hatter didn't look back either.
"Cobb Salad." Crane stated simply. Ivy gave him a glare.
"Awww, Johnny that's a girl dinner! Liven up it's a party."
"Actually the salad I had was quite good." Bob threw in.
"A glass of water." Ive said boredly. Alexandera began to shake.
"NO!" All eye were suddenly on her. Joker's large grin began to lower into a frown.
"What was that?"
"Fuck. No." Alexandera began to stalk towards Joker. "You come in here last night and DEMOLISHED my stock of eggs. Thank god I had a delivery this morning. You ruined my alarm system. Led the cops here! And let me tell you being this close the Narrows you don't want cops to give potential customers the wrong damn impression." Alexandera leaned forward and gripped the table. "You held me at gun point! You bring MORE Rouges here! You expect me to cook for them whatever the hell they want, and worst of all!" Alexandera pointed a finger at him.
"YOU DIDN'T PAY!" Alexandera pushed herself off the table and pointed at the chalk board. "THAT'S THE OPTIONS FOR TODAY! THAT'S WHAT YOU GET TO PICK FROM!" At this point Alexandera's chest was heaving, and her face began to pick up a red hue. Harley looked ready to kill her, while the other rouges looked at her with mixed expressions of shock, because she just yelled at the Joker, awe because she stood up to the Joker, and amusement, because she was more mad he didn't pay.
"Ahhh, you're right! I almost forgot!" Joker was grinning again. "Bob!" Said Bob stood up and pulled a paper bag from under the table. Opening the crinkled paper he held it in her direction. Inside was money. Lots of crisp, stacked and banded, money.
"That's should cover last night and today." Harley looked at Joker.
"But Puddin' Ya neva' pay for dinner!"
"That's just how good she is." Alexandera looked at the money, sweat beading down her temple.
"That's...alot." Bob closed the bag and left it one the table next to her. That much would help her alot but at what cost?
"Look Toots, I run a business, You run a business, lets have a business meeting." Joker steepled his finger under his sharp chin, the other rouges looking on. "We, come here for eats, and you keep your mouth shut, you've proven you can do that. And in return, we watch your back because eventually Falcone's gonna try to squeeze ya for protection money. All you gotta do is keep cooking." Alexandera laughed, the Rouges looked at her like she was crazy.
"You think I'm gonna do that? Why are you so interested in this little shit hole."
"It's not nice to make fun of yourself. I could do that for you." Joker said.
"Maybe she afraid of you. Or getting caught by that cops." Crane inputted.
"She clearly isn't smart enough to see a good deal." Riddler huffed
"Tea time is nearly come and gone and I still don't have a clean cup!" Hatter mumbled despondently. Alexandera growled in frustration, flinging her hand in the air.
"None of you would hesitate in killing me! Or trying to use me in your schemes!"
"Yeah we would." Joker said giving Alexandera a reason to pause.
"Look Toots, yeah we're 'Crazy'" Joker used finger quotes. "But the thing is we do 'Normal' things too. Johnny boy goes to the library in disguise. Eddy likes to go to this toy shop that sells puzzle toys, Harley here goes lingerie shopping alllll the time." at this Harley smiled for being mentioned. "And we go out to eat on occasion but its always at one spot. That's...boring!" Joker growled out the last word.
"You whoever are not boring." Joker leaned back, and Harley draped half her body on him. "You got Gotham fire in you. You stood up to me, well, all of us now, and that takes guts. It's... refreshing right boys?" at this the other Rouges murmured what sounded like an agreement. "You're not a push over. Just cook for us, Toots. Villains gotta eat too. We wont kill ya." He drew his fingers over his heart "Promise." Alexandera stared at him trying to find any reason to say no, but refusing to cook was a shitty reason to die.
"What if you get caught? I'm not going to jail for you're asses."
"We're here now and I don't hear sirens."
"I could rat you out."
"I saw the way you looked at that money, I'm sure the boys don't mind paying for their meals either." At this Alexandera heart skipped a minute. Money like that could help her more than they possibly knew.
"I don't want protection." Joker raised an eyebrow. "I want workers." Joker laughed.
"Alright. I'll send some of my henchmen over for an interview." Alexandera held her hand out to which he grabbed and shook vigorously. Inhaling to settle her nerves and trying not to doubt herself anymore then she was.
"Okay, Liver gonna take about 20 to be done. It wasn't on the menu today so it's gotta defrost." she began to walk over to the three male rouges, "Cobb salad will take ten, gotta cook bacon and eggs, so be patient."
Both Riddler and Crane nodded. Alexandera looked at the Mad Hatter who was fiddling with a tea cup he must have brought in.
"Luckily for you I do enjoy a cuppa now and then. I have a few to choose from. I'll bring them out for you too choose, okay?" The Mad Hatter lifted his head to respond but hung his mouth open.
"Alice?" Riddler groaned and shook his head, while Crane turned to his friend.
"No Jervis, that's not Alice." Alexandera, now remembering part of the Hatter's madness for blondes, (which unluckily she was), began to make her way to the kitchen. Hoping Joker would keep good on his word.
"But she-" Jervis was cut off.
"T'was brillig in the-" Jonathan began to quote the rhyme as the door to her kitchen swung closed. Alexandera had not been planning on this. Not at all.
Right, so if you got questions about the story, or scenarios you'd like to know how they'd play out I gotta tumblr you can ask!
The world would be bleaker without you.
Chapter 3: A lesson in food prep
Alexandera wasn't exactly a people person. Which is odd considering her line of chosen work. It's not that she didn't like people, it's just she always came off as callous when first meeting people, and with her signature "Fuck You" attitude (which lets be honest, all of Gotham's inhabitants had to one degree or another) making friends was hard to do. Or making good First impressions, and especially trying to hire employees. That was usually why most potential workers practically ran out of the interview. Well, that and the fact she wasn't making nearly enough money to actually pay people what the job was worth. But with the Jokers business arrangement that may just change. Alexandera was actually excited! Some good helping hands was just what she needed to run things more smoothly, and having anyone help was a blessing in her opinion.
Unfortunately she forgot a key reason why Goons are... well, Goons...
Sometimes they need a bit of direction.
"Alright! Listen up." Three vacant eyed, stocky men stood before Alexandera in the back of the kitchen. They snuck in the same way it seemed her new 'clients' (she REFUSED to call them friends as the Joker did), through her alarmless backdoor.
"I need you to know that this here," she gestured widely around the room, "This is my lifes' work. My baby. My little piece of heaven in this Gods Forsaken pissant city. And I need you to work hard to keep this place running smoothly. One of you mans the dishes, one mans the front, one mans the prep station while I man the grills. Don't you dare fuck it up!" Alexandria began to pace along the line they made. Each one fidgeting as she eyed them down, feeling as if they were about to be interrogated.
"I need you guys to work your damned hardest today, it may not be busy, hell we may only get 20 customers today, but I don't want slacking off!" She turned sharply to face them again, causing the one on the left to gulp audibly. "If we don't have customers, then whoever is up front cleans, the one on prep, cleans, and the one on dishes, well just keep cleaning." Alexandera smiled at her little joke, while the three before her gave what could only be described as a tight wince and nodded.
"This place is to be respected more than you do your lives!"
"So, let me show you around, and put you where you need to be."
"AAAAAAHHHH! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!" Gary, goon number one, was cradling his hand as the knife dropped to the floor. Marcus, goon number two, rushed to grab said utensil to wash up before New Boss got even more mad, but ended up slipping on a small puddle and whacking his head on the metal counter that held a precarious stack of plates. Kyle, goon three, burst through the doors, forgetting all about the register he left open to the world, ran to help his fallen comrades. Alexandera felt a migraine coming along quite nicely. Dropping the spatula she was holding, she stepped aside Kyle, out the kitchen door, closed the register, walked to the door and flipped the sign to closed. The only five customers in her diner eyed her apprehensively.
"I'm sorry folks," Alexandera said calmly, through gritted teeth, "But my new employees seem to be having a rather bad day." One snorted at the obvious observation.
"I would ask if you would please leave the premises before one of them decides to set the place on fire." Some nodded, seeing her red face and deciding arguing was not wise. Alexandera passed out to go boxes, though she did notice a few people left without their meals. Rubbing her temples she slowly made her way to her office, completely ignoring Marcus, who looked even more vacant then their first meeting and Kyle who was bandaging up Gary's hand.
Sitting in her creaking chair, Alexandera closed her eyes and began to rub at her temple in a more rapid pattern, pulling the hair along her scalp in the process, which was just adding fuel to the fire.
"Say my name, and I will always disappear. What am I?" Alexandera opened her eyes, then settled on a glare at the green clad man in her doorway.
"Riddler." The green man in front of her tutted as he leaned against the door frame, cane grasped between his hands.
"No, no, the answer was silence." He chanced a glance at the goon sitting on the floor nursing their respective wounds. "And with Jokers' men around, that is something you won't have." Alexandera snorted in annoyance, her expression loosening.
"I knew it was too good to be true." She opened a drawer, grabbing at the bottle of aspirin that rolled to the back, and swallowed two pills dry.
"Yes, well, goons are very rarely intelligent, especially those who work for Joker." The Riddler began to rock his cane back and forth in front of him, the signature question mark glinting faintly in the light. "Though it seems to weren't bright enough to think ahead in that regard." he commented so offhandedly, that Alexandera almost missed the dig towards her. Her glare came back full force.
"Excuse me for thinking that they'd at least be competent in a kitchen."
"You are excused." Riddler raised a hand and shrugged his shoulder, whilst Alexandera clenched her fists tight.
"Hey! Most criminals can only get jobs as cooks after getting out of jail!" Alexandria's voice raised an octave "I was justified in thinking these goon would be no different."
"Yes, yes, the lowly criminals settling on manual labor and cookery jobs is the usual norm, but this is Gotham, not all criminals work for Rouges." The Riddler leveled an indignant glare, "Though I'm sure that too didn't cross your mind."
"Stop insulting me in my own god damn office." Riddler eyed the dimly lit and cluttered space.
"And why should I? You're nothing more than a drop out with a ridiculous dream and a deal that could very well backfire if one of us gets bored."
"Joker is not one to be trusted no matter what he shakes on, he is chaos incarnate and will follow his whims where ever they may lead him" He leaned down to her eye level
"You'd best try and remember that in your pea sized"
The Riddler didn't see the fist directed at his jaw, and was unable to catch his balance to catch his fall as he fell to his side, cane dropping to the ground, hat flying off his head.
"DON'T YOU DARE COME IN MY HOUSE AND INSULT ME!" Alexandera reached down and hauled the Riddler back up by his lapels "Tell me smarty pants, at what temperature does an egg cook?" Riddler spat some blood on the floor
"Wrong! The whites start to cook between 144 and 149 degrees, the yolk between 149 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit." Riddler's eyes widened a bit, as Alexandera pulled him closer.
"What is the correct amount of sanitizer?"
"Well I'd assume-"
"Between 50 to 100 part per million, and change every 4 hours if bleach based. How long can baked goods be stored, by food safety laws, before shelf life expires, if freshly baked?"
"I don't see how-"
"Three days, so long as the are wrapped air tight. What is the name of the chemical process of cooking?"
"Maillard!" She shoved him back and he hit the desk with a light thump. Alexandera was heaving as she kicked his cane away, her three goons were peaking around the corner clambered to grab it.
"You wanna come in my house and insult me, after I agree to cook for your ungrateful ass ain't gonna fly!" Riddler visibly winced at her vernacular. She grabbed hold of his collar and led him to the kitchen.
"Yes Ma'am!" Gary scuttled forward as Kyle gripped Riddlers cane nervously.
"Call Joker, and tell him lunch is served." Alexandera eyed The Riddler darkly as she walked him to the prep station. "And Marcus close the blinds would you." Marcus ran to the front of the house, ignoring the bloodrush his head got.
"What on earth are you doing, unhand me! This suit is worth more than your filthy restau-"
"STOP INSULTING ME AND MY FUCKING RESTAURANT! KYLE! HOLD HIS ASS DOWN!" Alexandera grabbed an apron and tugged the suit jacket roughly off her new captive...
"HA! HAAA-HAHAHAHA-HAAA! OOOH-HA! OOH-HAHA-HAAHAHA!" Joker began to wheeze uncontrollably and Harley whacked his back in an effort to help his lungs. Dr. Crane adjusted his glasses, using his hand to hide his smug smirk. Kyle was pouring the Mad Hatter a cup of tea as he eyed Alexandria vehemently.
"Ooooh!" wheeeze "This is too good! Ha!" wheeze "Hahaha!" He panted a little, wiping tears from the corner of his eyes.
"I didn' know Eddie could cook!" Harly grinned before looking over at Alexandera. "How'd ya do it?"
"I don't know what this button does," Alexandera didn't take her eye off the Riddler, or her hands off his cane. "But he seems reeeeal nervous that I'm touching it."
The Riddler stood fuming in the kitchen, stains covering the apron, his vest and arms (the latter two much to his dismay.) as he continued to cook plate after plate, meal after meal.
"This is so insulting! To think that I-" he dropped the spoon and turned to his captor.
"HEY! That's risotto!, you don't stop fucking stirring!" Alexandera leaned a bit closer, thumb lightly pressing the tiny gold nub. Riddler saw that slight movement and began stirring faster. "Too fast! The rice wont cook evenly if you do that!"
Joker and his friends began to pile their plates, and watched the show continue.
"Did you find out what you needed?"
"She's not the most driven outside of her work." Riddler picked at his nails, trying to remove dried dough from under his thumb.
"I could have told you that." as the two walked down a secluded ally, trenchcoats and wide brimmed fedoras in place to hide themselves from rain and possible enemies, they tried not to raise their voices too high.
"She is quite... intense about her work." Riddler rubbed his jaw.
"I didn't ask that. I asked if you found what you were looking for."
"No... but I intend to." Riddler eyed his compatriot. "And you? Are you going to along with this? It doesn't seem like your usual cup of tea."
"Tea is the Hatters bag. I want to know why she isn't afraid of us." Dr. Crane furrowed his brow. "Everyone should... fear us..." Riddler shrugged as he parted ways with Dr. Crane. Leaving the self professed Master of Fear to plot his next move.
Chapter 4: Americans and Brits can't agree on tea
Alexandera was never one to conform. She was comfortable in her skin, and never felt the need to dress up (though she did, in the past, to make a good impression during interviews in her early years). And when she found the love of her life, he neither faulted her for her attitude, nor her apathetic views on dressing up. That's what made her love him. Not once in her life did she really ever feel the need to change how she looked to appease those around her.
Though she didn't have eyes on her then like she does now.
Work went smoother this week than last. After Riddler's lesson in high cuisine, and social interactions, Alexandera took the time to sit down with her newest employees to figure out a better solution. Gary, though a terrible prep linemen, was one of Joker's heist thugs, so her knew a thing or two about money. He was sent up front to work the register and clear tables. Marcus, who worked on a few of Jokers' toxins (though if you where to ask she didn't know), was stationed next to her on grill and oven. He even took the liberty of coming in early to make pastries to sell, though he did get a scolding on asking first, deliveries were only once a week you know. Kyle was a grunt, as he put it, used to doing menial labor for the joker so he happily took the dish duty.
What really made her week was Bob. See Bob was asked by the Joker, though he never told Alexandera this, to help her out a bit. So he spread the word. Goons and hoodlums from across the narrows and from different gangs heard rumors of a little broken down diner that dished out eats for a decent price, all you had to do was say a certain friend sent you. (Though it was implied if you cause trouble you'd never do it again.) At first Alexandera was confused, but the thought of figuring out who it was dissolved as more and more people came in hour after hour. Today was the slowest day she had all week.
"Boy, I don't know how we did it!" Kyle, Gary, and Marcus looked up from their respective duties and sheepishly grinned at New Boss. She was smiling, though she ran her hand though her long blonde locks to hide that fact. "You guys killed it today, this week." She pulled three envelopes out of her back pocket and held them outstretched before her.
"Think of this as a thank you. It's not much, yet, but if business keeps up then it might just be." Her goons- employees- took the envelopes and peeked inside. Cash.
"Chef." Alexandera corrected. All three men echoed her statement. "Now get the heel back to work." All three smirked before going about their tasks. She actually trusted them to take care of things while she did her delivery orders. As she stepped into her office she was greeted by a mad grin, and a rather large top hat.
"Hello, My Dear!" the Mad Hatter bowed before her, "It's time for tea!"
After switching the sign to closed, and drawing the blinds shut, Alexandera found herself seated, uncomfortably, across from the Mad Hatter. He still had that smile, which exposed his overbite, and was staring intently at her while waiting for the tea to brew.
"I am quite sorry that I was almost late, but you wouldn't believe what the flowers had to say!" Alexandera merely nodded, not knowing what to say to the strange man before her. "The blasted Jabberwocky was out and about too, but I evaded him!" Marcus walked through the door with a kettle and little biscuits on a platter.
"I'm sorry, who?" Hatters smile dipped.
"The Batman, of course."
"WHAT?!" Alexandera rushed to her feet causing the Hatter to flinch back. "You could of led him here!" Marcus, wisely, made his way back to the kitchen.
"Oh, Alice! He could never find his way to the rabbit hole." Hatter reached forward and patted her hand in an attempt to soothe her rage. Alexandera drew back.
"My name is Alexandera!" Hatter cocked his head.
"Of course it isn't, Dear! Even Joker introduced you as Alice." The Hatter's eye glazed slightly as he stood, "Though I'd never need one for you my Dear. You've been been away from wonderland for so very long." He reached forward and grabbed a lock of her hair, running it between his fingers. Alexandera slapped his hand away.
"He said Alex! I don't even like that name!" Hatter's face dipped lowly.
"My, my Alice your time on the upper world has made you quite temperamental!" Hatter poured hot water into a cup, not even looking away from her eyes. "Here, have a cuppa."
"My name is Alexandera."
"And forgetful too." Hatter tisked, offering the now steaming cup.
"I don't like rose hip." the mad man blinked.
"I don't like rose hip tea. It tastes like perfume to me."
"But we used to-"
"WE never did anything. This is our first tea time and you are scaring me."
"Alice? Afraid? Has Time gone backwards on me? I could swear-" Alexandera took the cup and set it down as the Hatter mumbled to himself about time and punishments. The man was obviously in one of his Wonderland delusions. It brought her an idea.
"Hello Sir, my name is Alexandera Dawn Fox. I like to cook and enjoy Irish Breakfast tea and Goji Pomegranate." Hatter blinked up at her offered hand.
"Only if it's iced."
"That's absurd! Tea should be served hot with cakes and biscuits!"
"Have you ever tried it?"
"Well no, I suppose I haven't."
"I still say it's much better hot."
"Yes well I prefer a cool beverage after working in a hot kitchen for hours on end." Hatter seemed to be in a more realistic mind frame after their 'introduction' "My fiance was the one with the penchant for hot drinks."
"He seems like a chipper sort." Hatter remarked, sipping on his hot Goji tea.
"Yeah, he was." iced clinked as she chugged. "He really was. I'm sad to say though I need to get ready for the dinner rush." Both of the tables occupants stood.
"This was a lovely visit, I hope you don't mind if I return tomorrow." Alexandera thought a moment.
"Yeah, that'd be fine. Plus my boys need a break after how busy it's been." The two shook hands.
"I look forward to it, Alice."
"I will dye my hair blue."
"Alex." Alexandera sighed.
"That's the best I'm gonna get, huh?" Hatter nodded with a grin. "Well what's your name then?" Hatter blinked.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well, I- you see-...Why?" A suspicious look crossed his eyes. the newly dubbed Alex shrugged.
"I just wanted to know." Silence fell between the two before,
"I do wish to apologize for my mistaking you as my Alice, I give you my sincerest apologies, and offer my name in return." The Mad Hatter removed his namesake and dropped to a deep bow. "My name is Jervis Tetch. Please do not take it lightly."
Chapter 5: Bird Brain
Alexandera knew working in a restuarant business meant having competion, especially working in a big city like Gotham. She considered herself somewhat lucky to get a place further from the citys' central, even if it meant a broken down dinner in the narrows. She may not be the busiest place but she did have a decent inflow of money and people. What she never considered was that there was some else in a similar situation, and didn't like competition.
Delivery went by smoothly. Especially with her new hired hands. Marcus and Alexandera were sitting with a cup of coffee each, going over a new and larger menu. Marcus suggested more baked good, and offered to come in early to bake them for the day. Alexandria agreed to try it for the next week. She pondered aloud if pasta dishes would hit the mark, to which Marcus reminded her of the local mobs being Italian. She scrapped the idea, on account that she had enough unsavory people to deal with as it was. As the dynamic duo continue their planning, a gust if cold wind blew through the diners front door signaling a new arrival.
"I'm sorry but we're opening late today, stop by in an hour." Alexandera didn't bother to look up from her new menu board, and didn't notice how Marcus stiffened up.
"When I heard there was a new nest out there, I never expected them to flock someplace like...here." Alexandria blanched at the obvious insult. Turning to the British speaker ready to defend but stopped short. Flanked by two large men in suits stood Oswald Cobblepot, his crisp tuxedo not faltering his girth but still making him imposing despite his lack of height.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you. If you don't like it get the hell out." Alexandria clenched a fist as he eyed her up and down.
"Well aren't you a pretty bird. Tell me what's your name."
"Fox. Why are you here?"
"I noticed profits beginning to drop. And our mutual friends didn't come to celebrate after their...parole." Alexandera snorted at the term, "when I heard rumors fluttering around I sent a mockingbird to search this place out." The Penguin eyed the room,
"He was impressed."
"And you're obviously not."
"I'm a business man, competition is not to be taken lightly. I have a good following with the upper echelon of the criminal world, and even their underlings." Cobblepot stepped forward while his bodyguards stood their ground. "While my lesser known nesting ground is for the underlings of said Echelon, I still don't like losses. You are apart of these losses."
"So what? I can't help if they come here."
"Oh I think you can. Tell me how'd you get the Joker of all people on your side?"
"I have no fucking clue." Cobblepot glared.
"With an attitude like that I have some idea, Blue Jay."
"Loud twittering and territorial."
"I didn't mean it as a compliment."
"I know." Cobblepot snorted.
"Tell me, how much is he paying you."
"I'm not at liberty to discuss such dealings." Alexandera frowned as the Penguin began to cackle.
"I see why he likes you. How much?"
"Like I said I'm not tell-"
"For this restaurant." Alexandria's face reddened in slight anger.
"Not a bright bird. Like I said I don't like competition." He pulled a checkbook from his inner pocket. "Ill buy this place off your hands, and if you'd like you can still manage it, just
know all incoming Wil be handled by me." It was a statement, proven by the fact he was already filling out a cheque.
"Sorry?" He steeled a glare on her red face.
"You can't buy this place."
"Come now, a run down place frequented by the scum of the world, you don't seem like a person who wants that."
"And yet you do."
"I used to run in that world, I know what it's like. It's not long until they turn on you, the police strut in with a warrant, or some...other incident happens."
"Is that a threat?"
"If that's how you want to take it." Alexandera crossed her arms.
"I'm not selling."
"I can pay you double what ever they are giving you."
"I will call the cops."
"Go ahead, I'm doing nothing illegal."
"Here." Alexandera added the addendum. Cobblepot lowered his head in a threatening stance.
"You're being quite difficult."
"And you are insulting me, and my life's work." Alexandera stood, her 5'5" frame nearly towering his. "If you want your profits back, make a better product. You can start now." She pointed towards the door.
"You'll want to get out eventually, I hope for your sake it's not too late." Cobblepot turned and left, his bodyguards in tow. Alexandria huffed, glaring at his receding figure. Marcus was gaping at the balls his Boss had, as Gary and Kyle stared through the window form the kitchen.
"Start learning how to make noodles and wine red sauces." Alexandria smirked. "We have a new clientele to win." Her goons gulped.
Chapter 6: Gifts with the best of intentions
The Joker liked to have fun with his work, but work is only fun when he had someone to play with. Like... Commissioner Gordon, or Batsie. But Johnny was getting all the attention. He didn't like being ignored.
"OOOOH PUDDIN!" Joker huffed loudly, most people were ignoring him. He stood up from his cluttered desk and without a second though jumped out the window. He know one person who wouldn't ignore him... or smother him in spandex.
"We're gonna need to start putting out advertisements." Marcus suggested, wrapping his coat around his neck tighter. Gary and Kyle were trailing behind Alexandera and Marcus grunting in agreement with their unspoken second in command, sipping heavily from their large coffees. "We have a few people I know in the mob coming here but they aren't apart of the Family proper. If we get to them, we can get to the Penguin."
Alexandera was surprised, albeit pleasantly to find Marcus had some brains to him beyond chemicals and cookies, and a distaste towards to "Short, Round, and Birdbrained".
"I'm sure word will spread enough. We're getting a following we just need to back it. I was going over some old cook books and found some good Italian recipes." Alexandera pulled her key out of her pocket. It was early morning and they weren't going to be opened today. They had a lot of work to do if they were to set their plan in motion. Unlocking the door she couldn't help but drop her coffee, the warm liquids splashing her legs as the lid busted off.
All her tables were pushed to the center, tarps haphazardly strewn about. The smell of paint wafted around in the cool breeze, as a clash of colours were slapped on walls, floors, and the kitchen swing door. Smiling faces and cartoonish batmans in various scenes of... humiliation littered the large Rorschach. And right in the center... The Joker.
"Heeeey Dollface! It's been a while." The Joker spread his arms wide. "I brought a gift." Alexandera walked in, stunned. The boys walked in before closing the door and, wisely, locking it.
"I know, your in shock of my generosity!" The Joker but on an over dramatic face, the back of his hand resting on his forehead, "But I do what I can for my...Friends." Gary and Kyle muttered a greeting before retreating to the kitchen, starting both pots of coffee.
"Why?" Alexandera slumped in booth, staring at a picture of the Batman hanging upside down over a tank of... fish? The Joker frowned.
"It's a gift." he walked over to her in two steps using his finger to push her face into a forced smile. "I thought sprucing up the place would be a good idea. Marco, it's a good idea right?" Marcus stood at attention.
"Boss, let's be honest the foods great but the look is..." he faltered at the glare from Alexandera, "Not what the mob is used to."
"The Mob?" The Joker grinned widely and slowly turned his head back to Alexandria. "Oh Alex you've been keeping secrets." His grin darkened with a chuckle
"Friends don't keep secrets." Alexendera sighed, before running over the Penguins visit and subsequent plan. Gary scuttled out with three cups of coffee before slinking back to the kitchen. The Joker was having a riot.
"HAHAHAHA! You..." snort. "You want to push Waldo outta business!" The wheezing started. "I," snort. "I knew you were, HeeHEEHEEE, crazy!" Alexandria glared over the lip of her cup.
"I'm... not crazy. I'm mad."
"Don't be mad! HAHAHA!" Joker wiped an eye, reaching for the creamer blindly but grabbing the salt, he began pouring it in his coffee. "It's a brilliant idea."
"You really think so, huh?" she glanced at Marcus, "Then we know it's crazy."
"Alex, Alex, Alex," She winced at each word. "I may be 'CRAZY' but there is one thing you should know by now. My plans are just crazy enough to work."
And with that Alexandria only had one thought as The Joker drank his salty coffee without flinching or caring.
There's not enough paint to cover up this mess...
"You're suit has been laid out, but I highly suggest you get some rest, Sir."
"Thank you Alfred but not tonight." Bruce grinned weakly at his joke.
"Any clues as to The Jokers' whereabouts?" Alfred watched as Bruce sat at his desk logging into his secure Bat-Network.
"No, but sources say he's been frequenting the Narrows. I haven't been able to follow any leads, with Scarecrow and Killer Croc causing trouble it's been..."
"You're not going to drop it are you?"
"No, Sir. Someone needs to look out for you're health, heaven knows you don't...Sir." Bruce chuckled as he slipped off his cowl.
"Only a short nap."
"Of course, Master Bruce." Though truth be told, Alfred was going to be very busy, he just might lose track of time... for a few hours.
Both men left the Batcave, both ready for a new day.
Chapter 7: So a blonde breaks into a blondes apartment
Alexandera had to deal with Joker for two weeks "Fixing" her store up. Repainting, refurbishing, and redecorating. That didn't sound so bad when she thought of it, but when you had to watch your lifes' work torn down with a comically large red hammer, all the furniture you scrimped and saved for being hauled out to a wood chipper who knows where. She honestly didn't know. After walking in one morning to see her restaurant in shambles she gave the key to Marcus and walked away.
It was too hard. She spent two weeks in her apartment ignoring the messages on her phone (how the Joker got her number she'll never know) on what her restaurant should look like. (Jervis also left a few messages about tea time.) She just couldn't handle it. Two weeks she'd been living off of dollar booze and cup ramen. Unfortunately one night she had a bit too much to drink, and woke up stiff with a horrid migraine.
"Good Mornin', Sunshine!" The high pitch sneer did not help the pounding in her head. Opening her eyes Alexandria saw red and black and blonde. And Angry.
"We need to talk."
Steaming coffee was sitting on the table in front of Alexandria, she couldn't reach it due to the tight ropes wrapped around her and the chair. Harley dropped a straw in her mug before taking the seat across from her. She glared at Alexandria before,
"Why'dya steal my Puddin'?" Alexandera blinked.
"I didn't steal him." Harley slammed her hand on the table before pulling a revolver from behind her and aiming it at Alexandera's head.
"LIAR! HE HASN'T TALKED TO ME IN WEEKS!" The screaming cracked as Harley blinked back tears.
"I DIDN'T steal him, Harley! I don't have ANY control over him. He's destroying my baby!" Alexandera suddenly had tears in her eyes too.
"Then why won't he talk to me? I saw all the messages he left you!" Harley was waving the gun around in rage. "Why are you so special?!"
"I was there for him in the slammer!"
"I was there for all the schemes and secrets!"
"I want him back!"
"YOU CAN HAVE HIM!" Alexandera struggled against her bonds. "He's destroying my baby and I can't stop him! You can take him and everything he's ruined and leave!" at this point tears were falling from her face.
"Your baby?" Alexandera hung her head.
"Can you keep a secret?" Harley stood still, contemplating.
"Doctor Quinn is in."
"You left, jus like that?"
"I couldn't just stay there anymore. We spent so much time and energy and... love into that beautiful spot that... to see it empty-" Alexandera hung her head in her hands, finally letting the tears fall. Harley rubbed her back soothingly in circles.
"I moved to Gotham that night. Broke all ties, went to school, bought Hodge-Podge, pushed myself to make our dream again and Joker destroyed it!"
"Aw, Sunshine! Puddin' means well, you are a friend afta all! Maybe if ya told him what ya told me he'd lay off." Alexandera sniffed.
"What's with this whole friend thing anyway?"
"Wellll, Dr. Leland thought maybe Mr. Jay was so cranky cause he 'isolated' himself, had no friends! When he tried ta prove otherwise Doc wouldn't believe him." Harley shrugged.
"He's just tryin to prove a point."
"So I'm a point to be made. That doesn't scare me at all." Alexandera sighed, sarcasm dripping from her voice in spades.
"Aw, don't be like that! If there one thing I know about my Puddin' is when he does somethin', he goes whole hog!" Harley through an arm around Alexandera, jovially. "You're a friend now!"
Riiiiing Riiiiing Riiiiiing!
"Yer in biiiiig trouble Mister! How could ya leave me all alone and worried and scared an-...REALLY?! Oh Puddin' I knew you needed me! I'll be right over!" Harley slammed the phone and rushed to the window.
"No need ta thank me!" And with that Miss Quinn disappeared into the night.
Harley Quinn was excited. Now that she knew Sunshine wasn't trying to steal her beloved she knew just what to do to apologize for almost killing her friend. and It involved a field trip out of Gotham.
Chapter 8: Surprise, surprise
After three weeks, Alexandera got the call. Joker was done with his remodeling and it was time to see the results, or the damage. Marcus stopped by her apartment, (honestly she just stopped questioning how everyone was getting her information) with coffee and clean clothes. Harley sent the clothes thinking Alexandera sulking also interfered with her usual chores. The ex-doctor was right, the only thing left clean was a sock with no pair and a hand towel. After a shower and a shot of cheap vodka to steel her nerves, Marcus led her to an awaiting car and blindfold. Sighing, Alexandera covered her eyes and waited.
Marcus was not a sympathetic man. He had killed for Joker, and before that killed again. He created batch after batch of drugs and laughing gas, and stole countless times before. He was an amoral man with no regard to others. But Lady Boss was...not different, she fit the description of most Gothamites. Cold, uncaring, self-centered to a degree. However unlike most Gothamites she didn't pretend to be anything else but loud, and angry, and brash. It was a relief to see someone true to themselves in this art-deco hell on earth.
Now she was sitting shotgun, quiet, hands folded in her lap, head hung limp. Like she was being led to her beheading.
He hoped Joker Boss did a good job. For her sake.
Joker and Harley were positively beaming. The last chair rolled in, paint dried and the acrid smell gone. Blinds closed and party hats in place. They were ready.
The car rolled to a stop. Marcus made his way to Alexandera's door and led her firmly out and to the street. Blindfold still on, she could hear the city traffic and footsteps all around her. Elbow in Marcus's hand, she was led forward, a tiny bell signaling a door opening. It felt warmer in here, as the sounds of the city cut short from the door closing with another ring. Marcus had let her go and Alexandera waited anxiously. Joker sniggered at her twitchy hands.
"And now I, the Clown Prince of Gotham, gleefully announce the official reopening Hodge-Podge!" Alexandera jumped as the blindfold was ripped from her head and squinted at the bright neon lights. Joker started giggling madly as Harley squealed in delight. Eyes finally adjusted to the buzzing glow of the green neon, Alexandera surveyed her surroundings in awe.
No table matched one another, every chair different in design from the last. A beat up juke-box lit cheerfully in the corner. Grey walls splatted in paint. Posters of Tomm Waits, Harry Potter nose to 'nose' with Voldemort, Loki in battle armour, anime memorabilia littered the walls. The floor a cacophony of tiles. A Victorian Chandelier in one corner, neon lights in another, colourful sconces opposite of that. Alexandera ignored Joker and Harley, as she slowly stepped towards the kitchen door taking everything in. The swinging door gave way to an almost sterile kitchen. Chromed and silvered. Shelves bolted the kitchen window, the freezer's wall no longer lined with frozen water, back door had a new lock, and her office was still cluttered.
"You'd be surprised at how easy it was ta get allllll this stuff from ya' old place, Sunshine!" Harley came bouncing in, Joker swaggering in behind. "It was all Mista J's idea to get ya back to where ya was. I hope ya don't mind. I told him about..." Harley leaned in and whispered "You-know-who."
"Tisk, Tisk, Alex! I was pretty hurt when I found out you had a Lover boy, I can't even Imagine the pain you're in." A dark smile graced his fair, blurred by Alexandria's tears. Harley leaned back into his arms snuggling her head under his chin. Joker watched as Alexandera took everything in, wide eyed and robotic, as if in shock. Joker couldn't lie it was... funny to see her shocked. No angry, snarky line. No glares of back talk. She looked like everyone else in this city. Shocked Sheep. "BAA~AAA~!" He giggled at his thoughts, while Alexandria gathered her own. She looked out from the kitchen window to her new lobby. Her old lobby.
Everything looked exactly like her old diner she has with her fiance. The one she left behind to start over. A wave of...something. Melancholy? Sorrow? Happiness? It hit her full force and tears streamed down her eyes, while she grinned ear to ear. Spinning on her heel she did something only one other has ever dared to do.
She hugged the Joker. Arms wrapped over his, forehead to his chest, tears soaking his purple tie, laughing as she repeated over and over,
Two weeks later...
In the two weeks following her newest surprise things were surprisingly well. Her newest position as the henchman haunt brought lots of patrons, even if sometimes she did have to throw out a few of the rowdier ones. Pay was steadily increasing, which was good with Penguins goons breaking in time to time to sabotage her store. Repair costs were ridiculous. Jervis still came by at noon for tea, though his slip ups with 'Alice" and not 'Alex' were becoming more frequent. Riddler only stopped by if he was dodging police, and the police had left her alone for the most part.
Today however was different.
The health inspector here today, and that always made her panic. Alexandera dove into her office and began frantically searching for her paperwork from last quarter.
"Is everything okay?" Alexandera gasped as she swung around to face the intruder.
Jonathan Crane sat in her chair, as he took in her expression, especially her eyes, the black widened to take in every detail, sweat gathered on her brow, breathing shallow and fast.
"What has you so...afraid?"
Chapter 9: I ain't 'fraid of no crow
Fear was something Jonathan lived and breathed. He could dissect a persons deepest darkest fears within few minutes of conversation and observation. However with this new girl, it wasn't that easy. It was driving him and his... "occupant" mad. Standing up to the Joker, Riddler, apparently a very angry Harleen with a gun, even Cobblepots' attempted to bully her. Yet... her she was, eyes wide, panting breathe, shaking in her skin. Even Scarecrow could smell fear rolling off her in waves. Alexandria was scared, Crane and Crow reveling in her fear...but.
As they were about to learn, there was only one thing in this world she actually feared. It wasn't him though.
Crane found himself slammed against the back of the chair as she closed the door, fire burning in widen pupils.
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE?!" the Fox staged whispered, quiet but still conveying her anger. Crane found himself excited. 'Fight not flight.'
"I merely wanted to pay you a visit. See how you are adjusting to this new scenario." Cranes "doctor" voice seeping with false security.
"Do you have ANY idea what's going on today?" the Fox's brow furrowed in panic as she seemed to understand the implications of him being here. He was wrong on part of his assumptions.
"YOU IDIOT!" the furrow in her brow turned to one of frustration. "The health inspector is here." Alexandera pulled a file drawer open, frantically thumbing through documents haphazardly shoved in. "If she sees you, a wanted criminal, we're both in trouble." The situation dawned on the Doctor. Running a hand through his hair he sighed.
"I will remain in here. I'll lock the door and you can say you lost the key to it."
"She'll want to come in here! She'll see you, she'll report you, then I'll have the police or The Batman on this doorstep! I'll lose my diner!" the Fox looked ready to bolt.
"Calm yourself. Act natural." 'Why tell her to calm down, I'm loving the look on her face.' 'I don't want to go back to Arkham yet. We still have plans to finish.
A deep inhale interrupted his internal conversation. Almost like magic, pupils shrunk, shaking subsided, breathing tamed. Watching her solidify from her panic was... enthralling and entirely disappointing. Alexandera steeled herself, and through a hard glare in Jonathans' direction.
"If I lose this restaurant, I will make you fear me!" And with that weak threat she walked out the door with a clipboard in hand.
Scarecrow was scratching at Cranes forehead 'Let me at that Bitch! Imma gas her! I'm gonna tear her throat apart with my hands! Fucking threaten us?! I'll-' Crane pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stave of Crows ranting. She fucked up.
An hour later, after finding out the health inspector was called out on a tip about rats, which were a problem in a big city, (Alexandera had a damn good idea who 'tipped' off the Health Board.) Inspector Lewis left stating that almost everything was in order. All that was wrong was the sanitizer not being changed often enough, Gary was corrected, and the hold times being expired by twenty minutes, Marcus apologized. Alexandera dove into work after that, Marcus stepping back to start prep work for dinner knowing Boss needed to be alone. Years under Joker taught him to realize when someone needed to be 'alone', lest the interrupter wanted to lose a hand.
Once lunch rush was over, all her customers filed out, leaving tips of various amounts, and a few regulars grunting goodbyes, Alexandera breathed a deep sigh. She made her way back to her office to "file" her newest report away as her Boys locked up the store til dinner (A habit she started since her newest 'clientele' came into her life.). She completely forgot Crane was in her office. Or the fact she had threatened him. Opening the door she was greeted by a hand grabbing her throat, her body being pushed hard into the backdoor, knocking the wind right out her lungs.
Jonathan Crane glared heavily into her eyes, holding her up on her tip toes with one hand. Alexandera was vaguely aware of her boys shouting, and the click a hammer.
"I would stand down boy if I were you. This is between me and her!" The voice didn't sound right. Instead of false saccharine calmness, it was heavy, guttural, almost like each word was growled out of a deep well. It was then Alexandria looked into his eyes. No ice blue. A deep, dark blue. Almost black.
Alexandera gasped out past the hand on her throat
"Scarecrow." A chocking laugh came forth from the man.
"Oh boy, you know who I am." Sarcasm and anger dripped on his words.
"What do you want?" Alexandera felt herself getting lightheaded, pinpricks peppered across her face as it started to go numb from the lack of oxygen.
"Who the hell do you think you are to threaten ME?!" the Fox attempted a scoff. That made the hand gripped tighter, face contorting in rage "WHY DON'T YOU FEAR ME!?" Scarecrow all but screamed, spittle landing on Alexandera cheek. Said women tried to answer, but black was closing in more, thought was losing its coherency.
"Scarecrow, she can't answer if she has no voice!" Gary, bless his heart tried to pry the clenched hand from his Boss's throat. He succeeded, but only because the hand he tugged turned on him. With inhuman strength, the back hand which should have only knocked back the burly man, sent him flying. He only stopped when his back met the walk-in door, several feet away. This did however allow Alexandera fall to the floor, coughing and spluttering, rasping air in and out, past her tight and sore throat.
"You-" a cough, "Wanna know what I'm afraid of?" Scarecrow turned Cranes body to face the women, on her knees, kneeling before him.
"YES!" he demon in mans clothing shouted hunching over her, tall, scrawny figure almost imposing over her curled form.
"I'm afraid," panting, air finally smoothly entering her lungs, "of losing everything I dedicated my life to." A hand gestured to the kitchen, its sister massaging her neck. "That everything I have ever built, with my own two hands will be ripped from them." Alexandera looked in to black blue eyes, shakily standing up.
"Take away your knowledge of fear, you are nothing. Take away my restaurant, and I'm the same."
There they stood. Eyeing each other, sizing each other up. Both could fight, Alexandera would lose, but she would fight. The Scarecrow could use his fear gas on her, kill her as she screamed in delicious agony. Joker would come for him, for breaking the deal. He could fight a man that unpredictable, so unafraid. He would lose to Joker.
"Some fucking fear." Blue black eye lightened, a hand came up suddenly, but Alexandera didn't flinch, knew she couldn't. Glasses covered ice blue eyes, as a smirk graced the "good" Doctors' face.
"Such irrational feelings." Crane stated quietly. rubbing his sore hand. "You couldn't possibly lose your restaurant."
"I know. I make damn sure I won't." Alexandera said tersely. "Get out."
"I will be back. So will Scarecrow. We will find something else..." The Crane pulled out a cellphone.
"I'm sure you'll be looking for a long while." Alexandera walked into her office and shut the door, trusting that Crane wouldn't allow himself to be caught here.
Chapter 10: I am the Chef
"It doesn't add up."
"What's that Master Bruce?" Alfred asked as he wrapped gauze around his masters' bicep.
"Most of the Gallery tend to stick to their own turfs, but recently there have been sightings in a sector of the Narrow," Bruce pulled a map up on his screen, red lights dotting the overhead map of the Narrows. "and there are rumors."
"Rumors of what?"
"A new 'hangout'." Bruce grunting slightly as Alfred tightened the last knot on his arm. "Lots of different gangs intermingling. The only place that happens is the Iceberg."
"Maybe Mr. Cobblepot has expanded."
"Penguin prefers the finer luxuries. The Narrows is too run down for him." Bruce began marking the map with green dots, points of interest. "I'm going to make a few calls, set up lookouts. See if we can find a pattern."
"I wouldn't put too much stock into rumors, Master Wayne. After all, look at what people say about you." The butler picked up the polished silver tray littered with bloodied swabs and antiseptics.
"Every rumor has a grain of truth." Alfred hummed as he began up the stairs out of the cave.
"Don't forget you have a meeting in the morning."
"Hey Dollface!" Alexandera sighed, lodging the phone between the crook of her neck and her shoulder as she flipped the burger on the grill.
"What do you want Jay?" Joker chortled at the name, Alexandera had taken to calling him that when he called, in case anyone was eavesdropping.
"We aren't coming by for lunch today." That was odd. Joker and Harley usually dropped by during the restaurants midday break, when all the rest of the customers had left. Not that Alexandera was complaining.
"Good. I got a new recipe I wanna test." the chef could almost see the pout the clown had on his face.
"Aaaww shucks, you make it sound like you DON'T want us there." Alexandera didn't even give that a response. "I just...have a hunch." Alexandera was surprised by how serious he sounded. It was far more intimidating than any laugh he could spout out.
"Okay...well... stay safe?" Nevermind, the laugh was still scarier.
"HAHAHAhahaha...hehe, Doll, nothing is ever safe with me around." There was a click, and Alexandera powered off the phone, shoving it in her boot. It was a little prepaid, off the shelf cell phone. One the Rouges used to contact her from time to time. Alexandera knew that it was walking probable cause, so she kept it somewhere relatively unseen.
"Boss, we got three more Mac Burgers." Gary called through the little window that was recently installed. Two more hours before test time.
"Alright Boys," Alexandera couldn't remember when she started to consider her employees "her Boys", but that's what they were now. "The rest of the day is yours. I got something I'm gonna test, and I don't need you under foot." Marcus, Gary and Kyle chuckled, knowing she meant it hardheartedly.
"Can do." Marcus patted her shoulder as they walked out the front door. Kyle closed the blinds (a habit they had all picked up for 'lunch time') as she walked out, Gary giving a small wave.
"Try not to do anything illegal." That got the boys laughing. Alexandera locked the front door, and made her way into the walk in, grabbing various meats and veggies, before haphazardly dumping them on the prep counter to chop. Today, Chef will be attempting Gumbo. Prep work was so menial, Alexandera tended to zone off into her own thoughts.
Having the Rouges as customers had its perks. No one dared fuck with her, knowing her little diner was unofficial Joker turf, all the goons payed for their meals, business was booming. However, Alexandera had already had her life threatened twice, she's almost lost her restaurant through the working of the Penguin. She also had a Hatter giving her googly eyes at tea time. Though despite her best efforts... Movement from the corner of her eyes.
"Kyle, did you forget your wallet again?" There was no response. Alexandera turned her gaze setting eyes on someone she had hoped to never see.
The Batman was as imposing as imagination would permit. Taller then most men, and broad across, he looked like he could take on any feat of strength. And the grim expression didn't help ease the tension in Alexandera. He was downright intimidating. Alexandera was so caught up in her shock, she didn't notice how close the knife was to her knuckles til her knife knicked them.
"Shit!" her hand went to her mouth, sucking in blood and garlic clove.
"Miss Fox." A statement from the ebony statue in her kitchen, not a question as to who she was. Alexandera breezed past him to her medkit on the wall, opening it to grab antibacterial ointment.
"I thought bats only emerged at night?" Alexandera bit the edge of the ointment pouch as she walked past the Batman again, washing her hands of the blood in the sink.
"I'd like to ask you some questions." the Chef hissed as the soap burned her hand.
"Have you noticed any suspicious activity in the area?" Alexandera gave the bat an incredulous look.
"Dude, its Gotham. Its the NARROWS! The little old grandma walking her dog could be a dope dealer."
"Have you noticed any suspicious Rouge activity in the area?"
"I know that a few months back Joker was supposed to be in the area, but I haven't seen anything." Alexandera squeezed some ointment on her hand, rubbing it in lightly.
"Can you explain why you have known Joker associates in you employment?"
"I didn't know they worked for him, they showed up when I had a help wanted sign in the window." Alexandera replied evenly.
"Did you know that your clientele is mainly comprised of known gang members?" The Chef scoffed, leveling a glare at the Caped Crusader.
"Look, Batman. I don't have 'clientele', I have customers. People walk in, order food, get their food, eat their food, pay for their food, and leave. I'm not their barber, I don't ask their business. They don't tell me their business. As far as I'm concerned, as long as they don't cause trouble here, I couldn't care less what they do out there." Alexandera gestured broadly towards where the street would be.
"There are rumors that you have connections to several Rouges."
"The only Rouge," sarcasm dripped heavily at the word, "that I've had to deal with is that old Bird Brain who thinks he can hustle me outta business. I ain't movin' town because he's pissy that I've been getting business."
The Batman kept his steady gaze on the blonde. Her face not showing any signs of deception that he could see. The chef scoffed before turning back to her cutting board, beginning to toss the bloodied garlic away.
"If you're gonna grill me, you better order some food. If not, you better leave unnoticed. I don't wanna lose business because you scared off my customers." A new knife was grabbed off a wall magnet. Onions being chopped harshly, in agitation.
"If you notice anything, give me a call."
"I don't exactly have a bat light on my roof."
"No, but you do have the beginnings of a leak."
"What?!" Alexandera's head whipped to the Batman, only to see he was gone. In his place was a tiny phone. The only button was a oval with a bat emblazed on it.
Alexandera picked it up, before settling it on her spice rack. Back to prep work, Alexandera mind wondered again.
Having the Rouges as customers had its perks. No one dared fuck with her, knowing her little diner was unofficial Joker turf, all the goons payed for their meals, business was booming. However, Alexandera had already had her life threatened twice, she's almost lost her restaurant through the working of the Penguin. She also had a Hatter giving her googly eyes at tea time.
Now she had a Bat looking over her shoulder, and a leak in her roof.
But despite her best efforts, she didn't consider the Rouges her 'Clientele', she didn't lie. She considered them to be acquaintances...Friends.
And you don't turn your back on friends, especially in Gotham.
Batman went over everything he had recorded. Heart levels spiked during entrance, and anger. Not deviations to show deception. No clues as to where the Gallery was, or why thugs were frequenting the little diner. In other words, the Chef seemed innocent.
"I told you, Master Wayne. Don't put too much stock in rumors."
"You're right Alfred, but my gut is telling me something."
"Then perhaps, a different approach?"
Gumbo was something Alexandria had steered cleared from in the past. It wasn't the meats, or spices, or the long cook time that put her off, it was the rue. Something as simple as butter and flour shouldn't be this hard to get right, but it was. It was too light, too dark, burnt, runny, too thick. To get a brick rue had been her nemesis for the past ten years, and it was still as difficult to get today. Tonight, however, she would be getting some very special help.
"Fuck and SHIT!" Smoke filled the kitchen, the broken bits of a fire alarm scattered across the floor, a near empty bag of flour tossed through the air. Another batch of rue burnt. Alexandria grabbed one handle of the stock pot and hurled that across the kitchen, narrowly missing a certain doctors' head in the process. The Chef however seemed oblivious to the intruder as she slammed a wooden spoon repeatedly on her countertop so hard it broke. An engraged scream of frustration tore through her mouth at the sight of the splintered wood, as Alexandria kicked at the little pieces of wood and and broken smoke detector across the floor.
In other words, she was having a hissy fit.
"Son of a fucking bitch, you buttery heathen! Gluten devil! Fuck you and your thickening powers to the deepest pits!" Butter went sailing across the kitchen, landing at the 'Good' Doctors feet, an amused expression on his face as he watched the blonde scream profanities at the butter.
"Now you know that talking to inanimate objects is one of the signs of madness, don't you?" Humor lacing Cranes voice, as he watched Alexandria seethe in anger. She, finally, took notice of her guest.
"You'd be fucking yelling at butter too, if it wouldn't do its' job!" The Chef screamed gripping her hair in frustration, as she turned her back on Crane, walking to wear all her pots and pans were stored. Profanities shot out of her mouth in high pitched speed and she began to gather fresh butter and flour, again.
"Is this why you haven't been open for the weekend?" His only response was a frustrated growl.
Crane had never seen such anger in a person, pure rage. It set his mind reeling, taking note of all the quirks her body was giving off. Red face, dilated pupils, sweat gathering, hairs raised, breath rapid, the snarls she gave. But most of all... Her screams.
Not even when she yelled at Joker, that first day, did she screamed, raised her voice yes, but not this high pitched, guttural scream.
'Damn Johnny, she's been holding out!' Scarecrow laughed in his mind, causing Crane to pinch the bridge of his nose. 'Wanna see if we can make her scream more?' Doing his best to ignore his 'partner', he walked behind Alexandera.
"And what would that job be?" Alexandera whirled around to face the doctor, seeming to debate with herself. Crane took notice that she bit her lip when she thought to herself. A heavy sigh, before tense shoulders relaxed, though her tone was still hard.
"I'm making a rue." Crane's eyebrow raised.
"That should be hard for you to do." Alexandria scoffed.
"No it ain't. Brick rues on the other hand are a biiiiiitch!" She drew out the word, emphasizing with another snarl. Crane heard a resonating growl in his head from the Scarecrow.
'What was that?'
'Nothin'. Don't worry about it.'
"If a brick rue is so hard to obtain, why not just use a simple rue?" Alexandera leveled a glare at the doctor.
"Because," the chef took a deep breathe, trying to steady her anger. "Brick rues make the best gumbo."
"You're making gumbo?"
"I'm trying to, but I can never get past the fucking rue!"
Johnathon took note of the kitchen, cataloging all that he saw.
"You need to bake it."
"Brick rues are best achieved when baked in a cast iron pot." Alexandera stared hard at the Doctor.
"How do you know that?"
"I'm an educated man, I-"
"Your college degree don't mean shit in my kitchen." Alexandera leaned in close, staring suspiciously at the Doctor, "How do you know that?" She poked his chest to emphasize her question.
'She's challengin' you, Johnny...'
"I grew up in the South." the chef snorted, clearly not believing the answer, but still she pulled down her largest cast iron pot from a rack and thrusted it into the doctors chest.
An hour later, after Alexandera had swept the kitchen and vigorously scrubbed all the failed rues from her pots, Alexandria found herself seated across from Dr. Crane. He languidly sipped his tea, while ignoring the wary stare of the chef, who was sipped sweet tea.
"Why are you here?" Crane didn't bother to glance at the chef as he pulled a notepad out of his pocket.
"Jervis tried to stop by yesterday for tea, but you seemed to have scared him off with your tirade." He took note of how the Chefs' shoulders relaxed slightly.
"Good, maybe he'll see me less as Alice and more as the Red Queen." Alexandera leaned back in her chair, kicking her booted feet onto the chair across from her.
"So you have noticed his fixation." Crane disdainfully glanced at the feet next to him, but went back to his notes.
"I have to remind him that I'm not Alice almost every tea time."
"Then why have tea time? Why continue this...business?" Alexandera was silent as she thought. Crane took note of how a crease formed in her brow and how her eyes seemed to go blank as she thought.
"Did you know Batman showed up the other day?" Crane felt a surge of anger flow through him.
"He asked me a few questions, I told him to fuck off." Alexandera huffed, "Apparently I have a leak forming in the roof."
"Why are you bringing this up?"
"I forgot he showed up until I swept up the remains of the phone he left behind." Another derisive huff. "I guess you now know I have a temper." Alexandria stared at Johnathon until he finally made eye contact with her.
"Again I ask, why?" A few moments passed before the chef answered.
"It's Gotham. You need to look out for yourself above all else. If you don't, you die. You could get gassed," She gestured to the Doctor, "or squished, or poisoned, or shot, or broken in half, or eaten, or a fit of giggles. I saw an opportunity to stay alive and keep business afloat. Now look where I am."
"And where exactly are you?"
"Business is booming and I have something I haven't had in years." Crane raised a brow, to which Alexandria answered back with withering smirk. "I've got friends."
Johnathon Crane sat in his office going over his notes on the little chef.
"Figure anything out?" Edward sat in a chair in the corner, filling out a crossword puzzle. Crane adjusted his glasses as he sipped lightly on a glass of whiskey.
"We don't have to worry about her going to the authorities."
"We already knew that."
"She thinks we're her friends, Edward." The Riddler laughed to himself.
"Well...She isn't completely airheaded."
"No... just hot headed."
It was early morning by the time Alexandera left her 'home'. Walking to her apartment alone wasn't an issue anymore. 'I've got friends in low places...' Alexandria couldn't help but hum the song, noting how appropriate it was. The streets were empty save a few homeless people gathered around bins of fire to keep warm. October had just rolled into Gotham, and with it the slushy, icy rain occasionally turned to snow drifts. By the time Alexandria saw her building, the chill had settled into the chefs' back. The large pot of her first ever successful gumbo, clutched lovingly to her chest, kept her front warm. The elevator ride up to her floor was quiet, the only sound was the jingle of her keychain.
Sliding her key into her apartment, thought of liquor and hot showers brought a smile to her face.
The smile dropped when she the door and turned the lights on.
Chapter 12: Merry Unbirthday
Alexandera wasn't a party person. She never was a fan of having to interact with people she only "knew" through mutual friends. Even birthday parties consisted of her drinking scotch and watching cheesy B-movies alone as the years went by. Needless to say, Alexandria wasn't expecting a party when she arrived home.
"Jervis?" Alexandera looked around her apartment, which normally was cluttered with discarded clothes and dirty dishes, had been transformed into a magical Wonderland. Complete with potted flowers with smiling faces, a long table with multitudes of teapots, cups, and pastries. And a horribly oversized, decedant cake, complete with the beautiful frosting spelling out 'Merry Unbirthday'.
"Oh Alice, you seemed so upset yesterday, and today is October sixth! I decided to throw a tea party!" Jervis came bounding over, a large grin plastered over his face. "Not just any party though! We shall celebrate your Unbithday!" He seemed to take delight in her shocked expression.
"Jervis, It's not... how did?" Alexandera placed her pot of gumbo on a small side table next to the door, taking slow tentative steps further into her apartment. Jervis, being an impatient hatter, grabbed his Alice's hand, pulling her further into Wonderland.
"Before tea, I have a gift for you, and I do hope you enjoy it!" Alexandera stared at the dress, contemplating her life choices...
Alexandria stared at herself in the bathroom mirror. The Alice dress fit perfectly, the chef couldn't even bother to bring herself to question how Jervis knew her dress size. Sighing at the toothpaste splattered reflection, Alexandera placed the little black head band over her hair and stepped out the bathroom. Jervis was already seated at the head of the table. Two people wearing rabbit masks sat at the opposite end, the only indication they were alive was the slow movement of breathing through their chests. The Hatter was pouring tea into a little cup, not noticing the Alice's entrance. Alexandera stepped into the tea room, eyeing the Hatter.
"What kind of cake is that?" The hatter glanced up, but any response died on his lips seeing the Chef in a dress.
"Alice...you look exquisite"
"Jervis.. It's Alexandera."
"In that dress, my dear, you are Alice." Hatter gestured to the seat next to himself, which Alexandera took. A generous slice of cake was placed in front of her by one of the rabbits, why Jervis placed a cup of tea next to her. 'If you can't beat 'em...' Alexandera grabbed a fork and took a bite of creamy lemon chiffon cake. Pure citrus bliss. Jervis began humming a tune, never taking his eyes off the chef.
"I remember at our last tea time, that you said you were rather found of lemon. I had one of my Tweedles whip you up a treat!" Alexandera gave a weak smile as she took another bite.
"It's good." swallowing the morsel, Alexandera grabbed her tea cup. "Jervis, why didn't you have a tea party at the restaurant?"
"Quite honestly you frightened me. You seemed more like the Red Queen on a rampage, than my sweet Alice." Jervis reached over the table and placed a hand over the chefs.
"What had you worked up in such a tizzy?" Alexandera didn't bother correcting the Hatter, she was after all wearing an Alice dress.
"Gumbo." Alexandera sipped her tea. Darjeeling, a little too sweet. Jervis looked over to the forgotten pot next to the front door.
"I wager a guess that you finished it?"
"Yeah, Crane dropped by and helped me with the recipe." Jervis's hand twitched slightly over Alexandera's.
"The March Hare, my dear."
"How's he the March Hare?"
"Calm one moment, erratic the next."
"Wouldn't that be the Joker?"
"No, no, he's the Chesire Cat!" Alexandera laughed, to which Jervis smiled widely to.
"Marchie didn't hurt you did he?
"No, he hasn't tried to since the last time." The twitch of the hand turned to a light hold.
"He tried to hurt my Alice?"
"Tried and failed." Alexandera looked at the shocked, tense face of the Hatter before her. "I'm fine, he only made me smad."
"Super mad." Jervis cocked an eyebrow. "You're a fan of Carroll, you should know what a portmantaue is."
"Of course I do, but I've never heard of smad before."
"And what, you've never heard of bromance?"
"Sexersize?" at that the Hatter turned a brilliant shade of pink.
"I NEVER!" Alexandera couldn't help the laughter that forced it's way out of her. The stress from her kitchen oozed out of her at the flustered expression on the poor mans face.
"I'm sorry, Hatter!" Jervis stared in wonder as his Alice lit up in joy.
"Alice, you called me Hatter." Alexandera took note of the almost, dissappointed tone at that statement.
"Well, aren't you a hatter?"
"Why yes, but..." Jervis seemed to mull over something in his thoughts, eyes unfocused as he fiddled with his bowtie. "I rather like it when you call me Jervis. Not many people do." Alexandera felt a string of unfamiliar pity settle in her chest. Or maybe it was heartburn.
"Well I suppose I should keep calling you Jervis then."
"I'd rather like that, my Dear." If Alexandera was a women that cared less about her life, she would have told the man in front of her not to stare so intensely. Alas, the chef valued her life almost as much as she valued her restaurant. So a distraction would have to do.
"CLEAN CUP!" Alexandera shot up out of her seat, as The hatter moved nimbly to a new spot. The rabbits at the end of the table merely switched places.
"What is a Brony?" Alexandera laughed at the confusion of the Hatter.
Tea Parties aren't so bad if you at least enjoy the company.
Dr. Crane sat in front of an elaborate chemistry set, playing with a beaker. Jervis had stopped by well into the night rambling on and on how his "Alice" had enjoyed the tea party he had planned.
"Alice did seem to enjoy the cake! But not so much the tea, maybe a new flavour next time."
"Jervis, you do realize I'm trying to work right?"
"Oh Marchie, she has a most peculiar way with words." Mad giggles spilled from the Hatters mouth as he repeated the word "Smad" over and over again. Then just as suddenly the giggles started, they stopped. Crane breathed a sigh of relief at the silence, before he felt hands tightly gripping his shoulder.
"I don't appreciate Marchie touching my Alice." Mad. not Madness. "I would hate for Marchie to have to loose his mind because he couldn't keep his hands to himself."
"Jervis, there is no need to be so over protective. She's not Alice." Screeches of wood scraped through the air, as the Hatter spun the Scarecrow around.
"She's my Alice."
"Of course." 'Foolish women, you're making yourself a target.' As quickly as the anger appeared it dissipated.
"Alice told me to pass a message along! She will be closed on Halloween this year."
"Why is that?"
"She wouldn't say, though that is fine by me! Too many Cards out on a night like that, I wouldn't want her to get hurt!"
'Now why would she be closed on Halloween?'
'Wanna make a bet?'
Chapter 13: Late night, double feature picture show
Alexandera was never a very dramatic person. Her fiance, on the other hand, was a very theatrical person. He always pulled the stops out on holidays, even the very silly ones. Stacks of waffles on national waffle day. Tacos and beer and nachos during the SuperBowl, and a haunted house EVERY Halloween. Alexandera on the other hand couldn't ever be bothered with the frivolities. The most festive she was, was making food for the major holidays with her few friends, then quietly escaping back to her cave when no one would notice. Until one day... He showed her that one day a year, even she could be Theatrical.
"Oh my GAWSH! Are ya actually callin' me?" Harley's overly high voice caused a static to go through the receiver.
"Harley, tone it down."
"Sooorry. What's up, Sunshine?" Alexandera took another sip of her spiked coffee, dreading and yet somewhat hopeful of the fellow blondes answer.
"Are you busy tomorrow? Tomorrow night?"
"Naaaw, tomorrow is Jonny's day, we rouges tend to stay away from Halloween. Why?"
"I have plans, and..." a long swig, this time from the whiskey bottle. "Well, do you wanna come along? I need your help with makeup, and your more then welcome to come with."
"Make up? Do ya have a date?!"
"What? No." Alexandera frowned. "Look I kinda need an answer."
"Sure! What are we up to?"
"Six Cinna-Burgers, five rings, one spud." Gary called out before rushing back out front. Today was busy with togo orders. Seemed most of the under belly was anticipating whatever the Scarecrow would pulled and didn't plan on going out. So all day there had been a flood of all seedy sorts of thugs coming in to get food to stock up on. Seemed most didn't know how to cook, which was no skin off Alexandera's back. So she and Marcus stayed rather busy. Soon though, the doors would close for the usual 'lunch break'.
It took a little longer then intended to get the doors closed and the blinds shut, what with the increased business today. her poor boys were gather in the lobby, picking tiredly at fries.
"Marcus, Gary, Kyle."
"Yes boss?" they all answered in unison.
"Did we do something wrong?" Kyle actually looked panicked. Alexandera gave a rare smile.
"No, but tomorrow's gonna be hectic, and I need you good to go after tonight. Go enjoy Halloween." They all smiled back, Kyle's being a little grisly from his missing teeth. they all said their goodbyes, as Alexandera made her way to the office to file some work. Thirty minutes into tax work she heard the bell alarm in her office go off. It was connected to her front door letting her no when someone walked in. It shouldn't be going off however, the boys always made sure to lock the door when they left. And her clientele knew there was always a break before dinner. Alexandera quietly snuck into the kitchen and grabbed a rolling pin off the counter as a weapon. Just in case.
Peaking out the door from the kitchen, she saw a small figure rummaging around the back order counter, but mostly around her cash till.
"The fuck you think you're doing kid?!"
The boy whirled around, and glared at the blonde. Black hair and green eyes that looked like they held all the hate in Gotham. He vaulted over the counter, rushing towards the door, back Alexandera through the rolling pin at his head. It struck, causing the boy to stumble. Stumble enough to allow Alexandera to swoop behind him and grab him into a bear hug. The boy began to thrash his legs, wriggling to break his hold, but Alexandera allowed herself to fall back. The momentum allowed her to wrap her legs around the boys, effectively locking him in her grip.
"Oh hell no, you ain't going no where til you give back what you stole!" the boy thrashed more.
"I Did not steal anything, Woman!"
"Like I fucking believe that!"
"No!" the boy craned his neck to bite her arm, but the pain only made the chef tense more.
"Kid I got burns that hurt more than that!" The boy struggled more and more, until finally he began to loose energy. He gave a tired huff and stopped moving.
"Give me what you stole, I don't want to call the cops."
"I told you, woman, I did not steal from you. I am no thief."
"You're gonna have to prove that."
"I cannot with you holding me." Alexandera could almost hear the smug grin on his face.
"You'll run the second I let go."
"Then why would you ask back your belongings, when you have no way of retrieving them from me?"
"You little smartass." They went back to the 'standoff'.
"I swear on my honor, that I will not run." Alexandera thought it over until she finally loosened her grip. The boy shot out of her grip and straightened his dirt stained hoodie, before emptying his pockets.
"Shoes and socks off kid." The boy actually smiled, seemingly impressed by the idea, but obliged. The only thing he had on him with a couple of small round pellets.
"In case you chased me."
"what the hell were you doing in here kid?"
"I came to steal from you." he gave a pathetic look. "I am an orphan." Alexandera snorted, finally pushing herself of the ground to stand up.
"No you ain't." The boy narrowed his eye, suspicious.
"How would you know?"
"You're clothes are dirty, but they don't stink, meaning you haven't had them long or you just got them and rolled around a patch of dirt to make them look dirty. Plus you are way to well spoken to be an orphan." the full on glare from this kid actually began to make the chef uneasy. "My guess, Cobblepott sent you as another way to put me outta business. Relative?"
"Then why the hell are you here." Silence met her.
"Fine you don't want to tell me that's fine, but your still paying for this."
"I told you, Woman. I didn't steal from you!"
"But you are up to something, put me behind on paperwork, AND bit me." She grabbed the back of the boys hoodie and dragged him into the kitchen, surprisingly the boy went along without a struggle. The pushed him into the dish pit.
"You can go once everything is clean."
"You expect me to do menial labor?" He genuinely looked affronted.
"Yep." She tossed him a plastic apron at him and leaned against the wall. Pulling out her cellphone, she shot a picture of his shocked face. "And with this photo, if you run, I can go to the cops and tell them some kid tried to rob me.."
"I thought you did not want to involve the police."
"I don't. Don't force my hand." A chilling glare was aimed at Alexandera before the boy turned and began fumbling with the dishes.
"Here." Alexandera held out an icepack wrapped in paper towels. The boy grabbed it and held it against the back of his head. Alexandera led him to one of the booths, where she put out water glasses, and a tray of baklava.
"What is this?"
"Food, kid. You've been here a while, figured you'd be hungry." He hesitantly slid into the booth, and stared at the chef across from him.
"You gonna try and rob me again?"
Silence passed between them as Alexandera quietly ate her baklava. Not really paying much attention to the boy.
"When can I leave, woman?"
"When I'm satisfied that you won't be a nuisance again."
"I gave you my word!"
"You still came in after hours to a closed restaurant, and bit me."
"You said that it did not hurt."
"Its the principle. You go into a persons house and shit on their floor. It's rude."
"I hardly defecated on your floor."
"You but you were a little shit, kid."
"My name is not child!"
"My names not Woman." Alexandera answered back coolly. More silence.
"Alexandera." the chef gestured to the plate of food. "Eat." Damian reached for the food, grabbing a piece but not biting into it.
"You have a lot of criminals as patrons." Somehow she was not surprised Damian brought this up. He had to have cased the diner for a while.
"What they do outside of here doesn't concern me."
"As long as they don't cause trouble here, I don't care. I don't care if you're an orphan," at this she looked pointed at Damian, "a criminal, cop, billionaire, Dhali Lama. You come in here, your just another hungry face with a wallet. Pay for your food, eat and leave. That's the way this works. Don't ask, don't tell."
"I did not pay for this."
"You did the dishes, that's the oldest way broke people pay for meals."
"I am hardly poor."
"I figured." Damian looked agitated at his slip up.
"Are you not worried the law will come after you?"
"What for serving people who come in paying cash to eat? I work the kitchen, I don't look to see every single person to come in. I'm not aiding and abetting. I'm not hiding any criminals here. I cook food." Damian watched her closely as she spoke. He nodded, finally taking a bite of the baklava. I that instant, his face melted from the cold, angry intellect, and morphed into a surprised, childlike wonder. Alexandera smiled.
"How did you make this?"
"Old recipe I found. Tweaked it a bit to make it more palatable to myself." Damian quickly finished his piece, and reached for another.
"It is delicious."
"Take the rest and get home. Next time I see you in here, better be with a wallet." Alexandera slid out of the booth and made her way back into the office, trusting that Damian would show himself out. As she sat in her chair she heard the door alarm go off.
"I neva thought ya would be into this kinda thing!" Harley was bouncing in the driver seat. Covered in glitter, hair in a short red wig.
"It does seem out of character for someone like you." Ivy sat shotgun, dressed in a beautiful corset dress, hair covered in a long black wig.
"It's not something I advertise. It's a once a year thing, then I go back to being a chef." Alexandera actually felt a flush go through her. "Are you sure no one will recognize you?"
"Ab-sa-loootly! People are all gonna be dressed up, no one will think ta look twice at us!" They pulled into a large parking lot, and began walking to the crowded street. Earing a few catcalls. Alexandera led them down an ally to a backdoor, where a security guard was waiting.
"Pass?" Alexandera flashed hers, before leading the girls in.
"I'm gonna show you to your seats, try not to leave them or they will be stolen.
"Like anyone would steal from us!"
"Go prepare, I'll keep Columbia out of trouble here." Alexandera shot Ivy a meaningful look before going back stage. Harley whipped out her phone and began rapidly texting.
"What are you doing?"
"Sending invites!" Ivy chuckled in her seat. She was true to her word. She wasn't causing trouble here.
"What on Earth?" a group of men stood in front of the Gotham theatre. All in disguises, waiting in line to pay for tickets. "How did Harley convince us to come here? Shouldn't you be planning something for tonight?" Riddler questioned Scarecrow.
"She said this has ta do with the chef. I wanna know what she's up to."
"Upset that you can't figure her out, Doctor?"
"I won't hestitate to gas you, Puzzles."
"My! Everyone seems festive!" Hatter gushed, taking in all the costumed glitter and feathers. Before long, they made their way inside.
"Eddie! Ova' here!" the group recognized the blonde friends voice, making their way towards the front row.
"Why are we here, girl?"
"Sunshines' gonna give us a show tonight!" just as they took their seats, the lights in the theatre dimmed. "OOOH! It's starting!" The men didn't have time for questions before music started and a women with red frizzy hair in a maid dress came out singing. A very familiar women.
"Is that..?" Hatter looked shocked, seeing his Alice with red hair, singing onstage with a number of people in various revealing outfits.
"What is this?!" The scarecrow demanded Ivy. Mother Nature smirked, held a finger to her lips and replied.
"Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Chapter 14: "Friends" Giving
Alexandera loved to cook. She had to if she ran a restaurant, but one holiday made her scoff and take a break. Thanksgiving. Turkey, potatoes, casseroles, stuffing from a box. It made the gourmet in her shudder. So Alexandera had a rule. No Thanksgiving cooking. It was a tradition to just order some takeout, and watch football while getting drunk.
But that was before Alexandria made friends...
"Whadya mean ya not cookin'?!" The perky smiling blonde all but shouted at the grimacing blonde. The chef sighed as she placed the grilled cheese on a plate for her...friend.
"Just what I said. I don't do Thanksgiving. I don't cook."
"But isn't Thanksgivin' a chefs dream?" Harley began nibbling on a corner o the sandwhich. Alex began cleaning off her skillet in her apartments sink.
"I guess for other people, but since I've got no family, and I got sick of all the same dishes growing up, I kinda pretend it doesn't exist." Harley swallowed before looking around the apartment with a critical eye.
"So no turkey, gravy, or stuffin'?" the chef shook her head.
"What about... chili?"
"Chili is good anytime of the year."
"Potatoes are the gods gift to man."
"Salsa?" Alexandera looked up from her cleaning.
"What are you up to?" Harley grinned widely before walking to her apartment window.
"Whyyyyy, nothin' at all, Sunshine!" Harley slipped her hat/mask back on before waving. "I'll see you Friday!" And with that Harley Quinn left a puzzled chef standing in her kitchen. As the Villainess flipped her way through the city... she began plotting her next scheme.
It was an odd sight at the Joker estate. A rag tag group of Villains standing in a dirty, ill prepared kitchen. All of which wore stained aprons, and comically large chefs hats.
"Alright! Sunshine don't cook on Thanksgivin', and I think it's high time we pay her back!" Harley pointed a butcher knife at the rouges.
"Don't we pay her with money and her life?" Crane asked, shoulders squared at the ridiculousness of the plan. Harley pouted at her fellow Doctor.
"She's done so much for us, lets give her a feast!" Jervis giggled.
"I know a recipe of orange scones I know she'll love!" Harley smiled wide.
"Tha's the spirit! Hattie you do desserts with Marcus! Birdie you do veggie sides! Don' give me that look Pam, you can do the eggs. Eddie you-" Riddler held up his hand.
"I'll be making risotto." Riddler said with such conviction it caused the other rouges to snicker.
"What about me, Harls?" Joker had been kneeling next to the stove, his Batman apron covered in blood and bullet holes. Harley smiled wider if possible.
"We're gonna handle the main dish!"
Alexandera rolled her eyes at antics of two goons in her lobby. They we're tossing peas into the air and trying to catch them in their mouth. The holiday spirit in Gotham seem to actually be cutting through the gloomy, rainy fog that covered the city all year. That was one of the only saving graces to this city. After ten months of fear and crime, at least everyone calms down for the two remaining months. That didn't mean it all went away, but murder and rape seemed to lessen (even if petty theft skyrocketed around Christmas.)
Marcus had called out sick today, but Kyle and Gary we're still working hard covering his absence, but most of the customers were regulars, and they didn't mind the slightly longer wait. Alex was delivering a chicken sandwich to one of Falcone's thugs, knocking a pea with the back of her hand causing a rowdy hoot of laughter to ring out from the table.
"Don't play with your food, Tazer." Tazer grumbled good naturedly before stabbing his food with a fork.
"Yes, Momma Chef." That was her new nickname among the seedier underbelly of Gotham. With her penchant to scold anyone misbehaving in her diner, one of Riddlers goons jokingly called her mom when she made him clean up a spilled soup, Gary frantically corrected him, saying to call Alexandera Chef. Of course that evolved into 'Momma Chef.' Alexandera didn't actually mind the nickname, but reputation dictated that she fight back against it.
"That's Master Chef, I know you flunked out English, but it's not hard." More voracious laughter filled the diner, as they all heckled and jeered Tazer, who gave it right back. The Laughter died down as the door bell rang out, announcing a new arrival. As Alexandera placed the sandwich down infront of a small time gang member she looked over to her front door. Standing awkwardly in the Door way was an older man in a classical black and white trim suit successfully ignoring the curious glares, while a little black hair heathen glared angrily back, sizing all the people up. But when his eyes met the surprised gaze of the chef they softened softly.
"Lady Alexandera." His curt greeting seemed to break the spell over her patrons. A snort came from one of the rowdy bunch.
"Pfft, she ain't no lady!" Alexandria smacked the back of Gerald head as she walked by.
"I can't help it your more of a lady than me." More teasing hoots rang out.
"What's up, Smokebomb?" Damien quirked a brow.
"Smokebomb?" Alexandera smirked.
"I can't exactly call you thief, now can I?" The older man glanced over to the chef before giving a meaningful look to the young boy. The boy smirked.
"No you cannot."
"I'm assuming this isn't a social visit."
"I would like to procure more baklava for tomorrow festivities." Alexandera cocked her hip to the side, arms crossed.
"I'm sorry, but I don't cook Thanksgiving." The chatter in the diner stopped almost instantaneously.
"Whaddya mean you ain't cookin' Thanksgivin'?" Tazer called out in what seemed horror. Alexandera turned to him.
"Just what I mean, I don't do Thanksgiving." A chorus of no's rang out.
"But what are we gonna eat?!"
"Same thing I do, take out."
"Now Lady Alexandera, I am sure you can take time to make a Thanksgiving luncheon." Alexandera whirled around to the little heathen, as cheers of agreement called out. Damien smirked as the hollers grew in volume, a chorus of 'LUNCH, LUNCH, LUNCH!' rang in her ears. All attempts to quell the crowd failed. Alexandera turned her glare at the little black hair devil. Stepping forward, she grabbed his collar, causing the elder man to raise an eyebrow as the young boy merely followed along without protest. Alexandera led the two into her kitchen, Gary and Kyle looking quizzically at the odd pair, but wisely going back to work.
"You little SHIT! Do you have any idea what you've done?!"
"Ensured my obtainal of your baklava."
"I don't have anything in stock for Thanksgiving, I planned to be closed tomorrow!"
"Well I am sure you will be able to cook something palatable for your customers." Alexandera rubbed her face in frustration.
"That's not the point. I HATE making Thanksgiving food. I don't get my delivery until Friday morning! And now my diner is full of people about to riot for turkey!" the Chef leaned banged her head on the wall, "All because your sneaky ass wanted baklava."
"I'm sure Master Damien meant no harm." a British voice chimed in, giving a significant look at his charge.
"I knew you weren't poor." Alexandera glared at Damien, who merely shrugged. "He knew exactly what he was doing."
"I will ask father to procure all that you need for tomorrow, food and assistance. All I ask in return is three trays of baklava."
"Father?" Alexandera looked to the older British man.
"Master Wayne." Alexandera face paled considerably.
"Oh gods..." Alexandera looked at Damien, and with this new information looked at Damien in a new light. "Oh gods I hurt a Wayne. I'm dead. So dead!"
Alexandera banged her head harder on the wall.
"Father would commend you for your punishment for me. He would also be willing to repay you for the trouble I caused." With that Alexandera stopping her self infliction of pain. A plan forming.
"REeeeallly?" the scary grin caused Damien to flinch unnoticeable.
"Must I really do this?" Damien arrived at four in the morning along with Alfred, as Alexandera directed the inflow of produce and meat to their respectful places. Damien was now eyeing several large turkeys in distaste, as he wiggled his gloved fingers.
"Oh yeah, you want baklava, you gotta earn it. No buying your way out." Alfred smiled to himself, silently washing greenery as he listened in.
"Last time I did your plateware."
"Last time I wasn't feeding an army. No reach in and place all the nasties in that pot, so I can make the tasties." Alexandera said in a mock baby tone, much the the boys disgust. Marcus seemed to have gotten over his sickness remarkably well, and was instructing a small group of bakers on different cookie recipes. Alfred was prepping with two others, while the Chef had Damien and another 'volunteer' on the meats.
"This is degrading."
"This is business, Smokebomb." For the next few hours, the kitchen was a hellish flurry of barked orders and delicious heat. Marcus and Alfred were a godsend to Alexandera, the latter seeming to know exactly what the Chef needed. While Damien complained, he never shirked his duties, diving in with vigor. By the time the doors opened to the diner at ten, the line of thugs was immense, and so was the weary of the kitchen crew. Duties did not stop there whoever, the volunteers worked endlessly to keep up with the massive influx of plates and cups, Damien seeming to actually prefer dishes to fowl innards.
Alfred was impressed by his young Masters progress. While still cold and calculated, he seemed to at least respect the chef, allowing himself to be bossed around the kitchen. He had a sneaking suspicion the chef left more of a positive impression then a bad one, if the 'hurt the Wayne' remark was to go off of. By 3oclock, the diner finally hailed off its last customer, the last dish washed at 3:30 was washed. Alfred was even more impressed when the Chef gruffly sent the volunteers off with the leftovers and uncooked food, saying she didn't want to see another turkey.
"Get that shit to some homeless shelter, I can't stand another damnedable bird." Alfred hung back with Damien as they watched The Chef speak with her three employees.
"Well... You once again surprised me with your work. Kyle thanks for not breaking anything, Gary good work on the cash flow. Marcus quit using all my flour." Marcus chuckled as he knocked shoulders with the chef. "Go the fuck home. Don't bother me until Saturday." A chorus of 'Yes Chef!' rang out as they filed out, Gary closing the blinds signifying to the world that the Diner was closed. Alexandera heaved a sigh leaning against the counter.
"Well that was enlightening." Alexandera jumped at Damiens voice, leveling an acidic glare.
"I thought ya'll left."
"You still must make baklava." At the Chef grinned slyly.
"Oh dear, it seems I don't have any of the ingredients. Guess you're not getting any today." Damien tensed, upset at the development. Alfred cleared his throat.
"We have a fully stocked kitchen at Wayne Manor. I'm sure you will find our kitchen fully substantial." Alfred smile as Alexandera tensed and Damien grinned slyly. The Chef hung her head, a long long breathy 'Fuuuuuuuuck' resounding around her. Damien walked forward and held the kitchen door open.
"This IS business."
Bruce Wayne had seen many things in his years. The best and worst of humanity. When it came to his son, Damien always seemed to bring something new to the table. This whoever he did not expect to see. A veritable standoff in the kitchen between a familiar blonde woman, and his son, with Alfred smiling to himself as he stirred a steaming pot.
"Look, Smokebomb, adding anymore allspice will throw off the whole cinnamon flavour!" A large bowl was pulled closer to the woman.
"Lady Alexandera, allspice will only enhance the pistachio flavour!" the bowl slid closer to Damien.
"Dammit, Kid, I already agreed to more walnuts, don't fuck with my spice ratio!" Alexandera tried pulling the bowl, but Damien held on strong. "Damn Kid, you fuckin' lift?"
"I am not a child, and yes, I do." Damien puffed his chest as he sneakily tossed Allspice into the bowl.
"Fuck!" The chef reached her hand into the bowl, but Damien had already stuck a wooden spoon in, stirring the nut mixture, causing the Blonde to growl out.
"What is going on here?" Alfred looked up smiling, Damien stopped his stirring looking at his father with a blank look, while Alexandera paled at the sight of the Elder Wayne.
"My friend and I are making baklava." Alexandera swung her head in surprise at the friend statement, while Bruce's eyes widened. both of which echoing,
"Yes, she is the one we assisted today." Bruce looked at the Blonde, who seemed to pale even more.
"Friend?! Fuck Smokebomb, you tried to steal from me!"
"You will not let that go will you, even though I proved to you I did not steal anything." The pale complexion reddened slightly.
"Hey! You were up to something sneaky!"
"You have no way of proving that, Lady Alexandera."
"Dammit, it's Chef!"
"Of course, Lady Chef. Shall we prepare the phillo dough?" Alexandera pinched the bridge of her nose, leaving a dusting of spices behind.
"Yeah, whatever Smokebomb. Ten, seven, seven, six, ten." As the duo walked to the refrigerator, Bruce walked up to Alfred.
"He knows she's a suspect."
"I don't believe he cares, Master Wayne." Bruce's eyebrows cocked slightly, watching as the two argued over the correct amount of phillo dough. Bruce would leave them be, Batman would be a little more vigilant.
Alexandera exited the limo awkwardly, wanting to get back to her dirty apartment after the too clean mansion. Alexandera placed the key into her door, ready for leftover pizza and trashy T.V. walking inside, she spotted her rouges all sitting about. Harley perked up, leaping off the Jokers lap.
"Sunshine! I was afraid you'd been kidnapped or somethin'! I was gettin' ready to rumble!" Harley held her hands in a mock fisticuff.
"You're so very, very late, My Dear!" Jervis chimed in seated in Alexandera ratty armchair. Alexandera silently took in all that was before her. Collared greens, deviled eggs, risotto, tacos, curly fries, bacon, cookies shaped like foxes and much more layed out on every table and counter surface. Crane and Ivy seemed to be in a heated debate over a book, Riddler was playing with a rubix cube in the corner, Joker was poking his fingers in various foods giggling 'Mine, mine, mine!'
"What is this?" Alexandria asked, shocked as she shut the door blindly behind her.
"It's Thanksgivin' silly! We all pitched in when ya said you didn' like cookin today." Harley pulled her further into the apartment and pushed her into a seat. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked to the Blonde clown.
Harley grinned, seemingly waiting on nothing, just building anticipation.
Chapter 15: Deals to be made
It's the most wonderful time of year... Isn't it?
Alexandera had to admit, even with her abrasive attitude and true gruffness, the holidays always got to her. She wasn't religious per se. What kinda god would make Gotham? Yet, she couldn't help the feeling she had seeing the snow, and lights, and trees, and the drunk Santa slurring out for donations before he puked in the little red bucket. It warmed the cockles of her shriveled heart. Her ratty coat did little to stave off the cold. The heat of the kitchen would help though. As she approached her diner, she saw a line was already forming. The local goons and assholes ready for hot coffee and a good meal. Her boys would already be inside, prepping for today. With their help, her usual method of a daily menu had changed. Now there was room for a few set items. As Alexandera reached the door, key in hand, her customers seemed to perk up if only a fraction. Tired greetings and halfhearted good mornings met with the slight squeak of the hinge as the door opened, beckoning the crowd inside. Gary was already at the counter, four pots of coffee hot and waiting, with a thermos sitting on the counter. It was old and rusted, dented and missing its lid, but its was hers. Her shitty little coffee cup in a shitty little corner of town. It was as close to Heaven as Alexandera allowed herself to believe in.
"Good morning, Chef." Marcus called from the window to the kitchen, Gary echoing his statement in between taking orders. Alexandera walked through the swinging door into her wonderland.
"Morning Marcus, morning Kyle." Walking into her office she set her coffee down and went through some paper work. Breakfast would be okay without her. There was a light blinking on the restaurant phone, indicating a voice message. Putting it on speaker she began booting up her computer, listening to the rich masculine tone.
'Good Morning, I wish to speak with a Miss Fox about catering a dinner party in two weeks time on December 18. If possible please contact 555-896-0300. Thank you.'
A catering opportunity wouldn't be too bad if the pay was okay. Taking a sip of coffee, she dialed the number, waiting patiently as she could. After the third ring she got an answer.
'Good morning, Wayne speaking.' Alexandera nearly spat her coffee out.
"Uhh... Hi, uh, This is Alexandera Fox, umm... Owner of Hodge Podge?"
'Ah, Miss Fox! Hello! My son speaks highly of you.'
"Your son?" The chef felt a chill down her spine.
'Yes, Damien. He has been hassling my butler out of the kitchen, trying to perfect the recipe for baklava you gave him.' Alexandera tried rap her head around the fact she was on the phone with Bruce Wayne. Richest man in Gotham. Father of Smokebomb. This was waaaay above her pay grade. 'I do apologize for not introducing myself when you were at my home, I had quite a bit of work to do.'
"Mr. Wayne, I don't think I'll be able to cater for you. It's only myself and three other people."
'I don't mind hiring extra staff, I know I'll need servers as well.'
"Don't you think whatever party you're hosting would like something more high class?" Alexandera heard a deep chuckle over the line.
'I could see where you'd think that, but I'm hoping to keep things a bit more low key. Something more down to Earth.' The mans voice dipped to a more quiet tone, as if to share a secret. 'Plus I get tired of the pretentious food myself.'
Alexandera couldn't help but roll her eyes. Yeah, sure. Richest man in Gotham gets tired of Cavier and A-5 beef.
"Look, I don't know about this. Smokebombs little Thanksgiving stunt was one thing, but this is..." The Chef ran a hand through her hair, trying to not make a complete ass of herself.
'Why don't you stop by the manor? We can hammer out details and then you can decide. Plus I can finally meet the woman my sons seems enamored with.' Alexandera felt her face heat up, whether from embarrassment or frustration she couldn't tell.
"Okay. Today at 8." There was no room for debate.
'I'll have Alfred pick you up. I look forward to meeting you. Have a good day.' Alexandera gave halfhearted response before hanging up. She tossed the phone aside before grabbing her coffee. In the quiet of the diner floor, her customers startled at the sound of a loud yell from the back of the kitchen.
It close to the end of morning close, when the diner would close for its daily prep hours. Alexandera was sitting on the cashier counter surrounded by her customers and staff. Coffee was flowing into her cup, poured by a thug not affiliated with any Rogue. Marcus placed a plate with a lemon scone next to her.
"Come on Momma Chef, you gotta do it." One man said, pouring something from his flask into her coffee, before taking a swig for himself.
"And steal some silverware before you leave, I can fence that for you." Deker grinned as someone smacked the back of his head.
"Look, I'm proud of my food. I don't think I could handle those pretentious assholes all high and mighty because I made corn on the cob instead of some creamed corn bullshit." The chef scowled as she took a bite of the scone. "I'm not about to change what I cook because of a fancy dinner party." Crumbs flew out of her mouth and she punctuated her words. Scowling, she brushed the crumbs from her apron.
"Then don't." Tazer said from his seat on the ground. Alexandera looked down at him, cocking a brow.
"Please, this is a WAYNE dinner. Foie gras and gold dust. Champagne and diamonds."
"Dammit Momma Chef, don't you get it. He called for your food. Your cooking. Its not those Glitzies up in the penthouses that called." Alexandera had to admit... He did have a point. Tazer grinned before tossing a chunk of scrambled eggs in the air, catching it in his mouth. "Besides, if they say a word, point. We'll handle the rest."
Alexandera smirked at that, not doubting they would. The chef looked around her, and the odd, almost friends surrounding her. She took a sip of her coffee.
"I'm not dressing up."
A black, unmarked town car with black tinted windows pulled up to her diner just as she was locking up. Her boys stood close to her, as if to offer protection, even though she knew she didn't need it. She handed Marcus her keys.
"I have a feeling I'm gonna be sleeping in after tonight." Marcus raised a brow teasingly, to which Alexandera punched his shoulder, causing him to laugh. "Kyle, delivery is tomorrow, double check before you sign. Gary, run by the bank and make change, we're almost out of quarters and nickels." Her boys nodded before going off to their respective hovels. Marcus placed a hand on her shoulder encouragingly before walking off to catch up with them. Turning to the car, she saw Smokebomb's, Bruce Wayne's, butler already at the back door.
"Miss Fox, a pleasure to see you again." He opened the door for her. Alexandera eyed it warily.
"Yeah, likewise." The chef ran a hand through her bangs, grasping her head from the back. "Can I ride in the front?" The butler cocked a brow before smiling.
"Of course, Miss." he shut the door and moved to open the front.
"Nah, I got it." Alexandera said, as she nearly rushed it. The butler merely smiled that secretive smile of his, nodding as he made his way round to the drivers side. Alexandera slid into the front seat of the immaculate, spacious care. It still had the new car smell. The chef fought a scoff, because of course the richest man in Gotham bought a brand new car, he probably bought a new one a week. Alfred closed his door, buckling his seat belt and began the drive to Wayne Manor. It was silent for ten minutes, the chef looking at the buildings passing by, getting taller, and more well kept, the people transforming from dark clothes and hunched hidden faces, to bright colours and raised noses. It almost made her sick. Alfred, ever the perceptual man, noticed the scowl on her face, the tenseness in her body.
"He can't seem to get the recipe right." His soft voice still startled her enough out of her thoughts to make her jump.
"What?" Alfred smiled at what most would perceive as lacking manners.
"Young Master Wayne has been trying to recreate your recipe for baklava and seems convinced you wrote the recipe wrong, since his attempts have not compared to yours." Alexandria took a moment to process before she chuffed.
"I did." Alfred raised a brow.
"Oh?" It wasn't accusatory, merely questioning.
"Much like a magician, a chef never reveals everything. I gotta keep my recipes my own, or people will just be bake to make it from scratch. I'd lose business." The chef shrugged her shoulders. "Besides, when we we're back in your kitchen he was trying to change the recipe anyway. Little shit." The last line was grumbled to herself, but the butler heard and laughed.
"Ah yes, he can be difficult sometimes, but I think he likes to agitate you."
"Yeah, no kidding."
"You see, with him being Master Wayne's son, people tend to treat him... differently. You haven't" Alfred looked out the corner of his eyes briefly. "I believe he finds your lack of propriety refreshing, as do I. Sometimes people need a reminder they are not the center of the world." Alexandera didn't seem to notice the laxing of her shoulders, though Alfred did.
"So, he gives me shit, because I give him shit?"
"I would say a good, swift kick in the arse." Alexandera sputtered a laugh, looking to the butler slyly.
"Hey, aren't butlers supposed to not bad mouth their employers?"
"You've obviously never heard of maid gossiping." Alexandera rolled her eyes.
"Let me tell you about waitress gossiping." As the blonde began her small tirade, Alfred smiled. She would be perfect.
Wayne Manor was still a large imposing structure, even more so now that she was here for business. Damien was outside the front door, watching with hawk like focus as she opened the front door. As younger Wayne began to make his way down the stairs he took in her appearance. She still hand her work attire on. The smell of sweat and spices still on her and stains on the apron around her waist. The only thing that was composed about the chef was her scowl and her hair pulled back into a sloppy bun, as if she just put it up. It made him relieved to see she wasn't trying to impress his father, as so many other women would.
"Lady Chef." It was a simple greeting, and even with the scoff she gave, he could see an appreciation in her eyes. Alexandera tapped his head with her knuckles, a light knocking notion.
"Kid, I'm no lady."
"And I am no child. Father is awaiting you in the foyer." Damien turned back, making his way back up, the chef following.
"What, you gonna be my escort or something?" Alfred, for his age, speedily made his way to the door, composed as any butler.
"I have studies to attend to. I merely wished to see you before hand. I have questions for you about the recipe you gifted me, but those will have to wait." Alfred opened the door for the two allowing them to walk into the brightly lit home. Standing in a well styled polo and khakis was the one and only Bruce Wayne. Damien sent a glare to his Father, a challenge and warning all at once, before walking past. Alexandera raised a hand in greeting.
"Hello, Mr. Wayne." The billionaire gave charming smile, perfect teeth all in a row, walking forward with his hand extended. Alexandera reciprocated gripping firmly as she shook.
"That's quite a handshake Miss. I'm happy you were able to stop by, I hope we can reach an agreement on the event." The chef barely held back a grimace. "Shall we head to my office? Or would the living room be more comfortable?"
"I'd rather be in a kitchen Mr. Wayne."
"Please call me Bruce, I insist." Alexandera crossed her arms, walking towards where she remembered the kitchen.
"No, Mr. Wayne. Not to be rude, but this is business, we're not friends." Bruce raised his brows in shock, looking at his trusted butler. Alfred smiled serenely, following after the woman. The kitchen was as immaculate as ever, polished chrome and clean counters. Walking around the island counter she faced the elder Wayne as he took a seat in a stool.
"What is the event?" straight to the point.
"It's, ah, it's a fund raiser for local homeless shelters, in hopes of procuring enough funds to supply more bed, clothes, food, medicine and career training services."
"What kind of food were you hoping for? As I already stated that I don't do high cuisine." the chef cocked her hip, placing her hands on the counter. Bruce took notice of the small scares littering her fingers.
"I was kind of hoping for something more traditional. More family style, sit down, chat, eat." The chef cocked a brow.
"You want the Glitzies to serve themselves like their one big happy family while they gossip behind each others back?" The chef began to laugh loudly, not the least bit mollified at her indirect insult. Bruce tried not to frown. "Where are you going to be holding it?"
"Well I was thinking of my pent house uptown, but I don't think the kitchen there will be fitted well enough." For a moment the chef thought to herself.
"If I were to do this, and I'm not saying I am, but why not do it here?" Bruce raised his own brow. "You have the space for one, deck these halls and you've got a Hallmark worthy scene. Plus inviting people into your own home gives you a home field advantage."
"That's a good idea, actually..." Bruce rubbed his jaw as he saw a light take over the blondes eyes.
"You could do a round table, multiple dishes set out for everyone to make their plates. Spice ham, glazed carrots,..." The chef began to ramble off softly to herself, pacing along the bar. Bruce noticed how her eyes weren't really focus on anything.
"Do you think you could be my chef for the event?" Alexandera looked to the billionaire, and for a few moments thought deeply. She didn't have the same soul deep stare that Damien, but her almost apathetic gaze made for an uncomfortable experience.
"I'm not good with people, I will get angry if you come near my kitchen while I'm cooking."
"I will do my best to stay out of your way."
"I'm bringing my boys." Bruce stiffened up.
"You have children?"
"What? Fuck no!" Alexandera crossed her arms, "The only kid in my life is Smokebomb. My employees are my boys."
"Oh! Well of course."
"I'm not gonna go cheap, just because this is a charity event."
"I wouldn't expect you to." The chef held her hand out, which Bruce gripped and shook.
"Pleasure doing business with you."
Chapter 16: Can't keep me down
Joker had a job to do, but he was a few men short. Alexandera had scheme in her apron pockets, and she needed all the men she had. What to do, what to do...
Joker was whistling as he strolled through the back alleys of Gotham. It was snowing dirty grey smog flakes, and the homeless were bundled together around cheery smoking barrels. Just another lovely day. His friends shop was just up the street and it was close to lunch time. His chef friend always had something tasty. Today though he needed to talk to her about business. He always enjoyed his chats with her, she didn't beat around the bush or mince words. No secret agenda. It was refreshing. Coming up to the back door he checked his pocket watch. His goons would be locking door and closing windows right about now. Caution in the wind, though some would argue he didn't have caution to begin with, he slammed the back door open with a resounding laugh.
"Honey, I'm home!" He was disappointed to not see her in her office, jumping at his sudden entrance. He always got a chuckle out of her frustrated anger at his arrival. The sound of chairs screeching on tile alerted him. The creak of the kitchen door followed, with his friend peaking around the corner.
"Hey, get in the office. I tell the guys to dash." Ash blonde hair trailed after the chef as she retreated back around the corner. That was odd. Alex always had the place empty for any potential visits. Pistol in hand, Joker made his way to the corner and glanced around it, looking through the window on the swinging door. The lobby was filled with local thugs. He recognized a few of his men, some of the smaller gangs, and a stripper named Earl. Most of them patted her back or punched her arm in jest. A few saluted mockingly as they filed out. Joker raised a brow, it seemed so... domestic. His goons locked down the shop as Alex walked back into the kitchen.
"Been a minute since you've been here. What do you want, Joker?" His chef friend ran a hand through her hair, something she did a lot.
"Chefy, you wound me! Thinking I'm only here because I want something!" Joker pushed the gun into his suit pocket, "Can't a friend stop by to say hi?" Joker gave an exaggerated pout as he held his hands to his heart. Alex gave him a blank expression in return.
"With you, I never know if it to stop by to say hi, or to hide. Really though, you haven't been around for a while. You want food or what?" Joker giggled thinking of the time he surprised her in the freezer, nearly blue after accidentally locking himself in.
"I'm here to chat, but I won't say no to some food."
"What do you want?"
Thick, creamy carbonara was lunch for the inhabitants of the restaurant. Marcus and Gary were busy prepping for the rest of the day while Kyle cleaned. The chef was leaning in a booth, legs propped up, eyes closed in a surprisingly relaxed position. The Clown was sitting cross-legged across from her.
"So, I noticed that you had people in later than usual today." The Clown broached.
"Yeah, they wanted to help me make a menu for a catering event I agreed to work."
"Good for you! Speaking of work, I gotta job to do soon, so I'm gonna need to borrow the goons for that day." The Chef opened her eyes and looked directly at The Clown.
"The 18th." It was silent for a minute, and then..
"No." The Joker frowned.
"No. My event is the 18th. I'm going to need them then and the day before." There seemed to be no room to argue by the blondes tone. Too bad the Joker was tone deaf.
"Doll, I don't think you understand the ...Situation... I let you borrow those buffoons, but they are still my men."
"I've been paying them, and you run a business, I'm sure you can find someone to use in their stead. They ain't going anywhere." Alex swung her feet to the floor, crossing her arms as she fully faced The Joker.
"You don't want to do that." The Joker warned, leaning forward.
"Do what? You never said it was a loan, you haven't bothered to grab them before. As far as I'm concerned their my boys now." The chef slid out of the booth. "If you need them so badly, change your plans for another day." The chef began to walk away, her back turned. A click stopped her retreat. As she turned, a pistol glinted menacingly.
"And here I thought we had an... Understanding. At the end of the day, this whole deal was made on a handshake."
"A handshake don't mean nothing, all it proves is you got hands." The Blonde muttered.
"Exactly. See this has been fun, and I'd hate to lose out on gaining weight, but I've got plans, and I won't let anyone stand in my way. Even if it is you." The Joker sighed sadly,
"Harley will be all 'BOO HOO, Mistah J! She had moxy!', but she'll forgive me. But I can't let a betrayal stand." The Joker was one second from shooting the Chef down, when...
Alex was suddenly on the ground, teeth clattering and wheezing for air that was knocked from her lungs. Gary was covering her body, Kyle trying to pull both by a leg into the kitchen. Marcus holding his own sleek gun, pointing it steadily at the Joker. To the Clowns credit he was now pointing the gun at Marcus, his eyes wide.
"You okay, Boss?" Marcus asked, eyes never straying from the Joker.
"Yep." Alex wheezed, trying to stand, though Gary was heavy.
"Et tu, Doofus?" The Joker lowered his arm, relaxing even with the gun pointed at him. Almost daringly.
"Sorry Boss, but I'm on the clock. Right now, she's my boss. And I'll treat her the same I treat you, until I'm off the clock." If possible the Jokers eyes widened more. He turned his wild gaze back to the chef, who was now sitting after pushing Gary off her. Both Gary and Kyle were standing in front of her, a flesh wall. The Chef looked to the Clown, not pleadingly, but accusingly.
"And here, I actually thought we were friends." It was quiet. The Joker opened his coat putting his gun in a inner pocket once more. In a tone not unlike the chefs, earlier.
"Be ready at the Bounce House at nine, on the 22nd." The Joker nodded to the Chef before walking by, through the swinging door. Marcus kept his gun trained to the Joker until he heard the back door close. With oddly professional ease he slipped quietly through the door leaving Gary and Kyle to hover around the Chef. Alexandera waved them off, but accepted the flask Kyle offered. Marcus came back with his hands empty.
"Are you stupid?!" Alexandera looked at Marcus.
"Apparently." Marcus balled his hands.
"You could've died even with us around!" Alexandera shook her head.
"No. I've got an ace up my sleeve."
"And what's that, women?!" Marcus bellowed.
"I'm his friend." Her boys looked at her like she was crazy. "I didn't know you had a gun."
Marcus shook his head with a scoff.
"This is Gotham, there are crazies everywhere." Alexandera laughed. She couldn't argue with that.
Chapter 17: Work begins
Never underestimate the power breakfast has on your mood.
Damien was always an early riser. Even with his nightly escapades and his schooling. He never needed much sleep, anyway. His body was honed for such things. The only person within the household that was awake before him was the butler, Alfred. His school was out on holiday, and he was given the night off by his father, so today he slept in. He would have gladly slept til the late hour of of six, but a high pitched beeping roused him. Looking out his third story bedroom window, a large white delivery truck was backing up to the backdoor of the manor, where the servants corridor lied. The winter sun had yet to rise, so the red lights of the truck cast a ghoulish look on the snow. Curious, he began to dress. As he made his way down the stairs, he could hear voices wafting through the halls. He could here Alfred's voice instructing where to place whatever delivery had come in, the shuffle of feet, and the grunts. He was about to dismiss whatever was going on until he heard a woman speak, a voice he had committed to memory.
"Finally gave up on your son handling delivery, Andre?" It was Lady Alexandera, her low voice strained with what seemed to be a yawn. Damien stood just beyond the doorway to the kitchen, keeping out of sight as he observed the scene. A hulking mass of a man leaned down to gently place down a box of what looked like small gourds. Three more men, Lady Alexanderas' employees, were bustling around, placing the food where Alfred designated, while the Lady herself carried a smaller box of fruit under one arm, an old thermos in the other. The giant of a man stood with a grunt, before responding.
"Like hell I'd send my son to delivery to you, you'd bite his head off for fucking your order last time he dropped by." Andre smiled, revealing missing teeth, "Besides, I had to see it for myself. Our very own Alex, schmoosing it up with the Waynes!" Andre gave playful punch to Alexandera's arm, causing her to spill what looked to be coffee onto the ground. Damien's gaze narrowed at the act. That was no way to treat a Lady, let alone your superior. He was glad to see Lady Alexandera scoff, scolding him for the action.
"Dude, not the coffee arm." the Chef, placed her own box down, grabbing a towel from her ever present apron, and cleaning up the spill.
"Sorry, Girly." Andre did not sound the least bit sorry, leaving Damien nonplussed. Such rudeness. Alexandera stood once more, tossing the towel at Andre.
"Sure you are, Andre, sure you are. How much more you got?" the Chef sipped her coffee, staring at the boxes around her as her boys went to pick them up.
"One more run. That'll be the meats, but my sister should be done dressing them by noon."
"Her new baby has been keeping her busy."
"Oh yeah, she popped out a crotch goblin. Tell her she has my condolences." Damien's eyes widen at the remark, as Andre laughed.
"I'll tell her you said that after she puts her cleaver up." With that, he handed Alexandera a clipboard, which she signed. They shook hands and the lumbering man ducked out the door. Damien wanted to keep watching from the shadows, why he wasn't sure, but his plans were preemptively foiled by Alfred.
"Good morning, Young Master. Would you like something to eat this morning." Damien straightened his vest as he walked in, trying not to show any inkling of his spying. Though it seemed Alfred always seemed to know when he was around.
"Good morning Alfred. No, I'm not hungry this morning." Damien turned to the Lady, and inclined his head in greeting. "Good morning, Lady Chef." It was always a delight to see her scowl at the name.
"Still ain't a lady, Kid." Was the standard retort. "Why're you up so early, Smokebomb?" Damien sat in a chair near the corner, where a nearly unused breakfast nook stood.
"Whatever do you mean?" The chef scowled at his prim tone, rolling her eyes.
"Don't kids your age sleep in? I know schools out, you should be dead to the world right now." Damien accepted the mug of tea Alfred silently placed infront of him.
"That would be a waste of my time. I have many things to do in a day, too much to lie around." Damien inhaled the scent of his tea, cardamom. It reminded him briefly of home.
"Why am I not surprised by that." The Chef shook her head, while she took a seat next to the boy. "Well what are your plans, Kid?"
"I am no child, and my plans are my own." Damien savored his first sip, warmth flooding his body. He smirked into his cup as he watched the Lady snort in irritation. "Are you going to be cooking today?" Alexandera sighed, leaning back dangerous far in her chair, two of its feet leaving the ground.
"Not too much, lots of prep and some baking. Most of it going to be cooked tomorrow." The Chef ran a hand through her hair, a custom Damien observed her do often, though at the moment her hair was not in its custom pony tail, nor haphazard bun. It was odd to see it down, but not uncomely. "You should eat breakfast though. You're young, you'll need the energy."
Alfred gave a hum from his place behind the kitchen island, generously pouring coffee for the chefs' men. "Good luck with that battle, Miss Fox. He rarely eats breakfast."
"Kid, you need to eat breakfast." There wasn't worry in her tone, nor was it a plea. It sounded like a statement, an order.
"I am rarely hungry in the mornings, and with my schedule, I find it a waste of time to force myself eat." Damien took another sip from his mug.
"But you have time for tea? Too busy for breakfast, my ass." There was a clack when the chairs two feet hit the floor. Alexandera, swiftly stood, grabbing something from the box she had been carrying. Damien caught an orange tossed in his direction, not bothering to look when he did so.
"You could of hit me, throwing such a thing at me." The Chef snorted, grumbling back.
"Good. Might knock some sense into you. Eat." A definitive order. One Damien decided to follow, if only to appease the woman. He peeled the orange, making a show of biting into the first slice, as if silently mocking the Lady. Alfred ever the silent audience, smiled as he gathered the silver tray with Master Waynes' breakfast. It was nice to see the Young Master getting along with his friend.
Bruce Wayne was used to rising early, despite his night job, though it was always a struggle with how sore he usually was. A soft clink alerted him of his faithful butler placing his customary breakfast on the bedside table.
"Good morning, Bruce. Eggs benedict, melon, coffee, and the paper. I believe you are on page three, pertaining to your event tomorrow night. The media is in a frenzy with you holding the dinner at the manor." A small paper cup was offered, holding aspirin, which Bruce grabbed tiredly. Washing down the pills with a swig of coffee. Bruce pushed himself up before he began to eat. "Miss Fox is also here, she and her employees will be working to prepare for tomorrow. Damien is currently downstairs with her." Bruce swallowed the sweet fruit, stretching as he asked,
"Has she roped him into working again?"
"No Sir, But she was able to get him to eat an orange as breakfast, though I've no doubt she will try to get him to eat more." Bruce's brow raised, getting Damien to eat breakfast was an impressive feat.
"Will you be working in the office?" Alfred asked blandly, making it clear that he would prefer Bruce to stay above ground.
"Yes, Lucius sent me a few email regarding some deals over at the Tower. I can't ignore those." Alfred smiled, knowing that Bruce would be busy doing something safe.
"I'll go get the car ready then, Sir."
"Fuck." A snap was heard, causing Alexandera to to drop her hands from her hair, searching the ground for her now broken hair tie. Damien looked up from the table, watching as the Lady bent to pick up the forlorn string.
"Are you well?" Damien asked, as the Chef tossed the hair tie in the trash, before inspecting her wrist and pockets.
"Pony tail snapped, and I don't have a spare like I normally do." Damien watched as she grabbed a rubber band from a bundle of celery, face set in frustration. "This'll have to do."
"Why do you seem put off by it?" Damien wondered, standing to put his now empty mug in the sink. Alexandera rolled her eyes, grumbling out in a tone of shame.
"It hurts when I pull it out." The childish reply almost made Damien smile. Almost.
"It cant be that bad." an angry voice shot out.
"You ain't got long hair like mine, besides... I'm tender headed."
"If I recall, you once said that you can stand quite a bit of pain, what with you working in the kitchen." Pride swelled as Damien watched the chef frown, looking away in a huff.
"Yeah, well, that's a different matter." The chef crossed her arms indignantly. "It's also unsafe, and unsanitary to have long hair down when cooking. First rule of fight club, you know?" Damien did not know, but he did understand her wanting to keep her food safe.
"Wait here." Damien used his most authoritative tone, before walking out of the kitchen. There was something she could use... if he could find it. The walk to his room went quickly, and he through his closet door open, turning the light on. Clean pressed shirts hung from the dowel, suit jackets and slacks covered in protective sleeves pressed to one side. A small box was settle high on the shelves but it was no matter to pull it down and open it up. His academy had given these to new students, in an effort to get the to show 'team spirit' if they ever attended sporting events in the their name. Damien had immediately tossed it aside, for he had no plans to attend such frivolities, but now it may just come in handy. An unused Gotham Academy baseball hat lay to one side, its blue and gold embroidery stiff and pronounced. Damien pulled it out and began to walk back, leaving the box on the floor. Alfred would put it back later. As he made his way back down the stairs, he heard the front door close. Most likely his father leaving for his day job. Alexandera was instructing two of her men with orders to chop onions and garlic, while another was weighing flour.
"I believe," he started, garnering the chef's attention, "that this may help." Damien held the hat towards the woman, who grabbed it almost gently.
"I mean, yeah. This could work." She began to loosen the back strap. "You sure I can use this?" Damien nodded and watched as she pulled her hair through the back hole, tightening it to her head. It fit, if only a little tightly, but it suited her in some way.
"This should be an adequate substitute, for the time being." Damien tensed when Alexandera place a hand on his head, ruffling his hair in a familiar manner.
"Thanks, Smokebomb." Damien, in a rare show of emotion, smiled.
"Your welcome, Lady Chef."
Chapter 18: Not a kid person, for the most part
The chef didn't have children for a reason, she had little patience.
After receiving a hat from Damien, Alexandera washed up and set to work preparing for tomorrow evening. Most of it was vegetables for the sides, cheeses and fruits for light snacking, and marinades for when the meats when they arrived. Alexandera left Marcus to deal with the baking, as he was better than her though she would only admit to that fact begrudgingly. Damien wondered off not too long after she got in the zone, with Gary next to her, Kyle washing off veggies and keeping a steady stream of supplies knives and bowls ready for his Boss. She joked with the men around her, the usual raunchy fair usually heard in kitchens. It honestly felt good to the chef, it felt like the good old days, back when she worked in Metropolis. Sometime later, Alfred strode in, offering his services.
"Do you ever sit down?" Alexandera questioned as she covered a mirepoix with plastic wrap, cocking a brow at the elder man.
"I have been entrusted with the smooth running of Wayne Manor since before Master Wayne was born. I sit once my duties are done." There was unmasked pride in the mans tone.
"Yeah well, the big guys not here, pop a squat." Alexandera grabbed a large colander of potatoes Kyle had just finished scrubbing clean, giving a brief thank you. Alfred smiled but denied.
"I was instructed to help you with your own duties, if you don't need me, I'll begin my usual rounds." Alfred began to take his leave before the chef gruffly ordered,
"Wash your hands, you can help me with the potatoes." Alfred smiled lightly. He had a feeling this was her way for trying to get him the shirk his duties, though he would not argue. Washing his hands as told, he took a seat at the breakfast nook next to the chef. She had a small knife in her hands and a large stock pot between her feet on the floor, peeling away the skins of the potatoes. When she finished on she would place it in a bowl infront of Alfred, instructing him the chop them before tossing them in another pot. It was a quiet, comfortable silence, broken only by the men occasionally asking what task to do next.
"This reminds me of my time in the army." Alfred voiced, as he grabbed another potato from the bowl. Alexandera didn't look up from his task.
"You served? Huh." There was a slight disbelief in her tone.
"Is that surprising?"
"Yeah, don't get me wrong, but I can't picture you as anything other than a butler." Alfred wasn't insulted in the slightest.
"It's not something I talk much about."
"Well what you do? Spray Pinesol in there eyes?" It was meant to be a joke, one the Butler thankfully caught.
"Nothing of the sort, though it would have been an improvement on the smell. No, I was a battlefield medic." At this the chefs head shot up.
"Shit, dude!" Alfred smiled at her shocked reaction, Alexandera began to chuckle, "I bet Wayne was never able to play sick for school."
"Oh not in the least, though he did try his damnedest when he was much younger." He joined her laughter, even her employees snickered at the light gossip.
"I bet Smokebomb tries that shit too, huh?"
"Quite the opposite, actually. He isn't one to put off his schedule." Alexandera clucked her tongue.
"Figures the kid only acts a fool around me." It was meant to be scathing, but Alfred could see her small grin.
"I wasn't aware you went to Gotham Academy." It was bait, he knew she didn't go. Bait she took.
"Nah, I didn't live here as a kid. Smokebomb loaned it to me when my ponytail snapped."
"It suits you." Any retort was cut off by ringing. Alexandera tensed as her phone, the one in her boot rang.
"Uhhh, I'll be right back, that's my work phone." Swiftly, the chef stood, walking out of the kitchen and to a more private area. Alfred didn't question her reaction, he merely grabbed another potato.
Alexandera walked into what looked to be a lavish living room, plush sofas and porcelain vases filled he room. Fumbling with the laces of her boot, the chef pulled the small flip phone from the side, not bothering to check to see who it was.
"What?!" Alexandera hissed as a greeting.
"This room is important
I think that you'd agree
As there's a fridge-freezer
And maybe a pantry?" Alexandera rolled her eyes.
"Now's not the time, Ed-mond." the chef covered her almost mistake, sighing at her near slip-up.
"Ah, so you aren't in the restaurant. Where are you?" Riddler hummed, peeved she didn't answer another of his riddles. He'd even dumbed them down in hopes of getting an answer.
"Corner of none ya, six blocks from business."
"Really, there is no need for this hostility." Riddler smiled at the growl over the phone.
"Look I'm busy, and right now I'm not in the mood to deal with you lot. After J's last visit, I'm keeping my head down."
"What did you DO?!" Alexandera had never heard The Riddler sound so... panicked.
Damien had finished showering after doing some light training. He wasn't going to risk doing anything too intense with his Lady friend in the Manor, even if the risk of her seeing him was minuscule. He began wondering his way back to the kitchen, hoping to procure an early lunch from the women when he heard her voice, much closer than the kitchen should be.
"-blocks from business." Her tone was hostile and sarcastic. It was silent once again before a tone so angry, near livid, lilted through the halls, rounding the corner where the eavesdropping Wayne stood.
"Look I'm busy, and right now I'm not in the mood to deal with you lot. After Jay's last visit, I'm keeping my head down." Who was Jay? Who was he to enrage Lady Chef. Faintly he could hear a voice, warped over a phone receiver ask what she had done. What, indeed? Damien edged silently closer to the doorway.
"He needed help, I said no. He pulled a gun on me." The tone was matter-of-fact, so blase, than Damien would have mistaken her talking about the weather. Yet here she was admitting to being held up by gun point. A rush of anger flooded through him, heating the skin he had just cold down from his shower. It was quiet again as she listened to whoever had called her.
"Nah, I knew what I was doing. He left, no harm, no foul." He could hear a sigh, "Hey, I'mma big girl, I wipe my own ass and everything. Mommy, WOW! I'm a big kid now!" The child like tone did nothing to hide the sarcasm. Silence again.
"Tell him we'll have tea on the 20th. I'll be busy til then. What?!" A groan before, "What? No, I don't... Did you say GTA?..." Grand theft auto? What was Lady Chef doing outside of business hours. First guns, and now auto theft?
"I... You know what, sure I'll play, but I want first player. I don't care if it's your system, you want me to play, I get better get the better controller. I don't have time for this." Ah, it was a game. He didn't take his friend for someone who played such games. A mocking laugh resounded. "Yeah, yeah, go shove a crossword up yer ass." A snapping noise sounded. Damien risked peering around the corner, Lady chef was tucking a small phone into her work boots. when she stood her back was to the doorway, allowing Damien to speed silently up the stairs. He listened for her footsteps before loudly walking down. She seemed to take to the ruse.
"Oh hey, Smokebomb." was all she said when she turned to locate the noise. As she walked back into the kitchen, Damien watched her closely. She didn't seem to show any signs of worry or fear, as if what she had just spoken about was a casual occurence. It worried him, but it as peak his interest. What did she do outside of work...
It was a surprise when Boss asked him what his coat size was. Marcus responded, and watched as Lady Boss asked his fellow goons the same.
"I'll be back before 1. Marcus you're in charge." And with that order, Lady Boss disappeared, Old Man Alfred with her. Shrugging his shoulders, he began kneading dough. Kyle went to pocket a polished silver spoon, but Gary slapped the back of his head. Kyle was always a small risk with petty theft, but Gary kept him on track. The kid with scarily intense eyes watched like a hawk in the door way, to which Marcus tried his best to ignore. The kid unnerved him, and he used to work for the Joker! He knew the other guys felt the same way, because when they saw his small imposing form standing near them, the went back to their jobs quietly, trying their best to ignore the boy. It was a relief when an hour and a half later Lady Boss returned. Smiling. Marcus did a double take. With his previous employeement with the Joker he was used to smiles. But something about the smile on Lady Boss's face was much more disturbing.
"Alright boys, break time." Marcus covered the dough with a moist towel. It needed to rest for a couple hours anyway. Gary and Kyle slumped to the floor, backs leaning on the kitchen island, they didn't want to be near the weird boy at the kitchen nook. Old Man Alfred didn't seem to notice the two mens state, simply walked to the large refrigerator, pulling things out. Marcus saw a stack of something white in Lady Boss's arms, covered in clear plastic.
"What's that, Chef?" Lady Boss smiled wider.
"I'm so glad you asked!" Marcus didn't think she noticed how eerily she sounded like Joker in that moment. "These are your uniforms."
"Uniforms?" Gary asked from the floor. "We gotta wear uniforms?" A packet of white was tossed directly at his face, Kyle laughed at Gary before being hit by a similar package.
"Yeah for tomorrow. We gotta look the part, right?" Lady Boss was nicer to Marcus, handing him one instead of throwing it at him. Tearing the packet open, he unfolded a white chefs jacket. Glossy black buttons lined the left side, two were circles, two were squares, and two were triangles. Over where his heart would be was a slim, orange embroidered fox, curled down over large green block H, and a elegant teal cursive P. Below this was the words 'Anything but Ordinary' curving up to the fox to make a circle, in black. His name was there, under the words SOUS-CHEF,opposite of the logo. Gary and Kyle had similar jackets, with their names embroidered, too, though with out a title. Looking up he saw Lady Boss already buttoning her jacket up, Logo standing out from the crisp white. Instead of her name, it was an embroidered fox head under the words HEAD CHEF.
Kyle gave a playful whistle.
"Looking good, Boss." Alexandera laughed.
"That's Chef." She pointed to the word on her chest, though it was surprisingly playful. Marcus had never seen her so happy before.
"Hey, these make us look like real cooks!" Kyle now standing checking himself in the reflective surface of the raised oven. Gary muscled his way next to him to take a peak too. Alexandera rolled her eyes at the action, but it wasn't out of malice. Marcus slid his on, buttoning it two thirds of the way, leaving the top round button undone.
"What's a sous-chef?" Marcus asked, seeing a bland look settle over Head Chef's face.
"Fuckin' really?" Lady Boss poked the words on his chest, he was glad she didn't have nails, it would have hurt. "It means, your my second in command. There might be days down the road where I'm too busy to work, so when I'm gone, your in charge." It was said to him as if he should have been obvious.
"Really?" Marcus felt fuzzies in his chest, he blew it off as heart burn. Boss rolled her eyes.
"You hear that, Gary? Kyle?" She caught the two men's attention, Kyle's jacket buttons were slightly off. "When I ain't around, you listen to Marcus, got it?"
"Yes, Chef!" was replied enthusiastically. Lady Boss turned to the boy sitting at the table, who had been watching silently from his corner. One last package was in her arms.
"Here, Kid. This ones yours."
"I am no child." the boy responded, but he grabbed the package nonetheless. "I do not work for you either." Lady Boss didn't respond, she just gestured to him to open his packet. As he did so, Marcus noticed Old Man Alfred was surreptitiously watching the two. Marcus heard fabric rustle and then..
"Really now! I am no thief!" Marcus shuffled over, and read the name on the jacket, Lady Boss cackling as she went to help the Butler with whatever task he was doing. The boy had his own jacket too, though he was scowling at the name and title.
Lady Boss had a sense of humour.
It was night at the Wayne Manor. Lady Alexandera had left earlier that evening once she deemed the prep work was done. Damien had bid her farewell, still somewhat sore at the little joke she had pulled with the jacket. He would never admit that he was pleased with the gift though. She had apparently pre-ordered the jackets earlier in the week, she just needed to double check his employees sizes. Her thinking of him... Whatever the case, The white jacket was now resting on his bed, forgotten as he sharpened his sword. So engrossed in his task he didn't notice the intruder until it was too late.
"Thief? Smokebomb? Didn't know you got part-time job, Damien." It was a voice Damien hated to hear. His adoptive brother, Tim Drake.
"What I do in my spare time is none of your concern, Drake." He made no effort to hide the venom on his tongue. What was Drake doing here?
"Whatever. Bruce wants you downstairs with us." Us? Damien didn't like the assumption of more then Drake and Bruce being here. Placing the whetstone on the floor along with his blade, he walked past Drake, purposefully bumping his shoulder against the older boy, a silent sign of his aggression. The walk down was tense. It was even more tense in the room where his Father, Alfred, and Grayson stood. Dick Grayson turned his entrance.
"Grayson." It was as polite a greeting as he would give. Bruce sighed at his sons.
"Alright, here's the plan. With the dinner tomorrow night, Batman will not be able to patrol until later than usual. I'll need Dick to cover for me for the first half dinner. I'll take first shift, and show up fashionably late. Afterwords, later in the night, Damien and Tim will be sent to bed, under the excuse of needing to keep their sleep schedule ready for school. You two will patrol together until three. Hopefully by then, Dick and I will be free to relieve you both." Shifts for the Bat family. Bruce didn't trust Damien to be alone yet on patrols. The fact angered Damien, he did his best to hide it.
"I do not need a partner, Drake will slow me down." Tim scoffed.
"Yeah, slow you down from busting kneecaps." Damien refused to rise to the bait, though it was tough.
"Enough. That's the plan. It's only for tomorrow. Do your best not to jeopardize the mission. Or the dinner." Bruce leaned back in his chair, his voice almost pleading. "What we do is for the good of the city. We need to work together to help." Drake bowed his head, cowed. Damien stayed silent but didn't argue.
"If that's all, I'm going to suit up." Damien went to leave but Grayson interrupted.
"Actually, Nightwing is going out. You take a night off." This did anger Damien, two nights now he had been grounded, barred from his nightly Robin duties.
"Very well." Damien walked out, glaring at Drake as he left, Drake returning the look with a sneer. Bruce sighed as his son fled. It was going to be chaos with his other sons home. Damien was too competitive, especially with his brothers. Bruce kept talking.
"Tomorrow for the day, we're going to have caterers in house, so be sure to watch what you talk about." Dick cocked his head.
"Alfred's not cooking this time."
"I will be assisting, Master Grayson, but the cooking will mostly been done by Miss Fox." This caught Tim's attention. Didn't Damien's jacket have a fox on it?
"This isn't like you, Bruce. Usually you would be at the penthouse." Dick narrowed his eyes at his father. "Who is she? A new fling?" Bruce shook his head.
"A possible lead, but nothing high on the radar." That was odd. Whatever Bruce was up to was in the air. Bruce stood before making with way to the grand piano, playing a few notes. The secret passage in the bookcase silently slid open. "Come on, Dick. I've got a possible lead on Joker from Oracle." And with that Batman and Nightwing disappeared behind the close shelf. Alfred turned to Tim, gesturing to the hall.
"Let's get you settled in your room. And find you a suitable outfit for tomorrow." Tim had no qualms about that. He needed to wake up early anyway.
Dick Grayson had just started to fall asleep when his cell phone dinged from it's charger, the sound rousing him. Looking at the screen he saw a message from Cori. She had recently started to use emojis in her texts, and would send him messages solely using the little pictures. This one was a heart, and a smiley face. Dick smiled, and replied with a heart and moon, telling her I love you and goodnight. When he got his moon in return, he went to lie back down, but his stomache had other ideas. Sighing, he got back up, it was almost five in the morning, usually around the time Alfred would be up, he figured he could get a small dinner before finally getting some sleep. He was surprised to find the the kitchen not only empty, but dark. Alfred was usually up by now. Maybe he had started sleeping later since Dick had moved to Jump City. He turned the light on and began rummaging through the fridge, looking for something to eat, there was a lot of covered bowls, and bags of food. Must be for tonights dinner. Not wanting to disturb anything he turned to the pantry. There was the usual dried goods, and Alfred's glass cookie platter. The silver tray covered with it's glass top, cookies waiting in neat rows. It brought back memories of his younger years, stealing cookies in the middle of the night, only for Alfred to give him double the amount of vegetables for dinner then next night. Smiling he removed the lid, grabbing a small stack of what looked like oatmeal raisin. He began to eat them, happy with his choice, they tasted great, though different from Alfred's usual recipe. Dick poured himself a glass of milk and took a swig when the back door opened. Alfred walked in, greeting Dick with a smile.
"Master Grayson, couldn't be bothered to make yourself a healthier breakfast?" Dick grinned cheekily as Alfred gestured to the cookie in his hand.
"Hey, not my fault you left the cookie jar within my grasp. You know I can't resist your cookies." Dick took another bite to emphasize his point. "They taste different though." Alfred narrowed his eyes in observation, before replying,
"Oh dear, I didn't make those, Master Grayson."
"Then who did?" The back door opened, a women in a white coat walking in, holding a cup in one hand, and some papers in the other. Behind her were three men in matching coats. When she looked up, grey eyes settle blandly on his face, then slid to the cookie in Dick's hand. Suddenly she was glaring him right in the eye.
"Boy, you better pray there's enough of them cookies for tonight." Dick was shocked, as the women brushed passed Alfred to the pantry, looking at at the tray, then back to Dick. "Put the rest back. Those are for tonight."
"Umm.. I was hungry?" It was a weak defense, but he honestly was too tired to put up a fight, and more than a little shocked by the women in the kitchen. She scoffed as she swiftly grabbed the small stack from the counter, placing the cookies back on the tray.
"Pff, who the fuck eats cookies for breakfast." She grabbed an apple from a bowl, and swapped the cookie in Dick's hand with the fruit. Grayson did nothing to stop her, but simply looked to Alfred for some sort of back up. Alfred, just smiled serenely, filling a kettle with water. Traitor.
"Uhh... Who are you?" Not very eloquent, but hey, he was tired, and his cookie was now being shoved in the women's mouth. She replied without swallowing, voice muffled slightly by his stolen treat.
"I'm the Chef, Fox. Go sit at the table, and don't get in the way." It was rude, but Dick complied. He wasn't used to people talking to him like that. Especially women. Usually they were flirting with him because of his looks, or his name. Yet here this women was, bossing him around like a child. It stunned him. He could hear Alfred chuckle as he set the kettle on the stove. Who was this woman?
Tim Drake woke earlier then he would have liked, but he had a hunch. If he was right, maybe he would find out where Damien got his fancy new jacket. Getting dressed in jeans and hoodie, he crept passed Damien's room. His brother had freakishly good hearing, and Tim wasn't about to risk waking him up. As he was heading down the stairs, Dick was trudging up.
"Still awake, Dick?" Dick yawned, nodding.
"Yeah, I went down to get something to eat, but I don't think I want to be down there. The cooks kinda mean." Tim grinned. Perfect, the girl was here.
"Thanks for the heads up. I want some soda, so I'll watch out."
"Good night." Tim slid down the banister, eager to see the cook. He could hear the rattling of pans, and the sizzle of of cooking. It already smelled good, whatever it was. Making no effort to hide, Tim walked in happily.
"Morning Alfred!" He stopped in front of the kitchen island, looking at the three other men in the room. All were wearing white coats, with the same logo Damien's had. Jackpot.
"Ah, good morning, Master Drake. Would you care for some breakfast?"
"Sure." Tim looked to one of the men. "You guys the cooks for Dad's dinner tonight." The one with Marcus, he looked familiar, on the chest looked up from a paper.
"Yeah. You another Wayne?" Tim grinned.
"Yeah, I'm Tim. Been away at a private school." A lie, but they wouldn't know any different. "Are you in charge?"
"Naw, that's Chef." Tim tried not to let his frustration show at the indirect answer. Where was the chef. Alfred had just placed a pot on the stove, when Tim asked.
"Hey, Alfred, can I get a soda?" Before Alfred could respond, A voice came from behind him.
"What's up with you people and breakfast. Can't ya'll drink some damn juice or coffee like normal people." A feminine, but not girly, voice grumbled. Tim turned to see the woman standing next to him, hair pulled back in a ponytail, white coat on but not buttoned. In her hand were a set of key he recognized. Keys outstretched towards Alfred. The butler gladly retrieved the set, before putting them in his pocket. "Thanks for letting me grab the hat. It won't happen again." Tim watched as she placed a dark blue and gold trimmed hat on her head.
"It's not a problem Miss Fox." Alfred supplied the Tim with the last bit of information he needed to confirm the first part of the mystery unknowingly. A soda was placed in front of him by Alfred, which was promptly grabbed by the woman.
"Hey!" Tim went to grab his soda back but the blonde was already walking away.
"Seriously Alfred, this a family trait or something?" Alfred shook his head as he ladled oatmeal in a bowl, covering it with strawberries.
"Or something, I suppose. At least Master Drake eats breakfast, even if he does drink far too much soda to be healthy." Whoa, Alfred has backup. Tim may not get his soda back. The woman, Fox, huffed through her nose, pulling a small single serve orange juice from the fridge.
"Eh, At least Smokebomb drinks tea, that's gotta count for something." Another hint to the puzzle. Juice was slid across the counter smoothly by the woman, stopping just short of his hand, while Alfred handed Tim the bowl.
"Drake, huh?" Tim offered a friendly smile, to which the woman frowned at. "Eat, then get out. It's only gonna get busier and I don't need you in the way." Wow, she was a bitch.
"Yes, Ma'am." The woman shuddered.
"Fox, not Ma'am. Go sit at that table." With that, Tim did as he was told. He watched as the Chef busy herself with work. Her team responding to or anticipating her orders. Pots of boiling potatoes bubbled, meats were seared before going into one of the ovens, surrounded by oiled and spice vegetables, one of the men way busy cutting the tops off apples, coring most of the way through. Tim wasn't a fan of cooking but he could appreciate how welled the team worked together. There was even the occasional banter amongst the four. Sometime later the women looked up from work, giving a crooked grin.
"Rise and shine, Kid. Good to see you suited up." Damien walked into the kitchen, wearing that white coat from his room. He didn't seem to notice Tim, yet.
"I am no child, Lady Chef." Tim rolled his eyes, at the way too proper speech Damien had.
"Still ain't a Lady. Come on, I'm about to start on the hassle-back squash. You start the sauce, after you eat something." the Chefs' tone was lighter with Damien than it had been for Tim. What exactly was their relationship? Damien grabbed a paper that was lying by the women, reading over it.
"I believe this may be too spicy for our guests palates."
"That's what the place cards are for, it'll warn them it's spicy." The women shrugged, not bothered by the potential accident. "Besides if their crying from pain they might not see how much they sign their checks worth." She gave a light tap to Damien's arm, much like friends would do. Holy shit... Damien was friends with her! Tim tried to make his escape without being scene, but was caught the second he stood up.
"Hey! Finish your food." The women had caught him, pointing her knife at the bowl on the table accusingly. Damien was flat out glaring at Tim, finally noticing he was there.
"I'm full. I'll eat the rest later."
"Bullshit, you took six bites, then watched us work." He hadn't expected that. She was perceptive. "Eat. Then go. How do you deal with it, Alfred?"
"The pay is decent, and I have good benefits." The chef cackled, leaving Damien to glare at Tim, as he sat back down and began to finish his food. Alfred gave Damien a mug, and an orange, gently gesturing the youngest towards the table. Damien sat, glaring at Tim, who just gave a cocky grin.
"Smokebomb." Oh the anger on the younger boys face was too good. This was some grade-A blackmail. wait til the others hear abo- "Ow!" something hit Tims' arm, the offending object landing on the ground to roll away. An orange.
"Don't fuck with my apprentice. I hear you try to pull that shit again, I'll tell Alfred." Both boys looked over the other chef, who wasn't looking in the direction, merely mixing something in a bowl.
"I didn't do anything."
"I ain't deaf. Not blind either, Stevie Wonder could see ya'lls glares at each other." The chef shrugged her shoulders. "I don't care who you are kid. Don't piss off the people who make your food, who knows what could happen." It was a vague threat, one he didn't bother to push. Finishing off the last of his food, Tim left. Pride bruised, and even more puzzled. What the hell was up with that women? Whatever it was, let the two crazies cook. He wasn't about to get in the middle of that.
"You did not need to defend me." Damien huffed, peeling his orange, not bothering to look in the chef's direction.
"Alfred filled me in, he wasn't kidding when he said ya'll would get into it." Lady Chef snorted, "Kid seemed skeevy anyway."
"Yeah, skeevy. Fake, unsavory, more bitter than watermelon skin." Damien chuckle slightly at the comparison.
"And the supposed apprenticeship?"
"Hey, with how often you bug me, may as well put you to work." Damien looked up, seeing a brief smile fall from her face. "Finish up. you'll help me with the baked apples."
"I thought it was the sauce."
"Rule one: I'm right, you're wrong, shut up and cook."
"Yes, Lady Chef."
Alfred smiled as he drained the pot of potatoes. It was nice to have a feminine touch with the children.
Chapter 19: Violent Philothranthropy
Never, ever, EVER... Salt your soup in front of the cook... It's just bad manners...
Bruce woke up to his alarm, letting him know it was time to take the first shift in the Wayne family business. Dick would be waiting in the lair, no doubt. Last night had been a bust, the lead Oracle had given led to an old Joker hideout, empty save for some pictures of Batman pinned to wall with targets painted over the photos, pinned by darts. There wasn't a shortage of other criminals running amok, but it was disappointing to not catch the clown. Unnerving, too. The Joker never laid low this long, usually he was more direct in his plans, striking not too long after escaping Arkham. The other Rouges, too, had been oddly silent. It worried Bruce, they must be planning something big. Hopefully they weren't planning on working together. The house smelled amazing.
It took Bruce a moment to remember that Miss Fox was here, cooking a feast downstairs. While he had suspicions about her, he would deny that her food smelled divine. Grabbing a public appropriate suit from the closet, he made his way downstairs. Appearances had to be upheld. He could hear the chefs barked orders over the clatter of the kitchen. Alfred was in the adjacent dinning hall, directing workers on how to set up the temporary tables for tonight's dinner, where plates should be set, how the silverware should lie. It made him uneasy having so many strangers in his home, but he knew they wouldn't find anything incriminating. No one could fault his paranoia though, if they knew his secret. Knowing Alfred could manage things in his absence, Bruce walked into the kitchen. You could imagine his surprise to not only find the kitchen abuzz with the flurry of food, pots, and steam, but his youngest son Damien, in the think of it, clothed in a white jacket that matched the adults in the room. He was standing on a step stool, leaned over to watch as the only woman in the vicinity spooned a golden liquid over something colourful in a high sided pan.
"-the pan tilted, it keeps the meat off direct heat, and allows you to baste whatever's cooking with your sauce." The chef slid the pan in a half circle, allowing Damien to take over, spooning butter over the food, just how she had done.
"Are you certain this much butter is necessary?" Damien asked as the woman moved over to an oven, pulling a tray of steaming squash out.
"Butter is life, Smokebomb. Ask anyone what makes their food so damn good, and chances are they'll answer salt or butter." The chef pulled a long, thin metal rod from her pockets, poking the gourd easily into the side. "Besides, nothing is life is good without a little fat."
"What do you mean, fat?"
"Fat. Fat cheques, fatty food, Fat Bottom Girls."
"I hope your not encouraging my son in wrong ways." Bruce interrupted, wanting to see what exactly his son was doing. Alexandera looked over briefly, shrugging her shoulders as she set the baking sheet down on a towel.
"Sorry, Mr. Wayne, but he's in a public school. It ain't the first time he's heard it." The chef pulled another baking dish from who knows wheres, laden with apples, and slid it easily into the oven.
"Gotham Academy is a private school, Lady Chef." Damien supplied, never stopping with his methodical movements.
"No wonder you talk all fancy, Kid." Damien sighed heavily at the nickname. "Did you need something Mr. Wayne?" The chef finally moved from the blizzard of movement, standing a respectable distance from the Eldest Wayne, though annoyance was clear on her face.
"Ah, no. I just wanted to check to see how things were going." Bruce did his best to seem nervous, women liked it when he was sheepish he noticed. The chef, ever the conundrum, scowl faintly.
"You hired me to cook, if you didn't trust me to do that right, then you shouldn't have hired me at all." Bruce could see the faint shaking of Damien's shoulders.
"Oh, um, right." Bruce rubbed his neck. "What's Damien up to?" Alexandera tilted her head.
"He's cooking. He helps me out sometimes." A thumb was jabbed over her shoulder lazily. "He's got the coat to prove it." With that the chef moved, striding over to one of her men, tasting a portion of carrots before seasoning it with something from her other pocket. Bruce, understanding that was her way of a dismissal, if a little put off by her attitude, moved to stand beside Damien, watching him spoon butter over a large chunk of browned meat.
"May I help you, Father?" Damien never slowed in his movements, only stopping to flip the meat over only to start basting again.
"When did you start cooking?"
"Thanksgiving." His tone sounded curt, as if Bruce should have know. To be fair, Bruce had forgotten about the holiday. "Lady Chef, how will I know when the meat is done?" Bruce took notice of the logo on his coat.
"Fingers and thumbs. Pinch your middle finger and thumb together and feel the muscle there," The chef held her hands up in an example briefly. "if the meat feels similar, then its somewhere close to medium or medium rare. Pull it off." Damien mimicked the action before turning the heat off. He turned, holding the pan by the handle.
"Excuse me, Father. I need you to stand aside, lest I accidentally burn you." Bruce back stepped, making room for his son to carefully step down from his perch, placing the hot pan on a towel, like the chef had done earlier. Bruce read the coat.
"Thief?" Damien crossed his arms indignantly, seeming to think on his answer.
"Kid keeps stealing my time, seemed appropriate." Bruce didn't notice the wink Alexandera gave Damien, to which he nodded. "I'm gonna need to to get behind the island, you're in the way."
"I'm sorry. I need to get going anyway, gotta get to the office."
"Don't let me keep you waiting." The chef handed Damien a thermometer, not looking at Bruce as he began walking away.
"Damien, don't forget to clean up before dinner." The hidden meaning wasn't lost on Damien.
"Yes, Father." Faintly he heard his sons voice as Bruce rounded the corner. "What did you mean by fat bottomed girls?"
"WHAT?! Marcus, give me your phone!" Bruce smiled at the shocked voice. "Kids way too sheltered!"
Dick stood near the entrance of Wayne Manor, his brothers standing close by, as he greeted the guests in his father's stead. His childhood home was looking especially cozy. Wreaths hung on doors and hallway walls, a large Christmas tree was in every room, bedecked in beautiful lights and baubles. Garland and tinsel wrapped around doorways and the length of the railing of the stair case. Even the rarely used fireplaces were lit, cheerfully adding their light to the picturesque scene. Not in many years had the Wayne Manor felt so... homey. Even when Dick lived here as a child was the house so lively. Alfred always made an effort to decorate, but that was restricted to the more used rooms in the house. Alfred had really outdone himself, and in such little time really. The dining room was currently barred off as the chef and her men began to lay out trays of food. All the better, he feared her attitude might insult the upper crust of Gotham.
"Well, well! I haven't seen you in many years!" A familiar redhead stepped through the front door, handing an old, but not tattered, coat to Alfred to carefully hang. Vicki Vale hadn't changed much in Dick's years away, her hair was shorter, and there was a ring on her finger and a man on her arm.
"Vicki, hi!" Dick shook her hand jovially before doing the same for the man next to her. "Didn't think you'd be here!" Vicki grinned, showing perfectly straight teeth.
"My husband had an invitation to come, and you know I'm always ready for a good story." Dick tried not to roll his eyes. Yeah, professional gossip.
"Well, feel free to mingle on the first floor, dinner should be served in about half an hour." Vicki slid by him, eyes sizing up who was milling about, and with who. To her companions credit, he did stay by her side. Maybe he'd curb her curiosity. Dick turned to look over at his younger brothers. Tim was hamming it up with the other guests, greeting them and subtly sucking up, keeping them in a good mood. He was always good with people so this was his element. Damien on the other hand was doing his best to avoid anyone that came near him, sliding behind guests quietly and refusing to make eye contact. He didn't blame him, but he knew that Bruce had hoped to get Damien more used to people. Alfred came to Dick's side.
"Would you be so kind as to do me a small favor, Master Grayson?" Alfred placed a hand on Dick's shoulder, gently leading him aside the door.
"I need to remain here, to put away our guests belongings. Would you please ask Miss Fox how she is fairing?" Oh. Oh no.
"I don't think she likes me much Alfred, maybe I could take care of the coats." He really didn't want to see that cook again.
"I have a system set up on how everything is placed, and who it belongs to. I would be remised if someone received a jacket that didn't fit them." Subtle Alfred, real subtle.
"Alright, but if I come back bleeding you gotta patch me up." It was meant to be a joke, but his tone was a little too somber.
"I always do, Master Grayson." It was light in tone, but that didn't take the sting of guilt Dick felt. He nodded, making his way over to the kitchen door, which was currently closed. Pushing it open, and sending a prayer to whatever was out there, he stepped through. If the house smelled good out there, in the heat of the kitchen was amazing. Rolling carts were piled high with silver dome trays, scents wafting their way through to entice anyone that passed by. One man was carefully placing platters on another cart. A different man pushed a cart into the waiting dining hall. Dick followed after him, and watched as the third of the men placed heavy platters on the long spanning table. Its' crimson table clothe making a stark contrast to the silverware and green of wreaths. At the head of the table, standing in front of the large fireplace stood the blonde chef, the fire behind her casting a hellish scene instead of providing a cheer it should have. The chef was ordering her man on where to place the larger of the platters, before taking short bits of garland and wrapping it around the circumference it. Dick suddenly was struck at the irony of the situation. It was like the Grinch was making Christmas, without the triple sized heart.
"Hey, sorry to interrupt but Alfred wanted me to check on you." The chef looked up, eyeing him critically.
"Come here." Oh boy. Dick wandered closer, not really wanting to be there by her side. "You allergic to anything?"
"No?" It was said as if he questioned his own answer, slightly put off by the question.
"Good," The chef lifted a silver dome to reveal a beautifully arranged bowl of what looked like purple mashed potatoes. "Taste." The chef revealed a fork from one of her pockets, carefully lifting a small amount of fluffy mash, trying not to show any evidence of tampering.
"What is it?" Dick took the offered fork, placing it in his mouth. It tasted like sweet potatoes and coffee. A small sweet crunch of...something was there too. Dick couldn't help the sigh that left his lips. The chef, imposing in her stark white coat and fireplace background, smiled cockily.
"Taro root, spiced and bake with coffee liquor, mixed with pralines and topped with lightly sweetened whipped mascarpone cheese. I hate candied yams. This is Coffeed Yams."
"Holy shit." Dick couldn't get the stop his shocked reaction, even with the cackle the chef gave him.
"I know. It needs something though. Since you're here, cinnamon or hazelnut?"
"Uuuhhh..." Dick swallowed, "Hazelnuts?"
"Yes Chef." Marcus left, seeming to understand the unspoken request.
"Thanks, I couldn't decide." The chef tossed the fork Dick had been using on the cart behind him with a clatter. A pen was pulled from her pocket. "Foods almost done being set. We'll remove the garland caution tape from the door when its done, that way we won't be seen." the Chef began to write hazelnuts and a small folded card underneath the already written Coffeed Yams and its ingredients. Marcus came back in, holding a couple of hazelnuts and a microplane. The chef placed the card down and grabbed the nuts and tool, grating a fine powder on top of the dish.
"Tch, should've been roasted. Oh well."
"How did my dad come to hire you?" Dick watched as she covered the bowl again, before moving to another large platter, wrapping this too with a garland.
"Hmm? Oh, I know Damien." That's... odd. Damien didn't go out of his way to talk to people. Wasn't she a lead for Bruce? Dick noticed the hat on her head finally, he guessed he was used to it back in his academy days. "Did you go to Gotham Academy, too?"
"What is this, an interrogation?" Yes.
"No. I'm just curious." Dick watched as the chef straightened again, looking him in the eyes once more. It struck him with how apathetic she looked, a far cry from her irritation this morning.
"Look, I was hired to go a job. I'm not here to make friends, or do each other hair." The chef sigh running her hand over the hat. "I ain't trying to be rude but... Fuck it, I'm rude. No buts, I'm just here to get paid." How... honest.
"Wow... You're a bitch." The chef laughed loudly, eyes closing in glee.
"Ain't the last time I'll hear that." She settled down. "Yeah, but I'm honest, more so then your friends with the champagne in the other room." Dick smiled.
"Yeah... Thanks for that."
"Yep. Get out, we got shit do, and you ain't got a fancy coat like I do."
"I've got shiny cufflinks."
"Ooooh, I'm so impressed. Get out." It was sarcastic, but not mean.
Bruce arrived not a minute too late. Alfred greeted him at the door.
"Our guests have just sat down, you're here just time time to give a nice speech before we finally eat." Alfred took his coat and hung it in the overly full closet.
"Wonderful, Master Grayson and Master Drake have been charming as ever, Master Damien has been resolute in his attempts to avoid socializing. I believe our guests assume him to be shy." Well... that's as good as it would get right now with Bruce's youngest son.
"Well let's get this show on the road." Bruce walked into the dining room, his guests were milling about, a few were sitting at chairs placed at the table but most seemed to be at a loss.
"Good evening everyone!" Bruce gave his most winning smile, walking in to the clapping of the uppercrust. A few cheers of his name resounded. "Hope there's plenty of leftovers for me!" A polite laugh rolled through the crowd. Cornell Williams, a local landowner clapped his back as Bruce walked by.
"We waited for you, it'd be rude to eat without our host." But it was okay to drink, Bruce thought, smelling the alcohol on the mans breath.
"I'm sorry I'm late, you wouldn't believe the paperwork at the office." Bruce gestured to the table. "Please, take a seat where ever you'd like." His sons were already seated towards the head of the table, leaving an empty seat open for Bruce, flanked on either side. As his guests took their seats, Bruce stood behind his chair at the head of the table.
"I'd like to thank all of you for joining me this evening for dinner. I know it's quite the drive to get here." A few lighthearted murmurs of agreement rose from the crowd, the shuffling of chairs slowly dying down. "I know tonight's a little different than the usual bashes I throw, but I thought it appropriate. This time of the year is my favorite, the lights and decorations always bring a smile to my face, the food always a little richer, even if I do end up gaining a few pounds by spring. But this time of the year is also a little bittersweet for me. Our city, while a beacon of technological advancement does have it's downsides. Our fellow city men are not as fortunate as us. Soup kitchens work tirelessly to feed the less fortunate, organizations setting up events to give clothes and essentials to anyone who shows up, never questioning their status or situation.
I admire their efforts make our city a better place, even when the volunteers themselves struggle with their own problems. I'd like to think that we, with our positions, can help in someway. That's why tonight, as we dine and have a good time, I'd like all of us to remember those off us not here to enjoy this wonderful spread, or the warmth of my home. To remember those who helped us on our path up the ladder while never advancing themselves. I'm not asking for you to donate, but if you feel that is something you'd like to do, to help Gotham in anyway we can, then thank you. Thank you anyway for filling my home with laughter and talk, with smiles and joy..." Bruce raised a glass in toast, other mimicking him. "To Gotham! Let our warmth spread to the farthest reaches of the city."
"To Gotham!" There was a few women with tears in their eyes, as men inclined their head in respect. With that said, Bruce sat down, gesturing to the beautiful array of food on the table.
"Please dig in!"
Alexandera leaned against the wall, out of sight but in earshot of the diners in the other room. She rolled her eyes at the speech, even if it did move her in a small way. The murmur of conversation struck up again, the cacophony of clinking utensils adding to the sound as people served themselves. Walking away and back to her boys in the old servants quarter of the mansion she removed her new hat, shaking her hair loose of its updo. Her job was finished for now. Marcus, Kyle and Gary were sitting around a small table, plates of their own food piled high as they ate voraciously. Alfred had his own plate, filled with much less food, but he was enjoying his food just as much as the boys. A lone plate sat near him, untouched and waiting.
"I assumed that you would also like to dine on your food. Which, I daresay is scrumptious" Alexandera smiled, shaking her head and unbuttoning her coat.
"Nah, I'm alright." Alfred raised his brow.
"Surely you must be hungry. With how much you got on Bruce's wards about breakfast, you must know how important it is to eat." Her boys snickered from their corner, making no effort to hide their delight in seeing Lady Boss getting told. Marcus, ever the loyal partner, spoke up, even if he himself was laughing too.
"She never eats when she's on the clock, Old Man."
"Oh?" Alfred narrowed his eyes sternly. For once in her life, Alexandera stepped down.
"I'm never hungry after cooking, it's always been that way. I'll eventually eat but I don't have an appetite." Alfred decided not to press the issue.
"Well whatever the case, you food is outstanding, I'm glad you agreed to work tonight." The Butler smiled as he bite into a sweet square of honeyed corn bread. "Damien seems to have really taken to cooking with you."
"Pfft, yeah, he didn't even complain when cleaning out the hens." the Chef poured herself a cup of cider, clinking her cup to Alfred's where it sat on the counter. Her boys mimicked the action with a bit more enthusiasm, spilling a small amount of the table. Conversation lulled for a time in the small room about light hearted topics. Alfred and
Alexandera sharing tips on recipes when a phone hanging on the wall began to ring.
"Excuse me." Alfred moved to the phone, answering it with a polite, "Wayne Residence, Alfred speaking." His serene facial expression fell as he listened to the speaker. "Oh dear, allow me a moment, I'll alert him." Alfred hung the phone up, sighing softly.
"Hmm? Oh no, no problem really, business matters for Master Wayne. I'll return shortly." With that, Alfred glided out the servants quarters, turning his way towards the dining room. Alexandera chugged her cider, fingers tapping the glass.
"Yoo 'kay, Chif?" Kyle asked, mouth over full of food. "Yoo figity" The goon had a worried look on his face.
"Yeah. Don't worry about it."
"Chef, you ain't never looked so... nervous." Gary piped up, while Marcus inclined his head towards Gary in agreement. The Chef rolled her eyes.
"I ain't nervous... I'm.. ansty."
"Bunch of rich, stuck up Glitzies in there, eating my food..." The goons shared a look.
"Go sneak a peak, there's no harm in that." Kyle pulled a flask from his waistband, holding it out to the chef, which she took thankfully. Taking a swig of warm bourbon she hissed.
"You right. I'll be back." The chef walked back to her previous post, seeing Bruce Wayne turn the corner up ahead and out of her sight. Whatever that call was it must have been important. The chatter in the room was quieter than earlier but still she could hear some voices. Whispers that magically carried their way to her ears.
"The house looks beautiful!"
"Quite the turn out, isn't it?"
"Rebecca's dress is way too slutty for a party like this."
"This food is way too fatty for my diet."... Excuse me...
"It's such a... quaint menu."
"This looks like something my maid would cook. That's why she's my maid." Bitch!
"What's all this about donations. Isn't that what the Governors for."
"Bruce would be such a catch, if it wasn't for his brats." Oh, hell no. The Chef tried to keep her anger in check, she wasn't getting paid by these assholes... But of course, there was always that one person...
"If Bruce wanted to help the poor, then he should've donated this food to those soup kitchens. Tastes like it should be there anyway."
"WHAT THE FUCK IS YA'LLS PROBLEM?!" The Chef swung around the corner, roaring with such ferocity that even those at the farthest end of the table jumped. "Ya'll eatin' free food, an' ya'll can't even be GRATEFUL!" The shocked looks of the upper class did nothing to curb the chef's anger.
"Excuse me, but who are you?" A particularly shiny women asked, wrist glittering with diamonds.
"I'm the fuckin' chef. The chef that worked for two days to make ya'lls asses food that yer eatin' for free!" The chef stomped cto the table, those closest to her leaning aside to make distance. "And here you Glitzies are, eating a free meal, supposed to be thinking of the less fortunate, while ya'll shit talk."
"Glitzies? Oooh, you're from downtown aren't you." Alexandera narrowed her eyes, not seeing who asked, not really caring.
"Bitch, I'm from the Narrows." A shocked gasp rose from the crowd, whether by her language or he admission to her home, the Chef didn't know.
"Bruce would never hire such..." A man started, only to have the blonde by his side, leaning over him threateningly.
"Fuckin' say it." The chef pointed towards the crowd. "You greedy motherfuckers don't know what ya'll are doing. I heard Wayne's little speech, but he was too fucking vague for yer asses. He's wants ya'll to help this shit hole of a city. Cuz ya'll never do anything to help. I ain't from Gotham and even I know why this time of year is so damn important to him."
"Oh yeah, why?" Someone challenged. Time to go in for the kill.
The Wayne sons were used to the high society gossip. They were used to the fake smiles and the double edged words. So when their father was called away for an important phone call, they locked eyes with each other. It was an unsaid agreement to not rise to the sharp words. They knew that if they intervened it would look bad on their father, and jeapordize the mission. The only reason half their guests even donated was to brag and one up the other. They hunkered down into their food, biding their time, riding out the storm until their father returned. They didn't expect a fury of a women to swoop in. Hair down and trailing her like a comet as her anger burned through the room, hotter than the squash that lay on several plate. Dick was shellshocked by her anger, Tim looked like her wanted to record what was happening on his phone, and Damien merely leaned back in his chair, watching his friend say what the Sons of Wayne had always wanted to say. Neither expected the next words from her mouth.
"You dumbfucks. Look over there." She was pointing in the sons direction, that was bad. They didn't want to be in the center of this. "See that fancy painting? That's Wayne's parents. His dead parents. His parents that died around this time of year!" Oh shit, she didn't just say that.
"I'm not even from Gotham, and even a street rat like me knows this shit. Ya'll so caught up in yer pissin' contests that you fucking missed the whole point of this dinner." The chef glanced down at Dick and Tim. Please don't... "Wayne fucking adopted two orphans like him, all cuz he probably felt just like them sitting in the blood of his parents. And here you all are..." The chef flipped the plate of someone near her, scaring the man who it belonged too. "Complaining about a little bit of butter. So here's what's gonna happen, ya'll gonna shut up and play nice for a night. Ya'll gonna eat the food me and my boys spent days makin', and when ya'll leave, throw on yer fake ass smiles, write a fucking blank check, and pretend yer decent fuckin' people." The chef crossed her arms, face red in anger as she glared won the inhabitants of the room.
"Why should we do that?" A popular model asked, sitting close to Damien. Damien tried not to roll his eyes.
"Bitch, like I said, I'm from the Narrows..." A truly twisted grin rose from the chef, "I got friends in very, very low places." It was a vague threat, but a threat nonetheless. Not waiting for a response, the blonde grabbed a glass of champagne from a random bystander, and walked out, leaving a stunned audience, and a grinning Damien. Lady Chef wasn't one to let an insult slide.
Vicki Vale loved a good story, no matter how scandalous it may be, and boy did she have a good scoop today.
'The Wayne fundraising dinner was a delight,' Vicki reported, smiling at camera two as she held onto her empty coffee mug. 'The manor was absolutely gorgeous, and the company was delightful. But the real star of the evening was the cook for the event. Her impassioned speech moved so many of us in ways we didn't expect. If my sources are right, and they always are, this was the most successful event Bruce had ever done. Far surpassing what he had hoped for. A chef from our very own city was the chef for the evening, and my guess this was something important to her. Whoever she is, her and her food was the star of the evening.'
Alexandera rolled her eyes, flipping a burger on her griddle, as her usual's howled with laughter at the t.v that was perched on a table. They got the real story from the chef herself, and found the spin on the story funny as hell. After her little episode, the chef stormed back to the servants quarter, as if nothing had happened. Because really nothing had happened., at least in her eyes. Wayne came back sometime later, and the guests rushed to give him money and checks, leaving in droves without the usual requests they might have given him. And Bruce was none the wiser, until Tim told him over the comm, as he swooped through the city on patrol. Even Damien chuckled as Tim retold what had happened, though the youngest Robin did have to clarify where his brother over exaggerated. Dick sheepishly avoided his father's eye, not wanting to out the chef. She didn't do anything too bad. Though her methods were a little volatile. Bruce sighed but said nothing. It had been a successful night...
And somewhere in the narrows, in a little diner that shone in bright colours in the grey of the city, filled to the brim with the worst criminals the city had to offer with laughter and howls, with delicious food flowing, a chef smiled at the brand new knife hanging from a magnet. It was a nice little souvenir from her night at Wayne Manor. Alfred would never notice it was missing.
Alfred couldn't find his favorite knife...
Chapter 20: Player Two: Press Start
Competition breeds camaraderie... Fuck that. Competition breeds winners and losers, and our Chef hates losing.
It was a particularly cold winter day in Gotham. So much snow had fallen the night before that most citizens had given up on traveling to their jobs and left many shops closed for the day. The same would be for Alexandera, as when she reached her corner of the Narrows she was greeted by the sight of her boys still shoveling snow from the front door, a small line of thugs shuffling behind them, blowing steam from their mouths into their hands in hopes of garnering some warmth. Her coffee was long cold, and her toes were freezing despite the extra layer of socks.
"Hey B-boss. D-door should-d-d be c-clear soon." Marcus looked positively frozen as he scooped snow aside with his glove covered hands. Gary was doing the same while Kyle held a pitiful lighter to the snow in an attempt to help. The chef, seeing the futility of opening a shop that wouldn't get much traffic told them to stop.
"Sorry boys, shops closed today, come by tomorrow and I'll comp you a meal." Her would be customers, though disappointed by having waited in the cold, agreed and ran to cars to warm up or trudged their way to warmer spots. Her boys stopped their vain attempt to clear snow, waiting expectantly as they rubbed their hands together.
"W-what are w-we d-doing today?" Kyle asked cupping on hand around the lighters flame.
"You guys go home. We won't get enough people today to justify opening." Alexandera sipped her cold coffee and grimaced. "Whoever's got a flask, top me off." Two flasks appeared out of thin air, filling her cup. Kyle and Gary said their farewells, heading off to somewhere called Cat Scratch, while Marcus began following the chef as she walked away from her diner, and away from the direction of her apartment.
"How're y-you not c-cold?" The chef shrugged.
"Don't know. Might be from all my time hanging out in walk-ins and freezers." Alexandera sipped her coffee and grimaced again for a different reason. "Damn, that's strong."
"Well, w-what are you g-gonna do n-now?" Marcus asked, slipping slightly on a patch of ice. The Chef shrugged, stepping to avoid some yellow snow.
"Don't know, first real day off I've had in years. Puzzles called when we were at Wayne's place. Apparently Hatter want's tea. Plus, Puzzles challenged me to video games. I'll destroy him."
"You... you're j-just gonna h-hang out with them?" Marcus looked at her with a sidelong glance. "Y-ou g-got no self-f preserv-vation."
"What?" The Chef sighed in exasperation, "I ain't got nothing else to do but hang around my apartment and drink. May as well have some fun."
"M-most people w-wouldn't c-call being ar-round R-rouges fun."
"Most people aren't in my situation."
"F-fair P-point." Marcus stopped at an intersection, halting the chef. "I'm g-gonna go v-visit my d-daughter. I'll s-see you lat-ter." His nonchalant attitude stiffened as he realized his slip up.
"You got a brat?!" The chef was shocked.
"Y-yeah, it's n-not something I t-talk about." There was a meaningful look on Marcus's face. Alexandera turned around waving her hand in the air.
"Chef ain't seen shit. Chef ain't heard shit. Chef don't know shit." Marcus chuckled.
"See you t-tomorrow, Chef."
"Later." Alexandera continued walking, making her way deeper into Gotham's dirty not so secret streets, keeping her head down like any smart person would do, and pulled a small phone hidden in her pocket.
Jonathon absolutely loathed Freeze right now. This wasn't a normal snow fall, even if the idiots that ran the news station lied to the rest of the fools in Gotham, trying to assauge their fears. Jonathon's hideout wasn't equipped with heating, and he was shivering far too much to continue his work. Groaning in frustration he bundled up as much as he could, before beginning his walk to Edwards. As annoying as he could be, Edward's hideout had heating. It wasn't busy on the streets, which made him cautious. Less people meant Jonathon wouldn't be able to hide in a crowd, or hide his footprints. Hopefully it would snow a bit more to hide them. Turning down a familiar dead end alley, Jonathon pulled the casing to an electricity reader. Behind the wires was a keypad. Pressing in the code, a narrow gap opened up in the wall. It was always a tight fit in, and the staircase was steep, but the deeper Jonathon went, the warmer it got. Once the stairs bottomed out, Jonathon made way to other locked door, punching in the next code, then the next, then the next. Poor Edward and his paranoia. When the last door opened Jonathon saw Edward not at his computer, but sitting in his lounge chair.
"Fashionably late, or unwelcomingly early, send me with haste, if you please." Jonathon resisted his urge to roll his eyes.
"I thought I didn't need an invitation, Edward. It's why you gave me the codes, isn't it? So I wouldn't bother you." Edward rubbed a temple, gesturing to the small kitchenette, a pot off coffee already brewed.
"No, but I have company arriving shortly, and I hadn't planned for your arrival."
"If Jervis is stopping by, you'll need more tea." Jonathon stated as he pulled his mug from a cabinet.
"It's not Jer-"
"Alright Nerd, square up! I get player one." Something in Jonathon screamed at the woman's voice. A very loud something.
'It's that bitch!' Jonathon flinched at the sudden burst from his tenant, before turning to see the Chef, hair down and wild from the wind on the streets, threadbare coat that looked to held together by patches of random fabric, and grinning in what would be considered intimidating by most others. Echo was by her side, smirking at what the Chef next to her had called her employer. Query was taking up the rear, arms laden with plastic bags. Alexandera took notice of the Doctor, standing with a coffee mug loosely held in his grasp. She sipped from her rusted thermos.
"Oh. Sup other nerd. Here to witness Puzzles asskicking?" Echo snorted, unable to hide her amusement. Whoever this women was, she approved. Meanwhile, despite his ire at seeing the woman, Scarecrow cackled at the nickname. Jonathon flared his nostrils before moving to Edward's desk. There was a space heater under the desk and his feet were cold. He also couldn't do anything about the disrespect while in Edwards domain. The Rouges all had an agreement for such things.
"I'm in many types of jewelry, Like the chain of a necklace, In the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, He could spin straw into this." It seemed this was Edward's attempt at diffusing the situation. An attempt firmly ignored by the Chef. Alexandera waltzed over to the the Prince of Puzzles before plopping heavily on a plush loveseat.
"Stop stalling, I wanna win." Edward, from his seat two feat from the women, could smell liquor.
"Are you drunk?" The Chef sipped from her cup again.
"Not yet, but even if I was, it would just give you an advantage." Edward bristled visibly.
"If that is what you think." Edward turned on his gaming system, logging in his code before tossing the controller next to the Chef. "Pick your poison, Alex." It was the Chef's turn to bristle, hating the nickname. And with the gauntlet thrown, the Chef unwittingly took the bait, picking a Mortal Combat. Four people in the room knew the truth that the Chef didn't.
Edward Nigma never lost a game.
An hour later, Query added to the ever growing tally marks, grinning as the Blonde on the couch let loose another string of curses as she lost once again. A half empty bottle of liquor sat between the Chefs feet, as an open bag of rye chips toppled over, spilling on the floor. When Echo and Query were sent to pick the woman up, neither expected this. They were told to treat her with respect, and bring her quietly. They had heard of the Chef from the Narrows. She was becoming the most notorious new being among the criminal underworld. A safe haven in the feuding territories where if you didn't make trouble, no trouble would follow you. Both were too busy with Riddler's work to bother stopping by, but now they regretting not making time. There was something refreshing in seeing someone outright disrespect their Boss, even if she was loosing soundly. Her smack talk never ended, only growing more cocky with each loss. Finally the Chef slammed her controller on the couch, it bounced harmlessly on the cushion, before standing up and pointing at Edward like a petulant child.
"Fucker, ya cheated!" Alexandera pointed accusingly at Edward, who held a hand to his chest as if wounded.
"I did no such thing, I'm merely better than you." Edward said it as if was a simple truth of the universe, which he seemed to believe. Jonathon, who still sat at the computer, but with less layers on, rolled his eyes at the declaration before returning to his book. The Chef, despite her anger laughed.
"Nah, I'm just off my game." The Chef stretched, arm reaching into the air, sickening pops emitting from her elbows and back. The action drew both mens eyes to her figure. She may be a nuisance, but men are men, and she was a woman. With a grunt, Alexandera dropped her arms. "I'm missing something..."
"If you've misplaced your liquor, it's by your feet." Edward stoutly ignored the middle finger directed at him.
"Shut up, I ain't drunk yet."
"Astoundingly." It came unbidden from Jonathon's lips with his realization. He only thought he had said it in his head. He wasn't happy when a small handful of chips pelted him from across the room. Echo grabbed a broom.
"No one asked you, Jekyll." Jonathon lowered his book to glare at the Chef. The woman did her best to look innocent, gazing at the ceiling in thought. "Hey, where's your bathroom." Edward looked to Query, a silent order.
"She'll escort you to the restroom." Even if Edward had invited the Chef to his home, he didn't trust her. The chef pulled her old phone from her pocket, tossing the small object at the green clad man.
"Hook me up to your internet. I need my juju." The chef followed Query through a doorway. What Edward lacked in strength, he made up for in speed, proven when he rushed to his desk, not bothering to ask Jonathon to stand.
"What are you doing?" Jonathon asked, not really caring as Edward expertly pulled the phone open.
"Such an old model." Edward liked to keep all of his toys up to date. "I'm just adding something, a little insurance." The Riddler began to play with the internals of the phone, adding a small chip into the hardware, it's green question mark contrasting the greys of the metal.
"Let's hope she doesn't get suspicious." Edward gave an uncharacteristic giggle. It was one Jonathon knew well when he was the Riddler's doctor, a lifetime ago. Edward was playing more than video games. Popping the casing back in place, the Riddler walked back to his chair, laughing.
"She didn't unlock the phone. Not that that's an issue." Jonathon tried not to sigh at the cocky tone. A minute passed by before the Chef returned.
"Forgot the unloc-... You didn't even need me to, did you?" The chef grabbed her phone, glaring at the internet reception.
"Your learning!" Edward simpered. The chef scoffed.
"Didn't look at any of my nudes, did you? I have this one with a green negli-" Both men jumped at the thought.
"What? I would never do such an uncouth-" The Riddler began to defend himself, red in the ears as the chef cackled madly.
"You think," there was an unladylike snort, "I don't have nudes!" The chef fell to the couch, still laughing. Somewhere in the confines of Jonathon's mind, the Scarecrow laughed along.
'Blondie may be annoying, but she's funny!' Jonathon rubbed the bridge of his nose, nudging his glasses askew.
'She's childish, not funny.' Scarecrow hummed, before egging his host on.
'Childish, but hot. Rockin' body. Don't think I haven't noticed your glances, Jonny-boy.' Jonathon knew that tone, and wasn't surprised when a mental image of the chef flitted through his mind, naked and screaming. Digging his nails into his thigh, he willed the image away.
'Stop, I'm trying to read.' The Scarecrow grumbled, not happy at his attempt to annoy Jonathon. All this happened much faster than most would understand. As Jonathon released his claws from his thigh, the Chef had settled down in her laughing, fiddling with her phone. Still upset at the dig, Edward grumbled out.
"What are you doing?" The Chef didn't look up from her phone.
"I don't think music is going to help you in your attempt to win, Alexandera." The chef shrugged.
"Maybe not, but back when I played I always had music playing. Help put me in the zone."
"When you used to play?" Edward pressed, enjoying the honesty coming from the Chef.
"I pawned my Playstation to pay rent a year ago. Computer the year before that. Haven't really bothered to pick a new one up. Been too busy." The Chef pressed play on her phone, a jaunty piano playing loudly from her phone. The lyrics caught Edward's attention.
"Bendy and the Ink Machine?"
"Yeah, Devil's Swing." The Chef switched her phone for the controller. "Last game I played before today was Five Night's at Freddie's." Edward coked his head, glancing briefly at Jonathon, who didn't seem to be paying any heed to their conversation. Look's were deceiving.
"You played that horror game?" Jonathon's eyes stopped scanning the page.
"Yeah, it was alright." The Chef choose Cassie Cage. "I liked the feel of it. Liked the music more. Pick someone, I'm ready." Edward picked Kotal Kahn.
"If you haven't had any way to play, how do you know about Bendy?" They picked Sky Temple as the stage.
"I still have Youtube." It was quiet save for the sounds emanating from the TV and phone. The first match the Chef lost once again, but she quickly set up the same fight. The song changed again, another swing tune bouncing in the air. The Chef, who had been previously loud in her taunts and accusations was silent, shifting forward in her seat as if leaning would give her an edge. Jonathon watched as this time, she managed to get Edward down to almost half his health. Much further than she had been for the previous hour. Edward seemed a bit panicked. No one had ever gotten him that close to losing. A third match began, and Jonathon set his book aside, dropping all pretense of reading. He was eager to see the end of the match. The Chef murmured along with the lyrics, leg bouncing, as she zoned out into the groove. Defensive was her only option as The Riddler went on the attack, a flurry of tapping from his fingertips, until...
"Finish Her!" The Chef tossed her controller aside.
"Fuck me!" Cassie Cage was torn asunder.
"Don't feel bad, I always win." The Riddler grinned smugly as he watched the Chef take another swig from her bottle.
" Uh huh huh huh, I always win" Alexandera mocked, sour about her loss. "We've been at this for too long, got anything else to play?" Edward gave her a flat look.
"Of course I do. How about something a little less competitive. Diablo?" The Chef perked up.
"You got Reaper of Souls?" The Riddler rolled his eyes, not deigning to answer the question. Of course he did. Alexandera leaned back in the seat rubbing her face, feeling eyes on the back of her neck. The Chef gestured to the TV.
"Come on, Jekyll, we can play with up to four people. You can be the witch doctor." The woman grinned at her own little joke. Jonathon looked offended, but didn't reject the offer. The Chef slid onto the floor, the too soft cushions of the love seat began to hurt her lower back. She grabbed her chips, patting the seat invitingly. She was being awfully... kind. It was only the liquor.
And so, for the next few hours, hidden underground, three friends played games together, as any friends would. It was a weird feeling for all in the room...
But not so bad...
Damien hesitated at Alfred's door. Damien was trained to be a shadow, to be quick, to be deadly. Social interactions were his worst attribute, though he would never admit it. Sighing through his nose, Damien straightened his back and knocked on the elder mans door. It was quiet, before he saw the light under the door turn on.
"Master Damien, is everything well?" Alfred's tone was worried, worried something terrible had happened.
"Christmas is less than a week away." It was said as a statement, but Alfred had enough experience to hear the unspoken question.
"We will go tomorrow. I have some ideas on what to get."
Chapter 21: A gift is best from the heart
Surprises let you know we care... Too bad there were many people who hate surprises...
The Joker wasn't much of a man for apologies. Well, on very, very, very, very rare occasions, and usually those sparse moments were saved for Harley. So now the Joker sat at his desk, his loyal Bob waiting near the door, looking through a Victoria Secret catalogue Harley had left lying on the desk.
"Say Bob, What do you think?" The Joker held the magazine up, open to a rather nice spread for a push up bra collection. Bob glanced briefly to the page before looking to his Boss.
"I think Harley would love it." The Joker's grin fell somewhat.
"It's not for Harley..." The Joker let the booklet fall from his grasp. "It's for my bestie." Bob cocked his head.
"I think you should get black, if it's for Batman." The Joker hooted a laugh, slamming his desk harshly.
"I didn't think of that. Remember that for me." A tear was wiped away. "No I meant my other bestie. Alex the Chef." Bob gave a quiet 'oooh'.
"I don't know, Mr. Joker. She doesn't seem like someone who would appreciate frilly things." Bob leaned against the wall some. "Besides, if Harley found out, she may take it the wrong way."
"Well damn." The clown leaned in his swivel chair, twirling the chair in slow circles. "Bob what kind of gift do you think would say 'I'm sorry I held a gun to you, and threatened to kill you. I promise the next time the gun won't be loaded.'" Bob, a man of many talents and great thoughts, was at a loss.
"I'm sorry, sir. You already overhauled the diner, that's a big gesture in of itself." The Joker hummed, the low grumble harmonizing with the squeaking of the chair. "Whatever you do think of, sir, I'm sure she'll appreciate." Even if it was a lie for her life. The Joker had stopped spinning, now gazing out the window at the decrepit ruins of The Fun House.
"Bob, when's the last time Chefie had a vacation?" Bob couldn't help but think when he was due for one.
"I don't know, Boss." The Joker gave his best Cheshire Grin. He needed some info, and there was only one person in Gotham with better connections than him...
Damien tried his best not to roll his eyes at the screaming children around him. Well perhaps not screaming, but they were being quite loud, and in public no less while their respective guardians allowed their offspring to run around with little to no supervision. Alfred seemed unfazed as he handed a cheque to the cashier in the toy store, with instructions on where to make the delivery and to keep the hidden benefactor a secret. Bruce's latest charity would be on the 6 o'clock news no doubt. The youngest Wayne doubted he could feel any more relieved than he did in that moment when Alfred began to walk away from the horde of screaming children. The Gotham Mall was packed with droves of last minute holiday shoppers, and the tension was thick as people tried to ge tthe last of stock gifts that were left in the shops. More desperate than a man in the desert searching for an oasis.
"Do you have any idea's, Master Damien, on what to get Miss Fox?" The bags laden on Alfred's arms did nothing to slow his stride. Damien pondered the question for a moment.
"I was hoping to stop by the book store, the one near the fourth floor. Then the record store." It was well known that you could find anything in Gotham's six story mall. From caskets to candy to cars. Hopefully the book store would have in stock what he was thinking to purchase.
"Very well, Master Damien." Alfred stepped onto an escalator, Damien close by his side. "If I may ask, what are you hoping to find?" The butler was curious, for many reasons.
"Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Lady Alexandera once commented her envy towards one of her culinary teachers at having a second edition. I hope to find a first for her." Alfred's brow raised, impressed.
"Master Damien that would a an incredibly difficult find. Most are held in prized collections, and very rarely are sold on the market." Damien nodded.
"I understand that. I did some research, and found one for sale to 2,000 dollars. However, the shipping would bring it after Christmas." There was unmasked annoyance in the boy's voice. "I'm hoping the curator of the shop may have some lead on where to buy one and have it in time to present to Lady Alexandera." Alfred smiled, impressed at the boy's initiative and thoughtfulness towards his friend.
"And the music store?"
"Lady Alexandera likes Queen." Alfred kept quiet at the admission. He had never seen Damien take interest in another person, unless they were a target during his nightly activities. The crowd was much thinner here on floor four, most of the shops catering to more eclectic tastes. The bookstore took up a rather large corner of the hall, the smell of paper strong, as people milled about, their shuffling of feet mixing with the shuffling of pages. Damien wasted no time, striding up the counter and ringing a bell on the counter. An elderly women, much older than Alfred, rose from behind the counter, back still hunched as she looked at the young boy before her, glasses magnifying her eyes to incredible size.
"May I help you?" Her voice was whispery and thing, like the tomes surrounding them.
"Yes, I am looking for a first edition Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you have it, or know anyone who does I'd like to purchase it with haste." The elder woman blinked her large eyes owlishly, mulling the words the boy said in her head.
"That is quite the request young man, one I'm afraid I cannot grant here." The woman held a sad lilt in her voice, seemingly sad at her inability to help. Damien pressed on.
"Do you know anyone who would have it? I need it before the holiday comes."
"I'm afraid I only know of one copy, but it's not for sale." Damien's eye narrowed.
"Where is it?"
"It's one of my sister's. Our mother had a copy, and passed it down to her." The woman smiled warmly. "It has great sentimental value, I doubt she would part with it."
"I could buy a different copy and have it shipped to her, in addition to buying her copy for it's market value." Alfred stepped in and placed a hand on Damien's shoulder, knowing a losing battle when he saw one.
"Young man, I can see you desperately want that book, but the Devil himself couldn't offer a deal sweet enough for her to part with that book." The woman smiled still, folding her hands on the counter top. Damien acquiesced.
"I thank you for your assistance, Ma'am, and apologize for taking up your time." Damien held his hand out to shake her hand, to which the elderly woman took, her soft hands cool to the touch.
"You have no need to apologize. I hope you find what you're looking for." Damien nodded and turned heel, walking away with dignity despite his aggravation. Alfred piped up.
"I'm sure we'll find a suitable replacement at the music shop, Master Damien." Damien huffed.
"It won't be enough." That one sentence betrayed just how young Damien was. He grumbled the words under his breath but there was a telltale sign of a whine.
"It's one of the hardest lessons to learn, Master Damien, for someone with your wealth, that money cannot always the best of things." Alfred gazed down at the boy by his side, imploring him to listen to his words. "Sometimes the richest of gifts are paid for not in money, but with intentions and actions and time." Damien was silent, absorbing the wisdom Alfred had imparted on him.
"What do you plan on giving her?" It was a quiet curious voice, speculative. Alfred grinned.
"A new knife set." Perhaps his own knife would reappear after the new year began.
Jervis Tetch was absolutely ecstatic. He had texted Alice an invitation to tea on Sunday at her shop. Her store was always closed to the public on that day, but she was always there working on something, so he knew she would be free. Her response had come sometime later but it was a yes, and The Hatter quickly began to make his selection on his gift. He was worried he would be too busy to give her her present on Christmas day, so he opted for an early exchange, but now came the hard part. He was partial to top hats, but that wouldn't suit his sweet Alice's face. A derby hat would do nicely, but that was a part of Edward's signature look, and the idea of her imitating him made him... uneasy. He skipped over the beanies, those were too unbecoming of anyone, despite their popularity. Walking past the rows of shelves, The Hatter began to feel somewhat despondent. Nothing seemed good enough for his Alice, either it was much too fancy, or too dour. It came to him three hats from the last, a black unassuming thing settled on a mannequin's head.
Yes... That would nicely.
Alexandera pulled the scones from the oven. Orange and ginger permeated the kitchen, an underlying scent of clove wafting through the heat. There was already a kettle on the stove, waiting for to boiled for tea. Pulling the parchment paper off the hot sheet pan and onto a waiting cookie rack, the Chef sighed. She didn't mind Jervis stopping by for tea, quite the opposite, she was actually looking forward to it. He was the easiest Rouge to deal with, hands down, but she grimaced when she thought of the text he had sent her. He had called her Alice again. She could deal with Alex from him, knowing it would be the best she could get out of him, but he had crossed the line. And she had to make good on her threat from before. It didn't look bad on her, per se, but it was different. Not bad, just an adjustment. Maybe she should have gotten a lip piercing instead. She entertained the idea for only a moment, remembering the one time she wore a gold necklace in school. She had a an elegant script branding on her throat for two weeks that said 'Fuck Off', when she opened an oven set to 450 degrees. It hurt like a bitch, but she did meet her...
The back door opened, the howling of wind rushing through the kitchen, chilling the once warm utopia.
"Oh Alice! It smells absolutely delightful in here." The back door slammed shut, echoing through the kitchen. "I do hope you enjoy this new chai I picked up, it's become one of my- ALICE! Your hair!" The Hatter jaw dropped as he turned the corner, the bag in his hand dropping to the floor. Leaning against her prep space, the chef cocked a brow, grinning at the reaction.
"Told you, Jervis. You call me Alice again, I dye my hair blue." Indeed it was blue, a deep denim blue that made her skin appear paler than what it really was. Not that the chef really cared. The Hatter spluttered for a moment,
"I-, had I really- I could have sworn-..." Jervis's expression fell from shock to bashfulness. "I'm sorry, Alex, I hadn't realized my slip up. I will do my best to not do so in the future," His crestfallen look made the chef feel some small guilt in her enjoyment at his expense, if only for a moment.
"Oh, come on. It can't look that bad." The Hatter jerked his head up.
"No! That's not what I meant. It's quite fetching on you really! I only-" Okay, the compliment was too much. The Chef halted him, holding her hand up.
"Don't worry about it. I was trying to joke. Come on," Alexandera grabbed the cooling rack of scones. "I just turned the stove on, the water should be ready soon." The Hatter rushed to hold the swing door open, not that the Chef needed him too, but it was polite, before grabbing his dropped bag.
"I hope you've been well, Alex." The Hatter broached, sitting down across from the Chef who sat cross legged in her chair. "I brought some goodies with me today."
"Chai, right?" Alexandera grabbed a still hot scone, biting into it with no worries for the heat, as only someone with years of cooking experience could have.
"Yes, it's a star anise spice chai." He pulled a round metal tin from his bag, popping the top off before extending it to the Chef. "It smells divine!" Jervis watched as his Ali-Alex leaned forward, her now blue hair held aside by one hand as she sniffed the contents of the tin. She appreciated tea just as much as him, and he noticed she scrunched her nose in the most adorable way when she smelled a new tea.
"Hey, that'll pair good with these," The Chef shook the treat in her other hand. "they're ginger orange." She glared slightly at the tray. "I thought I had currants to go in them, but they're gone."
"Oh I bet they'll be delightful regardless." The kettle in the kitchen began to whistle.
"Be right back." With the Chef walking away, Jervis pulled a brightly wrapped gift that took up the rest of the bag, placing it on the table eagerly. When Alexandera returned she didn't miss the large box, or the bright look on Jervis's face.
"What's with that box?" Alexandera began to pour hot water into their mugs.
"It's your Christmas gift. I figured since I'd be here today, I'd give it to you now, as opposed to giving it to you after Boxing Day." The Chef froze.
"Christmas Gifts?" It was still for a moment. "Fuck me." The Hatter jumped in his seat.
"What?! I- oh, um, I uh, didn't think, oh dear, the time." The Chef cast a deadpan gaze to the fidgiting man. His blush reaching down his neck.
"Jervis, calm down it wasn't a request." The Hatter visibly relaxed, but the Chef saw the easy opening. "It was an order." Vermillion would be an adequate comparison to the mans facial colour.
"Alexandera!" The Chef gave a smug smile, happy he had actually used her full name instead of the nickname.
"Yeah, that's what you'll be screaming."
"Dear Lord, woman!"
"That, too." Alexandera laughed as she scooped a small amount of tea into one of her defusers. "I'm joking, Jervis."
"That's not the kind of topics one discusses at Tea!" The Hatter tried his best to sound undaunted by her words, but the red of his face negated the attempt. "Why on Earth would you say such things."
"Eh, it's fun for me. But really, you reminded me that I need to figure out gifts for you all." The Chef placed Hatter's mug before him, taking another bite from her scone. "I honestly didn't think to get you gifts, it's been years." The Hatter frowned, at her words and at the fact she was taking with food in her mouth.
"You really have been alone for some time now, haven't you?" It upset him that she seemed unfazed by it.
"I'm the most social I've been, since Joker came into my life. I'm still getting used to it." Alexandera gestured to the box. "Am I opening that now?" Jervis slid the gift to her.
"Please do!" Paper was torn away, a cream box lie under the red of the paper. The Hatter tried not to bounce in his seat as Alexandera lifted the lid. She gave a crooked smile.
"I should have guessed you got me a hat." She lifted the black newsboy cap from its confines, turning it over in her hands to inspect it. "It looks good, Jervis."
"I made it sometime ago, and when I saw it I knew it would suit you." He was delighted when she placed it on her head, a perfect fit. "I do hope you like it."
"Yes, Jervis, I like it." The chef gave a rare full smile, her teeth bared and lips stretched wide crookedly. "I'll try to take care of it." But she made no guarantees. She had said that about her coat many years ago.
Bruce sat in front of his computer, reading the reports and statements coming in about a new criminal on the streets. It bothered him that despite the petty dealers and thieves picked up, none of them could give a solid answer on who was running the gang. Whoever it was he was smart and careful. He would slip up, they always slipped up. The Batcave was as silent as the man in the chair, whose cowl was pulled back and hair still damp from sweat. Alfred came down with a tray of food and painkillers. He could see Bruce's deep expression as he scanned the articles, lost in his thoughts.
"Penny for your thoughts, Sir?" Bruce turned his head, watching as Alfred walked past the giant penny standing on it's edge.
"Very funny, Alfred."
"It was a play on words with my name, Sir." Alfred placed the tray down. "My humour always goes over most peoples head." Bruce smiled lightly, amused at the sass.
"How did today go?"
"Well, Sir. Despite my warning to not disclose your name when setting up the toy donation, Miss Vale had him on the news for his five minutes of fame."
"Quite disheartened at his loss today, in getting his first choice of gifts." Alfred placed a plate of pork chops next to the mouse Bruce was using. "He is currently upstairs, locked away in his room working on something." Bruce stopped his work clue hunting, turning fully to Alfred.
"What do you think, Alfred?"
"A great many things, but the foremost is that you need to eat, Sir." Alfred didn't miss a beat, striking quickly. Bruce picked up the plate.
"I mean about Damien's association with Fox. He's smart, and would have found something on her by now." Alfred clasped his hands behind his back.
"As I said before, Master Bruce, I don't believe he cares." Alfred thought a moment, before continuing. "I think that he is enamoured by her, much like a child does for an older siblings friend, or babysitter." Bruce cocked a brow.
"You think he has a crush on her?" Alfred nodded.
"Nothing large, but definitely a small one. I remember a young man from my past who had a crush on one of our maid's daughter." Bruce chuckled, knowing the butler meant him. "Her attitude towards him is vastly different from how most others treat him, and her blatant honesty must be refreshing to hear after so many dealings with your elite friends."
"He has a jacket with her company logo on it." Alfred picked up on the question hidden in the statement.
"Ah yes, I'm not sure of the full details, but I think Damien attempted to gather intel on Miss Fox, assuming she was away. He was caught, and she assumed him a thief. Her treatment of him that day may be why he sees her in a favorable light." Bruce furrowed his brow.
"She lied the other day, covering for him." Bruce met eyes with Alfred, chewing thoughtfully. "I asked him about it, and before Damien could answer, she said something about him stealing her time." Alfred smiled, slightly disappointed at missing the interaction.
"I think she likes him, too, in her own way. They taken well to each other. She has defended him from his brother's taunts, in her own way. They have the same disposition towards the world, Sir."
"It's good he's socializing, but what happens if we do find something on her." Bruce clicked on an icon on his screen, a file popping up on the chef. "Her record is clean, but if we do find something on her..." Bruce trailed off.
"Sir, in my many years of life, I have come to learn that coincidences do happen. She is stationed in the Narrows." Bruce frowned. Alfred was right, but his gut was always right too. Something else was going on with the chef.
Joker had picked up her boys for whatever job Joker had planned today, which left Alexandera alone in her shop. Her usual clientele were patient as she bustled to take their orders and serve them, but thankfully it was slower than usual. Soups and hot sandwhiches were on the menu today, and the first huge stock pot was nearly empty.
"Alright fuckers, last call on the bisque before I pull out the gumbo." A small war began as men verbally fought over who got the last bowl. While the brutes fought, a squirrel of a man meekly raised his hand, and asked her directly for the bowl. The chef smirked, nodding and walked into the kitchen. The bustle in her lobby was amusing as the men taunted each other and tried to give their best reason as to why they should have the soup, it made the chef laugh quietly to herself. Her door bell rang through the din in her store.
"Hey, it's the kid!"
"Sup, little man!"
"Mama Chef's in back."
"Kid, tell Pancha here I get last soup."
"Nice sweatervest!" Alexandera slapped the back of Smith's head as she walked by. "Ow! I meant it! It wasn't a dig!" The Chef gave her best 'Fuckin' really' face, before setting the soup down in front of Mouse. Grumbles of discontent rang out, upset they didn't get the last bowl. Last bowl was always free.
"Hey Alfred. What's up, Smokebomb." Alexandera wiped her hands on her apron, shaking hands with the Butler before giving a light punch to Damien's shoulder.
"Lady Chef, are you awar-"
"I'mma stop you right there, Kid." Alexandera held her hand up. "Yes my hairs blue. I can rock it. Next order, please."
"We have come to give you Christmas gifts." The Chef ran a hand over her hair.
"Ah hell, didn't think ya'll would, too." Damien cocked his head to the side.
"Is something the matter? If you would prefer to do this on a different day, or have religious reas-" Alexandera shook her head.
"Nah, it ain't that, I just couldn't think of- well you know what, come in back." The Chef beckoned them to follow, turning heel to her office. "Tazer, make sure nothing breaks!"
"No promises, Mama Chef." Alfred and Damien followed the woman into the back of the kitchen, making their way to the woman's tiny office. She was crouched on the floor, opening her safe.
"May I inquire as to what your doing?" Damien refrained from peeking over her shoulder to see the code.
"So I haven't done this whole gift thing in years, and kinda forgot that this was what normal people do." The Chef's tone was light. "I got an idea though, on what I can give you." Damien thought on her words.
"Why wouldn't you have participated in gift giving?" Alexandera stood, holding something behind her back.
"Kid, you and Alfred are my first friends in years. Why would I waste money on gifts if I had no one to give them to?" Alfred felt a tinge of pity towards the blonde. He remembered when Bruce was young. Damien on the other hand stood straighter. This was the first time Lady Chef had outright called him a companion, and it set his mind racing. Alexandera thrust a book in Damien's direction. "Here."
Damien grabbed the worn book before reading the title.
"The Winnie-the-Pooh Cookbook?" Damien looked to the woman quizzically.
"Look, your way too good to be learning from that book, but it means a lot to me." The Chef scowled, hating being sentimental. "That book right there is the whole reason I became a chef." Damien opened the cover, the first page had LExiE written in crayon. "I've had it since I was five." As Damien flipped through the pages, he noticed many of the recipes had multiple shakey checkmarks next to the ingredients, and other childish doodles on the margins of the pages, stains on every page.
"Lady Chef, why would you give this to me?" It wasn't a hostile question, and the way he asked it made Alexandera smile.
"Come one, Kid. Every apprentice learns a secret from their teacher. You just learned I love Winnie-the-Pooh." Alfred placed a hand between Damien's shoulders blades.
"Thank you, Lady Chef. I will ensure it is well cared for." Damien gently cradled the book in his arms, before looking to Alfred. The butler held a festive bag towards the Chef she hadn't noticed earlier. "These are our gifts to you." The Chef grabbed the offered bag.
"I'll have to get you something later, Al." Alfred watched her pull the first box out. This was Damien's gift, and even he didn't know what the boy had done. The Chef lifted the lid and looked at a plainly bound book. Lifting it she open the page and was met with elegant writing and a recipe for something called kabsa, the next page had something called matchbous. "What is this?" The Chef asked in wondering scanning page after page.
"These are recipes I saw my mother cook when I was young." Damien replied, not noticing the double take Alfred gave him. "I did my best to remember the recipes as I saw then, and wrote them down for you."
"You made me a cookbook?"
"It's seemed appropriate." Alexandera grinned at the cocky tone, before she swooped down to give him a quick one armed hug.
"Thanks Kid, this means a lot to me." Damien fought a blush.
"You have another gift. Please open it." He didn't like the close proximity, even with his burgeoning delight. The woman pulled away and reached in for the second and final box.
"This from you?" She asked looking to Alfred.
"Yes Ma'am, I figured you might need this." Alexandera opened the box, silent as she looked at the knife, then laughed.
"You caught me!"
Chapter 22: It's the most wonderful time of the year
Quick note before the chapter begins, I'm basing Selina off Eartha Kitt's portrayal of Catwoman. I used to own the old Batman T.V. series and she is, hands down, my favorite Catwoman. She has the poise, sass, and charisma for the character. Plus.. you know... Santa Baby.
Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg. The Rouges will play, on Christmas Day, and the Chef will get away...
Christmas Eve, 9 AM...
It wasn't often that The Joker asked for help. He never seemed to follow a true plan and played mostly by ear, so it came as a shock to Oswald Cobblepot when his burner phone rang. As soon as he answered he could nearly her the smile on Joker's face.
"Ozzy! Hey friend, how ya' been? All good in that white hat of yours?" Cobblepot frowned at the name.
"Joker, I've been well, the legal life seems to suit me well enough." Cobblepot turned to star at his prized fish tank, he precious children swimming elegantly along. "Is everything okay?"
"Oh everything's hunky Dory!" The Joker's laugh nearly split Cobblepot's eardrum, he had to pull the phone away. "I'm a little snugger around the middle, but Harley seems to like the cuddle chunk."
"Well I'm glad you and Ms. Quinn are well. Why are you calling?" The Joker's once light tone took a more serious turn.
"I'm calling in a favor you owe me." Cobblepots frown deepened further.
"We're square Joker. Any favors I owed you were payed in kind." It worried the man, when the Joker chuckled.
"See, that's where your wrong. See there's this nice little place I like to frequent, real homey little diner I like," The Joker, on the other end of the line frowned. "And I heard you were causing trouble. Calling phony reports of rats, bothering my friend." Cobblepot knew that Blue Jay would come to haunt him.
"That was before I knew it was your territory, Joker. I've stepped aside."
"Yeah, but you still crossed the boundary lines. We've got rules for that."
"I'm not in the Gallery anymore." More laughter, mocking this time.
"Yeah, and Batman can take a joke. You may have a liquor license, but I know about your smuggling ring." Cobblepot cursed loudly. "Yeeeaahh, I found one of your dockworkers. Don't worry, he's dead. No one likes a snitch."
"What do you want for reparation?"
"Well here's my idea..."
The Gotham Christmas Parade could go die in a fire. Alexandera didn't follow the news, and didn't know the parade route went right by her diner. That meant there were hundreds of people blocking her doorway, and none of them were interested in the food she would be selling. Only the cartoony floats and bands. As it stood only three people were in her lobby, and she paid them to be there.
"Boys," They turned. "Go home. I'll call you later for your schedule." Gary and Kyle didn't need to be told twice, because while they may like working for Lady Boss, no one turned down a day off. Marcus was the only one who stayed behind.
"You good, Boss?" Alexandera slid on her new hat, the one Jervis had given her. "I'm sure after the parade leaves, we'll get business."
"Nah, I'd need you here for that crowd, and I'm sure Cassie wants to spend time with you." The Chef noticed the fond grin Marcus gave at his daughters name. "It's Christmas Eve, go do your domestic shit elsewhere." When Marcus left Alexandera locked the front door, she wasn't stupid enough to leave that way, it was too crowded. Shrugging on her patchwork coat and lugging her worn messenger bag around her neck, she made her way to her back door. Setting her alarm she braved her way into the cold of the back ally, there was no sunlight, blocked by the taller building that surrounded her diner, so the temperature was colder than she anticipated. Closing the door, she was suddenly accosted on both sides.
"Target Acquired, Ginger Bread!"
"Harley, I'm not using code names."
"Aww come on, Red. It's Sugar Lumps!" The clown whined, sad her cover had been blown.
"What are you doing?" Alexandera didn't bother to shake their hold of her arms, it was better to go along with whatever they had planned.
"Well, Target, we're here ta kidnap ya!" Harley grinned, jumping in place. "Don't make me get the knockout juice!" Alexandera looked to Ivy for some support.
"Ya'll could of just asked. Not like I can say no."
"Awww, Sunshine, you make it sound like we're bad guys." Alexandera cocked a brow.
"You are to the assholes blocking my shop." Ivy shivered, which caught the Chef's attention. "Don't take this the wrong way, but shouldn't you be in a greenhouse or something?" Harley snorted, trying not to laugh as Ivy leveled a glare at the Chef.
"I'm just fine."
"I meant for your plants, it's colder than a witch's tit." Alexandera tilted her head. "I don't think a greenhouse is gonna fix your lack of winter wear." Indeed, the infamous Poison Ivy was in little more than her usual attire. Mother Nature sighed, questioning how Harley always seemed to wrangle her into these predicaments. She had no ill will towards the chef, but she had no great feelings either, she was probably the only true neutral party in Joker's newest game.
"My children are just fine. I'd be more worried for yourself." Alexandera's eyes widen.
"Am I getting pulled into a plot? I'll feed y'all, but I ain't joining in on your shit." It was vehement, as Alexandera was dragged to a rusted busted hatchback with it's tinted windows rolled up. "That better have heating." Harley snorted, pulling keys from her pocket.
"Sunshine yer tough, but ya ain't got the heart for villainy." The Chef was pushed into the back seat of the car, it was surprisingly cleaner on the inside, save for a few dark brown stains on the seats and floor. "I bet ya'd look hot in spandex, though!"
"These are blood stains, aren't they."
"Those who don't wish to know. shouldn't ask." Ivy replied grabbing the keys from the Clown. "I'm driving, you'll get us caught."
"Fine by me, my license has been expired for years now!" Harley closed her door, clicking her seatbelt. "You ready for some fun, Sunshine?"
"What do you mean by 'fun'?" Alexandera hedged, buckling her own belt, leaning forward to catch some heat from the vents upfront.
"Santa says ya been good this year!" Harley all but shouted, bouncing in her seat as Ivy began the drive to where they were headed. "So Santa's little helpers are here ta give ya the best day evah!"
"So we're gonna hit a couple of bars, eat some food, and watch Die Hard?" Harley stopped her bouncing, almost hovering over her seat, as she glanced back to the chef.
"When's the last time ya got pampered?"
"I dunno," the Chef shrugged, scratching her head in thought. "I got through the DMV in less than an hour in January without an appointment." Ivy face in the rear view mirror could only be described as a 'not bad' expression. Harley looked frustrated at the response.
"Kitty's gonna have her work cut out for her."
Selina Kyle favored herself as a women with fine tastes. The best clothes, the finest jewelry, the most luscious make ups. Her uptown apartment lavishly furnished and decorated with rare and unusual trinkets. Anything she wanted, she had. Seeing the bedraggled women standing apprehensively in the middle of her living room, old torn clothes unfitting her figure, hair freshly dyed but frizzy from the cheap dye, and to her keen eyes, nails bitten down and ragged, made the Cat's fur stand on end. Her fellow femme fatales made themselves comfortable in her home, Harley flipping herself over the couch's back, sitting upside down with her legs kicking in the air, while Ivy situated herself near the penthouse terrace, enjoying the view of the park.
"Hello Kittens." Selina slinked her way into the wide living space, seemingly gliding over the floor. Harley waved a leg back and forth in the air in greeting.
"Hey Kitty! Thanks for doin' this!" The ragamuffin girl in an apron jumped at the sudden greeting, turning to gaze at the elegant host.
"Of course, I couldn't miss an opportunity like this." She meant it of course, Joker had dished out quite the paycheck, though Selina was sure Harley had forged his signature on the proverbial cheque. She held her hand out the rough looking woman. "Selina, pleasurrre to meet you." Alexandera gripped her hand strongly, shaking it.
"Alexandera, like wise, I guess." Even her voice was rough, lower than most women in Gotham. The chef turned to Harley. "What's going on?"
"We're givin ya our Christmas gift!" Harley flipped over herself, tumbling into a standing position. "A full make over!" The clown bounced on her heels, arms tucked tight into her body as she cupped her own cheeks and wriggled in excitement. "Kitty here agreed to help out with gettin ya new clothes, and gettin yer hair done, yer nails, fixin yer face, the whooole shebang!" Selina grinned, amused by Harley's antics. Alexandera on the other hand, didn't seem so thrilled.
"Harley, I appreciate what your trying to do, but I don't need a make over." The Chef crossed her arms. "My clothes fit, I can't have shit on my nails with my job, I already did my hair, and my face is fine."
"Darrrling, any women worth her salt knows," The Cat purred, slowly circling the Chef, "Everyone loves eye candy." Selina stopped in front of Alexandera, placing a finger under her chin as the Chef scowled. "Man and women."
Well, if you can't beat 'em...
The apartment had changed into a miniature spa and boutique. There was a buff shirtless man at the wet bar, supplying drinks, two more at massage tables, working on a loudly moaning Clown. Racks of designer clothes standing off to one side which Ivy browsed, as a hair stylist fussed over Alexandera's hair. Selina watched all this close by, her nails being filed into points. Alexandera tried not to smack the barber as she chastised the botched dye job.
"The colours fine, but what bleach did you use? These ends are horrific."
"I keep my hair pulled back at work, what does it matter if I have split ends."
"It's unhealthy for your hair! How often do you get a hair cut?"
"I dunno, once every couple of years, maybe?" The stylist gasped, snipping another strand from her hair.
"Lina, do you hear this?" The Cat sipped from her straw.
"Not everyone can manage to look good all the time. That's why your herrre." Alexandera rolled her eyes at the unintended insult. The dark women, in more way than one, seemed to be enjoying the Chefs suffering. She had been in the chair for only twenty minutes and she was ready to jump out the window and hope for the best. It wasn't like she had the time to get hair cuts. Cooking was a literal full time job. Another snip, and Alexandera resisted the urge to scratch her ear.
"How do you style your hair when you aren't at work?" Joker shoot the nosy women.
"I don't. I keep it up most days. If it's down, it's down." The stylist gave a disgusted scoff.
"The ends are gone, I'm going to grab my style book. Lina talk some sense into her." The stylist raised her hands, walking away grumbling. Alexandera scratched her ears roughly.
"Bitch, it's my hair." Alexandera grumbled. The women sitting next to her literally purred.
"So, Ragamuffin, why did you dye your hair?" Selina watched as Alexandera picked at the ends of her hair, feeling the tips.
"Jervis kept calling me Alice. I told him if he kept doing it, I'd dye my hair, and well..." Selina picked a holographic gold polish, as her nail artist finished filing.
"Jervis? Oh, you mean Hatter." Alexandera nodded, sighing as she slumped in the chair.
"Yeah, him. Why do I gotta get my hair done, it's already dyed." Selina shook her head in amused disbelief.
"I don't think I ever seen a woman so against a free make over."
"Look, it's not like I'm ungrateful, I just think I'm fine the way I am."
"Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can wear, but don't you want to match that confidence, Darrrling?" Selina stood, moving behind the Chef. Looking at her through the mirror she began to toy with her hair. "I think someone as brrright as you, should shine." Selina pulled a portion of her hair aside, looking at it intensely.
"My kitchen's got enough chrome to shine for the both of us." Selina laughed.
"You really arrre difficult."
"My damn middle name." The hair stylist walked back in, holding a thick binder in her hand.
"So Lina, convince her to co-operate?" Alexandera looked like she was ready to hiss at the woman.
"Oh yes, and I think I have an idea on what to do to herrr." Selina leaned down and whispered into the Chef's ear. "Now, my little Ragamuffin, let's make you shine!"
When all was said and done, Alexandera couldn't complain too much. In fact, despite the bitch of a hair dresser, and that was saying much from the Crowned Bitch of the Kitchen, Alexandera was happy her friend's gift. While she couldn't paint her nails, they were trimmed, polished and shined. Her new coat was a deep maroon fitted trench coat, lined in sumptuous fabric. It flared around her hips when she walked, the buttons a matte black. Her hair was now pushed to one side, a braid acting as an unnatural part now that the other side was shaved clean, and even with her flinching at every little object that came at her face, the make up brought out something she never saw on herself. She looked like a colourful posh punk. And she loved it. Harley did too, letting her excitement be known by hanging off one of Alexandera's arm.
"See! I knew you'd like it, Sunshine!" Selina inspected herself in the next mirror, happy with her new studded catsuit.
"Yes, she does really shine, doesn't she." Alexandera smiled her crooked smile, as her hand grazed the skin of her skull.
"Well yeah, this clean of a shave, I'm bound to reflect the sun." Harley guffawed, amazed at the joke coming from the usually disgruntled chef. In the corner, Ivy stood in her new rich emerald green faux leather jacket, speaking quietly on the phone before she hung up, walking over to the preening women.
"We've stalled long enough, it's time to go." Alexandera cocked her head towards the redhead.
"Stalled?" Selina took her cue.
"Take the Jaguar, no reason to to dull yourselves in that hunk of rrrust." Keys went sailing through the hair, caught by Ivy before Harley could snatch them.
"Wait hold on, stalled?" Selina grinned like the cat caught the canary, ushering the three women to the door.
"Remember my little Ragamuffin. Shine." The Chef continued to implore for answers, guided out the apartment of luxury and into the stench of Gotham. The Shine of the city.
On the very edge of Gotham, at the end of Gotham Wharf was the decrepit ruins of The Fun House. The once bustling carnival now lay forgotten and dormant, falling apart at the seams, but if one were to brave the rotting city and venture into the depths of the circus, they would find the home of the Clown Prince of Crime. As it was it was a rudimentary hideout, basic necessities and a small lab to produce Joker Toxin and a few rooms with beds for the goons who had no home of their own. Tonight though, the goons had been busy. The once dark and warped imposing city line was lit and loud. At the very entrance was where Alexandera found herself abandoned by her fellow females. Alexandera found her only option to be to walk up to a poor man dressed in a clown outfit trapped in a small admittance booth, with a hand written ADMIT ONE ticket As she neared the man with the bulbous red nose, he perked up to attention.
"Ticket, please." Alexandera handed over the flimsy notebook paper, and tried not to roll her eyes as the man actually inspected it for flaws. Once the man was assured of the authenticity of the fake ticket her motioned for her wrist. He placed a bright green paper bracelet around her wrist. "Have fun." And then the metal gate swung open with a great creak.
"Thanks." Alexandera walked through the gate, jumping slightly as it closed with a loud crash. The carnival seemed ripped out of a child's dream. Lit up with colourful lights, all the rides were operating, all the booths manned by men in clown outfits, all the food carts wafted sickly sweet and fatty smells. Yet not a single person walked the paths, no shrieks of children joined the hokey music.
"Step right up! Don't be shy!" It was a voice the Chef had come to recognize without ever meaning to. "Over here!" When Alexandera turned she was met with The Joker, leaning on a cane, dressed in a purple ringleader suit and boater hat. He stood at a Ball Toss booth, little Batman figurines acting as the targets.
"Should of guessed you lived in a circus." The chef greeted, walking up to the Joker.
"What can I say? It's thematic." The Joker laughed, twirling his cane.
"What's going on Joker?" Alexandera placed a hand on her cocked hip, standing a respectable distance from the clown, just in case. "Isn't this like one giant 'I'm Here' sign for Batman to come show up?" The Joker grabbed a basket of baseballs from under the counter and placed them in front of the Chef.
"Awww, Chefie, you do care!" Alexandera huffed. "Nah, Bats is gonna be very busy tonight!" His laughter rang out through the park, overcoming the sound of the music easily.
"Joker, normally I wouldn't ask this but," The Joker tilted his head, seemingly eager to answer whatever question the Chef was going to ask. "What did you do?" If possible, The Jokers grin widened, splitting his face in half.
"I may or may not have kidnapped a bus full of goodhearted nurses, and stashed them away, sending Batsie on a wild goose chase!" Alexandera's palm hit her forehead.
"There goes my plausible deniability." The Joker prodded her with his bamboo cane.
"Aw, come on! I didn't want him interrupting my gift." This caused the Chef to startle.
"Why? What's with all this? I don't get any of this!" Alexandera's voice wasn't hysterical per se, but it did crack a little from stress she hadn't even realized she had been shouldering. Maybe she should have gotten that massage. The Joker's smile never faltered, as he were expecting the outburst, hell, maybe he even orchestrated it somehow.
"Alex, your a smart girl. You know when to keep your mouth shut, and you don't put on airs." The Joker grabbed a ball, tossing it in the air repeatedly. "I do, what I do because it's funny! It's funny to see how all those little ants scurry when I come in with a magnifying glass when I blur the lines and cave in the tunnels they so expertly crafted to keep the Queen fed and happy, but you.." The Cane was prodded into Alexandera again, this time she grabbed it, pulling it out of the Joker's grasp. He hooted out a laugh, clutching his stomach as if in pain.
"See? SEE! That's it right there! You never once begged. You never once ran! You had countless opportunities to ditch, ran to the cops, or run away and hide, but you ain't like that. You looked at an unstoppable force in your way and said 'You move.'" The Joker vaulted over the counter, startling Alexandera with how close he was in such a short amount of time.
"I held a gun your face, and you laughed! Well maybe not actually, but you didn't back down." The Joker, in a rare moment of sincerity, poked the Chef's cheek. "The ants out there are funny, because they are so easily squished. You're funny because I'll threaten to squish you, and you'll sting me, because you're not an ant. You're a wasp. An angry, buzzing little wasp who don't take kindly to being swatted at." He roughly grabbed Alexandera's hand, shoving the ball into it. "Besides, I like supporting local businesses, you're food's the bee's knees!" The Joker laughed at his little joke, not flinching when the Chef threw the ball at his shoulder.
"You blow up local businesses."
"True, but my suits come from somewhere." The Joker stood ram rod straight, extending his arm towards the ball booth. "Step right up, and win a prize!" The Chef, not being to be told twice, took the basket off the counter, and chucked it at the tower of Batmen, knocking it over as well as the two on either side.
"I want the Batman with the piranha on his ass." She said so plainly, despite the grin on her face. The Joker grinned, yanking it by the foot and tossing it at the Chef. He sure knew how to pick his friends.
Hours passed by in whirling, spinning path of madness and dare she say it, fun. The Joker had taken it upon himself to ensure that Alexandera played every game, eat from every booth, and rode every ride. One by one with each stall used, the lights shut down, the music fading until all that was left was one last ride, the only source of light and sound.
"Last Ride! All passenger please keep you limbs out and don't bother with your seat belt, there are none!" Seeing as how Alexandera was the only passenger, she didn't see the need for the announcement. Pulling a floor lever, the ride lurched on it's way. As it passed, the Joker leapt deftly into the seat behind hers. "Oh damn."
"What?" The Chef asked, turning in the seat.
"I forgot to check to see if this ride was operational." The Clown murmured, rubbing his chin. The ride was quickly picking up speed, rattling on the tracks.
"You WHAT?!" Before Alexandera got her reply, The Joker raised his arms and howled in delight, as the ride made a sudden and unexpected nose dive.
"WEEEEEEEEEEEEE! HAHAHAHAHA!" Alexandera clutched the wobbling safety rail as the Joker screamed his delight's behind her. She was absolutely petrified, no sound coming from her as she held on for her life as the cart dipped and turned at break neck speeds, feeling as if it would come the rails at any moment. It was dark save for green and purple light bulbs illuminating paintings she couldn't see as the rode their way to certain doom. Just as Alexandera began to make her peace with whatever god chose to take her, the ride crashed sending her and her fellow passenger flying through the air.
"FUUUCK!" As last words went, this would be the phrase truest to herself Alexandera could scream. Fulling expecting a rough landing, she shrieked when she first touched ground... Only... It was soft, and round, and fulling surrounding her... She could hear the Joker's muffled laughs from somewhere above her, and she struggled to climb out of the ball pit she found herself in. Breaching the surface she found the Joker lying half sunken in the pit wiping tears from his face.
"You- PFFT HAHA HA! The LOOK on Your- HAAA HA!" He wheezed in delight, as the Chef began pelting him with plastic balls.
"I could have DIED!" She threw the balls harder, trying to get one lodged in his gaping mouth. "If I die I'll fucking haunt your ass with erectile dysfunction!"
"Aw, come on Sunshine. That's be no fun fer me!" A perky female called out, her voice echoing in the room. Alexandera kept throwing the balls without looking at the Joker, searching for Harley.
"What's going on?" Bright lights blinded the Chef momentarily. When her sight adjusted, she was met with a potted palm tree, covered in lights. Harley stood near by offering her hand out to Alexandera, which she took, only after throwing one more ball at the Joker for good measure. The Riddler and Jonathon Crane watched from a distance, both delighted for their own reasons at the Chef's predicament. Once vertical, the Chef repeated her question.
"Puddin, ya got yer pocket watch?" The Joker breast stroked his way to the edge of the Ball pit, hoisting himself out.
"Rrright here!" With practiced ease, he pulled a comically large pocket watch from his coat, clicking it open. Harley pointed to it.
"Ya get the idea, Sunshine?" Harley asked, dressed in a black and red skimpy elf outfit.
"It's midnight?" Harley thrust her hands in the air.
"Gawd, yer blonder than me sometimes." Harley squished the Chef's cheek together. "It's CHRISTMAS!"
Chapter 23: Vacation
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
It was funny, how light her suitcase really was. Even the attendant who offered help seemed confused by how airy the case felt, as if there was almost nothing in the soft rolling box. Truthfully there were some clothes in the case, a few toiletries, and her new cookbook, but that was a drop in the ocean of emptiness in her suitcase. Alexandera picked a seat towards the back of the flight, it wouldn't be a long one, but she'd rather not deal with the throngs of people when the flight landed. Metropolis was a short flight away, but prior experience taught the Chef to hunker down and get as comfortable as possible. Her "new" phone was hooked up to a cushy set of earbuds, her choice of music downloaded when she went home on Christmas day. After The Joker's little stunt with the carnival ride, Alexandera spent a small, ruckus filled night and morning with Gotham's Finest. Harley had ensured the night went well, with the help on some bourbon she had stolen from months ago. Edward, in his usual holier-than-thou attitude had gifted the Chef with a new phone he built, stating her's was way too old, and how he wasn't sure how it still worked. She was sure there was some unseemly programs in the phone. The Chef figured she'd spend a night searching hard core porn just to see how he reacted the next time she saw him, when she got back. Jonathon, in a surprising turn of events, had also gifted her with something of his own creation. An inconspicuous bottle of pepper spray, filled with a mild fear toxin. She was sure he was hoping that if she used it, she might inhale some herself, but the gift itself may come in handy in the future. Despite her unofficial status as Joker turf, you never knew what could happen in Gotham. The biggest surprise came an hour before sunrise. When Bird Brain himself showed up.
It was tense when he waddled in, dressed impeccably in a pressed suit, flanked by a towering body guard in an ill fitting, too tight suit, and a smartly dressed brunette in a button down shirt and black pencil skirt. Alexandera sat on the ground, legs half crossed with the bottle of liquor held in her hand, arm resting on her bent up knee, Harley playing with her hair, eyeing the Penguin heavily. Joker strode up to greet the squat man, walking a few strides with his long legs, shaking his hand with so much vigor that Cobblepot looked as if he had been lifted up into the air. Alexandera made a show of ignoring the two men, playing her next chess move against Crane, loosing spectacularly. The three Rouges circling her shared a look without the Chef's knowledge, knowing her distain for the former Rouge. Cobblepot made his way next to Alexandera, waiting somewhat patiently as she prolonged her next move, though she knew she had lost already. With her King in check, she finally looked to the man, taking a sloppy swig from the bottle, wiping the excess from her face with the sleeve of her new coat. She liked it far too much to take it off.
"You want something?" Her speech was slurred, but the acidity still leeched though the words. Cobblepot kept his composure, refusing to rise to the womans attitude.
"I came to apologize, had I realized the... situation, I wouldn't have bothered you." Cobblepot said it through gritted teeth, to which the Chef began to laugh harshly, emboldened by liquid courage and her friends surrounding her.
"Yeah, you would of, you just wouldn't have done it in person." The Chef gestured to the Penguin, spilling some liquor on the ground, "Shit, party foul." She glanced at Cobblepot, snorting at her unintentional pun. Joker popped up behind Harley, placing his hands on Quinn's shoulder, to which she leaned in happily.
"Oh come on, it's Christmas. I don't like seeing my friends fighting." The Joker said in a low tone, an edge of threat on his tongue. Alexandera rolled her eyes as she pushed herself up to stand. She stumbled slightly, her balance askew from her beverage.
"Alright, alright." The chef held an outstretched hand, "No harm, no foul." Cobblepot sneered at her word choice, but shook her hand nonetheless.
"I come bearing an olive branch, for all the fuss I've caused." Cobblepot reached into his coat pocket, and pulled an envelope out. It didn't escape the Chef's notice that every time she was given an envelope recently, that her life turned in unimaginable ways. She took the packet, and eyed the Penguin warily. "A little birdie told me you're originally from Metropolis." When she pulled the papers from the envelope she froze.
"Five days in Metropolis. You'll be staying in a Luthor resort, with dining accommodations at any of his restaurants and transport. Airfare is paid and you'll be leaving New Years Eve." Alexandera flicked through the papers, gobsmacked.
"What's the catch?" Jonathon smirked at her paranoia, ever mistrustful of the Rouges around her. She was smart.
"No catch. Once you come back, you'll have no trouble from now on from me." The Chef didn't believe it one bit. It seemed a little too generous. Joker pushed the situation to close however, before she could continue her questioning.
"Now what do we say?" The Joker said it as if speaking to a child. Alexandera huffed through her nose, but all the same said,
Alexandera growled slightly, wiggling her finger in her ear, trying to alleviate the pain in her ear drum. The flight went by faster than she anticipated, due to her unanticipated nap. A flight steward had shook her awake, as the rest of the passengers filed out. Walking to baggage claim, she ran her fingers through her hair, stopping slightly when she felt her shaved side, still unused to the absence of hair. Still listening to music, she watched for her suitcase, lifting it with ease when it arrived. It was easy to spot, since Harley had taken it upon her self to decorate it. A spray painted chefs knife stabbed through a smiley face. It was appropriate. Walking to pick up she searched for her driver. Apparently she would have a ride to the hotel, and he'd have a sign with her name on it. Lo and behold, a young man in a crisp suit and sunglasses held a sign with her name written on it. She walked up, suitcase trailing behind her.
"Hey, I'm Alexandera." The man eyed her with what she could only interpret as suspicion, the sunglasses hiding his expression.
"May I see some identification." Pulling her battered wallet out, she showed her license. It still had her blonde picture, but the slight scowl was easily matched.
"Welcome to Metropolis, Ma'am. The limo is waiting out front, if you'll follow me, I can carry your luggage."
"Nah, it's cool. It's light." Alexandera wasn't much for being pampered in any light, plus she didn't like people touching what little she had. She followed the man out into the cold of the city. Cars and buses sat in a line as people entered and left the airport. A sleek black limo sat near the center, right where Alexandera and her escort exited the building, waiting for it's passengers. The driver popped the trunk, gently placing her luggage in the trunk, before opening the back door to the vehicle. Alexandera slid in, holding her worn messenger bag close. When she was finally situated she leaned back to relax, but was met with a muscular bald man sitting across from her. She startled.
"Fuck! Shit dude, warn a bitch." The man gave a deep chuckle, amused by her reaction.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am. It wasn't my intention." He leaned forward offering his hand. "Welcome to Metropolis. I believe I can safely assume your Mrs. Fox?" Alexandera shook his hand, gripping tightly in retaliation to the unintended scare.
"I'm not a Missus, but yeah, I'm Alexandera." The bald man smirked, reclining in the limo as if he owned it.
"A pleasure, Miss. I'm Lex Luthor." Oh, he did own the limo. "Oswald had nothing to say but good about you, you seem to be making a name for yourself in Gotham." The Chef scoffed, suddenly uncomfortable. This was Lex Luthor. He owned Metropolis like Wayne did. "My secretary said your food is incredible."
"They went to my diner?" Alexandera highly doubted that. The only people in designer clothes that went to her place was usually stolen clothes from thieves.
"No, actually she was at Wayne's fundraiser." The Chef suddenly felt hot from embarrassment. Not her finest moment. "I couldn't attend, unfortunately."
"How'd you know it's me? It wasn't like Vale said who I was." Lex smiled.
"Facebook. I'll admit I was curious as to who you were, with such an endorsement from Oswald. Eve recognized your photo." Alexandera grumbled under her breath.
"I knew I should have deleted that account. I never use it."
"I agree, that old photo does you no justice." No that heat in her face manifested in a blush. Alexandera wasn't one to easily accept such pleasantries without suspicion, but like any woman from Metropolis, she had an old girlhood crush on the man. It was practically a sin not to. She tried to change the subject.
"So, why are you here? I bet you're a busy man." Lex leaned forward again, eyeing her intensely.
"Curiousity at first, but now I realize a surprise meeting won't be enough." Here it comes, Alexandera thought, some kind of set up. Revenge from Cobblepot. "How would you like some company for dinner?"
"What?" What? Lex chuckled, and god damn if it wasn't velvety.
"You have open reservations at any of my restaurants, but I hate seeing a beautiful women dining alone. I'd love to talk more, over dinner." Alexandera could handle Jervis for tea, even when he went on a mental trip to Wonderland. She could handle Edward's ego when they played games. She handled the Scarecrow rather well, if she could say so publicly. That's not even mentioning Joker. Now though, the Chef felt at a loss.
"Sure. That'd be nice." She tried not to let her excitement seep through. It had been a long time since she'd gone to dinner with... a date?
"Excellent, we'll arrive at your hotel shortly. I'll have Jerry, my driver, pick you up at eight." Lex took the opportunity to eye the Chef up and down. She resisted the urge to wiggle in discomfort from the attention. The limo slowed to a stop. "I look forward to your company."
"Aren't you the one accompanying me? The door opened, and the Chef slid out fast, wanting to make a quick escape. Lex smirked at her back, as the door closed.
Edward had spent the past few days catagorizing everything the Chef did on her phone. All the music she downloaded (an odd mix of Tom Waits, Panic! at the Disco, Barbershop Quartets, and different youtube channels music), all her watching habits (again lots of youtube, mostly a Minecraft series called Mianite), and who she called (Marcus, the goon that worked for her and that was it). Everywhere she went, which was sadly dissappointing as it was the same route from her apartment and her diner. And now Her position at Metropolis International Airport. It was decidedly boring. Yet, he couldn't stop his spying. Currently he was organizing the clutter on his desk, while Jonathon took notes on his latest experiment, it was still too cold for The Scarecrow to conduct his experiments in his usual hideout. The screaming man having finally died from the toxin after only a few hours. It was blessedly quiet.
"You know if she ever finds out about your spying, she'll probably teach you how to make soufflé." Jonathon chuckled at the Riddler's glare.
"She'll never know. Besides, if she ever tries to pull anything, I'll have insurance." The Riddler placed a few files in the shredder.
"Face it, Edward. Aside from her dealings with us, she's a surprisingly 'good' citizen." 'With the mouth of a fucking sailor, and the liver of a viking.' Jonathon was trying to ignore Scarecrow, he had promised to shut up after his latest experiment. That was apparently a lie.
"There's something else, there has to be."
"Edward, in my professional opinion, I believe you're developing an obsession." Jonathon placed his pen in his notebook using it as a bookmark. "Perhaps even, a crush..." A wad of paper went sailing towards the Doctor, landing at his feet.
"Don't start with me, you lost your license to practice." Jonathon stooped low enough to raise his middle finger. "What about your little gift of toxin?"
"It would be tragic to lose a subject before testing began." Edward snorted.
"Please. You're just as curious about her." Jonathon made no effort to argue, it wasn't a lie, even if it wasn't for the reasons Edward was implying. A chime from Edward's computer rang. The Riddler smoothly slid a headset on, sitting back in his chair. "She's talking to someone."
"Well that's no surprise, she has a loud mouth." Edward laughed at the slight insult. 'Twenty bucks says she can do a lot more with that mouth.'
"Shut up." It was hissed through the Doctor's teeth. Edward jumped in his chair, ripping his headphones off. "Problem?"
"She's far to crass. She just yelled out in surprise." Jonathon's pupils dilated, turning his usually ice blue eyes nearly black.
"Turn on the audio." Edward knew that voice, and didn't waste time unplugging his headphones. It was unwise to anger The Scarecrow. Both men listened in on her conversation with Lex Luthor.
"She wouldn't fall for such frivolous comments. Jervis is proof of that." Edward stated, rolling his eyes at the compliment Luthor paid to the Chef. Scarecrow grunted in agreement. Both men shared a look when she agreed though.
"What's Luthor playing at?" The Scarecrow snarled out, eyeing Edward angrily.
"That's a riddle I'd like answered." Both men frowned when moments later they could hear a very uncharacteristically girly squeal from the Chef. Luthor wasn't known for his honesty.
Marcus locked up the shop. He was in charge with Lady Boss out on vacation. He was happy for her, she deserved some sanity with all the craziness Gotham had been throwing at her. Her little apprentice had shown up, asking for her, but was told she was gone for the few days. Marcus didn't think a child could look more disappointed and frustrated all at once. So caught up in his thoughts, he never noticed a dark shadow easily pick the lock, sliding into the diner. When he returned in the morning, none of the goons noticed the very well hidden cameras placed thoughout the diner. He was just too complacent with his new job, to be on guard. And that's the moment no one knew would start quite the adventure.
The Chef was lacing her boots up when at seven a knock sounded on her hotel door. She opened the door greeting a beautiful blonde.
"Hello Miss Fox, I'm Eve Teschmacher, Mr. Luthor's secretary. I have something from him for tonight." The women stode in gracefully, a tan sack hung over her arm, with a designer shoe box on top and a briefcase in her other hand. Alexandera closed the door, and watched as the blonde laid the dress sack across the bed with the box.
"What's all this?" The Chef asked, watching as the women unzipped the dress bag.
"Mr. Luthor's driver made note of your light luggage, and Mr. Luthor decided to offer a gift." Eve looked the Chef up and down, taking in her attire. "The coat is nice, but the jeans and boots won't do, it's formal wear only at most of the restaurants." Alexandera rolled her eyes heavenward. At this rate her closet was going to begin to swallow her apartment floor. Still, she felt a thrill in her stomach at the gesture from Luthor, gifts or bribes from her friends in Gotham were one thing, but this probably had an entirely different ulterior motive. Eve pulled a deep emerald green long sleeved cocktail dress, the box now lay open with a shiny pair of black heels.
"Shit!" Alex wasn't a girl for frilly things, but she was still a woman and damn this dress looked beautiful. As she stroked the fabric, the Secretary opened her briefcase. A hair curler was plugged in and makeup pallets rested on an adjacent table.
"We have little time before dinner, strip and sit down, Miss Fox." Alex gave the blonde a hard look. "It not like you have different parts than me, we need to hurry."
"I'm not wearing the heels, I don't know how to walk in them." Eve cocked a brow.
"I suppose that will have to do then."
Château de Loisir was modeled too look like a beautiful French castle in a vineyard. Grape vines grew on trellises along walls, with grapes you could actually pluck and eat, wine caskets lined the bar wall, taps plugged and ready to pour its' liquid. Fresco's glowed on walls and ceilings, and chandeliers hung kept the atmosphere dim and golden. As Alexandera followed the host to her table, she cursed her decision to wear her careworn boots. They were clean but, for the first time in a very long time, she felt nervous. She resisted the urge to run her hands through her curled hair, or rub her lined eyes. The middle aged man pulled her chair out for her, offering a complimentary glass of wine. She refused, not wanting to get drunk just right now, though she didn't say so. Left with her phone, and a menu, the Chef perused the menu, lamenting the fact it was nearly all in French. She took Mandarin in high school, which she subsequently failed. Giving up on searching the menu for something to eat, she pulled out her phone, browsing a few websites to pass the time. A waiter came by, and placed a complimentary basket pan brié and a sparkling water.
"Would you like to order, Ma'am?" The waiter asked.
"No, thank you." He left, leaving the Chef waiting again. It was about eight twenty when Lex Luthor waltzed in.
"Please excuse my lateness, I got held up at work with some unexpected meeting." Lex took the seat across from the Chef, giving a charming smile. "I hope I haven't sullied my opinion of you." Alexandera shrugged her shoulders.
"Nah, It's okay, I'm used to the unexpected." Alexandera sipped on her water, really not bothered by the lateness, she would have just ordered on her own. Lex tilted his head subtly.
"I would assume so, you do live in Gotham." The Chef gave a lopsided grin.
"You've done you're research."
"I like to learn as much as I can about something that interests me."
"And I guess that something includes me."
"It most certainly does now." Lex smirked at the blush on the Chef's face. The rest of the evening went swimmingly. At Alexandera's suggestion they asked the waiter to tell the chef to make whatever her felt was best, though it was a ploy to cover her lack of French. The conversation was just as good as the food they were eating. Lex was just as charming as any good Metropolis girl could dream of and her didn't seem phased by her blunt personality. She even managed to crack a few jokes to which he laughed at. They got many looks from the diners in the restaurant, but the nervousness Alex felt earlier had left. She hadn't felt this excited in years. It was nearly 10:30 when she started to lose energy. Lex took notice too when she yawned.
"I believe I have to get you home before the stroke of midnight." Alexandera snorted.
"I'm the furthest thing from a princess." Lex reached his hand across the table, placing it on top of hers.
"I disagree, and I'm hardly ever wrong." Alexandera blushed brightly, avoiding eye contact awkwardly. "Well I think we should thank the chef for this absolutely wonderful food, don't you think?" Lex beckoned the waiter, asking for the chef.
"I don't think you want to be stuck here even longer just to listen to me gush about searing and reverse searing preferences."
"On the contrary, you light up when you talked about cooking tonight. I'd like to see that more." Jesus, Alex was sure she would be permanently red. She laughed awkwardly as Lex eyed her. The chef from the kitchen walked up to the table, immediately reaching out to shake Lex's hand.
"Mr. Luthor, it's a pleasure to see you again! I'm glad you enjoyed my food tonight." Lex stood shaking the mans hand, and grasping his shoulder in a friendly manner.
"It was phenomenal, my date and I loved it." Lex gestured to the blue haired women, who sat in slack jawed awe.
"Gene?" The male chef looked down to the sitting women, eyes wide.
Chapter 24: What happened long ago
Memories are stored not in our brains, but in our taste buds, in our ears, in our noses, in our hearts. That's why when you think back you see mistakes, but when you hear an old song, taste a childhood treat, smell an old perfume you don't see mistakes, you feel old happiness, bittersweet and beautiful.
Reginald "Gene" Jones remembered the first time he saw her. She never had a smile on her face, a perpetual scowl at all of her surroundings. A scoff at the sounds of peoples talking around her. Just an aura of unhappiness around her. He wanted to make her smile. That was his first thought as he watched her walk in to the culinary class, chefs coat haphazardly buttoned, and scuffed up boots trekking in a light trail of mud. She took the station with out a partner, next to his, but alone, and made no effort to speak with those around her. He watched as she soaked up all the instructors directions, never taking notes but watching with undivided attention, watched even more as she began her prep work, how in that brief moment of dicing and weighing, that aura of anger melted like the butter for t his bechamel melted in his own pan. Watched as the instructor used her work as the example of what not to do. He wanted to make her smile.
For two months his attention was split by the french cuisine, and the angry women to the left of his station. How when she seemed to relax only when she was cooking, never smiling, but just, existing. He thought to himself how he could approach her, ask her for a spare onion, offer some help when the instructor was being especially harsh, but he didn't dare broach on her moment. Today they would be making Coq au vin with crusty french bread. The secret to good french bread was steam and HIGH heat. He was just sliding his loaf into the oven when he heard her next to him, crying out as if burnt. Gene quickly turned to give aid, looking to see her grasping her neck.
"Are you okay?" Gene grabbed the loaf from her other hand, placing it in the oven for her. She pulled at the gold necklace on her neck, snapping it off with little care. A bright red mark on her neck, spelling out 'BITCH' in elegant script. Gene couldn't help it, he laughed. He laughed at her confused face, at the confused faces of his fellow students. His laughter grew more when SHE started to chuckle. It was deep and rich, and it sent a shiver down his spine. The moment was cut short when the instructor took the opportunity to use her as an example as to why you don't wear jewelry, especially gold in a kitchen. He went through the motions for the rest of the day. Keeping in mind how she didn't smile, but the grin seemed to ease the harshness around her eyes. When the day was done, he sought her out. He saw her standing at a bus stop, picking the dough out of her nails.
"Hey." She looked up. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"You waiting for the bus?" He wanted to slap his forehead at the question. Even more so with her raised brow.
"No, I'm waiting for the mothership. I have been collecting data on this species and need to give my report." It was said so deadpan, so monotone, it took a moment for him to really process her words. When it dawned on him, he began laughing again.
"Well I hope all the anal probing you did on cows can help us have better beef stocks."
"Beef tongue and roasted bones, even the Martians know that."
"Let me guess, you're from Venus?" She chuckled.
"No, Uranus." Gene knew, in his heart of hearts, he would do anything to hear her laugh again.
Weeks later, Gene and Alexandria had fallen into a wonderful routine. His prepwork was quick and efficient, her knowhow on recipes made them a force to be reckoned with. They were usually the first done, and had been earning high marks with the instructor. It threw the other students off, how well they worked together. He realized how different they were. Yet he couldn't help but think to himself, that if they looked past the scowl, they would see just how wonderful she was. It was their day the clean dishes. All students were expected to clean their own stations, but dishes was on a daily rotation. Alexandria was gathering up the last of the baking pans, hand covered in flour, while his were elbow deep in near scalding water. When she was close enough Gene flicked some water at her. An annoyed grunt passed her lips, she tossed the pans in the next sink over.
"Gene, don't do that." Gene smiled.
"What this?" He repeated the action, flinging some soap foam at her face, some landing in her mouth. She spat into the sink, running the water to clear it out, before slipping her hand along a bowl covered in flour and flicking it towards his own face, "Oh hell no, I just had wash day on my hair." She laughed at his distress, that same shiver running up his spine.
"Come on, you work in a hot ass kitchen, you'll shower tonight anyway." She gently pat his face, leaving a white hand print on his dark cheek. He swiped his hand across the top of the water in the sink, splashing her.
"Girl, don't make me declare war!"
"Boy, you already did." Gene would never forget that day. How she smiled so easily as she through leftover flour and he water. By the time the janitor came in to mop the floors, Gene and Alexandria had effectively covered each other in soapy dough, laughing as they slid on the floor despite their nonslip shoes.
They had decided to move together. She was couch hopping, he didn't like it. He had a spare guest room. Really it was his computer/storage room, but you'd be surprised at how one can become a Tetris master when trying to make space for someone. She didn't bring much, two duffle bags, a backpack, a wallet. When he asked her if she needed help with the rest, she handed him her phone, saying it was too cumbersome to move. He realized her humor now. Dry and self depricating, and used to avoid subjects she wasn't comfortable with. He didn't question it, just made a big show pantomiming how heavy it was, how his arms were going to be sore in the morning.
They settled into a roommate routine, just as easily as they had in the kitchen. They would carpool to school, go to his apartment, help each other cook (more often than not they would order out), settle in to play some games, then bid each other goodnight. It was a few months later when he finally got the courage to ask her on proper date. an unusual one.
"You want to what?" Her arms were crossed, he knew it wasn't from anger, her body language was almost always closed off, even if she herself wasn't.
"I wanna open a restaurant. Here. Well I hope here, you seem to like it well enough." He toyed with one of his dreads, making a big show of not looking her in the eyes.
"Gene, why would I have any say in your restaurant. You're not even done with school yet."
"I know I'm not done, but I think we could really do well together."
"You want US to open a restaurant. You and me?" Her arms dropped to he side, a show of disbelief. "Gene, I don't know the first thing about running a business."
"My Auntie runs a salon, she's already said she'd teach us."
"Us again. Gene why would you even think I would agree?"
"You would hate working under someone in a kitchen. You're bossy, and you don't like being ordered around, I figured we could team up. The kitchen would be your to control." Gene stepped closer, placing his hands on her shoulders. "We make such a good team already, we'd get real world experience, and I can't do this without you."
"Gene you could do a lot better than m-" He kissed her. He knew she was self-deprecating, and he wouldn't allow her to speak so lowly of her. She tasted like cigarettes and syrup. When he pulled away, she looked scared. over the course of half a year, he had seen so many expressions hidden under that scowl, but never scared. "I'm sorry." Gene pulled away. She fisted his shirt.
"This place needs a lot of work, furniture, capitol." She tugged him closer, brow furrowing.
"Cousin's a contractor, we can go to thrift shops, and I can get a loan." he stepped back towards her, placing his hands on her hips.
"I'm bossy, and angry. I'm hard to deal with and I'm a bitch."
"You know what you want. You're precise." Gene rested his forehead against hers. "We make a great team. I want to a chance to play."
"I don't know the rules."
"I can teach you."
She kissed him.
She named it Hodge-Podge. It was their little piece of heaven, a year in the making. Nothing matched. None of the tables, or chairs, or lights. The artwork was posters of action movies, prints of classic work, anime wall scrolls (that one still surprised him when she begrudgingly admitted to liking some girly looking one called Host Club), and video game maps and posters. The radio played swing, 90's rap, heavy metal, pop. Even the floor was just swirls of paint when they couldn't decide if the wanted to do blue or green. They decided on both. Everything was a mix of them. The menu his family's recipes for soul food (she loved greens) and her recipes inspired by Korean Barbeque.
Students from Metropolis University and MCI (Metropolis Culinary Institute) flocked to their fellow classmates restaurant. I became a well known haunt to many youths to relax and eat. Many staying until the late hours of the night, eating and drinking and laughing. Gene made many wonderful friends that way. He even managed to get his girlfriend in on the fun when one night he rented a karaoke machine and she sang What's New Pussycat seven times in a row, just to mess with him.
Gene managed to pay off the loan a year later, and some of his own student loans as well, when Alexandria refused his offer to pay her own. Her independence (pride) couldn't take it. He backed off, new plans for the money forming in his mind. Holidays came and went. He went all out for every one. Dressing up, acting like a fool, and she would scoff and claim he was being childish, but she would smile. She would always smile for him. When they were together, that scowl would disappear and it would leave him breathless.
When he convinced her to meet his family, she was still touchy. She didn't have family, she said. Didn't know what to expect. His niece loved her. Loved playing with her hair, so different from the little girls own. She sat there, patiently as the girl tried to braid it, all the while his family giving her plate after plate of food. All of which she took and ate happily. His grandmother was especially delighted when she ate the gizzard gravy and asked for more when his brother gave it to her, hoping it would gross her out.
When his Ma offered to host her family for a visit, she declined, saying her family was in Canada, and they didn't travel much. When he got on the interstate, she sobbed into her hands. She told Gene that her foster parents were buried there. They stayed the night at a motel, just so he could console her, hold her tight while she cried for the first time in a very long time.
"How the hell did you lose the drop?!" Alexandria rampaged in the apartment. "That's two GRAND! Rent! Food! Supplies!" Gene stayed out of her way, as she tore the couch apart looking for the little envelope.
"Look. I'm gonna go and check Hodge-Podge, maybe I left it there." Gene grabbed his keys and made his way to the door. "I'll call you if I find something." He left, driving to their restaurant. Inside he worked quickly. Pushed tables aside, pulled out dough already made and shaped it, tossing it in the oven. Made as quick work as he could on the Coq au Vin. Changed into a maroon suit he borrowed from his brother. Called her. Told her that he found the drop but something had happened at Hodge-Podge. She was there five minutes after he plated their meals, lighting candles.
"What is this?" She looked skeptical, hesitant.
"This, my Space Cowgirl , is the meal the day we first met. Well, talked." She walked closer, sweat from nerves dotted her forehead. She smacked his arm, letting out a relieved sigh.
"Dude. You scared me!" She gave a weak laugh as she sat in the chair he pulled out for her. Gene took his seat across from her "Alright, Afro Samurai, what's the occasion? Is it my birthday?"
"No that's next week." He wasn't surprised she forgot, she never celebrated her birthday. "It's our anniversary." He smiled as she winced.
"Oh Gene, I'm sorry, I didn-" He cut her off by shoving bread into her mouth.
"I know, don't worry. It's not something you pay attention to. It's okay. You make the most of everyday, you don't idolize any one in particular. That's fine, I love you regardless." She blushed. She always blushed when he said he loved her. She wasn't the type for mushy confessions of feeling. She preferred to show, not tell.
They ate dinner, laughing and smiling with each other as only they did for each other. Two years later and he still got chills from her deep throaty laugh. Her cocky grin that was her smile, until he said just the right joke, causing her lips to nearly split her face in two, teeth shining in spite of her smoking habits. A particularly raunchy joke had her throwing a piece of her own bread at him. He retaliated by throwing a spoon just to the left of her.
"Hey! We can't afford to lose more silverware!" She left her chair, turned her back, to retrieve the spoon. When she turned again, Gene was kneeling on the blue and green swirled floor. "Gene?"
"What are you doing?"
"Changing the rules of the game." He pulled a little box from his suits coat. "We make a great team. I want to solidify the roster before next season." She laughed, tears in her eyes as he opened the box. It was simple, she was too. But even simple things can shine beautifully when given the right lighting.
"Gene, I-" She pulled in a deep shuddering breathe. "I'm bossy, and angry. I'm hard to deal with and I'm a bitch."
"You know what you want. You're precise." Gene kept direct eye contact, "You're beautiful, you're funny, you're the damn best cook I know. You make me happy."
"You make me happy, too." She mumbled under her breathe, as if she was afraid to admit it.
"Then let me make you happy forever." He slipped the ring on her finger, and was thankful he closed the blinds to the restaurant. They would have to bleach the table they were on.
They ended up just throwing out the table afterwards.
Gene knew the phrase rose-coloured glasses, but he never really knew what it meant until a year later.
"What?" He sat on their couch, disbelieving.
"I don't... You love me more than I love you."
"But you love me." He pointed out.
"I do, just not enough to give you the life you want. You want to make me happy forever, but Gene," She grabbed his hands, she hand dough under her nails. "I wouldn't be happy knowing that I wasn't giving you exactly what you were giving me in return." She was crying. She only cried once.
"Please, don't do this. We can work this out."
"I already worked it out. Gene, I love you." Hearing her say it, with tears in her eyes made him happy. It made him hurt. "I want you to be just as happy you want to make me, but you won't with me. Eventually, you'll finally realize that."
"Don't." Go. Say that. Cry. Smile that sad, sad smile.
She left. Two duffle bags, a backpack, a wallet. A too heavy phone.
He stayed on his couch, a simple ring in his hands.
She transferred classes. He tried to talk to her, but she seemed two steps ahead of him. She had hired one of the graduates from the previous year for the restaurant to take her place. She carpooled with someone, avoided taking the bus. Then she disappeared altogether. He only knew because A mutual friend had told him. She packed up and left.
Gene texted her number. He never got a response but that was okay, he just wanted her to have one last thing.
'Hodge-Podge is yours.'
It took Gene a year to be okay. Her graduated a year later. He applied for a position at one of Luthor's many restaurants. Got hired on. Worked his way up. He never set foot in his old restaurant. It had been closed down, food stores emptied, but everything else was still there. It was hers anyway. He knew it wasn't healthy, that he should get closure, but having it locked away was good enough.
He made a name for himself in Metropolis. He was often requested by the big man himself whenever Luthor came in to dine with his many dates, business or pleasure.
It took him another year to be happy again. Who knew heartbreak was so...
He met a nice barista. She smiled easily, she laughed loudly. She was beautiful. She would always have his coffee ready when he showed up before his shift in the kitchen. She would put a little heart on the lid. She gave him a little bouquet of flowers when he mentioned the months before his birthday was coming up.
She made him happy.
He brought her lunch, food he'd made specifically for her.
She asked him to the movies.
He asked her to a concert.
She stopped by his apartment with canned soup and crackers when he got the flu.
He held her when she sobbed as her beloved dog had to be put down.
Two years later, she clung to his neck when she squealed out "Yes!"
One year later he cried by how beautiful she was in that white dress. How easily she smiled. How easily he smiled right along with her.
Two years he smiled as tears dripped down his cheeks at their beautiful daughter held against his chest. She was lighter than him, blue almond shaped eyes. Gene cuddled next to his wife, Noriko in a too small hospital bed. Both admiring their daughter.
"Have you a name for her, Mrs. Jones? Mr. Jones?" Noriko looked to her husband, and gave him a soft smile. She whispered a name in his ear, and he shook his head, disbelieving, at how... empathetic his wife was.
"Are you sure, Ko? It doesn't feel right, you know..." Noriko smiled.
"She was important to you. It's not a bad name." Gene gave a shuddering breathe. He had told his wife everything of course. It was important she knew. He didn't understand why, but he knew that for her to understand why he was sometimes hesitant in the beginnings of their relationship. He looked to his daughter, who was gazing up at him, silent. Smiling.
"I'm going to make you happy. You will always be happy with me..."
Chapter 25: What happens now
I did what I did. I will never take it back. I will NEVER regret it. It will be my one good deed I ever make in this shitty experience we call Life.
The Chef sat on her too soft hotel bed, a near empty bottle of whiskey on the end table, a scrap of paper in her shaking hands. It came easy to her, to not show any of the anxiety she had in that moment. When Lex had greeted the chef, she dug her nails into her palm, keeping her grounded. Kept a neutral smile on her face as she said hi to him. Easily accepted the paper Gene offered her. Agreed to meet him later to catch up. Smirked at Lex when he bid her farewell. The Chef snorted at his surprised face when she easily sidestepped the possible kiss on her cheek. When she disrobed out of the beautiful green dress, she donned tattered jeans and a shirt, walked to a liquor store, and bought her drink and a bag of chips. She wasn't sober enough to deal with her emotions. She had sat in the shower, cold water flowing over her and her clothes as she drank from the bottle, Dethklok blaring from her phone. Once she was sure she was drunk enough to finally think straight, she stripped and stumbled to her bed.
Gene hadn't given her his phone number. The paper held the address to a coffee shop, and a time. An invitation to meet up. Alexandera felt an urge she hadn't felt since she moved to Gotham, the urge to run. It would be easy. She could sell her diner. Take the profits she had and move to a new city. Jump City. Star City. No. Her 'Friends' would take it the wrong way. They'd kill her. Not that she really cared. She could die tonight from alcohol poisoning. Tomorrow choking on the eggs benedict she ordered in advance. The plane could crash. It would just be shitty way to die just because she "Couldn't Adult". No, she wasn't afraid to die.
She was afraid to be alone again.
A hiccupping laugh bubbled from her throat at the realization. When had she suddenly felt so... not alone? She couldn't help but think of how Damien would react, or her boys. She grabbed at her head, fingers twisting into her hair roughly.
When had she suddenly felt less alone?
Her boys would go back to being full time Joker Goons. Gary and Kyle were fine, but Marcus... Shit he had a KID!
The kid, Damien, Smokebomb, he was like her, independent, a loner, he'd be fine. He was like her. That wasn't the best thing... not for a kid.
When had she made friends?
The Chef wasn't blind to the fact that in her little domain, the streets surrounding her diner were safer. If she left...
When had she suddenly cared so much?
The coffee shop smelled good. Hand drip coffee being made, little buns shaped like bunny faces. It was cute, if very frilly. The Chef secretly loved it, though her scowl would never show it. She had enough self respect.
She took a seat in the back, near a window, and scrolled through her phone. She was making good on her promise to herself, searching the raunchiest porn she could think of. She would press play, set it face down on the table then gaze out the window, letting the video roll for a few minutes before going to the next video. If Edward was looking through her phone, she would give him a show. She was early. She forced herself to be, incase she decided to run. Really, she didn't feel the urge to run anymore, if only because her flask kept her from the urge. Decidedly bored she finished her little show, and began browsing memes on her phone. Too engrossed to notice when a man slipped on the other side of the table, observing her.
"One Sumatran blend with two creams, one Cafecito with... twelve extra shots of expresso and eight sugars?" The barista looked at the order slip, shocked. Alexandera looked up from her phone, blandly gazing at the poor girls confused face.
"Iced?" The barista nodded, handing the drink over carefully. Afraid that the caffeine succubus at the table might snatch her energy away. She would need to charge her crystals
more with how intense the blue haired women's gaze was. Gene chuckled as the girl sped away, sipping at his own coffee.
"Honestly figured you would have had a heart attack by now, with your coffee habits." the Chef snorted.
"I'm too stubborn to die."
"Yeah, I'm sure the mothership doesn't have a morgue on it." It was suddenly awkward. Old memories resurfacing. The til rang out, change clinking, soft music combatting the sound.
"I'm not sorry." Iced coffee was twirled by a straw.
"I know you're not." Creamed coffee was sipped.
"It was for the best."
"I agree with you."
"You got fat." Alexandera flinched when Gene barked out a laugh.
"You look happier." Gene smiled at the scowl.
"I'm never happy."
"I know. I didn't say you were happy." Gene relaxed into his seat, leaning back. "I said you look happier. You look good."
"Kept getting mistaken for someone else. Got tired of it." The Chef ran a hand over the peach fuzz growing back in on the side of her head.
"You always were intense."
"I'm not sorry."
"I know." Gene smiled at her scowl. "Where'd you go?"
"Gotham. You graduated."
"Where'd you end up working?"
"Opened a diner."
"Is it doing well?"
"Yeah, it's got steady revenue."
"You alone in there?"
"No, hired on the Three Stooges."
"They can't be that bad, if they can take your temper." Gene smiled wider when she laughed. His heart lurched at how easily her face split in a teeth showing grin, how she launched into the story of 'Her Boys' first few weeks with her. He laughed with her at the story of some kid she roughed up, and how he was now learning from her. He groaned into his hand as she recounted how she pretty much ensured a profitable charity event. He sipped his coffee, happy. He was happy for her.
She was happy. That's all he ever wanted for his first love.
Hours passed in the coffee shop. Gene and Alexandera recounting the tales of their lives in the years they were apart. Alexandera not hiding how rough life had been for her in Gotham for a while. Gene not hiding the fact her was married, how he met his Noriko.
"I'm telling you Alexandera, she couldn't make rice! Eiji, her dad, swears he tried to teach her, but she actually set the rice cooker on fire!" Gene pulled a photo up on his phone, a photo of photo, little girl grinning proudly as she held the charred and melted husk of a rice cooker. There was the blur of a finger over part of the corner. "So there I was, sick as a dog with the flu, and she's holding a bowl of canned chicken soup, but it was condensed, and she didn't add any water." Gene rushed to pass Alexandera napkins as coffee spilled from her mouth, her laughter caught on the coughs wracking her body.
"You still ate it, didn't you?" Gene took his phone back in exchange for the napkins.
"The saltiest thing I ever ate, but she looked so proud, I couldn't say no." His phone chimed out, the ringtone familiar to him. He read the message as the Chef dried off the table, stuffing the used napkins into the cup.
"You good?" Gene slipped his phone across the table, letting the blue haired women read the message from his wife.
'Invite her over for dinner, I promise not to cook.' Alexandera looked back up to Gene, face neutral.
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"I'm the Ex."
"You're more than 'The Ex'." Gene slipped the phone into his pocket. "I told her everything. All of it. How bad it was for me, and how much I loved you. I don't love you like that anymore. I don't love her like I loved you." He wasn't surprised when she gave no visible sign of how she was feeling. Several years apart and he lost his ability to see what each scowl meant.
"You love her more."
"Yeah..." Gene grinned softly as her rubbed his wedding band. "She's just so..."
"Good." Alexandera took a swig from her flask. "She's good."
"She trusts you."
"I've never given her a reason not to. I don't ever want to." Gene's expression suddenly turned sheepish. "I... I, uh, actually wasn't going to show up today." Alexandera raised her brow.
"I don't blame you."
"Ko pushed me out the door. 'You need to do this, you owe this to yourself!'" He ran a hand over the side of fade, he did that when he was nervous. "She didn't say you needed this, but me. She always looks out for me."
"Good." Alexandera stood, straightening out her maroon coat, tossing a twenty on the table. Gene sighed, standing as well.
"It was nice seeing you again. I'm glad you're doing well."
"Let's go. She makes you happy." Several years apart, and he still remembered at least what that scowl set on her face meant.
She never did like mushy words, she preferred to show, not tell.
The walk to his familys apartment was a short one, a few blocks. Gene pointed out how much of the city had changed since she left. Old stores with new shop fronts. New buildings and parks. When they trekked up the stairs to his fifth floor apartment he silently inhaled, opening the door.
"Okaeri!" His wife called back, the smell of clothing detergent filled his senses. Alexandera snorted.
"Can it, Host Club." Gene nudged the Chef as Noriko turned the corner, holding a partially folded shirt.
"Hey sweetie." His wife eyed Alexandera intensely, the most serious he had ever seen her gaze, not including when she scolded him or his daughter. She stepped forward, sizing up his ex, before she split into a wide happy grin at the stiff scowl on Alexandera's face.
"I knew it! She's a tsundere!" Gene bit his lip in an attempt not to laugh. He lost it though, seeing the intense frown battling the bright blush on his ex's ears.
"Fucking weebs!" The chef scoffed crossing her arms and turning her head. Noriko laughed, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
"Yes! Yes!" His wife surged forward, hugging the taller women. "Now say 'It's not like I like you or anything!'" Alexandera stiffened at the contact.
"Oh Gene! We should get my cosplay glasses! She could use it to hide her expression when she tries to adjust them." Gene laughed harder as the blush spread onto the Chef's cheeks.
"Noriko, maybe we should lay off her a little." Noriko stepped away, dazzling him with a loving smile.
"Oh, alright." Alexandera coughed a little, clearing her throat.
"Yeah, ya'll were made for each other." The chef grumbled under her breathe.
"I'm happy you think so. Come in, I ordered pizza for lunch."
It was funny, how different they were from each other. How easy it was for his wife to pull Alexandera out of her shell, his wife never meeting a stranger in her life. An hour passed by as his bright shining love laughed as she spoke animatedly with the stoic blue hair woman. His wife's phone alarm went off.
"Oh Gene, could you wake her, I don't want her to over sleep." Gene got up and left to wake his snoozing daughter. When he had left down the hall, Noriko spoke in a quiet voice.
"Thank you, for doing this for him."
"I owed him."
"Yes, you did." Alexandera nodded, not at all surprised by the response. "You owed him a chance at closure. You owed yourself a chance, too." The Chef looked up to the Wife, expecting to see anger in the womans eyes, but only saw... pity?
"I don't regret what I did. He's happier with you. It's what I wanted. What he needed."
"I bet you still felt guilty for making him hurt though."
"I had to."
"I know." Noriko reached across the couch to gently touch the blue haired woman's hand. "Thank you. For letting him go. For letting me have him."
"I made him happy."
"No," Noriko squeezed her hand. "I make him happy. You gave him the opportunity to be happy." Noriko looked away, giving the Chef the privacy to wipe a stray tear away. She pulled her hand away, smiling as Gene walked back into the room, hold their daughter in his arms, the toddler sitting on his hip.
"Alexandera I'd like to meet my daughter." Gene watched as the scowl disappeared into a look of wonder.
"We talk for hours and you didn't mention once you had a kid!" Said child was staring intently at the stranger on the couch.
"It... was going to be the last thing I told you." Gene set his daughter down as wiggled to be free. Noriko watched as the little girl toddled to the stranger on the couch.
"Uh! Uh!" It was amusing to watch the Chef awkwardly pick up the little girl by the armpits, holding her at arms length.
"Say hello, Sweetie!"
"Chiwa! Lo!" The look of wonder settle into a wobbly scowl.
"Hey, Crotch Goblin."
"Alexandera!" Gene scolded, unhappy at the greeting. "Don't call her that!"
"What? That's what she is." Noriko giggled, before stage whispering to her daughter.
"Say your name, Sweetie." The little girl proudly cried out,
"No, no, you name!" Noriko looked over at the Chef who had yet to move her daughter from the Lion king hold. "Were trying to teach her to speak, it's hard when my father refuses to speak anything but Japanese around her. Come on, Sweetie say your name!" The little girl squinted her eyes, mulling the answer over in her head, before shouting.
"LEXIE!" Noriko couldn't help but feel proud at her daughter for not only saying her name, but also for pulling the strongest reaction from the stoic chef all day. She glanced at her husband, hand running over the side of his head, nervous. She stood to stand by him while the Chef stared wide eyed at the child in her hands. Tears filling the corners as little Lexie squirmed in the hold, reaching out to the shellshocked woman. Gene was getting nervous watching the scene, worried that introducing the two was a mistake.
"H-hey, kid." She stuttered. She never stuttered. Gene felt his wife wrap her arms around his middle, the side of her face resting on his chest.
"LEXIE!" The Chef finally pulled her in, bringing the little girl closer to her face, her hands still under the toddler armpits, elbows bent on either side as if she was holding a weight.
"Hey, Lexie." The Chef felt... numb? No, numb would mean she didn't feel anything. She felt... The little girl grabbed a strand blue hair, tugging it closer to her. "OW! Kid, I'm tenderheaded!"
"Hey! Hey!" Little Lexie giggled as he pulled on more hair, now seated on the strangers lap, fighting to keep hold of the pretty blue.
"Hey, yourself! Let go, you little shit!" Lexie giggled while Gene scolded the Chef. Noriko walked into kitchen, grabbing a pouch of apple sauce to bribe her daughter.
Alexandera stepped out of the limo, decked out in a more comfortable outfit than the last time she met with Lex Luthor. He had invited her out again. The driver shut the door behind her, before instructing her to follow him into the skyscraper. Men in pressed shirts, and women in powersuits hurried about, catching elevators. Alexandera was ushered into one and stood with the driver as he pressed the button to the top floor. Alexandera was expecting a huge office, real potted trees, grand desk with a throne of a swivel chair. Some real James Bond shit. Instead she was greeted with a much simpler glass top, a cozy looking leather couch facing a huge wall mounted TV. A little golf set in the corner and a pool table. There was even a vending machine with drinks and a snack. And there was the big man himself walking out of an attached bathroom.
"Miss Fox! I hope I didn't interrupt any plans you had today." He had on a plain white button up shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and a pair of jeans. Even his casual look good.
"Pub crawls are better at night."
"Are you a vodka girl?"
"It's a PUB crawl, I'll be drinking IPA." Lex grinned, gesturing to the couch. Alexandera sat off to one side, crossing ankles and stretching her legs out. Lex sat on the other end, leaving a respectable distance as he leaned back, mimicking her posture, crossing his ankle over the knee, arms spread out across the back other couch.
"So not a vodka girl, got it."
"More of a whiskey person, the occasional scotch."
"Duly noted." It was silent for a moment, Lex openly staring at the scuffed woman next to him, seeming to be looking for something. "Did you enjoy our dinner together, I certainly did."
"Yeah, the food was good, and I guess you make a good conversationalist." Lex chuckled.
"Well I would certainly hope so, with all the talking I have to do. How do you know Reginald?"
"Regi-? Oh, Gene. We go way back, used to attend MCI together."
"Really? When did you graduate?"
"I didn't." Lex cocked a brow as the chef gave a halfhearted shrug. "I flunked out, had other plans. I'm doing better than I think I would of if I had stayed on."
"I wonder what would have happened if you had stayed? You may have ended up working at one of my restaurants. We could've met sooner."
"Nah, I would've been fired for fighting with however was in charge because I knew better than him." Lex smirked at the admission.
"Confident. I like that."
"No, just bossy."
"I like a woman who can take charge."
"I'm not sleeping with you." Lex had the wherewithal to at least look admonished.
"While I won't deny that I'd like an... evening with you, I find myself more excited by the opportunity to get to know you more." The Chef snorted.
"You won't like all that you find."
"No one is without fault."
"Especially me." The Chef tilted her head, before looking around the room again.
"What did you have in mind for today?" The Luthor gave cat-caught-the-canary grin.
"Anything you want, Miss Fox." The Chef hummed, thinking for a moment,
"When's the last time you weren't Lex Luthor?"
"I can't stop being who I am."
"Yeah, but..." Alexandera turned back to the billionaire.
"When's the last time you did something... normal?" Lex pulled a slight frown.
"I can't honestly answer that. I have always been a Luthor, I always will be. There will always be business I need to attend to, deal to be made, media to handle. This has always been my normal." He gestured around him.
"Yeah. Go grab a shirt you don't mind getting dirty, hat, and some shades."
"You have a plan?" Lex began to wonder if his curiosity was going to bite him in the ass.
Chapter 26: It's all fun and games, until someone blackouts
Edward and The Scarecrow sat huddled together, surrounded by empty takeout containers and wrappers, cataloguing all audio logs recorded from the Chef's phone, filing away what seemed important and what was frivolous. Edward still felt a heat rise in his neck when he opened an alert to the video she was watching only for loud moans and squelching to cry out from his computers speakers. He had never terminated a program so quickly. Live GPS tracking was showing her traveling towards the outskirts of Metropolis. While Lex Luthor had no idea what the Chef had planned, he did. It always gave him a thrill at knowing he had the knowledge over someone, even if they didn't know it.
'Are you sure I'm not being taken hostage, Miss Fox?' Edward hated the way Luthor said her name. Dripping with suave charm.
'If you get kidnapped, it'll be your fault, not mine.' She said it so dryly. He wished he had a camera feed that showed more than the dark of the coat pockets. The Scarecrow next to Edward chuckled darkly.
"Oh it'll be because of her alright..." Edward turned his head.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not blind or denial, Eddie. She's not his toy. She's ours."
"Ours." The fear mongerer growled out. "But, let's see how this plays out..."
A black tinted dark SUV pulled into a large parking lot, the city skyline fall behind it. The Chef stepped out, leaving her coat behind in the backseat. Lex closed his door, pulling the baseball cap lower on his head, face obscured by the brim.
"It's just abnormal enough to fit into your life. How many people actually do this regularly unless they're enthusiasts?" The Chef began walking to the main building, taking the lead. Lex and his driver followed after her. The sparse main building was near empty save for two men behind a counter. They perked up at the doors chime.
"Welcome! How are you doing today?"
"Two for one hour. We'll need to rent the gear." Alexandera went straight to the point.
"We have a time slot opening in about 20 minutes, and you'll have to sign waivers."
"Mine's on file, his isn't" She jabbed a thumb towards the man behind her.
"When the last time you were here? If it was more than five years ago, you'll have to update it." The chef grunted, paperwork was always a bore.
"Fine." The men behind the counter shared a look before one vanished behind an office door.
"Alright so let me get you signed in. Names?"
"Alexander Luthor." The man to the computer jolted harshly. Lex had removed his glasses to give a winning grin to the man behind the counter.
"Oh, uh, hello M-mr. Luthor!" The man's eyes were wide as he stuttered. "If you'd like we could get you a discount, and some extra time an-"
"No." The Chef interrupted, causing both men to look at her, the clerk wincing at her intense glare. "Two for one hour, gear rental. We'll pay full price. You ain't gonna give a discount, but you are going to get a selfie with him, which you'll post AFTER we leave."
"As long as he doesn't give any details about my being here."
"Are you on the run, Miss Fox? Trying to drop off the grid?" Lex lightly teased, gently grasping her elbow, smirking when she didn't pull away.
"More like I ain't gonna be on the five o'clock news gossip feed as your newest conquest." She gave a crooked grin. "Dignity, dude." The other man came back with a small stack of papers which he promptly dropped. The Chef scoffed.
"Two selfies and fifty bucks to each of you, to keep your mouth shut for a day." The Chef pulled her wallet out.
Lex was peppered in vibrant pink paint and forming bruises, a wide smile on his face. The Blue haired woman next to him was grumbling heatedly under her breathe, absolutely drenched in green paint.
"I must say, that was rather fun, Miss Fox!" He felt a hand swat his upper arm.
"Yeah, yeah tons of fun. How're you such a damn good shot?"
"With my family's name, my father thought it best that I learn to defend myself."
"Of fucking course."
"Were you hoping that I would be an easy target?"
"Yeah, needed to get out some pent up aggression."
"And here I thought we were getting along." He feigned a hurt expression, as the woman next to him scoffed.
"What? Ego can't take a woman doesn't like him?"
"Said woman seemed eager to spend time with me, mixed signals and all."
"Don't worry Luthor, I had fun, you're just seeing the less starstruck woman in her natural disposition."
"The disposition of a sore loser?" He ducked as Alexandera flicked pink paint at him, not caring it landed on the expensive upholstery.
"Rude. I thought billionaires were all charm and proper manners."
"I thought I was supposed to be 'normal' for today. Perhaps you're seeing the Billionaire's natural disposition." Whatever response that the Chef had ready from her barbed tongue was cut short as a phone rang from her pocket. He watched with interest at the name on the screen and the lack of logo on the back of the phone, as if it wasn't one she bought from a store.
"Hey Kid, what do you want?" She snorted. "Still ain't a lady, Smokebomb." Silence.
"Well tell him to fuck off, pelt him with an orange and take the coat back. Better yet, do all that then call for Alfred." The Chef rolled her eyes. "The phrase is 'Snitches get stitches', but you ain't going to the cops, you're going to something way scarier." She gave a low chuckle.
"Metropolis... No, the boys are in charge... No, I don't think they'll burn down the diner... No, I wasn't kidnapped, what's with the third degree?" She side-eyed Lex. "I'm with a friend... Surprisingly, yes, I do know how to make friends... Oh fuck off, Kid... You're acting like one."
"Yes I hate people. He's not bad though." A heavy sigh. "Look Damien, I'm fine. I'mma grown ass woman, I know how to defend myself. Don't worry, I'll be back in a few days... Yeah, I'll try your new recipe... What could you do if I'm in danger?"
"Oh I'm shaking in my boots." The Chef nodded her head, "Okay, yeah, the threat of Alfred is more intimidating. Look I gotta go, I'll talk to you later." She hung up with out saying goodbye, shoving the phone back into her coat pockets, smearing green in the lining.
"Your son?" Lex chuckled at her pained expression.
"Fuck no! Damien's my... apprentice." Alexandera streaked neon green into her blue hair she pushed some loose strands back. "He's an intense kid." She offered no more of an explanation and they fell into a brief silence.
"I'm not that bad, huh?"
"There's that ego." The Chef rolled her eyes again, but had a halfcocked grin. "So, wanna get drunk tonight?"
"Whiskey or IPA?"
"You got a fancy driver, why not both?"
Edward flipped through the photos on the Metropolis Gossip column. Laughed at the foot planted on some poor idiots back as the offender lied on the dirty floor, Luthor in the background, hand on his chest, headthrown back in laughter. Glared at the drunken smile on her lips as she held a microphone in her hands, Luthor leaning heavily on her as they sang whatever song had played. Sneered at the arm curled around the Chefs shoulders There was something vibrant green streaked on her cheek and hair in the last photo, showing Luthor and Alexandera in the middle of a small dance floor. He liked the colour on her.
LUTHOR'S NEW BODYGAURD OR LADY? Billionaire and the Bad Girl!
Metropolis citizens were having a field day with the new story. The angry blue haired woman in aviator sunglasses who beat up a would be mugger, then downed a pint of beer and belted out Slayer at an open mic night with Luthor by her side the entire time. Paparazzi we're tipped off and had quickly swarmed like the gnats they are. The article waxed sadly about having lost them once they left in a black SUV, giving hypothesis as to whether they would end up at the same place. Comments ran rampant with conspiracies, was she his new fling? Was she an old friend? Fan girls raging at the perceived competition, shippers cheering it on. The Billionaire and the Bad Girl.
Jonathon was thankfully back in control, the Scarecrow had disappeared and came back with a poor victim, the screams especially harsh as he "worked". The Doctor sat on the couch, sipping coffee as he flipped through the pages of a book.
"She's going to wake up to quite the surprise." Edward broached out for a discussion.
"Yes, I'm sure her reaction would be photo worthy." Jonathon replied boredly, dog earing a page. "I'm more surprised that she has such a close relationship with a Wayne."
"Her connections are surprising." Edward closed the article, spinning the chair around and around. "We should cause some havoc, goad her to coming back early."
"Why would we do that?"
"The Scarecrow is more honest than you, Jonathon."
"She's an interesting test subject."
"Look who has an obsession now."
"Don't be childish. It suits you far to well." Edward threw a pen blindly, missing the Doctor widely. "The Joker would not take well to having his gift to her interrupted because you're jealous."
"I am not jealous!"
"Liar!" Jonathon cleared his throat, a pained wince clenching his brow. "I apologize, I'm still trying to regain full control."
"Let's just hope Jervis doesn't find out about this." Both men gave similar looks to each other. Joker catching wind they messed with his plans was troubling, but Jervis, lost in the throws of Wonderland... Well, that was simply maddening.
Damien slammed his tea cup down with a little too much force, the handle breaking off. Alfred simply replaced it as he wiped down the counter.
"Master Damien, what did that poor Spode cup ever do to you?" Damien frowned heavily.
"She is with Lex Luthor." Alfred looked at the photos mildly. "Superman has started looking into him. He's an enemy."
"Innocent until proven guilty, Master Damien. Besides, Miss Fox looks like she is quite capable at defending herself should the need arise."
"I don't like it." Damien shut the screen off standing quickly. "I will be training."
"Of course, Master Damien." Alfred smiled to himself once the boy turned the corner. He could understand why the youngest Wayne was worried for his friend.
The Chef couldn't remember the last time she woke up with a real, honest to god, hangover. Her head felt heavy, pounding with a migraine that only grew worse when the she rolled onto her side. The screen of her phone too bright as she checked the time. 11 AM. This was the latest she had slept in for a long time, running a diner meant VERY early morning. Her arms and legs were sore for both the alcohol and the bruises from her paintball excursion, her tongue heavy and saliva thick, and her stomach roaring in disdain. It almost made Alexandera take a vow of sobriety. Almost. She had resigned to spending the rest of her day in the bed, pretending she was apart of the fabric of the sheets. Just as she was about to fall back into a light sleep, her phone began ringing. It caused the headache to skyrocket as she groaned at the sound. Snatching the phone the Chef blindly pressed the screen, squinting until she finally able to get her thumb to cooperate with the touch screen.
"Fuck you." A light chuckle met her ears.
"Well, howdy to you, too." She could hear the grin in Gene's voice. "Glad to know you had fun last night."
"What?" Yawned, lowering the volume on the call. Too loud.
"You still don't keep up with social media, do you?"
"Why would I care about that shit?"
"Well you're gonna love this. Turn your TV on, channel six, they should be starting soon." Sighing greatly, Alexandera sat up, groaning at the wave of nausea that rolled up her stomach and to the throat. "Try not to barf on the bed again."
"You swore never to speak of that again." Gene barked a sharp laugh, Little Lexie squealing in delight at her fathers joy in the background. Alexandera flipped the TV on, thankful it wasn't too loud, and the weather report was just wrapping up. Huh, it was weird to see something other than Gotham persistent rain maps.
"In today's hottest gossip, we have more details about our very own Lex Luthor's exciting night out on the town! We have exclusive photos from our sources of Luthor with his Mystery Date!" Alexandera growled lowly at the grainy photos of her and Lex on the Paintball course, mostly of her being shot, though she had smirked at the one of Lex's shoulder being splattered with pink paint. That grin disappeared when the next slide showed the selfies the clerks had taken with the billionaire, Of fucking course. "While our sources could not disclose the name of the Mystery Woman, they did comment that she was quite the character, and I'd have to agree if the photos from last night are anything to go off of." More slides popped up, in better quality, of her and Lex. Her pinning some guy down on the floor, a short clip of her belting Angel of Death, slurring out the Slayer song for all her worth, the crowd headbanging and jumping around. The last photos showing her literally diving into the SUV. She thanked whatever dark force that made her life so damn crazy recently had mercy on her, as all the photos and video clips of her that were taken had been obscured by a pair of huge, and familiar, aviators shades.
"So Adam, what do you think? New Girlfriend corrupting our local celebrity?"
"I like to think she's some kind of bodyguard, did you see how roughed up that mugger?" Alexandera shut the TV off, falling back onto her pillow, not wanting to hear anymore of the vultures.
"Yeah, I bet you did."
"Gene, I will give you a free vasectomy if you start this shit."
"How bad is it?"
"Remember that night the apartment flooded when I passed out in the shower?"
"Oof! Wanna meet up for the old cure-all? I have the day off with Noriko." Alexandera rubbed her eye's tiredly.
"Yeah, give me an hour."
Alexandera sat slumped in a plastic chair, hiding as best she could in the shade, physically cursing the loud ambience of traffic in the city. After throwing up in the hotels shower, and stuffing her hair into the pageboy cap as best she could, she braved the loud city to one of her old haunts, nursing a gingerale bought from the hotels kiosk. At least her own glasses blocked the worst of the light. She winced when she heard a young voice screeching.
"Hey!" Gene was pushing Lexie in a stroller, diaper bag slung across his shoulders as Noriko waved widely at the Chef, box in hand. "Heeeeeey!" Alexandera made no move to stand up as the family settled in around her, all of them bundled up far more than the Chef.
"Hey, Crotch Goblin."
"Don't call her that." Gene huffed.
"Sup, Womb Nugget." Noriko giggled at the defeated expression on her husbands face, as he tried to change the subject.
"When you'd start wearing hats? You didn't even were the chefs toque they provided at MCI."
"Got it from a friend for Christmas." Gene brightened, happy to hear she had friends out in Gotham looking out for her.
"Chefs toque?" Noriko looked between the two chefs. Alexandera piped up.
"Traditional chef's hat, the one's with a hundred folds. Said to represent the hundred ways you can cook an egg."
"Why eggs?" Noriko asked. Gene replied this time.
"Don't really know, but back in the old days if you wanted a job as a cook, or apprentice under one, usually they'd ask you to cook an egg. How you cooked it showed what kind of knowledge you have."
"It's just an egg, though." Noriko blushed faintly as the to chefs surrounding her chuckled, Gene opened his mouth to launch into a lengthy explanation, but Noriko cut him off.
"Don't, you know it's just going to go over my head. Food nerds."
"Say's the weeb."
"Tsun-Tsun, you doing okay?" Alexandera groaned, rubbing her face.
"Don't call me that. Call me Bitch, Fuckhead, hell call me Cunt, but don't call me a Tsundere. I'm not a Tsundere." Gene blustered, trying to cover his daughters ears, while Noriko laughed harder at the glowering Chef.
"You can't deny it!" Noriko pushed a finger to the Chef's cheek, which was away swatted half heartedly. "I brought senorita bread." The wife pulled back quickly, blocking the greedy hand that tried to snatch the box. "Admit it, and you can have some." The Chef slumped further in the chair, grunting.
"What was that?" Noriko questioned teasingly. The Chef rolled her eye dramatically.
"Fuck, fine. I'matsundere." It was hissed out behind her teeth quickly.
"UGH! I'm a TSUNDERE! I LIKE CUTE FRILLY THINGS AND SHOJO ANIME AND SHIT!" The pure hatred in the glare she leveled at the Wife would drop most men to their knees in fear. "Now give me the fucking bread before I eat the damn table." Noriko laughed, passing the box to the Chef, who tore the box open, shoving the bread into her mouth whole.
"Admitting it is the first step to acceptance." Noriko pulled a small tupperwear bowl from her purse, pulling the top off as she passed a snack to her daughter, who was eyeing the angry women with interest.
"I 'cept m'shelf jush' fine." Alexandera grunted, mouth full.
"I know, I just wanted to hear you say it." Gene interrupted the conversation once he was sure his daughter was situated.
"So what happened yesterday, for real?" He grabbed his own stick of sweet bread, careful of the hand not being smacked away by the woman. Alexandera was a damn good cook, but she hated sharing from her plate.
"Lex invited me over, told me plans were up to me. Paintball was fun." The Chef snorted, "Shoulda known that a hundred bucks wasn't enough to keep the dicks at the paintball course quiet."
"You actually tried to bribe someone to keep them from gossiping?" Noriko tore her own bread in half, placing half on the tray in front of Lexie, who abandoned her strawberries in favor of the treat.
"Yeah, you'd think after living in Gotham this long I would know better." Alexandera took a swig from her drink. "Bad decisions are my legacy."
"Okay, so paintball. What else?"
"I had signed up for a pub crawl, invited him with me. It was fine as far as I can remember, then I woke up in my hotel."
"Was he there?" Noriko pressed, eyes wide.
"What? No." It took a moment for the Chef to catch the hidden meaning. "Oh god, you're one of them." Noriko shrugged.
"Guilty as charged. Now give me the T."
"You gotta order it at the truck." The Chef nodded her head to the taco truck some distance away. Noriko rolled her own eyes. "No, I was alone, still smelling like booze and covered in paint."
"What's he like?"
"A dick." Gene chuckled at the Chef's immediate reply.
"He can't be that bad if you went on two dates with him."
"First one doesn't count. Inner fangirl me needed the first one to get her out of my system." Alexandera bit into a fresh piece of bread. "She's dead now."
"You don't deny it was a date, though."
"Why should I? Yeah it was a date, but I'm only here for a couple more days, them it's right back to the diner." Gene gave a sad smile, looking at his wife.
"You don't plan on coming back to Metropolis again?" Alexandera missed the tone Gene spoke in.
"No. There's nothing really here for me." It was silent at the table, traffic picking up as commuters battled each other to get back to work on time, Mexican pop music blaring from the trucks speaker system. Noriko broke the spell.
"You really are a bitch." Alexandera cocked her head as Gene lurched at his wife's uncharacteristic words.
"Yeah. You're point?"
"Gene missed you." The Chef had the decency to duck her head slightly. "You're important to him. Lexie hasn't stopped watching you like a hawk this entire time, and I'd like to dress you up in a maid outfit."
"The fuck you mean maid outfit?"
"What I mean is you have every reason to come here again." Noriko grabbed another bread. "You can run away from him, but you sure as hell can't from me."
"I didn't run away."
"Yes, you did. That's fine, some people need a fresh start, but you can't pretend this didn't happen." Gene placed a hand on his wife's shoulder, trying to placate her. "Like it or not, Tsundere, there are people here who would like to know if your still alive when you go back to Gotham. Your niece's also needs their Aunt, to spoil them and be a bad influence."
"Niece's?!" Noriko smiled widely at Gene's cry, while Alexandera's jaw dropped.
"Well, it could be a nephew, but I doubt it." Noriko shrugged as she reached into her purse.
"You're pregnant?" Gene blustered, tearing up.
"Fuck that, what's more important here is AUNT?" Gene shoved Alexandera, eyes locked on his wife as she pulled a pregnancy test sealed in a ziplock baggie.
"I had a feeling, took the test, confirmed it with my doctor. I'm about two months along." Gene swooped in, not bothering to check the test, as he kissed his wife soundly. Alexandera began a staring contest with the toddler in the stroller. Little Lexie gave a toothy grin, reaching out to the chef. Alexandera took the initative, unstrapping the child and picking her up. She stared at the child in her hands in wonder, that old familiar urge to run welling up in her.
"I... I don't know how to..." Alexandera looked at the cuddling couple, Gene yet to release his wife from his hold. "I didn't have a normal family. I don't know how to... Family." Noriko felt her heart give a little clench, pity for the Chef filling it.
"We can teach you." Deja'vu hit the Chef hard, as she pulled the child close to her in a snug if awkward hug. Run away! Her head screamed. Stay! Hey heart cried. I'm gonna hurl if you don't feed me! Her stomach grumbled. Lexie patted at the Chef's cheek, wondering where the blue was. Alexandera looked down at her namesake, who was frowning, trying to grab at her hat.
"I'm going to teach you all the dirty words, Crotch Goblin."
"Alexandera!" Noriko sighed happily as Gene tried to pull his child away from the Chef, to which she stood up walking towards the truck, child under her arm like a sack of potatoes, not that the child cared if her giggling shrieks had anything to say.
"Sorry, Womb nugget."
Lex accepted the tumbler of bourbon that his assistant Eve offered him. Today had been stressful, his PR nagging him about his activities last night, his board stressing the very small dip in stocks, the police asking for his statement about the would be thief, and the egregious amount of paperwork that needed his signature. Damage control rampant all because of yesterday. He didn't regret it though, it was the most fun he had had in a while.
"It looks like you have quite the approval rating regarding Miss Fox is high amongst your people, if social media has any say in the matter." Eve scrolled through feeds, showing off the most amusing ones to Lex. "I'd say after the it goes viral with the knowledge Miss Fox apprehended such a prolific mugger, it will only sky rocket, along with the stocks." Lex hummed, sipping at his glass.
"That should keep the board off my back." Lex leaned in his chair, shutting his computer off. "Any word?"
"It seems Cobblepot had been harassing Miss Fox and her diner, having a temper tantrum about her sudden popularity in the area. Until suddenly he changed his tune."
"And the actual reason?"
"Rumor has it the reason Cobblepot backed off is because of The Joker. Something about her technically being a part of his turf."
"Oh the Gallery and their rules." Lex chuckled, twirling the glass to and fro, watching as the light caught the ice in the glass. "And her?"
"Other than a brief stay in the drunk tank a few years back, she's clean." Eve put her tablet on the desk. "No warrants, no outstanding debts, hardly an online footprint. Just another random citizen."
"Oh, she's hardly that." Lex set his glass down, bringing a hand up to his chin. "What do you think?"
"I think you nothing to worry about. She doesn't do anything other than work at her diner. Even if she was on the Joker's dime, he's not... savvy enough to use her as a spy. She's far to abrasive to be a honeypot."
"I'd bet she'd be sweet." Lex smiled to himself. "What are my plans this evening?"
"A meeting with the Mayor about breaking ground on the west side at five, other than that you're free."
"Hmm, that can't be cancelled. Eve, send word to my driver to be ready to leave in twenty."
"Right away, sir." Eve grabbed her tablet again walking to the elevator.
"Eve." She stopped turning back to her boss.
"I know that tone."
"What good will she be to you?" Eve continued when her boss gestured with his hand. "She's not a socialite, she has nothing to offer you, and with her display last night, while great for the short run." She was lucky she had a better relationship than most with the Luthor, having been with him for many, many years. She could ask such questions without fear of losing her position with him. Neither of them.
"Honestly, Eve, she's... fun." Lex stood, turning to stand at the large window, overlooking the city. "Doesn't throw herself at me, doesn't pout for attention or whine for my credit card." Eve's brow raised, surprised at the fond tone.
"If you were to pursue her, would you let her in on your... other business?"
"Perhaps. She seems to be good at keeping secrets, if your sources are correct."
"They always are."
"Besides, what the point in letting her in on such things, she seems to already have her hand full."
"And if she were to reject you?"
"Oh, Eve, I'm a Luthor. I never lose."
Alexandera sighed in content as she flopped onto the bed, belly full of shrimp and pico de gallo. It brought back old and not entirely unwelcome memories of her younger years, drinking til she passed out, waking up to stuff her face with tacos before bussing to MCI. Lunch with Gene and Noriko had revolved around stories about the married couple and their excitement about the impending child. Lexie refused to be put back in her carrier once the Chef had taken hold of her, fussing when they had to part ways. Alexandera phone began to ring, the one in her boot, and she toyed with the idea of just ignoring it. That could cause problems. Shuffling it out, she answered it.
"Hiya, Sunshine!" said the bubbly voice. "How ya doing?" Alexandera huffed.
"'M alright. Just got back from lunch. What's up?"
"Welllll, I were wonderin' how ya feelin' after the party ya had last night." The Chef smoothed her hair back.
"Why does... nevermind. Fine I guess. Don't remember much but the news pretty much covered the more important bits."
"Is Lexykins treatin' ya right?" the Clown giggled, "Don't need ta rough 'im up, do I?"
"Oooh, you're no fun." Alexandera could imagine the pout on the blondes face. "Well you gonna go out tonight? With him?"
"No? Why you being nosy?"
"Aw, come on! This is ta first time I've seen ya actually go out, without one of us draggin' ya around! Plus, ya know, how longs it been since ya had some dick?"
"Harley! My fucking sex life is none of your business!"
"I swear to god, Quinn, stop."
"'Kay, more than that. Whew, Girlie! Ya need ta get laid!" Alexandera groaned.
"I'm not sleeping with him."
"Ya don' need ta sleep with him. Ya got options out here."
"Pft, like who?"
"Well, there's always Eddie!"
"I am NOT sleeping with Puzzles."
"Quinn, the day I sleep with Jekyll, is the day I decide suicide is a viable way to die."
"What 'bout Hattie? Ya seem to get along with him."
"Harley, what is wrong with you?"
"I'm not hearin' a nooo!" Harley sang out.
"He'd have to go brain control to get to my 'Wonderland'." Harley laughed.
"Yer so funny, Sunshine!"
"Why did you call, really?" Alexandera heard a drawn out sigh over the phone.
"Mistah J's been super duper busy an' he don' need me right now. I'm just feelin' a little lonely."
"Buy a vibrator."
"Oh I got TONS of those, I just wanted someone ta talk to, ya know?"
"And Ivy is busy?" There was a beat of silence.
"She, ah.. She's busy, too."
"What about... what's her name, Serena?"
"Ya mean, Kitty? I don't know, she's kinda hard ta pin down."
"I'm sure if anyone can pin her down, it'd be you."
"Ya wanna find out, Sunshine?" It was said seductively.
"Sorry, Quinn, I prefer gingers."
"Eddie's a ginger."
"He's an ass."
"So it'd be considered anal, that can be fun."
The Chef still couldn't get all the paint out of her hair, flecks of green clinging adamantly to the strands. Sitting on the bed in a plush bathrobe courtesy of the hotel, hair still dripping wet from the second shower of the day, Alexandera sat looking over the hotels room service menu, she had yet to actually order food from it, having eaten out the three days she had been in the city. Ready to order just half the menu to try it, there was a knock on the door. The Chef ignored it, reaching for the phone on the end table, ready for Lobster Thermador, the knocking persisted. The Chef groaned, standing. The knocking continued as she made her way to the door, opening it.
"I'm not interrupting, am I?" Luthor eyed the bathrobe appraisingly.
"Technically, yeah. Was about to order dinner." Alexandera made no move to let him in. "What are you doing here?"
"I come bearing food, Miss Fox." He pulled a bag of togo boxes from behind his back with a flourish. "I don't know about you, but I woke up today to quite the headache." The Chef snorted, rolling her eyes as she finally backed away from the door, granting silent permission to come in.
"Tell me about it. What'd you got?"
"Incredibly greasy Philly cheesesteaks and onion rings." Lex shut the door behind him, walking toward the little dinette in the corner.
"Man after my own stomach. Let me put clothes on."
"Don't feel the need to on my behalf."
"Laying it on thick, huh?" Alexandera asked, grabbing some clothes from her bag on the dresser, as well as Jonathon Christmas gift. Just in case.
"You can't blame me for trying."
"I'd sure as hell would question it. I'll be right back." Alexandera dressed in the bathroom, long sleeves and sweat pants. She grabbed a hairband and slipped it on her wrist, sliding the "pepper spray" under it against her wrist, before covering it up with the sleeve. When she stepped out, Lex had already laid the food out.
"Why would you question my flirting?" Lex asked, sitting with his back to the wall, waiting to eat until she sat.
"The way I see it, you more curious about me than attracted."
"Can I not be both?"
"You bang super models on the regular." Alexandera finally sat, immediately munching on the onion rings. "I'm not exactly giving you any signals I WANT sex. So, curiosity it is. Or you can't take a hint." Lex took a bite from his sandwich, mulling his response over.
"I am attracted to you. You're very different than the women that I usually associate with. Can I not be intrigued by how... blasé you are?"
"Sure you can."
"I like that you don't seem to be hunting for my money."
"I'm not. Got all the money I need."
"I also like how blunt you are, you speak plainly. I don't feel like I have to analyze everything you say."
"Don't get a lot of that, do you?"
"Do you find me attractive?"
"Do you enjoy spending time with me?"
"What I can remember, sure." Lex winced.
"We did drink quite a bit, didn't we?"
"Eh, I've been that drunk before, I'll get that drunk again one day." Lex's gaze flickered to the near empty bottle of liquor by the bed.
"Did you see-"
"Yeah. Don't really care. More annoyed than anything, celebrity gossip really isn't my thing." The Chef snorted, biting into her Philly. "Kitchen gossip is one thing, blows of steam, that shit is just... stupid."
"People are intrigued by you, as well." Lex smiled when the Chef shrugged her shoulders.
"Don't really care."
"I like that about you." Lex leaned forward. "I have to keep appearances up constantly, it's amazing to me to meet someone who just..."
"Doesn't give three fucks, two shits, or a rats ass about what people think?" Lex cackled at the Chef's words.
"Well, I was going to say something a little more eloquent, but yes." A pause. "Would you sleep with me?"
"No, I mean ever?"
"Maybe. I'd have to get to know you."
"Would you like to?"
"I appreciate your honesty."
"Mhmm." Alexandera took another bite of her sandwich, not bothering to wipe stray juices from her cheek.
"You really don't care do you."
"We gonna keep going around in circles with this conversation?"
"Would you like to try for a relationship?"
"Not trying to friendzone you, but I'd have to get to know you a bit more before I start making decisions like that."
"I'm willing to put in the effort."
"Lex, I'm going back to Gotham in couple of days. Your gonna be hard pressed to find the time to hang out with me. I'm also not a pleasant person."
"I suppose you're half right. I have many projects I'm working on, but you are quite delightful, in my opinion."
"Thanks, but I didn't ask for your opinion." Lex laughed, realizing the joke once the Chef gave a halfcocked grin.
"Too bad, I'm afraid I don't have a return policy."
Alexandera woke the next morning to knocking on her door again. He surprise dinner with Lex ended up with him staying until late into the night, both simply talking about anything, mostly Lex asking questions about the Chef. It was... pleasant. She couldn't remember the last time she had a decent conversation that wasn't some kind of criminal. She got out of bed, slipping the robe back on as she walked to the door, yawning. Her mouth stayed open when she saw the figures in the hall.
"Good morning, Lady Chef."
"What in the actually fuck are you doing here?" Alexandera was at a loss as Damien and Alfred stood outside her door.
"You did not text me you had returned safely after I spoke with you on the phone."
"You called have called me!"
"I tried to dissuade him from coming, Miss Fox." Alfred gave an apologetic smile.
"How did you even know where I was?"
"I have my ways, Lady Chef." All Alexandera could do was pinch the bridge of her nose, walking back into the room as the butler and boy billionaire followed after. When had her life gotten so wild.
"Got the surveillance of the diner right here, Boss." A flash drive was placed on a crate, some feet away from a shadowed figure. "The Jefe's have agreed to join us, and production has gone up."
"Good. Scout the pick-up. Make sure there's no surprises when we get the shipment in."
"Sure thing, Hood."
Chapter 27: Family ties
When had her life become so wild?
Drunken bar fights were fine. Muggers were fine. Dope dealers a few doors down were fine. Rogues were fine. Struggling to get ends meet was fine. Damien Wayne, and Alfred the Butler, meeting her Ex turned friend(?) and his family... that was not fine. The Chef was at a loss. Decked in her coat, Damien's Gotham Academy hat, and some boots, the Chef squirmed in her seat uncharacteristically. Noriko was cooing over the stone faced child, asking him endless questions of what comforts he needed. Juice, snacks, video games. Her motherly instincts in overdrive. Alfred was holding Little Lexie, bouncing her in his hold as he discussed traditional British Cuisine, and how India had influenced the change of it, with Gene. All the while the Chef sat in the corner, all but chugging the liquor from her flask, trying not to run. She groaned as the last dregs hit her tongue in pitiful drops, she had forgotten to refill it before fleeing to Gene's apartment. Noriko finally backed away from Damien, walking over to Alfred.
"It's about time I took Lexie to her sofu for a visit." Lexie brightened almost instantly at the word, reaching out to her mother eagerly.
"Sofu!" Alfred handed off the child, Gene grabbing the large diaper bag from the kitchen counter.
"Everything is in there, Sweetie. I packed some extra clothes too, just in case." Gene placed a kiss on both Noriko and Lexie's cheeks. Noriko shoulder the bag and grabbed some car keys from a hook on the wall. The Wife walked to the Chef.
"Say bye bye to Auntie Tsundere!" Alexandera frowned at the Wife.
"Buh bye, Re-re!" Lexie waved a chubby hand enthusiastically, Alexandera patted the top of the toddlers head awkwardly.
"Later, Crotch Goblin." Alexandera stood as Noriko left, stretching her arms. Her body was still sore and slightly bruised from her spectacular loss against Lex at paintball. Shrugging the coat off and tossing it uncaringly on the dinner table, she walked over to Damian. He was sitting stiffly on the couch, eyeing Gene and taking in the apartment. It was so domestic. Photos of the couple, the family of three, and other covered the walls. Children toys littered the floor, a baby gate sat open at the start of the small hallway. He took in the Lady Chef's tired face, though his face hardened at the blueish green marks mottling her arms.
"What happened?" Alexandera visibly jolted at the harsh tone in the younger boys voice.
"Paintball." The Chef dropped heavily on the couch next to Damian.
"Did you not take cover? Scan your surroundings for aggressors?"
"Kid, it was paintball. Wasn't no aggressors." The Chef pulled the brim of her hat over her eyes, blocking out the light.
"You must always be vigilant, even when you feel at ease. Especially when you feel at ease."
"You're real paranoid."
"It only takes being right once, to justify being cautious." Alexandera turned her head slightly towards Damian's voice.
"You think so?"
"I know so." The Chef hummed. What happened to this kid?
"How'd you find me?"
"Track my cell phone or something?" She meant it as a joke, but when silence greeted her, she nudged the hat up to look at the boy. He was pointedly looking away from her, face set neutrally. "You gotta be kidding me. Kid, how do you even know how to do that?"
"Are you some super secret spy? Got a hideout where you track criminals."
"...Classified." Alexandera sat up, glancing toward the kitchen, Gene and Alfred were pouring over old cookbooks, comparing recipes.
"Kid..." Damian refused to meet her eyes, Alexandera sighed.
"Damian..." He finally looked to her, she rarely, if ever, called him by his name. "Are you in trouble?"
"Damian... Look if you're in some kind of gang or shit, I ain't gonna judge you. I know most of the guys that come to my diner are... unsavory." Damian had never heard her actually admit this. She had the policy of... how did she put it... Don't ask, don't tell? "If you're in some kind of trouble... Fuck." The Chef ripped the hat from her head harshly, rubbing at her head in agitation.
"If you need back up, Kid, I got friends in hella low places." She thought he was in trouble. She thought he needed help, someone to look out for him. He could laugh, she was the one who needed looking after. Still, he was... touched. She wasn't prying for information, she was trying to offer help without prosecution. Wasn't that what he was trying to do.
"There is no need for that, Lady Alexandera." Damian watched as she shrugged, placing his hat back on her head leaning back into the couch. "I appreciate your offer though."
"Just remember, Kid. If you get in a fight, kick 'em in the dick."
"Crass. There are more effective ways to take down an aggressor."
"Eh, I find a swift kick to the dick, or cunt punt for the ladies, in these steel toes," she lazily held a foot up for emphasis, the boots worn and dirtied. "can fuck a bitch up."
"Miss Fox, must you use that language around children?" Alfred and Gene came into the room, drinks in both their hands. "What will become of your niece's vocabulary?" Gene kicked the Chef's foot, mumbling in agreement.
"Alfred, Smokebomb hears worse when he stops by the diner for lessons."
"My kids are going to sound like sailors." Gene sighed unhappily, sipping his soda. The Chef began cackled, starting to sing off key.
"I once had a lass with a nice round ass, tumble all around with me, hey nonny ho..."
Lunch had been interesting. Damian flat out refused to eat anything delivered, so he and Gene ended up cooking something in the kitchen of the apartment. The scent of spices heavy in the air, along with jasmine rice. Curry, possibly. Alfred and Alexandera kept up the flow of conversation, small talk about cooking and Alfred's younger, much younger, years. When Damian called out for them to eat, Alexandera took stock of the expression on Gene's face. He looked rattled. When she cocked her brow in silent question, he shook his head, glancing uneasily at the boy already sitting in his seat.
"Kid, what you do to Gene?" Gene sighed, taking the seat opposite of the boy, trying to put distance.
"I am no child, Lady Alexandera. I merely questioned his friendship with you."
"Not a lady. You could have asked me." Alfred sat next to Damien, across from the Chef.
"I did not know you were once engaged. Is it not normal to avoid past lovers?" Gene chocked slightly on his curry, coughing.
"Kid, what the fuck about me screams 'normal'?"
"I suppose nothing, really."
"You can still be friends with someone, even if the actual relationship changes its dynamic." Alfred supplied. Damian mulled that answer in his head.
"Do you still harbor romantic feelings for Reginald?"
"No." Alexandera gazed over at Gene, who smiled encouragingly. "He's still my friend though."
"Thanks, Space Cowgirl."
"No problem, Afro Samurai."
"He is hardly a samurai, and he has no afro." Damian stared intently at Gene. "If you were call him by an appropriate name it should be Flattop Father." Damian mouth quirked slightly at one side as Alexandera chuckled deeply.
"What do you say, Gene? Flaptop Father?" Gene groaned.
"I'd rather Weeb."
"What is a weeb?" Damian asked.
"It's kinda an insult to someone who likes anime." Gene answered, biting into the curry. He had to admit, the kid was intense, but damn if this wasn't good.
"That is Japanese animation, correct?" Gene nodded. "What is a tsundere?"
"No!" Alexandera tried to cut Gene off, not wanting to continue this conversation, but of course, the dark forces playing with her life didn't grant her request. The rest of lunch was spent with Alexandera halfheartedly grumbling while Gene and Damian made jokes at the Chef expense, all in good nature, while Alfred sat watching the exchange.
Alfred and Damian said their goodbyes, both having to leave once Bruce Wayne called, wondering where they were. Gene was surprised when the younger Wayne held his hand out to him, waiting for Gene to shake it.
"I apologize if I insulted you." Gene grasped the hand, shocked at how strong the grip was.
"Don't worry about it. You remind me of Alexandera, intense." Gene tried not to react to the proud gleam in the boys eyes. "You mind if I use your recipe at work?"
"Not at all. It seems adequate compensation for us intruding on your home." Damian turned to Alexandera, who was shrugging her coat on. "Are you sure you do not wish for Alfred to drive you to your hotel?"
"Nah, I'm gonna walk around the city a bit. Haven't really had the chance to yet." Damian nodded.
"Be sure to be back at your apartment before sundown. Do not engage with strangers." Alexandera rolled her eyes.
"Fuck, Kid, you sound like your my big brother." Damian only grinned, happy at the comparison.
"I'm too young to be your elder brother, Lady Tsundere."
"Gene where do you keep your oranges?" Alexandera ruffled the boys hair roughly.
"Uhhh…" Gene looked to Alfred, he seemed to be the only sane person in his home right now.
"An inside joke, Mr. Jones." Alfred stood by the door, smiling at the scene. It was nice seeing Damian acting his age.
"I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation, Lady Chef. I am sure once you return, your employees will have plenty of work for you to handle."
"Nah, the boys can handle the diner just fine." Alexandera waved slightly to Alfred. "Drive safe."
"Of course, Miss Fox. Master Damian, shall we." Damian and Alfred were about to close the door when Alexandera blurted out.
"Remember, Smokebomb, hella low places." Damian looked back, and gave a smirk so much like the Chef's own.
"I will keep that in mind, Ukhti." He turned away from the Chef's confused gaze at the word, walking ahead of the Butler. When the door latched, Gene turned to Alexandera.
"You've got some weird friends..." Alexandera groaned.
"You don't want to know the half of it."
"I'm inclined to agree."
The rest of Alexandera's mini vacation went by quietly. She finally got to try the hotels food, which was pretty good. Spent some time with Gene and Noriko and Lexie, though half of that time was battling off the smaller woman who was trying to get her measurements for the dreaded maid outfit and trying to keep the Crotch Goblin from pulling her hair. The day finally came when it was time for her to board the plane back to Gotham. She checked out, and was about to call an Uber, when a familiar deep voice spoke behind her.
"Didn't think I'd let you leave without saying goodbye, did you Miss Fox?" Alexandera turned to face Lex, who was holding her suitcase in his hands.
"Came all this way to say goodbye?" Alexandera looked around the lobby. "You didn't bring a hoard of paparazzis?" Lex chuckled, an amused grin gracing his lips.
"Not this time I'm afraid, they seem to think I am currently driving off to the westside. Someone left a phony tip that I would be there for an event."
"Lying just for me? I'm flattered."
"I had hoped you'd be. Shall we? My cars out front." He didn't wait for her answer as he walked to through the lobby, people staring at him through their phones, taking photos. Alexandera followed glaring at anyone who pointed a phone at her. Stepping out the automatic doors, she saw Lex putting her luggage in the back of a flashy sports car.
"What, no driver?" Lex closed the trunks hood before spinning a set of keys around his finger.
"Oh I have one, she's standing right there." Alexandera stared at him blankly.
"You took me out for a 'normal' date. Since I couldn't spare anytime with you yesterday due to work, at least let me show you something a little abnormal before you have to go." He tossed the keys to her, which she caught.
"If I wreck your car, I'm not paying." Lex laughed soundly as he opened the passenger door, the door not opening outward but sliding up.
"I have incredible insurance."
"Yeah, I bet you do." Alexandera finally moved to take the drivers seat, ignoring the crowd that had started to form, taking photos and videos.
"Do you know the way to the airport?" Lex asked as she adjusted the seat for her height.
"Yep." Sure popped the 'p' as she inserted the key, grinning broadly at the sound of the engine.
"Then try not to get pulled over, Alexandera." She didn't even notice that he'd called her by her given name, not Miss Fox, as the car responded quickly to the slightest push on the foot pedals. This was going to be fun. The Metropolis Gossip column had a field day with the videos taken of the Blue Haired Bad Girl speeding off from the hotel.
Lex breathed deeply, trying to quell the beating of his heart. She was a decent driver, if a little bit of a speed demon. Alexandera had parked the car, grinning as she stepped out.
"Adrenaline junkie?" The Chef snorted.
"Kinda a requirement, living in Gotham."
"I suppose so. Come, I have a surprise for you." Lex grabbed the luggage, and keys, leading the Chef towards the airport proper, before stopping in front of a woman in a gold cart.
"I don't like surprises."
"This is a good one, trust me." The airport employee strapped the luggage down in the passenger seat while Lex sat on the back bench, patting the seat next to him invitingly. The Chef sat next to him, and the woman began to drive. "I had hoped to spend the day with you yesterday, but couldn't. This is my apology."
"Don't need to apologize if I didn't know."
"I suppose. Alexandera," Lex turned his head to the blue haired woman. "I know you do not want a relationship with me yet."
"Seems like you think I would in the future."
"I'm a Luthor, I always get what I want."
"I'm tempted to jump off, just to spite you." Lex laughed.
"I believe you."
"What were you planning anyway?"
"Yes, I had planned on taking you to the Metroplex," Lex grinned at her raised brows. "Buy anything you remotely looked at."
"Dude, I don't need or want that" The Metroplex was Metropolis's rich person mall. People wore gloves when they handled the clothes people were going to try on, they served you champagne while you browsed their wares. Hell you could get a massage while waiting for the changing rooms.
"I know. I wanted to. Alexandera, I'm Luthor, to some I am sickeningly rich," He ignored the Chef's mumble of 'You got that right.' "If we are going to have a future relationship, I want you to know what life with me would be like. You handle the media well enough, I want you to know I like to spoil those I'm with."
"When the last time you were in a real relationship? Not some three day fling?" Lex sighed.
"Too long. I would have done anything for her, but I was blind, and when I started to focus more on work, she found affection elsewhere, while still charging my credit card."
"Harsh dude. Kinda weird you'd want to try and spoil me."
"I want to spoil you because you don't want me to." Lex grabbed her hand, feeling callouses on the palms. "Like I said, I like your honesty, I like that you're independent, but isn't it nice to lean on those around you from time to time." Alexandera looked at the hand holding hers, but didn't pull away.
"Lex, I've been alone a very long time. I like being alone. I'm still getting used to having friends, hell even family."
"I'd like to help..." That urge came back. The urge to run. Run away, drink, forget. Alexandera fought with herself to not make good on her threat to jump off the golf cart. She was already overwhelmed by the idea of being back in Gene's life. Of being an Aunt. Of having real friends. Of caring. It made her want to run away and be alone again. It was easier. There wasn't anything traumatic that caused it, she was just always that way. Foster care had instilled that in her, moving around could be good, moving around meant no solid attachments, no messy strings to unravel because you just walked away from the knots. Her time in Gotham, as fucked up as the city was, had changed her in some ways... maybe for the better...
"Fine. I can't promise you a sexual relationship, but I'll be your friend. You need someone to take you down a few pegs anyway." Alexandera felt a flush creep onto her ears and cursed herself for always having it up. Lex smiled triumphantly as she looked away from him.
"And you need someone to take care of you sometimes."
"You gotta kink for that or something? Taking care of woman who don't want you to?"
"For you, I suppose I do. You're cute when your frustrated."
"Fuck off, Luthor."
"I hope to in the future." He chuckled as she scoffed, turning away from him and giving him a lovely view of pink blush spreading on her neck.
A private jet. Lex's surprise to her was his personal jet back to Gotham.
"You know I have a ticket, right?"
"As I said, I'm trying to spoil you."
"You ain't my sugar daddy."
"Call me that again, Miss Fox." Lex was met with a smack to his arm.
"Don't push your luck."
"I wouldn't dream of it, Miss Fox." The side of the plane was opened, stair leading to the inside ready and waiting. "Do you have transportation lined up once you land?"
"I'm not getting out of this, am I?"
"No, Miss Fox, you're not." If Alexandera's time with the Rogues had taught her anything, it was that the tone Lex used right now meant, just go along with it. She sighed.
"Yeah, I do."
"Then you best be off."
"What not going to come along? Point out all the blocks you own as we fly over the city?"
"I would love to, but technically I am not supposed to be here, I have business to attend to once you leave." Lex nodded to the pilot who jogged slightly up the steps. "I do hope the next time you're in Metropolis, or I in Gotham, you'll call on me."
"Don't have your number."
"Yes you do, though I suppose you don't remember." Alexandera checked her phone, and sure enough his name was in her contacts.
"You didn't look at my nudes did you?" Lex gave a near predatory grin.
"Oh Miss Fox don't tempt me." Without warning, Lex grabbed her hand and placed a delicate kiss on her wrist, maintaining eye contact. "Fly safely." Alexandera rolled her eye as she pulled her arm away, stepping backwards towards the plane.
"Like I have any control over that." She smirked and gave a halfhearted wave, turning to walk up the steps.
"The next time you see them, tell them to be a little more discreet." Lex smiled when she didn't even stiffen, but still turned to meet his gaze. She studied him, head cocked as if trying to figure him out. He felt a little thrill at her smoldering eyes. Alexandera scoffed.
"Kinda hard to do when they run around in bright spandex." With that she turned and climbed the steps, boarding the plane. She was honest, but she could keep a secret.
She was going to be fun. It was disappointing when he remembered he wouldn't see the reaction to the bags of new clothes with her name on them on the plane.
Chapter 28: Back Home
It's allergies, I swear! I don't get sick, I don't flus, I get sniffles and get over it... Why are you laughing? Fuck you, yes I said sniffles!
Her boys were the ones to pick her up. It was suppose to only be Marcus, but Gary and Kyle caught wind and tagged along, with offerings of liquor and greasy snacks. Once the beat up Volkswagon was loaded up with passengers and the "gifts" Lex had so graciously left on the plane (The Chef was seriously beginning to contemplate buying a dresser), they made their way onto the dark and dirty streets of Gotham. Metropolis had been nice, but art-deco grey and gangs was the Chef's home now, and it was good to be back. Kyle and Gary sat in the back, snatching food from each other, asking a million questions like the grown children they were. The Chef, in an unusually good mood, answered each one readily, munching on fries and sipping whiskey straight from the bottle (technically illegal, but who really cared in Gotham). The mood was light and jovial, jokes exchanged and ripped on each other and themselves. The Chef was caught up on the day to day. Business was still good despite her being gone, no thefts or dine and dashes, the unruly patrons on their best behavior while she was gone. The Rogues hadn't been anywhere near the diner while she was on her vacation, which was odd, but not a surprise. Her boys were having the time of their lives when she let slip that she was now an aunt, calling her many variations of Auntie 'Lexie', 'Ally', 'X', 'Chefy'. Alexandera quickly put a stop to that by turning on the radio, the quartet singing along and head banging to Bohemian Rhapsody. They reached Hodge Podge in good time, Marcus occasionally blowing through red lights.
The blinds were closed, belying the fact it was filled to the brim with men and women, hookers and thieves, drug dealers and thugs, all on their best behavior while Hodge-Podge's employees were gone, as they hollered and ate, music loud from the juke box. The police would give anything to figure out how this was possible, allowing criminal free reign of any establishment, without any of them destroying it.
The ruckus fell silent for a few moments when the door slammed open by the Chef's hand, cold January wind blowing into the diner as the criminals of Gotham stared at her, silent, in awe. Alexandera felt like Norm in the show Cheers, as when she walked into her kingdom, the cheers of 'Mama Chef' caused a ripple of joy to slip through her, unlike any she could really remember ever filling her in her life. It briefly flittered through the Chef's mind that, this was good. This was her happiness, that she drudged up from the mud and blood of the city and her life. The loud cheers. The smell of spices and bleach, sweat and gun powder. The sounds of insults and laughs. Tazer growling when he missed his mouth when he tossed his food. Mouse sitting off in the corner, smiling over his empty bowl of last soup.
And for the fist time in a very, very long time she didn't feel the urge to run.
She was happy to be home.
This was home.
There was a line out the door for most of the day, once the word got out the Chef was back. The tip jar turned into a tip mop bucket, filled to the brim with cash, and watches, and jewelry. Gary and Tazer assured the Chef that anything not cash would be handled appropriately. There was no midday break as was normal, the Chef and her Boys working through the eternal rush, to go boxes dwindling. When it looked like they would have to cease take out orders, someone walked in with stacks of togo containers. Bob, The Joker's right hand man, walked through the kitchen's swing door, placing the boxes down on the back prep counter, before rolling up his sleeves.
"Keep cooking, Chef. I'll plate." Alexandera huffed, flipping a burger.
"Wash your hands, put on a hair net." And with that, the rest of the day was a blur, welcome homes, ticket numbers, music, laughter, and the ever unceasing cry of the Chef crying out,
It was evening by the time the scum of the city all had their fill of food. Tazer and Gary left with backpacks full of the tips that couldn't be deposited into an ATM. Marcus handed the Chef a mug of coffee and scotch before heading back into the dish pit to help Kyle. Alexandera swigged from the mug, sighing in content. Bob sat across from her, unrolling his sleeves and smiling at the blue haired woman.
"One hell of a welcome party." The Chef shuffled into the booth, leaning her back against the wall as she propped her feet up. For most, a rush in the food service business was awful, busy, and stressful. For Alexandera, it was her element. The chaotic rush brought out a serene calm to the Chef, one of the few situations where she could mentally check out, relying on instinct. "How'd you know I was back? Or them for that matter?"
"Twitter." Coffee spilled onto the table as the Chef coughed out in surprise.
"Hodge-Podge has a twitter account. Someone set it up so the rest of us knows what your cooking for the day."
"Lazy bastards can't bother to call or walk in to see?"
"No." Both shared a laugh, as Bob pulled his phone out, showing the account for the diner on social media. It was mostly tweets about the menu, but more recently it was links to the photo's taken of her in Metropolis that her customers recognized.
"Gonna make them delete those, but I guess this okay." Alexandera passed the phone back to Bob. "I'm gonna say it's a safe bet I'll be having another welcome back party tonight, huh?"
"Actually, Friday, Harley said that you might need a day to readjust to Gotham, Crane agreed." Alexandera tilted her head.
"Were you hoping to see them?"
"I'm just surprised. Both at the fact that they are letting me have a day, and that they thought of it."
"Harley and Crane used to be therapists."
"So?" Bob chuckled.
"I'll pick you up at seven on Friday. Your goons can handle things here."
"They're not my goons."
"Whatever you say, Mama Chef."
It started as a scratchy throat on Wednesday. Alexandera chocked it up to the colder, wetter weather of Gotham. Marcus was sweet enough to keep a kettle on the stove with a constant supply of hot water for tea. Everytime he suggested the Chef to sit and take a break, to rest, she waved him off with her spatula, telling him she was fine. By the time it was the diners mid day break, the Chef was sweating through her Gotham Academy hat, and not from the heat of the kitchen, though she'd never admit it.
"Chef, you're sick." Marcus didn't bother closing the blinds, his mutiny already planned, he was just waiting for the final player to enter.
"'m not sick." Alexandera coughed in the back of her throat, trying to be discreet. "It's just a travel bug. I'll be fine in a few hours."
"Boss, don't get mad, but I know when someone's trying to pretend their not sick." Gary swung his hands up placatingly at his Boss, who glared heavily . Kyle swept in close with the cover of tea, before reaching out and resting his hand across the Chef's forehead, which was swatted away harshly.
"Yous sick, Boss." Kyle backed away from striking range. "Marc, she's burnin' up."
"I'm fine! Stop with the damn mother-henning!" The Chef wiped at her forehead, ignoring the sweat. "I'll be fine, I don't get sick."
"When's the last time you were sick?"
"When did How to Train Your Dragon come out?"
"The last time I was sick was when I went to see that movie. Threw up on the people in front of me." Kyle gagged, while Marcus sighed into his hand.
"Boss, if your sick, we don't need you here. You need to be resting." A sleek car pulled up in front of the diner, and Marcus knew the cavalry had arrived.
"You can't tell me what to do, I pay your asses."
"True, but you can't with them." Alfred walked through the door, timing as impeccable as ever, with Damian in tow. The Chef groaned.
"Traitors." Alfred wasted no time with greetings, sweeping in to inspect the Chef.
"You look atrocious, Lady Chef." Damian stepped in, ignoring the Chef's childish mocking of his words. "Welcome back."
"You have a fever, you should be in bed." Alexandera pulled away, much less volatile towards the older man.
"I don't gotta fever, I'm just hot from the kitchen." Alfred glanced at Marcus, who nodded his head towards the thermostat, which read 71 degrees Fahrenheit.
"You most certainly are sick." Damian smiled, it was amusing to see Alfred scold someone. "Miss Fox, we will take you home, you will rest, you will not return here until you are adequately healthy." Alfred grabbed her thermos, serruptitiously smelling it for alcohol, and phone from Marcus.
"I gotta prep for the afternoon."
"Lady Chef, was it not you who said that one should not be in a kitchen when they are unwell, lest they spread the sickness?"
"Doesn't stop waitresses from showing up."
"Are you willing to ruin the credibility of your establishment due to your own stubbornness?" Alexandera slumped in the chair, she knew she was beat, outnumbered. Damian recognized this and went for the killing blow. "We have plenty of space at the manor, if need be we will take you with us so that I may moniter your recovery."
"You still know the way, right Alfred?"
Damian sat in the back seat next to the sleeping blue haired woman. She had dozed off not long after the car took to the streets, right in the middle of a sentence. Her fever was high, but he wasn't worried. Even if she did somehow find her end...
"I took the liberty of procuring medicine and ingredients to make soup." Alfred didn't even glance up into the rearview window. "Do you have any plans this afternoon? I'm sure she would appreciate a meal that wasn't take out." Damian nodded absently.
"I believe that chicken soup would be best."
"Yes, I brought roasted bones from home, I'm sure that we can put them to use." Damian nodded, nudging the drooling Chef off his shoulder. She mumbled angrily in her sleep, before curling up against the car window, smearing the glass.
The Chef had some trouble recalling what exactly happened when she was taken home. She remembered being half carried by two people. Warming soup filling her stomache, after she filled her bowl with half a pepper shakers worth of spice. She remembered being corralled into the bathroom where she took a hot shower, and being tucked in. She remembered falling asleep but not waking up much later to a small shadow sitting on the floor, telling her she needed more rest.
"No, gotta work." The Shadow pushed her down.
"You need rest." Her blanket was pulled up to her chin. "There is no work to be done when you are sick."
"Can't be sick."
"Even the strongest warrior can be brought to his knees by sickness."
"Cut out the sickness." The Shadow laughed.
"I could not in good conscience do that."
"Supe's doesn't get sick."
"Superman is not human, you are."
"Batman doesn't get sick." It was quiet for a time, the only sound being the fan by the Chef's bed, blowing feebly.
"I can assure you with certainty, Batman does get sick."
"He works." It hurt to move, limbs sore and heavy as the Chef adjusted, trying to get comfortable.
"He has Robin."
"You have your employees." It was quiet again. "What do you think of Batman?"
" 'E's stupid."
"Why do you think that?"
"Robin's gotta be a kid..."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Leotard's a give away..." The Chef coughed harshly, whining in pain. Something was pushed against her lips and when she opened her mouth, she winced at the acrid taste of medicine. "He's stupid."
"I suppose any normal child would be foolish to live that life."
"No, Bats. Putting a kid in danger." The Chef curled up when a shiver wracked her body. "Stupid."
"He may be stupid, but he is trying to save the city."
"City don't wanna be saved."
"The Rogues are dangerous."
"Ain't so bad." It was quiet again.
"Your life is in danger, with them free."
"They make good chili..."
"Ukhti, do you..." A hand settled on her shoulder, "Do you associate with them?"
"They're okay, saved Hodge Podge. Saved me." The grip on her shoulder tightened.
"Ukhti, why didn't you go to the police?" The Chef whimpered at the tight contact.
"Batman came to you."
"Batman bad. I'd go to jail. I gotta stay 'live." The Chef felt sweat fall from her eyes. "They kept me alive."
"Me, too. Drink in streets. Stole to eat. Dined and dashed. I'm bad." The Shadow sighed, dabbing a cool clothe on the Chef's forehead.
"How did they save you?"
"Was gonna burn Hodge-Podge. Was gonna sit in it. They gave me money, they gave me people to cook for."
"You were going to kill yourself." It wasn't a question. The Chef laughed deliriously.
"Out of the fryer, into the fire!" Her laughs were unhinged, a new Shadow loomed in her doorway, watching her. "Hi!" The Chef couldn't get her arm free from the blankets, so she squirmed pathetically in greeting. The smaller of the shadow's nodded, and the taller left, cracking the door ajar.
"Ukhti, this is just slower suicide, they'll still kill you."
"Nope, won't die. Have people."
"Your employees are know Joker associates, they're not yours."
"Damian needs me." The Shadow drew in a ragged gasp. "Lexie needs me. Gene and Noriko. My boys. I won't die." The Chef finally wriggled a hand free wrapping it around the Shadow's waist, before rasping out a small tune.
"Ain't no rest for the wicked... Money don't grow on trees... I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed, Ain't nothin' in this world free." The Chef coughed when she tried to reach a higher note not made for her alto voice.
"No I can't slow down, no I can't hold back, Though you know I wish I could... No there ain't no rest for the wicked, Until I close my eyes for good..."
"You are stupid, Ukhti." The Shadow heaved, voice more silent, more weighted.
"So's the government."
"What if you are caught?"
"Joker get's out quick."
"He still gets caught."
"I got friends in low places." The meaning of the words finally hit the Shadow. If he were in danger, she would owe a debt, just so she could save him.
"What if you die?"
"Nope. Won't die. Too stubborn." A playful growl left her lips, her grip tightening. "I'd come back, a ghost."
"That is vengeance, not stubbornness."
"And if the people think you a villain?"
"Don't care, I'm good." A hand rested on her head proper, patting it softly.
"I suppose... you are, Ukhti. You are good."
"Alfred, pull the car over." The car pulled over on the long forest stretch of road leading to Wayne Manor. Alfred turned the car off before glancing at his charge in the rearview mirror. "Leave your phone in here." Damian left the back seat, stepping a ways from the vehical, scanning the trees.
"Is everything well, Master Damian?"
"She..." Damian rubbed a hand through his hair. Alfred guessed he picked it up from Miss Fox. "Alfred, she..."
"Your early assumptions were correct, I assume?"
"She has contact with them." The word was spat out, as Damian kicked the gravel. "She admitted to it!"
"Perhaps it was the sickness speaking."
"Do not insult my intelligence."
"I wasn't, Master Damian." The boy began to pace, kicking rocks from his path in anger.
"What do I do?" Damian looked pleadingly to his surrogate grandfather, seeking guidance as he used to when he trained with the League of Assassins.
"What do you think is best?"
"I should turn her in." Damian felt his breathing increase. "I should put my cape on, and drag her to the police. Father would expect me to."
"Master Damian, I didn't ask what your Father would do, or what you think you should do," Alfred kneeled, gripping the boy by the shoulders. "I asked what you think is best?"
"I don't have any proof..."
"No, sir, you don't."
"If I were to turn her in, there is a chance I could be putting her in danger..." Damian snorted, rubbing his nose. "She said that the police are bad."
"Some are, in Gotham."
"Alfred, she..." Damian hung his head, "She is not doing anything wrong, she is doing what she needs to... to survive. I did the same thing back when..."
"Do you want to turn her in? Not Robin, but as Damian."
"She is my Master." Alfred ignored the tears. "She still has too much to teach me..."
"Then I suppose you will just have to turn a blind eye." Damian scoffed a laugh, wiping his eyes.
"I had thought you would take Father's side."
"I don't agree with everything Bruce does."
"She called Batman stupid, for letting a child fight along side him."
"Then she is not completely off her rocker." Alfred and the boy shared a laugh. "The question is, what are you going to do now?"
Damian thought hard. He was Damian Wayne, the best of all the Robins. The strongest, the quickest, the smartest.
He was Smokebomb, apprentice to the best chef in Gotham.
He was Damian Al' Ghul. Trained at birth to be the best of The League of Assassins. Eradicators of evil, and protectors of good.
And the Chef, his Ukhti, was good.
God her mouth tasted like ass, and her body was so damn sore. Shivers still rolled over her skin, and she was tired. What had woken her up? She reached for her phone, only to find it missing from her charger. The faint whiff of something burning made the Chef leap into action. Pushing herself off the mattress, she really ought to buy a boxspring and frame, Alexandera wrapped her shoulders haphazardly in her comforter and braved her apartment. Her living room looked cleaner than it had when she had left the work the previous day. Her dirty clothes were in the barely used hamper, and the abundant liquor bottles were lined along the window. Humming could be heard from the kitchen. When the Chef turned the corner she saw Jervis pulling a tray from the oven, whatever he had been baking burnt beyond recognition.
"Jervis?" It still hurt to talk, and her voice came out scratchy and thin. It seemed she had lost her voice through the coarse of the night. Jervis looked up at the Chef.
"Oh! Oh, my Dear!" The sound of the tray dropping should have startled her more than the arms suddenly wrapped around her. "You look dreadful!"
"Thanks." Alexandera coughed into Jervis's shoulder, unable to move her hands up or even away from the mans tight embrace. "What are you doing here?"
"Come, Dear, let's get you more comfortable." Jervis gently led the Chef to her stained couch, fussing over the blanket around her.
"What did you burn?"
"Hmm? Oh, well I was trying to make biscuits for tea, but I may have made a mistake. No problem though, I'll ask Time to go back so I can try again."
"Time? Jervis what do-" Alexandera took stock of the man in front of her. Jervis was usually ruffled, clothes askew and wrinkled, but he wore it well usually. It was his eyes that made her take pause. Wide and fervent, glazed and unfocused. "Hatter?"
"Yes, Alice?" The Chef swallowed, wincing in pain.
"Hatter, could you make tea?" A mad giggle bubbled from the man as he bounced to the kitchen.
"Of course, Alice!" She could hear her cabinet doors opening and closing as the Hatter searched for tea. "And once your done with tea, I'll take you back down to Wonderland, where I can take care of you." Alexandera spotted her boots, and leaned forward finding her burner phone.
"That sounds nice, Hatter." She didn't look who she called, just pushed the button and pushed the phone to her ear, covering the action with the blanket, just in case. It only took two rings.
"What?" The Chef coughed, trying to keep her voice low, but it hurt to whisper.
"Hatter's in Wonderland, in my apartment."
"That's never been an issue before."
"I'm too sick to deal with this right now!"
"What do you want me to do? I ain't that kinda doctor."
"Dammit, Crane!" The Chef felt her stomach clench from the force of her cough, she spoke to loud.
"Crane's not here right now, but if you'd like to leave a message..."
"Scarecrow, he's talking about taking me to Wonderland... I..." The Chef sighed, using her torn voice to emphasize her point. "I need help." The Chef could hear Riddler's voice in the background, but couldn't make out what exactly he was saying.
"We'll be there in a bit. Play along. Don't leave with him, he's the only Rogue that still has a hidden base." Alexandera could hear a rumbling over the phone that sounded suspiciously like a growl. "You leave with him, even Eddie won't be able to find you." Alexandera curled up, not ready for this, not today.
"Thank you, Hyde."
Chapter 29: The Doctor's are in
You can rest easy. I'll take...good... care of you...
Eddie made quick work of picking the lock. Child's play, he said. When the Scarecrow walked into the apartment, he could smell burned food, tea, and the sickly sweet smell of sick. The Bitch sat curled and bundled on the couch asleep, as the Hatter fiddled with a hairband on her head, braiding and untwining the hair on the side of her head. Jervis was lost in his head, humming a tune, it gave The Scarecrow a chance to observe. She was paler than normal, face shining with a sheen of sweat. He could hear the rasps of her breathing, it was disappointing. He was suppose to make her lose her voice. She was suppose to scream until her vocal chords bled. A rumbling growl bubbled forth, unbiddened. Jervis looked away from the woman and it made the growling worse at the lovestruck grin on the mad mans lips.
"Marchie! Rabbit! Have you come for tea?" Jervis adjusted the blanket around the woman's neck. "Poor Alice is so under the weather, she is swimming in the Mariana Trench!"
"Hatter, what are you doing?" Eddie stepped forward, pulling a thermometer from a dark green leather suitcase. Jervis twitched as the close proximity.
"Alice had been gone for so long, when I heard the rose's twittering on about her, I couldn't resist." Eddie clucked his tongue.
"Low fever. She'll need more medication, and rest."
"I can take care of her! My home has sufficient means." Scarecrow balked, hunching slightly in an aggressive stance.
"She ain't goin' nowhere." Jervis, Hatter, narrowed his eyes, shifting closer to the sleeping woman.
"Marchie, My Alice needs me."
"Jervis, Alexandera needs to rest, moving her will strain her more." Hatter didn't respond to his name, eyes locked on the pitch dark eyes across from him.
"Are you all -cough- done with your pissing contest?" Scarecrow liked the rasp, it made his mind wander to what else she could sound like.
"Alice! I'm sorry, did these foolish bunnies wake you?" Hatter broke eye contact, hands over her forehead, smoothing away hair that stuck to it. With Alice sick, Hatter could get away with more touch, she was usually so chaste! She chuckled as she shivered.
"Bunnies." Eddie cleared his throat.
"Laryngitis, fever, you're experiencing chills. Anything else?" Edward flipped his suitcase open on the armrest of the couch.
"Feels like I was hit by a car." The Chef reached out to take the offered medication, only for Hatter to snatch it first. He gently held the pills to her mouth, grinning when she sighed, opening her mouth in acquiescence. "Head's swimming."
"I can't do anything about that, but those pills should help bring the fever down, as well as the pain." Edward carefully squatted down, closely inspecting the sick woman, keeping a side eye on the Hatter, in case he had a bout of Wonderland Madness. "You might have some side effects, runny nose, itchy eyes. Have you eaten since Jervis showed up" The Chef shook her head, curling more into the blanket. Edward stood, walking over to The Scarecrow, who had yet to relax.
"I'm going to get some food, keep an eye on her. Jervis?" Edward rubbed his temple. "Hatter!"
"Yes?" Jervis hadn't stopped his fussing, holding a teacup up to the Chef's mouth, which she drank with a grimace, mumbling about ginger.
"Would you like to assist? I'm sure Alexandera would appreciate it." Edward sounded like he was speaking with a child.
"Oh! Yes, yes, yes, that's a very good idea. Alice, would you like soup?" The Chef nodded. "Chicken noodle?"
"Pho. Spicy pho." Hatter felt lost, what soup was that? "Three blocks down."
"I know where." Edward grabbed his suitcase, before putting on a pair of round sunglasses. "Come, Hatter." Both men made their way to the door, Hatter hesitating leaving the couch.
"Don't get caught." Edward scoffed, Hatter grinned, and then the door was closed, leaving The Chef alone with a looming Scarecrow. "Sit." The Scarecrow moved, staring the Chef down as he did so.
"Yer stupid, fallin' asleep." The Chef nodded, turning her body as best she could. "I fuckin' told ya, he takes you and we'll have a hell of a time findin' ya."
"Didn't know you cared so much." Alexandera gave a pathetic groan, panting once she finally settled into a more comfortable position.
"Joker would have our heads."
"So reassuring." The Chef coughed again, moaning after she involuntarily gagged, stomach twisting from the coughs. "I would've been fine."
"Ya sure 'bout that, Bitch?" The Scarecrow watched as she moved under the blanket, wiggling her arm free again. In her hand was a very familiar bottle.
"Don't want to use it on Jervis, but if I had to..." It was the vial of "pepper spray" Johnny-boy had gifted the Chef. The Scarecrow grinned ferally, feeling his own vials against his wrist-mounted harness, hidden under the sleeves of his button up.
"Why wait, ain't ya the least bit curious what would happen?"
"I'd spray you, but I think-" She coughed again. "I think you'd find it kinky." A hand gripped her ankle and suddenly she was under the Scarecrow. He hovered over her, eyeing her lustfully.
"I'll show you kinky!" He was expecting her to fight, kick him, maybe even spray him, she was close enough it would effect her too. Instead, she laughed. Well more sputtered out rasping coughs with wheezing giggle peppered in.
"Not scared of rape. I'd bite your dick off given the chance." Scarecrow felt a little, dejected. Rejected.
"Yer as clueless as Jonny-boy." The Scarecrow leaned in closer, he could smell her breath, hot from her feverish heat. "Ya can't be that blind, Bitch."
"What?" She didn't move away or turn her head
"Ya got Hatter wrapped 'round yer finger, Eddie stalkin' ya phone, Johnny-boy all repressed, a standin' offer fer a fuck with Lex." The Demon inhaled deeply, hoping to smell even the faintest whiff of terror. "Ya even got little ole me here ready to jump ya bones." There it was, the faintest hint of fear. Sweet pheromones wafting from her exposed neck. The Scarecrow chuckled as he leaned into the blankets, inhaling against her neck.
"Fucking knew it. Gonna break that phone."
"Not the point. I can smell it. What's in that hot head of yers?" The Scarecrow growled when she stayed silent. "Better use that mouth of yers, I know ya can. What's got you so afraid?" She smelled afraid, sick and afraid. He could feel her pulse fluttering speedily against his nose. The growling increased, half from his enjoyment of finally getting under the Chefs skin, half from frustration because now Jonny-Boy was waking up. It would ruin his fun.
"I..." Their chests touched slightly when the Chef inhaled. "I don't know." It was meek. She didn't deny being afraid, though.
"Oh I believe ya, it'll be fun to figure it out though." In a flash, he was off her, standing away from the Chef, breathing deeply. The Chef blinked, momentarily stunned by the speed, turning her head to stare at the Scarecrow's back. He reached for something on his chest, and when he turned, it was ice blue eyes that met her, covered by glasses.
"Where are the others?" It was Crane's voice.
"Out, should be back soon."
"They left you alone with Scarecrow?"
"Better than Jervis, right now anyway." Alexandera made no move to sit again, too tired to put in the effort, the medication starting to dull the pain. "He's gone full Hatter."
"You're lack of self preservation astounds me." Crane glanced down at the bottle in her hands.
"Does this stuff even work on you?"
"No." Came the simple reply.
"You're sick." The Chef nodded.
"Hyde not fill you in?" The Doctor stayed silent a moment.
"I don't always see what he's doing. If he wants to shut me out he can, once he's on control."
"Is he a split personality?" The Chef watched as The Doctor stared off into space. It was fascinating watching his pupils expand and retract, black trying to swallow ice blue.
"Not exactly." Crane pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing heavily through it. The Chef moved her legs with some difficulty, limbs heavy with exhaustion and medication.
"Sit." The Doctor followed the order, sitting on the wear worn cushion, stiffening when The Chef draped her calves over his lap. "Explain." She didn't push further, as The Doctor stayed still, staring off at the front door.
"What do you know of possession?"
"You can get up to thirty years is prison." The corner of The Doctor's mouth twitched slightly in amusement.
"Not the possession I'm referring to."
"What, Hyde's a demon?" The Chef snorted, sarcastically. The ice in the Doctor's eye growing dark as he listened to her scoff.
"Something like that."
"Wait, you're serious?"
"I've always been a man of science. The mind is a fascinating work of chemical engineering. My family on the other hand, were incredibly religious." The Chef held her tongue. She never expected him to answer. "When he came along, I thought myself to be insane. My family thought me possessed. Catholic exorcisms have a rather high mortality rate. I wasn't going to die by their hands, to their beliefs. I lived. He stayed with me. Over the years, he's shown me that I'm not crazy. That he's not just a figment of my imagination." It was quiet for a time, the sound of shouting slipping under the crack of the door. The apartment three doors down were at it again.
"How'd he show you?" He looked to her then, eye's bright then dark, pupils going wild. They settled on ice, before the man reached into his pocket. The Chef gripped the canister in her hand a little tighter, but all he pulled out was a small notepad and pen.
"Take this, write something. I'll tell you what it says." The Doctor turned his head fully away from her when she grabbed the paper. The Chef furrowed her brow, before clicking the pen. She fiddled with the pen, unsure of what exactly to write, the hairs on the back of her neck prickling and raising suddenly. Alexandera glanced behind her, feeling as if someone was watching her, but there was no one there. She began to write, and as she made her way down the paper, Crane spoke.
"One cup of flour, one cup of yellow cornmeal, two-thirds cup of sugar, one teaspoon of salt, three and one half teaspoon baking powder, one egg, one cup of milk, one third cup of oil..." He recited the recipe she was writing down, perfectly. Goosebumps broke out down he arms. Crane chuckled. "He says that the goosebumps are entertaining." The Chef turned her head again, searching for anything, but again there was no one she could see behind her. When she turned back to face The Doctor, his eyes were on her again, pupils frantic.
"Do you charge him rent?"
"He's more than paid his dues, in that regard." The spoken voice was Crane's, but the chuckle he gave was rough, raspy. He accepted the notepad back when she offered it, before settling his arms over her legs. "You're taking this rather well."
"Never was religious myself, but I'm not about to say that spooky shit ain't out there. Especially now." His pupils flared out again, eyes black for a long moment as he watched The Chef. He was interrupted before he could speak, as the front door opened.
"Alice! I have brought the soup! And they had the most fanciful tea, it has bubbles in it!" Hatter bounced in the door, holding a drink carrier with four cups. Edward strutted in holding two large bags, closing the door behind him.
"That sounds great, Hatter." Edward began to unpack the food on the table, laying out the to go boxes. Hatter swept in close, touching Alexandera's forehead before tutting.
"You still feel warm, but you sound better, my dear." Alexandera ignored how The Doctor under her legs tensed when Hatter touched her.
"Throat still feels rough, and I'm tired as fuck, but I do feel a little better."
"Do you need help sitting up?" Edward asked, opening the top of a slightly red soup, the sharp scent of chilis filling the room.
"Yes." The Chef mumbled, not happy at feeling so weak, but not about to fight off any help. Hatter sprang at the chance to help, gently reaching under her back to sit her up, twisting her until she was seated next to Crane. If any of them heard a soft growling, they choose to ignore it. There she sat, squished between Hatter and Crane, as Edward passed food to everyone. "Hey Puzzles."
"Yes?" Edward rolled his eyes at the name.
"Turn on the TV, my DVD player's bound to have something in it, I wanna watch something." The Riddler did as he was "asked", soon a cartoon was playing on the small TV, as the four ate in relative silence. The only interruptions were the occasional cough from the Chef, her spicy food burning her throat. Hatter panicked everytime she did, jumping slightly and looking all but ready to throw his food out of the way to be ready to hold her, fidgeting when she sniffed her nose, runny from her flu and hot food. The Chef made is through half the soup before she slowed, feeling more tired and sweaty, face slick and shiny. She hadn't realized she began to nod off until she felt the bowl pulled gently from her grasp. Edward placed the bowl on the table, squatting low to inspect her face.
"You need a bath, then sleep." The Chef moaned unhappily. "You need sleep. You won't get any better pushing yourself."
"Sorry Puzzles, no bathtub."
"Then take a shower."
"Are you sure Alice is well enough to move? She seems a little to weak to stand."
"That would be the medication."
"Should've known you'd try and drug me."
"Must have slipped my mind, that they also act as muscle relaxers." The Chef glared at The Riddler.
"So I've been told. Jervis get her shower ready. Jervis." He sighed. "Hatter!"
"Hm?! Oh! Oh, right. Yes shower." Hatter gently rubbed the Chef's back before leaving.
"Yes, you've said that already. Where do you keep your night clothes?" Edward stood as the Chef laughed.
"Dude, I sleep naked."
"Not smart, considering your door was child's play to pick." Edward walked towards her room, ignoring her protests and threats. Alexandera slumped in defeat when she heard her bedroom door creak open, leaning against The Doctor behind her.
"Is he immune to your gas?"
"Good, may use it later." They both laughed in amusement,
"We'd love to see that."
Her shower time was difficult, already tired and weak, the hot water tried to lull her into just sleeping in the water, it wouldn't be the first time she'd done it, but it would have been the first time doing it sober. The only thing that kept her from falling to sleep was the lingering feeling of being watched. The paranoia that someone was in the room with her. In the shower with her. The Chef had a feeling she knew who it was too, but didn't call it out. She had neighbors, and didn't need that kind of attention on her. Dressing in the clothes Edward had grabbed from her closet, sweatpants and a very old hunter green jumper, she trudged her way back to the couch, throwing her wet towel at the back of Crane's head. Edward and Hatter laughed as Jonathan pulled the towel away from her now ruffled hair.
"Keep you damn tenant in check."
"I can't control what he does when he leaves the premises." Hatter and Edward shared a look, unsure what they were talking about, though Edward had an idea.
"I'm going to bed. I'm ready to drop." Hatter was at her side in an instant, trying to hold her up.
"Come Alice, I will tuck you in, and tell you bedtime story, and make sure you have wonderous dreams." The Chef looked questioningly at the two other men on her couch, when they nodded their heads, she finally turned.
"Alright. Let's go." Hatter made good on his promise, fluffing her old flat pillows, covering her snuggly with her comforter. His soft British lisp soothing her to sleep, despite the lingering unseen presence giving her chills.
She woke up with something hard under her tongue, and a soft beeping. Opening her eyes, she saw Edward kneeling over her, Hatter sleeping, sitting against her wall.
"Your fever has finally broken."
"You hacked my phone."
"You'll be tired for a little while longer, but after tomorrow you should be good to go back to work." Edward slipped the thermometer back into his pocket.
"You've been stalking me."
"I prefer the term, keeping aggressive tabs on you."
"I don't like it."
"I'm sure you don't. You'll thank me eventually." Edward was quiet for a moment. "Scarecrow, go back to Jonathon." Suddenly that persistent paranoia faded away.
"I was going to say the same. I've known Jonathon a long time. You pick up on a few things along the way. Did you have nightmares?"
"Good, I was hoping the medication I gave you would prevent that."
"You drugged me."
"Yes, and you readily accepted it without much questioning." Edward handed her a glass of water, and smirked when she drank. "You trust us."
"Kinda hard to not start trusting someone when you know them a while."
"It's only been half a year."
"I'm getting soft." And tired. Tired right after waking up. "You drugged my water."
"You trust us. Hatter is enamored. Jonathan told you about Scarecrow."
"Idiot. If I didn't, I'd drug your water with something lethal."
"What, no elaborate puzzle? Quiz show?"
"Joker would have my head. Poison is not my style, he wouldn't suspect it."
"Very reassuring." It was hard to keep her eyes open.
"Sleep. We'll still be here when you wake up."
She woke again, sunlight filtering though her blinds. Hatter still sat against her wall, and that feeling of paranoia back.
"Scarecrow, I'll call an old priest and a young priest if you watch me change." Her closet door creaked open, clothes gently moving as if there was a breeze. Alexandera pushed herself up with a grunt. She still felt the lingering effects of drugs Edward gave her, but she had to admit, she did feel better. The closer she stepped to her closet, the more goosebumps broke across her body, chills from the unseen specter running down her spine. "I'll hang up crosses and shit all on my walls." Her only response was a shirt dropping from it's hanger. A ripped and torn black band tee, a skeletal reaper printed on it. She had that shirt since she was a teen, something given to her from an old case worker. It had been years since she wore it. Grabbing random pants and flannel long sleeve from the floor, she slipped into the bathroom. The pants fit, but the shirt was tight as expected, over shirt slipped over gave her a bit more comfort. The two men on her couch were asleep. Edward's feet resting on her small coffee table, Jonathan still sat in the spot from last night, elbow resting on the armrest with his chin propped on his hand. And they told her not to sleep while Hatter was around.
Alexandera slipped by them unnoticed and headed into her small kitchen, ready to eat. As she pulled off brand oatmeal from the cabinets, she halted, thinking. They had taken care of her. The least she could do was pay them back. They had done a lot for her, despite some unsavory deeds. The Chef rolled her eyes, not entirely comfortable with her own content around the Rogues. Pulling puff pastry from her freezer, she mulled over her predicament. How long had she isolated herself. Years. As long as she remember. Gene had been the first to push his way into her bubble. It was what made her start loving him, back then. That he made the effort to know her, be with her. After she left, no one else had made the effort. Now there was a slew of people, who not only pushed their way into her bubble, but had popped it. Started building a resort around her turbulent shores as a vacation home. Yet, The Chef wasn't all displeased. They weren't awful... for the most part. Intentions versus execution and all that.
Her small prep space was sprinkled with flour, oven preheated, eggs cracked and scrambled, left over meats and chopped vegetables set out. Omelets and croissants. Simple but filling. As she assembled the omelets in her pan, she did her best ignore the paranoia over her back. Did that feeling always follow Crane, or was it just now she noticed it? Only now that she was aware of what The Scarecrow might be, or was it what the Demon himself had told her about the men in her apartment? When she reached to poke the
dough, to see how defrosted it was, she saw some horror movie shit. Writing in the flour.
I WANT BACON
"I'm not making bacon." Her fridge door slammed open, bouncing against the wall. She wasn't proud to admit it, but that did make her jump. "Fucking hell, I want to keep my security deposit." Not willing to fight, she grabbed the package of pork from the bottom of the fridge and tossed it to the side. The rest of her time cooking went by, folding eggs, rolling dough, frying meat, trying not to jump when a cabinet opened suddenly, or her hip hitting a drawer that was opened without her noticing. The only thing left to do was to boil water for tea. Arms laden with plates, she walked back to the living room. Knocking Riddler's feet off the table, she placed the plates down. Hatter was still sleeping on her bedroom wall. She gently shook his shoulder.
"Jervis, wake up." His eye's blinked open slowly, focusing on her.
"Jervis, I'll shave my head bald."
"Oh, Alex! I'm terribly sorry for my slip." He gazed at his surroundings. "What happened?"
"You fell down the rabbit hole." Alexandera was shocked to see remorse on his face.
"I... I didn't hurt you? Did I, my Dear?"
"No, Jervis. You took care of me while I was sick. Edward and Jonathan dropped by as support." Jervis sighed in relief.
"That was very clever of you, my Dear." Alexandera helped him to his feet with ease, he was rather lightweight and her years in a kitchen had toned her strength.
"Come on, I've got breakfast ready." When the two walked into the living room, Jonathan and Edward were already eating. Jonathan looked bright eyed and ready for the day, Edward looked ready to kill the sun.
"Jekyll, Hyde needs to learn personal space." The Doctor shrugged his shoulders, nibbling on a bacon strip.
"He won't stop until I leave, but we appreciate the bacon."
"Yeah yeah, you're welcome." When she walked past the couch, she smacked the back of Edwards head.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"Be thankful I didn't lace your food with Ex-lax." She poured for glasses of water and grabbed an assortment of tea bags, then walked back to the coffee table, where the boys were tucking into their meals. "Thank you, dudes."
"You're most welcome, my Dear!" Jervis smile was bright, eyes crinkled around the edges in joy.
"We will leave after eating, you should be well enough." Edward muttered, dropping an earl grey tea bag in his mug. Alexandera swept her fingers through her hair, pushing it back from her face.
"No. No you guys can stay. I think I have some old movies in my closet." She didn't notice the men share a look as she bit into her food.
"We appreciate the invitation." Jonathan replied.
The rest of the day was spent huddled on the couch or floor, fighting over which movies to watch, and snacking on leftover meat and pastries, enjoying each others presence. It was good to be home. It was good to have her bubble broken.
Alright, we're getting closer to some romance. I feel like I've set it up enough, and you all have waited patiently. I know it's been somewhat of a slow burn, but the Chef is emotionally distant naturally. I believe the term for her would be Demisexual? She won't find someone attractive until she get's to know them. The only question is... Who gets to take the Chef out first?
Also what do y'all think of spooky spectral Scarecrow?
Chapter 30: Dinner Party
There had been a shadow on her fire escape every night for the past three weeks. Never at the same time, always gone by the time the first rays of sunlight hedged over the city skyline. She never saw when it arrived, only woke up suddenly in the night to see the figure hunched into itself sitting like a gargoyle. The first week, the Chef was paranoid, sleeping with a cleaver she took from work, expecting it to be a thief casing her home for her schedule, ready to fight back. By the second week, she slept a little easier, it hadn't broken it's habit yet of simply standing guard out of her window. Alexandera figured it was one of her "friends" sending someone to keep an eye on her home, odd but it did make her feel somewhat... safe. By the third week though...
She had forgotten about it, hadn't thought about the shadow out her window after associating it to one of her Rogues, so when she had gotten up to use the restroom one night after a night of drinking, she flipped the switch to her bedroom light. Red and green and yellow and black. On their own, it would have been easy to distinguish which gang, which Rogue, the figure belonged to. All together though... that made things difficult. Robin. The light made the once shadow scurry away like a roach. It didn't even jump off the side of the building, it flew upwards like it's namesake. Robin.
The Chef's home was being cased.
In the safety of her kitchen, Alexandera sent a text out from her Rogue phone, telling them all to stay away from her apartment. That her place was compromised. She didn't receive any answer back, but that was fine. Silence meant they understood, and she wouldn't have to answer questions. Breathing in the cold air, she stepped back into the heat of her domain. It wasn't busy today, most of her usual's out doing whatever they did. Word of her food had spread out to the minority of Gotham. The do-gooders and the neutrals. Citizens not affiliated with crime, or those who worked on their own. Tazer and Deker were cutting up in the lobby though, she could see them sitting in a booth chowing down, a backpack settled on the table, blocked by both their large bodies. Some of the new customers kept glancing their way occasionally, looking uncomfortable with the prison tattoos and scarred bodies. Word had gotten out about her place sure, but with those two around it wouldn't take long for those not in the life of crime to stop coming by. The idea didn't bother the Chef. She was safer that way. All it took was one goody two shoes thinking she needed to be saved.
Finally the doors closed for mid day break. Deker was the one to hassle the stragglers not in the know out the door as Marcus shut the blinds. The Chef pulled a full pot of coffee off the warmer and sat herself on the cashier counter, pouring coffee while Tazer poured amber booze from his flask into her own rusted thermos.
"You gonna get rabies from that damn thing, Mama Chef." They exchanged cups, as Tazer pulled his favorite chair, a padded hair backed office chair on wheels, from it's table.
"That's tetanus, I think?" The Chef shrugged, not entirely sure she was right, sipping at her spiked coffee. "What's up, you guys free?" Deker grabbed the backpack from their earlier table.
"Mama Chef, you askin' us on a date?" Deker flinched when Marcus punched his shoulder. "Ow, fuck Guey, I was jokin'." Alexandera chuckled at the look Marcus gave the thug.
"I'm on the clock. Respect the Boss."
"Damn, Mama Chef, if you ever decide to join our world, you'd have half the damn city under your control."
"Oh yeah, we're gonna rob a bank, I'll pay you in burgers and fries. Museum heist? Steak, baby." The Chef could hear laughter from behind her, Kyle and Gary listening in.
"What'd we get for a hit?"
"A fucking block party barbecue." That got Marcus laughing with the ragtag group. "For real though, what's up?"
"We got all the shit them idiots gave ya when ya came back fenced." Deker hefted the backpack into the Chef's lap. "Don't spend it all in one place, don't put it all into your bank account" Alexandera unzipped the bag hesitantly, blanching at the stacks on stacks of cash.
"Holy SHIT!" The bag slipped from her grip, spilling its' contents onto the floor. "That's roaming probably cause!" Marcus began to clean up the cash that had fallen out.
"Ey, not like we could return the shit they stole. Or the drugs. Did you want the drugs? No? Kay, we weren't sure." The Chef pulled her hat off to rub her head, feeling the thickness of her regrowing hair.
"You guys are crazy."
"It's Gotham. If you ain't a little crazy, you don't live here." Alexandera placed a hand on Marcus's arm, halting him.
"How much is in there?"
"Fifty G's." The Chef pointed to the thugs in front of her.
"You get two grand."
"You guys went through the trouble of... this," The Chef gestured towards the bag, "You get payment. And... Gary, where's the order slips?" A packet of paper was tossed through the order window. Alexandera scribbled on the paper for a minute.
"Alright fuckers. It ain't a barbecue, but y'all get these." She handed out the papers. "Free meals. Whatever you want, for a month. If you want something special it'll be worth three days, and I'll need to know in advance." Deker and Tazer looked at the tickets as if they were winning lottery tickets.
"Can you make Tamales? Chili Colorado? Pozole?"
"Uh, yeah?" Deker pulled her close, placing a sloppy kiss on her cheek before he was tugged harshly back by Marcus.
"Respect the Boss!"
"Pinche, Marcus!" Deker looked to the Chef like a man in love. "You know how hard it is to find a place that makes good food from home? Mama Chef, if you can make it good, I'll marry you!" Tazer sat cackling with Kyle and Gary, while the Chef looked anywhere but Deker.
"Just take your money and leave, I gotta prep for tonight." Marcus handed out the cash and tossed them out, leaving the Chef sitting down doing math.
"Boys!" The Chef barked out, and in almost military precision, her three employees stood before her.
"You each get twelve grand. For all this shit. I think that covers all the back pay I owe you when you guys first came here and when I was in Metropolis. I hate owing debts." The Chef could feel heat flooding to her face and ears. "Just take the damn money." Marcus passed out the cash, and hurried the boys back into the kitchen.
"You... You're gonna be fine." Alexandera looked up at Marcus. "You're my boss. As long as I work here, ain't nothin' gonna come for you, ain't no roaming probable cause that will keep you down. If they do..." Marcus rolled up a sleeve to his shirt, showing a surprisingly beautiful bouquet of flowers. "You'll owe my a barbecue." Realization hit the Chef hard. It wasn't tear marks, or tally marks. Each death was a flower. "Hell... even if I didn't work for you. You're good people, Chef." The bell to the restaurants door jingled when it opened.
"We're closed, come ba-"
"Hello, Blue Jay."
"So... You want me to be your date?"
"In so many words, yes. I need a bird who's not afraid to peck." Cobblepot sat across from her, ignoring the coffee mug before him as he kept eye contact with the Chef, who had forgone her coffee for her own flask.
"For lack of a better term, Falcone is a bully."
"So are you."
"He's passive aggressive."
"Ah, well okay, I can understand you wanting to fuck with him then."
"It will only be for one night. I, of course, will pay for whatever is needed, all you need to do Blue Jay, is look pretty and ruffle feathers where it's needed." Alexandera took a swig, mulling it over.
"You're a blue jay."
"Yeah that answers it." The Chef's tone was laced heavily with sarcasm. "Why not take one of your girls?"
"He frequents the Iceburg, he knows who my people are. If the dinner were held at my establishment he wouldn't say anything, but it's being held at his place... He has free reign."
"Sucks to suck, bud." The Penguin fiddle with his umbrella, twisting the tip into the grout between the tiles, flanked by his bodyguards, while the Chef was flanked by her boys.
"Okay, when?" Penguin schooled his expressions.
"Mob boss holding a party on Valentines day?" Alexandera laughed hard at the irony. "Okay, Bird Brain, I'll go to your party."
"Beats staying home, getting drunk, and masturbating." Marcus slowly reached for the flask, taking it away to be refilled.
"Charming." Cobblepot rolled his eyes, but was still smirking. "You'll be perfect."
"Wayne Residents, Alfred Pennyworth speaking." This was a bad idea...
"Hey Alfred, it's me."
"Miss Fox? How are you doing today? Did you wish to speak with Young Master Wayne?" A very bad idea...
"No!... Do, uh... Do you know how to do fancy make up?"
This was probably the first time Alexandera wasn't grumbling at the fact Lex had bought her a metric fuck ton of clothing, it was also the first time she had actually gone through the entirety of the clothes he bought. When she was on the plane, she only got so far as the lingerie before she "Noped out". Designer clothes were scattered around the apartment, resting on the coffee table, the couch, on her TV. At least she found something that would work... much to her chagrin. Lex did have good taste, maybe she could use the left over money from the backpack hidden her closet to pay him back. A knock on her door made her jump.
"Hey Alfred! Smokebomb?"
"Lady Chef, good to see you well." Damien brushed by her as if he owned the apartment, Alfred following after with an apologetic smile. "Your apartment is messy."
"I was looking for something to wear, kid."
"I am not a child, Lady Chef."
"Not a lady, kid." Alexandera turned to Alfred. "I found an outfit, I think... I just don't know how to do make up that doesn't make me look like a clown." Alfred looked to the dress that was hanging on the blinds, bending the plastic with it's weight. A black dress, with blue embroidery and sequins in an ocean wave design, a slit going from the ankles to well above the knee, stopping at the thigh.
"Miss Fox that is a beautiful dress, your date won't know what hit him."
"Not a date. It's a business dinner at best." Alfred didn't doubt it, with the scowl on her lips.
"I was under the impression that Saint Valentines Day was a day for romance?" Damien sat himself on a clear patch of couch, back straight, as he took in the clutter.
"Usually, but I ain't your usual broad."
"You are hardly a broad." The Chef snickered.
"You right, you right." Alexandera ruffled Damien's hair, mussing it while the boy scowled. "So Alfred, can you work with this?" The Butler hummed in thought, looking at the dress and the Chef.
"Yes, I believe I can, how are you going to do your hair?"
"I can work with that."
"Butler, medic, cook, chauffeur, make up artist? Alfred do you have a much younger brother or sister?" Alexandera looked at herself in her dirty mirror, impressed. Hair curled in waves, blue smokey eye shadow and dark blue lipstick. The Butler had even shaved down the fuzz on the side of her hair.
"No, but I am available." The Chef guffawed, smacking the older mans arm.
"You're out of my league, Alfred."
"Very true, Miss Fox." Alexandera pushed the man gently out of her bathroom, making their way into the living room. Damien looked up from his phone, eyeing the Chef critically.
"You look beautiful, Ukhti. Your date will be pleased."
"Not a date, but thanks, Kid." The Chef sat and pulled out a pair of heeled boots from it's box and wrappings.
"Where did you receive these clothes?"
"Your ex fiancé?"
"No, Lex." The Chef missed the dark look Damien shot Alfred, too distracted by lacing the strings and her phone ringing.
"Alright, that's me." The trio shambled their way out the door as the Chef locked up.
"Stay safe tonight, Ukhti. Do not take a drink from anyone other than the servers, do not hesitate to call us if you do not feel safe." Damien smirked when the Chef sighed.
"Yeah sure, Big Brother. You gonna give the shovel talk to Bird Brain, too?"
"Shovel talk? Bird Brain?" They crowded into the rickety elevator.
"It's the term used when someone threatens to bury a person if they wrong their family, Master Damien." Alfred tucked the tag from the Chef's dress back into the collar.
"Ah. Yes, I believe I could do that for you." Damien held firm when the Chef nudged his shoulder. The door opened.
"Not needed, but thanks." Walking out into the cold, the Chef regretted not bringing a jacket. A sleek limo sat waiting out front, a driver by the back door for her. "Drive safe, Alfred."
"Of course, Miss Fox. Enjoy your night." The Chef sighed, but nodded, walking up to the driver. Damien watched as the door opened, and a very familiar voice called a greeting to the Chef as she slid in. She waved good bye to the two before the door closed, and the driver made his way back to the front, leaving Damien and Alfred behind.
"That was Penguin."
"Indeed it was, Master Damien. He is considered reformed." Damien turned sharply on his heel, walking to their own town car.
"His associates are not."
"I'll ready your suit when we return home."
"You clean up well, Blue Jay." Cobblepot sat across from her, eyeing the Chefs get up. "When we are at the dinner, please refer to me by my name, none of this Bird Brain business." The Chef grabbed a glass of champagne from the built in bar, downing it in one swallow.
"Sure thing, long as you don't give anyone the impression we're fucking." Cobblepot snorted, but it was more of a warbled squawk.
"Blue Jay's are too common."
"Charming. So am I gonna be arm candy all night, or am I allowed to wander?"
"For your safety, it would be best for you to stay by my side, there is bound to be dealings that you don't want to be privy to... Are you trying to get drunk?" Cobblepot eyed the Chef as she downed a second flute of bubbly.
"Gonna take more than what you got to get me drunk. If you want me drunk, though..." The Chef pulled the dresses hemline aside, showing a well concealed flask on her thigh.
"Exchange the flask with a gun, and you'd fit right in, Blue Jay."
"Trust me, Oswald, I got protection." Cobblepot didn't question the remark. The Rest of the drive was silent, save for sound of empty glasses tinkling on the bar.
The Falcone estate was opulent. Large and imposing, front lawn gardened beautifully with potted flowers and trees. Servants opened limo doors for guests and led them into the looming mansion. The Chef didn't wait, opening the door for herself and ignoring the offered hand to help her out of the limo, standing on her own. Cobblepot stood next to her, shorter than normal while she was in heels. Cobblepot led the Chef up the steps, regal despite the waddle gait, greeting those he knew warmly, Alexandera was quiet, glaring at anyone who made eye contact. Where the Wayne Manor was sparsely decorated, clean but still inviting, Falcone's home was over furnished with riches, art, and furniture. While warm from the fireplace, it felt like empty and cold. Men in tailored suit talked in groups, women in furs and jewels literally hanging off their arms, or huddles together to gossip. The Chef felt her lip curl into a sneer, already eager to leave.
"Oswald! Good to see you, Amico." A clean shaven man with slicked back hair firmly shook Cobblepots hand, false grin wide. "And who is your lovely companion, I don't recognize her." That grin morphed into a leer.
"Pleasure to see you as well, Falcone. This is Miss Fox. She runs an establishment in Gotham." Falcone offered his hand to the Chef, which she ignored.
"Oh, and what establishment would that be, Bellissima?" Alexandera ignored his offered hand.
"I run a restaurant near the narrows."
“Oooh? That seems to be a little dangerous for such a beauty.”
“About as dangerous as your job... What is you do again? Organizing the Policeman's ball? Security for small businesses?” Alexandera cocked a brow as the leer dropped from Falcone's lips, Oswald giving a light chuckle.
“It seems my reputation precedes me...”
“I wouldn't call it a reputation, more of a rap sheet, without the mug shot.” Oswald didn't bother to hide the guffaws at the angry twitch in the mobsters eye.
“Well.... Bellissima, you are quite the little firecracker.”
“More of an atom bomb, I'd decimate anything in my blast zone... and you're standing a little too close, Puto....” Alexandera looked down to Cobblepot. “Let's go.” The Chef and The Penguin sidestepped Falcone and his slack jaw, arm in arm towards the bar.
“I knew you were the right choice, Blue Jay.” Cobblepot said, hand resting on his chest, trying to subdue his laughter.
“If the rest of my night is going to be insulting these fuckers, you can call on me for any dinner you got.” Both settled into high backed bar stools, leather seats overstuffed and comfortable. The tender swept in. “Two Angel's Envy, neat.”
“I'll have to keep that in mind.” Two glasses of whiskey was placed before the two, Cobblepot raising his in a toast. “To giving twice fold what they throw at us.” The Chef clinked her glass to The Penguins.
“To their bullshit and fuckery, and pissing off assholes.” The bartender made it a point not to say anything, afraid of what they might say about him.
Many people made their way to The Penguin, some catching up with pleasant conversation, but most coming to make snide comments, to which Alexandera showed no mercy in being a bitch. Some recognized her from Wayne's dinner, or the Metropolis tabloids. Within an hour the only people sitting at the bar were “associates” Cobblepot actually wanted to be there, plenty of glasses of whiskey (which is the only thing The Chef was making them order). Cobblepot was regaling the surprisingly friendly group a tale from his Rogue days, when The Chef felt a tap on her shoulder.
“I knew you'd look ravishing in that number.” Alexandera turned to see Lex in a handsomely tailored white suit, the only one in a see of black. There were women flocked behind him, enviously glaring at the Chef, the barflies raising glasses in greeting.
“Gotta say, you got taste.” Alexandera signaled to the bartender, but he already had a glass ready, which she pushed into Luthor's waiting hand. “Luthor, you know Oswald don't you?” Cobblepot extended his hand to Luthor, grin half-cocked.
“Lex! Great to see you, I thought you weren't going to be able to make it this year.”
“I was able to bulldog a deal in time to make my way here. I only flew in a few hours ago.” Lex sipped at his whiskey. “If I had know our friend was here, I would have come sooner.”
“Well you're here now, pull up a chair, we've got one more left.” Alexandera eyed Lex's entourage of glaring women, a smug tug on her lips as Lex sat in the offered stool, filling the length of the bar to capacity. She raised her glass of whiskey in a mock toast as the women filtered away, Lex and Oswald launching into tales of business deals as the Guard Chef kept an eye out for interlopers. The bar was the only spot in the dreary atmosphere that held laughter.
Sorry for the delay! I had this chapter done for a hot minute, but honestly forgot to post it. I'm taking a break from writing as I desperately look for a job. I hope you enjoy this chapter and the foreshadowing.
Chapter 31: Dinner is the show
I always feel like, somebody's watching me....
More bodies moved about the Falcone Estate, more waiters with finger food flittered about, every hand holding a glass of alcohol. The bar the Chef sat at was filled with laughter and conversation, Lex and Oswald the life of their small party. The Chef was happy to let them speak, a silent presence glaring away at any who would intrude. She caught glances of the host here and there, equal parts curiosity, confusion, and frustration. Once in a while someone would ask her a question, but she deferred to her friends, not wanting to join in. The less she was seen, the better. Her seat afforded her the best view of the ballroom floor and the entrance hall. It was as she was zoning out of a story being regaled she saw someone walk in. No tailored suit and perfectly pressed shirt, a leather jacket zipped up and ripped jeans. A red modified motorcycle helmet covered the person's head. At least it looked like a motorcycle helmet.
"Oswald, what's up with Speed Racer over there?" The Chef gestured lightly to the red and black figure, who was shaking hands with Falcone.
"I don't know who that is, but if Falcone knows him, it's best to stay away."
"You know Falcone."
"True, and yet here you are, Blue Jay." Alexandera grunted in agreement.
"Miss Fox is more than capable of holding her own, if our paintball excursion has proved anything." Lex grinned into his glass as the Chef lightly kicked his leg, leaving a small patch of dirt on his white dress pants.
"You kicked my ass, Luthor."
"She also managed to flip a would be thief flat on his back." This caught the bars attention as Lex was goaded into telling the tale, not that it took much on his part. Alexandera rolled her eyes, swallowing the rest of her whiskey in one go.
"I'll be back, Cobblepot, gotta take a leak."
"Don't stay away too long." The hidden message was clear, and the Chef hummed an affirmation, picking her way through the growing crowd to the restroom. When she made it to there, the garish pink walls and gold accents made her nauseous, but the soap left her hands feeling softer than they did before washing them. More couples were on the ballroom floor, waltzing with their partners and gossiping. The Chef hung back, looking for an opening to get through, when a hand settled on her shoulder. She raised her fist, ready to strike the person behind her. The figure in the red motorcycle helmet.
"Would the lady grace me with a dance?" The man's voice was modulated, digitized heavily.
"Ain't a lady, Speed Racer, try somewhere else." She pulled her shoulder away, the man's hand dropping away. Digital laughter sounded from the stranger.
"How about a drink?"
"Had my fill."
"You're breaking my heart here, Blue."
"Take off the helmet, I'll break your face too."
"One dance, I'll get you back to your date across the floor in one dance." The Chef snorted.
" Ain't my date either." The Chef looked across the floor, more people congregated together. "Feel me up, I'll break your fingers."
"As the lady wishes." The Chef glowered at the man as he placed his hands at the middle of her back, grasping her hand softly, and with a whirl they were in a sea of gems and suits.
"If you are not here for a date, why are you here?" His leather gloves were warm and stuff. Possibly new.
"Had a favor called in. Why are wearing a helmet?"
"Don't ladies enjoy a mystery?"
"Ain't a lady."
"No, but your quite a beauty, Blue."
"Can't say the same, Speed Racer." More digitized laughter, as the man spun her to arms length, drawing her back closer.
"You don't seem to be enjoying yourself, this not a usual thing for you, no fancy dinners?"
"I was enjoying myself just fine at the bar." He smelled of new leather and a freshly blown out match.
"I know a nice place, if you'd like to leave... A cute little diner in the narrows." His hand slid lower down, and the Chef counted by digging her nails as hard as she could into his glove.
"Hands higher, before I kick your nuts higher." His chest shook as the man obliged.
"Kittens got claws."
"I got a fuckin knife, ain't no claws."
"With a beautiful dress like that... I wonder where the butcher knife is?"
"Blue Jay! I was wondering where you flew off to. Come settle a bet, Lex thinks he has one over me." The man made good on his promise to get her across the dance floor, and bless Penguin for interrupting.
"The man who called in that favor?" The man removed his hands, stepping away respectfully.
"Thanks for the dance, hope I never see you again."
"Hood! Mr. Falcone is ready for you." A squirrelly man in a ill fitting suit beckoned for the hooded figure.
"I hope to see you again, Chef." As the man left, Alexandera grabbed a glass of champagne from a wandering server, harshly setting it on the bar once she was done with it.
"Oswald, it's time for me to go." The Chef whispered lowly. "Speed Racer knew I'm a chef."
"It's not much of a secret, Blue Jay."
"Gut feeling, he was askin too many questions." Oswald eyed her, nodding after a moment.
"I've no more business here, Lex wi-" whatever Oswald would have said was interrupted by loud bangs. Anyone from Gotham knows that sound. Gunshots.
"NOBODY MOVE!!" Masked gunmen blocked exits and windows, corralling men and women closer together. The Chef groaned at the screams of panic, reaching over the bar for the half filled bottle of whiskey left by the bartender, who was cowering behind the bar.
"You take me to the nicest places, boys." Lex and Oswald eyed the Chef, as she chugged the bottle.
The gunmen had bottled everyone into dance hall, weapons trained on anyone who spoke or moved, while other men in masks walked around with sacks, taking jewelry and cash from the party goers. When they reached the bar, Lex dropped his rings and Rolex into the sack, Oswald doing the same. When the Thief reached the Chef, she snorted.
"Sorry bitch, you want my heels? I'm sure they cost a pretty penny." The Thief balked, stepping closer in an attempt to intimidate her.
"Come again, slut?"
"Oh I'm so scared, so offended! Slut all you got, you walking sack of Chlamydia Personified?" The Chef took another swig of the bottle, ignoring Oswald's attempts to hush her. The Thief went to swing on her, but the Chef ducked back, leaning against the bar, raising the bottle as a shield. The Thief's punch hit the bottle, breaking it and sending glass flying. The clicking of cocking guns being trained on the Chef had her stilling.
"The fuck, man, boss said no physical damage."
"BITCH IS ASKIN FER IT!"
"All I said was I ain't got jewelry, and I'm not stripping." One with a gun eyed the Chef.
"Hands in the air, pat her down." With a heavy sigh, the Chef raised her arms, sneering at the creep. He roughly ran his hand up her calves and thighs, the Chef resisting the urge to kick the Thief in the face. The Thief stopped feeling something under her dress and pulling her flask from her upper thigh. Slamming it on the ground the masked man kept eye contact as he felt along her hips and sides, right before harshly grabbing her chest, squeezing hard enough the Chef knew she'd have bruises.
"Oh please, Daddy used to squeeze harder than that." The Chef laughed. It was a bluff, but she wasn't going to give the fucker the satisfaction of seeing her rattled. He also was too pissed to notice the small bump on the underside of her left breast, as he pushed her roughly back into the bar, some glass shards digging into her back.
"Bitch ain't got nothing."
"Then move on, Boss should be done soon." With one last glare, the Thief moved on to the rest of the barflies, Lex and Cobblepot quietly asking if she was okay. Under the guise of rubbing her sore chest, the Chef palmed the little vial she carried on her.
"Tell me when the gunmen aren't looking, and hold your breath." The Chef whispered, Cobblepot immediately obeying, Lex eyeing her suspiciously.
"Don't pull any heroics, Miss Fox."
"Not a hero, Lex."
In a matter of seconds, Alexandera moved closer to the Thief, tapping his shoulder, and when he turned, she sprayed his face with the little vial. He punched her jaw and the Chef stumbled back, Lex catching her as she stepped wrong in the heels.
"What did I say?! No physical damage!" One of the gunmen came closer, gun trained on the dizzy Chef. "Don't make boss take your cut."
The Thief's breathing was getting audible, a couple of barfly bystanders starting to sweat. Ankle throbbing, the Chef started to push back into Lex, pushing him further back and away from what was about to happen. Things might have been okay.... If there wasn't the sound of breaking glass further in the house. That broke the fragile hold on the Thiefs mental state. He rushed the gunmen and began to wrestle the gun away from he, screaming wildly, barflies dropping to the ground sobbing. Half the gunmen were now either on alert from the shatter glass sound, or the fight breaking out among their comrades....
Then the lights went out.
Panic screams. The sound of people trying to scramble to their feet and run. Barked orders. And the above it all, the wooshing of fabric above their heads.
"Batman." Cobblepot growled. "Luthor, let's go."
"Come, Miss Fox." Lex swept the Chef into his arms bridal style, staying close to the wall, trying to avoid detection. Gunshots aimed at the ceiling made plaster fall. People shoved other aside to get out, as the sounds of punches and yells of pain intermingled with the panic.
They had just made it outside when they were stopped by more gunmen fighting Robin. The small figure ducking and weaving speedily, avoiding shots and disarming anyone he got close to. It didn't take long for Robin to incapacitate the men. When the small hero looked over, he gasped, looking at the Chef.
"What happened?" For such a small figure, he spoke with raw anger.
"Batman needs you more, our friend is fine." Cobblepot sneered, not comfortable with being so near his old foe. Robin stalked closer, sword held tight in a gloves hand.
"Don't fucking go in there, kid. Bats got it covered." The Chefs jaw hurt as she talked, words slightly slurring.
"I am no child, Lady." Robins voice was resigned as he spoke to the Chef, passing them and walking into the chaos. "Go!"
The trio didn't need to be told twice, slipping into Lex's sports car, they sped off, following the Chefs direction to the safest place she knew of... Her diner.
Lex parked out back, her boys already there after she called. Gary held the door open, Kyle holding a bag with a change of clothes for her, and Marcus carried her in despite her slurred protests. Marcus set her in her office and handed her the clothes.
"Change, I'll make you food." And he left, leaving her alone. Alexandera stripped, kicking the boots off with a struggle. Sports bra, sweatpants and a shirt, the boys seemed to stay away from her underwear. Limping out of the office, Kyle hulking form picked her up with ease, carrying her out into the lobby, sitting her in Deker's preferred chair, Gary holding a bag of ice out for her.
"You gotta bruise, Boss." The Chef took the bag, hissing as she held it to her cheek. Lex and Oswald were about, making calls on their own phones. When they finished, it was silent for a moment.
"Who would be stupid enough to rob Falcone?" Lex broke the silence.
"Someone new, no doubt. Doesn't know the rules here in Gotham." Cobblepot eased into a chair, twisting his grip around his umbrellas handle.
"Whoever the fuck it was, needs to get their shit together. How the fuck did Batman get there so quick." Lex and Cobblepot looks to the Chef. "Think about it, so many thugs, they rounded up all of us quickly, no doubt they were there a while, made sure no one moved or talked. None of Falcone's men came to help..."
"You think it was an inside job?" Lex asked, taking the seat next to the Chef, holding the bag to her cheek, letting her relax her arm.
" I don't know. All I know is that Batman is good, but not that good. It should have taken longer."
"Not unusual for Bats to keep tabs on us..." Cobblepot sighed heavily, leaning into the chair more. "Your little stunt was stupid."
"Dickless had it coming." Her chest still hurt.
"What was in that vial, Miss Fox?" Marcus came out with a tray of coffees, sandwiches, and a bowl of soup for the Chef.
"Nothing too bad." Alexandera answered vaguely, reaching down for her flask. "Fuck! Bastard still has my booze." Marcus was already at her side, pouring liqour into her coffee.
"Miss Fox, might I hire you as my bodyguard?" She laughed, wincing at the pain.
"You couldn't afford me."
"They're in processing right now. Great work, Batman. Robin."
"Have any talked yet, Jim?"
"No, they are very tight lipped. We'll see how they feel after a night here."
"Keep me updated."
Batman and Robin disappeared into the night, sneaking into the Batmobile and riding off into the streets.
"Great work, Son. How did you hear about the robbery tonight?"
"Who?" Robin kept quiet.
"Miss Fox was there."
"She was a plus one."
"How do you know that?" Silence again. "Is she going to be an issue?"
"Don't allow your feeling to get in the way of justice."
"I will do what is right."
Not a long chapter, sorry. Stay safe, wash your hands.
The world would be bleaker without you.